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Showing posts from November, 2012

Leveson... the Weasel Press speaks out

The past couple of weeks has seen a concerted defence of the British media by, er... well the British media. Articles such as "Don't Make us North Korean", "We must defend a free press" and so on have been a spectacular case of special pleading. So many people who cross the boundary between politics and journalism, from Boris Johnson to Paul Goodman, have been rushing to tell us why any regulation amounts to the end of the free press as we have known it.  

Well frankly Bul***it.
The fact is that the Press has been ignoring its own (self) regulators for years and- it is now blindingly obvious- have been routinely breaking the law of the land with impunity. As more charges are brought against News International, is it not a scandal that the same management, in the shape of Rupert Murdoch and his family, remains in control of the largest private media business in the UK? Is it not outrageous that the Express refuses even the toothless sanctions of the self regulator…

Radek Sikorski stirs up indifference amongst his Tory friends

The Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski usually gets a good press in the UK. His fluent English and his academic intelligence help him stand out as an individual, while Poland is one of the few countries of Central/Eastern Europe where the British have a clear and generally positive view of what kind of country it is. It also helps a lot that Mr. Sikorski, as a graduate of Oxford University, has a big network of friends in Britain- including his former Bullingdon Club confrere, Boris Johnson. Mr. Sikorski's wife is the American historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her magisterial book Gulag , Anne Applebaum, and she is also a regular visitor to Britain.

Yet despite his close connections with the UK, and his former British citizenship, which he only renounced on becoming Polish Defence Minister in 2006, it is clear that Sikorski is hardly an uncritical friend of the UK. Indeed the Anti-EU faction in the UK would argue that he was hardly a friend at all, as he seeks to …

An Estonian anti-party revolt could lead to a new democratic system

I am a Liberal in more or less all meanings of the word. I am also a profound supporter of Estonia, the country where I have made my home over the past four years. My relationship with Estonia dates back decades, to when I was still in high school in 1979 and first got involved with the fight for freedom in Eastern and Central Europe, which was also the same year that I joined the Liberal Party.

One of the many great things about Estonia is that, since independence was recovered in 1991, it has been dominated by liberal ideas in both economics and politics. Indeed the the liberal Reform party has been and remains the most popular political party, while the opposition Centre Party is also a member of Liberal International, albeit that it represents a populist Liberal strand that I have less sympathy with. In fact one can find liberals in all of the Estonian political parties and there is no doubt that Liberalism is deeply woven into the political tapestry of Estonia.

Yet even the most no…

Sick Charter

The problem with the latest corrosive scandal to engulf yet another UK institution is that... well it's all so predictable. People, or organisations for that matter, that believe themselves untouchable quite often end up doing fairly unspeakable things. Although I didn't know Jimmy Savile from a hole in the ground, it does rather seem as though he believed he was untouchable, and lets face it he is dead and was given something of a hero's send-off- so in life he surely was untouchable. Those who have come out to complain about his behaviour since he died do seem to have the smack of truth about them and of course those "in the know" now say that they knew all along that there was something untoward about him. 
So far so tragically sordid.
What the BBC has done about "Savile" as we must now call him (certainly not "Sir Jimmy", although that is the style he knew until the day he died) has revealed the very culture that allowed this seemingly rathe…

The EU Budget... a Labour betrayal that will be remembered

Brits are told every year- especially by the anti-EU press- that the EU fails to pass its own audit test. It turns out that this is not strictly true. Each year mistakes and errors are found, but, it turns out that these are most often in the 80% of the EU budget that is administered by the national governments. In fact, the EU budget turns out to be in a far more orderly position than the "failure of the EU court of auditors to approve the budget" implies

David Cameron intends to reduce- if possible- the total EU budget, and this, in the context of the large austerity that national governments are being forced to impose sounds wholly reasonable. However, Mr. Cameron, together with the other EU leaders, has been asking EU agencies to do a lot more in connection with the crisis that the EU faces. Several of the Eurozone governments are also asking the EU to do more- and it can not do this without increases in the budget. Thus, the challenge to reduce or even simply freeze th…

Internet Freedom may make Estonia the first e-democracy

Living in the country with the freest Internet in the world opens up some interesting and surprising lines of discussion. Now that nearly 25% of the population choose to vote online, there are some very interesting implications that are coming out. 

Firstly there are the short term implications of more e-voting. The fact of being able to vote, even if you live overseas, keeps the Estonian diaspora far more in touch with home. In the recent Lithuanian election, for example, where online voting does not happen, the nearly a million people who live overseas from Lithuania had to make a significant effort to register and to vote- the result was that of the 74,000 Lithuanian citizens estimated to be living in the UK, for example, less than 9,000 actually voted. Had more voted from overseas, it is quite likely that the Conservative-Liberal government would have been returned to office rather than the currently deadlocked situation based on the controversial Labour Party-Social-Democrat-Paksa…

Romney, Obama and the next four years

The American Constitution is a practical document, not holy writ as so many Americans might have you believe. It has its fair share of holes- as was most recently shown in 2000 when despite a popular victory of over a million votes, Vice President Al Gore was defeated by George W Bush in highly controversial circumstances. However in its practical way is sets a regular round of elections, with the election date being the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The 2012 election is thus due on Tuesday 6th November. It is an election in many states for the Senate, and in all states for the House of Representatives, on the ballot are innumerable state offices, from to sheriff to comptroller, to district attorney. Of course this is a leap year, and as a result the top of the ballot is reserved for the election of the President and Vice President of the United States- the two most senior officials of the Republic.

OK, so its an important election, and it is also a close one... if y…