On the web: Merkel’s re-election, Japan’s foreign policy, inefficient markets, and what not to say at the UN…

- With Angela Merkel re-elected as German Chancellor, and the CDU-CSU now forming a coalition with the free-market FDP, Mary Dejevsky assesses the implications for the country’s domestic politics. Alan Posener suggests that Frau Merkel has the potential to be the new Thatcher, while Der Spiegel takes a look at the implications for forming a coherent German foreign policy.

– Staying with shifting politics, WPR assesses the potential for changes in Japan’s international outlook, particularly towards the US. The Asia Times examines the domestic machinations and their likely impact on the new government’s foreign policy priorities.

– Elsewhere, the New Yorker talks to Columbia economist, Joseph Stiglitz, about his concerns over the current economic crisis and the need to address not just market failure, but government failure too. Catch the video here. The FT’s analysis section, meanwhile, assesses the flaws in “efficient markets” theory and explores what might take its place.

– Finally, following last week’s round of summitry at the UN, complete with rhetorical flourish from Muammar al-Qaddafi, Foreign Policy has a list of “The Top 10 Craziest Things Ever Said During a UN Speech” – Qaddafi joins Castro, Khrushchev and Ortega among others.

Obama: Losing control?

Tom Ricks thinks Obama’s grip on foreign policy is slipping:

Obama has done nothing much on Iraq except screw up a couple of appointments there and break a campaign promise to withdraw a brigade a month this year. And on Afghanistan, when told recently what it would take to implement the strategy he announced in March, he appeared to balk. So he reacted, characteristically, I think, by dithering. Some readers of this blog think this looks like leadership, but I disagree-it isn’t leading of you do a multi-month review of Afghan strategy, decide what it is going to be, ask the general in charge how to implement it, and then respond by deciding to review strategy again for a few weeks. Sometimes Obama’s stance manifests itself as professorial pomposity; at other times as repeated policy reviews.

Nuclear Cat and Mouse

Last week the leaders of the US, UK and France made public the discovery of a second, secret, Iranian enrichment facility near Qom.

However, this was not a new find: American, British and French intelligence agencies are believed to have known about it for over two years (though only concluded that it was an enrichment plant earlier this summer). Days earlier, when it seems they realised it had been discovered, Iran attempted to head-off international criticism by declaring a “pilot plant” at Qom to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is already monitoring the facility in Natanz the Iranians were forced to acknowledge in 2002.

This was a propaganda gift for opponents of the Iranian nuclear programme. It allowed Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown to make the extraordinary joint statement during an important period in the international political calendar – ahead of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, and days after the opening of the UN General Assembly and less than a week before the UN special session on nuclear proliferation on Thursday.

It seemed to make little difference that the three leaders represented countries with their own nuclear weapon programmes (an irony not lost on everyone).

Reactions from within the region have been understandably mixed. Iran’s Arab neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, fear the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon capability but also worry that recent developments will be the precursor to the agreement of a ‘grand bargain’ between Iran and the west that will leave Iran unchecked as a powerful regional player.

Israel – who has long been preparing for air strikes against Iran – sees the revelation that Iran has once again been misleading the international community as a vindication of its hard-line stance. The Iranian leadership itself, however, remains defiant – insisting its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and well within the limits of international law. The Iranians view the capacity to produce nuclear power as a sign of modernity and in keeping with their position as a powerful regional actor.

Analysts will now look at what is known about the facility in Qom to try and discern if it was for use in a civilian programme as the Iranians claim. At the moment, the evidence does not look favourable. The facility is reportedly of a size to accommodate 3,000 centrifuges – too large to be a pilot plant and far too small to be of any real use in a nuclear power programme. However, this number of centrifuges can produce enough enriched uranium each year for use in a nuclear weapon if so desired (once further processed to high enriched uranium).

Ultimately, though, it is the continued deception by the Iranian regime that will raise the greatest suspicion, even amongst those that, post-Iraq, do not entirely trust the word of western governments and their intelligence agencies.

So are we a step closer to war with Iran?

Probably not. Though the war drums will beat a little louder in some capitals, not least Jerusalem, the disastrous consequences of a military strike against Iran make it unlikely, though not impossible, at this stage. But in this high risk game of international political poker the stakes have just been raised; the horse trading to follow will reveal who holds the best cards.

If you’re from Hollywood – rape who you like (updatedx2)

It amazes me how dramatically the left loses its moral compass whenever controversy surrounds someone artistic ‘genius’ they want to suck up to. Take Joan Z  Shore, of Women Overseas for Equality, who has used the Huffington Post to issue a fatwa against Switzerland for arresting Roman Polanski.

I suggest, in the finest American tradition, we protest this absurd and deplorable act by smashing our cuckoo clocks, pawning our Swiss watches, and banning Swiss cheese and chocolate. And let them yodel all they like.

Putting aside Ms Shore’s childish xenophobia (so reminiscent of the freedom fries nonsense), her reasons for defending Polanski against “disgraceful” persecution are that (i) the 13 year-old victim’s mother was a fame-grabbing harpie; (ii) “the girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California.”

Faced by this blame-the-victim bilge, it’s worth reading the original Grand Jury testimony in the case. Here’s a brief extract:

Q: What happened then?

A: [...] he said, “Oh, I won’t come inside of you then.” And I just went – and he goes – and then he put me – wait. Then he lifted my legs farther and he went in through my anus.

Q: When you say he went in your anus, what do you mean by that?

A: He put his penis in my butt.

Q: Did he say anything at that time?

A: No.

Q: Did you resist at that time?

A: A little bit, but not really because… (pause)

Q: Because what?

A: Because I was afraid of him.

Polanski was 44 at the time. His defence: the acts were consensual (thus his guilty plea to unlawful sex with a minor). Ms Shore isn’t alone in finding that convincing. The BBC quotes a parade of moral retards who think consent makes it OK for him to have buggered a girl 30 years his junior, a girl who says she was drugged into compliance.

Maybe, maybe, Polanski should have been left to rot in France, especially as Samantha Geimer, his now grown-up victim, is desperate not to have to have her life turned upside down again (or face the scorn of faux feminists like Ms Shore).

But please – go and read the 36 pages of her testimony before you ask me to feel sorry for this paedophile and pervert.

Update: Ever since I published this post, I’ve been worrying that the HuffPo piece may actually be a cunning parody. After all, who apart from a satirical character would go by the name Joan Z (!) Shore. Seemingly, though, she is a real person and author of a book called… wait for it: Saging – how to grow older and wiser.

Update II: It’s worth contrasting Polanski’s treatment with the story of Sara Kruzan, who was ‘broken in’ by her pimp aged 13, and killed him at 16 after three years as a prostitute.

Where will she be when she’s 76 (Polanski’s age today)? Without a pardon, either still in prison or dead – sixty years into her life sentence without the chance of a parole.

Wonder if anyone in Hollywood is campaigning for her… After all, she’s one of 227 Californians in jail having received this monstrous sentence while still a child.

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