Archive for the 'Why I miss the British Empire' Category

Jan 06 2014

There was never a chance………..

Phib, in one of his repeated themes, bemoans the fact that we did not give ourselves a chance to "succeed" in Afghanistan. "All it required was about another four-five years of patience. Of course, that 4-5 from now is based on an alternative history where we did not announce our retreat in DEC 09 … but what is, is. District by district "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" was a solid way to do it – but just as it was getting roots as the surge soaked in, we stopped feeding it. The following results will be sadly predictable."

Complete and total horseshit.

This is a peculiarly American disease where we always place the blame everywhere but where it really lies. This is how we get pundits like William "The Bloody" Kristol- who,  incidentally, could not be bothered to serve one day in his miserable life, but is more than willing to send other people's children to die for his right to earn six figures a year-advocating war with out end in the Middle East.

Didn't give it enough time? We will have been in that Godforsaken country for over 13 years. How much f*cking time do we need? Or more correctly, how many chances do the Afghans get before we tell them to go f*ck themselves?

Two facts here are really important. One, the clock did not stop ticking in Afghanistan just because we invaded Iraq. So the very idea that we could "just pick up where we left off" and somehow, magically we would have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, by spending ten plus years-losing Americans-to create what? And two, the patience of the American people is not unlimited-and we are long past the point of patience with any of the wars for most reasonable Americans.

A land of people who refuse to help themselves. This, by the way is backed up by over a 100 years of Afghan history. This is what we are getting today, it is what we would have gotten 10 years from now-it will pretty much always be that way as long as the country is saddled with albatross of Islam.

Want to know the day we "lost" Afghanistan? March 19,  2003. That's the day the United States in one of the most stupid moves in its history, foolishly invaded a land that had not attacked it, and in the process metastized what was a essentially a localized disturbance into the world's blood stream. One could even make the point that we could look further back-to the point where a man like George Bush, under the advice of some pretty questionable characters, decided that the United States could somehow accomplish the impossible and eliminate terrorism from the earth. Rather than pursue the vengeance that our public opinion required in the aftermath of 9-11, the grey hair allowed himself to be diverted into what has now quite well been proven, to be a worthless, damn fool ideological crusade.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.

Oh sure, Bin Laden is dead, but as it turned out, that had nothing to do with clear, hold, and build. And Al Queda has been disrupted-but again, that happened with out years of counterinsurgency. We have lost over 6000 fine Americans dead and almost 50,000 wounded for the "right" to stay in a backward nation from over a decade, however. What did they suffer for?

Nothing of value Phib. Nothing of value. And that was true in 2009, as assuredly as it is today. Put the blame where it belongs and leave it there-on the Afghan people.

Now that is what I will drink more over. The  tendency on the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of some Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home in the US.

Starting with the idea that we can somehow "fix" people who are unfixable.

 

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Jan 05 2014

Countdown to catastrophe-January 5th, 1914

Back in 1914:

Henry Ford, unlike his current day counterparts, recognized that a well paid work force made for a better workforce-and more consumers. So wages were doubled from $2.40/9-hr day to $5.00/8-hr day.

George Reeves, the actor who would play Superman in the 1950's was born. So too was  Nicolas de Staël, a French-Russian painter.

In France, in 1914, the leadership of France rested with President Raymond Poincare , and Prime Minister Rene Viviani.  In 1914 she was the second largest colonial power in the World and the largest in Africa. She had, on paper anyway, the largest Army in Europe. France was allied with Britain and Russia  as part of the Triple Entente. In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions (777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops) in 21 regional corps, with attached cavalry and field-artillery units. Most these troops were deployed inside France with the bulk along the eastern frontier as part of Plan 17. France also had the ability to muster a further 2.9 million men during a crisis-and did so in the summer of 1914. France was itching to get back Alsace and Lorraine, territories they lost in 1870-and regarded as "French".

 

 

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Jan 03 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-3 January 1914

Today on the path to war:

The musical "Sari" opened in New York City.

Jean Louvel, Flemish pianist/conductor/composer was born today. ( As an aside J.R.R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892).

 Stephane Raoul Pugno, composer, dies at 62

In Britain, at this time, King George the V was the King of Great Britain and Emperor of India. HH Asquith, a liberal,  was the Prime Minister. The major issues of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, increasing labor strife, demands by women to vote, and the management of the Britain's vast world wide empire.

And finally-as a matter of background-in an event that was to have lasting implications all the way up to World War I, in 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church. 

 

 

 


 

HH Asquith, a liberal was the Prime Minister

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Dec 26 2013

And its Boxing Day

And since the weather sucks here-I am off to Portugal for a long weekend before New Years. There to stay in a historic hotel and see historic sights. As well I should be.

Till I get back-Have a great weekend!

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Dec 06 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 yesterday. Clearly the world has lost a great man. He was great not just because of his struggle against apartheid-but when the tables finally turned, he did not give into the natural instincts to take vengeance on his oppressors-but to seek a middle path that made a nation that needed all of its citizens regardless of the color of their skin. South Africa will now find out if his legacy can survive or if the nation will go down the same rathole that other nations have gone down. Given the track record of his successors, I am less than totally optimistic.

Now cards on the table-I am one who is very much ambivalent about British colonialism. While I recognize its racial underpinnings and the foolishness there in, at the same time I side with Niall Ferguson who made the conclusion that the nations that were once part of the British Empire have, in general, fared much better than those that were not. In spite of the many bad things that British colonialism engendered-the simple truth about Africa remains that there are too many nations on the continent and until they start to unify and put their tribalism behind them,  they will accomplish little of greatness.

And thanks to Nelson Mandela, South Africa could be a leader in that process. His legacy is unique one.

Which is why I shake my head in such complete astonishment, at the sheer buffoonery of some commenters -who have keyed on just his early life. Nelson Mandela's life cannot be examined in an American context. Those who try to do so are fools and idiots.

I advise anyone who rants and raves about the idea of Mandela being a communist, to go back and read "Cry The Beloved Country" sometime. And then go read it again. Apartheid stayed afloat on a river of violence and oppression, and while South African tried to halt the advance of history, the world went on to pass it by. What made Mandela great was that when he finally got the chance to assume power-he well understood the powder keg of emotions that had been repressed for so many years-and worked to make the transition to black majority rule a lot more orderly than many would have expected. For the complicated world of South Africa, that was nothing short of a miracle.

Most Americans who rant and rave about Mandela's Marxism don't understand context-nor do they appear to understand much of South African history since the "vortrekkers" arrived in the 1800's.  First and foremost, Mandela was an advocate of economic and social justice. There is nothing wrong with that-and if anything he was ahead of his time. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". The National Party used the fear of communism much to its advantage all through the 60's and 70's. And like it or not-the United States aided them for a long time in that effort. Or do we forget the fact that even Saint Ronnie aided and abetted apartheid?

Ronald Reagan was angry. It was October 1986, and his veto against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act had just been overridden — and by a Republican-controlled Senate, at that.

He had appeared on TV a month earlier to warn Americans against the Anti-Apartheid Act, decrying it as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Congress disagreed, and one month later, it produced the two-thirds majority needed to override Reagan and pass tough new measures against South Africa's apartheid government. These measures included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and prevented most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The Act also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 23 years in prison.

It is difficult to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid today. Blacks were denied citizenship and the right to vote. They were forcibly relocated into impoverished reservations. People of color were barred from operating businesses or owning land inside white areas, which comprised most of the country. Sexual relations or marriage between people of color and whites was strictly forbidden. Racial segregation was enforced in public areas, including schools, hospitals, trains, beaches, bridges, churches and theaters. To enforce apartheid, the government often resorted to police brutality, the imprisonment and assassination of political dissidents, and the murder of black protesters.

The United States had a complicated relationship with South Africa. Hawks in the U.S. national security complex had argued since 1948 that South Africa was an important ally in the fight against communism. Their arguments persuaded presidents from Truman to Nixon to stifle criticisms of apartheid in the interest of maintaining good relations with the white South African government, whose leaders surpassed Joseph McCarthy in their anticommunist zeal.

Reagan thought he was right. But he was wrong. And so are people who are fixated with Mandela's so called "communism". Like a lot of my viewpoints of today and yesteryear-the world in the aggregate has rejected them. I my long for the sun never setting on the British Empire and all male warships-but the world has passed those ideas by. It is what it is.

Let me repeat. You cannot look at Nelson Mandela's life through any prism but a South African one. Go back and study some of the history.

And then honor a truly great man who hopefully set his country on better course than many of his counterparts in Africa. He's not Ghandi. But South Africa is not India either. 

"What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?" Which side of the aisle you are on. 

And never forget he lost 27 years of his life to a prison cell. That changes people.

God speed and give you rest and peace, Mr Mandela.

 

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Nov 24 2013

The chance of precipitation just went up.

Not rain falling, but bombs. Dropped from Israeli planes.

The western powers signed an interim agreement with Iran last night. As expected a certain, rather stubborn group of folks is not happy about that one bit:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized the agreement signed with Iran early Sunday morning as a historic mistake.

Directly contrasting US President Barack Obama who praised the agreement as opening a "new path toward a world that is more secure,"  Netanyahu – speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting — said the world has become more dangerous as a result.

"What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake," he said. "Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world."

For the first time, he said, the leading powers of the world agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, while removing sanctions that it has taken years to build up in exchange for "cosmetic Iranian concession that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks."

Netanyahu said the consequences of this deal threaten many countries, including Israel. He reiterated what he has said in the past, that Israel is not obligated by the agreement.(emphasis mine)

That last sentence is the key one. The whole last week I was on travel, the Israeli press was having kittens over the idea that the west might do anything less than bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran. Which never made much sense to me. For one thing-Iran is the size of Europe, its a big country, and the chances that the Israeli Air Force can get all the things it needs to in one strike ( which is all they would realistically get) are low indeed. Secondly the idea of getting us to do the dirty work for them is full of traps and problems for the US.  Not to mention that starting a 4TH war in over a decade is just plain stupid. Thanks GWB, Thanks a lot. Because of your stupid wars-we are in this mess to begin with.

The interests of the US and Israel do not always align. This is going to be one of those times. And Israel will just have to accept that fact.

But I am convinced they won't. They will continue to push and prod to get their way. That's how they do business.

"And by the way, we still expect our over 4 Billion dollars in US aid next year. Got that?"

The apocalyptic rhetoric started in Israel almost immediately:

The deputy speaker of parliament, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, said on Saturday the interim agreement signed between Iran and the Western powers was tantamount to the Munich Agreement of the late 1930s.

“Like Czechoslovakia at that time, which was not party to the discussions that effectively sentenced it to death, Israel today watches from the sidelines how its existential interest is being sacrificed by the Western powers,” Feiglin said.

“Any rational person understands that we are in the midst of a process leads to a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “For years I have warned about the dangers of the strategy adopted by Israel towards the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Feiglin said that entrusting foreign powers to secure Israel’s defense interests is “disastrous” and “much worse than that which led to the Yom Kippur War.”

The lawmaker called on the Israeli government to declare an immediate end to all contacts with the West over the Iranian question and to make clear that it would not be bound by the agreement signed.

I can't wait to see what our group of AIPAC funded  whores Congressional stooges has to say about it on Monday.

Some problems are just tough-and there are no easy solutions, especially military ones-and its even tougher when over 60 years of stupidity has gone into the problem of relations with Iran, who are not Arabs.

I will say this again, two things actually. First, one can admire and respect Israel and its citizens-and give them support-without agreeing with everything they ask for. And that leads to my second point, most Americans do not understand Israel at all. They think they do-and they think its a transplanted version of America in the Levant. Trust me,  its not-its a different society. They use language and view their situation in a very different way than we do. And they always will. Furthermore-Israel is indeed a melting pot of cultures-and not all of those cultural traditions are ones we would like if we knew the details. That still does not stop us from being supportive-but supportive does not mean, contrary to what Rev Hagee and the members of AIPAC believe, a blank check.

So buckle up boys and girls, 2014 is going to be an up and down ride.

"The Lord is our Shepherd says the psalm, but just in case, its Iran we gotta bomb!"

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Oct 25 2013

People who always f*ck you over.

Today is the 25 th of October. And I can't think of a better reason to celebrate this day than it is the annversiary of another excursion into futility-namely that of the Charge of the Light Brigade! As is my custom, I repost an analysis I did here, many yeasrs back. Still seems true. Substitute Lord Luncan for Mr. XXXXXXXX and the rest remains the same.

As is my custom, I am reposting this post I first did in 2005. Given the current state of events in both the US and Afghanistan these days-its important to remember this exercise in futility.

Background:

"The war is popular beyond belief"
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians
 

The proximate cause of the war was a dispute about over who had precedence at the holy Places in Jerusalem and Nazereth. Tempers frayed, violence resulted, and lives were lost. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia demanded the right to protect the Christian shrines in the Holy Land and to back up his claims moved troops into Wallachia and Moldavia (present day Rumania) then part of the Ottoman Turkish empire. His fleet then destroyed a Turkish flotilla off Sinope in the Black Sea. In an early instance of propaganda, British newspaper reports of the action said the Russians had fired at Turkish wounded in the water. According to one source, "Russian domination of Constantinople and the Straits was a perennial nightmare of the British and with the two powers already deeply suspicious of each others intentions in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the British felt unable to accept such Russian moves against the Turks. Louis Napoleon III, emperor of France, eager to emulate the military successes of his uncle Napoleon I and wishing to extend his protection to the French monks in Jerusalem allied himself with Britain." (Remember, Turkey controlled the holy land….).

So the war began in March 1854 and by the end of the summer, the Franco-British forces had driven the Russians out of Wallachia and Moldavia. The fighting should have ended there, but it was decided that the great Russian naval base at Sevastopol was a direct threat to the future security of the region and in September 1854 the French and British landed their armies on the Crimean peninsula. This set the stage for the battle of Balaklava, of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a part.

 

The Charge itself:

1.Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Charge for the guns!" he said:Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. 2."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Was there a man dismay'd?Not tho' the soldier knew Someone had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The light brigade consisted of the following units: The 13th Light Dragoons were placed on the right of the front line, the 17th Lancers in the center, the 11th Hussars on the left but slightly behind the regiments to the right of them. The 4th Light Dragoons and the 8th Hussars formed the second line. Here is what the battlefield and the valley they rode up looks like today

3.Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,Boldly they rode and well,Into the jaws of Death,Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.

4.Flash'd all their sabres bare,Flash'd as they turn'd in air,Sabring the gunners there,Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd:Plunged in the battery-smokeRight thro' the line they broke;Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd.Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.

 

If you expand the picture you can see the arrow pointing to the right shows the valley the Brigade rode through. From the history of the 13th Hussars: The first line consisted of the 13th Light Dragoons on the right and the 17th Lancers on the left. Lord Cardigan placed himself alone in front of the line, a little on the left of the center. The 13th and 17th then moved off, and when they had covered rather more than 100 yards the 11th Hussars, who were in the second line, moved off also. In due course, and at about the same interval, came the 4th and the 8th. During the day the 11th had been on the left of the first line, but the narrowing of the valley and the width of front occupied by the Cossack battery at the east end necessitated a contraction in the first line. As it was, the 17th Lancers overlapped the right of the battery, and the 11th Hussars, in support, just brushed the guns with their right flank. The 11th it will thus be seen, did not actually cover the 17th but charged down the valley nearer to the Fedioukine Hills. The 11th the 4th, and the 8th were in echelon. Consequently the 4th came into the battery full front, while the course of the 8th was as against the Russian left. Captain Nolan started to ride with the charge, and it is believed took up a position in the interval between the two squadrons of the 17th At any rate, it would appear that thence he darted out when he rode obliquely across the front of the advancing line. You can see the set up on this map: 

 

Not exactly an envelopment………. The brigade lost over 400 men out of a starting figure of 673. Small, in comparison to the 16,000 that died of the cold and disease that came from the botch the British made of logistics in the Crimea during the following winter and summer….. Nevertheless, what went wrong? In a word, leadership…lack of it. A commander failing to take account of the fact that he was on a hill and could see what was going on and his troops could not! Add to that a whole lot of class and professional rivalry, coupled with some petty bickering and outright loathing, and you get a recipe for failure: George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, in overall command of the cavalry and subsequently promoted to Field Marshal, was an imperious andover-bearing aristocrat who was promoted to high position over more proficient professional officers because of his social connections. He let a personal quarrel with his brother-in-law – Lord Cardigan, commander of the Light Brigade- reach such a point that their respective staffs refused to co-operate and an order from Lucan to Cardigan was misconstrued, leading to the charge. Thomas James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan was a "stupid, overbearing, arrogant, vindictive" general whose ancient title and great wealth overcame his inability to command in the eyes of the military leadership. To make matters worse, the 'galloper' who delivered the message, Captain Nolan, despised both of them. This background lead to a fatal miscommunication:

It appeared that the Quartermaster-General, Brigadier Airey, thinking that the Light Cavalry had not gone far enough in front… when the enemy's horse had fled, gave an order in writing to Captain Nolan, 15th Hussars, to take to Lord Lucan, directing his Lordship 'to advance' his cavalry nearer the enemy…….When Lord Lucan received the order from Captain Nolan, and had read it, he asked, we are told, 'Where are we to advance to?' Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, 'There are the enemy, and there are the guns', or words to that effect, according to statements made after his death…

There is an interesting picture of Lord Cardigan and Lord Luncan painted in the "Flashman" series of books. From another text though, it is clear neither were were well liked: "At the time, Lord Cardigan was known to be a "blockhead" and Lord Lucan was considered a "pedant""

5. Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,While horse and hero fell,They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.

6.When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered.Honor the charge they made,Honor the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred. Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

I shall leave it to others to make any kind of a connection to this history and current events. However it is interesting to hear the rhetoric of the time. Anything here sound familiar?

"I believe that if this barbarous nation(Russia) the enemy of all progress……should once succeed in establishing itself in the heart of Europe,it would be the greatest calamity which could befall the human race"

Lord Lyndhurst in a speech to the House of Lords

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May 20 2013

Who are you? The Maid?

One particular item I have neglected to comment on in the last couple of months, primarily because I have been rather busy, and also America has been involved recently in Benghazi! Benghazi! BENGHAZI! ( one of the series of non scandals that is warming the hearts of the moron class in America)-something a lot worse happened in my second favorite city in the world.

Hong Kong's top court has ruled that domestic workers are not eligible to apply for permanent residency, ending a two-year battle that has split opinion.

The case had centred on Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a maid from the Philippines who has worked in Hong Kong for more than 17 years.

Domestic workers had argued that denying them permanent residency was unconstitutional.

The ruling has implications for Hong Kong's 300,000 domestic workers.

These workers come mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia, often spending years in the territory.

"The FDH [foreign domestic helper] is obliged to return to the country of origin at the end of the contract and is told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement and that dependents cannot be brought to reside in Hong Kong," the Court of Final Appeal said in a written judgment.

Ms Vallejos was "speechless but calmly resigned", her lawyer, Mark Daly said.

The decision was not a surprise. Hong Kong's Chinese middle and upper class population had been vehemently opposed to the idea.  All kinds of straws were grasped at by various folks in Hong Kong's power structure to justify their opposition to allow the "vermin" to enjoy basic rights that are actually written into Hong Kong's Basic Law. Regina Ip stated that the government would have to allocate more resources to deal with the increased workload resulting from right of abode applications by domestic workers. 

Hemlock kind of summed up the Chinese attitude well-but don't ever call them racist:

Middle class spared need to wash own dishes

To no-one’s great surprise, the Court of Final Appeal rejects foreign domestic helpers’ claim to right of abode in Hong Kong. This is a story with several very distinct angles.

….

 

 

There’s a subliminal nationalism angle. Most of the helpers concerned are from the Philippines. The Philippines is a joke country; it is the Asian nation China can most easily bully, but it is also the one most likely to mishandle or overreact to intimidation. From Beijing’s point of view, it is appropriate that Hong Kong keeps Filipinos in their place. To Manila, this case could be a reminder that the most demeaning treatment Filipinos receive is from their own country’s incompetent leadership, which leaves them with no option but to migrate – but it probably won’t.

There’s the principles vs populism angle. The government was desperate to get this result because of overwhelming public opposition to allowing Filipino maids’ kids into Hong Kong (as with Mainland mothers, subject to a separate court case). This is the same government that constantly tells us that we have a pressing demographic crisis that can only be solved through a boost in the number of children – and that we shouldn’t discriminate against brown people and Mainlanders.

And that leads to a cultural and racial angle, summed up by the New York Times, which asks if Hong Kong will embrace a more multi-ethnic future. As with legal systems and age demographics, this case highlights Hong Kong’s values schizophrenia. On the one hand, the city is supposed to be part of the People’s Republic of China, with the national anthem on TV and smiling patriotic schoolchildren – sons and daughters of the dragon – waving red flags to greet visiting Chinese astronauts and Olympians. On the other hand, the city fancies itself as a diverse melting pot like New York or London, attracting the brightest and the best from around the world, as indeed it must if it is to maintain the region’s biggest clusters of financial, legal, technical and other skills. In practice, much of Han Hong Kong is insular, culturally solidly Chinese and fears external competition, while a smaller part of the ethnic Chinese populace are cosmopolitan and, often, Western-educated. The first group are in Beijing’s eyes surely the ‘politically correct’ population; the second group plus some non-Chinese are what keeps the place ticking. It is a contradiction Hong Kong government officials can’t resolve, so they wing it.

It is rather interesting, what with the faux outrage going on in the US about the supposed mistreatment of women in the service-and the so called glass ceiling-very little attention is given to these women; who actually live-in some cases-with REAL harassment; A REAL hostile work environment; and a wage that is well less than what their services can and should be on the open market. Yet not a peep is heard from the US feminists about it-afraid to show solidarity with the sex, I suppose. And worse yet- the Philippine Government is so inept that they create the conditions by which literally over 5 million Filipinos have to work overseas. As I have pointed out before-it should be a national embarrassment to the country. But somehow successive Philippine governments never get around to recognizing that.

Spike pointed out a while back that the decision fails a test of reasonableness-both for being against Hong Kong's Basic Law- and that it doesn't pass any test of basic fairness and decency:

So that’s legal. But is it fair? Each of these women who sued for resident status has been living and working in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. If they lose their jobs, they have an insanely short period in which to either find a new job or get out of the country – even when they’ve been here for decades.

Even if they have family back in the Philippines or Indonesia, they see that family perhaps once a year, perhaps only once every other year. They have essentially given up their lives to work a six day work week.  They’re on call 18 hours a day and usually have a curfew on their day off. They receive well under US$500 per month in salary (much more than they can earn in their home countries) plus room and board. In return they are an important component of Hong Kong’s economy. They enable two-income families, the only way the average Hong Konger can afford a 500 square foot shitbox from Li Ka-Shing or Sun Hung Kai.  

Opponents of giving residence status to domestic helpers use fear tactics.  Hong Kong will suddenly have 300,000 new permanent residents, all of whom will quit their jobs and live off welfare.  (What welfare?)  Others say that they should have no right to resident status because they never paid Hong Kong income tax, which ignores the fact that their salaries are too low to qualify to pay.

So there’s legal and there’s what’s fair and the two are often not the same.

 

I have a soft spot in my heart for these women-who deal with a lot; who have children they seldom see; hope for a better future; and in some cases get treated really badly. I think Spike is really right here-the masters in Beijing just want to bide their time and destroy everything unique about Hong Kong bit by bit.

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Apr 08 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher died today, at the age of 87.

As a result, thanks to our British satellite system,  we have been watching voluminous coverage of the memories of her life. What strikes me the most is how very different it is from the gushing American coverage. It speaks volumes about the naiveté of Americans in general, and conservatives in particular.

The British coverage on BBC has been much more even handed-unsparing of her failures while quite laudatory of here achievements-which were many-and trying to give a balanced picture of a life that shaped a great deal of Great Britain's post World War II history. American coverage, particularly on Fox-which I have the misfortune to have on my Sky system-not so much.

Americans tend to view her as a British version of Reagan, but in reality she was very different. Consider:

Thatcher slashed, but there was no Reaganesque free candy. She lowered the rates, but she also raised other taxes, such as the value added tax. She was about sacrifice, cutting government subsidies and programs in a way that Reagan never matched. Millions of people went on the dole because of her cuts, whereas the recession in the U.S. did not result from Reagan cutting the budget but from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker slamming the brakes to wring inflation from the economy. (Reagan did reappoint Volcker once.)

Thatcher called Reagan "the second most important man in my life." And both drew strength from the other. It helped at home. It was hard for Americans or Britons to dismiss their leader as a crazy outlier if your most important ally had an elected leader with a similar worldview. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair would mutually reinforce each other in the same way as they took on their own party's established interests. When Thatcher and Reagan differed, as on the Falklands war, where the Reagan Administration had coddled the "authoritarian" regime in Buenos Aires, it strained the relationship but never broke it.

 

Consider too-that America later brow beat Britain into its wars,  but when the British Navy could have really used our help-in the form of AEW aircraft and refueling, we did the minimum acceptable to get by. The US could have done far more to support Britain in the Falklands, support that it had richly earned, but the US failed miserably in the undertaking. And a year later-it invaded an island where the Queen was head of State without so much as a "by your leave" to the British government.

Americans should also remember that whatever success she had came at a painful cost. 3.3 million were unemployed with no hope of a job. The economy went into recession and the dole was being withdrawn unless you could "prove" you were actively searching for work.  It ruined millions of people's lives and put millions more into unproductive boredom and hardship. It cost the country £40b in lost productivity and the only thing Margaret did was make it worse.  Furthermore, just as in America 20 years later-it accelerated a gap between the wealthiest 1% and the majority of the population. Tony Blair came to power in part because of that-just as Barak Obama did some 10 years later in the US. Americans tend to forget how bad it really was in Britain for a great while.

Here is a point of view you will not hear on American TV-but probably should:

Thatcher was an evil, twisted woman who encouraged greed and isolation. she decimated the North of England and virtually destroyed my father during the miner's strikes.

I remember one Christmas particularly, during that dark time. The rotary club turned up at the door with a food parcel complete with turkey, veg and a small bottle of sherry.

This was our Christmas – all I can recall of Thatcher's wonder years was imminent threat of redundancy and penury.

Maybe Thatcher did something good for the country, but as a child growing up in Newcastle, I am at a loss as to what this good actually was.


Conservatives in America will love the woman because they will view her through the prism of her friendship with Ronald Reagan. She was, like Reagan, probably what her country needed at the time-but one must never forget the actual facts of her time in office, which had a lot of bad to balance out the good. Just as it was with Reagan.

Regardless of what one thought of her-she did a lot to earn a great deal of respect. However one should never forget the undercurrent that came with that legacy and the deep divisions she fostered in her country. British politics still lives in her shadow-for both better and worse.

But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren't silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person's death to create hagiography. Typifying these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: "The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend." Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.

9 responses so far

Mar 12 2013

Don’t cry for Britain, Argentina.

What is Spanish for, " Suck on this you Latin bastards?"

 

Of 1,517 votes cast in the two-day referendum – on a turnout of more than 90% – 1,513 were in favour, while just three votes were against.

It follows pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War with the UK.

The UK government welcomed the result and urged "all countries" to accept it and respect the islanders' wishes.

The referendum had asked: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?"


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner , here's a little music to cry yourself to sleep by:

Can we put that Las Malvinas bullshit to bed forever now?

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Nov 06 2012

It all comes down to today.

And don't kid yourself sports fans-the entire world is watching the US election. One of the things that has always amazed me now-through 11 years of living overseas, is how much of the rest of the world watches and gets swept up in the madness that is American electoral politics. The US election has been topic number 1 on both the German and BBC newscasts I watch.

Might have something to with the fact that when the US sneezes-the rest of the world catches a cold. Or gets stuck with a war in (fill in the blank).

If you are an American in the US right now. GET OFF YOUR ASS AND VOTE! In 2008, only 56.8% of Americans bothered to vote. Even less did in 2010. That is a disgrace. Americans jingoistically boast they have the greatest democracy in the world-but they are complete hypocrites about doing what it takes to keep that democracy working.

On a lighter note, here is the Romney campaign summed up in three panels:

The last Nate Silver projection can be found here. The pundits at Fox News and the members of the Liars Club, hate it-and they hate Silver too. I sure hope he is right. I really don't want to have to go out and ask my bartender for a quart of antifreeze.

If Romney wins-I am staying drunk for a week. And as a head start for this-I plan on staying up tonight to watch the returns come in. They should start around 2AM German time. I'm stocking up on Pilsner-if they go south I'll switch to Scotch.

24 hours from now we should know how it went.

7 responses so far

Sep 24 2012

Don’t think they are getting the point here.

 I want write about the abomination that is the Romney campaign-and the failed dirt digging that is the Liars Club and their reaction to a reasonable statement. John Cole framed it well when he voiced the same sentiment I have:

 

What a crazy position for an American President to take- to actually focus on American security concerns and American foreign policy goals. It’s almost like Obama understands we are not an Israeli client state.

Call me an anti-Semite, but I guess I just have no problem with my President looking out for US foreign policy goals. Crazy, that.

 

Five trips to Israel in the last year have convinced me of a couple of things: 1) Israel is a vital ally of the United States and will remain so, and nothing this President has done has effectively denied that fact. In fact he's worked steadily and privately to strengthen the United States support for Israel. 2) Israelis are among the most obstinate and unreasonable people on the earth. I know that will offend some people-but its the truth. Yes there is a historical background for it-but time has marched on, and despite what the religious right believes, Jerusalem is not at the center of the world vortex right now.  Americans, as a whole, do not understand what Israel is really like-rather they have a preconceived idea of what they think it is like.

Finally, Israel's interests and ours are not in complete alignment. No nations is-but particularly the interest of a nation that is founded, rightly or wrongly, as a religious state. Or the secular representation of a particular religion. It is natural, that in the course of events-Israel and the US will disagree.  That does not make the US any less of a friend nor does it make the Israeli whining about certain matters nothing more than noise on particular issues. The President was right to say that and the folks over at the Weekly Standard can just go suck eggs. There is more to foreign policy than the views of AIPAC.

William Kristol and Benjamin Netenyahu should both realize that.

There! I feel better for having gotten that off of my chest. There are others who agree with me.

And here we see the perils of believing your own hype — apparently Bibi and friends actuallybelieved the idea of the all-powerful Israel Lobby. Whether through Romney's bald-faced pandering to that perceived lobby with his ugly comments about the cultural inferiority of Palestinians or, more shockingly, through Netanyahu's decision to take sides in the 2012 presidential campaign, they seem to think that if they can portray Obama as "weak on Israel" they will materially advance their own causes. It's worth noting, of course, that those interests are different. For Romney, the approach only works if it undermines Obama in key states, notably Florida. For Netanyahu, it would work if the fear of losing Jewish support pushed Obama to get visibly tougher on Iran, to accept, for example, the Israeli leader's call for clearly demarked and more aggressive "red lines" with Iran.

3 responses so far

Jul 18 2012

Well, this just sucks.

Crank up the F-15's and bring out Slim Pickens on an H-bomb. My summer just got a hell of a lot harder.

"All the signs are pointing to Iran. Only in the past few months we've seen Iran try to target Israelis in Thailand, Indian, Georgia, Cyprus and more, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the deadly terror attack on a bus in carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria.

Of course-there is absolutely NO WAY Yetanahyu would seek to capitalize on this.  No way , whatsoever. I mean-it is not like his government has just fallen or anything:

The 70-day-old Likud-Kadima government that broke up on Tuesday was a prime example of political shoddiness at its worst.

Israel has seen its share of unity governments. Some lasted longer than others; some accomplished a great deal and some were missed opportunities. But there has never been anything like this.

In the dark of night 70 days ago, only minutes before the Knesset was going to schedule elections for September 4, the leaders of the two big parties shocked everyone with a "historic" coalition agreement for the ensuing 18 months.

The new government had four goals: pass a universal draft law, change the system of government, jump-start the peace process and pass an emergency budget. Tuesday, after 70 days of euphoria, the partnership dissolved without any one of those things being achieved.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz are emerging from this bad joke, which made a mockery of Israeli democracy, looking bad. Both are going back to square one in much worse positions than before. Netanyahu looks as though he has forged an eternal alliance with the ultra-Orthodox, while Mofaz, who wanted the public to judge him by his results, has a very poor report card to show his voters; it has four zeros on it. He had good intentions, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

 

The draft issue is a serious one-Israelis are tired of seeing the Haredim be moral hypocrites, advocating policies that lead to violence-while getting a free pass to have to not have to deal with the consequences; this in order to study the Torah or other such nonsense.

Then again, the question has to be asked-what sort of accommodations can the IDF realistically make for the Haredim? 

I  can already picture military correspondent Carmela Menashe reporting on a yeshiva student-soldier whose young son fell ill, suddenly developed a high fever, and his wife summons her husband from the base to the hospital. She has left another two to three babies at home, her husband is no longer a child, he's at least 22. Someone has to help her, but the commander refuses to release her helpmate in the middle of a training exercise. Won't we all protest the hardheartedness? It's absolutely infuriating. After all, equality in sharing the burden of the family is also an important value.

And another yeshiva student will say he noticed a female soldier walking near the camp, he's almost certain it was a woman, he was even able to hear her voice from afar. Here's the proof: The IDF is not really interested in conscripting them, isn't willing to consider their feelings, and it's impossible to go on this way.

One scandal follows another, it's already the third case in one week: Another yeshiva student, who was hungry, got up at night to eat something in the brigade pantry. He became very upset: The kashrut stamp on the canned goods is an unacceptable one, and not from the proper Badatz (Haredi kosher certification ). True it's kosher, even glatt kosher, but it's someone else's seal of approval, not ours. As though bitten by a snake he runs outside to the parade grounds, and with a loud "gevalt" he wakes up his friends. Together they decide to phone the rebbe, to wake him up, too, so he can rend his clothes and raise a scandal. Here's additional proof of the non-Jewish nature of the Zionist army, which will soon be an army of Arabs, because Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel Our Home" ) is also Israel their home, until the voluntary transfer.

And what will happen on Shabbat? Who will measure 2,000 cubits and draw the Shabbat boundary? And who will rule on what constitutes pikuah nefesh (a danger to life ) that justifies desecrating the Shabbat, and who is worthy of having his life saved on the holy day? Soon there will be a heated debate over Jewish religious law between the rabbinical leaders of the Hardalim and those of the Haredim, whose disputes are always for the sake of heaven and never for earthly reasons: Who will bully the IDF more, who will prove to be the most important Jewish legal arbiter of the generation? In other words: Conscription for all, in the present situation, means dismantling the IDF.

In other words-the IDF would become the Jewish equivalent of the US Navy. Too willing to cave into the demands of a protected class to get any real work done. Only in the US Navy its women-in the IDF it would be the Haredim.

But don't kid yourself-with a collapsed government, new elections on the horizion forcing Bibi to get more hard line than he already is, and the fingerprints of Iran on this-stand the fuck by-the jets are going to roll.

Which will suck for the rest of us.

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Jun 05 2012

One more post about the Diamond Jubilee.

As I have noted before-I am an unrepentant Anglophile and fan of the British Empire. We have gotten to see great coverage of the celebrations on our British Satellite system. Even as an American you should be struck by the difference between the respect shown here to the Queen and our own twisted and misguided politics. The British Empire may have faded from the stage-but the spirit that makes Britain unique among the nations-and the traditions that made America-are still quite in evidence. Whatever we Americans have-we learned from the British.

 

 

The sun going down on Kidney Ridge is setting on the British Empire, on which-so we learned as schoolboys-the sun never set. Our Empire was born of the skill of our explorers, the martial prowess of our yeomanry, the innovative genius of our scientists and engineers. We stole a march on the world that lasted 200 years. Lulled by the long peaceful protection of the great fleet we built, we thought it could last forever. We dozed.

Here in Kidney Ridge we have erased the disgrace of our somnolence. If history is but the clash of arms, we now begin to leave the stage with honor. But if it is a march of the human spirit toward world freedom, [Britain] will never leave the stage. British ideas, British institutions, British scientific method, will lead the way in other lands, in other guises. English will become the planetary tongue, that is now certain. We have been the Greece of the new age.

3 responses so far

Jun 03 2012

Stayed in for a good reason.

After an arduous trip home-made doubly long due to bad weather in Chicago-leading us to get rerouted on Lufthansa. ( I got upgraded to Business-the SO did not. For the record, I offered the seat to her-but she knows how much the free booze means to me, God Bless Her). We were exhausted by the time we got back to Stuttgart.

Our bags, however, had an even longer journey not showing up till this morning. Which is just as well since the S.O was still asleep when they came-she slept till noon today.

So with the tiredness still resident, and bad weather looming on the horizon, we stayed in and watched the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Flotilla parade. ( If you have to ask "whose Queen"-you deserve to be beaten). The weather in London was not good-but thousands turned out to watch. And the British, proving to be the truly great people they are, pulled off the parade in great fashion, despite the rain. The Queen herself, 86, stood for 4 hours on the Royal Barge to watch the parade go by. Thanks to the wonder of our British Satellite System-we watched every moment of it.

Here's a note to all those folks watching Braveheart for the 15th time and thinking Scottish Independence would be a great thing: YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG! ( This could also be said to apply to Ireland-but they already fucked things up long ago). Only as a united nation with ENGLAND will you ever achieve great things.

Now, truth in advertising-I am a bonfide fan of the British Empire, if I had my way 1/4 of the earths population would still be under British rule. Get over it LKY, most of Africa, and you bastards in India and Pakistan. Sorry Gandhi, you never understood what would have been able to be accomplished had the colonies unified together to form a great power and economic block. Yes it was racist-but as Niall Ferguson has pointed out the forces of moderation were well underway before you guys went off the deep end.

ANYWAY.

As a bonafide Anglophile ( Americans take note-that still makes one an American, it simply means I recognize that America is an English country, descended from English tradition that needs to be assimilated into. That-by the way- is my view on immigration) I enjoyed the celebration immensely. Queen Elizabeth and the Commonwealth have been a stabilizing force among the world in many ways. Congratulations to her for 60 years on the throne and GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

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