I didn't actually hear the State of the union. My parents don't like Bush and simply didn't want to hear his hot air. I quickly skimmed the highlights and read some blogger comments. I was particularly struck by Donald Sensing's post complaining that Bush's various domestic policy proposals will ensure that the individual won't be able to run his life or decide for himself without some government policy, rule or law to coddle him.
What an irony! Just at the moment that Quebec is repudiating its own public paternalism, the current American administration is now adopting it! I tell we Quebecers always have a lousy sense of timing. Perhaps we could export our expertise developed over the last 40 years to the Americans. after all, the current administration is nominally in favoutr of free trade.
On a more serious note, TM Lutas remarks that Bush has probably dynamited the Westphalian state/international relations system. I find this subtle policy revolution to be quite omnious. I don't think that Bush's security advisors have fully thought out the consequences of repudiating the Westphalian system without an alternative structure in the wings.
I simply can't shake off the eerie sensation that Americans are in a similar position to Charles V at his zenith. On the one hand, Spain were the undisputed superpower of its time; it was the most advanced public authourity in the world, its armies were unbeatable, it was a relatively open and relaxed society; the culture was influential. On the other, you have the Protestant reformation. What started out as an attempt to restore religious unity in Europe soon evolved into a full blown 30 year continential conflict with world consequences. Spain evntually broke under the strain and it didn't really recover until 1975.
What concerns me is that one of the innovations of the Westphalian system was that states wouldn't casually intervene in the internal affairs of another state. The understanding codified with the force of law worked pretty well until 1917. Since then with the purges, famines, genocides and the Holocaust, there's a certain advocacy to relativize absolute soveriegnity whenever there are flagrant, abysmal human rights violations. I'm somewhat sympathic to the idea and it should be explored and argued. Nonetheless, I'm still very leery because there's no consenus as to what act or policy crosses a threshold that would permit the international community either as a whole or various entities to intervene and remove a public authourity from governing a country. Also , the absence of consesus exposes some serious flaw: would country X go to war agaisnt China to free Tibet? Would Country Y carry out attacks on French interests to assist Coriscan secssionists?
They're not academic questions. The 30 Years war amply demonstrates what happenms when there are no constraints on states to interfer in another country's internal affairs.
Before Bush repudiates the Westphalian system, his administration should at least have a working alternative in the wings.
En tot cas, llegint una mica la premsa catalana i espanyol tothom prognostica que el PP guanyar? una altra majoria absoluta. Espero que no. No la ra? no es perque tingui una antip?tia contre el PP; sin? que les majoris absolutes corroden les democr?cies.
Parlo d'exp?riencia amb el Canad? al nivell federal. El Partit liberal ha tingut 3 majories absolutes consecutives. El resultat son uns 10 anys de podriment, estancament i decrepitud del govern. Els diners que s'ha malgastat, la corrupci? que s'ha descobert es perque el partit en poder t? una majoria absoluta i pertant pot fer gaireb? que vol sense que l'Oposici? pogui parar-ho. Ni parlem del periodistes la gran part son simpatizants del partit en poder. Comparten el mateix punt de vista i ens trobem amb una hegem?nia bastant prepotenta
As I don't really follow American caucuses and primaries leading up the general election and being a foreigner, I have no opinion as to what signifigance Kerry's victory has in Iowa as a prediction of the general election.
Nevertheless, le me ask a self-interested question: what does Kerry's victory mean for Canada? For the rest of the world? In general, I don't like the Democratic party's foreign trade policy. I view protectionism as both dumb and dangerous. Dumb because protectionism allows lazy workers and corporations to get away with not inovating or thinking of beter ways to work and produce. Dangerous because recent history has shown how closed markets aggravate economic downturns into full scale depressions.
What does Kerry represent within the American political process that I, as a foreigner, should pay attention to?
Last week, Dan wrote an interesting article about the European cells and affiliates of Al Qu'ida. After i finished reading it, I quickly wrote a comment asking if the European cells would commit a strategic error by attacking Europe. My reasoning is that Bin Laden and the senior leadership have shown themselves to be quite shrewd as well as strategically prudent.
They didn't- and still don't want- to attack Europe needlessly as the division between both sides of the Atlantic advances Al Qu'ida's aim of reimposing the Caliphite throughout the world. On a more prosaic level, Europe, like Canada, is an excellent fundraising and recruitment resource. Unfortuantely for Al Qu'ida, the American defeat of the Taliban and the European antiterrorist efforts at home have completely altered the leadership's makeup. So much so that the European cells are now completely autonomous so the hotheads will be more influential than they otherwise would be. Hence, the European cells are succumbing to the temptation of launching attacks within Europe.
How corrupt is France? It is often said that one reason that Jacques Chirac ran for re-election as president in 2002 was to preserve his immunity from prosecution. But the full awfulness of the situation ? the way in which bribery and the theft of public funds pervades French life ? is not well understood in the United States. For a vivid introduction to the problem, see the extremely interesting cover story in the current issue of Britain?s Prospect magazine.
The story details the doomed attempted of one magistrate to get to the bottom of a series of scandals involving hundreds of millions of dollars looted from public companies and diverted to political parties and private individuals - Francois Mitterand's national system of kickbacks on local construction projects - and formal and informal state controls on the media to suppress coverage of the scandal.
Well David, the same can be said of America. After all, most of Big Media pretty much buried Clinton's scandals even when he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in '91. One need only read Klein's book Primary colors to get a foretaste of what the subsequent 8 years would be.
And not just Clinton. Enron is another egregious example of how the business media- with a few honourable exceptions- pretty much genuflected at David Lay and slobbered all over the company as an example of American capitalism. Even Forbes looked totally inept when it published its list of the best companmies to work with, which featured Enron near the top, on the day the company filed for bankruptcy. I could also bring up the investment houses and their analysts who hyped worthless stocks so that the former could earn commissions in underwriting a company's initial public offering and the analsyts reaped millions defrauding the investing public. But I've made my point.
It ought to be more widely understood in the United States how much European corruption -- and French corruption in particular -- damages the trans-Atlantic relationship. Kickbacks and bribes play an especially large role in Europe's trade with the Middle East. Much of the European loathing for those Americans who want to change the Middle East is pretty directly traceable to the fear that change in the region will threaten the livelihood of powerful Europeans and the funding of European political parties.
Don't forget to include Britian under the rubric of European corruption and Mideast trade. I remember how Thatcher's son was involved in curious arms deals with various potentates of the Arabian peninsula. The same goes for John Major. I shed no tears at how the poor little Americans were bamboozled by nefarious commercial practices. The Americans also played hardball threatening to use Echelon against those European countries that cheated in the tendering of international contracts and as well as dropping hints that the American government would selectively leak a company's dirty laundry if it didn't stop.
European corruption influences European press coverage of the United States as well. European journalists obsess over "neocons" in American politics precisely because they know that in their societies, the important political decisions are made by concealed, sinister, self-interested forces - and they find it hard to imagine that American politics could be different. Meanwhile, American journalists cover Europe like some wire service circa 1952: with a charmingly naive faith that everything actually is just the way it seems on the surface, and that the spoken words of European politicians actually give some insight into their real motives. Because US politics are so transparent and responsive, the American media is genuinely flummoxed by societies in which shadowy conspiracies really do exist.
American politics so transparent and reponsive?! WTF!! If American politics is so transparant than how come we still don't know about the Buddhist temple fundraising scandale or the extent to which the Chinese tried to influence the '96 election cyle. If American politics is so reponsive, than why has the Democratic party driven out militants who are pro-life and the Republican party attempting to alienate the social conservatives from the party? Indeed, very soon the average American will face a choice between Moloch or Mammon.
As for the European obsession over the neocons, well your comrades have certainly given credence of a nefarious conspiracy. The Ideology of the New American Century is certainly a cause of alarm.... and that's just from allied and sympathetic countries. Nor can you justify your irritability about European fears of the neocons when the NASA director made a boneheaded statement about how space must be an exclusive American monopoly and be denied to everyone even close allies. Bet that Blair deeply appreciated the gratitude that American officialdom supposedly professes towards England as its closest and dearest ally.. In any case, you, yourself reinforce the suspicions with your latest book. The title alone is enough to cause American watchers to groan but the average foreigner, they fear that you've arrogated America to be God by conflating terrorism with evil.
Your reflex is sound to focus on corruption where you err is to isolate it to France as yet another reason to bash the country; rather than to recognize that corruption endangers all democracies.