September 18, 2006

Explaining the J Curve (JOHN BATCHELOR, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Simply, the J curve according to Mr. Bremer’s Eurasia Group is drawn on a bar graph with “stability” as the X-axis and “openness” as the Y-axis. By stability, Mr. Bremmer means the ability to withstand shocks from the outside, such as a terror attack, as well as the ability to avoid shocking yourself, such as a market crash or a coup. By openness, Mr. Bremmer means that citizens have access to information both from outside the state and from fellow citizens, such as perfectly describes the internet. What is striking about the J curve is that a maximum tyranny such as North Korea, on the extreme left of the curve, is almost as stable as a maximum free society such as Denmark on the extreme right of the curve. The distinction with the difference is what happens to a nation when it moves from being the prison of North Korea on the left to being the liberated salon of Denmark on the right: the stability dips severely.This is the J shape, so that a country that throws off its tyranny will plunge into chaos quickly and keep sinking into Hades for some time before it can hope to rise to new enterprises as an open society. […]

Currently slipping from intolerant stability to the long depths of chaos are Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. At the depths of the curve, when all hope is murdered, are South Africa after apartheid and Yugoslavia after the Soviets. And now climbing from the depraved depths toward enhancing openness, according to Mr. Bremmer, are Turkey, Israel, and India. Coyly, Mr. Bremmer sidesteps China and calls the PRC a dilemma. […]

What hedgies do not readily entertain is that the historical record is filled with events that describe illogical possibilities that actually happened and changed the map, such as the contest between revolutionary Bonapartist France and imperial merchant England. Waiting out Napoleon’s bloodthirsty vanity would not have worked, even over half a century of patience. Further, it is unimaginable, on reading the London Times in 1805, that anyone could have constrained the Admiralty from sending out Nelson and Collingwood to find the combined French and Spanish fleets. Horatio Nelson closing on the enemy at Trafalgar can sound as if he is schooling George Bush as he closes on Saddam at Baghdad: “When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive, I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.”

Mr. Bremmer’s genius does illuminate the present bootless homicide in Baghdad, however, because in order to gain the gift of an open democracy, Iraq must pass through the depraved low point of the J curve. Elections are not the objective. Stability with free-flowing information in a capitalist forum is the mission, and that will take time and intrepidity.

Using the J curve as an analytical lens through which to view just the 20th century, it becomes apparent that given three opportunities to shove things towards the upslope of the curve, even if it would have been more chaotic, we instead favored the left, and “stability,” thereby retarding development and prolonging the Long War: when Wilson chose the League (perforce accepting the re-establishment of colonialism) over self-determination after WWI; when we failed to destroy the Bolshevik regime at the end of WWII; and when George H. W. Bush sided with the PRC and Ba’athist dictators after the Cold War. These episodes of Realism have all proved disastrous in the long run.


September 12, 2006

St Andrew’s Day off (for some) (HAMISH MACDONELL AND LOUISE GRAY, 9/12/06, The Scotsman)

JACK McConnell yesterday backed plans to make St Andrew’s Day a public holiday, saying it would help bring the country together to celebrate the good in Scotland. […]

Announcing his backing, the First Minister said yesterday: “I want to make sure that each year here in Scotland we celebrate St Andrew’s Day as one country, many cultures, so we all come together and celebrate everything that is good about Scotland.”


September 11, 2006

Ignatieff: Liberal saviour or sorcerer? (CHANTAL HÉBERT, 9/11/06, Toronto Star)

Now that [Michael] Ignatieff has used the Quebec Liberal leadership debate to firm up his promise to enshrine Quebec’s status as a nation in the Constitution, there is little middle ground left between those two conflicting conclusions.

Either the Liberals believe, as Ignatieff insisted yesterday, that enshrining Quebec’s national character is something that simply has to be done, regardless of the enormous difficulties involved. Or else they will have to agree with Bob Rae that the chances of success of such an enterprise are so slim that they are not worth the immense risk to the fabric of the federation.

In their hearts, there is nothing that most Quebec Liberals would like better than to campaign on Ignatieff’s promise in the next federal election. For more than 20 years in Quebec, their party has been seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution to the definition of the province’s place in the federation. Over that period, the federal Liberal party has virtually disappeared from francophone Quebec. In Quebec City, where the debate was held yesterday for instance, a measly 9 per cent of voters supported Paul Martin in the last election.

The enduring failure to arrive at some form of constitutional accommodation with Quebec has also fuelled the sovereignty movement and made impossible any attempt at comprehensive institutional reform at the national level.

People who thinks of themselves as a nation are one.


September 4, 2006

Republic of Srpska referendum “unavoidable” (BE92, 4 September 2006)

Milorad Dodik said that an independence referendum for the Republic of Srpska is unavoidable.

According to the RS Prime Minister, the referendum is unavoidable because of the inability to keep Bosnia-Herzegovina unified in the long-term.

Once you start dividing along ethnic lines it’s not easy to stop.


August 29, 2006

Indepedenzia Day: The Basque people may disapprove of ETA’s tactics, but they are still determined to gain independence. (Sarah Wildman, 08.25.06, American Prospect)

Every year, in the Basque city of San Sebastian, demonstrators seeking independence gather hours before the commencement of “Semana Grande,” a week-long festival of bull fights, outdoor concerts, and fireworks. In years past, it wasn’t uncommon for Molotov cocktails to be lobbed from the crowd towards the police, who responded in kind. Last summer 20 protestors were injured — hit by rubber bullets fired by the police when the crowd grew violent. The day before this year’s protest, a Basque woman in her late twenties told me that, throughout her teens, violent clashes with the police took place frequently. She would be minding her own business in Parte Vieje, the old city, and suddenly a Pamplona-like stampede would come rushing down the street and sweep her up. She would then dive into the nearest bar, whereupon the barkeep would quickly rattle down the metal “We’re closed” cage until the violence ceased.

This year was the first Semana Grande protest since the violent Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced its ceasefire back in March. Hours before the demonstration, many in town weren’t sure it would take place — Madrid’s famous Judge Baltazar Garzon initially banned the protest, accusing ETA’s political arm, Batasuna, of organizing the event. In the end, ETA’s signature snake and axe were nowhere to be found. Only the flag of Euskal Herria, the Basque region, remained.

ETA may not have been there (though members were spotted in the crowd by the local media), but the Basque quest for independence appears undimmed.

A people who think of themselves as a nation are one.


August 27, 2006

Poll: SNP set to seize power at Holyrood (EDDIE BARNES, 8/27/06, The Scotsman)

ALEX Salmond is on track to take Scotland to the brink of independence, according to a startling new poll which shows the SNP has opened up a clear lead over Labour.

With just eight months to go until the Holyrood elections, the party has established a four-point lead over its nearest rivals, and appears to be pulling away.
Click here to find out more!

The SNP claims that if the poll result was repeated at voting booths next year it would eradicate Labour’s majority at the Scottish Parliament.

If Salmond becomes First Minister, he has pledged to introduce a bill for an independence referendum within 100 days of taking up office.

Our own Democrats still think this is an ideal time to be a party of the Left in the Anglosphere?


July 2, 2006

Tory plan to restrict Scots MPs (BBC, 7/02/06)

The Conservatives are to recommend Scottish MPs be banned from voting on issues that only affect England. […]

The Tories want to end what they believe is the unfairness of Scottish MPs voting on issues such as health and education in England, although these matters are decided by the Scottish parliament north of the border.

That could dent the leadership credentials of Gordon Brown, who represents a Scottish constituency.

THERE IS NO SPAIN (via Matthew Cohen):

June 30, 2006

Spain PM ready to open Eta talks (BBC, 6/30/06)

The Spanish prime minister has said his government will begin talks with the banned Basque separatist group Eta.

The statement in parliament by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist, was broadcast live on Spanish TV.

“The government is going to start negotiations with Eta,” he said. The group is demanding Basque independence.

Any people that considers itself a nation is one.


June 24, 2006

Italians Get Ready to Vote on Referendum (Sabina Castelfranco, 23 June 2006, VOA News)

Italians will hold a two-day referendum June 25 and June 26 to decide whether to confirm constitutional reforms giving more power to regional governments. The reforms, which boost powers in areas of health, education and local policing, were passed by the Italian parliament in November. […]

While the center-left agrees on the need for some changes to the constitution, the prime minister and the other leaders of his coalition have branded the planned constitutional reform as fatal…for the country.

That’s the point.


June 22, 2006

How not to secede while really trying: Other countries cope with separatist movements. We cope with a never-quite-separating separatist movement (Mark Steyn, June 19, 2006, Western Standard)

Up to the eighties, the Cold War provided useful cover for Quebec’s bluff: the map was, for the most part, frozen. But, in the wake of the Soviet collapse, any folks who thought they were a nation could pretty much be one. And evidently Quebecers don’t, not in any meaningful way. Why not? They’ve got all the characteristics of a nation. Compared to their nominal compatriots, they speak a different language, they come from a different ethnic stock, they have a different (albeit mostly residual) religion. By contrast, Montenegrins are all but identical to Serbs in lingo, race, religion and culture. And yet 600,000 fellows up in the hills now have their own nation, and seven million Quebecers don’t.

You’ll search hard in Quebec for any signs of affection for Canada. The symbols of the state are all but absent. You can drive for hours in the hinterland and not see a single Canadian flag flying from anything other than a post office. The head of state hasn’t ventured any deeper into the province than Hull in 30 years. Her representative, the lieutenant-governor, isn’t allowed into the national assembly to read the throne speech.

Much of this is fairly recent. It’s well known during the blockbuster Royal tour of 1939 that the streets of Anglo Canada were jammed: a million turned out to cheer the king and queen in Vancouver, a million and a half in Toronto. But the Montreal and Quebec City stops attracted comparable crowds. As Their Majesties passed through Trois-Rivierès, 50,000 people swarmed the train station to sing “Dieu Sauve Le Roi.” The queen (i.e., the late queen mum) was asked whether she considered herself English or Scottish and replied that, ever since arriving at Quebec City, she’d been Canadian.

Sixty-seven years on, you’d be hard put to find anyone in Quebec City who considers himself Canadian, outside a few tourists in the bar of the Chateau Frontenac. Quebec “nationalism” did a grand job at lowering the province’s Canadianness to all but undetectable levels. What they failed to do was provide anything to put in its place. It’s an old political axiom that you can’t beat something with nothing. The Péquistes were very effective at transforming the Canadian something into a big nothing, and then they left it at that. But it seems you can’t beat nothing with nothing. Quebec nationalism successfully semi-detached itself from Canada, only to run out of gas in no man’s land.

Quebec is an object lesson in how multi-culturalism can remove any organizing principle whatsoever from a society.