Sunday, April 30, 2006

J.K. Galbraith R.I.P.

As a tribute to J.K. Galbraith, the greatest economic thinker of the 20th Century, here's his essay 'A Cloud Over Civilisation' from the Guardian in 2004. Galbraith consistently warned of the effects ever-powerful corporations would have over our lives- and the threat they pose to democracy and human progress.
The gullible idiots who believe that the Western intervention in Iraq- and indeed the earlier one in Yugoslavia- were motivated by 'humanitarian'' concerns and the desire to 'spread democracy', fail to understand where the real centre of power lies today. J.K. Galbraith suffered from no such delusions.,,1261593,00.html

Friday, April 28, 2006

England's loss

I wonder if those narrow-minded xenophobes who thought it was an outrage that the FA appointed another 'foreigner' are happy now?,,1764017,00.html

Why Not a Foreign PM?

If we are allowed to chose the best possible person for the job for England football manager- regardless of nationality- why not for our political managers? Who would you vote for? Here are a few suggestions from my piece for The Guardian's Comment is Free.

It's not often that I'm in agreement with Stephen Pollard, but it's hard to disagree with his verdict that the Brazilian World Cup winner "Big Phil" Scolari is the best man for the England football manager's job.
Pollard, like many others, is clearly at ease with foreign nationals being appointed to top positions in Britain. But why stop at football managers? If it really is all about getting "the best man/woman" for the job - regardless of nationality - why don't we look outside of the country for our political "managers" too?Having led us into a disastrous war in Iraq and presided over a crisis in the NHS and ever rising violent crime, we can surely do better than Mr Blair. And with the domestic alternatives to our present PM looking as unappealing as the domestic alternatives to Big Phil, does it not make good sense to look elsewhere?
Britain's independence is already largely an illusion, so would it make any difference if we had a foreign national at No 10? If we were to have a foreign prime minister, who would you chose?
Perhaps Jacques Chirac, on the basis that he opposed the Iraq war and would surely do something to improve our national cuisine. Or Hugo Chavez, who would undoubtedly do rather more for the redistribution of wealth in Britain than Mr Blair has. Rudolph Giuliani's zero tolerance programme, which worked wonders for New York, is arguably much needed in Britain's crime- infested metropolises; instead of copying his policies- why not appoint the man himself? And now that Silvio Berlusconi has been sacked as the Italian gaffer, why not a straight swap with Mr Blair - in which Blair would get the villa and Silvio would get No 10? No, I don't think so either.
Ariel Sharon might have his supporters, on the basis that a politician in a coma is just what the country wants - it's hard to do too much harm if you're unconscious.
Neo-liberals and flat tax fanatics might cast their vote for Mart Laar, the former premier of Estonia and recent repicient of the Milton Friedman prize - or - if voting for politicians from other planets were also to be allowed - the incomparable John "Spock" Redwood himself.
Nelson Mandela would no doubt have come into the reckoning if he were a few years younger, ditto Jimmy Carter, fellow Comment is free commentator and the least worst president of the United States since the second world war. Alexsander Lukashenko of Belarus, who has seen his oligarch-free country climb inexorably up the UN Human Development Index and Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, who did so much to eradicate corruption and bad governance in Ghana, are two others for consideration.It's a tough call, but my vote would go for Germany's former economics minister Oskar Lafontaine, the authentic voice of European "old left" socialism, a man who would bring back a mixed economy, pull our troops out of Iraq and make big business pay its fair share. It is has been said that out of all the grounds on which to base friendship, nationality is the weakest. We already seem to accept this as far as our football managers are concerned. Could it not be true of our political leaders too?

Sofia Under Seige

When the Empire comes to town, what's a little thing like the right of citizens to come in and out- and to freely walk about in their city?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 'government waste' Adam Smithites won't cut

The neo-liberal think tank 'The Adam Smith Society' held a party in London last night (thanks to Timmy Worstall for the tip-off). The ASI is devoted to 'cutting government waste.' But I wager there are two areas of 'government waste' guests there would not have taken issue with- the £2.8m a day the British taxpayer is paying for the illegal war in Iraq- and the £6bn we have coughed up to subsidise Britain privatised railway companies. The ASI claims to be 'non-political'. But if this really is the case - why are they so silent on these two glaring examples of 'government waste'? I suggest readers who are interested in finding out an answer send them a polite email.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brzezinski on Iran

I'd like to see the pro-war lobby denounce the writer of this article as a 'hard-leftist' or 'anti-American'
There has been much media attention given of late to a certain 'progressive' manifesto put forward by a couple of blokes who drink in a pub near a North London station. Perhaps the authors of this manifesto would like to inform us whether they support Western military action against Iran?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Double Standards of New World Order Justice

From the same court which denied a sick, elderly man the correct medical treatment.

21/04/2006(The Hague, DTT-NET.COM)

Judges of International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have agreed on Friday to allow a former member of Kosovo Ethnic Albanians guerrilla to attend a memorial service of his daughter."The Appeals Chamber granted a temporary Haradin Bala's motion for temporary provisional release to attend his daughter's memorial service on 26 April 2006 in Kosovo. Haradin Bala is provisionally released from 23 to 27 April 2006, to allow him to spend the traditional mourning period with his family and community preceding the memorial service." ICTY said in a press release.The provisional release is subject to specific terms and conditions include UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK's) responsibility to take custody of the accused at Pristina airport and ensure his 24-hour protection and supervision. Bala Is not allowed to have "any contact whatsoever nor in any way interfere with victims or witnesses or otherwise interfere in any way with the proceedings or the administration of justice; Not to discuss his case with anyone, other than counsel, including not to have any contact with the media; Not to seek access to documents or archives" On 30 November 2005, the Trial Chamber sentenced Haradin Bala, former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) prison guard of the Llapushnik/Lapusnik prison camp, to 13 years' imprisonment.Bala was found guilty of participating in the mistreatment of three prisoners at the Llapushnik/Lapusnik prison camp, his personal role in the "maintenance and enforcement of the inhumane conditions" of the camp, aiding the torture of one prisoner, and of participating in the murder of nine prisoners from the camp who were marched to the Berishe/Berisa Mountains on 25 or 26 July 1998 and killed. Bala appealed the sentence and the appeal is still pending.Haradin Bala was indicted with Fatmir Limaj and Isak Musliu, former members of the KLA.
Both Limaj and Musliu were acquitted of all charges and released. The Prosecution has filed an appeal in the case.Since its inception in 1993, the Tribunal has charged 161 persons for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. To date, proceedings against 90 persons have concluded. Six indicted persons remain at large.

In The Name Of God, Go!

Charles Clarke has admitted that among the thousand or so released foreign prisoners who should have been deported, are three murderers and nine rapists. The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens, but New Labour has not only put us all more at risk because of its criminal foreign policy- but also because of its criminal incompetence on domestic law and order issues. If this country possessed even a half-decent opposition, Blair and his corrupt cronies would have been swept from power ages ago. In the absence of any proper opposition to hold to account the most disastrous British government since the Chamberlain administration of 1937-40-there is only one alternative. A wide-ranging coalition made up of all decent patriotic citizens, of left, right or centre, to drive the War Party out of office, cannot wait a day longer.,,1761069,00.html

Their Latest Porkie

Seven years ago, the big lie was that Yugoslav forces were committing 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo. Three years ago, the big lie was that Iraq possessed WMDs. The latest NWO porkie, eagerly parroted by Imperial emissaries in the Western media is that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Yugoslavia and Iraq both lie in ruins. But Iran remains intact- and all those who don't want to wake up to pictures of Teheran being given the B52 treatment- should sign this petition.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Politics Through The Looking Glass

Hungarians go to the polls today to decide whether to re-elect a privatising, neo-liberal, pr0-war 'Socialist'-led government or to ditch it in favour of the 'conservative' opposition, which is offering to drastically increase the minimum wage, defend state health care and call a halt to privatisation.
Here's my New Statesman piece on the 'topsy-turvy' world of Hungarian politics from last October.

Politics Through The Looking-Glass
New Statesman 17th October 2005

It’s a country where people say ‘Hullo’, when they mean ‘Goodbye’. Where first names come last and last names come first. Where the most un-socialist political party one could imagine goes calls itself ‘Socialist’ and where the case for public ownership and a national health service is put by the conservative opposition. Welcome to modern Hungary-and to a topsy-turvy political landscape straight out of a Savoy Opera. In the three years since it took office, the Socialist-led government of Ferenc Gyurcsany, has sold off 160 state owned enterprises, imposed VAT on medical prescriptions, abolished a tax on stock market profits and sent troops to Iraq in support of President Bush’s illegal invasion. Its future plans include cutting the top rate of income tax and extending privatisation into areas even the Iron Lady dared not go- the railways, the post office, and most controversially of all, health care. Gyurcsany, a former Communist Youth leader whose personal fortune of $17m derives from the first wave of privatisation in the early 1990s, has received enthusiastic backing from neo-liberal institutes, western business journals and U.S. government officials. ‘The immediate future seems to be in safe hands’ says the American Ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker III, who incidentally, is also George W. Bush’s cousin. Meanwhile, the case against the Hungarian Socialist’s Thatcherite agenda, is being put by the country’s ‘right-wing’ opposition. ‘Fidesz’, the largest opposition party and the strong favourites to win next year’s elections, want to introduce a ‘National Assets contract’, requiring that the privatisation of certain public assets- which include Budapest Airport, the state railway, the post office, the intercity bus company and the Hungarian health service- would need a two-thirds majority in parliament. ‘The (current) privatisation law only needs a simple majority and it is about selling assets. The National Assets contract is about keeping those assets’ said Fidesz spokesperson Eszter Pataki. Fidesz has not ruled out renationalising Budapest Airport, if the government goes ahead with its plans to sell it in spite of a Constitutional Court ruling - and there is a precedent for their action- the party repurchased the M1 motorway when last in government. Fidesz’s dislike of privatisation is shared by the smaller Munkaspart (Hungarian Workers Party), a remnant of the former communist party which governed Hungary for over forty years. Co-operation between the staunchly anti-communist Fidesz and the Marxist Workers Party would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Yet co-operate is what the two parties did last year, in their successful campaign to force a national referendum on the government’s plans to privatise health care. Fidesz’s leader, Viktor Orban, once referred to the Hungarians who had grown up under communism as ‘the lost generation’. But faced with the impact of the neo-liberal ‘reform’ process, which has reduced 4 million Hungarians (40% of the population) to poverty, Orban now concedes that for the majority of Hungarians, life is much harder today than it ever was in the days of Kadar’s goulash communism. What the current political debate in Hungary demonstrates, is that the real divide of our time, is not between ‘left’ and ‘right’, but those who support the neo-liberal agenda- of privatisation, tax cuts for the wealthy and running the economy for the benefit of Western multinationals and those who don’t. If Lady Thatcher were Hungarian, there can be little doubt that she would vote for the incumbent government. But for all those who consider themselves to be socialists, the likely demise of the Hungarian Socialist Party- and its replacement by the ‘right-wing’ opposition can only be a cause of celebration. Whatever would Gilbert and Sullivan have made of that?

Copyright N.Clark/New Statesman 2005

Iraq: Three Years after 'Liberation'.

Apparently, while I was away, a group of self-styled leftists put forward a manifesto defending Western military interventions and urging fellow 'progressives' to rally round in support. The only response to such idiocy is to point out what the consequences of such interventions are. Kosovo, is, in the words of John Pilger, Europe's first Mafia-run state- a haven for drug-traffickers and criminal gangs and where hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma, Jews, Egyptians and other minorities have been ethnically cleansed since the province was 'liberated' in 1999.
And for most Iraqis, life is without doubt, worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein.
Here's an extract from Stephen Zunes' report 'Iraq, Three Years After Liberation', a link to the full article can be found on the Stop the War website.

The level of violent deaths is far higher than in the last years of SaddamHussein's rule. At least 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died, most of them atthe hands of U.S. forces but increasingly from terrorist groups and Iraqigovernment death squads. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police have also been killed.

CRIME AT RECORD LEVELS: Violent crime, including kidnapping, rape, and armedrobbery, is at record levels. There is a proliferation of small arms, andprivate militias are growing rapidly. A Lebanon-type multifaceted civil war,only on a much wider and deadlier scale, grows more likely with time.

MORE IRAQIS IMPRISONED: Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by U.S.forces since the invasion, but only 1.5% of them have been convicted of anycrime. Currently, U.S. forces hold 15,000 to 18,000 Iraqi prisoners, morethan were imprisoned under Saddam Hussein.

WIDESPREAD USE OF TORTURE AND OTHER ABUSES: Amnesty International and otherhuman rights groups have cited U.S. forces with widespread violations ofinternational humanitarian law, including torture and other abuses ofprisoners.Fear of arrest and torture that have worsened since the U.S.conquest of Iraq.

INCREASED DEATHS FROM MALNUTRITION AND PREVENTABLE DISEASES: Deaths frommalnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly among children, areagain on the increase. The supply of drinking water, reliability ofelectricity, and effectiveness of sewage disposal are all worse than beforethe invasion.

FIFTY PERCENT UNEMPLOYMENT AND INCOMES CUT BY HALF: As much as half of thelabour force is unemployed, and the cost of living has skyrocketed. Themedian income of Iraqis has declined by more than half. The UN's World FoodProgram (WFP) reports that the Iraqi people suffer from “significantcountrywide shortages of rice, sugar, milk, and infant formula,” and the WFPdocuments approximately 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “dangerousdeficiencies of protein.

”OIL PRODUCTION HALVED, RECONSTRUCTION HALTED: Oil production, the country'schief source of revenue, is less than half of what it was before theinvasion. And despite Bush administration promises to infuse billions ofdollars worth of foreign aid to rebuild the country's civilianinfrastructure, only a small fraction of these ventures have been completed,and most projects have been cancelled.

ONE MILLION IRAQIS HAVE LEFT THE COUNTRY: Close to one million Iraqis, mostof them from the vital, educated middle class, have left the country toavoid the violence and hardship brought on as a result of the U.S. invasion.

The above statistics are taken from IRAQ THREE YEARS AFTER "LIBERATION" byStephen Zunes. A link to the full article can be found on the new STATISTICS page on the Stop the War website:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Michael Ancram: Then and Now

Here's what The Rt Hon Michael Ancram MP, then Shadow Foreign Secretary, said about Iraq on 7th May 2003.

" Weapons of Mass Destruction, in the hands of terrorists or rogue states create the same type of threat. The sudden biological attack can be delivered in a briefcase, or in minutes from a missile on the back of a mobile transporter. The recent conflict in Iraq is an important example. The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussain was already in possession of chemical and biological weapons and was prepared to use them we know that he used them in the Iran-Iraq war, and against the Kurds at Halabjah. We know from the UN Inspectors that four years ago they were very much still there and that no satisfactory explanations had been given as to their current provenance. I believe that pre-emptive action of the sort we have undertaken was justified. Had we not acted on the basis of intelligence, I believe that Saddam Hussein was intent on further developing those weapons, and in adding nuclear weapons to his arsenal. In due course pre-emptive action would have had to be taken. I also believe that with every passing month that action would have become more difficult and more dangerous. The problem for many people in accepting this analysis, is that much of the evidence comes in the form of intelligence information and briefings the sort of information that is highly technical or not releasable into the public domain. Persuading people of the justification for military pre-emption in such circumstances is that much more difficult until in due course the WMD are found.We were right to pre-empt this threat. Initially we tried to do so peacefully, through the UN, and the inspections regime. When that failed due to Saddam Husseins obduracy and the game of cat and mouse which he continued to play right up to the last. We were left with no option but military force to prevent the threat developing and increasing. I believe that what we have achieved in Iraq, and the timescale in which we have done so, and the minimisation of casualties we have achieved, is a remarkable feat and a tribute to our armed forces. I also believe that it has prevented it from growing into a far greater threat.

Here's what the Rt Hon Michael Ancram MP says today:

"The unavoidable truth is that Iraq is in a mess- and a dangerous one at that. Far from getting better it is getting worse. We cannot pretend that none of this is happening. We have been in Iraq for three years and it is now time to take stock. The unbelievable state of denial of the U.S. and British Governments about the realities of Iraq today have made their positions untenable. This is not about how we would like things to be. This is about how things really are- and no amount of wishful thinking can hide the truth. Hving set out at the beginning to be part of the solution, it is now sadly evident that we are in danger of becoming part of the problem. Back then (in 2003) I feared the threat of weapons of mass destruction. I was wrong. So were many others."

Ancram, so enthusiastic about pre-emptive strikes in 2003, is a signatory to the Principles of The Henry Jackson Society. Will his frank admission of the 'dangerous mess' the invasion has caused lead him to sever his links with this extreme neo-conservative pressure group? Let's hope so.

A Repulsive Trade

You'd think that the E.U. wouldn't have to think five seconds before banning the import of fur coats made from dogs and cats being skinned alive. Incredibly, they're still prevaricating. Help them make up their minds by signing this petition.

They Like Spreading Democracy- when it suits them

I wonder how many readers watched the BBC2 documentary on democracy activists in Azerbaijan last night? The Azerbaijan government has been condemned by a whole host of organisations for undemocratic practices, including ballot rigging and intimidation and violence against the opposition. Last night we saw the police, acting on orders from the government, attack, with brutal force, peaceful protestors who had gathered to protest at the rigged election last November. Yet rather than condemn the brutality and call for fresh elections, the world's sole superpower, (you know, the one we are repeatedly told is passionate about spreading democracy around the globe) instead gives its support to the dictatorial Azerbaijan government.
How could this be so?
It surely can't have anything to do with the fact that Azerbaijan has oil and its government has sent troops to Iraq?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Case for Ellery Queen

They used to say that Ellery Queen WAS the American detective story. But sadly, today in America, almost all of the Ellery Queen titles are out of print. Last November I wrote, in the First Post, of the US's cultural and artistic decline. The country that gave us Cole Porter, Ship of Fools, The Caine Mutiny, Harpers Bizarre and 'Sherlock Holmes' natural successor' and which made a greater contribution to 20th Century culture than any other nation on earth, now feeds us a diet of Jo-Lo, Hip-hop, Britney Spears and endless remakes. The fall from grace of Ellery Queen is, as Jon L. Breen argues in this brilliant article from the Weekly Standard (yes, I did say a brilliant article from the WS!), part of the process of cultural decline.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006

Everyone's Favourite

With just hours to go before the most exciting sporting event of the year here's my Guardian piece on what makes horse-racing so special.

Everyone's favourite
Horse-racing is the last bastion of democracy
Neil Clark Friday April 2, 2004
The Guardian
Clan Royal or Bindaree? Joss Naylor or Bear on Board? The late Lord Wyatt, confidant of Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch, once described betting on horses as the "only uninfluenced democratic decision" millions of people ever take. This positive view of horse-racing and gambling is not shared by many on the left, who see the sport as a corrupt anachronism. But as an unreconstructed horse-race-loving leftie, I'm with Wyatt.
First, there's the sportsmanship, unrivalled in any sport. The most beautiful sporting gesture I have ever witnessed was at the end of the 1989 Gold Cup, when jockey Tom Morgan, who had finished second, rode over to give the victorious Desert Orchid (who had just deprived him of a place in racing history) a loving pat. The racing world can teach us much about human qualities that used to be more abundant.
Remember loyalty? In an age in which all relationships seem freely tradeable, it's refreshing to consider the most enduring partnership in British sport - the 30-year-old association of trainer Sir Mark Prescott and jockey George Duffield. "I may have looked at other women, but never at another jockey," Prescott once remarked. When Duffield was involved in fisticuffs with millionaire owner Peter Savill, the furious Savill rang up Prescott and asked what the trainer was going to do about it. Prescott stood by his jockey, even though it meant losing his wealthy patron.
Riding a dodgy jumping horse over the 30 fences of the Grand National requires real courage, too. Most jump jockeys fall once every 10 rides: last year, two died from injuries. While 6 million Britons pop Prozac, jump jockeys just go out and do it.
Linked to the physical courage is the camaraderie the sport engenders. Neo-liberalism put an end to camaraderie in society at large - but in the jockeys' weighing room it still exists. Mark Brisbourne combines training a string of over 100 horses with co-managing a 500-acre farm. Up at dawn, he works a 16-hour day. Yet morning, noon or night he is unfailingly helpful whenever a journalist calls, eager for copy. Brisbourne is typical of the people racing attracts: hard-working, honest, unfailingly decent.
Finally, in making the case for the defence, let us never forget the unadulterated, life-enhancing excitement. The glorious uncertainty of racing is a magical antidote to our increasingly predictable, McDonaldised age. We know that US multinational corporations will still be ruling the world one year from now. We know that whenever you pull off a ring road you will see a Tesco's. But nobody really knows who will win tomorrow's Grand National.
"We would have had a revolution a long time ago had it not been for horseracing," bemoaned Harry Pollitt, leader of the British Communist party until 1956. But would a revolution that denied us the wonder of horse-racing really be one worth having?

An Oxford Rower and The Law

'I think there is a part of me that realises that the police could have been doing better things than dealing with me' says Barney Williams, the Boat Race rower who was arrested in Oxford last Sunday night. I disagree. Surely the job of the police is to apprehend yobbish, drunken thugs who kick in bicycles and cause criminal damage. Or, as Mr Williams implies, should they only be targetting yobbish, drunken thugs who don't row for Oxford?,,2-2122454,00.html

A Bloodthirsty Oaf

Is there a more bloodthirsty commentator in Britain than Bruce Anderson? Anderson was an enthusiastic armchair supporter of Shock and Awe. Now he claims that 'it is important' that horses and jockeys are killed in the Grand National (url and quote below) Anderson's comments are not only repulsive, they are also ignorant. No jockey has been killed in the Grand National since before World War Two (thank God). And you won't find any true racing fan who believes equine deaths are 'important'. They are very regrettable and always sad. Anderson's writings on war and the Grand National tell us is that he is a very bloodthirsty man. But one who instead of risking his own life, gets his kicks from watching others enter the danger zone.,,3284-2122451,00.html
“it is important that a horse should be killed most years and a jockey every ten years or so. The rest of us should not deplore the loss. We should salute the bravery“.

p.s. put this in your diaries: N.Clark and S.Pollard in total agreement.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Osama in Bosnia

Defending the Bosnian separatist cause of Alija Izetbegovic has been a major priority of neo-conservatives and their liberal interventionist allies.
For all those who still believe Izetbegovic's cause was a 'progressive' one, read the piece I've linked too below. At the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, a respected British journalist of The Times newspaper, Eve-Ann Prentice testified, on oath, that she had witnessed Osama bin Laden entering the office of Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo. We already know of Izetbegovic's pro-Nazi activities in World War Two, we know too of his extreme Islamism, as documented in his 'Islamic Declaration' and which was recognised in his award for ' his contribution to jihad, the holy war against non-believers' in Riyadh in 1993. (Reuters 11th April 1993).
We now have evidence of Izetbegovic's high level collaboration with the man the U.S . believes responsible for the atrocities on 9/11 and other acts of international terrorism. When are we going to get an admission from those who championed- and who continue to champion-Izetbegovic's cause that they were siding with the very forces they now claim are our greatest enemies? For true progressives there was only one side to be on in the Yugoslav conflict- the side of those wishing to keep federal, multi-ethnic, socialist Yugoslavia together.

Democracy - Garton-Ash style

Here's my response to Timothy Garton Ash's attack on those of us who don't share his definition of 'democracy' as being the West's right to interfere in foreign elections to achieve pro-EU,
pro-NATO governments.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Going Local: How to Defeat the War Party

Here's a great piece from Doug Fuda from the Antiwar League on the kind of practical local initiatives
American citizens can all get involved with to defeat the War Party.

Over to you, Patricia

Why not a ban on drinking alcohol in enclosed public places Ms Hewitt?

Democracy: US style

I am grateful to Dr Moshe Machover for sending in this very revealing information on electoral practices in the country which has the nerve to lecture others about democracy.

The US House of Representatives has 435 members, elected for a two-year term.
Following is a list, by election year, of the number of districts where there was a sole candidate, who was thus "elected" automatically; in parentheses is the number of districts where the winner obtained at least 90% of the votes cast for the two leading candidates:
1990 - 30 (56)
1992 - 16 (18)
1994 - 20 (33)
1996 - 11 (18)
1998 - 30 (49)
2000 - 9 (57)
2002 - 22 (47)
2004 - 22 (45)

Monday, April 03, 2006

White Whines of the Tsarist Exiles

Here's my wife Zsuzsanna's piece on the film industry's obsession with dispossessed Russian aristos from today's First Post.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Hate Speech That Wasn't

Here is the full, unedited text of the 1989 Kosovo Polje speech in which that 'extreme Serb nationalist' Slobodan Milosevic was supposed to have 'whipped up ancient ethnic hatreds' in Yugoslavia. Read it, and then reflect on why so many people have wanted to lie about its contents.

The Same Old Gang

Nick Cohen is a class act- when he's not writing about Iraq and the Balkans.
Here he is on the Tory hucksters. I love his line about Richard and Judy. Is it possible to see an interview with anyone today who hasn't got something to sell or promote?,,1745122,00.html

The Next War Condi has Planned

Mary Riddell has a good piece in today's Observer on the next criminal, murderous aggression
planned by the war criminal who visited Britain this week .,,1744964,00.html

The International Imperialism of Money

Talking of 'the international imperialism of money'- it's payback time for Gerhard Schroder- the
'socialist' Chancellor who bombed Yugoslavia.,,13130-2102425,00.html

R.I.P. Papa: Why the Vatican can be our ally.

Today is the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. The event will be commemorated with large gatherings in Poland and in Rome. John Paul II was a great man and it is right that we should remember him. Many of my friends on the left will disagree, pointing out to the late Pope's opposition to the socialist governments in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and the Vatican's support for an independent Croatia in the early 1990s. But from a left perspective, there is nevertheless a lot to admire about Pope John Paul II. In Riga, in 1993 he condemned 'the international imperialism of money' and spoke of Marxism's 'kernel of truth'.
He also consistently spoke out for the world's poor and against war.
In an article of 2003 (url below) I wrote; 'Far from being an enemy, the Catholic Church is an ally of all who oppose the tyranny of neo-liberal globalisation and the cult of materialism it engenders. It is the ally of those who oppose war. The Vatican stands for peace now, as resolutely as it did in the last Gulf War and in 1999 over Yugoslavia'.
The biggest mistake of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe was not building an alliance with the Church. I know there were valid historical reasons for socialist antipathy to organised religion- but if an arrangement could have been reached, a much more widespread popular support for socialism could have been achieved.
As it was the forces of globalisation and money power were able to use the Church as a 'trojan horse'- to
help them destroy socialism in Eastern Europe. It's time for the left to forget its old differences and join up with the Church in opposition to 'international imperialism of money' and the war-lobby.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Forgotten Eastern Europe

Here's a great travel piece from the Spectator by John Laughland on the little known Eastern European country Ladronia . I was there myself in the mid 1990s, when the country was a 'pariah' state merely for voting in the wrong government. Now that the West has got his way in last year's 'velcro revolution', we can expect the usual pattern: privatisation, NATO air bases and impoverishment for the many. But politics apart, it's still a great place to visit.