1 hour ago
There are two views of Stalins's purges in 1936 - 8, in which millions were judicially murdered. One, articulated by Nikita Khrushschev in his expose of Stalin in 1956, was that these events were simply the result of Stalin himself, a pot of poison at the heart of an otherwise benevolent social system. The other is that they were an integral part of the Soviet system inaugurated by Lenin in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. This second view was most neatly summed up by Robert Conquest:Or, in other words, Conquest was absolutely right, something that Mr Beckett would have understood even more clearly if he had bothered to look at the full history of the Soviet Union and not just the purges as directed against Communists. Try thinking, dear boy. It's so much easier.
There was a grreat Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That's a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
If pressed I incline to the Khrushchev view. Conquest is less than fair to Lenin. Communism did not have to be the murderous, viciously petty-minded, sectarian and vindictive thing my four principal characters found in the Soviet Union. In theory, communis is a generous and fair-minded creed, which rejects, for good reason, the poverty amid plenty which is the hallmark of capitalism. There's a case for saying that it was simply hijacked by a cold-blooded mass murderer. But for that to be possible, the fault line had to be there. And the fault line was there. The seeds for the Stalin terror were there; but they needed a mosnter like Stalin to nurture them. The fault line was the sectarian intolerance and the lack of feeling for individual human beings which Russian communists tookd to be virtues.
There are naturally many things that the European Union should never have done and one of them was to accept Iceland’s application to join the bloc. But Brussels can be pitied up to a certain point as it was deceived to think that the Icelandic people desired membership. Nothing, however, could be further from the reality. The Icelandic people have never wished to become members of the EU and never as little as today. As much as two thirds oppose membership according to successive opinion polls by various polling companies. An eventual accession treaty, if it comes to that, will have to go through a referendum in Iceland.Time to give up on that now, I'd say.
Socialist despot Evo Morales and his buddies at the United Nations sure do. You see, in April 2009, they passed a unanimous resolution to celebrate this important event every year. In the accompanying speech, Morales explained to his colleagues that "Mother Earth was now having her rights recognized" and expressed his hope that the present century will be known as the "century of the rights of Mother Earth." He explained to the UN that its member states "now had the opportunity to begin laying out a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth."Just what our lives were lacking. I am surprised the UN has not started enforcing International Workers' Day on May 1.
Well, I've no problem with Mother Earth having 'Rights' (though I'm a little concerned by the inherent sexism there...'Person Earth', shurely...?). However, as everyone knows, with 'Rights' come responsibility, so perhaps the UN can persuade Person Earth to stop those ruinous tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, limit earthquakes to non-inhabited areas... just need to find a negotiating partner.A great idea.
made the injunction “against the world” rather than just against national newspapers and broadcasters.Well contra mundum sounds to me unenforceable and, it would appear, a number of people know the names of the celebs in question and are prepared to publish those names in the comments to Stephen Glover's piece. Mr Glover himself is not prepared to find out what happens if you go against a ruling he considers to be unjust. A dissident he is not.
His order seeks to prevent the publication of “intimate photographs” of a married public figure after a woman tried to sell them for a “large sum of money”.
The judge said the woman “owed” the claimant, identified only as OPQ, a “duty of confidence” and breaching his privacy would damage the health of the man and his family.
His order is intended to cover discussion of the case online as well as in traditional media, despite the difficulties in enforcing it.
The injunction contra mundum is intended to be never-ending and, as its Latin name suggests, applies to the entire world.
Analysts say Katainen's [National Coalition leader and likely next Prime Minister] solution will likely be a mix of compromises and face-saving measures, such as offering cosmetic concessions on European finance and handing some key cabinet jobs to the True Finns in exchange for letting the Portugal vote pass in parliament.Let us not forget that Finland is the small country that could and did resist Stalin's mighty Soviet Union.
Some say the new government is likely to take a slightly tougher stance against Brussels to heed voter discontent.
The True Finns' tough line against bailouts has resonated among many voters who feel their famously high taxes are helping to bail out irresponsible governments, while they struggle with high unemployment.
"I'm not afraid," Ulitskaya insists, speaking through a translator. "Compared to the Stalinist era, our government now is a pussycat with soft paws … Having said that, I believe that Khodorkovsky is in jail because the whole society was so scared that no one stood up for his defence. There were threats: the court was afraid, the witnesses, the judge, because no one had the courage to speak up and that saddens me. That loss of dignity frustrates me because our society had only just started overcoming its fear after so many years of oppressive rule. The Russian people have once again started to be gripped by fear."Afraid she may not be but optimistic she is not either. Her view of where Russia is going remains sad and depressed as that quotations shows. One could argue that no country is completely lost while there are people like Lyudmila Ulitskaya around but it is a slender hope.
The draft budget for 2012 represents € 132.7 bn in payments amounting to a 4.9 % increase on 2011. Commitments amount to €147.4bn (+3.7%). The key objective of the 2012 Draft Budget is to fully support the European economy and EU citizens.A British government spokesman has announced that this would not be acceptable. Dutch and French comments were along similar lines.
The draft budget 2012 endeavours to be in tune with the current austerity climate at national level. The Commission has made a particular effort and opted for a freeze of its administrative expenditure for 2012 i.e. a 0.0% increase compared to the 2011 budget. This has been achieved by significantly reducing expenditure linked to buildings, information and communication technology, studies, publications, missions, conferences and meetings. Furthermore, for the third year in a row, the Commission does not request any additional new post.
Also, in drawing up next year's draft budget, the Commission endeavoured to identify programmes or initiatives that are not performing. The Development Cooperation Instrument has been reduced by €70.7 million as a result of its performance assessment. The Industrialised Countries Instrument has seen a reduction of €14.5 million due to high level of de-commitments in 2007 and low performance and delay in adoption of the new legal base. GALILEO funding has been reduced by €24.9 million (N.B. figures in commitments appropriations). "We owe it to the European taxpayer, says Commissioner Lewandowski: savings must include looking seriously at what we are doing and asking ourselves whether everything we do brings genuine benefit to the whole of Europe!"
Greece was bailed out, then Ireland was bailed out, and now Portugal has been bailed out. All of these countries were made to agree fairly stringent deficit and debt reduction packages. All three face years of fiscal tightness, reduced services and living standards, and low economic growth. It is by no means certain that the populations of these democracies will tolerate this for the length of time it will require to put their affairs to rights.Makes sense to me. The euro is a political project, which was, as some French newspapers wrote at the time, supposed to demonstrate the triumph of politics over economics. Some hope!
There is an alternative. It is to let these countries default, offering a percentage of the debts' face value as settlement. There would be turmoil. Some bondholders, including European banks, would lose substantial sums. But at the end of it confidence would return and economies start to grow again without that burden of debt.
The decision was made to protect small depositors, bondholders and to some extent bank shareholders, at the expense of taxpayers. It was an unwise decision, both morally and from the point of view of efficiency. One could argue that small depositors were not a party to the causes of the crisis, and should not be made to bear its burdens. Bondholders and shareholders, however, should have known better.
The main argument in favour of default is that it will be effective in putting a line under the crisis. Instead of limping along for years with lacklustre economies struggling to meet debt repayments, the over-indebted countries can get it over with and turn the page.
It looks very much as if the bailout option has been taken to protect the euro and European banks, but it would not be the end of the world if a few countries that should never have been in the single currency have to leave it. And if a few European banks had to restructure, recapitalize or be taken over, this, too, could be survived. Allowing the euro to lose momentum might be a setback to European political union, but this would be no bad thing.
1. In accordance with Articles 4 to 17 and subject to the exceptions contained therein, indication of the following particulars alone shall be compulsory on the labelling of foodstuffs: ... (5) the date of minimum durability or, in the case of foodstuffs which, from the microbiological point of view, are highly perishable, the ‘use by’ date;So far as anyone knows that has not been changed, altered or abolished. This paper by DEFRA gives an efficient summary of the subject, emphasises the fact that food labelling is controlled and regulated by the EU and talks of the ongoing negotiations (ongoing for some years) for reform of the system at the European level, there not being any other alternative.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their proposals to clarify the "best before", "sell by" and "use by" recommendations on food products in retail outlets require the permission of the European Commission.The answer was short and to the point:
Permission of the European Commission is not required as we are working within existing European Union law.So, that's that. Can we now leave this subject alone or start saying something sensible about it? UPDATE: There is more on the subject over on EURef.
Finnish voters dealt a blow Sunday to Europe's plans to rescue Portugal and other debt-ridden economies, ousting the pro-bailout government and giving a major boost to a euroskeptic nationalist party.This, one must admit, is only partly true.
With all ballots counted, the biggest vote-winner was the conservative National Coalition Party, part of the outgoing center-right government and a strong advocate for European integration.According to the preliminary results, which will have to be confirmed by the electoral committees:
But its main ally, the Center Party led by Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, said it would drop out of the government after falling behind two opposition parties that have challenged eurozone bailouts.
The conservatives won 20 percent of the vote for 44 seats in the 200-member Parliament, two more than the Social Democrats. The True Finns, led by the plain-talking Timo Soini, soared from six to 39 seats.It would appear, that the bail-out was more of an issue than immigration with the entire establishment pleading with the Finnish voters to cast their vote for the parties that supported it. The pleas do not seem to have worked well enough.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that not covering the face is a "shortcoming" and suggested that any Muslims who advocate being uncovered could be guilty of rejecting Islam.What they don't say is that there is that the Koran does not, in fact, require full veiling of women. And before anybody points out to me the date of that statement let me add that it is, as far as anybody knows, still the accepted policy of the MCB.
In a statement published on its website the MCB, warns: "We advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief.
"Not practising something enjoined by Allah and his Messenger… is a shortcoming. Denying it is much more serious."
The statement quotes from the Koran: "It is not for a believer, man or woman, that they should have any option in their decision when Allah and his Messenger have decreed a matter."
The controversy for Carswell surrounds what Osborne did or didn't agree with Darling.Some say this and some say that and what I say is that Lord Willoughby de Broke is right: one Parliament cannot bind its successor. As this government seems reluctant to act upon that principle, one cannot help feeling just a teensy-weensy bit suspicious.
The Clacton MP has seized on a Treasury document signed by Treasury Minister Justine Greening from July last year (highlighted by Paul Waugh on his blog at the end of last month) which suggests that there was a "cross-party consensus" over the EFSM.
Yet there has been a series of strenuous denials to the Commons that Osborne agreed with the decision made at the meeting in Brussels on May 9th.
The British government has accepted that laws surrounding succession to the throne could be "discriminatory" and that "discussions have started" to change them, CNN has learned.Whatever CNN may have learnt, it is not the government that change legislation but Parliament.
True, as I suspected, I had to share the time with a burqa-wearing woman (who remained unnamed) and with a pro-hijab ex-parliamentarian from Turkey. She kept insisting on the right to wear hijab (the headscarf) and I kept repeating that the French ban on the burqa (the face-veil) in public concerns only the face veil not the headscarf and that I do not oppose the headscarf. Nevertheless, the Turk turned out to be something of a closet Islamist and a believer in the false concept of “Orientalism,” which concept she wielded as a club meant to shame me into silence. It did not work. I referred her to the work of Ibn Warraq which has utterly demolished Said’s claims, and I talked about Islam’s long history of racism, imperialism, colonialism, white slavery, black slavery, and apartheid. Reasonably, I pointed out that the West is not the only culture which has engaged in extremely bad behavior and that Muslim-majority countries may have actually surpassed us.As I said, read the whole piece.
“Why don’t you busy yourself in criticizing how badly the West treats women before you start criticizing a culture you know nothing about.”
Ah, dear lady: For more than 40 years, I have specialized in criticizing discrimination against women worldwide and have challenged much else under the sun. What I refuse to do is to limit myself to Western culture only. In fact, I said, “the new colonialism consists of westerners abandoning the concept of universal human rights. It’s a way of saying: ‘Let them (Muslim women, Muslim homosexuals, Muslim free thinkers and Muslim truth-tellers) eat their barbarian cake.’ They are not worthy of any universal human rights.”
She then proceeded to lecture me about how women are treated as sex objects in the West. I pointed out that face-veiling women in Muslim-majority countries does not prevent those very same women from being routinely battered, raped, force-married, and honor murdered; that sexual slavery and prostitution are very much alive and flourishing in Muslim-majority countries; and that the “good girl bad girl” dichotomy that veiling creates justifies an even more open aggression against naked-faced women. I conceded:
“Half-naked Western women, unwed teenage pregnancies in the West (a point she raised) are far from ideal—but is the solution to throw a garbage bag over a woman’s head or to keep her entirely hidden at home?”
The Icelandic people have always wanted the Icesave dispute to be dealt with in the courts and now after two unsuccessful attempts to find a fair solution through political negotiations, it will probably at last have the legal handling it should have had right from the start.He also thinks that a lengthy court case will do nothing to increase trust in banks, would force the UK and Dutch governments to open up sensitive documents and would " shine a spotlight on how badly funded and insufficient deposits guarantee schemes in most European states really are as a result of EU legislation".
Many legal experts have claimed that Iceland would most likely win using the legal route, which is probably one of the reasons why the British and Dutch governments have repeatedly dismissed the idea of taking the matter to the courts.
But no matter how such court cases should go, it is highly doubtful that the results would serve the interests of London and the Hague or the EU. If Iceland wins, the two governments would not win a penny or a cent from Icelandic taxpayers.
They would, however, still be paid from the foreign assets of the failed Landsbanki Íslands when they are sold in the coming years (the first payment is scheduled this summer) - and probably more than they are entitled to according to the EU directive on deposits guarantee schemes.
On the other hand, in the unlikely event of an Icelandic legal defeat, it would mean that not only Iceland but every single country in the European Economic Area (EEA) – which includes all the EU member states – would be responsible for all deposits in their private banks, both domestically and in foreign branches within the EEA, and would have a clear obligation to step in with their taxpayers' money if necessary.
No Parliament may bind its successors, and it is essential for Mr Osborne to review the commitment made by Mr Darling.Well, pigs might fly, I suppose, and Georgie-Porgie might acquire some sense and a backbone.
Members of the eurozone must solve its problems. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, at the Davos economic forum, underlined that: "We are fully determined to defend the euro... Mrs Merkel and I will never – do you hear me, never – let the euro fall." With that promise Mr Osborne is surely free to allow France and Germany to back their mouth with their money.
Indeed the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, in full hubristic flow at the Davos World Economic Forum, underlined that “ We are fully determined to defend the euro… Mrs. Merkel and I will never – do you hear me, never – let the euro fall”. With that ringing promise from the two leading members of the eurozone George Osborne is surely now free to allow France and Germany to back their mouth with their money.It would appear that the Telegraph prefers not to pass sarcastic or unfriendly comments about Le P'tit Sarko.
Women are fighting in the streets of Paris. Alas, they are not fighting against Islamic gender apartheid—they are not protesting arranged marriage or honor killings. Instead, they are fighting for the right to veil their faces. On April 11th, two veiled women were arrested for participating in an illegal demonstration about this issue. Sixty-one people were arrested for the same reason this past weekend. It is the 21st century, and people are protesting the French government’s ban against the niqab and burqa (full-face veil) which just went into effect.Read the whole piece. Well worth it.
Vive La France!
It is important to note that France has not banned the headscarf (hijab) and that the French ban is not specific to Islam. The French law is ethnicity- and religion-neutral and refers only to a generic “face-covering.” In 2004, France became the first European country to legally restrict all religious clothing in public schools: veils, visible Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps, and hijab were forbidden in public schools.
What does this ban mean for the West?
The burqa is not a friendly garment. Surely, wearing a headscarf and dressing modestly would constitute a far friendlier face of Islam in the West. And, a more egalitarian face as well. Muslim men, both religious and secular, wear modern, Western clothing. Why do Muslim women alone have to bear the burden of representing 7th century Islam? Why is Paris, of all places, looking more and more like Mecca, Teheran, or Kabul? Hasn’t just such “multi-culturalism” been pronounced a failure by many European leaders?
The burqa is not a battle between anti-racists and racists, or liberty and oppression. It is between open and egalitarian Islam and obscurantism; human rights values and inhumane exceptionalism; integration and apartheid. Wahabis are spreading a singular, joyless version of Islam, wiping out diversity and our various histories. They use choice and freedom as weapons to destroy both. Muslim defenders of the burqa never support a woman’s right not to cover up. Instead women like me are branded “Western whores” who will burn in hell. Is the veil a declaration of girl power? No. Ardent veilers are proxy Taliban agents and have no conscience about their sisters in Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere – women who long to show their faces and wear whatever they want. We have them here too, those forcibly shrouded females, negated further in the narrative of choice. Some – victims of domestic violence whose scars can never be seen – turn up at my door. Even children too are cast as sexual temptresses, dressed in headscarves and long gowns, unable to play. What appalling freedom is this?Mr Malik, on the other hand, would like to see a slower development that would eventually integrate the groups in question and bring women out from behind the veil into our society:
But is a ban not necessary to protect women from being forced to wear the burqa? In countries such as Saudi Arabia or Yemen women have little choice but to cover up their face. That in itself is a good reason for liberal societies not to impose coercive dress codes. In democratic countries, the law already protects citizens from being harmed or coerced by others. It should go no further, especially as evidence suggests that in Europe most women wear the burqa of their own volition. As a recent French government report observed, the majority of women who veil themselves in France do so largely as an “expression of identity”, a “badge of militancy” or to “provoke society”.He is right to say that the burqua is a very visible symbol of the refusal to integrate and of the oppression of women and not the cause but symbols matter. If that were not so, why would the wearing of the burqua have grown instead of diminishing in Western societies. Incidentally, I disagree with Mr Malik when he asserts that the Catholic Church refusing to have women priests is the same as women not having the right to divorce their husbands or to see their children when their husbands divorce them or women's evidence being worth fifty per cent that of a man in a sharia court. There are many other aspects of oppression of women in Muslim communities that cannot be compared with the odd problem here and there.
The burqa is a symbol of the oppression of women, not its cause. If legislators truly want to help Muslim women, they could begin, not by banning the burqa, but by challenging the policies and processes that marginalise minority communities: on the one hand, the racism that all too often disfigures migrant lives, and, on the other, the multicultural policies that bolster conservative “community leaders” hostile to women’s rights.
Good for the French in banning the burka but they have made a mistake in making it illegal in the street and imposing fines. This will prove unenforceable and even the French police have said they will be reluctant to prosecute people.Well, OK, I wouldn't phrase it like that but I am not a politician. (I am also not sure the link will work but readers will get the general idea from that paragraph.) There are practical problems about banning burquas in the street, particularly in Britain where it would affect far more women. Would these women be even allowed out of the house if there were such a ban? Would the police, given recent stories of reluctance to interfere with "community politics", bother to enforce such a ban? I suspect the answers are "yes" and "no" respectively.
After a year full of financial woes, cash shortages and near-bankruptcies, the situation has become anything but reassuring. In fact, in recent weeks, the euro crisis has gotten even worse.And yet we are told by many that it is in Britain's interest to go on propping up this inherently unstable structure.
Following months of insisting it would not need a bailout, debt-stricken Portugal has now asked for help from the European Union's euro rescue fund. In a television address last Wednesday, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates announced that his caretaker government could no longer deal with the pressure from the financial markets by itself. Before making the announcement, yields on the country's sovereign bonds had climbed to almost 10 percent, a new record.
Indeed, on the whole, those in charge of rescuing the euro in Brussels and Europe's capitals have done a poor job. So far, almost all of their expectations have been disappointed. And things have continuously gotten only worse.
At first, people thought that the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) -- the temporary rescue fund that will be replaced by the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in 2013 -- had been equipped with enough resources to calm the markets, and that no one would actually draw on its help in any case. But, now, two countries, in the form of Ireland and Portugal, have asked for support, and no one can say for sure that they will be the last.
With an economy teetering on the brink of collapse and a nervous population standing in hours-long lines to buy foreign currency or gold, Minsk is going hat in hand to Moscow seeking relief.By "selling off" Russia will not mean open privatization. After all, the equivalent of those industries are hardly private in Russia itself.
The open question is: What price will Russia demand for bailing out Belarus and its authoritarian leader, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka?
Russia has long been pushing Minsk to sell off key state assets including oil refineries, chemical plants, oil and gas pipelines, and machinery plants. In addition, Moscow has been calling for Belarus to open its markets to Russian goods, tearing down barriers that exist despite the fact that the two countries are members of a unified customs zone.
The consequences of this referendum vote is that Iceland's years in the financial wilderness could be extended much further.That is not quite the way it looks at present. Icelanders have voted against their tax money being used in this exercise and they are not going to be joining the EU. Sounds to me like they might be winners. As for Moody's and other rating agencies, they are not quite as predictable or reliable as Mr Lynam seems to think.
Moody's and other ratings agencies look set to downgrade the country even further, making it prohibitively more expensive to borrow on the open markets.
Iceland's bid to join the EU will be paused or even vetoed by Britain and the Netherlands. And the tiny Atlantic economy is facing legal action in the EFTA court which might force it to pay up sooner than planned and at a punitive interest rate.
Democracy doesn't pay if you're an Icelander.
This could easily become a bad tempered, inconclusive affair. First, the summit is supposed to take a broad strategic view of EU immigration and asylum policies. But instability in North Africa will inevitably skew discussion towards the present. Italy is adamant that it needs help to manage what it calls a "human tsunami" from Tunisia and Libya. Demands for greater "solidarity" from fellow EU countries essentially mean their agreement to take in some of the 20,000 or so migrants currently housed in tent camps on the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily and in the mainland region of Puglia. The EU has committed money, a humanitarian mission and border guards from Frontex, its border agency. Nonetheless, the Italians feel entitled to more. The EU-supported rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's regime and the Tunisian uprising against President Ben Ali have left its realist immigration policy, heavily reliant on the two dictators, in tatters.More in tatters than Mr Brody appears to realize. In response to the crisis shaping up around refugees in Italy, France has abandoned Schengen and resurrected its border with that country.
The crackdown is sowing tensions between the two neighboring countries. "There's a hostile attitude coming from Paris," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the Italian Senate on Thursday.Another day, another crisis and another crack in that famous European solidarity.
French Interior Minister Claude Guéant lashed back, saying France "is completely within its rights to send these people back to Italy."
The dispute ultimately stems from the European Union's failure to forge a common policy for dealing with migrants, ranging from political refugees to undocumented job seekers who enter the EU from countries along its periphery but are determined to settle in richer economies to the north.
Sandy Patience, FAL’s Chairman, acknowledged the effort that Mr Benyon and his officials had made at the 2010 December Fish Council given all that was stacked against the UK in having to meet the maximum sustainable yield commitments of the Johannesburg Agreement.Are you paying attention? The real Common Fisheries Policy, as defined by the various Regulations pushed through illegally under the wrong Articles and not put into the treaty until that little affair at Maastricht, is equal access right up to the shore. That will kick in in 2012 and precious little can our fishermen do about that. Do all those let's-jump-on-the-bandwagon campaigners who have suddenly realized there are problems with the way fishing is conducted know this? Mr Benyon does now, because he has been told by Mr Patience. Will he remember it long enough to try and think his way round the problem?
However he reminded the Minister that it was the Tory administration in 1972 which had surrendered our national fish stocks to the EU to be managed under a Common Fisheries Policy, which to date, as far as British fishermen are concerned has been nothing short of a disaster.
He urged the Minister to persuade the Prime Minster to visit fishing constituencies and hear from the grass roots of the hard working people who make up the industry and then give the same commitment as Mrs Thatcher did to defend British fishing rights when she was Prime Minister.
However Mr Patience reminded Mr Benyon that the real Common Fisheries Policy – the principle of equal access to the common resource cannot be reformed and with 2012 rapidly approaching and therefore the end of the present derogation, the Commission must necessarily introduce measures upon our fishermen, in readiness for the implementation of the full thrust of that principle as demanded by the Treaties.
Whether it was the more likely figure of 100,000, or the more ambitious quote of half a million that marched through London two weeks ago with the TUC, there is no denying it was good turnout. But how did they do it? The TUC spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on transport, advertising, staffing, promotional material etc. Most of this money came from the taxpayer, channelled through public-sector jobs and back into the union coffers through membership subs.Indeed, let us not forget who paid for all that organization: that patient milch-cow, the taxpayer, and there is a good deal of unhappiness at the news that the patience is wearing very thin.
You can understand why they did it. The trade union movement is a lobbying firm as powerful and dangerous to democracy as big pharmaceutical protection agents and the infamous smoking and arms lobby. They are just as self-interested in protecting the financial interests and wallets of those who have a stake in them and will go out of their way to manipulate the media and the law to that means.
The March for an Alternative wasn’t an organic outpouring of anger that spilled on to the streets, but the end product of seven months’ work by a professional events company. And still they only managed to get less than 0.2% of the country to turn up. The spin and lines to come out of the event was that it was the true face and opinion of the British public, but this is complete rot. It was an assortment of public sector workers and students and those related to them. All dependent on seeing the status quo, and thus their interests, protected, even when it is a direct threat to the best interests of the rest of the population and the nation.
I can only assume that [Richard] Godwin doesn’t have the first clue about the scale of the cuts, which he describes as “reckless”, any more than he does about free schools. In 2010, the UK recorded general government net borrowing of £148.9 billion, which was equivalent to an unsustainable 10.2 per cent of GDP. The cuts began yesterday, on so-called “worse off Wednesday”, but in the past year public spending actually increased by several billion. In 2014-15, when the programme of cuts reaches its zenith, public spending is projected to be £648 billion in real terms compared to £669 billion in 2009-10. That’s a total cut of three per cent. (Cuts to spending on public services, if you compare 2014-15 to 2009-10, will be 12 per cent according to the IFS.) Fairly modest? Absolutely not.There is a good deal to be said for the argument that if something is not done about the debt, Britain will have to beg for a bail-out in the wake of the PIIGS. My argument with the way the government is going about the business is that there is no strategic or ideological thinking behind it.
According to Cath Elliott in today’s Guardian, these “ideological” cuts will mean “our valued public services being decimated beyond recognition”. So pegging public spending back to above the level it was at in 2008-09 (£640 billion), some 12 years after Labour was first elected and more than 50 per cent higher than it was in 1999-00, is going to decimate public services beyond recognition? What planet is she on? Elliott goes on to say that the Coalition is intent on “destroying the NHS”, apparently unaware that the Chancellor has committed the government to spending more on the NHS each year for the lifetime of this Parliament. In Elliott’s topsy turvy world, increasing government expenditure on a public service is tantamount to “destroying” it.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed an important question about the one-party state in this newspaper's Asian op-ed pages last year: "The question . . . is how a state based on limiting information flows and freedom of speech can remain powerful." And if that's possible, "what kind of monster" will it become?This, dear readers, is what real oppression looks like.
Mr. Ai's detention Sunday at Beijing's airport as he attempted to travel to Hong Kong brings this juggernaut into sharp relief. The police have provided no information about the 53-year-old's whereabouts or explained why he was arrested. The same day, Mr. Ai's wife, nephew and a clutch of his employees were arrested and questioned. Authorities raided his Beijing studio and carted away computers and other items.
Mr. Ai has thus joined the growing ranks of China's new "disappeared." In February amid the popular Arab revolt, an online petition urged a similar Jasmine Revolution in China. The government has reacted by criminally detaining dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of the country's most prominent human rights lawyers, bloggers, democracy activists and others.