Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Not Enough Information

Naming the nation-state of any EU person quoted in the news would be enormously helpful.  Then it's easier to understand where they're coming from.  At the moment readers are having to guess, from the name, or be bothered to google the speaker, to find out who they are.  If the national press can give the age, and house-value of everyone mentioned in the news so that we're all oriented, failing to provide the nationality of an EU speaker seems part of an orchestrated 'approach' to presenting the official, EU progressive stance.

Identifying the Greeks is relatively easy, with their extraordinarily beautiful names, but Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese (to name the larger nation-states with those kinds of surnames) are difficult, and the Baltics, the Balkans, eastern European nations, the Irish and Scottish names all  present irritating  effort to work out who these people are.  It isn't helpful to be told that Merkel is  German - we know that - and at a pinch we can probably manage Holland not being Dutch; but the unspeakable (unspellable?) real Dutchman who sounds like a German, the bastard from the Baltic who keeps creeping to powerful northern European countries' leaders and condemning Greece's 'attitude',  most of the Austro-Hungarians who can sound anything from Venetian to Russian?

Readers need name, gender (given or adopted), age, nationality and (where appropriate) where you were  and what were you doing before 1989, or 1956, or 1945.  The value and whereabouts of main (or highest value) residence would be interesting too.

Thank you.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Beware Europeans Bearing Gifts

Almost exactly two years ago this letter was printed in Le Monde.

'Dear Nicolas, very briefly and respectfully,
1) I am by your side to serve you and serve your plans for France.
2) I tried my best and might have failed occasionally. I implore your forgiveness.
3) I have no personal political ambitions and I have no desire to become a servile status seeker, like many of the people around you whose loyalty is recent and short-lived.
4) Use me for as long as it suits you and suits your plans and casting call.
5) If you decide to use me, I need you as a guide and a supporter: without a guide, I may be ineffective and without your support I may lack credibility.
With my great admiration, Christine L.' *

This, by the woman who called Tsipris and Varoufakis children and demanded that decisions on Greece be taken by grown-ups?  Further: the repeated recognition by the IMF (the latest published a couple of days ago) that Greek debt is unsustainable and that entirely incorrect policies have been pursued by the IMF (as well as the ECB and the EU); the loading of 32 billion euros of debt onto Greece by Dominique Strauss-Kahn (when he was head of the IMF); the billions and billions of Greek bonds bought by Jean-Claude Trichet when  President of the ECB - and all this passed via the Greek banks (with various skimmings en route) to pay off the exposure of French and German banks.  The socialisation of debt onto the Greek people. How much more of 'Greek' debt has less well-known sources and uses, none of which are to do with the Greek economy, or with any improper consumption by Greeks of an 'unearned' welfare state.

At the time of his 32 billion euro payment  Strauss-Kahn had the presidency of France to gain; how much of a driver behind the actions of an IMF head is once again the seeking of office? At least he didn't call others children and consider writing cringe-worthy begging letters to be grown up.  Others' insistences  on forcing cuts to public expenditures rather than cutting the deficit by raising and collecting taxes are motivated by political forces within Greek society and by a general ideological desire to enforce a particularly hyper-liberal economic view emanating from their backers within the EU. 

The barely-legal, if that, show-of-force and thus self-revelation displayed in the treatment of Greece by the EU is notable.  To some extent it is happening by default [sorry, ed.]  insofar as  Greek elites and hyper-liberal EU ideologists have been needled into exposing their self interest by the democratic weight and the democratic consistency of support for the current Greek government.  Evaluations of the various means of,  and prospects for  regime change must be taking place.  The standard, antidemocratic usages of swamping electoral choice and its representatives with laws, regulation and procedures governed by courts and treaties rather than by parliaments and elected governments, are failing. And the spectacle, as they are repeatedly and fruitlessly applied to Greek debt negotiation, is undermining the EU as currently constituted.  The EU is extraordinarily old-fashioned, steeped in 20th century power relations and their expression,  in a repellent social-democratic, progressive Shirley Williamsy dress.

As Greece considers its (surprisingly many and bright) options in the face of intransigence from past time, much of  what held true even at the beginning of this crisis no longer holds. There are new and re-emerging geopolitical areas of pressure and common interest.  There are the SCO, the BRICS bank, China, Orthodoxy.  The biblical scale of   Balkan and Mediterranean migration from Asia and Africa is altering demands from the European receiving countries on the EU and its currency zone, and its moulding by the 'Institutions'.

Greek 'debt' and EU membership status-change is no longer the greatest threat to Greece and its economy and people (indeed to the Balkans in general): once an economy freezes - when normal economic activity ceases - to start it up again takes, bluntly, central planning, particularly where there is under-development (whatever the cause).  Greece will be, perhaps already is, in a sort of transition economy condition.  Think Poland in the 1990s.  And the low level  economic and fiscal bullying of the Balkan states (post outright war-making under Blair and progressive Labour) of both Balkan EU members and Balkan applicants  is part of the creation of an arc of unnecessary underdevelopment in Europe.

Transition central economic planning is, of its very appropriateness and modern recently-developed competence and technical skills, an extremely attractive option for poor Europe, with its fairly standard problems and requirements.  Objections about the role of the state, authoritarianism, the abandonment of the benefits of (hyper-liberal) capitalism are answered by the EU display of authoritarianism and ideological rigidity resulting in economic underachievement, collapse, and social failure.  A serious case can be made for the use of central planning and delivery to produce economic growth and acceptable social consumption levels in such countries.  With its behaviour towards Greece and the Balkans the EU and the IMF is making it powerfully.

"1) Je suis à tes côtés pour te servir et servir tes projets pour la France.
2) J'ai fait de mon mieux et j'ai pu échouer périodiquement. Je t'en demande pardon.
3) Je n'ai pas d'ambitions politiques personnelles et je n'ai pas le désir de devenir une ambitieuse servile comme nombre de ceux qui t'entourent dont la loyauté est parfois récente et parfois peu durable.
4) Utilise-moi pendant le temps qui te convient et convient à ton action et à ton casting.
5) Si tu m'utilises, j'ai besoin de toi comme guide et comme soutien : sans guide, je risque d'être inefficace, sans soutien je risque d'être peu crédible. Avec mon immense admiration. Christine L. "

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

There is Nothing for Greece and its People in the Ostensible Objectives of the European Union

Socialism failed.  It failed in every variety of realised socialism  enacted.  It failed in the central, rugged, soviet format; it failed in worker-controlled (various forms) of Balkan socialism;  it failed after the arrival of the market-mimicking wonders of computer modelling so beloved of the Poles.  It failed even as it improved and began to deliver goods and growth to consumers.

It failed because capitalism, quite simply, delivered  better.   Market socialism could never respond fast enough, just plain smartly enough, to human desires.  It is first rate in providing food, shelter, education and amelioration of health collapses, at a basic, everyone-in, level.  Once that threshold has been passed it becomes irrelevant.  Someone somewhere is suffering from the lack of this basic provision?  Then they'd better get their skates on and start insisting to their rulers that this lack is the result of non-socialist, 'capitalist' selfishness.   Which may be true but is more an argument for economic migrants to stand up for themselves rather than run away to greener pastures. 

Most of us have reached the point that we want what we want when we want it.  Not the point that we'll be 'disadvantaged'.  Necessarily this requires that providers are amazingly fast at providing; which only comes from their profit in doing so.  Not some kind of moral satisfaction (though moral claims may well be satisfied by the provision) but by a satisfactory exchange.  You want this?  Pay that, we accept you are a satisfactory exchange partner (or we wouldn't be dealing with you at all) and there may even be an excess generated by these transactions to cope with failed transactions and their victims.

We cannot go on with  the nonsense propaganda that it is co-operation that provides for humanity.  Exchange, and forcibly asserting its relevant (to the moment)  ownership, moves the world.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Italy's Shame in Once Again Attacking the Greek People

Matteo Renzi had a long meeting with the former president of Italy, Napolitano, yesterday.  Then out come all the unacceptable criticisms of the Greek people and their government 'threatening' the eurozone and the European Union project. 

Italy's behaviour in Greece  (and the rest of the Balkans) is a blood-soaked, vicious, deliberately hidden under the myth of 'the good Italian', horror story of torture and cold-blooded murder.    Born in 1925, Napolitano (and a Fascist before he chose the other authoritarianism of communism) is well aware that Italy should keep its opinions on the choices the Greek people make next Sunday to itself. 

Italy will never recover the right to any say about anything whatsoever in Greece.   

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece 
  Where burning Sappho loved and sung, 
Where grew the arts of war and peace, 
  Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! 
Eternal summer gilds them yet,        
But all, except their sun, is set. 
The Scian and the Teian muse, 
  The hero's harp, the lover's lute, 
Have found the fame your shores refuse: 
  Their place of birth alone is mute 
To sounds which echo further west 
Than your sires' 'Islands of the Blest. 
The mountains look on Marathon— 
  And Marathon looks on the sea; 
And musing there an hour alone, 
  I dream'd that Greece might still be free; 
For standing on the Persians' grave, 
I could not deem myself a slave. 
A king sate on the rocky brow 
  Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; 
And ships, by thousands, lay below, 
  And men in nations;—all were his! 
He counted them at break of day— 
And when the sun set, where were they? 
And where are they? and where art thou, 
  My country? On thy voiceless shore 
The heroic lay is tuneless now— 
  The heroic bosom beats no more! 
And must thy lyre, so long divine, 
Degenerate into hands like mine? 
'Tis something in the dearth of fame, 
  Though link'd among a fetter'd race, 
To feel at least a patriot's shame, 
  Even as I sing, suffuse my face; 
For what is left the poet here? 
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear. 
Must we but weep o'er days more blest? 
  Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled. 
Earth! render back from out thy breast 
  A remnant of our Spartan dead! 
Of the three hundred grant but three, 
To make a new Thermopylæ! 
What, silent still? and silent all? 
  Ah! no;—the voices of the dead 
Sound like a distant torrent's fall, 
  And answer, 'Let one living head, 
But one, arise,—we come, we come!' 
'Tis but the living who are dumb. 
In vain—in vain: strike other chords; 
  Fill high the cup with Samian wine! 
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes, 
  And shed the blood of Scio's vine: 
Hark! rising to the ignoble call— 
How answers each bold Bacchanal! 
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet; 
  Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone? 
Of two such lessons, why forget 
  The nobler and the manlier one? 
You have the letters Cadmus gave— 
Think ye he meant them for a slave? 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  We will not think of themes like these! 
It made Anacreon's song divine: 
  He served—but served Polycrates— 
A tyrant; but our masters then 
Were still, at least, our countrymen. 
The tyrant of the Chersonese 
  Was freedom's best and bravest friend; 
That tyrant was Miltiades! 
  O that the present hour would lend 
Another despot of the kind! 
Such chains as his were sure to bind. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore, 
Exists the remnant of a line 
  Such as the Doric mothers bore; 
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown, 
The Heracleidan blood might own. 
Trust not for freedom to the Franks— 
  They have a king who buys and sells; 
In native swords and native ranks 
  The only hope of courage dwells: 
But Turkish force and Latin fraud 
Would break your shield, however broad. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  Our virgins dance beneath the shade— 
I see their glorious black eyes shine; 
  But gazing on each glowing maid, 
My own the burning tear-drop laves, 
To think such breasts must suckle slaves. 
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, 
  Where nothing, save the waves and I, 
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; 
  There, swan-like, let me sing and die: 
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine— 
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Pick a European Ellis Island

The identification and classification of migrants is not going well in Italy, Greece, Malta or the Balkans.  The EU Dublin Convention, now known as the Dublin III Regulation, states EU (and some other European countries') rules for identifying migrants.  Avoiding and evading this identification is a primary goal of migrants to Europe as it determines rights to place of settlement, or even settlement at all.  Taken to reception  centres on the European mainland after rescue in the Mediterranean, the migrants run away as fast as they can once they've grabbed a change of clothes and a meal.

The proposal of an Ellis Island was always waiting but has been precipitated by the closing of nation state borders to migrants, shutting them off from their settlement objectives, and rendering transit countries' city public spaces, transit hubs, and countryside bordering migrant routes simply squalid.  None of the Mediterranean EU member-states is noted for bureaucratic efficiency and some are  plagued by corrupt bureaucratic practices.   Their islands are particularly lovely, often set in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (even those that have served as penal colonies in the past; not a happy association for a migrant reception and identification centre).  Pianosa, 13 kilometres off Elba is all of these things.  As such it shouldn't even be contemplated for reception centre use.  The suggestion of Pianosa made in the Corriere della Sera is presumably just a way of getting the policy ball rolling.

So where (see list)  should Europe have its Ellis Island, to meet its own Regulations and end the hurried piecemeal imposition  (with all its appalling side-effects) of checks  here and there across the continent?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Migration and Settlement

One of the disasters of the 20th century Cold War, the Iron Curtain, did two things: it kept the people of eastern Europe from migrating to the West; it taught how to build a wall (or fence, or other frontier control) that is marked by its efficiency, second only to its cruelty.  So when those traipsing through Serbia meet the construct being realised by the Hungarian government they are in for a shock.

Hungary has decades of experience on which to draw to make their physical defence of their country effective.  So has Germany (at least the former GDR), not to mention the Balkans.  Walls are social structures too, and the societies that were once shut in have not lost the capacity to run an effective barrier to shut people out - this time with brio rather than the resignation of just doing a job.

The UK gave up on its moat, its coastguard, its navy and its long-standing policy opposition to mass immigration under the 1997 and later governments.  Other Western European states had large migratory flows as well - Italians to Belgium, to Germany, for instance and, while the Turks to Germany wasn't exactly European, guest workers were useful and temporary.  Temporary was the key word.  All these European kinds of migrations were reversible as soon as work disappeared, and when out of work benefits were so unenticing.  The UK, however, experienced a very different kind of migration; a migration of permanent settlement (as did France, though for different reasons, and earlier).  So awful were their countries of origin in terms of opportunity, democracy, cultural normality, that the entrants never return - not permanently.  All Italians go home.  You would, wouldn't you?  Turks didn't even have the choice until fairly recently.  But what happened to the UK and France is now threatening to be the norm for Europe.

Those who know how to build a wall (in its full meaning)  are going to do so.  And maintain it.  Meanwhile the transit states, like Italy and Serbia, are joined with the migrants from elsewhere in pushing relatively undefended or inexperienced countries, or countries with large, extant extra European culture settlements  to cease even attempting to reinstate border controls against not temporary and desired labour resources but against permanent and unskilled settlers wholly inappropriate to European needs or wishes.  Eastern Europe knows what to do, and has perfectly reasonable and acceptable migration patterns for its east European nationals.  It's no good trying to turn transit countries into  lagers either; these transit countries too have reasonable, settled migration patterns and no provision for settlement of extra-European migrants. 

Hence the scenes at Calais,  Menton, the Alpine crossing points into Austria and Germany: no experience of keeping people out in continental Europe, and the poor choices made in 1997 in the UK, have now to be remedied. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

John F Kennedy's Demand Needs a Response From Migrants

"Ask not what our countries can do for you - ask what you can do for our countries."

Europe faces nothing but insistence on admittance from African migrants.  We are asked "Where is your humanity?"  We are told "We must be allowed to pass."  We face aggression and insults to our magistrates and their officers when  after (in our humanity) fishing them out of the sea, they are offered shelter in 'unsatisfactory' asylum.

And the "...what can you do  for our countries"?   is never answered.

Six Hours of the Italian Exams Today.

The examination in Italian is this morning.  490,000 eighteen-year olds have six hours to: analyse and comment on a set text; or  write a  journalistic-style consideration of a given current topic; or write an essay on a historical given subject; or write an essay chosen on a general  subject offered by the examiners [this last is for the truly desperate who can't form an opinion or summon any knowledge of the other questions, ed.]

Six hours.  That demands clarity, understanding, organisation of material and of thought, relevance of reference and quotation,  elegance of expression...  Gosh.
The set text is Italo Calvino's "Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno"  (1947) - not an easy work to assess considering Calvino's limpid simplicity in writing which is so sophisticated;  offering a young boy's view of an adult world at (second world) war (and a boy in such circumstances) it is distant from  any 2015 experience as well.

There are four topics offered for the journalistic piece: 'literature as life experience'; or 'the challenges of the 21st century and citizen's rights and needs in economic and social life'; or  'the Mediterranean geopolitical atlante of Europe'; or 'scientific and technological developments in electronic and information technology that have transformed communication'.  

The historical essay asks for a reflection on the [Italian] Resistance.

A quote from Malala Yousafzai on the right to education provides the lead-in for the general essay.

Writing on 'literature as life experience' is easily the safest -  and gives the best opportunity to use all those years of study.  It might even be fun to write (and the examiners have attached verses from Inferno canto V, out of the kindness of their hearts).