Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Waving carefully

Coming from the UK, perhaps one of the most alien cultural differences here is the utter horror of any reminder of the Nazi period. Whilst Prince Harry and his chums may quite happily don SS fancy dress and barely a day goes by without the Swastika appearing somewhere on UK TV, here it remains strictly verboten. I'm even slightly careful not to hold my arm too rigidly when raising a hand in greeting, as one does multiple times a day here. Truly.

A 51 year old Croatian chap is finally going home this week after a month in custody and with a fifteen month suspended sentence for making the Hitlergru├č

Some of you may remember a mammoth libel case brought by Lord Aldington against Nikolai Tolstoy some years ago. Aldington, then Brigadier Toby Low, together with an officer named Harold Macmillan, were instrumental, when commanding units of the British army of occupation here in 1945, in forcefully sending back tens of thousands of Croatian Ustache fighters and their families to Yugoslavia, where they were massacred in mass shootings just across the border. Having fought for Hitler, these Croat fascists wanted to surrender to the British or Americans, but wartime diplomacy meant they had to be sent back to their certain death. 

Anyhow, every year there's an embarrassingly fascistic remembrance event at Bleiberg with flags and an open air catholic mass. The Austrian and Croatian governments both want it to end, as does the local Catholic bishop. The Croats and their sympathetic priests, however, are determined to continue. It's all carefully watched by the police - which is why, when this fairly pissed chap shot his right arm up, he was promptly arrested. 'Reactivation', it's called. 

Prince Harry, be warned.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Migration - the real coming EU crisis

Italy has closed her ports to the NGO taxi service, and to the earnest young westerners with access to enough wealth to buy small merchant ships who have operated it, ferrying hundreds of thousands of Africans from both the maghreb and sub-saharan regions from the Libyan coast to the Mezzogiorno. And since it is not only these idiots but the Italian coastguard and Navy that has transferred migrants from their spanking-new Chinese rubber rafts for the trip across the Med, one wonders what orders they have now. Sailors are under an international legal obligation to respond to those in peril, but the law doesn't require us to go looking for them - so most likely their patrols have been restricted to the Italian coast, or even more wisely, they are now steaming to the Horn of Africa for anti-piracy operations. 

I have printed before a version of the UN graphic below. Youth unemployment in Africa is between 25% and 70%. Over the next ten years the number of young Africans 15-24 will soar from 250m to over 300m - and the best guess is that some 50m of those will drift north, seeing their only future as recipients of European wealth. 

This bulge in the number of young Africans is coming at a time when global opportunities for uneducated and unskilled young men is approaching a nadir; robots have replaced them as factory fodder, and even the traditional entry-profession of taxi driving is now under threat from AI. We have seasonal opportunities in the UK for fruit pickers and horticultural workers, but want the workers to go back home when the work ends. These folk want to stay. 

What the nations of Europe must now decide - and the six-month Austrian presidency of the EU is determined to ensure they do - is how to tackle the people smugglers and thousands of giant-sized Chinese rubber rafts. The only realistic solution that I can see is European enclaves in North Africa in which we maintain migrant camps that can hold a million or more Africans - feed them, keep them safe from enslavement, provide basic medical care. And then send them home. 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Are you a Liberal?

There is currently a very lively dialogue between left and right on what should be common ground, opposition to illiberal authoritarianism. What constitutes illiberal authoritarianism, however, could not be more differently defined. For the right, it is central command and control, abnegation of direct and popular democracy, restrictions on free speech, loss of national sovereignty, the power of the global corporates and their alliance with forms of super-national and international government. For the left, it means the undermining of benign expert and technocratic public administration, abusing the credulity and anxiety of the less-educated masses, the threat of raw nationalism, and the rejection of super national and international bodies that define and uphold standards of rights and justice.

I suppose the one benefit of this near universal opposition to illiberal authoritarianism is that we're all of us now liberals - but liberals of very divergent types. On the right, the 'classical liberals' trace a lineage back to the fathers of the enlightenments - Burke, Locke, Hobbes, Adam Smith and JS Mill. Jordan Peterson is a typical classical liberal - and his Channel Four interview with Cathy Newman on You Tube now has over ten million views.
I'm not sure what to term the opposite kind of liberals - perhaps 'progressive liberals' or 'social liberals' - but perhaps Ms Newman herself is a good exemplar.

In June 2016 there was spoof Guardian headline screaming 'The wrong people are using democracy!' that actually uncovered an uncomfortable truth. From this event have evolved proposals to change democracy to make it better - including both ideas about deliberative democracy, giving state experts a role in guiding the masses to make the right decisions, and the proposals from classical liberals for direct democracy based on the Swiss model. All these ideas for new, improved democracy stem from a 'need' to tackle illiberal authoritarianism and a presumption that our current system of representative democracy is flawed. That, again, is common ground between right and left.

So are those of us who have called ourselves Libertarians liberals also? Derek Robinson writes in Politico about the American experience, where 'classical liberal' is coming to mean the conservative but not Trumpist faction within the Rebublican party;
Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University, suggested that the “libertarian moment” may have exerted its toll on the movement’s brand. “[The term libertarian] has the baggage of being slightly dogmatic, whereas the ‘liberal’ expression does not,” Klein said in an interview. “I’m not for discarding the word libertarian, but classical liberalism is like a nuanced libertarianism.”
Ah OK. He means Libertarians have earned a reputation as swivel-eyed loons with their heads in tankards of ale whilst the kinder, gentler classical liberals sip amontillado. Fair dos.  

So, fellow liberals, at least we're united against the other liberals, with clear blue water between us. The only question now is whether the Liberals are liberals ...

Friday, 15 June 2018

Tony Blair - Godfather of Illiberal Authoritarianism

It's not only columnists from the centre-right such as Allister Heath in the Telegraph who are awake to the threat to our democracy of the new Illiberal Authoritarianism - the centre-left is also now waking to the threat. They, too, point to Putin (correct) and China (correct) but also to Trump (stupidly wrong). The problem is, the solution of the lefties to a threat to democracy is often, erm, less democracy. 

Reading a mirror article to that of Heath, featured in the post below, in Der Spiegel, the bells started ringing as I read the following;
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary has adopted a similar approach, one which has kept him in power for eight years and recently got him elected for four more. His people now occupy not only all key positions in Hungarian ministries and agencies, but also in universities, clinics, theatres and courtrooms. He has also managed to bring a large part of the economy under his control by way of a network of companies that are well-disposed toward him.
Good God. That is exactly the plan developed and carried out by one Anthony Blair - and had he not been deposed by the petulance of a political pygmy in the wings and his own criminal culpability over Iraq, he could still today be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He stitched up the entire machinery of State, allied himself with the global corporates and paralysed effective opposition in a stranglehold of central control. The Blair model of Illiberal Authoritarianism is now being applied across the globe.

Well, good luck to Der Spiegel. If they find an effective way of prising-off all those political appointees who cling like pubic lice to their posts, sinecures and tenures, I do hope they tell us - we're still in urgent need of a cure here.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Yes, we must now fight for our most basic democratic rights

It became for me noticeably clear after the Referendum. There was an agonised scream from the Guardian - "the wrong people are using Democracy". It was not just a joke. Since then, the bien-pensant metropolitian class has been doing everything it can to remove and replace our most fundamental democratic rights with various decision-making systems that they can control. You may have thought me over the top when I have warned previously that our most fundamental legal democratic safeguards - the right to associate, to free speech, to form political parties, the right of universal suffrage and of the secret ballot - are under threat. Today I commend to you without reservation Allister Heath's column in the Telegraph (£). 

Heath characterises this as a struggle between the liberal democrats - us -  against the managerialists of  'authoritarian liberalism'. And we are losing. Heath also admits that we have lost Brexit.
I prefer to call this emergent global political model “managerialism”. If you want to find some of its more vocal proponents, look no further than the pro-EU “rebel” MPs slowly but surely killing off Brexit: their contempt for real democracy is matched only by their preposterous self-regard. They are typical card-carrying authoritarian liberals, convinced that they know better than we do what is good for us. ...

Brexit is being overturned but it won an astonishing victory against a Remain side that massively outspent it....

There is huge, pent-up populist anger across the EU, and the rage of the Brexiteers when they find out they have been conned will be something else....

Britain almost broke away; but it seems that the tide of history was too strong for Theresa May’s hapless government. Still, history never ends, and supporters of liberal democracy will live to fight another day, in Britain and across the world.
Please, if you spend money on anything today, buy a copy of the Telegraph and clip Heath's article.

We must start over again. We need a party to replace both UKIP and the Conservatives, that supports fundamental libertarian and democratic values, that supports all those deserted and abandoned by the Labour Party and that isn't ashamed to learn from the Swiss how to defend popular democracy.

This fight has just started.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

No one complains they were a refused an overdraft for being gay

There is an interesting debate now widening its scope on the ethics around AI. I reproduce below a survey conducted by the RSA in which many respondents expressed hostility to the use of AI for decision making - except for the two areas in which most people have experienced it, financial services and ad content on social media. For every 'computer says no' there are at least as many 'computer says yes' decisions. And AI is colourblind; it doesn't care about your accent, your creed, your beauty or the size of your, erm intagible assets. You can't game an AI system, or rely on a human co-religionist or wearer of the same club tie to distort the outcomes. I've never heard anyone complain they were refused an overdraft because they were black or gay - AI has credentials of utter impartiality that few human agents have. 

There are, I think, two reasons for opposing the use of AI . The first is that it doesn't make the quality of decisions that do humans, that it's somehow second-best. This is the easiest criticism to answer. In most cases AI is deployed because it makes better decisions than people - and the gap is getting wider each day. Simply, AI should not be deployed unless it's demonstrably better than human decision-making.

The second and most apposite reason to oppose AI is because it is utterly impartial.The sharp-elbowed middle classes have no advantage over the modest or inarticulate in securing better access to services; neither will favoured ethnic, faith or sexual-preference groups go to the front of the queue. The old school tie will cut no ice, a golf-partner MP or Chief Constable dinner guest will endow no special treatment. Decision making by AI, in other words, offers the potential for the ultimate meritocracy, making decisions without fear or favour on strict clinical, equitable or judicial grounds, unmoved by all those factors economists class as 'taste' discrimination. But the word 'potential' is the key word.

The reason we are having a debate right now is that we need to set the rules, and to set them in law, as to how AI makes decisions. Healthcare AI, for example, must make decisions on strict clinical grounds. Ethnic minority women in the population are substantially more obese than either ethnic minority men (.pdf) or the general population. If treatments or surgery are withheld from the obese on clinical grounds, black women will be disproportionally affected. Will an ultra-liberal NHS stand for this, or will the AI be programmed to refuse surgery to the obese unless it's a black woman? That's why we need a legal framework. And a debate. 

I guess the BBC and the public sector will fight tooth and claw to resist a hiring-and-promotion AI system based only on merit - no more internships open only to Somali transexuals, no more preference for Korean pederasts who are 'under-represented' as leisure-centre instructors.  

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The geopolitics behind both Trump and Brexit

AEP concludes his most recent piece in the Telegraph (£)
Seen it this light, the US assault on the world’s existing trade system becomes less of a mystery. It is not a discussion about tariffs or Ricardian theories of comparative advantage. It is about geopolitics. This is much more threatening for Germany.  
It also makes it all the more important that we work to keep Germany tied tightly into a Western European alliance (EU and NATO). Yes, it's all about geopolitics - not the stale Nazi lebensraum variety but the cerebral Kissinger realpolitik kind.  

This is how the theory goes. The global core remains pivoted around Poland, and comprises the nations of Mitteleuropa from the Danish border to Croatia, the Baltic lands, Ukraine, Eastern Europe north of Bulgaria, and Western Russia. This core is both self sufficient in energy, grain and most raw materials and is wholly-land connected. Around the core is the 'rimland' - connected by land to the core. Beyond the 'rimland' are the 'islands' - Britain, the New World, Japan, Oceania, which depend on the seas and ships for trade and defence. There is a continual and tectonic struggle for power and dominance between the three regions. 

Following the fall of the Wall in 1989 both Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote of the importance of maintaining focus on the core - it was not, as Fukuyama so naively claimed, the 'end of history' and Russia and Germany remained the focus of global policy and international strategy.
After Russia, the second geopolitical threat traditionally remained Germany and, as Mackinder had feared ninety years ago, its partnership with Russia. During the Cold War, Kissinger argues, both sides of the Atlantic recognised that, "unless America is organically involved in Europe, it would be obliged to involve itself later under circumstances far less favourable to both sides of the Atlantic. That is even more true today. Germany has become so strong that existing European institutions cannot by themselves strike a balance between Germany and its European partners. Nor can Europe, even with Germany, manage (Russia) by itself.  It is in no country's interest that Germany and Russia should fixate on each other as principal partner."
And it's not just one-way. America alone cannot contain the endogenous expansionism of the core; "Without America, Britain and France cannot cope with Germany and Russia" and "without Europe, America could turn … into an island off the shores of Eurasia."

The aims of this geopolitics are summed up in the classic aims of British diplomacy - "To keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out" and the fall of the wall hasn't changed a thing.

And there you have it. Trump knows he must both weaken Germany and keep her tied into the Rimland - this I think is that to which AEP alludes. And Brexit is no more than a re balancing that confirms Britain's geopolitical place amongst the nations of 'the islands' rather than tied to the rimland. 

And it doesn't really matter whether you or I believe this analysis or not - it's clearly part of the understanding of the Davos and Bilderberg class. It's also a framework that allows one to place global players in support or otherwise of the three competing blocs. And explains a lot.