Quotulatiousness

August 25, 2013

Another (pointless) round of Mideast peace talks

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

Strategy Page on the upcoming “negotiations” over the Israeli-Palestinian situation:

Why are the Palestinians participating in yet another round of American- sponsored peace talks with Israel? It’s mostly about money. This round was forced on the Israelis and Palestinians by the U.S., which threatened to withhold aid (1.3 billion a year to Israel about half as much to the Palestinians) if the two did not at least go through the motions. Many knowledgeable observers see another round of talks as pointless. Arabs and Palestinians have not changed their “kill all Jews” attitudes towards Israel and the Israelis have still not agreed to just disappear. Because of the continued Arab intransigence over Israel, opinion polls show that most Israelis are opposed to any peace deal with the Palestinians that involves withdrawing Jews from the West Bank or Jerusalem and believe the peace talks will fail.

The Americans want the talks for domestic political reasons. The Israelis don’t mind having another opportunity to force the Palestinians to admit all their hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. The Palestinians don’t care about that because they are in big trouble. The current Fatah leadership (Hamas, which runs Gaza, is not participating) is in a desperate situation. Fatah is committed to pushing for “statehood” in the UN, but has been told by the U.S. that such a move will mean withdrawal of $600 million a year in American aid. Israel said it will withhold $100 million a year in customs taxes it collects for Fatah. Backing away from the UN statehood effort would be very embarrassing. The “peace talks” provide a credible excuse to back off.

Given the heat Fatah has been taking from Palestinians over more than a decade of increasing corruption and poverty, losing $700 million a year in aid would put Fatah out of power and probably out of business. So Fatah will go through the motions to calm down the Americans and Israelis while a new strategy is developed and sold to Palestinians. The current one got going in 2000, when Fatah turned down the best peace deal it was probably ever going to get (and would probably accept today) because the Palestinian radicals threatened civil war if Fatah took the Israeli offer. In retrospect that was a hollow threat, but at the time it seemed a good idea to turn down the peace offer and start a terrorist campaign against Israel. That failed, and was largely defeated by 2005. But it all made the Palestinian radicals stronger and too many Palestinians unemployed, broke and angry. It also allowed Islamic radical group Hamas to take control of Gaza, where 40 percent of Palestinians lived. To make matters worse the great Palestinian patron Saddam Hussein lost power, and his life, cutting off another source of cash. Palestinian children are still taught to honor and praise Saddam, which has become something of a media liability. Other Arab allies have become less supportive and more insistent that the Palestinians make peace with Israel and stop being professional victims and career beggars.

January 15, 2013

Don Cherry: Canadian … icon?

Filed under: Americas, Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:34

In an article designed to stir up controversy over aid to Haiti, Kathy Shaidle provides a neat thumbnail portrait of Don Cherry:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) says taxpayers must keep funding this great unwatched billion-dollar behemoth because the network has a never-hear-the-end-of-it “mandate” to “reflect Canadian values.”

Which “the Corpse” does indeed, but for just about nine minutes every Saturday night, and only during hockey season, and by accident rather than design.

That’s when Don Cherry’s red light goes on and the former Boston Bruins coach begins bellowing about the fruitcakes and foreigners destroying his beloved game.

He’s old, white, loud, and uneducated. He’s bigoted, mawkishly patriotic, and he dresses like an Edwardian time traveler stuck in 1970s Detroit trying to pass himself off as a pimp — and Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner has also been the CBC’s highest rated… thing for generations. It’s not even a show, you see, just a segment — possibly the only “intermission” in history that prompts people to run to their seats instead of away from them.

By lucky chance, “shhhh!” is the same “word” in both official languages, and that’s the sound heard in sports bars and rec rooms across Quebec and the ROC (Rest of Canada) as the show’s familiar intro gallops into millions of ears.

To the countless Canucks who can’t stand him, however, Cherry is a perpetual outrage machine. The coach doesn’t make “Kinsley gaffes,” either — those “controversial” statements which accidentally reveal some embarrassing truth. Cherry tells embarrassing truths on purpose. His only “crime” is saying things lots of his countrymen agree with but aren’t allowed to say — or even let themselves think — anymore.

November 8, 2012

The Swiss children of Malthus

Filed under: Environment, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:59

In sp!ked, Patrick Hayes points out the odd way that Malthusians and xenophobic far-right political groups converge:

For greens, the ends will always justify the means when it comes to saving the planet. In the UK, they have opportunistically latched themselves on to left-wing movements to try to gain purchase with a broader public. But, as Swiss campaign group Ecology and Population (EcoPop) has demonstrated, in an attempt to pursue their Malthusian goals, greens can be equally happy tapping into the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the far right.

In a stunt last week, members of EcoPop carried dozens of cardboard boxes into the Swiss chancellery which contained 120,700 certified signatures calling for immigration into Switzerland to be capped at 0.2 per cent of the resident population. Under Swiss law, this means that a referendum will now be held on the proposal. Such a move trumps even the efforts of the far-right Swiss People’s Party, which has long lobbied for greater immigration controls.

But these greens aren’t mobilising for an immigration clampdown with banners claiming ‘keep the darkies out’ as right-wing groups have done in the past. Nor are they using dodgy, discredited scientific arguments to justify racial superiority, wielding books like Madison Grant’s The Passing of The Great Race for evidence.

No, instead EcoPop delivers its demands for immigration curbs carrying a banner asking: ‘How many people can the Earth tolerate?’ The group’s members use the (equally dodgy and discredited) Malthusian science of population growth and babble on about our ‘finite planet’. And they have reportedly been strongly influenced by the theories of US Malthusian Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb.

EcoPop bends over backwards to claim that it is not singling out particular races when advocating its policies. According to the BBC, it claims to be ‘opposed to all forms of xenophobia and racism’. But, the group says, ‘Switzerland must limit immigration to avoid urbanisation and to preserve agricultural land’.

You could almost believe that EcoPop is just a bunch of backward-thinking NIMBYish Luddites wanting to stop a flood of immigrants from destroying what it sees as a rural idyll — until you see what the group has tacked on to its proposed referendum for immigration caps. EcoPop slipped an additional clause into the referendum calling for a tenth of all foreign aid to be used ‘for birth-control measures abroad’. (It’s highly questionable how many people would have signed a petition for that alone.)

So it’s not enough to keep foreigners out of Switzerland, then, it’s also necessary to keep them from breeding too much in their own countries as well. And the fact that most of the aid will go towards stopping poor black and brown families from breeding too much suggests that if they’re not intentionally being racist, then EcoPop’s members should really think very hard about how they come across.

September 15, 2012

Gary Johnson on why both Obama and Romney are wrong on foreign policy

Filed under: Government, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:08

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, says both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have it wrong with their respective approaches to foreign policy:

Foreign policy is supposed to make us safer, not get Americans killed and bankrupt us. Yet, even as we mourn the loss of four Americans in Libya and watch the Middle East ignite with anti-American fervor, our leaders don’t get it.

In one corner, we have the U.S. apologists warning that — after the murders in Libya and the attack on our embassy in Cairo — we must be careful not to say or do anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. In the other corner, we have the chest-thumpers demanding that we find somebody to shoot — and shoot them.

I have a better idea: Stop trying to manipulate and manage history on the other side of the globe and then being shocked when things don’t turn out the way we wanted. As far as what we do right now in response to the tragic events of this week, it’s actually pretty simple. Get our folks out of places they don’t need to be — and out of harm’s way — and cut off every dime of U.S. tax dollars we are sending to clearly ungrateful regimes.

July 19, 2012

The messy internal state of North Korea

Filed under: Asia, China, Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:49

Strategy Page on internal affairs of North Korea in the early stage of Kim Jong Un’s leadership:

China remains the foreign power with the most influence over North Korea, but that isn’t saying much. When given unwelcome advice from China, which represents nearly 80 percent of foreign trade and the only source of free food and fuel aid, North Korea still tends to adopt a suicidal attitude. For the northern leadership, it’s “death before dishonor” and that means Chinese demands, even backed by threats of aid cuts, are ignored. For this reason, China is believed involved in the current reorganization of the senior North Korean leadership. China has long developed friends and relationships among the North Korean elite. As corruption became more of a factor in the last decade, China knew how to cope. China is awash in corruption, and Chinese leaders have learned how to use it (even as they struggle to lose it). In effect, China’s decade-long effort to overwhelm the “old school” faction in North Korea appears to have succeeded. But the “old school” crowd are still numerous, scared and armed. This could get messy. This does not bother China, which has plenty of experience with messy.

In the last month or so North Korea’s new leader (Kim Jong Un) has removed hundreds of military and government officials and promptly installed younger replacements. Un has made it clear, in public announcements, that it’s time for a new generation. Many of the dismissed older officials were seemingly loyal to and supportive of Un, so this appears to be more a desire to shake up the leadership, than to purge opponents. Kim Jong Un isn’t doing this by himself, as he has a small group of advisors he relies on a lot. This includes his uncle, Jang Sung Taek, who is married to Kim Jong Ils sister. Jang has long been a powerful government official, and is believed to be quite wealthy. That’s because Jang has a lot to say about how North Korea earns (by legal, or illegal means) foreign currency. In a country so extremely poor, the man who controls the most money has a lot of power. Jang, for example earlier this year ordered house searches of families believed to be hoarding foreign currency (Chinese or American), rather than, as the law demands, putting it in the bank. People do not want to put their foreign currency in the bank because the government pays you less for it (in North Korean currency) than the black market money changers (who give fair market value). Jang understands how the North Korean economy really works, and is trying to increase government control over the “new economy.” Yang and his wife have a lot more knowledge of, and experience with, the North Korea government and economy than their nephew Kim Jong Un and, for the moment, they have his ear, and trust.

[. . .]

The food situation in the north is getting worse, with food prices (in the growing number of free markets) at record levels. Government distributions of food are declining. Worse, the government is printing more money, increasing inflation (because there’s now more money chasing the same amount of food.)

North Korean censors finally caught on to the fact that young North Koreans had been taking South Korean or Western popular songs, adding new lyrics that have a double (anti-government) meaning in the north, and spreading them widely. North Korea doesn’t have much Internet access, but there are memory sticks, CDs and floppy disks. Stuff gets around, and now the police have been ordered to crack down on a list of over 500 subversive songs. The cops love this sort of thing, as it creates plenty of new bribery opportunities. That’s because many of those involved in this music conspiracy are children of ruling families, and can afford a fine (rather than anger their parents by getting arrested.)

Update: In the Guardian, Paul Watson says we’re all sheep and ignoring the horrific crimes of South Korea and vilifying the peace-loving, friendly, warm-hearted North Koreans:

Reunification and conciliation are usually portrayed as South Korean concepts, while North Korea is seen as a closed state, hostile to such talk on “idealistic grounds” – a view perpetuated by media outlets’ lack of interest in all recent North Korean initiatives. In fact it is almost impossible to find any piece of positive European journalism relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The days of cold war pantomime journalism and great ideological battles might be over, but North Korea remains an area in which journalists have free licence for sensationalism and partiality.

The lack of western sources in North Korea has allowed the media to conjure up fantastic stories that enthrall readers but aren’t grounded in hard fact. No attempt is made to see both sides of the Korean conflict: it is much easier and more palatable to a western audience to pigeonhole the DPRK as a dangerous maverick state ruled by a capricious dictator and South Korea as its long-suffering, patient neighbour.

These roles are dusted off whenever there are flare-ups, such as the Yeonpyeong Island incident of 2010 when North Korea was condemned for firing shots at South Korean military and civilians in an “unprovoked attack”. It was not widely reported that South Korea had been test firing artillery in a patch of ocean that North Korea claims ownership of or that North Korea’s repeated demands for an explanation were ignored. While military intervention may not have been wise, it was far from the random act of hostility it was made out to be.

May 26, 2012

Reason.tv interviews Robert Zubrin

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:01

“We have never been in danger of running out of resources,” says Dr. Robert Zubrin, “but we have encountered considerable dangers from people who say we are running out of resources and who say that human activities need to be constrained.”

In his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Zubrin documents the history of dystopian environmentalism, from economic impairment inflicted by current global warming policies to the Malthusian concern over population growth. “Just think how much poorer we would be today if the world would have had half as many people in the 19th century as it actually did. You can get rid of Thomas Edison or Louis Pasteur, take your pick.”

Zubrin sat down with Reason Magazine Editor Matt Welch to discuss his book, the difference between practical and ideological environmentalism, and how U.S. foreign aid policy encourages population control.

May 18, 2012

The nature of NATO

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:22

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been having a bit of an identity crisis for more than twenty years, as the original reason for its formation — the military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its subject nations in the Warsaw Pact — had almost literally fallen down in ruins. All those main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, fighter-bombers, helicopters, missile launchers, and other impedimenta of war were all pointing at a vast power vacuum. Doug Bandow has a post at the Cato@Liberty blog in advance of the upcoming NATO conference in Chicago, but he has a problem in his headline that needs to be fixed:

NATO Has Become a Form of U.S. Foreign Aid

Let me fix that for you, Doug:

NATO Has Become Always Been a Form of U.S. Foreign Aid

The NATO summit starts Sunday in Chicago and will be the largest gathering ever held by the alliance. This is fitting given NATO’s desire to act around the globe. While U.S. officials say no decisions on further expanding membership will be made at the meeting, they explain that the door remains open. Adding additional security commitments in this way would be a mistake.

The United States has always been and will continue to be the guarantor of NATO’s military promises. In reality, NATO could not pay its bills without the United States, much less conduct serious military operations. American alliance policy has become a form of foreign aid. Nowhere is that more true than in Europe.

[. . .]

The United States cannot afford to take on more allies and effectively underwrite their security. It is not worth protecting Georgia at the risk of confronting Russia, for instance. Moreover, now is the time to end this foreign aid to wealthy European countries. The Europeans have a GDP ten times as large as that of Russia. Europe’s population is three times as big. The Europeans should defend themselves. If they want to expand their alliance all around Russia, let them.

February 14, 2012

The surreal world of international aid

Filed under: Britain, India, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:16

Brendan O’Neill on the ludicrous display of a donor literally begging the intended recipient to continue accepting the offering:

The debate about whether Britain should continue giving aid to India will surely rank as one of 2012’s most ‘Alice in Wonderland’ political moments. An outsider to the world of international aid probably imagines that it is cash-strapped countries in the South who do the pleading, sometimes having to humiliate themselves by asking Western nations for financial assistance. Yet in the surreal affray over aid to India, it was the well-off giver — Britain — which was on its knees, begging, beseeching the Indians to continue accepting our largesse because if they didn’t, it would cause the Lib-Con government ‘great embarrassment’.

This unseemly spat sums up the problem with modern aid: it’s all about Us, not Them. The reason British ministers were prostrating themselves before India, effectively begging the Indians to remain as beggars, is because aid is now more about generating a moral rush in the big heads of politicians and activists over here than it is about filling the tummies of under-privileged people over there. It is designed to flatter and satisfy the giver rather than address the needs of the receiver, which means ‘aid to India’ is way more important to Britain than it is to India. And for that reason, because aid has been so thoroughly corrupted by the narrow needs of its distributors, it would indeed be a good thing to stop foisting it upon India and other nations.

There was something almost Pythonesque (and I never use that word) in the sight of British politicians saying ‘We must continue giving aid to India’ while Indian politicians were saying ‘We do not require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development spending.’ Those were the words of India’s finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, who told his parliament that the nation should ‘voluntarily’ give up the £280million it receives from Britain each year. Cue outraged — and panicked — ministers and do-gooders in London kickstarting a PR campaign to show that the Indians are wrong — they do need British aid, because otherwise, according to Britain’s minister for international development Alan Duncan, in an article illustrated with a photograph of him accepting flowers from grateful little Indians, ‘millions could die’.

[. . .]

British historian William Hutton once said, ‘The charity that hastens to proclaim its good deeds ceases to be charity, and is only pride and ostentation’. That is pretty much all that remains in the world of aid: pride and ostentation. Indeed, it is striking that, in 2010, when DFID announced cuts to spending on the publicity side of ‘fighting global poverty’, various NGOs went ballistic, slamming the focus on ‘output-based aid’ over important things such as ‘increas[ing] public understanding of the causes of global poverty’ — that is, who cares about providing on-the-ground stuff, when there’s so much awareness-raising about the wonderfulness of NGOs to be done? Britain’s aid budget should be slashed, not because it costs the taxpayer too much money, as Daily Mail moaners argue, but because it costs too much in terms of the self-respect of nations in the South. Britain should have an emergency aid budget, of course, so that, like all civilised nations, it can assist quickly and generously when people are immediately threatened by starvation or disease, such as after the Haiti earthquake or the Pakistani floods. But the rest of the time, even sometimes struggling peoples don’t need the massive side orders of moralism and fatalism that come with Britain’s ‘peanuts’.

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