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Author Archives: brightsam

Individual responsibility or collective fault? Who to point the finger at in the LIBOR scandal

by Sam Bright

Whodunnit?

Barclays Bank has been fairly comprehensively trashed in the past couple of weeks. It’s chairman, Marcus Agius, resigned to protect the chief executive, Bob Diamond; and then temporarily un-resigned when Sir Mervyn King made clear that Mr Diamond had to go. Other executives too have taken the plunge: notably, Jerry Del Messier, the (now ex-) Chief Operating Officer.

There are, as I see it, two main difficulties involved with blaming a few senior officials at Barclays.

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By Sam Bright

Strip clubs are not, in general, a particularly divisive subject. I’d bet a fair sum that if you asked the person next to you whether they were ‘in favour’ of such establishments, they would snort in derision and question your sanity. Communities are often outraged when a seedy-looking bar full of scantily clad women and attracting an overweight, greasy, male clientele opens in their midst. Raise the issue near an outspoken feminist, and you’ll be lucky to escape with nothing more than an earful.

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by Sam Bright

Estimates vary, but it is possible that as many as 14,000 people have been killed by the fighting that has cursed Syria for over a year. The fighting shows no signs of abating. There have been reports of rape being used as a tool for interrogation. Children are being used as human shields, and there have been massacres of groups of children under the age of 10. The country is being torn apart in a spiralling frenzy of attack and counter-attack.

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By Sam Bright

An old woman lives in a cave to escape the Antonovs that regularly drop their deadly payload over her village. She knows that she shares the cave with any number of lethally poisonous snakes. Between a bomb and a serpent: she’s made her choice. Perhaps to escape the fate of one of her neighbours, an 11 year old boy who took shelter behind a tree when he heard the approaching drone of the aircraft. He lost both arms.

Welcome to the Nuba Mountains. The inhabitants of this region, bordering Sudan and the newly independent state of South Sudan, can trace their culture and their way of life back many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, with links to the historic Nubian civilisations that once stretched all the way to Egypt. Having survived for so long, this existence may have finally reached a deadly conclusion.

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The author wearing cowboy accessories, much like Vikram in his novel

by Sam Bright

Gregory David Roberts is no ordinary author. His own life story, much of which is apparently a matter of public record, is quite fantastic: a budding Australian academic with anarchist tendencies, the collapse of his marriage saw him turn to heroin and a rather quaint (if deplorable) spell as ‘The Gentleman Bandit’, politely staging hold-ups with a plastic gun to feed his habit. Needless to say, on capture he was sentenced to a long spell in prison, and after breaking the rules found himself in solitary confinement. Unable to bear the hardships of prison life, he escaped and fled to Mumbai.

This back story sets the scene for his novel Shantaram. Roberts insists that the novel is fiction, and not an autobiography: this is not hard to believe. Lin, the narrator and protagonist, is embroiled in a quite improbable world of poverty, organized crime, Afghan insurgency, love, redemption and, most implausibly, survival. Yet the line between fact and fiction is quite evidently blurred. Lin shares the same background as the author: up to his arrival in Mumbai, there is no reason to consider the book anything other than biographical.

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by Sam Bright

Ed Miliband must have woken up with with a sense of foreboding today. It is a challenging task for any Leader of the Opposition: to respond to a highly-detailed, hour-long speech by a Chancellor who has been in possession of all the facts and figures for many weeks – and has long since decided what he is going to announce. The man opposite, on the other hand, has merely moments, following that speech, in which to compose his thoughts and decide how to respond to what he has heard.

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by Sam Bright

In the aftermath of conflict, be it world war, civil war, or armed banditry, an important question arises. What are we to do with those responsible for acts committed beyond the accepted limits of the laws of war?

The defeat of the axis powers in the Second World War saw the prosecution of a number of high-ranking military and non-military officials in the International Military Tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo. The purpose of the Tribunals was, on the face of it, to bring to justice those guilty of war crimes. They are however open to the serious charge of embodying victor’s justice.

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But which alternative?

by Sam Bright

The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest think tank, claiming every Labour Prime Minister past and writers as diverse as George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells and Oscar Wilde amongst its membership.

Such diversity of background and opinion was reprised at this weekend’s new year conference, entitled ‘The Economic Alternative’.

The conference took place on what was billed as a game-changing day for Labour, one where Ed Balls (the Shadow Chancellor) stated in a Guardian interview, and repeated at the conference that:

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by Sam Bright

Peter Mandelson, appearing intensely relaxed about the filthy rich at the WEF. Source: Wikipedia

Before reaching such heights himself, Peter (now Lord) Mandelson declared himself ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’. This came with an oft-unquoted caveat, ‘so long as they pay their taxes’, which is a fair summary of conventional political wisdom across the mainstream of all British parties from the advent of New Labour to its loss of power in 2010. The belief was that people must be allowed, indeed encouraged, to earn as much money as possible, and that such individual success will lead to greater prosperity in society as a whole, through a combination of the ‘trickle-down effect’ of capitalist endeavour, and the redistribution brought about through progressive taxation.

This received wisdom is coming under increasing scrutiny, and not just from the traditional ‘left’.  Read More

by Sam Bright

This is a jolly season to be a Eurosceptic.

It was not always thus. Prior to the recent travails of the Euro’s Mediterranean members, those agitating for a withdrawal from Europe had been limited to focussing their ire on the EU’s somewhat misunderstood step-sister, the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’).

Following the ECHR’s ruling in November 2010 which required the UK to comply with itsmuch-maligned 2005 judgment requiring reconsideration of the “general, automatic and indiscriminate” removal of prisoners’ voting rights (no, the judgment did not require all prisoners to be given the right to vote), David Cameron declared he felt “physically sick” at the idea of complying. Perhaps so, though since some prisoners actually do have the right to vote, he must already be feeling a bit queasy.

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