Category ►►► Politics - Internationalia
December 24, 2009
Obamunism: Threat... or Menace?
Threatswatch -- which is normally fairly reliable -- is either hyperventilating some very interesting psychedelic vapors... or else they're onto something big. Steve Schippert and Clyde Middleton note that President Barack H. Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) rescinding part of Ronald Reagan's 1983 EO 12425; the original EO restricted the activities of Interpol -- the International Criminal Police Organization -- by denying their premises and property diplomatic immunity from search, from confiscation, and denying them the "inviolability" of their "archives" that would normally be offered to, say, a foreign embassy.
Thus, under the Reagan doctrine, the FBI or other law-enforcement agencies in the United States could enter Interpol property, search Interpol premises or computers, could confiscate -- that is, seize into evidence -- property or records pursuant to a court order, and could copy and read Interpol's communications and data. In other words, Interpol was not treated as a sovereign power; it was answerable to the American justice system.
But Obama just signed, without fanfare, his own EO nullifying the exception found in Reagan's EO... and the intriguing question is -- why?
The Threatswatch Duo believe this "plac[es] INTERPOL above the United States Constitution and beyond the legal reach of our own top law enforcement;" they argue that this is a precursor to the president once again signing the Rome Treaty, enrolling the United States into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court -- just when several European nations are trying to drag American soldiers into the ICC for show trials to express those countries' outrage at America for having the temerity to stand up to Iran, Syria, North Korea, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other such peaceful nation-states and charitable organizations:
The pre-requisite conditions regarding the Iraq withdrawal and the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility closure will continue their course. meanwhile, the next move from President Obama is likely an attempt to dissolve the agreements made between President Bush and other states preventing them from turning over American military forces to the ICC (via INTERPOL) for war crimes or any other prosecutions.
When the paths on the road map converge - Iraq withdrawal, Guantánamo closure, perceived American image improved internationally, and an empowered INTERPOL in the United States - it is probable that President Barack Obama will once again make America a signatory to the International Criminal Court. It will be a move that surrenders American sovereignty to an international body who's INTERPOL enforcement arm has already been elevated above the Constitution and American domestic law enforcement.
But a bit of skepticism is warranted; for one thing, despite its full name, Interpol is only a "police organization" in the sense that the National Crime Information Center is a police organization: Interpol acts to coordinate investigations and criminal databases between countries and provide an "entry point" into the justice system of a host country for foreign powers who might be befuddled by the host's laws and procedures. It has no international agents with powers of arrest; Interpol can only work through local host countries' own police forces.
Sovereign nations have national Interpol "branches" comprising duly appointed law-enforcement officials within that country; the U.S. has one called the National Central Bureau, headquartered in the Justice Department in D.C. Thus there are no Interpol agents, in the sense of arresting authorities; there are only national police officers who carry out investigations and make arrests within the United States (and other countries).
Ed Morrissey (my old blog-boss) at Hot Air rejects the most sweeping claims of Schippert and Middleton but does find Obama's EO granting Interpol immunity suspicious. Responding to a claim from the Threatswatch article:
Property and assets being immune from search and confiscation means precisely that. Wherever they may be in the United States. This could conceivably include human assets – Americans arrested on our soil by INTERPOL officers.
Actually, that last argument overreaches. American law does not consider people as “assets.” It does mean, though, that Interpol officers would have diplomatic immunity for any lawbreaking conducted in the US at a time when Interpol nations (like Italy) have attempted to try American intelligence agents for their work in the war on terror, a rather interesting double standard.
It also appears to mean that Americans who get arrested on the basis of Interpol work cannot get the type of documentation one normally would get in the discovery process, which is a remarkable reversal from Obama’s declared efforts to gain “due process” for terrorists detained at Gitmo. Does the White House intend to treat Americans worse than the terrorists we’ve captured during wartime?
An apologist blogger for the U.N., UN Dispatch (sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, Ted Turner's billion-dollar pro-U.N. advocacy organization), pooh-poohs the very idea that there is anything nefarious about this slight change in Interpol's immunity. But even the authors of UN Dispatch cannot hazard a guess why the Obamacle would have signed such an EO without warning or explanation:
The people actually making the arrests, though, are members of the national law enforcement of the country where the crimes are committed. They are not "Interpol Officers" -- because there is no such thing as an "Interpol Officer." Further, "Interpol" can't arrest an American on American soil, a Canadian on Canadian soil or a Rwandan on a Rwandan soil. Only national law enforcement can do that.
As to the specific reaon [sic] why the Obama administration would decide, last week, to extend to Interpol the same suite of diplomatic privileges that are typically accorded to international organizations? I don't have a good answer for that. My sense is that it probably has something to with the accessibility of Interpol's secure criminal databases (on things like stolen passports and the like). But that is a question that could pretty easily be answered by a phone call to the Justice Department.
Or perhaps not; the current administration is not exactly known for its transparency (or honesty).
I'm somewhere in between UN Dispatch and Threatswatch: I don't think this is a precursor to shoehorning the United States into the ICC or that we'll see mass arrests of former Bush administration officials by Interpol special forces in black helicopters. But on the other hand, when Obama grants special immunities to an international police-coordination organization, does so without warning or explanation, and when even those who habitually support anything done by the U.N. and other international bodies cannot find a "good answer" for why -- my transnational tyranny siren begins to scream like a banshee.
At the very least, we need to hear the story of O.: Why did he do it? What is the upside, what are the risks? Is Morrissey correct that Americans arrested by FBI agents acting as members of the "National Central Bureau" might be denied traditional powers of discovery, such as subpoenaing the investigative officers whose work led to the arrest warrant?
Then, because we cannot believe a single word that the One says (he is an Alinskyite, after all, and lies without compunction or embarassment), we need an independent investigation by the GOP before we have any idea whether this is something to concern us... or just a "pretty innocuous bureaucratic move," as the Ted Turner-backed UN Dispatch would have it.
I realize it's too much to ask; but is it too much to demand?
April 30, 2009
Everybody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
At the end of an AP story on the extraordinary lengths to which the administration of Barack H. Obama is going to urge, cajole, and even bribe our "allies" into accepting released detainees from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility -- so that the president can shut it down and bask in the warm glow of being patted on the head by Europe -- I stumbled across this arresting exchange:
In speaking to reporters Wednesday, [Attorney General Eric] Holder also said it is possible the United States could cooperate with a foreign court's investigation of Bush administration officials.
Holder spoke before the announcement that a Spanish magistrate had opened an investigation of Bush officials on harsh interrogation methods. Holder didn't rule out cooperating in such a probe.
"Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it," Holder said. [Any country? Any country at all can open a "probe" of American officials, and Holder will seriously consider cooperating with it?]
"This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately created court, we would obviously respond to it," he said.
Oh yes, the "rule of law." But whose law? The rule of law in Spain forbids any interrogation of captured unlawful combatants and terrorists without them having an attorney present to object and demand classified intelligence; is that our new policy too? For that matter, the rule of law in Saudi Arabia demands that rape victims be flogged or even stoned to death. Will we "cooperate" on Saudi probes of such promiscuous women here in the United States?
The juxtaposition of Holder's offer of "cooperation" (complicity) and the hoped-for acceptance of Gitmo detainees strongly suggests that a grand bargain may be in the works: European countries may accept releasees in exchange for American recognition of the "universal jurisdiction" of individual courts of "human rights."
Does our looming cooperation imply that we might even look favorably upon a demand that we arrest and extradite named defendants to stand in the dock of such courts? Perhaps suspecting that he had given a bit too obvious a "tell," Holder seemed to retreat slightly (but only slightly):
Pressed on whether that meant the United States would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests and would review any such request to see if the U.S. would comply.
But this is manifestly absurd: If the Attorney General of the United States once accepts the absurdity that a Spanish court and Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, sitting in Spain and operating under Spanish law, actually have jurisdiction over American officials making official policy decisions inside the United States about how American military and intelligence agents can interrogate detainees at an American Marine Corps base inside Cuba... then how can Holder later limit such jurisdiction to "evidentiary requests?"
If Garzón has legal authority to demand we hand over evidence, he also has legal authority to demand we hand over "war criminals," from American military personnel, to John Yoo, to Jay Bybee, to William Haynes, to Douglas Feith, to Alberto Gonzales, to Richard Myers, to Dick Cheney -- even to former President George W. Bush himself.
This is even more outrageous than the suggestion that we prosecute any of these individuals ourselves, or that we form a "truth commission" and haul them before it for public show trials. This is, in essence, outsourcing the prosecution of the previous administration to foreign courts. Call it "extraordinary judicion."
If we ever once accept that a European court -- and not even a recognized "international" one! -- has jurisdiction over actions committed by American officials here in the United States, and can prosecute them for "crimes" that are not even recognized here, then we have crossed a line from which we can never retreat: The United States will cease to be a sovereign power.
If Eric Holder and Barack Obama accept this idea, they will actually have brought about what used to be a paranoid fantasy among the John Birch Society and other lunatics -- "one-world government," run according to European, not American rules.
Even if we do not actually arrest and extradite suspects in a European crimes-against-humanity witch hunt, by acquiescing and even cooperating with such unconstitutional probes of American citizens, we could make it impossible for former Bush-administration officials ever to travel outside the United States: By accepting the jurisdiction of such "world courts" and blessing their proceedings, President Obama signals that he will stand by and do nothing if, say, Dick Cheney or George Bush is seized abroad and sent to some star-chamber tribunal for prosecution. (What would the former president's Secret Service contingent do -- shoot it out with Italian or German police?)
Note in this WaPo article that the administration has already cooperated with Garzón's kangaroo court, albeit with boatloads of plausible deniability:
In Madrid, a Spanish investigating magistrate announced Wednesday that he has opened a wide-ranging criminal investigation into what he called "a systemic plan of torture" at Guantanamo and other places where the U.S. government held terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Judge Baltasar Garzón said his probe was based largely on complaints filed by four former prisoners at Guantanamo who were transferred to Spain. But in court papers, he also said his investigation was prompted by the release of secret U.S. legal opinions authorizing the CIA to subject terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other tactics.
Spain and some other European countries have adopted laws giving themselves authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world. Although it is rare for prosecutors to win such cases, those targeted can face arrest if they travel abroad.
It's possible that Obama, Holder, and everyone else involved in the bizarre decision to release highly classified memos detailing our interrogation techniques into the wide world, were so naive and feckless that they literally had no idea that a Spanish court (and others) would rake over such a treasure-trove of intel for anything they could use against the United States. But it's equally plausible that the administration knew exactly what would eventuate from the release... and they did it anyway, consciously and deliberately. It is, after all, a wonderful way to push forward the criminal prosecution of the former administration without Obama himself, or his deputies, getting blood on their own hands: Garzón is willing (eager!) to do it for them.
But they cannot escape their own complicity so easily. I strongly believe that even most rank and file liberals will rise up in disgust at the idea that any cockamamie court anywhere in the world can announce that it has awarded itself "authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world" -- then demand the arrest and extradition of Americans for actions committed in some third-party country (or in America itself!) that are not crimes here... but are crimes in the country housing the court.
Should we hand over American government officials to sharia courts in Iran, to be prosecuted for the "crime" of insulting Islam? Well, don't we want to improve relations with that country, hoping they wil promise, crescent their hearts, to stop building nuclear bombs? Or should we extradite a president for refusing to join in some EU-enforced policy to cut carbon use by 80%?
Just how far is the Obama administration willing to go to impose "change we can believe in" upon the American people. More to the point, just how far are we willing to let them go?
March 11, 2009
Before Obama Downed Brown, He Harrowed Taro
We have all heard about how our new president, Barack H. Obama, snubbed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, head of the government of our most important ally since the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. But before Obama dissed Brown by refusing to allow him a full press conference or state dinner -- and reciprocating to a beautiful, meaningful gift from Brown by sending an aide to Blockbuster to grab a DVD boxed set in return -- the One perfected his boorishness by treating the prime minister of another ally like the hired help.
In late February, Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan was actually the first foreign dignitary to pay a formal visit to the White House under the Obama administration. The Japanese were very proud of the fact that their PM was the first to meet this popular and historic American president, about whom they had heard so much; Aso himself -- who already had the reputation of being an ignorant, near-illiterate yokel who was out of his depth -- desperately needed the visibility of the summit to burnish his sagging popularity.
Aso's economic reform plan has not gone well in Japan; in fact, it has been a disaster. Every policy he implements, every word he utters, turns him into the butt of jokes on Japanese comedy shows (which can be even ruder than Letterman and Leno here). His approval rating is in single digits in some polls, worse than that of No Mu Hyon's final days as a South Korean President.
So he had pinned his hopes on this meeting with President Obama, Aso's last chance to achieve something, anything, in his administration. But as things turned out, this "summit" produced what Yoshihisa Komori of the Japanese (and Japanese language) Sankei Newspaper calls "absolutely minimum results."
But forget the thin contents of the meeting; Obama's treatment of the prime minister was much worse, according to Komori (I have translated the story into English):
It was unprecedented that there was no state lunch or joint press conference [sound familar?].
There was no private one-on-one meeting, which is what is needed to meet the requirement of a "summit."
Just before the meeting, President Obama talked about the importance of the U.S.-Japan friendship and strengthening the alliance for east-Asian security. However, Mr. Obama did not take any action to publicize the message.
Mr. Obama gave his first speech to Congress that same night. The U.S. government, public, and media attention were all on that speech; they paid little to no attention to the prime minister's visit.
This meeting reminded Japanese of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murakami's visit to the U.S. in January of 1995. However, even during that visit, Murayama was allowed to stay at Blair House, the official guest house. But not Aso; he was forced to stay in a hotel in a Washington DC suburb. The duration of the visit was less than half of Murakami's.
What is it about our over-his-head president and his "Peter Principle" Secretary of State? They kow-tow to our enemies -- and needlessly offend our friends.
What does Obama or the country gain by dissing countries that have traditionally been our strongest and most faithful allies, including Great Britain and Japan? Add to these examples the raft of loudmouthed, thuggish Israel-haters, antisemites, and Jew-baiters named to various critical sub-cabinet level positions in the Obama administration... an almost calculated affront to our closest ally in the most volatile region in the world.
Whether Obama likes it or not, high-level public diplomacy is an integral part of the job of president. If he has the time to party hearty every night in the White House, as we've heard, then couldn't he have squeezed in a state lunch or dinner, maybe even a full press conference? That doesn't seem like too much to ask of President Hope-y Changitude.
October 8, 2008
NATO: Gravitas, or Graveyard?
Frequent commenter K2aggie07 sent us a link to this Stratfor analysis of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), an editorial that is... disheartening, in a sense, but envigorating in another. To boil it down to a nutshell, Dr. George Friedman (founder and CEO of Stratfor) argues that NATO is a spent force, unable even to stand up to Putin's Russia -- let alone the more exotic threats posed by the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.
If this is true (and he surely knows more about it than I), then we are simultaneously weakened by the loss of what has been our most streadfast allied organization, mostly financed by us; yet also liberated by no longer having to kow-tow to the increasingly Eurocentric NATO and NATO-driven policies that are still oriented around fighting the Soviet Union, seventeen years after it ceased to exist.
Think of it; we no longer need waste time, blood, and treasure...
- Soothing ruffled European feathers, pleading with them (our fine feathered friends, not their fine feathers), begging, even bribing them to comply with their most basic obligations;
- Reassuring them that France, Spain, Portugal, and Estonia are every bit as important to the world as the United Kingdom and the United States;
- Holding back on military operations, so that non-American NATO forces can not only keep up but pretend to be in the vanguard;
- Covering for NATO "allies" who show up with strict rules of engagement that, in fact, prohibit any engagement;
- Turning a blind eye to NATO member states which don't even live up to the democratic standard set by a typical American high-school class president's campaign;
- And spending billions of dollars for the enviable privilege of being spat upon by our pals.
And if NATO is truly defunct, what about that other relic of the Cold War, the Untied Nations? Given the presence of Russia and China (not to mention France) as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- thus wielding veto power -- what is the point of belonging? Would Russia, for example, ever allow a U.N. expedition to send a significant military force to Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic nations, a force big enough to seriously impede Russia's own plans to "reintegrate" the "renegade provinces" of the old Evil Empire?
Friedman begins with this story, which I had not seen reported by our "downstream" media (a term I heisted from an advert for the Dennis Miller radio show):
German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to St. Petersburg last week for meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The central question on the table was Germany’s position on NATO expansion, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel made it clear at a joint press conference that Germany would oppose NATO membership for both of these countries, and that it would even oppose placing the countries on the path to membership. Since NATO operates on the basis of consensus, any member nation can effectively block any candidate from NATO membership....
In one sense, Merkel’s reasons for her stance are simple. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. If the supply were cut off, Germany’s situation would be desperate — or at least close enough that the distinction would be academic. Russia might decide it could not afford to cut off natural gas exports, but Merkel is dealing with a fundamental German interest, and risking that for Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO is not something she is prepared to do.
She can’t bank on Russian caution in a matter such as this, particularly when the Russians seem to be in an incautious mood. Germany is, of course, looking to alternative sources of energy for the future, and in five years its dependence on Russia might not be nearly as significant. But five years is a long time to hold your breath, and Germany can’t do it.
But it gets worse. Friedman notes that even giving Georgia or Ukraine NATO membership would be a meaningless gesture, since the alliance hasn't sufficient military power left to stop another Russian invasion of either country. He doesn't mention, but I will, the fact that NATO, the "many-headed one," cannot for that very reason -- too many cooks and crooks -- react quickly enough to a military strike to make a difference, to do anything but be crushed.
(Imagine if, instead of Gen. David Petraeus running the Iraq war, we'd had thirty different defense ministers, each of the same rank and authority as all the rest, who had to get together in a room and come to a consensus how to respond on a day-to-day basis to Iranian Quds forces, rampaging Sadrites, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.)
NATO was established in 1949 specifically to counter the imperial aims of the Soviet Union; its most visible manifestation was the counterforce to the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact in Central Europe, with NATO establishing 180 brigades, a few thousand tanks, and a few thousand ground-support and tactical aircraft in (then) West Germany and other Western states -- where they were badly outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact's own conventional forces. NATO therefore also incorporated nuclear forces, the Soviets followed suit, and the Cold war standoff was born.
But now, NATO hasn't even enough military support from its member countries (other than the U.S. and the U.K.) to hold off a denuded Russia alone. NATO has fallen and can't get up.
So what about the future? How will the new president handle this astonishing change to a status quo that has been around for donkey's years?
John S. McCain will, I believe, accept the inevitable and begin negotiating multiple alliances to replace NATO, perhaps one for each theater of operations. Maybe we could dust off that "organization of democratic states," which others have suggested as an (unworkable) successor to the U.N., and instead recast it as an über-alliance to coordinate and oversee all the smaller alliances for specific strategies. That would mimic on the international stage the vital military reforms pushed though the Pentagon by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
I suspect McCain has already been thinking about this.
I have no idea what would be Barack H. Obama's response to the enfeeblement of NATO; I suppose he would meet without preconditions with the presidents, prime ministers, and assorted supreme leaders of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom... and beg them all to tell him what positions America should assume in the future (the primary position would be "supine"), what world test we must pass, so that the rest of the membership will allow us to stay in NATO... or at least continue to pay NATO's bills, even if they won't allow us to vote anymore.
I suspect this eventuality has never even crossed the One's mind; he may not be sure what NATO is. It's much older than he, so it can't be of much significance.
In any event, the era of NATO is evidently over. The era of the U.N. is on its last legs. The era of flexible, powerful, but temporary alliances rapidly approaches... and our major news organizations are obsessing over Sarah Palin's per diem.
Don't forget to vote.
July 13, 2008
Democrats Might Want to Consider This...
This could very well revive the fortunes of the Democratic Party, as these are their natural constituents:
Dozens of German politicians have tabled [sent to parliament for a vote] a new law to extend voting rights to babies, toddlers, children and teenagers.
The bill, which has won the cross-party backing of some heavyweight German politicians, would wipe away decades of "exclusion" and "discrimination" against minors, according to its supporters.
(Hat tip to Blake Dvorak at RCP)
The proposed law would extend voting rights to every person in Germany, from birth onward. It's championed by a liberal party, the Free Democratic Party; I know you're shocked:
According to the head of the liberal Free Democratic Party traditional coalition partner of Chancellor Merkel's CDU party the constitutional change would enfranchise 14 million people.
"Unfortunately in Germany, 17 per cent of the population, namely the children and adolescent, are excluded from political decision making," said FDP chief Dirk Niebel.
As babies and even children clearly cannot understand what "voting" means, somebody else will have to cast their ballots for them; I'm sure the Free Democratic Party (who is pushing this) will be happy to take on the responsibility of responsibly exercising the proxy of those 14 million new voters ("17 percent of the population"). Naturally, the FDP will only vote the way they children themselves would have voted; they would never take advantage of the situation to pad their own turnout.
This is perfect for the Democratic Party in the United States. No longer would we Republicans be able to say that a vote for us would "put the grownups back in charge!"
Now if only the Democrats could emulate on a nationwide-scale the success they have had in liberal enclaves like Detroit and Boston in getting all those felons back on the rolls, they would never lose another election.
January 24, 2008
Center-Left Italian Government Falls
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi -- the man who beat the conservative Forza Italia and centrist UDC in 2006 by one-tenth of one percent in the vote -- has just lost a vote of confidence and has resigned, taking his brittle coalition government down with him:
Italian Premier Romano Prodi resigned Thursday after his center-left coalition lost a Senate confidence vote, a humiliating end to a 20-month-old government plagued by infighting.
Calling early elections or asking a politician to try to form another government are among President Giorgio Napolitano's options as head of state. Until he decides, Prodi will stay on in a caretaker role.
Elected in April 2006, Prodi has had a shaky government from nearly the start. It lurched toward collapse this week after a small Christian Democrat party, whose votes were vital to his Senate majority, yanked its support in the latest coalition spat.
And speaking of spats...
The government lost 161-156 after a fiery debate during which one senator was spat upon, fainted and had to be carried out on a stretcher.
So... any chance we can we get Silvio Berlusconi back?
September 19, 2006
Hungary for the Truth
Blah, blah, cut through all the nonsense. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany (say that three times fast) was caught on tape copping to members of parliament that he and his coalition have lied to Hungarian voters for four years straight. They lied about the state of the budget and the economy, and they did it to get reelected:
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany defied opposition pressure to quit on Tuesday after anti-government riots he called "the longest and darkest night of the republic."
The worst riots in Hungary since the end of communism followed the leak of a tape on Sunday in which Gyurcsany said he and his Socialist party had lied for four years about Hungary's budget in order to win a general election in April.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Budapest late on Monday, attacking the state television building in clashes which left 150 injured.
They got themselves reelected (barely) back in April. But the tape just surfaced Sunday... inconveniently in the midst of a riot over a completely different subject: the "austerity measures" which Hungary has adopted on orders from the European Union (EU):
Protests had already been planned this week over tough austerity measures imposed following the Socialists' victory in last April's election, which have seen the government's popularity plummet.
The measures, imposed under pressure from Brussels, include higher taxes and benefit cuts, are aimed at reducing Hungary's large public deficit.
But our correspondent says the leaked revelations were, for some of the protesters, the straw that broke the camel's back.
Bottom line: the EU (pronounced "eeeuww!") is like the Butcher in Lewis Carroll's "the Hunting of the Snark":
The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.
The financial mavins in Brussels (well, actually the European Central Bank is in Frankfurt, Germany; but who's counting?) see disasterous economies across the continent... and they have "just one idea" for fixing them:
- Dramatically cut benefits (good idea)
- Dramatically raise taxes (terrible idea that completely undoes idea 1 above)
The double-whammy of benefit cuts (so the huge unemployed underclass has no money to spend) and cranking taxes up on a hydraulic jack (so those few actually earning money don't get to keep any of it) sends economies into a death spiral... or as aviators would say, a flat inverted spin. (In a flat inverted spin, an airplane has the aerodynamics of a dropped brick, which pretty much describes most European economies as well.)
So for four years, Hungary has been struggling to obey the diktat from "Brussels" (I'm not going to get into that geographical argument again), while not actually crippling the economy to the point where the whole country -- parking lots, deserted industries, and the combined valuable blood chemicals of all the citizens -- is worth less than the price of a middling-sized three-bedroom home in Brentwood, California.
Had Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it twice: That alone should encourage the crew") actually gotten on the state-run TV station (before the rioters burned and looted it) and told the truth, the next sounds he would have heard would be ten million Hungarians saying "boil the tar, pluck a goose, and for God's sake, somebody find me a rail!" -- or Hungarian words to like effect.
So guess what? He lied. He told the populace that God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.
He's a Socialist. That's one of their best things.
So what are Hungary's prospects for the future? Not good, but looking somewhat brighter. Reuters:
The protests came two weeks ahead of local elections on October 1 and follow a slump in the ruling Socialist Party's popularity to 25 percent in polls from 40 percent at the election.
The Beeb agrees:
Local elections are scheduled in two weeks' time. The Socialists and their liberal coalition allies are trailing Fidesz in the polls. [Fidesz "is a large centre-right conservative and Christian Democratic political party in Hungary; as of 2006, it is the largest opposition party."]
Here is some more from Wikipedia:
Fidesz gained power in 1998 under leader and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who governed Hungary in coalition with the smaller Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Independent Smallholders' Party.
It lost the 2002 elections to the Hungarian Socialist Party, by 41.07% to the Socialists' 42.05%.
I wonder if the Socialists lied in 2002, too? In any event, after four years of admitted lying, the April, 2006 election was nearly as close as 2002; the Socialists won by 43.21% to Fidesz's 42.03%. (In the second round, Fidesz actually beat the Socialists 46.65% to 46.62%; but they couldn't catch up on seats.)
With the catastrophic plunge in the fortunes of the Socialists since April, the EU austerity package, the riots, and now the revelation of callous, deliberate, almost jubilant lying, I believe if there were new elections anytime soon, the Socialists would be ousted. But the PM is hanging on, supported by the Alliance of Free Democrats, who have 18 seats. The local elections will sting, but they can't alter the makeup of the parliament.
The moral here is threefold:
- People dislike being told that their economic problems are less important than feeding a huge government maw with 31.6% of the gross domestic product (by contrast, the United States budget comprises only 17% of GDP, and even that's too big);
- People really dislike being lied to about basic, critical facts -- like how well the government is handling the economy;
- Socialism sucks.
But we already knew that, didn't we?
Hungary's first step, which Fidesz should start explaining to the Hungarian people, is to move the country back towards American-style capitalism and away from failed European socialism. Hungary will never climb out of its hole until it stops thinking of government as the people's first resort and starts thinking of it as the last resort.
I don't know if this will go down well; but they probably have plenty of time to educate the voters. If Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it thrice: What i tell you three times is true") has his way, the next national election won't be until everyone currently alive in Hungary dies of old age.
Let's hope that Fidesz doesn't simply decide to lie and tell everyone they'll slash taxes and double the choco ration!
September 1, 2006
Should We Withdraw From the Farce of the Geneva Conventions?
Just a thought... I don't believe the United States has ever fought a war, incursion, conflict, police action, or any other military engagement against an enemy that actually obeyed the Geneva-Convention rules of warfare. Not one that I can think of, at least.
It's entirely possible that some enemy of ours was a signatory to them, but that's not the same thing, is it?
The first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864. The major revisions that turned them into the modern version of the Geneva Conventions we all know and love were signed in 1949; and in 1977 and 2005, the three major Protocols were enacted (not all of which we accepted anyway). During that time, we have fought a number of wars and military engagements:
- The American Civil War
- The Spanish-American War
- World War I
- World War II
- The Korean War
- The Vietnam War
- The Bosnia War
- The Kosovo War
- The Afghanistan War
- The Iraq War
Yet in every one of these conflicts, our enemies completely ignored the so-called "rules of war," routinely torturing and murdering American prisoners of war, striking at purely civilian targets, hiding their own military assets among civilian "human shields," and in general, behaving as barbarously (at least!) as did those enemies we and other nations fought before the Geneva Conventions.
Am I wrong? Have I missed some honorable enemy we fought during this period?
If I am correct... then haven't the conventions been a colossal failure from the year dot? Worse -- they serve as a club for the savage to bash the civilized: we follow such rules routinely anyway, but we're constantly being falsely accused by barbarians of violating them, each such accusation resulting in a massive orgy of breast beating, America bashing, and legal investigations that target soldiers simply trying to balance military necessity and the laws of civilized warfare as best they can.
A whole cottage industry of professional international suers and prosecutors has sprung up whose sole occupation seems to be leveling charges against the United States and Israel, while failing even to notice that their own "clients" -- typically Third-World countries with an envious grievance against us -- commit far worse atrocities every day, nakedly and openly, than they accuse us of doing.
Numerous "international courts" do nothing else but hear these charges and accuse the West of perfidy, while patting the hands of Communist and now Moslem butchers.
And all, it seems to me, because we're still signatories to this absurd idea: that a barbarous country like Iraq or Nazi Germany would be restrained from practicing its horrors because they signed a piece of paper.
Decent, civilized nations obey the Geneva Conventions; but they would even in their absence (or to the extent they don't, the paper wouldn't stop them). While the real culprits are no more restrained by the "law of war" than is a serial killer restrained by the fact that murdering and dismembering people is against the law in most states.
So I think maybe it's time for us to leave; I'm at least semi-serious about this.
The conventions are a farce. If we end up going to war with Great Britain or Luxembourg, we can always negotiate a quick side-agreement to abide by those or any other laws of civilized warfare. And if, as is more likely, we go to war with a country like Iran, then our compliance won't make any differenct to its behavior anyway.
Besides, it would be worth formally leaving the treaty, just to hear the squeals of outrage from the American Left... which has never failed to support a tyrannical, anti-American regime (including the Nazis!) merely because the regime fought wars with all the morals and reticence of the Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda-Burundi.
End the Geneva Conventions now! We have nothing to lose but our legal chains.
June 5, 2006
The Lesser Evil In the Andes
In Peru's election runoff yesterday, populist former President Alan García seems to have beaten Communist rebel leader and Hugo Chávez accolyte Ollanta Humala:
With 77 percent of the vote tabulated, electoral authorities said Mr. García had captured more than 55 percent of the vote versus 44 percent for his opponent, Ollanta Humala, an upstart nationalist who promised to redistribute the country's wealth.
(This margin of victory will surely narrow as more of Peru's rural districts, Humala's stronghold, are counted.)
The previous term of Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez, 1985-1990, was marred by corruption and economic collapse:
Voters had seen the race as an unappealing choice between a former president whose first administration had been an unmitigated disaster and a former army officer who once led a military rebellion. But voters saw Mr. García as the lesser of two evils. "It is sad, but what can we do?" said Víctor Rondoy, 48, an electrical engineer, moments after voting for Mr. García. "At least García will be more democratic."
Mr. García's return is one of the most startling in a region where former presidents, even those who left in disgrace, have returned to power years later. His rule from 1985 to 1990 was characterized by four-digit inflation, food scarcity, rampant corruption and growing violence by the rebel group Shining Path.
Wikipedia is rather more specific:
Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez (born May 23, 1949 in Lima) was President of Peru from 1985 to 1990. His presidency was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, social turmoil, human rights violations, increasing violence, increase of blackouts in Lima, international financial isolation, a failed attempt to confiscate the 2 main banks and economic downturn.
Humala was seen as being in thrall to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, whose stolen recall election was tainted by fraud. This was on the minds of Peruvian voters Sunday, and many appeared to consider García the lesser evil.
Big Lizards has been following the Peruvian election, even though our preferred candidate, conservative Lourdes Flores Nano, came in a very close third in the first round of voting in April. She had been leading the pack before the April 9th round of voting; but when Humala came out of nowhere to take first place on April 9th with 30% of the vote, Flores and García found themselves neck and neck (alas, this quotation is from an AP story that is no longer available):
Humala had 27.3 percent of the vote with 46.2 percent of the ballots counted. Pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores had 26.5 and Alan Garcia, a center-leftist ex-president, got 26.1.
But Humala had a wider lead in an unofficial voting sample more representative of the nation. Those results, from the widely respected election watchdog Transparencia, showed him with 29.9 percent of the vote, while Flores and Garcia had 24.4 percent and 24.3 percent respectively. The projection, based on 928 voting tables, had an error margin of less than 1 percentage point.
Sadly, center-right Flores was edged out in the end by center-left García; but at least García was able to beat Humala, the "Chávez-lite" of Peru, which isn't chopped liver.
Flores is only 46 years old, and she can certainly run for the presidency again in 2011 (she will be 51) -- Peru's 1993 constitution forbids incumbent presidents from running for re-election, so it may well come down to Flores vs. Humala... a contest we're very hopeful Flores will win.
The question is whether, in the meantime, García will institute real capitalism in Peru, or give in to his old "demons" of corruption, nationalization of banks, and printing money like the New York Times prints newspapers.
April 14, 2006
The Party's Over, Start Dressing For the Next One
With today's announcement by Italy's Interior Ministry that inexplicably lowers the number of disputed ballots in the recent election from 82,850 to 5,266, there is now virtually no chance that the preliminary election results can be overturned... although lame-duck Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still fighting.
The ministry has no explanation for why they initially gave such a higher number or what made them change the number so drastically:
Earlier this week, the ministry announced there were 82,850 contested ballots in both houses of Parliament — a number that left some room, if not a lot, for Mr. Berlusconi's claim that he won.
In the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, the two men were separated by roughly 25,000 votes, and the initial interior numbers showed 43,028 contested ballots.
But today, the Interior Ministry said the actual number of disputed ballots in the Chamber of Deputies was only 2,131 — a number that could in no way give a victory to Mr. Berlusconi. In the upper house, the Senate, the number was 3,135, a number that also could not change Mr. Prodi's provisional victory.
A statement by the ministry blamed an unexplained "material error" for the incorrect original numbers.
Berlusconi is not suffering defeat gladly, however; he is mulling ordering a massive recount of all one million or so ballots "that were either blank or disqualified." In addition, Mirko Termaglia, his Minister for Italians Living Abroad, has complained about "irregularities" in the ballots of those voters so significant that he wants a revote among them.
While I admire a fighting spirit, there comes a time when the battle becomes more damaging to the country than accepting the vote, stepping down, and fighting to force quick elections again; Italy is a parliamentary democracy, and it's an accepted part of the system to try to force a vote of confidence to "bring down" a government.
It is not accepted, contrariwise, to refuse to accept the results of an election. (Or to take the Al Gore route and try to sue your way into another term... which so far, nobody has suggested, thank goodness.)
Much as I prefer Silvio Berlusconi to fellow-traveler Romano Prodi, who will doubtless severely damage Italy's economy by kowtowing to the two distinct Communist Parties in his Union coalition, it's time for Berlusconi to stop fighting and start campaigning.
Fight on from the loyal opposition; the Union is fragile and likely will not last. Prodi will certainly will lose the people's confidence quickly, as they realize that the Communists, Socialists, and other assorted fruits, nuts, and flakes in his leftist coalition will never allow him to make the economic reforms that he promised during the election.
But the proper place to carry out that fight is from the minority, not by brushing aside the election itself... which is more appropriate to a Latin American banana-republic than a country in the heart of Western Europe.
There are signs that light is beginning to dawn:
Another possibility is to create a question of legitimacy that could make it even more difficult for Mr. Prodi, who holds only a slim majority in Parliament anyway, to govern.
On Thursday, Roberto Maroni, the welfare minister, suggested as much when he dared Mr. Prodi's coalition "to govern if it can. Our aim is devise means by which to ensure that such a government falls as soon as possible."
Berlusconi is losing allies just at the time when he needs to cultivate them. The Prodi government could fall within months, with such a closely divided electorate. But too stubborn a refusal to accept electoral chastisement can end up doing to Silvio Berlusconi what precipitously pulling out of Ariel Sharon's cabinet did to Benjamin Netanyahu: destroy his reputation, torpedo his political career, and leave him ballot-box poison.
Silvio Berlusconi... it's time for you to go.
April 12, 2006
Something Added to This Picture
This bizarre Italian election story just got bizarrer.
In the New York Times' story about the recount underway in the Italian elections -- where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (our best pal in continental Europe) is clinging to power by a thread that may snap at any moment -- the Times glosses over a rather startling piece of news.
First, here is what Reuters said yesterday:
Among the possible problems were 43,028 "disputed" votes in the lower house count that official scrutineers had decided to annul despite their doubts as to whether the ballots had really had been spoilt or not.
Berlusconi said he wanted those disputed votes reviewed.
As well he should. But the job just quietly got bigger. Here is today's Times:
Today, the Italian Interior Ministry said that a re-examination had begun on about 80,000 disputed ballots, the first step toward a final result that may soon clarify a troubling moment of uncertainty here.
How did 40,028 turn into "about 80,000" -- in a single day? And doesn't this merit some notice, maybe even an explanation?
This is really starting to get interesting. But if Warren Christopher and his entourage begin packing their bags, I think we should impound their passports.
April 11, 2006
Strange Doin's In the City of Seven Hills
The controversy over the Italian elections continues apace. First of all, according to the Associated Press, although the counting of votes from Italians living abroad is not yet completed, the Interior Ministry has already leapt to allocate four of the six Senate seats those votes decide to Romano Prodi, giving him a plurality of seats in the Senate of the Republic -- 158 out of 322.
In the Senate, the Interior Ministry assigned Prodi's coalition four of six seats chosen by Italians voting abroad. The tally gave Prodi a total of 158 seats to 156 for Berlusconi, leaving Prodi the minimum necessary to claim majority the house. The ministry assigned the seats on its Web site, even though full returns from overseas polling stations weren't completely tabulated.
Now perhaps it's mathematically impossible for Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition to win three seats; but it's still rather unseemly for an official government organ to assign seats on the basis of a projection of the vote.
Second, Reuters reports that more than 43,000 ballots were not counted, even though election officials weren't actually in agreement that they were spoilt:
Among the possible problems were 43,028 "disputed" votes in the lower house count that official scrutineers had decided to annul despite their doubts as to whether the ballots had really had been spoilt or not.
Berlusconi said he wanted those disputed votes reviewed.
He also said there were "many irregularities" in votes from Italians living abroad. This foreign vote proved crucial in the Senate, enabling Prodi to claim his eventual lead.
Prodi's declared victory in the Chamber of Deputies was by only 25,000 votes; if officials counted those disputed 43,000 ballots, and if Berlusconi won 80% of them, he would have a sliver of plurality over Prodi... another sense in which these Italian elections are like the Florida 2000 contest, where absentee ballots from Florida soldiers were deliberately excluded by Democratic election officials (on the basis of a memo from the Democratic Party instructing election boards in various ways that military ballots could be annulled).
We (here in America) don't yet know why those ballots were excluded, who decided to exclude them, where they're from, and how likely they are to support Berlusconi so heavily. I'm not sure the Italians even know that much yet. But until those questions are answered, a great cloud hangs over this election.
There is time to settle much of this before Prodi attempts to form a new government. Reuters:
Parliament is due to convene for the first time on April 28 and under the Italian constitution it is up to the president to nominate a new government after consultation with party leaders.
But the transition process is further complicated by the fact that [Italian President Carlo Azeglio] Ciampi's mandate expires next month and he wants his successor to oversee the appointment of the next administration.
Political analysts say that even in a best case scenario, it might take two months for a government to be sworn in.
That is actually more time than it took us to resolve the 2000 election dispute -- and that included two decisions by the Supreme Court of Florida and two decisions by the United States Supreme Court, overturning the scofflaw SCOFLA.
If it's not resolved one way or another fairly soon, a revote may be in the offing.
Roma Rinse Repeat
The Italian elections are eerily reminiscent of our own contest of 2000, when Gov. George W. Bush prevailed over Vice President Al Gore by the narrowest of margins -- a total of 537 votes in Florida. With 5,962,657 votes cast in Florida's presidential contest, Bush's margin of victory was 0.009%.
The results of the ballot count shows Romano Prodi's leftist coalition, called the Union, taking a very narrow lead (49.80% to 49.73%) over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition in the lower house of Italy's parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.
But partial results show House of Liberty leading by one seat in the upper house, the Senate of the Republic (155 to 154). There are, however, six Senate seats voted upon by Italians living abroad; if the Union wins 4 of them, they will be ahead in the Senate as well as the Chamber of Deputies. It the vote ends up with the House of Liberty ahead in the Senate, it will be a rare split vote.
In order to form a government, one coalition must win both houses; a split vote typically means a caretaker government of "technocrats" rule until a new election can be held.
While the margin in Italy's vote, which mostly concluded yesterday, is not quite Florida close, it's close enough that current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush's best bud in continental Europe, is calling for a recount:
Even though votes from Italians living abroad remained uncounted, and results showed Mr. Berlusconi ahead in the upper house of Parliament, Mr. Prodi appeared just before 3 a.m. to his supporters in central Rome to claim victory.
"We've won," he said. "Now we have to work to change Italy. We have to work for the unity of this country."
But Mr. Berlusconi's chief spokesman, Paolo Buonaiuti, said the celebration was premature. "The House of Liberty contests that the center-left has politically won the elections," he said in a statement, referring to Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition.
There are currently eleven parties in the Union, ranging from the Daisy-Democracy Is Freedom party to the Federation of the Greens (a Socialist political party, not an association of golf courses) to a couple of flavors of Communists: the Communist Refoundation Party and the Party of Italian Communists (no word whether the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front will be invited in).
However, I cannot find out which party in particular Prodi belongs to; he seems to be member at large of the coalition itself. Silvio Berlusconi is the head of the Forza Italia ('go ahead Italy") party, which he founded in 1994; FI belongs to the House of Liberty center-right coalition.
There is not much more to say until the final votes come in. Prodi's current margin in the Chamber of Deputies is about 25,000 votes; and there are those six outstanding Senate seats to be decided by the votes of Italians living abroad. After a recount -- with or without hanging chads -- and after the final Senate seats are allocated, we will know Berlusconi's fate.
In 1996, then Prime Minister Berlusconi was defeated by a coalition called the Olive Tree -- headed by Romano Prodi.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
-- "the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," Karl Marx, 1852
It's worth noting, however, that the polling was very, very off in this election... in the Left's favor, as it typically is here:
During the campaign — a particularly ugly one by Italian standards — polls consistently showed Mr. Berlusconi as much as five points behind....
The first voter surveys on Monday seemed to show that his reign was over: Two polls showed Mr. Prodi's coalition taking both houses with margins of 5 percent, and center-left leaders walked right to the edge of jubilation....
But as actual results began flowing in from Italy's 20 regions, victory for Mr. Prodi seemed far from clear.
The question is, did Berlusconi actually have a sudden surge of support at the very end of the campaign, when he proposed eliminating a property tax? Or was the polling biased against him all along?
In any event, if Berlusconi dodges the bullet this time, and there is a revote, it may be good for him. With the polls consistently showing him losing to Prodi, voters who might otherwise have supported Berlusconi may have stayed home, discouraged.
But if the pair split the vote and there is a revote called, those voters might come home, giving Berlusconi more of a victory than he would have if he slightly edged Prodi's Union coalition in a recount of the last vote. Although he would have the same number of votes in the Chamber of Deputies -- Italian election law gives the winner 341 out of 630 seats, regardless of the margin of victory -- his coalition would be more stable.
If Prodi's win in the Chamber of Deputies is confirmed and he also wins the Senate of the Republic, he will form a Leftist/Communist government. But in this case, many are predicting it won't last more than six months.
Of course, it's Italy.
April 9, 2006
Be Off, Or I'll Kick You Downstairs!
Mentally unstable Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is now threatening to expel U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield from the country... for the crime of having been hounded by a Venezuelan mob.
No, really. This isn't a rib. Yesterday, an independent mob of independent protesters independently decided to chase after Brownfield's motorcade, pelting his car with independent eggs and independently thumping on the windows whenever the vehicle was slowed by traffic. A police car tailed the independents, doing nothing to stop them... but of course, there was no connection between the hooligans and the Chavez government; they are totally independent.
And today, Chavez went on TV to publicly threaten to punish our ambassador to Venezuela by expelling him:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the U.S. ambassador was "provoking the Venezuelan people" and threatened Sunday to expel the American diplomat, whose convoy was chased by pro-government protesters.
"I'm going to throw you out of Venezuela if you continue provoking the Venezuelan people," Chavez said in a nationally televised speech addressed to U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield.
And how, exactly, did Ambassador Brownfield provoke the Venezuelan people?
Brownfield had visited a ballpark in Caracas' Catia slums, a Chavez stronghold, to donate baseball equipment to a youth league.
The Los Angeles Times, hardly a chum of President Bush or his ambassadors, gives a few more details about Ambassador Brownfield's crime spree (hat tip Captain Ed):
Brownfield was handing out baseball gloves, bats and catchers' equipment to 140 youths at a sports stadium when several dozen protesters showed up and began throwing objects at the ambassador, U.S. officials said.
An official who identified himself as police commander Luis Villasana then approached Brownfield and ordered him and his staff out of the stadium.
Brownfield was accompanied by two former Major League Baseball players from Venezuela and had addressed a crowd that included the youths' parents. Before leaving, he told reporters at the scene that his intention had been to show baseball "as transcending politics."
Protesters on about 12 motorcycles then chased the ambassador's motorcade after he left the stadium and continued to throw objects at the car and pound on it when his vehicle became stuck in traffic, witnesses said.
This particular riot was witnessed by many Venezuelans. Presumably most of the country then writhed as they suffered through the spectacle of el Presidente threatening to expel an ambassador for his perfidy in handing out baseball equipment to a local youth baseball league.
If they follow the news, they must also know that Chavez repeatedly accuses the United States of sundry bizarre plots and conspiracies against his life (exploding cigars, perhaps?) They know that their President-for-Life has danced as close as he can to initiating a war with the U.S. without actually declaring one. He has openly buddied up to North Korea, Iran, and al-Qaeda; he foments Communist revolution throughout Latin America; and he makes constant threats to attack America with the mighty Venezuelan Army. Back to AP:
Chavez says the United States [is] plotting against him, an accusation American officials deny. The United States, however, has said Chavez is stifling democracy.
His subjects must be wondering "what have we gotten ourselves into?" I suspect they live in perpetual fear that someday, somebody is actually going to take the wild, Tourettes-like outbursts of their leader seriously.
Huh. Maybe Hugo Chavez is a Democrat, after all!
March 28, 2006
The French Correction
Sparked by a proposal to overturn the French law that forbids employers from firing new employees during their first two years of employment, over a million French youths decided to hold a riot in Paris. See ¡No Pasarán! for some great pictures (and hat tip to Power Line.)
The stagnant French economy has created an unemployment rate over 10 percent. Among French youths, it is an ominous 22 percent. (And among French Arab youths, it's more like a staggering 50%+ -- which may explain why the Arab-French youths started mugging the French-French youths when they rioted in the wrong neighborhoods.)
The reason is simple: since it's almost impossible to lay off workers, employers simply don't hire any. Instead, they adjust the work hours of existing employees to accomodate the uneven work load.
It's not that the French govenment has done nothing, of course:
Apparently just to show that there was no shortage of silly ideas, the government then reduced the number of hours in the French workweek. The government planners were certain this would spark hiring. It didn’t.
But even when the government accidentally stumbles onto a reasonable, commonsense idea -- something that might actually "spark hiring," like the current proposal -- unreasonable French youths throw a temper tentrum. And how do "reasonable" French adults respond? By calling a general strike, of course! From the AP article:
The nationwide strike - the first time that unions had ordered walkouts in solidarity with students spearheading the protests - slowed train, plane, subway and bus services to a fraction of their normal levels.
How can a country's economy grow when its "students" (and "workers") expect to be paid just for rioting and striking? This is the same France that allowed 15,000 of its seniors to roast to death in a mere 90 degree "heat wave," because the skeleton crews left behind during the French vacation season -- August -- could not provide enough electricity to meet the demand of air conditioners. And not one, single French official had to cut his stomach.
Yet they are so quick to criticize Americans for... well, for everything. According to a French columnist at Le Monde, Lorent Zecchini, our "failure" in Iraq is due to our failure to follow the French multi-culti "soldier's creed" of compassionate warmongering.
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
Nah. If they had... then they might have won!
February 14, 2006
This Water Has No Edge
When Dhimmi of the Month nominee Al Gore made his scurrilous attacks on the United States, many conservative pundits (or "pundants," as the president might say) made much of the fact that "there used to be an unspoken rule that politics ended at the water's edge." A commenter to that post, MTF, suggested:
The only other possibility is that he thinks the core voters on the Dimocrat side are blindly accepting and loyal, and his supporters just won't care what he says, or whom he speaks to, just so long as he squeaks enough anti-American rhetoric into the speech to satisfy the base.
This got me thinking that there is another possible reason why none on the left seems concerned that Gore made his remarks in a foreign country: it's possible that people are actually starting to lose the distinction between America and Abroad.
We see this also in the courtroom, even the Supreme Court, where some of the justices -- notably Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter -- have begun citing foreign statutes and even foreign court decisions (!) to decide American cases. It's hardly surprising that politicians (particularly those on the Left) travel freely to other countries and there express highly political sentiments without much regard to where they are or who they're addressing... they're always addressing the "international court of world opinion" anyway.
(I suspect most members of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" are internationalists at heart, anyway.)
But I think what it really means is that people in general (not just Democrats) are starting to lose the idea that there is any difference between one location on Earth -- even here in America -- and any other.
With the advent of worldwide news, a broadcast from Karachi or Tokyo or Rwanda-Burundi looks and sounds the same as one from New York or Houston. It no longer "feels" foreign. The big distinction is between local news (about your city, your neighborhood) and "in other news," which means anywhere else; there is no longer any distinction between national and international news. A viewer sees a clip of Gore talking, and he can't tell where Gore is... so therefore, it ceases to matter.
Foreign correspondents may still live in the country of their posting; but what people see are the anchors, who typically don't travel; they converse with people in the foreign location as if they were in the same room. Even when they do go "on location" (a Hollywood term, by the way), they pop in, do the story, maybe stay overnight at the local Hilton, and then reappear back in New York the next day.
Because of the speed of modern travel and the excellence of communications, even in East African or South Asian hellholes, getting to or broadcasting from a foreign country really isn't any harder than getting to Chicago or Los Angeles... it just takes longer. And the cities even look the same, whether Buffalo or Beirut... excepting only some wartime damage (but no worse that we often see in American news about riots).
For this reason, I'm afraid the very distinction has been lost. I've noted this phenomenon before, but regarding history: because our schools do such a poor job teaching kids about the vast sweep of history, most people I talk to seem to think of all history as one undifferentiated mass called The Past, and that everything in The Past more or less happened around the same time. Thus, the Peloponnesian War, the Civil War, and Vietnam all happened roughly the same time -- in The Past -- and Thomas Jefferson routinely picked up the phone and called his friend Alexander the Great for wartime advice.
(TV shows like Xena probably contribute to this problem; even though they did it tongue in cheek, what sticks is that every historical figure was around at the same time, and what's more, they all knew each other!)
The loss of distinction between the United States and other countries is just as serious, because it entails forgetting the very concept of American exceptionalism... the idea that there is something unique and special about the United States that we should cherish. When our own Supreme Court looks, not to the Constitution of the United States, but to the caselaw of the European Union to decide American cases, we have a terrible, terrible problem.
We really are different; and among those differences are that we allow far more freedom of speech here than elsewhere. Most European countries have laws literally criminalizing "hate speech," which they define as anything at odds with established liberal EU protocols. Thus, saying "Islam as a religion is far too accepting of terrorism by its most extreme believers" would literally be illegal in quite a few EU countries, because it could be called hate speech against Moslems.
In America, we understand that a person who says such things is just expressing his own opinion. We even accept anti-American statements; we dislike them, but contrary to what Democrats say, we don't round such people up and put them in Gitmo (the Democrats seem to have confused us with their favorite European countries).
But since other countries, especially tyrannies like Saudi Arabia, do not have such freedoms, the people there tend to assume that any sentiments expressed by top politicians must be more or less official positions of the American government. I know this is true in Japan, for example, because Sachi reads a lot of Japanese bulletin boards; and that is exactly what they say: when American politicians go abroad and to make scurrilous statements, their listeners assume they're speaking for the American government.
That is why we used to hold that "politics stops at the water's edge": since you're assumed to be speaking for us all, you should restrict yourself to sentiments that we all share. But with the loss of the distinction between the United States and other countries, folks have lost their core understanding why it should matter more what someone says abroad than what he says at home... and also what the American Constitution says more than what laws in other countries say.
The two phenomena are intimately linked, both deriving from the same problem: with an increasingly worldwide society, the water no longer even has an edge. Gore merely made a "campaign stop" in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, just like he might make one in Concord, New Hampshire. He likely doesn't see the distinction, even today... or why saying something anti-American in the former should be any more or less offensive than saying the same thing in the latter.
All he knows is that the crowd loved him, they just loved him... in the Middle East.
February 13, 2006
Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Starve
So now we can add to the list of American liberty-violations against terrorists -- a list that already includes denying POWs their right to have Ramsey Clark as their private attorney, their right to worship Allah by ordering hits on blasphemers, and the right to force Christian guards to treat the Koran like a holy relic. The new terrorist right, according to United Nations "human rights experts," is the right to starve themselves to death in protest. In fact, refusing to allow them to starve themselves to death now counts as torture:
U.N. Says Guantanamo Detainees Were Tortured
Monday, February 13, 2006
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A U.N. investigation has concluded that the United States committed acts amounting to torture at Guantanamo Bay, including force-feeding detainees and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement, according to a draft report obtained Monday.
That's the attention grabber; but the real story is that these "experts" arrived at their happy conclusion, that America is torturing detainees, by first rejecting the idea that the war against jihadi terrorism is "an armed conflict."
The draft report, which will be presented to the next session of the human rights commission, dismissed the U.S. claim that the war on terror constitutes an armed conflict. It also said that the detainees at Guantanamo had a right to challenge their detention, and that right was being violated.
But consider this: all those detainees in Guantanamo Bay were captured in either Afghanistan or Iraq... which means that the U.N. also believes that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not "armed conflicts!"
So an -- let us be neutral here -- an event that involves hundreds of tanks, warplanes, helicopters, mobile artillery, and about two hundred thousand soldiers, live fire at real enemies (killing them by the thousands), hundreds of thousands of tons of ordnance being dropped on people's heads, conquering countries, deposing terrorist governments, and enforcing (at gunpoint) a new kind of law that includes democracy and civil liberties... this sort of event doesn't count as an armed conflict, according to five U.N. human-rights experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission in June, 2004.
This is breathtaking.
Of course, there is a method behind the utter madness: by stubbornly refusing to call these "events" armed conflicts, the experts need not apply the rules of war to POW facilities like Camp X-Ray, and its successor, Camp Delta. Legally, they can investigate Gitmo instead as if it were a civilian prison.
And in a civilian prison containing ordinary people convicted of ordinary criminal offenses, it would certainly be a terrible violation of human rights not to allow those people to have attorneys, not to allow them trials, to simply scoop them up and plop them into la calabooza, there to be interrogated endlessly to get them to rat out their friends. And that, evidently, is just how these "experts" view the war on militant Islamist terrorism: ordinary people merely trying to exercise their freedom of religion, rounded up in indiscriminate dragnets (probably on the basis of race and faith) and being browbeaten just because they won't squeal on their equally innocent buddies.
It's quite clear these "experts" began with their conclusion, then reasoned backwards to what initial findings they needed to make about Gitmo from the git-go in order to arrive where they wanted to be.
'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
Like Shakers, most members of the U.N. nomenklatura define themselves as "pacifists;" but unlike Shakers, the U.N.'s definition of pacifism is to applaud any violence committed by a non-Westerner against the West, but to condemn in no uncertain terms any attempt by the West to defend itself. To quote David Bowie, "this ain't rock'n'roll; this is genocide!" Or in this case, democracide.
I could have titled this post "the U.N. Chooses Up Sides;" but of course they did that decades ago... probably shortly after 1948, if you know what I mean -- and I think that you do.
January 24, 2006
Canadian Vote a 7.2 On the Political Richter Scale
The magnitude of the just-concluded vote in the Great White North is more stunning that most of us realized, and certainly of more moment than the American newsies have admitted. Consider this: before the vote, when the last government of Paul Martin was dissolved, the Liberals led the Conservatives by thirty-five seats: 133 to 98.
But the best guess, with nearly all the votes tallied, is that in the new government, the Conservatives will lead the Liberals by twenty seats, 123 to 103. That means a swing of twenty-seven and a half seats from Liberal to Conservative, out of a total parliament of 308 seats... a flip of nearly 9%. (The "half a seat" is just an artifact of having more than two parties in parliament.)
The equivalent in the U.S. House of Representatives would be seventy-eight seats going from one party to the other... something that has happened only once in my lifetime: in the 1994 election that swept out the Democrats in favor of the Gingrich Republicans, fifty-four seats switched party; but that's out of 435 representatives, which is 12.4%... bigger than this election, but not by that much.
Even though Stephen Harper will not have an absolute majority -- that would be 155 -- he has a very strong plurality and can probably form a stable government for at least a couple of years. And as Bush's first term showed, a lot can happen in two years.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the Liberals don't simply dig in their heels and try to prevent any legislation at all from occurring, as the Democrats are doing here. It would be decent to give Harper at least one chance to make good.
January 20, 2006
Don't Cry For Me, Abidjan
When we forcus too much on one image, we tend to lose perspective. Critics of the Iraq war call our effort a "disaster," a "quagmire," or both. But for a textbook example of a disastrous quagmire, take a gander at the French-led UN peacekeeping operation in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire).
Following the failed coup d'etat on September 19th, 2002, the rebels, led by renegade soldiers from the Cote d'Ivoire army, took over the northen part of the country. In November 2004, the strongman president of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, ordered airstrikes. Whether by accident or design, one of the bombs in Bouaké fell on the French, killing nine soldiers; Gbagbo had complained for two years that the French were actually taking the side of the rebels against him.
The French troops -- gotta love 'em -- responded by destroying virtually the entire air force of Cote d'Ivoire, sparking massive (and violent) anti-French rioting.
In the last year, according to BBC, the situation has detereorated, if that's possible to imagine:
After three days of protests the crisis is escalating, with youths surrounding UN and French buildings in Abidjan, the main city, a BBC correspondent says.
Gbagbo supporters are angry at attempts to dissolve parliament.
International mediators this week recommended that parliament, whose mandate has expired, be discontinued...
Following the mediators' move, the ruling party pulled out of the transitional government and UN-backed peace talks, and called on the 10,000 French and UN peacekeepers the peace to leave. [sic]
The UN mediators were supposed to host a democratic election last October; but it had to be postponed due to instablility in the country... unlike a certain other country we all know and love. After almost two years of intervention, Cote d'Ivoire balances now on the knife-edge of civil war. And from the looks of it, the UN and the French will have to withdraw.
The UN decided to abandon the base and the peacekeepers were being withdrawn to the demilitarised zone further north, Capt Combarieu said.
This is no surprise to Kinshasa On The Potomac
No one in the right mind can fault the peacekeepers for protecting themselves. And, maybe if they - and the French troops stationed there (who wiped out the Cote d'Ivoire airforce in 2004) - were even more proactive, than Gbagbo and his bully boys and the rebels would stop this stupid conflict and finally come to terms. Or, alternately, the world community can just kill off the current generation of thugs and see if there are some reasonable people who might want to run the country and not fight over the scraps.
So, next time you hear the term "failed operation," think of the Ivory Coast, think of the UN, and most of all, think of our friends, the French, masters of diplomacy.
December 27, 2005
Son of Give 'Em Hell, Arnie
Just a fast addendum to my post of eight days ago, Give 'Em Hell, Arnie. In that cheery missive, I noted that a coalition of Greens, Pink Helmets, and two Reds in Arnold Schwarzenegger's home town of Graz, Austria, had scheduled a vote to strike his name from the local sports stadium to punish him for doing his duty as California governor and not stopping the execution of the execrable Stanley "Tookie" Williams. But the Governator beat them to the punch, sending official word (on official stationery) that he was revoking Graz's right to use his name in any way -- and was even returning the town's "friendship ring," since evidently the town council were no friends of his.
I noted in that piece,
Mind, it wasn't the citizens of the town... it was the city council that decided to make a big stink, thus ingratiating themselves with the internationalist Left and the U.N. toadies.
Well sho' nuff, today the New York Times dropped the other shoe:
[Wolfgang Benedek, a professor of international law at Graz University and a leader of the anti-Schwarzenegger faction] allows that there is an element of elite versus popular opinion on this matter. A poll by the local newspaper found that over 70 percent of the public opposed removing Mr. Schwarzenegger's name from the stadium.
This adds to a practical consideration very much on Mr. Nagl's mind: that Graz will no longer be able to count on using its special relationship with the governor to promote its image.
Heh. No kidding, bub.
I also love this bit of Grazian boosterism:
"We had the great classical culture on the one side," Thomas Rajakovics, the mayor's spokesman, said, referring to other important figures who are associated with Graz, from the astronomer Johannes Kepler to the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger, to the conductor Karl Böhm. "And on the other, we had Arnold Schwarzenegger and the popular culture. These were the two poles for us, but we're not allowed to use his name any more."
Yeah, well Kepler was born and grew up in Weil der Stadt; his only connection with Graz is that he got a job there later. Schrödinger was born and grew up in Erdberg and attended university in Vienna; he too got a job in Graz at one point in his life, which is his only connection with that city.
Of those three great men to be proud of, only Karl Böhm was actually born and raised in Graz. He was also an ardent supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. I'm not exactly sure this is the image the town really wants to convey.
Better stick with Schwarzenegger!
December 19, 2005
Give 'Em Hell, Arnie!
For all his mistakes and missteps, his moderation, and even his Kennedy of a wife, this is why I can't help loving this guy!
Schwarzenegger to Hometown: Remove My Name
by Jennifer Coleman
Associated Press Writer
Dec 19th, 2005
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday told officials in his hometown in Austria to remove his name from a sports stadium and stop using his identity to promote the city. The governor's request came after politicians in Graz began a petition drive to rename the stadium, reacting to Schwarzenegger's decision last week to deny clemency to condemned inmate Stanley Tookie Williams. Opposition to the death penalty is strong in Austria.
So a bunch of self-righteous, narcissistic lefty politicos in Graz decided to grandstand by circulating a petition to remove Schwarzenegger's name from the Liebenauer Stadium in Arnold's home town; in fact, the petition was to rename the stadium the Stanley "Tookie" Williams Stadium.
Mind, it wasn't the citizens of the town... it was the city council that decided to make a big stink, thus ingratiating themselves with the internationalist Left and the U.N. toadies. Arnold evidently decided he'd had enough -- so he called their bluff:
In a letter that began "Dear Mister Mayor," Schwarzenegger said he decided to spare the Graz city council "further concern" should he be forced to make other clemency decisions while he's governor. Another inmate is scheduled to be executed in California Jan. 17.
"In all likelihood, during my term as governor, I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions," Schwarzenegger said in the letter. "To spare the responsible politicians of the city of Graz further concern, I withdraw from them as of this day the right to use my name in association with the Liebenauer Stadium."
The Governator is making it as plain as the bulbous nose on the mayor's face that Graz needs Schwarzenegger a thousand times more than Schwarzenegger needs Graz. The only successes that he had in Austria were winning a couple of junior regional bodybuilding championships there in the 1960s; virtually everything he is today he owes to his new country, America. He is forcefully reminding them of that point.
Schwarzenegger is such an American!
He even upped the ante:
In the letter, Schwarzenegger also said he would no longer permit the use of his name "to advertise or promote the city of Graz in any way" and would return the city's "ring of honor."
The ring was given to him in a ceremony in Graz in 1999. At the time, Schwarzenegger said he considered it "a token of sincere friendship between my hometown and me."
"Since, however, the official Graz appears to no longer accept me as one of their own, this ring has lost its meaning and value to me. It is already in the mail," the governor wrote.
I'm guessing that what Arnold is pushing for (without coming out and saying so) is for the fine citizens of Graz to rein in the condescending councilmen, tell them to go stuff themselves with bratwurst, and demand that the city apologize to Schwarzenegger... likely the only really famous person ever to come from "the forgotten city of Austria" (the remembered city of Austria is of course Vienna).
(I just looked it up: the only other "famous" person is conductor, cellist, and violist Nicholas Harnoncourt; now there's a name to conjure with! But even he only moved there; he was born in Berlin, Germany.)
Wake up, Graziaks: leeching off the celebrity of Arnold Schwarzenegger is a privilege, not a right.
December 18, 2005
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
That fellow who just popped up to defend the president -- after several decades of nigh invisibility, during which he learned Esperanto, climbed K2, and took the controls of a Boeing 767 for a two-point landing at Reagan National -- was none other than Secretary Colin Powell, erstwhile Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General of the Army, and Major Pain in the Patootie. A fiery tank with the speed of light, a cloud of glitterati, and a hearty, decaffeinated Kofi Annan... the lone statesman rides again!
Reuters reports that Powell, being interviewed by the BBC, gave a rousing defense of the practice of rendition, whereby terrorist suspects are handed over to a third-party government that is not, perhaps, quite a scrupulous about their "rights" as we're forced to be. Well, "rousing" is relative word, of course; we are still talking about Colin Powell, not Hugh Hewitt:
LONDON (Reuters) - Rendition, the controversial practice of moving terrorism suspects from one country to another, is not new and European governments should not be surprised by it, Colin Powell said on Saturday....
"Most of our European friends cannot be shocked that this kind of thing takes place," Powell told BBC World.
"The fact that we have, over the years, had procedures in place that would deal with people who are responsible for terrorist activities, or suspected of terrorist activities.
"And so the thing that is called rendition is not something that is new or unknown to my European friends."
All of a sudden, the Bush team (present and past) has been galvanized! Bush himself made a powerful speech yesterday, taking full credit for ordering the NSA to eavesdrop on the conversations of foreign temporary residents of the United States who have known connections to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Credit, that is, not blame, as the Democrats evidently anticipated he would play it.
And now Colin Powell drops down from the sky to play CYA for Condoleezza Rice, while twitting his erstwhile allies against Bush -- the Europeans.
Rice also said rendition was a decades-old instrument used by the United States when local governments could not detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition was not an option.
Of course, being Colin, even his strident defense comes giftwrapped in barbed wire:
Powell also defended the U.S. against charges that it was unilateralist, but acknowledged it did not have a good image around the world at the moment and was going through a period where "public opinion world-wide is against us."
"I think that's a function of some of the policies we have followed in recent years with respect to Iraq and in not solving the Middle East's problem and perhaps the way in which we have communicated our views to the rest of the world," he said.
Darn the luck, we still haven't managed to solve "the Middle East's problem." Still and all, the Dems must be shocked and nonplussed to see Powell defend the honor and integrity of BusHitler: the internationalists may feel how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless catspaw!
November 14, 2005
Grits Gone Wild
Captain Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters is the man to follow for anything related to the struggle up north between Paul Martin's Liberal Party on the one side, and on the other, the Conservative Party's Stephen Harper, the the (basically socialist) New Democratic Party (NDP)'s Jack Layton, and separatist Bloc Québécois' Gilles Duceppe. In Captain Ed's most recent post on the imbroglio, he notes that the latter three have agreed to issue an ulimatum to the Liberals: agree to new elections to be held on January 20th, 2006, or else they will bring down the government with a no-confidence vote next week.
The Grits refused to acquiesce, so...
According to John MacDonald at Newsbeat1, expect the no-confidence vote to come on Thursday. Canadians can also expect that the reason given for the collapse of Parliamentary support for Paul Martin and the Liberals will be the corruption of the Sponsorship Programme -- and that they will make sure that Canadians understand that the Christmas campaign came giftwrapped by the same Liberals that stole the Christmas money.
Well evidently, Martin's newest tactic is also his oldest: when in trouble, when in doubt, bribery will get you out. This entire political crisis in Canada is due to the penchant of the Liberals to funnel through the system "hundreds of thousands of dollars of bogus transactions designed to benefit the Liberal Party of Canada over a period from 1994 to 2002."
When it looked in April as if the Conservatives were going to be able to push through a no-confidence vote with the help of the NDP, the Grits proposed a new budget that would funnel $4.6 billion (Canadian) into NDP priorities in exchange for the NDP dropping out of the coalition to topple the Liberals from power. Legal bribery, but bribery nonetheless: they bought their way out of trouble -- again.
But now the NDP is back in the grand coalition to force Paul Martin from control of the government... so in a huge turnaround that nobody could ever have anticipated, the Liberals are trying to bamboozle Canadian voters into supporting them in the January elections -- by bribing them! (From the Brandon Sun, via Matt Drudge.)
The beleaguered Liberal government will promise significant cuts to personal income taxes and a sprinkling of corporate tax reductions today in a pre-election mini-budget that offers something for everyone.
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale will promise to lighten the tax burden on Canadians, reiterate an earlier plan to cut billions from corporate taxes and introduce other business tax changes as part of a broader plan to boost the economy, sources say.
I'm trying to recall: I know there is not an exact match-up between the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party down here, but even so, I don't recall the Grits being known as the party of tax cuts for the rich in the past. Maybe I just missed it. Ironically enough, another Captain's Quarter's post includes the following from the prime minister:
"You know, they want to see Santa Claus, they don't want to see politicians," Mr. Martin said.
With this new campaign, I expect to see Paul Martin dressed in a red suit with a big white beard, ringing a bell with one hand and waving a wad of cash with the other.
I eagerly await Captain Ed's discussion of this, since he's been our best source of understanding what's going on north of the border: there is no other American site I've seen that has the contacts, the background, and the in-depth understanding of the Canadian Adscam (Sponsorship) scandal and the political monkeyshines of Paul Martin. Paging Captain Ed -- what the heck is going on with these tax cuts?
Is this the normal Grit platform, or is Paul Martin just panicking and falling back on the only tactic he seems to know -- throwing money at anyone who might be an enemy, hoping to (yet again) dig his way out of a deep hole. Is it likely to work this time, as it worked all the other times?
November 2, 2005
Arms For the Poor
According to the Brussels Journal, the French police are quite simply unequipped to enforce lawn order in Paris, or any other cities where areas have become de facto part of the ummah. This is evidently true not only in France but the rest of Europe, even including Great Britain: the typically unarmed and overawed police cannot make arrests, and the terrified firefighters cannot fight arson fires with the arsonists shooting at them.
Since [Nicolas] Sarkozy became Interior Minister he has insisted on more police presence in Muslim neighbourhoods. This triggered last week’s riots in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, when policemen went in to investigate a robbery and two teenagers stupidly got themselves electrocuted while hiding from the police in an electricity sub station. Many French politicians now probably regret that the police had the audacity to investigate a robbery in Clichy. The result of the incident so far has been six consecutive nights of rioting that is now engulfing the entire Paris suburban area and might soon affect other parts of the country. Last night at least 69 vehicles were torched in nine suburbs across the Paris region. Officials say that small, mobile gangs are harassing police, sometimes even shooting at them. The gangs are setting vehicles, police stations and schools on fire throughout the region.
“For several nights in a row Rosenhøj Mall has been the scene of the worst riots in Århus for years. ‘This area belongs to us’, the youths proclaimed. [...] ‘The police have to stay away. This is our area. We decide what goes on down here’. [Elipses sic]
All your base are belong to us?
Commenting on the situation in Britain, Theodore Dalrymple wrote in City Journal: “Surveys suggest that between 6 and 13 percent of British Muslims -- that is, between 98,000 and 208,000 people -- are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts.... This is the tightrope that the British state and population will now have to walk for the foreseeable future.” It applies to all West European nations. Where, however, is the boundary between carefully walking the tightrope and falling victim to the Stockholm syndrome? The latter would mean that Western politicians act as hostages of the Muslim extremists.
The European Collapse
One proposed solution is to send in the army. "In a war, use the army, rather than police." However, to do so is to admit that civil authority has completely lost control of the nation, and the politicians simply refuse point blank to make that admission. Instead, they hide, serve out their time, and hope to retire before the Noahide flood: "après moi, le déluge," as another famous Frenchie said.
Besides -- this is my own speculation, not that of Brussels Journal -- European military forces are not exactly known for their steadfast determination and willingness to stay the course, even when they start taking casualties. They're not as tough, resourceful, battle-hardened, experienced, or well trained as, say, the Army of Greater Iraq. I'm not so sure the French military (except perhaps la Légion Étrangère) would do any better at quelling the rioting than the police (or the firefighters, for that matter). The British Army is rather better than the armies of the continent; but even they have too great a tendency to so "softly, softly," as in Basra in Iraq.
There is old story that in 1967, in the Six Day War, the Israelis realized the Arab axis put together by Gamil Nasser of Egypt was about to invade the Holy Land. In a lightning-like pre-emptive strike, the Israeli Air Force struck the Egyptian and Jordanian air bases. Then the Israeli infantry, armor and artillery, and paratroopers swiftly pounded the Gaza and Sinai (Egypt), the West Bank (Jordan), and the Golan Heights (Syria) in a coordinated assault that bordered on genius.
Twenty-four hours later, the Italian Army surrendered.
The American Way
The solution seems simple to me. France and the rest of Europe (including Britain) need to enact the right for all citizens to keep and bear arms. Small arms, I mean: weapons a man can comfortably bear.
The advantages are myriad and manifest:
- Each person has a tremendous incentive to protect his own life, his family, and his property; so motivation is high.
- There are tremendously more citizens than there are police or soldiers. Even if only a small fraction of the people choose to carry a weapon, they will still dwarf the authorities.
- The armed citizen is right on the spot: he is, in fact, the intended victim... so the bad guys will come find him.
- As we're finding in Iraq and Afghanistan, the locals are better at spotting people who don't belong (or known violent thugs) than the cops, and certainly more than military troops who may not even be from that region of the country.
The studies above indicated that between 6% and 13% of British Moslems "are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts;" similar numbers probably apply across Europe. The corollary to this is that possibly as many as 85% are un-sympathetic; isn't it about time Europe armed that 85%? For those of you who worry that Europe would be arming the very people it's afraid of, may I remind you of findings of such folks as John Lott anent domestic gun-control attempts... the bad guys already have their guns. They're already armed. France, et al, can either dis-arm the good (or not so bad) guys... or else finally allow them to defend themselves.
I suspect that most European politicians would literally rather lie down and die than allow their citizenry to be armed (the latter could lead to the former, or so they may fear!) It would be an even greater blow to Socialism than bringing in the army. But it would have the advantage of putting individual self-interest and the distributed swarm attack on the side of decency and good, not criminal evil.
And it might just work. It seems to work here; and even without the traditional American ethos of self-reliance and defense of home and hearth, it could hardly be worse than what they have now.
Is Paris Burning?
Is This the "Third Intifada" -- Or Not?
It fascinates me how little attention the riots in France have received, even from the blogosphere. The paucity of posts points out, as if we needed reminding, how dependent bloggers are upon the very MSM that we decry... media that all too often, as in this case, leave us in the dark about critical aspects of the stories they supposedly "report." Unknown unknowns, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might say.
For example, everyone (including me) seems to think he has the answer to this question: are those riots in Paris an organized uprising by Moslems, a "third intifada," as some have called it? I think most folks would say "Yes," but much of that is just due to bloggish logrolling, a "blogstorm," as Hugh Hewitt calls it. Being a natural skeptic -- I'm even skeptical about skepticism -- I want something more than just handwaving, even when it fits my belief system (or perhaps especially when). Alas, this is precisely the information that the mainstream news seems determined to conceal from us.
(Wretchard of the Belmont Club, I believe, once called for citizen journalism to go along with citizen punditry... a million folks with digital cameras, each person roaming his city, taking photos, and doing original reporting; this would then, I recall, be passed along to blogpapers that would post the news and photos -- and finally blogs, who would analyze it. So far, that intriguing idea has come to nought. Taking myself as representative of many bloggers, I don't have a digital camera; I wouldn't know where to go to snap pictures of news events; I have no "sources" who slip me tips; subjects won't talk to me as readily as they would talk to CBS or the LA Times; I don't have the resources of a news agency to do research (I don't even have a Nexis/Lexis account), and on and on. I don't think the time has yet come. Sorry for the digression.)
Where was I? Oh yes, fumfahing around, trying to find information about the riots without actually hopping on an Airbus to Pahree. Were they sparked by Moslem anger against France? Or did they have nothing to do with the rioters' "origin or religion or faith," as the mayor of Clichy-Sous-Bois, "a neighbourhood of high-rise public housing projects," implies?
Over on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy flatly stated that "Islamofascists" were burning Paris. He noted that they were "confined to ghettos" surrounding Paris, presumably by Parisian laws or zoning rules (which I have heard before), but he did not elaborate. Hugh himself stated that the two kids whose deaths sparked the riots were Moslems; but as with Gaffney's comment, there was no citation for how he would know this.
Power Line had a post about them -- but John had to turn to al-Jazeera for the original story! Reading the al-Jazeera account, you would barely realize that the rioters might possibly be Moslems; apart from the fact that al-Jazeera is interested in them at all (which is itself suggestive), there is only one passing reference:
The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, most of them from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency.
This tells us who lives in Clichy-sous-Bois but not who is rioting there, nor why, exactly.
Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) has linked to stories about the riots a couple of times; the first time to CBS (see below), and the second to Tim Blair's website (called Tim Blair, appropriately enough). Blair, in turn, cited a post on Little Green Footballs, another French/English speaking blogger whose name I don't recognize, and yet another.
He does cite a CBS story; but it's the same story that Glenn linked yesterday. CBS is even more reluctant to discuss the ethnicity and religion of the rioters. Note how this paragraph doesn't even entirely admit to being on topic:
Suburbs that ring France's big cities suffer soaring unemployment and are home to immigrant communities, often from Muslim North Africa. Disenchantment, and anger, run high.
At least al-Jazeera admitted that the particular suburb with the riots was one of those "Muslim North Africa[n]" ones. CBS won't edge itself quite that far out on a limb, being only willing to tell us that some unknown suburbs somewhere near Paris are stuffed full of Moslems from North Africa -- but they won't say which 'burbs or whether they have anything to do with this story. Just thought you'd like to know.
Other than that, all we learn is that the riots began after two teenagers were electrocuted:
The troubles started Thursday night in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, following the accidental electrocution deaths of two teenagers who hid in a power substation to escape police whom they thought were chasing them. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17, at all.
We are not told anything more about them than their ages... despite the same-day revelation of their first names in another source; we're coming to that.
Reuters took the same tack, dancing around the question in this piece published Monday (via CNN International). We are told in the subhead:
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy defended his tough crime policies on Monday after a fourth night of riots in a Paris suburb in which tear gas was fired into a mosque.
But any hope for a conceptual breakthrough -- presumably the cops shot tear gas into the mosque because that's where the rioters were congregating -- are dashed in the next paragraph:
Sarkozy, addressing police officers, vowed to find how tear gas had been fired into the Muslim place of worship, an incident which had helped fuel the disturbances....
"I am, of course, available to the imam of the Clichy mosque to let him have all the details in order to understand how and why a tear gas bomb was sent into this mosque," he told about 170 police officers at the prefecture.
Again, we're left unsure whether the fact that one police target was a mosque (or was it a misfire?) has anything to do with the rioting. Reuters then takes away the prize for most misleading statement in any MSM article on this issue:
The violence began four days ago after the deaths of two teenagers, believed to be of African origin, who were electrocuted after clambering into a power sub-station while apparently fleeing police.
Evidently, it was too much trouble (or they ran out of room) to add the word "North" in front of "African," leaving the impression the youths might be from Kenya or the Congo, or perhaps rampaging Boers from Johannesburg.
The New York Times rewrites the Reuters story down even further, to a scant three paragraphs. Again, that same misleadingly truncated "African" rather than "North African," now tidily combined into the same sentence with the mystery term "immigrant population":
The violence began three days ago in Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large immigrant population, over the deaths of two teenagers, believed to be of African origin, who were electrocuted.
Still on my quest to find out What the Heck Is Going On Here™, I turn to the BBC's account -- and snag another tile of the mosaic. The Beeb is even more politically correct, mentioning only that the yutes came from a suburb that "has a large immigrant population" which faces "discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs." But they finally begin to give the game away by unwisely identifying the first names of the two boys who were electrocuted:
Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died.
Most of the residents in the rioting suburb are immigrants from Northern Africa.
Since every country in Northern Africa (north of and including the Sahara Desert) is Moslem, this does tend to at least imply a religious identity, especially when coupled with the names, the fact that the cops fired tear gas into a mosque, and that al-Jazeera felt moved enough by their plight to write about them. Of course, there are non-Moslems living in North Africa -- in Sudan, for example -- so I still don't know for certain.
Gateway Pundit links to Reuters video that shows some marchers who could be Moslems; they're being addressed by some guy speaking what sounds like Arabic to me (or else Hebrew, but somehow I doubt that possibility). But we only see a few people, and none of them is rioting. No signs visible in the shots, so I can't even see whether they're in French or Arabic.
At this juncture, I think I have to just throw up my hands in surrender. I have no idea if the rioters are Moslems, whether that's one reason they're rioting, whether it has anything to do with the headscarf law, and what is the significance of the fact, solemnly chronicled by Gateway Pundit, that the neighborhood just opened up their first halal (Moslem-kosher) Burger King.
The sad and simple fact is that when the basic news conveyers -- the mainstream media -- conspire to withhold key facts from the readers, there is often no way of reliably getting that information. As much as we may hate it, the fact is that we are still, several years into the blogger revolution, utterly dependent upon exactly the people we hope to supplant. This is not a good sign.
Say, where's Wretchard? Maybe he should trot out that "citizen journalist" idea again.
November 1, 2005
The New German Left Has Left
The so-called "Grand Coalition" in Germany of the two biggest parties -- the Christian Democrats, who (barely) won the recent elections, and the erstwhile ruling Social Democrats -- has been shaken, if not yet stirred, by an uprising of more hard-core leftists within the ranks of the latter party.
According to the New York Times,
The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Franz Müntefering, said he would not run for re-election next month after the party's executive committee rejected his candidate for its No. 2 position.
Mr. Müntefering, 65, is representing the Social Democrats in delicate negotiations to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union, led by Angela Merkel. The parties had hoped to wrap up the talks in time to elect Mrs. Merkel on Nov. 22 as the first woman to serve as German chancellor.
It seems that the German Socialist youth took umbrage at being told what to do by their elders. Younger members of the Social Democratic Party (Gerhard Schroeder's party) tend to be much more leftist... rather like Michael Moore Democrats here. They don't like the idea of any economic reforms at all, preferring to rescue the ailing German economy by shouting slogans at it.
Like Mr. Müntefering, Mr. Schröder, 61, represents an older generation of Social Democrats that is increasingly at odds with younger party members. Some of these up-and-comers are staunchly leftist and opposed Mr. Schröder's efforts to overhaul the German economy.
The tension finally erupted at the recent party meeting, when Mr. Müntefering backed a longtime aide, Kajo Wasserhövel, to be general secretary. Political analysts said some of the younger members were antagonized by what they viewed as Mr. Müntefering's high-handed style.
Andrea Nahles, 35, a former leader of the party's youth wing and an unofficial leader of its left-wing faction, emerged as an alternative candidate. She was chosen in a secret ballot, by a vote of 23 to 14. Ms. Nahles's victory must be ratified at the party's congress in Karlsruhe in two weeks, where members are also scheduled to approve the agreement for a grand coalition.
Conceding her decisive victory, Mr. Müntefering said, "I can no longer be party chairman under these conditions."
This has set plans for the Grand Coalition wobbling, if not quite yet crashing down. If the merger does not go through as planned, however, new elections will be required, since neither the Christian Democratic Union on the "right" nor the Social Democratic Party on the left is likely to be able to form a ruling coalition with smaller parties.
Nobody seems to know what would happen in new elections: either voters would decide it had been a mistake to oust the Social Democrats, and they would win; or they would become impatient with the antics of the Left, and the Christian Democrats would win; or most likely, the results would be more or less the same, and the country would remain in turmoil. Ah, the wonders of the parliamentary system... it's so much more exciting! (Imagine Florida 2000 for months on end, with not only the presidency but also Congress in limbo.)
Oddly, although it's the Social Democrats who are splintering, the Christian Democrats are now also in trouble:
The jolt reached other parties too. Edmund Stoiber, a leading conservative politician who has developed a good rapport with Mr. Müntefering, said the announcement had given him second thoughts about his own role in a grand coalition government.
Mr. Stoiber, the prime minister of Bavaria, is the designated economics minister under Mrs. Merkel, and he has been a constant presence at her side in the talks with Mr. Müntefering and Mr. Schröder. His defection would sting Mrs. Merkel, since he heads the sister party of the Christian Democrats [the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, that is].
We'll have to watch this game of "spin the Bundestag" carefully, as it could have a very significant impact on Europe and the United States... both directly in terms of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and indirectly as a result of its effect on the increasingly fragile German economy.
October 17, 2005
A Tale of Two Whistles
The first whistle we all remember: Joseph Wilson, the proven serial liar who was sent by the CIA to investigate claims that Iraq attempted to purchase yellowcake Uranium from Niger, returned to report that indeed this was likely true -- but then wrote a completely fabricated article for the New York Times on July 6th, 2003, in which, in order to politically damage President Bush, Wilson flatly lied about his own findings.
Yet despite the exposure of these lies by a unanimous, bipartisan Senate committee investigation, Wilson continues to be lionized by the press and by the Michael Moore/MoveOn mob; more to the point, he remains free to wander about, instead of sitting in solemn silence in a dull, dank dock -- and wasn't even fined.
But turn now to a different whistle which blew its tune in a very different concert hall.
According to the Telegraph, a whistleblower who warned of a serious (potentially deadly) cabin-pressure design flaw in the new Airbus A380 now faces not only financial ruin but possible jail time, first because of a criminal lawsuit filed against him by his former employer and also for violating a gag order by talking about his own criminal case.
Joseph Mangan thought he was doing Airbus a favour when he warned of a small but potentially lethal fault in the new A380 super-jumbo, the biggest and most costly passenger jet ever built.
Instead, Europe's aviation giant rubbished his claims, and now he faces ruin, a morass of legal problems, and - soon - an Austrian prison. Mr Mangan is counting the days at his Vienna flat across the street from Schonbrünn Palace, wondering whether the bailiffs or the police will knock first.
Mangan, an American aerospace engineer, was brought in to head up the aerospace team at TTTech Computertechnik, an Austrian company that makes some of the components used in the A380. The A380 is the pride of Europe. It is intended to carry more than 850 passengers and fly at altitudes of 42,000 (flight level 420) -- the Boeing 747, by contrast, carries up to 524 passengers, typically at FL 350 with similar range and speed. Much is riding on the success of the A380, "the symbol of what Europe can achieve," according to French President Jacques Chirac; not only the pride of the EU but also its economic prospects depend upon a successful and timely launch of the huge airliner.
Mangan claims that his team was under tremendous pressure to meet deadline when they decided to change the specifications for the outflow valve control system. Rather than the more usual arrangement of three different systems for safety redundancy, they chose to use four identical valves.
The problem is that if an event occurs that causes one of the valves to fail, the other three may simultaneously fail for the same reason. In that case, the cabin would experience sudden catastrophic loss of air pressure. Since irreparable brain damage can occur after four minutes without oxygen, and since it takes two and a half minutes to descend from 420 to 250 (where ambient air is breathable), the flight crew would have to notice the problem and begin the descent within ninety seconds -- and among the first symptoms are inattentiveness, poor judgment, and loss of motor coordination (as I can attest from personal experience).
Any delay could result in neural damage or even death among hundreds of passengers and crew... and could even result in the aircraft crashing, if the pilots pass out: loss of cabin air pressure is considered a primary cause of a crash of a Boeing 737 over Greece this last August.
Once TTTech changed to the new valve design, they were obliged to report that change to the testing agencies, who might have to begin certification all over again. Mangan charges that the team failed to get the new design recertified, which could have taken as long as two years; the A380 was already six months behind schedule and $1.8 billion over budget. Instead, Mangan alleges,
TTTech falsely classified its micro-chip as a simple "off-the-shelf" product already used in car valves in order to except it from elaborate testing rules, he claimed. This would breach both EU and US law on aircraft regulation. "I refused to sign off on the test results, but TTTech went ahead anyway," he claimed. The key papers relate to the TTPOS operating system and were allegedly dated August 24 2004.
A number of agencies appear to have accepted or seriously considered Mangan's charge, which he first made in September 2004; he first raised the issue with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the EU equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration here in the United States.
[O]fficials at the air safety watchdog EASA said they took the concerns "extremely seriously". An EASA source told the Telegraph that the agency was "able to confirm certain statements by Mr Mangan".
A probe - conducted by the French authorities for EASA - allegedly found that TTTech was "not in conformity" with safety rules and had failed to carry out the proper tests. The key microchip was deemed "not acceptable". EASA instructed Airbus to sort out the problem before the final certification of the A380 next year. It is unclear whether this has now been done. EASA has refused to comment publicly on the details of the dispute, prompting concerns at the European Parliament. Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian Green MEP, wrote an "urgent" letter to the agency last month demanding "prompt and extensive information on the matter".
Had this chain of events happened in the U.S., the FAA would immediately have frozen deployment of the aircraft until the issue was investigated. Several agencies would have gotten themselves involved and there might even have been hearings in the Aviation subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (In fact, such hearings might still be a good idea before A380s are allowed to fly in the United States.)
Instead, the response in the European Union was markedly different. TTTech filed a lawsuit alleging both civil and criminal defamation under Austrian law, and the judge in the case issued a gag order, which Mangan says prohibited him from talking even to the EASA or other aviation safety officials. While the trial drags on, the A380 is nearing debut -- without any changes, corrections, or retesting done on the valve system, Mangan says.
This violates my duty to the public. People could die on that plane if they don't fix the problem," he said.
TTTech denies that there is any problem and denies that any of its elements covered up or failed to disclose any significant design changes. They say that Mangan has inflicted "severe damage" to their corporate reputation by making unsubstantiated claims about safety problems. They refer to him as disgruntled, say he never fit into the team, and that he is motivated by revenge.
There seems little interest within the European political community in helping Mangan defend against the criminal charge or even to evaluate his claims, despite support from the EASA. He is bankrupt, was fined $180,000 (which he could not pay) for violating the gag order, faces a year in jail for that violation -- and still faces the possibility of even more time in jail or prison for speaking out in the first place, even before the gag order.
Too bad. If only he had thought to embed his charges inside a diatribe against George Bush, as Joe Wilson did, the EU would hail him as a Hero of the People.
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