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“One must read the papers,” said a Soviet literary character

A sound piece of advice, that. Sometimes one wishes that those who report on Russian affairs followed it.

They don’t though, which is why over the last few days they’ve been breaking the earth-shattering news of Russian paratroopers fighting, and dying, in  the Ukraine.

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National self-determination as the enemy of nationhood

It’s hard not to notice the semantic confusion arriving in the slipstream of the Scottish referendum.

No one seems to be any longer sure of anything: nationhood, home rule for Scotland, England or possibly Merseyside, democracy, constitution, why the chicken crosses the road or whether or not it comes before the egg.

What one is observing is an intellectual mess, a veritable rain of error. Whenever a political system delivers such a deluge, one has to question the system, not just its isolated workings.

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Ben and Bob: the answer, my friend, really is blowin' in the wind

The answer to this question, that is: Is there any limit to the stupid, subversive, demotic rubbish The Times will publish these days?

Ben Macintyre's article on Bob Dylan unwittingly plucks the answer out of the blowin' wind and lays it before us. It's an emphatic no.

The article itself must have been plucked out too, but not so much of the wind as of the orifice that at times produces it. For Ben thinks Bob should be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

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Putin is screaming historical parallels – is anyone listening?

One can observe two things about modern tyrants: first, they can’t resist divulging their plans; second, the world never listens.

Marx, for example, laid down the blueprint for a modern totalitarian state, complete with genocide, democide, concentration camps, suppression of every liberty, dictatorship of a small elite, confiscation of all private property, destruction of the family – the lot.

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You’re in the wrong job, Your Grace

A financial consultant shouldn’t have fundamental misgivings about the morality of money.

A geography teacher shouldn’t doubt that the Earth is round.

A nuclear physicist shouldn’t wonder if the atom is really divisible.

If these professionals are indeed beset by such doubts, any sensible person would be justified in thinking they should seek a different line of work.

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Crimean Tatars: is another genocide under way?

Yesterday Putin’s storm troops made a move on Crimean Tatars, a people whose claim on the peninsula predates the Russians’ by centuries.

Ever since the anschluss of the Crimea last March, the Tatars, who make up about 12 per cent of the population, have been on the receiving end of persecution.

This went beyond your normal common-or-garden jostling for position and the odd offensive word on public transport.

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Independence means greater dependence in Scottish

Socialism corrupts; socialism plus nationalism corrupts absolutely.

With apologies to Lord Acton for this slight paraphrase, it does explain the morass into which Scotland has sunk.

The Scots used to be a proud, and proudly self-sufficient, people of empire builders, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, statesmen, writers, philosophers and economists, one that punched way above its weight in British life.

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Dave on Islam: our heir to Blair plagiarises Dubya

It was the current American VP Joe Biden who set the precedent.

During his 1988 presidential campaign Biden repeated word for word Neil Kinnock’s speech on being the first in his family to go to university. Sorry, it wasn’t quite word for word: Joe did replace ‘the first Kinnock’ with ‘the first Biden’.

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Has the Third World War already started?

Most historians agree that the Second World War started on 1 September, 1939.

Some will argue that the real date was 23 August, when Molotov and Ribbentrop signed the pact whose secret protocol divided Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.

Some others will pick an even earlier date, such as the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss of Austria or the occupation of Czechoslovakia. 

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Aye or och, no? Scotland decides, Rifkind waffles

Long since gone are the days when one could hope to read serious analysis in The Times.

The best one can expect nowadays is some intelligible thoughts, however wrong, shallow and ill-informed. Yet Hugo Rifkind consistently frustrates even such modest expectations.

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