I thought about writing this as an update to my previous post about L'Affaire Clearstream but I think it is probably worth a separate entry. In my update to the previous I linked to Charles Bremner's astute comments on the subject where he seems to be saying that no one really wants this scandal to grow. I have no doubt that l'Escroc and his cronies want the thing to go away, because there really doesn't seem to be any way that they can emerge from any investigation with anything other than discredit. Indeed the more poking that goes on the more the blasé French public will be reminded of just how sleazy l'Escroc & co are. One suspects that, as Charles hints, the limited coverage on French TV about this has not been a coincidence, but while the TV channels may be limiting their coverage, other media outlets certainly are not. The print outlets are all over this and, possibly more relevantly, so are the internet outlets. From yahoo to a miscelleny of blogs, the details and comments are there and the politicians seem eager to comment to anyone who will listen. I note that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former socialist finance minister was on TF1 calling Clearstream a French Watergate (wonder if he read my blog?) and I suspect that, despite, the best efforts of l'Escroc this scandal is not going to die down.
However the next question is do the other parties want a change of prime minister or would they prefer to stick with the current lame duck? I can well believe that while the socialists want l'Escroc & co discredited they don't actually want a major change in the government because they run the risk of having someone compentant (i.e. Sarko aka Nick the Gnome) instead. But on the other hand they may also feel that getting Sarko in as PM where he has to interact with l'Escroc could make him more vulnerable because it is almost certain that l'Escroc will spend much time and effort stabbing Sarko in the back.
So the big question is does Sarko want the scandal to continue or not? I suspect that Sarko may well want this story to go and I have quite a lot of respect for his tactical and strategic thinking even if sometimes I dislike it. For example during the recent CPE protests he was remarkably silent and that has led some people to think that he wishes to maintain the current over-regulated labour markets. I'm fairly certain that this was a case of Sarko seeing clearly that the CPE was doomed because Vile Pin made no attempt to sell it to the French and deciding that it was better to disassociate onseself from the mess rather than be potentially dragged down too. The fact that, as a result, he was also able to wreck Vile Pin's presidential aspirations clearly helped as well.
With Clearstream the question is whether Sarko wants to get Vile Pin or his boss l'Escroc. I suspect his target is the latter, both because he needs to ensure that l'Escroc is completely marginalized within the UMP and because he also needs to separate himself from l'Escroc in the public eye. By positioning himself as both victim of Chirac's intrigues and investigator of them he is able to tell the electorate that he is the "new improved" UMP not the sleazy old one. This may also explain why the story has boiled up now (if you think this is all pure coincidence then I have a bridge to sell you); it will take a while to the point where l'Escroc can be forced to answer questions in public, let alone get any sort of impeachment proceedings going, and Sarko really needs that publicity about this time next year when the presidential election campaign is warming up.
There seems to be little let up in politicians kicking at l'Escroc and Vile Pin right now. If you look at the French yahoo news, you see politicians from every major party including the extremist Front National and the ruling UMP (the party of Sarko, l'Escroc & Vile Pin) piling on. This latter is not good (google translation), even though the UMP pol concerned is a Sarko ally:
PARIS (Reuters) - UMP deputy Dominique Paillé, close to Nicolas Sarkozy, invited Jacques Chirac "to take the things in hands" in the Clearstream business which, he believes, risks strengthening the extremes.
"This crisis (...) is negative for the institutions, for the parties of government, it is especially negative for the confidence which the French place in their leaders", he said on RTL.
Although one must question the motives behind this statement, since Paillé is a Sarko buddy, there is no doubt that he is speaking for a significant chunk of UMP members. L'Escroc has been remarkably absent from the public eye this year, seeming to avoid as much as possible any opportunity to show his authority. About the only thing he has done is protest that Frenchmen should speak French and make incredibly wussy statements supposedly in support of Vile Pin and the CPE. This threat of extremism is also a genuine worry. L'Escroc was only elected last time because the presidential run off was between him and Le Pen of the Front National and while Sarko is indeed doing his best to appeal to the less radical parts of the FN, with continual barrages on immigration and law enforcement (and since he is minister for the interior it is impossible for Vile Pin et al. to criticise him for making speeches in this area), if l'Escroc manages to really tarnish the entire UMP through his (in)actions the most likely beneficiary is going to be the far right. One question that I really don't want to find the answer to is whether France prefers Le Pen to a socialist, since if we get into that position then Sarko has lost and we'll see 5 years of chaos no matter which wins.
I doubt this intensitiy of attack can be maintained without some further dirt - but tomorrow might be a good day for the investigators to raid the Matignon (the PM's house)....
PS It occurs to me that some may be wondering if I am overdoing my support for Sarko. I'm not unaware of his failings but I really don't see any other politician who has the balls to make the reforms that France needs and has the ability to explain them so that most French will accept them. Certainly there are no other centre-right politicians who can communicate the way he can and there is no way on earth that Royal is going to do the right reforms because she is a socialist idiot (albeit slightly less idiotic than most of the rest). You might think of her as a female French Gerhard Schröder and hence, even if she wants to reform the French economy her own party will stop her. The FN are worse because they are fixated on immigration and assume that everything else will be fixed if they chuck out the immigrants. Permalink
The Instapundint links to a post and subsequent Boston Globe article proposing that the UN/international community hire mercenaries for peacekeeping operations in Darfur etc.
I think this is an excellent idea if done properly. Unfortunately I doubt it will in fact actually fly because of two reasons
The poor reputation of mercenaries with NGOs and other tranzies
The dependence of certain 3rd world armies on peacekeeping missions
Reason number 1 is the public reason that will be used to stop any serious attempt at doing so. The problem is that while the top mercnary forces are undoubtedly well disciplined etc. etc. there seems to be a significant drop off in quality once you go beyond the top dozen or so. In other words the reputation of mercenaries as potentially corrupt abusers is not entirely unearned, although that needs to be put against the also well-earned reputation of (UN) peacekeepers for abuse, corruption etc. In practical terms it seems unlikely that a force of mercenary peacekeepers would be worse than UN sponsored ones but you can be sure that the biases within the various NGOs and transnational organizations as well as the MSM would mean that abuse by mercenaries would be highlighted a la Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo whereas abuse by UN peacekeepers tends to get the Duranty/Stalin famine whitewash.
Reason numebr 2 is why many people at the UN would use reason number 1 to block the idea. In May 2005 there were 105 nations providing peacekeepers and:
16 peacekeeping operations underway with a total of 66,058 personnel, and the top contributors of military and civilian personnel to current missions were Pakistan (9,880), Bangladesh (7,932), India (6,001), and Nepal (3,562).
(Note that missions like Darfur are not under UN auspices at present and hence may be extra to this count)
For many of the countries involved the UN money provides a significant portion of their military budget (ignoring any unoffical opportunities for graft in country) and hence it seems unlikely that these nations would be willing to let competitive alternative get established, despite the fact that, as the globe notes, the mercenaries would probably be cheaper:
The industry also claims that it's far cheaper than its multilateral or military counterparts. ''We offer the ability to create a right-sized solution-which creates a cost savings right off the bat," says Taylor. By contrast, Brooks notes, ''NATO is insanely expensive; it's not a cost-effective organization. Neither is the [African Union]. Private companies would be much, much cheaper. When we compared their costs to most UN operations, we came up with 10 to 20 percent of what the UN would normally charge."
Needess to say if the AU is that expensive it almost certainly means that someone is raking off a significant take because it is 100% certain that the soldier's salaries are lower than the mercenary equivalents.
The third problem is one about mission definition. As the globe article noted:
In the mid and late '90s, the South African firm Executive Outcomes and British firm Sandline International offered direct combat support to the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone. In Angola, 500 ex-special forces officers working for Executive Outcomes conducted sophisticated airstrikes and commando operations to help the Angolan military retake its diamond mines and oil fields from the rebel group UNITA. In Sierra Leone, Executive Outcomes and later Sandline were hired to combat the RUF insurgency. With targeted helicopter attacks and ground assaults, both firms dominated tactically, but fighting broke out soon after their respective contracts ended.
This could be fixed if the mercenaries were also given a proper training role and that simply isn't going to be acceptable to the NGOs and tranzies. The problem is that the sure fix is to arm and train the villagers into militias following the Swiss model, unfortunately that means that you end up with a highly armed society and that, in turn, threatens all the "democratic" leaders involved who can see that their armies will no longer be able to terrorize the population into giving them what they want. The NGOs and tranzies would also object firstly on philosophical grounds because they are statists pure and simple and secondly on the pracitcal grounds that they generally can't cope (literally, as in they don't have the mechanisms in place) with individuals or small communities but only with nations or other larger bodies.
In addition the NGOs also have a classic dependancy problem. The NGOs are effectively dependant on the goodwill of the local rulers to operate and hence cannot afford to support, even if they wanted to, anyone who threatens the incumbent ruling elite because if they do they will see their access denied and, probably, their in-country assets looted.
As a result of all this, while I think that a mercenary peacekeeping force would be a damn good idea, I'm sceptical that it will ever be seen except under the sorts of circumstance that practically guarantee its preceived failure.
Update:Justoneminute helps illustrate the impracticality of the idea.
GAZA (Reuters) - A Hamas legislator said on Monday that France had denied him a visa to visit as part of an unofficial Palestinian parliamentary delegation.
Salah al-Bardaweel said he would apply to other European countries to grant him a visa to join a delegation of four other Palestinian lawmakers from parties unconnected to Hamas who are visiting France, Norway, Spain, Germany, Italy and Austria.
"They gave no reasons for the rejection but it was clear I was denied a visa because I am a parliamentarian from Hamas," Bardaweel told Reuters.
Unlike the French, who obviously don't want to let an acknowledged terrorist sympathizer in even if they won't explicitly say so, Reuters goes to great lengths to defend Bardaweel and present him as some sort of misunderstood victim:
[The EU] has cut off all direct aid to the Palestinian Authority as well as contacts with Hamas officials until the movement, which calls for Israel's destruction, moderates its position.
Hamas, which has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since the start of a Palestinian uprising, has largely abided by a cease-fire in place for more than a year.
But it has so far refused to heed the call to abandon policies that put it on the United States and European Union's list of terror organisations.
So a multinational policy of denying visas to Hamas supporters until they renounce their terror policies is, according to al-Reuters unjustified because, despite their policies they have hadly killed anyone in the last year. The illogic behind that statement is truly breathtaking.
Do you think that if an organization declared that it would kill all BBC journalists that Reuters grant a sympathetic interview with them just because they hadn't actually managed to kill a BBC journalist in the last six months? what about if this hypothetical organization hadn't killed any BBC journalists but had taken out a couple of AP stringers? Or if it had sponsored another organization to kill a few BBC journalists for it?
I am certainly far from alone in noting the coincidence of both Blair and VilePin being under pressure from scandals at much the same time and I am no doubt far from alone in offering a compare and contrast.
Blair is under threat partly for the usual political slease and partly because his ministers and their departments seem to be incompetant. The behaviour of Charles "Safety Elephant" Clarke and Patricia Hewitt are to my mind far more serious than the various sleaze revelations. It doesn't matter whether it is cash for peerages or affairs with secretaries, sleaze seems to go hand in hand with politicians and what Rich Galen wrote recently about sleaze in Washington applies equally (with only the names changed) to the UK and, for that matter, France:
And as much as the Democrats wish they could say it's all the Republicans; I wish I could say it's all the Democrats.
It's both. Not all, but both.
Politicians have never been uniformly perfect and never will be so, while I agree that such scandals should be exposed, they don't mean that I feel worried about a particular country, or government, or democracy.
On the other hand the Hewitt and Clarke scandals are symptomatic of something more serious. Labour was (re)elected primarily on the premise that growing government and throwing money at government services would lead to their improvement and these scandals demonstrate quite clearly that this is not the case. Government bureacracies are wasteful in ways that private enterprises never are. There are certainly cockups in private companies but, on the whole, the scale of them is less because the market forces proper checks and balances and provides an incentive to avoid waste. It is notable that the companies that seem most wasteful are those who face limited competition and that waste seems to be go hand in hand with profits. Governments, their ministers and their bureaucrats don't have that incentive. The problem is not just that they are spending "other people's money" but that they have limited downside risk. In most cases having a government project go over budget has no effect on other government projects produced by the same department and even slighter effect on the bureaucrats and ministers involved. They are rarely fired and when they are they can frequently become re-employed. Think of the revolving door career of Peter Mandelson for example. It could just be that the British electorate is beginning to see that the Labour Tax'n'Tax'nSpend'n'Spend policy is failing and, one could hope (but it is, at this point merely a hope), the electorate is looking across the channel to see how deadly those statist policies are when taken to extremes.
Vile Pin's Problems
Vile Pin's problems may appear similarly split into sleaze and governance in that he is under fire for cocking up the CPE and for a sleazy scandal involing fake documents implicating people in corruption. However I think both scandals are symptomatic of the same problem, the problem of an arrogant out of touch elite under threat. This is clearly the case in the Clearstream affair where Vile Pin, probably under orders from l'Escroc, insisted that special attention be paid to the allegations against Sarko in order to try and sink his political career. In regard to the CPE, much the same applies but the logic is a bit more complex. The CPE was a poorly explained attempt to increase the employment by redegulating (with more regulations) the labour market but it was, IMO, doomed primarily because of the desire to counter Sarko. As a result of this desire Vile Pin felt he needed to look decisive in solving youth unemployment and his political tin-ear meant that he decided to ram the CPE through parliament without any debate and without any attempt to explain it to the country at large. The result was that it failed because the union scaremongering was never properly publicly countered.
Vile Pin has one other problem that Blair doesn't have - namely that he is the puppet of l'Escroc and the puppet master seems to have lost his touch. Over the last yeat l'Escroc has managed to alienate just about everyone in France (approval rating now 19%) and yet has done this basically without any positive successes at all. Worse, it is increasingly clear that l'Escroc has been seeking to do anything he can to remain out of jail and that he is in big trouble when he stops being president unless his successor can sort something out for him. This means that policy priorities have been a little skewed, which probably explains the lack of popularity, and the general sense of drift. In addition L'Escroc is, apparently, not in the best of health (shades of his predecessor Mitterand) which may be another reason why he has made so few public appearances recently. I could be wrong but it would not surprise me at all to learn that l'Escroc is far more ill than any journalist has yet reported and the result of this has undoubtedly been that Vile Pin has received no political advice from his mentor. Since Vile Pin is basically a bureaucrat with no clue about the public this lack has been a disaster. It is worth considering the contrast with 2002/3 when the Vile Pin/Escroc double team were far more popular (in France/Europe) because of their anti-Bush actions.
Compare & Contrast
On the whole I think that Vile Pin will last for a while yet because l'Escroc really doesn't have another puppet that he can use instead. Indeed the latest Clearstream news seems to indicate that the troublesome general has been sort of brought back into line and everyone has now got their stories and alibis aligned. The blame is being placed on excitiable journalists misunderstanding sources who may have made accidental comments that were taken out of context to mean something different. If you believe this then I have a bridge in Paris to sell you but, unless Vile Pin's latest press conference is more of a disaster than I expect, the obvious intent to try and bluff it out because there really isn't much hard evidence as yet. Longer term though Vile Pin is in big trouble. I simply can't see how he can avoid getting covered in the crap that will occur when l'Escroc is replaced next year.
Blair on the other hand has longer term security. Even if he goes and lets Gordon Brown take over he, personally, will not get investogated for much and if he is smart enough (he may well be), he could possibly quit, let Brown take over, and then blame Brown for any subsequent election loss. Of course, and again unlike Vile Pin, Blair has very few opponents who look electable. The Tories under Cameron still have a lot of work to do to get themselves into a position where they can differentiate themselves from ZANU labour.
Sorry for being a bit late. Got sidetracked. Some recently (re)planted trees in Antibes. I don't know whether they were originally from the site and put back when they finished construction or whether they were brought in from some where else.
As you can see they have been pruned pretty hard but are quite old (200 years I guess) and there is no reason why they shouldn't stay alive for another couple of centuries either. As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and if you haven't seen them go look at the rest of the seriesPermalink
For reasons unknown, at this point, to any media outlet that I have been able to find, train drivers here in the Alpes Maritimes went on strike at midnight last night.
The Cannes police have been threatening to go on strike during the film festival unless their blackmail requests serious grievances are met. I think that the municipality has paid them off begun to redress their problems but I could be wrong.
In Corsica the "Corse Matin" newspaper has been affected by strike action for the last couple of weeks and this has occasionally spilled over into sister papers like the "Nice Matin". Workers at another newspaper, France Soir, have been on strike for something like a month now.
The Corsican employees of SNCM - the state-owned soon to be privatised ferry service to Corsica - may go on strike (again) to protest at redundancies. This despite the fact that the SNCM workers as a whole have approved the privatization and expected 20% voluntary redundancies by 77% to 23%.
Youth custody workers (I think that's the best translation of "personnels de la protection judiciaire de la jeunesse") are on strike today (translation) to protest chnages to the law regarding the punishment of young offenders.
A seach for "grève" on French Yahoo news produced about 2500 hits including some of the ones above. A search on French Google news gave me over 3000 hits and initially led me to believe that France 2 TV was on strike before I realized that for some reason it showed a news item on a strike on 2002 as being 1 hour old (mind you that article reported the extreme cruelty of France 2, which inflicts Benny Hill on its audience when its workers are on strike - perhaps someone could suggest this as an alternative to waterboarding to the Guantanamo interogators).
In other French news, noted lover of Sumo and other Japanese traditions, l'Escroc was forced to deny that he had a bank account in Japan with £30 million (300M Francs = €45 M) in it. This seems to have been mentioned as a sort of throw away remark by General Rondot, the man being quizzed by French judges about his "Clearstream" investigtion:
A French intelligence chief, Gen Philippe Rondot, was alleged to have told investigating judges that the large amounts were paid by a "cultural foundation" into an account in the president's name at the Tokyo Sowa Bank.
[...]Le Canard said Mr Chirac's alleged account in Japan had been mentioned incidentally during Gen Rondot's questioning. But a close confidant of the president was quoted as saying: "The President of the Republic categorically denies the information reported by the Canard Enchainé. The president has never had an account at the Sowa Bank."
One suspects that l'Escroc may be taking lessons from his pal "never personally sold Iraqi oil" Pasqua in how to make factually accurate but possibly misleading statements.
Interestingly though the General has apparently complained about the selective quotation of his testimony (somewhat bizarre machine translation) as it seems possible that this allegation was something to do with meddling in previous presidential campaigns by the DGSE French intelligence services (hey CIA this is how you nobble presidents) and hence could well be less than totally honest.
On the other hand though what seems more likely to my cynical mind is that it is in fact true but that the DGSE didn't want it known because it made for good blackmail to ensure that l'Escroc didn't disturb them. It is hard to predict what will happen next but I'm by no means alone in comparing Clearstream with Watergate. The amount of muck being racked up by the investigating judges will be hard to ignore and could well cause political embarassment to a whole host of the French elite. Permalink
Mark Mardell reports from Brussels for the BBC about this and that and has an absolutely blockbuster conclusion:
Corruption becomes a problem, not when the odd official can be bribed but when it becomes impossible to avoid and only holy fools refuse to play the game. On the way back from covering the Italian elections I read Tobias Jones's brilliant book, The Dark Heart of Italy.
I'm struck by the similarity between deep problems he identifies in Italy with what also seems true in Bulgaria. People do not respect the state but can cringe before authority. They believe, with some evidence, that politicians are crooks and this justifies their own cheating.
Heavy-handed bureaucracy is subverted by reliance on a clannish network of family and friends. But is it worse in Bulgaria than other parts of the world, even dare I say it, than the EU itself?
There are I think two different degrees in the way that governments and corruption go together - when they do that is. The first degree is one where the corruption is relatively harmless whereas in the second it is not.
The first, and less malign, form is one the expenditure side where politicians and bureaucrats award contracts to those who have bribed them and sometimes hand out unneccessary contracts to cronies who then pay them back. This is pretty much a universal feature of all governments and can generally speaking be minimized - though not completely eradicated - through openness and a reduction in government services. If you want a classic example of this kind of corruption consider the former Maire de Nice, Jean Medcin, and his bus stop scam: this was a scheme where he awarded contracts to his pals to build bus shelters around Nice, which sounds OK until you learn that the streets where the bus shelters were built were not on any bus routes. This, is as I say, less malign because while it does waste tax money it does result in activity and hence in employment etc. etc. and the money is at least returned to the comunity - indeed even the bribes paid to get the contracts eventually return to the community because the politician spends them on mistresses, houses, cars etc. In other words while it is clearly a good idea to stop the waste it isn't a complete disaster if some of it is undetected for a while.
The second, and definitely malign, form is where bribes need to be paid to get permission to do things. It doesn't really matter what the permission is, if you have to bribe someone to get something done then the corruption completely skews the operating environment and typically makes it very hard for the poor to get ahead because they don't have the connections. This severely (and negatively) impacts the economy because it means that otherwise econonimcally sound investments don't get made, it artificially raises the prices and acts as a hidden tax on business. It should not be surprising that countries where you have to bribe the customs official to let you import something tend to lag countries where you don't in economic growth.
The EU in Brussels is, at present, pretty much in level 1 as indeed are most of its members in the higher levels of government. Bulgaria and countries like China, Iran, Iraq, Russia etc. are at level 2 where bribery is a required part of doing business. This also applies to local governments in countries like Italy (or France in some cases) where local government permission or regulation is frequently required to operate a small business or expand it and where the choice is either to work on the "black" or to pay off some politician or bureaucrat to ensure that the permissions are granted and/or the inspections are passed. I don't think this is the only reason why Europe struggles economically but I do believe that it doesn't help and I also feel that it is something that the Eurocrats, governments and most commentators prefer to ignore when they try to identify reasons for why the USA is so robust economically. Permalink
Egypt, home of the pyramids, pharoahs etc. is also home to a fairly repressive government. As reported by Instapundit, Big Pharoah, Pyjamas Media, Harry's Place, Michelle Malkin and many others the repressive regime of Hozni Mubarak recently arrested a blogger named Alaa along with nearly a dozen others who were protesting about the arrests of other activists.
For my French readers I suggested contacting the Egyptian Embassy here in France to add your voice to the thousands who have contacted the US and UK Embassies. The contact information appears to be
Ambassade de la République Arabe d'Egypte 56 av Iéna, 75016 Paris +33 (0)1 53 67 88 30
Oh and in order to get a decent google bomb going please include in your blogs the link to Egypt as above.
Update The BBC reports additional protests in Egypt today
L'Esroc finally commented on the Clearstream affair yesterday. The BBC reports that he made a fairly strong statement:
"I have every confidence in the government of Dominique de Villepin to lead the mission I gave him," he said, speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting,
"The Republic is not a dictatorship of rumours, a dictatorship of false accusations. The Republic is the law," he said, urging investigators to speed up their work.
However it also notes that this is, essentially, l'Escroc's first public statement on the affair and this is, to be frank, a further example of the recent reclusive Chirac. For the last year or more, basically ever since the start of the campaign for the EU Constitution Referendum, l'Escroc has been nearly invisible and unable (or unwilling) to set the political agenda. In 2002/2003 he was without a doubt proactively pushing for things. In 2004, with rumours of rows with Sarko, it seemed like he was still very much in control of the government but for the last year and a bit this has changed.
During the EU Constitution Referendum campaign we saw the first signs that he was losing his magic touch. His TV appearences were bad, with him coming across as a sort of old-fashioned teacher lecturing his recalcitrant pupils about matters. After he lost the referendum he has barely appeared in public and when he has it has almost always been to respond to some demand that he make a statement. He did have a "minor stroke" in September but he was AWOL for much of the summer before and he has made perhaps half a dozen public statements since. I am wondering whether the parallels with the fin de regime collapse of his predecessor Mitterand are not equally tied to their respective (poor) health situations.
It is worth looking back to 2004 to see the difference. In 2004 Sarko was told that he had a choice between being a government minister or being head of the UMP (the political party of l'Escroc, Sarko etc. which rules France) and it was very clear that l'Escroc was determined to remove Sarko from a position where he could command an audience when he made a speech. Earlier this week Sarko made a speech in Nîmes which was hard-hitting, effective and televised. Had Sarko made such a speech in 2004 it seems certain that either it would have recived less coverage or that it would have been preceded by a presidential speech that would have tried to make Sarko look like he was just saying "moi aussi". It might not have worked completely but in the past l'Escroc was a good orator and political campaigner and he was very good at influencing the media and the pundits, so the impact of Sarko's speech would probably have been diminished.
Clearstream probably won't sink the government on its own, but if, for example, l'Escroc's Japanese banking rumours are substantiated it could well cause the total collapse of authority of the President and his Prime Mnister. It also certainly serves to make Sarko appear to be outside the ruling elite, despite his being UMP leader and interior minister, which will be key to his disassociating himself from the last couple of years of Chiracian drift. However Clearstream is moving in all sorts of strange directions - the latest being the claims that one of the judges negotiated some sort of a deal with former EADS head Gergorin about the anonymous submission of the fake documents at the heart of the Clearstream affair - so who knows what else may be discovered. Certainly Gergorin is closely tied to the Vile Pin/Escroc circle and seems to be implicated in the fakes but precisely how and why remains the topic of rumour rather than fact at present (the BBC news item is very coy indeed about the whole thing).
M. Rondot rapporte par écrit le 19 juillet 2004, selon le quotidien, ce propos de M. de Villepin: "Si nous apparaissons, le PR (président Jacques Chirac) et moi, nous sautons". (Loose translation: the newspaper reports that according to Rondot's notes Vile Pin said "If the president and I appear we're for the high jump")
I think its worth a separate post rather than updating the previous one, but there is a lot more comment on the Clearstream affair that I think warrants attention.
Firstly I'm sure that this is merely a case of great minds thinking alike but the FT article linked to by Fausta makes some very similar points to some of my earlierposts regarding Sarko and the Clearstream affair in its discussion of his recent speech (which was damn good and really resonated):
He launched a scathing attack on political leaders over the last three decades, blaming their aversion to reform for fuelling "this France of the 'No'".
He said last month's street protests against a contentious youth labour law reflected the same "anxiety and lost hope" as the No vote in last year's referendum on Europe's constitutional treaty and the shock second-place finish by extreme right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 election.
Much of his speech stressed the need to rebuild French pride and reach out to voters of the anti-immigration National Front. "It is staggering to see how politically correct thinking has let the extreme right get a monopoly on using the word homeland," he said.
He also took a swipe at France's first ever slavery day, launched by Mr Chirac yesterday. "France has caused suffering, but she never gave birth to Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot," he said. "Making slavery the only face of France is to tar with the same brush all who did not practise it or stood up against it."
Mr Sarkozy's ability to pillory the political elite and its lack of vision, in spite of being one of its members for years, is a delicate balancing act that has become a central theme of his presidential campaign.
What the FT does not mention is that Sarko is indeed an outsider to the French elites in many ways. He is not an énarque, unlike just about every other major political figure in France, his father immigrated from Hungary - and you can tell; the joking definition "A Hungarian is a man who can enter a revolving door after you, but emerge before you" absolutely applies to Nick the Gnome - and he lacks the sort of mutual back-scratching ties to journalists that other politicians have - witness the media firestorm about his "scum" comment. That isn't to say he hasn't had some helping hands on his way up the greasy pole - as this 2004 Economist article points out Sarko was once a protégé of l'Escroc himself - but he has done a lot of the hard work by himself.
This, as I wrote before, I think is the key to Sarko's interest in the Clearstream affair. By presenting himself as the victim of a conspiracy by L'Escroc and Vile Pin he is able to make clear that he is an outsider. This means that the Wapping Liar's "Circular fireing squad" metaphor doesn't quite apply and hence I disagree with their conclusion that the scandal stands to benefit the left or the extreme right. In fact, although I have no evidence, I would not be surprised to learn that Sarko is orchestrating the entire scandal and that he has further bombshells to drop when he feels the time is right.
The Wapping Liar also borrows from me - I compared Clearstream with the various ZANU Labour party scandals recently too - but I think the best compare and contrast comes from a blog I have just added to my blogroll - Paris link - where they riff off Vile Pin's London trip. Indeed the comparison between Gordon Brown and Sarko as jealous juniors seeking to replace their PMs stands up to considerable scrutiny. In both cases they seem to be a more credible opposition than the offical one - being the Cameroons in Britain or the Socialsts in France, neither of whom seem able to put together a policy platform more coherent than "we aren't the government". There are two differences though, one is that Sarko seems more interested (sensible chap) in replacing L'Escroc than Vile Pin and the other is that Sarko seems to have slightly saner policies and to not believe that all your money is best spent by the government. Oh and he's not a dour scitch git either which is an added bonus.
To go back to Clearstream. It seems the longer I stay writing posts the more interesting news shows up.
French yahoo news has an article (translation) about the possible rise of the right wing FN (Front National) on the back of public unhappiness with the mainstream parties because of Clearstream. The article draws a parallel with the Italian "Mani Pulite" (Clean Hands) judicial probes which smacked both left-wing and right-wing parties. It would surprise me in the least if Clearstream were not to either involve some socialists or for someone (i.e. Nick the gnome) to find a new scandal involving them. After all the socialists had all sorts of odd funding scandals in the 1990s and I don't think magistrates ever got everyone involved. It would not surprise me in the least if some socialist old timers like Francois Hollande (i.e. Ségolène's hubby) had hidden accounts similar to the Japanese one that l'Escroc is supposed to have had, nor that they might actually have received bribes in precisely the way that Sarko was accused of - Christine Deviers-Joncour, the "Whore of the Republic", and the Elf scandal was after all very much a Mitterand era scandal.
A second article makes the unsurprising but somewhat contradictory point that the Socialists are in no hurry to throw l'Escroc out before the scheduled election in 2007. It seems that they feel that the longer they wait the more damage to the UMP will occur. This is, I think, a rather dangerous strategy since as I noted above, it is highly unlikely that the socialists are any less free of potential corruption scandals.
A third article (translation) though is rather more interesting: the agent who allegedly investigated l'Escroc's possible Japanese connection is denying any such thing. I'm not 100% sure this lets l'Escroc off the hook though, this may be more of a legalistic denial than a full exoneration, although it sounds pretty solid. In other words the fact that the former agent, Mr Flam, says "I did not investigate this in 2002" does not mean that either he did not investigate it in (say) 2001 or that someone else may not have investigated it. Moreover the agent is in fact one of the people who appears on the fake Clearstream list so there is considerable additional complication to this thread of the story.
We had an excellent rainshower a couple days ago and we got a lovely rainbow over (or through) the olive trees. As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and do look at the rest of the series if you missed them.
Possibly the one good thing the EU has done in recent years (ever?) is the deregulation of the airline industry. The result has been a huge number of low cost airlines starting up and flying people to and from all sorts of places on routes that either did not exist or were extremely expensive before. However this is not to say that governments and their generally state-owned flag carriers don't try to evade the rules. One serial protectionist has been (quelle surprise!) France which has found 1001 cunning ways to try and keep Air France alive such as forcing Ryanair off the London-Strasbourg route by complaining about the €1.4m "illegal state aid" provided to Ryanair by the French regional government that owns Strasbourg airport (and subsequently IIRC about the same deal at Brussels Charleroi).
However it has always seemed to me that Air France was in danger of being the subject of revenge from Ryanair because just about everyone knows that the French government does its best to support its flag carrier. Thus it was surely only a matter of time before Ryanair found the appropriate EU regulation to file a complaint and that time appears to have run out yesterday. The BBC reports that Ryanair has found its regulation in the fact that France charges less for take offs for destinations in France compared to abroad:
Ryanair, Europe’s largest low fares airline, today (Thursday, 11th May 2006) announced that it had launched a complaint to the European Commission against Air France regarding approximately €1 billion in illegal state aid that Air France has received from the French Government over the past number of years. The French Government has maintained an airport charging system whereby landing and passenger charges for domestic routes are often up to 50% lower than on routes between France and other EU Member States. This is illegal under European law and the European Commission has sued other Governments for similar differentiated charging.
Now this doesn't just apply to Air France of course, as the BBC notes:
Air France responded by saying all airline fees set by Paris applied equally to all carriers.
But although this does sort of hurt fellow lowcost airline Easyjet, which has been operating a number of domestic flights from Paris, the difference in degree is striking. On the Paris - Nice route, for example, Air France operates about twice as many flights per day and it has been doing so for far far longer. Being forced to repay this money would bankrupt Air France while Easyjet would be able on the hook for (I estimate) something like a tenth of the amount. Obviously Ryanair would be happy to cause Easyjet problems but the repayment would be bearable for Easyjet and not for Air France. Even if the various EU authorities fail to insist on a retrospective repayment and just on equality in the future Air France is still likely to hurt because it will face considerable difficulty making its customers pay the additional cost, especially if fuel prices remain at their current levels...
Oh and of course France isn't the only country to try and protect its domestic market. The Italians have blocked both Easyjet and Ryanair in their attempts to fly to Sardinia by (ab)use of the PSO - Public Service Obligation - rules that are supposed to ensure that "vital" routes are still operated even if the traffic demand makes them non-viable without subsidy. It is interesting to note that France and Italy are a couple of large countries with very few domestic low cost airlines (one in France, two in Italy). Germany, after a slow start, has half a dozen, the UK has perhaps twice that and even small countries such as Denmark or Belgium have more low cost operators. This is very intere Permalink
You know the legal profession has a problem when a law school professor blogs this about a class action lawsuit and the lawyers concerned:
[...] I think these lawsuits are nothing more than a shakedown for cash. Even unmeritorious class action lawsuits are expensive to defend, so the plaintiffs’ lawyers can exploit those defense costs for their personal largesse. They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we’re both better off (defendants save some defense costs, plaintiffs’ lawyers grab some personal loot).
In particular, I’ve been trying to figure out why the plaintiffs (and a largely overlapping group of plaintiffs’ lawyers) filed two separate but virtually identical lawsuits. However, it does make sense as part of a shakedown. By opening up two battlefronts, the plaintiffs increase Yahoo’s defense costs, which should increase the incentive to settle (and the dollar value of a settlement).
It may be cheaper for Yahoo to settle than fight, but I hope Yahoo doesn’t reward the extortionists. Extortion shouldn’t pay, and I hope the plaintiffs find this out the hard way.
I have said this before but this is precisely why the UK tradition of awarding costs works. Costs are not automatically awarded but they can be awarded at the discretion of the judge and typically an award of costs makes clear whether the losing party had a decent case or not. I believe that having the option of an awards of costs that required the losing lawyers to pay up would go a long way to reducing the "ambulance chasing" reputation of american lawyers. In the American system there is no downside other than their time for lawyers (and their clients) to file suits in "no-win no-fee" cases. There are undoubtedly other reasons but I know that from personal experience that defendants in this sort of case really do figure out that it is cheaper to settle for a relatively small amount rather than take a case to court where they have no assurance of winning and where even if they do win they don't get any recompense for the time and money they have spent defending themselves.
This is not the only situation where the lawyers remind me of the Mafia and their protection rackets. For example there used to be a time (and it may still be the case) that companies found it hard to do an IPO if they had outstanding patent disputes or similar. As a result it seemed to me that unscrupulous patent holders and their lawyers would tend to file a suite claiming patent nfringement against companies that were clearly about to do an IPO because they knew that the management and VCs would prefer to settle now rather than see the IPO delayed. I suspect that many of the shareholder class action lawsuits against companies which saw a precipiate decline in their share price were similarly motivated but it is hard to be sure.
This post is for the recent recruiters who have sent me unsolicited emails and (in one odd case) a late night phone call. And yes this means Steve Pace (recruiter for Juniper - but apparently hiring for someone else using his Juniper email) and Lee Holliday at Momentum Search amongst others.
If you send me an email asking "can you recommend someone for a position" you need to give me some sort of incentive. If not then why the #%&* should I bother to dig out the virtula rolodex and gove you some names? and if your approach is actually a subtle attempt to see if I personally am interested in the position then maybe you should look at my resume/CV before making the offer. If the position is in say California then the fact that I left California 6.5 years ago for France should be a hint that just maybe I'm not going to want to move back.
BTW I'd love to know why I've had a half dozen recruiter queries over the last week or so after a year or more where no head hunter has bothered me. Permalink
A few of us got through the metal detectors before the National Security Agency (NSA) realised we were in the wrong place. We had arrived, expunged of all electronic devices from mobile phones to cameras, at the Visitors' Centre, a security outpost for visiting security personnel, instead of the National Cryptologic Museum 370 metres away by eagle. Oops.
One interesting thing happened worth sharing: When I missed the turn for the museum, I had to drive through the guard booth. Because I officially entered the NSA premises uninvited, I was pulled aside into the parking lot by security.
In some ways its kind of fun that a museum dedicated to secrecy should have a secret entrance but on the whole I would think it better if they worked a bit harder to reduce the chances that visitors get lost.
Moving on to the more serious side of the NSA and its data mining of telephone info (CDRs - Call Detail Records). At the Volokh Conspiracy Orin Kerr seems to think that this program was on shaky legal ground. On the other hand over at Powerline, John Hinderaker looks at basically the same statute and says that it looks fine. The question seems to be whether 18 U.S.C. 2702 overrides 18 U.S.C. 2709 or vice versa. These are two sections of "STORED WIRE AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSACTIONAL RECORDS ACCESS" part of US law.
Personally I tend to agree with Mr Hinderaker's view but the issue is somewhat murky because 2709 seems to imply the provision of targeted CDRs and 2702(c)(6) does seem to specifically exclude government access to bulk CDRs in the way that USA Today and others report that the NSA obtained them. Also 2709 only refers to the FBI and not to the NSA so (note: I am not a lawyer) it could well be that in fact the program is illegal - or was illegal before the revised patriot act of 2006.
However, and this is the more important issue, the strict legality or otherwise question is IMO a red herring. As 2702(c) states CDRs are effectively considered public information that may be disclosed to any non-governmental 3rd party at the discretion of the operator (i.e. if the 3rd party has paid the telco some money) so all the civil liberties morons are missing the point. If you ask Americans (or for that matter probably Canadians, French and everyone else in the "west"), whether they would prefer to have their CDRs sold to telemarketers or analysed by the government to stop terrorism then I think that they would plump for the latter over the former. As former spook notes this kind of data-mining and network analysis is a proven strategy to isolate potentially suspicious activity for further investigation (under the usual warrents etc etc). BTW the computational analysis required is enormous - there are IIRC over half a billion US phone numbers and billions of phone calls are made each day - so the CDR data for the USA probably runs into petabytes and as a result the only way to make this work is to move outward from existing suspects. This means that when they get their act together the racism crowd are almost certain to start screaming about discrimination because it is nearly 100% certain that any suspects identified from this analysis will be (duh) dark-skinned and muslim.
It seems clear to me that the UK's 7/7 attacks succeeded in part because the UK authorities did not do this kind of analysis. I'm not certain (since IANAL) but I would not be at all surprised if the Data Protection Act made such analysis effectively illegal, but given the ZANU Labour's love of trampling over civil liberties in other areas I am amazed that they did not change the law to permit them to do this. Probably they didn't actually do it because the UK government is apparently unable to run large computer projects and hence would have been unable to get the job done at any date before 2026.
The Wapping Liar has a wonderful story about the BBC. It seems the Beeb wanted to interview someone about MP3s, Apple, music downloads and so on so they arranged for an expert to come in for a live interview. But they made a teeny weeny mistake:
IT WAS not until midway through the live television interview that the BBC interviewer started to grow suspicious. The man whom she believed to be an expert on internet music downloads seemed to know precious little about his subject.
Not only that, but the stocky black man with the strong French accent bore little resemblance to the picture on the expert’s website, which showed a slim white man with blue eyes and blond hair.
The corporation’s News 24 channel apologised to its viewers yesterday and admitted that its interviewee was not Guy Kewney, the respected editor of Newswireless.net, but a local taxi driver.
The cabbie, who is better qualified to talk about traffic jams in Shepherds Bush, answered questions for several minutes on Apple Computer’s victory at the High Court against Apple Corps, the record label for the Beatles, The Times has learnt.
Readers of this blog who share my interest in Japan may recall the "Livedoor" scandal which broke at the start of this year. For those that don't recall it, Livedoor was (is?) a Japanese Internet portal company that expanded in all sorts of ways and appears to have financed a good deal of its expansion through fraud. It is in many ways the Japanese equivalent of Enron. Anyway after all sorts of interesting news items in January the scandal went quiet as the prosecutors assembled their case and prepared to take it to court.
Unfortunately, according to the Wapping Liar, the prosecutors have hit a snag:
TAKAFUMI HORIE, the 33-year-old maverick businessman at the centre of Tokyo’s most hotly anticipated corporate fraud trial for decades, has one last act of defiance in store. He plans to flout Japanese company convention by pleading not guilty.
Mr Horie, who is facing charges of spreading false information and window-dressing accounts, may also attempt the virtually unheard-of tactic of blaming his senior staff for the scandal that ultimately destroyed Livedoor, the internet company that he founded.
In an exclusive interview with The Times, Mr Horie’s lawyer broke a pre-trial silence to say that his client’s lack of confession and decision to plead not guilty had blind-sided the Tokyo Prosecutor’s office.
Yasuyuki Takai said: “This is a complicated case and the prosecutors simply do not understand it fully. They expected Horie to confess, and now that he has denied all the charges completely the prosecutors are in serious trouble. The Japanese prosecutors’ system is not prepared for a case without a confession.”
Horie has done a lot of shaking up in his relatively brief career. Japundit had an extensive series of posts about the Japanese baseball leagues and although Horie failed to get control of any baseball team, the changes introduced before the 2005 season were in large part due to Horie's attempts. Likewise he exposed the vulnerable underbelly of the incestuous cross share holdings of Japanese media groups in his failed attempt to get control of a TV station and his attempts to get elected for the Koizumi government eventually led to the collapse of the opposition this year as one opposition MP turned out to have faked an email that apparently showed Horie donating to the LDP. Finally the implosion of Livedoor showed all sorts of vulnerabilities with the Tokyo Stock Exchange and its systems.
As the Wapping Liar goes on to report, the Livedoor case is breaking all sorts of legal ground too:
The case has broken starkly with tradition, being the first to exploit a new law aimed at speeding up Japan’s long, drawn-out trials. The insider-dealing trial surrounding the Recruit group that began in 1988, for example, took 14 years to reach a verdict.
Under a new law, prosecutors and defence lawyers meet before the trial to establish what areas will be covered and how the evidence will be presented. Mr Takai believes the introduction of that system means the Livedoor trial will be over within six months.
But it seems clear that his refusal to take responsibility for the actions of his underlings is going to be the biggest issue. In the past Japan's top executives have usually taken responsibility for the actions of their underlings but, as a quid pro quo, their punishments have usually been more of a slap on the wrist than anything serious and they generally return to more junior positions on corporate boards and so on after the fuss has died down. Perhaps one reason why Horie is not following tradition here is that he figures (probably correctly IMHO) that there is no way anyone will ever let him back into business unless he is found to be innocent (and I would guess not much chance even so). In other words unlike the usual Japanese business leader who is accused of various crimes there is no reason for him to cooperate and much incentive for him to fight.
Whether or not he is found guilty (or indeed is guilty) I believe that Takafumi Horie will have done Japan much good if he causes legal reforms in the same way that he has caused those other changes. The Japanese legal system borrows heavily from the French one (IIRC) and has a de facto if not de jure similar presumption of guilt amongst those coming to trial. If that presumption were to change it could only be healthy for Japan going forward. Permalink
The BBC's "From our own correspondent" used to be a flagship program but right now it seems to be more a flagship example of BBC bias and Bush Derangement Symptom. The actual program has a number of reports of background information but the online part only has one. In this case the online article, by Justin Webb, is a classic of its BDS sort and worth a paragraph by paragraph fisking. This is a pity because as the mp3 (8Mb) of the entire program shows that when the BBC can manage to leave its anti-Americanism it is still good. Its reports on Egypt and Bulgaria, for example, are excellent and just the sort of thing that the BBC does so well producing the sort of informed commentary that helps put the news into context.
To go back to the article and the fisking though:
I am here to report two conversations with two very different Americans on the subject of President Bush.
The first was with a woman who described herself to me as one of the biggest fundraisers for the president in the entire state of Ohio.
The second was with an illegal immigrant from Venezuela.
Guess who thought that Mr Bush could bounce back from his present difficulties? That's right, the illegal immigrant.
Funny that. Man bites dog vs Dog bites man - guess which is interesting? It would be nice to have slightly more than two data points though, a couple of anecdotes evidence is not exactly a solid foundation for a mass of sweeping generalizations.
Is this in any sense good news for the president or his beleaguered party? Well, it might be but I will come to that in a bit.
First to Ohio, though. To Cleveland: an ordinary looking place, grey and depressed in late spring rain, rescued by the view from the centre of town. You look across the main square and suddenly everything changes - there's water as far as the eye can see - the glassy expanse of Lake Erie.
I am staying out of town, though, in the suburbs where - as in every American city - the rich congregate.
Yes as everyone knows only the rich have their estates in the suburbs and everyone who is not a millionaire is crammed into apartment blocks and squalid crime-filled slums. Obviously those acres and acres of solid middle class neighbourhoods that surround Cleveland on google maps (e.g. the neighbourhood of Newburgh Heights with its blocks and blocks of detached houses and gardens) are figments of my imagination. Of is it just that there are so many millionaires and billionaires in America that they all have to live in 100sq metre plots of land?
I am here to meet a group of ladies who lunch - serious people of considerable consequence in these parts; owners of newspapers and coal mines; lawyers or the wives of lawyers of national repute.
Champions, all of them, in the white Anglo-Saxon tradition who smell of soap and money.
On that subject, one told me of her financial difficulties. She was having trouble giving it away.
"I just shell it out but the investments make even more," she said wistfully.
It really is disgusting that! look at these freeloaders, living off their invstments and actually able to give money away instead of having to sponge off the government. If this was Brownite Britain we'd soon stop them doing that. We can't have people making a return on their investments, the government must tax them harder.
Incidentally the amount of money amassed by individuals in every medium-sized city of this nation is one of the things that marks America out as a special and different place - partly the result of generous tax regimes for the rich and partly the hugeness of the American market.
If you make it here the rewards are as big as the nation itself.
Ok this is a flat out lie. Despite "the generous tax regimes for the rich", as the Tax Prof notes, the top 1% pay more than 1 third of all tax revenue, the top 10% pay nearly two thirds and the bottom 50% pay 1%. Something tells me that the reason why people are so rich is the healthy and generally lowly taxed economy (at least compared to Europe) which, amazingly enough, provides lots of disposable income to oil the wheels of commerce and keep things rich. Come to think of it Justin, have you gone back to dismal blighty recently and looked at all the wealth in the South East of England and how your colleague from Bulgaria finds locals complaining that British people are buying up all their properties for ridiculous prices (thus joining the locals in pretty much everywhere else in Southern Europe in bitching about the stupid sums of money English people will pay for ruins)? I think it is fair to say that despite 8 years of Brownite taxation the rewards of "making it" in the UK aren't too shabby either.
Rewards which accrue to people like Frances, who picks me up from the hotel in a car plainly built for invading Iraq yet quaintly painted white in case, by some chance, you didn't see it.
There is even a white towel on the floor of the passenger's side. Apparently Frances's friends all have gleaming soles.
Umm, may I repeat my suggestion to go back to Blighty for a bit. Perhaps you haven't heard about all those "Chelsea tractors" with their spray on mud. Oh and what the heck is this bit about "quaintly painted white"? why are white cars (or SUVs) bad? or quaint? and why is a white towel something to snear at?
My point is that these folk are the cream of Middle American society, opinion formers, achievers and respecters of achievers.
They were not by any means all of them Bush backers in the past but, if the president was a force in the land, these folk would sniff it, notice it, respect it.
Looking beyond Bush
But they were almost unanimously - Republicans and Democrats alike - openly contemptuous of the commander-in-chief.
"Not the sharpest knife in the drawer," the big-time fundraiser sniffed sadly, as if writing off for tax purposes an investment which she now knew was simply never going to pay.
It might help if the reasons for this statement were given. Otherwise it sounds like the sort of reflexive negativism that the BBC excels in. Could it be perhaps that the Republicans and the Democrats have different reasons for their contempt? perhaps - and I'm guessing here - one lot dislikes him for Iraq and the other for excessive pork?
The rescuing of the president is, for these people, no longer a topic worthy of conversation.
They are looking ahead to a future where wars are not messed up, where reckless expenditure is reined in, where "White House competence" is not an oxymoron.
Question remains: do they all dislike him for the same reasons? or does one lot think "wars were messed up" while another "reckless expenditure is not reined in"?
They were unanimously appalled for instance by a harebrained plan - now dropped - to give every American $100 to help them pay the high cost of petrol.
This money would have been added to the national debt: to fiscally conservative Republicans (and that should mean all Republicans) the craziest and most irresponsible use of government money.
If the president's party has descended to those depths, they argue, no amount of fiddling with senior White House appointments can really do the job.
So Justin perhaps you have failed to notice that Washington is not Westminster. The President does not have any control over Republican Congressmen, or vice versa, so inane proposals by congresscritters desperate to look like they are doing things really don't have anything to do with the president unless he signs any resulting legislation or explicitly says somehting like "I think this is a good idea"
I left Cleveland surer than ever that the Bush era has ended.
The big money players - in the widest sense of that term - no longer take him seriously.
But what of the future?
I don't want to be rude or anything but did you forget the term limits rules? The Bush era can't extend beyond 2008 by definition.
A different view
A visit to North Carolina this week brought me face to face with a humorous and thoughtful illegal immigrant, Carlos from Venezuela.
I was chatting to Carlos about the president and John Kerry, the Democratic contender he beat in 2004.
Carlos agreed that Bush had his troubles. "But," he said, "he's better than Kerry.
Why? John Kerry supports abortion rights.
Oh my atheistic non-deity! there are people who think that abortion is murder and they aren't frothing Bushitlerian CEOs trampling on the faces of the poor.
From the bottom of the pile in American society - from a man who is not yet even a proper citizen here but whose children will be - comes a message that hostility to abortion and to homosexuality - a belief in other words in Bush values - is going to be the wave of the future.
In a few decades, more than a quarter of the people of this nation will be Hispanic immigrants and the great majority of them - like Carlos - will be socially conservative.
Too late of course to save this president, though not too late to re-write history in his favour.
The headlines scream "Bush finished" and in the short term the headlines are right.
But America is full of surprises.
Oh yes America is going to become extremist fundamentalist christian! it's a dreadful future! They'll be rounding up the gays and gassing them! And keeping women barefoot at pregnant (and chained to the kitchen sink)! Do you get the idea that the liberal BBC journalist is unable to grasp the idea that "real" people actually dislike the liberal (or libertine) agenda. Permalink
Libération reports (machine translation) that Vile Pin was informed of the results of the investigations a considerable time before he admits to it. It also makes clear that the French authorities oiginally considered this to be score settling within EADS until the names of the politicians appeared on the leaked list.
In the actual judicial investigation (as opposed to comment/fall out), Libération also reports that the home of Imad Lahoud was searched by the investigsating magistrates and numerous documents were seized as was the home of his father-in-law François Heilbronner. Mr Heilbronner is yet another l'Escroc connection as he was a former lawyer for l'Escroc (although it should be noted that given the "small world" nature of the French politic elite thas may not be anything more than coincidence).
I have linked to Delize cartoons before and today's one is about as good a summary of the overall effect as it stands today as you are likely to see:
As man + dog has noted, this is all bubbling up because l'Escroc (and his puppet Vile Pin) hates Sarko and dreads the idea that Sarko might be his successor and given that all this is about next year's presidential election the question has always been (when) would Sarko resign with numerous rumours that Sarko was planning to resign from the government ASAP. However, he has now firmly denied them:
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has scotched rumours that he will resign from the government because of a corruption scandal.
Mr Sarkozy, who also heads the ruling party, was wrongly accused of holding secret foreign bank accounts.
The public is bewildered, the opposition socialists are making hay, but Mr Sarkozy, a man who is often portrayed as the great hope of the right, has decided that for now, he is not going to jump ship.
With the government's popularity plunging, there is a lot of temptation for Mr Sarkozy to resign and pose as a candidate of change and renewal at next year's election.
But he told a party gathering in Paris that resigning would precipitate a worse crisis that would help only the extremists and the political left.
"I want justice, real justice, not political vengeance," he said.
Although I'm not at all sure about that last line. I'm sure he does want justice but I bet he also wants vengence!
As for l'Escroc - somehow I missed this but last week the Wapping Liar published a translated extract of "La Tragédie du Président: Scènes de la Vie Politique, 1986-2006," by Franz-Olivier Giesbert which (accurately as far as I can tell) documents how useless l'Escroc has been as president. Someone who came in promising to change things and cut government has ended up doing neither or indeed much of anything else.
Even the AP gets into the act of comparing the utterances of l'Escroc with the actual courese of events. It makes pretty pathetic reading:
PARIS - President Jacques Chirac started 2006 by declaring his determination to make it "a useful year for France." Instead, his government has lurched from crisis to crisis. [...] "It is indispensable for the country," Chirac said, adding that, in this way, the country can face the 2007 election year "in a spirit of calm and responsibility."
[...] To the outside world, the sorry state of affairs presents a picture of a France in chaos, further compromising the nation‘s traditional role as a European leader after the humiliating French "no" vote in the referendum for a European constitution last May.
Chirac, however, insisted Friday that France's authority abroad had not suffered. Speaking in Vienna, he said France‘s role in a European-Latin American summit there and the results of recent French diplomacy "show that this concern has no place."
Commentary and Specualation alert: As numerous commentators have noted, although the socialists have piled in on criticising l'Escroc and his government for its behaviour and have tabled a censure motion in the parliament for next week, they don't seem ready to fight an election - indeed AFP reports that they can't agree on a common policy platform. I am wondering whether Sarko is in fact not resigning because he expects the government to fall momentarily and for there to be an election rather earlier than anyone else expected. I think it is fair to say that neither the left nor the far right are prepared for an election this year so, if Sarko is prepared, and I think he probably is, then he may be deliberately aiming for an election when his oponents are off balance. Sarko has, in fact, continued his day job as interior minister throughout all this and has proposed fairly controversial reforms to the immigration laws.
1) The "Mohammed" law All people called Mohammed, who know someone call Mohammed, are related to Mohammed, or worship the prophet Mohammed, are to undergo a strict "Francisation" course at an army base in Neuilly, involving singing the Marseillaise on the hour, every hour, and worshipping a bust of Générale de Gaulle. Anyone who fails to eat three jars of pig paté is immediately expelled from the country, along with all the Mohammeds they already know / are related to.
2) The Sangatte Marathon Under cover of darkness, immigrants run a gruelling marathon to the Eurostar tunnel, and must convince British officials that they are French in order to enter Britain. They will be provided with berets, stripy Breton jumpers and onions to hang around their necks, as well as fake passports including the stamp "I am Frenchie", and a signature from Nic The Gnome himself. Anyone who fails will be returned to their own country.
Laughter aside, the key point here is that Sarko is doing something that no other French minister seems to be doing - work - and while the chattering classes may disagree with what he proposes I think it is fairly sure that a large chunk of voters do agree and that particularly includes a whole load of potential FN voters. So by proposing these changes, even if they end up being rejected, Sarko gets to steal the thunder of Le Pen and hence probably a lot of his support. If he can get an election in the near future while the socialists are still faffing around, Le Pen losing support and no other credible centre-right candidate on the horizon he ought to be a sure victor. The only question will be whether he can fit the election in before everyone goes off on their summer hols. Permalink
In December last year I wrotetwice about the H4X0R friendly e-voting machines produced by Diebold. The Register today (also at security focus and a wholeload of blogs) report that those previous security holes - the ones that led the flaw discoverer to state "The design of the Diebold Precinct-Based Optical Scan 1.94w system is, in the author’s own view, more akin to 'a house with an unlockable revolving door.'" - are actually not the most serious problems with the machines after all. [Note: many of the same security researchers as last time, and BlackBoxVoting, are involved but I don't see that this invalidates the findings]
Yes there is an even larger gaping hole in the security scheme. You see if you insert a PCMCIA card with the right software on it and switch the machine on then the Diebold machine will access the PCMCIA card without running the sorts of checks you would hope it would do to ensure that the code on the PCMCIA card is a genuine certified patch and not some piece of malicious hack. However while you would expect that sort of thing, to put it bluntly, it doesn't - or at least it doesn't if the hack is approved by someone with poll-worker-level access. In other words any corrupt (or innocently duped) poll volunteer could approve this if he or she were given the card and a few minutes of undisturbed access. Perhaps worst of all BBV reports that:
In the worst case scenario, the architectural weaknesses incorporated in these voting terminals allow a sophisticated attacker to develop an "offense in depth" approach in which each compromised layer will also become the guardian against clean-up efforts in the other layers. This kind of deep attack is extremely persistent and it is noteworthy that the layers can conceal the contamination very effectively should the attacker wish that. A quite natural strategy in these types of situations is to penetrate, modify and make everything look normal.
David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Election Systems, said the potential risk existed because the company's technicians had intentionally built the machines in such a way that election officials would be able to update their systems in years ahead.
"For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software," he said. "I don't believe these evil elections people exist."
Still, he said, the company will in the coming months solve the vulnerability, but not before most primary elections occur.
In other words this is not an accidental security flaw this is a deliberately designed one and it is justified by the fact that "there are no evil and nefarious election officials". I'm sure that most (99% plus) election officials are wonderful people but to say that there are no corrupt ones seems to be more like wishful thinking than anything else unless US poll workers undergo a screening that is more rigourous than that applied to the standard security background checks which let through people like Sandy Burgler. Also recall that in some recent elections (e.g. the Washington State governors race in 2004) the winer was decided on a mere handful of votes, just two or three e-voting machines which skewed the numbers in that race could have changed the result.
I seem to recall noting this before and if so I'll repeat it. Diebold appears to work on the principle of "security through obscurity" which is a concept that no competant security professional subscribes to. Examples to prove that "security through obscurity" is not secure are legion (many of the micorosoft vulnerabilites exploited by virus writers are good examples). The fact that the flaws exist is utterly staggering but it is far far worse that Diebold apparently designed the system intentionally to have these flaws. I believe (but I am not a lawyer) that the various states and counties who have bought these insecure pieces of junk would have an excellent class action case against Diebold because the security holes are so gaping that there is no way that Diebold's certification program could possibly be correct unless they completely and deliberately reprogram everything from the flash bootcode upwards. And even then its only safe if there are clear tamper-proof/tamper-evident seals attached at appropriate spots.
So I'm on the road and have been so for most of the last week. Hence a
lack of blogging, due primarily to a lack of Internet access, but not
exactly helped by a lack of time...
Anyway just for the heck of it I present an olive tree in Japan. This
is in the garden of the Hirayama
Ikuo Museum on an island near Hiroshima (map).
They had some other olive trees that looked nicer but this one was the
onyl one that I could photograph with something definitively Japanese
in the background.
In what I hope will be a practically transparent change I have reworked the archives for this blog (in the process of noticing that they have been broken for a while), and modified the way I post things. Once google has gone through and revisited everything an entire archive list should become visible for all.
There are both plusses and minuses with using your own blog posting software. One of the problems is that when you make a change like this you have to get it working yourself and one reason (travelling in Japan is the other) why blogging has been sparse recently is that it took me longer than expected to get the change done right. On the other hand the plus is that I can design the system to work the way I want it to and it is - in general - far more secure and better at standing up under DoS attacks than some of the standard blogtools. So here's hoping I don't have to break things this drastically again...
Only slightly late :) Today's image is of the use I make of the larger olive tree prunings, namely logs for the fire next winter. Something else also appears to gave made use of the logs too as some insects are burrowing just under the bark. As always click on the image to enlarge and don't forget to look at the entire set if you missed them.
Over at the Marmot's Hole the proprietor wrote a couple of interesting articles about Japan's imperialism and how it can be compared with the imperialism of the European powers etc etc. I wrote a couple of comments to the second one and I think I probably ought to put them here with some further background and related thoughts.
Firstly a minor declaration of possible bias. I am a descendant on both sides of the family tree from people who were British imperialists of one sort or another with various levels of power and influence (top ranks being one who was ambassador to the Ottoman court thanks to flagrant nepotism/calling-in-of-favours from Canning and the not terribly brilliant Admiral Gambier). I am proud to be descended from these people and I think that on the whole they and the rest of the bankers, merchants and country squires etc. in my family tree did far more good than harm in their imperial adventuring.
The first thing to note is that the English are not a particularly honourable race when it comes to war or empire. From the Elizabethan commerce raiding by Drake & co via the looting of cultural relics from campaigns against Ethiopians, Chinese, Greeks, Indians and pretty much any one else, to the ruthless suppression of revolts in Kenya, India etc. the English military has provided plenty of ammunition to those who wish to criticise it and many English political decisions have been worse. However there are redeeming features which I will get to later. Before that though it is worth recllaing that England has almost never lost a war in the last 500 years.The Englsh record, since the French kicked us out of France finally in the mid 1500s (the American revolution doesn't count since at the time the colonists were almost all English, although the war of 1812 might), is one that is unmatched by any other European power and the reason for that is that they have typically done whatever it takes to win.
In fact the only exceptions to this rule looks to be the Afghan wars, the Crimean war and, arguably, the Jewish insurgency in Palestine prior to 1948. Despite occasional lapses the English have turned out to be good at fighting both at the indivudual level and at the larger startegic and geopolitical levels with, IMHO, a far larger number of admirals/generals able to successfully utilize new technologies than any other nation - and a habit of inventing or improving nasty weapons, something that started with the recognition of the deadliness of the longbow. Possibly due to its naval heritage one key differentiator is that English strategists have understood the importance of logistics and the use of non military means (e.g. paying large bribes to warlords, pirate chiefs etc. to attack other people) to buttress or support military actions. In the same vein as a general rule the English have also been very good at spinning the facts so that they look like the purest of pure good guys even when the situation on the ground is rather less clear. This tradition started with William Shakespeare and, in general, the quality of the English propaganda has remained near that high level, although we cannot take credit for that idea - Julius Casar and his fellow Romans figured out the bascis 2000 years ago...
The list of English atrocities on those silly enough to get in the way is large, and the list of English allies who have been subsequently stuffed in the subsequent peace treaty and/or the next war is also large. It was Lord Palmerston who stated this most clearly in his dictum that Britan had no permanent allies - only permanent interests - but he certainly didn't invent it and he certainly wasn't the last British leader to stick the knife in the back of some ally. Indeed arguably the first victims of ths process have been the English lower classes who were abused by their betters in fairly gruesome fashion for most of the last millenium. The one saving grace of the English system is that upward mobility for the lower classes had never been as impossible as some accounts would have you believe and this upward mobility applies just as much to immigrants and foreigners as to the native born - my hugenot descended Gambier ancestor and my part jewish Palgrave distant cousins are both past examples of this, the success of post war Chinese & Indian immigrants are proof that it still applies today.
However, despite all that, despite a half millenium of piracy, looting, mayhem etc. I think that on balance England has added more to the store of good things than bad ones. Free trade, property rights, equality under the law and just about every major scientific or technical advance since about 1700, as well as a number of earlier ones, has involved English people in pioneering roles. Furthermore it is worth pointing out that in the 18th and 19th centuries when England did most of its empire building there were not many "enlightened" regimes in the world. Although English propagandists have no doubt shaded the truth it is clear that the majority of rulers in the world at that time were despots who cared very little for the well-being of their subjects let alone anyone else and while they may have nicked the treasures of the rulers, on the whole invading English armies and the merchants and bureaucrats that followed them were not seen as anything worse by the average peasant in the field. For one thing English invading armies, unlike most others, tended to actually buy most of their provisions rather than simply grabbing them and they usually didn't rape or enslave their newly conquered subjects. Certainly I believe that compared to other European empires, the British one has been rightly recognised as being least bad. Robert also wrote in reply to another commenter:
New imperialism of the latter half of the 19th century/early 20th century sought to gain access to markets and resources, protect the colonies you already had, and deny access to said resources and markets to imperial competitors.
That I think is the true key to why the British Empire (and for that matter the various US imperialistic ventures) are better remembered than other imperial powers. The Anglosphere was pretty good at free trade and tended to raise the standard of living of those it ruled as well as encouraging trade and property ownership by people of all classes. It is true that some British merchants benefited from perferential access to markets compared to their native colonial competitors but in general the British were quite willing let their colonial subjects trade with whomever they wished and they invested in basic trade infrastructure (roads, railways, ports, law courts (, schools)) that helped both British and colonial traders. France was also fairly good, albeit on a somewhat lasser scale, but other imperial powers simply went in and took.
And indeed two of Britain's more shameful wars - the Opium wars - were fought precisely to open up a country to free trade. Although I'm not going to try and gloss over the fact that the opium wars were a disgrace they were however different in scope to any other previous war that I can think of, such as the various wars fought to turn India into a British posession. Instead of conquering territory the opium wars were fought for the rights to trade at will. Now what was being traded was truly vile and the trade was astoundingly hpocritical since opium was forbidden within Britain, but the fact that the war was different was illustrated by the fact that after the first opium war, when Britain had basically routed the Chinese forces, it sought merely the practically uninhabited island of Hong Kong as British territory. Moreover the opium merchants not directly forcing Chinese people to consume their drug, had there not been demand there would have been no supply (something worth thinking about in all discussions about "wars on drugs") and theywere selling opium and buying tea rather than taking the tea and not paying for it. To summarise, while the opium wars were despicable, they were not the typical war of conquest that had hitherto been the norm.
Japan, it seems to me, made attempts to imitate the better sort of British imperialism rather than (say) the Belgian model. I think that if anything the root of its failure was to try to do too much too fast. The Russo-Japanese war practically bankrupted Japan and that limited the amount of improvement it could make to its new dependancies. This may also help to explain why its Taiwanese adventure was rather more successful - there was a decade (1895-1905) during which time Japan had a booming economy and far less debt which let it get the new territory properly orgamized. Japan’s Taiwan rule also undoubtedly benefited from the fact that the previous Chinese rule was arbitrary, distant and unsatisfactory in all sorts of ways. In other words while the Tiawanese may not have liked becoming a Japanese colony their material standard of living rose significantly and their governance improved.
Compare this with Korea. Since the Triple Intervention forced Japan to hand back its Korean gains in 1895 it was colonized at a time when Japan couldn’t quite afford the investment needed AND it already had a perfectly good government which the Japanese had overthrown (twice). Hence Korea saw none of the improvement in governance that Taiwan saw and the change in its standard of living was also far less. Indeed Japan, it seems to me, falls partly into the "betrayed ally of the British" camp as it was throughly stuffed by the British as an ally in 1895 - the aforementioned Triple Intervention only stood up because the British failed to complain - and again after WWI where it was more or less told to go away and let the grown ups divide up the world despite having done a pretty good job on the German far east posessions. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Japan decided that the only way to gain influence in the world was to have colonies and that the grabbing of such permitted one to do practically anything one felt like because that was indeed what every other world power was doing. The fact that Japan boostrapped itself up from a backward feudal state in 1865 to a major world power 80 years later is more to its credit than anything else. And while some (most?) of its "coprosperity sphere" rhetoric was bunk there was a kernel of truth in it. The European powers did indeed treat Asia as a place where Europeans made the rules and most of the money, leaving the scraps to the locals. I don't particularly want to defend Japan's imperialistic behaviour but I will say that it was just one of the many things it learned it from the Europeans including the British.
Given that in the mid 19th century Korea and Japan started from more or less the same introverted base it is interesting to note the divergence of the two. Japan, after being forced to open by Perry et al., had a civil war between traditionalists and modernizers which the modernizers won. They then sent teams of researchers to Europe and America to gather knowledge and then implemented what it perceived to be best practise from what the teams reported back. Hence, for example, Japan's Navy was British, its Army German and its internal civil arrangements mostly French and it industrialized like crazy building railways, factories, mills, ships etc etc.
Korea, bascially, had precisiely the same opportunity and muffed it, deciding that it would prefer to remain aloof from the world and progress. Hence 30 years later it was a sitting duck for Japan and Russia to argue over - and BTW had Japan not invaded Korea and Manchuria I think it is certain that Russia would have done so. You can argue whether or not Japan's imperialism was bad for Korea or not but the choice in 1895/1905 was not between Korean independance and Japanese rule it was between Russian rule and Japanese rule. I think that on the whole Korea did better under Japanese rule than it would have done under Russian rule. This I think is one of the things forgotten by those who harp on the negative parts of Japanese rule. Another is touched on by Robert who wrote in re my “Korea muffed it” comment:
Secondly, while in hindsight, it’s easy to see how Korea completely muffed it, as you say, when given (or more like had forced upon them) pretty much the same opportunities the Japanese had. But at the time, this wasn’t so clear. Korea knew what happened when China tried to interact with the West—it got jacked. Hard. They must have also known what initial interaction with the West had led to in Japan—getting jacked hard, and civil war. So if you’re Korea, you might figure the best way to play the game is not to play at all.
I agree that hindsight is 20/20 and that at the time the choices were less obvious. But the Koreans were IMO dangerously complacent. Anyone looking just a little further beyond their doors than their adjacent neighbours would have seen that “not playing the game” really wasn’t one of the options on the table - the choice was either be looted/invaded/colonized eventually or get your own set of industrial toys. Indeed just looking at China should have made it clear that while Korea might possibly win the odd skirmish (and did), it was not going to win a prolonged war. This was, effectively what the Meiji restorers realized in Japan and there were similar groups of people in both Korea and China. Unforntunately for both countries these modernizers were unable to gain power the way the Japanese ones did and hence both nations failed to wholeheartedly modernize in the way that Japan did until it was too late.
President Chirac - aka l'Escroc - is known for getting his buddies on the Frnech constitutional court to agree that the President of te French Republic (i.e. a certain JC) is immune from investigation, let alone, prosecution while in office for crimes committed before he became President. This is convenient because had he not found this loophole he'd probably be the first serving French president to be jailed while in office.
However even l'Escroc has never quite tried to claim the sort of privileges that the US Congress appears to be claiming. Apparently, US congresscritters think they have a permenant get out of jail free card for things like drink driving or attacking policemen and their offices are sacrosanct and may not be investigated by any law enforcement agency. It is surely a sign of just how out of touch these idiots are that they don't seem to see that such privilege (originally from the latin lex privata - i.e. private law for friends of the roman emperor) irritates the people who vote for them and pay taxes for them to squander.
About the only redeeming feature of this whole sorry affair is that it seems that the FBI, the justice department and the various courts that have been asked all think that this latest privilege claim is bunk. I wonder whether some independant "clean hands" candidates (such as Martin Bell's candidacy in the UK a few years back) would win in some key seats? Permalink
The French government is in for an interesting summer.
The former EADS exec Gergorin, aka Le Corbeau, remains in custody (machine translation) for longer than expected. The liklihood is that he will be officially charged and this could well mean that he will be singing like a canary in exchange for some sort of reduction in sentence. Not exactly a pleasing prospect for his alleged co-consipirators l'Escroc and Vile Pin. On the other hand Gergorin could well be hoping to get the Guy Drut treatment from l'Escroc and be pardoned. Drut a former French Olympic athlete, member of the IOC and UMP deputy (MP) was convicted of bribery in conjunction with affairs during l'Escroc's time as Mayor of Paris. I find it incredible that l'Escroc thought he could get away with this - especially the main reason is apparently to preserve French influence at the IOC. Quite why the IOC should want to retain the services of someone convicted of bribery is unclear given that the IOC has a fairly serious image problem in that regard, but that is somewhat less important that the opinion of the French public and chattering classes. As AP notes, even the UMP seems embarassed by the pardon and it would not surprise me if Sarko, who has remained silent over this so far, criticises it when he does finally speak on June 8th.
In both bad and worse news the Banlieues seem to have decided to reintroduce the Carbeque. As the Wapping Liar reports this is bad because it looks like the riots are no more spontaneous than Iranian riots against cartoons and given the failure of the CPE not precisely unexpected since effectively, despite lots of talk, no action has occured to make things better from the unemployed youths who rioted then. There seems to be no real reason why these riots should not continue sporadically for the whole summer. The only way things may change is that Sarko is visibly talking tough and taking control so if the disturbances can be brought under control through force (i.e. arresting the rioters) they probably will be.
The worse news is that it could well hurt the tourism industry in a way that last November's riots didn't really. News from France over the last year has essentially been riot after demonstration after riot and I think this is going to be a problem. France, and particularly Paris, make a LOT of money from foreign tourists and tourists tend to be unwilling to visit cities perceived as riot zones. Combine this with the world cup next door in Germany and what could have been an opportunity for France to capitalize on the fans after the world cup and the non fans during it could well be lost. After all, for the fans, places like Prague are just as convenient as Paris, are cheaper and don't have riots. Perhaps Sarko will invite some English football hooligans over to have a riot of a time against the "local teams" in the banlieues.
Sarko meanwhile seems determined to take even more policies from the Front National, and is now talking about laws to make it easier to move on the Gypsies. He has also demanded that the anti-semitic Black power group Tribu Ka have its website taken down because of its hate speech. This latter position with its disragard for freedom of speech etc. is one of those things that make me less than enthralled with him. Permalink
One of the lady bloggers on the blogroll to the left - Trish "countess" Wilson - is suffering a temporary cash flow crisis and is flat stony broke. All and any contributions greatfully received so that she and her hubby can continue to indulge in luxuries like food and over-priced residences in Massachusets. She is offering recipes and erotic fiction as a reward.
BTW one good reason to support her is that she does much to expose the collection of losers knows as Fathers4Justice and other Father's rights activists, a group of slefish people who have generally* been divorced by their spouses for good reason (wife battering etc.) yet who seem to think that they are entitled to sympathy and visitation rights to their children.
* no doubt there are some decent fathers who are in this group - and certainly there are decent fathers who get screwed over by their ex-spouses and the courts - but the ones that get coverage for their antics all seem to be scum Permalink I despise l'Escroc and Vile