Friday, January 31, 2014

European Voice debate

European Voice is running an on-line debate on the subject of the far right parties, something that seems to excite the europhiliacs to a far greater extent than is warranted by any real threat. However, anyone can register and take part. Here is the link.
For once, I decided to do just that. This was my first contribution: In the first place, we need to define what is "far right". At present there is a tendency for any party that is opposed to political integration in Europe and greater power passing on to the European Commission and European Parliament, neither of which are accountable to the various peoples of Europe, to be labelled as far right and extremist. That is not so, obviously. So, first a definition.

Next we need to know why the "far right" are more of a danger to anyone than the "far left", whose democratic credentials are just as doubtful. This is the old argument about why Nazism should excoriated but Communism accepted. So if we have a problem with the "far right" do we have a problem with the "far left" or is that the "far left" has no popular support.

And thirdly, we do need to ask ourselves why is it that after all these years of European political integration and endless framework directives, directives, regulations against racism and xenophobia there is a growth in the "far right" parties. Could this be a reaction by the people to the situation in which they feel that so many powers have passed from their own more or less accountable politicians and civil servants to the ones in Brussels, who are completely unaccountable?
We can also have a discussion on the blog.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meanwhile ....

I am in the middle of a long (probably too long) blog about Ukraine that, I suspect, will please no-one. In the meantime, I thought I would point out that the EU has not been completely helpless and inactive. No, indeed, it sent its Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle last week to Kiyiv to meet with President Yanukovich and with Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Batkivshchyna, Vitali Klitchko of Udar, and Oleh Tyahnybok of Svoboda, leaders of the three main opposition parties (there are a few more and therein lies one of the problems). On his return, the Commissioner produced this memo:
I conveyed the deep concerns of the EU about the latest developments and underlined the need to end the cycle of violence, to fight against impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and to continue an inclusive national dialogue to find a way out of the crisis that threatens to further destabilise the country.
Well, that should solve it. More is to come. The egregious and not even very fragrant Cathy Ashton, the EU's High Panjandrum on foreign affairs has been so alarmed by stories that the Ukrainian government is planning a state of emergency that she has pushed her own visit there forward and is going today (Tuesday). No doubt she will know exactly what to say. After all, she managed to put out a statement on the occasion of International Holocaust Memorial Day that somehow did not mention Jews even once. Personally, I think that is stupidity on her and her officials' part but there might be other explanations.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Couldn't have put it better myself

My friend, Jim Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Challenge and co-author of America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America's Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, summed up very what the panacea of taxing the rich to distribute among the poor really means:
Actually, tax the non-connected slightly more prosperous, and give the money to bureaucrats and crony NGOs claiming to be working on behalf of the poor.
We call them quangos rather than NGOs and our political funding rules are different from American ones but those are details compared to the essential point.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

No, this is not going to work

EUObserver is one of several media outlets with a story of the 95 Conservative MPs who have come up with another great whizz:
In the letter, made public on Sunday (12 January), 95 Conservatives (out of a total of 225) stated that the House of Commons should be able to block new EU legislation and repeal existing measures that threaten Britain's "national interests".

A national parliament veto power would allow the UK to "recover control over our borders, to lift EU burdens on business, to regain control over energy policy and to disapply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights".
Dear Members of the House of Commons and others who think this is such a good idea. Please read the Consolidated Treaties and the various bits of legislation that have put those treaties into law in this country. We cannot do this. Unless the treaties are re-written for which we need an IGC and unanimity among the member states or come out of the EU, creating a completely different structure, Parliament cannot decide which parts of EU legislation it accepts. And that does not even deal with the Regulations and Decisions that are directly applicable and never hit Parliament at all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Open Europe speaks

I follow Pawel Swidlicki of Open Europe on Twitter because I like to know what that benighted organization, formerly of the perestroika europhile variety, now openly so, says. Often I get angry enough to reply to his maunderings but the conversation is never very satisfactory. Anyway, I found these two tweets from him today:
Agree we shouldn't leave EU but annoyed by how Clegg misrepresents many outers' argument who want UK to be more globally oriented not less
And two minutes later:
Of course no reason why UK can't be both in EU and more globally orientated but that's a separate argument
This, dear readers, is the opinion of one of the researchers in an organization that claims to be knowledgeable about the EU and to be ... ahem .... eurosceptic. I rest my case.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

In the House of Lords

It is some time since this blog paid any attention to the Upper House but things have been happening there. Today saw and heard the Second Reading of the EU Referendum Bill that had been introduced by James Wharton and cleared the Commons last year. (Here are the various related papers for those who are suckers for punishment or suffer from insomnia.)

There were 75 speakers in the debate and, once it is published in Hansard, I shall try to comment on it. In the meantime, people might like to read the temporarily published text.

There has been a great deal of excitement about the Bill with a good many people not understanding that this is merely the Second Reading in which the Lords make general speeches and points about the piece of legislation before them. They do not divide, as a rule, after the Second Reading but commit the Bill to a Committee, in this case to that of the whole House. Whether they will get through that stage, the Report stage and the Third Reading in time, remains questionable.

The excitement seemed a little misguided. In the first place, the idea of having a referendum before the end of 2017 with the date announced in 2016 seems, all things considered, a daft one. This blog has never been in favour of a premature referendum whose result would probably be the wrong one, that is to stay in. One of the many difficult aspects of the eurosceptic movement is the ease with which people have been diverted from the real issues to the phony one: campaigning for a referendum as if that, in itself, were the purpose.

Nor am I terribly impressed by the snide comments about unelected peers deciding on "democratic measures". Plebiscites are not necessarily democratic and the unelected House of Lords has, on many occasions, done sterling service in controlling the overweening ambitions of the elected (each member by a minority of voters) House of Commons. Most recently, they did so by blocking a particularly noxious aspect to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. (Full debate here.)

Would they have done so if they had been an elected House and thus controlled by the party machinery and the Whips? I think not.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Icelandic miracle

Der Spiegel has an interesting article about the "Icelandic miracle.
What happened in Iceland from 2008 to 2011 is regarded as one of the worst financial crises in history. It seems likely that never before had a country managed to amass such great sums of money per capita, only to lose it again in a short period of time. But Iceland, with a population of just 320,000, has also staged what appears to be the fastest recovery on record. Since 2011, the gross domestic product has been on the rise once again, most recently at 2 percent. What's more, salaries are rising, the national debt is sinking and the government has paid off part of the billions in loans it received in 2008 from the International Monetary Fund ahead of schedule. It's a sign of confidence.
So, asks the journalist, is there anything the rest of us can learn from that tiny country. Well, there is what Paul Krugman called "doing an Iceland".
The rules are as follows: Allow your ailing banks to collapse; devalue your currency if you have one of your own; introduce capital controls; and try to avoid paying back foreign debts.
Is that a good idea?
That may sound like an extremely self-serving recipe -- and it was. Whereas billions of public money was pumped into the banking system in Ireland so that financial institutions could pay back their creditors, Icelanders voted against this route in two separate referenda. They couldn't see why they should pay for the greed of foreign investors who followed the Siren song of high interest rates to the island nation. Jónsson only shakes his head wearily when asked if he has a guilty conscience. He claims to have been one of the few who warned of the currency bubble long before it burst. Now, he is excited about the country's new opportunities, which are remarkably similar to the ones it has always had. "A hard-working populace. A healthy democracy. A high level of education. Tourism. Natural resources, such as wind, hydro-power and geothermal energy. And fisheries. What would we be without the fisheries?"
Well, indeed, what would they do without fisheries or, come to think of it, without their own currency?

ADDENDUM: This is what I was told by an Icelandic friend who is one of the leading opponents of his country joining the EU:
We honoured all the foreign debt we owed. We rejected claims to pay what we believed we did not owe as a nation, the Icesave deposits. As the EFTA Court then later confirmed.

Regarding the recovery we would definitely have had much faster recovery if we would have had another government during that period than the socialist one.

They actively worked against foreign investment and slowed down the economy by raising taxes and making the system all much more complicated including the tax system. Basically what socialists usually do.
Ain't that the truth?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We who have CWM

CWM? I hear you ask. Just what on earth is CWM? Well, I'll tell you as I learned that acronym today from Diplomad 2. It is, dear readers, Cold War Mentality and one that we must not on any account have, because it is boring, out of date, completely wrong in the new world etc etc. Come to think of it, I have been accused of that myself at various times, including once at St Antony's College, Oxford when I expressed the view after the first Afghan revolution in 1978 that the Russians have finally made it to Kabul. You are obsessed with the Soviet Union, I was told by other members of the college, all students of political science and theory. Six weeks later the Soviet troops poured into the country. Did I get an apology? Did I, heck.

Since then this accusation has cropped up in my life as it has in Diplomad's life. As he says:
Well! What an insult! How is it bad to have a "cold war" mentality (CWM)? Would it be an insult to tell somebody, "Sorry, you can't make it here because you can't let go of your anti-fascist mentality." This CWM accusation seems to be a meme (may we still use that word?) of the left.
Indeed. Apparently, he also gets accused of watching FOX News. I am not guilty of that as I live on this side of the Pond and, anyway, I do not own a TV set (something to do with the programmes being rubbish and me not wanting to pay tax to the BBC). But I do sympathize with this outburst:
I watch FOX off and on, as I do the other TV news outlets, and have not found FOX wrong about the major events of the past few years. FOX called it right, for example, on Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the IRS scandals, and, of course, the horrendous disaster known as Obamacare. The FOX pundits, in other words, people who come on expressly to opine, seem to range all over the place, with, admittedly the largest bunch gathering somewhere in the range from establishment GOP to Tea Party. I, however, see lots of "progressives" on FOX who express their leftist opinions and keep coming back on. I have not heard the slime-ball language, gutter-level insults, and race-baiting on FOX that come out on MSNBC from "progressives" such as Bashir, Baldwin, Sharpton, Maddow, and Harris-Perry. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Rupert Murdoch, who similar to another Australian, General Sir John Monash, nearly 100 years ago saved the day for the West.
Familiar, is it not? We of the CWM were right about the Soviet Union and Communism, we were right about Russia under a gang of KGB men, we were right about terrorists who were trained by the KGB and the GRU. Then, of course, there are other matters. Many of us (I have to be careful here) were right about the intentions of the European Union and about the euro both in its political and practical aspects, we were right about widening not being the opposite of deepening but actually two aspects of the same process and I together with Bill Jamieson and the gang at CRCE, who are also possessors of CWM, in particular, were right about membership of the EU being a bad idea for Eastern Europe.

Anyway, there we are. I remain a proud possessor of CWM.

Monday, January 6, 2014

This might sound familiar

I have been re-reading Harold Nicolson's Diaries and Letters and have now reached the third volume, which starts in July 1945 when he lost his parliamentary seat and returned to literary activity as well as the odd lecture here and there.

This is what his son and editor of the three volumes, Nigel Nicolson wrote:
On 25th October [1945] Harold Nicolson flew to Greece to give two lectures in Athens, one on Byron, the other on British democracy. His visit coincided with a new crisis in Greek politics. Greece had had no government since the resignation of Admiral Voulgaris earlier that month, and the Regent, Archbishop Damaskinos, was searching for a new leader to stabilize the country politically and economically. 
 On October 31 Harold Nicolson went to see the Regent.
I find the Regent sitting enormous with his back to the window. We have coffee and cigarettes. After compliments of the highest order the Regent tells me that the Royalists and the Liberals are meeting this afternoon to agree on a joint programme. I ask who would be Prime Minister in such a fusion. He says it would probably be 'a neutral'.I say it would have to be a pretty strong neutral. The Regent says the parties would be so evenly balanced that great strength would not be required. I say the economic situation is far more urgent than the political situation. He makes a helpless gesture indicating 'What would you?'.
On returning to London Nicolson spoke to Hector McNeil, who was then Parliamentary Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. This is his entry of November 6:
I go to see Hector McNeil at the Foreign Office. He is being sent out to Athens to examine the situation and to 'assist Greece in her efforts for reconstruction'. I tell him that the economic situation comes before anything else, and that to my mind no existing Greek politician or group of politicians have the guts or the repute to apply to the situation the drastic remedies which it needs. The only thing to do is to choose the best Government, and then to assist it by appointing British advisers to the Ministries of Finance and Supply.
Some things have changed. Britain, clearly, is no longer in a position to help or advise the Greeks in their choice of government but the EU has tried to do it on our behalf. The Communist party is no longer as strong as it used to be and not as heavily armed. For the following year, 1946, civil war broke out in Greece in real earnest.