There is one root reason why there are limited start-ups in Europe. It boils down to the dead hand of state intervention, which is generally much greater in Europe than in the US or East Asia. This works in both direct and indirect ways. The direct effect is that the European governments tend to provide funding that is very specific, but in the wrong ways, as I shall explain later.
In the indirect way the generally higher level of employment laws and corporate taxes tends to reduce the incentive to take risks. This hits in two ways; firstly many countries have an effective incentive not to grow companies because bureaucratic red-tape increases as a company grows. A 5 person company can typically avoid most bureaucracy, a 15 person company typically needs at least one person to work full time placating various bureaucrats and so on. Effectively, as the company grows the red-tape burden also increases, but the bureaucratic burden increases at a faster rate. This is then tied to the difficulty in removing excess or unsuitable employees. In most of Europe it is hard and expensive to stop employing someone; typically a significant payoff must be made, even if the employee was considered incompetent, and in some cases there may be legal requirements to continue employing people despite having no job for them.
The net effect is that a European company has a distinct incentive not to take the risk of adding staff. Rather than bulk up in the good times in the hope of making more money for leaner periods, a European company will often prefer to not take the risk of seeking orders from new customers because they can’t afford the risk that they will end up with a higher cost base that it is unable to shrink later.
There is of course an additional secondary side effect: since risk-taking is discouraged a European who is likely to wish to take risks will consider taking the risk of emigrating to a more entrepreneur-friendly environment, thus depriving Europe of his talents, while a risk-taker elsewhere has little incentive to move to Europe. There is periodic talk of the “brain-drain” to the USA; I think the above is the correct explanation of why this occurs. That is not to say that Europe has no entrepreneurial talent, just that it fails to nurture what it has and discourages the arrival of new talent.
Finally the generally high tax burden for the well-paid means that not only is the incentive to a take the risks that could lead to a large payoff reduced, but also a person who is inclined to take risks may decide that he can get a better result from finding a way to evade paying tax than increasing gross earnings.
To return to the way European governments try to support start-ups by providing grants and incentives: these tend to fall into two categories, firstly location-dependent funds where enterprises that (re)locate themselves in a particular place are entitled to various incentives; and secondly funds that support commercialisation in particular areas of research. The first is a problem because the funds act purely as crude corporate welfare and can, if gamed correctly, allow an unscrupulous individual to set up a shell company, pocket the grants and not do anything except pay salaries to the founder and his friends. Moreover they are a way of trying to apply a band-aid to a broken system rather than fixing the system; if a location is attractive for start-ups then they will come and flourish, if it isn’t then subsidizing start-ups to come and not flourish just wastes entrepreneurial talent.
The problem of gaming the system also occurs with research field support. In addition if a field is worth supporting then almost certainly some commercially minded VC will fund business plans in that area. If it isn’t then they won’t fund the plans, and any start-ups founded are likely to be either prematurely commercialising something, or to be working on something that has no commercial future. In which case the start-up will consume lots of tax money without producing any sensible return.
Finally, one way that a government can act to help start-ups is to be a customer. Unfortunately the main field where the government can be a customer is in the military and, apart from the UK and France, most European militaries are neither interested in high technology nor have sufficient budget. Healthcare, however, the other area in which governments can be customers, is about the only one where Europe does have a number of success stories, which may help prove my point.Permalink
Many of the antiwar, anti-Bush brigade seem to like comparing President Bush with Hitler. Given that this is the weekend of the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising may I suggest that this is an appropriate moment to make some comparisons.
If you can't see the difference between Warsaw and Baghdad and thereby realise that there is a difference between President GW Bush and Chancellor Adolf Hitler then you have a big problem.Permalink
Various news outlets have noted that today is the 300th anniversary of British occupation of Gibraltar (in conjunction at that time with our friends the Dutch). The war of Spanish succession which permitted the initial conquest was probably about as pointless a squabble as any and most of the belligerants seemed to be in it for reasons that had nothing directly to do with who shold rule Spain. Hence after a variety of battles one way and another it was all reduced to haggling in the Treaty of Utrecht. One of the results of this was that the British crown was ceded perpertual rights to Gibraltar in no uncertain terms, however the Spanish don't see it this way and they want it back since, unlike all the other parts of the glorious 16th and 17th century Spanish empire which have since fallen by the wayside, this bit is a part of the Iberian peninsular and thus territorially connected to Spain. Unfortunately Spain has been remarkably lax about defending a place that is apparently so key to Spain - as described in this historical piece:
By the year 1309, King Ferdinand IV had laid siege on Algeciras and, learning of Arab weakness on the Rock sent Alonso Perez de Guzman to capture it.
... By 1333 Gibraltar was once more in Muslim hands as Abdul Malik, son of the king of Morocco, laid siege. The garrison surrendered after four and a half months of siege. More sieges were to follow until 1462 when the Spaniards finally captured Gibraltar from the Muslims.
The strategic value of Gibraltar then declined as it became just another Spanish provincial town. Few people wanted to settle on the Rock as had happened earlier...
...In the summer of 1540 a large fleet of pirates assembled, and raided the poorly defended Gibraltar.
The Spanish government seems to get worked up about Gibraltar at regular intervals and today's celebration is another example. To a disinterested outsider it seems odd that, despite centuries of neglect then and utter failure to retake the place in various sieges during the 18th century, Spain considers Gibralter, which has been under Spanish control for a mere under 266 years in total since it first took the place in 1309, to be so important to Spain. A less disinterested observer would wonder in what way this differs from Spain's occcupation of Melilla and Ceuta and various tiny islands in North Africa despite periodic requests from the Moroccans for their return.
A truly sarcastic observer would note that this is similar to Spain's control of Olivenza, which, according to numerous treaties including the 1815 Treaty of Vienna is Portuguese territory. Funnily enough in both Olivenza and the Moroccan territories Spain claims that the local inhabitants wish to remain part of Spain and that this wish should be taken into consideration. The same applies to Gibraltar where the inhabaitants have firmly rejected Spanish rule in recent votes and referenda. Since both international treaty and the wishes of the inhabitants are against Spanish control there seems to be no grounds for Spain to expect Gibraltar back.
The Spanish are, however, in danger of exposing themselves to some rather nasty side-effects if they continue to press for Gibraltar's return since the Moors occupied Gibraltar from 711 until 1462 with a brief break of some 24 years in the early 1300s. Thus, following Spanish logic, a reasonable claim could be made that the successor to the Caliphate should actually have control of Gibraltar and of course much of the rest of Andalusia. Given the recent Madrid bombings and the ravings of various Al Qaeda leaders on the subject of Andalusia, were Spain to take over Gibraltar that could be used as a precedent for Islamic terrorism in both Gibraltar and Andalusia.
The Spanish hoped (and it seems some British Europhiles agreed) that the EU and "ever closer union" would result in a de facto change of control. This may still happen, the EU may indeed become a superstate, but I am increasingly sceptical. Gibraltar may turn out to be a part of the straw that breaks the camel's back as the UK and other nations insist on referenda.
In the grand scheme of things I guess the Gibraltar issue is unlikely to do much for the Europhobic cause in the UK, which should be won on issues of economic comparison (such as UK growth of 3% or more this year vs Eurozone growth of at most 2% and unemployment - UK <5% and decreasing, Euro average 9%+ and static to rising). But it is likely to be symptomatic, not so much of loss of empire or sovereignty though that also applies, as of the EU Elite's utter disregard for the desires or feelings of the people they rule. Something that most of the unfortunates involved in the War of Spanish Succession 300 years ago would tend to recognise.
Plus ça change... as they say and it applies to the economic situation as well. In 1704 the British were taking the first hesitent steps of the Industrial Revolution. Agurculture was being revolutionized and the first steam engines was being developed by Savery and Newcomen. Moreover the town and city guilds were losing ground in Britain in ways that they were not on the continent. Likewise, thanks to the establishment of the Bank of England and other city institutions such as Lloyds and the London Stock Exchange, financial matters were far more advanced than they were in most of the rest of Europe. Despite the best efforts of the Guardianistas to apply excessive EUrocratic regulation Britain in 2004 has similar differences.Permalink
I don't know whether the fault is with the NY Slimes or the moron "anonymous officials" who briefed them but this deserves an investigation.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. officials revealed the name of captured al Qaeda suspect Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan while he was still cooperating with Pakistani authorities, a Pakistani intelligence source has told Reuters.
Khan e-mailed comrades on Sunday and Monday as part of a Pakistani sting operation against Osama bin Laden's network, the source said on Friday.
But his name appeared in the New York Times on Monday following anonymous briefings by U.S. officials, raising suggestions their disclosure could have jeopardised the sting.
"He was cooperating with interrogators on Sunday and Monday and sent e-mails on both days," the intelligence source told Reuters. Khan was moved to a new location on Monday evening, he said.
Also at PowerlinePermalink
In the previous post I wrote about how the NY Slimes had blown a sting operation against Al Qaeda. I've had a few more thoughts about this based on the coverage of this leak such as this MSNBC article, which states in part:
But Pakistani intelligence courses have said that the al-Qaida suspect named by U.S. officials as the source of information that led to the heightened state of alert was working undercover. By naming the suspect, the United States forced Pakistan to put an end to the sting operation and forced it to hide the man in a secret location.
Under pressure to justify the alerts, U.S. officials confirmed a report by The New York Times that the man, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, was the source of the intelligence that led to the decision.
A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters on Friday that Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al-Qaida operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.
Monday evening, after Khan’s name appeared, Pakistani officials moved him to a secret location.
This part makes it clear just how serious the breach was and provides explanation as to why it occured. Another article, this time from Reuters, makes very similar case for why the leak occured but has some distinctly iffy reasoning at the end:
Although the casing reports were mostly several years old, U.S. officials said they acted urgently because of separate intelligence suggesting an increased likelihood of attacks in the runup to the presidential election in November. U.S. officials now say Hindi, one of the suspects arrested after Khan's name was compromised, may have been the head of the team that cased those buildings. But the Pakistani disclosure that Khan was under cover suggests that the cell had been infiltrated, and was under surveillance at the time Washington ordered the orange alert. The security experts said that under such circumstances it would be extraordinary to issue a public warning, because of the risk of tipping off the cell that it had been compromised.
It occurs to me that this is a little simplistic. Despite the terrorists being under suveillance it would be extraordinarily risky to not warn specific targets of the threat. Why? because of the likely public response if the terrorists actually mounted an operation. Given all the noise about Sept 11 and possible prior knowledge there is no way that any administration would be willing to not issue any warning.
Hence in my opinion, the warning was issued in a way that seemed to deliberately disguise the date and source of the intelligence. This warning attempted to strike a balance between the public's need to know and the need to protect the ongoing sting. However commentators from within the media and Democratic Party (and elsewhere too) immediately criticised the warning as being for purely partisan reasons, worthless etc. etc. when in fact it was rather more than that. I am guessing that, as MSNBC says, some official(s) somewhere was sufficiently worried about this, because the warning was in fact based on more just "old information", and decided to leak to the NY Slimes the real truth.
Now if the reason for doing this was that they/he just wanted the NY Slimes to print news items that stopped denigrating the warning and gave the background information about the Khan arrest solely as context not expecting it to be published (possibly even saying that it wasn't for publication) then the NY Slimes is guilty of treason or aiding the enemy by publishing the information.
Alternatively it could be that the official was just trying to counter the negative spin and failed to consider that announcing Khan's arrest would bring the sting to an end. In such a case it is the official who needs to be punished because he leaked information for purely partisan reasons that impacted an anti-terrorism operation.
At this point we don't know which of these hypotheses is true (if either is) but I suspect that the root cause of the leak was precisely due to the general poo-pooing of the original warning. And that can squarely be blamed on the Mainstream Media and the Democratic Party. Given the hullabaloo over the Plame/Wilson affair I am amazed that this leak isn't getting the same level of attention since it would seem to have caused far more potential harm.
Update: Kevin Drum seems to be asking the right questionsPermalink
CNN's Late Edition discussed the issue with not only Condoleezza Rice but also a couple of senators. The transcript is well worth reading in full but the more interestig bits are here:
BLITZER: But is it fair to say that most, if not all, of the information was three or four years old, or was there other information that was fresher?
RICE: These casings were done in 2000, 2001, maybe at other times. Some of them perhaps have been updated. But the information that there were plots under way that might relate to the pre-election period came from multiple sources, and active multiple sources.
And so you took the fact that they have these casing files on important financial institutions in Washington, New Jersey and New York City, and you took the fact that you were capturing people in places like Pakistan, who related to both the files and to pre- election plots. And you have to go out and warn. You have a duty to warn.
BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.
BLITZER: Had he been flipped, in the vernacular, was he cooperating with Pakistani intelligence after he was arrested?
RICE: I don't know the answer to that question, as to whether or not he was cooperating with them.
As I read this exchange I take from it that almost exactly what I proposed yesterday is in fact what happened. Thanks to the ravings of Howard Dean (whom Dr Rice skewers nicely a bit further down the transcript) you get some official telling certain members of the Washington press corps on background that these alerts were not politically inspired and based on old information but rather on some brand new information got from Khan and others in Pakistan. The key is the on background phrase, my understanding from this is that on background means you don't name names or report the details discussed. Background is used to provide context. Its a way to (re)direct the thrust of news investigation/reporting but you don't expect the contents of your background briefing to be splashed across the newspapers the next day.
The senators were reasonably senatorial and unwilling to be drawn into direct criticism of anyone. I think this bit sums up the problem well:
BLITZER: I did speak earlier with Dr. Condolleeza Rice, Senator Allen. She confirmed that on background, not publicly, but off the record, without mentioning any names, they did release the name of this Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, but she didn't know if, in fact, the Pakistanis had been using him as some sort of sting operation. Are you as concerned as Senator Schumer is that the release of his name potentially could have compromised an ongoing effort to round up additional al Qaeda operatives?
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Well, from what I can glean from all of this, they actually were able to get a lot of information to get the different addresses, the methods by which they were communicating over the Internet, and undoubtedly was a very productive and useful sting operation. It was positive, it was good. You're glad to hear we're infiltrating in that regard...
BLITZER: But if the information comes out too quickly, it could up-end a bigger potential round-up of suspects?
ALLEN: They get into a bind. And Senator Schumer's remarks were right. People -- I always like to know. People want to know, all right, what's the information? Why are we shutting down this road, or why is there concerns? You always want to know the evidence.
In this situation, in my view, they should have kept their mouth shut and just said, "We have information, trust us," and I think that would have been good enough for me and, I would hope, for also others who say, gosh, we want to get more openness.
BLITZER: But you know, Senator Schumer, in this political climate right now the words, "trust us," during a heavy political season like this is right now, probably are not going to do it for a lot of Americans who are skeptical of this administration.
SCHUMER: And they could've said just what they said to us, to George and I, even in the intelligence briefings, which is what I've mentioned before. I mean, it's public now, so there's no worry, and they did say it, which is, "We have new information that ties strands together."
The problem is that the mainstream media and the "terrorist wing" of the Democratic party were clearly unwilling to accept the "trust me" excuse. Indeed given all the BS about an August surprise and so on which got considerable coverage in the mainstream media and not just in the "tin-foil hat" parts of the Internet, its seems clear that had we not had the details about why this threat was credible published we'd be seeing NY Slimes columnists mocking the terror alert even today. Probably by writing self congratulationary pieces about how they had seen through the Bush administrations blatent manipulation of the terror alert system.
Somewhere else in the senatorial interview one of them says that his problem with the Bush administration is its secrecy not its openness. I agree. Bush and his team have generally done a terrible job at communicating and revealing information that they had no reason to hide. BUT the media doesn't help things. If I had a background briefing plastered across the NY Slimes I'd stop talking too. Irresponible journalism just helps the more secretive members of government justify their actions and is not at all what we want.
At some point journalists and their employers have to start accepting that journalists actually have responsibility too. In the closed clubby world of 1950s journalism it was understood that journalists did not have to immediately broadcast to their audience whatever secret they had gleaned regardless of the consequences. The NY Slimes still hasthe slogan "all the news that's fit to print" which implies a certain amount of thought about consequences.Since Watergate this ideal has disappeared and its lack is going to wreck journalism. The problem is not just that secretive organizations will remain secretive, its more broadly based. If journalists wish to be accepted by the people they write about then they have to be trustworthy. Blowing that trust and making journalism adversarial is a bad way to get information from people. More to the point the audience isn't that stupid. When the average joe sees journalists being irresponisble, biased or otherwise untrustworthy then they won't bother tuning in. Worse they will open themselves to the paranolid ravings of the conspiracy theorists.
The world needs credible trustworthy journalists. Ones who will present a story in a responsible fashion without bias and without compromising our security. Right now we don't have that as a general rule. The only fix that I can see is for people burned by bad journalism to start refusing to talk to the brands that burn but because journalists likes to think of themselves as being crusaders for truth, were the NY Slimes (for example) were to be removed from all Whitehouse press briefings then the cries of "censorship" and "muzzling of the press" would be deafening.
Eventually, however, this is what we will see because eventually the victims of shoddy journalism wil refuse to keep on dealing with people who then betray them because they will calculate that the risks of abuse are greater than the rewards of openness.Permalink
The VodkaPundit wants a fisking, and what the VodkaPundit wants the VodkaPundit gets, what with him being Pope Incorrigible I and so on.
Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, responding to criticism from President George W. Bush that Kerry has changed position on Iraq, told supporters he's been ``consistent'' and suggested Bush lacks ``maturity.''
Calling Kerry consistent reminds me of the statement by (I think) Alvin Toffler that "The only constant is change itself". In that sense Kerry is indeed consistent. He is consistently INCONSISTENT. As for maturity, it is possible that the senator is confusing World Championship Boring Capability and Pompous Arrogance with Maturity. The chain of logic is fairly simple: senators are mature, senators are Pompous, Arrogant Bores hence maturity means being a Pompous Arrogant Bore. Of course outside of Washington and the Senate maturity is a bit more nuanced but Kery may not realise that, seeing as he's not had any other job since being an immature sailor.
``The Bush folks are trying to say that we've changed positions, this and that,'' Kerry told a rally at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. ``I have been consistent all along, ladies and gentlemen. I thought the United States needed to stand up to Saddam Hussein. I voted to stand up to Saddam Hussein.''
Curiously this soundbite omits the information about precisely what Kerry thought we should do once we had stood up for Saddam Hussein. Politely open the door for him, give him a sloppy kiss? Oh sorry it says TO not FOR, well in Latin of course one uses the dative for both, one does apologise. Let me restart. Standing up to Hussein is a very nuanced statement. Standing up to someone could be anything from telling him he's been a naughty boy and not to do it again to dropping a nuclear bomb on him. If Kerry wants to be the strong man then standing up isn't enough, we need statements like "I voted to overthrow that scumbag Hussein by any means necessary", but one fears that such a direct statement lacks nuance.
``I know what we need to do now to get the troops home,'' Kerry said. ``I know what we need to do to deal with Iraq. We need to do what we should have done in the beginning. We need the statesmanship. We need the patience. We need the maturity. We need the leadership.''
Somehow this line reminds me of Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder series and just as in the series I'm wondering when someone is going to play Edmund Blackadder and ask "Ok good so what precisely is your cunning plan Baldrick?" and then pick holes in it. And its not just me, USA Today is wondering about the details too.
At a political rally of Republicans in Pensacola, Florida, earlier today, President Bush, 58, said John Kerry had introduced a ``new nuance'' in explaining his vote for the war even though Kerry now criticizes Bush's handling of Iraq.
Actually to be fair that is a weak argument. It is possible to be in favour of war without agreeing on methods.
Kerry, 60, sounding a new theme in the speeches he has been giving to Democratic rallies, said he wants to bring the troops home through diplomacy. About 140,000 U.S. troops are serving in Iraq. Kerry said the U.S. needs help from allies in Iraq, to ``get the target off our troops, get the hand out of the pocket of the American taxpayer and get our troops home.''
At the time I was busy being born and anyway I was in England so I could be wrong here but to me this sounds remarkably Nixonian. And I don't mean that in a good way. More to the point Kerry seems not to have liked Nixon, so why is he apparently echoing Nixon's policies? Even further to the point, precisely which allies is the US going to get help from that is hasn't already got help from? There seems to be a distinct unwillingness to take up the white man's burden in Paris and Berlin these days.
Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 after telling Americans that intelligence showed Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to U.S. security.
``After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all believed were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power,'' Bush said. ``I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up -- although there are still 84 days left in the campaign.''
Bush is showing maturity by not at this point picking on some minor nuances of the Kerry position here.
Kerry has said Bush rushed into the conflict and didn't win adequate international support or plan for keeping Iraq secure after Hussein was driven from power.
``I thought we ought to do it right. We ought to reach out to other countries. We ought to build an international coalition,'' Kerry said in Las Vegas. ``We ought to exhaust the remedies that were available to us.''
As noted above - precisely which other countries are we talking about here? Unless we're all dreaming, there are 35 or so countries with troops in Iraq and as has been made fairly clear other countries such as France, Germany, Russia and Pakistan aren't willing to pony up. However just possibly this is a hint of Kerry's secret plan. You see Kerry has a time machine. How else can one explain the mangling of tenses, the intention to exhaust remedies that were available and no longer are?
Bush said the U.S. and its coalition partners are committed to supporting Iraq's interim government until democracy takes hold.
Two years after voting for the war in Congress, ``and almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti- war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance,'' Bush said of Kerry's position.
Kerry said yesterday in an appearance at the Grand Canyon in Arizona that he wants to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq over time by building a coalition of forces from other nations and training Iraqi security forces as Iraq develops a stable civilian government.
Article repeats. Response repeasts. This is getting almost as tedious as a Kerry speech.Permalink
The problem, experts say, is that neither candidate truly has a plan to rein in America's burgeoning budget deficit which currently sits at more than $400 billion. Both campaigns offer budget plans that hide costs or assume savings that are unlikely to occur, while adding more than $1 trillion of new spending. And while each candidate promises to cut the deficit in half over the next four years, the issue ranks low on their priority list....
The campaigns on the other hand seem to be focussing their energies elsewhere
Arguing about Vietnam is mostly stupid. As far as I can see Kerry's service in Vietnam was adequate, but he gamed the system as much as he could to make himself look better than he actually was. Big Deal. Bush gamed the system to get to fly cool jets. Likewise Big Deal. Both were better than (say) Bill Clinton who gamed the system to dodge any service what so ever and worse than (say) McCain. The only bit of relevant info I can see about Vietnam is that we learn that Kerry seems to be good at exaggerating his war record, but he is neither the first nor the last politician to do that.
Arguing about Iraq is potentially more sensible. Except that Kerry seems to promise different things each time he talks and Bush just talks about staying the course. At various points Bush has ellucidated a strategy for democratizing the Middle East which is excellent and better than Kerry who doesn't seem to have any strategy at all. But Bush's tactics have been just as inconsistent so its pretty much of a wash there too.
Neither candidate can boast about his record. Bush was an adequate governor but so far as I can see nothing special and during his term as president the economy has just about recovered from the party of the Clinton years and subsequent hangover. I don't think Bush caused the downturn and don't think he did much to stimulate recovery. Kerry has been an adequate senator and definitely nothing special.
For someone who believes in less government, as I do, neither man appeals.
The only difference as far as I can see is that Kerry wants stability to be a goal whereas Bush thinks that the global situation needs change. I agree with Bush in his diagnosis. I disagree with some of his prescription. I do think that a lot of despotic regimes will prefer Kerry because they think they can get away with more from Kerry. That is something that I do not wish to encourage and therefore I am for Bush. But we're talking about supporting the lesser of two evils here not being wildly in favour of one or the other.
Update: the Instapundit talks about a promising parallel universe and lots of people seem to like itPermalink
Good campaigns from the opposition have a simple policy message such as "Its the economy stupid". Kerry has been neither clear nor simple in his policy. Thinking about the two successful regime changes in the UK that I have witnessed (Thatcher in 1979, Blair 1997) I can see a lot of things that Kerry lacks. Thatcher's campaign slogan was very simple "Labour isn't working" over a line of people ending up at the unemployment office door.
Blair in 1997 was a personality one. The labour party made no attempt at radical change but they wnet out comparing the fresh bubbly Tone with grey Mr Major. Oh and they touched on sleazy corrupt Tories and so on but the main thing was a personality campaign. It worked because A Blair Esq., can actually jazz people up and because he looked liek the sort of person who seemed reliable "a safe pair of hands". He inspired trust and optimism in a way that Major didn't.
Clinton's beating of Bush père in 1992 was a combination of one simple slogan and an attacking campaign built around it together with a charming personality.
The 2000 campaign was accurately described by the Economist as pitting Gush against Bore. There were no big economic or geostrategic events and both candidates had the personality of a sack of potatoes. No surprise that the result was a dead heat.
Kerry in 2004 is lacking both personality and a single campaign issue. To lack one may be regarded as a misfortune to lack both looks like carelessness to misquote Oscar Wilde. Clinton managed to sidestep accurate sleaze allegations by resolutely attacking on the economy (and by doing the trembling lower lip trick that made everyone want to pat him on the head and say "there there"). Kerry inspires absolutely no sympathy and he hasn't got a snappy message. He's got 11 weeks to find one or the other or he's going down in flames because Bush has got a campaign issue (the War on Terror), an economy thats doing OK as well as incumbent advantage.
In the Grauniad today John Berger, apparently a highly regarded "Novelist and Critic" goes stark raving bonkers. Actually reading the Daily Ablution today he seems to be part of a general outbreak of "underwear on head-wearing" that makes me wonder about whether someone has put something in the tea over at Grauniad HQ, but I digress, I don't have time to fisk all the Moonbioats so despite this being a target rich environment I'll have to restrain myself and fortunately Tim Worstall is also on Moonbat patrol.
Before you get down to reading this fisking might I suggest reading the Belgravia Dispatch's view of Fakenheit 9/11
OK Back now? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin
Fahrenheit 9/11 has touched millions of viewers across the world. But could it actually change the course of civilisation?
Tuesday August 24, 2004
Fahrenheit 9/11 is astounding. Not so much as a film - although it is cunning and moving - but as an event. Most commentators try to dismiss the event and disparage the film. We will see why later.
I like to start my fiskings seeing where we can agree. And there is a bunch of agreement here. F9/11 has undoubtedly touchned millions and it could indeed change the course of civilization. If we in the West go along with the Moore version, civilization is likely to wear a towel on its head, which I suppose is not too different from wearing underwear on the head and no doubt explains why the moonbat wing likes it so much. On the other hand if we reject it then the global free-market economy and free-press will triumph. So yes it could change the course of history one way or the other and yes I agree it is indeed cunning and moving and in terms of bile-production it is also astounding. Looks like we are in resolute agreement
The artists on the Cannes film festival jury apparently voted unanimously to award Michael Moore's film the Palme d'Or. Since then it has touched many millions across the world. In the US, its box-office takings for the first six weeks amounted to more than $100m, which is, astoundingly, about half of what Harry Potter made during a comparable period. Only the so-called opinion-makers in the media appear to have been put out by it.
One would hesitate to argue with the facts so the only sentence I'd like to pick out is the last one. Firstly its good to know that the blogosphere counts as the media in Mr Berger's eyes, secondly, even including the blogosphere in the ranks of opinion-makers, excludes quite a few people who were extremely put out by it.
The film, considered as a political act, may be a historical landmark. Yet to have a sense of this, a certain perspective for the future is required. Living only close-up to the latest news, as most opinion-makers do, reduces one's perspectives. The film is trying to make a small contribution towards the changing of world history. It is a work inspired by hope.
Again we get to agree and disagree. It certainly is a landmark, but then as anyone who lived near a landmark castle in the middle ages knew being a landmark is not necessarily the same as being good. Perhaps the peasants oppressed by their close up view of feudal tyranny had a reduced perspective in their failure to realize that their oppressors were living in future tourist attractions.
However that's mere quibbling, the bit I have to disgaree with is the ridiculous claim that it is "a work inspired by hope", I think somehow Mr Berger mistyped "hate". The only hope apparent in Mr Moore was the hope that he would become significantly enriched.
What makes it an event is the fact that it is an effective and independent intervention into immediate world politics. Today it is rare for an artist to succeed in making such an intervention, and in interrupting the prepared, prevaricating statements of politicians. Its immediate aim is to make it less likely that President Bush will be re-elected next November.
One detects a hint of jealousy here - after all J Berger is a "Novelist and Critic", winner of the Booker prize and confirmed writer of works criticising the "New World Economic Order", whose writings seem to be slightly less popular. Fortunately since Moore's aim is something that Berger agrees with, its only the very palest of green tints.
To denigrate this as propaganda is either naive or perverse, forgetting (deliberately?) what the last century taught us. Propaganda requires a permanent network of communication so that it can systematically stifle reflection with emotive or utopian slogans. Its pace is usually fast. Propaganda invariably serves the long-term interests of some elite.
Well now that's a curious definition. While a swift check at dictionary.reference.com, shows that propaganda has changed its meaning (in the 17th century propaganda was a group of cardinals), no definition of the word seems to require network apparatus. One suspects that Mr Berger has confused censorship with propaganda. It is true that the two do frequently go hand in hand but the above statement is a bit like saying that because Wimbledon always serves strawberries with cream it is impossible to eat strawberries anywhere else unless you have some cream to put on them.
This single maverick movie is often reflectively slow and is not afraid of silence. It appeals to people to think for themselves and make connections. And it identifies with, and pleads for, those who are normally unlistened to. Making a strong case is not the same thing as saturating with propaganda. Fox TV does the latter; Michael Moore the former.
Oh my. I can't believe that was written seriously. "Appeals to people to think for themselves and make connections", yes it certainly does, rather like Erich van Däniken, appeals to people to make connections. Just because paranoid conspiracy theorists with tinfoil headgear make connections doesn't mean sane people should. And this "identifies ... with those unlistened to"! I guess it does because no one else pays attention to cranks and crackpots with their conspiracy theories. But the idea that this is just a movie making a "strong case" is laughable. Short of subliminal messages there is no propagandist trick missed, as this review in the New York Review of Books explains:
This is a description of propaganda, and only by redefining the word in true post-modernist fashion does Berger manage to deny it.
Ever since the Greek tragedies, artists have, from time to time, asked themselves how they might influence ongoing political events. It's a tricky question because two very different types of power are involved. Many theories of aesthetics and ethics revolve round this question. For those living under political tyrannies, art has frequently been a form of hidden resistance, and tyrants habitually look for ways to control art. All this, however, is in general terms and over a large terrain. Fahrenheit 9/11 is something different. It has succeeded in intervening in a political programme on the programme's own ground.
And talking of post-modernism we seem to have fallen into jargon here, possibly as a way to exorcise the jealousy? But anyway a documentary is surely a factual, impersonal thingy, to call it art implies that it might be dabbling in creativity i.e. making things up. In a way it is art, just as Comical Ali's Baghdad press conferences were art, and it has almost as much grounding with reality.
For this to happen a convergence of factors were needed. The Cannes award and the misjudged attempt to prevent the film being distributed played a significant part in creating the event.
Finally we get to an outright, verifiably false statement. Even Moore himself admitted that claims of a ban were a publicity stunt.Just possibly though it contributed to the Palme d'Or award.
To point this out in no way implies that the film as such doesn't deserve the attention it is receiving. It's simply to remind ourselves that within the realm of the mass media, a breakthrough (a smashing down of the daily wall of lies and half-truths) is bound to be rare. And it is this rarity which has made the film exemplary. It is setting an example to millions - as if they'd been waiting for it.
Again the green-eyed monster seems to be edging into view. Perhaps Berger is wondering how he might manage a similar "ban" for his own works. Still that's a mere sideshow to the claim that a movie with 56 or more deceits is in fact a paragon of honesty. Presumably this also requires some post.modernist redefinition of awkward words.
The film proposes that the White House and Pentagon were taken over in the first year of the millennium by a gang of thugs so that US power should henceforth serve the global interests of the corporations: a stark scenario which is closer to the truth than most nuanced editorials. Yet more important than the scenario is the way the movie speaks out. It demonstrates that - despite all the manipulative power of communications experts, lying presidential speeches and vapid press conferences - a single independent voice, pointing out certain home truths which countless Americans are already discovering for themselves, can break through the conspiracy of silence, the atmosphere of fear and the solitude of feeling politically impotent.
What did I say about conspiracy theorists? One question that springs to mind reading this is why, if the conspiracy theorists are right, didn't the gang of thugs stop the movie that exposed them? and shut down all the other brave voices that speak out? If there really is a conspiracy of silence, how come, to pick two simple examples, the NY Times hasn't replaced Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman with a couple of people who can be relied on to tow the party line - say Coulter and Limbaugh?
It's a movie that speaks of obstinate faraway desires in a period of disillusion. A movie that tells jokes while the band plays the apocalypse. A movie in which millions of Americans recognise themselves and the precise ways in which they are being cheated. A movie about surprises, mostly bad but some good, being discussed together. Fahrenheit 9/11 reminds the spectator that when courage is shared one can fight against the odds.
Did we just start watching Fahrenheit 451?
In more than a thousand cinemas across the country, Michael Moore becomes with this film a people's tribune. And what do we see? Bush is visibly a political cretin, as ignorant of the world as he is indifferent to it; while the tribune, informed by popular experience, acquires political credibility, not as a politician himself, but as the voice of the anger of a multitude and its will to resist.
If Bush is a political cretin then how come he's head of this gang of evil thugs? Look it's possible to claim that Bush is a moron or to claim that he's a devious conspirator but to claim both in the space of 3 paragraphs is evidence that logic is not Mr Berger's strong point.
There is something else which is astounding. The aim of Fahrenheit 9/11 is to stop Bush fixing the next election as he fixed the last. Its focus is on the totally unjustified war in Iraq. Yet its conclusion is larger than either of these issues. It declares that a political economy which creates colossally increasing wealth surrounded by disastrously increasing poverty, needs - in order to survive - a continual war with some invented foreign enemy to maintain its own internal order and security. It requires ceaseless war.
Now I admit I have not visited the US for two years now, but I've kept informed. Poverty is relative, and apparently (same link) decreasing:
Looks like postmodernist redefinitions are required (again).
Thus, 15 years after the fall of communism, a decade after the declared end of history, one of the main theses of Marx's interpretation of history again becomes a debating point and a possible explanation of the catastrophes being lived.
It is always the poor who make the most sacrifices, Fahrenheit 9/11 announces quietly during its last minutes. For how much longer?
What the heck is this bit about? What Marxist inerpretaion is this? the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeousie? and just how does this apply to America? Yeah its the poor who are exploited and they never ever show any upward mobility. Nope never. That's why no one will ever replicate John Edwards' success at clawing his way up from grinding poverty ever again.
There is no future for any civilisation anywhere in the world today which ignores this question. And this is why the film was made and became what it became. It's a film that deeply wants America to survive.
Yep there is definitely something in the tea.Or the air. Or the pills. Logical arguments are good. Connected statements are good. What has the putative growth and expolitation of the poor got to do with September 11 and the war in Iraq? and how precisely does this film imply that it (or its creator) wants America to survive? I can answer the latter in that of America fails to survive Moore will be forced to be poor.but somehow I don't think that is what Berger means.
Fortunately the article ends here. I say fortunately because I my tolerance for 1984 style doublespeak is limited.