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Saturday, June 14, 2003

DIVERSE MEDIA: After the Jasyon Blair saga, James Cartlidge takes a negative look at positive discrimination in the British media. Interesting response from the Arts Council on a quota post when he asks the question:

“What if a white person turned up for an interview? ‘We would have to show them the door,’ says Paulette Clunie, access officer for Arts Council North West. Would they accept any white people? Apparently, they would make an exception for a white South African who felt that he or she was of ‘African’ origin;”

In other words, somewhat ironically they might accept Verwoed or Ian Smith. But this statement also begs the other question of whether they would show the door to someone who was of an African background but felt that they were “English”?

A SOUVENIR FIT FOR OSAMA: After a trip to Kuwait, what do you bring back as a souvenir? A vial of sand? A camel foot ashtray? Or a Burka Bootycall?

Friday, June 13, 2003

CRACKS: 80 cracks have appeared in the Three Gorges Dam. Meanwhile the first crack appears in the Euro as the Economist asks:

"The Economist suggests that a better question is not whether Britain should join the currency zone, but whether Germany should leave. .....

“Whatever the economic arguments for Britain's joining the euro, the case for Germany's quitting looks stronger. The idea that Germany will do it is, of course, the stuff of fairy tales. However, the country's present predicament also has a fairy-tale feel, with the ECB in the role of the wicked witch who lured Hansel and Gretel into her gingerbread home with the aim of eating them. In the story by the Brothers Grimm, Gretel pushes the witch into the oven. In the real world, Germany is being roasted, and risks living unhappily ever after.”


via Gweilo
CONDOMS: “Durian-flavoured condoms have gone on sale for the first time in pharmacies”

Now if you’ve smelt a durian you’ll realise that this represents perhaps the most effective form of birth care on the market today!

GISCARD HAILED AS THE SOCRATES OF NEW EUROPE;

OK, pass him the Hemlock then.

A DUMB DEAL: German and France are back to doing deals again:

“A backroom deal by Germany and France to sabotage the takeover directive after 14 years of work prompted a furious reaction from the European Commission yesterday and renewed fears that the European Union is incapable of tackling economic decline.
Under the agreement reached over dinner in Berlin by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac, Germany offered to soften its demands for root-and-branch reform of the Common Agricultural Policy at the crucial farm summit underway this week.
In exchange, France agreed to help block the takeover plans, which are intended to create a level playing field for investment flows across the EU and open up Germany's companies and distribution networks to full competition.”


This transaction follows a familiar pattern; Schroder gets a symbolic victory while Chirac gets something of substance. The block on takeovers probably harms Germany more than anyone else since it is the sluggish German economy that is most in need of the offering investment and expertise that a liberalised takeover market would provide. On the other side, France gets to maintain its billion pounds in agricultural subsides from the EU. But it also torpedoes the prospect of any substantive deal at WTO in Doha. Another international institution bits the dust thanks to Jacques.

REASONS, REASONS: Interesting poll in the Times today:-

“The poll highlights the paradox in public attitudes: backing for the war combined with scepticism about British and American official claims. Some 58 per cent agree that the two countries “deliberately exaggerated” the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to win support for going to war. Thirty-nine per cent disagree….
Nonetheless, 85 per cent of the public believe that Iraq “probably did have weapons of mass destruction, but either destroyed them, or hid them so well that they may not be found for some time, if ever”, while 12 per cent disagree.
Moreover, 70 per cent agree that “regardless of whether Iraq actually did have weapons of mass destruction, the war was justified because it got rid of Saddam”, while 27 per cent disagree.”


Which shows that the general public have in many ways a more sophisticated appreciation of the issue than much of the campaigning media.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Why has Tony Blair suddenly decided now that we need a Supreme Court? Well, ask yourself, what do most countries that have Supreme Courts also have? Constitutions; and while there are no move afoot to draft one, there is one on the shelf in Evian, ready to use. So contrary too much of the gossip regarding the Blair Brown splits, I smell a deal; Tony’s only ambition is to be President of Europe and whether he achieves this by ramming the Euro or the Constitution, he cares not? Brown’s ambition is to create a “social market” and the European Constitution and Supreme Court would set it in stone. I suspect that we’ll see continuing skirmishes about the Euro, but they’ll be irrelevant, the deeper agenda continues.


INCONSISTENCY KILLS: Here’s a good illustration of what happens when you get one multilateral internationalist institution hiring another internationalist bureaucratic institution to carry out a foreign policy objective to try an make them both look good in a seemingly firm but legalistic way: -

To allow the safe flow of aid in Bunia, the UN wants the Hema militia expelled from town, but its peacekeeping unit has no mandate to use force. The intervention force has a mandate to fire but not to demilitarise the town. “

So the force can fire but not use force; what does that mean? That they’re going to chase the militia out of town with Zippo lighters and gitanes? Perhaps those in charge could clarify matters?; -

“Its commander, Colonel Daniel Vollot, said yesterday: "The international force will chase the fighters from the town. It will impose a city without weapons." Moments later its spokesman, Colonel Gerard Dubois, said: "There is no confusion: it's not in our mandate to demilitarise the city."

So that’s the chain of command here – PR spokesman Colonel trumps military couldactualydosomething Colonel. Anyway, not unsurprisingly, it looks like the militia have at least now learned to speak a language the UN and French "peacekeepers" can relate to:

Thomas Lubanga, the Hema warlord in control of Bunia, agreed. "We are for peace ... but we will not disarm, and will not leave the city we have fought for and won."

Thursday, June 12, 2003

DREAM IT, HEAR IT, WRITE IT: It seems like the Guardian has fabricated another interview. On June 11 Helena Smith in New York reported:

“Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector, lashed out last night at the "bastards" who have tried to undermine him throughout the three years he has held his high-profile post.”
In an extraordinary departure from the diplomatic language with which he has come to be associated, Mr Blix assailed his critics in both Washington and Iraq.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian from his 31st floor office at the UN in New York, Mr Blix said: "I have my detractors in Washington. There are bastards who spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media. Not that I cared very much. “


Hans Blix in the Sydney Morning Herald today:-

“The chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, says the Bush Administration criticised UN inspections - but has denied it pressured him or that he called US officials "bastards".

"I've had very good and correct relations with the Bush Administration," he said on Wednesday. "I still do, I hope."


Not a good week for the Guardian, again.

BORING BELGIUM: Apparently Belgium’s a wee bit upset about this factoid article on their country. Yawn. It does however include this gem:

“Belgium is one of three countries classified by the European Community as a "manure surplus" region, because it produces more than its land can absorb. Despite this, a recent UN poll voted Belgium the fifth best country to live in on the entire planet.”

The UN knows what it likes! Still this might be the real reason behind this story: US threatens to pull Nato HQ out of Belgium

MOTHER OF ALL FOOD BILLS:- SMH reports:-

“A Paris investigating magistrate has overruled a senior public prosecutor and set up a formal inquiry into a multi-million-dollar grocery bill claimed by Jacques Chirac and his wife during eight of the 18 years that the President spent as mayor of the French capital.....

From 1987 to 1995 the Chiracs were reimbursed 1.45 billion francs for personal food bills.”


Who's he married to, Roseanne Barr?

SETTING BOUNDARIES:This occurs in Wales as a way of teaching kids to know their borders: :-

“The event - which happens every seven years - involves a curious tradition of bouncing young boys on boundary stones so the children would remember where the edge of town lay. “

Maybe they need this in the Road Map.

ALL ABOUT OIL: No really, it was!:

“The first crude oil to come out of Iraq after the war was yesterday awarded to a surprisingly international group of oil companies.
The six companies which won part of the shipment were Spanish refiners Repsol and Cepsa, TotalFinaElf from France, Tupras of Turkey, Italian ENI and US major ChevronTexaco.”


Interesting.

LATE WITH THE DRINKS: Good Ol Wim Duisenberg always ahead of the pack:

The 12-nation eurozone is in even worse economic trouble than previously thought. The warning, from European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg, comes just a week after the ECB slashed interest rates by half a percentage point to 2% in the face of fears of deflation and renewed recession””
THE PATHETIC SHARKS: First they lied about the danger of Saddam and now this:

"Shark dies after naked tank prank
A comedian could be prosecuted by an aquarium after he dived into a shark tank as a publicity stunt and then two days later one of the fish died.
Guy Venables dived naked into the tank at the Sea Life Centre in Brighton, East Sussex, about two weeks ago as a £1 bet and to promote a comedy evening he was running at the Komedia Club in the city. But two days later a 12-year-old smooth hound shark died of a sudden haemorrhage. …..The smooth hound shark, which would normally live for about 25 years, is being examined by biologists to see if it died from the stress of the prank. A spokeswoman for the centre said: "The sight of someone swimming around would have caused a lot of stress because they are in an enclosed area and would have been frightened."


So it turns out that sharks just ain’t the ruthless mass killers Steven Spielberg led us to believe. Write now to your Senator, MP, MEP or unelected dictator demanding an official enquiry!

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

THE NEED FOR A TRIAL: The BBC worries about:

Fears for Sankoh's health

The international war tribunal in Sierra Leone has said that the country's former rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, is in need of urgent medical treatment. ….
Doctors treating Mr Sankoh say that his condition is deteriorating by the day and that he needs to be flown out of the country where his medical needs can be met. They say that he is incapable of walking, talking or even of feeding himself and he cannot recognise his immediate surroundings. Mr Sankoh, believed to be in his 70s, founded the Revolutionary United Front rebel movement that gained international infamy for chopping off the hands, feet, ears and noses of civilians during a ten year terror campaign. …
His current medical condition casts doubts on his fitness to stand trial.”


In a court of law, yes; but I think he’s still fit for trial by fire, lions or sharp pointy sticks.

THE MORAL OF MARTHA: I didn’t think I could write about Martha Stewart because I have no idea who the hell she is; but with the way we live now, why should that be a problem? Insider trading laws hold a place close to my heart, since they are one of those laws that go against our base instincts; why should I not act on what I know? How will you know if I did? Who looses if I do? The answer is clear – Germany used to have no insider training laws, which is why Frankfurt looks nothing like Wall Street or the City of London. Insider trading is one of those esoteric laws that are seemingly irrelevant but in fact underpin the institutions that put bread on our table.

I’d like to think that there was a golden age when the city gent would dismiss the thought of trading on inside information with a soft guffaw and gentle chide that that’s not how we do business round here. It may have been true, it may not, but any such sheep were bound to attract wolves and none but a fool would think that financial pastures today are stocked by any but the sharp, smart and predatory. Which is why we need tough laws, laws designed for the canny not the naïve.

Now some may feel there’s a witch-hunt on, some that they’re taking easy scalps while CSFB survives and others may feel a slight distaste at the Robspieresque prosecutor. And they’d be right, but off base.

Martha has of course not been charged with insider trading but is instead it seems a sheep in violation of rules designed for wolves; very tough liability laws that require full and frank disclosure far in excess of anything you’d expect in a normal criminal prosecution. So what is the point? Leaving aside justice, the public education point is clear. The share market bubble may have been started by Paolo Alto and Wall Street, but it was sustained by the naïve investors, rich and poor, who willingly joined the pack thinking that they could still rely on the Sheppard’s protection.

Now it seems crazy that a domestic goddess who’d built up a fortune off her own back was personally investing in high risk biotech stock. It wasn’t her world and was of a pack she shouldn’t have joined. The lesson of this litigation is that if you run with the wolves, don’t be surprised if the Sheppard pursues you.

WHEN ECONOMISTS AGREE: There’s an old saying about how if you listen to 2 economists you’ll get 3 opinions. What should you think when you hear just one? This article from last week’s Economist is a canary:

“In many a country this catalogue of woes would provide ample fuel for a populist backlash. But not in Germany. Partly that is because the economics are complicated: cause and effect are often hard to disentangle. But it is also because Germany's traditional belief in the virtues of European integration is so deeply entrenched that it is almost politically incorrect to question the merits of the single currency. Prominent private-sector economists tend to talk only off the record when they express scepticism. One reckons that there is still a 25% chance that the euro will fail, adding mischievously that he believes that the Bundesbank has secretly kept an entire money supply's worth of marks in storage, just in case it ever became necessary to reissue the old currency.

Even when criticisms of the euro are aired publicly, they tend to be couched in very careful language. In a lucid exposition of Germany's economic woes, Hans-Werner Sinn of the Ifo institute in Munich points out that the creation of the single currency has wiped out a competitive advantage (relatively lower interest rates) that German companies used to enjoy over their European neighbours. But he then adds: “The beneficial effects of a unified European capital market cannot be questioned by a good European, even if Germany is unable to profit from it.”


The EU super-state demon to fear is not one of jackboots kicking down the door but rather the subtle loss of little freedoms, the shackling of every day intellectual arguments to sustain untruths. And when a profession as inherently argumentative as economists feels so retrained, you have to ask why you're still in the mine.

NB See Winds of Change for the Polish understanding of the same experience.

THE PRICE OF CONTROL: Anatole Kaletsky hits the nail here:-

"The Treasury has stated that the maxmimum possible economic benefit to Britain from joining the euro would be 0.25 per cent of GDP or £3 billion a year. When divided by Britain’s population of about 60 million, this is equivalent to £50 a year or £1 a week. Is this the price Mr Blair puts on Britain’s economic sovereignty and democratic accountability? It is perfectly true that the Treasury says this, but it also points out that the gain of 0.25 per cent annually is the maximum gain imaginable under the most favourable possible conditions. It is equally possible, in the Treasury’s judgment that the maximum gain from joining the euro could be as little as 0.02 per cent of GDP — equivalent to just 10p a week.…..

A government which loses control over its economy eventually loses control over everything else. And politicians who cannot be held accountable for the performance of their national economy ultimately cannot be held accountable at all. This is why Mr Blair is right. The euro decision really is about democracy, accountability and patriotism. And British voters are most unlikely to sell these national prerogatives for 10p a week, £1 a week or any other price.”


Bangarang.


ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO BE SUPPRESSED: We’ve had CNN’s mea culpa, but I find this admission even more shocking:

Channel 4 News diplomatic correspondent Lindsey Hilsum has admitted that she "self-censored" her reports from Baghdad and did not tell viewers that Saddam Hussein's regime was hiding Scud missile launchers in residential areas, because she did not want to be thrown out of the city.
Hilsum saw a missile launcher in a back street of Baghdad after losing her way when driving to the scene of the first marketplace bombing in the city, in which 14 people were killed.
Although Channel 4 News was not censored by Saddam's secret police, the Mukhabarat, Hilsum decided not to report on what she had seen for fear of being ejected from the city”


So get that, Channel 4 is so trusted by the Saddam regime she wasn’t even followed by the Mukhabat. And did she censor herself for fear of what might happen to herself or her interpreters? No, she was just didn’t want to be ejected from the City. Crips, we’ve heard this one before, I mean how good was the mini bar in the Palestine Hotel
?
But does our “diplomatic correspondent” feel any regrets? Of course not, in journalism today, remember you can always play the american angle as your get-out-of-jail-free card:

“Hilsum also said it was a "scandal" that three American networks pulled out of Baghdad before the war began. On top of that, the former Iraqi regime ejected Fox News and CNN, meaning American viewers had no home-grown account of what was going on in the city.”

So Hilsum thinks it’s a scandal that the major American networks didn’t stay in Baghdad to give the US public Saddam’s propaganda? Looks like the mini bar was spiked and she drank it all.
Tip off Tim Blair






DO THE RIGHT THING: The Danish pizzeria owner I reported earlier has been convicted:

“A Danish pizzeria owner who refused service to French and German tourists because their governments didn't back the US-led war in Iraq was convicted of discrimination today…
A Danish court fined Bjerre 5,000 kroner ($1,200) or said he could spend a week in jail.
"I will not pay. I'll do the time," Bjerre told The Associated Press. "I feel that I was convicted for supporting the coalition."

However, he said he would appeal the decision, despite offers from supporters to pay the fine.
"Every day I turn tourists down, but my conscience is doing fine," he said, adding he has received more than 200 letters from around the world offering support, including letters from "nearly every single state in the United States".
"That means a lot more to me than losing money," he said, adding he's lost nearly 50,000 kroner ($12,000) because of a drop in business and repairing vandalism to the shop's front.”


This adds a new angle to any discrimination debate. The market punished him for self restricting his potential sales and now the law punishes him. A free market? Sort of.
Tip off by Tim Blair

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

THE DEMOGRAPHIC DODGE: The Guardian reports:-

“Marching in Paris yesterday, Martine, a 49-year-old post office worker, could see her retirement plans slipping away before her eyes. She had no intention, she said, of working longer than her allotted 37.5 years….
Martine is not alone in her anger. The hot summer of Europe's discontent is being brought to the boil by the issue of state pensions as employees are ordered to work longer for less and to dig deeper into their pockets for the privilege of getting less back from the welfare kitty….
"You can either increase contributions, reduce pensions, or work longer, given the demographic developments in these pay-as-you-go systems," said Martine Durand, deputy director for labour and social affairs of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Increasing contributions is counter-productive in high-tax countries, reducing pensions is also politically unpopular. That just leaves raising retirement ages." ….
The controversy also goes to the heart of the debate on what kind of society "Europe" is building. In an essay published in Frankfurt and Paris last week Jürgen Habermas in Germany and Jacques Derrida in France hailed the birth of a "European public" which should be matched by strengthening the European polity.
European welfarism should be central to that project, they argued, setting Europe apart from the Anglo-Saxon model of pension funds, private provision, and stock markets as the cushions in old age. The continent's welfare systems "must not fall behind as a consequence of future policies aimed at taming capitalism in an increasingly border-free Europe".


But as even the OECD says , its not capitalism that’s the problem, its reality, the simple reality that someone today’s got to pay for your pension today. Europe’s greatest mistake has been to tie the Habermas dream so intimately into its cultural identity when the world it inhabits simply cannot sustain it, and indeed when no. Was this a fraud? Well simple demoagraphics and accounting have predicted its onset for years. But the issue is so fundamental, so horribly delicate, pitching as it does the young against the old and the hopes of people’s sunset years, that year after year the fudge continued. And while the cold dawn of reality rises over national European governments,

With exquisite mistiming, meanwhile, MEPs voted last week voted for themselves the option to retire retire at 60 on a pension of 70% of gross earnings. “

Which is why they should never be given the powers over social and welfare policy that the EU constitution proposes.


IT GOES ONE: The grim PR farce in the Congo continues:

“Britain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, South Africa and other Africa countries are expected to contribute a small number of mostly non-combat troops. “

The cannibals quiver.

Britain's contribution, expected to be announced in the Commons this week, is likely to consist mainly of military advisers and staff officers, as well as specialists, including engineers, the sources said. “

Brilliant; innovative, sensitive soldering; we’re going to try to build bridges with psychopaths.

With the arrival of 130 French commandos in Bunia yesterday, 730 troops have now been deployed; though 500 of those are based at Entebbe airport, in nearby Uganda”

Cool, there's probably better A/C in Entebbe.

"This is the first military intervention under an EU flag in Africa," Aldo Ajello, the EU's special representative to the Great Lakes region, said in Bunia yesterday. “

I wish I could have heard whether he said that with pride, shame or the indifference that an EU job and pension for life bequeaths.

THE BEEBATE: The BBC is running a “What the World thinks of America” global international debate:-

“the programme will boast a panel of quality thinkers, movers and shakers, including former Palestinian negotiator Dr Sa'eb Erekat, former cabinet minister Clare Short, US journalist Joe Klein and former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto”

Well lets see, Dr Erekat is a negotiator i.e. a talker, not a thinker mover or shaker, Clare Short certainly shakes when she moves, could hardly be called a thinker, Bhutto shakes and moves fast whenever anyone mentions corruption but again, not a thinker. Democrat Joe Klein might be called a thinker but that’s not his job here. In a role Mathew Parris has made his own on the BBC, he’s there as the “cue bunny” – “Well many Americans like me disagree with President Bush over [whatever]” cue Clare, Dr Erkat and the “representative” audience break out into an anti-imperialist hysteria.

And strange how they haven’t named the pro side - perhaps because no one will have heard of them? But you can probably guess the lightweights and stereo types they’ll drag in; on the international pro side, Yidshak Yidiot the Torah thumping settler from Gaza, a member of the Klux Klux Klan to speak for the American centre right, someone ugly and stupid from the Republican party etc.

And the cosponsors? Well a rat bag but you might wonder how represtative they are, the Jordanian is from Al Jazerra and from Australia we have the ABC’ Alan Jones, a man about as in touch with mainstream Australian opinion as Mumar Quadaffi. Interestingly they don’t seem to have lined up anyone from the US yet. Looks like the big channels are a being a bit cautious about being associated with this one.

And my point, well if you go over to the inane accompanying quiz, you’ll see it displays only a light grasp on the difference between America, the Americas and things, like the word dollar that have nothing to do with either. Likewise accompanying articles outlining the debate shows only a lose grip on the difference between the Bush administration, the US, technology, capitalism, globalization and the world today. Is this the BBC’s oft stated mission to inform and explain? You judge.

Monday, June 09, 2003

UN GRANDE, GRANDE GESTURE: The Guardian reports:

The French intervention on behalf of the UN in Congo will be short-lived and localised and will have a negligible impact on tribal conflict, according to a French military briefing paper obtained by the Guardian…..
A European military planner who was issued a copy of the French document said: "This is the most cynical military briefing I've read in my entire life. Everybody is just laughing at it." ….
A brief patrol by the French troops yesterday made the mission's modest ambitions apparent. Four jeeps packed with infantrymen drove 200 metres through the town centre, accompanied by as many western journalists. For 20 minutes groups of children sang for the cameras, then the troops rolled back to their airport base. “


Moral vanity meets the Heart of Darkness. I for one was a sucker; I thought something was intended. Now I’d prefer these people died unseen rather than as eye candy accessories to these internationalist idiots.

PEACEKEEPING WITHOUT PERSONNEL: Interesting development at the Beehive:

“The Prime Minister is ruling out contributing personnel to a United States-organised peacekeeping force operating in Iraq after the war. As a result, the likelihood of New Zealand joining a peacekeeping force in postwar Iraq appears to be diminishing.”

I’d have thought if you’ve ruled out sending “personnel” then your chances of joining a peacekeeping force aren’t just diminishing, they’re zero. Unless, of course, she was thinking of sending an army of androids or digitally animated orcs.

NZ Pundit has the deal on the multifacial nonsense that passes as Helen Clark’s foreign policy

THE PRICE OF DINAR III: I banged on earlier about the potential pecuniary problems of occupation (which I could link to if my archieve worked); it looks like they are now emerging:

“The problem lies with the purple-and-yellow 10,000-dinar notes, worth about $10 dollars, that Saddam's government introduced in the last years of its rule. Nobody wants to hold them. They are widely believed to be easy to counterfeit and persistent rumors say they will be declared worthless because large amounts were stolen during the anarchy that followed Saddam's overthrow on April 9. “

Just like we’ve had “persitent rumours” that 170,000 artefacts were stolen from the Iraqi museum, that 1 million children died because of sanctions, that the Republican Guard were elite and that George Bush used to be the sailor character in the Village People. And yet, and yet, the interim authority goes along with it….

“To meet the demand for the smaller notes, the central bank is printing millions, each bearing the picture of a youthful Saddam with neatly combed hair and a smart jacket and tie. U.S. and British officials concede it is embarrassing to have to print Saddam banknotes, but say it is better to lose face -- by temporarily keeping his face on the currency -- than fan the anger of Iraqis about the dinars in their pockets. “

So not because there is any truth to the rumours but because either a) they’re weak and/or b) they hadn’t given any thought to the matter before they started printing money and/or c) they think there’s no chance that next week there will be “persistent rumours” that the 250 dinar note is being withdrawn from circulation meaning the 10,000 dinar note will instead then start selling at a premium of 140%.

Gresham’s law is the well know proposition that “bad money drives out good” (and this indeed is what seems to be happening with the so called “Swiss Dinar” which is being hoarded). But in this instance the interim authority seems to be pushing Greshams Spincyle Law where “money that is rumoured to be good drives out money that is rumoured to be bad but as a result is then rumoured to be bad and in fact becomes bad because the authorities have been printing it like crazy because it was rumoured to be good”. Like most things Iraqi it’s not as neat as the original and you couldn’t imagine it happening here. But like many of the other problems it is surely one they could have thought about earlier.

CRASH AND BURN: Interesting post by Donald Sensing on who Roland Garros (you know, place where they play tennis in France) was:-

Garros' initial wartime achievement - a notable one - was his development of a forward firing machine gun which despatched bullets through the rotating blade of his Morane-Saulnier L aircraft; to protect the propeller he attached steel deflector plates, a somewhat crude if effective safety device.

In a two week period in March 1915 Garros downed no fewer than five German aircraft, an achievement that led to his being dubbed an "ace" in an American newspaper; the term stuck and was consequently attributed to other Allied pilots who similarly achieved five successes.
The next month Garros was downed over German lines. He landed his plane safely and was captured before he could destroy it. Noted Dutch airplane designer Anton Fokker, working for the Germans, examined it and decided that Garros eventually would have destroyed his propeller by continuing to fire through it because the steel defelctor plates ultimately would have failed. Such a failure would probably kill the pilot, of course.”


Isn't this a great analogy for how French foreign and defence policy has been played ever since; imaginative, brave and effective but, like a slow train wreak, everyone can see the whole thing's bound to crash and burn in the end.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

OH THOSE FRENCH: Now you dont know whether everyone's telling the truth here, but on its face it looks like France has lost a bit of its liberte and fraternite.

Scores of servicemen and their guests — some in wheelchairs — were stunned as 30 cops threw three gas canisters at them in the town of Lourdes, renowned for miracle cures....Police chiefs in Lourdes — visited by hundreds of thousands each year for its healing waters — said the 2am incident happened because the pilgrims were breaking a local by-law that bans late-night boozing....Lourdes police commissioner Didier Ribeyrolle admitted the use of tear gas was “inappropriate”. But he said: “The hotel showed a lax attitude to our by-laws. Some patrons may have been shocked by the methods used, but the rules must be respected.”
IF I HAD THE WINGS OF A DOVE: Now this looks like fun!
HARD CHOICES: Clare Short shows why she is held in such high regard in the world at large – a supreme ability to make tough nuanced choices:

And thus we have two possible ways forward: either a commitment to greater global justice, sharing knowledge and technology to give everyone in the world the chance of a decent life; or a growth in inequality, bitterness, environmental degradations, disease, war and displacement.

Obviously, greater justice is morally preferable”


Speak for yourself, me I’m for bitterness, disease, war and displacement.

GETTING BACK TO NORMAL POLITICS: From the Observer:

When the Chancellor delivers the Government's statement on euro entry tomorrow, senior Tory strategists will be asking themselves one question: Has the Cabinet's decision brought them closer to their fantasy - the removal of Tony Blair and his replacement with Brown, preferably before the next election?…
For Tories, the day that Brown becomes Prime Minister cannot dawn too soon. Champagne corks will pop in Tory Central Office. They have almost given up hoping they can win against Blair, who has occupied their traditional ground for so long that natural Conservatives have forgotten where it once was.
Only by positioning themselves to the Left of Blair and Blunkett - on tuition fees, say, or jury trial and ID cards - have the Tories made progress. Yet it is an uncomfortable place for Conservatives, and it leaves them nervous and confused.

WAG THE DOG: this is a good article on the economic connection between the euro and political union:

"The point is not merely that the euro makes most sense for those who implicitly accept the case for a more federal EU (whatever it is called). It is that the EU will adopt increasingly federal structures because the alternative - allowing the rigidities of the euro to cause a long-term slump - will be less palatable. This prospect will not particularly alarm many EU states, and especially the smaller ones, because they favour greater social, economic and political integration on other grounds.
But the government has yet to explain these facts of life to the British people. Joining the euro will be an irrevocable decision. And it will benefit the UK considerably through increased trade, investment and growth. But monetary union is not a suitable policy for a loose grouping of sovereign states. To be successful it will require greater European integration.”


This however raises an interesting contradiction about the order in which the Euro debate is being presented in the UK; given the connection, isn’t there a fundamental contradiction in having separate referendums on the Euro and European constitution since it is inefficient to reject one and accept the other?



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