Thursday 31 October 2013

A better way to revolution

I suggested a few days ago that urging people not to vote might not be the most effective way to bring about fundamental political change.

You may remember that I took issue with what a certain celebrated actor and comedian had to say on the subject. I have no desire to cross swords with him again, for the simple reason that he has far too many admirers, and many of them have already been in touch to let me know what they think of my temerity in daring to contradict him.

So here are my thoughts on some other ways of acting politically without necessarily having to faff about putting a mark on a ballot paper next to the name of someone for whom you may have nothing but contempt. My slogan for today (yes, I know it's not original) is: Think Big, Act Small.  

For example:

1. If fat-cat, bonus-grabbing bankers make your blood boil, move your account to a building society or credit union. It's not difficult, and think what a difference it would make if millions did the same.

2. If you see red every time you hear of a multi-national corporation sliding out of paying UK taxes by all manner of clever-accountant-jiggery-pokery, buy your coffee, or do your online shopping or searches, using someone else's product. It's not difficult, and think what a difference, etc.

3. If you lie awake at night worrying about the way we're destroying the planet, do more walking, or cycling, or buy a low-emission car. It's not difficult, etc.

4. If you hate the way agri-business has poisoned the countryside with pesticides and nearly killed off all the bees, plant some flowers. If you don't have a garden, get a window box. It's not, etc.

5. If you loathe homogenised, plastic-packed, tasteless supermarket food, flown in from the other side of the world, shop at a farmer's market or local grocery store instead.

I could go on. The point is simply this: if you don't think voting in elections makes any difference (I disagree, but let's not reopen that argument), do something else. And when you've done it, encourage others to do the same -- and then get them to encourage others as well. Successful revolutions are born from a combination of anger, passion, and courage, plus two more essential ingredients: a lot of organisation and hard work.

What struck me most about the huge, and unprecedented, response to what I wrote last week was how many people feel totally powerless in a world where power seems to belong only to a very rich elite who have a stranglehold on the world in which we live.

Nothing will change, I was told again and again and again, until everything changes, until the entire political system is brought crashing to its knees and replaced with something -- anything -- that offers more hope and more power to more people.

I think that is a profoundly mistaken view. To take just one example: campaigners in Lewisham, in south London, mounted a hugely successful action to prevent cut-backs in services at their local hospital. This week, they won a major victory in the court of appeal: they made a difference, they forced a rethink, they demonstrated that a local community, acting together, can have real power.

Now multiply one local hospital campaign by one coffee retailer boycott by one switch-your-bank-account movement and -- see what's happening? Lots of little changes begin to look like a much bigger change. You could even call it a revolution, people taking back the power that is rightfully theirs.

Perhaps collecting signatures and organising online petitions isn't as exciting as rioting in the streets, smashing shop windows, or lobbing half bricks at police officers. But nor do people get killed, or livelihoods destroyed, or homes burnt to the ground. To glorify, as he-who-shall-not-be-named did last week, "the London rioters [and] the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists" -- even "the twinkling mischief of the trickster" -- sorry, that's not being brave, or funny, it's plain wicked.

I have never believed that voting on its own is enough to bring about significant political change. But that's not a reason for not voting -- it's a reason for going to the ballot box as part of a much broader political engagement. This debate, in its way, is part of that engagement.

One final thought for you: I came in for a lot of stick last week as a representative of the mainstream media, which are apparently responsible for wholescale lying, covering-up and generally toadying to the powers-that-be.

All I ask is that you consider who, for example, disclosed the scandal of MPs' expenses fiddles (Daily Telegraph); who uncovered the appalling scale of media phone-hacking (The Guardian); and who campaigned relentlessly to get to the bottom of what happened at Hillsborough (Daily Mirror). In fact, I suspect that most of the things that make you most angry about the world we live in are things you learnt about from the mainstream media.

So in the week that saw the adoption of a controversial Royal Charter to oversee the way the press are regulated, it's worth remembering why a free press has been regarded for so long as an essential ingredient in a free society.

In the words of the American founding father Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the US declaration of independence: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Thursday 24 October 2013

Russell Brand: not only daft but dangerous

I think perhaps the best way to describe the actor, comedian and writer Russell Brand is as "a Halloween-haired, Sachsgate-enacting, estuary-whining, glitter-lacquered, priapic berk … a tree-hugging, Hindu-tattooed, veggie meditator."

It's the best way, because it happens to be his own description of himself -- in a 4,750-word revolutionary rant in this week's issue of the New Statesman, guest-edited by, you guessed, Russell Brand.

The Brand manifesto has caused quite a stir in some circles, not just because of his celebrity and skill in making waves, but because of a probably well-founded suspicion that his anger and contempt directed at the entire political class is widely shared among young people who care about the country they live in but see no way to do anything about it.

I imagine there are a lot of people who can identify with the Brand view of politics: "Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites."

So I propose to take what he says seriously -- which may be a mistake, but what the hell. A lot of it will be curiously familiar to anyone who remembers, as I do, the hippies of the 1960s: "Make love, not war … down with the man … Power to the people."  Beguiling, attractive slogans, with their wonderful certainty that there are simple answers to complex questions.

What Brand says is not only daft but dangerous. It's dangerous because he is a clever man with influence, and when he says: "Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people", there is a real risk that some people -- especially young people -- will take him seriously.

The core of his message is: "I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either." He presents it as a message of hope, when in fact it is precisely the opposite. It is a message of despair.

Voting doesn't change anything? Tell that to the millions of Americans with no health insurance who, once the Obama administration have sorted out their IT problems, will, for the first time, have access to decent health care. They wouldn't have it if no one had bothered to vote.

Tell all those tens of thousands of British workers on the minimum wage (yes, I know, it's disgracefully inadequate, but it's still better than no minimum wage at all), introduced in the face of fierce opposition by a Labour government after the Blair victory of 1997. And it wouldn't have happened if no one had bothered to vote.

Tell the millions of black South Africans who voted for the ANC in 1994 and elected Nelson Mandela as their president. It wouldn't have happened if they hadn't bothered to vote.

Apathy is cowardice. It's a way of saying "I take no responsibility for what happens in my country." I can understand people being reluctant to vote because they feel a sense of disgust, but the rational reaction to that is not apathy, but to find candidates -- or become a candidate -- in whom one is more prepared to have faith.

Brand brands himself a revolutionary. "Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster ...  Take to the streets, together, with the understanding that the feeling that you aren’t being heard or seen or represented isn’t psychosis; it’s government policy."

I wonder if he's noticed what's happening in Egypt, or Tunisia, or Libya, where hundreds of thousands of excited revolutionaries took to the streets to topple hated dictatorships. They achieved their goal -- and then what? So far, it's not easy to argue that what has followed is any better than what went before. I would have thought that the lure of the barricades might have taken a bit of a knock -- but perhaps careful consideration of other peoples' experiences is not Brand's style.

In a hilarious, but also deeply depressing, interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight on Wednesday night, he demonstrated his utter inability to offer any concrete example of what he believes we should do instead of vote. He wants fundamental change but has no idea how to achieve it.

The closest he comes in his New Statesman manifesto is: "To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power." At which point, I can merely offer another quote from the same piece: "First and foremost I want to have a f***ing laugh."

Indeed. And here's what worries me most. If Russell Brand was content to be a highly successful comedian, a jester with a pig's bladder and bells on his multi-coloured hat, I'd leave him alone with his mashed up mind and pantechnicon of platitudes. (Oh yes, I too can write as if I've swallowed a Thesaurus -- it's neither as difficult, nor as impressive, as Brand seems to think.)

But by writing thousands of words of political junk in a respected weekly magazine, he sets himself up as someone with something to contribute to an important debate. The truth is that he has nothing to contribute, other than the self-satisfied smirk of a man who knows he'll never go hungry or be without a home.

If he really wanted to encourage the development of a genuinely revolutionary movement, he would start organising one. He would knuckle down to do really, really boring things, like handing out leaflets on street corners, lanching petitions, holding meetings, just like the early trades unionists and labour activists he professes to admire so much.

But of course that's not what he's about. "First and foremost I want to have a f***ing laugh." Which is fine, as long as no one is tempted, even for a moment, to take him seriously.

Friday 18 October 2013

Selling out to China

For sale: a medium size European nation with highly attractive investment opportunities. Would particularly suit China. All inquiries to G Osborne, 11 Downing Street, London.

It would have saved a fortune, wouldn't it, if the Treasury had simply paid for a small ad in the People's Daily and left it at that?  Because, once you strip away the diplo-babble flim-flam, that's pretty much the message the Chancellor has been hawking around China this week as he sipped his endless cups of tea and smiled awkwardly for the cameras.

We've got used to the fact that our car industry is no longer British-owned; that much of our electricity, gas and water is provided by non-UK companies, and that Heathrow airport is owned by a consortium made up of Spanish railways, a Quebec pension fund, and a Singaporean sovereign wealth fund.

But how do you feel about Britain's nuclear power stations being owned by China? Does it make sense to entrust the bulk of the nation's future energy supplies -- gas, electricity, and nuclear -- to overseas interests?

For now, it may be only a minority holding that China buys in UK nuclear power projects, but as the Treasury itself admits: "While any initial Chinese stake in a nuclear-power project is likely to be a minority stake, over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes."

Many countries ring-fence certain industries to make them off-limits to foreign investors, the thinking being that if an enterprise is of sufficient strategic importance to a nation's well-being (energy, public transport, defence), then it's simply too risky to entrust it to shareholders who may have different priorities. (According to the book Britain for Sale, by Alex Brummer, about half of the companies providing essential services in the UK, including four of the six main energy companies, are foreign-owned.)

The British approach seems to be not just to flog off the family silver, to use Harold Macmillan's famous phrase in 1985, but to put up on eBay every single thing we might possibly be able to get a price for, up to and including the tiles on the roof.

I have nothing in principle against foreign companies operating in the UK -- on the contrary, from Aldi to IKEA to Sony and Toyota, they provide jobs, goods and services which make Britain a far better place than it might otherwise be.

But I do have serious migivings when it comes to essential public services like energy and public transport. Current corporate theory suggests that companies have responsibilities not only to their shareholders and to their customers, but also to their employees and, in this context most importantly, to the community in which they operate.

Is it reasonable to expect corporate decision-makers to be as sensitive to community needs thousands of miles from where they live, to feel the same sense of involvement with a society half way round the world, as they do to the society in which they live?

Ah, you may say, but the fact is that we simply don't have the cash to invest in the hugely costly infrastructure projects that might help us build a more prosperous future. (Look, after all, at the row over the HS2 high-speed rail project.) If we can't persuade the Chinese to build our nuclear power stations for us, who else is going to stump up the cash?

Well, how about UK tax-payers? Why does no one any longer argue that if the UK needs essential infrastructure investment, then it's the job of the government to raise the funds necessary to pay for it through personal and corporate taxation? I wonder what answer you'd get if you asked British voters: "Who would you prefer to build Britain's future power stations: the government, using money raised through taxes, or China?"

Even The Times, not usually an enthusiast for State-owned businesses, suggests in a highly critical editorial (£) today: "Perhaps this country’s taxpayers would be better off in the long-run if the British state built the next generation of power plants?"

Day after day, we're told that lower taxes equal greater prosperity. I'd find the argument just a bit more convincing if the money that no longer flows into the Treasury as a result of tax cuts was instead being used to finance future infrastructure investment, rather than to line CEOs' pockets to enable them to buy ever bigger houses and inflate an already insane London property price bubble.

I don't want you to take this as an anti-China rant, although I do think there are serious issues to be considered if China is to become a major investor in UK public infrastructure provision. How certain are we that China will be a stable, prosperous economy in 20, 50 or 100 years time? How big a risk is there that its own-brand combination of political authoritarianism and economic pluralism will come under intolerable strain within the next decade or so? Who will pick up the pieces if Chinese investment largesse suddenly vanishes?

And do we feel entirely comfortable with the prospect of becoming increasingly reliant for our own future prosperity on a country whose record on workers' pay and conditions, environmental degradation and basic human rights still leaves so much to be desired?

My former colleague, the respected China analyst Isabel Hilton, writes in The Guardian today that we should be asking even more questions: "Will British consumers end up paying high energy prices to guarantee a Chinese investor a good return? What future leverage will Chinese investment in British infrastructure give to an emerging power that frequently says it does not accept established global rules? What degree of transparency and accountability can we, as supplicants, enforce on our new partner? What guarantee have we that in depending on Chinese finance, we haven't surrendered more than we bargained for?"

She concludes: "Perhaps it is not too late to ask." I hope she's right.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Paul Dacre and the BBC - some facts

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, has replied to the paper's critics over its labelling of Ed Miliband's father as "the man who hated Britain." And he's complained about the "full-scale war" that he says has been waged by the BBC and the left against the Mail.

He described the Mail as a paper that "constantly dares to stand up to the liberal-left consensus that dominates so many areas of British life and instead represents the views of the ordinary people who are our readers and who don't have a voice in today's political landscape and are too often ignored by today's ruling elite."

So here are some facts, taken from a report published by the media regulator Ofcom last month, which might help provide some context.

On a chart calculated by asking people which news sources they use and how frequently they use them, TV came top with 47 per cent of references, followed by the internet (21 per cent), radio (18 per cent) and newspapers (13 per cent).

The BBC accounted for 56 per cent of the TV references, 64 per cent of the radio references, and 27 per cent of internet references.

Across all media platforms, the BBC came top with 44 per cent, followed by ITV, commercial radio, Sky, social media -- and the Mail with 4 per cent.

All of which casts a somewhat different light on who really "represents the views of the ordinary people".

Friday 11 October 2013

When secrets mustn't be kept secret

It's not often that top spooks emerge from the shadows, and on those rare occasions

when they do, they tend to choose their words very, very carefully. That's why we need to be just as careful when we examine what they say.

This week's speech by the director-general of MI5, Andrew Parker, was a text-book example, in which he described as "utter nonsense" the suggestion that security services "monitor everyone and all their communications”. It was, you may think, a clear swipe at the US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and The Guardian, which has been publishing his disclosures over the past several weeks, and which yesterday was described by the Daily Mail as "The paper that helps Britain's enemies."

But hang on a minute. At the centre of the mass of material that has emerged is not the allegation that the security people are monitoring everyone -- which would be patently absurd -- but that they have the capability to monitor anyone. It's not the same thing at all, as Mr Parker knows full well. He is, as you would expect, a master of the "non-denial denial", in other words, he is categorically denying something that hasn't been alleged.

Let's pretend this discussion was taking place in a pre-internet world. Out of the woodwork comes a security service insider who tells us that MI5 have entered into a secret agreement with all the country's major key manufacturers that enables them to open the front door of any house in the land, to enter any home, and to rifle through any filing cabinet and desk drawer. No search warrant required, no oversight in place.

Fine, you may say, be my guest. If they want to rummage through my underwear drawer, go ahead. I have nothing to hide, and nothing to fear. That's pretty much what many people have said on learning that US and UK security agencies have exactly that kind of access to our online world.

But now suppose you start a campaign to stop someone developing a fracking plant at the end of your garden, or a wind turbine farm on a nearby hill. You send out a few emails to your neighbours, discuss protest demonstrations, perhaps someone even suggests some direct action: sitting in the road in front of the mining company's diggers, maybe, or cutting through a security fence to plaster posters all over the site of the proposed development.

One morning, at 6am, there's a knock at your door. The police are there, armed with a huge fat file containing every single email you've sent over the past six months, all the emails you've received, all the books you've bought online and every Google search you've made.  Come with us and answer a few questions, they say, or we may have to tell your partner about this online dating site you've registered with, looking for … well, you can fill in the details.

Fanciful? Not at all. Ask the environmental campaigners who were spied on for several years by undercover police officers (some of whom even fathered children with the women they were spying on), or the supporters of the family of Stephen Laurence who found they too were being spied on. Nasty things tend to happen in the dark, when no one is looking -- and that's why it's so crucial that we have some honesty about what exactly the security agencies are able to do and under what kind of authority they operate.

I don't expect them to tell us every time they tap into the email account of a suspected jihadi bomber. I really don't need to know which websites they're monitoring, or which Google search terms set alarm bells ringing at GCHQ. What I do need to know is that someone, somewhere, outside the security bubble, does know, and has authorised the surveillance. In theory, that's what is meant to happen now. In practice, well, let's say there's room for doubt …

We also need to know that the spooks aren't lying to us. There is, unfortunately, good reason to suppose that the NSA in Washington has not been entirely honest, even with members of Congress, when discussing what sort of surveillance capacity it has built up. We know from experience, alas, that if spies are allowed to operate without effective supervision, they do have a habit of going quite a lot further than might be considered appropriate in a society that professes to value freedom of expression and the right to privacy. 

So here are a couple of suggestions for MI5's Mr Parker. First stop playing games with your non-denial denials. There's a serious debate to be had, and you need to be part of it.

Second, in the face of calls for greater oversight of what you and your colleagues at GCHQ are up to, tell us what kind of supervision you'd regard as acceptable. If the police need to apply to a magistrate for a search warrant before they start rummaging through my files, what would you regard as an appropriate equivalent safeguard?

It is mildly encouraging -- let's not get too excited -- that both David Cameron and Nick Clegg acknowledged yesterday that there may be a case for re-examining the safeguards that are in place at present. The prime minister said: "If people want to suggest improvements about how [the security agencies] are governed and looked after, I am happy to listen to those."

The concerns that have been expressed since Edward Snowden started shovelling out his secrets don't come just from pesky journalists poking their noses into matters best left to the security services. (And it's not just pesky journalists from The Guardian, either, as evidenced by the impressive number of statements published today from editors around the world who are backing its reporting of the Snowden material.)

In addition, such luminaries as Tom King, the former Conservative chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, the former director of GCHQ, Sir David Omand, and a former director general of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, have all added their voices to those questioning whether it's time to tighten up the controls and allow a little more daylight into the world of the spooks.

On the other hand, today's Times (£) quotes Sir David Omand as saying that the Snowden disclosures are "the most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever, much worse than Burgess and MacLean in the 1950s." (I suspect, though, that The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, may have had a point when he suggested a couple of days ago: "You would have to be a terrorist who didn’t know how to tie his shoelaces not to believe that people were watching things on the internet and scooping up telephone calls.")

Andrew Parker said in his speech on Tuesday that the ability of GCHQ to intercept the voice and internet traffic of terrorists is “vital to the safety of the country and its citizens”. He's absolutely right, and it is in the nature of his business that we will never know -- we can never know -- how many attacks such surveillance may have prevented.

What we need to know, and what we have every right to know, is that MI5 and their chums are being properly watched and supervised. Oh yes, and that they don't lie to their political masters -- or to us -- about what they're up to.

Friday 4 October 2013

The newspaper that really hates Britain

I agree with Nick Clegg. The Daily Mail hates Britain. Speaking yesterday morning on his LBC radio phone-in, he said: "They don't like working mothers, they don't like the BBC, they don't like members of the royal family, they don't like teachers, they don't like the English football team."

I'd go further: the Daily Mail hates Britain because it hates what Britain has become, and yearns, achingly, for what it wrongly imagines the country once was. It hates a Britain where gay people can marry each other, where difference is celebrated, and where no one knows their place any more.

That's one reason why, last weekend, it launched its extraordinary, dishonest, and indecent attack on Ed Miliband's late father. It can't stand the idea that the son of a Marxist intellectual -- oh yes, and a foreigner -- might one day be prime minister. Because the Mail also hates Marxists, it also hates intellectuals, and it's not at all keen on foreigners, especially those who ask difficult questions.

I also agree with Ed Miliband. The Mail's attack on his father was bad enough, but the decision of its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday, to send a reporter on Wednesday to gatecrash a private family memorial service crossed "a line of common decency". (The MoS's editor and proprietor have both since apologised unreservedly, and two of the paper's journalists have been suspended.)

Who cares what the Daily Mail thinks and does? Just about the entire political leadership of Britain, that's who -- because they believe that the paper somehow has a mystical insight into the deepest thoughts of British voters, that it taps into the veins of the national pysche, and that to ignore it is to ignore the instincts of the British people.

The Mail is phenomenally good at hating. It's also pretty good at getting things wrong, and appallingly bad at apologising when it does so. It prizes prejudice and disdains reason. It fears the future and worships the past.

In 1924, four days before a general election, it published the so-called Zinoviev letter, which purported to be an instruction from a Soviet Communist party apparatchik to "sympathetic forces" in the British Labour party. That letter was later shown to have been a forgery.

In 1977, it published another letter, this time purportedly written by the chairman of the National Enterprise Board, to the chief executive of the State-owned motor manufacturer British Leyland. It was meant to show that the Labour government had approved a plan for Leyland to pay bribes for overseas contracts; the Mail said it was exposing "the hypocritical face of socialism". That letter, too, was a forgery.

The Mail, it seems, will stop at nothing to prevent a Labour government coming to power. Not 90 years ago, not 35 years ago, not now.

The Mail sells papers by selling fear. Will eating give you cancer? Will Labour take all your money away? Criminals are everywhere. (There's even a website where you can automatically generate your own Mail-type headlines: "Have teachers made your pets obese?" "Have yobs impregnated Britain's swans?" "Could the loony left make the middle class impotent?")

But this week, it went over the top. It attacked Ed Miliband's father as "The man who hated Britain" and justified the assault by claiming: "What is so disturbing is that Miliband Jnr, with his plans for state seizures of builders’ land and fixing prices by government diktat, appears to have absorbed so many of his father’s ideas." In other words, vote Labour and elect the son of a Marxist who wants to turn Britain into a Stalinist hellhole.

Which is, of course, arrant, pernicious, and utterly absurd nonsense. Quite apart from the fact that Ed Miliband has said repeatedly that he does not share his late father's political views, his proposal for what the Mail calls the "state seizure of builders' land" -- which led its columnist Quentin Letts to liken Mr Miliband to Robert Mugabe -- exactly matches what that notorious revolutionary Marxist Boris Johnson proposed in his blueprint for London earlier this year. (Thank you, Private Eye, for pointing it out.)

The former Thatcherite Cabinet minister John Moore, who was taught by Ralph Miliband at the London School of Economics and who is no friend of the Labour party, said: "It beggars belief that the Daily Mail can accuse him of lacking patriotism. I never heard him ever say one word which was negative about Britain … The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew."

Margaret Thatcher's biographer, Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph: "The Mail managed to offend against taste and decency on multiple counts – attacking a man for his deceased father's views, misrepresenting those views, attacking a Jew, attacking a refugee from Hitler."

And the former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine: "This is carrying politics to an extent that is just demeaning …"

It was worse than that: it was plain, outright wrong. Yes, Ralph Miliband was a Marxist, but he was no apologist for Stalinist tyranny. Here's what the Daily Telegraph, no less, said in its obituary in 1994 (which it helpfully, and tellingly, republished this week): "Though committed to socialism, he never hesitated to criticise its distortion by Stalin and other dictators."

Perhaps I sound as if this is all a bit personal. Well, it is. Because my parents, like Ed Miliband's, came to Britain as refugees from the Nazis. My parents, like his father, joined the British armed forces during the Second World War to help defeat the Nazis; they worked in a military intelligence unit so secret that its contribution to the war effort has only recently been publicly disclosed. My parents, like his, never failed to acknowledge the debt they owed this country -- and like his, I imagine, never, ever read the Daily Mail.

The Mail sells more than 1.8 million copies a day, making it the second most popular daily paper in the UK after the Sun. It has one of the loudest voices in what I still think of as Fleet Street, and its editor, Paul Dacre, who has been at the helm for more than 20 years, is regarded as one of the most powerful media figures in the land. He is also the current chairman of the Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice Committee, which just goes to prove that satire is alive and well.

The former Blair spin-doctor Alastair Campbell calls him "a bully and a coward, and like most cowards … a hypocrite as well."  I've tried hard not to make this personal, just as I have (almost) resisted the temptation to refer back to the well-established admiration for Adolf Hitler of the paper's current owner's great-grandfather.

Others will not be so forbearing -- and I won't blame them for a moment.