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The Geographical Guide To Sin 13 May 2007

Posted by David in Comment, World.

Michael Gove and his mother-in-law have introduced a new discussion game to Britain, as yet unnamed it seems. Apparently you have to match each of the 7 Deadly Sins to a country (I guess you could do it for anywhere really), and its very popular in Italy. So here goes;

Lust – France, need I say more
Anger – Iran, keen to destroy millions
Pride – Australia, where they fly their flag and can win stuff
Sloth – Spain, where everywhere closes at lunchtime
Envy – UK, where “keeping up with the Jones'” is endemic
Gluttony – USA, closely followed by the UK
Greed – Hong Kong, ultimate consumer city

No doubt it will be labelled politically incorrect, so enjoy your discussions while they last.


Is the World Doomed? 15 April 2007

Posted by David in World.
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The BBC is running a story about nuclear power, and its spread across the World. Personally, I’m against nuclear power for three reasons. Not safety, which I hope is no longer a concern, but because (1) I wouldn’t want it built next to me and so it’s hypocritical to put it elsewhere, (2) the costs are very disputed and I never sign blank cheques, and (3) what do we do with the waste for the next X many years and at what cost?

But my concern, as the article demonstrates, is the now seemingly terminal waning of Anglosphere power. The British era ended, we know that, but now too is the American era. “The present system is a fraud. A few countries can’t continue to tell the rest of us what to do,” says Pranab Mukherjee, the Indian Foreign Minister.

The article was spurred by the lifting of ineffective American sanctions on nuclear material – the welcoming of India to the nuclear club. But where will it end. Sanctions are now ineffective as we are unable and unwilling to enforce them – having a Navy now similar to that of Belgium – yet by not enforcing them we are appeasing ever more powerful forces who’s values and wants directly oppose our own (i.e. Iran). The situation is fast matching in many ways the analysis of Niall Ferguson.

I think now would be a good time to state that I opposed the Iraq war. Not in a Not In My Name/Stop The War lefty pacifist sense, but in a tactical and military sense – I didn’t think it a priority because Saddam wasn’t an immediate threat (probably could have been bought off anyway) and it was done with a bad strategy (now evident). But now is not the time to turn and run, isolationism now would be the worst possible option.

With the spread of nuclear knowledge the World is doomed, unless we make it “un-doomed”.

Captured Sailors Home, But The Damage Is Done 11 April 2007

Posted by David in Iran, Media, World.
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The 15 captured British sailors are now safely home, thank goodness, but the amount of damage done by the recent events cannot be simply put. My problems with the “ordeal” go back to the very beginning of it.

Why did they allow themselves to be taken prisoner? Now they themselves were out-gunned, but the Royal Navy – with its assorted helicopters, launches, Royal Marines and firepower – was nearby and had enough guns to blow the tiny Iranian boat out of the water. Now presumably the Royal Navy aren’t there on a cruise, so surely defending the patrols is their purpose? Why didn’t the sailors call for back up? Indeed, why didn’t the Navy spot the Iranians to start with?

Then patrols aren’t allowed to open fire unless attacked first, but would the Iranians dare open fire on British forces undertaking a UN mandate in Iraqi waters, a clear act of war? It’s not a good idea. The British could have just sailed away. Orwhat if the British sailors had re-boarded the Indian ship they had been inspecting, as a defensive position. Would Iran open fire on British forces with a UN mandate on an Indian ship in Iraqi waters? Hardly likely.

But when they were captured, they didn’t really need to play along quite so much. Yes, do what it takes to get released, don’t annoy the Iranians, but don’t look like you’re having fun – pulling silly faces to the camera, playing table tennis, laughing and joking. It was clearly propaganda, so they didn’t need to lay it on so thick. They needed to look worried, scared, bored, upset. When they got told they were going home and met the President, they should shake his hand when he went to shake theirs, but they didn’t need to lay praise and thanks on him. He is the man who ordered their capture, and sends bombs to kill their fellow British servicemenin Iraq, did they forget?

Now they return and sell their stories – a great insult to the forces and those who have died – but who will the World believe? The words now of fear and suffering under evil Iranian captors don’t match the images on television. The World thinks Iran could have forced them to look and say they are happy, but Britain too could have forced them to say they were terrified and badly treat. Most of the World will believe Iran.

This isn’t helped by the stories either. The worst part of the ordeal from the endless stream of stories seems to have been being kept isolated, and “good cop, bad cop” types of mind games, seemingly no worse than those used in police stations across Britain (and deliberately softer than those used by the USA to terror suspects). It’s certainly less than what some civilian hostages have been through.

It would be far better if the story just went away – but it won’t. Iran is now making a film, probably one of those a docu-drama thing, showing what happened.

What Has Iran Gained? 4 April 2007

Posted by David in Iran, World.
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Iran is to free the 15 captive sailors. I will believe it when I see it, but fingers crossed we will be seeing it soon. Their release is “a gift to the British people” according to Iran’s President, who has asked Tony Blair not to put them on trial for allegedly entering Iranian waters. So after all this tension, what has Iran gained?

Surprisingly, quite a lot. For a good many days, Britain and the US have looked ridiculously weak against Iran – both militarily and diplomatically – with the EU refusing any trade sanctions. In public opinion too we have looked weak, the shrugged shoulders of majority opinion. Across Iran and the Muslim world, Iran has looked powerful and mighty. Now, by releasing the hostages, they are trying to look magnanimous at home and abroad. The shrugged shoulders in the West can now say “oh they can’t be that bad, they released them without any demands”.

In the propaganda battle is may well be Iran 1, Britain 0?

Fanning The Flames Of Hatred For TV Ratings 3 April 2007

Posted by David in BBC, Media, World.

On Thursday at 9pm, Channel 4 will screen The Mark of Cain, a fictional television drama about British soldiers in Iraq abusing some Iraqi prisoners. It’s already getting attacked, and rightly so. Even anti-war journalist Max Hastings has called it “a gross exaggeration”.

The writer claims “it shows, with some degree of empathy…how the chaotic situations they find themselves in lead to the abuse of prisoners.” It is based, he says, “on a number of real-life accounts.”

But what irritates me is that for many, this will fan the flames ofhatred. The extremist imams will no doubt have their VCRs set, ready to tape the programme and replay it to their followers. Others will watch it and be lead to become new followers.  For some at least, this fictional drama will prove the stories and their suspicious, and thus encourage more attacks both here and in Iraq.

Writers and broadcasters should think before fanning the flames of hatred.

Iran Hostages: What is the Next Phase? 31 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, EU, Europe, European Union, World.

Iran still has 15 British troops held captive, at an unknown location, and is refusing diplomatic access to them unless Britain apologises for entering Iran’s waters. But we didn’t enter Iran’s waters! Even if Britain forged the GPS signal and maps – as Iran has themselves – the original grid reference given by Iran is actually within Iraqi waters! Only when they realised the mistake did they give a new grid reference.

But what can we do? We cannot block trade any more than we have, as the European Union (Iran’s biggest trading partner) controls our trade policy, and both Germany (the current European Union President) and France (with a veto) have big trade links with Iran. France alone in fact is Iran’s 2nd biggest trading partner. As the Times reports, European foreign ministers failed last night to back Britain in a threat to freeze the €14 billion trade in exports to Iran.

We don’t even know where they are, so can’t mount a rescue bid, as dangerous and near impossible as it would be anyway. Would we really declare was for 15 people? Iran would probably execute them even if we did. And the public have shown a very distinct lack of interest really. As the Telegraph comments, public opinion has changed. Where our great-great-grandfathers clamoured for the rescue of Gordon, we have reacted to Iran’s provocation with a resigned shrug. Americans, in particular, cannot understand why we seem so indifferent to the fate of our own people.

I certainly agree that the Americans are confused, the internet is awash with comments from our friends over the pond who really do not understand what has happened to Great Britain – many pledging their military support to us. The US Republicans in particular are shocked by our lack of action. But what will the government do?

And so Iran has all the cards, and knows it. The letters and apologies are clearly forced by the Iranians, you can tell in the letters by the language and grammar, one lacking the definite article and reading “To British People” as if dictated by a foreign person with less than fluent English rather than “To the British People” as we would say. The mention of removing forces from Iraq so they can take decisions themselves is clear indication as to Iran’s power in Iraq.

Blair has got to step up the pressure. Appeasement doesn’t work. If you give in to one hostage taker, you invite a thousand more, with ever bigger and tougher demands. We cannot rely on the EU, they will not help us. The diplomatic heat must be cranked up, with tough sanctions banning trade, blocking entry to the country, halting flights over allied territories etc. Meanwhile we must begin to threaten military action – such as seizing the waterway, bombing nuclear plants and oil sites – with America and our other true allies, and let Iran know we will not allow such actions against our forces enacting a UN mandate.

But Blair and Brown are weak. They talk of the next phase, the next level, the next stage – but what exactly is it?

Some People Don’t Deserve Freedom 28 March 2007

Posted by David in World.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, surely the most justified war since we declared war on Hitler in 1939. Sadly however, there are a large number of disgusting, insulting, hypocritical, rude, lying, sneering, condescending and arrogant hypocrites who enjoy using our freedoms but would sacrifice the freedoms of others for their own moral self-rightousness. Take a look at some of these responses to the question “what do you remember of the Falklands War?” and try not to get annoyed at some of them. Some people – particularly the “Malvinas” nerd in the suit and glasses – really don’t deserve freedom. As the US Marines say, freedom aint free. For men such as this to live freely, brave soldiers have fought and died. Such a condescending and stupid view is an insult to all of them. The young kid was good though.

The responses have also showed the true colours of some people. “Let’s just give em back as an anniversary present. I never saw the point of principle here, losing one life for the Falklns seems far too much, so the reality is just ludicrous,” says Malvinas, seemingly not interested in what the Falkland Islanders themselves want.

“As I understand it, under international law Argentina has a stronger claim to the Malvinas than Britain to what it likes to refer to as the Falklands,” says Jailhouselawyer, seemingly forgetting the right to self-determination in the UN Charter. Surely the Falkland Island resident’s have the biggest claim, and they wish to remain British. The Falklands have never even belonged to Argentina anyway.Argentina and the Falklands once both belonged to Spain, but that does not mean Argentina owns the Falklands (under that principle the Falklands would have an equal claim over Argentina!).

“What possible justification can there be for the Falklands to remain British, other than Imperial aggression? Give em back, or give Argentina the Isle of Man. Actually, they’ve suffered enough. The guy in the Abbey yesterday was right, this country has never come close to admitting to itself the damage it has done around the world. I don’t blame the solider, they go where they’re told. This was a shameful war for the Conservatives, just as Iraq has been a shameful war for Labour. But to the rest of the world, these are just the latest chapters in Britain’s roll-call of arrogance, violence and hypocrisy for which it should beg the forgiveness of the world,” says another mad person.

Left-wingers are so happy to over-rule local sentiment, it’s disgusting. The way they run down the sacrifice of heroic servicemen, and war and the islands (which they insultingly call “a few rocks”), is just despicable. Let us remember Argentina was the aggressor. An Argentina run by a fascist dictatorship! An Argentina which invaded British territory, occupied by British people, who wish to remain British. There’s no ifs and buts about it. The war was the right thing.

I always feel those against the war would think differently if it was their town occupied by a fascist junta.

Don’t Forget Wilberforce 25 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, World.
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Last night there was plenty of coverage of the 200th anniversary of abolition – the end of slave trading anywhere under the Union Flag – but I was disappointed by it. Anyone tuning in would have seen not a celebration of Wilberforce and his heroic abolitionist’s victory, or the contribution made to the World by the emancipated slaves and their descendants, nor even a celebration of racial harmony, but rather a series of stunts in self-flagellation.

We had church leaders in chains, commentators saying “Britain is still living off wealth from slavery” but not explaining how or even what could be done about it, and John Prescott calling for a Slavery Day. Personally I’d rather have an Abolition of Slavery Day, can’t see how we’re living off 18th Century wealth, and don’t believe that the current population have inherited ancestral guilt – just as modern day Germans aren’t responsible for the Nazis.

Everything has to be pessimistic, down-beat and negative. Because of this we forget what people can achieve – like Wilberforce – which is remarkable and great. We lose inspiration and drive, and so fail to make similar achievements ever again. We quickly forget that we banned slavery, that the Royal Navy actively policed that ban across the globe, and that individual people – like Wilberforce and his other abolitionists – can change the World. There still is slavery, but self-flagellation about the past won’t fix it.

Update (1.04.07): An excellent article by Dan Hannan MEP – “You are descended from slaves. So am I. And from slave-owners, too, come to that. Statistically, it could hardly be otherwise. Forced servitude was common to all early human societies. It existed in the dark times, before cities and writing. It was carried into the first civilisations, in Ur and Sumer, in Egypt and Persia, in the Indus Valley and in Xia Dynasty China, in Meso-America and the Andes. It survived through the classical age, and into the mediaeval period. Slavery was endemic in African and Arab societies. Between 11 and 17 million people were taken from Africa by Muslim slavers between the seventh and nineteenth centuries. In the New World, too, slavery existed from the earliest moment of human settlement. The Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all practised it as, later, did the colonists. Although slavery sometimes had an ethnic basis, it was no great respecter of race. Muslim slavers traded in Christians: Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and others. Christians, for their part, enslaved Moors: as late as the sixteenth century, hundreds of thousands of Muslim slaves toiled on Spanish plantations. On the eve of the American civil war, there were 3,000 black slave-owners in the United States. We are, in other words, all in this together. Everyone alive today is descended from the exploiters and the exploited: it is simply a question of how far back you want to go. And that, surely, is what makes the arguments about apologies and reparations so silly. We can all agree that slavery was an abominable crime. From a contemporary perspective, it seems unbelievable that otherwise humane societies could tolerate it. It is understandable that, feeling wrenched with revulsion, we want to do something about it, or at least say tell people how miserable we feel about the whole thing. But tell whom? Anyone we choose to apologise to is statistically certain also to be descended from both owners and owned. What worries me about the campaign for reparations is that it unwittingly serves to sustain a racist view of humanity. By assigning guilt or victimhood on the basis of ethnicity, it implies that we are defined by our ancestry, rather than being free individuals. This was, of course, a popular Nazi idea, but I thought it had been widely discredited since. How strange to see so many well-meaning Lefties taking it up again.”

Three Cheers For Wu Ping 23 March 2007

Posted by David in China, Comment, World, Wu Ping.

I hate compulsory purchase powers and land grabs, like that being proposed at Stansted Airport, so I love this story about a Chinese lady refusing to budge.

Mrs Wu Ping and her husband are holding up a major development, because they don’t want to move. They are refusing to let the authorities demolish their modest but loved home. Good for them.

A deadline set by the court ordering her to authorise the demolition ran out on Thursday, and it was not clear what steps the authorities would take next. The Chinese media have dubbed her “the stubborn nail” for her refusal to give up.

But Ms Wu defended her decision, “I’m not stubborn or unruly, I’m just trying to protect my personal rights as a citizen. I will continue to the end,” she was quoted as saying in the state-run Legal Daily.

Land grabbing is a terrible thing, and a lot has gone on to build the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Here too it goes on, for the 2012 Olympics and other projects.

Get Off My Mobile Phone You Market Rigging Nutters 15 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, EU, Europe, European Union, Policy, World.
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Using your mobile phones abroad is going to be cheaper. But before you celebrate, guess what? Using your mobile phones at home is likely to be dearer. The EU has decided that it has the right to decide how much we pay to use our phones overseas and so told operators “cut your fees or we’ll force you to with regulation”. I call that blackmail myself.

Operators make a lot of money from overseas calling, and naturally will have to recoup this elsewhere – dearer domestic calls, less freebies such as new phones every year or worse service (if such a thing is at all possible) – or see fewer profits, lower dividends and reduced share prices. As a business this equals trouble.

But it is of course none of the EU’s business. We are all capable of deciding our own contract for a phone, if we have one, and using it ourselves. Those not reading the full contract in the past have had nasty surprises with bills when using mobiles overseas, but it’s not for government to regulate prices. We should be free to choose any phone contract we like, not told what we can and cannot have by the EU. If I want a contract that charges more when overseas but less when at home, and the phone company wants to offer it, why can’t I have it?