Saturday, April 16, 2005

A brief reminder

Courtesy of Tim Ireland:

Drawing the Line

You'll need sound. You'll need to be prepared to end up simultaneously sad, horrified and angry. You'll find it rather more difficult to defend voting for Tony Blair's Labour party on May 5th.

Election blog roundup 5

Here you go - over at the General Election Blog. Lots of good stuff once again, including Chris Lightfoot explaining the methodology behind that political survey which I wrote about while drunk in my last post.

Elsewhere, A Big Stick and a Small Carrot keeps tabs on election posters in Aberdeen. None from the Lib Dems, but Backing Blair is represented.

However, most worrying - from the General Election blog roundup - is this looks at postal voting forms. It looks somewhat like it's possible with these to sign away your vote forever, with nothing more than a signature.

Michael Howard has jumped on the bandwaggon to complain, but after the experience of my relatives and dodgy Conservative proxy voting tactics, his lot are hardly free from dirt on this either.

I mean, if you're old and infirm, and some nice, well-spoken person turn up on your doorstep and offers to cast your vote for you, you may well be tempted to take them up on the offer - especially if they're politely insistent that they're only doing it to be helpful. But what with the whole anonymous ballot thing, how the hell can you check to see if they've voted the way you asked them to?

"It has been noted that, with votes cast in a polling station, there is no ability to prove to a person you have swapped votes with that you have fulfilled your end of the bargain. However, in the case of postal votes, there is the ability to show the ballot paper and so provide proof."
This country could end up a more suspect version of Florida 2000...

Bonus linkage: A ripping to pieces of the UKIP manifesto by an ex-UKIP Eurosceptic:
"UKIP should be thankful that the media do not take them seriously. If this manifesto was given the same scrutiny to which the others have been subjected, the Party would be exposed as the amateurs they really are."
The comments section is also worth a look on that one...

Another political test thing

Via Robin Grant. It's pissing infuriating, but interesting nonetheless: Political Survey 2005.

The first page of results seems moderately accurate for a change. Then it goes apeshit mental. Take it, go on. Post your results in the comments if you like - could be fun.

Here are my results, if you're interested. For people who aren't interested enough to click, apparently I am "likely to be fairly internationalist and rehabilitationist" and "slightly free-market and pro-war". Apart from the very last bit, probably fair enough.

And here's the second page of results - my supposed views on "crime and punishment, Europe, and other transnational issues including immigration and international law", which I dispute utterly. If I'm "very left wing" then what the pissing hell is Marx? "98.3% are significantly to your right"? Fucking bollocks.

This, for the record, seems primarily to be based on the utterly flawed assumption that support of the EU is left-wing. Which, for anyone who knows anything at all about it, it blatantly is not. It has left-wing aspects, certainly, but try asking a French socialist what they reckon and you'll get an entirely different take.

Oh, and can I just point out that on that second page, I DID NOT tell them I intend to vote for the Lib Dems. I said that I was undecided. Which I am - until today I thought I was decided, but I spotted an article written by my current MP which has changed my opinion about them. And yes, I regularly read the Guardian. I also regularly read the Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, Le Monde and The Washington Post. But there wasn't more than one option.

And now page three - my supposed views on "public and private involvement in the economy, international trade, redistributive taxation... and Iraq." Here I end up "slightly right of centre", which seems about right.

(By the way, in case anyone's wondering about the excess swearing - yes, yes I am indeed drunk as I write this. It is, after all, nearly 1am on a Friday night / Saturday morning...)

Friday, April 15, 2005

New EU blog and thoughts on the French referendum

I hadn't spotted EU Rota before, and it seems to be literate, which makes a nice change. It has a couple of interesting posts on the French constitutional referendum, especially here, which makes some points I've been pondering:

Regardless of the outcome on 29 May, the EU will continue to function. The Euro will continue to be the currency of the Eurozone. France will still be at the heart of the EU. Brussels should beware of fearmongering and "setting everyones hair on fire" with dire predictions based on a French "Non."
I'm planning a big post on this when I've got time. Meanwhile, have something I've just written at Commissioner Wallstrom's place (link fixed):

It has to be said, the more I think about this whole situation, the more I reckon that if any country votes "No", France is the ideal choice.

In short: I still think that passing the constitution would be a good thing, despite its flaws, but better a country not previously considered especially Eurosceptic voicing issues than somewhere like Britain, where it will be incredibly easy for the rest of the EU to simply put it down to "typical" British petty nationalism/bloody-mindedness, and thus not feel the need to address the main concerns.

General election blog roundup 4

Up now at the General Election Blog. Good stuff once again - hopefully by the end of next week I'll have shifted some work and have time to do one myself...

Some others which caught my eye today (well, yesterday, now...):

All good stuff.

Oh, and after the recent scare stories about murderous illegal terrorist asylum seekers, might I direct everyone's attention to an old post of mine on why the asylum question is a load of old over-hyped bollocks?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Electoral fraud: not just Labour; not just postal votes

A couple of relatives of mine are Tories from a moderately safe Tory seat, so they thought nothing of this bit of suspect tactics. If this is widespread, however, it could be incredibly dodgy - and a lot tougher to find out about than the postal voting thing...

These relatives of mine are both going to be away for the fortnight before the election, and election day itself, so there is no time for a postal vote form to arrive. The only option - a proxy vote.

Not knowing how proxy votes work, one of them hunted around, and found a handy phone number on some election material, claiming to be an information line about proxy and postal voting. Thinking it to be an independent set up, she was naturally surprised when the voice answered with "Hello, Conservative campaign headquarters?"

Being a good Tory, she carried on anyway, asking for proxy voting advice and how to get the forms, gave her address, and was assured that it would all be arranged. "How very helpful the Conservatives are," she thought to herself.

Two days later, an elderly couple turn up on the doorstep with a couple of proxy voting forms: "Hello, we're Mr and Mrs [X]. We've come over from [the next constituency - held by the Lib Dems] on behalf of the Conservative party. We're your proxy voters - here are your forms."

My female relative, somewhat confused but too polite to say no, invites them in and - again too polite to say no, fills out her form without asking many questions.

The elderly couple then hand her another form for her husband. "But my husband's not here," she says.

"That doesn't matter," they say, "You can fill it out for him."

"But it needs his signature," she says.

"That's OK," they say. "No one ever checks the signatures."

So my relative, blissfully unaware that she is breaking the law, signed away both her and her husband's vote, then hands the papers to a couple of Tory volunteers whom she'd never met before to deal with. Of course, she reckons it's OK because both her and her husband were planning to vote Tory. But - ignoring the fact that the whole thing is dodgy - from conversations with her husband I'm pretty certain that he wasn't planning to vote for the Tories this time anyway, and she didn't think to ask him...

Has anyone else heard about this? It's still fairly early for proxy voting to have kicked off full-on. Is this going to be the latest scam? Let's face it, proxy votes are generally intended to be cast by close friends or relatives, and are all about trusting your proxy voter to vote for the person/party you ask them to. If the parties are using gentle intimidation to get people to hand their votes over to complete strangers, all sorts of electoral fraud could be going on.

Poo your pants, then...

If you've wandered past a newstand at any point today, you can't have missed the rabid scare stories about how damn close we came to being massacred by some evil terrorist. Because, let's face it, nearly being massacred is a far better pre-election tale than "the security services did their job properly - and did so without any need to lock people up without trial or to introduce biometric ID cards".

I'm insanely busy, or I'd rant on about this for longer. Thankfully, the blogger formerly known as Chicken Yoghurt (and now known as Justin McKeating) already has pretty much all the bases covered, and points to Blood and Treasure (which I really must blogroll at some point) and The Register to cover those he only brushed past.

Update: More from Martin Stabe.

General election blog roundup 3

Check it out, there's some good stuff there.

The following are sites I mean to check out, and are here largely for my reference. Ignore them if you like, or check them out and let me know which ones should join the blogroll - along with any other suggestions and stuff, of course... I keep finding decent blogs and then forgetting to bookmark or blogroll them. Very irritating.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Conservative manifesto - a somewhat slapdash exegesis

A couple of days ago Michael Howard laid out his party's masterplan for "The British Dream" (a particularly clunky appropriation of American political terminology).

In fairness, the Conservatives have had the decency to keep their propaganda short, so for once I've actually managed to read the whole thing (700kb pdf download from this link).

The design brief appears to have been, "imagine being hectored by an opinionated and somewhat old-fashioned middle-aged gent over a garden fence in Surbiton". Each policy synopsis begins with a key question setting up the Conservative Party's plans in a manner reminiscent of William Hague's infamous appeal to 'common sense'. These questions often hide ominous implications behind an innocently cartoonish scrawl - for instance, "What's wrong with a little discipline in schools?’, 'I mean, how hard is it to keep a hospital clean?' and 'Why ARE there so many darkies living on my road?' (last one may not be true).

The main thrust appears to be empowerment. The Tories aim to persuade voters that control has been lost in many areas of British life, and that they are the ones to restore it. "...a Conservative Government will tilt the balance of the justice system in favour of the victim... will restore control of our borders... will settle our relationship with the European Union by bringing powers back from Brussels to Britain." (page 3). In addition, "The British people should feel confident that they can get on with their lives while their Government concentrates on tackling the practical problems which matter to them.” (Page 2). This is as close as the document gets to political philosophy – a nominal commitment to small government while not ruling out splashing money on “practical problems”, presumably policing, national security and immigration.

Economic Policy (“My taxes keep going up, but what have we got to show for it?”), gets off to a pedestrian and unconvincing start – apparently Britain is in an advanced state of penury, and the only way to save it is via the perennial gambit of the opposition party: cutting back on 'waste'. Rather optimistically, savings here are predicted to be £12 billion pounds by 2007-8 (Page 3), so it will, of course, be possible to reduce borrowing and lower taxes while spending more on the NHS, the police, roads, defence, pensions and education. Hmmm. “Lower taxes promote enterprise and growth. But they also promote the right values…” (Page 3) A rather nasty euphemism, though later promises to half council tax bills for pensioners and increase pension payments seem rather more attractive. Business will be helped through an opt-out of the EU Social Chapter with its annoying commitment to worker rights).

Education (“What’s wrong with a little discipline in schools?”) It’s the Blimpish nature of those questions that get me – the sort of thing that could be snorted by an indignant major. In fact discipline plays little part in the manifesto beyond a promise to hand power of admissions and expulsion back to headmasters (basically a licence to bounce problem pupils around the area until they end up in a “special Turnaround School” (page 8). sounds like something out of The Invisibles). Schools are also offered more independence in spending their budget, as well as greater funding - £15billion in 2009-10 (see above for economic scepticism).
Interesting suggestions with regard to the scrapping of grade targets and publishing of marks alongside grades are watered down with the vague assurance to root out “political correctness” (page 9). *Sigh*. More promising is an increased commitment to vocational education. Oh and sport, which has of course been in decline over the last eight years especially in terms of Olympic performance (though interestingly, no mention of playing fields – wonder why?)

Health (“I mean, how hard is it to keep a hospital clean?” – Umm, pretty hard I reckon). Ah, once again a promise to reform through slashing bureaucratic waste. Aside from a dedication to increase funding (though not by much) little else here, save a promise to pay half the costs of those who choose to have operations carried out privately (a fairly old Tory idea) and an early mention for immigrants – who will be screened for diseases such as TB (it’ll be just like Godfather II).

Crime (“Put more police on the streets and they’ll catch more criminals it’s not rocket science, is it? [sic]). Ah, the Conservative Party - “Ensuring order is the first priority of government” (Page 15). It’s pretty much what might be expected of a Tory manifesto, though there is one surprise – “We will break the link between drugs and crime by massively expanding treatment programmes, including 25,000 residential rehab places (compared with fewer than 2,500 places today), and by giving all young users of hard drugs a straight choice – effective treatment or appearing in court.” (Page 16) Harshly put, but fairly progressive. Less sensible is the bizarre insistence, brought in a while ago, on a “Homeland Security Minister". What was that about cutting down on waste?

Borders and Immigration (“It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration.” Hmm… isn’t it though?) An overblown reaction to a ‘problem’ that exists only in the minds of leader writers for the Daily Mail.

Parliament (“Why can’t politicians be more accountable?”) Tackles the West Lothian Question head on, “Now that exclusively Scottish matters are decided by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, exclusively English matters should be decided in Westminster without the votes of MPs sitting for Scottish constituencies who are not accountable to English voters.” (Page 22). Also promises a harder attitude to those parties in Northern Ireland linked to paramilitary organisations. A rag-tag section this, also containing plans for Local Government (largely regarding traveller encampments and “less interference from central government”), increased road building and (*groan*) a swing back to rail privatisation (“We will bring stability to the rail network, avoiding further costly and inefficient re-organisation. Successful train operating companies will have their franchises extended…” Page 22). Oh, and the hunting ban would be overturned.

International Affairs (“Obviously the world is more dangerous and we’ve got to keep up our guard.”). Ooh goody, lots of war – a sure-fire vote-winner in the current climate. To be fair, the Conservatives offer better communication with the public over any future wars, but then look how Tony “Freedom of Information Act” Blair has handled things. My personal Occam’s Razor in these cases - don’t trust anyone who promises to boost spending on the army by nearly £3billion. Europe’s only manifesto mention (aside from the Social Chapter withdrawal and some mild comments on the Commons Agricultural Policy) comes here, a vague promise of ‘reform’, and commitment to EU enlargement.

And that, thankfully, is that. It’s unlikely that anyone will be swayed by reading this document, especially as much of it relies on ‘problems’ that are highly subjective in nature, and ‘solutions’ that are equally questionable. Nevertheless it does set the agenda for the next 23 days in Toryland, though the most shocking question it raises is whether such a document is really worth £2.50.

My ignorance and degenerate motivations

Soon I hope to have in my posession a short(ish) manuscript which purports to show "how the inherent rights of the people in the U.K. (which are already constitutionally, legally established) will be annihilated by the proposed d'Estaing constitution for Europe" and, apparently, "After perusing this book, readers are enabled to perceive the ignorance or degenerate motivations of every person who speaks well of the d'Estaing 'constitution'."

So, ignoring the fact that - as I have run over innumerable times before but as so many anti-EU voices still refuse to accept - there are no such things as inherent rights in the UK (also comments section here), I am fascinated to find out how a "thesis" which starts from a position of ignorance (not to mention hyperbole, judging by some of the other claims) will reveal my own. Then again, I suppose my "Europhilia" means I have degenerate motivations, so I doubt you should take me too seriously...

Vaguely related, a couple of weeks ago one of the semi-regular anti-EU commentors on here emailed to ask me why I turned pro. Here's my reply (which was fairly rushed):

Here's the blog's first ever post - it may give you an idea, but probably won't answer all the questions about why I turned pro-EU (and I can only answer for myself - I have no idea why any national politician would want to see closer integration as it can surely only diminish their own power).

The short(ish) answer is that, having got a pretty good grasp of both
British and European history, I am fully aware of how times change -
and of how incredibly closely Britain's fate has been tied to that of the rest of Europe for most of its existence.

Attitudes held 500 years ago are (mostly) no longer valid today; attitudes held today will most likely no longer be valid in 500 years. Add to that the fact that Britain has been in decline for the last century, and I reckon that although we may be able to hack it on our own for the time being, maybe even for another century or two, long term (VERY long term) we'll be better off having a bit of backup.

In other words, I don't want to see Britain jump into a European superstate in the immediate future. If I genuinely thought Britain was capable of coping on her own, I'd say never.

I just reckon that the whole concept of the nation state is heading for a shakeup. The world is globalising, and it makes sense to broaden our horizons - even if that does mean, long term, that Britain itself ends up just part of a greater whole.

After all, Britain itself is made up of innumerable minor kingdoms, from Kent, Wessex and Mercia to the various Welsh principalities and Scotland. In two thousand years' time, I doubt if the then inhabitants of this island will have any real concept of "Britishness", just as I have no concept of being a subject of the kingdom of Sussex, despite having grown up within the borders of that ancient realm. Am I bothered by this? No.

As I say, I'm talking VERY long term best interests - for the people, not the nation - and for the people who will be living when our decisions take effect, not the short-term interests of those of us alive now. The current EU is flawed, and due for a major shake-up – on that we agree. The idea behind it, however, is a sound one - and I have faith (for that is all you can have) that eventually the EU itself will more closely come to resemble something on which we can all agree, and evolve naturally through the years in the best interests of all the people of Europe.

I couldn't care less, long term, about the fate of any of the nation states - they were all formed over time via a combination of mutual agreement and conflict, their borders and institutions are largely arbitrary, and our status as citizens of one or another is purely an accident of birth. In this more civilised age, I'm hoping Europe can unite without the conflict, and that the people of Europe can choose for themselves to live peacefully together. VERY, VERY long term, I'd like to see the entire planet united as one, in some kind of wishy-washy liberal utopia of the likes on display in that Star Trek nonsense. In my lifetime, I'll settle for a gradual decline in unthinking nationalism and growth in close international co-operation.

So, even shorter, I guess I'm some kind of idealist.

Election blog roundup 2

Via the ever-sarcastic Mr. Chicken Yoghurt, the latest roundup from the General Election Blog - including a couple of contributions from this very site.

(Although quite when it became "mighty" I have no idea. That's probably just the sarcasm again. What a c*nt.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Tories and French socialism

The difficulties of a French "No" vote in their upcoming referendum are nicely summarised by Netlex, though sadly in French, and I don't have time to do a full translation. You could try and make do with Babelfish, but it's a bit rubbish. Short(ish) highlight bit:

"si les conservateurs reviennent au pouvoir, ils ont également pris l’engagement d’obtenir la renégociation de leurs engagements européens, tout comme prétendent le faire les partisans du “NON” en cas de victoire, mais pour des raisons exactement inverses. En effet, les conservateurs trouvent que les fameux “droits sociaux” sont un obstacle à la création d’emplois, et qui freinent le développement économique de la Grande-Bretagne.

"[A] 'Conservative Government will negotiate to restore our opt-out from the European Social Chapter and liberate small businesses from job-destroying employment legislation'.

"Voilà qui donne une idée de ce qui attend les Français qui voudront renégocier les dispositions de la Constitution, quand ils vont devoir affronter les Etats qui défendent des positions diamétralement opposées aux leurs.

"..Il est donc très clair qu’en cas de victoire d’un “Non” français, l’Europe va entrer dans une période de crise, et d’instabilité, et ceux qui pensent sans doute sincèrement, mais très naïvement, que les Français seront en mesure d’imposer une “Constitution sociale” à des pays européens dont la majorité n’est pas de Gauche, vont aller de surprises en déconvenues."
Approx paraphrased translation:

If the Tories get in, they've said they'll renegotiate with the EU, just as the [socialist] supporters of a French "No" vote in the upcoming referendum have said - but for precisely the opposite reasons. The Tories see the social rights the EU preserves as holding back the UK's economic growth - and so we see what will await those French who want to renegotiate the constitution to gain more rights from countries whose ruling parties want less.

It is therefore clear that in the event of a "No" vote Europe will enter a period of crisis and instability, and those who wish to impose a "Social Constitution" on countries whose majority is not left [or those who wish to remove rights from countries which are] will be in for a severe disappointment.

Even shorter paraphrased translation: Renegotiation of the constitution may be impossible.

Another post for US politics wonks

Today's the day for confirmation hearings into John Negroponte's nomination as National Intelligence Director(NYTimes). Negroponte has a somewhat chequered past, parlaying a career in the murky pond of Latin American / US relations (El Salvador, Nicaragua) into that of senior ambassador in the Bush administration, firstly to the United Nations (2001-4) and more recently to Iraq.

What will the Senate Select Intelligence Committee have to say about this controversial figure taking the newly created role of keystone for the American Intelligence establishment? Find out on the wonderful US politics channel C-Span, which I have just found out is streamed live over the interweb (though picture quality is rather shaky). The hearings start at 10am Eastern time, which is about 3pm British Summer Time.

Will the EU be Labour's secret weapon?

Thus far, it seems everyone has learned the lessons of the last few elections: bringing up Europe is the kiss of death to any serious British election campaign. Staunchly anti-EU broadsheet the Telegraph has no mention of Europe among its key policy areas; the Daily Mail is more het up about foreigners from further afield with duskier skin tones; the Tories are being careful to avoid it after William Hague's disastrous "Ten days to save the pound" rubbish from 2001; Labour aren't keen to bring it up either thanks to the desire to present a united Blair/Brown front; the Lib Dems know that to appeal to the Tory voters they need to make significant gains they need to downplay their pro-EU stance. Plus, all the parties know that, thanks to Blair's decision to grant a referendum on the EU constitution, nothing they say about Brussels in this campaign matters a jot anyway.

This avoidance of the EU issue is good for all parties - but especially for the Tories. They, after all, have the most to lose from the subject being brought to prominance. Labour can simply brush it off with the usual stuff about "five economic tests" and the upcoming referendum; the Tories risk showing their lack of unity on the issue once again, and yet again losing votes to the single-issue likes of UKIP and Veritas - neither of which have, so far in this election, made any impression whatsoever.

However, if Labour are really as worried as they profess about a potential Tory "back door" victory, they could do a lot worse than work out a way to bring up Europe in the final stages of the campaign.

For the majority of the population, it is something about which they neither know nor care enough to pay attention - but the anti-EU brigade is packed with obsessives, sitting alone, constantly rocking backwards and forwards and muttering to themselves about how Brussels wants to rape and murder their way of life (or something). Get this lot running around the place kicking up a fuss, it is the Tory supporters who are most likely to pay attention - and the Tory leadership, as supposedly the only mainstream Eurosceptic party, which will have to rise to the challenge. Then the Conservatives will either have to join in with UKIP and Kilroy's anti-EU chorus, and risk seeming as rabid as the single-issue parties, or to desperately try and sound reasonable, and risk losing Eurosceptic votes in the process.

Labour, meanwhile, will be able to sit back, safe in the knowledge that their supporters are unlikely ever to go near either Veritas or UKIP. It could even prove yet another opportunity to go on about how great Gordon Brown's stewardship of the economy has been, and how the Iron Chancellor will never allow Britain join the euro until it is indisputably in the national interest - using the Blair/Brown split over the EU as a plus point, where recent efforts have aimed to show them as of a single mind on most issues. This, in turn, could allow Labour to spin this election as having been about the EU after all, and use it as a starting point for campaigns in preparation for the UK's EU presidency later this year and the constitutional referedum vote next autumn.

(A European, writing last week, also has a take on the EU and the election.)

Get your hopes up?

Senator Barack Obama has a new blog! Obama is the junior Senator for Illinois, and many people's pick for a future Democratic presidential candidate.

Election blog roundup 1

The first of a hopefully daily series of blog roundups is up now at the General Election Blog.

As I am currently stupidly overworked I don't know when I'll get around to doing one, but any tips and pointers will be much appreciated by the people who will be compiling the things each day. Seen any good election blogging from whatever political persuasion? Bunk a link over to - cheers!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Andrew Neil has gone mental

Or did I just hallucinate the opening sequence of This Week? Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo dancing and singing like maniacs and the like. Could the programme have finally realised its inherent ridiculousness?

Oh bollocks, now it turns out Benjamin Zephaniah's on it. Christ...

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

New European Times

For those of us who really wish we could all get over this pathetic us vs. them thing that's supposedly been going on with Europe and America over the last few years, this new site, set up by some Daily Kos people, may be worth keeping an eye on:

"New European Times is a small part of the effort to increase dialogue amongst the citizens of the newly enlarged Europe and with those of the United States. It serves as a meeting place to share and exchange information and opinion on developments in our individual countries and to discuss common global issues."
Sounds promising. Until its forums (fora?) get packed out with flamers and morons, that is...

Letter from Afghanistan

Utterly unrelated to the usual Europhobia fare, but Diderot's Lounge has a great series of posts from one of their bloggers from a recent trip to Afghanistan, with more promised, which are well worth a look:

A couple of bits which caught the eye:

"There was a lot of traffic, like in all Afghan cities, and everyone was driving like a maniac, again like everywhere in Afghanistan. The convoy has to stay together, but this one little Corolla insisted on passing and cutting them off. This makes them nervous, and they would pass it and try to get together again. It got between the car behind us and my car (the first one) and then started tail-gaiting us to speed up (it was a part of the road where it couldn’t pass). The guy sitting next to me solved the problem by opening his window and sticking his AK-47 out."

"We then went to the airport to meet the ISAF commander, a nice Turkish guy who showed us his guest book. Hillary Clinton signs like a 7th grader and Condoleezza Rice signed in the wrong place, crossed it out, and then signed again in the right place. We then went to the airport to meet the ISAF commander, a nice Turkish guy who showed us his guest book. Hillary Clinton signs like a 7th grader and Condoleezza Rice signed in the wrong place, crossed it out, and then signed again in the right place. Hamid Karzai has a nice signature. Condoleezza Rice had been there the day before, but I was mad at her for coming to Afghanistan. She made some PR stops just for the day, closed all of the downtown roads and in the city of Kandahar (almost always the worst place), a bomb went off where she was supposed to drive an hour alter. She wasn’t even there, but 5 passers-by were killed and 32 were injured. I hope she thinks her visit was worth it."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Britblogs, France, China and Japan

Tim Worstall's latest Britblog roundup is here for the browsing.

Then, following these posts from the other day, The Observer has an interesting piece on French EU constitution referendum problems.

In other news, the current anti-Japanese protests in China may be worth keeping an eye on (more from the BBC here). After the submarine incident last November and the recent shifts in China towards getting tougher about Taiwan, could the People's Republic be planning something, or is this just yet another example of thuggish nationalism?

For background on the re-writing of Japanese history for school textbooks, which is the supposed cause of the Chinese protests, see here, and for the importance of the Rape of Nanking - or whatever you want to call it - to Sino-Japanese relations, this is a superb primer.

In addition, Publius Pundit has more interesting, if unrelated, stuff on China and the Catholic Church. Who is the unnamed Cardinal? Sounds like the sort of thing you'd get in one of those piss-poor Dan Brown novels...

More on Postal vote fraud

Following the round-up at the General Election Blog, the ongoing worries about the dodginess of the system and my post from the other day asking whether the general election is going to happen thaks to Birmingham Lib Dem councillor John Hemming's calls for a judicial review of voting systems, I've just noticed that Hemming has a blog. On it he summarises his proposals, plus has a take on the MG Rover shambles.

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