April 14, 2012

The fall of the House of Bossi?

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:59

BBC News has a profile of Umberto Bossi, who recently had to resign as head of the political party he founded, Italy’s Northern League:

… Mr Bossi made one of his charismatic, raucous and fiery speeches, declaring in essence that northern Italians were no longer going to kow-tow to Rome’s greedy politicians and to pay their taxes to enable lazy southern Italians to live on public welfare.

One of his famous phrases was “Roma ladrona” meaning “Thieving Romans!”

It was all pretty provocative stuff, and had strongly racist undertones.

The League mocks the accents and the origins of Southerners whom they derisively call “terroni”. I suppose “ignorant peasant” would be the nearest English translation.

[. . .]

Sixteen years later it turns out that Umberto Bossi has apparently been dipping into the public trough, even more deeply than the Roman politicians he was so critical of when he founded his separatist party, and set up the phantom north Italian state he dubbed “Padania” – meaning the country of the river Po.

In 2004 Mr Bossi suffered a stroke which left him with impaired speech, but failed to quench his political ambitions or his vulgar public manners.

He frequently uses swear words in public to smear anyone he does not like and often gives the finger in front of TV cameras to make his message even more clear.

[. . .]

According to court documents, Mr Bossi’s wife bought no fewer than 11 houses and apartments with Northern League party funds.

Mr Bossi himself had his own house done up with public money and his son Renzo — nicknamed by his father the Trout, who in fact does have a somewhat fish-like expression — also had access to apparently unlimited cash to indulge in his taste for fast cars.

The party even paid for the Trout’s speeding tickets, not to mention medical expenses. The 23-year-old has now been forced to resign from his sinecure as a regional government official, which brought him 12,000 euros (£10,000, $16,000) a month.

Recent immigrants didn’t come here because “Canada is diverse and signed the Kyoto Protocol”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:43

An interesting aside in this Toronto Star article by Rondi Adamson:

However, what is most interesting about these stories is what they reveal about immigrants and Canadian politics. There was a time when the Liberal party could count on immigrant votes. For years, many immigrants who came to Canada under a Liberal government — which would cover much of the last century — reflexively voted Liberal. Part of this was out of gratitude and part of it because the Conservatives (or Progressive Conservatives) never bothered to court the immigrant vote.

[. . .]

Anyone who thinks people choose Canada because of multiculturalism or bicycle lanes in big cities would do well to remember our last municipal election, when Rob Ford received over 50 per cent of the votes of Torontonians born outside Canada. I can tell you my own tale — a couple of summers ago I taught ESL in a Toronto suburb. My students were teenagers new to Canada. I asked them why their parents came here. Almost down to a kid they said, “Because we couldn’t get into the States.” They did not say, “Because Canada is diverse and signed the Kyoto Protocol.” They did not have a Panglossian view of this country. They saw it as they saw the United States — free and fair — though not as powerful a draw.

It is nice when politicians attend cultural celebrations and clumsily do ethnic dances and don hats that make them look goofy. But new and old Canadians respond positively to substance in the form of sensible policy, as opposed to making a show of being inclusive. It was Chen’s case that brought about support for Bill C-26, intended to expand the right to defend one’s home and property. I am pleased that, since the Maroli case, no politician has proposed a correlated Spice Registry, which may have been their wont a decade ago.

H/T to Blazing Cat Fur for the link.

John Moore thinks that Canada is stupid to consider Vimy Ridge a “defining moment”

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:27

Writing in the Pacifist Times National Post, John Moore expresses the opinion that Canada should derive its sense of national pride from “compassion, hard work and character” rather than remembering anything positive from the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in the war against Imperial Germany:

The tropes are well known to Vimy devotes. Over four days in April in 1917, Canadian soldiers accomplished through planning, guts and guile what 150,000 dead French and British soldiers had failed to achieve: The capture of seven kilometres of land rising up to a ridge held by the Germans. It was the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Corps had fought together — 3,598 Canadians lay dead; 7,000 were wounded.

But is Vimy really the best of Canada? Does our modern identity and national purpose hinge on the harrowing slaughter of our citizens on a foreign field of mud in a pointless war?

Canada went to war in 1914 at the same moment that Britain did. Britain went to war because they had guaranteed the independence of Belgium, but Germany needed to violate that independence in order to push the massive right wing of their armies past the French frontier forces in an attempt to outflank and destroy the French army. If Canada entering the war was “pointless”, then we should never have taken part in World War 2 (which Moore paints as being “one of the most unambiguously moral wars in history” either.

If anything, modern Canada should reflect on Vimy and our total First World War sacrifice as a national tragedy. Sixty-thousand Canadian men died in a war in which we had no real casus belli and which was largely administered by damnable incompetents. A generation of teachers, milkmen, farm hands, labourers, students and artists died on the field of battle, so hollowing out the population that many of the women they left behind would never marry. One hundred and seventythree thousand returned home suffering from burns, chemical poisoning, amputations and traumatic stress disorder that would leave them depressed and spastic for the remainder of their lives.

So why, 95 years later, do we venerate Vimy? Perhaps because it’s far easier to stir emotions where military matters are concerned. You can’t erect a heroic statue to the civility for which Canada is renowned. Social justice has never been able to muster an inspiring flypast. The national understanding that in Canada we look after each other doesn’t have a solemn bugle call to draw a tear.

So Moore thinks that Canada is defined by social justice and civility? I guess that’s at least a bit better than the even more common notion on the left that Canada is defined only by socialized medicine.

“The unipolar era has not been a success for America”

Filed under: Europe, Government, Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:55

Conrad Black examines the differences between the Cold War, when America had a clear mission, and the post-Cold War period, when America could be said to have completely lacked a coherent foreign policy:

Indeed, the overwhelming and relatively bloodless victory in the Cold War, the fruition of the brilliant American strategy of containment, left the United States as the only seriously Great Power in the world, a condition unique in the history of the nation-state, starting in the Middle Ages. As a result, there was, 20 years ago, a good deal of frothy (and, as it turns out, grossly premature) intellectual blather about the end of history and the political culmination of the world in democratic capitalism.

The unipolar era has not been a success for America. The great irony of these 20-something post-Cold War years has been that while the United States was the indispensable country in the triumph of capitalist democracy — its preservation from 1917 to 1941, and its outright victory in the following 50 years — it is not now one of the world’s best, or even better, functioning democracies.

Under the Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama administrations, there has been no coherent strategy to replace the previous masterly and bipartisan missions to lead the West to victory in the Second World War and in the Cold War. Bill Clinton, on the world stage, as in America, and before that in the diminutive state of Arkansas, exuded bonhomous goodwill, extended free trade to Mexico, and expanded NATO into the former Soviet Union, suavely calling it “a partnership for peace.” He moved in the Balkans, but only when the Europeans, who started by calling the challenge posed by Bosnian massacres “The hour of Europe,” fell on their faces and started crying like frightened little pigs for America to end ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. And even then, nothing would have happened if the Republican leader in the Senate, Robert Dole, a bravely wounded veteran of the European theatre in the Second World War, had not legislated military orders (lift and strike) normally in the province of the commander-in-chief. There never really was a Clinton foreign policy: His responses to the early terrorist attacks (Khobar Towers, the African embassies, the USS Cole) were very inadequate.

George W. Bush, forced to deal with the monstrous outrage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, had a piercing, towel-snapping, locker room vision that since democracies do not engage in aggressive war, ergo, every country that was not already democratic should be propelled by the scruff of the neck and the small of the back toward democratization. Thus did Hamas replace Fatah in Gaza; the Muslim Brotherhood, (whose adherents had proudly murdered Anwar Sadat) is replacing Hosni Mubarak in Egypt; terrorist chaos is replacing Saleh in Yemen; and Hezbollah has more or less taken over from the Syrians in Lebanon. Trillions of dollars have been spent, along with over 6,000 American lives, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it would be impetuous to forecast comparative stability and enlightenment in the near future of either country.

Colombia tries to butter up Obama with “quickie” SOPA rules

Colombia buckles under intense US lobbying to introduce SOPA-like copyright rules in time for President Obama’s visit:

President Obama is heading to Colombia this weekend for a summit, and we’d been hearing stories that US officials had been putting tremendous pressure on Colombian officials to pass new, ridiculously draconian copyright laws ahead of that visit. So that’s exactly what the Colombian government did — using an “emergency procedure” to rush through a bad bill that is quite extreme.

Earlier this year, Colombia tried to pass basically the same bill, which was called LesLleras, after Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras (who proposed it). That bill was so extreme that it resulted in SOPA-like protests, following significant concerns raised by the public as well as copyright and free speech experts. So, this time around, the government just claimed it was an emergency and rushed the bill through, despite all of its problems. They seemed to think that the public wouldn’t notice — but they’re wrong.

As is typical of idiotic trade agreements pushed via the USTR — who only seems to listen to Hollywood on these issues — the copyright bill includes all sorts of draconian enforcement techniques and expansions of existing copyright law, and removal of free speech rights. But what it does not include are any exceptions to copyright law — the very important tools that even the US Supreme Court admits are the “safety valves” that stop copyright law from being abusive, oppressive and contrary to freedom of speech

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