Monday, September 29, 2008

Sooner or later they will have to talk about it

The Conservatives are very hopeful about winning the next election when they will be in government but not in power. They do not want to talk about that. George Osborne has made his vitally important speech in which he said nothing of any importance, despite the apparent joy with which commenters on ToryBoy forum have greeted it.

There will be no tax cuts because the economy is in a bad state. The last time we were told there would be no tax cuts it was because the economy was supposedly in good shape and the "profits" would be shared out.

Unreformed, wasteful and seriously harmful instiutions like the education system, the NHS and the Department for International Development will carry on squandering vast sums of money and causing untold harm with it. Great. Really makes it worth one's while to vote Conservative.

There is the rather curious proposal to freeze local taxes for two years if the local councils agree but that is likely to go nowhere.

Then there are the proposals to give the Bank of England more powers to step in with regulations for banks earlier. Unfortunately, this reminds one of the partial nationalization of Bradford & Bingley as well as those endless calls to lower VAT on this, that and the other. None of it can be done without the Commission's say-so. We may get that say-so or we may not. But one would have greater faith in Georgie-Porgie as future Chancellor of the Exchequer if he made it clear that he recognized this fact and had some ideas of how to deal with it.

Of course, the Conservative Party is not actually going to discuss the elephant in the room at this Conference. There are fringe meetings on the EU but not one main debate. This means that there will be no discussion (again) about the extent of the EU's competence in such matters as financial rules and immigration. And that means, in turn, that Tories can go on bleating like blessed little baa-lambs that Europe is not an important subject with the electorate.

Before the conference we had Anthony Browne, former Director of Policy Exchange, now Head of Policy to the new Hizonner the Mayor, writing in the Independent (as quoted by Conservative Home) that he would like to see an amnesty for illegal immigrants who are already in London.

Setting aside such questions as to the usefulness of rewarding legal wrong-doing and the obvious problem that London cannot have an amnesty by itself, there is the problem, unrecognized by Mr Browne or various other commentators that Britain has no right to make decisions on these subjects.

Mr Browne tries to circumvent the argument that an amnesty now would bring in ever more illegal immigrants by promising that there would be toughter border controls. Oh yes? Border controls and matters to do with immigration have been passed over to the European Union.

Recently the ECJ ruled in the so-called Metlock case that individual countries could not prevent non-EU nationals from staying on in an EU member state if they married, however hurriedly, one of those nationals. After which no other member state could keep those hurriedly married newly acquired citizens from entering its own territory. What are the Conservatives going to do about that?

Subsequently, as my colleague on EUReferendum wrote, our own Law Lords decided, going beyond theECJ decision but using it as a basis, that no legal or judicial authority had the right to question whether the marriage was actually a valid one or was merely contracted to keep a certain illegal immigrant in an EU member state, possibly with the intention of moving on to another one.

Questioning such matters as marriages contracted deliberately for visa or right-to-stay purposes, presumably even if that involved a forced marriage imposed on some unfortunate girl in this country, would be against the hopeful illegal immigrant's human rights.

How does Mr Browne or, for that matter, the Conservative Party, propose to get round this problem?

European Voice reports that during the recent meeting the EU's interior ministers (to which Britain sent the junior Minister for Immigration, Liam Byrne) there was a rebellion, led by the Danes.
Denmark's interior minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech, said during a meeting the EU's justice and home affairs council on 25 September, that she wanted the EU to find a way to undo the effects of the Metock ruling. The Danish governing coalition includes the fiercely anti-immigrant Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party), which has expressed its strong opposition to the ruling.

According to sources, Ireland, Austria, Germany and the UK all also expressed strong reservations about the judgment, arguing that it could encourage marriages of convenience.
The Commission has promised to evaluate the judgement that went further than Directive 2004/38/EC on which it was supposed to rely. This is not an unusual event for the ECJ or for our own Law Lords. Judges are notorious for their constant efforts to supplant politically accountable bodies. Then again, how accountable are the institutions that bring us those wonderful directives.

The Council of Interior Ministers is promising to return to the subject after the evaluation as this is clearly an issue that might cause them all pain at home. But the decisions will be taken at EU level.

Sooner or later even the Conservatives will have to acknowledge this fact.

For anyone in and around Birmingham

The Bruges Group fringe meeting will take place today at 2.30 in the Birmingham and Midland Institute. As it happens there will be fewer speakers as two of them have withdrawn. Daniel Hannan MEP and Roger Helmer MEP will not now be appearing on the same platform as Nigel Farage MEP and Simon Heffer. I couldn't possibly comment.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Media pluralism?

Time for a mea culpa. I have done nothing about the proposed control of blogs and bloggers by the EU and the European Parliament's rather pathetic statement on the subject. I shall read it and write a proper analysis.

In the meantime, here are a few links. My colleague on EUReferendum wrote about it on Tuesday, though he concentrated a little on the fate of the ex-blog England Expects. We have covered the subject before here.

The EUObserver gives a curiously up-beat report - all is well with the European Parliament and the blogosphere as nobody was ever going to try to control it and, in any case, the suggestion has been defeated.

The best report, so far, is by Charles Crawford. He actually fisks the Toy Parliament's statements and finds many horrifying aspects to it. Way to go. I completely agree with his ridicule of the concept of media pluralism. What on earth does that mean? Clearly it is not the same as freedom of the media as that would imply that the Toy Parliament and the other EU institutions had nothing to do with it. Media pluralism, on the other hand, suggests a structure that is actually defined by the powers that be. Rather like a charter of rights that is graciously awarded to people by the state.

More on the substance of the story as I have time to fisk the relevant documents myself.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The silence is not entirely unproductive

I apologize for the long silence. Many things have caught up with me. One of them was a conference on "Free Speech, Jihad and the Future of Western Civilization" on Monday. Over on EUReferendum2 there is a long posting full of preliminary musings. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ukraine in trouble, Russia worse off

The Ukrainian government collapsed a few days ago and the acrimonious exchanges between the Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and the President Viktor Yushchenko have exceeded the usual nastiness of those frank and open political discussions.

Yushchenko has accused Tymoshenko of betraying Ukraine’s national interests by leading her party to form a new coalition:
According to Yushchenko, the decisions that the parliamentary factions of
the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, the
Party of Regions, and the Communist Party are jointly adopting are aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country with the aim of changing the political system.

"One subject is at work - how to bring the country to instability, create a balance of interests through destabilization, hold early presidential, parliamentary, and local elections... In other words, to establish a political regime in which neither you nor I would want to live," Yuschenko said.
In return Tymoshenko accused the President of madness and telling lies about her own and his political behaviour. This could go on for a long time and probably will.

In the meantime the notion of Ukraine participating in any progress towards membership of NATO will have to be abandoned and the most immediate beneficiary of yet another Ukrainian crisis will be the Kremlin who are happy to stir up trouble in that country.

Moscow Times reports that leaders of Georgia and Ukraine will be heading to the UN this week to ask for support for their membership of NATO. Curiously enough, they do not seem to be all that interested in membership of the EU.

President Saakashvili may have thanked the United States and European countries (not the European Union) for their support but he knows full well that the biggest and, apparently, the weakest of the EU’s member states will not even consider standing up to Russia and are reluctant to consider changing their energy policy in order not to have to rely on Russian oil, gas and coal.

Not that this has helped Russia at all. Their financial crisis started before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and has, so far, been considerably more severe than anything the West has had to put up with.

Still, President Medvedev knows how to deal with internal and external problems. His solution consists of screaming abuse at everyone else and announcing that Russia will delineate its southern Arctic boundary in order to strengthen to country’s position in the world. After all, a country that cannot properly develop its existing resources in Siberia must have more outlets that it cannot develop and from which it has to exclude necessary Western technology, knowledge and capital. Such a good idea.

The United States has announced that Russia’s decision will have no validity in international law.
The State Department statement said the United States has no information about any proposed Russian Arctic legislation. Medvedev's public statements indicated, however, that the effort is to define the Arctic's boundary within the Russian land mass.

"Arctic nations use different criteria for defining the portions of their territory considered to be part of their Arctic regions," the statement said. "The definitions are generally for the purpose of internal administration and have no standing in international law."

It said the Russians are gathering scientific evidence to support their earlier contention that the country's continental shelf reaches the North Pole. A technical commission under the Law of the Sea Convention will recommend based on scientific criteria the disposition of the submission, the statement said.
Well, it works with some people. While Russia has not managed to garner support even in the Central Asian countries, the EU is rushing to the rescue after extremely friendly talks between French Prime Minister François Fillon and former Russian President, now Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The EU will resume talks on the projected partnership if Russia withdraws its troops from Georgia completely, something she is quite reluctant to do. Of course, the two so-called break-away republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, will remain part of Russia.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Whom should we fear more?

In a recent address to the Bruges Group John O'Sullivan, the Executive Editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and author of "The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister" gave an interesting analysis of the dangers freedom and democracy face in the twenty-first century.

Mentioning Robert Kagan's "The Retunr of History and the End of Dreams", an interesting but somewhat inadequate slim tome about which I have written before, O'Sullivan expanded the theme. Kagan's book is about the return of old-fashioned power politics and the negation of the supposed utopia - the new international and transnational political geometry. As I have mentioned before, there seems no evidence that power politics ever went away, but it is possible to argue that it was in abeyance for a few (very few) years.

The first enemy we face is radical Islamism. John O'Sullivan's view and it is hard to argue with it, is that they are not as dangerous as all that. They can cause a great deal of damage but radical Islamists are failing in their main purpose - the establishment of a world-wide caliphate - and are not succeeding in their secondary purposes either. They have not been able to get rid of a single pro-Western government in the Muslim world since 9/11; they are losing in Iraq and not doing terribly well in other countries. Even in Afghanistan the main problems have to do with tribal structures and economic dysfunctionality, the latter of which the West could, should it have the political will, deal with.

The second enemy is, indeed, the strengthening autocracies who are detemined not to emulate the democracies but to go their own way. That would not matter, except for the fact tha their way involves a great deal of enmity towards the democracies and attempts to undermine them.

There are two reasons why I am optimistic about that battle. One is that the rising autocracies, particularly China and Russia are not as strong as many people seem to think. China's internal problems became manifest in the run-up to and during the Olympics and matters have not got much better even though the information is patchy.

Russia may act like a bully but her dependence on Western buyers and investors has been shown up recently and threatening, manipulating and invading other countries is not necessarily the best way of making your own stronger.

The second reason why Russia is less frightening than it used to be and why radical Islamists are an enemy we can deal with is because they cannot produce effective propaganda.

In this connection I should like to quote a passage from a fascinating book by the Hungarian historian Mária Schmidt, "Battle of Wits", about the East European show-trials and the American spy cases, in particular the Hiss case. Trying to analyze why Westerners became Soviet agents, Dr Schmidt writes:
First of all we have to establish that for those who embraced Communism, the Soviet Union stood for the "Fatherland", i.e. the country of their allegiance whose interests they represented. It is worthwhile to keep this fact in mind when we read harshly judgmental sentences about Cold War propaganda.

On the development of this strange attitude le me quote George Orwell, who started out as a left-winger, and whose inner conflicts were partly caused by the fact that he considered the interests of his own country to be above those of the Soviet Union. [Actually, Orwell went on being a left-winger but an anti-Communist one and he had no real inner conflicts about his feelings for his country but let that pass.]

Orwell writes again and again about the peculiar disjunction that characterized the English fellow travellers and Communists. In his essay, Inside the Whale, he explains that as they divest themselves of their former loyalties and superstitions, the Communists fill the gap by making up
their "losses".

And the result of this compensation is "Father, king, leader, hero, saviour - all in one word, Stalin. God - Stalin. The devil - Hitler. Heaven - Moscow. Hell - Berlin. All the gaps were filled up. So, after all, the 'Communism' of the English intellectual is something explicable enough. It is the patriotism of the deracinated."

That same sentiment is voiced by the French Communists' well-known adage: "France is the country where we live; the Soviet Union is our fatherland for which we work."
The reason I am less worried about both radical Islamism and the newly strengthened autocracies is that they cannot produce the propaganda.

Let me qualify that. Radical Islamism does produce propaganda and it is frequently very reminiscent of the Soviet one. However, by definition, it can appeal to a small, though possibly deadly minority. The Soviet vision was for everyone and it severely underplayed the violence involved in achieving it.

When countries are accused of surrendering to Islamic extremists, when officials come up with daft statements about not having piggy banks, when rules are broken in order to accomodate the supposed needs of believing Muslims, it is not ideology or a glorious vision that is at work; it is sheer cowardice or, not infrequently, dislike of one's own culture. These people are deracinated as well but nobody has managed to make up their "losses". [One may also add that most of the time the demands do not come from the Muslim community, very few of whom have succumbed to the extremist virus, whatever other problems there might be with assimilation.]

The authoritarian states may have an ideology for their own people - former President, now Prime Minister Putin has certainly tried to build up one of sovereign democracy a sort of an amalgam of the old Russian autocracy, orthodoxy and nationalism and the more virulent anti-Westernism of the Soviet period. However, almost by definition these are not ideologies that can appeal to many people outside the country concerned.

Some people find the idea of muscular defence of the national interest attractive. But not only it is doubtful that the Chinese, say, or the Russian governments have the real interests of their countries at heart, it is also difficult to applaud the aggressive display of national interest of one's opponents.

It is the third of our enemies, the massed ranks of the transnational organization, led by the UN but with the EU as its most powerful force as its aspiration is actually to statehood, that is dangerous. They can produce an ideology and a vision, tarnished though it may be (though, at least, not insanely murderous), which can make up those "losses".

Belief in European integration as the great panacea may not appeal to as many people as it used to but belief in the rightness of national politics being superseded by a morally superior one of transnational one remains attractive to very many people, who will fight for a completely false vision as the Communists and fellow travellers did for all those decades.

More on those silent NGOs

This blog has commented before on the odd behaviour of feminist organizations and charities for the disabled in connection with the highly personal attacks on Sarah Palin and her family. Now we have another example of odd behaviour.

The latest Obama ad aimed to discredint Senator McCain centres on the fact that he "does not know how to use e-mal". There are, of course, many responses to that. Why should the senator use e-mail when he has staff?

Then again, ever since the 2000 election it has been clear that of all the Republican campaigners it is McCain or his staff who have harnessed the power of the internet more effectively than anyone else. So, who cares whether he can actually post his own e-mails?

There is the unfortunate aspect of the ad that this mocks old people who, supposedly, are not computer literate, a mockery that will turn many people away from Obama. Not only there are very many older people in the United States, many of whom are computer literate but many, perhaps, feel no need for it, but they turn out to vote in larger numbers than do the "yoof".

So where are the charities that represent the elderly? I suppose there might not be any in the US because the Age Concern with its assumption that anyone over 50 is a complete crock and needs permanent help would be unthinkable there. Then again big charities tend to exist whatever the situation is. I mean when was the last time people in their fifties were seriously considered to be old and incapacitated?

The Obama attack turns out to be worse than expected. It seems that the reason McCain finds it hard to use the keyboard is the injuries he received when he was tortured in North Vietnamese captivity. Naturally, those injuries, like war injuries, have become worse as he has grown older and he now finds it hard to type (great achievement that is), comb his hair or tie his shoes.

Instapundit gives a round-up of comments. There are some missing. Why are the charities that "speak" for the disabled not protesting? Come to think of it, why is the EU not tut-tutting?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Political consensus is often wrong

The experts, i.e. the media and political analysts as well as self-appointed know-alls (don't snigger at the back) have maintained the following: Russia is untouchable in her growing economic and political strength; the Russian government is motivated by national interests (this is said sorrowfully by proponents of the new political geometry and gleefully by advocates of national interest); and the United States is the most hated country in the world.

Recent news about Russia's economic situation disproves all of those. As a result of recent economic shenanigans, such as the BP-TNK dispute, now temporarily and unsatisfactorily settled, public attacks on a major steelmaker and, above all, the invasion of Georgia, economic indicators in Russia have been plunging.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal Europe published an article [subscription only, unfortunately], entitled "Investors punish Russia".
Over the past few weeks, Russian share prices have fallen more than 40% from their May highs, battered by fears about Kremlin pressure on comapnies as well as the surge in tensions between Moscow and the West after the war in Georgia.

Russian officials initially brushed off the declines as transitory, driven mainly by weak global markets. But as stock prices and the ruble's exchange rate against the dollar have continued to slide, official concern appears to be growing.
President Medvedev has wavered between blaming the United States because of their mortgage crisis (connection unexplained) and proclaiming the end of the problems and the inevitable climb back by the Russian stock market.

Various analysts remain unconvinced, despite the hasty settlement of the BP-TNK issue, influenced clearly by the economic woes that are hitting Russia.
Many investors and analysts share Mr Medvedev's view that Russian shares are cheap, but they are more cautious about a rebound. "It's probably true, but it might not be until 2011," said Ron Smith, strategist at Alfa Bank in Moscow.

Russia's dollar-denominated RTS index fell 4.4% Wednesday [September 10] to 1334.33 as foreign funds continued to unload Russian shares in what Mr Smith described as "capitulation on the country". [I wonder whether Mr Smith thinks capitulation to the country would be better.]

Mr Medvedev blamed Russia's troubles on the U.S. "Let Americans solve the problems with their mortgage system," he said. "To put it simply, they let almost everyone else down."

But investors and analysts say that while the Russian market's swoon is partly due to the global credit crunch and weak foreign markets, Moscow's behaviour has been a big contributor.
On top of which the inevitable fall in the price of oil, metals and other commodities has shown up Russia's reliance on those exports and the short-sightedness of the leadership that has spent the last few years imposing state control on the companies and using its power as energy supplier to interfere in other countries' affairs instead of diversifying the economy through encouragement of investment.

Associated Press agrees that Russian markets and banks are under pressure. Other news stories say the same.

This posting is not a gloat about Russia doing badly economically though a smug "told you so" is allowed, I believe. As it happens, I do not believe that an economically weak and politically contentious Russia is of any help to her people or the rest of the world. But it should have been clear that former President, now Prime Minister Putin's policies would not strengthen Russia any more than stomping around in the school yard strengthens a bully's personality.

What of those three consensus points? Well, the first one is obvious. It is simply not true that the West can do nothing about Russia outside military intervention, which is clearly a nonsensical idea. A commodity exporter needs its market more than a more diversified economy does. Russia is desperately worried that the West, particularly European countries and even more particularly Germany might start diversifying its energy sources. After all, it cannot drink the gas and oil or eat the coal.

Western investment is equally desperately needed and, unfortunately, being nice to the Kremlin does not help matters, as BP has found. On the other hand, the sight of those investments disappearing has concentrated the collective mind somewhat even if President Medvedev continues to play the strong guy.

Secondly, the notion that the Kremlin and, specifically Prime Minister Putin and his teddy bear, President Medvedev have the country's national interest at heart is nonsense. However popular the Georgian invasion may have been (and it is hard to tell as Russian attention tends to be on other matters in August) the sole winner is the Kremlin and its siloviki who see the benefits for their own power in whipping up fears about non-existent foreign threats.

Thirdly, there is the question of everybody hating the United States and, therefore, vaguely supporting Russia as one who stands up to Uncle Sam. In the first place, public outcry against the invasion of Georgia was louder than the had Russians expected even if some official response was muted. In the second place, nobody hates America enough to stop doing business there, invest there or try to go and work there. We and the Russians can see now what happens when a country really falls out of international favour even if only temporarily.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Energy, foreign policy and that presidential election

Among the various smears and attacks on the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin (discussed at length in this highly entertaining posting) the one that could hurt her and Senator McCain is her apparent lack of experience in foreign policy.

Actually, the Vice President needs to have no preliminary experience in foreign policy as that remains the President's domain with the help or hindrance of the Secretary of State. Furthermore, lack of experience is not something the Democrats should be throwing around too much, given whom they have at the top of their ticket. Obama has realized this and so has, reluctantly, his campaign. His supporters in the MSM and the left-wing blogosphere, on the other hand, live in a bubble of their own and consider everyone outside it to be too stupid for words.

In any case, this is not precisely true. The lady has worked on energy and foreign policy matters, the two being closely intertwined, as the Conservatives are going to find out when they become the government.

Jim Bennett, author of "The Anglosphere Challenge" has an article in today's Daily Telegraph that outlines the story of Sarah Palin, Alaskan oil and the Canadian pipeline. It paints a very different picture of the "hockey mom". Inexperienced she ain't; a walk-over she ain't. But then the Democrats have realized this.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A problem with the Conservative Party

In particular, I am talking about the Conservative Party's attitude to foreign policy. As I pointed out on the other blog, there has been a certain lack of foreign policy ideas coming out either from the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet, especially on the subject of NATO, its expansion and attitudes to Russia. Since then these subjects became more acute because of Russia's invasion of Georgia and the obvious failure of the new political "geometry" to deal with it.

As far as the Conservative Party leadership is concerned, we have had the Shadow Foreign Secretary blathering about hope that all sides of the "dispute" will sit down and discuss matters peacefully and the leader of the party, David Cameron, coming out with forceful statements, going to Georgia for a photo-op, which was appreciated by President Saakashvili, and explaining belatedly that NATO should have been clearer in its statements about Georgia and Ukraine. He was, naturally enough, attacked by various MPs, particularly John Redwood, for being bellicose and unfair to Russia.

Since then David Cameron managed to row back by announcing that, as Tory Diary reported:
We should accept that we cannot impose democracy at the barrel of a gun. We cannot drop democracy from 10,000 feet and we should not try. Put crudely that was what was wrong with the "neo-con" approach and why I am a liberal Conservative not a neo-Conservative.
This is, sadly, unmitigated rubbish. There are no particular rules as to how democracy is arrived at and the methods he dismisses were the very ones that were used to impose democracy on Germany, Austria, Italy and Japan. They seem to have worked quite well and would have worked with other countries such as Hungary if the Soviet Union had not intervened. As one contributor to the discussion points out, those methods did no harm to Serbia in the long run, either.

More to the point, however, is the Boy-King's platitudinous insistence that he is not a "neo-con", an attitude that goes down very well with many of the more vociferous members of the party if the discussions on ToryBoy Forum are anything to go by.

There is an insistent cry that the Conservative Party, when in government (since it is not going to be in power, in view of who legislates for this country), should distance itself from the "neo-cons". In fact, anyone who points out that, no matter who is in government on either side of the Pond, our closest and greatest ally is the United States, like Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home, is immediately described in slightly hysterical tones as being a "neo-con".

The truth is that neither David Cameron nor those members of his party who shriek for the need to abandon the "neo-con" path have the slightest idea what that means or who the "neo-cons" are. It does not mean simply "more conservative" or "aggressively conservative". The people who can be described as "neo-con", such as Richard Perle or Irving Kristol, have usually followed a certain political path that started reasonably far on the left. Therefore, the term cannot seriously be applied to anyone else, even if they think the war in Iraq is a sensible and successful way of dealing with the problem of international jihad and terrorism.

Most certainly it cannot be applied to President Bush or his closest advisers or to John McCain or Sarah Palin, though they all support the war. Senator McCain was one of the first advocates of the now obviously successful surge in Iraq, which is not a shambles or a disaster, despite what numerous Conservatives in Britain maintain.

I shall pass over the implication, too often voiced that through the "neo-cons" the Jewish lobby successfully controls America's foreign policy as there is no evidence for any of that. Support for Israel comes from different sources, which both my colleague and I have discussed at length on EUReferendum.

The trouble from the Conservative Party's point of view is that this is the wrong way of going about the task of developing a foreign policy. Both the leadership and various vociferous members are looking at structures rather than content, the method normally used by the European Union in the furthering of its aims, particularly the development of the common foreign and security policy.

In their obsession with having to distance themselves from the poorly understood and, as it happens, not that important "neo-cons", the Conservatives are losing sight of certain matters. Foreign policy does not emerge from dislike of certain groups and should not grow from the right-wing envy and dislike of the United States. If the Tories think that the US and the rest of the Anglosphere are not this country's natural allies, they should come up with alternative ideas and simply talking vaguely of China and India (an Anglospheric country), as the Shadow Foreign Secretary did in a major speech inFebruary 2007 is not enough.

Furthermore, problems of international relations and crises that occur from time to time, like the one that was precipitated by Russia when it decided to invade Georgia because the latter was not sufficiently enthusiastic about being in the former's sphere of influence, requires an understanding of what is going on and an opinion of what is best for Britain and for the West. If the Conservative Party decides that foreign policy consists of looking at what they think those much-derided and completely unknown "neo-cons" do and then do the opposite, the country under Mr Cameron's government will speedily find itself in the sort of messy, anomalous position it has achieved under Mr Brown.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A crisis for feminists

Naturally enough, I am enthralled by the sight of Governor Sarah Palin, the representative of middle America, so despised by our own clever-dicks and those who take their views from them, storming onto the political arena and cutting a swathe through the enemy.

This is not a blog about American politics, so I shall not discuss the details of her views (though if it is wished by the readers, I can do so, having followed the whole story in the American rather than British media and blogosphere).

One aspect needs to be pointed out though. Sarah Palin is a crisis for modern, left-wing feminists and that applies to Britain and the EU as well. Since John McCain's announcement of his choice, Governor Palin and her entire family have been subjected to a barrage of deeply unpleasant personal attacks, among which the mantra that she should not take on the Vice-Presidency but stay at home and look after her children has been pre-eminent. This came from journalists who rarely see their own children in pursuit of their careers but, more importantly, have praised many a left-wing woman for doing just that: running a career with a family in the background. (And yes, someone needs to ask how many times has Barack Obama has seen his adorable little girls in the last year and a half outside the photo opportunities.)

We have seen no outrage from the feminist organizations. But then we have seen nothing from the feminist organizations on the subject of women's position in Islamic societies, as a random example.

Now that I think of it, we have seen no outrage from the usually vociferous disability lobby at the repeated mantra that she should have aborted her Down's Syndrome baby because such people should not be polluting the earth.

How is this? Well, the obvious explanation is that feminist organizations and the disability lobby, like all such lobbies, see their position on the left, that is on the side of big government with plenty of hand-outs. To this end, the victim mentality has to be encouraged in order to get greater hand-outs.

The EU has, therefore, managed to insert itself into all these discussions by presenting itself as the true defender of women, minorities, disabled people and the old (as the various lobby groups on behalf of the elderly have been silent on the subject of all those insults flung at John McCain because he happens to be a vigorous 72 year old).

The theme is that these people cannot be allowed to lead their own lives but must remain under the aegis of the benign government in a communal society. Anyone who cuts across these ideas is to be thrown to the wolves of the media at their nastiest, be they truly conservative women, disabled people who just want to get on with their lives or right wing members of what might be termed ethnic minority. If these people succeed then the entire extended, government-funded industry of "helping the weak" will collapse. Given the EU's claims of providing better help out of taxpayer funding and employing more people to provide that help to these groups than national governments do, those who show disdain for such "help" are a threat.

Sarah Palin is a threat to the whole cosy consensus.

Who says religion and politics don't mix?

Forum 18, so far as I know the only organization that pays attention to religious persecution in the former Soviet territory, including Russia, reports from the newly "liberated" Abkhazia (in the same way as numerous countries were "liberated" after the Second World War by the benign Soviet Union).
Two monasteries of Georgian Orthodox monks and nuns in the Upper KodoriGorge, captured by Abkhaz forces from Georgian forces in mid-August, arebeing pressured by the Abkhaz Orthodox Church to change their jurisdiction."They must submit to the authority of our Church or leave Abkhazia," thehead of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church, Fr Vissarion Aplia, who visited themonks and nuns within days of the fighting, told Forum 18 News Service.Asked who had given him the right to pressure members of a differentreligious jurisdiction to submit to his authority, Fr Aplia responded angrily: "It's not your business. It's our territory." Abkhaz DeputyForeign Minister Maxim Gvinjia backs the right of the Abkhaz Church toenforce its will on the monks and nuns. "Of course we won't defend theirrights, given the context of current developments," he told Forum 18."Abkhazia is a Christian Orthodox country and the Abkhaz Orthodox Church is the main church." Since the expulsion of a Georgian Orthodox priest inApril, the two monasteries are the only remaining Georgian Orthodoxinstitutions left in Abkhazia.
It is a mistake to think that freedom of speech and of religion and human rights in general are issues that can be separated from political and economic relations between countries. Eventually, I trust, we shall learn this lesson and realize that it is true not just in individual cases but in all of them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Developments in law

Today's newspapers are full of this story. "EU approves proposal to try Britons in their absence in foreign courts". There are one or two problems with the headline. It is not, as yet, the EU that has approved the proposal but merely the European Parliament that is not the legislator in the EU. Of course, one cannot expect Frances Gibb, Legal Editor of the Times, to know such things. I suppose, one ought to be fair, and assume that the headline was created by a sub-editor, except that, judging by the number of typos and other errors I see day in, day out, I am no longer sure newspapers emply such people.

Anyway, the point is that, if the proposal goes through, it "allow citizens to be extradited automatically under fast-track procedures at the request of another European Union country on the basis of a decision by the foreign court". That, of course, was the whole point of the European Arrest Warrant, which was pushed into British law some time ago. Why the wailing and gnashing of teeth now?

In any case, the point of any extradition is that it is done at the request of a country because of a court decision in absentia. If it were not in absentia, there would be no point in asking for extradition. The problem seems to be that this will now extend to all sorts of minor misdemeanours and, one could argue, that people should not commit them in other countries any more than they do in their own. Furthermore, the whole extradition process is to be speeded up. But that, as I said before, was the point of the European Arrest Warrant, supposedly brought in to help us fight terrorism but really aimed at a harmonization of judicial processes.

It is worth pointing out that Britain was one of the countries that sponsored this proposal, so this is not a question of evil foreigners imposing their will on us but the usual rather muddled notion that we can somehow use the EU for our own purposes - get various miscreants back to this country and put them on trial.