Maybe the times really are a'changing.
The IMF and Government Borrowing
Who'd have thought the IMF would come out with a statement supporting the left/liberal/Keynesian position on national debt, and the rate at which debt reduction should take place, and the need to ensure that economic recovery is sustainable before attempting to reduce the debt by repaying government borrowing?
This is genuinely shocking news. Cameron and Osborne must be in pieces. It's a kick in the guts for the Conservatives, and the neo-conservatives.
Read Larry Elliott's piece on this, and have a damned good laugh at the statement of the Tory spokesman in the final paragraph.
I love the bit citing Richard Branson as an economics guru.
We can relax, people. There is hope for the world after all. Having come through all those dark days of the Bushite junta, we can finally start to love America.
As we know, for many years, and in spite of the fact that the USA is for the most part full of decent, peaceable and thoughtful people (yes - really!), America was run by a gang of very stupid, malicious and probably psychopathic individuals. The American people themselves came to realise this, and voted for Obama and a New Era. Or at least the hope of change.
Bush was certainly stupid, even if he was cunning and determined - a la Blair.
Cheney and Rumsfeld, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, were possibly both malicious and psycho. Many people would see fit, and indeed many have seen fit, to call them simply evil.
Behold, then, the new America. The beautiful. The great. The benevolent.
Afghanistan plays out as follows.
Following clandestine diplomatic contacts, the Taliban let it be known they'll put up only a token show of resistance to the American and Nato 'surge', allowing considerable areas of the country to be 'pacified' whilst Afghan soldiers are brought in to police those areas whilst non-Afghan forces are withdrawn and sent home.
Throughout this 12 - 18 month period Obama orders a massive programme of building infrastructure, schools, clinics, hospitals, etc, and also promises to continue to pay for the upkeep and staffing of the new services regardless of what happens to the Afghan government after non-Afghan forces are sent home.
Some form of Taliban government takes over, but makes it clear it values the continuing aid from Obama, and as such they will not allow their country to again become used by al-Qaida for refuge or for training bases. The new Taliban also offers to allow American monitoring of al-Qaida activity and if necessary allow 'policing' action to close down any bases that al-Qaida try to establish.
Result - everybody happy; Afghanistan no longer a problem. Thanks to Barack Obama.
He then gets on with re-establishing America's reputation throughout the world as a benefactor, a bringer of aid and support, a non-coercive, non-bullying, non-exploitative partner in peaceful development and prosperity, tackling inequality, injustice, hunger, ignorance and wars.
China and America negotiate a pact of mutual cooperation for world peace and the elimination of poverty throughout the planet. The EU, Russia, India, Brazil and Japan also sign the pact, and agree to eliminate nuclear stockpiles as soon as possible.
Simon Jenkins was on good form, as usual, today.
From Newry to Helmand, the lessons are the same
One day some sort of treaty will have to be reached with various Taliban leaders, some of whom had by 2001 qualified as "moderates" and were hostile to al-Qaida. Yet it is Nato policy to assassinate these leaders, mostly by much-vaunted drones, replacing older negotiators likely to be more amenable to peace with younger successors furious for revenge. Yet again, policy is counter-productive. An undiminished concomitant of war down the ages is stupidity.
This week the British government received an answer to its oft-pleaded question, how can it possibly withdraw? The Dutch have shown that it is done quite simply by announcing a withdrawal, as most Nato countries have "withdrawn" de facto by staying in Kabul and refusing to fight in a conflict they feel cannot be won. There are clear limits to how long a democracy will subscribe to wars far from home where only the vaguest national interest is at stake.
The paucity of domestic terrorist incidents suggests that this objective of "homeland security" is effectively achieved, in Britain and the US. There is no evidence that foreign wars have played any part in this. Indeed if motives cited by convicted terrorists are any guide, the war is counter-productive. With public spending tight, reallocating resources from war to domestic counter-terrorism must be value for money. But who has the courage to say or do it?
Northern Ireland has learned to live with low-level terrorism on a scale greater than anything being experienced from Islamists in mainland Britain. This violence will continue as long as sectarian segregation exists in housing and schools, subsidised by the British taxpayer. It will continue as long as Northern Ireland remains a living monument to Europe's long history of religious intolerance. But a sort of equilibrium has been realised. "War" is no longer being constantly declared on "the men of violence", conferring on them the mantle of military heroism. Terrorism loses its potency when relegated to the status of a crime.
Terrorism poses no threat to Britain's national security. Bombs explode but they do not undermine the state. Terrorism rather reflects the community's handling of risk. Ever since 9/11, the Labour government's exploitation of the politics of fear has overwhelmed the public's ability to assess risk. This in turn has inconvenienced many, frightened some and sent hundreds of soldiers to an unnecessary death. It has shown that the greatest threat to modern democracy remains what it has always been – a vulnerability to the populism of warmongering.
I was thinking about this just the other day on a journey on London Underground - the constant loudspeaker warnings to watch out for unattended packages and cases - as if we're in a state of war or a state of siege. This is the mentality that suits politicians who want us to continue believing that terrorists are a constant threat - to justify incredible levels of spending on 'security' and 'surveillance'. Our entire youth have grown up in this atmosphere, and I'd very much like my grandchildren to grow up feeling they're NOT going to be blown up at any moment by unspecified bad guys.
Neighbours From Hell
Cameron and chums had a wonderful opportunity at PMQs today and completely blew it. A proper statesman would have shredded Brown and Darling. All that Cameron could manage was a pathetic sub-sixth form gibe about kissing, to which his chums responded with pathetic fake laughter. The nation deserves better than this from its official opposition. It makes you shudder to think what these immature chaps would be like if they were to find themselves in government.
Another Outbreak of Common Sense
In the news today - traffic lights are being removed at many locations throughout Acton in an effort to reduce accidents, reduce congestion, and improve traffic flow. Hoo bloody ray!
Over a 20 -30 year period I've seen traffic lights installed at no doubt astronomical cost at just about every conceivable road junction throughout London and other towns and cities. Council "traffic engineers" have had a field day with their increased budgets and their assumption that more traffic lights are better than fewer.
The times they are a'changing.