Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bastiat

IPN (International Policy Network), a think-tank whose work I much admire (see, I can be nice about some people but they have to deserve it) calls attention to the fact that today is the 209th birthday of Frederic Bastiat, one of the most brilliant opponents of protectionism. In fact, let us go further and admit that the man was one of the greatest political economists. Oh, and by the way, he was French.

Some things never change

One of them is Tory hypocrisy or, if you like, total ignorance about the Common Fisheries Policy. They seem to think that if they keep telling us that they will change that noxious system then it will actually happen and appear oblivious to the fact that change might have been effected by the policy, carefully worked out by the then spokesman Owen Paterson and the Boss and adopted after a great deal of trouble by Michael Howard. As we know from previous postings on this blog (eg here) and on EUReferendum, the Boy-King's first action on becoming leader of that benighted party was to discard the policy.

Well, here we go again. The Press Association reports that Richard Benyon, the current Fisheries Minister is unhappy with the CFP and wants it reformed. Indeed, he assures us or somebody that the UK will speak "with one voice" when it demands that reform though he neglects to tell us that other voices, those of other member states will have as much say as the UK's. The Spanish Minister of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs also thinks there should be changes but not necessarily reforms. She merely think quotas and total allowable catch (TAC), the system that has destroyed a good deal of fish and fisheries wherever the EU has any say on the matter, should be adjusted according to scientific reports.

And to prove how much he understand Richard Benyon added:
This is the UK's most economically important fishery, contributing £140 million to the economy, and is of particular importance to Scotland. The sustainability of this well-managed stock must not be put at risk by the setting of unrealistic and irresponsible quotas. I am clear that Iceland and the Faroe Islands must cooperate with other countries to effectively manage this vital fish stock.
Or, in other words, this is disastrous, appallingly managed system that has caused a great deal of social, economic and environmental damage; therefore Iceland and the Faroe Islands must be persuaded to take part in it. Otherwise, they might be more successful than we have been.

Meanwhile, over in the House of Lords, that "quango" as the Boy-King and Douglas Carswell MP seem to think it is, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has asked another pertinent question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government , further to the Written Statement by Lord Henley on 22 June (WS 101) on reform of the common fisheries policy, whether they will propose that the responsibility for fisheries policy is returned to member states.
It has long been clear to anyone who has even thought about the subject that there is no other way of managing fisheries successfully in a sustainable way.

Among those who have ever thought about the subject we cannot count the Coalition government or its members, the Lib-Dims and the party formerly known as Conservative:
We need to move on from the current centralised common fisheries policy (CFP) that attempts to micromanage fishermen's daily activities. In negotiations on the reform of the CFP, the UK will press for radical change that provides for serious devolution of decision-making, and simplification, to improve fisheries management. While it may be appropriate for genuinely strategic decisions to be taken at EU level, because many fish stocks are shared between various member states, more responsibility for implementation can, and should, be devolved to member states.
In other words, we shall do nothing but continue to whine and pretend that we have any knowledge or understanding of the subject, not to mention the political courage to tackle it.

That's the way the money goes ...

In response to a Written Question by Lord Pearson of Rannoch about the various funds contributed by HMG on our behalf and with our money (so kind of them) to various transnational organization, this reply was published:
The United Kingdom's interests are represented through its membership in various international institutions and fora. Information regarding the UK's financial relationship with a particular institution is a matter for the relevant government department.

The Government's latest estimate of the UK's gross contribution to the European Union, after taking account of the UK abatement, was published in Table 3, page 62, of the 2009 European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 7640). This was published on 20 July 2009 and is available in the Library of the House. The figure for 2008 is £7,791 million and the estimate for 2009 is £7,770 million.

Information on UK financial contributions to the IMF is available on a net basis for 2008-09 in the Government's latest report to Parliament on the UK and the IMF, published in June 2009. Quota subscriptions determine the amount a member country can be asked to lend to the IMF. The UK's net contribution under its quota subscription was £1,134 million in 2008-09. The UK also provided £624,000 in grants in 2008-09 to support the IMF's work in low-income countries.

Information for the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are matters for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The relevant information is available in the FCO's annual report. The most recent annual report shows that for 2009-10 the FCO's budgeted provision for the Commonwealth Secretariat was £4.6 million, for the UN regular budget was £75.6 million and for the OECD was £12.5 million.

Information on the World Trade Organisation is a matter for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. The WTO subscription for the calendar year 2009 was £6,061,004 (Swiss Francs 9,652,149) paid on 26 January 2009.

Information on the World Bank is a matter for the Department for International Development. Data on UK financial contributions to the World Bank are available for 2008-09 in Statistics on International Development 2009 on the DfID website. In 2008-09 the UK contributed £524.8 million to the International Development Association and £49.8million for multilateral debt relief contributions to the World Bank. In addition, the UK contributed £595 million to trust funds which are administered by the World Bank.
And pop goes the weasel or, in this case, the country.

Did you really think they knew what they were doing?

In the House of Lords there was a preliminary debate about potential reform of it. I shall read Hansard tomorrow and blog about it then. In the meantime, here is evidence (as if you needed it) that the government has not thought its ideas on the subject through.

There was a written question from Lord Stoddart of Swindon on June 24:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ensure that any proposals from the committee on House of Lords reform for a wholly or partly elected second chamber will be accompanied by a re-allocation of powers to each chamber and the repeal of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949.
This is a perfectly rational question and an important point that HMG will have to think about when it presents its, no doubt, badly worded, Bill for the reform of the Upper House. Apparently, so far they have not done so. Lord McNally's reply was short of logical thinking:
The Government believe that the basic relationship between the two Houses, as set out in the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, should continue when the House of Lords is reformed.
Ahem, the basic relationship between the two Houses was brought into law in 1911 and 1949 (and, as a matter of fact, there is some doubt about the full legality of the latter Act) because the Upper House was unelected and could, therefore, be regarded as somewhat inferior. But if both Houses are elected then what is the justification for regarding one of them of greater importance than the other?

Another video from the talented team at CF&P

I was thinking of finding another nice dance video but this popped into my inbox. The Center for Freedom and Prosperity has produced another video with the talented Dan Mitchell, America's low tax star. This one is entitled The Rahn Curve and the Growth-Maximizing Level of Government (a snappy title) and it is about all of us, industrialized countries. Enjoy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A short interruption in the service

I shall be away till Monday evening and as I am going to Paris, I refuse to take my laptop or spend any time on the computer. There are far better things to do, not least meeting with some like-minded individuals. (Oh yes, they do exist in France as well.)

In the meantime here is a jolly story about organizers of an art exhibition who dared to criticize the close link between the Orthodox Church and the Russian state (nothing new there) being on trial for blasphemy. I found it on Tom Palmer's blog. Tom, whom I met a couple of times in Washington DC is a one-man operation for the spread of ideas of freedom in the most unlikely parts of the world, specifically in the former Soviet Union. He goes to the more difficult parts, like Kyrgyzstan and the other stans rather than the highly accessible Baltic States. Personally, I think that there is a long way to go till the ideas of freedom take root in Central Asia but when they do, it will be thanks to Tom Palmer and a few hardy souls like him.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Something of a mess

There is so much around, especially on American blogs about the Obama - McChrystal mess that it seems superfluous to add anything. The best summary seems to be by Claudia Rossett, which is not surprising. Glenn Reynolds adds his own comments. Politico thinks that, whichever way you look at it, this is an embarrassment for the White House, as, indeed, was the earlier altercation when President Obama dithered about his response to General McChrystal's plan that he had asked for. Michael Yon, as we all know, has been warning for some time. Here is that "infamous" piece on NRO. A couple of comments here and here on Neo-Neocon are worth reading and mulling over. And, of course, Michelle Malkin on the "McChrystal mess". There really is no other way of putting it. As it happens, I do not see any parallel with General MacArthur, who went directly against the Commander-in Chief, that is the President. This mess could have been avoided by both sides.

UPDATE: The Boss deals in his own inimitable fashion with General McChrystal's enforced resignation. I do not, as it happens, agree that President Obama has come out well. This problem was created by him and reasserting his undoubted abilities as a Chicago thug will not go down well with the people of the country, many of whom would, in other circumstances agree that the general acted wrongly. For one thing, as this round-up by Glenn Reynolds reminds us, General McChrystal was President Obama's hand-picked successor to General McKiernan who had been unceremoniously removed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In praise of Hayek

Just links, this time because it is worth reading the articles rather than odd quotes from them. Max Borders in the Washington Examiner and Monty Pelerin on American Thinker talk about Hayek's importance and the need to revisit his ideas. My one quibble is with people who say The Road to Serfdom is difficult. I am most certainly not an economist but found that slim volume exceptionally easy to read. But if you really do not want to spend any time crunching words, here is the cartoon version.

The world out there

I do not want to write endless predictions about the Budget and I do not want to write about football (a game I rather like) though I have, in the past, written reams about various international competitions and the fact that they do not exactly foster what we call sporting instincts. But then, George Orwell said it so much better than I can.

So, what is there to blog? Well, for a start there is this posting by Clarice Feldman on American Thinker, with which I agree completely. (I often do agree with Clarice Feldman.) She links to another fine blog that I, shamefully, discovered but a few weeks ago, Legal Insurrection, on which Professor Jacobson argues very cogently that Israel has outmanoeuvred the Hamas flotilla stunt organizers.
While The NY Times and others portray this as a loss for Israel, which had to bow to world pressure, in reality this outcome would represent a victory for Israel because the most important goal of the blockade -- the inspection of all goods whether brought by land or sea to prevent military supplies -- now has international legitimacy.

To the extent there were purely consumer goods which were barred, such system was ineffective and senseless anyway, and Israel loses nothing by loosening up.

The naval blockade is not affected, which is the key because it was by sea that Iran was planning on supplying Hamas with more effective and deadly military supplies. Such supplies cannot get through on land in the quantities and size Hamas desires, although many smaller military supplies do get through smuggling tunnels.

Also unaffected are so-called "dual use" supplies, such as concrete, which Hamas desperately wants to build fortifications.
In the meantime, the various ships promised or threatened have not arrived from Iran and the ones from Lebanon do not even seem to have left port. I remain convinced that in Turkey this stunt has strengthened the secularists but, of course, we need to watch what happens in that country during the summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Well this is exciting! Or not.

For some time now the Boss at EUReferendum and I have been a little puzzled by the fact that various organizations close to the Conservative Party (now a member of the Clegeron Coalition) but pretending to be somewhat rebellious, have been talking about a coming IGC that would trigger off a referendum and then we shall see the Boy-King's mettle. (And no, they do not refer to him as the Boy-King but we do.)

An IGC? An Inter-Governmental Conference with all the grandiose trappings for which there are certain rules and which will produce a new treaty that should already have been more or less written and discussed with the Spanish Prime Minister (of the outgoing Presidency) rushing around the other capitals? This is a big event or ought to be. How on earth did we and, indeed, just about everybody else outside the above-mentioned organizations managed to miss it?

Phew! I have now found what all the excitement was about. It seems that on Wednesday there will be a meeting of the Permanent Representatives (or, in other words, not government leaders) to finalize certain arrangements for the Toy Parliament that had been more or less agreed on before.

It was decided to discuss those amendments without calling a Convention or add any of the grand trappings. Indeed, as an Inter-Governmental Conference is is decidedly a damp squib. Perhaps COREPER now feels that they are the real representatives of the various governments not the various Ministers, Prime Ministers or Presidents.

My guess is that this Amendment will be passed without any difficulty through Parliament. It seems unlikely that the Boy-King will consider a bickering about how many representatives there should be in the Toy Parliament a matter of such importance as to give even an ordinary, let alone a cast-iron guarantee of a referendum.

Shelby Steele on Israel and the West's loss of moral authority

A very good article by Shelby Steele in the Wall Street Journal about public opinion, Israel and the West's surrender. Here are a couple of paragraphs:
This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas's remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn't they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel's legitimacy as a nation? There is a chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world's oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again.

"World opinion" labors mightily to make Israel look like South Africa looked in its apartheid era—a nation beyond the moral pale. And it projects onto Israel the same sin that made apartheid South Africa so untouchable: white supremacy. Somehow "world opinion" has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the "occupation" of a beleaguered Third World people.


Our problem in the West is understandable. We don't want to lose more moral authority than we already have. So we choose not to see certain things that are right in front of us. For example, we ignore that the Palestinians—and for that matter much of the Middle East—are driven to militancy and war not by legitimate complaints against Israel or the West but by an internalized sense of inferiority. If the Palestinians got everything they want—a sovereign nation and even, let's say, a nuclear weapon—they would wake the next morning still hounded by a sense of inferiority. For better or for worse, modernity is now the measure of man.

And the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred. The problem is not me; it is them. And in my victimization I enjoy a moral and human grandiosity—no matter how smart and modern my enemy is, I have the innocence that defines victims. I may be poor but my hands are clean. Even my backwardness and poverty only reflect a moral superiority, while my enemy's wealth proves his inhumanity.
Read the whole piece. Well worth it.

There will be a run-off

The news this morning is that although Poland's Parliamentary Speaker, Bronislaw Komorowski, is leading his opponent in the country's presidential election, the late Kaczynski's identical twin, Jaroslaw, he has not acquired the necessary 50 per cent of the vote. Therefore, there will be a run-off in two weeks' time.

AP reports:
Based on more than 94 percent of voting stations reporting, Komorowski had 41.22 percent of the votes and Kaczynski had 36.74 percent, the State Electoral Commission said. Turnout there was 54.85 percent.
The low turn-out is a little surprising, given the circumstances. Full results are expected later today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

If at first you don't succeed

Having failed to implement the Lisbon Strategy "aimed at making the European Union (EU) the most competitive economy in the world and achieving full employment by 2010" the European Council, which ended the Spanish Presidency (no, it was not ever going to be an IGC) has adopted another ten-year plan: "EUROPE 2020", a new Jobs and Growth Strategy for Europe. Makes one feel all warm and cosy, particularly those among us who will be getting jobs in Brussels et al to create grids, strategies and frameworks for this plan. For sure as eggs is eggs, this will not create either jobs or growth anywhere that it matters, which is usually known as the economy.

This European Council, its participants and those who create the agenda as well as write the documents in the full knowledge that directives and regulations will follow, continues to assume that jobs, growth, economic development are all created by instructions from above. Undoubtedly, they will have those score boards as well. They did with the Lisbon Strategy. If you get more than three ticks you have achieved .... precisely nothing in real terms but a great deal as far as the euro-bureaucracy is concerned.

You have to scroll some way down to find the important paragraphs, though:

Financial Stability, economic governance and stability of financial system

European Council agreed on the need to enhance economic governance, in particular as regards budgetary and broader macroeconomic surveillance, and set forth the necessary rules to be implemented and the orientations to be met in so doing.

The necessary reforms to restore the soundness and stability of the European financial system is one more element highlighted by the Council to be completed urgently. The resilience and transparency of the banking sector must be ensured, an the he EU must demonstrate its determination to bring about a safer, sounder, more transparent and more responsible financial system.
The aim is, as we have been predicting all this time, to use this crisis as a beneficial one for the furtherance of the project. However, it is looking a little more doubtful as to whether they will succeed.

European Council

The usual blah has been published by way of Conclusions. To be discussed.

An interesting fantasy

Pajamas Media has published an interesting fantasy by James Bennett, the man Andrew Roberts has described as "the godfather of the Anglosphere". (Full disclosure: Jim is a very good friend and we agree on most things, especially the importance of the Anglosphere. In this article he speculates about the possibility of Chancellor Merkel suddenly deciding that she and her country have had enough. Genug!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh goody!

Those red lines are back.

Does this sound familiar?

What is overwhelmingly obvious is that this is a woman who possesses a more common-sense intellect and bigger cojones than ... any other male power figure I can name.

I recall hearing very similar comments about Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet or, indeed, the entire political spectrum around her. But this comment is about Sarah Palin after her performance on the O'Reilly show. The full paragraph runs as follows:
I just watched her vis a vis Bill O'Reilly following the One's pronouncements on the oil spill, you know, where the Big O addresses the Big O, and let me tell you my immediate impression. Put aside Greta Van Susteren's recent impertinent question to the governor as to whether she's had breast implants. What is overwhelmingly obvious is that this is a woman who possesses a more common-sense intellect and bigger cojones than O'Reilly, Obama and any other male power figure I can name.
Word is that the lady is coming to the UK and will be meeting Lady T herself. Now there is a conversation one would like overhear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Those photos

The Boss has written on EUReferendum about the photos from Mavi Marmara. The most interesting story is not the cropping of the picture by Reuters but the fact that the full photos first appeared in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet. Could this mean, I wondered, that there is some sort of a power struggle going on in Turkey? After all, not everybody is happy about the AK government's move away from secularism and traditional pro-Western foreign policy or about its support for Hamas.

Der Spiegel gives an account of how those pictures got to the newspaper and why they were published as well as reactions in Turkey and Israel. I was not too far wrong: there are strong feelings that the government has gone too far. It should not have supported Hamas or become embroiled in a very messy situation.
The fact that "the moments when the Israeli soldiers were beaten up," as Hürriyet put it, were published in a Turkish newspaper of all places is the climax of a bizarre war of interpretation that pro-Palestinian activists and the Israeli government have been waging against each other ever since the deadly raid.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan railed against Israel's "banditry and piracy." But Hürriyet belongs to the media group of entrepreneur Aydin Dogan which has been critical of the government in the past. Initially, Dogan's newspapers had criticized the Israeli raid just like Turkey's pro-government papers. But since then they have been warning against excessive Israel bashing and against the prime minister's increasingly authoritarian style of government.
There could be some very serious developments in Turkey in the near future.

A very good explanation

I do not apologize to Americans for being stunned by the crassness of President Obama's comparison of the oil spill to 9/11. So far as I can make out most Americans were stunned by the crassness and lack of political savvy there. And as Obama is using the whole debacle for a bit of Britain-bashing (which seems to be considerably less popular in the States than he thinks) we do have some say in the matter.

His statement reminded me of the time Bill Clinton complained plaintively that 9/11 had not happened on his watch. The fact that his policies made that even possible seemed to have escaped his memory.

John Podhoretz gives an excellent analysis of President Obama's extraordinary statement.
President Obama doesn't like the fact that the Gulf oil spill reminds people of Hurricane Katrina, since the public response to that catastrophe hastened the decline of his predecessor's standing. He'd prefer that the American people be reminded of something else -- something that rallied people around their president.

And so he told Politico over the weekend that the oil spill has "echoes of 9/11."
Americans thought differently about "our vulnerabilities" after the events of 9/11, Obama said, and the oil spill is "going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come."

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most bizarre things ever said by any president.
After explaining that the only thing the two events have in common is nothing, Mr Podhoretz adds:
Of course the fact that 9/11 would prove to be a net political benefit for George W. Bush was not the result of happenstance. It was due to the way he responded.

After a few days of discomfiting uncertainty, Bush found his voice and his purpose, delivering a series of powerful speeches that suggested a seriousness of purpose in regard to his presidential responsibilities that no one had actually expected of him.

Whatever happened afterward to shake that perspective on him in the minds of so many, the fact was that Bush had to meet the moment to secure the political advantage.
Obama's problem is that he is trying to make BP into a villain whose actions deliberately created the situation and he is doing it in order to bolster his own position. But despite the few nasty attacks fuelled by the President's rhetoric, it is obvious to all that this was an appalling accident and BP is trying to do everything it can to deal with the damage (often hindered by political decisions or lack of them).

So far, his political credibility has only suffered. As Glenn Reynolds shows, even his adulators in the media were unimpressed by yesterday's speech in which he once again attacked British Petroleum. Has nobody told him yet how much of it is owned by American shareholders and what an economic disaster the destruction of BP might be?

Some radical ideas

One of the few think-tanks in this country that produces worthwhile material is Reform. In anticipation of next week's Budget they have produced their own ideas that, sadly, would require a great deal more courage and imagination than the Coalition has displayed so far. I keep being told that I should give Cameron a chance (though nobody has yet suggested that I should give Osborne a chance) so, maybe, we should wait till next week.

In the meantime here is the alternative Budget in full.

What is all the fuss about?

There is a certain amount of fuss and bother about a rather silly statement made by Commission President Barroso who is clearly desperately trying to ensure that the various PIIGS are rescued by everyone else. Might the European project collapse? As I have said before, my view is that it will collapse when the Germans would have had enough of being made to feel subservient to the French but the financial debacle will contribute. Let's face it, the euro was a very bad idea from the europhiliac point of view.
Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.

In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money.
How odd. I thought being part of the European Union meant that those European values among which democracy and human rights come top are secure for ever. You mean member states are capable of reverting to their own historical precedents? Who knew?

There are a couple of aspects to this event that need to be noted. In the first place, President Barroso is not an elected president of anything, let alone the European Union, so the notion of him pontificating about democracy is absurd.

Secondly, he was addressing trade union chiefs. Whatever may have been the case long in the past, recent experience with trade unions is that they are not precisely in favour of democracy either within their own ranks or outside them. In fact, this briefing is about as undemocratic as can be, not because President Barroso is not allowed to brief trade union chiefs but because it is all part and parcel of the EU's effort to create a post-democratic structure of civil society organizations, set up by the Commission in the first place, consulting and being briefed by the self-same Commission as a substitute for accountable democracy.

Thirdly, the EU is and has always been an undemocratic, indeed an anti-democratic structure. What he means by democracy disappearing is that the democratic institutions that have already been hollowed out by the EU might disappear. That is not the same thing at all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The next flotilla

The Jerusalem Post reports of the various preparations going on for the next flotilla, which is coming from Iran but will not be protected by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
The announcement quoted Mohammad Ali Nouraee, an aid official, who said one cargo will be sent to Turkey, and then shipped to Gaza from Istanbul while the other will leave from the port of Khorramshahr.

Nouraee said that the ships would sail without protective security because the Iranians “do not want to fight", however he emphasized that "we are willing to become martyred in this way.”

According to IRNA, a senior official of the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Deputy Commander Hossein Salami, has said that escorting the two cargo ships "was not on the guards agenda."
In addition three Iranian members of the Majlis are planning to visit Gaza through Egypt and the Egyptian government has announced that they will let them through the crossing at Rafah. Of course, they will. The wall is there to protect Egypt from the Gazan Palestinians not to protect the latter from Iranian parliamentarians.

Meanwhile, Israel has agreed to an international commission to investigate what went wrong over that flotilla (hint: maybe the Israeli government and the IDF should start paying attention to the fact that this is a PR war as well as a bang-bang war) and the Arab League has entered the fray. They may be attacking Israel but as this article points out, the main targets are Turkey and Iran. It has dawned on the Arab League that these two countries are muscling in on their political territory.

After enumerating all the levels on which Israel managed to botch what ought to have been a straightforward operation of prevention, Samuel Segev of the Winnipeg Free Press sums up the situation fairly accurately:
However, on the strategic level, Turkey lost. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, which was Turkey's main objective, is not lifted. Israel had shown Turkey that it was ready to pay the diplomatic price for defeating Turkey's goal in Gaza. In co-ordination with Israel, Egypt also eased some of the restrictions on travel by land from Gaza to Sinai, but it maintained the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Finally, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, conveyed the same message. In his meeting with Obama at the White House last Wednesday, Abbas insisted that Hamas should not emerge as the victor from Operation Sea Breeze.

Finally, and as a result of fast consultations among all concerned, the moderate Arab countries have now re-entered the Gaza scene, after three years of absence. They realized that their absence created a void that Turkey was trying fast to fill. It is in this context that we should see the current visit of Amr Mussa, the secretary general of the Arab League to the Gaza Strip. In his discussions with Hamas local leaders, Mussa is trying to convince them to reconcile with Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Egyptian plan. Mussa's message has also a regional meaning: It is a message to Turkey and Iran that the Sunni Arab world will never agree to a non-Arab country dominating the Middle East.
I think the expression that best sums it all up is the old military one of SNAFU. But I don't think Israel is the biggest loser - that has to be, once again, the Palestinians.

Salut d'amour

A different kind of magic in dance from the usual one on this blog, pointed out to me by a friend and reader. The magical Margot Fonteyn at her 60th Birthday Gala, dancing Sir Frederick Ashton's choreography (the great man also makes an appearance) to Elgar's music. Can there be anything more enchanting?

The times they are a'changing

Interesting article in Der Spiegel on "Madame Non and Monsieur Duracell", which takes a gloomy if somewhat amused view of the relationship between Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy. Beyond the personal dislike and lack of understanding there is the clash between the two countries and their aims, for long hidden by historical events.
The conclusion that the differences of opinion between Germany and France were more than just a passing phenomenon, that they were deep-seated, finally became clear during the economic and currency crisis. France wants a common European economic government for the 16 euro-zone countries, complete with its own administration. And this is precisely what Germany does not want.

Merkel wants to discuss budgetary discipline and austerity measures with the French, while Sarkozy says that all of these savings plans will just exacerbate the recession. Germany is calling for chronic deficit spenders to be penalized, possibly even excluded from the euro zone. France considers this a violation of the European idea.

Sarkozy even avoids using the word rigueur, or budgetary discipline, altogether. Meanwhile, the French social insurance system alone faces a €30 billion ($36.6 billion) debt this year, and the country's budget deficit is forecast to be €156 billion. France's foreign trade declined by 17 percent in 2009.

The relationship between France and Germany is and has long been burdened by classic conflicts and controversies. In France, growth is traditionally based on consumption, while the German economy grows through exports. The French, as has long been the case, are not big on saving: The government in Paris hasn't balanced its budget in three decades.

To make matters worse, the much-touted "equilibrium of disequilibrium" (l'équilibre du déséquilibre) between the two countries has shifted. France was long a giant, politically speaking, but a dwarf economically, while the situation was reversed in Germany. Both positions shaped their relations for decades, as German chancellors set aside national interests to demonstrate their solidarity with the French partner. Merkel, however, has taken a different tone for months, marking a paradigm shift in Germany's European policy.
This fits with the point I have made over and over again: the EU is predicated on a guilty and subservient Germany. With time going on and new generations, who cannot even recall the war, appear on the scene (and in Merkel's case there is the added point of growing up under the Communist system) guilt and subservience can no longer be relied on and the Franco-German motor, which presupposed French supremacy is now sputtering. In many ways, that is more important than the Greek or Spanish fiscal crises.

Iceland stirs again

No, not ash this time (and no cash either - they seem to be deaf of something) but an interesting development in the Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, which is the oldest parliament in the world according to Wikipedia but, of course, the Isle of Man's Tynwald challenges that. (You do have to keep up with this blog, you know.)

Anyway, thanks to EU News from Iceland we know that
A proposal for a resolution will be put forward on Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, this weekend that the application for membership of the European Union should be withdrawn. It is initiated by Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir, MP for the conservative Independence Party, and supported by a large group of MPs from various political parties represented in the parliament.
The proposal may not be voted for it this time, as the Deputies are preparing for their summer hols but it will be there, to be reprised, if necessary in the autumn.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meet the next EU President

Or, rather, you cannot meet the next EU President. Belgium is due to take over the rotating presidency on July 1 but it is highly questionable whether it will have a government in place by then. Indeed, despite the Guardian's assurances, there may be no Belgium by then (though I think it will probably survive a little longer). Really, one wonders where that paper gets its commentators. To be fair, a later article in that newspaper pontificates about language being a divisive issue.

Actually, it is considerably more than just about the language or the complexities of the Belgian constitution. The differences between the Flemish and the French sections of the country are becoming so wide as to be almost unbridgeable.

Deutsche Welle analyzes the situation far more coherently and points out the indubitable fact that the Flemish separatist party, the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) actually came top in the poll, naturally doing extremely well in the Flemish part of the country but one would expect that.
Belgium has begun the search for a coalition government after right-wing Flemish separatists won Sunday's parliamentary election. Final official results released by the national electoral commission on Monday show that the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) secured 27 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, up from just eight seats in 2007.

The NVA, led by 39-year-old Bart De Wever, ultimately wants to split the wealthy Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north from Belgium's poorer, French-speaking region of Wallonia in the south. De Wever passionately advocates the end of Belgium, calling its six million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones a "hopeless mismatch." Linguistic disputes have long hounded Belgium and dominated the election campaign. But a split-up of Belgium after this election is unlikely.
Probably not, but it the count-down must have started. After all,
Due to linguistic, political and economic differences, Belgium has had four governments and three prime ministers since 2007.
As ever, in Belgium, it is the King's constitutional duty to find some kind of a solution. The man must be getting heartily sick of the whole subject.

Another mass grave

This time it is near Vladivostok where there were numerous transit camps in the thirties and forties for those who were to be deported to Kolyma. Some, presumably, were disseminated to some other camps. The great poet Osip Mandelstam died in one of those transit camps and was buried in one of the many mass graves. Maybe the one that has just been found.

Can we ask Mr Hague to create an envoy for post-Communist issues?

Getting into a right tangle

Andrew Bolt's blog in today's Melbourne's Herald Sun is really very funny and, I think, intentionally so. This blog would agree with everything he says, starting with the title: How dare Wilders not surrender freedom to Islam. Indeed, that is a subject on which I have written on numerous occasions before.

Mr Bolt, however, goes further and quotes from an unintentionally funny article in the New York Times. The article makes all sorts of derogatory comments about Mr Wilders and sounds shocked at the fact that his party has done rather well in the elections, while alluding to Pim Fortuyn's murder and the fact that Mr Wilders has to live under 24 hour protection. Could there be a connection between those aspects of Dutch politics and the "earthquake" that seems to be sweeping through it?

The funniest part of the article, as Mr Bolt notes, is the "problem" of including what the NYT calls "extremist politicians" in mainstream politics. Really, one cannot help having all those quotation marks.
The success of Mr. Wilders highlights the difficulties faced by mainstream politicians across Europe in dealing with the rise of populists and extremists: Include them and you have to take on board their unsavory policies; exclude them and end up increasing their appeal to protest voters.

Such a dilemma would have been unthinkable here a decade ago, when the Netherlands was as renowned for the dull, consensual predictability of its politics, as for its profusion of canals.

But the 2002 assassination of Mr. Fortuyn by an animal rights activist convulsed the country. Two years later, after making a documentary fiercely critical of Islam, Theo Van Gogh, was also killed in broad daylight.

Dick Houtman, a professor of political sociology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said that Mr. Wilders had built on Mr. Fortuyn’s legacy, successfully avoiding the overtly racist language of far-right politicians in other countries by highlighting issues like freedom of speech, female equality and gay rights.

“That serves to exclude Muslims from the Dutch political consensus,” he said.
Is Professor Houtman listening to himself? Is he really saying that there is something wrong with highlighting issues like freedom of speech, female equality and gay rights? Is that what he teaches at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam? And does he really think that if that excludes Muslims from the Dutch political consensus then it is the consensus, which developed from ideas of enlightenment that based itself on the work of humanists like Erasmus that should change?

What will it take?

There are many subjects I need to blog about but I think I shall turn my attention first to that new organization, Direct Democracy, whose appearance I welcomed with just one cheer. Now I think that I was too generous.

Direct Democracy, run by Dominique Lazanski but set up by those ubiquitous token eurosceptics of the Conservative Party, Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP, has decided to take on the "European issue", presumably shifting that burden away from the Taxpayers' Alliance. Now neither I nor the Boss at EUReferendum have any problems with people becoming involved with the subject of the EU but we do prefer it if individuals and organizations that go down that route actually find out a few basic facts about the subject. We are always ready to supply those facts but, for some reason, we are never asked by such entities as the Taxpayers' Alliance or, now, Direct Democracy.

Furthermore, while we do not need to quoted all the time, we would like it acknowledged that we (and many others, as I pointed out when I wrote about the Taxpayers' Alliance and the common fisheries policy and also here and here) have been "banging on" about the subject for some time.

Let us have a look at what Direct Democracy has produced. Well, well, a posting entitled Who Will Protect UK Sovereignty? Protect? Protect? What is there to protect? How can you protect something that does not exist any more? After all, the overwhelming majority of all legislation in this country comes from the EU (let's not quibble about exact percentages) and Parliament has no right to set it aside even if it happens to be that small part that is actually debated. One tax (VAT) is not fully controlled by the British government. What other definition of sovereignty does Direct Democracy want apart from legislation and taxation?

It then gets worse. The first paragraph states:
The European Council is set to meet this coming Thursday and Friday. This meeting was meant to be an IGC but it has since been watered down due to a variety of reasons that we do not officially know yet. An IGC meeting would potentially trigger an EU referendum in the UK because by calling the meeting an IGC it would be forced to legally make amendment proposals to the current treaty. And that would cause great chaos at the moment. But this European Council meeting might just cause chaos on its own.
While there are helpful links in the text, there is a clear lack of knowledge or understanding. The European Council always meets around this time of the year as one presidency is coming to an end and another one will be starting on July 1.

There was never the slightest chance of an IGC at this point. There are various rules as to how an Inter-Governmental Conference is assembled and none of them had been activated. Furthermore, it takes many months for an IGC to take place; it is not simply called when a routine European Council is about to meet with a week or so to spare.

Then we get the obligatory references to Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell and finally the following interesting comment:
Someone recently commented that Direct Democracy was banging on an on about Europe and it was a bit tiresome. If we don't talk about this who will? At least Dan Hannan will, no doubt, continue to write about it. And Douglas Carswell too. But if we all want the UK to grow strong and climb out of the current financial crisis, then groups like Direct Democracy need to make sure that the Coalition Government doesn't u-turn on their promise to keep the UK sovereign. Remember, they promised, "No further transfer of sovereignty over next parliament..." to the European Union.
Goodness me! So if it were not for Direct Democracy, clearly a front organization for the Conservative Party or a couple of Conservative politicians nobody would ever talk about "Europe". Is that so? Well, well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. (I shall not quote what the Boss said when I read the paragraph out to him. This is a family-friendly blog.)

Just one final point: Direct Democracy seems unhappy with the fact that the Coalition government is not living up to the eurosceptic propaganda of the election campaign. Dear me. Remind me who was the politician-cum-journalist-cum-clogger who told us over and over again that if you really wanted results over the European issue you should vote Conservative because Cameron and Hague will deliver? Step forward Daniel Hannan MEP.

Week-end silence

The week-end silence had nothing to do with the World Cup, which I shall start being interested in once England is out after the quarter finals and the general hysteria abates. I like football as a game and have always found the World Cup interesting. I would support England if it were not for the hysteria and the sudden fascination for the game among people who cannot tell one end of a football pitch from another and have not the slightest idea of how it is really played.

Going home on Saturday evening I encountered hundreds of fans draped in England flags; they were shouting, screaming, chanting, whistling and so on. I assumed that England had won her first game and shrugged my shoulders. Beating the US ought not to be too difficult as football (or soccer as they call it on the other side of the Pond) is a relatively new interest there. In any case, it was only the first game. What will happen later on I wondered. Then I found out that far from winning, England had drawn and had not actually performed particularly well. Yet the fans were hysterical. I rest my case.

My week-end was taken up by a second visit to the National Portrait Gallery's splendid free exhibition of the Indian Portrait (on for another week) and a relatively quick wander round the new Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy on Saturday. All I can say about the latter is that it is largely inoffensive with a few interesting works. Anyone who happens to be passing the RA needs only to walk into the courtyard where the best of those works are: no fewer than three Hares by the late Barry Flanagan RA. My favourite is Nijinsky Hare as pictured above.

Sunday was taken up by that splendid London institution the Open Garden Squares week-end and a wander round the normally locked garden squares of Belgravia an Pimlico. OK, you've missed it this year but make a note of it for next summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The Guardian tells us that the Dutch election result produced an even more fragmented result than usual but the outcome might be a good thing. Coalitions are a new thing in Britain (not precisely if one looks at nineteenth century history but let that pass) but in the Netherlands it is the stuff of politics. Why that should be considered something to emulate is not clear.

Never mind. The Guardian does not see this result as a good outcome for the Right or the Centre Right. No, indeed.
A less exciting but more accurate reading of Wednesday's result would be that the votes of the centre-left parties held up, while those of the right splintered both to the Liberals and the Freedom party. Indisputably the Christian Democrats were the big losers. In an election dominated not by immigration but by the economy and the deficit, Dutch voters could therefore be said to have opted for fiscal austerity with a social conscience, much as British voters did a month ago. This leaves the Liberals well placed to govern with the centre-left in what would here be called a progressive coalition.
Furthermore, let us not get over-excited about Geert Wilders's party.
Dutch voters have not given Mr Wilders a mandate to govern, and he should certainly not now be rewarded with one.
Given the Dutch system, that is not exactly accurate since a third party is often in the Cabinet. In Britain, on the other hand, the Lib-Dims were most definitely not given a mandate to govern, coming third and losing seats. Yet, somehow, they have been rewarded with that mandate and the Guardian seems very happy about that.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How about letting historians make fools of themselves?

Back in February of this year when the Leftist coalition was still in government in Hungary it passed a law that made the denial of the Holocaust a crime. It is really quite extraordinary that this was not a crime throughout the Communist period but the post-Communist government felt the need for making it so.

Not to be outdone, the new Right-wing government of FIDESZ on its own has passed an amendment to the Criminal Code.
According to the new legislation, those denying, casting doubts on, or depreciating the crimes committed by the Communist regime will be facing from one to three years behind bars.
There are two aspects to this. One is the equation of Communist and Nazi crimes, which is entirely right and proper. The Russian Communist Party does not like it, according to this article, but then they wouldn't, would they.

The other aspect is the legal one. The idea that historical debates and discussions should be decided in courts of law is preposterous. Let them make fools of themselves, if they want, but let us continue arguing the truth. On the other hand, the Hungarians are entirely logical. If the denial of Nazi crimes is illegal then the denial of Communist crimes should be as well. It might be worth remembering every time some idiot suggests that other countries should introduce legislation that criminalizes Holocaust denial.

Maybe they just don't know any geography

An interesting item from Palestinian Media Watch about a quiz show on Palestinian Authority TV that was originally funded by the European Union (that's your money and mine) but is being sponsored by the cell phone company Jawwa. Palestinian Media Watch was unable to find out whether the EU is also a sponsor.

The programme seems to be rather high-profile and the first season, at least, could be justified by saying that the EU was promoting knowledge of Europe, the various countries and, probably most of all, the European Union.
The first season was funded by the European Union and the quiz questions all related to Europe, covering topics such as history, geography, personalities, government, culture, arts, and sports. Each program featured competing representatives from two Palestinian Authority universities or colleges. In January 2010 the competition ended, and the last program showed a prize ceremony with the participation of Minister of Welfare Majda Al-Masri; Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake; and director of the MAAN news agency, Nasser A-Lahham.
The second season is no longer about matters European but Middle Eastern and the existence of Israel as a country seems to be ignored. For instance
The question posed to the TV viewers was:

"A Palestinian coastal city is:
1. Ramallah
2. Bethlehem
3. Haifa
... Call the number that appears on the screen and win $500."
The answer is none of them as Haifa, a coastal city, is in Israel. None of this would matter except for the fact that the old blue flag with gold stars is still displayed prominently in the background when the questions are asked.

I am prepared to believe that it is sheer incompetence on the part of the EU that has created this unfortunate situation. I think I am prepared to believe that.

Sisterhood left in the dumps

This is a little early for a non-American blog to comment too much on the forthcoming November elections though the primaries are throwing up some interesting candidates. Still, there are so many American blogs who know and understand the nuances better than we do that I see no reason for saying too much.

However, this has to be pointed out. There were many primaries on Tuesday night and many strong women candidates won them. So, rejoice the sisterhood! Right? Wrong. Most of those strong women are Republicans and, generally, on the right of the political spectrum. So, just like Margaret Thatcher in Britain, these women have been written out of the feminist scenario. They are not, apparently, to be applauded or shown up as role models. In a different way, the fact that both Secretaries of State under President Bush were black and one a woman are ignored. As I recall, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice (as well as Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas and people like political economist Thomas Sowell) have received racist abuse that had not been seen in the US since the days of segregation. But as it came from the left it did not matter.

Rachel Larimore on Slate asks: Where is the Rah-Rah Sisterhood?
I’m not surprised that the only primary race to be noted by Feministing is Kamala Harris’ victory in the Democratic race for California attorney general or that the comments on a straightforward who’s-who post at Jezebel are full of bile regarding Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. But it is disappointing that many liberal women don’t even seem to want the GOP to have strong female candidates. As Sara Libby wrote in Slate yesterday, “Do you still cheer if the ceiling is crashed by two conservative businesswomen?” To answer a question with a question, why not? (Especially in a primary.)

Here’s one reason to cheer. Conservative acquaintances ask me what it’s like to be in the minority at Slate. I tell them it’s great because it makes me think harder and sharpen my arguments; it challenges my assumptions. That’s the purpose of healthy debate. If the only women in politics are liberal, there’s not going to be much debate. And if a woman has to be pro-choice and pro-government and anti-business to be a palatable Republican, well, you just want Democrats in disguise.
Ann Althouse, herself a conservative law professor and blogger puts it more bluntly:
You know, it's fine with me if we just start treating women like people. We women are not a team. And this isn't a game. The failure of liberals to cheer about the female GOP candidates is an indication that they are strong candidates. That's good!
But then, you see, these people would have to start cheering Sarah Palin and that would never do.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The power of television

Glenn Beck of Fox TV did an hour's programme about Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, which promptly shot up to No 1 on Amazon. Now we find that the University of Chicago Press has sold out of all its copies. Next, Mr Beck will be talking about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Just the preview of that has pushed the book up into the top 30 on Amazon. Wouldn't it be nice if our TV presenters did something useful like that?

Whither the Dutch government?

Eighty eight per cent of the votes have been counted in the Netherlands, according to the Telegraph report this morning, and the result is promising to be very interesting. Setting aside the newspaper's mindlessly repetitive description of Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV)as being "far-right" because it wants to control immigration of people who have no desire to adapt to the country's very liberal culture, what the article tells us ought to make a lot of people sit up.
With 88 per cent of the votes counted, published partial results showed the Liberals with 31 and Labour on 30.

But the real victory went to Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques. The PVV took its number of seats from nine in the last parliament to 24, and could hope to enter a coalition government.
Mark Rutte, the Liberal leader may have the mandage to become Prime Minister but he will need at least three other parties to secure the necessary majority in Parliament. He can, of course, leave out the PVV but that is likely to cause a few problems. Geert Wilders said quite firmly when he was in London that he did not mind leading the largest party in opposition.

AP suggests, on the basis of 93 per cent counted, that
The most likely outcome appears to be a centrist coalition with VVD and Labor combining with two smaller parties on the left, the Green-Left and Democrats-66, who both won 10 seats.

Yet neither the top two parties will be able to form a government without major compromises on ideology.

The VVD has pledged to slash the deficit by cutting government spending and welfare programs while Labor has criticized the program as harmful to the poor.

Labor wants to preserve government social programs, raise taxes on the wealthy and make it easier for immigrants to integrate rather than punishing those that fail.
Although not as outspoken against immigration as Wilders, Rutte has also argued that immigrants who cannot contribute to the Dutch economy should not be allowed to come, and he would ban them from receiving welfare for 10 years after arrival.
In the meantime, the ousted PM, Jan Peter Balkenende stays on as caretaker Prime Minister. What a good thing that this sort of a messy situation cannot happen in Britain. Oh wait ....

UPDATE: The talk is now of a Centre-Right coalition government in the Netherlands, which would included Geert Wilders. We shall see. In the meantime, I have spotted a truly idiotic headline on Sky News website: Far-Right Breakthrough Shocks Netherlands. Remind me, how did that far-right breakthrough happen?

Do I hear the word insane?

For obvious reasons I usually attack left-wing feminist organizations that tend to side with Islamist groups and states in their insane hatred for America, the West in general and Israel. In order to express that hatred they manage to ignore the way women are treated in Islamic societies and even Islamic groups in the West. In other words, they just do not care about Muslim women and their very basic rights to life and liberty.

There are other organizations of that kind around. The Guardian reports that organizers of the Gay Pride parade in Madrid have banned Israeli participants because of the events that surrounded the Gaza flotilla. Needless to say, that means there were no organized groups from the Middle East participating in the march because Israel is the only country in the region where you can have Gay Pride marches, where you do not run the risk of being tortured and murdered if you are openly gay. Yet the Madrid organizers side with the murderers of people like themselves. One can only surmise that they do not care about the fate of gays as long as they are Muslims. Can we call that racist?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Goo-Goo Genocidaires

That is the best expression Walter Russell Meade has come up with: the goo-goo genocidaires or, in other words, the peaceniks, the well-meaning fools who always "understand" the other side however murderous and tyrannical it might be, the people who are indirectly responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths, for labour camps, torture chambers and so on.
The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,’ the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years. Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it. As a result, tens of millions died. Unless this kind of thinking is exposed and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the 21st.
Mind you, like most American adorers of Churchill, he is not exactly right about what was happening in Britain in the thiries (rearmament did go on, you kno, despite the Labour Party and the unions). But you can't argue with this comment:
These days we are pretty good at pillorying the bad guys in America’s history: Tories, slave owners, segregationists, opponents of womens’ right to vote all get nailed in our textbooks. But somehow the creeps and frauds of the peace movement get a free pass. “We are the folk song army,” the satirist Tom Lehrer once wrote, mocking the moral pretensions of ‘peace activists’; “Every one of us cares. We’re all against poverty, war and injustice — unlike the rest of you squares.”

It is just not true, historically speaking, that ‘peace movements’ lead to peace or, for that matter, support policies that will bring peace. More often than not, the opposite is true. Winston Churchill was a grizzled old British imperialist of the worst kind, but if Britain had listened to him instead of to its peace campaigners in the 1930s there most likely would never have been either a World War Two or Cold War. We can be very grateful that Ronald Reagan and the NATO leadership turned a deaf ear to the nuclear freeze movement; had those besotted idealists had their way the Soviet Union and the Cold War might be still with us today — along with nuclear arsenals much larger and much more dangerous than anything the US and Russia now have.

Not so long ago we had a word in our society for tiger-strokers: people who thought that if you soothed the savage passions of irrational dictators by treating them with respect and giving them treats then the dictators would become less dangerous.

We called them ‘appeasers’.
Appeasing Iran, Mr Mead thinks will not give us peace any more than previous appeasements did. In fact, all it is doing is helping to oppress the people of Iran and allowing some nasty bullying in the Middle East.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And who is funding this?

Yesterday I saw a really strange poster in Westminster tube station. There was a picture of a pretty smiling young lady who might have been advertising absolutely anything from car insurance to P&O ferries. Actually, I realized as I went past it, she was advertising Mohammed the twenty-first century PC greenie guy. Yes, that Mohammed who seems to have been transmogrified.

The pretty smiling young lady was telling us (well, me, as nobody else seemed to care) that she cared about the environment and so did Muhammad (that is how we are expected to spell his name now for reasons I find hard to understand). Really? A new one on me. No evidence was provided for this astounding statement.

This is all part of a large poster campaign, launched by an organization called Exploring Islam Foundation and backed by the various taxpayer-funded Muslim organizations. As Douglas Murray tells us in the Telegraph, the posters are full of interesting information none of us ever knew. For instance, who knew that Muhammad believed in women's rights? So says another pretty smiling young lady, this time in a headscarf, who is, apparently a lawyer. Well, if she is a lawyer she ought to know about the importance of evidence but apparently she was not taught that in her law studies.

The Inspired by Muhammad Campaign aims to counteract certain views held by a strangely large section of the population about Islam and Muslims. According to a YouGove poll the site quotes:
■58% associate Islam with extremism
■50% associate Islam with terrorism
■Just 13% associate Islam with peace
■6% associate Islam with justice
■Only 16% think that Islam promotes fairness and equality
■Only 6% believe that Islam promotes active measures to protect the environment
■41% disagree or strongly disagree that Muslims have a positive impact on British society
■69% believe that Islam encourages the repression of women
As Douglas Murray says:
Now how on earth could this be? Surely these figures must demonstrate the existence of an anti-Islamic plot! Or it is it perhaps because Islam is indeed very strongly associated with extremism, violence and the repression of women, as an observer of any Islamic society can see?
Inevitably, one asks oneself who is funding this campaign and could a few cuts be administered to such organizations. For instance, are they paying the market rate for the advertising space they occupy? Who is funding the Foundation behind the campaign? They give no clear responses to that question, providing no direct information anywhere and merely answering in a somewhat off-hand manner a frequently asked question (you bet it is frequently asked):
How is EIF funded?
EIF is a not for profit initiative and is funded by private donations.
That's it? I think I should like to know a little more. These media campaigns are expensive and they are planning many.

This is a little weird

Going through Instapundit I found the following story:
THEY TOLD ME IF WE ELECTED BARACK OBAMA THEY’D BE putting up statues of Stalin around our nation’s capital. And they were right!
When I managed to pick my chin off the floor I followed the link and found a somewhat weird story. It seems that Virginia's monument to D-Day includes a statue of Stalin. D-Day? Whatever one may think of the Soviet Union's and Stalin's own role in the Second World War (or the Great Patriotic War) it had nothing to do with D-Day.

Understandably, people in Bedford, VA were somewhat upset even when they were told that this was to honour the Soviet Union's role in distracting the Nazi forces so the D-Day landing could go ahead. One wonders about the historical knowledge that produces that kind of statement.

The story has now hit Washington DC where various embassies are conveying protests on behalf of people whose families managed to escape from Stalin and his henchmen.

The oddest part of this whole saga is that the plaque under the statue apparently says:
In memory of the tens of millions who died under Stalin's rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the cold war.
Seems a weird way of celebrating all that by putting up a bust of Stalin.

Still keeping that powder dry

George Osborne's first ECOFIN meeting was a huge success - for the colleagues, as this blog recorded it at the time. Don't be unfair, we were all told at the time; there is nothing he can do about those hedge funds as it had all been decided before this government was ever thought of. Hmmm, well, maybe but that argument of not bothering about the past but looking to the future has not been particularly effective as far as the EU is concerned.

Georgy-Porgy, we were told, is keeping his powder dry for other battles that he will be able to win. Battles such as the one about the Budget. Mr Osborne assured us that nothing on earth would make him agree to an arrangement that allowed the Commission (whose own accounts have not been signed off by the EU's Court of Auditors even once) to examine and pass the Budget before it came to the House of Commons. This is how the FT put it last time:
He may be back in Brussels on Friday fighting on another front, this time opposing a suggestion by the European Commission that national budgets be submitted for prior scrutiny by other EU member states. "National parliaments must be paramount," he said. "I'm perfectly happy to discuss details of the Budget with the Commission but only after it has been discussed in parliament."
Even then national parliaments were not exactly paramount as Georgy-Porgy must have realized from the saga of the hedge funds. Still, the question of who decides on the Budget is an important one.

According to Bruno Waterfield in today's Telegraph, that battle, too, has been lost.
Britain was isolated during a meeting of an “economic government taskforce”, chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, the EU President, last night.

Mr Van Rompuy and the European Commission have tabled plans that will require all of Europe’s governments to discuss their budget plans with other EU finance ministers and officials before they presented to national parliaments.

“A government presenting a budget plan with a high deficit would have to justify itself in front of its peers, among finance ministers,” said Mr Van Rompuy.

“There would still be time to adjust plans before the final budget plans are presented.”
Much will be made of the fact that Britain, not being in the euro, escapes certain punitive measures but there is no getting away from the basic fact:
But EU officials and French diplomats have insisted that British Chancellors of the Exchequer will be required to give their budgetary plans to the EU not after they are given to MPs in Westminster, "but before or simultaneously”.
Undoubtedly, this is the parliamentary right that the likes of John Hampden fought for.

Interestingly, the FT seems to have forgotten that previous promise of Mr Osborne's and concentrates on the fact that these "supervisory powers" (of which they seem to approve) will come into play only on a few "strictly defined" occasions. Experience tells one that once power has been given to an organization, those definitions become ever wider.

Meanwhile, much is being made of the ConLibs' latest gimmick: let me ask the public what they would like me to do. Douglas Carswell has already impressed his small band of followers with this (more of that in another posting) and now we have the Chancellor calling "on the public to identify which services should be cut as part of a 'once-in-a-generation' spending review".

First of all, why does Mr Osborne think this is a 'once-in-a-generation' spending review? Has he learnt nothing from the fact that hyperbole of that kind during the electoral campaign produced a turn-out of 65 per cent and a Conservative defeat snatched from the jaws of victory?

Secondly, we elected Mr Osborne and others in order that they take decisions as they see fit. If we do not like those decisions we shall throw him and his little friends out next time. We did not elect them to play stupid games of the kind one can see on reality TV.

Thirdly, how is he going to decide whose suggestions to take? Of course, he is not going to pay a blind bit of attention and how can he? People sending in emotional suggestions, based on no knowledge of data whatsoever are not going to impress the Treasury. So, in the end, the decisions will be taken by the Treasury with the Chancellor agreeing. What is the point of this ridiculous charade?

In any case, what if the Commission and ECOFIN disapproves of the popular suggestions Georgy-Porgy adds to the Budget and tells him to take it back and think again?

Monday, June 7, 2010

This is, indeed, the problem

I have lost count of the times I (or the audience I was part of) was told by people who pretend to understand things that the core problem in the Middle East is Israel's "occupation" of Gaza (now changed to blockade of Gaza) or the building of new settlements in the West Bank or the election of Netanyahu (well, elections count for little among Israel's enemies) or the need to return to the pre-1967 borders (which would give Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan). No, the core problem is none of that. It is really quite simple: the acceptance by the Palestinians, their political leaders and all the surrounding states of Israel's right to exist. That's it: the country's right to exist.

Jay Nordlinger sums it all up very well on The Corner:
It would be helpful to peace in the Middle East if Israel’s enemies could be absolutely sure that Israel is not going anywhere: that it is here to stay. Remember the old gay slogan? “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”? Israel’s enemies need to know something like that about Israel. But as long as they have the feeling that the world — you know: “the world,” as in the New York Times, the U.N., and Bono — is not really committed to the existence of Israel, they will push for Israel’s destruction.

They have never resigned themselves to Israel’s existence; they have never resigned themselves to co-existence. People like Helen Thomas make it easier for them not to resign themselves. People like Thomas give them hope — making them think, “Ah, maybe we can actually get rid of them. Not just extract a better deal, but get rid of them altogether!”
There really is no getting round the core problem. It has to be solved because Mr Nordlinger is right in saying that there will be no peace in the Middle East until Israel's existence is accepted by all, not just Egypt and Jordan.

Of course, shutting Bono up would help as well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I have a feeling we knew this

Megan McArdle reports in The Atlantic that the new Hungarian government has announced that its predecessor cooked the books. I am shocked, I tell you, shocked, particularly when we recall what the last Prime Minister but one said not long before he ceased to occupy that position. It would appear that the then Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, admitted on his blog that, in order to win the election, he and his party lied morning, noon and night to the electorate. So why is it so surprising that the books were also cooked?

Incidentally, Ms McArdle does not mention it, but Hungary is not in the euro. Perhaps she doesn't know.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

UKIP now has two Deputy Leaders

Back to British politics: UKIP has announced that it now has two Deputy Leaders, David Campbell Bannerman (yes, he is a scion of that family but as there is no strong Liberal Party any more, he was a Conservative for a while and has been in UKIP for a number of years) remains in charge of policy but he is joined by Lord Monckton, the scourge of the AGW fanatics. With some exceptions it is the same group of sceptics that opposes both the main secular religions of British politics.

Do read, Lord Monckton's statement of acceptance. It is absolutely hilarious. He indulges in a very fine bit of alliteration, worthy of the late, lamented Leonard Sachs himself:
After 1000 years of inexorable progress towards democracy, in the last 30 years pernicious peculation by Parliament’s political pygmies has thrown Britain’s democracy away.
Ignore the rubbish about "1,000 years of inexorable progress towards democracy". Don't you love the "pernicious peculation by Parliament’s political pygmies"? Incidentally, some of those 30 years, Christopher Monckton was adviser to the Prime Minister, one Margaret Thatcher. It is good to know that they both saw the light eventually.

All the same, one can't help wondering whether Lord Monckton ever bothers to re-read his statements or think them through before he delivers them.

For example, I cannot find the Initiative Referendum Bill on the Parliamentary website. It is possible that they have not put it up yet as the Bill was not tabled till late Friday. I shall, of course, blog about it as soon as I find it.

However, it is a little disturbing to read the following comment:
My first task will be to build on the Initiative Referendum Bill already tabled in the House of Lords by Lord Pearson and Lord Willoughby de Broke by drafting new, radically democratic constitutions for Britain and for Europe.
Britain may or may not need a radical new written constitution. Given the mess that has been made of the previous one, there is a very good argument that there should be a new Bill of Rights, at the very least. Certainly a single constitutional document like the Constitution of the United States may not be a bad idea. But Europe? On what basis does his lordship think that Europe is the sort of single entity that needs a constitution or that the Europeans want UKIP to write one for them?

Meanwhile, one cannot help asking: what of the future? Will Lord Monckton be content to be Deputy Leader for any real length of time?

I wonder why ...

... The Hindu can provide a story, which is reasonably accurate, full of facts and gives both sides while Reuters and AFP merely give propaganda.

Incidentally, I am intrigued by what the White House, which against American opinion is siding with the terrorists on board those ships aid flotilla, thinks it can achieve. According to Reuters and I presume this is accurate:
"We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza," a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said.
Ahem, Hamas? Remember, the organization that took power after a bloody coup directed exclusively at other Palestinians, that continues to oppress the people of Gaza and whose leaders have no problem in using aid that pours into the area for a very pleasant life for themselves? Oh yes, the organization, whose aim it is to destroy Israel because then all the Palestinians' problems will magically vanish.

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent article in the Washington Post that gives some indication (with links) of a good deal of American opinion. (Not the White House, though.) You cannot better his summary of "world opinion":
What's left? Nothing. The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense. Why, just last week, the Obama administration joined the jackals, and reversed four decades of U.S. practice, by signing onto a consensus document that singles out Israel's possession of nuclear weapons -- thus de-legitimizing Israel's very last line of defense: deterrence.

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million -- that number again -- hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists -- Iranian in particular -- openly prepare a more final solution.
Is "world opinion" actually embarrassed by a country that prefers to defend itself and by a people who really mean that trite slogan: Never Again?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Aspects of hypocrisy

In the first place, here is an excellent cartoon by A. F. Branco, which came my way through Facebook, so I am stealing it quite unapologetically.

Secondly, as one reader of this blog pointed out to me, not so long ago (just about a week, in fact), Turkey, whose government (though not, I think, the armed forces) backed that Gaza flotilla and financed one of the boats as well as huffing and puffing with indignation, was censured for its unpleasant habit of imprisoning Kurdish children for alleged terrorist acts.

Now you might argue what business it is of the Council of Europe and of its envoy what Turkey does with its own citizens even if said citizens are still children. I wouldn't myself argue that but other people might. However, there is a corollary: what business is it of Turkey's that Israel refuses to allow people to land arms in Gaza?

Thirdly, a news item from another reader. There is, indeed, another blockade going on in the Middle East, one that is not receiving any attention from the world media. Yemen has been blockading South Yemen for over three weeks. And that, my friends, is a real blockade. No pussyfooting with aid or medication or basic necessities being let through.

The blockade began 17 days ago when the Western Armored Division established new checkpoints on roads and at city entrances preventing the flow of persons and commerce including food, medicine, oil and water. The blockade has cut off Radfan, Yafea, al Dhala, al Melah, al Habeelan, al Shaib, Gahaf, Lazarik, and parts of Shabwah.

The main road between Aden and al Dahlie is closed. Al Habaleen, Lahj was indiscriminately shelled three days ago after two soldiers were killed in an ambush. Another ambush in al Melah killed one soldier, and authorities have accused renegade elements of the southern independence movement with the attacks.

Nearly one thousand have fled Radfan, al Habaleen and al Bilah seeking safety. Like the 250,000 internally displaced by the Sa’ada War, these are mostly women and children. On May 24, a pregnant woman en route to a hospital in Aden was stopped at a military checkpoint and later died in childbirth.

Where, one wonders, is the outrage? The furious demonstrations? The angry denunciations and feeble condemnatory statements? Oh yes, there was one. Yemen condemned Israel for its inhumane treatment of the flotilla denizens.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Chicago way in the White House

Barack Obama, though an outsider, took to the Chicago way like duck to water. He rose through it and used it to trounce all opponents including Hillary Clinton. Then he brought it to the White House. But, asks Michael Barone, who will pay for it?

Living, as we do, in a country where politicians just assume that however hard they hit the wealth-making private sector, there will always be enough money to keep them in office though evidence shows the contrary, we may find it difficult to understand that this is a relatively new idea to Americans.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pro-Israeli demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London

I got there just as the crowd of (I think) a couple of thousand were singing God Save the Queen. As the pictures show among the sea of Israeli flags there were several Union flags as well (and one St George's flag), a point of honour for organizers of pro-Israeli demonstrations.

A very rough estimate of numbers was about a thousand, which is not bad considering the speed with which this was arranged. The pro-Palestinian counter-demo was easily outnumbered and, as I told the Boss, the girls in the pro-Israeli demo were considerably prettier. Actually, the chaps were, on the whole, better looking though that does not necessarily show up on my amateurish photographs.

Once again, praise is due to the police (and the security provided by ZDF, the organizers) who effortlessly kept the two groups apart and under control. Keeping the pro-Israeli demonstrators is never that difficult; the other lot, who does nothing but shouts chants of hatred is something else. One young lady, fully covered but not veiled so we could all see her hate-twisted face, was escorted across the road to Kensington Gardens by three police officers, accompanied by jeers and laughter from the flag-waving crowd.

Many cars, buses and, especially, taxis hooted their support. Taxis were particularly voluble, which means either that the old tradition of Jewish taxi drivers is alive and well or that cabbies are naturally in favour of feisty nations like the Israelis.

The pictures give some idea of what was going on but my favourite is the one that calls for the liberation of Gaza from Hamas. My sentiments exactly.