Two photos today because it seems like a good idea. Firstly a rare photo of early olive tree flowers taken this morning at sunrise. These flowers only flower at dawn and so you have to get up early - even with summer time - to catch the picture. They are known in French as the "Poissons Davril" because at a certain angle they look like a school of fish . Secondly a beautiful old olive tree that I saw last Sunday - Easter Day - near Le Broc. There are other Le Broc area photos posted on my fotolog earlier this week. As always click on the images to see them enlarged and here is last week's image.
Update: In case you hadn't twigged the first image is not of an olive tree at all - it is a cherry tree misnamed due to it being April Fools day. Permalink
The BBC reports from Ukraine on a most dextrous suicide:
Ukraine's security service chief has said the death of former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko last month was almost certainly suicide.
"There is no other version but suicide," Oleksander Turchynov said, citing forensic and ballistics tests.
Kravchenko was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the head on 4 March in his country house outside Kiev.
He was due to testify later that day about the high-profile murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000.
Astoundingly this report was NOT filed on April 1. Just tell me this how the %expletive% does someone shoot themself twice in the head? Or maybe they mean by "suicide" that he boasted in poublic how he was going to name names when he testified.
All sorts of people are damning the pope with faint praise in their obits - Michelle Malkin has a round up - and she also links to a harsh (but IMO justified) critique by Christopher Hitchens. However, perhaps due to her American nationality, she ignores the good old Auntie BBC which is a pity because the BBC's coverage has been exhibit #1 for secular atheistic liberalism and it's complete failure to understand the way that other religions operate.
I said other religions because IMO secular atheistic liberalism has become a religion of its own. The creed of this religion of secular atheistic liberalism is something like this:
I believe in one human race and that we are all equal except that because of the evil exploitation by white males in times gone past these days females and darker hued humans are more important. I believe that everything that is evil is eventually the fault of white males and especially white males from America or Israel, and particularly white fundamnetalist christian males like George W Bush. I believe that all cultures except the Anglo-saxon one have a right to do as they please and we must never criticise them. I believe in abortion, contraception, free sex and euthanasia. I believe the death penalty is evil and that criminals are just misunderstood and that we should not be armed but let the police do it and that the police are required to be culturally sensitive and put the rights of criminals against the rights of their victims except when we are the victims.
All of this comes out in the BBC's coverage as does their total incomprehension of Catholicism and their condescension. For example last night they interviewed Prof Eamonn Duffy (disclosure: my tutor when I was up at Cambridge) in the hour after the pope's death had been announced and one of the first questions they asked was about the odds on who will become the next pope. Prof Duffy pointed out that having this discussion while the pope's body was still warm was rather lacking in taste - especially (although he personally did not say this) when you are asking the opinion of a devout Catholic.
Anyway this obitury for the pope by Peter Gould contains so much to complain about that it is worth fisking.
Few popes of any century have had such an impact, either on the Church or the times in which they lived.
Indeed it is true that this pope has been highly influential - it is always nice to find something to agree with at the start of a fisking
He saw himself as the universal pastor, using air travel and the mass media to take his message to the world.
He became a familiar sight - arriving in another foreign land, kissing the ground, and then preaching at an open air mass to perhaps a million people.
"Through those amazing journeys he showed the Catholic Church to the world as never before," said John Wilkins, former editor of the Catholic magazine, The Tablet.
John Paul II travelled to virtually every corner of the world to meet his flock, re-defining the papacy for a modern age.
This also is true, apart from occasional jaunts to places such as Avignon when realpolitik intruded, popes have rarely travelled anywhere. However my sensitive nose begins to detect a slight whiff of condecension - as if preaching to a million Catholics was rather tacky - or perhaps in surprise that people could be so gullible as to want to see him.
Whoever succeeds him will feel obliged to follow his example. Media skills and fluency in several languages are now a requirement for the job.
"John Paul II was a remarkable pope," said Madeleine Bunting, a writer on church affairs.
"For millions of Catholics he really was a father figure, and he used the global media astonishingly astutely. We have never had such a well-known pope, and such a popular pope."
Again that whiff of condescension - as in "wow a priest who understands modern technology and the media!" It seems a trifle odd that his globe-trotting media image is given as the lead point in what we should recall about him. By the way I can't help but note that Madeleine Bunting's Grauniad columns don't seem to have much to do with church affairs, perhaps she writes about churches elsewhere or perhaps it is a different Ms Bunting.
When he was elected in 1978, few outside Poland had heard of Karol Wojtyla, the archbishop of Krakow.
But the cardinals who chose him knew they could count on him to uphold traditional beliefs at a time when the teaching of the Church was being questioned by many Catholics.
And during his papacy, there was no wavering in the Vatican's position on contentious social issues such as birth control, abortion and divorce.
Neither was the celibacy of the priesthood or the role of women in the Church ever up for discussion.
Now here is where we start to get into the big trouble. You see the problem with Pope John Paul II is that he violated numerous tenets of the Secular Atheist Liberal releigion which that everyone whould be allowed to have sex and that women must be permitted to do the same things as men do - and if necessary there should be quotas to make sure that they do. Why exactly should celibacy or the role of women should be up for discussion in the Catholic church?
This, too, is part of his legacy. In fact, the uncompromising views of John Paul II may now limit the room his successor has for manoeuvre.
"The next pope is going to have a very difficult time untying things like birth control, abortion and women priests," said Ms Bunting.
"With all of these sensitive issues, John Paul II has made it very, very difficult for his successor, because a pope cannot undo the teachings of his predecessor.
"For example, he was so categorical that women priests were not acceptable that it will take a long time - decades - for that to be changed gradually."
Again the dogma of the Secular Atheist Liberal. It is clear that Pope John Paul II was flat out wrong. Women should be priests, should be allowed to have abortions etc. and opposition to these tenets is self-evidently wrong that eventually even the most hide-bound church will realise the error of its ways and recant.
But while John Paul II was a conservative in terms of theology, he was also a pope with a keen interest in social justice, not least in his homeland.
As a young man growing up in Poland, Karol Wojtyla had witnessed the rise of Nazi Germany. Then after World War II, he faced the challenge of being a priest in a Communist state.
"When the church elected a Polish pope in the middle of the Cold War, everybody felt it was a real political statement," recalls Father Thomas Reese, an authority on the workings of the Vatican.
"John Paul II played an extremely important role in bringing down Communism in eastern Europe. His election was inspirational."
I would have thought this anti-communist stance would be what he was most memorable for. But according to the BBC it comes in third after his media touch and his conservative sexist beliefs.
The pro-active style of John Paul II underlined the fact that a pope is not just a spiritual leader - he is also a player on the world's diplomatic stage.
One theme of his papacy was his attempt to reach out to other faiths, in search of reconciliation after centuries of hostility and suspicion.
He travelled to Islamic countries and became the first pope to set foot in a mosque. As a symbol of religious tolerance, it took on new meaning after the events of 11 September 2001.
Well now we get back, briefly, to the pope's "good parts". Notably absent is any mention of his opposition to war (e.g. the wars against Saddam or the Falklands) and his near death by assasination in 1981 to mention just two things that seem to be most obviously missing.
But while some in the church are already talking about "John Paul the Great", others are more doubtful about his legacy.
They say that during his reign, the Vatican exercised too much power, and was less likely to tolerate dissent.
They want to see a different kind of papacy, with bishops around the world having a greater say in how the Church is run. That would be a challenge to the authority of the Church's central bureaucracy, the Curia.
"Many bishops and cardinals felt that at the end of the reign of John Paul II, the Curia got out of hand," said Father Thomas Reese.
"They felt it was imposing its will on the local bishops, and really not being sensitive and listening to their concerns. So I think there is going to be a backlash in the conclave against the Curia."
Finally a note about his successor and the challenges he will face. Oddly enough there is no mention of the fact that this pope created more cardinals than any other - something that would seem to be rather important.
John Wilkins, former editor of The Tablet, also believes that there could be a change in the relationship between the pope and the church outside Rome.
"It is a curious paradox of a very centralised papacy that in some ways the Church has never been so open in the direction that it follows now," he said.
"John Paul II has laid the foundations for the future. He was the last pope of the 20th Century, rather than the first one of the 21st Century."
But whoever is chosen to succeed him, it will be a tough act to follow.
In that final sentence, as with the initial one, I agree with the author. It is a pity the bit in the middle was so wrong-headed.
However as one reads the whole thing what is most strikeing is what is omitted. In addition to the ommisions noted above, one entire topic seems to have gone AWOL. That topic is God and Catholic beliefs. Popes are primarily relgious figures and the fact that this pope did involve himself in the affairs of the world should not distract us from this primacy yet there is no mention of the number of saints he created, no mention (other than of his "conservative theology") of his writings or theological statements. There is nothing about his tying together of opposition to abortion, war and the death-penalty into a coherent whole (I disagree with the pope here about 100% but he made a good argument) and so on.
It seems unfair to compare the BBC to the Wall Street Journal, but I'm going to do so anyway. The WSJ has a far far better obitury and its conclusion describes the BBC to perfection:
In progressive circles in the West, religion in general and Christianity in particular tend to find themselves caricatured as a series of Thou Shalt Nots, particularly when they touch on human sexuality. But it is no coincidence that George Weigel entitled his biography of John Paul "Witness to Hope." For billions of people around the world--non-Catholics included--that's exactly what he was. Perhaps this explains why China, where only a tiny fraction of its people are Catholic, remained to the very end fearful of allowing a visit from this frail, physically suffering man, fearing what he might inspire.
We don't expect the secularalists who dominate our intelligentsia ever to understand how a man rooted in orthodox Christianity could ever reconcile himself with modernity, much less establish himself on the vanguard of world history. But many years ago, when the same question was put to France's Cardinal Lustiger by a reporter, he gave the answer. "You're confusing a modern man with an American liberal," the cardinal replied. It was a confusion that Pope John Paul II, may he rest in peace, never made.
Despite a broadly positive article yesterday on Iraqis reporting suspected terrorists to the security forces (I say broadly positive because it manages to sneer at "American occupiers"), the Associated Press has generally been consistently anti-American and pro-terrorist in Iraq. Today's article about the agreement of the Iraqi parliament to choose a Sunni speaker is more consistent in tone. It unfortunately fails to demonstrate much coherency though as it tries to point out totally unrelated bad news to go along with the good. After three of four paragraphs about the decision and a quote from the new speaker we get this:
Also Sunday, the U.S. military announced that a Marine was killed by an explosion while conducting combat operations a day earlier in the central city of Hadithah. As of Saturday, at least 1,533 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Some lawmakers in the assembly meeting called for the release of detainees in U.S. military prisons, one day after dozens of insurgents attacked the Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad with car bombs, gunfire, and rocket propelled grenades. An Internet statement purportedly made by al-Qaida's wing in Iraq claimed responsibility Sunday, but could not be independently verified.
before going back to:
The parliament's 275 members have struggled to form a new government since Jan. 30 elections.
Lawmakers had focused on picking a Sunni Arab for the post, in an effort to reach out to the minority dominant under Saddam Hussein. Sunni Arabs, believed to make up the backbone of the insurgency, have a disproportionately small number of seats in parliament because many boycotted the election or stayed home because they feared attacks at the polls. ...
Finally at the end we go back to Abu Ghraib with:
In western Baghdad, officials were investigating the attack at Abu Ghraib by dozens of insurgents who blew up car bombs and fired rocket propelled grenades late Saturday outside the prison. The 40-minute clash killed one insurgent and injured 44 U.S. forces and 13 prisoners, U.S. military officials said.
It was unclear if the clash was aimed at helping prisoners escape. The militants were unable to penetrate the prison's walls and no detainees were set free.
Some soldiers were evacuated with serious injuries, officials said, but many wounds were minor and treated at the scene.
Abu Ghraib was at the center of a prisoner abuse scandal that broke out in 2004 when pictures showing soldiers piling naked inmates in a pyramid and humiliating them sexually became public. The resulting scandal tarnished the military's image worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.
The United States is holding about 10,500 prisoners in Iraq, with 3,446 at Abu Ghraib.
I'd like to put this down to sloppy editing - and indeed I'm willing to grant sloppy editing as one problem with this article - but I think it is more than just an accident. There seems to be absolutely no reason to mention the death of the Marine in the middle of the discussion of parliamentary business unless you were worried that this bit of bad news would get buried too far down the page. Then there is the peculiar phrase: "As of Saturday, at least 1,533 members of the US military have died" - why put in the "at least"? there seems no reason unless you intend to insinuate that the US has suffered more casualties which are being concealed.
Finally the raid on Abu Ghraib allows us to be reminded that some Americans abused prisoners there in 2003/2004. Of course there is no mention of the thousands of prisoners abused there under Saddam Hussein.
The election of the next pope is going to be an event that sees many journalists mugging up on Catholicism, the rules governing the election of the next pope and the various factions within the Catholic church. Rather than trust any of these my guide to what is going on in Rome over the next fortnight or so will be a ten-year old work of fiction: namely Andrew M Greeley's White Smoke (reviewed here). The book isn't perfect - it is after all a thriller not a serious guide to Catholicism - but it discusses many of the strengths and weaknesses of John Paul II and the stresses within the church that is his legacy.
According to Greeley the two major issues are sex and the subservience (or lack of it) of the episcopate to Rome. In that regard I see comments such as those by Terry Eagleton, which Tim W notes has a glorious howler of a factual error in it, as markers by various factions of the church, or those who think they have influence in the church, on whom they consider to be a suitable next pope.
Funnily enough, this Reuters piece about the pope's death and the selection of his successor contains a quote by Greeley as well as quotes by various cardinals.
Andrew Greeley, a priest and novelist from Chicago, said John Paul had clearly "failed to restore the discipline of the church's traditional sexual ethic."
The conclave must start within 15 to 20 days of his death, drawing together 117 cardinals aged under 80 in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.
John Paul was the third longest-serving pope in 2,000 years of Christianity, meaning he was able to hand-pick almost all the cardinals who will enter the conclave, stacking the odds that his conservative teachings will not be eroded.
NOT A POLITICAL ELECTION
Several cardinals including Jean-Marie Lustiger of France said they had not made up their minds on John Paul's successor.
"I think it needs to be a man who is not similar to John Paul II -- it would be absurd to think such things -- but one who has the same qualities of love for truth, love for men," Lustiger said.
"It's not a political election. There's no party that wins or loses," said another French Cardinal, Bernard Panafieu.
Cardinal Jorge Medina of Chile said: "I want to vote for someone who is, above all, a shepherd. I'm not voting for a politician."
The other amusing thing here is that Reuter's hasn't realized that John Paul II has just pipped Leo XIII by 17 days to be come the second longest-serving pope.
Finally, and more seriously, the bias I alluded to in yesterday's BBC piece, makes itself known here too with pejorative phrases such as "stacking the odds". I have to say that I am not in agreement with the pope with regards to much of his sexual doctrine and the like but I do not think that Reuters has any right to make such comments in what is supposed to be a news piece and it detracts from my trust that Reuters will report events straight (not that it was very high to begin with).
This is in fact the reason why I'm using the Greeley book as my guide to what is to be expected and as a way to decode the various announcements over the next few days. According to Greeley one of the more interesting signs of who are the Curia favoured front runners will be who preaches at the various requiem masses.
BTW probably the only good source of journalistic comment - but one which doesn't seem to have much on line - is the Tablet. I will read the next issue with great attention.
Update: Tim W's comment below is in fact covered by Greeley - he calls it the sin of tempting God that is making no effort but expecting God to do all the work. Or in more detail:
Tempting God. This is the sin of doing or omitting something in order to test one of Gods attributes, especially His love, wisdom, or power.
An explicit tempting of God is done when a person deliberately puts God to the test. Such would be telling God to work a miracle as a person throws himself over a cliff; or an atheist boasting that if there is a God, let Him strike me dead. These are grave crimes.
But implicit tempting of God is more common. Thus it is tempting God to expect Him to provide the grace we need to fulfill our duties in life without prayer.
The Rebirth of the East Asian Coprosperity Sphere?
Dr Demarche has asked some bloggers to comment on China in 2015 and beyond. He hasn't explicitly asked me but I'm going to shoot my mouth off anyway. What I'm going cover however is not so much China as the likely reaction of China's neighbours, in particular Japan. (Brief note - in general I references to China refer only to the mainland and exclude Taiwan)
In the history of the world a lot of people forget that in 1895 Japan, having opened itself up to western ideas, kicked China's butt over access to Korea. The result of this war was that Japan gained significant access to Korea, but due to Russian, German and French intervention Japan's military gains were somewhat reversed [In my mind the lack of support by Britain to Japan at that time to prevent this reversal was the one of the root causes of Japan's subsequent turn towards militarism and extreme nationalism. It is true that there is a certain amount of "for want of a nail..." in that analysis but I think it is valid none the less. It is also not particularly germane to this discussion]. Anyway, despite losing some territory Japan did get significant access to Korea and effective hegemony over Taiwan. While Korea-Japanese relations were not exactly rosy, the Taiwanese relationship was both strategically more important and after a rocky start rather more successful in economic terms at least. The reason why Taiwan was strategically important is that Taiwan plus Okinawa plus mainland Japan make an effective blockade of all Northern Chinese ports. Since geography has not changed in the last 100+ years the calculation made then applies today as well. This strategic value was recognised in Japan's American advisor Gen LeGendre in 1874:
" Unless Japan take possession of the series of islands from Karafuto (Sakhalin) Island in the north to Taiwan in the south, encircling China mainland in a crescent shape, and maintain foothold points in both Korea and Manchu, it is inadequate to ensure the safety of Empire and control East Asia."
and explicitly recognised by the Japanese government in the 1895 war
"Everyone knows that we must fight for the sovereignty of Korea, but nobody knows that Taiwan is even more worth fighting for... Korea is unable to be independent after all... To become its protector may win an honorable name of chivalry, but there is hardly any real profit, while in the case of Taiwan, there is. With Taiwan in Japan's possession, we can not only control the navigation rights of Yellow Sea, Korea Strait as well as Japan Sea, but also able to open and shut the door of Far East region. Moreover, linking with Ryukyu and Yaejima Islands, we can check on the coming and going foreign vessels with stretch of one hand. If this big island falls into other hands, it would disturb the peace of our Okinawa islands, and therefore, make a world of difference in pros and cons to the contrary...If we lost this opportunity, Taiwan would surely fall into the possession of some big country, or become neutral and no longer a place to contend"
Since geography has not changed in the last 100+ years the calculation made then applies today as well. While I am not in any way either advocating or expecting Japan to recolonise Taiwan this blocking potential both explains mainland China's desire to "reunify" Taiwan and Japan's interest in allying with Taiwan to counter any military threat from China.
Indeed when one looks at a map of the 1940s "East Asian Copropserity Sphere", if one excludes that portion currently under Chinese control, most of it would seem to be likely allies in any action against China. North Korea is clearly the exception but South Korea, the Philipines and Vietnam are all likely to be nervous about Chinese expansion and even more distant countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia could feel threatened.
The problem of course is that saying that the Coprosperity sphere was unpopular is rather like saying that Hitler killed some Jews, it massively understates the reality of the event. It has been 60 years since the Coprosperity sphere collapsed and it hasn't been forgotten. However when these former coprosperity sphere members look at the choice between an essentially mercantilist, democratic, law abiding Japan and semi-communist, lawless China the idea of voluntarily forming an alliance with the former to withstand the latter looks highly attractive.
The good news about such a hypothetical alliance is that it can in fact seriously threaten China, the bad news is that it can in fact seriously threaten China. Taking the good news first. As you may have noticed the oil price recently has been remarkably high compared to what it was a few years ago. The explanation for this is that China's demand for oil is growing fast. However China gets the vast majority of its oil by sea and the proposed alliance could stop all oil arriving in China quite easily. The same allianc could blockade almost all China's exports too not to mention its other imports and thus cause economic chaos quite fast. The bad news is that an embargo like this was pretty much exactly what caused the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbour. The world does not need a nuclear China to feel as threatened as Japan did in 1941.
On that note it is worth pointing out that according to strategy page, China is considering the options for a surprise "out of the blue" attack on Taiwan. If the rest of Asia wishes to contain China it is in their interest to come up with a clear unambiguous set of responses (such as a blockade of China) to such an attack and to be prepeared to weather the resulting howls of outrage from the Chinese about "meddling in the internal affairs of China". This is not going to be easy but it is probably the only way to dramatically swing the risk/reward calculation against such an attack. Of course these countries could not do such as thing on their own so America would need to back up this threat with the promise of military support.
When it comes to the mooted attack on Taiwan I suspect the best parallel is Saddam Hussein's attack on Kuwait. Unfortunately China is a rather more serious opponent that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was. If the Chinese communists manage to instill widespread national chauvinism amongst the population as a replacement for communism as a unifying force then defeat of China is going to be militarily very very difficult. China is still defeatable because of the geostrategic calculation I outlined above. You can blockade it and it will collapse economically as a result - of course the rest of the world will also suffer some major economic dislocations at the same time - but it is a credible threat none the less and one that is hard for China to counter. In fact it is much worse for China than the equivalent problem for Iraq because China's size means that smuggling is likely to be of limited value in offsetting the effects of blockade. In theory China could get its oil in and exports out through its border with Russia but while this border is considerably better for trade than most of its other ones (which tend to feature Himalayan mountains, jungles or deserts (or combinations of them)) it is still not as ready for traffic as the ports of the Pearl delta, Hong Kong and Shanghai and most of the major export producing industry is in the coastal provinces.
One way that China could hope to escape this potential strangehold would be to devlop a serious experienced blue-water navy which could stand up to the US Navy. Probably the best way to go about getting the necessary experience would be to go into piracy supression in a big way in the S China Sea and then perhaps in neighbouring places such as the Molaccan Straits between Indonesia and Singapore/Malaysia. There is a LOT of piracy in both these places and in the short term a lot of people would welcome Chinese assistance in patrolling them - of course in the S China Sea quite a lot of the pirates seem to have a good relationship with mainland China - so if the Chinese were to push for some UN-badged anti-piracy patrol it would be hard for other countries to protest. On the other hand China has yet to take any serious global role at all and the communist leadership seems to show absolutely no concern for anyone outside China so the chances of this happening seem slim.
One final point. All this assumes that China is going to remain a dictatorial sort of place with limited rule of law and not much interest in playing well with the rest of the world. Despite the crackdowns on dissidents and despite the censorship, China does have a significant middle class and that middle class is keen to travel. It could well be the case that as the more oppressive regimes in neighbouring countries turned themselves into democratic regimes the same will happen in China. 20 or 30 years ago Indonesia, the Philipines and Korea, to name but three, were repressive corrupt dictatorships. These days they are far more open and democratic, as are (to a lesser degree) Vietnam and Cambodia. It is not impossible that the next generation of Chinese leaders will include the equivalents of Gorbachov or Yeltsin willing to tear down the current system. But I'm not going to hold my breath. Permalink
The first one included an interview with an African world bank official (whose name escapes me) who was asked near the end whether Wolfowitz knew anything about Africa to which the World Bank chap answered "no, but he has stated he intends to travel to Africa ASAP after his". I should note that the official did a decent job in non-judgemental statements through out, but the BBC interviewer was having none of it and closed with the that question without allowing the World Bank guy to say (as I think he was intending to do) that Wolfowitz does have extensive experience in the Asian third as the BBC notes on its website:
He became assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 1983.
Three years later he was appointed US ambassador to Indonesia - the country with the fourth largest population in the world and the largest Muslim population.
The World Service completely failed to mention any of this, or the fact that his appointment was unanimously approved by all the shareholders and tried to make it seem that the World Bank should have allowed its recipient nations a major say in its governance despite the fact the bank is structured as a corporation with shareholders and the primary shareholders are the US and the rest of the developed world.
The coverage of Amnesty's report on executions was, if anything, worse. Even the web page is bad mentioning the US's execution levels continuously and only in passing noting the order of magnitude higher levels in China. But the news segment concentrated exclusively on the US with an interview of some US anti-death penalty woman. There was no mention of any other country by name and no mention of the fact that, as the Amnesty report states:
"The figures released today are sadly only the tip of the iceberg. The true picture is hard to uncover as many countries continue to execute people secretly -- contravening United Nations standards calling for disclosure of information on capital punishment," said Amnesty International.
Perhaps most dinengenuously the BBC world service report mentioned the headline figure of nearly 4000 people killed (3797) without stating that as Amnesty does that:
China executed at least 3,400 people, but sources inside the country have estimated the number to be near 10,000.
In other words the headline figure was caused by one country alone which executed roughly 90% of the official count and which may in fact have executed three times as many people as it admitted to. The USA's 59 is pretty small (1.55%) by comparison so concentrating on it looks like bias.
The fact that these two segemnts ran back to back (at about 4:30am GMT if you must know) makes the bias even easier to diagnose. Permalink
True, elections are supposed to be decided on local issues, but i am surprised that Blair's role as Bush's most loyal supporter hasn't warranted mention in this (admittedly rather general) article. It will be interesting to see if some non-marginal party brings up foreign affairs as this campaign develops. Were Blair to lose (most of the polls cited say he has a small lead at this point), there could be repercussions on this side of the pond.
Which inspired the following long reply that deserves to get a couple more readers by being posted here witha few amplifications.
Umm yes and no. Iraq is a factor but only in that it is part of the evidence for "Blair is a lying hypocrite". While that is true it may not affect anything. Blair may win simply because of the utter unelectability of anyone else.
Let me give a personal run down of the various groups hoping to get into parliament this year.
The Lib dems are a bunch of trusting gullible morons that, in the event that they got in to government, would sell the country to whatever transnational institution offered them the most "warm fuzzy" feelings. Evidence so far shows that most people in Britain don't actually like that belief and only voted Lib Dem as a protest against the other two parties - not that there are no true Lib Dem supporters, there are and I prefer to call them the woolly head brigade as a tribute to both their preferred dress and their capability to connect cause with effect.
This year we have a bunch of other protest parties that can split the protest vote. As well as the Greens (who are similar in most respects to the Lib dems but slightly keener on furry animals, wind power etc.) we have, on the left, RESPECT which is a bunch of D(h)im socialists who believe that there is no god but Marx and Allah is his profit or something like that and anyway it was all the fault of the Jews - this latter belief is usually the domain of the far right loonies but as this (long) article shows the far left have recently become infected with it (article thanks to Harry's Place). On the other side the protest party is UKIP - the UK Independance Party - and its various splinters and factions including the Veri Tanned partyVeritas. UKIP is mostly about getting out from the grasp of Brussels and is pretty much the diametric opposite of the Lib Dems. In many ways it is rational and proposes the sensible libertarian small government sorts of ideas that the tories (see below) have decided to avoid mentioning out of fear of being called "callous". Unfortunately it has sufficient eccentricities or foibles to make it hard to take seriously.
The Conservatives are mostly rational but seem plagued with a barely semi-competent and opportunistic leader who fails to inspire any trust what so ever. They have also dropped any serious attempt to reign in the UK public / government-dependant sector because they are scared that Labour will conjure up the ghost of evil services slashing Margaret Thatcher to scare the electorate. Indeed the proud party of Margaret Thatcher has fissured in ways that should be a major warning to the US republicans and the result is not pretty. Perhaps worse for the Tories, Blair has stolen most of their better policies meaning that in order to differentiate themselves they have to propose and discuss loopier policies.
There are of course the various regional parties - the Scotch and Welsh nationalists and the various Irish parties. In the grand scheme of things it seems unlikely that any of them will pick up enough votes to be important although it could be that the various forms of Ulster Unionists (Protestants) could pick up enough votes to be key to a commons majority and therefore be able to limit any backsliding with regard to Sinn Fein [In its own right it will also be interestng to see whether Sinn Fein is still popular in the Catholic community after the recnt criminal revelations].
This leaves New Labour. New Labour has the Blairites who seem to be basically of "trust me I'm from the government and the government can fix everything" and the Brownites who seem to believe that all money belogs to the government and they are very generous in letting you have some of it back. Despite the major hits to Blair's credibility and the evident less than sparkling success of Brown's attempts to throw large sums of government money at education and the health-service, not to mention employing an army of bureaucrats to administer said funds, verify that it is spent correctly and make sure that no ones tender human rights are violated by insensitive government agencies* the Labour party still exudes slightly more competence than anyone else, despite its fissures and despite the fact that every man and his dog person and his domesticated pet of choice can see them spinning and otherwise abusing the truth.
In the end I suspect that Blair will be the 2000s version of Harold Wilson getting his party elected and then buggering off leaving Brown and co to screw up Britain enough that at the next election a new Margaret Thatcher shows up and fixes things. In my heart of hearts I hope UKIP gets enough votes that they can be the balance of power in a hung parliament - perhaps in conjunction with some Ulster Unionists - but realistically I fear that UKIP will tend to draw more support from the Tories and thus will only help to ensure Blair remains in office. The ideal result IMO would be for the Tory party to form the next government with (required) support from UKIP, Veritanned et al.but I'm doubtful that this will occur.
Finally a word on election fraud. You chaps in America simply don't understand how to run a good fraud. It takes the moral slipperiness of New Labour combined with ahh immigrant determination to really grease the wheels and make an election that would warm the hearts of tyrants from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. Under New Labour the Mother of Parliaments appears to be using postal ballots to return to the 18th century and rotten buroughs.
*offer not valid to straight white males with an education, a job and and a house. Permalink
Over at Daniel Drezner some hints in the Chicago Tribune that my guide to the Papal election (Greeley's White Smoke - see below) needs updating for the age of the internet - not that it does badly for a tenyear old book - it contains emails. I love the fact that it is the University of Chicago that employs this gentleman seeing as White Smoke is heavily Chicago influenced
In days gone by, the General Congregation would have provided a first opportunity for cardinals from far-flung places to meet and learn about each other's positions on various issues.
But in the age of jet travel and electronic communications, all the cardinals already have met at least once and are likely to be somewhat familiar with each other's reputations and policies, decreasing the likelihood that a dark horse candidate would emerge, as was the case when John Paul II was chosen.
Some cardinals have Web sites, especially those who head dioceses, on which they post their pictures, writings and biographies, making it easy for cardinals to read about each other.
One quick thought shared with Dan, now that we know Cardinals have webistes does any one know if there is a blogging Cardinal or for that matter a blogging bishop of any denomination?
Another quick thought is that the book completely missed the mobile phone revolution. I suspect Mobile Phones will be streng verboten during the conclave but I get a kick out of imagining one ring in the middle of it and about 20 cardinals desperately reaching under their robes to find their phone... Permalink
After a night of recieving emails for V1agra and offers from a Mr S Hussein of Iraq to offload his billions onto me you begin to think that email is the worst invention since income tax. Then one of your weirder friends sends you this:
Costco, Pimp Sticks, Tempura Shrimp, and the Saggy Pantyhose of Delay
I've always wanted a pimp stick. No, not a cane - A PIMP STICK. I think I might pick one up before I go on spring break. I bet I'll be the only girl at the beach with one. If you see me and my pimp stick in Mexico, don't hate. Celebrate.
I don't know what was wrong with me yesterday. It was Sunday, the day of rest, GOD'S DAY for goodness sake, and I felt angry and stabby. Pimp stick dreams notwithstanding.
It all started at Costco.
If you don't have a Costco, it's basically a giant warehouse store where you can buy things like 150 pound bags of raccoon food. It doesn't even matter that you don't have raccoons, or that you would never need that much raccoon food even if you had an entire colony of Mormon raccoons breeding in your basement - the point is: THERE IS A COMPLETE EXCESS OF USELESS ITEMS THERE FOR THE PICKIN'. IN BULK. MORE RACCOON FOOD AND CHICKEN WINGS THAN ANY HUMAN COULD EVER NEED. And what gigantically fat American doesn't want that?
In discussing the perennial korea/japan issues, a commenter at the Marmot's Hole made a very interesting statement:
it is easier to understand korean way of thinking in the following manner. china, korea and japan are 3 brothers under confucian value. china, the oldest, korea, the 2nd and japan the 3rd. the older one should helps the younger, and be always respected, and be never disobeyed. so, even though china has had intervened politically over most of 5000years of korean history, koreans dont complain because it is the older brother. even no hard feeling about the fact china helped the north during the korean war. but japan, you know well what happend. furthermore sad and irritating thing is japan does not even think korea as the older brother and paid no respect.
While somewhat simplistic I think there is a considerable amount of truth to this. At least as to how the various parts see themselves in relation to each other. China certainly sees itself as the fount of all wisdom etc. just like an irritating older sibling. Japan is the pushy overachieving youngest always trying to get one up on its elders and Korea is the quiet one that doesn't say much but is prickly about perceived insults from its siblings. Of course a part of the problem is that Japan simply would not see itself as "younger" than Korea even though it is indeed so in most counts. For example there is considerable evidence that the Japanese Yamato kingdom - the real start of historical Japan - was partly or completely founded by refugees from the Paekche kingdom of Korea and Buddhism arrived in Korea some 300 years before it made its way to Japan, although contrariwise the Japanese Kana syllaberies were developed before Korea's Han'gul. However it is hard for anyone but the most ardent Koreaphile to deny that over the last century or so Japan has been the more dominant of the two - indeed it fought and won the Russo-Japanese war exactly 100 years ago primarily to confirm and extend its rule of Korea and Manchuria. In almost every respect Japan's short-lived overseas empire was a disaster for both Japan and the places it occupied and its legacy has helped poison national relations in the last 60 years.
In particular the "sibling rivalry" between Japan and Korea, which has manifested itself recently in all sorts of pouting about various insignificant specks of rock surrounded by fish-rich seas, has been a boon to China. As I noted in the Coprosperity Sphere post below, the Chinese should feel threatened by any alliance between the two "younger brothers" and other coastal nations. Indeed I sometimes wonder if the astoundingly tactless remarks made by both Koreans and Japanese are not in fact controlled by doble agents working for Beijing.
In a comment on the afore-mentioned post it was noted that the world could probably survive the economic collapse of China - nations such as India and Indonesia would undoubtledly be able to take up the slack - but I do not believe it would be in anyone's longer term interest for such a humbling to occur. The rulers of China have, with the partial excption of the communists, been remarkably inward looking throughout history. The lesson that should be learned from the various experiences of the three "siblings" during the 19th and 20th centuries is that in the long term ignoring the outside world is perilous but pushing to control it by force is no better. It is to be earnestly hoped that the rulers of the elder brother do not attempt to imitate their mongol and manchu forbears.
I popped off back to Blighty last weekend to visit aged parents and attend a do (with them) at my alma mater, Magdalene College, Cambridge. My parent's constituency is Harwich, a seat currently held by Labour but which was once a solid Tory one until 1997.
Anyway as I walked and drove around the area I noticed just a couple of boring placards for Labour and a far greater number of (generally larger) placards for his Tory challenger, Douglas Carswell.What was interesting about those posters was that I initially assumed Mr Carswell was a UKIP candidate, because of the prominent union jack and "Independent Britain" slogan on them. Indeed the Harwich conservatives website seems to be a hotbed of Euroskepicism, with a page about the local Tory MEP who 'opposes British adoption of the Euro and an EU "Constitution"' and pages that say things like this:
Douglas Carswell says:
"No to the Euro. No to the Euro constitution.
What part of No doesn't Tony Blair understand?
When we joined the so-called "Common Market" people thought it was only going to be about trade.
I believe Britain must be an independent country once again - trading with Europe - but governing ourselves.
I believe it with a passion"
The EU referendum blog notes that official Tory policy on Europe is rather less stridently anti-EU so perhaps it is no surprise that the redirect from the official central Conservative Party page to the Harwich one reads as follows:
You are now leaving Conservatives.com - The web site of the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party is neither responsible for, nor necessarily endorses the content of the Website to which you are going.
This does of course rather invalidate the claim by Vicki Wood's daughter in the Torygraph (linked to in the next EU referndum blog entry) that its all about "Schools'n'hospitals" and focus groups. Nationally I have absolutely no doubt this is true because as Vicki correctly points out other issues are tricky for the main parties to talk about due to internal party fissures and the economy is doing OK - not so wonderfully good that it can be a point for Labour, but not so direly that the Tories can resurrect their 1979 slogans:
What I suspect we will see as the campaign progresses is a lot of local emphasis on immigration and Europe by the Tories even if nationally both get less focus (though Howard certainly got the lefties worked up with his weekend immigration speech).
Don't mention the War
The issue that will be most studiously avoided by all is Iraq. This is a crying shame as the country really needs to have a proper debate on Iraq and on British foreign and military policy. We won't get it in this election and I rather doubt we will ever get it unless the BBC decides that intervention by the UK in (say) Darfur or Zimbabwe and we get people looking back at the overall success of Iraq. The New Sisyphus blog, who is looking at the election purely from a foreign policy perspective says:
British friends: please vote for the socialist.
and that does rather echo the views of Oliver Kamm and Stephen Pollard that the Tory leaders are imitating a certain Escroc and being remarkably amoral and cycnical in their foreign policy. I have agreee with that analysis yet I disagree with the conclusion. Despite their foreign policy silence the Tories are far more sound on domestic policy - even if they fire people who tell the truth - and considerably better on Europe. The problem with the Tories is that they are running scared of Labour's generally strong agenda setting - hence their weaselling over both Iraq and government cuts - but I think if they were to win we would see less weaselling and more action.
Tony Blair = Harold Wilson 30 years on
However while I want the Tories to win I don't think they will do so this time. I believe the Labour party will win this election albeit with a somewhat reduced majority. I also believe that Blair will quit in 2006(ish) especially if(when?) the UK rejects the EU constitution in a referendum. At that point Gordon Brown will have to follow in the unfortunate footsteps of Jim Callaghan and try and pick up the pieces. What Brown will do, I have no doubt, is unleash even more government spending on "Schools'n'hospitals" while raising taxes and doing very little to address the issues that really bother British people such as crime, Europe and immigration. The result will be that in 2009/2010 the Tories can resurrect their 1979 campaign and win on similar grounds as the wheels will have totally come of ZaNu Labour.
The nice and cuddly communists in China have long been aware that satellite TV is a way to get around those pesky decency and related regulations that the owners of terrestrial TV channels have to abide by or risk being invited, in ways that are difficult to refuse, to pay a visit to the charming basements of the Ministry of Information. In the past they did a number on Rupert Murdoch by granting him juicy access to the Chinese cable TV market in exchange for not broadcasting anything that might upset the government on his satellite channel Star TV.
Unfortunately for the purity of knowledge withing the People's Republic of China there is another satellite channel called NTDTV which doesn't seem to be so interested in juicy cable contracts but is interested in broadcasting news and information to the Chinese mainland via satellite. What to do? As the Inquirer reports you nobble the owner of the satellite:
Up until now anyone in China wanting to watch NTDTV (New Tang Dynasty Television) has had to so secretly after first investing in a satellite dish wired up to a telly that's preferably hidden in a subterranean cave. But even all that effort will be to no avail when on Friday Paris-based Eutelstat ends its agreement to broadcast NTDTV into China, even though its the only non-government controlled, Chinese language station available to the nation's fact-starved millions.
Why is Eutelsat doing this? It won't give a reason, but word has it that Beijing has warned it that, if doesn't pull the plug, it won't be granted rights to broadcast the 2008 Olympics.
There's also the fact that the French are leading the EU to lift its arms embargo on China soon, paving the way for some tasty new business, while one of Eutelsat's affiliates has already clinched a deal with China's Ministry of Information (sic) to supply broadband.
Come the 2008 Olympics there might even be a new sporting event - jumping though the Beijing hoop.
The Taipei Times explains that NTDTV has a launched a petition to protest this action and the petition ought to make good reading to all those caring human rights lawyers here in Europe:
Eutelsat is in violation of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, as well as the Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, regarding free expression and universal information access. Eutelsat·s own Inter-Governmental Convention bylaws require equal access, non-discrimination, and respect for pluralism, and NTDTV is clearly in compliance with those rules.
Eutelsat is setting an alarming precedent for repressive governments that wish to censor satellite broadcasts into their territory. As Eutelsat Chairman Giuliano Berretta emphasized when he met with NTDTV·s Board of Directors last year: censoring broadcasts would be a dangerous practice for his company·s business model, and indeed for the satellite industry as a whole.
However the real aim of the petition is the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Av, Washington, DC, USA who may be interesting in modifying his government's broadcast satellite contracts. On the other hand it occurs to me that NTDTV would probably find a sympathetic audience in Japan which is somewhat irked with the communists at the moment and also has a number of satellites to do broadcasting.
In the news recently have been all sorts of stories about Chinese people protesting "spontaneously" the approval of some history text books in Japan. In this they seem to have been joined by the useful idiots in both the Korean governments but not, as far as I can tell, by anyone else. Indeed the rest of the former Coprosperity Sphere seem to be ignoring the entire event completely and appear, in general, to be far more concerned about the Middle Kingdom that the Land of the Rising Sun.
Curiously these protests seem to be being sparked by a couple of things that seem to be barely related to Japanese atrocities in WWII and any subsequent denial or lack of apology by Japan. The first is the mooted UN reform where Japan would gain a permenant seat on the security council and the second is potential oil and gas fields in disputed waters. With regards to the former China is on extremely shakey ground, Japan has an enormous GDP (3rd in the world behind the US and China according to the CIA) and has devoted considerably more of it that China to aid for the developing world. Japan has also backed numerous UN institutions, provided heads to a couple of them and generally done considerably more as a world citizen than China. Moreover it isn't as if Japan is the only country being proposed. Germany, India and Brazil have also been suggested and it would, IMO, be ludicrous to accept some or all of those nations without accepting Japan. The root cause of the second dispute is even more clear. Neither Japan nor China are well endowed with local energy resources and if there is gas in the East China Sea both would like to get their hands on it.
The second point dovetails nicely in with my recent post about the potential alliance amongst the former Coprosperity Sphere with Japan against China, and indeed with the identical point made today by Wretchard about the vulnerability of the Chinese economy to disruptions in its oil supply. Students of the Asian part of WWII should be only too well aware how resource vulnerability affected Japan in that war and nothing in the last 60 years has altered that calculation.
Japan: China's Israel?
Tying somewhat into the previous post on this blog about the Chinese suppression of alternative information, it occurs to me that the Chinese communist regime may be attempting to use its control of information to blame future internal troubles on an external source in much the same way that Arab nations attempted to blame Israel for everything. There are, fortunately, significant differences between the Chinese and the Arab nations when it comes to religion and creativity which means that I suspect that this attempt will be doomed to failure but I do believe that the Chinese leadership are attempting to build up external scapegoats with Japan as the primary one. For example, depsite all the complaints about Japanese atrocities in China, they were far less deadly in absolute numbers than Maoism and especially the "Great Leap Forward" which caused a famine that killed upto 30 million Chinese. Somehow I rather doubt that Chinese history textbooks today contain those numbers even though Maoism is discredited even within China, but you can be sure that all Chinese textbooks contain details of the rape on Nanking in great detail. There are some other points of similarity; for example Japan, like Israel, is a key regional ally of the great Satan - the USA. On the other hand in terms of territorial claims Taiwan is much more suitable since China claims to rule Taiwan but makes no such claim with respect to Japan.
Of course this scapegoating could become self-fulfilling. Japanese companies have made large investments in China and import a lot of stuff from China. If the majority of Japanese believe that China is picking on them unfairly (a totally unscientific poll of certain in-laws of mine indicates this could be the case already), then the pressure to look at other suppliers and other places to invest could indeed put a hole in the Chinese economy. The hole could probably be filled over time but this economic change would almost certainly be combined with stronger and more explicit support by Japan for Taiwan, thus making that goal of the communists even less plausible and thereby removing even more lustre from the communust party.
China Begins The Next World War?
The problem here is that Japan as a whole seems to have decided that it has apologized and grovelled enough. The traditional guilt trip tactics simply aren't working any more and indeed seem to provoke the opposite. In some ways this helps the communists in their propaganda but the problem is that Japan may move from symbolic acts that show that it has had enough of apologies to more concrete measures. All in all I think that with regards to both Taiwan and Japan, the leadership of the PRC are playing with fire and that unless they chance course they are highly likely to end up in a war that they will eventually lose. I have no doubt that in losing it they will cause major damage to their neighbours but the cost to their own infrastructure and population is likely to be catastrophic. A fuel and trade blockade combined with selective destruction of key roads and railways and dams would probably put China back into the situation it faced during the "Great Leap Forward" with a stalled economy and mass starvation. As Saddam Hussein and the Taliban demonstrated to the world large armies are more likely to be seen as "target rich opportunities" than threats to modern militaries and despite its low spending as a percentage of GDP, Japan's self-defence forces are about as well equipped with modern toys as the US military. Taiwan is similarly well equipped and there is no doubt that, as Wretchard points out, the US would come to their assistance in the event of Chinese attack.
Update:The Daily Demarche in a post full of Sino-goodness provides a link to a Xinhua news item with the following interesting statement:
Dong said the 41-page white paper only focus on China's own development of human rights cause. China has never pointed its finger at other country's human rights issues in white papers.
One can't help thinking that complaints about Japanes behaviour in China effectively boil down to complaints about the Imperial Japanese Army's lack of respect for human rights but clearly that is different Permalink
Jeff Jarvis has made a couple of back to back posts about how the internet is ruining the business of being a middleman. Actually he doesn't quite say that but it is effectively what he says about classified advertising and his discussion of aggregation in general. Certainly he makes a decent case and he is basically copying the various gurus of the Internet in stating that the Internet's strength was in "disintermediation" or in shorter words, cutting out the middleman. Classic examples are amazon replacing gazillions of booksellers and eBay replacing classified ads in specialist magazines.
He is right and he is wrong in his statement in my opinion. He is absolutely correct that middlemen who fail to add value, those who just aggregate and charge for that service, are headed for the circular filing cabinet of history. However it is, I think, a little simplistic to say that all middlemen will share the same fate; however what I think will happen is that middlement will see a readjustment of their status vis-a-vis the suppliers and consumers of the products/services that they act as middleman for.
The Jobs Example
One of the examples that Jeff mentions is the recruitment scene and I think it is worth looking at this a bit more. In many areas recruiters have a reputastion for being little more that resume consolidators and this function is clearly going to be lost by internet versions. However good recruiters also add value to the process by winnowing with intelligence so that both employers and job-seekers get to avoid wasting their time and effort on interviews where the candidate doesn't fit. A good recruiter earns his agent's fee by being more than an automated resume searcher. A good recruiter will be able to read a resume and understand what parts of it might be of interest to his client and to query the candidate based on those parts. Only if the responses make sense will he more to the next stage. A good recruiter will use the internet to do the grunt work but will add value by passing a human eye over the result. The problem is that such a recruiter is only going to be cost effective for high-paying positions and/or where the cost of hiring the wrong person is going to be a major hit on the employer. In other words in classic "discontinuous innovation" terms the existing mass market product moves to a high-end niche, where it amy or may not survive in the future.
The Middleman as Artisan
This means that we are looking at a high-end only service for many of the functions where we use middlemen today but then precisely the same effect has been seen in all sorts of former crafts which have been indutrialized. From tailoring to baking there remains room at the higher end for the artisan craftsman and I see absolutely no reason to doubt the same for most of the middleman services. I suspect that employing a personal news editor to produce one's customized daily newspaper may become the next snob item and it will not surprise me if all sorts of other intermediary tasks go the same way. Is this bad? maybe not but it does look like we kow where the next wave of white-collar job losses are going to occur. Permalink
There is a saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Perhaps there should be a contrary one about the difficulty of stopping MEPspigs from gorging when they have their snouts in the trough. Apart from occasional bouts of interest when rebels out the criminal tendancies of proposed EU commisioners I, and I suspect most others, have tended to ignore the European parliament as a non-entity. However it does have some power and certainly it has lots of budget to hand over to its members, that is to say those people who are elected as MEPs.
The Toygraph editorialises today about the way the MEPs failed to reform their gravy train and jolly depressing reading it is too.
Presented with a chance to end outrageous allowances scams, MEPs voted down every proposed reform. They threw out an amendment that would have provided for the reimbursement of their travel expenses on the basis of actual ticket price. They rejected having to pay their pension contributions from their personal accounts (rather than, as at present, deducting the sum from their office allowances). And, most brazenly of all, they voted against having their expenses audited.
The Torygraph goes to to list the various bits of pork on offer
An MEP can now make about £800 a week on his travel allowance, based on the most expensive notional air fare rather than the Ryanair flight he has actually taken. He can pocket a further £2,400 a month on his "general expenses allowance", which, after Tuesday's vote, remains unscrutinised. Add in £180 a day for signing the attendance register and £10,000 a month of secretarial allowance, much of which goes to immediate family members, and you're talking serious money. All of these sums are tax-free since they count as expenses rather than income.
I did some sums - using the Torygraphs numbers and assuming than an MEP works for 45 weeks a year, signs in for attendance on 4 days during those weeks, takes the maximum monthly general expenses and pays his wife/family his entire secretarial allowance then he gets an extremely good tax free deal as follows:
General Expenses (£2400/month)
Signing In (£180/day)
*Note: The Euro sums may not quite add up because I did some rounding after I converted at £1=€1.47
MEPs get the same salary as domestic MPs as well (which varies by country) and on which they have to pay tax, and that salary is generally not too shabby but not wonderful either - UK MPs get around £60,000/€90,000 per annum which is probably low compared to what they could expect as a senior lawyer, senior accountant etc. but clearly not the sort of wage that should require one to diddle one's expenses in order to keep the wolf from the door.
But as you can see from the table an MEP can snarf almost a third of a million Euros in addition to his salary. Perhaps we should not be surprised that they are unwilling to give up the loot. And perhaps they in turn should not be surprised when Eurosceptics complain about the EU.
By the way the European Parliament website has, at first sight, masses of information about its activities but despite that, finding the actual resolutions and votes about their allowances is somewhat difficult with the published information about agendas, votes and resolutions being rather cryptic. The relevant votes appear to be here, but I defy you to tell me from the document which vote is which. Anyone would think they had something to hide... Update: Elaib makes a reasonable point in the comments - I am probably exaggerating slightly but €200k-250k looks entirely feasible and that is still a heck of a lot of dosh Permalink
One of the really cool things about olive trees is the way that their leaves seem to change colour in different lights. On a grey, wet day they seem silver, under the midday sun dark green and in the evening sometimes they seem to be golden. As always click on the photo for a larger version and do look at the rest of the series starting with last week's one. Permalink
L'Escroc was on TV last night in a scripted "informal" Q&A session with 80 young people. I listened to a bit of it and I cannot say I was impressed. L'Escroc has a grandeur problem you see and seems to incapable, these days, of not appearing to be patronizing. Apparently in person he can be charming etc. etc. bt put him in front of a TV camera and he seems to slip back in to "Papa knows best" mode. I don't know how the majority of French people perceived his performance but going on some of the reactions at Yahoo France (machine translation), it wasn't the overwhelming success he needed.
The knives are out in the Chirac camp, with the President’s allies accusing Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of his Union for a Popular Majority party, of deliberate lacklustre campaigning because a “no” would further his own ambition to replace M Chirac. The political heirs of the late General Charles de Gaulle are also feuding over which way their hero would have voted.
L'Escroc was on TV last night in a scripted "informal" Q&A session with 80 young people. I listened to a bit of it and I cannot say I was impressed. L'Escroc has a grandeur problem you see and seems to incapable, these days, of not appearing to be patronizing. Apparently in person he can be charming etc. etc. bt put him in front of a TV camera and he seems to slip back in to "Papa knows best" mode. I don't know how the majority of French people perceived his performance but going on some of the reactions at Yahoo France (machine translation), it wasn't the overwhelming success he needed.
The knives are out in the Chirac camp, with the President’s allies accusing Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of his Union for a Popular Majority party, of deliberate lacklustre campaigning because a “no” would further his own ambition to replace M Chirac. The political heirs of the late General Charles de Gaulle are also feuding over which way their hero would have voted.
The Economist also makes the point that Sarkozy seems more concerned to present Sarko as an alternative to L'Escroc than to push the constitution. To be honest though I'm not sure that Sarkozy could do much more than lend additional energy to moving the deck-chairs around as the ship sinks. The Torygraph has an article that repeats a lot of the same problems that the Wapping Liar notes but it also echoes my own feelings. L'Escroc did not come out fighting or show any confidence in his TV appearance last night, on the contrary his hand-picked audience seemed deliberatley designed to remove anyone who might ask difficult questions.
Memories of France's hesitant approval of the Maastricht treaty in a 1992 referendum have given recent historical context to the row over last night's programme.
Mr Chirac's Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand, already in seriously fading health, faced Philippe Seguin, a formidable leader of the No camp, in a heated debate ahead of a referendum on the Maastricht treaty.
The Left-wing daily Libération pointed out yesterday that Mr Mitterrand's defence of his position transformed the Yes campaign's standing in the polls. The vote was, in the end, won only by a whisker but the late president's performance is often said to have been crucial.
There is nothing to stop Mr Chirac, in the six weeks remaining before France decides, emulating Mr Mitterrand's gesture by accepting a head-to-head TV debate or submitting himself to a Paxman-style grilling. But last night he stood condemned by opponents and journalists alike of blurring politics and entertainment.
Since, in effect, the referendum is becoming one on approval or disapproval of Chirac this is deadly, as is, in my opinion, the way that once the polls started looking bad Chirac cravenly gave in to just about every pressure group there was. This is bad in the short term but it is worse in the longer term. Many of the complainst about Chirac which are fuelling the "non" campaign are to do with the persistently bad economic situation in France something that is bound to continue unless France removes more of its statist controls because the EU is no longer a way for the Germans (and British) to subsidize the lifestyles of the French. Without the infusion of EU cash and with idiotic regulations such as the 35 hour week there is no way that France can survive. Unfortunately explaining that to a populace that has been taught in every public forum that the capitalism of "les Anglo-saxons" is the root of all evil is not an easy job.
The fact that, ironically, the constitution ends up being much more statist that most of Northern and Eastern Eurosceptics want is completely missed. Given that the constitution was written by a panel led by a Frenchman and that it incorporates much of the Napoleonic code of governance the objections of the French to the constitution appear rather illogical when looked at from outside. It seems to me that the simple message the French population is saying is that if the EU doesn't promise to always put the interests of France at the top then the French don't want it. The rest of Europe might like to bear that attitude in mind. Permalink
In an otherwise totally domestic article about MG Rover and the "unintended consequences" of employment law in the Torygraph that Tim Worstall found, there is an interesting trailer that may be worth looking at through the jaded eye of cynical realpolitik.
One - possibly far fetched - suggestion yesterday was that the UK might be prepared to offer to pressure the European Union to lift the arms embargo on China to get SAIC back to the negotiation table. However a DTI spokesman said: "That is speculation."
Ministers are desperate to avoid the need to make thousands of MG Rover workers redundant during a general election campaign in an area of England peppered with Labour marginal seats.
What I find interesting here is that in recent weeks Blair and Straw made noises about supporting the French in lifting the embargo when normally both are rather good at being principled. One wonders whether they did in fact make this offer and that this whole thing came to a head when they discovered that either they couldn't meet their end of the bargain or alternatively that George W made a little call to No 10. and explained how this would impact some deals that would affect even more marginal constituencies.
Given that the rest of the article really is talking about the inability for a purchaser to lose pension/redundancy obligations this paragraph about the arms embago quid pro quo doesn't seem to be relevant. The question I have is why would the Torygraph make this rather bland but none the less serious allegation unless it already had information that such a proposal had already been made? Permalink
Bloglines seems to have forgotten me for some reason. When I tried to log in it didn't work and after about 5 attempts to carefully type in the password I decided I'd do the "lost password" routine. When I did I got this response:
I WENT into a public-’ouse to get a pint o’ beer, The publican ’e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.” The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die, I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I: O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”; But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,— The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be, They gave a drunk civilian room, but ’adn’t none for me; They sent me to the gallery or round the music-’alls, But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls! For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”; But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,— The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide, O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap; An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit. Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ’ow’s yer soul?” But it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll,— The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ’eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints, Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints; While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”, But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,— There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all: We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace. For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” But it’s “Saviour of ’is country” when the guns begin to shoot; An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please; An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool—you bet that Tommy sees!
While I was back in England last weekend I saw that my father had bought some years back a book of poetry called "A Choice of Kipling’s Verse made by T. S. Eliot" and which was first published in the early 1940s. At the beginning there is an excellent essay on Kipling and his poetry which could, I imagine, be brought immediately up to date with only very minor changes. Much the same can be said of George Orwell's lengthy essay published shortly afterwards and which is loosely based upon it. Indeed the conclusion Orwell essay, if not the whole thing, should be read by each and every critic of the Bush administration and would probably benefit many of its supporters too:
One reason for Kipling’s power as a good bad poet I have already suggested—his sense of responsibility, which made it possible for him to have a world-view, even though it happened to be a false one. Although he had no direct connexion with any political party, Kipling was a Conservative, a thing that does not exist nowadays. Those who now call themselves Conservatives are either Liberals, Fascists or the accomplices of Fascists. He identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition. In a gifted writer this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality. The ruling power is always faced with the question, ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions. Where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly. Moreover, anyone who starts out with a pessimistic, reactionary view of life tends to be justified by events, for Utopia never arrives and ‘the gods of the copybook headings’, as Kipling himself put it, always return. Kipling sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like. It is a great thing in his favour that he is not witty, not ‘daring’, has no wish to épater les bourgeois. He dealt largely in platitudes, and since we live in a world of platitudes, much of what he said sticks. Even his worst follies seem less shallow and less irritating than the ‘enlightened’ utterances of the same period, such as Wilde’s epigrams or the collection of cracker-mottoes at the end of Man and Superman.
One may wish to exchange the tags of liberal and conservative around here and there but the question that Orwell asks "In such and such circumstances, what would you do?" is indeed one which all Bush critics, or more generally all governmental critics, must face up to honestly since it is indeed the difference between reality and fantasy. Likewise the deterioration of thought in a "permenant and pensioned opposition" is a clear warning to the Anti-war/PETA variety of permenant protestor.
The reason for posting these thoughts and Kipling's poem Tommy at the top is my reading of a couple of articles about academia mentioned by Powerline. Somehow though I suspect that the people who ought to be reading Kipling (and Orwell) are those who dismiss both as dated, simplistic and/or wrong. I do note that many in the military and those who support the military - what one might call the "red-state" crowd - are both aware of Kipling and enjoy both his prose and poetry whereas the sophisticated label him as "imperialist" or "proto-fascist" and depict his work as little better than "talentless hack journalism" despite borrowing phrases such as "the white-man's burden" from him when they wish to criticise the Hegemonic or Imperialistic Neo-conservatives.
However it is not just Kipling's poetry that makes him relevant today, nor even his tales of British Imperial India, and how that might apply to Iraq orAfghanistan. He was an acute observer of the use and abuse of power in many senses; for example in his 1913 short story "The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat" he notes two sorts which are relevant to this day, the power of the media to set the agenda and the power of the local judiciary/police to make money from traffic offenses. Given the debates about speed-cameras and whether police forces have quotas, the debates about MSM bias and how blogs upset this, it could be republished today and be recognised as legitimate and relevant commentary on 2005 America (or Britain) without anyone batting an eyelid.
Likewise his non-fiction essay "Winning the Victoria Cross" is fascinating not just for its tales of the more "normal" sorts of courage against large odds, which are in essence not very different from the tales of the wearers of VCs and similar medals from more recent conflicts, but the "courage of the much-enduring Ulysses" and the overall impression one gets of the medal wearers near universal modesty about their exploits and, as its conclusion makes clear, the way that the same qualities also apply to the whole field of human endeavour:
The Order itself is a personal decoration, and the honour and glory of it belongs to the wearer; but he can only win it by forgetting himself, his own honour and glory, and by working for something beyond and outside and apart from his own self. And there seems to be no other way in which you get anything in this world worth the keeping.
There is, I think, a reason why a certain type of person uses so much invective when it comes to Kipling and that is that Kipling was very clear on the concepts of honour, service and responsibility. Other authors may make it more explicit, but Kipling just implies it throughout and the result is that you cannot read (well I can't) his works without reflecting on these subjects. I suspect that reading Kipling makes those who are lacking in such qualities rather guilty, and as we know guilt frequently sublimes into blaming the accuser. Kipling has no patience with those who use the ideas of moral relativism and such like to excuse wickedness or treachery - the wax-moth in "The Mother Hive" uses such tricks and it has to be said that her actions do rather remind me of certain well known "liberal" heroes such as Michael Moore or Ward Churchill. It seems to me that a dose of Kipling while young would help innoculate many a child against the more outrageously "liberal" teachers and professors.
Finally to return to his poetry, Kipling is frequently accused of writing jumped up doggerel - indeed TS Eliot, in the essay I noted at the start, calls him a creator of ballads and that is apparently a bad thing. Poetry, according to the intellectuals, is supposed to be hard to appreciate and enjoy. It should take work and, apparently, need not tell a story or otherwise paint a picture. Kipling's verse on the other hand is easy to understand - despite his attempts at writing accents - and frequently has a story. It also frequently has a moral or a lesson - and that seems to be anathema worse even that comprehensibility and rhyme - but the morals are ones that echo the rest of the oeuvre and which it is good for mankind to recall, even, perhaps especially, if they puncture the self-image of the superior intellectual. And on that note, that we should not forget, I conclude with this: THERE were thirty million English who talked of England’s might, There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night. They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade; They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long, That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song. They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door; And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and gray; Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they; And an old troop sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”
They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong, To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song; And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed, A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toilbowed back; They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack; With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed, They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.
The old troop sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said, “You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead. An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell; For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.
“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight? We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how? You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”
The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn. And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.” And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame, Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.
O thirty million English that babble of England’s might, Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night; Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made—” And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!
This blog has discussed the internal political situation in France quite a few times recently. Including the way that domestic politics are interfering in the referendum on the EU constitution. On that note, the Instapundit links to a nice summary of the situation and some interesting quotes about Nicholas Sarkozy which make him seem to be almost the ideal future leader of France.
This is where I disagree. To put it simply Sarko is the best of a bad lot. Sarko is, in my opinion, the best national politician in France, but while I admit he shows enviable energy, communication skills and intelligence, I do not think he is as perfect as some people hope. Take the claim that he is the best national politician in France - this is not a very high accolade since the competition from l'Escroc and his flunkies and mainstream opponants is pretty weak. I do in fact believe that l'Escroc Chirac himself is to blame for the otherwise low quality of right-wing politicians since he has been dominant for so long and intolerant of competent rivals - he tried to hand Sarko one poison chalice after another and it shows Sarko's skills that he managed to emerge from these challenges with his reputation enhanced - however Chirac has had less influence on the left-wing and there too the political leadership shows all the charisma of a brick and, it has to be said, little more intelligence. The fact that the socialists were unable to comprehend the real impact of their 35 hour week shows how little they understand about basic economics - or maths.
Sarko is almost certainly less tainted with corruption than most of his peers, in part due to his relative youth, and he is certainly far more telegenic than most of them. He also compares well to l'Escroc because he doesn't condescend to the electorate. The EU constitution debate has shown l'Escroc at his most sneering, both externally when he managed to get the Services directive cut last month and internally when he lectured the "randomly chosen but screeened" young people on TV a couple of nights ago. However while Sarko is far more appealing than Chirac personally and far more intelligent than the socialists he is by no means the sort of free-market friend of America that Will seems to be hoping for.
So what is wrong with Sarko? well firstly he is still very statist. In order to ameliorate public anger while finance minister he decreed that supermarkets would cut prices on a certain amount of produce and the supermarket chains did so. Perhaps worse, he seems to be typically French in his lack of morals and principles. While he was justice minister he was quite happy to embrace the French police tactics that caused Amnesty International to be extremely critical. He also seems to be quite adept at the slopey shoulders techniques of letting blame fall upon underlings while ensuring that success is credited to him. This is not much different to politicians all over the world but it does not help to inspire loyalty and could lead him, some years down the road, to emulate l'Escroc in doing his best to sideline talented juniors. I believe that he does recognise that France needs to reform its economy dramatically in order to survive and he certainly understands that the Chirac policy of anti-Americanism under almost all circumstances is short-sighted. Yet neither of those means that he will be a sort of french Margaret Thatcher when (if) he comes to power. He is still likely to be distrustful of America and les Anglo-Saxons and he is still likely to push the EU in ways that benefit France but not the rest of us.
He will also undoubtedly have to make compromises with others within Frace that mean that even when he sees long term advantages in doing something that helps others he may not do it because it provides short term advantage within France. The EU constitution is clearly one of these cases. There is, as I see it, absolutely no chance that the EU constitution could possibly be renegotiated in a way that is more advantageous to France than the current one and I doubt that the EU, without a constitution, will be better either - in fact I suspect that rejection of the EU constitution may herald the high-tide of European integration under the traditional French inspired model; yet Sarko is not going all out to get the French electorate to vote "Oui" because his presidential ambitions are better served by a "Non".
As with American support of Tony Blair, support of Sarko needs to be tempered with caution. Yes he is probably the best bet but he is nowhere near perfect and it would be dangerous to delude ourselves otherwise. Permalink
“I didn’t get nowhere by sitting around watching satellite TV. I’ve worked ’ard every day of my life. I tell my kids, no one never got nowhere by being lazy. Don’t take my word for it, I tell them. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon ’im, yeah, ’e said, ‘Be a worker; don’t sit around on your arse, innit’.” From a classic article in today's Sunday Wapping Liar about the Bangladeshi community in the East End of London
The recent lashing out by the Chinese leadership at a variety of foreign states seems bizarre to me. I noted in an earlier post that it occured to me it was not dissimilar to Arab tyrants blaming everything on Israel. The same thought occured to the mighty Vodkapundit and similar thoughts are occuring to the Junkyardblogger too. The JYB suggests that it could be a sign that the leadership is beginning to feel threatened by internal compaint and has attempted to direct the hotheads to external sources of anger exactly as the Arab despots have.
There is some evidence that if this is the case they have good reason to try it; for example there was a riot about environmental degradaion recently and there are ongoing complaints about the general level of corruption at all levels of government. However it seems odd to me that the Chinese should be picking on both Taiwan and Japan within such a short period of time. Neither of the two nations seems to have been doing anything that deserved the sort of response we have seen in the last month or so. I suspect in fact that the anti-Japan riots have in fact got out of hand and this may, in part, be because the Chinese have all sorts of interesting omissions in theit history books too (such as a failure to discuss Mao's disastrous "Great Leap Forward" which killed 15-40M Chinese).
One good question is what is going to be the result? Firstly I suspect we will see a significant drop in foreign investment in China from Taiwan and Japan, and quite possibly from other places too. One unknown is whether the world needs China more than China needs the world? China is indeed the worlds factory at present, but it doesn't make anything that can't be made elsewhere, albeit at a higher price - and for that matter the current price seems to be being kept artificially low by the Chinese authorities. If Walmart and co decided to employ an army of Brazilians, say, they could probably make almost everything that China does - however the investment in new factories would not happen instantly so there is no way that this can be done as an overnight switch. If the current unrest in China continues it seems likely that there will be a search for alternative locations for sweatshops and considerable investment outside China.
If we do see a loss of foreign investment in China then the Chinese economy could catch a cold and see some sort of a recession. This could be tough for the Chinese authorities because they really need the foreign investment to transition a lot of their older industries to newer ones. If there is no way to reform the older industries then the likelihood is that there will be more unrest and thus more complaints and thus we see the potential of a vicious circle as China steps up the xenophobia to divert anger which results in even more reduction in investment and trade and hence more unrest.
China's belligerence may well force Tokyo and Taipei into each other's embrace, forming a "virtual alliance" against Beijing. This won't settle well with China at all, which considers Taiwan a "renegade province."
And that potential alliance is precisiely what I was talking about in the Coprosperity Sphere post of a few weeks ago and it really does have a lot of nasty geostrategic consequences for China.
All in all it seems to me that these protests are going to harm China in the longer term even if in the short term they help the government stay in power. Perhaps worse they could poison China's relationships with the outside world so much that it is left to crash and burn when it could be rescued and thus inspire yet more xenophobia as the Chinese population fails, again, to connect cause with effect.
Going on the first he is unlikely to last long and is unlikely to reform the Curia - especially since he emanates from it. This is almost certainly a bad thing unless the idea of sexually repessed control freaks trying to micromanage the live of 1 billion people makes sense to you.
Going on the second he's not going to make the clappy-happy crowd very clappy happy. Sex is still streng verbotenexcept between priest and altarboy, every sperm is sacred, condoms are the work of the devil, women can't be priests etc. This is probably a fairly bad thing too - especially in the light of the above micromanagement issue.
Going on the third (and on his public appearances) he has the charisma and personal appeal of a bucket of sauerkraut. This is probably not a good thing.
Sounds like John Paul II only 6 years younger minus the parkinsons and the sense of humour. This is called ducking the issues. If you think the Catholic church should have an influence in world affairs then this pope is unlikely to be much use. If you think he should limit himself to dealing with the faithful then he may be OK but I suspect he isn't going to be quite as inspirational as he predecessor either and thus the number of faithful may decline.
As someone disagreed with almost every position of the previous pope - from condoms to the death penalty via Iraq - this is not a good thing except that I suspect it will make the pope less important in human affairs. Would the news media like to please leave Rome and head south and visit Darfur or Zimbabwe. And would the pundits like to consider the China question the way the blogosphere is? The acts of the rulers of China are, IMO, a far greater cause for concern that those of a ruler of a couple of acres in Rome. Permalink
At The Motley Fool I wrote a post where I pointed to various recent blog entries and said "China scares me". I was then asked:
Could you explain why China scares you? Are you afraid that thousands of Chinese people would swim over the pacific ocean to throw empty bottles and rocks at your house? :)
To which I replied as below
Well if they want to swim across the Pacific they won't get my house, situated as it is near the Mediterranean...
but more seriously what worries me about China is that it seems to becoming more and more stridently nationalist and its leadership more and more populist (and I don't mean that in a good way). For example the recent complaints about Japanese textbooks would have more credibility if China's own textbooks mentioned (for example) its invasion of Tibet or the millions who died during the great leap forward
From an AFP report: ...While learning materials in Chinese high schools take special pains to outline Japanese aggression beginning with the 1874 invasion of Taiwan Taiwan, China's involvement in the 1950-53 Korea war is dismissed in one sentence.
At the same time such are the holes in modern Chinese history that the average mainland college graduate still believes China is a "peaceful country" which has fought wars only in self-defense.
Completely absent from textbooks is China's 1951 invasion and subsequent colonisation of an independent Tibet Tibet. Erased too is the 1962 attack on India India and the ill-fated 1979 incursion into Vietnam
But even when it comes to China's domestic history students know shockingly little about the deaths of tens of millions that resulted from Mao Zedong's ill-conceived Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.
Despite changes that apportion Mao with greater blame for the tragedies, texts still gloss them over because in China "textbooks represent the will of the authorities", says Shanghai Normal University history professor Su Zhiliang.
Within China the pervasive censorship and widespread corruption doesn't help, nor does the fact that China performed soemthing like 90% of all the official executions in the world last year. Not to mention the wide imbalances in wealth and opportunity between the coast and the inland provinces. There are also problems with the financial system, which appears to have many loans made to non-viable businesses that were made because of either corruption or communist party pressure to keep a loss maker going. And there is the problem of the male-female imbalance due to the one-child policy that seems to have left China with a significant surplus of males in the younger generations.
The combination of xenophobic nationalism, excess males and the possibility of a financial crash (and hence economic depression) does indeed scare me because in such circumstances I find it highly plausible that the leadership will attempt an external war to either rectify the problem or to cynically distract the population. I believe China would lose that war but I don't think the loss would be quick and the war would almost certainly cause hugh damage to both China and its neighbours and be a big problem to the global economy as a whole.
This is why "China scare me". Now I hope (and were I religious I'd pray) that China becomes a more liberal democratic nation without sinking into internal collapse or attacking its neighbours, but I see a lot of interlocking problems with various imbalances in China and I worry that there may be no way to resolve these imbalances without violence. Permalink
Tim Worstall wants a Che Pinochet image for a T Shirt and has got a couple. Since I'm too late to that particular party may I suggest a slight broadening of the range to include Geberal Pinochet's friend the Iron Lady
So would you rather burn a Book of Mormon in Salt Lake City or a Koran in Pakistan? Here is a hint from Reuters:
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Koran was shot dead Wednesday after being chased by an angry crowd.
Ashiq Nabi, in his thirties, was accused of being disrespectful to Islam's holy book and had been in hiding since Monday, a senior police official said.
"Today, a mob spotted him and shot him dead," said Mazahar ul Haq, police chief of Nowshera town, about 100 km (62 miles) west of the capital, Islamabad.
Blasphemy, including desecrating the Koran, is a capital offence in deeply Islamic Pakistan and carries the death sentence, but convictions have always been turned down by high courts because of a lack of evidence.
Witnesses said the man was chased through fields and climbed a tree to get away from an angry crowd of up to 500 men. When he refused to come down, someone shot him dead, they said.
(Quite why this is in the "Oddly Enough" section is beyond me)
Compare with those fearsome Unitarian Jihad members (and if you want to join get your name here - this message brought to you by Brother Flaming Sword of Considering Alternative Perspectives) Update: A better comparison just occured to me, given all the recent Nazi pope comments anyone want to guess when the first mob of enraged Catholics lynches someone for insulting the Pope? Permalink
For those of you not aware of UK newsapers the Sun is Rupert Murdoch's rag famous mostly for its topless Page 3 girls. In the 1980s is was well known for its support for Maggie Thatcher and more recently it supported Tony Blair and the war in Iraq.
The blogger in question is Majikthise, who appears to be a classic Massachusets liberal academic sort of lady. As a result the idea that idea that the two would have the same idea about the Pope is rather surprising. If you want to work out which arote which then the Sun's story is here and Majikthise's blog is here. Permalink
Today is St George's Day so, along with various other English bloggers, I propose to mark this day with a post about England and its patron saint - St. George.
No one really seems to know why English crusader knights and thereafter the kings of England adopted St George as their patron saint except that he was a cavalry officer in the Roman army and therefore presumably was considered somewhat of a role model. However St George was not just popular amongst the English as this history details and indeed the tale of St George and the Dragon seems to be popular everywhere. For example, as a globe-trotting executive, or some facsimile thereof, I was in Zurich yesterday evening and, during a stroll around the citiy of the gnomes, I saw a building with a bas relief of St George spearing his dragon and there is an amusing SF tale by Gordon Dickson called St Dragon and the George where it is all backwards.
However obscure the initial connection of St George with England, these days the two are inextricably linked and therefore today seems like a good day to talk about England too. Just after the first world war - 85 years ago today if you want to be exact - Rudyard Kipling wrote about England and the English. On balance I would say that this is not one of Kiplings better works, nor even his best evocation of his view of England, which I believe is best absorbed heuristically by reading the entire oeuvre, however it has good points which hold true today. The main one being that, as many others have claimed, the English are a "Mongrel Race". This is I think perhaps the biggest differentiator between England and most other nations or ethnic groups in the old world, from Koreans or Japanese in the Eastern extremes of Asia to the Basques in the west, and it is one that I believe still applies today. Despite the rumblings of various people that the latest group of immigrants (Bangladeshis, Pakistanis or whoever) are not integrating, I think that in actual fact they most certainly are starting the process, and I believe that over time the rest will. After all the English language has already plundered their native tongues for useful words - most of which it has then either misapplied or mispronounced to such an extent that the native doesn't realize the origin - and many of them or their children now speak English with an accent that is identical to those whose ancestors have been here for generations. To my mind the radical islamists who threaten their neighbours are in fact a sign of desperation and the greater reality is shown in movies such as "Bend it like Beckham" or the book "Salaam Brick Lane" by Tarquin Hall from which I extracted a great quote last week:
“I didn’t get nowhere by sitting around watching satellite TV. I’ve worked ’ard every day of my life. I tell my kids, no one never got nowhere by being lazy. Don’t take my word for it, I tell them. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon ’im, yeah, ’e said, ‘Be a worker; don’t sit around on your arse, innit’.”
In some ways this is a good reason to have St George as patron saint. St George was a Darian from Cappadocia in Asia Minor and followed a religion from Palestine, yet he was in the service of an Empire originally from Italy, with a de facto langauge of Greek and an Emperor from the Balkans. Compare that to London where a Russian Jew thinks nothing of working for a Hugenot firm in a land whose royal family was originally French but more recently German and will cheerfully go out to eat a curry served by waiters from Bangladesh with friends whose parents were Nigerian. And that just covers the immigrants of the last centruy or so. St George would fit right in. Permalink
On St George's Day 1895 the "triple intervention" of Russia, Germany and France caused the renegotiation of the Treaty of Shimonoseki and thereby, in my opinion, set the stage for the subsequent Russo-Japanese war as well as the seeds of the Japanese nationalism that led inexorably to Japan's involvement in World War II.
The Treaty of Shimonoseki was the peace treaty of the Sino-Japanese war, where the Japanese comprehensively defeated China over the question of who would control Korea. The treaty gave Japan control of Korea, Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria. However the European powers were unwilling to see Japan get so much additional territory and the triple intervention forced the Liaodong Peninsular to be handed back in exchange for money. Just three years later Russia occupied the peninsular rubbing in the fact that the Europeans considered Japan to be a second class nation (FWIW China was a third class nation, just one step up from being a colony). A gentleman by the name of Bill Gordon has written a number of interesting essays on Japan including a couple on the Meiji period and imperialism. From the latter:
The theory of nationalism provides the best explanations for Japan's imperialistic actions between 1894 and 1905. The following points support nationalism as the best theory to understand Japan's wars and colonial acquisitions: (1) Japan's deep concerns for national security, (2) its emulation of the imperialistic behaviors of Western powers, and (3) Japanese national ideals and personal characteristics.
The United States forcibly opened Japan to the outside world in 1853.Soon thereafter, Japan was pressured by the imperialist powers to sign "unequal treaties," which granted foreigners in Japan extraterritoriality in legal cases and which imposed on Japan low tariff rates for which the imperialist countries did not grant corresponding concessions in their rates. The leaders of the Meiji government, formed in 1868 after the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, considered national security and defense to be the top priority in order to prevent subjugation by the Western powers. The nationalistic policy of fukoku kyomacr;hei (rich country, strong military) emphasized Japan's goals to develop the country economically to catch up with the Western powers and to increase its military strength to ensure its existence as an independent country. Japan fought the later wars against China and Russia in 1894-5 and 1904-5, respectively, to ensure that Korea would not be used by another imperialist power to threaten Japan's security.
Japan emulated the imperialistic behaviors of the Western powers. From the beginning of the Meiji Period in 1868, Japan's leaders sought to make the country an industrial and military power on par with the Western imperialist powers. When Japan emerged from its isolation and took steps to industrialize and modernize, the international environment was one of intense competition between powers that tried to maximize their political and economic positions relative to other powers and less developed countries. Overseas colonies provided the imperialist powers with prestige and status, so Japan's leaders naturally celebrated when its empire expanded to include Taiwan, Korea, and the Kwantung Leased Territories.
It is hard to blame Japan for feeling threatened in the late 19th century, and indeed it is to its credit that it recognised the threat of foreign domination and reacted constructively to it. The problem is that the European powers taught it the wrong lessons in their actions and reactions. In my opinion the triple intervention was the the worst lesson because it taught Japan's leaders two lessons. The first was that the only way it could keep its gains (and indeed its security) was to be independantly strong militarily which gave great impluse to an already traditionally military society to continue on that path. The second was that Asians were less important that Whites in the grand scheme of things. The fact that two Asian powers had concluded a treaty in good faith was nothing unless the white man approved. If he didn't then the treaty had to be modified until he did.
Had the triple intervention not taken place then perhaps Japan would have become more mercantilist and less military, folliwing the British Empire's example rather than that of the Russian or Prussian. The fact that it went the other way has reverberated down to today and the current tensions between China and Japan.
BLAIR: "And, furthermore, Gordon and I have determined that we can fund John's plans for the regions with a simple 30% surcharge on Jaguars and pies."
BLAIR: "What's that..we should swap his Jags for a Rover..."
BLAIR: "So anyway, to get to the punch line, Pauline holds her hand up like so … and Cheri and Sarah lean across from either side and whisper, “No, Pauline … Lorraine was asking us to describe our husbands' last ELECTION, dear!”
Blair: What's the difference between a Jaguar and a hedgehog? Brown: With a hedgehog, the pricks are on the outside.
BNP gets a significant chunk of my monthly salary in mortgage repayments and is the place where I keep such loot as the French government gaciously lets me retain. I am in bad company as a customer of BNP, it seems that some shady Arab figures like it too - perhaps they get better service than I do, they could hardly get worse service. Firstly there is the Arafat connection - it seems Mrs Arafat is a BNP customer and one who transfers millions of Euros into her accounts there. Quite what she did to earn those millions of Euros is unclear and unfortunately her bankers ahve always got the account number correct and have failed to accidentally slip any my way.
But Mrs Arafat is really a minor league customer of BNP. The big customer is/was a certain Mr S Hussein, formerly resident of various large palaces in Baghdad and now resident and sole occupant of a smaller more bijoux abode done up in the latest "prison" chic. Before he fell upon hard times Mr Hussein used BNP to store money he got from selling oil in exchange for food and medical supplies under the auspices of the UNSCAM oil for palaces food program. As the indefatigable Claudia Rosett reports in the NY Sun article linked to above:
Among questions the subcommittee is likely to pursue is why BNP, straying outside its contract with the United Nations, reassigned letters of credit - meaning that payments from the Iraq escrow account guaranteed to one contractor approved by the United Nations for a given deal were instead sent to an unapproved third party. Under a U.N. sanctions regime, in which the basic aim of oil for food was to monitor Saddam's deals, such rogue payments, running right through the bank entrusted with the account, should have raised red flags. But the United Nations made no complaint. According to the U.N.-authorized inquiry led by Paul Volcker, the world body did not even bother to review BNP's handling of the letters of credit. And, like most of the more telling details of oil for food, the specifics of BNP's activities under the program were kept secret by the United Nations.
Three instances of reassigned oil-for-food letters of credit have already come to light, disclosed last November at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee, where members questioned BNP's chief executive officer for North America, Everett Schenk, who did not provide an explanation. In all three cases, the letters of credit - totaling millions - guaranteed funds from the Iraq account meant to pay one of Saddam's U.N.-approved suppliers of relief, the Saudi Arabia-based firm Al Riyadh International Flowers. Instead, BNP reassigned the letters of credit to a Malaysia-based firm, East Star Trading Company. Why?
Good questions - I wonder why BNP doesn't make these services available to other clients. I wonder what services BNP offer to other large net worth customers? and how do I get on the list? Permalink
The Grauniad had a story on Tuesday about British youths filming attacks on total strangers, some thing that is apparently a new fad called "Happy Slapping".
In one video clip, labelled Bitch Slap, a youth approaches a woman at a bus stop and punches her in the face. In another, Knockout Punch, a group of boys wearing uniforms are shown leading another boy across an unidentified school playground before flooring him with a single blow to the head.
In a third, Bank Job, a teenager is seen assaulting a hole-in-the-wall customer while another youth grabs the money he has just withdrawn from the cash machine.
Welcome to the disturbing world of the "happy slappers" - a youth craze in which groups of teenagers armed with camera phones slap or mug unsuspecting children or passersby while capturing the attacks on 3g technology.
According to police and anti-bullying organisations, the fad, which began as a craze on the UK garage music scene before catching on in school playgrounds across the capital last autumn, is now a nationwide phenomenon.
Gov. Jeb Bush signed a new anti-crime law on Tuesday that allows people to kill in self-defense without first trying to flee.
Supporters say the law is a logical extension of common law that allows homeowners who fear for their lives to use deadly force to defend themselves from an intruder in their homes.
The new law expands that doctrine to include people in public places who feel threatened and could be subject to death or great bodily harm.
Reuters has lots of quotes about how dangerous this is and concluides with this beautiful quote:
"All this bill will do is sell more guns and possibly turn Florida into the OK Corral," Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Democrat, said during recent debate on the bill.
Although they don't seem to have commented on the signing - if they did their search engines don't report it - both the Grauniad and Auntie were equally scathing in coverage of the bill earlier this month. However it occurs to me that the chances of somone "Happy Slapping" a random stranger in Florida is a lot lower than it is in London and, just possibly, the fact that in the UK the chance that your victim is armed is vanishingly small wheras in Florida it is rather high could be the reason for this.
The EU Rota blog - newly added to my blogroll - makes an excllent point that no matter what way the French vote on May 29, the likelihood that the EU will move towards greater economic liberalism seems to be close to 0. As he says:
The reason? A Oui will require Jacques Chirac to continue his fight against "ultra-liberalism" and his reinforcement of the "social model." A Non will be misread by Chirac as a signal to continue his fight against "ultra-liberalism" and his reinforcement of the "social model."
The fact, as the Wapping Liar, reports that Schröder popped up in Paris to help l'Escroc earlier this week to say pretty much precisely that:
In an emotional speech at the Sorbonne University, Herr Schröder cut to the core grievance of the “no” camp, reassuring them that the constitution was not some Anglo-American scheme to undermine France and demolish its cherished protective social system.
Echoing M Chirac’s own arguments, Herr Schröder said that the reverse was the case. “Never in the history of the EU has there been an agreement that so strengthened the social dimension as the constitution will do,” he said.
“Putting together the constitution with the erosion of welfare benefits is purely and simply false. Neither President Chirac nor myself would ever have given our consent if it was like that”.
This is not good. As the Economist points out, the German economy is totally fucked by the well identified problems of labour market rigidities and the costs of precisely those "welfare benefits" that Schröder promised to maintain. Likewise the French economy, while in slighlty better shape that Germany's, is seeing anemic economic growth and a trend towards increasing unemployment. The OECD's recent report on unemployment has a graph which makes it only too clear.
The graph clearly shows that the Euro region agerage is higher than the OECD average and that the French and German values are both higher than the rest of the Eurozone and heading up. Since the French and German economies are the largest in the Eurozone what they do will have a major effect on the rest. This may begin to explain why countries such as the Nordic regions and the Netherlands seem increasingly unwilling to sign up to "ever closer union" and why the Eastern Europeans seem to be showing a certain amount of buyer's remorse after being part of the EU for a year.
To me, and to countless other people with a basic understanding of mathematics and economics, not to mention almost unanimity amongst those who get paid to do economics, the EU is destined to gradual decline unless it can reform its economies and social welfare systems. Across the pond people are worried that their social security systems are in danger of being underfunded, here in Europe we all know they are and yet our glorious leaders refuse to explain the looming catastrophe in words that the simplest voter can understand - perhaps because they fear that the electorate would blame them for the problem. Denial, it would seem, is a large river in Europe not Egypt these days.
The European Identity
However in an attempt to misdirect the Euro-luvvies seem to be latching onto fleeting signs of progress such as the A380 launch, with only the hard-hearted blogosphere noting that the government funded expenditure looks like a return to the 1970s and likely to make Concorde look like a financial success (e.g. Tim Worstall, EURSOC, EU Referendum). The EURSOC piece also links to a piece of blather in the IHT about the way (some) European youth think of themselves are "Europeans" these days rather than being a particular nationality. The problem is that, as the article hints, the "European" youth are the educated ones who go to university. It seems rather less likely that the youth that leaves school at 16 for a life on the dole feels European in any meaningful manner but the latter will, in theory, have just as much of a right to vote as the former; a problem noted by EURSOC:
Who's going to manage this new identity, then? The EU has been quietly building an army of Euro-droids through its Erasmus student exchange program. Since the scheme was launched in the 1980s, 1.2 million students have taken part. This "Erasmus generation" will be taking the reins of political and business power in the next ten or twenty years, and EU supporters believe that under them, "there will be less national wrangling, less Brussels-bashing and more unity in EU policy making."
Creating a clone army of technocrats prepared to build an Earthly Euro-paradise is one thing - persuading those among us who didn't make Party Standard to go along with their leadership is quite another. Unless, of course, building a European identity means limiting the power of voters to halt integration.
The IHT piece notes a few other problems (although it doesn't seem to see all of them as problems). Firstly the problems it recognizes:
Two factors could set back what appears to be an emerging European identity in the decades ahead, Rifkin says. One is economic malaise in large swaths of the EU, amplified by stagnating population growth, and the other a widening disconnect between pro-European leaders and the wider public.
and secondly the places where I see a problem but the IHT doesn't.
Unlike a national or regional identity, strongly based on geography and language, being European appears for most people to be a set of broadly shared values. One such value would be democracy, which most Europeans associate with a social safety net, according to periodic opinion polls conducted by the commission. Quality of life ranks high on their list of priorities, as do environmental concerns and a reluctance to use military means to achieve political goals.
The "economic malaise" is, as argued above, caused by the desire for a "social safety net". I suspect the fact that voters also capable of basic sums and therefore in their heart of hearts know that the "social safety net" is bust, is why they are disconnected from their "pro-European leaders". The fact that the elite seem to act as if they don't care about the man or woman in the street or even understand their problems doesn't help either. The fact that "environmental concerns", "quality of life" and "reluctance to use military means" are also apparently shared European values seems to indicate that the continent as a whole is doomed. Pacifism and indolence are the values of a culture ripe for collapse so if they really are shared values across Europe then those of us that don't share those values may as well emigrate now.
Fortunately, however, despite the fact that this idiocy is clearly widespread, I do not believe it to be in anyway universal. Indeed the fact that European elites seem to think that "quality of life" and "reluctance to use military means" are shared values may also account for the "widening disconnect". I seem to recall, though Mr Google isn't cooperating, that surveys of Europeans show that the majority are in favour of the death penalty (for example), against subsidizing the idlers on the dole and are more interested in cheap airfares than the damage to the ozone layer. What the IHT doesn't mention though is one other shared value - one that is I suspect shared by people everywhere - and that is a distrust of free trade
Free trade for me but not for thee
On this subject the EU leaders are totally in tune with their electorates and as a result the worst excesses of the EU, such as the CAP, such as all the industrial subsidies and the protection of textile and car industries are all wildly popular. Tim Worstall has actually done some excellent digging on his own to figure out what the brou-haha about Chinese textile imports is all about (other than l'Escroc getting a OUI vote). Go and read the whole thing, but I point out that there seems to be rather a lot of stinginess about the actualité spouting from EU commissioners and French politicians mouths where mention is made of an increase of 534% in Chinese imports in one category without mentioning the total size of this category. This is not much different to the way that the EU acts when it comes to bananas and the way that it convinced the Japanese to not flood the continent with reliable Toyotas or Hondas.
With luck some of the textile imports are T shirts with this slogan on them: Ceterum Censeo Unionem Europeaem Esse Delenda
The Register, as well as a boatload of bloggers, are annoyed that Her Majesty's Government has tried to censor a column published in the Grauniad about the "Ricin Ring" trial which ended in a total mess a couple of weeks ago. You can get your copy of the document from me here. I should note that I am less convinced that the plot was quite the farce that the Duncan Campbell claims. I agree that the supposed terrorists were apparently incompetant, and possibly not genuine Al Qaeda trained jihadists, but that is about it. I do think that the evidence (e.g. that noted by Melanie Phillips) indicates that there was an attempt to cause a major terror event in the UK and part of an attempt to form Al Qaeda affliliated cells within the UK. We can hope that this was foiled by the wave of arrests that included the arrest of the "Ricin Ring", but it may not have been. It does occur to me that a devious Al Qaeda plotter would make sure to recruit some incompetants just to achieve the result we have seen while simultaneously recuiting some more deadly terrorists in a separate cell that would be primed to do something after the fuss has died down. It is my sincere hope that Al Qaeda is either not devious enough or not competant enough to pull off such a trick. Permalink
In addition to housing the bank most involved with UNSCAM, BNP, it seems certain French politicians may be involved and one has been arrested. As the FT reports:
Charles Pasqua, a former French minister of interior, has emerged as one of the highest-ranking targets of the widening investigations into the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.
United Nations, US and French investigators are examining Iraqi documents that show officials in Baghdad were instructed to transfer his lucrative oil allocations to an offshore company, to shield him from criticism.
Mr Pasqua's alleged role has emerged as inquiries turn to the role of foreign governments in the corruption within the humanitarian aid programme. France and Russia, which opposed the 2003 invasion, have long been accused in the US of being too close to Saddam Hussein's regime.
Early on Tuesday, Bernard Guillet, Mr Pasqua's diplomatic adviser, was arrested at home in Paris in connection with the oil-for-food inquiry, on the orders of Philippe Courroye, a French investigative judge. Mr Guillet was yesterday in police custody.
Charles Pasqua has been a central figure in French politics for three decades. Once described as the man who knows all the secrets, he served twice as minister of interior, first in the late 1980s when Jacques Chirac was prime minister and again in the left-right co-habitation of the Mitterrand presidency of the early 1990s.
For years French magistrates have been investigating his financial records, probing allegations that he received bribes and illicit funds generated by influence-trafficking and other activities, including arms sales to Angola.
Mr Pasqua has never been convicted of any wrongdoing. Indeed last September he won a seat in the French Senate - a position which confers immunity against prosecution.
Mr Pasqua and Mr Chirac, both Gaullists, have been political allies for more than 30 years. Mr Chirac's presidential status has brought with it immunity from prosecution on a number of alleged corruption charges.
In a recent interview Mr Pasqua also let it be known that had he stood as a rival candidate in the 1995 presidential elections "Chirac wouldn't have been elected". This was seen as a hint that there had been an agreement between the two men, which he expected Mr Chirac to honour.
As Philippe Courroye, the judge leading the investigation, closed in on Mr Pasqua, the seasoned politician announced that he would be standing for election to the Senat only two weeks before the vote.
Mr Pasqua's campaign was apparently supported by Nicolas Sarkozy, the finance minister, to whom he has acted as a mentor and who hopes to take over as UMP president in a party vote in November.
His fate seems to have made allies of Mr Sarkozy and Mr Chirac - who have become deadly political rivals - on at least one issue.
The Left-wing daily newspaper, Liberation, reported: "The Godfather Returns. For once Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy were in agreement: We have to save Charles Pasqua."
[Aside: One wonders why Sarko was willing to support him and wonders whether Sarko accepted a certain honorarium in return. It is, in fact, precisely this lack of pickiness about his pals that worries me most about Sarko, I doubt he personally has touched any redirected funds but I would be very unsurprised if he hasn't received funding from places that shouldn't be providing it in return for certain favours.] If the FT is correct then Pasqua seems to be an even greater crook than Chirac and one unlikely to face the music due to his public position. If I were Pasqua though I'd be very nervous about leaving France as foreign investigators are unlikely to be as concerned about his Senatorial status.
However that isn't to say that his misdemeanours won't have an effect on France, and indrectly as a result on him. Given that the EU Constitution vote is coming up and is perceived partly as a referendum on the performance of l'Escroc, if Pasqua's troubles get coverage in France it most certainly won't help the "OUI" vote. Especially if it looks like the French will lose international influence because of being caught up in webs of corruption. This could well happen because, while the American and British MSM have been curiously reluctant to crticize St Kofi and the Holy UN, they will see far less restraint in criticizing a French politician.
One thing that I love about Olive trees is that they even look good when dead (or apparently dead). The death of an olive tree is hard to achieve - you need to uproot it to be sure of success. I expect that if I look closer at the stumps above I'll see little shoots at the base of them. Certainly the flat cut stump in our garden (the tree must have been a huge ancient one before it was cut down) has produced three shoots over the last few years - one of which, after some 5 years of growth, is now a good 2m (6' 6) high. This youngest olive tree has featured in the past on this blog. Remember you can click on the image to see it larger and you can see the previous entry in the series as well. Permalink
The EU referendum blog has reminded us numeroustimes about the contract to supply the British army with trucks being awarded to the German company MAN. Curiously Der Spiegel reports, in a recent article about German firms paying kickbacks to Saddam, that MAN also supplied vehicles to the Hussein regime:
In the case of German truckmaker MAN, which sold 950 vehicles worth €60 million to Iraq in 2001 alone, a spokeswoman confirmed that "the UN commission has requested access to (the company's) files in the Foreign Ministry." The spokeswoman, however, said the Iraqis had never asked MAN to "pay any premium" and the company had no knowledge of any such events.
Not that I'm in anyway suggesting that MAN paid kickbacks to either the Iraqis or the British purchasers, but I think that further investigation might be required. After all the MAN trucks were selected because of some Euro-wrangling and we know that our Eurocrats are not as incorruptible as they would like us to believe.
Go to http://maps.google.co.uk/ and zoom out to may then navigate left and right. As an observant reader of the Register noticed the google world seems to have rather more water than the usual one.
The Reg speculates that this is a post apocalyptic view after Dubya has eliminated world rivals but I disagree. I note the nice green patches in Northern Canada so my suggestion is that what we are looking at is the world after global warming has come to pass. Obviously only the Anglosphere had the money to build the dams to protect their land from the flood....
For any reason you mention, Blair should go. Except Iraq
Charles Moore's opinion piece in the Torygraph this morning has this title. It sums up just about perfectly my feelings about Tony Blair and the recent BS about the legal advice about the war. Some choice excerpts:
It gave me a certain malicious pleasure to see Blairite techniques of spin used against their inventor, but the "revelation" revealed almost exactly what you would have expected. Lord Goldsmith pointed out, which everyone knew, that the legal basis for war would be stronger if there were a second UN Resolution, and he weighed carefully and inconclusively the arguments for attacking Iraq without a second resolution.
Even Jon Snow was not quite equal to the struggle of making phrases like "on the one hand" sound explosive. World exclusive: the Government's legal adviser gave legal advice.
The after talking about the famous Cretan paradox (Epimenides, a Cretan, stated "all Cretans are liars") and statign that these days politicians are "Cretan"
The consequence is that people tell opinion polls both that they think Mr Blair is a liar and that he would make the best Prime Minister. It is not as illogical as it sounds: if you believe that all politicians are liars, you might as well vote for the one who lies the best. [...] That's what the voters said to the seductive Tony in 2001, and I suspect, though by a lesser margin, that they will say it again next week. (By the way, the biggest lie that they currently want to hear is that the economy will be just fine: Mr Blair and Gordon Brown are obliging.)
The problem with ZaNU Labout is not that they sided with Bush in Iraq it is everything else
Anglo-Saxon political culture still has enough self-confidence not to fear leadership in war, but to see it as a necessary attribute of a robust democracy. Which is a good thing.
It just happens to be unfortunate that, in this case, almost every other reason points to getting rid of Mr Blair and the Government he leads.
Why did the brave war leader not have the courage of his (mistaken) convictions about the euro, and put it to the test? Why does he remorselessly extend the scope and size and spend of the state, infantilising our politics in the process?
Why does he freeze our blood with talk of terrorists, yet move hell and earth to get them into government in Northern Ireland? Why does he not control immigration? Why does he disrespect our history and culture? Why does he fear freedom so much?
This is why I hope Blair goes, even though Michael Howard is not notably better he seems likely to at least be better on some of these issues. Such as Europe and the UK economy. The problem here is that we/you have a choice, and no option is good. The Lib dems are a complete disaster - if they get in we can assume the future of Britain lies in revolution because their "wooly head brigade" notions will cock up everything so badly that revolution will happen. ZaNU Labour are fiscally reckless and seem determined to bend us over to our masters in Brussels/Paris. The conservatives are apparently as amoral as their Gaullist counterparts south of the English Channel.
PS On the Zanu Labour fiscal issue do read Gerard Baker's piece in the Wapping Liar and note the final quote from Shelley. Rise like lions after slumber In unvanquishable number Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you Ye are many. They are few. Permalink I despise l'Escroc and Vile