Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sir Alfred Sherman, 10th November 1919 to 26th August 2006

I was privileged to once meet Sir Alfred Sherman, whose obituary from The Times may be read by clicking here.

Britain's National Health Service

I have been absolutely opposed to the NHS since my earliest recollections in the late nineteen forties. A nation that hands responsibility for each individuals health to the state, and places all medical practitioners on the state payroll, always seemed to me to be at risk of ending in exactly the kind of position in which Britain finds itself today. Nevertheless I am now used to being in a tiny minority on this point and must accept that this rotten system has a special place in the hearts of most of my countrymen. I therefore reproduce below a detailed paper sent to me by its author titled "Our Health Service in Hock for many Years to come and for future generations to pay off" by Anne Palmer. It is rather long but worth reading in full as in my view a typical case history of the EU's advance into even the most sacred areas of what was once a purely national policy area. Quote

Our Health Service in Hock for many Years to come and for future generations to pay off. Anne Palmer 26.8.2006.

The Health Service WAS ours. We paid for it through our taxes and it remains (for now) free at the point of service. We pay for it in the same way we pay for our politicians to allegedly work for us, and they, on our behalf keep the National Health Service free at the point of delivery.

I am writing this to open the public’s eyes at the way EU law forces Member States to reorganise their welfare services, looking also at the affects of free movement and competition practices on health care. It tends to result in national welfare institutions being replaced by private providers. The process is not being discussed by the public because it is not being debated openly by our MP’s. What comes under “Welfare reform” is not being led by welfare reform at all. The major cause is that EU law as it stands authorises a great deal more interference in welfare than has been thought about. Our National Heath Service that developed here in the UK after the Second World War may be gone forever (if we do not fight for it to remain) and there may never be a public discussion about this but it may disappear without anyone realising it

Welfare is perhaps the last bastion of nationalism, but it is one nationalism that the vast majority of people will most definitely want to keep, it poses however, a problem for the European Union, for how can the Union, that is dedicated to the removal of national borders allow our welfare state to remain as it is when other member state’s welfare systems are not all free at the point of delivery? Are WE the odd one out, yet again?

Even now, although people are concerned at how many hospitals are closing and nurses and doctors are being made redundant, have no idea WHY this is happening, and even less understand perhaps why I am putting the first point of blame on to our involvement in the European Union and my second point of blame to the present Labour Government.

What happens to our Welfare system brings the EU right into our homes because there are very few people that get through life without at least one spell in hospital. I have only touched on the subject lightly because in everything else to do with the EU, it will eventually require our hospitals to be “liberalised”, “opened up” magic words, “open to competition” taken over in the same way that most of our great industries have been taken over.

There are two choices, one, just stand back and let it happen, or two, fight for your health service as those before you fought to get it put there for us all to use free at the point of delivery.

I can remember the day our National Health Service was born. Although it was the Atlee Government that created the National Health Service (NHS) based on the Beverage Report in 1942 Aneurin Bevan carried out the actual introduction of the Service for the launch July 5th 1948. I never met the man although I spent one whole afternoon with Jenny Lee, his wife, in my mid 20’s when taking part in a fashion show. (Organised by the Local Labour group) She was a remarkable dynamic lady.

Before the introduction of the NHS, we as a family used to pay hospital ‘fee’s’ of one (old) penny a week, but at least we were able to have hospital treatment as long as we were ‘in the hospital fund’ club.

The NHS covers four separate (once) publicly funded systems, General Practitioners, Accident and Emergency, long term health care and Dentistry. Since 1948 we have all had the use of them and perhaps taken them for granted far more than we should have done.

There has always been Private Health care for those that could pay for it or prefer the privacy provided by private care. It is usually paid for through private insurance. NHS services on the other hand are “free at the point of delivery” paid for by our taxes and I understand the budget for 2006-7 is £96 billion. It employs over 1 million people and is reputed to be the largest employer in Europe if not the world, depending on who is the teller! We, the people, by way of our taxes, employ them all.

Things seemed to roll along fine until 1997, but the urge to join the euro by Prime Minister Blair started the changes I am writing about here. My attention was drawn to The Times (In 2003), which reported that if (and we may not have that option of “if” one day) we join the Euro, the European Central Bank had warned Britain it might have to give up its National Health Service. Even the Bolton Evening News, May 2003 reported that, “Britain would be forced to scrap the NHS if we joined the euro, so warns the ECB, saying free health care could be slashed to just emergency services”.

Also, “The ECB recommends jettisoning the NHS in favour of private health care, saying Britain’s aging population will send NHS costs soaring, and euro-zone rules would not allow Gordon Brown to borrow necessary funds to foot the bill”. Does Britain have an aging population more so than any other country?

But hold on, this is a Labour Government we are talking about and a Labour Government to boot, that brought the NHS into being, it was their pride and joy, yet we now have a Labour government that wants to end our Sterling currency by joining the euro, has signed up to an EU constitution and knowingly by their actions now, are destroying our NHS system. How can I say that? Because it is privatising our NHS “by the back door”. I have read two quite separate papers that refer to what they are doing as “Enron by the Thames”, and, “an Enron accounting system”.

An informative booklet on the “Services Directive” (A race to the Bottom) by Brian Denny, explains how EU rules attack public services, jobs, pay, pensions and collective bargaining rights”. Plain speaking indeed. “Following the exclusion of healthcare from the Services Directive, the EU Commission immediately announced plans for a new separate directive by the end of 2006 to open up health services to free market competition. Not surprisingly, the ECJ ruling have helped this process along by using internal market arguments first mooted in the Services directive.” If the EU does not get their way in one matter, they will get their way in another.

“Page 5”, “EU Health Spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the ECJ ruling on patient mobility, ‘clearly states that there is scope for community action to achieve public health objectives’. He went on to claim that patent mobility was covered under Art 95 of EU Treaties covering internal market rules.

As already pointed out above, the ECB report from May 2003 called on Euro zone members to reform health services and although we are not in the Euro, we still have to abide by the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). One way round the removal of the ability to “borrow” more money was to introduce Public Private Partnership (PPP) or, Private Financing Initiative (PFI) into the Health Sector and turning hospitals into Trusts. According to Brian Denny, these moves have already led to a cash crisis in the NHS and the loss of over 7000 jobs.

The EU also wants more power over healthcare, which does not surprise me at all. Alan Milburn once said though, “As long as there is a Labour Government, the NHS will be funded from general taxation and health care available according to need and not ability to pay”. I think he forgot to mention that the Health Service as we know it would be gone, that it would be slashed with hundreds of excellent nurses and Doctors abandoned, Hospitals closed, with not all medicines available to all.

Is this what all this is about? To come into line with the ECB? So that we can abandon sovereignty over our sterling currency and reserves or the authority to control our interest rates? Only the rich will be able to have peace of mind if they fall ill for they will be the only ones that will be able to afford to pay. The elderly, old and poor will no longer be cared for. Vote for Labour?

According to the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3860 March 2006 (By Jack M Mintz and Michael Smart), “Incentives for Public Investment under Fiscal Rules” (page 10) “To produce health services, governments employ doctors and nurses and construct hospital buildings. The hospital buildings are obviously capitol inputs used in producing health services and should be amortized under capitol budgets and doctor and nurses salaries should be expensed. The health services, however, are arguably consumption goods to reduce pain and suffering even though an element of public capitol might be entailed if current health services improve the long-run productivity of workers (who later remit taxes to the government). Some judgment is needed to determine whether any health service expenditure should amortise under public accounts since a majority of health expenditures tend to be focussed at the end of a person’s life”.

(Page 12) “The Maastricht Treaty contains a provision requiring member states to avoid running “excessive” deficits, whether or not they have adopted the euro. A protocol to the treaty specifies in turn that members’ fiscal stance is to be judged by two criteria; whether the budget deficit is less than 3 percent of GDP, and whether the total government debt exceeds 60 percent of GDP. If the Council determines a deficit is excessive, there is a procedure to encourage its elimination. The Council may issue warnings and impose deposit requirements and, eventually, fines. The SGP corresponds to the provisions of the Maastricht excessive deficits procedure, but it clarifies the terms, introduces monitoring procedures, and it gives the Council greater teeth in the event of violations. Under the SGP, deficits may exceed the 3 percent level if the excess is “exceptional, temporary, and limited in size”. Some discretion is accorded to the Council in determining whether this provision should apply”

(Page 13)“The UK has also moved to accrual accounting for financial reporting. For budgetary purposes, the UK Government focuses on two main “flow” measures of the fiscal stance.

(i) adherence to the golden rule is measured by the current budget surplus, defined as difference between tax revenues and current public spending (including depreciation):

(ii) the government also reports public sector net borrowing (PSNB). Both measures are accrual-based concepts: the PSNB can be contrasted with the previous use of the Public Sector Net Cash Requirement (PSNCR), which was essentially the cash deficit.

“ In particular, proceeds from privatisation and other asset sales are excluded from the PSNB, but not the PSNCR. Both the current budget surplus and the PSNB are cyclically adjusted before the fiscal rules are applied”.

“These rules impact on public investment spending. The UK for example is WELL WITHIN the 60 percent gross debt limit specified in the Maastricht Treaty (its own 40 per cent net debt limit is surely more binding). Net borrowing in the UK is currently about 1,8 percent of GDP, and substantially less on cyclically adjusted bases. While an increase in investment there is planned, it may be that the UK Government’s reliance on largely off-budget Public Finance Initiatives means that the Maastricht deficit limit is unlikely ever to be more binding than the golden rule policy” End of quotes.

Although this paper is mainly about the NHS, and the mess we are in through PFI/PPP, the latter two have been used in many areas, the London underground for one major venture. Recorded in Hansard for the 24th July 2006, Col 1387W A question was asked about PFI Contracts. The answer given was, “There are currently over 500 projects that have been signed and are now in operation. Around a further 200 projects have reached financial close, but are yet to become operational. The combined capitol value of all signed projects is over £48 billion. Information on PFI projects that have reached financial close may be found from the ‘PFI Signed Projects List’ on the Treasury’s public website”.

“At the time of the Budget around 80 projects were at the preferred bidder stage and around 155 had yet to appoint a preferred bidder. The estimated capitol value of these projects is around £26 billion”. End of Quote.

I am looking at PFI as, ‘on the never, never’. If I ran up hire purchase debts into the hundred thousands, it would not just take me thirty years to pay off, but it seems as if I might expect my children and grandchildren to continue paying off my debts long after I have left this earth. From all the businesses that I have found, this Country will ‘be in hock’ if not bankrupt, and what for eh? So that we can either eventually join the euro, and/or stay in the European Union and be governed by it forever? How can one Government, a Labour Government at that, that is supposed to be all for the people, run up so much debt and what on earth for? Labour has taken something very special from which each and every one of us at some time in our lives, have been glad the NHS is there for us, yet is prepared to see it trashed just to remain in what is, without doubt, about turning into a federal, political state and a totalitarian state at that. Many MPs we now know, (and can prove) knew that from before we joined the European Community.

My poor father, a very strong true Labour man, must be spinning in his grave. Mind you, he would not recognise these men of Labour as the Labour’ he once so admired.

George Monbiot woke up to what was going on in this field on 27th June 2002 when he wrote, “PPPs are a Public Fraud”. He began his article with “Poor visibility corrupts; invisibility corrupts absolutely.” He wrote, (please remember this was written in 2002), “ As the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) points out, the government allows public bodies to reclaim the VAT on privately funded projects, but not on publicly backed schemes, thereby favouring private finance by 17.5 percent. National health Service trusts have to pay the Treasury a 6 per cent “capitol charge” on the buildings they own. Private builders have no such obligation. The Government gives local authorities an annual grant of 11.5 percent of the value of the Public Finance Initiative scheme they commission, but there is no corresponding sweetener for publicly funded projects. Private financiers are permitted to use “discount rates” way out of line with inflation. This false accounting masks the appalling value for money offered by private finance. As the British Medical Journal (BMJ) report shows, 39 per cent of the price of PFI hospitals is incurred by the extra cost of borrowing. Governments have a better credit rating than corporations, so they can borrow more cheaply. As interest is levied across the 25 or 30 years of the project, small differences in rates contribute vastly to the cost.”

He asks, “So why is the Government forcing public bodies to fleece the taxpayer? In 1997, it claimed that the purpose of the PFI was to reduce government borrowing. But PFI does not reduce borrowing: instead it defers and extends it.” One of the headlines used was, “The policy has the potential to bankrupt the UK”, and I believe that to be true. End of quotes.

How on earth did we get into this mess? Under funding of the NHS to begin with? In the mid 1990’s, under the Conservative Government of John Major, a number of hospitals effectively opted out of central NHS to become Trusts. Can anyone else remember the waste of money on new logos? At around the same time we started to see or hear of hospitals and medical centres being built using PFI. Which as we already know involves the building of public buildings by private companies, which are then “rented back” to the NH Trust at a higher long-term price which is only to be expected because the firms have to make a profit to stay in business. Under the NHS, the taxpayer owns the hospitals and paid the salaries. Where is our compensation for losing that asset? We are expected to pay far more now under PFI.

This disastrous PPP/PFI adventure has almost gone off the scale, under New Labour. To me, we are beginning to see ‘rationing’, we are being kept fit, we have to lose weight (might we not be treated if we are overweight?) We have to stay healthier so we are discouraged every which way from smoking. (Will we be refused treatment if we DO still smoke?) Our children may not be allowed the “Gob-stoppers” we once used to stuff our mouths with because the “We are watching what you eat” patrol are on the lookout, what the children eat at meal times. (Animal farm was but a comic compared to today’s lot)

In the “Health Unions Briefing for MPs”. July 2006, it becomes obvious the Unions are concerned, for they “recognise that across England (Scotland etc are devolved) NHS organisations are being forced to make cuts which affect patient services. Trusts have been told by the Government that they have to pay off their debts by the end of the year and are having to cut jobs and services in order to meet this target”. “Nearly one third of all trusts are in debt. There have been a growing number of compulsory redundancies in trusts across England. Although these have, largely, been dealt with through freezing posts and natural waste there are a whole range of measures taking place such as closure of departments and severe cuts in education and training, which will have a huge impact on standards of care and services to patients, both in the short and long term.”

Although there is a great deal more to this subject, I will say ‘finally’ in looking to Hansard on the last day before recess in the House of Commons where there is a mixture of questions and comments from different MPs that reveal what is happening (or not happening) in their area re Health care and in the hospitals. It is not only enlightening, but also frightening. It may well bring anger in the revealing. The closing of wards, beds and hospitals could be prevented if we came out of the European Union now.

We could build and pay up front for the hospitals we need if we did not have to obey EU laws or pay our alleged “Share” of the EU budget that is wasted, wasted, wasted. We could do what we liked with our own money; we most certainly would not have to be held back by the Stability and Growth Pact. We would become a sovereign State once again and our own politicians would have to do the job we pay them for from the day they are elected. The Union is still attempting to become the all-powerful state it wants to be, (It is stealthily and undemocratically working toward that end now) it must become one without the United Kingdom of Great Britain for we will indeed be “Better off out”. Anne Palmer.

Notes: Others quoted in the paper above. Jack Mintz is the Deloitte and Touch LLP Professor of Taxation. J L Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and President and CEO of the CD Howe Institute. Michael Smart is Associate Professor, Dept of Economics at the University of Toronto. The paper was prepared as part of the World Bank’s Latin American Regional studies program.

Last day before recess,

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060725/debtext/60725-1069.htm I urge you to read it.

Works noted and read, from Dr Mica Panic (Fellow, Selwyn College Cambridge and Vice Chairman, UN Committee for development Policy. George Monbiot is the author of Captive State: The corporate takeover of Britain. He is also honorary Professor at the Department of Politics in Keele.

Bevan Brittan LLP. Works of Sir Peter Gershon. Works of Professor Allyson Pollock in Chair of Health and Policy and Health Services Research at UCL and Director of R & D at UCL Hospitals NHS Trust. Work of Michael Burnett, Lecturer-EIPA Maastricht. Government Research Papers on PFI

COM(2004) 327 (30.4.2004)


Labour's sinking ship

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian's 'Comment is free' gets it from all sides this morning, linked from here. I particularly agreed with this post:

"Classic Labour" now there's a phrase.........which era was this then ? 1929-31, 1945-51, 1980-1993 ? Hard to tell whether it was when Boris Ponomarev came as "Observer" to a Labour Conference or when Bono held court.

The fact is political parties are inflatable castles and nothing more, the air is leaking from them because they are no longer in touch with reality, but are simply adjuncts of think-tanks/lobbyists like the IPPR..........

Who cares whether Labour is "classic", "sugar-free", or "lite", or "full of tofu" ? It is this marketing-speak and this media rubbish that is getting tiresome - the boring columnists, the tedious propagandists, the whole 1980s package of media and advertising..............it is hollow and it is boring and frankly most people just want to get away from it and retreat into their own private world.

People are fed up of basically incompetents cavorting around and looting the public purse. It is clear that government is run by dunderheads and people with low ethical standards who grow rich in "public-private" partnerships. They not only loot public funds to favour their friends, but imperil national security by sending ill-equipped troops to war and having absolutely no border security and a risible house of cards in The Home Office.

If ever a country could revive the Carry On series of films it would be the Central Office of Information showing the knaves at work like termites in a woodpile.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

George Bush and Iran

Coming back from Crawford, Texas, things must look a little bit more encouraging for President George W Bush. While the world's media crow at the huge setback for the Israeli Defence Forces and Prime Minister Olmert, the EU would seem to have walked into a trap while typically and unthinkingly boasting of the undefined EU now providing the backbone for UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon. This move would seem to have also both effectively robbed Iran of the Hezbollah leverage on Israel (and therefore the USA) and freed the IDF for any later necessary real defence. Meanwhile if ever there could have been a more potent message than the devestated Southern Beirut and Lebanon to President Assad of Syria of the consequences of too close a relationship with Teheran, then I cannot imagine how dreadful such might be. NATO continues its deployment in Helmand province in Afghanistan (on the SE Iranian border) where this weekend the eighth British soldier this month met his death. The Daily Telegraph and British TV media reported the British abandonment of their Iraqi Amarah base apparently to head deeper into the desert but nearer the Iranian border though the blogosphere, probably more accurately, thinks it may have been a rout. The present build-up around Iran seems to be as carefully planned between Bush and Blair as was the deployments many months before the Iraqi invasion. It was a pity planning for the later consequences was so poor in comparison. Asked a month ago if President Chirac of France could have been conned into putting France at the head of a 7,000 strong EU force making up half of UNIFIL to hold off Hezbollah while Bush and Blair confront the nuclear issue with Iran as the UN deadline expires - I would have offered long odds indeed. Viewed from that point of view this is strategic policy at its very best, but is it true, was that the intent and if so, will the continuation be as striking? The Straits of Hormuz, where torpedoes have already been fired by Iran, could be a lethal choke on the West's main oil supplies. Passenger Cruises seem to continue to the old RAF base on Masira Island in Oman, so my present speculations may still be spurious if not premature. A confrontation with Iran, potentially involving British armed forces, could however provide Tony Blair with the perfect excuse to defer standing down as PM in favour of his lamentable, no hope too Scottish Chancellor. The fact that the 8/26 airline bombing plot must have been known about by Blair before his departure to Barbados, would seem to confirm that the egotistical department-hopping fellow-failed Scot, Dr John Reid hugged the publicity with his leader's consent. Brown seems set to become a Rab Butler! But what has history in store for George W Bush - we have two years still to wait before that even begins to become clear!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Britain's Growing Population

The media reports that the population of Britain has hit 60.2 million. Events seem to indicate that almost sixty million of us must now be nothing but PROLES

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lies and mis-reporting from Lebanon

This blog has not been updating the major campaign on MSM spin, slant and lies reported elsewhere on the blogosphere, but the definitive report on the Qana bombing may be read from this link to the EU Referendum blog.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kofi Annan gets it wrong again

Die Welt covers the latest disastrous intervention by the UN Secretary General (another official with a wealthy son, see post below). The article may be read in full from here, from which comes the following obvious truth:

UNIFIL must be more than an observation force scanning the skies for reconnaissance planes while Shi'ite burrowers turn the ground they stand on into a network of explosive warrens. UNIFIL must disarm Hizballah.

Yet Annan believes that Hizballah can't be forced to comply to the terms of UN Resolution 1701. If he imagines that Hizballah can be persuaded by argument he has seriously misjudged the nature of the organisation and its intentions. Other comment on Annan's extraordinary comments from Israel, here and here

EU/UN style corruption queries for Britain's Deputy PM

The Sunday Times has a startling report regarding John Prescott's son, linked here, of which the following is an extract: The business is relatively simple yet very lucrative. Prescott Jr and his partner scour the country for sites that do not have planning permission for development but where there is a prospect of getting it. They then tip off a housebuilder or another developer about the land in return for a fee.

One property executive said: “The big homebuilders don’t like buying up land without planning permission, but you have some developers prepared to take the risk for a big profit.

“But you have to ask what value Prescott — who puts in none of his own money — is bringing to the whole deal. The profit is entirely dependent on the planning permission.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A French Farce?

France has finally announced it will put an extra 200 men into Lebanon, read here. As we warned here and again here the UN have fallen for believing the lies and bluster that the larger ex-nation states of the EU now take for diplomacy, having made such gains with similar tactics on their home continent. The mooted UN International "peace-keeping/imposing" force, that at one time was talked of as consisting of 30,000 troops and to be led by a large Franco/Italian force, has dwindled tonight to elements of the Lebanese army and a French contingent in UNIFIL doubled from 200 to 400 men. When France offered to lead this force it appears they meant just that, providing the generals and perhaps enough headquarters staff and the necessary chefs and waiters to keep them comfortable. If senior officers are all France is prepared to commit does this mean that the actual troops required to undertake the disarming of the Hezbollah fighters will thus be further restricted to francophone countries. Ex EU President and now Prime Minister Prodi of Italy, having been widely reported to have been considering a contribution of several thousand troops, is once more left floundering which the experience of his last job at least leaves him well rehearsed. If the EU Rapid Reaction Force exists for anything other than for suppressing EU internal dissent, which is what I have always suspected, then now is surely the time to put it to the test? After all it does already exist, according to this!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Waiting for France

The FT today, here, raises doubts regarding the deployment of the French peacekeepers (Hezbollah disarmers?) in South Lebanon. This blog warned here of the likely difficulties this would involve for President Chirac whose love for striding the world stage might not necessarily be matched where danger lurks. The question I posed in that posting was as follows: "Can a widely detested and clearly shamed leader really send his troops to an active and widely televised war zone for no obvious nor potential national benefit?". If I could see it, why has the UN apparently blindly proceeded up another apparent cul de sac?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Blair and Levy

A good exposure of Britain's leader and his "Middle East Special Envoy" from TCS Daily, linked here, which opens as follows: michaellevy-peerage

"The £14 million in secret loans was known only to Mr. Blair, Lord Levy and Matt Carter, the general secretary of the Labour Party at the time" -- The Times, July 16 2006

Sometime before the end of the year, Tony Blair will become the first sitting British prime minister in history to be formally questioned by the police. The questions are part of an ongoing corruption investigation regarding the selling of honors - lordships and the like. As events are developing, there is even a possibility that he may be arrested.

The questions will involve his apparent involvement in funding the bankrupt Labour Party in "cash for peerages" as the corruption scandal has come to be known. Peerages (they are "life", not "hereditary", lordships) are gifts of the prime minister and are to be handed out sparingly, as honors for services to the country. Selling peerages or other honors is against the law.

Blair, whose government has passed more than 700 new laws - more than twice as many as his closest predecessor, many of them so hurriedly drafted they are unworkable - has also exceeded his predecessor by at least 100 the number of new life peers. In other words, he has stuffed the British second chamber with Labour sympathizers.

And here is the rub.

The Labour Party is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt. Membership has dropped and donations have dried up. How to keep the Party funded and looking vigorous and successful?

Enter Michael Levy. Born in a rundown section of London to immigrant Jewish parents, Levy made his fortune managing rock stars, including Chris Rea. He quickly became Blair's close friend and regular tennis partner and was rapidly elevated to a peerage. He is now Lord Levy of Mill Hill, and he holds the position of Blair's Special Envoy to the Middle East. It wasn't long before he had become Labour's chief fundraiser and known in the tabloids as Lord Cashpoint.....

BUT what role has Lord Levy been playing in the present crisis, one wonders?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

German economic hegemony

The following is an excerpt from an article dated 9th August titled Economic Hegemony from Berlin by German-Foreign-Policy.Com, linked here: In the future Germany's leading economic position in the EU will continue to be fortified at the expense of the other member states. According to data from the French Observatory for Economic Conjunctures, OFCE, since 1995 German products in the Euro-zone have been able to increase their share of the market from 25.3 to 27 percent. During the same period Italy's share of the market went from 13 to 10.6 percent, and France's sank from 17.2 on 14.5 percent.[7] Germany is attaining an undisputed economic hegemony.

George Bush and Iran

An interesting interview of Benjamin Netanyahu in this week's Speccie linked here, by Allister Heath, from which the following gives a taste:

To Netanyahu, the rise of Iran’s extremist regime is the defining geopolitical event of our times; the whole world, not just Israel, is in its sights. Dealing with Tehran is therefore the West’s greatest challenge; he is scathing about many Europeans’ refusal to recognise the Iranian regime’s imperialistic and murderous ambitions. But to my great surprise he is absolutely convinced that America will soon step in, one way or the other, to prevent Tehran from going nuclear, and that this will happen at some point during the remaining two years and three months of the Bush presidency.

‘When President Bush said that he will not let Iran develop nuclear weapons, I take him at his word,’ he said, quietly. ‘How he plans to do it of course is up to him..... We must wait for the next pronouncement from the Finnish foreign minister to learn what the EU' s position on this will be (see post below) but I suspect he will be opposed. If strong pressure is now being applied on Iran, some sense can perhaps be made of the Nato engagement in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, a deployment which otherwise seems to me to have no achievable purpose whatsoever.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Finns floodlight EU's foreign policy fiasco!

Just look at this item in today's papers:

EU urges talks with Hezbollah to resolve crisis

By Judy Dempsey International Herald Tribune Published: August 10, 2006 Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, speaking for the European Union presidency, called Thursday for direct talks with Hezbollah, which is regarded by the United States and Israel as a terrorist organization responsible for the latest Middle East crisis. "Obviously, if you want an end to the fighting and have any lasting political agreement, Hezbollah has to be a party to it," Tuomioja said in a telephone interview from Cairo. "Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese Parliament and government." Washington and Israel have repeatedly asked the EU to put Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations and to stop all funding of Hezbollah by sympathetic charities or other groups. But Tuomioja, who has the task of presenting a common European foreign policy on the crisis, said the EU's main priority was to try to obtain a permanent and effective cease-fire. That meant involving all the parties.......... (for full article click here) What if the Foreign Minister of Finland now decides to fly off and meet with the Hezbollah leadership? How can 25 European countries, some supposedly mature democracies, have put themselves in such a mess that such confusion can even be raised in a respected journal such as the International Herald Tribune?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

MOD and Main stream media manipulations

The EU Referendum blog has been doing a fantastic job of late in both succeeding in forcing the MOD to order properly armoured equipment for British troops under fire and now exposing photographic trickery in the press. The Washington Times OpEd/editorial today and Forbes highlight the latter achievement.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One less Scot at Defence! (For the moment)

Sadly not the Defence Secretary Browne (Des) but the most junior team member Jim Sheridan MP, read from here. Earlier we had our Scottish constituency English Home Secretary stating the following ( as reported in the Sun ) :


HOME Secretary John Reid today warned Britain is facing a new breed of terrorist who aims to destroy the country’s values and has access to “means of mass destruction”. Sounds a bit like New Labour to me!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A faux pas for France?

My question posed at the opening of this most recent Mid-East crisis, in the posting but one beneath this, was essentially whether the EU would enter the real world and put its nascent Rapid Reaction Force in the line of fire in a dispute so clearly within a clearly neighbouring immediate area of interest. France, almost immeditely after I wrote that post, announced that it would seek to work through the UN for a resolution. Now President Chirac, having therefore consigned the EU to the sidelines for the immediate future, has a real crisis on his hands- "Can a widely detested and clearly shamed leader really send his troops to an active and widely televised war zone for no obvious nor potential national benefit?". The BBC on its website this evening makes a fair stab at detailing just some of these dilemmas. The following is an extract:

Yet France must also weigh up the acute military and diplomatic risks in taking on the lead role in any outside effort to sort out the Lebanon crisis on the ground:

  • Peacekeeping: whatever UN resolutions may say about a ceasefire binding on Israel and Hezbollah forces, any peacekeeping mission in Lebanon will be dangerous. France lost 58 marines killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 1983, during an earlier attempt to impose order; the US suffered 241 deaths on the same day
  • Like France, other nations including Turkey, Norway and Italy say any commitment to send troops to Lebanon would be conditional on satisfactory terms. Germany, the largest EU state, has ruled itself out because of other commitments and sensitivities towards Israel related to the Nazi-era Holocaust
  • Syria: France's traditionally strong ties with Damascus may be useless, after the two nations fell out over Syria's alleged role in last year's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the forced withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Yet without Syrian consent no long-term settlement will be secure
  • Iranian contradictions: France is committed, with the EU and US, to a tough stance towards Iran over its nuclear programme. Yet Iran, as Hezbollah's other main backer, has the power to wreck any agreement and to threaten Israel. The contradiction was plain when the French foreign minister met his Iranian counterpart in Beirut and lauded Iran as a "stabilising force" in the region
  • The French homeland: Mr Chirac says he fears angry Muslim passions over the Middle East may be imported into France itself; that risk would grow if France leads a controversial peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

France has won general praise for being willing to lead efforts to bring peace to Lebanon. But the hardest part still lies ahead.

Blair, eventually but sensibly, has decided to belatedly depart on holiday. Chirac may well wish he had done the same if the UN sanctions on Iran regarding uranium enrichment, due at the end of this month, enter into force just as French troops begin to come to terms with that rogue nation's clearly well-equipped and robustly trained emissaries in South Lebanon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The real danger

The diplomats, UN and most of the mainstream media are neglecting the real problem today facing the West. Henry Porter in today's Observer is an exception, the following is an extract from his column: There is a fault line on which the world's future depends, but it passes through Tehran and the Strait of Hormuz, not Lebanon and Israel. Across this line, East and West face each other in a new contest; upon this line are concentrated the majority of the world's energy supplies, Islamic ambition and the crucibles of Shia terror. Reason enough to move cautiously, but if the interpretation of America's failure to call for a ceasefire are right - that Israel has America's tacit encouragement and perhaps Tony Blair's - then we may be witnessing the beginning of something that will define the first half of the 21st century. My own views precisely, bringing this reality home to the West's voters seems to be the only purpose for the present posturings. Lay in your firewood!