Archive for November, 2015

Pablo Trapero and the Great Secret of Argentina

El Clan  is a  flawed movie in many respects: some incomprehensible music choices, poor political contextualization for non-Argentine viewers, confusing flashbacks (or forwards, who knows?? ) and much more besides.
However, it’s saved by the fact that it throws light  on the Great Secret of Argentina: the persistence of the deep state regardless of what government is in power (an amalgam of security forces, spies, elements of peronism, elements of the legal system; all working in collaboration with ordinary criminals) and it also hints at the pervasiveness of surveillance. 
Its other virtue is its treatment of the issue of class both in the way it satirizes the credulity and stupidity of the San Isidro  cheto, rugbier class and signals the tensions in its relations with those a couple of of rungs below them who feel entitled to the same privileges but know they will never enjoy them.

The Wrong Reactions to the Slaughter in Paris

After the horror of Paris on Friday night some very mistaken ideas have been going around on social media and the public prints. An attempt to rebut a few of them:

  1. “The French are refusing are refusing to call the problem by its real name, and that name is Islamist extremism”. Valls and Hollande have been referring to “jihadism” for some considerable time. Hollande did so in his speech yesterday. Valls refuses to let the word Islamophobia pass his lips except to say the idea is nonsense. It’s pretty clear to what one is referring when one talks of jihadism, no? What would be the added value of saying that Islam is the problem?  None, as far as I can see and  doing so would bring with it the risk of alienating law-abiding Muslims in France to  no good purpose.  I am a cultural Roman Catholic –  indeed despite my atheism I don’t consider myself less Roman Catholic than any cardinal or bishop – and when I hear criticisms of Catholicism from non-Catholics they often cause me to bristle, even when I agree with their content. Quite irrational,  I know, but hey, humans. I imagine a similar effect being produced on law-abiding French Muslims when lectured at by diverse members of other faiths, agnostics and atheists on the ways in which their religion sucks. The only people who can solve the problems of Islam are Muslims themselves.
  2. “The French have no guts for a fight, they don’t really want to get stuck in to the problem”. First, allow me to quote something I said a few days ago here: “Just a quick reminder for the “France is all mouth and no trousers” types; were it not for the actions of the present government of France Mali would now be an Islamist state and there would likely have been a flood of non-Muslim Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring states. And, furthermore, it has thousands of troops deployed overseas, mainly in Francophone Africa, holding states together that would otherwise be tempting targets for Islamists. Also, its Air Force was poised to strike the Syrian regime in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons when clever clogs in the White House thought better of it at the last minute.” Secondly, what are the obvious and indeed qausi-magical measures that the French should be taking that would deal with the Islamist terrorism and that their lack of moral fiber prevents them from taking? Since Friday they have suspended the rights to free speech and free assembly and given the security forces the right to carry out warrantless searches. Hollande yesterday also announced the suspension of cuts in the size of the armed forces, more money for intelligence services and more recruitment for the cops and judiciary. These may or may not be the right measures but they do suggest that the situation is being taken with an appropriate level of seriousness.
  3. “France should follow Israel’s example, Israel knows how to deal with terrorism”. This is perhaps the dumbest criticism of all. Israel did indeed manage to crush the Second Intifada but there are one or two relevant differences. Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not Israeli citizens and don’t enjoy the protection of its laws (yes I know, they can eventually appeal to Israel’s courts against the actions of the IDF but it’s not the same as having the inalienable rights of citizens). Furthermore France doesn’t have the option of building a security fence around problematic residential areas. And in any case even in Israel terrorism continues to be a grave, ongoing problem that costs lives. Don’t get me started on the supposed special insight into the “Arab mind” possessed by Israelis.  A variant of this criticism is  that “Unit XYX of the Israeli military/police would have dealt with the situation in Paris on Friday night so much better than the French”. Well maybe but there’s really no way of knowing. I’m sure there’s things the French could learn from the Israelis on a technical level but the opposite is likely true as well and there’s no clever answer to four heavily armed suicide teams on the loose in your capital city on a Friday night. And Israel’s history isn’t exactly free of security force cock ups when dealing with terrorism. So good for Israel but let’s be realistic; assuming that what works for Israel will work everywhere else, well that’s just balls.

I’m growing increasingly convinced by the idea that European civilization may not be mentally  well equipped to deal with the rise of militant Islamism but to the extent that’s true there’s not much the present government of France can do about it.  Its efforts to fight terrorism deserve our support, our critical support for sure, but the bottom line has to be support.

This Won’t End Well II: Independence Day

  1. After all the procedural and judicial obstacles placed in the way by the non-nationalist parties  have been finally overcome, on Monday the Catalan parliament will vote on a motion, jointly cooked up by the ultra-nationalist ultra-left and the bourgeois nationalists, to start on the road to building a Catalan republic and to no longer recognize the authority of Madrid.
  2. As soon as it passes the Madrid government will appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul the motion. The CC will do this, probably quite quickly.
  3. The nationalists will then say “nuffink to do with us guv, we don’t live in yer Spanish kingdom no more”. The question will then be what course of action they will take beyond that. Will they start trying to set their courts/tax collection services etc. etc. Is the scenario rather similar to Ireland 1919?
  4. The biggest problem the nationalists have is that although there is a clear nationalist majority in the parliament, the ultra-left ultra-nationalists have sworn up hill and down dale that they won’t vote for the head of the bourgeois nationalists Artur Mas to be leader of a new government and the parliamentary arithmetic means that without their support then he can’t get elected. They argue (correctly) that he is a mega-corrupt scion of the Pujol crime family and that the new Catalonia can’t be led by a scrote like him. So, bizarrely, the Catalan proto-state has many of the attributes of an independent state but it hasn’t got a government and the ultra-nationalist ultra-leftists look like the will remain unmoved by entreaties to place national unity in the face of the Spanish oppressor above the need to clear out the Augean stables of corruption. If the Catalan parliament can’t elect a new government leader by Jan. 9 it’s fresh election in March 2016
  5. If I was advising the nationalists I’d say that having gone this far now is the moment to put the pedal to the metal: try to set up some kind of interim steering committee type government and immediately start to defy the authority of Madrid, order the Catalan national police to ignore instructions from Spanish courts,  try to close down the tax administration of the central government in Catalonia, set up Catalan courts with Catalan judges, etc. etc. This would force the central government to invoke Article 155 of the constitution which allows it to take the reins of the autonomous administration if it does stuff against the unity of Spain etc. So the delegate of the central government in Catalonia would be granted powers to give orders to the cops etc. and the other organs of the autonomous state. The question would then be whether the latter would obey such orders or not. There’s also the question of fining and banning from public office Catalan officials who don’t obey orders from Madrid, or even of arresting them if things really get hairy.
  6. By doing this they, the nationalists, would have every chance of tempting the blockheads in power in Madrid into such excesses that would convince many people in Barcelona not keen on nationalism into revising their opinions. (The ultra-nationalist ultra-leftists are practically wetting themselves at the prospect of being made martyrs of by Madrid.) The pressure from the other Spanish parties for a constitutional reform that would allow for the autonomous communities to vote on whether they wanted to stay in Spain would likely become overwhelming. Podemos is for it and the Socialists are too although they can’t quite bring themselves to say so in so many words.
  7. The only problem with the above scenario, if it is a problem, is that it would allow the dunderhead Rajoy to paint himself as the defender of an eternally united Spain and possibly win an overall majority, or at least enough seats to form a government with C’s in the general election on December. And of course such a victory would only ratchet up nationalist sentiment in Catalonia.

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