Friday, May 30, 2003

John McDonnell is an idiot

Now what kind of idiot says things like this?

“It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in that armed struggle (of the IRA- ed). It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table.

“The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.”

A Labour MP. I'm sick of this. I'm sick of members of my party behaving as if the actions of dictators and terrorists are easily excused. I'm sick of Galloway and his ilk defending dictators from democracies. I'm sick of having to read about a Labour MP saying something as idiotic as calling the IRA heroes.

I'm glad that the labour party (in a story running on PA), has entirely disowned the comments. I only hope that Mr McDonnell gets to spend some time with the innocent catholics and protestants who actually were sacrificed by "the bombs and the bullets and the sacrifice" of the IRA.

For those who might say that Mr McDonnell speaks an uncomfortable truth. Can I point them in the direction of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King?

<< Home

A weapon, a weapon, my kingdom for a weapon.

Who-ever thought that Labour’s second term would be about schoolsnhospitalsnpolice? Muggins here. Hey ho.

Actually, I still hold to that belief and if today’s poll in the Telegraph is to be taken at face value I would ascribe the Tory “surge” more to school closures in the suburbs of Brighton rather than in the suburbs of Basra.

Would that I could believe that the people of Britain were as concerned by starvation and water supply abroad as they are by a few missing quid at the local primary.

Having said that, there’s no doubt that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a major insider issue. In the US, websites are gathering together quotes like this one from Donald Rumsfeld to show the gap between the rhetoric now and the rhetoric then.

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Chris Bertram posed a question in a while back whether I think the Prime Minister should pay a political price if it turns out the Iraq did not have WMD. (the caveat, that it is early days yet, is implied in the scenario)

I think that first I need to divide the question between “should” and “would”.

First off, I think that there is a legitimate case for invading Iraq, even without the discovery of weapons. The reason for the invasion specifically was not that Iraq had weapons- how could we prove that when there was no inspection regime in place for such a long time- but that we suspected Iraq had illegal weapons and the Iraqi regime refused to co-operate substantially with a UN inspections programme.

In my reply to Chris, I drew a comparison with an convicted armed kidnapper who has escaped from prison, and is reported to be hiding in an apartment with a gun and a victim. There are reports from witnesses that he threatened to shoot his victim if attempts were made to enter his apartment.

The police launch a strike on the apartment and the kidnapper is killed. Afterwards it is discovered that the kidnaper was not armed.

Now, while the Police might be accused of making the wrong call, there is still a very legitimate case to say hat they made the right call with the available information at the time.

So, in sum, unless there is some smoking gun (or should I say smoking missile?) I think it would be rather unfair for the PM to pay a political price for the failure to find missiles. Conversely, if it turns out that the invasion caused the weapons to be sent to terrorists for use- well then I think there is a case for a political price to be paid.

So that’s should. But what will happen? My initial reaction was that:
a) People don’t care too much about what happens about foreign countries and
b) That the Human rights case for the invasion would be enough for most people.

I argued that the case should be “The mass graves show that the entire Iraqi regime was a weapon of mass destruction of the Iraqi people.”

Given the media reaction, I want to revise that opinion. I now suspect that unless a real push is made on the reconstruction and human rights side of the rational for the invasion, this issue could turn into a Westminster Dirty bomb, which kills everyone in office, but doesn’t impact the rest of the country.

Make no mistake, many media types who opposed the war felt embarrassed by the victory. The “why did we do it” argument gives them a chance for revenge. They will try and take it, and unless a convincing argument is put for the invasion on all fronts, not just WMD, they come close to defenestrating the government.

<< Home

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Euro Constitution Babel Fun

Well ,I felt a bit guilty slagging off tohe poor Euro-drudges who actually had to write the damn constitution. As Nick points out in my comments, not only did they have to deal with a singular lack of vision, but they also had to come up with prose functional in many languages. Part of me wants to point out if India can use English as it's official language, so can Europe, but still... writing for multi-languages is tough.

Yet part of me suspected that even given the constraints, the constitutional gibberish was still gibberish and was so word heavy and badly phrased it was less workable, even from a translation point of view.

So I decided to Babel-test it. I fed in both the Article 1.1 of the Euro-constitution and the Preamble to the US constitution, translated them to French, German, then Italian and back to English, just to see which constitution held it's meaning best. Judge the results for yourself.

The babelised Draft Euro Constitution
"The will to manufacture the citizen and conditions of Europe, to a future community run this condition reflected, manufacture for the European connection, on which the member states the authority confer, to the goals to obtain, which have it in the Common. The connection coordinates the political lines, by which the member states aim at obtaining these goals and uses in the way of the community authority, which confers it on the top side. "

The babelised Pre-amble to the US constitution
"We, people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish the justice, to assess the tranquility domestic, to preview the common defense, to support the general well-being and to repair blessings of the same freedom we and with our posterity, have we leave them make the ordain you and establish this constitution for the United States. "

Personally, I quite like parts of the US version. I especially like the sound of assessing the domestic tranquillity. I couldn't really see much difference to the Eurodraft, but then I wasn't sure what it meant to begin with,

Oh, come on, it's fun.. but the serious point is that simple, direct, language is easier to understand and translate than office jargon. I bet the Gettysburg address works well in Fench...

<< Home

Compare and Contrast..

Someone asked me the other day why I was so undewhelmed by the idea of the European Union, so disinterested in the EU Convention and so distant from the debate about the whole future and identity of Europe. This is an attempt to show why.

Draft EU Constitution Article 1.1.
Reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a common future, this Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer
competences to attain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise in the
Community way the competences they confer on it.

How can anyone feel passionate about that? Compare with

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Preamble to the US Constitution

I think it was D'Amato who said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Well, when setting out a constitution, you could at least pre-amble in poetry.

I expect that this isn't all the fault of the drafters. "A community way" was forced on them by the British, we know. It may sound sonorous in French, I don't know. What I do know is that as a document to excite me about Europe, to make me see what Europe could be, well, it fails miserably. Take a look at the cover note that accompanies the Constitution. The first words that anyone linking to the document will read are:

"Members of the Convention will find attached the draft text of Part One of the Treaty establishing the Constitution together with that of the Protocols on the application of the principles of
subsidiarity and proportionality and the role of the national Parliaments, as revised by the Praesidium in the light of the comments and amendments received and the discussions in plenary."

I say this because I think it matters. If Europe is to succeed, those who want an ever closer union need to convince people like me that it represents a future to long for, to believe in. How can a document that reads so poorly, is so opaque and so unintelligible do that?

Vernon Bogdanor says in today's Guardian that "the greatest failing of the convention lies in its inability to provide a rallying cry for Europeans. In the 1950s, the aims were obvious. They were, in the words of a cynic, to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. With the end of the cold war, some new statement of purpose is desperately needed. How can the heads of government expect Europe's citizens to enthuse about their project when they themselves seem to have no clear idea what it is for?"

Nowhere is this lack more obvious than in the draft constitution.

<< Home

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Well, there goes the last chance of a Euro referendum....

Nul points? Who do you think we are? Norway or something?

Whilst watching the show, my friends came up with a few suggestions for the next song for Europe, such as the traditional folk song Ye Sons of Albion or Monty Python's Never be rude to an Arab
but I think we should go for a reworking of Tom Lehrer's immortal National Brotherhood week..

Eurovision Song Contest Day

Oh, the Turkish hate the Germans,
And the Germans hate the Poles;
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during Eurovision Song contest day,
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac dance cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise
As long as you make sure you give 'em nul.

Oh, the Turks hate the greeks,
And the Finns hate the Swedes.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's Communitaire as Cappuccino

But on Eurovision song contest day,
Eurovision Song contest day,
Germans love the Gast-Arbeiten 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand,
You can tolerate him if you try!

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But on Eurovision Song contest day,
Eurovision Song contest day,
It's Europe's Everyone-Smile-At-One-Another-Hood day.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.

It's only for a night, so have no fear;
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

<< Home