News from Abroad



  • Police secretly investigated the travel habits, family, friends and backgrounds of 47,000 innocent people last year after they bought plane tickets to fly into and out of Britain. The intrusiveness has provoked fury among civil liberties campaigners and now may be stopped by Britain’s new coalition Government. The flyers were singled out by the ‘terrorist detector’ database, introduced by Labour, monitoring millions of British tourists and other travelers. Checks included scrutiny of the police national computer, financial records and analysis of ‘known associates’ before people were cleared for travel.
  • The most significant thing by far about the recent election in Britain was the Conservatives’ failure to win it outright. In an unexpected way, this failure was reassuring. The Conservatives faced a government that should have been an opposition’s dream. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, owed his position to succession, not to election; he was so lacking in social skills that he had to be taught how to smile, with the natural consequence that, when he did so, he looked like Frankenstein’s monster trying to be agreeable. It had long been known that Mr. Brown, a former chancellor of the exchequer, was happier with a table of figures than with a roomful of people, but unfortunately nerdishness is not a guarantee of competence. On the contrary, he has presided over what threatens to be the greatest economic disaster in British history, caused largely by his own unfathomable incapacity.
  • Just when you thought the EU could not go any further down the road towards authoritarian excess, it gets worse. The European Commission is calling for EU powers to vet budgets of the 27 member states before the draft laws have been presented to the House of Commons, the Tweede Kamer, the Folketing, the Bundestag, the Assemblee Nationale, or other national parliaments. It applies to Britain even though we are not in EMU. Fonctionnaires and EU finance ministers will pass judgement on the British (or Dutch, or Danish, or French) budgets before the elected bodies of these ancient and sovereign nations have seen the proposals. Did we not we not fight the English Civil War and kill a king over such a prerogative?



  • Greece is considering taking legal action against U.S. investment banks that might have contributed to the country’s debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said.
  • The $1 trillion rescue of the eurozone, aimed at averting a spread of contagion from Greece, did nothing to help the Greeks address their underlying and unsustainable fiscal situation. Greece is insolvent and needs to lower its total debt burden before 2012.
  • Greece was told that if it wanted a bailout, it needed to consider privatizing its government health care system. So tell us again why the U.S. is following Europe’s welfare state model. The requirement, part of a deal arranged by the IMF, the European Union and the European Central bank, is a tacit admission that national health care programs are unsustainable. Along with transportation and energy, the bailout group, according to the New York Times, wants the Greek government to remove “the state from the marketplace in crucial sectors.”

Near East

  • The Turkish government this week brokered an 11th-hour nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran. Turkey’s foreign minister explains the principles that made it possible.
  • Today, “color revolutions,” which a few years ago were seen as promising developments in the post-Soviet space, seem to be out of fashion. Around the world, disappointment with democracy promotion is widespread. Instead, consolidation of authoritarian regimes appears to be the prevailing trend. Roughly a year ago, Moldova, a country few know about, seemed to confirm this. On April 7, 2009, Moldova made headlines when peaceful protests against unfair elections were hijacked by a small number of provocateurs who attacked the parliament building and presidential palace.

Continential Affairs

  • If for some inexplicable reason you wanted to reawaken German nationalism, how would you go about it? I suggest a three-part strategy. First, you would replace the rock-solid German currency by one with very shaky economic foundations, against the wishes of almost the whole German population (which, of course, you would not deign to consult). Second, you would make sure that same population paid for the gross and dishonest profligacy of the Greek government: a profligacy that was rendered possible by the adoption of the very currency that the German population did not want in the first place. Third, you would do everything possible to ensure that the crisis will spread, last for a long time, cost a fortune in failed attempts to solve it, and fall mainly to the Germans to pay for. It goes without saying the second and third parts of the strategy should be against the wishes of the German population whose opinion, however, should be bulldozed aside as being of no account.
  • Merkel Battered as Germans lose faith in EU. After bailing out Greece and now the Euro Germany is fed up…
  • A 60-year-old lawyer ripped a Muslim woman’s Islamic veil off in a row in a clothing shop in what police say is France’s first case of “burka rage”.
  • Share prices have dropped across Europe and the euro has slid to an 18-month low against the dollar on fears that the eurozone bailout of Greece will fail and reports that French president Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull his country out of the single currency altogether to force Germany to agree to the rescue plan.
  • The European experiment has failed and is only artificially being kept alive on a life-support system of taxpayer-funded bailouts. The euro is now a zombie currency: only the political will of the European nomenklatura keeps it nominally in existence. That is the exact reverse of the proper relationship between a currency and the state: the currency should be the expression of a healthy economy testifying to the legitimacy of the government it represents.

Weekly Omens or The Goats Entrails.

  • A swarm of “thousands of bees” gathered outside the White House this morning.
  • London’s two major airports were closed Monday as a cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland moved east into England, British air authorities said. All flights into and out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been canceled for a six-hour period beginning early Monday, airport officials said.The affected flights are those scheduled between 1 a.m. (8 p.m. Sunday ET) and 7 a.m. (2 a.m. ET).The Monday cancellations were the latest in a round of weekend closures of airports across the United Kingdom and into continental Europe.
  • In his battle with the titans of Wall Street, President Barack Obama almost got upstaged by a rat. But he didn’t even seem to notice. Assuming that’s what it was, scurrying in front of his podium Thursday in a sun-drenched Rose Garden. Obama had just begun an afternoon statement to reporters lauding the end of a Senate filibuster on his financial overhaul plan when some kind of rodent — opinions differ on which — dashed out of the bushes to his right, just outside the Oval Office. As photographers snapped away, the critter trundled straight past the gray podium with the presidential seal and made a bee-line for another set of bushes to Obama’s left.

Some things never change

  1. Week in review « Craig W. Wright

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