Thursday, March 31, 2005

Saving Europe: Stop Treating US Allies As Enemies

Earlier posts showed the cost to the US of losing the UK to a French- and German-controlled EU. The US needs to act now to stop this, and my first suggestion is that the US stops treating allied citizens as felons.

To recap: within 18 months, 25 European nations are set to merge into a European Union with common foreign policy, common economic policy, and common military. The merged EU will likely treat weak nations like this:

France

And will help China sink this:

Abraham Lincoln

Here's how the US loses allies.

Until last year, citizens from friendly counties could visit the US without visas. This was a two way agreement - US citizens don't need visas for those friendly countries.

Starting last September, the US now fingerprints and photographs every allied visitor. That would include the families of the men and women fighting and dying alongside the US in Iraq.

That has generated a huge and growing amount of resentment in every country effected & is one of the main drivers of the steady growth of anti-Americanism. It will also have a big impact on US tourist revenues this summer. And it's undermined the positions of friendly politicians, notably Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi.


If this reaction seems unreasonable, here's how Americans reacted when Brazil Immigration photographed them.

European governments haven't retaliated - most are pleased to see the US shoot itself in the foot. And the Brits treat the US as an ally.

So any European entering the US has the same amount of hassle as entering the dictatorships of China or the old Soviet Union. By contrast, Europeans are waved through immigration in countries from Japan to Australia, and of course all European countries.

Now this scheme is nothing to do with anti-terror (although the idiot in charge claimed that) - any sensible terrorist will either have forged passport or will just come in through Mexico. It's about the INS using the emergency to grab an extra bit of control. To be fair, the scheme might catch Kofi Annan's feared Repeat Suicide Bomber...

Here's what the US should do:


1. At each of the 115 airports where they operate the scheme, install special immigration lanes for citizens of their coalition allies. EU nations effected are Denmark, Great Britain, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Poland.

2. Staff these lanes with the least horrible INS officers available.

3. And don't fingerprint or photograph.

The White house may have to move Norm Mineta and Asa Hutchinson from the TSA to make this happen. Maybe enlisting them as Minutemen?

Or the US can do nothing and watch its allies fade away.

On Blogging

The Great Confusion that pulled Bloggers' feeding tubes over the past 2 days encourages reflection of my 10 weeks experience of the infrastructure and medium.

These notes are for my own purposes, but comments are welcome

Infrastructure

Blogger server availability is in the low 90%s. This is likely because it's free - thin client architectures need a lot of server side resilience and that costs money.

So my requirements are:

1. Commercial-grade server side availability, say 99.9%
2. Commercial-grade intrusion defenses
3. Location in rule-of-law country outside of the EU and US (just in case they do start censoring blogs). Anguilla perhaps.
4. Remote management

Content

The blog is for short-attention span information, and is weak for serialization. Which forces serious posts to become very long, deterring all but the most committed readers. I tried to solve this for my Granita Tapes and Loss of UK by breaking them up into bite-sized chunks, but that loses continuity.

So my requirements are:

1. Books component, accessible directly from entry screen without scrolling, or linkable from posts. That way, books can be evolved over time, with posts simply announcing each new chapter.
2. Books should support full Word-style presentation, including images and video. Mrs G tells me I need Content Management, so I'll start there.

Presentation

Blogger is designed around 800 pixel screens, IE fixed font sizes, no memory. And the screen has a lot of information you usually don't need 99% of the time: blogrolls, blogger bio, previous posts, archives, search. And this takes up about 40% of the screen all the time!

So my requirements are:

1. Display width automatically adapting to fully utilize >800 pixel screens.
2. That means customizable font scaling, with memory.
3. IE, Opera and Firefox support.
4. Show/hide sidebar. Ideally an extra menu bar at the top that doesn't scroll.
5. Bookmark feature so I can jump to where I left off reading the blog or book.

Publication

Editors are hard to do, and thin client ones are even harder. The Blogger editor is 90s style, buggy, and has clunky formatting and image management. And if you paste in from Word you lose format effectors. But we all have some sort of Word processor on our publication devices, including our poncey phones.

So my requirements are:

1. Publication direct from Word, with fancy formatting, text editing, spell- and grammar-checking, image and movie embedding with decent text wrapping, and hyperlinking not only to external URLs and also to bookmarks within the current post or book.
2. A Word template that mimics the Blog presentation layer.

Navigation, Bio, Etc

Currently on the sidebar. Navigations is Most Recent Posts, Archives, Search (this blog or web). Functionality is not bad, although Blogger search is poor and takes up a display line. Technocrati is good, but sits in the horrible sidebar. Bio is vital, but ridiculous to waste the entire sidebar on. Stats vary by Blog.

So my requirements are:

Search in a dedicated command bar, as per Opera, together with buttons that pop up the other sidebar features.
- Bio
- Most Recent Posts
- Archives
- Statistics

The Linking Kerfuffle

Commenting, trackback and blogroll seem to have evolved from genuine feedback to a barter currency. Which has led to enormous blogrolls, which the blogger can't possibly keep track of & trackbacks that add zero value. I can see how this works for folks who blog as a business, or who get kicks from climbing TLB levels, but don't need that. Add to which, the Trackback mechanism is the mots horrible user experience I've ever encountered.

I just need feedback and something that shows Depleted Uranium readers a bit about eachother.

So my requirements are:

1. Comments with moderation applicable from the published blog.
2. No trackbacks
3. A blogroll of the 20 or so the news & blogs I read regularly.
4. User visible displays showing geographical location of readers (like the unavailable-to-new-users hitmaps feature, see Jacobs Room).

So, that's what I'm off to look for. Meanwhile, I'll hack this site to align it better with my spec. I'd like to kill Trackback, but can't without losing past Comments, darn it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Law Is The Judges' Law

Apologists argue that "The Law Is The Law Is The Law", and our judiciaries are made up of regular folks just trying to do their difficult jobs. However judges routinely ignore our law makers, invent their own laws, and sanction repugnant acts. Why?

Both the US and UK judicial systems:

* Promote abortion and euthanasia.
* Appease killers and terrorists.
* Undermine other institutions.

I’ve highlighted judicial persecution of the weak in the UK. To see how they bow to terror, follow the sorry story of Tony Blair’s attempts to lock up a gang of dangerous terrorists.

The Law Lords, the UK equivalent of the Supreme Court, thwarted him. They ruled that:

a) under the EU Convention on Human Rights, the men must be treated as UK citizens, without being held to the duties of those citizens, and
b) they didn’t think they were that dangerous anyway.

Blair struggled to accommodate them while keeping these men off the streets, but they used every trick in the book to thwart him. Now the men are under house arrest and largely free to kill.

The US courts have similarly promoted killing babies at term, killing the handicapped, and according terrorists the rights of US citizens. And have discovered in the ancient Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the right of homosexuals to marry each other.

Here are some common explanations of the cause of these behaviors, with my views.

Disrupters

The Great Disruption is Frances Fukuyama’s term for the many adverse changes in Western societies that began in the the 60s. Crime, addiction, illegitimacy and family breakdown all rocketed. The trend has now stabilized and social behavior is improving. The theory is that today’s judges all trained at the start of the Disruption, and having gained power are in effect locking it in.

This certainly aligns with their law making - see the Supreme Court discovery of the right of 16 and 17 year-old murderers to escape the death penalty. However, many of the judges declining appeals for Terri are in the 40 to 50 bracket, and in the wider community this cohort is decent and socially responsible.

Despots (AKA The Ward Churchill Effect)

UK judges are appointed for life, as are senior US judges. They cannot be thrown out in elections, or fired for incompetence. So they make their own rules and are impervious to change.

I think this is a major influence. But it doesn’t explain the judge in the Terri case, who was I believe elected. He made the key finding that her fate be determined by the adulterous husband (who wanted her dead), rather than by her parents (who wanted her alive). This sentenced the woman to death.

Clubbed

Under this theory, judges see themselves primarily as members of an exclusive club and support fellow members come what may. This explains why, Congress having mandated a Federal Court to review the facts of the Terri case, the court declined to do so. And why the Supreme Court, refused to hear the case.

But clubs can equally be benign, so this doesn't explain recent behavior.

Desensitized

Behavioral Science (and history) shows that many people are desensitized by acting cruelly. Absent social control, they become more brutal and even more desensitized. This would explain why otherwise normal and decent human beings might mutilate a new born or force a crippled woman to terrible death.

This theory seems to me a little extreme, since judicial behavior is usually pusillanimous rather than cruel. And it doesn’t explain why our judiciaries should suddenly be infected.

*****

There are other theories, the wildest I’ve seen is Refugee South Africans - the two most extreme members of the Massachusetts Supreme Court
and Brit Law Lords hail from SA. But South Africans are social conservatives, so it’s probably just a sampling error.

My conclusion is: All of the Above theories apply, with Disrupters as the determining cause & the other attributes reinforcing it. Armed with this analysis, I’ll look in later posts at how we might rebalance this arm of government with the other two.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Google Gets It Right

A follow up on my post on France , with grateful acknowledgment to About.com's excellent political humor section.

Carnival of the Manly Recipes

One of my bearded-mentor-wizard projects is to develop a Manly Cookbook:
Meals That Can Be Shopped For In Less than 1 Minute
Meals That Can Be Cooked In Less than 5 minutes
Meals that Can Be Cooked Once And Then Eaten For 6 Successive Days Without Major Medical Intervention
Meals That Can Be Cooked And Eaten While One Is Inebriated
Meals That Use All The Stuff In the Fridge
Under the last category, I today fed Mrs. G a feast of al dente lasagna, lightly steamed cabbage, and boiled eggs. She acclaimed this as "a culinary first"!

The recipe is, like all Manly Recipes, self-evident. Although I would suggest leaving out the stalk of the cabbage when chopping it up, and using lots of butter, salt and pepper in everything, other than the boiled eggs.

As this blog evolves, I will provide more Manly inspirations. Reader suggestions are welcome & will be ruthlessly plagiarized.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter in the Southern Med

Easter in this Roman Catholic community was magnificent.

On Friday, a mile-long traditional procession carried statues commemorating salient episodes from the Way of the Cross from our beautiful local church all around the town. Took 4 hours, and was assisted by 3 bands playing suitably solemn music. Each statue was carried on 4 or 5 rails, and each rail rested on the shoulder of one man at the front and one at the back. The bearers used the coffin-carrying technique - rail on shoulder, arm braced across the shoulders of man next to you, and a slow, swaying, shuffling step.

The costumes were fabulous, helped by the fact that the people here look much like I imagine the people of the Holy land did. Participants were between 4 and 80 years old, and the dress was historically accurate: Roman infantry with ceremonial armor fronted by huge SPQR Imperial standards, Pontius Pilate with his full legal retinue, dismounted charioteers, all the disciples, and groups of barefoot penitents dragging chains and clad completely in white robes with hoods containing just eye-holes.

The entire population turned out to watch this, and people were appropriately restrained given the grim event being re-enacted.

Today, Sunday, marks the Resurrection, and was much more cheerful. The band of the Scouts (boys and girls) got to march at the head of a parade at the church - Mrs G and I have fond memories of such marches when we were kids. After Mass, there was a daytime firework display, reminiscent of a heavy mortar barrage. Come to think of it, it was a heavy mortar barrage, they just pre-exploded with fragmentation.

A huge demonstration of community solidarity, affirmation of faith, moral mentoring and plain fun.

Penitence

If you want forgiveness for bad behavior, you have to be penitent. Sadly the moral education of Kofi Annan and George Greer missed this out & they just want the forgiveness.

The London Times reports:

KOFI ANNAN, the United Nations secretary-general, is said to be struggling with depression and considering his future. Colleagues have reported concerns about Annan ahead of an official report this week that will examine his son Kojo’s connection to the controversial Iraqi oil for food scheme.

This man heads an organization which on his watch became rotten with corruption and a sponsor of pedophilia. He is responsible & should admit his responsibility, apologize and resign so that a better man can right his wrongs. Then make amends, maybe helping kids his troops have sexually abused. If he hangs on whining for sympathy, he'll be labeled until he dies as a disgrace.

Fox News reports an AP story on George Greer:

While in legal circles he is garnering acclaim for his consistent application of Florida law in the case, there has been a price.

Protesters now show up at his Clearwater home. The FBI arrested a North Carolina man it said placed a $50,000 bounty on the head of a judge in the case, although officials didn't name the judge.

This past week, he parted ways with his Southern Baptist church, which had advocated keeping Terri Schiavo alive, after his pastor suggested it would be better if he left. "You must know that in all likelihood it is this case which will define your career and this case that you will remember in the waning days of life," Calvary Baptist Pastor William Rice wrote to Greer in a letter than later became public.

Greer could not be reached for comment because of the frequent hearings on the Schiavo case, but longtime friend Mary Repper said she recently spoke with him and he judge sounds "worn out" by the case that has been on his docket for more than seven years.

Greer is a typical passive-aggressive, hiding behind rules to execute an act of depravity. Then whining that he's having a hard time. Unless he repents, it's going to get a lot worse.

Incidentally, the same story says (my emphasis):

Greer, a former county commissioner, became a judge in 1992. He was recently re-elected to a six-year term, but has announced that he will retire once that term is up.

Greer has been trying to kill this woman for years. Did his County voters know about this when they re-elected him? If so, Florida has major problems.

They Are Drugging Her

Legal and medical assurances that dehydration is a gentle death turn out to be false. Fox News reports (my emphasis):

Family supporters also said Terri's breathing has become increasingly labored. Another family attorney said hospice workers began giving her morphine.

But Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, denied reports by the parents' attorneys that her tongue and eyes were bleeding, wracked by dehydration.

"She is resting comfortably," Felos said Saturday. "Her breathing does not appear to be shallow."

Let me get this straight. The judge orders the woman killed by dehydration because she is less than an animal. His supporters claim her death will be an easy one. As she suffers, medics pump her up with morphine. Now she can't give any embarrassing sign that she is not less than animal.

And the creep getting her killed at the behest of her adulterous husband observes that she is "resting comfortably". No shit, Sherlock!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Brit Judges & Doctors Match The US

UK judges and doctors torture & kill the weak too.

Terri

UK doctors starve you to death much sooner than 15 years, and judges hold them blameless.

In NHS Trust A v M and NHS Trust B v H [2001] Fam 348 a hospital sought permission to discontinue artificial hydration and nutrition to a person, who in 1997 had been diagnosed as being in a "permanent vegetative state". The Court noted that Article 2 imposed a positive obligation to give treatment where that is in the best interests of the patient - but not where it would be futile. Discontinuing treatment would not be an intentional deprivation of life ...; and provided that withdrawing treatment was in line with a respected body of medical opinion, that the patient would be unaware of the treatment and not suffering, there would be no torture...

Hopefully, the folks involved will end their days in a hospice, where they'll be able to check "respected opinion" at first hand.

Late Term Abortion

Since abortion was legalized in the UK in 1967, doctors have terminated about 6 million fetuses. Until 1990, they were limited to 24 weeks from conception, except to save the life of the mother. Abortion was nominally to protect the mother's health, but doctors interpreted this broadly and about 98% of abortions have been for convenience (scroll to Lord Alton's letter).

Like most Brits, I went along with this. But I've always considered the 24 week rule sacrosanct - friends have a son born prematurely at 27 weeks; he's now a healthy and successful engineer.

In 1990, the lawmaker responsible for the 1967 law proposed a change to allow late abortion:

from 24 weeks up to the point of birth if there is a "substantial risk" of the child being "seriously handicapped".

During the debate, a professor of law at Oxford University predicted that the amendment would lead to eugenic abortions. Following this two lawyers circulated a cautionary letter to lawmakers:

warning them that an otherwise healthy fetus of more than six months could be legally terminated for having "a hare lip or a cleft palate". The author of the amendment claimed that the circular was "a gross calumny on the medical profession"; a leading Socialist pol said the authors should be reported to the Law Society or Bar Council.

Lawmakers passed the amendment and in 1991, two doctors aborted a 7 month fetus with a cleft lip and palate.

A woman minister fought to haul these doctors in front of a court. She was born with a cleft lip & palate which was easily fixed surgically and has a brother with Down's syndrome. She is concerned that others conceived today with similar defects will be aborted.

The legal/medical establishment won, confirming that UK fetuses can be terminated for minor defects.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was satisfied that the doctors involved in the abortion on a woman more than 24 weeks pregnant had acted in good faith and there would be no prosecution.

Friday, March 25, 2005

On Parental Love

Parental love is a key source of Social Capital - the glue that enables us to trust and support each-other & so build societies. Social Capital includes altruism and other behaviors that seem to be hard wired. Cultural behaviors are learned, and some societies are better at building Social Capital than others.

Parental love is in the hard-wired category - here are some recent examples.

The first is from an excellent
milblog describing a patrol in Iraq.

Firstly when on a patrol wherever your eyes look your weapon is pointed there. For the obvious reason, that you can send bullets should you need to. This response is nearly automatic, but the weapon gets very heavy especially when your muscles are screaming to rest. As I entered what I thought to be a courtyard turned out to be the front yard of a family dwelling. I saw movement to my right and swung around to face 2 young boys. Who came running out to meet the “Mister Mister” w/chocolate. Almost as fast as I pointed my weapon at the movement, the Mother came rushing out to pull her sons back in, she was screaming; “La la la!!!” This is Arabic for No, no, no. She was genuinely afraid that I was going to shoot her children, I was so shocked I literally dropped my weapon...

The mother, rather than hide from the threat, put herself in the line of fire to protect her sons.

Now a robbery in Nottingham, England:

A jeweler was shot dead as she tried to protect her daughter during an armed robbery, a court heard yesterday.
Marian Bates, 64, was hit by a single bullet in the chest when, in an "instinctive act of bravery", she stepped in front of a gunman who was pointing a pistol at Xanthe, her daughter.

Note the "instinctive".

You know where I'm heading. Fox News
reports:

For a second time, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled against the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who had asked him to grant their emergency request to restore her feeding tube while he considers a lawsuit they filed.
The tube was removed a week ago on a state judge's order that agreed with her husband, who has said she has no hope for recovery and wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers believe their daughter could improve and wouldn't want to die.

The couple have been fighting for their daughter's life for years - helping her within the constraints set by her adulterous husband, and I guess lovingly applying cosmetics so she'd look her best for the cameras. Now they have to watch her die in a way that no decent person would inflict on a dog.

The world is full of similar stories, including many parents who devote their lives to looking after disabled children, even when early death seems certain.

So parental love is the fierce, constant and selfless core of the human animal. In denying it to this woman the American judicial system has exposed itself as, literally, inhuman.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Investing in Euroland (Not)

From this investor's standpoint, the Euro investment zone is fragmented, expensive, highly taxed and risky. Did I miss something?

Moving to Europe from the US last year, I set out to build a portfolio of European stocks and bonds.

STOCK

Trading

I'd expected that a Single Europe would have a single ETrade, or it's equivalent. Wrong. Each country has its own ETrade & you have to live in that country to use it.

Eventually I tracked down a big Swiss bank providing on-line trading across the major European stock markets. Crude compared with ETrade, but it did the job.

Costs

I'd expected ETrade costs of about $25 a trade. Wrong. On a 10,000 Euro stock trade the all-up cost was over 200 Euros. That's 10 times US costs.

Investing in non-Euro stock proved even more expensive. A collection of taxes at each end and heavy currency exchange charges added an extra 3.5% to each transaction. So Swedish and Danish shares cost an extra 350 Euros on top of the 200 Euro trade cost.

Taxes

Turns out that from an EU investor's standpoint, Switzerland is part of the EU. The Swiss tax EU folks' savings at 15%, rising to 35% in 5 years, keeping some & passing the rest to your owning country. You can avoid that by having them give your financial information to your owners. Apparently a mechanism to stop the overtaxed Germans and French hiding their money away. Bizarre the Swiss would agree to dump banking privacy, but they have - one wonders where those German and French have moved their money.

It doesn't end there, because all dividends you earn are hit with local withholding taxes - for example, your Shell stock gets taxed by the Dutch at 25%. Which you're supposed to be able to reclaim from your owning country, but if they charge lower rates, you can't.

I concluded that Euro stock is a loser & dumped the lot. Ouch.

BONDS

Which left bonds. But returns are lousy. And today the European WSJ reports (subscription required) on the EU decision to drop the 3% deficit limits for Germany and France:

The immediate market reaction to the emasculation of the Stability Pact was muted, but the long-term trends are disquieting. A recent study by a major rating agency shows that under current trends all three major euro-zone governments will sooner or later face junk status.

They mean Germany, France & Italy. Double Ouch.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Stephen Hawking Feeding Stopped

Turns out the guy just communicates with eye movements & his string theory is brain damaged. Thanks to The Jawa Report.

Why Should Libertarians Want To Kill Terri Schiavo?

I'm a libertarian-social-capital-techno-big-picture guy, worrying about nukes, the EU and China, & have only followed this case to track the science. So I was surprised to see libertarian Samizdata supporting the killing (hat tip Giles).

Their argument boils down to:
1. The person in question can't speak for herself & doctors say she never will.
2. So we must rely on her legal guardian (her adulterous husband) & ignore the wishes of her parents. And the husband says the woman told him that she'd want to be killed in her current circumstances.
3. Giving nutrition and hydration to someone is the same as treating them medically.
4. Nobody can (should?) be forced to accept medical treatment. So she should be killed.
5. And anyway, it will cost the state $80,000 per year to keep Schiavo alive, which isn't acceptable.

I don't think so.

1. The Science Is Suspect

Medical science does not understand human physiology & cannot rule out the possibility that either a) Schiavo is conscious but unable to communicate or b) will at some point recover.

Relying on doctors for mind-body stuff is like relying on the Microsoft Help Desk to figure out why Windows crashes - doctors have the Support Manual and Known Problems Register, not the code. But this is a code issue - what is consciousness? how does the mind-body system really work? Nobody knows.

2. Food And Water Are Not Medicine

An elderly relative of mine is almost blind and can't walk - people bring her food and without them she would die. Just as she would if they left her out in the cold. The basic human needs of food and shelter are not medicine. If you disagree, try getting your doctor to write you a prescription for them.

3. Libertarians Should Protect The Weak

Surely libertarians should favor informal social processes that maintain Social Capital? And isn't protecting the weak such a process? And isn't killing inconvenient people a statist monopoly-of-force play?

4. Killing Through Dehydration & Starvation Is Inhuman

I'm a runner and have suffered severe dehydration, it's horrible. The NYT and AP think otherwise, so I'll gladly take their reporters on a 15-miler at 90 degrees ITS, without water. They'll make great desk ornaments!

5. Libertarians Should Not Be Passive-Aggressive

OK, let's accept for the moment that food & water are really medicine, that doctors are infallible, and this woman's legal guardian is telling the truth. So why not just kill her? There are plenty of quick & painless ways of doing that. Starving a helpless person to death is as passive-aggressive as you can get. And they're only doing that because it makes them fell less culpable. That sucks.

6. And This Case Stinks

Look at Opinion Journal on this. The unfaithful husband, er legal guardian, is massively conflicted. He now has a new partner, they've had kids, he seems to have spent most of his wife's money on legal fees to get the her killed.

If the Samizdata view is libertarian, I'm going to have to invent another label for myself. How about Social Capitalist?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Is It Good Science To Kill Crippled People?

NewEagle has a splendid photo of a pro-US poster at a demo in San Diego. Also a quote from The Guardian on the Terri Schiavo case which intones:

...(it) marks another milestone in President Bush's campaign for faith over fact. More concerned with the wonder of miracles than Schiavo's 15-year irreversible vegetative state, Bush and his allies have blithely overturned multiple court decisions to maintain artificial feeding and let evangelical populism triumph over medical opinion.

Hmm, I hope the Guardian's scientific super-brains know about the Placebo effect (hat tip Giles), which the New Scientist this week rates as Number 1 of the 13 Things that do not make sense. It says:

DON'T try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

Does this mean that Science doesn't know everything there is to know about human physiology? Because, if so, people might just recover from comas. And that would make terminating them murder...

The Loss of the UK: The Germans

Germany has been France’s sidekick in converting the EU from a free trade area into a centralized nanny state. To many Americans, Germany is an ungrateful ally-turned-adversary that proliferates its core competencies (poison gas, rockets and submarines) to America’s enemies.

This post is one of a series explaining to Americans the planned EU absorption of the UK. Prior posts cover the impact of this on the US, and thumbnail sketches of the UK and France; this is the one on the Germans.

First the disclosures. Our best friends live in Germany and I’ve had good relationships with 4 German companies.

Next, the statistics. Germany scores OK on economic freedom, coming in 18th, not too far behind the US (13th), but well behind the UK (7th) – and way ahead of the French (44th). Their government is honest - Germany comes 15th in the global corruption table, ahead of the US (17th) & not much behind the UK (11th). That’s because they are a High Trust society. Which means they are federated, they have a good mix of big companies and smaller ones & and the state stays out of business.

The Rap Sheet

Here are Germany's troubling behaviors - they're systemic, having occurred under both left- and right-wing governments.

1. Subservience. Since 1970, they've followed the lead of France, their statist polar opposite, surrendering their democracy, their currency, and their sovereignty to a clique of corrupt Belgian-Portuguese-Greek-French-etc bureaucrats.

2. Poison Gas Supplier to Libya. Starting 1980, they set up Qaddafi with a complete poison gas plant, which could have been used to slaughter Israelis.

3. Rocket Vendor to Iraq. In the1980s, German companies enhanced the killing power of Saddam Hussein’s Scuds. During the Gulf War, shot-down warheads showered Tel Aviv with German-made components. Absent the Patriot defenses, there would have been a lot of dead Israelis.

4. Submarine Vendor to China. Recently, in breach of the arms embargo, Germany supplied China with very quiet diesel engines for their hunter-killer subs designed to sink US aircraft carriers. And are now politicking with the French to get EU endorsement to lift the arms embargo permanently.

5. Backstabbers. Tearing up their alliance with the US and the UK in support of the status quo, preferring "stability" to trying to spread "freedom."

Now the disclaimer: this is about German public policy - many Germans are intelligent and active supporters of the US.

Here are my three bullet points for Germany: Traumatized, Faltering, Romantics.

Traumatized

If France is a bullied teenager, Germany is a survivor of a really bad car accident. If you’ve had this misfortune, or know someone who has, you’ll know it makes you desperate to eliminate risk from your life, becoming:

1. Obsessively careful and precise.
2. Change-averse
3. Risk-averse
4. Violence-averse.
5. Self-absorbed.

The "road accident" happened because Germany is in a really rough neighborhood, and Germans have been being slaughtered for centuries – and escaping to America since 1670. In the US, German immigrants’ response to the horrors at home has been resolute pacifism – they refused to fight in either the Revolutionary or Civil Wars. So one way for an American to view Germans is to think Amish and Mennonite - not storm troopers.

Modern Germans live with the legacy of two disastrous 20th century wars. That Germany started them is irrelevant – the Germans who did that aren't around any more. But the cultural impact of defeat and occupation remains. The Brits starved them in WW1, and afterwords their society all but collapsed, with armed gangs roaming the countryside. In WW2, their cities were destroyed and millions of civilians were killed or displaced. Then they were occupied for years, which even under the Western powers meant daily indignities. And all through the Cold War they faced the likelihood of nuclear war being fought on their territory.

So now, all they want is normalcy and control. Nobody crosses the road against a red light, the streets are pristine, every meeting starts on time, every housing plot is neat and tidy, everything is just so and nothing is risked. And that carefulness enabled them to become a pre-eminent Industrial Economy with first class infrastructure – good roads, trains, trams, phone system.

The downside is that Germany is resolutely pacifist. During the Cold War the US just conscripted them as “Allies”, but underneath they stayed pacifist.

Faltering

Their coming back from disaster after WW2 counts as one of the major human achievements of the 20th century. The US (and Brits!) funded this via the Marshall Plan, but it was Germans that rebuilt their nation from the rubble. Then, with their successful Industrial Economy came rigidity and a high cost structure. The WSJ reports (subscription required):

February's jobless rate of 12.6% reflects a host of competitive ills that has left Germany unable to hold its own in a world being shaped by a newly reconfigured Europe, an ascendant China and a highly adaptive American economy.

Their economy sputters - GDP grew at 1.4% a year from 1992 to 2002 - and has since been flat.

Unless Germany quickly changes course, it faces inevitable decline in economic power and its role in the world.


Contrast the 1.4% GNP growth with the Brit average of about 3% and you can see why the Brits have overtaken them in GNP per capita.



GNP

To complete their woes, in common with many other EU countries, Germans have not been having enough children. And emigration has risen by 30% in the past few years, to 127,000 in 2003. In 2003. their population shrank for the first time since WW2.

The Bits had the same economic problems in the 70s, but re-invented themselves after having a good war to cheer themselves up. Up to now, the Germans have not approached consensus for the wrenching changes they need to reinvent themselves.

Romantics

Contrary to many stereotypes, Germans are artistic and romantic. Their cities are full of concert halls, theaters, and art galleries.

By romantic, I mean “imaginative but impractical”. You see it in their architecture, dress and above all politics. At the personal level, this adds a style to German life which is missing from Anglo societies. But politically it’s a liability, since it causes the Germans not to think through the consequences of their actions.

Conclusion

Here’s how I explain the Rap Sheet for these Traumatized, Faltering Romantics.

1. Subservience to France. Traumatized romanticism – think scared Barney the Dinosaur whimpering “I love you, you love me”.

2. Poison Gas Supplier to Libya. Trauma victim’s self-centered commercialism, combined with a romantic refusal to see that getting the Israelis pissed at you is not a great game plan.

3. Rocket Vendor to Iraq. Same as Poison Gas, but getting the US pissed as well.

4. Submarine Vendor to China. Romantic commercialism again - they see themselves helping China to grow into a peaceful world power. They have not thought through the American reaction to German complicity in the loss of 5,500 of its fighting men & women.

5. Backstabbers. Pure trauma victim – they don’t think American sufferings are in the same league as their own, and fear the risk of a Muslim backlash against America’s draining the terrorist swamp.

So, where does that leave us? I hope agreeing that Germans are not bad, but instead stick-in-the-mud pacifists like their Amish brothers. Instead of getting mad at them, Americans should write them out of the plot, since they will neither help nor threaten anyone.

That's assuming we cure them of that darned proliferation...

Monday, March 21, 2005

How To Deal With Moonbat Infestation

Moonbat infestation is diminishing as they assert their Choice, but there are still nasty local infestations. To clear these, use the DepletedUranium(TM) Two-Step Take-Out.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR MOONBAT

It's as easy as GCAO: Glow-ball, Chews, Ad Hominem, O'Rourke!

Tell your Possible Moonbat (PM), in a clear and calm voice, that you are American/British/Australian (as the case may be).

A Moonbat will then introduce 1 or more of the following topics - rabid specimens will introduce all 4.

Test 1: Glow-ball vorming (This test is courtesy the late lamented Diplomad)

PM: Ve are very vorried about glow-ball vorming. Vhy aren't you vorried about glow-ball vorming?

YOU: Huh? You're worried about worming? Your government is worried about worms? Like with a dog?

PM: Not vorm, vorm! Glow-ball vorming! The vorld is getting hat!

YOU: Oh, global warming. Hot, yeah. It's bullshit and you know it . . .

That's a Positive.

Test 2: Chews

PM (Conspiratorially): How do you think we should deal with all these Chews?

YOU: Oh, I don't know, each to their own. But it is irritating that you can't walk down (name local street) without stepping on them. Apparently the best solution is steaming.

PM (Brightening): Steaming, I hadn't heard that! But what if they fight?

YOU: How can gum fight ...oh, you mean Jews! That's all bullshit and you know it...

That's another Positive.

Test 3: Ad Hominem

PM (furtively): Of course (any non-Moonbat leader) does bad things because he/she is under the control of (Halliburton, the (US-only) Oil Lobby, GWB, or The Chews).

YOU: How do you know?

PM: Because otherwise they wouldn't do bad things!

YOU: That's all bullshit and you know it...

Another Positive!

Test 4: The P J O'Rourke Test

This is a free form verbal test. Think FFKW Not AAKS.

Your PM will:

Fervently Favor Killing (they may say terminating, letting slip away) the Weak (unborn babies, sick people, peasants, oppressed peoples), AND

Absolutely Against Killing the Strong (convicted murderers, war criminals, genocidal dictators etc).

So run them through this and if you get a Positive, chuck 'em on the heap!

STEP 2: SLIP YOUR MOONBAT AWAY


Starvation and dehydration is the way your Moonbat likes to end its days. As their
House Journal explains.

"Starvation Death Not Painful"


"From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University, told the New York Times. "In fact, declining food and water is a common way that terminally ill patients end their lives, because it is less painful than violent suicide and requires no help from doctors," the paper reports.

The Times also cites Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who insists that starvation victims "generally slip into a peaceful coma."

"It's very quiet, it's very dignified - it's very gentle," he adds.

So, pop your pesky Moonbat into any handy Moonbat-proof container - an old Abrams tank will do - leave to cure for 2 weeks, and Bingo! Use your dessicated Moonbat as a garden ornament, or cut it up and share as "Must Have" desk ornaments with friends, family and the Secretary of Defense! Or, if you're in Europe, sell it to your local art gallery - thar's gold in tham thar Moonbats!

EU Human Rights Watch


Allie


Provided through Slate, and produced by Eric Allie of the Pioneer press, hat tip NoPasaran.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I'm Sorree - Surveillance Is Good!

My recent post deconstructed the proposals for the new biometric US passport & concluded that it was a precursor to US-wide surveillance. I was wrong, for now at least - it looks like a typical piece of INS idiocy.

DefenseTech reports that the necessary technology still at the early research stage, and underfunded.

A planned demonstration at Ft. Belvoir never came about – or was kept very quiet. Last year, Congress moved to yank funds from the program's budget.

Now it looks as if they have some modest funding, and, guess what, I'm pleased! We needed this yesterday for the urban battles in Iraq, and we'll need it to individually target the Iranian and Syrian thugs. And we're going to need swarms of these things to defend Taiwan, especially if those stealthy German-engined Chines subs manage to creep up on and sink our aircraft carriers with wake-homers.

The technology is mostly do-able. The Israelis have plenty of small drones, so the platforms are there. Sensing is well advanced, the use of LADAR will be a boon in poor visibility. Data transmission is soluble with WiFi to mother ships which are big enough to power satellite up-links. Which leaves the biggest problem: processing all that data from thousands of drones. If I were DARPA, I'd look at some of the smart retail software out there- retailers have been tracking dynamic behavior, and doing clustering for years.

Bottom line, if the price of building this essential defense is the INS gets to track everyone, so what? As the most useless Fed agency, they're not going to do any harm, and it keeps all those tenured folks busy.

Mediterranean Spring (2)

PowerLine posts a snow scene from Minneapolis, my favorite US city. By contrast, it was 70 degrees (20) on my morning run today, perfect blue sky, with wild poppies flowering in the fields. It's a holiday weekend (lots of holidays is an EU thing), but this was pleasant, since it's around a Saint's Day. Large choirs of cute little kids singing hymns outside our local Church watched fondly by extended families, then processions and bands.

On my run yesterday, as I passed by one of the many tiny auto repair shops, I happened to glance inside & saw a horse peering back at me. Wouldn't you worry about taking your car to be fixed by a guy that keeps a horse in his shop?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

More Brit Army Humor

Further to my post referencing the Brit sense of humor, The Guardian reports the Victoria Cross citation for Private Johnson Beharry, 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. This is the highest Brit medal and is the first since the Falklands.

The citation, describes his "great heroism" in two separate encounters in the town of Amara, north of Basra, last summer. In the first, on May 1, the Warrior armoured vehicle he was driving was hit by multiple rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

"As a result of this ferocious initial volley of fire, both the platoon commander and the vehicle's gunner were incapacitated by concussion and other wounds, and a number of the soldiers in the rear of the vehicle were also wounded."

Pte Beharry, continues the citation, "assessed that his best course of action to save the lives of his crew was to push through, out of the ambush. He drove his Warrior directly through the barricade, not knowing if there were mines or improvised explosive devices placed there to destroy his vehicle. By doing this he was able to lead the remaining five Warriors behind him towards safety."

Another RPG hit the Warrior. "The flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver's tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret." Pte Beharry was "forced to drive the vehicle along the rest of the ambushed route, some 1,500 metres, with his hatch opened up and his head exposed to enemy fire, all the time with no communications with any other vehicle." A 7.62mm bullet penetrated his helmet and remained lodged on its inner surface.

Pte Beharry then climbed on to the turret of the burning vehicle and, "seemingly oblivious to the incoming enemy small arms fire, manhandled his wounded platoon commander out of the turret, off the vehicle and to the safety of a nearby Warrior". Remounting his burning vehicle for the third time, he drove it through "a complex chicane and into the security of the defended perimeter of the outpost, thus denying it to the enemy".

A few weeks later, on June 11, another Warrior convoy he was leading was ambushed. A grenade detonated six inches from his head. "With the blood from his head injury obscuring his vision, Beharry managed to continue to control his vehicle and forcefully reversed the Warrior out of the ambush," says the citation. He then collapsed, unconscious.

In an interview to mark the citation, Private Beharry was asked what was going through his mind at the time of the attacks?

"An RPG", Pte Beharry promptly replied.

The Loss of the UK: The French

To understand the EU, you need to understand France. For Americans outside the Jean Francois Kerry faction (and even some inside), France is the nation of Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys. Here’s a slightly more – how you say – nuanced view.

First a few disclosures. The fragrant Mrs Gandalf is 12.5% French & half of our extended families live in France. But France is the only place I’ve ever had my credit card skimmed & the only company that ever cheated me on a business deal was French.

Here are my two bullet points for France: Centralized, Intellectual Loners.

Centralized

Frances Fukuyama characterizes France as a Low Trust society, in contrast to the US, UK and Germany, which are High Trust. Low Trust means that people only trust within their own families and the state has to do all the organizing. The UK & US tendency to form clubs, innovate and take risks just does not exist in France. In consequence, the French are lousy entrepreneurs (joke intended) and are always playing catch-up. Trinity College Cambridge having as many Nobel prizes as France reflects France’s failure. I hasten, grovelingly, to add that it also reflects Trinity’s excellence.

The French have no conception of federal or devolved structures - everything runs through Paris. It got that way because successive kings killed the entire populations of dissenting regions and/or drove them out to England (hence Mrs. G’s 12.5%). Dissident emigration is still in full flood, with Southern England home to over 300,000 French refugees from the high tax & rigidity of their native land. That’s a lot from a population of 60 Million – about the top 1% of their working population – imagine how the loss of 1.5 Million professionals would hit the US!

On the plus side, the French do centralization much better than either the US or UK. Their Interstate highways are better and their health-care is better. But Low Trust means they don’t spontaneously build large corporations – you can only get so big with Family. So the French government has stepped in to create & finance companies in the Big Technology areas of electronics, space launch, airliners, telecommunications, oil, and computers. They've done this much better than the US or UK government would. However, although Airbus has done very well, otherwise they are just OK (space launch) and can be dire (computing). They’ve been most successful with these nationalized giants when they have harnessed the talents of other nations. The Brit joke about Concord was:

We do the plane, you do the catering.

So, all that state control means France scores poorly on economic freedom, coming in 44th, way behind the US (13th) and the UK (7th). But at least their central government is fairly honest - France comes 22nd in the global corruption table, not too far behind the US (17th) & the UK (11th).

Intellectual Loner

Think of the kid bullied by the jocks in high school, sitting around reading Sartre, plotting revenge and tweaking his verbal skills. The French are just like that. When arguing (which is most of the time), they attack your logic – in the US and UK we attack people’s facts. Here's the Brit joke about the French response to a Brit solution:

Yes, but will it work in theory?

The French have some reason to feel bullied. After a good start in kicking out the Romans, they built up to Louis XIV, who basically took over continental Europe. Then it was downhill all the way. Hammered by the Brits in the 7 years war, then by the Russians, Germans & Brits in the Napoleonic wars, then by the Prussians, then just escaping in WW1 through the help of the Brits and Americans. And then being humiliatingly occupied and liberated in WW2. Then being hammered in Vietnam and Algeria. You can see why they feel it’s all a bit much.

(Interestingly, they are very like the Israelis, who they effect to despise – the French Joke I posted the other day was originally about Israelis – I think you’ll agree it fits both).

So, like the bullied kid, they are self-absorbed and indifferent to others. Hence they were quite happy to help out Saddam – why should they care if he gassed the Kurds? If Greenpeace tries to obstruct their nuke tests, kill them! The Brit troops who fought in WW1 despised the French soldiers. Not because they were not brave - they were - but because they were very cruel to their horses. For a glimpse into the French soul, look at this picture from the Daily Telegraph of a French soldier posing triumphantly over the dead body of a little boy.


France

This was last November in the Ivory Coast - French troops gunned down people protesting their presence there. Can you imagine a Brit or US soldier posing for Reuters over the body of a dead kid? And there being no public outcry at home? And no outcry abroad?

France and the EU

As the intellectual loner, France sees all international institutions as vehicles to regain its rightful position as top dog. It’s a Fantasy Island in which France is up there with the US and China. So it's devious at the UN and has undermined NATO.

The EU is it's main play though. It seeks all European countries with merged economies being run under French centralized control, with the Brits & Germans adding the flair, organization and money. The last heave they need to achieve this is the European Constitution which would lock all of Europe inextricably into their model.

Here are the problems the French and EU elites have to solve to get there.

1. The French people look dangerously close to voting against the Constitution. Something similar happened when the French voted on the Euro - the balance was only tipped in favor by late votes magically arriving from French Caribbean territories.

2. The Brits currently look set to vote against, however Tony Blair is pledged (for whatever reason) to use every measure he can to turn them round.

3. The Germans have financial problems, and can't go on picking up their big tab for the EU. If the Brits get to realize that they are the new Milch Cow, that will cause Tony Blair big problems.

4. The EU has picked a fight with the US by working to build up China as a proxy adversary. Poor timing because the Chinese aren't there yet, and may never be. Not a big problem given the anti-US slant of most EU voters, but that could change if the US takes some well chosen whacks at the EU.

I hope this post has showed how alien the French are from US & UK perspectives. And that you now have a proper regard for an enemy which is clever, tough, devious and determined. They've succeeded to date, and they're expecting to win this last battle.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Joe Bob Briggs

It's Friday evening, time to chill out.

Some years ago I was marooned in the Bay Area. Great runs, restaurants, people, earthquakes. This was pre - WWW, and there was the usual US Lefty Local Paper problem. The San Francisco Chronicle was as smug and lefty as they come, and I could only bring myself to buy it on Sundays. And the only 2 columns I could be sure to enjoy were a) the weather report and b) Joe Bob Briggs.

Joe Bob reviewed my kind of niche movie - Drive Ins. Trashy, preferably science fiction, incompetently made and scripted with a reasonable amount of sex & violence. And he wrote the best Management Summaries in the world. He kept me sane.

Due to PTSD, I'd forgotten all about it until today Powerline referenced his review of a wonderfully horrible Patti Davis movie. And guess what? Turns out he's still alive and reviewing!

Here's his bottom line in a recent review:

Forty-nine dead bodies. Five gunbattles. Three crash-and- burns. Four motor vehicle chases. One sucker punch. Two body- transformation scenes. One hydrogen explosion. One Viking funeral. One peasant riot. Flaming church. Flaming car. Upside- down crucifixion. Grotesque insect destruction. Doll-stomping. Gratuitous shipwrecks. Kung Fu. Grenade Fu. Bazooka Fu.

Check him out!

The Price of Freedom

The US Government may be planning to track the movements of its citizens and visitors & it has set up the EU and every other dictatorship in the world to do the same.

These thoughts follow from the specification of the new US passport (hat tip Bruce Schneier). It has a radio-readable 64 kbyte chip that holds the traditional information printed on the passport data page & a biometric version of the bearer's photo.

Looks benign, but why go to the expense? After all, the US has a wide-open border with Mexico, and seems happy to keep it that way. Yet the INS now fingerprints & photographs every foreign national arriving (legally) in the US. This will kill the tourist trade - every Brit I know is enraged by it (only felons can be fingerprinted there) - so why do it? Plus the Feds are insisting that, going forward, all foreign passports must be biometric. Which means handing the Syrians, Iranians and EUnuchs another weapon to control the very people the US seeks to free.

This can't have anything to do with terrorism - the 9/11 hijackers all entered on valid passports & if they'd wanted could have come in through Mexico. And any decent terrorist can just get a bunch of impeccable passports from friendly weasel countries.

So, it's something else. Governments are usually idiotic, but the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so assume they're up to no good.

I think it's about those digitized photos. There are currently 3 options for biometrics: photo, fingerprint, and retina. Photo is the only one you can use at a distance & over CCTV. It works well, the Brits have been using it for years to track the IRA. The "Ring of Steel" around the City of London is lined with with Hi-Res CCTV cameras feeding face recognition software driven off a database of the 300 or so IRA killers. And most Brit cities are plastered with CCTV, so quite possibly the Brits track Gerry Adams as precisely as the Chinese do US aircraft carriers.

Now imagine the Feds have a database of images (64 Kbytes is fine) of every person legally in the country. Then progressively put hi-res CCTV in all busy streets, malls, rail stations, Federal and State offices, stadiums, university campuses etc. Bingo! - Minority Report without the hard-to-aim lasers.

The only problem with this theory is that the current face recognition is not good enough to uniquely ID hundreds of millions of people. Still, it's improving and is "just a matter of software", as an irritating boss of mine used to say.

This theory does not explain the Feds' insistence on a radio-readable chip, which makes the system costlier, and less secure. All suggestions - paranoid or otherwise - welcome.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Well Done Silvio!

Silvio Berlusconi seems to have put down his local insurrection. From ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) via Command Post:

Mr Berlusconi "reiterated to President Bush his wish to begin a gradual and progressive withdrawal of the Italian contingent in Iraq as quickly as possible, and if possible from September," his office said in a statement.

Mr Berlusconi said he would not act unilaterally. "If it's not possible, it's not possible, everything has to be agreed with the allies," he said. "We will do everything in a concerted manner."

Berlusconi is fighting to modernize Italy, he deserves our support, let's cut the guy some slack.

While I'm on the topic, my complaints during the Red Reporter kerfuffle been about Italian domestic reaction & their practice of paying ransom - not the the performance of the Italian Army in Iraq, which has been exemplary.

I'm a fan of the Italians as warriors - in WW2 in the Western desert, they fought toughly and honorably against the Brits. Later, during the Italian/German bombing campaign against Malta, the Brits developed the tactic of putting up lots of Spitfires before an air raid arrived. The pilots observed that this always caused a German air raid to turn back. The Italians pressed on with skill and courage, usually to their great cost, since at the time the Spitfire IX was the best fighter in the world.

Here's a post about the Sassari Brigade of the Italian Army in Iraq in 2003:

Born in 1915 in Sardinia, this famous Italian army brigade has fought its way from the bloody mountains along the border with the Austro-Hungarian Empire to defending Rome against German attack to Bosnia, Kosovo and now southern Iraq. The Sassari Brigade is now located at Camp White Horse in Nassiriya, as part of the British-commanded Multinational Division (South-East). It has taken casualties, but remains in place demonstrating the honor, integrity and courage that is this brigade’s legacy. While many Italians at home question the deployment of their sons and daughters to Iraq, these brave soldiers nonetheless acquit themselves with distinction as part of the coalition that is working tirelessly to institutionalize freedom for all Iraqis.

Bless them and Silvio Berlusconi.

French Joke

Thinking about the EU reminds me of a classic French Joke.

The EU decides to carry out a worldwide survey of attitudes to scarcity. They frame the following question: "Excuse me, what is your opinion of the meat shortage?"

A researcher travels the globe to get the answers.

First to North Korea:
Researcher: "Excuse me, what is your opinion of the meat shortage?"
North Korean (furrowing brow): "What do you mean by "opinion"?"

Next to Cuba
Researcher: "Excuse me, what is your opinion of the meat shortage?"
Cuban (furrowing brow): "What do you mean by "meat"?"

Next to the US
Researcher: "Excuse me, what is your opinion of the meat shortage?"
American (furrowing brow): "What do you mean by "shortage"?"

Then to France
Researcher: "Excuse me, what is your opinion of the meat shortage?"
Frenchman (furrowing brow): "What do you mean by "Excuse me"?"

Loss of the UK: The UK Now

Following on from yesterdays's post, here’s a snapshot of the UK in 2005.

Three bullet points summarize Brit culture: Creative Clubbing Warriors.

The recent Sod Off Swampy kerfuffle shows all three points. It happened at the International Petroleum Exchange, the world's second-largest energy market – in London not Saudi Arabia because some clever Brits created it there. The protagonists were two tight-knit clubs - Greenpeace and Traders. And it involved good old Brit violence.

Creative

Brit creativity starts with humor, which the Brits use in all possible circumstances:

Brit soldier hit by IED: “Sergeant, I’ve lost my leg!"
Sergeant “No you haven’t, son, it’s over here.”


Creativity starts at home. A typical nondescript line of row housing may include:

a) a front yard planted with a bizarre pattern of several thousand plants b) a yard carefully modeled around an enormous collection of garden gnomes c) a house with appliqué fake stonework d) another one with a complete set of Tudor beams meticulously bolted to its outside.

Brits publish as many books each year as 5-times-bigger population of the US.

The 1,000-student Cambridge college that Gandalf junior attended has won as many Nobel prizes as the whole of France. A Japanese buddy tells me their researches show that Brits have originated about 50% of all useful technical innovations since 1945 – recent examples are DNA fingerprinting, the WWW and cloning.

Clubbing

The clubbing currently enjoyed by Brit youth is but one tributary of an enormous cultural river.

The Brits love to form and join clubs - preferably with arcane rules, requiring much specialist knowledge and skills, addressing obscure interests, and involving lots of social interaction and politicking. Pubs are clubs - when you move to a new area, you find the local you like, and bingo, you’re integrated! Clubs cover everything - black powder target shooting, obscure battle reenactment, restoring old steam engines, growing particularly sickly species of orchid, birding (Brit birders said to be the largest voluntary organization on the planet).

If you’re baffled by a Brit institution – Parliament, the Royal Navy, the Monarchy, soccer hooligans, just think of it as a club.

Warriors

Brits pretend to be gentle folks, but for 500 years have actually worshiped what they used to call “The God of Warr” – see Kevin Phillip’s excellent book on the three big Anglo Civil Wars. The Falklands War was typical – huge crowds (including bare-bosomed girlfriends!) waving the Fleet off to war, senior officers heroically dying leading their men in battle, weird Brit weapons whacking the opposition, improvisation and bloody-minded determination overcoming setbacks. Mrs. Thatcher led this, and it cheered the Brits up so much that they happily let her go on to dismantle 35 years of socialism.

The Brits are in Iraq not because they necessarily agree with the strategy (many don’t), but because a) it’s a War and b) the Yanks are in the Anglo Club.

Finally, the Brit football hooligans that wreck neat European towns are of course just War Clubs.

Facts

The UK has about 60 Million people - 20% of the US. It’s about the size of Oregon. Appropriate because Oregon is the only US state where it’s usually raining more when you arrive than it was when you left London.

It’s the fourth largest economy in the world & the second biggest in Europe after Germany. After WW2, it struggled under socialism and the costs of defeating the Germans. Then, starting in 1980 with Mrs T. at the helm, it grew 3.2% compound. Since 1998, it’s fallen back to 2.8% under Tony Blair’s socialists, but is still growing much faster than Germany & is set to overtake it within 5 years.

The UK, along with the US, is an Information Economy – think RFIDs and Demand Forecasting. All the other big European counties still have the old style Industrial Economies – think autos and TVs. The UK has many very good service companies – e.g. Vodafone. Brits returning from abroad (including the US!) breath sighs of relief at getting back to spiffy retailers, everything online 24*7, supermarkets with exactly what they want (5 varieties of potatoe!), friendly call centers etc. Manufacturing focuses on quality niches - most of the world’s auto engines are designed in the UK and most Formula 1 cars are built there.

Here's a good insight into how the UK works and lives.

It's articulated in urbanized clusters along the Motorways in office parks, university centers, and quasi-rural market towns, acting as nodes in a networked information production system thoroughly integrated into the global economy. It's middle class, cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, well educated, entrepreneurial, and meritocratic. It prefers to live in nuclear families, owner-occupied single-family dwellings with gardens, with individual automobile transport and access to open space, preferably in a rural second home.

The UK is full of foreigners. Walk through a London park and you’ll encounter scores of nationalities out playing soccer, cricket and baseball, walking kids & canoodling. Foreigners have been flooding to the UK to escape oppression for 400 years, so Brits are used to it. There are big groups of economic refugees from the EU (including 300,000 French people, building neat Hi Tech as well of course as improving the food). It’s the top European destination for investors and so is full of foreign companies.

Brits travel and move about a lot - many have 2nd (and even 3rd) homes in warmer climes. Virginian friends who bravely bought a house in a pretty village in darkest France found that many of their neighbors were Brits. In many French villages, Brits run the local council. Brit retirees use swathes of Spain, France and Portugal as their Florida.

The Brits are tied closely to the US. The UK is the largest holder of US assets and Brits form the largest number of visitors to the US. Brits quickly assimilate in the US – about 90% of all the single engineers who moved to the US to work in companies I’ve run have ended up marrying Americans. And the UK has a fair number of Americans married to Brits. Brit family networks cross the Anglo world, and at holiday times the phone wires are hot to the US (which has about 175 Million people who claim Brit-ancestry). (Which prompts the scary thought - is Michael Moore of Brit ancestry?). Plus there are about 2 Million Brits like me, who work in both countries & regard both as home.

The UK spends about 3% of its budget on its armed forces, about the same as the US. Barring France, the other NATO members spend about half this level. Brit forces are well trained but not as well equipped as the US, mainly because Euro-procurements inflate equipment costs. The Brit combat soldiers preformed well in Afghanistan and Iraq, although IMHO its officers need a good kick up the rear end.

A creepy Europhile Club lured the UK in to the EU. In the 1970s, Brits foolishly left their relationship with the EU in the hands of a group that shared the characteristics of Jimmy Carter and John Kerry. The folks in this Europhile Club were and are pessimistic about the future of the UK; they disdain its values, thinking other counties better; and they lack business and technical competence. In their worldview, the UK is headed downhill fast and its only hope is the weak CEO's Nostrum - Merger!
The Club worked stealthily - here are the successive statements of the chief Kerry/Carter clone.

When Persuading the Brits to Join in 1972

"There is no question of eroding any national sovereignty; there is no blueprint for a federal Europe. There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears I need hardly say are completely unjustified"

After Mrs Thatcher Blew The Whistle in 1989 and 1990

"The aim was, and is... ever closer political union. The means... were and are economic"

"Of course, yes" In response to the question "Did you have in mind a United States of Europe in 1972?"

Mrs. T beat up on the EU through the 80s and by the end of that decade had put it back in its box. Then she was removed with help from the Europhiles. Her weak successor let them take over again. It got worse with Tony Blair's election in 1997 - he accelerated the move into Europe. Now four out of five Brit laws come direct from the EU.

The final battle has now commenced. Since the Brits are good at coming from behind, things should work out fine as long as the US does not hinder & even helps a bit.