Maybe the next ship to go to Gaza should dock in Egypt, and then they could smuggle it through one of the tunnels.
World Bank figures due to be published in coming weeks are likely to show that economic growth in the Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2010 has exceeded that in the West Bank. While virtually all economic growth in the West Bank is a result of foreign aid, much of the growth in Gaza is attributable to a "parallel economy" that has emerged thanks to the tunnels. This has even created a small new class of nouveaux riches in Gaza.
If so, it means you also have a class of people very much invested in seeing the blockade continue. How many of these happen to be Hamas people is an interesting question. AFAIK, Hamas take rent from the smugglers, but that in itself is a substitute for levies they could normally take on the legitimate flow of goods.
Also, Israel enforces the blockade on the grounds that it’s supposed to stop weapon smuggling. There’d clearly be room for a few missiles in the current smuggling operation. However, this does not appear to be happening.
It’s sixty years since the start of the Korean war. The Guardian interviews British veterans here. Over here, Danwei carries excerpts from interviews with Chinese veterans. Wei Wei, who covered the Korean war from the Chinese side and gained fame as a kind of local Ilya Ehrenburg/ Ernie Pyle died a couple of years back. Anyway, from the Guardian article:
The youngest British veterans of the Korean war are now old men, a few years shy of 80. Many have made the pilgrimage back to South Korea, where they are treated as national heroes.
And from the Danwei piece:
Not long ago, when the train to North Korea was opened, their wish became even stronger. But going to North Korea is something that can only be hoped for: "We can't go... truthfully speaking, we don't have money!" said one old ex-soldier, sighing. Apart from getting 300 yuan every month as a government subsidy for demobilized soldiers, these old soldiers have no other source of income.
Sad, really. But here we see a member of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The caption says “Comrade General Peng Dehuai has ordered us to winkle out the imperialist Glosters with merciless application of the people’s accordions.”
British kids of course aren’t taught anything about it. The head of history at my sixth form college fought in Korea as a national serviceman. That was the first time I heard about the war, at least in any detail. On his telling, him and his mates found the Chinese pretty formidable but everybody was scared of the Turks who fought with the UN forces. There was an anecdote about a man turning up at a canteen with a severed Korean head, hoping to barter with it for some goodies. I found more or less the same story when I first read Goodbye to All That a year or so later, only the head was German, not Korean, and the “Turcos” in the book were French-Moroccan Goumiers. Old sweats, eh?
There seems to be some to-ing and fro-ing about how the Lib Dems should be treated by the opposition. There’s a simple answer to this: they should be treated as if they no longer exist. This is, after all, how Nick Clegg is treating them, and he should know.
People think of the Lib Dems as an institutional party in the same sense as Labour and the Tories. That was maybe true when the Liberals were one of the big two. Since then, they’re probably better regarded as a series of projects designed to get a share of power for their senior managers. As such, they’re quite a fissile bunch. Over the last century, you’ve had Liberal Unionists, Coupon Liberals, National Liberals, and now Liberal Democrats. This isn't to say that individuals who cluster around whatever formation is currently trading under the liberal marque don't have convictions and loyalties in the same way Labour and Tory members do. It's just that if your convictions and loyalties don't build up over the years to much more than a bargaining position after a tight election, you have to decide whether to soldier on or cash out. And as it happens, when the opportunity comes to cash out, the leadership of the various Liberal projects has always broken to the Tories, whatever the general sentiment among the people they recruited might be.
I think that was more a question of the way the numbers broke, rather than a matter of conviction. Back in the eighties, the Liberals, as was, made quite an audacious attempt to replace Labour as the main party of the left in Britain in conjunction with some Labour defectors, thus kicking off the whole process which eventually got them in government as a stick-on Tory left. And if if the Tories had got thirty fewer seats at the last election and Labour thirty more, we’d be seeing Nick and Vince saying that they’d taken a look at the real books and were horrified by all the warrantless Tory scaremongering about the size of the deficit, and yay the progressive coalition.
Anyway. The third party project named Lib Dem is now over. Its mission is fulfilled. That’s not to say that the Lib Dem apparatus will now simply dissolve. There has to be a period of cooling out the marks, as the saying goes, and for the Tories to embed as many as they can of the voters Clegg and Co have delivered to them. That process can last quite a long time. I don’t think the National Liberals formally vanished until the 1970’s – hell, I think Michael Heseltine was first elected as a National Liberal. At the very least, the Lib Dems will go forward as a hollow institution until we get some evidence of which of their voters simply revert to Labour, which of them find their current political environment quite comfortable and decide to vote for the organ grinder rather than the monkey, and which make a break for it and start all over again.
As for how Labour should respond, it could do a lot worse than adopt some of the policies that led a lot of left leaning people to find the Lib Dems attractive in the first place. All that’s left of them of interest to anyone else is a pool of voters, and it makes sense for the opposition to grab its share. But treating the Lib Dems themselves as a formation with content and meaning is irrelevant and potentially distracting to the job of opposing the government.
Another wrinkle on the wumaodang phenomenon. Instead of the Chinese state hiring people to post favourable comments about government policy, you have shuijun, the “water army” paid by private companies to delete unfavourable comments about themselves and their products and services.
Related shakedowns include commercial websites spamming negative comments about companies in order to pressurize them into advertising on their site, and companies suing websites carrying genuine complaints on the grounds that they are faked, but basically to get them to censor themselves.
That last scam’s outsourced to people like Schillings here, but it really is the Randian internet back behind the Great Firewall. More commentary over at China/divide.
When you think about it, how else would North Korea venture into foreign markets other than by meeting international megalomania needs, through the same company responsible for putting the Kim personality cult into concrete form back home:
According to the source, North Korea has earned $66.03 million from Namibia alone thanks to the construction of the Presidential Palace ($49 million); the Cemetery of National Heroes ($5.23 million); a military museum ($1.8 million); and Independence Hall ($10 million).
It has also earned almost $55 million from Angola via the António Agostinho Neto culture center ($40 million); Cabinda Park ($13 million); and the Peace Monument ($1.5 million).
Additionally, the North has constructed a basketball stadium ($14.4 million) and an athlete academic center ($4.8 million) in the Congo, earning almost $20 million dollars in total.
Thanks to the Monument to the African Renaissance in Senegal, the North has made another $12 million dollars.
It’s as if they’ve found their niche.
Anyway, the Mansudae Overseas Project Group reports back to the Third Floor, which co-ordinates what is in fact quite a lively mix of foreign enterprises, some of them licit.
Prime Minister John Key apologised to the visiting Chinese delegation after Green Party co-leader Russel Norman's free Tibet protest at Parliament on Friday, it was reported today.
Dr Norman waved a Tibetan flag and called for democracy as Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping's delegation arrived at Parliament. A scuffle broke out as a member of the delegation tried to cover Dr Norman with an umbrella and he was pushed before having his flag pulled off him.
via. Well, if it had been me he’d have got a fairly forceful reminder that diplomatic immunity isn’t really intended to provide cover for cases of common assault on parliamentarians, or anyone else for that matter - though as you can see from the coverage below it’s a bit handbags. Guy waves flag, guy gets caught in goon envelope, flag mysteriously plucked out of his grasp.
There’s nothing in the article that indicates that the Chinese insisted on an apology either. The groveling appears to have been done entirely on Mr Key’s initiative. What might explain this is that Xi isn’t just any old Chinese vice president. He’s Hu Jintao’s designated successor. But there’s another side to that, too. I don’t think Mr Xi would have been visiting a small country just to seal a trade deal. New Zealand’s agricultural resources are more likely part of China’s long term food security strategy. It wouldn’t have done Xi any good at all back with the people who matter if he’d let that get screwed up over some crusty waving a flag.
And besides, it’s just unnecessary. Angela Merkel says pretty much what she pleases about Tibet. And bear in mind Wen Jiabao’s response to the chap who threw a shoe at him last year. China’s been actively knocking about the world for more than thirty years. You’d think that more of the political classes would have been able to stop oscillating between wetting themselves and knocking their heads on the floor by now. Anyway, here’s the coverage.
And despite the incessant claims that Obama's missile-defense plan is both a sop to the Russiansand an abandonment of Eastern Europe, his "phased, adaptive approach" is a system that is both proven and designed to protect all of Europe from medium-range missiles from Iran -- a threat the Pentagon believes to be quite real. Compare that with the previous system, which was unproven, did not actually protect the European continent, and was intended to counteract what the U.S. military says is a nonexistent threat: the Iranians' launching an ICBM. It's hard to see how the new plan could be interpreted as anything but a boost to the security of Russia's neighbors.
The real threat all along was Iran’s covert desire to nuke Slovakia. Who knew?