Friday, March 31, 2006

Condi in the UK

So Condi Rice is in the UK. Couple of points on this. First, who is organising the protests? According to the BBC, the protestors were shouting 'Condoleeza Rice Go Home'. Now fair play to them, they went out in their coats and scarves and protested in the weather that she complained to schoolkids about, but you guys need some work on your slogans. First off, brevity is good. 'Rice Go Home', or something like that. Something rhyming is always good, vis 'Rice ain't Nice'. Allliteration is also good 'Condi Conned-Us!', the chant treating the second piece as if it were one word - 'Con-Di Con-Dus' and so forth. If, however, you're fed up with rhyming, brevity and alliteration, you could always try 'Go Home You War Mongering Facist And Stop Lying And Breaking International Law And Bombing And Torturing Innocent People.' Or something like that.

On the second point, why is she attending Liverpool Philharmonic's Celebration as European City of Culture 2008 on Friday night (tonight, in fact). This is a little ridiculous. It's only 2006, and March for goodness sake. Last Sunday in the Liverpool Everton football match, both number 8's became '08's to highlight the thing. Now the venerable city of Cork didn't engage in any of this tomfoolery. No, no. As European City of Culture 2005, they were nice and orderly, had a big party on New Year's Eve, and kicked things off from there. And by the way, since you asked, Patras in Greece is the European City of Culture 2006. Next year it's Luxembourg, which apparently has to share the honor with Sibiu in Romania. Following that, Liverpool apparently has to share with the Stavanger region in Norway. Cork? It didn't have to share with anyone. Doutcha boy!

Testing Identity: Define it First!

Germany is toying with a new citizenship test, which, if passed, will allow immigrants to become citizens. There are a number of debates around this - does knowing the answers really make you eligible when many blonde haired, blue-eyed German university graduates would have difficulty passing it? Is knowing about the German physicist who revolutionized medical diagnosis in 1895 necessary to join the German identity? Is there a moral, ethical or cultural standard for national belonging? Because, if there is, then it's back to facism. Democracy is about accommodating divergent views, not weeding them out.

There is significant difficulty around the muslim thing. Arguments are being made that the Dutch test in particular, which incorporates a video of gay men kissing and a nudist beach, are intended to target Muslims, but that's not where I'm interested. I'm interested in the veiled faces who sat down and defined for their own purposes what it means to be Dutch, or German. Because, if either defines itself as a democracy, then part of that definition is that all comers are accepted. We support minorities. We protect minorities. We are open, free, tolerant. Really? Come on.

Now, that's not to say that a free-for-all in terms of immigration is right either. People economics, or whatever ugly term you want to put on it, demands controlled movement, so that the rest of us can have sustainable structures for our society. Basically, there's no point in taking everyone in if the influx that results compromises the very reasons they wanted to come here in the first place. But similarly one has to acknowlegde that being democratic and tolerant, we need to allow immigration to some degree, and we need then to acknowlegde that any immigration will by definition impose an additional strain on all infrastructure - roads, hospitals, education.

I wonder what the test would be for Northern Ireland...must refer that one to Slugger!

Laughing in the face of Tyranny

Joe Conason's excellent piece in ("Saddam chose to deny inspectors" | again, laboriously, ridiculously, highlights the lies of the Bush administration. One can always spin, fudge, and obfuscate, but this is crazy stuff.

Repeatedly, unrepentantly, and blatantly, the White House has continued to lie about Iraq. Now here's the question - why? It is clear that there is a massive rump of support that will believe anything that comes out of the mouth of the president. They will trust him - and that is key - to do what he feels is in the best interests of the country. On top of that, his poll ratings couldn't be much lower. So why doesn't he just come out with it? 'We need to secure our oil interests, and we may be acting selfishly, but it is in our national economic self-defence.' A la Michael McDowell, he may be loathed by a section of the community, but they're democrats anyway. So why doesn't he just come out and say it? Here's a theory - he's more concerned with international opinion than with doestic opinion. Being perceived as a dumb ass might actually help him, and America, retain some level of standing. If I had a Euro for each of my European acquaintances who have said 'I love America, it's just your president that sucks...'

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gotta love the French...

So, this debate is raging across Europe and North America about whether the likes of Google and Yahoo! should have to pay the broadband providers for access to their customer base. A little desperate, one would think. And not really the subject of this blog, either. However, the kicker in this FT article ( / By industry / Media & internet - Move to levy new online charges) is pretty sweet - last line: 'France Telecom, meanwhile, rejected “net neutrality” as “an American debate”'. That's it. No elaboration. Don't want to even consider it. American trash. Jeeze.

Podcasting the Guardian, Newsnight

Good stuff y'all...the Guardian is beginning to publish some serious podcasts as is Newsnight
so we media junkies can all keep up to date on the move...

Gotcha Chucky!

Charles Taylor was nabbed trying to slip into Cameroon from Nigeria, in a Range Rover with an unidentified woman, his son, and lots of greenbacks. (Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Liberia's ex-leader handed over for war crimes trial) Brought to Sierra Leone, he now supplants the late Slobodan Milosevic as the big cheese in the International Criminal Court. Pressure from the US is said to have been the major factor in securing Nigeria's decision to give him up, which as I complained yesterday is laden with irony given the lack of US support for the institution.

Now the whole thing enters another phase. The ICC is troubled by a lack of jurisprudence. It is a young court, the laws are underdeveloped, and the international legal community was disappointed by the death of Milosevic not only because a decision was never arrived at, but because the completion of the case would mark a milestone in the development of international criminal law. The case of Tadic, a relatively low-level war criminal from the former Yugoslavia resulted in the late 1990's in reams and reams of documents, not because the case was complex, but because the lack of an international criminal jurisprudence meant that all sorts of standards were being set in his prosecution. This trend continued in Milosevic, and will undoubtedly resume with Taylor. It is a dangerous phase for the fledgling court, and they need to be prudent, patient, and careful in their prosectution.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

American Management of Iraq

Today's New York Times reports that the President has taken a view regarding the incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister that undoubtedly the PM does not share (Bush Opposes Iraq's Premier, Shiites Report - New York Times). There are no rules anymore, it seems. Simply tell the public one thing (free, democratic Iraq and so forth) and do whatever you like. Actions and PR are separate. Law and PR are separate. Here's the difficulty. If you disregard all accepted structures within which actions are carried out, and simply say that they guys on the ground can do or say whatever they want in order to get the job done, then you have absolutely nowhere to go if you fail. Not only are international laws (Geneva Conventions), norms (non-intervention, preeminence of sovereignty) and structures (The UN) ignored in the conduct of American forces in Iraq, but they are proactively dismissed. To compound the problem, where the proponents of these laws, norms and structures proactively attempt to assist, they are actively rebuffed as irrelevant. Abject failure is then met with cries of 'I told you so' and 'what did you expect' and 'who's sorry now?', and, occasionally, 'dumb-ass!'

Time to wake up. People, and nations, are too impatient. Results are demanded instantly where history has taught us that the results we seek can only be secured when given enough time. Europe should watch out too - its integration project has hurtled along at a rate of knots (fifty years since the Coal & Steel Pact this year, if memory serves) which defies convention, and its enlargement needs time to be bedded down. The accession of Romania, Bulgaria, and possibly Turkey and the Ukraine won't help this bedding down process - time, patience, and time, gentlemen, please.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Charlie does a bunk...US is annoyed?

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor missing from Nigerian home
So Charles Taylor has disappeared. No real surprise there then. However, the call from the US to have him tried at a UN backed court smacks of double standards doesn't it? Doesn't it? Am I the only one noticing here? Specifically to the International Court, that the US doesn't support? Except, of course, when it is used as a tool against one's enemies...

Obits - Milan Mirror-Exchange

I occasionally wander the pages of obscure newspapers searching for - I'm not sure - images that capture the imagination, perhaps. The Milan-Mirror Exchange obits section (Obits - Milan Mirror-Exchange) notes the passing of Ms. Hattie Delmer Eddings, a woman of 100 years and great, great, grandmother to three kids. I don't know why this is important, or relevant, but I'm sure the good people of Mirror, Tennessee, must have some memories and stories. The web gives us so much trivia, and sometimes we must fill in the blanks. I wonder if Ms. Delmer-Eddings in her time baked apple pie, or was she sent up the river for participating in a fraud. Perhaps she masterminded some great scheme to bring water to a famine stricken part of Africa, or founded the local newspaper within which this final comment was printed. Or maybe she just lived for her family, kids, and their lives - an achievement in itself.

South American News

Two stories caught the eye this morning. The BBC reports that Argentina is debating whether or not to allow school kids to watch the World Cup games involving the national side during school hours, and in Brazil, the finance minister has resigned in the wake of corruption claims.

South America has always retained a special place in its heart for football. Strong leagues, and very strong international sides have offered a way out for impoverished people, and hold aloft a dream of a better life. Maradona was spotted kicking a ball of rags around, and instantly recruited (or so the story goes). This author used on occasion play football in the garden wondering if the kind old lady walking past the garden wall was in fact a talent scout on a seaside holiday in the south of Ireland. The dream of it all coming together, the dream of being picked in the most unlikely of circumstances, offered a chance of fame, fortune and global adulation.

Aspiration is an important thing. It gives a child sustenance, it fosters the imagination, and every kid will tell you that it is all about the chance that it might happen, not necessarily that it will. Kids should enjoy their childhood, they should have fun, they should dream, and shout and imagine what it might be like one day. Almost all of them will never make it, but they retain that shared consciousness of ambition that will one day translate itself into a national consciousness defined by the kids that watched those players. There is no disappointment in being one of millions that didn't make it. But there is disappointment in not being allowed to participate in the zeitgeist. Let them watch football, let them cheer and cry and laugh and play together for a few hours a few days during the month of June. And then let them delve into their studies once more, in a better established and more cohesive union than had been the case a few short weeks before.

Brazil has more pressing difficulties in the news. Lula's government has been under pressure for a considerable period of time now, and rumblings of corruption have plagued his tenure. However, he appears to be strengthening his hand of late. A working class hero, his role in dragging his nation from penury to prosperity not been insignificant, and while there is a long way to go, much of his time will have been spent drawing preconceived notions of acceptable behaviour from the minds of his contemporaries, such that they can set an example for the next generation to follow. This is the lot of those that would drive corruption from government, and it is often a lonely road. It is wonderful to see that the hum of corruption is now difficult to shake off, and the finance minister's resignation comes in the midst of furious denials. This one hopes means that corruption is finally and totally unacceptable, even by implication. There may be innocent political victims along this rocky road to integrity, but it seems that in one of the most populous nations on earth, they're on the road at last!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Interesting Stories of the day...

40 people killed in Iraqi blast near Mosul. Ukranian Leaders battling for power. Tony Blair making one headline statement after another. Oh, and the New York Times reports that apparently George W. Bush planned to go into Iraq all along.

Blair is planning to go only after he fixes the Health Service problems - I presume that's the health service in Britain, not Iraq. And he admits to it being a mistake saying he wouldn't be PM for the next election. Anti-American is madness, Blair trumpets in a major speech to the Australian parliament. Gotta love the reporter who asked whether he had any advice for the English sprint relay team on how to pass on the baton (English sprint relay team in Commonwealth Games dropped the aforementioned...)

Pity about Yuschenko and the problems in Ukraine. Seems that the wily old Soviets managed to queeze in between the divided liberals. Still, should Mr. Yuschenko manage to swallow some pride and accept his erstwhile Liberal nemesis Ms. Tymoshenko back in as PM, maybe a focus on a 'not-gone-away-yet' Soviet conservative bloc might help them to concentrate on strategic imperatives for the long term future of an important, potentially EU, country. This kick in the proverbials should serve as a timely reminder that success in the Orange Revolution thing was only the beginning, and not an end in itself.

And finally, to George. I don't understand it. The liberal press in America simply have to understand that George broke international law, knowingly, and everyone knows he did, but also that he got away with it. Let it go, Louis, as the Budweiser frog said. Focus on the here and now. Beating this drum is tired, and we need new stuff. We need to understand more about the Enron trial, and where Mr. Cheney really fits in. We need to know about who authorised the side-letter concession on the Patriot Act. This thing is simply appalling. Basically, Bush said that he'd accede to the checks and balances stuff contained within the new version of the controversial act, but would not be so obligated where he considered it important enough. Reminds me of constitutions of places like China (everyone can have Human Rights, all the rights they want, except when the government thinks that they shouldn't have them) or Bangaldesh (human rights for all save where human rights contradict the Sharia Law).

So I'm hereby guaranteeing everyone in the whole world that I'm giving each of you a million dollars (or Euros), save where I feel, subjectively, that such an act may compromise National Security. Just apply to this blog, and I'll get back to you. Trust me.