Saturday, December 18, 2004

Europeans On The USA

This post finishes the poll analysis in the previous post (and touched on one post before) - with the last two poll questions of interest in the latest Eurobarometer poll (pdf).

Where are the weak and strong Euroatlanticists?

The question on what role the USA plays in the fight against terrorism had some (to me at least) surprising results. I wasn't surprised that the "positive" percentages fell significantly in most countries; nor that in many countries "positive" had only a relative majority over "negative" and "neither" (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta; and among candidates Bulgaria). Nor was I surprised about the strong "negative" majorities in Greece and Cyprus (the most anti-American countries outside the Middle East), and "positive" absolute majorities in the usual suspects Britain (55%), The Netherlands (51%, after 59% last time), Poland (55%, after 63% last time); and candidate country Romania where I know neoconservativism found an European foothold, and that in all major cliques of the elite (66%, after 74% last time).

But the Czech Republic and Lithuania stand out as the lands of real War On Terra enthusiasts: the percentage of those who think the USA plays a positive role in the fight against terrorism rose from 61 to 67% resp. 56 to 61% in six months. I am baffled - I apparently haven't followed some major events in those countries.

On the other hand, asked what role the USA plays regarding peace in the world, "negative" opinions dominate, with the above three exceptions: in Romania "positive" beats "negative" 53:25 (tho' after a crushing 61:15), in the Czech Republic only 47:30, in Lithuania 43:25. But as for the usual suspects: in Poland, now the ratio is 30:40 (after 40:34), in the UK 32:44 (after 40:37), in The Netherlands, 31:50 (strong shift from 45:34).

While not the "negative" dominance, but its strength was a surprise for me in the case of Slovenia: "positive" beaten 22:61 on the WoT issue, 13:70 on the peace issue. (In my opinion Slovenia was the most West-European-like among the candidate countries, but I saw poll after West European poll which showed low or least willingness to admit it into the EU - apparently, polled people knew almost nothing about it, and could only erroneously link it to "Balkan Wars".)

Is Britain Anti-EU?

Notorious ex-BBC-host-fired-for-racism and fired UKIP MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk tells The Guardian that "more than 50% of British people don't want to be part of the EU".

Heh, Eurobarometer's latest EU poll (pdf) will disappoint him.

While in most relevant questions, the UK is still the last or close, on some issues the pro-side now has the edge - and its support grew. Really, there is just one question where Kilroy-Silk could cling to statistically significant rejection: asked whether their country benefitted from EU membership, the percentage of No outweighs Yes 45:39 (half a year ago this was 47:30). But this figure is worse for Cyprus and Sweden, and near breakeven for Austria and the Czech Republic - and people apparently see beyond material benefits, for when asked about whether the EU membership of their country is a good thing, people were much less negative - in the UK, Good outweighted Bad 38%:22% (after a deuce at 29% last time).

When asked about the EU's image, there was an almost precise three-way split of positive, ambivalent and negative British views: 32:33:31 (after 26:27:37). Hardcore EU-haters shrunk from 14% to 9%. When asked about EU institutions, there is strangely majority support for the 'Brussels bureaucrats' (i.e. the European Commission, the quasi-government whose members are chosen by the member countries): 39:34 (from a 26:39 rejection six months ago); while the European Parliament is nearing breakeven: 39:41 (from 30:44 last time).

And now the really strange things come: Support for a common foreign policy is below 50% only in the UK, but at 47:36 it still beats opponents by a margin (after a 39:39 deadheat last time). Support for a common defense policy is 55% at its lowest - in Sweden with its neutral history; in the UK, it jumped from 52 to 60%. And support for the EU Consitution beats opposition overwhelmingly in every country - even in the countries where supporters don't have absolute majority, Denmark at 44:36 (after 37:41) and the UK at 49:29 (after 42:24)!

(Here two more countries are worth to note: in Hungary, opposition jumped from 6 to 23% after the main right-wing populist opposition party adoped an Eurosceptic tone, while in Catholic Poland support rose from 62 to 73% despite the lack of a God reference in the Draft Consittution, and the Polish government's failure to keep any of the advantages under the Nice Treaty.)

In most EU countries, people would prefer faster building of Europe than what they perceive. This is true for Britain, too - tough in the file linked the weighted averages aren't calculated, I did it for ya' - the perceived speed averages 4.00 on a scale of 1 (standstill) to 7 (races ahead), the desired speed averages 4.25. (Six months ago it was the opposite: 4.23 vs. 3.97.) In this category the hardcore anti-EU people might either chose Standstill (12%, highest of all countries) or not answer, the sum of these is 23% (after 36%).

I think the moral of the story is that without a militantly anti-EU (and mostly foreign-owned, hehe) right-wing press, British Euroscepticism would pretty much match that of other European countries.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Turkey Ante Portas

After the European Parliament voted 407 to 262 in favour two days earlier, the European Council (kind of an assembly of European national governments, which holds decisive power in the EU) seems to have felt the pressure - the opposition led by Austria and Denmark (and, I suspect, informally by current EC chair The Netherlands) caved in, and the EC agreed to start negotiations on Turkish EU membership from 3 October next year.

Key was a typically European pseudo-solution on the issue of the recognition of (Greek) Cyprus - an agreement that both parties can interpret their way. Turkey will reaffirm its trade agreement with the enlarged EU, which involves (Greek) Cyprus.

BTW, a small note on the EP vote: at the insistence of the Conservatives, the vote was made secret - as Green MEP leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit (photo above) wrote:

"Attempts by the Conservatives and Christian Democrats to increase the number of no-votes by introducing a secret vote, have proven futile. We Greens, who have always favoured the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey, are pleased by the Parliament's resoluteness. We were not susceptible to the lunacy of the EPP group and their confusion of freedom of expression with secrecy. This vote should therefore be a lesson in democracy for those who fear transparency and attempt to manipulate political outcomes though backroom deals."

On other issues, there's a new EU poll out (pdf). I may write more about the number of surprising details in it later, here only a note of disimissal on the only on-topic part: the question about further EU enlargement, which finds 62% of Austrians and lesser majorities of Germany, Luxemburg, Finland and France against. I think the question asked is too simplistic to be useful - for, for example, polls in Germany asking about Turkey joining the EU on the medium or long term (which is the timescale even pro-EU Turks realistically expect) persistently find the support of a wide majority.

UPDATE: In The Guardian I find this excerpt from a Turkish paper:

Zaman's Ismail Kucukkaya says Turkey can join without compromising its identity, and it shouldn't let the EU exclude it on cultural or religious grounds. "Why does Turkey want this EU membership? We're not looking for our identity, as some people, even most Europeans, seem to think. We’re knocking on the doors of the EU only to catch up to European standards, improve our quality of life and become modern and civilized. We want to join the EU in order to raise our educational level, ensure equal opportunities and cultivate a better citizenry. We already have an identity."


BTW, if anyone can source Juan Cole's claim that "Sunni Arabs .. in Iraq .. are 20% at most" to any actual statistical evidence, I'd be grateful. (I once tried to email him but there was no reply.)

Corroboration aka Checkpoint Shootings & Pre-Election Iraq Stuff

One thing that upsets me to no end in all the mainstream Western media's Iraq reporting (because the above exposes mild racism even more widespread than I thought: almost universal) is how claims from Westerners usually get passed on without any critical evaluation, and are converted to facts in later quoting - while information from the hapless people at the receiving end of Western governments' policies always remains an 'uncorroborated claim', even if a number of non-Westerners are reported of independently 'claiming' it - evidence the media won't bother to piece together even if they report all of them. A slight variation on this is when Westerners are among the corroborating witnesses, but the issue at hand is a Western wrongdoing against non-Westerners.

Take the issue of checkpoint shootings, for example. The first widely publicised Westerner witness telling of such careless shootings in large numbers was former Marine Jimmy Massey:

"Massey . . . said his 7th Marines weapons company killed more than 30 civilians during a 48-hour period in April while stationed at a checkpoint in the southern Baghdad district of Rashid. The victims included unarmed demonstrators and a man who drove up in a car and raised his hands above his head in the universal symbol of surrender. "I know in my heart that these vehicles that came up, that they were civilians,'' he said. ''But I had to act on my orders. It's a struggle within my heart.'' The orders, he said, were to shoot at anyone who drove into what is known as the ''red zone'' surrounding the checkpoint because they could be suicide bombers. . . . I saw plenty of Marines become psychopaths. They enjoyed the killing.''

A Westerner to corroborate him is Evan Wright, a former embedded reporter who wrote a book recently, here is a quote from a review:

"the anecdotal evidence, including the obliteration of villages where there was no serious resistance, along with isolated incidents where the unit had to stop and tend the children and civilians they wounded or killed, mounts by the end of the book to present a withering indictment of the needless brutality of the invasion. He writes toward the conclusion of his narrative:

' In the past six weeks, I have been on hand while this comparatively small unit of Marines has killed quite a few people. I personally saw three civilians shot, one of them fatally with a bullet in the eye. These were just the tip of the iceberg. The Marines killed dozens, if not hundreds, in combat through direct fire and through repeated, at times almost indiscriminate, artillery strikes. And no one will probably ever know how many died from the approximately 30,000 pounds of bombs First Recon ordered dropped from aircraft.' "

(This and previous quote via Juan Cole.)

Here is a third corroboration - from an article on homeless veterans:

"We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."

"That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children -- really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."

Juan Cole, who ahead of the sham Iraqi elections is ever more devolving into a Shi'a partisan living in a dangerous fantasy land, elsewhere accuses AMS leader Hareth al-Dhari of the same, for speaking clear words like this:

“The independent election commission in Iraq considered Iraq a single constituency, despite its huge space (438,000km). Also, the UN has pledged to send 25 observers, only seven of whom have arrived, to monitor the ballots.” Al-Dari drew comparison with the UN-supervised 2001 elections in Eastern Timor, where the UN divided the tiny country into 12 constituencies and sent around 300-400 observers to monitor the ballots. “This, in a nutshell, means the United Nations could not be monitoring the elections in Iraq.”

As for al-Sadr, who, after Sistani tried to minimise the Sadrist part on the all-Shiite list while Americans continued to arrest Sadrists, at present takes the position of staying away from the election show: in another Juan Cole post, you can read of a sermon of him that maintains the nationalist, anti-sectarian, but pro-theocratic rhetoric he increasingly adopted since April 2004. (This is what I keep read Juan Cole for: all this translated Arabic material which he brings even if it contradicts his own severe myopia, say his almost total silence about the potential for civil war in Sistani's sectarian grab for power, which reminds me of US Republicans with their token shopwindow blacks.)

New Labour Environmentalism

I hope the lack of comments for this important article @ Dead Men Left means every reader of DML agreed fully, and not that they don't care...

The short story is that NuLab-led Britain is failing its NuLab-set targets on CO2 emissions reductions, mostly due to its failure to do anything about growing road traffic - and upped by a new £7bn road-building scheme...

This is the same story with New Labour/New Left/Neue Mitte/Third Way vs. transport everywhere - Germany's Schröder ain't any better here.

First there are big promises.

But once in office there is only support for a few massive prestige projects that aren't well thought out, and then are managed even more ineptly.

At the same time, they push for privatisation as the magic solution instead of doing something themselves.

After both of these idiocies lead to predictable disasters, the Party People decide for us that it won't work anyway, and do what they always did best: serve the interests of business lobbies, to hell with the consequences.

At least the transport minister of the new Spanish government of Zapatero, who on the economic front is said to be close to NuLab, declared in clear terms that even after open access, the national transport railroad won't be privatised - to ensure the continuation of public transport on unprofitable lines.

Ukraine P.S.

Responding to criticism from Alexei @ The Russian Dilettante, and incorporating stuff I read up on, I updated my post on the historical background of divisions in Ukraine.

UPDATE: This is also the right ocassion to link to this article of Alexei's, which among other issues points out sources of democratic and authoritarian traditions in Russia and (Northern-Central) Ukraine that most people more to the West have no clue about (including me).

US, German Exports; Crude, Gasoil Prices

I expressed my scepticism earlier that the falling dollar will really cure US deficits by raising exports.

Now, if you check the latest figures, which are until October (the month the Euro climb since August accelerated), you'll see a record one-month seasonally adjusted deficit (-55,464,000,000; topping the previous record - June this year - by about a hundred million). Even more significantly, this difference came as the growth of total exports slowed down.

At the same time, check the corresponding figures for the main Eurozone exporting power, Germany (best look at the two tables at the bottom; key below after [*] mark). The growth of exports exceeds that of exports both in volume and percentage change, and both for the total and the non-Euro subtotal (the latter I calculated: 9.5% vs. 7.9%) - this after the losses in the summer when the Euro was weak[+]. Keep in mind that in October 2003, the exchange rate hovered at around 1.15-1.17, a year later it was rising from 1,23 to 1,28.

Now, one thing you don't see in the above is how much of that trade is with the USA - but if you check the available data for the third quarter, then you see exports to the USA rising much faster than imports even in this downturn period - and you'll see China was the main reason for the lesser trade surplus.

So even if we play short-sighted and forget that a credit-based US consumer - global producer economy is not sustainable infinitely, I don't think there is a reason for the ECB to start paying imperial tax on the scale the Japanese and Chinese central banks do.


Meanwhile, on an issue I promised to follow, but didn't blog on for long: the stange election-year relationship of US crude oil prices and US gasoil prices. (Short story: companies cashed in at gas stations during May, but kept prices down during the crude price hikes of August and September.)

During the four weeks after my original post, the pattern broke: if we delay crude oil prices a week and cut off its peaks, both rose by equal measure (you have to multiply gasoil price differences by 42 for comparison). On the other hand, the previously built up discrepancy wasn't 'eaten up'. Also, in the last few weeks, one could see a mirror image of September - crude oil price is falling faster than gasoil price.

[*] "Ausfuhr"=export, "Einfuhr"=import, "Drittländer"='third countries' outside the EU, "Kalender-und saison-bereinigter Wert"=saisonally corrected value, "Vorjahresmonat"=same month previous year, "Vormonat"=previous month; I'm certain you can deduce the rest.

[+] The abysmal intelligence level of discourse on economics can be deduced from the fact that much of the press connected these bad summer data with the Euro price rise - in autumn, at the time when these summer statistics were released...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What Follows People Power

Mark Almond wrote a piece in the Guardian that is very sceptical about Eastern European peaceful revolutions, and attempts to put the common swiping about US and Western funding for organisers into a wider context: disillusionment and corruption that followed the previous revolutions. It gave me mixed feelings.

On one hand he is wrong to line up the recent examples of People Power with the 1989 velvet revolutions. The latter were marked in most places, maybe with the partial exception of Poland, by their unorganised-ness. The intellectuals who got Western support weren't organising masses like OTPOR et al in Serbia, they were dozens or at most hundreds of intellectuals who linked up, thousands more who only read their pamphlets, and millions more who merely heard of them. The mass turnouts and the fast and easy fall of the regimes, which had much more to do with Gorbachev's liberal policies than any Western meddling, took both these intellectuals and the West by surprise. (Comparisons with Venezuela now or Chile 1970-1973 or Iran 1953 are less easily dismissed.)

On the other hand, yes, there was much disillusionment in the population after 1989, when 'necessary' market reforms made a bad situation worse[*] - for most, but not the elites. And yes, I certainly did observe that many if not most of these onetime dissidents became part of or apologist for the new elite, an elite blinded by its own material success, and are both naive about and slavishly adherent to both neoliberal dogmas and Western elites.

Yes, Western elites, political, economical and media elites, whom they still view as role models rather than equals not above criticism. The few true Atlanticists can only be found among them, and what is striking to me is how uninformed and naive their arguments are (much more so than say that of British apologists for Bliar). They think reading something in elite papers like The Economist or NYT makes them informed. Michnik and his paper, despite Borislaw Geremek's protests, is case in point. Or on the wider issues, another example with his traffic policies and increasing common-people-alienatedness is Gábor Demszky, the major of Budapest (since 1990, but not after 2006 if current trends and scandals continue).

Yet on the third hand if I had one, naive atlanticism, elitism and adherence to neoliberal dogmas is far from being the sole property of ex-dissidents in post-peaceful-revolution countries. It permeates Western elites throughout - as well as ex-reformed-communist and formerly-not-active-as-dissident nationalist elites over here. Both of the latter are stronger and more influential than the politically active remains of the dissidents. (And then there are the populists, but they have other faults to replace the above.) For the former, it all was just a change of ideology and Big Brother to follow, the culture is the same. So no, the Soros stipendants do not carry the bulk of blame for what happened here after 1989.

[*] By eliminating public services most people never thought to be part of the bargain, by erroneously applying the consumption-cooling monetary weapon to inflation caused not by excessive consumption but freed prices, by ruining a lot of working state or newly privatised ex-state companies in the following credit-starved period, and by allowing investors to buy companies just to ruin and sell out them rather than demanding investitions. If you say there is growth now, I say it is less impressive if you consider its distribution, and its start-out basis - while the big fact is that it was neither necessary in that form, nor without alternatives.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I'm full of work at the moment, at the same time doing a certain project that eats up most of my free time, but I'll be posting again later in the week. (Beware, a mini-series on loosely connected issues in history is in the pipeline!)