December 2011, Boris Johnson put out his clearest message to the leader of his party that his position on the EU was doing damage to the country. He said the UK should oppose any change which created a “very dominant economic government” across Europe.
By March of this year, it had been noted by Matthew Barrett that Boris had become the “most senior person in the party to support an in/out referendum“.
In a statement about the general state of play in Europe, Boris has said this:
This idea that if we can find a big enough bazooka, we could blow away the problem by creating a Euro government in which there will be shared fiscal responsibility, I’m afraid that really will, in the long term, and probably even in the short and medium term, simply exacerbate the problem, because that administration, that economic government will have no democratic legitimacy.
But, even though plenty of UKIP supporters have said on the back of this that Boris should get their second vote during the mayoral elections, this hasn’t settled everyone’s opinion.
In the comments section of Barrett’s March article on Conservative Home, one commenter points out, regarding Boris calling for an in/out referendum:
What Boris doesn’t tell us which side he would support let alone vote for!
It will be a very useful in seeing who are the true supporters of the EU and who are the genuinely pro-British amongst them.
Oddly, James in the comments section has put:
Like Cameron, Boris is just another tax hungry socialist pretending to be a Conservative and that pledge isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
Lastly David in the same comments wrote:
Boris a plastic eurosceptic. Wouldn’t depend on him for this (or much else).
So for all the doubt, it should come as some relief that John Hind, writing in a small comment in today’s Observer Food Monthly, gives us the concrete answer on where Boris stands on Europe:
Look, I’m actually rather pro-European, actually. I certainly want a European community where one can go and scoff croissants, drink delicious coffee, learn foreign languages and generally make love to foreign women.
This might be unhelpful in pursuit of his opinions on Europe as an economic community, but now we know what carrot we should dangle in front of him if we want him to support an ‘in’ campaign. Or did we always know that anyway?
Mahmoud Jibril, who served as interim prime minister in Libya from March to October 2011 in the Transitional National Council, is firmly believed to have won what is being dubbed as “a landslide victory in the country’s first democratic election”.
In a result that has come as a great surprise to those for whom the Arab Spring was little more than an opening up for Islamists, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, Jibril has called on the 150 political parties participating in the elections to form a ‘grand coalition’ – furthering his reputation as a political pragmatist.
It is estimated that around 1.8 million of the 2.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of around 65 percent.
Another surprise of the election was how organised it was, and how smoothly the process went. As it has been summarised elsewhere “turnout for the national vote was good, violence was scarce, and voters were ebullient.”
As picked up by Juan Cole, there has been plenty of debate about what to do in Tunisia and Egypt about the remnants of the old regime (colloquially called ‘seaweed’ or ‘algae’), and the same is being had in Libya today.
Because of this Jibril has not been entirely free from criticism.
With Jibril being a former head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya (NEDB) under Gaddafi he has been caught in the crossfire of this debate, though this is mitigated by his high-profile recruitment into the transition council as the country broke out into civil war in 2011.
The important issue for the country is what happens now. Colonel Gaddafi might be gone, though the hard task for future policymakers, set to run a very fractured political ship, is how to replace him.
One particular place where this will be complex is in how to present the old regime in the national curriculum. What is apparent, looking at educational textbooks from the 1970s, is that Gaddafi’s dream of absolute Pan-Arab unity often conflicted with any principles he pretended towards historical accuracy (geography textbooks for example were given to students without borders demarcating different Arab states).
The new Education Ministry has promised to revamp social studies textbooks in time for the 2012-2013 school year and revise history books within the next year or two – though given the extent to which history was distorted under Gaddafi, this looks evermore like an over-optimistic order.
To be sure, no one can judge how committed to historical accuracy and objectivity a new government under Jibril can be, nor can we foresee what kind of political landscape Libya will now bring. Though his reaching out to different political actors in an attempt at some national unity, that reflects the Libyan people’s genuine wishes, should give us hope.
Russia, it was said in a recent New York Times editorial, oppose change in Syria, and tried to block change in Libya, on the grounds that “revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists.”
In other words Putin was, and is, willing to see innocent people die for a series of ill-judged guesses about the political trajectory of countries after the Arab Spring. And this is even before we look at Russia’s weaponry client base.
But in Libya it did not happen this way.
Instead of delivering what everyone expected, the Libyan electorate has given a landslide victory to a moderate, a man who has been described by one voter as someone who “believes in national reconciliation”.
Gaddafi thought he could ignore the wishes of his people and “take the people to paradise in chains.” Unfortunately he kept those people in chains for 42 years, and paradise is the last thing they could expect.
Russia wanted to keep them in chains too, so as to continue selling weapons to Gaddafi – in much demand when he realised the potential of an angry population beneath him.
Times will be tough but Libya has said no to Gaddafi. They’ve ripped off their chains – and they’ve allowed themselves the free right to vote for who they believe will take them through the post-Gaddafi era, and then beyond.
You may have seen the above meme knocking about Facebook.
You get what it’s saying? That atheism has not been updated, but rather New Atheism is a stick to beat current atheists with, or, rather, is saying that atheism where it actively seeks to challenge religion is not new, or militant, or even evangelical, but just atheism as it always was.
But I disagree.
I understand that atheism, or rather its atheist proponents, have always sought to challenge the religious and their beliefs, but something does stick out about what had come to be described as “New Atheism” a while back, with Hitchens and Dawkins et al.
It wasn’t that in being atheist they were doing anything subtly different to other atheists older than them, but that their arguments were lazy, crass even.
With Dawkins and Daniel Dennett for example, there was the assertion that Darwinism itself could prove a challenge to religious belief. Forget for a moment that many religious people have been Darwinists – this argument doesn’t stand up either. But Darwinism if anything proved a challenge to the notion that a creator had made living species each from scratch. That’s it. Amazing, yes, but that’s all it did. It’s not a brain-buster to organise one’s own religiosity around this.
For the other “New atheists” Hitchens and Sam Harris, their critique laid focus on real-life problematic expressions of religion. In essence their’s was a look at how people act under certain circumstances and ideologies. As it was pointed out to them in many debates, critique of this sort is not the sole preserve of atheists, and as an atheist myself I accept this wholeheartedly.
That this critique could be purposefully conflated with a uniquely atheistic expression is a) to forget what atheism is (to be contrary to belief in God alone, not a positive expression of anything at all); b) to ignore the potential of this critique from others.
When going to the pains of critiquing the political and ideological expressions of the religious, we must remember all the time that these are specifically human expressions alone. That the religious may do them, FGM for example, does not tell you anything more about the religion, but expressly the individual.
But, any good humanist should accept that religiosity is a human characteristic as well.
Sigmund Freud, an atheist until his death, realised this in his old age.
The psychoanalyst held a particularly negative view of religion up until 1935 when an evident sea-change became apparent in his manner. In private correspondence Freud started to acknowledge the intellectual qualities of belief or acknowledgement in God on thought and enquiry (as, after all, the speculation of an absent property had immense benefits for abstract contemplation).
Freud’s understanding of the concept of God changed from illusion to promoting sapience. Rather than bogging one down with idle introspection, the concept permitted investigation. And there is nothing more human than investigation.
But, further, accepting the limits of our knowledge, of God and beyond, is the most crucial element of the human condition.
A characteristic of the so-called “New Atheists” was an inability to recognise this simple, but vital, point. That is why rather than New, I shall from now on call them the crass atheists.
Marie Lynam, who writes on the LRC blog, and is a member of the infamous Fourth International Posadist, has recently written a post requesting the world leaves its “Hands off Syria”. But we ought not be taking lessons from her.
We don’t need to look too hard to find the most gruesome stories come out of Assad’s Syria, by his own hand.
The killing, one by one, of 49 children in what’s now known as the Houla massacre, with the horrific pictures to accompany, are enough to make anybody’s blood boil.
Indeed recently elected French socialist President, François Hollande, said in response to the tragedy: “A military intervention is not to be ruled out”.
A report by Human Rights Watch revealing Assad’s secret underground prisons detail some of the most disturbing accounts of torture we have in the modern age.
One detainee told of being forced to undress while receiving staples in his fingers, ears and chest as electric stun-guns were applied to his genitals.
Another had pins shoved into his feet so he could no longer walk and one other detainee was left hanging by his wrists just enough so his toes could position himself upright.
Other accounts found that one detainee who had diabetes went into shock and died.
It is understood by many nations today that Assad is not going to give in anytime soon. But frustratingly all ways beside military intervention don’t seem to have worked.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday “Evidently, we haven’t succeeded,” adding: “And perhaps there is no guarantee that we will succeed.”
This doesn’t mean to say intervention is off the table, but operationally it will not be as simple as interventions in the past, namely Libya, where rebel troops against the government have agreed to a single set of mission statements and have set up a safe haven to base themselves (like Benghazi and Zabadani could stay).
In her piece, Lynam – with no irony – says:
Sensing its end coming near, capitalism prepares for war not against Syria, or Iran, but against the USSR, China and the world masses whom it sees as the originators of Workers and Revolutionary States. The attacks on Syria and Iran are just steps towards this.
One sincerely wants the inclusion of the USSR to be a Freudian slip, but cannot help thinking this is probably what she meant.
She goes on to say that: “It is not civil war that capitalism fears in Syria, but a [sic] greater anti-imperialist union”. So much time does she spend anthropomorphising capitalism that she neglects to mention the expression of those who have come into contact with the accounts of Assad’s mad muscle men, placing enemies on burning metal plates to extract information from them by force.
I don’t care what she thinks capitalism fears, I don’t want to see civil war in Syria and therefore, like President Hollande, I want to see the end of Assad.
Though we can tell what side of the tracks she sits on when saying: “When Socialist Francois Hollande calls for “Assad to step down”, it is to reassure NATO.”
I can’t see that this is anything other than a statement in support of Assad himself.
However we can’t expect too much from anyone who uses the name of J. Posadas as anything other than a source of belittlement.
The organisation to which she is affiliated has been described thus:
Posadist Fourth International affiliates worked to organise trade unions, often operating clandestinely under dictatorships.
J. Posadas himself can have attributed to his name the following:
“Il faut faire appel aux êtres des autres planètes, lorsqu’ils viennent, à intervenir et collaborer avec les habitants de la terre pour supprimer la misère.”
We should call out to other Beings on Other Planets, when they come, to intervene and co-operate with the Earth’s inhabitants to end our wretchedness.
According to his wikipedia entry:
In his later years Posadas led his movement into the development of various esoteric ideas that bordered on theNew Age with writings about communicating with dolphins and humans giving birth under water.
He also wrote the following:
“Nuclear war [equals] revolutionary war. It will damage humanity but it will not – it cannot – destroy the level of consciousness reached by it… Humanity will pass quickly through a nuclear war into a new human society – Socialism.”
This is beyond barmy. Nuclear war will bring about socialism, destroying mankind but saving its higher consciousness. What rot.
Perhaps it’s why Posadists still refer to Iran as ”The REVOLUTIONARY STATE of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and why Lynam herself has penned a blog post for the LRC called The problem is not Gaddafi or Iran. It is imperialism!
You’ve heard of blogging about blogging haven’t you? Well, this is the next frontier; blogging about blogging about blogging.
The funniest Tweeter on the political twittersphere, one Helen Lewis, has had a spat with the best political economist on the blogosphere, one Chris Dillow – and I’ve spent the last 8 minutes acquainting myself with their falling out (the next 8 writing this).
Basically, Dillow thinks that economics can explain more than just numbers (perhaps even EVERYTHING) and Lewis is an example of a writer who explains a great many things without necessary recourse to economics.
This style of Lewis’, for example, has been reduced to what Dillow has called “whining” and “complaining”.
So perhaps this is an academic argument. Lewis has one way of making her case (let’s call this the first principles ethical road to egalitarianism) and Dillow his (the first principles economic road to egalitarianism), and Dillow has taken exception with it.
But I think this debate has wider ramifications. Is it to do with what blogging can be used for?
For the pessimists, blogging is a place where people can sound off about nonsense. For optimists blogging can replace or at least challenge mainstream writing and in effect is a very noble thing indeed.
For that reason blogging about blogging might be seen as crass or worse can set back blogging to a thing that, doesn’t challenge the mainstream, but proves its ultimate worth.
Dillow, I think, sees Lewis’ style as something characterised by this. Which might well be fair. Might be. But there is, I feel, still worth in it.
In the piece that followed by Lewis, responding to Dillow, she made light of the fact that people enjoy the things she writes about. This is enough for me. It might not be seen as the most important writing ever (blogging about Twitter or, indeed, blogging), but there is certainly worth in it.
So a debate that might well be seen by some as an economist looking down his nose at a blogger about blogging, actually turns into a debate about whether we should bother to write about seemingly mundane things. I say we should.
And my appreciation for both writers stays in tact!!
Johnny Rotten is on Question Time tonight and he’s not an anarchist, it was all a marketing ploy it turns out – ha, bet you didn’t know that.
Ah,you did. Well, this might be less known. In his 1993 biography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs he wrote of the working class:
We’re lazy, good-for-nothing bastards, absolute cop-outs [who] never accept responsibility for our own lives and that’s why we’ll always be downtrodden.
We’re all feckless poor? That’s alright for someone who made his money from EMI pretending to hate EMI to say, isn’t it.
But before we all think he might be the most right wing person on the panel tonight (next to Louise “uber” Mensch, Alan Johnson and Ed Davey) he did say more recently (on the topic of the coalition) that we work too much. See here (01.17):
Other points of interest:
- He played a gig in Israel so everyone hates him for that
- He isn’t against abortion, he is for a woman’s right to choose, and the song “Bodies” isn’t anto-abortion,in fact it’s neither anti- or pro-, but about his Mother’s miscarriage
- He told the guardian, very pleased, that he sells – so now he’s some sort of mad capitalist too
- He opposes all forms of segregation in schools
- He wanted to take the Sex Pistols to Iraq, despite once describing himself as pacifist
- He has this to say about terrorists: “They’re crazy. These bombers are spotty nerds who are a bit chubby and can’t get a girlfriend. More sex on the National Health and there’ll be less bombers.”
So if anything on this is raised on the programme tonight we know where he stands or where he has since changed his mind.
An anonymous banker, writing in the Telegraph yesterday, told about how he and his colleagues were helping manipulate the UK’s bank borrowing rate.
The surprise is to find out how openly it was discussed.
The discussion was so open the behaviour seemed above board. In no sense was this a clandestine gathering.
But the anonymous banker’s own naivety (which they admit themselves) was on the realisation that
even though Libor [London Interbank Offered Rate] may have been, for example 2pc, the real Libor rate the bank was paying was more like 5pc or 6pc. So in fact, we needed to be lending money at Libor plus 3pc or 4pc just to break even. That is what we were telling clients.
Capitalism against itself
For Harry Wallop of the Telelgraph the resignation of Marcus Agius – widely seen, now, as the fall guy for Bob Diamond – is the final nail in the coffin for so-called “Gentlemanly Capitalism”.
After all, Agius had made his reputation before the Big Bang of the financial system and, according to Wallop, “had a reputation for being charming, impeccably dressed and lacking stuffiness.”
Before Barclays, Agius worked for Lazard for more than 30 years, ending up as chairman, and forging a career as far away from the brash Wall Street culture as was possible. His hobbies are shooting and gardening; he is a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
So reliant he was on the helping hands of staffers, when he was starting at Barclays he had to be shown how to use a cash machine, or so it was reported in Private Eye.
This is typical Telegraph stuff, with a general distaste of the new-moneyed kids in the financial sector, undermining traditional social hierarchies, practices and institutions.
Consider the implications in this line for example
His background is blue-chip and formal. His father was chairman of Schroders, while his cousin, Nicholas, was a senior figure at SG Warburg. His wife, Kate, is the daughter of Edmund de Rothschild, of the great European banking house.
This is why it’s called Gentlemanly capitalism, I gather. But the wider implications are what it does to Conservatism.
Conservatism against capitalism
Wallop explicitly blames the Big Bang for the fall of the likes of Agius.
His ilk has seen a decline ever since the City was opened up to Wall Street 25 years ago.
Inherent to this particular view is a traditional, albeit rarely seen anymore, conservative protectionist opposition to certain types of capitalism. It was the fault of Wall Street, that’s where the blame is.
that one needed to condemn not only the feral youth of Tottenham, but also the “feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington”, their noses stuck in “the repellent Financial Times magazine How to Spend It”, who had played their own part in “the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society”.
What’s the crisis?
Splits are commonplace on the left; the left is good at them. But the right are going through something of a split themselves at the moment.
The Libor scandal shows that there have been a number of examples in the city of control and manipulation of what free market purists would once have called the invisible hand.
But some conservatives knew this all the time. Those like Harry Wallop are distrustful of what has come out of the big bang, under Thatcher’s watch, because it undermines traditional power divides.
These views will no doubt take root soon enough – but what will it mean for capitalism and conservatism today? Will it make their relationship ever-more awkward?
He became submerged in hot water in 2005 when, as Tampa mayoral candidate, he opposed local gay rights marches, and urged elected officials to vote against them.
But his excuse at the time was that his opposition was not down to discrimination, but the “issue was spending public dollars to advocate or advertise gay pride“.
He went one further, too: “I oppose any kind of discrimination in any form”.
Tom Scott is also a fellow-traveller of the tea party movement. To the accusation that the tea party is a cell for racists and homophobes, Scott – a black person himself – replied that “the real basic platform of the Tea Party” is a dissatisfaction of high taxes and big state.
This probably doesn’t sit well. After all, the tea party did more than just raise the issue of supposedly bad finance. When the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez raised the spectre of epistemic closure, and right wing bias towards Fox News, this was at a time when the birther movement were waving placards claiming the President of the US was not a real American.
Who were the birthers? Well people like Tom Wise who felt Obama’s documents had been altered. He, also, was a Tea Party coordinator.
But there seems to be some desire for a real Tea Party, not the rag tag bunch who pose conspiratorial questions and look stupid, like Tom Wise (not well named).
Sanchez’ colleague at the Cato Institute David Lampo has taken it upon himself to do the seemingly impossible task of bringing gay rights to the conservative right. For him this should start with the Tea Party movement. Though, further, he doesn’t think it’ll be too hard.
A Montana Tea Party group recently kicked out one of its board members for remarks that seemingly condoned anti-gay violence. In Texas, a bastion of hard-core Republican conservative theocrats, the Republican Party recently replaced its “Schlaflyite culture warrior” chairman (in the words of author and journalist Jonathan Rauch) with a more traditional Reaganite who emphasized economic issues over social ones. As a Dallas Tea Party leader told Rauch, “We do not touch on social issues. We believe the biggest danger to the country is the fiscal irresponsibility that’s going on in Washington.”
I once again ponder on the question: is an organisation like the Tea Party the sum of its parts (which brings to mind the birthers and other nonsense) or a whole which cannot always control the message of its parts (the whole’s message being one of non-discrimination and economic issues)?
On the Republicans in general and gay relationship recognition, Lampo cites some very interesting figures:
when it comes to relationship recognition for gay couples, as far back as 2004, a CBS News poll showed that 46 percent of Republicans backed either civil unions or same-sex marriage, and that support has continued to grow. A CBS News poll in August 2010 showed 59 percent of Republicans supporting either same-sex marriage or civil unions (25 percent backed marriage, 34 percent civil unions). A May 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling showed a majority of Republicans, 51 percent, in favor of either same-sex marriage (12 percent) or civil unions (39 percent).
In his Washington Post piece he notes a sea change in Mitt Romney, siding with homophobic organisations to rally up the troops. But for Lampo these troops are imaginary. The conservative Right are coming round to gay rights – even on issues such as marriage.
So perhaps there is something in this. Perhaps this shows something interesting within conservatism that appeals to gay marriage, rather than the stock criticism that conservatives and gay marriage are as oppositional as Jeremy Hunt and truth-telling.
As a congregation of conservative rabbis in Arizona recently put it: “same-sex marriages have the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages”.