We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The shambles of the European Arrest Warrant system

Damien Phillips, a friend of mine, has an excellent article on why Theresa May’s “Brexit-in-name-only” stance is so bad. One reason, he states, is that it keeps the UK within the odious embrace of the European Arrest Warrant system. So far, the EAW hasn’t been the kind of issue to get most people, even most Brexiteers, exercised. But in many ways it represents some of the worst features of what the EU now is.

As the Daily Telegraph is behind a paywall, here are a few choice paragraphs:

The Prime Minister and the British establishment are simply unwilling to recognise the risks that ‘close cooperation’ on security with the European Union poses for the United Kingdom. Such is the desperate desire to maintain close ties, they are blind to the gathering storm in key parts of Continental Europe.

Due Process, a cross-party campaign group launched by, amongst others, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady MP in late 2017, has been fighting an uphill battle to highlight the serious abuses and injustices being perpetrated by EU member states against both their own citizens and ours. Their latest report explodes the presumption, alarmingly pervasive amongst the British judiciary, that EU member states will comply with their obligations under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

This idea underpins the entire EU project and in particular the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system of extradition, based on the ludicrous proposition that all EU member states have legal systems of equivalent probity and repute.

These damning findings are echoed by Fair Trials International, whose recent review of the operation of the EAW uncovers a Kafka-esque nightmare for ordinary citizens. Reviewing over 220 extradition case files and interviewing more than 250 legal experts, they find the EAW being used disproportionately to force people into lengthy pre-trial detention away from home, exposing them to appalling prison conditions, leading to job losses and separation from their families, and putting them at the manifest risk of having an unfair trial.

Both reports should be alarming for anyone who can see the security implications of a collapse of basic legal standards in countries that Britain is sharing intelligence, security and law enforcement information with. States without effective legal institutions are highly vulnerable to corruption, making them prime targets for Russian infiltration and destabilisation. Combine this with the EAW which allows any British citizen or resident to be directly targeted by any EU state they draw the ire of and you have a recipe for “lawfare” on a grand scale. Once a legal system resembles that of the Russian Federation, there is nothing to stop authoritarian politicians or rapacious intelligence services operating with impunity and exploiting the judiciary for their own wicked ends.

It is in light of this crisis that the Irish High Court recently issued a landmark judgement to halt all extraditions to Poland because they can no longer trust the Polish judiciary to deliver a fair trial. Likewise, German courts have blocked politically motivated attempts to extradite the Catalan leader, and even Costa Rica and Serbia have granted political ‘refugee status’ to what are now recognised as being Romanian dissidents.

In the face of the mounting evidence, our Prime Minister continues with her reckless desire to keep our membership of the EAW intact and to cooperate unconditionally with states whose judicial and state machinery are plumbing the depths of Russia, Romania and Turkey.

Instead, the PM should proactively shun the EU’s one-size-fits-all security and legal architecture. She should name and shame those EU member states that don’t fulfil the high standards required for a security partnership with the UK, while calling out the European Commission for its total failure to ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights across the EU. She should reject any form of jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice which has done a parlous job of preventing abuse of an increasingly toxic and politicised EAW system.

In this new age of lawfare, the PM must implement an immediate review of Britain’s extradition treaties, where necessary imposing interim measures to halt all extraditions to those countries that are so clearly falling short of the basics of due process and human rights. The government should enable a “prima facie” evidence test on those governments suspected of foul play or with potentially corrupt legal institutions. Under such a system the burden of proof would be placed on the prosecuting authority and a case would have to be proved to have sufficient evidence to justify a trial – standard practice under English common law.

This new system would have the granular flexibility not just to treat all other states on the basis of equality and reciprocity. It would avoid the wishful, fantasy land thinking of Brussels, and instead rely on the hard-headed reality and principles that have evolved through English common law over many centuries.

EU plunders Google

Google worked with others to make software for phones. They did not have to do this, and nobody had to use their software. People just found it useful enough that they agreed to use Google’s software with certain conditions attached that they found agreeable. The EU, under the guise of arbitrary rules limiting voluntary interactions, is going to plunder 5 billion Euros from Google.

A friend on Facebook writes, “No! Fuck off fuck off fuck off! This money will get pissed away and squandered (probably on drink by Jean-Claude Juncker) […] their view seems to be: ‘If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.'” (I think Ronald Reagan would agree with that last part.)

The CEO of Google points out that Android has created more choice, not less.

A Lusitanian* adventure

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went on another trip, this time to England’s oldest ally, Portugal. *It involved brief excursions into Spain over a raia (‘the stripe’ as it is called), one of Europe’s oldest borders, almost unchanged but still disputed many centuries after delineation in 1297, so it was an Iberian adventure. We focused on the north of Portugal, and then Lisbon.

We flew to Porto, with the least user-friendly tram system I have yet used, and made our way up north by noisy Diesel train through pleasant farmland, brushing the Atlantic coast on the way to our first stage, the fine fortress town of Valença on the Minho river, which here forms the border with Spain. Valença has a striking fortress citadel as its old town, with many layers of defences. The scale of the walls can be judged by the horses in the pictures. A drone video of the fortress, a 17th Century construction on an older 13th Century construction, is here.

→ Continue reading: A Lusitanian* adventure

Mrs May’s ‘Brexit’ means ‘Anschluss’, if what Lawyers for Britain are saying is correct.

The good folk at Lawyers for Britain, (all donations welcome) led by Martin Howe QC, a nephew of Sir Geoffrey but we probably all have embarrassing uncles somewhere, have done a thorough preliminary analysis of Mrs May (the FFC)’s recent ‘Chequers’ Brexit proposals, the Chequers proposals are here. My summary (not Lawyers for Britain’s) is that, like Austria relegated to becoming the ‘Ostmark’ in 1938 in the Anschluss, it is more like becoming a Nazgûl in thrall to the Dark Lord than any form of independence. At least the Anschluss of 1938 was a blatant take-over, when this is meant to be independence.

Here are some key points, square brackets my addition:

the UK would be obliged to interpret these rules [for goods and agri-foods] in accordance with rulings of the ECJ under a system which would (whether directly or indirectly) bind UK courts to follow ECJ rulings. In areas where rules relating to goods are applied in a discretionary way under the control of EU regulatory bodies, it is inevitable that the application of the rules in the UK and UK regulatory bodies would continue to be bound by the decisions of EU bodies in the same way as if the UK were still a member state but without a vote or voice within those institutions. This would amount to a permanent vassal relationship in the area covered by the ‘common’ rulebook.

On changing our laws post-independence:

There is no indication in the text of the statement that the UK would have any ability to change any of the existing body of EU laws, however damaging they may be or become in the future – for example where restrictive EU laws block the development or deployment of new technology, such as in the biotech area where the UK has a huge opportunity to develop its leading industry and to sell its expertise and products around the world. In order supposedly to benefit the 12% of our economy which consists of exports to the EU, we would accept a binding obligation to freeze the laws which cover 100% of our economy consisting of domestic production and also imports from third countries

And this means of course, implementing EU law or face the consequences. “Fax Democracy” as it is called, yet so in effect independence is being transformed into loss of (pretty worthless) EU voting rights.

We also could not offer to recognise other countries’ systems for, e.g. food or drug safety, if importing from them, we’d have to apply EU rules to such products.

And of course, Mrs May commits us to maintain EU regulation, regardless of absurdity or impact, and perhaps letting the ECJ have the final say in UK law, a so-called ‘red line’.

Of even more concern is that the UK would agree “to maintain high regulatory standards for the environment, climate change, social and employment, and consumer protection – meaning we would not let standards fall below the current levels.” (Emphasis added). The problem with this is not a general requirement to maintain high standards, which we would want to do anyway, but the commitment not to let standards in these areas “fall below” current levels. Any changes to our rules in these areas which improve the competitiveness of UK industry would almost certainly be interpreted by the EU as allowing our standards to “fall below” current standards. This commitment is therefore an extremely dangerous one to undertake, particularly if it were linked to a binding enforcement mechanism and even more so if that binding mechanism ultimately becomes the ECJ

And for interpreting agreements, Mrs May puts us on a par with Moldova (but they generally have better wine).

Para 4(c): “consistent interpretation and application of UK-EU agreements” – putting the UK on a par with Moldova
12. This paragraph first states that the interpretation and application of UK- EU agreements would be done “in the UK by UK courts, and in the EU by EU courts.” This is what one would expect with any treaty arrangement.

But this comes with a grave note of caution:

13. However, it is important that this process should be mutually balanced (i.e that the ECJ and Member State courts should pay just as much attention to judgments of UK courts as vice versa), and absolutely essential that it be non-binding. Para 4(c) indicates that “due regard” will be paid to EU case law in “common rulebook” areas. This lacks mutuality – there is no suggestion that EU courts should pay “due regard” to UK courts, immediately unbalancing the relationship and placing UK courts in an inferior position.

Note that I am only summarising this piece, but it does look as if the Chequers document is either deluded or dishonest as to the extent to which the UK will have independence under this deal, which is, imposing on an independent country, a subordination to a foreign bureaucracy, without any mandate for taking such a step whatsoever. There is no mandate for any deal with the EU to make the UK subordinate to it, there is only a mandate for independence from the EU.

And finally, on the FCA ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ for UK-EU trade (‘FCA’ – pronounced ‘FuCA’, rhymes with ‘Theresa’).

Para 4(d): “Facilitated Customs Arrangement”
22. This paragraph is very difficult to understand in the absence of any detail. However, the first and most obvious and indeed important point is that the attempted introduction of the “FCA” would cause significant delay before the UK can leave the EU customs union and choose to set its own tariffs, whether by unilaterally changing them or abolishing them against free trade partners. We are now already over two years after the referendum. It beggars belief that it should be contemplated that administrative issues about customs processes could be allowed to dictate the whole trading future of the UK by preventing us from implementing tariff changes even after the end of the implementation period (31 Dec 2020 – 41⁄2 years after the referendum). Yet this seems to be the message of this paragraph. This would be severely damaging to the political prospects of the government and of the Conservative Party, since it would remove the chance of giving tangible benefits of Brexit before the next general election to low income families by removing or lowering tariffs on goods, particularly those where the UK has no or limited producer interests to protect.

Quite.

The Prince of Prosperity and Secession

Here is a fascinating YT documentary on Liechtenstein, that remote Elysium high on the young Rhine, with a long interview with the Prince himself, starting just before 6 minutes in, and running mostly to the end, in all 38 minutes. Some fascinating commentary from him on his policies and his country’s history, including the slightly farcical Nazi ‘March on Vaduz’ of 1938. Having started as a ‘rotten borough’ in the Holy Roman Empire, the first Prince to live there moved in as late as 1938. He is a fan of being in the EEA, unlike the Swiss, but he got it through via direct democracy. Every village has the right to leave the nation. He found inspiration for local democracy from Switzerland and the United States (at the State level one can infer).

They have a system where 11 municipalities (villages) engage in tax and regulatory competition with each other. He says that he is trying to make government work. (He’s not done badly). He wants them to deliver services with low cost and therefore low taxation.

Are you listening Mrs May, or are you changing your slogan to ‘Brexit means Anschluß’?

There is direct democracy, where you have to explain your policies. That actually means that people discuss government proposals and it provides stability despite the low threshold for proposing changes. He also has his royal veto power, last used in 1961 for a hunting law. The only law he can’t veto would be the abolition of the monarchy. Some less ‘royalist’ politicians note with almost heart-breaking sadness in their faces that by popular vote, the royal veto was retained, so they cannot prevail.

“…One kept taxation as low as possible so as to attract business…”

He asks why should taxes support banks. He notes that people are getting detached from governments, and states can get over-centralised.

GDP per capita: $139,000 (USA $59,000).

Of course, the people and what they do are what make Liechtenstein what it is. By God, it looks like a decent place.

A defeated country? – Lawyers for Britain on Mrs May’s approach.

The good folks at Lawyers for Britain (all donations appreciated) have cut to the chase with Martin Howe QC’s assessment of the situation as it appears to him.

 The European Union’s proposals for the UK’s transition period make grim reading. They are the sort of terms which might be imposed by a victorious power in war on a defeated enemy. They are not terms which any self-respecting independent and sovereign country could possibly agree to, even for an allegedly limited period.

Apparently, we must agree to implement every new EU law while having no say or vote; and we shall not be allowed to conclude trade agreements, even to roll over existing agreements which the EU has with other countries so that they continue to apply to us, without the EU’s permission. We must abide by the rulings of a foreign court on which there will no longer be any British representation.

Apparently, an outrageous and demeaning proposal by the Commission that the UK should be subject to extra-judicial sanctions under which the EU could suspend market access rights is now to be “re-worded”. But that would still leave the UK extremely vulnerable to damaging new rules being imposed on us during the transition period by processed in which we would have no vote and no voice. As reported in the Telegraph last week, the EU has plans to use these powers in order to launch regulatory “raids” on financial institutions on British territory and to make rules which will damage the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services industry

Do not think that this is just a lamentation, there is a perfectly sensible alternative.

What is the alternative? One alternative if the EU persist in offering these unacceptable terms is to walk away from a deal with the EU altogether. That is possible; but there is another way. That is to walk away from the transition arrangement, but still to pursue a longer term trade agreement with the EU.

The post goes on to make a lot of valid points about a way forward, and has an excellent analysis. (Although he is wrong about there being no orange production in the UK, I have just finished a pot of marmalade made commercially from English-grown oranges, albeit on a microscopic scale).

But let it sink it, what we are facing is Finlandisation, a modern-day ‘Treaty of Versailles’ with us as the Central Powers, when it should be a re-run of 1776 and its aftermath.

Darkest Hour – film review

Last night I went with the Sage of Kettering to see Darkest Hour, based on the events around Churchill becoming Prime Minister as Germany destroys Western Europe. Overall, I would say that it is an excellent film, but with a certain flaw, perhaps a sacrifice to dramatic licence. The actor playing Churchill has done a good job of conveying the man and his quirks.

The film starts with an obviously ill Chamberlain yielding power, in the face of challenges from Attlee, the Labour Leader of the Opposition. The film seems to try to cast Lord Halifax, till then Chamberlain’s ‘sidekick’ as a villain scheming for power. Whilst any politician may well in his heart lust for power, and obviously deny any overt ambitions, Halifax does come across as a bit of a ‘villain’, who is manoeuvring for Churchill’s fall. It may be that he was simply terrified of another war (having been through the Great War and seen action) and lacked the stomach for another, i.e. he had the UK’s best interests at heart in his wrongful head. However, Churchill kisses hands with George VI, a frosty relationship going back to issues over Gallipoli and the Abdication crisis, with Halifax a personal friend of the King. The Conservative Party loath Churchill, Labour and the Liberals support him (perhaps looking forward to taking over the government in a National Coalition, and getting if not always their people, their policies in place for what turns out to be at least the next 80 years).

The situation in Europe deteriorates, and Churchill tries to make rally the French, as he grapples with the demands of office and others try to get used to his chaotic working style. Churchill is alarmed to find that the French have no ‘plan B’ should they fail to contain the Wehrmacht to their North West regions, and the situation worsens. Along with the disasters in France, Churchill’s situation weakens as those seeking a negotiated peace urge their case, with Halifax and Chamberlain (now revealed to have terminal cancer) planning to resign. Overtures are made by Halifax to Italy for Mussolini to help with some form of negotiated peace, but this comes to naught. The King goes to see Churchill, after considering leaving for Canada, and the two become mutually-supportive.

The film gives Churchill a chance to point out that Gallipoli might have worked but for delay in its implementation (he blames the Admirals only, not the Generals as well), and Roosevelt and Churchill have a chat, Churchill in an artfully concealed phone box. The gist of it is that the UK is on its own (at this point) the Neutrality Act ties Roosevelt’s hands, but by a ruse some fighters that Britain has paid for can be got to Canada.

The film takes a bit of a liberty with Churchill suddenly taking the Underground train in a surprisingly long one-stop journey and meeting ordinary people (with a bit of inclusive casting, which shows the common heritage amongst the English-speaking peoples). He finds the ordinary people are willing to fight, and this fortifies him to carry on and abandon defeatist thoughts. This almost breaks the Fourth Wall and I found it spoils the film a bit, it could have been done better. Also, there is no indication of the Communist sabotage of the Allied war effort either in France or in the UK.

Churchill goes to the full Cabinet and rallies support for resistance, the gist of his speech being that a noble end is better than surrender, and the consensus is that any peace would be under Mosleyites.

Matters come to a head with the encirclement of British and French forces around Dunkirk, with a smaller force in Calais sacrificed to buy time for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation. Brigadier Nicholson and his unit in Calais are shown, been told by telegram that they are to stand to the last, a heroic footnote that the film rightly notes. With Dynamo underway, Churchill rallies the House of Commons with another speech, and Chamberlain signals his support (as Leader of the Conservative Party), cementing Churchill’s position, Halifax looks on from the gallery in despair.

The film is not without humour. It rehashes a few of Churchill’s old jokes, and his constant drinking is a running theme, with booze at breakfast. Asked by the King how he manages to drink throughout the day, Churchill replies ‘Practice!‘. The end notes also apologise for depicting smoking, necessary for accuracy, but it grossly under-depicits the extent of smoking.

Having seen the film Dunkirk last year, I would say that this is a far better film, it tells the story of the wider context, it does not have a jarring switch in narrative and has hardly any CGI, which is only used to show the streams of refugees and the odd aerial attack.

It was noteworthy that a couple of Lefties were in our viewing, and at the end they moaned loudly about the film being patriotic (can there be higher praise with faint damnation?), and made parallels about Brexit. It is hard not to see the parallels with the Mrs May’s lamentable efforts at ‘negotiation’, but remember that Halifax today would not be a Remoaner, but a cautious Leaver. The Remoaners would be the Mosleyites, whose only changes have been in label and a different emphasis on race in politics eager for the UK to be subordinate to a foreign power hostile to our laws and customs, with some form of economic dirigisme in place.

And it still strikes me as remarkable that the Queen’s first Britannic Prime Minister was Churchill, and look at her last 5.

UPDATE:

I have found the Sage’s commentary on Lord Halifax in this very parish, from 2003. Halifax, the Holy Fool.

The Netherlands and the oil crisis

I have a dim memory of a TV news report on how the 1973 oil crisis was affecting Holland. I can’t remember the specifics but it was something along the lines that the crisis was much worse in Holland than elsewhere. At some later date I got the idea that the Dutch had been selling arms to the Israelis and the Arab oil embargo introduced after the Yom Kippur War was much more strictly enforced on Holland than elsewhere.

As I got older (I was very young in 1973) this made less and less sense. How, I thought, do you control what happens to oil you’ve sold once it has been put on a ship?

For some reason this week I was reminded of this dim and distant memory and decided to do some duckduckgoing. I discovered that someone has written a book on the subject. This is what the rubric says:

The Netherlands played a remarkable role during the October War and the oil crisis of 1973. In secret, the Dutch government sent a substantial amount of ammunition and spare parts to Israel. The Dutch supported Israel also politically. Within the EC they vetoed a more pro-Arab policy. The Arab oil producing countries punished The Netherlands by imposing an oil embargo. The embargo against the Netherlands was intimidating. The Netherlands was dependent on Arab oil. The embargo seemed to threaten the Dutch position in the international oil sector. The government introduced several measures to reduce oil consumption. However, within two months it became clear that oil continued to arrive in Rotterdam. There was in fact no oil shortage in the Netherlands.

Oh.

Some hippies on a road on a “car-free” Sunday in Holland, made “car-free” because the government was worried about oil supplies.

When offering your employees a pay rise violates their human rights

Of all the crimes against humanity that one can imagine, it may seem hard (or perhaps all to easy) for the visitors to this parish to imagine that, if you are an employer, offering your employees a pay rise can be regarded as legally actionable under principles of Human Rights law, and give rise to a claim for compensation. But such is the law in the United Kingdom, in defined circumstances. Those circumstances being where an employer’s principal or only motive for making an offer (regardless of it being accepted) is to get 2 or more employees to forego their rights to collective bargaining.

The situation was recently highlighted in a case involving a UK branch of a German engineering company, Kostal UK Ltd.

The employer had a ‘recognition agreement’ for a group of its workers with Unite (the UK’s largest Trade Union). This agreement is described as ‘binding in honour only’, and under it, the employer agreed to negotiate terms of employment for those covered by the agreement with the Union, rather than with the employees directly. it was not, by itself, legally enforceable. However, despite this ‘agreement’ being unenforceable as such, the Union’s ‘right’ to negotiate on behalf of its members is protected by a specific piece of legislation which prevents employers from making offers of different (including better) terms to two or more of its employees if they are (or are proposing to be) covered by a (non-binding) collective agreement between the employer and a Trade Union, if the employer’s motive is to go over the heads of the Union to reach an agreement with the employees represented by the Union.

Under this law, it is, of course, for the employer to prove what its motive was for making any offers to its employees in these circumstances, and if the motive (or main motive) is benign, there is no liability. And the risk? An award of £3,907 per employee for every offer that is made. In the Kostal case, it came out at around £422,000 per some reports, as the employer made two offers to around 57 employees. For some bizarre reason, apparently to do with its German parent company, its first offer, made in December, included a Christmas bonus, but its second offer, made in January did not, so two offers were made and two lots of compensation (at the time £3,800 per offer) was due, twice penalising what was essentially a single course of conduct.

Why is this ‘law’ in force, you may ask. The answer is that it is to protect the Human Rights of the workers, as, if an employer gets fed up dealing with a Union on pay negotiations, and tries to bypass it, so that the terms of employment of two or more employees covered by a collective agreement are no longer decided in line with that agreement, this is, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a violation of the right of freedom of association.

As the judgment in this case puts it:

…under Article 11 of the Convention, which provides:
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary to a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others…”

The judgment goes on to explain the ‘reasoning’ of the European Court of Human Rights (the Strasbourg Court):

“In other words, the Strasbourg Court held that states have positive obligations to secure effective enjoyment of Article 11 rights; and if direct offers outside the collective bargaining process can be made and would lead to less favourable treatment of workers who do not accept, that acts as a disincentive to the exercise of Article 11 rights and allows employers to undermine or frustrate a trade union’s ability to strive for protection of its members.

So, lest an employer find a Union is asking for Mars and it can only offer the Moon, and it offers the Moon to Alphie and Bill, Charlie’s right to claim Mars is protected by making the employer pay compensation to Alphie and Bill for having the temerity of trying to cut them a deal, or even if the deal for Alphie and Bill is Venus plus Mars. And, lest you ask, if Alphie and Bill accept the offer, it is still enforceable against the employer.

Having met someone who went through the gates of Belsen at its liberation, it is hard not to think that Human Rights law is a sick mockery of the dead.

I am not saying that this judgment is outwith legal principles, it is starkly in keeping with them as they stand. With this as ‘law’, the UK has a long journey back to a Common Law that can be deduced from reason.

Be a trendsetter not a follower

It is always nice to be reminded that history has no direction. The Times reports,

Austria will scrap ban on smoking in restaurants, Freedom Party declares

Austria is to break with a global trend in health policy by abandoning plans to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.

Full smoking prohibition was due to come in next May but will be shelved at the insistence of the far-right Freedom Party as a condition of joining a coalition with the Austrian conservatives.

The Freedom Party (FPO), which came third in elections in October, is in talks to form a government with the Austrian People’s Party (OVP).

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the FPO, made overturning the ban, agreed in 2015, a top campaign pledge.

“I am proud of this excellent solution in the interests of non-smokers, smokers and restaurant owners,” Mr Strache, 48, a smoker who has tried to quit, said.

“The freedom to choose lives on. The existence of restaurants, particularly small ones, has been secured. Thousands of threatened jobs have been saved,” he said.

Some of the Times commenters say that their dislike of smoke is so strong that they will not be returning to Austria as tourists unless the ban is reinstated. That is their choice, although it does seem to me that their understandable preference for a non-smoking restaurant could be satisfied at a more local level than that of an entire nation.

Early Day Motion 392

From Hansard:

Early Day Motion 392

JOHN PILGER AND KOSOVO

Session: 2004-05
Date tabled: 14.12.2004
Primary sponsor: Smith, Llew
Sponsors:

That this House welcomes John Pilger’s column for the New Statesman issue of 13th December, reminding readers of the devastating human cost of the so-termed ‘humanitarian’ invasion of Kosovo, led by NATO and the United States in the Spring of 1999, without any sanction of the United Nations Security Council; congratulates John Pilger on his expose of the fraudulent justifications for intervening in a ‘genocide’ that never really existed in Kosovo; recalls President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen claimed, entirely without foundation, that ‘we’ve now seen about 100,000 military-aged [Albanian] men missing…..they may have been murdered’ and that David Scheffer, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced with equal inaccuracy that as many as ‘225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59’ may have been killed; recalls that the leader of a Spanish forensic team sent to Kosovo returned home, complaining angrily that he and his colleagues had become part of ‘a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one mass grave’; further recalls that one year later, the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body de facto set up by NATO, announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo’s ‘mass graves’ was 2,788; believes the pollution impact of the bombing of Kosovo is still emerging, including the impact of the use of depleted uranium munitions; and calls on the Government to provide full assistance in the clean up of Kosovo.

(Emphasis added.)

Signatures include:

Name: Corbyn, Jeremy. Party: Labour Party. Constituency: Islington North. Date Signed: 15.12.2004.

Name: McDonnell, John. Party: Labour Party. Constituency: Hayes & Harlington. Date Signed:
15.12.2004.

From yesterday’s Guardian:

Ratko Mladić convicted of war crimes and genocide at UN tribunal

The former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić, nicknamed the ‘butcher of Bosnia’, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

More than 20 years after the Srebrenica massacre, Mladic was found guilty at the United Nations-backed international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague of 10 offences involving extermination, murder and persecution of civilian populations.

Edit: In the comments Jacob asks, “I was wondering what the massacre perpetrated by a Bosnian Serb in Bosnia had to do with Kosovo…” Fair point; in my efforts to make a Drudge-style snarky juxtaposition I failed to make the link clear. Given that we are talking about mass murders rather than day-to-day political point-scoring, I should have done so.

The link is that Mladic’s war crimes in Bosnia were part of the Yugoslav War(s), in which Slobodan Milosevic played a notorious role, which included egging on the Bosnian Serbs as well as his own crimes in Kosovo. The British Hard Left turned a blind eye to it all.

My intention was to point up how tawdry EDM 392, and by extension the whole business of soft-pedalling the crimes in former Yugoslavia, looks now in the light of yesterday’s conviction of Mladic.

Not quite an ‘homage to Catalonia’: making sense of the recent upheaval

Editor’s note: this was posted by commenter ‘Onkayaks’ under the article: “Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife”. As this has the virtue of being written by someone who has local knowledge, it seemed worth promoting to an article.

For the sake of disclosing my personal predilections, I ought to state that I am a Spaniard who was mostly schooled in Catalonia, and that I do not favour secession. Most of my friends do, though.

To Berenguer Alpicat: Catalans do have their own Romanic language, a wealth of cultural traditions, while a sizeable and vocal percentage but not yet and absolute majority, of the population supports independence. However, Catalonia has never been independent, neither as a nation state nor as feudal counties. The idea that “Catalans are different people” is true in the same sense that Geordies are known for drinking everyone under the table and for their amazing accent.

Regarding the police action against the poll stations, I must add that though I am not much a police person myself, the standards of Spain’s police forces for civility may be below the British one, but certainly they are Pollyanna if compared to France, Germany or Switzerland, and certainly Catalonia’s, whose local police has a dubious record of dead and injured detainees while under custody. Truth is the police action on the polling stations was hoped for, and scrupulously provoked by the Nationalists who relied -wisely- on their impact on foreign media. As for the number of people injured, one day after the events, just four are still in hospitals, while the rest have needed ambulatory medical assistance. Adding to that, a good number of the most blatant photos of injuries have proven false or doctored. I know however, first hand of a case of a friend of mine whose wife and son were harassed by police officers, and one of the car’s windows broken after they took a photo of a police patrol in the outskirts of Girona. My friend though, did not press charges as no one was injured, and the police officers excused themselves after the incident.

The reason of deploying anti-riot police yesterday —I believe they were grossly misused by the Home Office— was because for more than three years the Catalan Regional Government had announced its intention to secede from Spain after holding a vote in the region. It is true that they have asked repeatedly for an agreed plan for a referendum; it is also true however, that their offers amounted very much to: “We’ll hold a secession referendum, or we’ll hold a secession referendum”.

As for the real deal: taxes. Nationalist claim that Catalonia is overtaxed, and that it receives in return less than it pays to the Treasury. This is true. Basques on the contrary are not overtaxed as a territory as they keep a tax convention that is very favourable, and that the Catalan Nationalist rejected in the draft of the Constitution, or so I’ve read. However the point is that the Spanish tax system does not take into account the territory, but just wealth that is taxed progressively. This does not bode well for individuals making money in Catalonia, nor it does for wealthy chaps elsewhere in Spain. There have been endless op-eds about tax balances between Catalonia v. Spain, but most papers agree that if the odious effect of taxes is examined on territories, Madrid comes out far worse in Catalonia, and I have the feeling that the Balearic Islands are if we believe that places share our pangs and worries, experiencing the same problem.

Again on taxes: the Catalan Regional Government —the right term is Autonomous Community, but I’ll refer to it as Regional for the sake of clarity though I know how much the term regional offends Nationalist— leans on heavier taxes than the Government of Spain does, and that is saying a lot. Taking into consideration that the same enthusiastic approach to taxes is shared by the parties that endorse independence, and that Spain is so de-centralized a country that most of public spending is done by the regional governments, it is safe to say that the meme of a prosperous Catalonia deprived of their tax revenue by undeveloped Spaniards, is nothing but a sophism. In short it is individuals who are unfairly taxed at disproportionate rates, not territories, and if so, rural Catalonia is the one milking wealthy Barcelonans, and not Spain.

Yet, would the Nationalists had made the case for an independent country outside the EU with rule of law, reasonable taxes, a sensible degree of bank secrecy, I would have started polishing my Catalan, and considering a move since day one. Sadly, the project is wildly different.

To resume it my opinion, the case for independence in Catalonia rests not in History, nor in actual grievances, nor in a oppressed culture by Franco (which begs the questions of how then was possible that literary awards were hosted in Catalan right after the Civil War, and why it is not possible for schoolboys to study their curricula in Spanish language anywhere in Catalonia but in a few private schools), but in the perceived wrongs instilled by Nationalism, a longeur of what could have been in an imaginary country would they have been left alone, a desire that transcends patriotism as the abiding purpose of every Nationalist is to force their wishes on other people living in their territory, the passion to fulfil the duty to spread their own language to the detriment of rival languages, the urgent obsession to doctor History school books removing facts, and placing the focus of Geography in Catalonia.

In short, as much as I like Catalonia, I abhor Nationalism as backward. As a ending note, I leave this quotes from Orwell who knew and liked Catalonia well, and from a favourite Czech of mine, Ernest Gellner:

“Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should.”
—George Orwell

“(Nationalism believes that) just as every girl should have a husband, preferably her own, so every culture must have its state, preferably its own.”
—Ernest Gellner

“Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist…”
—Ernest Gellner