Friday, June 24, 2005

General Election Redux

For some people, the General Election went all Return of the King, as the damn thing just refused to end despite all known dictates of good taste and common decency. For some reason though, Nosemonkey gave up his live-blogging in early May, the horrific weed. So here's a quick postscript.

Sir Patrick Cormack, everyone's favourite tory Knight of the Shire (albeit there's only about two of the buggers these days, him and Sir Peter Tapsell) was returned for South Staffordshire with an increased majority. Hurrah.

(In other electoral news, the BNP lost a council seat. Again hurrah, this time for Mr Warren Northover, the Labour candidate. However, there will soon be another bye-election for the same council on 14 July. If you can, why not pop along and help keep the latter-day Mosleyites down?)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Right, that's it. Too hot.

I'm off to Scotland. It's always cold there, so should be much better. I'm going to spend the next few days touring whisky distilleries, getting pissed and staying in castles. My job occasionally has its perks... See you Monday.

Tony Blair: "Ich bin leidenschaftlicher Europäer"

Pffft... German always sounds rude. Tony's a leidenschaftlicher... heh! And it remains nearly as amusing when you find out that translates as "passionate" (according to Babelfish, at any rate - my German's terrible...)

If you can read the linked article, it's basically Blair's pitch to the people of Germany. Sadly, though, it comes across as all "me me me", not even acknowledging that Germany pays more than everyone, and that that's unfair too. That's the way to get 'em onside, Tony old boy. I'd have thought it was obvious.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's on a bit of a rant:
"There is a special European social model to protect that has developed on the continent... Those who want to destroy this model due to national egotism or populist motives do a terrible disservice to the desires and rights of the next generation"
But considering he's gone come Germany's September elections, who cares what someone so out of touch with the next generation thinks? But what of his successor? What Would Angela Merkel Do as Chancellor?

EU Rota - EU Agriculture: Modern and Dynamic - Blair's figures over the CAP have been challenged, now so have Chirac's assertions (with the aid of graphs and everything).

International Herald Tribune - The wages of fundamentalism - Western Europe has overtaken the US in scientific research and how this shows Turkey shouldn't join the EU. Erm... Okaaaay...

The BBC - European press review. Some interesting stuff today, including:
"Austria's Die Presse accuses British Prime Minister Tony Blair of misleading the public in his attack on EU agricultural spending...

"According to the paper, if all public expenditure in the EU is taken into account, agricultural subsidies only account for 1.6%.

"'So what is the point of Blair's naive calculation?' it asks."
Sadly, Blair's calculations are usually anything but naive. He's a devious bastard - which is why he's such a good politician. A cock, a man worthy of little or no respect, but a good politician. (That last sentence was a bit of a tautology, wasn't it?) This is why he may just win the argument this time, despite his figures...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The BBC - Blair says EU rebate 'has to go':
Mr Blair said: "We have made it clear all the way through that we are prepared not just to discuss and negotiate upon, but to recognise that the rebate is an anomaly that has to go, but it has to go in the context of the other anomaly being changed away."
Looks like he's beginning to play this well and win support. Der Spiegel agrees - Blair Leads Calls for EU Reform:
"Sifting through the wreckage of last week's European Union summit in Brussels, German editorialists find two areas of agreement on Tuesday. First, Tony Blair did act like a schmuck. Second, he's totally right about the colossal agricultural budget -- it needs to be axed."

Nosemonkey and Anti-Americanism

Third Avenue has a post at the Sharpener on defining anti-Americanism. Interesting stuff, with some points well-made. TA's main contention is that "anti-Americanism" is actually "anti-Bushism", but that many of Bush's critics have a tendency to refer to "America" rather than "the current US administration", effectively ignoring all the great stuff we can all laud in American society. Which is probably fair, but still it got me pondering (largely because I've been fairly intensively focussed on Europe over the last month or so). Thusly, the result - originally posted there as a comment:

An added problem being, of course, that the prominent “left” in American politics often comes across as little more than cringe-makingly rubbish: Howard “Yeeeargh!” Dean, Michael “selective and dubious facts” Moore, the Jane Fonda/Tim Robbins/Susan Sarandon “Hollywood liberal” axis, and even Chomsky (not for what he himself says, as so few people actually bother to read his often turgid prose, but for how his stuff is so often adopted by sympathetic, more extreme maniacs). None of these are exactly the finest proponents of the “other” America, but they are pretty much the only ones we hear about outside the States.

It’s the Peter Cook thing again - “in America you’ve got the Republicans, who are like the Conservatives, and the Democrats, who are like the Conservatives” (paraphrased, obviously). Although the Clinton era is now looked back on like a Golden Age in certain quarters, many people outside the US who object so much to Bush also objected to Clinton - albeit not quite so passionately. Because, by European standards, Clinton was also on the right.

I do get the impression that, over the last 4/5 years in particular although also under Clinton, there has been on the non-US left an increasing tendency to dismiss the States as a hopeless case, purely because what seems to count as “left” on that side of the Atlantic would be considered at best centrist over here. The constant reminders of the rise of the religious right only compounds the problem, as even when sensible leftish voices are heard they always appear to come primarily from the east coast or California, and so are dismissed as unrepresentative of the average American, who we all, secretly, imagine to be some fat, inbred redneck from the midwest. (It’s probably also worth pointing out that almost all of the people I know of, and I include myself here, who fall into this category would also hold up the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution as two of the greatest political ideals ever created - but these are considered as ideals never delivered upon, a potential never realised.)

Add to that the ridiculousness of a situation where the term “liberal” can be used as an insult and the fact that the only time we really hear of domestic US politics is when something insane happens, often harking back to pre-Civil Rights era politicians who are still knocking around or the neo-cons or similar, and although few people in Europe who express a dislike of America would actually consider themselves “anti-American” rather than merely “anti-Bush”, the longer this situation continues, the more the lines will become blurred.

At the moment, however, the fact that most people think of McCarthyism - and all the rabid witch-hunting imagery that conjures - when they hear the term “anti-American” means that few people accused of such a mentality will even consider for a moment that they could fall into that category, and dismiss such claims as mere lunatic-fringe ranting. Which, despite all I’ve said above, they usually are.

European Democracy - Idea crisis or leadership crisis?:
"the French and Dutch votes were directed against this EU, not against the EU"

Le Figaro - La diplomatie européenne sous tutelle anglo-saxonne: (approx. translated highlights)
"the limit of Europe's credibility in the world has been reached... the sordid battle on the budget between Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair... tarnishes the image of the continent... Exposed to the world, these quarrels between rich countries, fighting in fact for the leadership of Europe, are a sign of the weakness of the entire Union. 'The weakening of Europe will be a slow process, crawling, imperceptible, one which others will recognise before Europeans,' Jean-Claude Juncker declared, despairing, after his failed summit."
Deliberately reminiscent of that Jean Monnet quote the sceptics always like to bandy around about Europe moving ever closer to a superstate, or just a happy coincidence?

The Times - Blair plans to scupper Chirac:
"Under the British plan the Government would agree to scale back its £3 billion-a-year rebate in return for a fundamental review of EU spending in 2008, leading two years later to substantial cuts in the annual €50 billion (£34 billion) Common Agricultural Policy."

The Guardian - Blair says EU reform would cost UK more:
"Tony Blair yesterday confirmed that the European budget deal he sought during Friday night's Brussels summit showdown would have cost Britain more in the long run in exchange for a sweeping reform of EU finances."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Oh no, not Mandelson again...

EU Trade Commissioner and former dodgy UK minister Peter Mandelson has a comment piece in today's Guardian following the budget summit last week.

Sensible point:

"This spells more than an unseemly squabble over money. It goes to the heart of the EU's purpose and direction, because rethinking the budget has to be part of a much wider debate about what Europe is for and where it is going."
Less sensible point:
"I believe profoundly that Europe, having solved the problem of the European civil wars of the 20th century, provides the answer to many challenges of the 21st"
Hurrah - let's echo the controversial trap of suggesting that the EU (which is what I assume Mandy to mean by "Europe" here) has ended wars which caused all that hassle for our dear Communications Commissioner a few weeks back. Let's specify "European civil wars", giving an open goal to critics who will suggest this is a rewriting of history with Europe as one country, whereby WWII was little more than an internal European spat. Let's leave ourselves open to attack with the simple question "what did the EU do to help Yugoslavia?"

Here's a radical idea. Mandy calls for "open debate". Yep - that's great, and certainly needed. But what's needed rather more is for people with power within the EU's structure not to spout off with such a silly collection of nonsensical platitudes and overly generalised musings and assertions.

Note to Peter Mandelson: if you haven't got anything genuinely insightful or useful to add it's really better to just keep your mouth shut. Any prounouncement from any European Commissioner - especially at the moment - will only be misinterpreted or misrepresented, even if it actually does contain anything genuinely useful. Which your comment piece really doesn't.

Note to the Commission: the EU's in a tricky spot at the moment, but it's not as bad as some may claim. The best thing for you lot to do, as representatives of the most resented institution in the whole thing, is stay out of the limelight. This current confusion is not about what the EU wants for itself, but what the national governments want from the EU. Despite the childishness on display last week they're more than capable of working it out by themselves - they don't need any Commissioners to hold their hands. All that will do is add to the irritation.

Yet more "institutionalised leftism" at the BBC - it looks like they've appointed a former chairman of the Young Conservatives as their new Political Editor. Filthy pinko liberals...

Blogger Book Group: Foucault's Pendulum

Today was the date I suggested for my bright idea of blathering on about Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Irritatingly, I'm a lot busier than I thought I'd be and yesterday was so nice and sunny I spent it outside rather than indoor planning anything - and I lent my copy of the book to someone a couple of weeks ago so haven't got it to check stuff with. So I have no idea if this'll work. Still, if you fancy blathering on about Templars, Rosicrucians, and secret plots to take over the world, feel free to chip in. If anyone's still up for it I'll see you in the comments - I imagine this may go on for a few days though...

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Legal Advice - yet more interesting stuff there which would suggest at best dodginess. But no one cares any more. Except the Iraqis, I imagine, and probably the soldiers out there fighting. They probably care quite a bit. Ho-hum.
"For the exercise of the right to self-defence there must be more than “a threat”. There has to be an armed attack actual or imminent. The development or possession of nuclear weapons does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack. During the Cold War, there was certainly a threat in the sense that various states had nuclear weapons which they might, at short notice unleash upon each other. But that did not mean the mere possession of nuclear weapons, or indeed their possession in time of high tension or attempt to obtain them, was sufficient to justify pre-emptive action."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I love summer

Hampstead Heath, 19th June 2005
(But it's too pissing hot.)

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