Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Outside the Russian Consulate earlier this evening

Two pictures taken of the rally (not a very large one but not too bad for a week-day evening) outside the Russian Consulate this evening to promote Strategy-31. The slogan on the poster in the second picture says: "Obey your own Constitution". Not only is this a reference to Article 31 in the Russian Constitution that guarantees freedom of political assembly but is usually broken by, as it has been rightly pointed out to me, the local authorities who summon the police, but it also harks back to a similar slogan often displayed by Soviet dissidents, especially by Alec Esenin-Volpin, who was deemed to be mentally disturbed.

Show time

One number in yesterday's prom, Hooray for Hollywood, reminded me of the original in Funny Face. Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson in Clay Yo' Hands.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two causes - two rallies in London

It is hard to tell whether rallies for a cause achieve anything but one goes on trying to show that there are people out there who care. Tomorrow, August 31, there will be the usual demonstration outside the Russian Embassy and Consulate (actually, it is nearer to the Consulate) in Bayswater Road in London to show solidarity with Strategy-31 in Russia, that is with people who, despite Article 31 in the Russian Constitution, are not allowed to have political rallies. It will start at 6 and carry on till about 8.30 or so. Nearest tube stations are Notting Hill Gate and Queensway, both on the Central Line; there are lots of buses in that part of the world.

The other rally will be outside the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday, also starting at 6. It is organized by the British-Israel Coalition, which is a very diverse and a seriously all-inclusive group, as I know from my participation in Sunday's rally in Trafalgar Square. The reason for Thursday's rally is that the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is playing at the Proms (a blameless programme) and there are rumours that anti-Israeli demonstrators will be bussed in to protest this "appalling event". Mustn't have cultural exchanges or diversity - that is not what we are about. So, a counter-rally is being planned. The nearest tube station to that is South Kensington on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines and there are plenty of buses going past the RAH.

This is very funny

Of all the various denizens of the now defunct Living Marxism, the only one worth reading is Brendan O'Neill, not least because of his ability to skewer stupid lefties. This piece is very funny. It would appear that the egregious organization Unite Against Fascism has been hoist by its own petard.

Having demanded vociferously and repeatedly that the EDL should be banned from marching here, there or anywhere, they have now found that the government has responded in the way anyone would know the government would respond by banning all marches in five East London boroughs for the month of September (and what's the betting the ban will be extended until it becomes permanent?)
Now, UAF has issued what must rank as one of the silliest political statements of the year so far. “We the undersigned welcome the banning of the racist English Defence League’s march through Tower Hamlets,” it says. “But we are appalled to discover that the Metropolitan Police are applying for a blanket ban on ALL marches across five London boroughs… It is our human right to peacefully march in Tower Hamlets.” Wait – how come UAF has a “human right” to march, but the EDL does not? Are EDL members not human? Moreover, it really is spectacularly daft to talk about the importance of the right to march in the same breath as you welcome a government decision to ban a march. What UAF is effectively saying is: “We should have the freedom to march, but they shouldn’t.”
Mr O'Neill thinks that UAF has no idea what freedom means. No, of course, not. But, to be fair, it also has no real understanding what fascism means either. Something to do with banning political activity one disagrees with, perchance?

Of course, marching is not a human right. That is nonsense. But peaceful marching and rallying should be a civic right in any country that values freedom.

Just a thought

Autumn is approaching and is, indeed, nigh, which would be easier to bear if we had had a reasonable summer. However, the end of August does mean that I really need to spend more time on actual work rather than pretend stuff. On the whole, this blog counts as work, though, obviously, not the paid kind.

Part of the week-end was spent reading various books to do with history of cooking and cookery books (there is method in my madness, as it happens), one being Kate Colquhoun's fascinating though at times slightly tendentious Taste - The Story of Britain through its Cooking. It is full of fascinating tit-bits of information.

For example, we find this on page 111, as part of a chapter on the vast amount of sugar consumed by the Tudors and the presentation of the many and varied sweetmeats that became an enormous part of their dinners and banquets:
Silver or gilt bowls were used, and English green glass and valuable imported Venetian glass were prized - vessels beautifully etched with mottoes and devices or rolled over water while being blown to produce a fine tissue of lines.
Nothing too unusual there: Venetian glass was highly prized and many attempts - some successful, some less so - were made to create local industries that would compete.

The interesting detail is found in the notes where Ms Colquhoun explains:
Venice protected its lucrative glass-blowing industry by forbidding its artisans to work abroad, on pain of death. Realising the profit to be made from an appreciative British market, and taking his life into his hands, the first Venetian did establish a glass studio in London in 1572.
How interesting, I thought to myself, if somewhat badly edited, particularly the note (once an editor, always an editor). Of course, if we had had the European Arrest Warrant at the time, things would have been very different.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

This afternoon in Trafalgar Square

With a number of people I attended a small and hastily organized rally in Trafalgar Square that said We Stand With Israel. It was in response to the number of anti-Israeli rallies across the country because, as we know that country has the nerve to hit back when its population is attacked by terrorists. The event was quite small, though bigger than the picture implies, as it was taken just after a shower and a number of people had dispersed. Some came back and new ones appeared.

Can't help wondering why I did not see people who are jumping up and down with joy at the thought of possible though improbable democratic development in Libya. Should they not be supporting the one existing democracy in that part of the world?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I am shocked, I tell you, shocked

A retired Russian police officer has been arrested in connection with the five-year old murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
During the first hearing for the case, retired police officer Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov appeared as a witness for state prosecutors. Now, however, he has become a suspect. Investigators believe he may have accepted payment from "a person whose identity is still unknown" for organizing the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Russian news agencies on Tuesday.

The suspect is also believed to have arranged for the alleged murderer Rustam Makhmudov to receive money, a pistol and a silencer to complete the act in 2006. Arrested in late May of this year in Chechnya, Makhmudov stands accused of having shot Politkovskaya in the elevator of her apartment building some 5 years ago.

But police remain uncertain who might have commissioned Pavlyuchenkov to arrange the killing, the spokesman said, adding that he appears to be just one link in a chain of those involved.
The Moscow Times describes Lt. Col. Pavlyuchenkov as "a mumbling secret witness for prosecutors at a failed trial into her killing".
Investigators believe that Pavlyuchenkov arranged the murder of Politkovskaya, a Novaya Gazeta reporter who was shot dead in her apartment building in downtown Moscow, after being contacted by the mastermind, the committee said in a statement Wednesday.

The committee did not specify the price of the contract killing but said it "has information about the alleged mastermind of the crime." No details were available.

The committee said Pavlyuchenkov assembled a team to carry out the killing. Earlier reports said the team comprised three Chechen brothers with the surname Makhmudov — Rustam, Ibragim and Dzhabrail — and a former officer with Moscow police's anti-mafia department, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.

Pavlyuchenkov, who served as chief of a Moscow police investigative unit at the time, ordered his police subordinates to trail Politkovskaya to "determine her daily routes around the city," it said.

He is also suspected of procuring the gun used by the suspected triggerman, Rustam Makhmudov, who spent five years on the run in Europe but was arrested in May upon his return to Chechnya.

The other two Makhmudovs are accused of helping track Politkovskaya, while Khadzhikurbanov is considered a middleman in the case.

The case against the three fell apart when a jury acquitted them in 2009. But the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, prompting a new investigation, which is in progress.
Well, now, I wonder who that "mastermind" could be. The Investigative Committee's statement [in Russian]states that revealing that information is deemed to be premature.

Will no-one rid us?

Professor Eric Hobsbawm is 94 years old and age has not diminished his ability to tell lies about twentieth century history or defend indefensible totalitarian regimes. In his review of Professor Hobsbawm's latest book, How to Change the World in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Moynihan enumerates some of the highly regarded historian's slippery comments and justifications.
One wouldn't know it from "How to Change the World," but Mr. Hobsbawm wasn't always convinced that the Soviet Union, along with its puppets and imitators, was misunderstanding the essence of Marxism. He never relinquished his membership in the Communist Party, even after Moscow's invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Indeed, he began his writing career with a co-authored pamphlet defending the indefensible Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. "To this day," he writes in his memoirs, "I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness." There was some ugliness in the socialist states occupied by Moscow, he admitted in 2002, but "leaving aside the victims of the Berlin Wall," East Germany was a pleasant place to live. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of "15, 20 million people might have been justified" in establishing a Marxist paradise. "Yes," Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the "sacrifice of millions of lives" in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm's lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It's not that he didn't know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It's that he didn't much care.

Readers of "How to Change the World" will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that "Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB." Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao's Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

When the bloody history of 20th-century communism intrudes upon Mr. Hobsbawm's disquisitions, it's quickly dismissed. Of the countries occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II—"the Second World War," he says with characteristic slipperiness, "led communist parties to power" in Eastern and Central Europe—he explains that a "possible critique of the new [postwar] socialist regimes does not concern us here." Why did communist regimes share the characteristics of state terror, oppression and murder? "To answer this question is not part of the present chapter."
It is little short of astonishing that Professor Hobsbawm should actually say that "real" Marxism was not practised in those self-described Communist countries. Undoubtedly, back in the old days he would have attacked anyone who suggested such a heresy about Stalinism, Maoism, what have you.

When I reviewed The Age of Extremes in the Salisbury Review [the article is not on line] I pointed out a couple of interesting historical comments. Professor Hobsbawm with a completely straight face could say, among other things, that it was not entirely comprehensible but very sad that agricultural failure and, indeed, famine happened wherever collectivization was practised. This meant, in his opinion, that one cannot really judge how effective, economically and socially, such a theoretically wonderful idea could be.

He was also coy on the subject of the Warsaw uprising, saying quite fairly that most urban uprisings in Europe towards the end of the war were successful, with the Allies racing to help those who were fighting the Nazis. The one exception was in Warsaw and, Professor Hobsbawm speculated, that must have been because it took place prematurely. So it failed and was put down with some ferocity. No mention here of the well known fact that, unlike the British and the Americans, the Soviets decided not to race to help the Poles but stopped and watched the fun, refusing to allow even Western aid. After all, their aim was to impose their own government on Poland not let the Poles be involved in liberating themselves.

There are many other points of this kind that one could quote from Professor Hobsbawm's work. What is so shocking is the fact that he is described by the media and the academia (on all sides of the political spectrum) as one of our greatest modern historians. Would this be said about an historian who told lies about some other totalitarian system, for instance Nazism? We know the answer to that. David Irving is worse than a pariah in the intellectual world.

I have written on this subject before, in 2006, mentioning such matters as the Danish cartoons (as the blog was about freedom of speech) and David Irving's imprisonment in Austria for Holocaust denial. Who, I asked, should be denied their rights to say bad things, lying things, wicked things about historical events?
What of those many left-wing groups that still proclaim the need for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of the working class by violence if necessary? Should they all be arrested?

Well, of course not. But what of the historians who have been peddling lies about the Soviet Union, denying the horrors of Communism and generally abusing freedom of speech? What of Professor Eric Hobsbawm CH, given that honour by Tony Blair?

Throughout his long and distinguished career Professor Hobsbawm belonged to the CPGB (as long as there was a CPGB to belong to) and refused to acknowledge the Joseph Stalin was not the nicest possible man around, who occasionally got a little bit angry but what can you expect when you have the welfare of the world at heart.

Even in recent books Professor Hobsbawm implicitly denied the extent of Stalin’s and Mao’s mass murders, and was all coy about the victims of collectivization imposed by every single Communist tyrant from Uncle Joe to Colonel Mengistu. Far from being disdained, let alone arrested and imprisoned, the good professor is highly feted (Companion of Honour, no less) and his books are required reading by all university students of history.

All this, despite the fact that every single thing the Austrian judge or the British one in the Irving libel case of 2000 said about that wretched man can be said about Professor Hobsbawm (and numerous other, less eminent historians) with a few adjustments: instead of Nazism, Communism; instead of the Holocaust, the purges and collectivization; instead of mass murder, mass murder.
And yet, as Michael Moynihan points out:
In 2003, the New York Times declared Eric Hobsbawm "one of the great British historians of his age, an unapologetic Communist and a polymath whose erudite, elegantly written histories are still widely read in schools here and abroad." The Spectator, a right-leaning British magazine, gushed that Hobsbawm is "arguably our greatest living historian—not only Britain's, but the world's." The Nation anointed him "one of Aristotle's 'men of virtue.' "

That the 94-year-old Mr. Hobsbawm has long championed dictatorial regimes hasn't diminished his standing among the intelligentsia or within the establishment he so obviously loathes. In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon him a Companion of Honour—"In action faithful and in honour clear."
One can exonerate the Queen - she was given his name by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and presumably asked no more. Though, it is possible, that Her Majesty has her own views on people who support vile, murderous regimes and corrupt the teaching of history. But what on earth was the Spectator thinking of by publishing that kind of nauseating comment?

As it happens, Professor Hobsbawm was one of the first people my family visited on our arrival to England, he having been our guest at various times in Hungary (naturally, he was a much honoured visitor to the East European countries, though, as we know now, they were not really practising Marxism). For a while my father and he kept in touch and in his autobiography, Interesting Times, Professor Hobsbawm refers to this friendship in a slightly disdainful way, suggesting that my father "had claimed" to have been arrested in the Soviet Union. No doubt, the great man thought that all stories of such arrests were merely "claims" that could not be substantiated, perhaps not even now with the publication of many of the Soviet secret police archives. Or maybe it is the publication of that material that made him deny the Soviet Union "real Marxist" status.

My father once asked him whether he and his friends and colleagues knew what was going on in the Soviet Union. The answer was unequivocal. Of course they knew, said Professor Hobsbawm, but they did not want to know. Since then, as we know, he has accepted the knowledge and has decided that all those sacrifices would have been well worth it if the socialist utopia had been established.

The Finns are not happy

This time it is the Finnish Prime Minister who is not happy. According to this article in the Daily Telegraph
Mr Katainen [Finnish Prime Minister] said that if Finland's bilateral agreement with Greece over collateral payments was overruled, the Nordic country could back out of the rescue programme.

He told reporters that the private collateral agreement, in which Greece agreed to give Finland €1bn (£875m) in cash in return for its suppport, was "our parliament's decision that we demand it as a condition for us joining in".
The problem is, as Investment Week pointed out,
Finland had agreed a private collateral agreement, in which Greece would give €1bn (£875m) in cash in return for the Finnish parliament's support.

This sparked demands from Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia for similar treatment, with both the Austrians and the Dutch criticising the deal.
Greece would not be able to cope with all those collaterals (any more than it can cope with her domestic economic problems) and they would have to be covered from the bail-outs. This, naturally enough, has annoyed the other eurozone countries.

The Austrian Finance Minister has said "such a unilateral deal is an "intolerable suggestion and an agreement that burdens third parties" — the other eurozone countries participating in the bailout". Then she added that "she will ask the EU's 27 finance ministers to approve Austria's demand that the same terms must apply to all countries shouldering the Greek financial burden. The Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia have indicated they would like similar treatment." Makes sense to me.


Prolonged silence caused by various events such as three Prom concerts in one week-end. I am not complaining (and neither are this blog's readers, I suspect). However, holiday is over and I am back and shall start blogging in real earnest.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Coalition talks re-start

No, no, no, not our coalition, the Belgian one. Readers may well have forgotten (and I would not blame them) that Belgium still has no formal federal government. In reality it does not matter since decisions are taken either on the regional level or at the level of the real government, which also happens to be in Brussels.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports that the coalitions talks have restarted. At this rate they will manage to put together a federal government just about in time for the next election when the whole farce can start again.

I wouldn't call it a paradox

From The Trumpet. com about Switzerland, the article being entitled, Why Switzerland is Headed Right Into the Open Arms of Germany
Though small in geographic area and population, and surrounded by EU member nations, in their unique wisdom the Swiss refrained from joining the European Union. They have thus retained their national sovereignty and hence their own beloved sovereign means of exchange, the Swiss franc. Only eight months ago we cited an EU foreign ministry report that threatened the Swiss with either conforming to EU law or risk being shut out of EU markets: “Switzerland’s current relationship with the EU has ‘clearly reached its limits’ and has to change, the report says. Switzerland cooperates with the EU on a case-by-case basis, resulting in a series of over 120 agreements that give Switzerland similar access to the European Union as an EU member.” The Swiss tenaciously stuck to their guns. The paradox is, having taken that decision, the Swiss are riding on the crest of the waves of today’s economically rough seas, while the rest of Europe is in the trough.

What a difference eight months can make. As Europe bites its financial finger nails, the Swiss remain confident of their fiscal position. “The Swiss economy is growing, unemployment is low and our country has little debt compared with other countries. We see neither deflation nor inflation risks at the moment. The national bank does not need to act,” stated Philipp Hildebrand, chairman of the Swiss National Bank, last month.
Then again, I don't get the impression that the author thinks it is really a paradox.

He does, however, think for reasons that are not explained as coherently as one would wish and are shot through with apocalyptic predictions that for one reason and another, not least because of her financial success, Switzerland's independence is a thing of the past or, at least, soon will be a thing of the past, which is now the present. Germany will control the country, just as it (allegedly) controls all of Europe now. Oddly enough, the Germans do not seem to think so. Instead, they bemoan the fact that their government cannot protect them from having to bail out endless losers. But what do they know?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And speaking of attacks and counter-attacks

Things are hotting up around Turkey as well. As Xinhuan and Christian Science Monitor among others report, Turkey has launched a series of strikes on what they affirm to be PKK strongholds within Iraqi Kurdistan "after the deadly attack claimed by the PKK early Wednesday morning which killed seven Turkish soldiers and one security guard in Turkey's southeastern area of Hakkari".

We have had these events before and not just once. The one thing Erdogan's AKP government and the Turkish armed forces who seem to be losing the battle for influence agree on is their attitude to the PKK and, especially, the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region that appears to harbour and help them.

Turkish foreign policy has been discussed by various people recently. Hürriyet Daily News, that opposes the government and sees itself as the media organ that is still carrying the secularist torch, had an article a few days ago in which it quoted the leader of the main opposition party as saying that the government has lost its way in foreign policy. (Isn't that opposition leaders always say?)
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has failed in both of its top foreign policy priorities – “zero problems with neighbors” and membership talks with the European Union, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Thursday.

“The AKP’s foreign policy pillars were zero problems with neighbors and the European Union – today we have problems with all of our neighbors and relations with the European Union have frozen,” Kılıçdaroğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.
Under Erdogan Turkey has certainly acquired problems with Israel over the Gaza flotilla, where stalemate has been reached. One can't say that Turkey's relations with Syria have become problematic since just about everybody's relations with Syria (excepting Lebanon) are problematic. In fact, Turkey has called for changes in Syria but not for Assad's resignation, voluntary or otherwise.
A statement published after a scheduled meeting of Turkey's national security council in Ankara said participants renewed calls for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, but they stopped short of following the example of the US and other major Western powers in demanding the resignation of Mr Assad.

The council said "democratic political change in line with the legitimate demands of the Syrian people … has to be implemented following a clearly stated timeframe". The meeting included a briefing by Omer Onhon, Turkey's ambassador in Syria, officials said. The council is chaired by Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, and includes top government officials as well as top commanders of the armed forces and intelligence chiefs.

Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March, Ankara has repeatedly called on Damascus to end the crackdown on protesters that has cost about 2,000 lives and to implement democratic reforms. Lately, Mr Erdogan's government has grown increasingly frustrated with what it sees as empty promises by the Syrian regime.
The same, as Mr Erdogan explained, happened with Libya - the calls for change and an ending to the bloodshed were ignored.

It so happens that Walter Russell Mead had an interesting piece on Turkey, her history and her new "idea" on American Interest yesterday. Under Erdogan Turkey, Professor Mead avers, has turned away from the Kemalist secularist path and has turned back to the old history of the country, drawing inspiration from the achievements of the Ottoman Empire. As it happens, the turning away is not complete. Erdogan may want Turkey to be the leader of the Muslim world, at least in the Middle East, but there seems to be no particular desire to acquire an empire.

Nor is the turning away from the Kemalist tradition complete. It seems that Erdogan and his party recognize Kema's great achievement and that is the creation of a modern Turkey that could stand up for itself in the dark and ruthless days of the post-World War I treaties.
For many Turks, a new arc of history now looks clear. The Turks under Atatürk and the Kemalists modernized; now they are returning to their Islamic roots with a unique blend of advanced technology and economic success. This is not about conquest or the restoration of an actual empire — the Turks are subtler than were the Greeks. Where the Ottomans ruled by fire and the sword, the modern Turks will lead Islam by example and inspiration; Turks have achieved while Arabs can only dream. Now Turkey, in this view, returns to lead the Arabs into the light and Turkey’s unique role and prestige among the Arabs will give it new power and stature in the west. One can see why many young Turks are optimistic about the most glorious prospects Turks have seen since Mehmed II (Mehmed the Conqueror) entered Constantinople in 1453.
How will this affect Turkey's relationship with the West? Will Turkey really turn to the East and ignore the position it has acquired under Atatürk and his successors?
For Erdogan’s government, the first stages of its “return to the east” were generally pleasant. Strong criticism of Israel’s attack on Gaza and his tough response to Israel’s attack on last year’s Gaza flotilla made Erdogan enormously popular in the Arab world. His reputation for opposing the US war in Iraq also raised his profile. Better commercial relations with Syria and Iran boosted Turkish exports and trade. His intervention into the Iranian nuclear issue had little effect on the course of the dispute but played well at home where voters saw Turkey emerging as a global leader on an issue that mattered to them.

More, Turkey’s role as the de facto head of western Sunnism looked promising. The state of the Sunni Arab world is deeply depressing. The fall of Saddam Hussein, the ever-tightening relationship of Syria and Iran, the growing Shi’a power in Lebanon and more recently Iran’s success (with Syrian help) at building its influence in Gaza, paint a disturbing picture of Sunni fecklessness and decline. Dominated by corrupt dinosaurs like former Egyptian president Mubarak or ruled by immensely wealthy and not particularly courageous or attractive royal families, the western Sunni world hungered for leadership that Turkey might be ready to provide.
The great idea of a return to the east was looking good.

But Atatürk’s instinct that Turkey needed to turn west was based on more than a sense that the west was where the power and the money could be found. It was also based on a sense that the east was a trap: full of danger and complications that could endanger Turkey’s stability if Turks were sucked into its quarrels.
In the end, despite the various problems and tensions, the Turkish-American relationship will survive Turkey's growing strength as a Middle Eastern power, rather than just a faithful ally against the Soviet Union, and may even be welcomed.

So far, despite criticisms from the opposition, Erdogan's government seems secure. In the June election it won a renewed mandate with a handsome majority though not with the two-thirds it wanted and needed to change the constitution. It is winning the battle against the military, many of whose senior officers have been arrested and are being put on trial on the rather dubious charges of "seeking to undermine the government". Rather chillingly:
Turkish daily newspaper Taraf has been at the forefront of exposing the plot, claiming that many of the country's institutions were involved.

"It's very important," said deputy editor Yasemin Congar, who believes the trials will lead to greater democracy and reduce corruption. "It's basically about digging out the dirt within the state and digging out all these secret institutions and secret organizations, which are allegedly behind many crimes in this country."

The case is the second trial in connection with the conspiracy. In December, 200 officers went on trial on similar charges.

Prosecutors say there was an elaborate plan to cause chaos in the country, including provoking a conflict with neighboring Greece and bombing mosques in Turkey.
One cannot help remembering other political systems when these vague accusations were made and people tried and sentenced for ill-defined crimes. (And no, I am not thinking about Senator McCarthy here.)
Political analyst and retired Brigadier General Haldun Solmazturk claimed this particular probe is a political witch hunt instigated by a government intent on consolidating its power.

"It's aiming for one-party rule. They don't like democracy," said Solmazturk. "Once they eliminate the army there is not any other power that can challenge one-party rule, one-party regime. That is why the government has been so adamant in supporting this unjust justice system."

Questions over the origin of the evidence against the accused are growing. Earlier this year the police were forced to admit that they had planted evidence on one of the accused officers.

Concern has been increasing, both domestically and internationally, over the duration of the investigations. They've gone on for four years now, but still there haven't been any convictions.

Along with army officers, many of those on trial include journalists and well-known critics of the government.

The head of the AKP's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Volkan Bozkir, has dismissed the idea that the investigations are politically motivated.

"The courts are independent in Turkey. It's the system which decides, and according to the constitution, the courts and the executive power and the parliamentary power are separate," he said.
Then came the mass resignation of senior Turkish officers, presumably as a gesture of defiance to the government. At the moment it looks like a wasted gesture as the government has been able to use it to strengthen its own control over the armed forces.

Interestingly enough, it was the EU that encouraged Erdogan to take on the army by insisting that the constitutional structure of Turkey must be changed and the army's special role as the guardian of secularism and Kemalism taken out of it or, as they prefer to call it, the army must be brought under civilian control. Erdogan's government is not as interested in joining the EU as its predecessor appeared to be but it is using the EU's insistence on that item to prosecute these dubious and, so far, inconclusive cases. Another great achievement by the EU.

Meanwhile, we have Turkish attacks on the PKK (as they say) or Kurdish areas (as the Kurdish media says) with the government showing its ability to take tough decisions against Turkey's enemies. Will this satisfy the Turkish military and are we going to see some kind of a rapprochement there?

Israel hits back

Staying off the net, even temporarily, means that you miss out on some news stories of interest (and no, I still have not had my own rant about the recent lootings in London and other cities). Therefore, I come into the story of what is happening around Gaza, Sinai and southern Israel a littl late. But, not unexpectedly, Israel has retaliated for the terror attacks in southern Israel.
Palestinian sources told the BBC that four members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction in Gaza that is loyal to Hamas but sometimes operates separately, had been killed in the air strikes, including the group's head, Kamal al-Nairab.
It is a little difficult to work out whether those Palestinian sources are pleased or upset at the development.

Meanwhile, here is a good summary of how it all developed, on Hot Air, who link to other stories, including a live-blog and AP, who point to an interesting link between these attacks and the growing lawlessness in Sinai.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Once again, I am not sure what to make of it

Volokh Conspiracy reports that the "the Swedish government recently apologized to its Baltic neighbors for its previous whitewashing of Communist atrocities in the region". About time, too, one might think. Then one looks at the link and realizes that the only thing the Swedish government is apologizing for is "turning a blind eye" to the post-War occupation of the Baltic countries, which was somehow omitted from Swedish (and, to be fair, many other) history text books, not actual Soviet atrocities or the truth of who really fought the Nazis in those countries towards the end of the war. We have a long way to go before we all face up to the truth about Communism and western collaboration. The discussion on the Volokh site is unusually interesting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is it something about the job?

Christine Lagarde, the post-DSK chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is being investigated for fraud.
The Court of Justice of the Republic today asked three appeal court magistrates to investigate whether the former French finance minister is guilty of "complicity in forgery" and or "complicity in misuse of public funds".

If she is brought to trial and found guilty she could face 10 years in prison and a fine of $202,155.

Lagarde, who took up her new post last month, has denied any wrongdoing or illegality in a case stemming from a massive payment to a controversial tycoon out of public funds in 2008 when she was still a minister.
It seems that the IMF executive board has expressed full confidence in Mme Lagarde. If I were her I'd get a very good lawyer. Then again, she probably has one.

Don't dare to diss me

An interesting article on Spiked by Neil Davenport who, apart from blogging and writing is a politics teacher based in London (though he does not tell us where exactly in London). His point:
New Labour kids’ have been more flattered, mollycoddled and freed of responsibilities than any generation before them. These days, as young people progress through the education system, they learn that there is a whole raft of medical reasons why they can’t write neatly or behave properly in class. They also know that if their exam grades are slightly disappointing, they can always blame the teachers. And New Labour’s social-inclusion charter also means that schools cannot automatically throw kids out, even in the sixth form, for not working hard enough or for their poor behaviour. Local education authorities can fight to ensure that a suspended child is reinstated and then attack the school for failing to provide ‘adequate support’ to address the pupil’s ‘psychological issues’.

Historically, one of the functions of schools has been to teach children the importance of personal responsibility. Punctuality, enforcing homework deadlines and reining in disruptive behaviour are all important mechanisms for socialising young people. School is not about teaching kids to be blindly obedient to authority, of course, but it should guide them towards becoming morally autonomous individuals with a sense of responsibility to themselves and to others. However, New Labour’s therapeutic framework, which has infected a great deal of England’s education system, has effectively destroyed these civilising values. As any teacher will tell you, teenagers are now strikingly adept at screeching from the therapeutic hymn sheet. The ‘how dare you?!’ line they indignantly trot out effectively says: ‘How dare you pass judgement on or criticise me? It will damage my self-esteem.’
Read the whole piece. Well worth it.

Riots, hmm?

It is true that I have not yet pontificated on the recent disturbances but in the meantime I have become rather tired of several opinions. In the first place, these were not riots but lootings; in the second place, they were not particularly large in the scheme of things; thirdly, London did not look like there had been a second blitz; fourthly, this was not unprecedented and Britain is not the country of Mrs Miniver, as some commentators, particularly on the other side of the Pond, think. Anyway, I shall pontificate anon. In the meantime, you want to know about riots? Well read about the Gordon Riots of 1780 (Wiki is relatively reliable in this case).

Monday, August 15, 2011

This could be quite funny ...

... if it were not so depressing. I am talking about Russia and that is always depressing. The Wall Street Journal reports that instead of investigating the murder (not to put too fine a point on it) of Sergey Magnitsky in Russian prison, "the prosecutor's office in Moscow recently announced the reopening of a tax evasion case against" the man, who has been dead for nearly two years. The Telegraph wrote about it a little while ago but it was the WSJ that reminded us all of Nikolay Gogol's great satirical novel, Dead Souls.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some things have changed for the bettter

It is easy to decry the modern world and wail that things have never been as bad as they are now but a suprficial look around the rest of the globe and a very casual reading of history, especially that of the twentieth century tells us otherwise. Fifty years ago was the start of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of Europe's division and of the Soviet Union's power. It is no longer there and neither is the Soviet Union. Naturally, that, in itself did not create a sort of heaven on earth and we are still living with much of that country's baneful activity, not least with the propaganda that has settled inside our institutions and many individuals' thoughts. But it has gone. Think about the seventies, when the West was retreating everywhere and the prospect was terrifying.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Could this be an own goal?

The Home Secretary has banned an EDL march in Telford at the request of the local council and police. Static assembly will still be allowed, though clearly the police rather wish it were not. Regardless of what I think of the EDL (and that is not for a family-friendly blog), is this a wise move? Is there any evidence that the EDL causes trouble? Or will other people cause trouble for them? If local people do not want them, they will, presumably make it clear one way or another. As things stand, Theresa May's decision is likely to raise the EDL membership by quite a large number. Would the word numpty describe the woman adequately?

A few links

Everyone has been pontificating on the lootings and there is no possibility of linking to all. In fact, I shall probably pontificate myself in the fullness of time. However, here are a couple of interesting articles.

One is by Jonathan Foreman (full disclosure: he is a friend with whom I have been exchanging messages on events in the last few days) in the FT. [If the link doesn't give you the article, go through Google.] Mr Foreman says that the whole theory of "reactive policing" is wrong and has been proved so many times over, most particularly in the last few days.
The police should not be relying on CCTV but should be present on the ground.This endemic overreliance on technology also deforms policing culture: officers lose any sense that their job is to deter crime by their presence alone, rather than just to react. This attitude was all too apparent after the riots when officers, and then the home secretary, seemed puzzled that the public was not satisfied with assurances that (thanks to CCTV) most of the looters would be caught.
The looters are being caught but how much would it have been if the whole sequence had been stopped on Monday night by police action.

A tough article by Allister Heath (also a friend - this is turning out to be one of those postings) in Wednesday's City AM.
The cause of the riots is the looters; opportunistic, greedy, arrogant and amoral young criminals who believe that they have the right to steal, burn and destroy other people’s property. There were no extenuating circumstances, no excuses. The context was two-fold: first, decades of failed social, educational, family and microeconomic policies, which means that a large chunk of the UK has become alienated from mainstream society, culturally impoverished, bereft of role models, permanently workless and trapped and dependent on welfare or the shadow economy. For this the establishment and the dominant politically correct ideology are to blame: they deemed it acceptable to permanently chuck welfare money at sink estates, claiming victory over material poverty, regardless of the wider consequences, in return for acquiring a clean conscience. The second was a failure of policing and criminal justice, exacerbated by an ultra-soft reaction to riots over the past year involving attacks on banks, shops, the Tory party HQ and so on, as well as an official policy to shut prisons and reduce sentences. Criminals need to fear the possibility and consequence of arrest; if they do not, they suddenly realise that the emperor has no clothes. At some point, something was bound to happen to trigger both these forces and for consumerist thugs to let themselves loose on innocent bystanders.

But while all three main parties are responsible for flawed policies that have fuelled this growing underclass at a time of national prosperity – 5.5m-6m adults now on out of work benefits, a number that has been roughly constant for over two decades – the argument made by some that the riots were “caused” or “provoked” by cuts, university fees or unemployment is wrong-headed. Just because someone is in personal trouble doesn’t give them the right to rob, attacks or riot.
Actually, he is not entirely accurate. The lootings were not the cause of anything, they were just that: looting, arson and vandalism on a major scale. Let us not dignify this with the name riot.

Charles Crawford (not quite a friend but a good acquaintance) talks of the death of common sense. I have never been quite sure how Charles managed to survive in the FCO for quite as long as he did and not lose his clarity of thought.

And finally, Ed West (something between an acquaintance and a friend) gives an interesting twist to the subject. Polygamous societies, he says, are naturally violent. And let us not forget, that polygamy can and does exist without the people in question bothering to get married.

Tomorrow or, rather, later today I shall try to return to normal blogging. Inshallah or Deo Volente. I am being serious inclusive here.

ADDENDUM: One more link, also on The Commentator, which is fast becoming a must-read site. Owner/publisher Robin Shepherd writes about the Left squirming as their edifice collapses.
But this is what happens when the collapsing social edifice is so plainly your collapsing social edifice. The truth is too painful to confront. For starters, let’s not forget that the essential political context in today’s Britain is that we have just come out of 13 years of Labour government, while the new coalition is both in its infancy and overwhelming concerned with bringing down the massive levels of debt bequeathed by its predecessor. It hasn’t had time to leave its mark yet, and it’s hard to imagine any reasonable observer suggesting otherwise.

Even more devastating for the Guardian and company is that the high-tax, high welfare-dependency, regulation-saturated, relativistic, multi-culturalist society that we live in bares the unmistakable imprint of the thinking being spewed out of the pages of Left-wing newspapers for decades.

Internationally, the Right may have won the Cold War, but domestically, the socio-political culture war has largely been won by the Left.

To be sure, the riots that have swept London and shocked the world were not led by people with a political axe to grind as such.

Nonetheless, people respond to, and become formed by, the broader physical and cultural environment around them.

And from the crime-ridden council estates in which they were brought up, to the sink schools they went to which taught them nothing, to the courts they have encountered that refuse to jail them, to the welfare departments that stump up cash for them without question and to the prevailing relativism that says concepts such as right and wrong are to be derided and laughed at, that physical and cultural environment was constructed by the British Left.
The only problem with that analysis in my view is that the Left is not squirming but is being self-righteous and whiney in turn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Show time

I suddenly remembered this scene. Can't imagine why.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meanwhile ...

... the BBC has done a round-up of the lootings riots being reported across the world's media. The Pakistani analysis seems spot-on, which does not surprise me. But there are one or two gems:

Iran, for example, has called on the British police and authorities to exercise self-restraint when dealing with the troublemakers. If the Iranian authorities were following their own advice during the various disturbances, one shudders to think what it would all have been like if they had not exercised restraint.

The Russians are advising the British to get tough with the various ethnic youths who do not wish to be part of British life. One cannot help feeling that they are confusing several different recent episodes. (No separate link, so need to scroll down on the BBC page.)

The Chinese fear for the Olympics (nothing like this would have happened in Beijing) and opine that the British police face two problems: cuts in funds and loss of credibility after the phone-hacking scandal. Again, a similar situation would not have arisen in China. Phone-hacking is completely authorized and done by the authorities only. Credibility cannot be lost.

They can't even invent their own slang

In the last few days I have noted the number of times the scum rioters have been referring to the police as the feds. What on earth do they mean? We have no feds. That is American. Then I glanced through Sarah Sands's column in the Standard today and found this about the newly sanctified Mark Duggan:
Shortly before he died Mark Duggan sent a message to his girlfriend: "The Feds are following me." This piece of urban slang presumably derives from the American FBI. Gangs are apparently united with the Guardian classes in their admiration of The Wire.
These people can't even invent their own slang. I despair.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fighting back in Enfield and Southall

The West Londoner reports (various) that people in Enfield have had enough, came out on the streets and are protecting their property, their families and their friends. They do not deserve to be called vigilantes by journalists, both from the Guardian (Paul Lewis) and the Telegraph (who knows?) or by Nick du Bois, the local MP.

At 21.00 the West Londoner reports that in Southall the Sikhs are out in force by the gurdwara (the Sikh temple, since you ask). Together with yesterday's story of the Turkish and Kurdish shopkeepers in Dalston and its environs driving off the gangs of looters with baseball bats, these point to a trend.

Parliament recalled

The Boy-King has spoken. Parliament will be recalled on Thursday to deal with the lootings riots caused by society's failure to provide unemployed lads and lasses with all the latest goodies for free. It is not entirely clear to me or to anybody what that will achieve. What will Parliament do? Jump up and down and say how terrible it all is and can we now go back to our hols? That will help the people whose homes, shops, businesses, livelihoods have been destroyed.

16,000 police on the streets of London tonight. Where will they get them from? Also, will they be properly equipped? There were various places where the police had to stand their ground without proper riot gear. That's what comes when money is spent on the latest computers and new cars instead of the necessary equipment.

Shepherds Bush seems to have been spared so far. But Ealing to the west had a rough night and there was trouble in Notting Hill Gate, about 1 mile to the east. And that reminds me: the Carnival is happening in a couple of weeks' time. Will be interesting.

And another thing: if Parliament comes back on Thursday, will large numbers of police be needed to protect the MPs?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I am not updating

There is no point in my updating about the riots. My own area is safe at the moment but the various gangs of looters are circling round and trouble flares up in different areas. West London may be next though we have already had some trouble in Ealing Broadway.

The West Londoner is continuing his excellent work. And the Guardian's constantly updating blog gives an account (at 10.47) of Turkish shopkeepers in Dalston seeing off the looters. Way to go. An example of the Big Society.

No there is no looting, I mean rioting here

It is a little surprising, given that this is West London, the hub of gang culture, that there are constant fights and arrests here (though there has not been a murder in my street for three years so, clearly, things are changing) and Westfield shopping centre is just down the road, that the lootings riots motivated by hatred of the establishment especially the oppressive police have not spread here. Perhaps, the Somali gangs are too busy murdering each other and running illegal shisha cafes and the other gangs are still so backward in their political education as to think that they would prefer to choose the highly expensive clothes they buy rather than grab the first thing that they can, even if that means paying.

From the above paragraph readers might surmise that I am not impressed by the highly politicized explanations given by some analysts most of whom, curiously enough, do not live in London and have no real understanding of the different areas and what happens in them. Parts of Tottenham experience serious trouble every week-end and often on week days as well. The gangs are very real, indeed, and have little to do with alienation experienced by people who have nobody to vote for. If these people or their "community leaders" think that the police are not on their side, they are, we all hope, absolutely right. It is not the job of the police to be on the side of violent gangs who terrorize local shopkeepers, mug passers by on the streets, sell drugs (well, OK, I do think the drug laws should be changed but the police works in the legal environment that is created by others) and, when all else fails, have violent fights with each other.

The real problem, as expressed by many of the inhabitants of Tottenham, Enfield and other places, is that the police is insufficiently on the side of the law-abiding inhabitants. There are many reasons for this and the infamous Macpherson Report had much to answer for. The police were no longer on the side of the law-abiding members of ethnic minorities but on the side of the criminals from those communities. A discussion of all the other problems would take at least one long posting and today I want to stick to what is happening now.

I would, however, like to describe a scene I witnessed near here some weeks ago. There are many small supermarkets on Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush Green, Goldhawk Road and all around them. Most of them have boxes with fruit and vegetables outside. A tall and strong-looking young black lad went past one of these shops, picked up an orange and started eating it. A young member of the Asian shopkeeping family (no, I have no idea whether they are Muslim or Hindu and it is of little significance) remonstrated and got a volley of abuse back, the chief of which was the young lad with the orange demanding that some respect be shown to him. He was being "dissed" when asked to pay for the fruit he was consuming. It was not clear to me whether he was asserting that he was going to pay in the fullness of time or not. One of the older shopkeepers came out, broke up the fight, shooed his young relative back into the store and let the lad go with his orange and whatever else he picked up on the way. He then told the young relative off. It was clear to me what was happening: the shopkeepers wanted no trouble with the disrespected lad and his friends and thought that the loss of some fruit was a price worth paying. Clearly they did not think of calling the police. Notoriously, the police do not even list shoplifting when compiling their crime statistics.

This small episode is being echoed in the complaints of the people of Tottenham right now. Far from complaining about police brutality, they would like to know why the police had not been prepared for the looting and arson anti-establishment rioting and were not out in force protecting people and their property.

As these riots have spread, certain things have become obvious. There are no geographic or any other kind of links. Simply in several areas of London where there are already gangs in place, some of the smarter organizers decide to target shopping areas and bring their mates together via cell phones, twitter and whatever other expensive communication network is available to them. These are not the "wretched of the earth". The police are thinly spread and are somewhat hampered by the knowledge that if they do use a certain amount of force, there will be uproar on every side of the political divide about "police brutality". The same people who are calling for tougher action now will be screaming in horror if there are pictures of police going in with batons or deciding to adopt the Continental method of water canons.

It is, of course, about time we worked out what the police are for and what do we want them to do. Possibly the events of this week-end will open up that discussion but I am not holding my breath. And while we are on the subject, is it not about time we started worrying just a bit about the very large underclass of all colours, races, religions and ethnic groupings that we have in this country?

ADDENDUM: I have found an interesting blog that is following events closely.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monarchy Matters

It is about time this blog had a book review and I can think of no better subject than Peter Whittle’s recent Monarchy Matters, published by the Social Affairs Unit. (Full disclosure: Peter is a friend and I have at various time written both for the New Culture Forum, of which he is the Director, and for the Social Affairs Unit.)

There is something about the Monarchy that seems to send even sane people completely loopy. Some of the comments before the (first) Royal Wedding of 2011 could not be characterized as anything but insane. People who would never call themselves Republican and would scream with horror if one accused them of toeing the left-wing establishment line, choked with bile and predicted dire events, such as a complete lack of interest, disgust with the expense, maybe a riot or two (though how that could happen with a complete lack of interest was never explained). When reasonably sane people like Melanie Phillips boil with anger because …. Good Heavens! … the Beckhams were invited to the wedding, you know something has gone desperately wrong. (To be fair to Ms Phillips, she did later write that it was all a huge success and the leftie whiners had been proved wrong. No mention of her own piece of whining.)

What had gone wrong, just as it had done with the Golden Jubilee and the Queen Mother’s funeral, was the mentality of those who presume to lecture us or lay down the rules of our thinking, whether they be on the Left or the Right. The wedding was a huge success – more than a million people turned out to watch the event, many millions watched it at home and billions did across the world. The bride looked lovely, the groom looked nervous, the best man looked worried then cheerful and the maid of honour stole every male heart in the land. The Queen’s yellow outfit became an instant success and so on, and so on. The point is, at Peter Whittle, explains in this excellent little book, the Monarchy reasserted its position as the unifying symbol of the nation, the one institution that we can all look to and accept as our own. It is at one with the country, no matter what the bien pensants might think or say. It is at one with the Commonwealth, as seen in Canada when the now married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge garnered applause and adoration on their recent visit. In fact, I would say that there is more life in the Monarchy than in the Commonwealth but that is an argument for another time.

Monarchy Matters traces the ups and downs of that institutions history and relationship with the people of this country and points out the interesting fact that, no matter what happens, only 18 per cent consistently say that they would prefer a presidential system (and many of them blanch when one points to the likely candidates for that presidential position). Nearly 70 per cent, in other words, consistently prefer the system as it is and are prepared to overlook problems with individual members of what is sometimes referred to as the Firm, understanding full well that it is the actual institution that matters not personal foibles, particularly as they tend to be over-ruled when needs be. (Diana was the one important exception in that respect, as no one can take Fergie seriously, and even her vagaries as well as the tragic death are now part of the royal mythology.)

Many monarchists out there feel that, although they might be in the right, they do not necessarily have the arguments with which to defeat the media produced propaganda. Well, here is a book that will provide them with arguments to be used.

(A version of this article will be published in the September issue of the Salisbury Review.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What is a conservative victory?

No, no, no, calm down. We are not talking about a conservative victory in this country but over the Pond where the Debt ceiling together with the conditions imposed by the Republicans has been signed into law.

The Wall Street Journal thinks this is John Boehner (Speaker of the House) victorious.
It's not just that Speaker of the House John Boehner succeeded in imposing some conditions in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling. It's that the deal has Democrats, including the president, essentially signing on to the Republican framework for defining the Beltway's budget problem: spending that is too high rather than taxes that are too low.

For the moment, the press focus remains on the intra-conservative spat between Republicans who favor Mr. Boehner's deal and tea partiers who largely oppose it. These disagreements will fade, however. And come the 2012 elections this deal will help force the debate that all conservatives have wanted all along—about the size, scope, and proper mission of our federal government.
And that, dear reader, is what we are missing in Britain - a debate about the size scope, and proper function of the government. Until we do that all our political discussions remain pointless.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On the one hand, on the other hand ...

According to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European External Action Service and the CFSP High Panjandrum, Baroness Ashton are a wonderful idea and will be an even better idea as it develops. On the other hand, decisions will be taken unanimously and Finland is not about to give up its own representations abroad. So there!