Ladies and gentlemen, we have been experiencing technical difficulties
Sorry about that - it seems the blog's been screwed all afternoon. My internet connection vanished in the middle of updating the template, and it seems to have got slightly buggered. I've reverted to an old one temporarily, and normal service will be resumed as soon as I can.
Edit: Bugger. Looks like I've lost trackbacks and a well-ordered archive for a bit, as well as a number of sidebar links. I probably won't be able to fix it until Monday, either. Typical... I hate technology.
EU argument explosion?
Following yesterday's decision by the European Parliament to approve the constitution, things are kicking off a bit (even though the parliament's decision actually means very little with all these referenda coming up).
Blogging Labour MEP Richard Corbett, co-rapporteur for the European Parliament's report on the European Constitution, has done a piece for EU Observer trying to convince Eurosceptics to vote for the constitution.
He points out near the end that "If it fails to be adopted, we can look forward to several years of bitter wrangling on the future structure of the enlarged EU." Personally I reckon that could be a very worthwhile exercise - rushing things through tends to lead to mistakes being made, but at the same time I think the point Mr Corbett is trying to make is the old one about "too many cooks".
Eurosceptic EU Serf - I suspect like many of his ideological kin - remains unconvinced by Corbett's arguments, and provides a handy point-by-point demolition job of the article: "So far each treaty we have signed has been a vehicle for further integration. Why should this document be any different? ...The EU seems to work like a bicycle, it needs to continuously go forward. Perhaps we can all now fall off."
North Sea Diaries notes that a quarter of MEPs voted against, while Martin at Ironies, a Eurosceptic blog I only found out about yesterday, points out that a majority of three countries' MEPs voted against the constitution - Britain, the Czech Republic and Poland. The Financial Times article he links to notes that 40 of 70 British MEPs voted against - where were the rest of them for such an historic vote?
Not constitution-specific, per se, at Straight Banana Toby has, as promised, started a series of articles which should be worth a read: Sentimentality (1), Sentimentality (2) - European Parliament vs House of Commons, and Anti Auntie - a discussion of the perrennial Eurosceptic claim that the BBC is biased in favour of the EU.
Perhaps it is the length of these which has prompted EU Referendum's latest attack on Toby - including outing his real-world identity (bad form - and unecessary really, as it's fairly obvious anyway). I am assuming that this must be an example of how "the Eurosceptic sites are dominating the high ground, displaying wit, humour and depth of coverage that is not matched by the Europhiles", as EU Referendum's Richard North claims. Personally, I'd say it's a rather petty jab combined with a generalisation based on, well, not a lot of anything, really.
As I have pointed out in a comment to Lose the Delusion's post on North's latest snipe, it rather appears from his blogroll that North rarely bothers to read pro-EU blogs other than Straight Banana (which I'd say often displays wit and humour, although what with being run by one chap with a full-time job is unsurprisingly not quite so obsessive with its coverage), so quite where he gets this idea from I have no idea... Perhaps he may wish to elaborate at some point, although frankly I'm not too bothered - although North is evidently intelligent and knows his subject well, he has a tendency not so much to argue as to lecture, not so much to refute other arguments as to simply say "that's wrong". It reminds me a bit of my Dad over Christmas lunch...
However, what North's comments do (sort of) point out is that the eurobloggosphere (certainly the Anglophone part of it) does seem to be somewhat dominated by Eurosceptic voices. Of the fairly regular, non-official pro-EU lot who try and focus on the EU more than anything else, there's really only here, Straight Banana and Lose the Delusion that I'm aware of - and until a few months ago Straight Banana was on its own. Anyone know of any more? Who has North been reading to get such a poor impression of the internet's pro-EU voices?
The anti-EU case and a quick look at the US
Toby at Straight Banana has yet another good post on the pros and cons of the EU, which promises to be the first in a series and kick off a few more of those lovely arguments the bloggosphere so excels at (viz my BNP post down the page). I'll probably weigh in at some point, but am a tad busy at the mo.
There's some other worthwhile reading at Politick.info, a blog linked via that awards thing which sadly doesn't appear to allow linking to specific posts, including a transcript of Howard "Yeeeeeeeaaaaarrrrgh!" Dean's letter announcing his intention to stand for Chairman of the Democrats, which - assuming he can keep himself under control and shake his image of being a tad insane - could be quite promising. Replace the word "Democrat" with "pro-Europeans" and "America" with "the EU", it's a fairly good model for building a good case for the constitution. Likewise, replace the word "Democrat" with "Conservatives", "America" with "Britain", and "states" with "constituencies" and you could have yourself a model for getting the Tories back on track...
I'll post the whole thing in a comment to this post as I haven't got time to find a link.
Vote for me (again)
By the by, Europhobia seems to have put up as Best New Blog in The 3rd Annual Koufax Awards, which are apparently "intended to honor the best of the left of blogtopia". Everyone seems to think I'm a lefty these days - I doubt the Tory MP I used to work for would be too chuffed about that, but still, so be it.
Now how about bunging me a vote to get through to the next round? Ta!
Edit: Just noticed that there are some others there deserving of votes to up the European contingent - Non Tibi Spiro, East Ethnia, Manic Net Preacher (which hasn't updated for a few weeks) and the rather less political Early Modern Notes are all worth a look and all. Plus, for a bit of American politics, you can't go far wrong with Political Strategy. It looks like a strong list - there may be some others worth a look there that I haven't heard of before to boot.
Prince Harry Nazi Nonsesnse
Today The Sun's front page carries a snapshot of Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, dressed up as a Nazi at a fancy dress party. Yep, he's a silly bastard - especially considering his great uncle King Edward VIII's fascist leanings during the 1930s. Reuters has a small reproduction of the Sun's front page, as well as Harry's apology.
A lot of people are - understandably, to an extent - up in arms about the whole thing, but unless and until anything more sinister about the chap's political views surfaces (which in any case, being a royal, don't count), what's the problem? It was a fancy dress party, and apparently all in good fun.
What's the matter with someone dressing up in a singularly unimaginative costume? Khaki shirt, red armband, swastika - it's only one step up from donning a dinner jacket and saying "I came as James Bond".
The self-righteous idiots calling for his impending enrollment in the army to be cancelled seem to be missing the point - this whole stunt shows he's ideal for the armed forces: no imagination, an evident love of uniform, and possibly a nice tendency to follow orders. He's never exactly shown himself to be very bright - perfect officer material!
By the by, I'll just state for the record that I've always been a fan of the royal family. They seem to be fond of a laugh, but always get bollocked when caught having a bit of fun. The fact that the party was a private affair and not intended for public eyes - unlike the stage version of Mel brooks' The Producers which is running every night in the West End of London complete with Nazis singing "Springtime for Hitler" - simply adds to the inanity. It's hardly like he came out in public and did a David Bowie-style Nazi salute (.wmv file) now, is it? (Oh, and for the record, I've always been a Bowie fan and all).
But this is another aspect of the problem I've been blathering on about for the last few days - people who genuinely hold fascist views are increasingly being driven underground. Incidents like this will simply convince them to move further under the radar. That's when they become problematic, because not only is it harder to keep tabs on them, but people forget what true fascists are like. The more we take the piss out of them, as I hope Harry was aiming to do, the less of a danger they become. It's when we forget that true fascists still exist, which this sort of uproar can help us do, that the problems start.
Right, that's quite enough of my attempts to be a Leader writer for a mid-range newspaper. Actual, more important news-related stuff to follow later, I hope.
Update: Recollections of Auschwitz from survivors just to remind everyone what the Nazis were like and to underline that I know it's not really a laughing matter. Not very pleasant reading, but the sort of thing everyone should read to ensure it doesn't happen again.
Mark Thatcher Pleads Guilty
Sir Mark Thatcher, scion of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former British Prime Minister's husband Sir Denis Thatcher, is expected to appear in court in South Africa tomorrow "amid reports of a plea bargain deal" in connection with accusations that he was involved in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea.
The charmless arms dealer and incompetent rallyist had previously insisted on his innocence. This news will surely lead to the same sadness and depression that greeted his mother's resignation.
Fun with the BNP
Sorry for the lack of substantive updates today, people, I've been getting "entertained" by a lovely BNP-supporter in an earlier comments section.
I feel I should probably make clear at this point that I will stick by my principles and not censor any political opinions made in response to postings on this site (unless specifically requested to by the authorities, that is).
I will also - barring a huge flood of spam - continue to allow anonymous comments. I'd say that I'd prefer it - and that it's politer - if you can provide some kind of suggestion as to who you are (if only to make it easier to reply to the right anonymous person), but that's entirely up to you.
Equally, the standard disclaimers apply - Europhobia does not necessarily endorse any of the comments made on this site.
More on ill-judged attempts to ban idiocy
Non Tibi Spiro has an interesting piece on Belgian attempts to curb freedom of speech, following the forced dissollution of the Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Blok back in November. In Belgium, soon "denial of genocide or of crimes against humanity that have been recognized by an international tribunal" will be a criminal offence.
This is insane. If people want to dispute proven facts, let them. It just shows them up for being the idiots they are.
A few months ago, anticipating my rant from last night, Non Tibi Spiro had another good entry on this issue:
"Politicians and media alike should start by addressing the issue in a direct and open way. Forget political correctness for a moment, let the people speak and if they are wrong, PROVE that they are wrong. EXPLAIN to them why they are wrong. Talk FACTS not opinions."
Much of the western political tradition is based on Athenian notions of dialectic, as further clarified and codified by Hegel. Ideally, one person states an opinion, another person states theirs, they debate, and eventually either one side wins or a compromise or alternative solution is reached.
Thesis + Antithesis => synthesis. It's simple. If you ban people you disagree with from presenting their antithesis, a true synthesis can never be reached, as the true range of opinions has not been discussed. In a political system which works through debate, we need all the debates to be out in the open. In a political system which works through debate, the weak arguments will quickly be shown up for what they are.
If we are so certain that the likes of the BNP and other fascist/racist organisations are wrong, why do we need to fear them? For that is the message they take from being banned - the "liberal elites" feel threatened. Let them speak so we can loudly and enthusiastically counter them with rational, sensible fact.
This is not a debate such as that over the EU, where many Eurosceptic claims are entirely sensible and difficult to disprove. It should be the easiest thing in the world to show racism to be stupid and unjustified.
Let them speak. Sooner or later, the facts will speak for themselves
"'Isn't it terrible,' said the man, 'that the government says it's illegal to say anything against the killing of millions of Jews in Auschwitz?' He went on to explain to Gröning how it was 'inconceivable' for so many bodies to have been burned...
"But Gröning knew very well it had happened - for he was posted to Auschwitz in September 1942, as a 22-year-old member of the SS. Almost immediately he witnessed the arrival of Jews at the camp. 'I was standing at the ramp,' he says, 'and my task was to be part of the group supervising the luggage from an incoming transport.' He watched while SS doctors first separated men from women and children, and then selected who was fit to work and who would be gassed immediately. 'Sick people were lifted on to lorries. Red Cross lorries - they [the SS] always tried to create the impression that people had nothing to fear.' Gröning estimates that 80-90% of those on the first transport he witnessed were selected to be murdered at once.
"Later, he witnessed the burning of bodies: 'This comrade said, "Come with me, I'll show you." I was so shocked that I stood at a distance. The fire was flickering up and the kapo [a prisoner in charge of work details] there told me afterwards details of the burning. And it was terribly disgusting - horrendous. He made fun of the fact that when the bodies started burning they obviously developed gases from the lungs and these bodies seemed to jump up, and the sex parts of the men suddenly became erect in a way that he found laughable'...
"'It was a shock that you cannot take in at the first moment,' he says. But once he had been at Auschwitz for several months, the work, he says, had become 'routine'. 'The propaganda had for us such an effect that you assumed that to exterminate them was basically something that happened in war. And, to that extent, a feeling of sympathy or empathy didn't come up.'
"'I would like you to believe me,' he says. 'I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematorium. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened, because I was there.'"
"People dislike Kilroy-Silk for such a great variety of reasons"
Good God. Kilroy had a sizable profile in the New York Times Saturday magazine. Maybe we can get him to piss off to the States and leave us all alone? Senator Kilroy-Silk has a certain ring, don't you think? Maybe he move to Florida and keep his tan on top form?
Thanks to Europhobia's Matt for the link.
West Yorkshire, the BNP and the Conservative Party
Nick Griffin is a cunt and his British National Party is both fascist and racist - please, please, if you live in the Keighley constituency, do not vote for him or them. If you like, support sitting Labour MP Ann Cryer (who has written of her worries for the constituency); if not, vote for ANYONE other than the BNP - yes, even the UKIP (and it's not often you'll catch me condoning that...)
The growing "respectability" of the BNP, and its increasing success in local elections, is one of the prime examples of how these nanny state laws to ban aspects of freedom of speech are damaging our society.
Do not be fooled by claims that the BNP is no longer racist. It is - and strongly so. It may be less violent these days, and its rhetoric may have been toned down, but it is the same organisation at heart as that which sprang out of the neo-Nazi National Front - it just keeps most of its views private now.
By banning them from saying what they truly think, they have been able to pretend that they are nice, fluffy guys who are just a bit concerned about the economic consequences of immigration (as well as make them even more annoyed at the "liberal elite" which prefers to protect filthy foreigners rather than decent British citizens). Not only that, but it means that every time we accuse them of being racist, they can claim that they've seen the error of their ways and (in most cases) rightly point out that there have been no official racist BNP pronouncements in the last few years.
Yes, the laws banning incitement to racial and religious hatred are part of the problem, not the solution. If you allowed Griffin and his ilk to spout their hate-filled crap openly, they would be far easier to show up for what they are.
By all means have laws banning incitement to racial and religious violence, but hatred fosters debate and brings the nutters out in the open where they can be quickly dismissed as the maniacs they are - strong opinions should be encouraged so that they can be proved unfounded. It's when these nutters and their true views are hidden that they pose the biggest threat.
Whose fault is the BNP's increasing popularity? Well, the National Front had its greatest success in the early 1970s (20,000 members by 1974), at a time of increasing Tory weakness; since 1997 the BNP has been gaining ever more support along with that other rather mental right-wing party, UKIP (who are like adorable little kittens compared to the BNP). With Maggie Thatcher's election to the Conservative Party leadership 30 years ago, and the party's subsequent revival, the National Front began to decline.
Yep, this rise in support for the fascist BNP is another result of a weak Conservative party - as have been most of the major ills of the last seven years.
If Labour had a proper opposition they wouldn't have got away with half the crap they've pulled; if Labour had a proper opposition, fringe groups like UKIP and the BNP would barely register in political coverage; if Labour had a proper opposition, we might have avoided the Iraq debacle; if Labour had a proper opposition the pension funds may still be intact; if Labour had a proper opposition habeas corpus may still have been a fundamental right in this country; if Labour had a proper opposition we might only have a few more months of Blair to put up with, rather than a few more years.
Instead, we're stuck with them, and the apathy of the majority towards an uninspiring political class threatens a renewed rise of extremism.
Any true patriot, unlike these self-professed defenders of Britain's heritage, would know that it is the likes of the BNP who are the true threat to this country's values. This country is a nation of mongrels and immigrants, from the Celts via the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and on through the successive waves of immigration of Jews, Dutch, Hugenots, Italians, French, Russians, Germans, Eastern Europeans and people from the Carribean and New Commonwealth nations. It is the intolerant likes of the BNP who have no place here, not those they would have deported.
Read more on how Griffin and the party has managed to cultivate its more reserved image of recent years:
"Griffin was allowed to get away with claiming that the BNP had mellowed and no longer believed in the compulsory deportation of British citizens whose colour he disliked. This is a lie, designed to spin media dolts. Searchlight, the fascist monitoring group, points out that the small print of BNP policy says it believes in first creating an apartheid state which separates races, then encouraging 'voluntary repatriation' and then considering 'forcible repatriation' if non-whites refuse to be driven from their homes."
And more on Griffin's own racism and the rise of British fascism
"During 1996, Griffin joined the BNP... he had written that: 'the electors of Millwall did not back a post modernist rightist party, but what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan 'Defend Rights for Whites' with well-directed boots and fists' ...and helped to write a pamphlet entitled Who Are the Mind-Benders?, which purported to show that important sections of the media were controlled by Jews"
Thus speaks one proud half of a mixed race relationship: The BNP are scum - they should be allowed to say what they really think so we can see them for the scum they truly are.
Yet more ulterior motives and hypocricy with tsunami aid
Am I being too cynical to think that Germany's overwhelming generosity to the tsunami-hit nations might be due to a desire to find an excuse for continuing to flaunt EU budget regulations?
And why has the EU chosen now of all times to raise tarrifs on Thai trade? "[EU Trade Commissioner Peter] Mandelson's office said the legislation will have no impact on Thailand's agriculture sector as it does not commercially produce cumarin and was illegally passing on Chinese product. But the chemical, which smells like freshly mown hay, is found in several Thai plants and is sold as a beauty ingredient locally, as well as being used in a herbal Thai coffee prepared for export." This hardly strikes one as being a good example of long-term aid...
But hey - why do these people need more money anyway? They've got has-been pop star Ricky Martin coming to visit!