…and we have a new favourite election campaign

I haven’t been following the Ontario elections: much as I love Canada and the Canadian people, the influence of Canadian state elections on, well, me, is pretty limited. (I have, however, been following the California campaign – does that make me US-biased? Will Canadians everywhere uprise against my imperialism?)

Anyway, I’m starting to regret not following Canadian politics. How can you not love an election campaign where one candidate describes another as an “evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet“?

I wonder if this was a reference to David Icke‘s reptilian conspiracy theories? I’m led to believe his ideas are in wide circulation in Canada.

Of course, David’s talking nonsense. Everyone knows that the secret cabal controlling the world is actually made up of Jews Zionists Mossad communists Eurocrats neoconservatives liberals the extended Bush-Bin Laden family the UN… we’ll get back to you on that one, OK?

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Bomb the French, etc…

Unsurprisingly, the Cancun round of WTO negotiations has collapsed.

Developing countries blame the EU and (to a lesser extent) the US and Japan for refusing to give up farm subsidies and agricultural export subsidies. Fair point. The current global agricultural trade regime is the scummiest thing the developed world has given the developing world since syphilis, and there’s pretty strong bipartisan agreement on that score. Multipartisan agreement, even. Obviously, we should abolish these unilaterally, tomorrow, WTO or no WTO.

That said, the developing countries did themselves no favours by rejecting the “Singapore issues” – making government procurement transparent, enforcing antitrust rules, reducing non-tarrif barriers, and cutting restrictions on foreign investment. Since corruption is one of of the main other things keeping poor countries poor, and the primary result of all four measures above would be to reduce corruption, it’s hard to view developing world governments’ opposition as principled…

Anyway. Lots of people will say more articulate things about this than me. Some, or possibly all, of them will be entirely wrong. So will I, probably…

I’m also rather interested in the behaviour of the US. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told reporters that poor countries’ unrealistic goals were to blame. Now, Mr Zoellick hadn’t staked his reputation on the Singapore issues – rather, these were pushed by the EU*. A good political move for Mr Zoellick, it would seem, would have been to try and negotiate a compromise that involved retracting the EU’s insistence on Singapore altogether. Suddenly, the US is a friend of the developing world against European badness. Hooray! God bless America, etc.

But he didn’t – instead, he sided with the EU’s position, and then cried crocodile tears when everything fell apart. Could this be a US government attempt at a touchy-feely reunion with its European ex-friends? The timing of the desperately needed new Iraq resolution in the UN Security Council, the petulant opposition of France, and France’s position as the leading beneficiary from the EU’s bizarre agricultural system are (of course) entirely coincidental.

Oh well. Hopefully it’ll only be third-world farmers, and not both third-world farmers and the people of Iraq who are sacrificed on this ridiculous (but necessary, until EU and UN reform removes arrogant, marginalised ex-powers from positions of great power) altar.

* a cynic might claim the EU was never going to do much about farm subsidies, and poor countries were never going to acccept Singapore, so insisting on the latter gave EU negotiator Pascal Lamy an excellent get-out clause…

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Bang bang! Bombay bomber blasted

It looks like the Indian police have caught Nasir, the “terrorist mastermind” (think Magnus Magnusson crossed with Ernst Blofeld) behind last month’s Bombay bombings. Well, for “caught”, read “shot”. Convenient, but probably well-deserved. The police also seem on track to catch much of the rest of the group, Lashkar-e-Toiba – except the 19 people sheltering in Pakistan, of course. Hopefully that particular terror state is somewhere on Donald Rumsfeld’s secret list…

Meanwhile, what about the bombers’ claimed justification – last year’s anti-Muslim pogrom in neighbouring Gujarat, which killed around 1000 people? Its perpetrators have not received such swift justice, chiefly thanks to the complicity of the state’s Hindu nationalist chief minister Narendra Modi. Independent investigators into the riots have found that his government “not only justified the massacre but his entire government machinery was involved in it” (The Tribune). He’s even wanted as a war criminal in Belgium, albeit under the same slightly batty law that could have somewhat disrupted Tommy Franks’ visits to NATO HQ.

Mr Modi is unlikely to go the way of Nasir – although, he too probably won’t see trial (I guess we could try to lure him to Belgium – Hindu nationalist chocolate, anyone?). Still, it was nice to see the Indian Supreme Court ordering him to punish the ringleaders or quit his job. Whether that ruling will be enforced, given that Mr Modi’s BJP allies control parliament, is another question.

Imagine no idiots using religion to further their own murderous, power-grabbing desires. It’s quite hard, even if you try.

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Anti-semitism in the House?

Au Currant’s Jackie D says a lot of interesting things, most of which I disagree with. Briefly, she believes that sticking to Western liberal values when dealing with militant Islam involves fighting with one hand (each) tied behind our collective backs, which is bad; I think we can win despite the back-tyage, and that we betray all that’s good and right about the West when we stoop to extra-judicial killings and secret military trials.

Recently, I asked Jackie D whether she really thought the UK Parliament featured a lot of anti-semites; she suggested I look into ludicrous Saddam stooge George Galloway, old-time leftie Tam Dalyell (who I’d vaguely respected since I was very young over the Clive Ponting affair), and black Jewish MP Oona King.

Is this fair? Let’s start with Ms King… she’s claimed that “in escaping the ashes of the Holocaust, [Israelis] have incarcerated another people in a hell similar in its nature – although not its extent – to the Warsaw ghetto.”

The obvious way to read this is something along the lines of “As Jews, we should try particularly hard not to treat others the way Europe once treated us. While the conditions in the Occupied Territories are in no way as bad as the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto [and as a non-Jew, I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable making such a comparison at all – JB], we should be worried about the way we’re restricting Palestinians’ movements and ability to make a living.” This is hyperbolic and silly – but it’s not anti-semitic. If anything, it’s the opposite – “we’re better than them, so we shouldn’t behave in anything that even superficially resembles the way they did”.

Moving on to Mr Galloway – the fact that he’s a bit of an idiot (see bottom story) is pretty well established. But the closest I can find to a charge of anti-Semitism against him are his links to assorted Islamist crazies via the Stop the War movement. This seems like a broad brush with which to tar someone.

The case against Mr Dalyell is more convincing. He publicly stated that “Jewish advisers” had “captured the ear of the President of the United States“.

This is obviously a stupid point, given that Bush’s cabinet is largely Christian (by identification, if not by following the teachings of St Paul – but there are enough rich men seeking to enter the Kingdom of Heaven to make that point moot), that he’s actually putting quite a lot of pressure on Sharon to avoid extra-judicial killings and to implement the ‘roadmap to peace’ – and that the War on Terror is a far better explanation of the Bush administration’s behaviour in general. But is it anti-semitic?

I’m genuinely not sure. The quotes sound redolent of the vile Protocols of the Elders of Zion (oddly, the first Google hit for said protocols is hosted by the strange racist Hispanic-American organisation that’s dogged Cruz Bustamente’s California candidacy, but this isn’t enormously relevant), which isn’t a good start.

On the other hand, Mr Dalyell is a long-time friend of Israel. In the 1960s, he claimed Israel was the only socialist country on earth (for those of you not paying attention, this is high praise in his book), and went to work on a kibbutz – not the behaviour of a traditional anti-semitic loon.

It’s possible that Mr Dalyell has gone completely bats in his old age. It’s possible that he was misquoted – he’s since maintained he was referring to the neo-conservative organisations that may or may not have Bush’s ear, such as the American Enterprise Institute. Referring to such groups as “Jewish advisers” is daft, and you’d hope that a sane person wouldn’t. However, a large proportion of prominent NCs are Jewish, and the NC Mid-Eastern view is strongly in favour of Israel’s current policies. So, err, so what?

I don’t know. I feel let down by Mr Dalyell, certainly, although that’s more a dashing of childhood illusions about brave, good politicians and whistleblowers vs evil Maggie than a rational perspective. But casting the guy as anti-semitic on the basis of one sentence following a lifetime of supporting Israeli and Jewish causes seems, well, unreasonable.

I guess the reason I’m wary here is that calling someone anti-semitic is a far worse insult than calling them anti-French, or anti-American, or Islamophobic – even though it’s objectively on the same level. 20th century history means that anyone labelled as an anti-semite is pretty much automatically labelled as a friend of Hitler, and enemy of all that’s good, right and worth having. It’s not a term to toss around lightly, and none of the people above deserve to be classed as the worst scum of the universe. Even if the things they’ve said do warrant a good slapping.

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When anti-globalists attack

The sad death of Sweden’s Anna Lindh (which reactionary James Taranto gloats at in a more than slightly unpleasant way) seems to have been, err, inflicted by an anti-Euro campaigner.

Oddly, the particular beef of this murderous crusader seems to be that joining the Euro might be good for business. Maybe s/he should’ve spoken to the British anti-Euro campaigners, who seem to believe otherwise.

More seriously, condolences to Ms Lindh’s family, and let’s hope that this and the murder of Pim Fortuyn don’t represent a greater trend towards assassinations in European politics. Although on the optimistic side, past history tends to indicate that assassinated politicians were usually the ones who were in (albeit not on) the right (think JFK, RFK, MLK, Gandhi).

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I beseech and implore thee

Nick Barlow has very kindly linked to my petition.

Sign it. Lots of other illustrious types have, including celebrated intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Idi Amin.

In the unlikely event that you want to know what it’s about:

1) Planet-sized-brained but humourless right-wing leftie blogger Oliver Kamm is keen on annointing other bloggers with honours.

2) Entertaining Tory Boy Peter Cuthbertson fancies himself as a parodist.

2a) (more or less irrelevantly, various rivalries, disputes and downright unpleasant grudge matches exist between Mr Cuthbertson and others)

3) Sadly, he’s not very good.

4) As a charitable measure to stop young Peter from becoming discouraged, it seemed only fair to ask Mr Kamm to use his magic powers.

Any questions?

Update Sunday 14 Sept – cruelty and potential unfairness removed.

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Time to get real

Nobody’s yet described me as a ‘blogroach’, but I think this might just be out of charity. So rather than confining my life’s work (sorry, that should read “juvenile timewasting”) to other people’s comments sections, I’m going to make this attempt at blogging more real-life. So… we proudly present.. shot by both sides – disagreeing with almost everybody. Now open to the public.

(and yes, it is still based on Blogger’s dog-rough template. Sorry.)

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