Juan Cole on Mark Steyn

Juan Cole does a far better job taking Mark Steyn’s argument apart than I could hope to. Here’s a nice exerpt:

Steyn wants to create a 1300-year struggle between Catholic France and the Muslims going back to Tours. This way of thinking is downright silly. France in the 19th century was a notorious ally of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and fought alongside Muslims against the Christian Russians in the Crimean War. Among contemporary French, 40 percent do not even believe in God, and less than 20 percent go to mass at all regularly. Many of the French of non-European heritage are also not religious.

The French repaid the compliment of Tours by conquering much of the Middle East. Bonaparte aggressively and viciously invaded Egypt in 1798, but couldn’t hold on there. But in 1830 the French invaded Algeria and incorporated it into France. Algeria was “French soil.” They reduced the Algerian population (which they brutalized and exploited) to marginal people under the colonial thumb. The French government of Algeria allowed hundreds of thousands to perish of famine in the 1870s. After World War II, given low French birth rates and a dynamic capitalist economy, the French began importing Algerian menial labor. The resulting Beurs are no more incapable of “integrating” into France than the Poles or Jews were.

So it wasn’t the Algerians who came and got France. France had come and gotten the Algerians, beginning with Charles X and then the July Monarchy. They settled a million rather rowdy French, Italians and Maltese in Algeria. These persons rioted a lot in the early 1960s as it became apparent that Algeria would get its independence (1962). In fact, European settler colonists or “immigrants” have caused far more trouble in the Middle East than vice versa.

The kind of riots we are seeing in France also have occurred in US cities (they sent Detroit into a tailspin from 1967). They are always produced by racial segregation, racist discrimination, spectacular unemployment, and lack of access to the mainstream economy. The problems were broached by award-winning French author Tahar Ben Jalloun in his French Hospitality decades ago.

But read the whole thing.

Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

So says Mark Steyn in today’s Chicago Sun Times. As usual he starts by patting himself on the back

Ever since 9/11, I’ve been gloomily predicting the European powder keg’s about to go up. ”By 2010 we’ll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations on the news every night,” I wrote in Canada’s Western Standard back in February.

Silly me. The Eurabian civil war appears to have started some years ahead of my optimistic schedule.

He continues with well thought out considered analysis like:

The notion that Texas neocon arrogance was responsible for frosting up trans-Atlantic relations was always preposterous, even for someone as complacent and blinkered as John Kerry. If you had millions of seething unassimilated Muslim youths in lawless suburbs ringing every major city, would you be so eager to send your troops into an Arab country fighting alongside the Americans?

So that’s the reason France didn’t think the war was a good idea. I thought it was their fingers in the Oil for Food programme, oh wait American companies were involved too. I thought it was that they supported the Ba’ath party and al-Qeada. But no, now it’s because of their Muslim populations.

Steyn then mentions in passing the battle of Poitiers, an era of Europe I coincidentally am studying at present, and a time that featured on a BBC documentary over the weekend. What he fails to mention was that the Muslim foothold in Spain at the time was the only Muslim colony that failed to remain permanent. Nor does he mention the civilising aspect of that Muslim world, their culture, architecture and inter-marriage with Christians in Spain – something that was written out of the history books by Christian families later on. But that’s all to complicated for Steyn, better to be black and white I suppose.

On Brian Crowley

After chatting with Brian Crowley briefly last week I am still puzzled and perplexed by some of the arguments in favour of the Common Agricultural Policy. This is mainly because he argued about it in a way I had not read or heard before. He mentioned the three current pillars of CAP, and I can only remember two that he mentioned, but he was emphatic about saying that CAP was not about subsidies.

Rather, CAP is about paying farmers to maintain the land as it currently is, and farmers being paid to look after their animals. It was also about food security, food standards and guaranteed supply to markets.

Yea, I was just as puzzled.

Of course I argued that subsidies, sorry payments, distort the market. That if Irish farmers produce say, sugar, and that same product can be produced cheaper by another country and exported to Ireland and sold to consumers at a cheaper price, then so be it. That is the market in action surely. And Irish sugar farmers go out of business, and start growing something else, or farming differently, growing say, rape seed oil. And it is natural that farmers adapt to market demands. And if the land goes into disuse – then let someone else buy it.

But in Crowley’s view, we should pay farmers to keep doing what their doing, regardless of whether it makes economic sense, because afterall, they are keeping the land the way it is, and looking after animals (that are there by virtue of the nature of the industry anyway).

Another example arose surrounding beef. I noted that it could be argued that if beef can be imported cheaply from say Brazil, why should money be given to farmers in the from of payments that resulted in the production of beef? Surely this amounted to distorting – aha argued Crowley, what if Foot and Mouth hit Brazil in this scenario – what then?

Price of beef goes up due to shortage of supply, people stop buying so much beef.

“So the consumer is king?” Remarked Crowley.

“Yes” I replied.

On the subject of the Constitution I thought Crowley was losing the run of himself. He argued that it would be back, probably in its current form, before it dies in late 2007. I just can’t see it, at least not its current form. But I felt a certain amount of smugness from Crowley, who argued too that no Treaty should have to be put before the people of Ireland at all, but should be passed instead by the Dail. He also dismissed any idea that having two Nice Treaty referenda was anything undemocratic, and that the Seville Declaration made the second referendum an entirely different document. (probably referring to Article 29.4.9 of the Constitution, but still allows Irish participation in Common Security and Defence)

So too was a rather strange, and to me outlandish, view that Iceland and Norway would join the European Union. Was all his time spent in Strasbourg really going to his head? Was I living on some different planet – Norway joining the EU? Not in my lifetime, and I would bet, probably never.

And then there was the article Stephen Collins wrote in the Sunday Tribune on the 30th of October, something Crowley appeared to take great exception to. It all relates, I believe, to the passage into law of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005. It has been causing some consternation among Deputies, and long story short – the Department of the Marine screwed up in drafting the legislation. Just don’t tell Brian Crowley I told you that.

Election turnout in Poland

The Poles have elected a center right government, after years of left-wing parties in power, the populist Law and Justice and the free-market Civic Platform agree on the need to cut taxes, deal with bureaucracy and make a clean break. But turn out was incredibly low as the Economist notes:

Three-fifths didn’t bother to vote at all—the worst turnout in the country’s 15-year electoral history. Some cynicism is justified: most of the ten governments since the collapse of communism have promised clean, efficient government, yet delivered little. Why should another lot be any different? Meanwhile, rows that erupted in the final weeks of the campaign may weaken the new government. Civic Platform promised a 15% flat tax; Law and Justice derided that as a giveaway for the rich. It promised, expensively, to protect social welfare programmes.

Russia's population

Frank pointed to something I meant to post about last week. Russia really looks like it’s in a bad way doesn’t it? I am pasting the whole article for my own archives:

IN THE two days since Lisa Petrachkova was born, Russia’s population has dropped by an estimated 2,000 people.

By the time she is one, more than 200,000 Russians will have died of unnatural causes; almost seven times the estimated civilian deaths in Iraq since the war began.

By her 50th birthday, Russia’s population could have halved, based on current trends. Little does she know it as she lies next to her mother, Masha, in a Moscow maternity ward, but Lisa is on the front line of a national fight for survival. By Russian standards, she is lucky to have made it even this far: last year, there were 1.6 million registered abortions in Russia and 1.5 million births.

“The situation is critical,â€? said Vladimir Kulakov, deputy head of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and an adviser to President Putin on the demographic crisis. “The most important thing for every nation is to have confidence in its future.â€?

Russia’s population has been in decline since 1992 due to poor medical care, one of the world’s least healthy diets, and a national weakness for vodka.

Experts say the crisis is reaching a critical level that threatens not only its economic development, but its very existence.

According to the Federal Statistics Service, the population of 143 million could plummet to 77 million by the middle of this century. It dropped by almost half a million in the last year alone.

Mr Putin raised the issue in April, calling it a “national crisisâ€?, but the Government has yet to respond. Mr Putin is now under pressure to dip into the Stabilisation Fund, designed to save excess oil revenues, to arrest the population decline.

“Everyone says they agree with me and we have to do something, but they have yet to take action,â€? said Professor Kulakov. He was among the first to highlight the issue in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, in 1986, but his article fell on deaf ears.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he tried to get the Duma to provide incentives for families to procreate but conservative politicians blocked his proposals. Only now is the Kremlin sitting up and listening. Life expectancy for Russian men has dropped to 58.8, which is 20 years below the average in Iceland. The main killer is heart disease but death by unnatural causes — industrial accidents, car crashes, military conflict — comes second, killing 200,000 people every year.

“This looks like a battlefield loss rate,â€? said Irina Sbarskaya, head of the Federal Statistics Service population department.

Russia’s birth rate, meanwhile, has risen slightly as baby-boomers from the 1980s reach reproductive age. But it is still way below the levels needed to keep the population stable. The result is that Russia will not have enough workers to drive its economy by around 2020.

Natalya Rimashevskaya, a population analyst, said: “We have reached a point of no return. In terms of numbers there will never be more of us than before. But this is not the worst of it. The danger is that we are reaching another point of no return, in terms of the quality of the population.â€?

That much is already clear from the number of Russian schoolchildren, which has dropped by one million a year since 1999, according to the Education Ministry.

There are now 5,604 schools in Russia with only ten pupils each. The short-term solution is to attract immigrants, especially ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics. But an influx of immigrants in the 1990s has already triggered a violent xenophobic backlash which threatens Russia’s social stability.

Over the long term, life expectancy in Russia will gradually improve if the Government maintains political stability and economic growth.

The problem comes in trying to increase the birth rate.

According to Professor Kulakov, 10 million Russians are sterile due to botched abortions, venereal diseases and exposure to radiation or harmful chemicals. Among those who are fertile, as in the West, couples are choosing to have fewer children, and later, because of the cost of raising them.

The Russian Government pays new mothers a one-off stipend of 8,000 roubles (£150) and then 500 roubles a month after the first year. But that barely covers basic costs.

Masha Petrachkova, 26, and her husband, Aleksei, delayed having children in order to finish their studies and save enough money to move out of her parents’ apartment. She would like a second child, but is worried about supporting Lisa.

“We’ll see how life goes and we’ll try to give Lisa everything she wants but it will be hard,â€? she said. “If you don’t have the financial resources in Russia, then you shouldn’t give birth.â€?

Kuchma 'behind reporter's kidnap'

Who would you believe?

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was one of the organisers of the abduction of a prominent reporter, a parliamentary commission believes.

Georgiy Gongadze disappeared in September 2000 and his headless body was found in a wood two months later.

The head of the commission probing the murder, Grygoriy Omelchenko, told MPs his colleagues “unanimously identified” Mr Kuchma as the kidnap’s organiser.

Mr Kuchma – who was Ukraine’s president until 2004 – denies any involvement.