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WHAT NEXT FOR EUROPE? May 31, 2005

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The rejection of the proposed European constitution referendum by French voters, may have reflected domestic concerns, involving political and regional alliances that some have called a rupture, and may not turn out to be as historically significant as the Fall of Constantinople, but it can be expected to have implications and ramifications of the development of Europe as primarily a political or economic union.

Some, including John Simpson at the BBC, argue that the political union is now dead. According to Simpson the broadening process has triumphed over the deepening process. The Franco-German powerhouse of European unity has lost traction. Both political leaders now are struggling with the status of lame ducks. The suggestion is that had Germany put the question to a referendum it too would have been defeated.

While holding a referendum will no longer be needed, Britain looks likely to step forward to do the heavy lifting for Europe. And while Blair’s position is strong in parliamentary representation, it is not strong in proportionate popular support.

Postscript: 01/06/2006

Digesting the available reports and information from my ususal sources, The Independent and The Guardian, on this development is not easy, at least for me. However, it seems clear that this referendum represents a turning point. The broadening over deepening theory seems to me to be the most sensible explanation, or at least a perspective in which other issues might be framed. Henry Farrell has a post at Crooked Timber, looking more at current politics relating to the Left and the Turkey’ membership.

OPTION A OR B May 30, 2005

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Can he be for real, or is this some elaborate joke?


USAF General Richard Meyers (Al Jazeera) Posted by Hello
Al Jazeera reports:

The human rights organization Amnesty International also said in a report last week that Guantanamo is “the gulag of our time.” Myers disputed the Amnesty report, saying that it was “absolutely irresponsible.” He claimed that the U.S. was doing its best to detain fighters who, if freed, “would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children’s throats.”

“This is a different kind of struggle, a different kind of war,” Myers said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We struggle with how to handle them (the prisoners), but we’ve always handled them humanely and with the dignity that they should be accorded.”

The U.S. army arrested more than 68,000 people since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Myers said. He claimed that the military looked into 325 complaints of mistreatment, noting that investigators found 100 cases of prisoner abuse and that 100 people were punished.

Among other questions, this raises the question of what have the Americans being doing since September 2001, other than arresting people. . .

Now in these matters, it is possible that it is just the way the story has been written, but I suspect the PR machine has let its guard down on this one. The mind boogles: General Meyers in conference with President Bush.

AFTERTHOUGHT: 01/06/2005

Of course, all of my assumptions may be incorrect. However, can media management of this issue of the treatment of suspects, their denial of basic human rights, the reports easily found alleging abuse, be so easily done through these television channels. My conclusion is there is no benign or indifferent take on this development.

EURO-TREATY NON VOTE May 30, 2005

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There is no shortage of candidates for the lame duck gallery. In an opinion expressed in The Independent President Chirac in the last two years of office has become “the lamest of lame ducks.” I do not expect this duck to fly.


President Chirac (BBC) Posted by Hello
Looked at through Australian experience, the expectation would be that referendums are more likely lost than won, although in this case there was no weighting for this outcome. The non vote has produced a political shock, both for France and Europe. In retrospect, it seems bad political judgement putting this question directly to the people, when it might have been ratified as the Germans did through their parliaments. It seems that the French rejection will be supported by the Dutch this week. And a British vote may not be necessary.

Kirsty Hughes, for the BBC, presents her analysis of the significance of the referendum by the French voters. The anti-Turkish sentiment is, I think, a worrying development.

Of course, I do not expect the EU to go away, nor do I expect it to be a lame duck.

FODDER FUEL May 30, 2005

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This is the first I have heard of this alternative – a power station fuelled by grass.

It should appeal to farmers. It may be yet another productive use for our lawn clippings (although the economics of this suggestion are probably dubious)? No, it turns out it has to be elephant grass – bamboo.

The first British grass-fuelled power station is about to begin construction later this year.
The story is provided by The Guardian.

FODDER FUEL May 30, 2005

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This is the first I have heard of this alternative – a power station fuelled by grass.

It should appeal to farmers. It may be yet another productive use for our lawn clippings (although the economics of this suggestion are probably dubious)? No, it turns out it has to be elephant grass – bamboo.

The first British grass-fuelled power station is about to begin construction later this year.
The story is provided by The Guardian.

552 YEARS AGO May 29, 2005

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Istanbul (DW) Posted by Hello
Today marks the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The significance of this event is both real and arbitrary, for some it is a convenient year to mark the end of the Middle Ages.

552 YEARS AGO May 29, 2005

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Istanbul (DW) Posted by Hello
Today marks the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The significance of this event is both real and arbitrary, for some it is a convenient year to mark the end of the Middle Ages.

MORE ON BOLIVIA May 29, 2005

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I regard Karl Penhaul’s article on the demonstration by Bolivia’s “original ones” as one of the best pieces of journalism I have seen, or at least it works for me. The demonstration was broken up by the security forces using tear gas and then chasing the demonstrations down sides streets so they could not reform before they could reach the legislature.

The reasons for their demonstration may well resonate with us, if only because we might wish for the Bolivian battlers to have a more satisfactory material life, and beyond that from the realization, as discussed in the preceding post, a world connected by global information, and therefore awareness, has made a morally quiet life more problematic. Penhaul reports:

The demonstrators are rallying to a call by leftist labor unions and community organizations for the Bolivian government to nationalize the country’s natural gas industry and toss out multinational corporations.

But their fight runs much deeper — it’s a fight against the free-market economic policies and globalization. Two-thirds of Bolivians survive on less than $500 a year, according to independent analysts.

This is a battle between the haves and the have-nots, between the downtrodden and desperately poor Indian and mestizo majority against the political and economic elites — a fight some analysts say could be contagious across Latin America.

Bolivia, on the advice of Harvard-trained economist Jeffrey Sachs, activated some of the most radical free-market reforms anywhere in Latin America in the 1980s.

In Latin America the so-called economic rationalism, or neoliberalism is called the Washington consensus. I still maintain that political and social management by deepening class divisions is regressive, however enhanced by puerile wedge politics. However, I do not foresee the cause of the Bolivian workers and peasants to be taken up by the growing underclass in Australia, except in the recognition they have common political enemies.

UPDATE: 01/06/2005

Mark Brahnisch reports Tarig Ali speech in Brisbane in which he reviews the situation in Venezuela. President Charez, despite the opposition of the CIA, according to Mark, is promoting social democracy.

UPDATE 05/06/2005

The BBC provides an analysis of the political protests in La Paz.

MORE ON BOLIVIA May 29, 2005

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I regard Karl Penhaul’s article on the demonstration by Bolivia’s “original ones” as one of the best pieces of journalism I have seen, or at least it works for me. The demonstration was broken up by the security forces using tear gas and then chasing the demonstrations down sides streets so they could not reform before they could reach the legislature.

The reasons for their demonstration may well resonate with us, if only because we might wish for the Bolivian battlers to have a more satisfactory material life, and beyond that from the realization, as discussed in the preceding post, a world connected by global information, and therefore awareness, has made a morally quiet life more problematic. Penhaul reports:

The demonstrators are rallying to a call by leftist labor unions and community organizations for the Bolivian government to nationalize the country’s natural gas industry and toss out multinational corporations.

But their fight runs much deeper — it’s a fight against the free-market economic policies and globalization. Two-thirds of Bolivians survive on less than $500 a year, according to independent analysts.

This is a battle between the haves and the have-nots, between the downtrodden and desperately poor Indian and mestizo majority against the political and economic elites — a fight some analysts say could be contagious across Latin America.

Bolivia, on the advice of Harvard-trained economist Jeffrey Sachs, activated some of the most radical free-market reforms anywhere in Latin America in the 1980s.

In Latin America the so-called economic rationalism, or neoliberalism is called the Washington consensus. I still maintain that political and social management by deepening class divisions is regressive, however enhanced by puerile wedge politics. However, I do not foresee the cause of the Bolivian workers and peasants to be taken up by the growing underclass in Australia, except in the recognition they have common political enemies.

UPDATE: 01/06/2005

Mark Brahnisch reports Tarig Ali speech in Brisbane in which he reviews the situation in Venezuela. President Charez, despite the opposition of the CIA, according to Mark, is promoting social democracy.

UPDATE 05/06/2005

The BBC provides an analysis of the political protests in La Paz.

A MORALLY QUIET LIFE May 28, 2005

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I came across this paragraph by Nicholas Fearn, and for me, at least, it blew away the inanities, which crowd and close minds:

At the outbreak of the Second World War, David Niven abandoned his newly acquired Hollywood stardom to return home and volunteer for the war effort. “Young man,” said Winston Churchill to him one evening, “you did a very fine thing to give up a most promising career to fight for your country… Mark you, had you not done so it would have been despicable.” According to Churchill, there was no neutral land between right and wrong where one could live a morally quiet life, yet such a life is what most of us believe we are living. Few of us go to great personal lengths to alleviate the suffering of the starving of the world, but neither do many of us feel that we inflict such suffering. We are, we believe, neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. We are not interested in morality — much as we are not interested in politics. However, to the philosopher Peter Singer, we are all as culpable as each other. Morality is pervasive and, by neglecting to do good, we each commit egregious sins of omission.

OK, this might be where the rubber meets the road for philosophy. Globalization, perhaps a gathering trend over hundreds of years, and evidence by this technology in its effect at once personal, local, national and planetary, makes the most poor and cruelly treated people on earth my neighbours.

Before accepting this, or any other proposition, we need to examine it. That is the rub. Churchill may have talked the talk, but questions hang over him as how to walked the walk. Take two examples. His government ordered the destruction of French navy, under control of Vichy, in North Africa and was party to the fire-bombing of Dresden, with the attendant loss of life. I suspect that moral judgements are often more clear cut in relation to others.

A MORALLY QUIET LIFE May 28, 2005

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I came across this paragraph by Nicholas Fearn, and for me, at least, it blew away the inanities, which crowd and close minds:

At the outbreak of the Second World War, David Niven abandoned his newly acquired Hollywood stardom to return home and volunteer for the war effort. “Young man,” said Winston Churchill to him one evening, “you did a very fine thing to give up a most promising career to fight for your country… Mark you, had you not done so it would have been despicable.” According to Churchill, there was no neutral land between right and wrong where one could live a morally quiet life, yet such a life is what most of us believe we are living. Few of us go to great personal lengths to alleviate the suffering of the starving of the world, but neither do many of us feel that we inflict such suffering. We are, we believe, neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. We are not interested in morality — much as we are not interested in politics. However, to the philosopher Peter Singer, we are all as culpable as each other. Morality is pervasive and, by neglecting to do good, we each commit egregious sins of omission.

OK, this might be where the rubber meets the road for philosophy. Globalization, perhaps a gathering trend over hundreds of years, and evidence by this technology in its effect at once personal, local, national and planetary, makes the most poor and cruelly treated people on earth my neighbours.

Before accepting this, or any other proposition, we need to examine it. That is the rub. Churchill may have talked the talk, but questions hang over him as how to walked the walk. Take two examples. His government ordered the destruction of French navy, under control of Vichy, in North Africa and was party to the fire-bombing of Dresden, with the attendant loss of life. I suspect that moral judgements are often more clear cut in relation to others.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – HORSES OF FREEDOM. May 27, 2005

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Horses out on the loose Posted by Hello

The horses of freedom simply walked out an open gate. When we came along, they followed. They were left, as horses of freedom, contently to graze on the grass on the other side of the fence.


Here’s looking at you, kid Posted by Hello
The horses often seem more interested in the dogs than the human. But perhaps Sasha has a question for the human.


Amy joining the walk Posted by Hello
Amy, the archetypical horse of freedom, joins us on our walk cantering along. She whinnies plaintively, as we turn off for along a bush trail.


Amy has confidential word to Taffy Posted by Hello
When we come back, she responds when called. Then Amy is free; the dogs are tied. Taffy is looking pleased, and Sasha, for the moment, is enveloped in shadow and lost in olfactory investigation.


Enjoying the view – from different directions. Posted by Hello
Sometimes, especially on the edge of an embarkment, with insecure footing, the photo is shot in hope. Sasha and Taffy are looking in opposite directions,


Horse grazes with friend. Posted by Hello

Here a telephoto lens would be a great help. The bird was slenderly elegant and all white – perhaps a white heron, but that at best is a wild surmise.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – HORSES OF FREEDOM. May 27, 2005

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Horses out on the loose Posted by Hello

The horses of freedom simply walked out an open gate. When we came along, they followed. They were left, as horses of freedom, contently to graze on the grass on the other side of the fence.


Here’s looking at you, kid Posted by Hello
The horses often seem more interested in the dogs than the human. But perhaps Sasha has a question for the human.


Amy joining the walk Posted by Hello
Amy, the archetypical horse of freedom, joins us on our walk cantering along. She whinnies plaintively, as we turn off for along a bush trail.


Amy has confidential word to Taffy Posted by Hello
When we come back, she responds when called. Then Amy is free; the dogs are tied. Taffy is looking pleased, and Sasha, for the moment, is enveloped in shadow and lost in olfactory investigation.


Enjoying the view – from different directions. Posted by Hello
Sometimes, especially on the edge of an embarkment, with insecure footing, the photo is shot in hope. Sasha and Taffy are looking in opposite directions,


Horse grazes with friend. Posted by Hello

Here a telephoto lens would be a great help. The bird was slenderly elegant and all white – perhaps a white heron, but that at best is a wild surmise.

BOLIVIA’S NAVY! May 26, 2005

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No destroyers or aircraft carriers (Internet Picture) Posted by Hello

Bolivia has a navy, and the Admiral as head of the armed forces, has a critical role in current Bolivian political developments, as reported by the BBC. This comes to me as a surprise, but there is a historical background.


Yep, that’s it sailor! Posted by Hello
But joining the navy can be a career move, at least for Admiral Aranda who got to run the army and the air force.


Admiral Aranda (Associated Press) Posted by Hello
Postscript: 27/05/2005

Personally, I would not like to be seen as mocking the Bolivians, about their navy or anything else. The fact that they had a navy surprised me, because I had not understood what happened to them as a result of the 1879 Pacific War. I can begin to appreciate that a landlocked country, like Boliva, could benefit from a South American economic union, which has been mooted. There are other problems too such as reliance on commodity products, and perhaps institutional weakness, due in part to social inequality.

BOLIVIA’S NAVY! May 26, 2005

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No destroyers or aircraft carriers (Internet Picture) Posted by Hello

Bolivia has a navy, and the Admiral as head of the armed forces, has a critical role in current Bolivian political developments, as reported by the BBC. This comes to me as a surprise, but there is a historical background.


Yep, that’s it sailor! Posted by Hello
But joining the navy can be a career move, at least for Admiral Aranda who got to run the army and the air force.


Admiral Aranda (Associated Press) Posted by Hello
Postscript: 27/05/2005

Personally, I would not like to be seen as mocking the Bolivians, about their navy or anything else. The fact that they had a navy surprised me, because I had not understood what happened to them as a result of the 1879 Pacific War. I can begin to appreciate that a landlocked country, like Boliva, could benefit from a South American economic union, which has been mooted. There are other problems too such as reliance on commodity products, and perhaps institutional weakness, due in part to social inequality.

HIDDEN HUMAN COST OF WAR May 25, 2005

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Protesters before Marine recruitment centre in Seattle (Al Jazeera) Posted by Hello
The one word difference between Vietnam and Iraq has received little comment. The absence of conscription means that many young Americans are not affected by the war in Iraq, as they were by the war in Vietnam.

Perhaps Al Jazeera is jaundiced, as The Australian is from a different view, but it does raise the issue, not reported on much as far as I can tell, of the problems the US military is having in raising recruits, other than “conscripting” National Guard units.

Some of us had fathers who were very silent on their experience of war, but I suspect the Iraq war is more horrible than most wars. For example, being at the scene of a car bomb, such as the picture of the soldier carrying the child in the blood stained blanket, is not something that would be easily forgotten. For many soldiers their suffering will come when they leave the military, and continue on beyond the time by which people will have forgotten this war.

All of which is a reminder of the untold suffering of the Iraqi people under wars and sanctions.

HIDDEN HUMAN COST OF WAR May 25, 2005

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Protesters before Marine recruitment centre in Seattle (Al Jazeera) Posted by Hello
The one word difference between Vietnam and Iraq has received little comment. The absence of conscription means that many young Americans are not affected by the war in Iraq, as they were by the war in Vietnam.

Perhaps Al Jazeera is jaundiced, as The Australian is from a different view, but it does raise the issue, not reported on much as far as I can tell, of the problems the US military is having in raising recruits, other than “conscripting” National Guard units.

Some of us had fathers who were very silent on their experience of war, but I suspect the Iraq war is more horrible than most wars. For example, being at the scene of a car bomb, such as the picture of the soldier carrying the child in the blood stained blanket, is not something that would be easily forgotten. For many soldiers their suffering will come when they leave the military, and continue on beyond the time by which people will have forgotten this war.

All of which is a reminder of the untold suffering of the Iraqi people under wars and sanctions.

PLEASE EXPLAIN! May 24, 2005

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I echo Pauline Hanson, plaintively expressing her ignorance, since I find myself in the same position.

Why? What is served by holding such people? And that is before asking: What is the legal basis on which they are arrested and held? With such behavior, how can it perpetrators claim to be upholding Western democratic and legal values?

Perhaps it might be observed in passing that the dragnet approach to justice is no justice at all. Nevertheless, these stories from prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay gulag appear to be authenic as released to Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, and reported by Al Jazeera.

Read their accounts for yourself, but I am particularly struck by the following story:

One of the longest filings came from Feroz Abbasi, a British prisoner freed from Guantanamo this year. U.S. authorities accused Abbasi of training at a camp they allege was by al-Qaida, but he was never charged.

Abbasi was later kicked out of the proceedings for engaging in a heated debate about international law with the tribunal president, who snapped, “I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words international law again.”

To which, one obvious response is: “What law is relevant here, certainly not United States law?” Being an outlaw, of course, fits in with the cowboy image, as for that matter does cultural ignorance, which in the circumstances is hardly surprising.

CODA: 25/05/2005

The last comment of the quote reminds me of the analogy given in relation to the Guantanamo gulag trial process by a recent visitor to us from Amnesty International. She suggested that being trailed by these judges what like having an operation performed by a surgeons who do not understand basic anatomy.

UPDATE: 27/05/2005 – GENEVA CONVENTIONS SYMPOSIUM AT BRAD DELONG

Brad raises the issue related to the Geneva Conventions and his commenters discuss them – a blog symposium or tutorial? Strikes me this was a successful blog discussion, despite the injection of extreme prejudice, which the commenters ignored.

PLEASE EXPLAIN! May 24, 2005

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I echo Pauline Hanson, plaintively expressing her ignorance, since I find myself in the same position.

Why? What is served by holding such people? And that is before asking: What is the legal basis on which they are arrested and held? With such behavior, how can it perpetrators claim to be upholding Western democratic and legal values?

Perhaps it might be observed in passing that the dragnet approach to justice is no justice at all. Nevertheless, these stories from prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay gulag appear to be authenic as released to Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, and reported by Al Jazeera.

Read their accounts for yourself, but I am particularly struck by the following story:

One of the longest filings came from Feroz Abbasi, a British prisoner freed from Guantanamo this year. U.S. authorities accused Abbasi of training at a camp they allege was by al-Qaida, but he was never charged.

Abbasi was later kicked out of the proceedings for engaging in a heated debate about international law with the tribunal president, who snapped, “I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words international law again.”

To which, one obvious response is: “What law is relevant here, certainly not United States law?” Being an outlaw, of course, fits in with the cowboy image, as for that matter does cultural ignorance, which in the circumstances is hardly surprising.

CODA: 25/05/2005

The last comment of the quote reminds me of the analogy given in relation to the Guantanamo gulag trial process by a recent visitor to us from Amnesty International. She suggested that being trailed by these judges what like having an operation performed by a surgeons who do not understand basic anatomy.

UPDATE: 27/05/2005 – GENEVA CONVENTIONS SYMPOSIUM AT BRAD DELONG

Brad raises the issue related to the Geneva Conventions and his commenters discuss them – a blog symposium or tutorial? Strikes me this was a successful blog discussion, despite the injection of extreme prejudice, which the commenters ignored.

NERVE CONDUCTION TESTS May 24, 2005

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They are hardly torture, and I was far from a good patient.

Electrodes are placed on the motor and sensory nerves at the strategic, and sensitive points, in the legs and hands. A “slight” pulse of electricity is applied inducing a reflex reaction. Fortunately, electomyography (EMG), where needles are inserted into muscles, was not considered necessary in my case.

I tried to endure as best I could all in the interest of getting good data. I am completely hopeless in these situations. All the details of the medical procedure are given here. Do not be deceived by the comments about a slight, or very small, electrical impulse.

During the course of this procedure a comment was made that I would not be any good under torture, with which I can only only wholly agree,but it sparked a memory of a report that psychologists and medical staff were co-operating in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo. Lawyers, one can accept in the exception, but torture becomes insidiously corrupting if, and when, it crosses other boundaries to the fields of psychology and medicine.

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