Quotulatiousness

August 18, 2014

Worstall confirms that “the UK would lose 3 million jobs in the year it left the European Union”

Filed under: Britain, Business, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:15

There you go … proof positive that the UK cannot possibly, under any circumstances, leave the European Union. Except for the fact that the UK would lose 3 million jobs in the year even if it stayed with the EU, because that’s how many jobs it normally loses in a year:

UK Would Not Lose 3 Million Jobs If It Left The European Union

Well, of course, the UK would lose 3 million jobs in the year it left the European Union because the UK loses 3 million jobs each and every year. Roughly 10% of all jobs are destroyed in a year and the economy, generally, tends to create 3 million jobs a year as well. But that’s not the point at contention here which is the oft repeated claim that because we left the EU then therefore the UK economy would suddenly be bereft of 3 million jobs, that 10% of the workforce. And sadly this claim is a common one and it just goes to show that there’s lies, damned lies and then there’s politics.

The way we’re supposed to understand the contention is that there’s three million who make their living making things that are then exported to our partners in the European Union. And we’re then to make the leap to the idea that if we did leave the EU then absolutely none of those jobs would exist: leaving the EU would be the same as never exporting another thing to the EU. This is of course entirely nonsense as any even random reading of our mutual histories would indicate: what became the UK has been exporting to the Continent ever since there’s actually been the technology to facilitate trade. Further too: there have been finds in shipwrecks in the Eastern Mediterranean of Cornish tin dating from 1,000 BC, so it’s not just bloodthirsty and drunken louts that we’ve been exporting all these years.

July 2, 2014

EU publishers want a totally different online model for content – where they can monetize everything

Filed under: Business, Europe, Law, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:19

Glyn Moody reports on the passionate desire of EU publishing organizations to get rid of as much free content as possible and replace it with an explicit licensing regime (with them holding all the rights, of course):

For too many years, the copyright industries fought hard against the changes being wrought by the rise of the Internet and the epochal shift from analog to digital. Somewhat belatedly, most of those working in these sectors have finally accepted that this is not a passing phase, but a new world that requires new thinking in their businesses, as in many other spheres. A recent attempt to codify that thinking can be found in a publication from the European Publishers Council (EPC). “Copyright Enabled on the Network” (pdf) — subtitled “From vision to reality: Copyright, technology and practical solutions enabling the media & publishing ecosystem” — that is refreshingly honest about the group’s aims:

    Since 1991, Members [of the EPC] have worked to review the impact of proposed European legislation on the press, and then express an opinion to legislators, politicians and opinion-formers with a view to influencing the content of final regulations. The objective has always been to encourage good law-making for the media industry.

The new report is part of that, and is equally frank about what lies at the heart of the EPC’s vision — licensing:

    A thread which runs through this paper is the proliferation of ‘direct to user’ licensing by publishers and other rights owners. Powered by ubiquitous data standards, to identify works and those who have rights in those works, licensing will continue to innovate exponentially so that eventually the cost of serving a licence is close to zero. The role of technology is to make this process seamless and effective from the user’s perspective, whether that user is the end consumer or another party in the digital content supply chain.

[...] the EPS vision includes being able to pin down every single “granular” part of a mash-up, so that the rights can be checked and — of course — licensed. Call it the NSA approach to copyright: total control through total surveillance.

Last year, when the National Post started demanding a paid license to quote any part of their articles (including stories they picked up from other sources), I stopped linking to their site. I suspect most Canadian bloggers did the same, as I see very few links to the newspaper now compared to before the change in their policy. It worked from their point of view: I’m certainly not sending any traffic to their site now, and there was never a chance of me being able to afford their $150 per 100 word licensing rate. Win-win, I guess. The EPS is hoping to avoid that scenario playing out in Europe by mandating that all content use the same kind of licensing, backed up by the power of the courts (and the kind of pervasive surveillance tactics the NSA and its Anglosphere partners have honed to a very fine edge).

June 25, 2014

The British politician’s fear of being “isolated” over Europe

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:58

In the Telegraph, Iain Martin says the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission may play out differently than the traditional “isolated Britain” scenario:

It comes straight from the British political playbook as practised by the parties and reported by the media since the mid-1980s. There is a row in the European Union. Britain is right (an inconvenient detail, usually skimmed over), although lots of other countries don’t agree with us for a host of reasons. This means that Britain is — good grief, the horror — “isolated” in Europe with only a handful of allies. Broadcasters will then brandish the “i” word in front of any minister who goes on television or radio during the row. Hasn’t UK government incompetence left us almost alone? Shouldn’t we agree with everyone else so that we might not be isolated?

Perhaps it is comforting, or even reassuring, to think of the European story in this hackneyed way. Bad old Britain, grumbling about sovereignty and trying in its stick-in-the-mud way to stop a disastrous appointment or opting out of the single currency, can be presented as the dinosaur that needs to get with the European programme. Come on, do a deal. If we do the wrong thing, at least we won’t be isolated.

This is the conventional prism through which the likely appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission might be viewed. But in reality it is much more interesting and significant than the standard diplomatic kerfuffle. His appointment, if it happens, will be a historic disaster on a grand scale which makes Britain’s exit from the European Union very likely. And I speak as someone who has been for reform and staying in the EU if possible.

[...]

Back in the here and now, as the Financial Times story this morning makes clear, Juncker would be really quite rubbish at the job. An exhausted veteran of the squalid deals which established the disastrous single currency in the 1990s, there is nothing in his record to suggest that he would even be good at the basics of administration. What he seems to be about is contempt for Eurosceptic opposition, a disregard for democracy, a resistance to reform and a relentless federalist vision of the EU which cannot accommodate a recalibrated relationship for countries such as Britain. According to opinion polls, the British want to trade, be friends and cooperate with the EU, but not immerse themselves in a country called Europe. Despite knowing this, the EU’s governments are giving the British voters the finger.

And still, most of Europe accelerates madly towards disaster as though they do not care, either ignoring British concerns on Juncker’s unsuitability, or being rude about one of the EU’s largest contributors (us) and talking now as though they want us to leave.

The bottom line is this. If Juncker gets the gig, this is the week that the door was opened to Britain’s exit from the EU.

May 28, 2014

QotD: The voters

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, Government, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

There is, so to say, good news and bad news for democratic European Unionists. The good news is that, for the first time, voter turnout actually increased from the previous election to the European Parliament. Just over 43 percent of the eligible bothered to vote, up 1/10th of 1 percent. The bad news is that so many of these voters selected parties devoted to the destruction of as much of the European Union as possible.

We are laughing, up here in the High Doganate. Or rather, no, we are not laughing, it is all a pose. Still, there is a glint of recognition, gleeful in its own way. The voters, especially in England and France — the pioneer “Nation States” from the later Middle Ages — appear to have been motivated by something akin to the feist that came over the municipal electorate in the Greater Parkdale Area, the last time we voted. That was when we chose the notorious drunkard and drug addict, Rob Ford, to be our mayor. As polls since have repeatedly confirmed, we knew what we were doing. We had a task for him. It was to destroy as much of the vast municipal bureaucracy as possible. Our instruction was: “Keep smashing everything you see until they take you away.” Finesse would not be required, and the licker and crack might be an advantage.

One may love “the people,” without being especially impressed by them. They are stupid, but as the stopped clock, there are moments when they are stupidly correct. These are very brief moments, but let us enjoy them while we can.

David Warren, “Hapless Voters”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-05-26.

May 27, 2014

A thumbnail history of UKIP

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:52

In the Telegraph, Iain Martin compares UKIP to the Judean People’s Front:

Eurosceptic politics used to be a lot like the famous scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, in which a group of revolutionaries – intent on bringing down the Roman Empire – sit in an amphitheatre discussing the various sects into which their movement has subdivided. They contemplate the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front and the Judean Popular People’s Front (“Splitters!”). What, asks one of the revolutionaries, ever happened to the Popular Front? “He’s over there,” says the leader, pointing to a rival sitting forlornly on his own.

In the early Nineties, Britain’s Eurosceptics were a similarly divided rabble. The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992 by John Major, had turned the looser European Economic Community into the much more integrated European Union and cleared the way for the creation of the single currency – and, it was feared, the destruction of national sovereignty by a new federalist empire.

With the Tories split internally, assorted anti-Maastricht movements began to spawn outside the confines of the two-party system. One was the United Kingdom Independence Party, which had its origins in the Anti-Federalist League, established in 1991 by a group led by Professor Alan Sked, a historian who teaches at the London School of Economics.

By establishing a new party, Sked and his colleagues hoped to create a movement that would build support for EU exit. At the time, this sounded like an outlandish aspiration. Indeed, initially Ukip was just a small band of dedicated campaigners and eccentric obsessives almost incapable of winning elections. The activists – true to form for a small party – seemed to spend more time fighting each other than battling their Europhile opponents. Splits and leadership coups were commonplace. If the Tory end of the political establishment paid any attention, it was only to laugh at what seemed like an irrelevant bunch of jokers.

Well, the Tories are not laughing now.

May 26, 2014

Is the bell tolling for the Liberal Democrats?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:36

With the EU election results in, the “I told you so” and “Here’s what it really means” brigades are out in force, letting us know what the voters are really saying with their ballots. For example, Here’s Graeme Archer measuring up the Lib-Dems for an early grave:

Since “Europe” (elections about, scandals involving etc) this year is bound up temporally, and hence a little psychologically, with “Eurovision”, which is about as camp an entity as is possible to conceive; since we’re going to talk about the Liberal Democrats’ existential crisis, let’s set the mood music accordingly. Close your eyes and think of Shirley Bassey. Or better still click here and sing along, especially if your name is Nick Clegg, leader of a party which really does have nothing.

I’m not here to gloat, seriously. Anyone who stands for election is worth celebrating, because you don’t fight for something unless you’re prepared to lose. But, OK, I’m a tribal Tory too, so here’s a couple of things that amused me last night. The sight of arch-federalist Lib Dem Edward McMillan Scott, newly defeated, telling the BBC that he’d be back in some other new role, demonstrating perfectly the anti-democratic “hanger-onnery” that infuriates Eurosceptics about the institution (Matthew Woods, an old Hackney Tory mate, coined “hanger-onnery”, and it’s perfect). The other laugh is that the Lib Dem wipeout was secured in part by the wretched Proportional Representation system, whose algorithmic horrors they’re so keen to foist onto every other election. Be careful what you wish for, Fair Voters!

Seriously, though, this is the existential crisis which the Lib Dem construct has spent this parliament pretending it could avoid. Changing the leader won’t help. [...]

Now repeat the exercise from the perspective of a “Lib Dem”, which, after last night, isn’t so much a thought experiment as a glance at the newspapers. Remove every elected Lib Dem from the map: what are their voters left with?

Nothing. Utterly nothing. There is a historical tradition of political liberalism in Britain, but as any fule kno, most of it was absorbed by the Conservative Party at key points in the last century. None of that tradition lives on in the “Lib Dem” construct.

What of its emotional disposition, the mirror to my gloomy Toryism? Well: to judge from their record in power, the “Lib Dem” instinct is for greater state intervention, to alleviate the plight of the less well off. So: nothing you can’t get from Labour, then.

“We want to reduce tax [by increasing thresholds]!” Nick Clegg would say, as evidence of the intellectual strand his party represents. Um, so do the vast majority of Conservatives. Again, no need for a “Lib Dem” representative to secure that outcome.

My point is that those Lib Dems who prioritise liberalism — whether about reducing tax, or fighting ID cards and so on — must know in their hearts that they should vote Conservative. Those who prioritise social democracy, similarly, must know that they should vote Labour.

Triumph of the Euro-skeptic parties

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:53

The Irish Times looks at the Euro election results which have seen big gains for several Euro-skeptic parties:

Among the victors was Ms Le Pen’s National Front party which topped the poll in France with a quarter of the vote, bypassing the conservative UMP party, and leaving François Hollande’s Socialist Party in third place. The party is now in line for 24 seats in Strasbourg.

UKIP was expected to top the poll in Britain, with exit polls last night predicting the party could win 31 per cent of the vote. “Up until now European integration has always seemed inevitable … I think that inevitability will end tonight,” UKIP leader Nigel Farage said last night in a live video link to the European Parliament in Brussels, describing the decision to allow former Soviet countries into the European Union as one of Europe’s “great errors.”

Greece’s main opposition party Syriza topped the polls there, while the far-right Golden Dawn party came third with between 8 and 10 per cent of the vote.

In Germany, support for Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) an anti-EU party formed barely two years ago, reach 6.5 per cent, with the party in the running for six seats.

In Austria, the far-right Freedom party was expected to win 20 per cent of votes, up from 13 per cent in 2009.

However, some extreme anti-EU parties in smaller countries did not poll as well as expected, with the far-right Vlaams Belang in Belgium losing support.

Of course, not all Euro-skeptic parties are the same. UKIP is somewhat nativist and has a vocal anti-immigrant wing. Vlaams Belang has a larger and more vocal anti-immigrant component, while the Greek Golden Dawn are as close to modern day Fascists as you’ll find anywhere; not a party you want to be sharing newspaper space with.

May 24, 2014

A significant factor in UKIP success – all “right thinking” people loathe them

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:01

Before the recent elections, Brendan O’Neill explained why the serried ranks of anti-UKIP pundits, politicians, and the “great and the good” may well be helping UKIP rather than hurting them:

Try as I might, I cannot remember a time when Britain’s various elites were as united in fury as they are now over UKIP leader Nigel Farage. In the run-up to this week’s Euro-elections, in which the Eurosceptic UKIP is expected to do well, leaders of every hue, from the true blue to the deep red, and hacks of every persuasion, from the right to the right-on, are as one on the issue of Farage. From Nick Clegg to the Twitterati that normally gets off on mocking Nick Clegg, from David Cameron to radical student leaders who normally hate David Cameron, fury with Farage has united all. It has brought together usually scrapping sections of the political and media classes into a centre-ground mush of contempt for UKIP. Not even Nick Griffin — who is a far nastier character than Farage — attracted such unstinting universal ire. What’s up with this Farage fury?

[...]

The real motor to the anti-Farage outlook, the fuel to this unprecedented fury of the elites, is a powerful feeling that he has connected with the public, or a significant section of it, in a way that mainstream politicians and observers have utterly failed to. The elites see in Farage their own inability to understand the populace or to speak to it in a language it understands. They see in his popularity — his oh-so-stubborn popularity, so notably undented by the daily furious outpourings of the anti-Farage elites — their own failure to swing public attitudes in what they consider to be the ‘right’ direction. That Farage’s popularity in the polls has remained pretty high even as our elites have been attacking him on a daily basis fills them not only with fury but with fear: their arguments seem not to have much traction outside the Westminster bubble, outside of medialand, where despite their best efforts the awkward, annoying little people still remain fairly favourable towards a loudmouth politician who isn’t PC and drinks beer. The fury behind the attacks on Farage is really a fury with the throng, with the masses, whose brains have clearly been made so mushy by UKIP propaganda that even the supposedly enlightened arguments and policies of their betters can now make no impact. It isn’t Farage they hate — it’s ordinary people, and more importantly their own palpable inability to make inroads into those people’s hearts or minds.

In short, the true momentum behind both UKIP’s rise in the polls and the rising temperatures it has provoked in pretty much every elite circle in Britain is not the charms or coherent ideologies of Farage himself. (In fact, many take great pleasure in pointing out that most UKIP supporters don’t know UKIP policy on any issue beyond immigration and the EU.) Rather, it is the political class’s alienation from the public, and its existential insecurities, that have propelled UKIP to the top of the political agenda. The aloofness of the old political machine, its growing distance from and contempt for the voters, its view of the public as a blob to be re-educated and made physically fit rather than as sentient beings to be politically engaged, is what has boosted public support for a party like UKIP that seems willing to speak to, and maybe even for, so-called ordinary people. And it is the out-of-touch political class’s subsequent panic at UKIP’s rise, its fear that the success of this party might spell doom for its safe, samey, middle-ground ilk, which leads it to aim its every ideological, political and media gun at Farage, having the unwitting effect of making him both more widely talked-about and possibly even more popular. It is the political class’s crisis of legitimacy and vision which both created and then inflamed the UKIP phenomenon.

European defence and Russia’s renewed military adventurist spirit

Filed under: Europe, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:51

In Forbes, Roger Scruton provides a few reasons why Europe — especially Eastern Europe — is much tougher to defend now than it was in the post-Cold War years:

Three factors are principally responsible for this. The first is the growth of the European Union, and its policy of dissolving national borders. The EU has set out to delegitimize the nation state, to make it irrelevant to the ‘citizens’ of the Union whether they be French, British, Polish or Italian, and to abolish the national customs and beliefs that make long-term patriotic loyalty seriously believable. The EU’s attempt to replace national with European identity has, however failed, and is widely regarded with ridicule. Moreover the EU’s inability to think coherently about defense, and its policy of ‘soft power’ which makes defense in any case more or less inconceivable, means that the motive which leads ordinary people to defend their country in its time of need has been substantially weakened. Patriotism is seen as a heresy, second only to fascism on the list of political sins, and the idea that the people of Europe might be called upon to defend their borders looks increasingly absurd in the light of the official doctrine that there are no borders anyway.

The second reason for European weakness is connected. I refer to the guarantee, under the European Treaties, of the right to work and settle in any part of the Union. This has led to a massive migration from the former communist countries to the West. The people who migrate are the skilled, the entrepreneurial, the educated – in short, the elite on whom the resolution and identity of a country most directly depends. Very soon countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, all of which are directly threatened by a militant Russia, will be without a committed and resident class of leaders. No doubt, should the tanks start to roll, the émigré populations of those countries will protest. But will they return home to fight a pointless war, leaving their newly-won security and prosperity behind? I doubt it.

The third factor tending to the indefensibility of Europe is the dwindling American commitment to the Western alliance. President G.W. Bush was prescient enough to revive the idea of anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe, and the military in both Poland and the Czech Republic were prepared to go along with it. Putin displayed his KGB training immediately, by declaring that these purely defensive installations would be an ‘act of aggression’. All the old Newspeak was trotted out in the effort to influence the incoming administration of President Obama against his predecessor’s policy. And the effort was successful. Obama weakly conceded the point, and the anti-missile defenses were not installed. Since then the Obama administration has continued to divert resources and attention elsewhere, creating the distinct impression in Europe that America is no longer wholeheartedly committed to its defense.

April 27, 2014

Why the EU did not overtly support the Maidan protests

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:31

Ace sums it up nicely:

Why wasn’t the EU doing “more” to pressure Yanukovych, Putin’s choice for President?

Here’s the thing: Because the EU was thinking hard about the Ukraine and realistically about itself.

The EU didn’t want to force Yanukovych out of power, nor encourage the Maidan movement to force him out of power, because they knew that Russia would react as Russia has in fact reacted.

And the EU knew this about themselves: They were not prepared to do a damn thing about a Russian invasion.

So the EU made a cynical, self-serving decision to not encourage or support the Maidan movement, because they knew they would not be doing anything down the road to support the Maidan movement when the movement actually needed support.

This was an unpopular decision, and it makes them seem cowardly and weak… but it did have the benefit of comporting with reality.

The EU was clear-minded enough and had an honest enough appraisal of its interests and capabilities to make the honest, accurate assessment that they would do nothing in Putin but offer him diplomatic protests were he to invade Ukraine.

And the EU crafted its own policy response based on that accurate, honest appraisal of its own weakness and cowardice.

You can call them cowards, but you cannot call them self-deluded fools.

At least they understood themselves.

March 15, 2014

QotD: Sir Humphrey Appleby on the Common Market

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:18

“We went into it to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans. The French went in to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition. The Germans went in to purge themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.”

Jonathan Lynn, “Yes Minister Series: Quotes from the dialogue”, JonathanLynn.com

March 2, 2014

Why the EU hesitates to do anything about Ukraine

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:50

Theodore Dalrymple:

Extreme wealth, whether honestly or dishonestly acquired, seems these days to bring forth little new except in the form and genre of vulgarity. Mr. Ambani’s skyscraper tower home in Bombay is a case in point: His aesthetic is that of the first-class executive lounge of an airport. Mr. Ambramovich’s ideal is that of a floating Dubai the size of an aircraft carrier. Only once have I been invited to a Russian oligarch’s home, and it struck me as a hybrid of luxurious modernist brothel and up-to-date operating theater. I saw some pictures recently of some huge Chinese state enterprise’s headquarters, and it appalled me how this nation, with one of the most exquisite, and certainly the oldest, aesthetic traditions on Earth, has gone over entirely to Las Vegas rococo (without the hint of irony or playfulness).

But it was the luxury and not the taste of Yanukovych’s homes that outraged the Ukrainians, for if by any chance they had come into money they would have done exactly the same, aesthetically speaking. Yanukovych may have been a dictator of sorts, but when it came to taste he was a man of the people. A horrified Ukrainian citizen, touring one of his homes after his downfall, was heard to exclaim, “All this beauty at our expense!”

As to politics, the Ukrainian crisis has once again revealed the European Union’s complete impotence. Physiognomy is an inexact science, but it is not so inexact that you cannot read the bemused feebleness on the faces of people such as Van Rompuy, Hollande, and Cameron, the latter so moistly smooth and characterless that it looks as though it would disappear leaving a trail of slime if caught in the rain. Mrs. Merkel has a somewhat stronger face, but then she has the advantage of having spent time in the Free German Youth (the East German communist youth movement), which must at least have put a modicum of iron in her soul.

Be that as it may, Russia holds all the trump cards in this situation. It can turn off Western Europe’s central heating at a stroke, and for Europeans such heating is the whole meaning and purpose of life—together with six-week annual holidays in Bali or Benidorm. Therefore Europe will risk nothing for the sake of Ukraine, except perhaps a few billion in loans of no one’s money, a trifle in current economic circumstances. If Bismarck were to return today, he would say that the whole of Ukraine was not worth the cold of one unheated radiator.

February 27, 2014

Ukraine and the EU – why the easy answer won’t work

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:09

At the Adam Smith Institute website, Eamonn Butler explains why there won’t be an easy economic fix for the EU/Ukraine trading relationship:

The trouble with EU membership is that it is such a big deal. A country that wants to be part of the club, and enjoy its free trade benefits also has to accept a mountain of regulation and to sign up for the common currency. It is all or nothing.

That puts countries like Ukraine in a fix, just as it put the UK in a bit of a fix in the early 1970s. The UK did not want to raise tariff barriers and lose its trading relationships with its historic trading partners such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, from which it imported a great many agricultural products — butter, lamb, fruit, bacon and much else. But thanks to the Common Agricultural Policy, it did not have much choice. Today, the UK is inside the EU’s tariff wall, which makes trade with the rest of the world more expensive, and naturally focuses UK trade on Europe.

[...]

As a logical matter, that does not have to be. If the EU allowed Ukraine the same sort of status enjoyed by (neutral) Switzerland, the country would be free to trade with the EU as part of its customs-union club – but would remain free to preserve trading links to other countries as well. It would also be free to retain its currency and its legal and regulatory structure. A free trade pact with the EU that would help grow the Ukrainian economy, without threatening Russia or the Russian-speaking Ukrainians that the country would be wholly swallowed up into a Western political alliance.

A genuine free-trade deal, rather than full membership. That would probably be ideal for Ukraine (and for other nearby countries not already in the EU), but it won’t be on offer, because too many existing members of the EU would also prefer to have that kind of trading relationship without all the legislative/regulatory overhead that full membership requires. In many ways, the EU cannot afford to offer Ukraine such a deal, for fear of undermining the basis of the current integrated model.

Update: Daniel Hannan on the possibility of partition in Ukraine.

These two views — Ukrainians as a historic people, Ukrainians as a strain of Russians — frame the present quarrel. Most Russian nationalists allow, albeit reluctantly, that Ukrainian national consciousness exists. Alexander Solzhenitsyn grumpily accepted that western Ukrainians, after the horrors of the Soviet era, had been permanently alienated from Mother Russia; but he insisted that the frontiers were arbitrarily drawn under Lenin. If Ukrainians claimed independence on grounds of having a separate national identity, he argued, they must extend their own logic to the Russian-speakers east of the Dnieper.

[...]

Plainly a pro-Russian regime can’t govern the whole country: the recent uprising has put that fact beyond doubt. If the Slavophiles can’t rule the West, might the Westernisers win the East? The way of life they propose ought to be more attractive. But we should not underestimate the importance, in such a region, of blood and speech. Nor should we underestimate how much more Ukraine matters to Moscow than it does to Brussels. Vladimir Putin has mobilised troops on the border. Does anyone imagine any EU government, with the possible exception of Poland’s, contemplating a military response?

If neither the Slavophiles nor the Westernisers can carry the entire territory, some kind of separation starts to look inevitable. Such a separation might come about as paramilitary groups establish local supremacy. Or it might happen as a result of Russian intervention, as in Armenia, Moldova and, later, South Ossetia. It is easy enough to imagine Russian security forces crossing the border at the request of local proxies and establishing a de facto Russophone state. The Trans-Dniester Republic still exists, unrecognised but very much in force, on Ukraine’s western border; why not a Trans-Dnieper Republic to its east?

February 25, 2014

A contrarian speaks out on Ukraine

Filed under: Europe, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:43

Brendan O’Neill isn’t comfortable with the widespread media descriptions of Ukraine’s change of government and calls it regime change instead:

Even in this era of rampant political spin and platitudes, where George Orwell’s claim that political language is used and abused to ‘make lies sound truthful and murder respectable’ has never been truer, the commentary on Ukraine stands out for its dishonesty. Western observers tell us there has been a revolution in that benighted nation. They claim revolutionaries have overthrown a dictator. They say the people of Ukraine have risen up and deposed their despot, and are now ‘experiencing the intense emotions expressed so eloquently by Thomas Paine in 1776 [in his writings on the American War of Independence]’. It is hard to remember the last time political language was so thoroughly used to obfuscate reality, to impose inappropriate historical narratives on to a messy modern-day event. For what we have in Ukraine is not revolution, but regime change, set in motion far more by the machinations of Western politicians than by the stone-throwing of Ukrainians.

Orwell was right – too much political writing is less about clarifying real-world events than it is a collection of pre-existing phrases ‘tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse’. So it has been in relation to Ukraine, where the words selected by Western observers tell us more about them and their prejudices than they do about events in Kiev. So the word ‘meddling’ is used to describe Vladimir Putin’s interventions in Ukraine, but never to describe Angela Merkel’s or John Kerry’s cultivation of the oppositional forces – that is ‘mediation’. Ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich is now widely referred to as a ‘dictator’, confirming how exhausted and meaningless that word has become through overuse: unlike serious dictators like Gaddafi or Assad, Yanukovich won a free and fair election, in March 2010. As for the word ‘revolution’ – that has been knackered by misuse for decades, but its deployment in Ukraine takes its bastardisation to a new low: there has of course been no replacement of one social order by another in Ukraine, or even the instalment of a people’s government; instead various long-established parties in parliament, some of which are deeply unpopular among certain constituencies in Ukraine, are forming an interim government. Revolutionary? Hardly.

The Western debate and coverage of Ukraine has cast a massive political fog over events there. It may not have quite made ‘murder seem respectable’, but it has certainly made externally generated regime change seem revolutionary, and the Western-assisted anti-democratic removal of an elected leader seem like an act of people’s democracy. It has exposed a severe dearth of independent critical thinking among the Western commentariat. Even those on the right who are normally passionately anti-EU are now lining up like lemmings behind Brussels’ dishonest moral narrative about being a mere observer to a glorious revolution in the East. And even those on the left who condemned regime change in Iraq or Libya are buying the idea that Ukraine has undergone a revolution of Paineite proportions, with the Observer giddily declaring that Ukraine is currently experiencing ‘an intoxicating sense of liberation from an old guard’. Across the political spectrum, narratives about Ukraine that don’t add up, and which are being promoted by people normally seen as untrustworthy, are being accepted as good coin – among both a right excited by the prospect of a return of the neat Cold War-era divide between good West and bad East, and a left so desperate for evidence of revolutionary behaviour in the twenty-first century that it will lap up even staid, grey, distinctly unrevolutionary Brussels’ claims about a revolution being afoot in Ukraine.

Note: This article is posted at Spiked Plus, which is normally a pay site. They’ve made the site available to non-subscribers for a limited time to mark their second anniversary. If you’re reading this post at a later date, the link to the whole article may not work unless you’re a member.

February 6, 2014

TAFTA/TTIP – The US is negotiating from a position of unassailable strength

Filed under: Europe, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:02

At Techdirt, Glyn Moody explains why the EU is insane not to demand that the negotiations with the US government over TAFTA/TTIP be made fully public:

On the one side is the US, on the other, the 28 nations that go to make up the European Union. Because they have differing views on the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations, it’s necessary to pass around many documents conveying information about the current negotiations, and seek to obtain some kind of consensus on future EU proposals and flexibilities.

In the wake of Snowden’s revelations, security will doubtless be much better than during the Copenhagen Summit, when supposedly secret messages were sent using unencrypted emails. But it only needs one weak link in the European Union’s security chain — somebody who forgets to encrypt his or her message, or who leaves it on a system that has been compromised — and the NSA will be able to access that information, and pass it on to the US negotiators, just as it did in Copenhagen.

The key point is that there is a profound information asymmetry in the TAFTA/TTIP talks. Although the spy agencies of the EU countries will doubtless be trying their best to obtain confidential information about US negotiating tactics, it will be much harder than it is for the US to do the same about EU positions. That’s because the NSA is far larger, and far more expert than the EU agencies. GCHQ is probably the nearest in terms of capabilities, but is so closely allied with the NSA in other areas that it probably won’t be trying too hard so as not to annoy its paymaster.

This more or less guarantees that the US will know everything about the EU’s negotiating plans during TAFTA/TTIP, while the EU will remain in the dark about the US intentions. That not only undercuts the European Commission’s argument that releasing documents is not possible because they must remain secret during the negotiations — they won’t be — it also gives the EU a huge incentive to insist on full transparency for the talks. That way, the EU negotiators would be able to see at least some US documents that currently are hidden from them, whereas the US would gain little that it didn’t already know through more dubious means.

Older Posts »
« « E-cigarettes – growth industry or doomed by regulatory overstretch| HMCS Windsor to be out of service for engine replacement » »

Powered by WordPress