My blogging activities have been a bit patchy of late – possibly my enthusiasm or ability to come up with topics to write about has run a bit dry after doing this gig for almost nine years. But one reason for my lack of output has been my business travels, since after a busy day heading around from place to place, it takes a bit of effort to crank up another posting. Anyhow, in one nation I visited in the past few days on business – Switzerland – I could not fail to be struck at how folk in that nation feel a sense of being under seige. Under siege, that is, from various financially ruined nations such as the US and UK who are becoming increasingly aggressive in chasing after taxpayers. And although Switzerland is far from perfect – they have their own bureaucratic foibles and petty rules – I generally like the cantonal system, which means that if the canton of say, Zurich, decides to impose some dipshit rule, another one might take a more liberal view. And on the issue mentioned by Perry de Havilland of the totalitarian tendencies of certain medical lobbyists, I’d argue that Switzerland falls pretty well near the liberal, if not libertarian, end of the spectrum. Take the issue of smoking in privately-owned places. Yes, there are bans in some places, but I noted, for instance, that at Zurich airport, there was a rather smart-looking cigar bar. (Smokers are treated fairly well on the whole). In the hotel I stayed in, folk were smoking in one part of it without provoking any kind of anguish from anyone else.
I occasionally write about this nation because it is useful to have an example out there of a nation that has managed to resist the siren songs of being a “good European” and joining the EU behemoth, and because its people seem to still have a sort of cussed independence of mind that is a pleasing contrast to what I come across elsewhere. No doubt the Eyeores in the comment thread will tell me otherwise.
As an aside, I find the Swiss accent of German as hard to understand as ever, and I thought my German was quite good.
The news out of Haiti today has been uniformly grim. As I watched the TV footage of people trying to find survivors from underneath the rubble, it was natural to wonder whether we haven’t been rather pathetic here in Britain to carp about the harsh winter, since, although the winter snows have not been a ton of laughs, it has not meant the kind of devastating loss of life and wreckage of homes that happens in an earthquake event.
Rand Simberg makes the point that while there is never complete protection for any kind of country against natural disasters, it tends to be a pretty useful rule of thumb that richer countries, with superior building standards and better means of rescuing those in danger, tend to fare better when nature strikes. Maybe he is right – I think the Japanese, for instance, with their almost constant experience of earthquakes, are in a better position, due to the wealth and technical prowess of that country, to deal with such events than a miserably poor, conflict-riven nation such as Haiti.
But frankly, even the richest, most technically savvy nation on earth is going to be clobbered hard by a high-category quake. Let’s hope help can get to those who need it most. Here is a site that seems to be offering shrewd advice and links to those involved in the relief efforts.
In an earlier posting today, I expressed the fear that this Copenhagen nonsense would lead to quite a few more stupid laws. But the news right now seems to be rather better than that:
The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.
If this shindig can be a total fiasco I really do not care why (for his own idiot reasons this guy agrees). Sadly, I fear that this leak may just be negotiation as usual. The bodge that results will still probably be pretty terrible.
On the other hand, maybe the rich countries do not actually want a deal. Reading that Guardian report, you can almost hear the rich country negotiators muttering amongst themselves that they would prefer to stay rich. But maybe that is a step too far towards being sensible, and too much to hope for.
Often I read, in various Climate Alarmist articles, words to the effect that “time is running out on a global climate deal“… which is great news if it is actually true. It suggests to me that perhaps they realise that the “universally accepted” One True Apostolic Eco-Faith is really the very epitome of a paper tiger as there is far from a genuine consensus on the subject.
So if time is running out, it would seem hard to overstate the importance of running interference and generally throwing spanners into the works for as long as possible. To prevent the latest transnational ‘tranzi’ red-wrapped-in-green statist power ploys, friends of liberty need to do whatever they can to ‘run out the clock’ and then encourage as much international political recrimination post-failure as possible, in order to keep the ball out of play for as long as possible. I think it is time to suggest creative but practicle ways to help sow discord and disunity amongst the predatory political elites (and their supporters) of the various countries seeking to extend ever more control over their national subjects under the cloak of green politics.
Certainly if overtly totalitarian measures like carbon rationing are ever brought in, truly the time for unambiguous direct resistance to the state will have arrived, so preventing things getting to that stage is more than a little important.
I would be willing to wager that the Nobel represented the time when, in retrospect, it started to go really wrong for Mr Obama. He could have come across all modest and statesmanlike and told the Nobel prize givers that their award was very touching, very nice, etc, etc, but he just did not feel he had done enough to receive it, and there were more deserving recipients. To have done that, of course, would have been to demonstrate a capacity for embarrassment, for shame. Now Mr Obama has shown us that he has no such shame, that his vanity is as bad as it appears to be from this end. And that will be his downfall.
Even some folk over at that haven of idiocy, the Huffington Post, are not greatly impressed by what happened last week. Michael Moore, of course, is. With friends like these…
Short of arranging a letter of congratulations from Roman Polanski, this could scarcely be bettered.
UPDATE: ah, sheesh – sorry Johnathan. Great minds collapse into hysterical laughter alike.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: And Perry. And, uh, everyone on the planet. Getting this post out has been a wonderful journey for me and I thank the Committee from the bottom of my heart.
Maybe they awarded him the gong for his attempts to shut up Islamic terrorists, etc, by the power of endlessly talking about himself. You never know, there may be something in it.
Norman Borlaug has died. He may well have saved more lives than anyone else who has ever lived.
Of course, it’s been half a century since Cuba has had a real new leader. This is one of the down sides to life extension.
– Rand Simberg
Matt Welch of Reason debates Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell over issues including the recent bouts of piracy in the Indian Ocean. One issue that comes up is whether the Somalia is a “libertarian nirvana”. Duh. Lefties love to sneer that such lawless parts of the world are some sort of anarcho-capitalist paradise. Have they not figured out that free societies are saturated with notions of law and property boundaries, which need to be upheld and defended? Laws and liberty are intertwined – the problem is when laws violate the right of humans to live their lives unmolesed, rather than protect such rights. Since when did robbing merchant ships have anything to do with freedom, exactly?
Anyway, Mr Welch more than holds his own in this encounter. Worth a view.
Okay, let’s remember that there is a world outside the Westminster Village. The president of Iran is not a man whom anyone would want with his hands on the nuclear button, certainly not Israel, which has reason to worry that the man is an anti-semitic fruitcake. It appears that there has been a possible change in the tack of US policy towards Iran now that Mr Obama is at the helm. Now it may be that Mr Obama is playing a devilishly cunning game and, by trying to make nice to Iran, is either buying time or trying to engineer real, positive change. Of course, it also may be that Mr Obama is out of his depth and has made the fatal mistake that one can do business with a regime like Iran.
The danger, it seems to me, is that failing to stop Iran from proceeding with an enrichment programme for nuclear material is going to worry the hell out of Israel. And remember, that while Iran may not be the West’s immediate problem, it is a massive, existential one for Israel. The US may be wise not to want to pick a fight on this issue, given that such a course could go horribly wrong. Israel may not have the luxury of having to make even that choice.
Given that the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to work when both sides are basically rational, even if they are bad, it is folly to suppose that nuclear deterrence will work with a regime led by a man who sincerely dreams of taking his place in heaven, and putting lots of those he loathes somewhere else, very violently. At the very least, a defence policy must now involve greater development of anti-ballistic missiles to shoot down incoming weapons, since there will be the risk that the launch sites and development sites may be out of reach of an airforce or ground assault team.
Consider this: why does Iran, with all its oil reserves, want to spend billions of its currency reserves on developing enriched fissile material? What does the Iranian government propose to do with it – use it for garden compost?
Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now. From what I can see, governments are walking down the path of their complete moral and financial bankruptcy far more quickly than I ever imagined they would. I thought that it would take our overmighty governments several slow, demoralising decades of decline and eventual collapse to completely discredit their authority and control in the eyes of the people. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now and I suspect they will burn themselves out over a few painful and tumultuous years – destroying a great deal of wealth in the process, no doubt. However, as worrying as that prospect is, it was always going to be that way. And in spite of that, I feel particularly upbeat about the longer term future. Those who know nothing more (and expect nothing less) than widespread government authority and control over all aspects of our lives will have their imbecile – sorry, umbilical – cords to the State cut sooner than expected, thanks to the overwhelmingly reckless (but entirely predictable) government response to the current financial crisis. I really do believe that future historians will pinpoint this crisis as marking the beginning of the end of the big-government era.
Do you agree?