Archive | December, 2007

bush’s just deserts…

31 Dec

…a 12 second Senate session.

Take that, W!

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happy new years

31 Dec

To all my friends, readers, and enemies. 😉

2007: a political year. part two

31 Dec

Part one can be found here.

Abroad
Huge corporatocracies control our governments and shadowy agents work against the interest of global peace, international law, and environmental sustainability. In fact, never has it been more apparent that democracy is just an illusion and that all political parties operate within the same narrow superstructure. In the last decade Рand very much in 2007 Рwe have seen the fa̤ade of Western Democracy reach a nadir, as elected governments crush hard-won liberties and act with impunity across the globe, all in the name of fighting the nebulous spectre that is Islamic Fundamentalism.

The British and American governments continue to fight a war that was started illegally and – at least in Britain – lacks any significant public support. The Middle East is still in flux, with tentative steps toward peace lacking any real substance. And we, the West, do business and have strong diplomatic relations with a country that routinely liquidates thousands of political dissidents every year: China.

Is it any surprise that on a planet where 51 of the largest 100 economies are in fact corporations and not states, that we the people, seem to matter less and less to our leaders. This year the British Government quashed an enquiry into the actions of one of our top corporations, British Aerospace (BAe), which was accused of having bunged bribes to foreign nationals to grease a multi-billion pound defence contract. In 2008 the desperate state of the British Government’s morality was exposed as it disregarded the rule of law after an orchestrated campaign by BAe and the corrupt Saudi royal family. Weeks later our Queen rolled out the red carpet for a head of state who denies his subjects any religious or political freedom and prevents women from driving, and pretty much everything else. The Saudis are our friends and a strong ally in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), apparently. It’s worth noting that Riyadh finances many of the fundamentalist Madrases that educate poison young Muslims against the West.

2007 also saw Iraq get worse before it got better. Suicide bombings and violence reached record levels early in ’07, before a ‘surge’ in US troop numbers restored a semblance of order to Baghdad. Another of Washington’s solutions to the quagmire in Iraq included paying Sunnis militias to patrol their own streets, the Iraqi police having been exposed as corrupt and riddled with “enemy combatants”. The Sunnis, it appears, turned on al Qaeda forces and returned peace to their neighbourhoods, but many Americans find it hard to accept that their government is stuffing dollars into the pockets of fighters, who only a few months ago, were planting IEDs under US vehicles and mortaring its bases. “Progress” in Iraq is of course built on a foundation of sand, as no sustainable political solution has been reached by a still-born Iraqi parliament. However, one of the few pieces of legislation pushed through this cancerous institution was a law liberalising Iraq’s oil industry, a law strong-armed by the US. Priorities, it seems, have not been forgotten (remember electricity has still not returned to pre-2003 levels). And with Turkish military excursions into Northern Iraq, even the success-story that is the Kirkuk region, appears to be heading for violence.

In Central Asia a coalition between China, Russia and former Soviet Republics (the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) are asserting pressure on the US to close bases in the region (poverty stricken former states of the USSR were happy to accept US dollars prior to the rise in gas and oil prices, but now cash-flush China and Russia are happy help). America is being pinched in every direction. Indeed, China, Russia, and their acerbic bedfellows Iran and Venezuela, have grown in stature and now strut the international stage, hampering UN action in flash-points such as Darfur. Oil-drenched Russia has planted its flag below the resource-rich arctic circle and China’s military spending, not to mention its space weapons technology, is causing USPACOM to sweat. If the West continues to focus its attention on fighting a fluid, imprecise enemy on the streets on the Middle East, it may find itself marginalised and impotent as Russia and China solidify their global reach. 2007 has indicated that the unipolar world will be short-lived and that the Fukuyama-envisigned future of a global-wide market democracy is still a long way away.

Europe too has reached a nadir. As leaders push through a watered-down constitution, no-one seems willing or able to communicate a pro-European vision for the continent. Countries are pulling within themselves and politicians are pandering to nationalistic sentiments. Immigration is a key political stick for right-wingers and racial tensions are running high across Europe. If European leaders are unable to reassert the founding principles of the European Union in the coming year, it’s increasingly clear that the people of Europe will, en masse, grow weary of the project and European co-operation and economic harmony may never again capture their imagination.

Following the assassination of Pakistan’s former PM, Benazir Bhutto, we cannot be sure that the fragile stability of one of Asia’s most important states can be maintained. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is in political turmoil and with North Korea just missing the deadline to give a full account of its nuclear weapons under a disarmament-for-aid deal, it is clear that the world will still be taking shape in 2008.

In Summary
I offer no apologies for the negativity of both these assessments. The world and the UK are in a period of great change and economic uncertainty. I would love to believe that 2008 will bring greater international unity and collected action, but I doubt this will come to pass. In Britain we have a government struggling to regain lost credibility, and abroad our dreams of global democracy are in tatters.

The one bright light on the horizon is the coming US elections, and the possibility that a moderate will win the presidency. If a Clinton, Edwards, Obama, or McCain wins in November, then maybe, just maybe, this slide can be slowed and a return to rational leadership in Washington is possible. Let’s hope so…

2007: a political year. part one

31 Dec

Introduction
Any review of 2007 pretty much writes itself. The past year has been a colossal year in politics, both home and abroad. Domestically we have seen the end of the Blair era, with the keys to 10 Downing Street passing, finally, to Gordon Brown. We have also observed a rollercoaster year in the fortunes of David Cameron and his re-branded Tories (you may recall Slippery Dave was under siege prior to the party conference, only to emerge stronger than ever). Holyrood has of course been captured by the SNP, and Northern Ireland hardly makes the papers anymore, never-mind the front pages. How things change?

On the international stage we have seen a Bush administration accepting its legacy, an emboldened Iran and Russia, and a China that appears increasingly confident in the world. We have watched various coup d’etat and political assassinations, and even a crackdown on Buddhist monks, but most of all, we have watched the oil price rise and settle at around the $100 per-bl mark, pointing to future conflicts – most definitely political and possibly military – over dwindling carbon-based resources. The early stages of the C21st century appear eerily reminiscent of the start of the C20th.

At home
In 2007 we said goodbye to our Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Easily the greatest British politician of his generation, the leader who seemed to have the electorate’s psyche hard-wired into his brain, had finally lost his touch. Political spin and various scandals had eroded trust in his leadership, but it was the war in Iraq and his relationship with George W. Bush, which was the real albatross around his neck. Even at the end, he was unrepentant about his decision to follow the American lead into Mesopotamia. Blair simply became more and more holier-than-thou as his political capital drained away. He had become detached from the electorate he once so masterfully manipulated. Blair resigned, allowing his bitter rival Gordon Brown, to claim the party’s leadership unchallenged.

Who would have thought that the fortunes of Gordon Brown could have swung so violently? In the early days of his fledgling premiership, the newly anointed PM was riding high after the much discussed “Brown bounce”. A fourth term looked a certainty as Tory knives were being sharpened ahead of David Cameron’s second summer conference. The Tories may have forgotten what it’s like to run the country, but when it comes to regicide, they’re definitely still the go-to guys.

Brown was all smiles and handshakes. He could do little wrong. Then a single political miscalculation (the will-he-wont-he election fiasco) threw the Brown bandwagon off-kilter. Cameron emerged from his conference on top in the polls. The roles had reversed: suddenly Brown could do no right, and Cameron no wrong. A flurry of political controversies, including the credibility-draining party funding scandal, threw the Labour Party into a tailspin and a fourth term majority now looks improbable.

At the year’s close the Tories are in a comfortable lead in the polls, and with the Lib Dems fitted out with a new Cameronesque leader, things do not bode well for Number 10’s incumbents. Brown will be under incredible pressure to call an election during the coming year, but unless his fortunes change drastically, it’s unlikely he’ll acquiesce to such demands from across the aisle – further damaging his tattered credibility in the eyes of the British people.

The economy will cool even further in ’08 and more and more mortgages will default. Brown’s reputation as a economic titan will be all but destroyed. The Conservatives will talk about pensions and rocketing public spending (Brown has still not delivered any of the promised civil service cuts), and they’ll wax sanctimoniously about the country’s struggling middle-classes. In short, Gordon Brown will oversee the collapse of New Labour in 2008. And even if the government stumbles on into ’09, the project will already be dead and Brown’s political career over.

Part two (Abroad) is here.

baltic dispatch

30 Dec

It’s wet and cold.

Maybe we’ll get snow on Tuesday, for New Years. Maybe.

Tomorrow is of course the big celebrations, New Years Eve. We’ve been invited to friends who have a huge house they built themselves – sauna etc. I’m looking at a late night. I don’t operate well if I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep, so I expect to be on auto-pilot New Years Day.

It’s almost a year since I last came to Tallinn. Things change every time I come. New high-rise buildings – all glass and steel. New Cafés and restaurants, clubs and bars. People are spending more, but having spoken to people, it’s unclear that they’re earning much more. Capitalism, eh?

I have a few things I want to write about. It’s just a case of finding the time. Maybe tonight. Mrs. tyger is taking the cubs to her friends, so I may get chance to get them down. I’m reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and my head is reeling. There are things I want to discuss, eventually. Also there is a new film by Morgan Spurlock called What Would Jesus Buy that I want to see (plus Annie Leonard’s short animation). I have written about debt culture so many times, but things are now coming to a head.

update

28 Dec

Sorry I haven’t updated the blog this week. Well, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s Christmas. I have been enjoying spending time with the family and playing with some new videogames (Bioshock, Super Mario Galaxy and Pro Evolution Soccer ’08) – oh, and pwning some Yanks on Call of Duty 4… on my new 40″ Sony Bravia 1080p HDTV. *grins*

Tomorrow we fly to Tallinn, Estonia for New Years. I’ll be posting not maybe not everyday. Hoping for some snow. We fly back to the UK on the 8th Jan. Hope you all have a great New Years.

BTW. Clearly following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, we can expect Pakistan to tip into anarchy (at least in some regions/cities), so if you want to get up to speed, The Daily (Maybe) has a factfile and links.

merry christmas

25 Dec

xmas tyger

from tyger