Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thomas Lifson defines the "Anglosphere"

By Aussiegirl

The incomparable Thomas Lifson, writing in today's American Thinker, makes a powerful (if politically incorrect) statement about the dominant power of the new Anglosphere -- and why you don't even have to speak English to join -- and why it is the world's last best hope for peace, stability and freedom.

In a sense Lifson is saying that any nation can become part of the "Anglosphere", even non-English speaking ones, just as anyone can become an American.

Furthermore, he makes the additionally politically incorrect statement that it has been helpful for a country to have been either colonized in the past by an "Anglo" power, or as in WWII, soundly defeated militarily by one.

Here he extends at length the short and rather pithy phrase used by Ann Coulter shortly after 9/11, when she famously proclaimed that we need to "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and forcibly convert their populations." Bold words which got her promptly fired by the editors of National Review Online, who blanched at her uncompromising and politically insensitive language. But she was correct. As she pointed out at the time in defense of herself -- what else did we do in Japan in WWI but exactly those three things? And now, as Lifson so correctly points out, Japan is a member of the "Anglosphere".

Similarly, one can't help but remember the timeless humor of those British comedic geniuses, Peter Sellers and Terry Thomas, in their sendup of the benevolence of an American military conquest which they depicted so brilliantly in the classic movie, "The Mouse That Roared". In the film a small mythical principality, facing economic ruin, decides to invade America in order to lose the war and receive American post-war reconstruction assistance. How far have we come since those days when being conquered by America seemed like a nation's last best hope?

This is precisely what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan as well -- insisting on democratic reforms, free elections, secular constitutions and the rights of women -- all western values, all "Anglo" values. In all of human history, none have been found to work better to ensure economic progress and prosperity and individual rights and democracy.

If not for the "Anglosphere", what does the rest of the world have to offer? The theocracy of a religion mired in the 7th century which denies all human rights to women and engages in barbaric forms of punishment like dismemberment or stoning to death? Or the moribund, economically stagnant and morally bankrupt Socialist model of Europe, which is seeing soaring rates of unemployment and staggering rates of taxation just to keep overlarded welfare-state social programs funded.

As Churchill so succinctly put it: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

We live in an age in which few important conflicts can be described accurately and economically, which is to say, bluntly. Race and religion are obvious examples of domains�in which condescension-masquerading-as-sensitivity must be employed.

So too, the realities of world power. Ask any journalist, almost anywhere, and she will tell you that the world is a lamentably "unipolar" power construct, with hyperpower America lording it over the rest of the world's nations, all of them consigned to second-class (or worse) membership in the community of man. Such an arrangement is deemed unnatural, exploitative, unduly hierarchical, and inherently unstable. By our allies. Our enemies use far harsher terminology.

The truth is rather different.

The world's future lies in the hands of a surprisingly open coalition of countries, regions, cities, and individuals, all of whom are members of the Anglosphere. Anyone, potentially, can join.

The Anglosphere is a state of mind, a set of market-centered economic institutions, a philosophical understanding of the role and danger of government power, and a vast, dynamic, and almost universal popular culture, beloved of ordinary people and abhorred by elites.

. . . But the Anglosphere is also a political and (increasingly) a military alliance, aimed at guaranteeing the political, moral, economic and cultural freedoms necessary for Anglospherical societies to function.

Who are the members of the Anglosphere? At its heart are The United States (its leading force) and the United Kingdom (whose culture and imperium gave it birth and made it a world force). Other members include Australia, Japan, India, Israel, Taiwan, and (less closely attached, militarily) Singapore, and even more distantly Hong Kong and Canada, which are controlled by regimes somewhat hostile to the dominance of the Anglosphere. Other nations participate in the Anglosphere in some realms, but not others, as they choose. The Netherlands, South Africa, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Malaysia are examples of countries which join in some ways, yet stay outside in others.

. . . Most of the world's major geo-strategic conflicts can only be understood in the context of struggle against the dominance of the Anglosphere. Islamo-fascism and terror are sparked by the (well-founded) fear that Anglosphere culture and society will dissolve the power base and control of rulers based in a Ninth Century political economy. Historical memories of a time in which Islamic Civilization was a rising force, prior to the arrival of the Anglosphere as the dominant world force serve to aggravate the fear and humilitaion they feel.

China's quest for ascendancy in East Asia is an understandable attempt to restore an era in which the Central Kingdom was the moving force in the world known to it, and the redress grievances dating from the Opium War, an Anglosphere project, which made evident the inability of China to match, much less exceed the power of what it regarded as a lesser civilization.

The morning after the revolution -- now comes the hard part

By Aussiegirl

This analysis lays out some interesting details which tally with my own general impressions of how things are progressing in Ukraine in the "post-revolutionary" period. Yushchenko has a very short time to implement "irreversible" and fundamental changes to the economic and political system in Ukraine, before his presidential powers are reduced according to the agreement reached before the last election and before parliamentary elections for the Verkhovna Rada take place in 2006.

Unfortunately, it appears that Yushchenko has been content to become a sort of philosophical father of the revolution and roving diplomatic foreign ambassador of Ukraine, undertaking 12 overseas trips while leaving the day to day running of the government to Yulia Tymoshenko, who has taken to the job rather with a bit too much fervor and is wielding her new-found authority more in the direction of increased state controls rather than in the direction of free-market reforms.

While Yushchenko has reined in Tymoshenko in the recent controversy over the oil crisis, he has allowed her to make some very controversial and changes which do anything but advance the cause of an increased free market -- changes such as revaluing the hryvnia, imposing price controls on meats and other commodities, increasing pensions and salaries at a cost that the government can ill-afford, (which, not coincidentally boosts her popularity).

She has also worried potential foreign and domestic investors by her threats to "re-nationalize" large sectors of the economy which she says were sold off at a loss to cronies of Kuchma and other corrupt officials. This has been a consistent disagreement between her and Yushchenko, as he has repeatedly stated that only about a dozen or so privatizations schemes, including Kryvorozhstal, Ukraine's largest steel-mill, which was sold to Kuchma's son-in-law at a fraction of its true value, would come under scrutiny and be "re-privatized" -- i.e. seized and then re-sold by the goverment to the highest bidder. Tymoshenko, on the other hand, has repeatedly put the number as high as in the hundreds, thereby scaring off investors who once again fear that their businesses will be subject to capricious government schemes.

(Personally, I think it would have been simpler, wiser and less disruptive to simply agree to let the present owners of these enterprises make up the difference between the highest current market bid and the price they paid to acquire the property, which is something they have offered to do. As it is, the case of Kryvorozhstal is turning into a dragged out mess which is not serving anyone's interests because of the prospects of protracted litigation as the owners have appealed Ukraine's actions to the European court.)

It is a mystery why Yushchenko has allowed this state of affairs to continue even though he has repeatedly criticized the changes the Tymoshenko's government has undertaken, like her solution to the oil crisis and the revaluation of the hryvnia. One wonders why he continues to be content making high profile visits all over the world while Ukraine continues to flounder economically and politically.

Following a democratic revolution emotions are bound to be high, expectations are high, idealism is high. Unfortunately, the Yushchenko government appears to be content to coast on its good publicity and optimism generated at home and abroad by the heady afterglow of those dramatic days in the snows of December on the Maidan, but is failing to get down quickly enough to the bare bones reforms which need to be implemented before new changes in the balance of power within the government take place. Ukraine can only count on the good will of foreign governments for a limited time before real and constructive measures need to be seen to be implemented. Foreign investment will soon dry up or will simply not be attracted to a country which still engages in socialist sounding policies.

Ukraine must decide its future. Simply talking about joining the EU isn't enough -- concrete steps must be taken to move Ukraine out of the stagnant command economy mentality and into the free market mentality. Sadly, old habits die hard -- and when the going gets tough it appears to be easier to revert to old ways of simply issuing government edicts and attempting to micromanage the economy from on high.

Yushchenko is walking a tight-rope between maintaining and wooing enough popularity in order to gain a working majority in the coming parliamentary elections, while also at the same time implementing solid reforms which he promised to do in the heady days of the Orange Revolution and which must be in place for economic development to go forward.

Here are some excerpts of this analysis written by James Sherr of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, UK Defence Academy.

In a remarkably swift period of time, the mood about Ukraine has swung from one of expectation to disappointment. The change of mood has been unreasonably swift. President Yushchenko has only been in office since 23 January, and preliminary judgements might be premature ones. Yet conditions are also unreasonable.

Political reforms transferring important powers from the President to the Verkhovna Rada, the country's parliament, are scheduled to take effect in the autumn, and parliamentary elections will take place in March 2006. The President therefore has little time to use the current powers, afforded by the country's 1996 Constitution, to launch profound and systemic reforms.

'Irreversibility' cannot be achieved in so short a period, even if it is exploited to the full. What can be achieved is to demonstrate that the new leadership has the will and competence to change the nature and not only the image of the system that has governed Ukraine since 1991. In this, so far, it does not appear to be succeeding.

. . .For all their repugnance towards the culture of power in Ukraine, President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and many of their closest allies built their careers inside it. The new leadership, therefore, is exercising power with many of the forces, instruments and instincts of the old. It represents a principled break from the past, but not a clean break.

Not only is the bureaucracy intact, so is Ukraine's deeply flawed legal system. Law in Communist and post-Communist states has rightly been called a system of 'codified arbitrariness.

Ukraine's assortment of laws, codes and 'normative acts', rife with contradictions, gaps, permissive powers and regulative minutiae, has not only stimulated arbitrariness, but criminality and corruption. It has also usurped many of the normal prerogatives of entrepreneurship and management, thus as in Soviet times persuading people that 'initiative is punishable'.

. . .Economic conditions are difficult and, in the energy sphere, worsening. During the pre-electoral period, state property and budgetary resources were redistributed and pillaged on an unprecedented scale. Russian oil prices increased 25 per cent between January and March, and steep increases for the price of gas (from Turkmenistan as well as Russia) are likely to take effect in January 2006.

These conditions make tax reform and (legal) wealth generation urgent. Since 1991 state and local budgets have collapsed, yet state and local bureaucracies have grown. That relationship is no longer sustainable.

. . .The faults reflect:

. . . If Yushchenko has confused leadership with inspiration, [Tymoshenko] has confused it with control and, to the astonishment of many in Ukraine's business sector, these controls are taking the form of Soviet style 'administrative measures' which extend to the micro economy. In his other ministerial appointments, Yushchenko deferred considerably, perhaps excessively, to his coalition partners. The result is a 'contra rather than a pro' group of like-minded professionals and, at the top of the state, a realm rather than a team.

ABSENCE OF ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM - Ukraine's largely Soviet era bureaucracy-opaque, inflexible, meddlesome, jealous of its powers and oblivious to their effects-is a fundamental obstacle to the creation of a state in which 'man is the architect of his fortunes'. If the power and scale of bureaucracy are not diminished, and its working practices not transformed, Yushchenko will not succeed.

STATE MEDDLING INSTEAD OF ECONOMIC REFORM - The previous tenure of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in government gave the West-and much of the Ukrainian middle class-every confidence that they were committed to the rules and institutions of a liberal market economy.

That confidence has been shaken. The decision (20 April) to revalue Ukraine's currency, the hryvnya, was taken without warning to those who would be affected by it, as was the decision to abolish tax privileges of entrepreneurs in free enterprise zones.

What conclusions are businesses expected to draw when a tax regime, integrated into marketing, pricing and investment strategies, is replaced without consultation or notice?

Tymoshenko's decision to impose temporary caps on oil prices (since reversed by the President) has been defended by some as an anti-monopoly (and hence free market) measure.

But this defence cannot be stretched to justify price controls on meat or subsidies on electricity, and the decision to increase public sector salaries by almost 57 per cent flies in the face of economic reality. Although she has since reversed herself, Tymoshenko also spoke of renationalising, rather than reprivatising some of the state enterprises sold off on dubious terms during Kuchma's presidency. Her reasoning seems to be that since she has the power of the state behind her, she should use it.

The reasoning of Valentyna Semenyuk, an ardent socialist and Head of the State Property Fund, is classically ideological. If her appointment is a calculated concession to the Socialists (who have already been awarded the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Internal Affairs), what is the calculation?

These measures, half-measures and reversals (which have come to a head in the reprivatisation issue) have shaken confidence not only in the government's principles, but its competence.

. . . For how long will Yushchenko or Tymoshenko inspire confidence if inflation mounts, if the petty, daily institutionalised abuses of power are not addressed, and if people begin to realise that nothing has changed? If the opposition is too shattered to deny the coalition victory in March, then is it really essential to hold the entire coalition together, and who will benefit from the attempt: Yushchenko or coalition partners whose vision of Ukraine's future differs from his own?

Who will believe that real reform will begin after these elections- entrepreneurs? investors? neighbours?-if no firm direction is set before then? The risks of hesitancy are that friends lose interest and enemies become engaged. The risks of leadership are not only fewer, but better.

The . . . question is whether today's errors are correctible or whether they are congenital, the product of incapacity and incompetence. In Russia, there are many who claim to know the answer. In the West, the question is being posed. The considered, prudent answer is that today's errors are correctible, but not self-correcting.
Two mechanisms are needed to assist the process.

To reiterate a far from novel point, 'the worst outcome [for Ukraine] would be if [Yushchenko] wins and then fails'. Yushchenko is very far from failure, but it would be unwise to forget that he is also very far from success.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BonnieBlueFlag: Misdirection

By BonnieBlueFlag

Tim Birdnow in his "American Thinker" article touched on this, when he talked about the environmentalists being better able to pursue their agenda, as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London. However, I think the situation may be more suspicious than we originally realized.

I strongly believe that our own Supreme Court has now facilitated a long planned United Nations "Land Grab" in the United States.

After I got over the initial shock of their ruling, I began to remember having seen a map of the United States a couple of years ago, that showed what portion of the U.S., Canada and Mexico should eventually come under their control.

I believe that we have been victims of misdirection in this regard, because the real UN target of the western U.S., could not be farther away than a question of property rights in little New London on the east coast.

I cannot remember the specific UN Resolution number, perhaps one of you will. But, I did read about how the U.S. has been funding a park system that includes land well into Mexico for a number of years.

Even though President Ronald Reagan pulled us out of UNESCO in 1984, and the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Biodiversity Treaty, UNESCO has designated 47 Biospehers in the United States. The first was Yellowstone National Park in 1979. It seems that our U.S. State Department signed a memo in 1974, that precipitated our being unable to determine the use of these areas in our own national interest.

Now those 47 little red dots may not look like much, but they represent millions of acres of land, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

We also have World Heritage Sites, again under the provence of UNESCO. President Clinton designated Yellowstone National Park as a World Heritage Site. He then used that designation, along with UNESCO advisors to shut down a gold mine that was near Yellowstone, but not in the park itself.

The mine owners had met with every regulation necessary to pursue their business, however, the environmentalists brought pressure to bear on Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Under Bill Clinton, UNESCO wanted to include another 18 million acres of mostly privately owned land around the park, to be known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
UNESCO and their various partners, are already seeking to eradicate property rights around the 47 Biosphere designations and 20 World Heritage Sites. A total of about 50 million acres of land, that include places like Yellowstone, Land Between the Lakes in KY, Monticello and the Statue of Liberty.

One of their next steps is to connect all of these designated sites, using any piece of land that they can get their hands on.
Remember when railroads leased property from the owners in order to have a right of way for the tracks? That land was to revert back to the land owner in the event that the railroad ceased to use it. Most of that land became "Tracks for Trails" which now falls into the hands of the environmentalists.

Under their latest vision to push people off of their land, and into tiny overpopulated areas, they are planning for the re-wilding of America. The Wildlands Project when complete would have 50% of the United States reverted back to wilderness, where no man may live, only animals.
To make matters even worse, if we do not find some way to stop the advances of the Heritage and the Biosphere sites, we may lose many personal property rights altogether, under something called customary use rights. For example, if I have property that is land locked except for the road on your property that I have been using for many years, you cannot one day decide that I can no longer use the road.

In 1999 House Resolution 883 was introduced and passed. At the same time an identical bill S. 510 was introduced in the Senate, but never passed.

Titled: To preserve the sovereignty of the United States over public lands and acquired lands owned by the United States, and to preserve State sovereignty and private property rights in non-Federal lands surrounding those public lands and acquired lands. Also known as, "American Land Sovereignty Protection Act."

In October of 2000, the same bill was introduced in the Senate as S. 3146, placed on the Senate calendar under Read the First Time.

I can find no further mention of this bill or it's passage by the U.S. Senate.
Written by: BonnieBlueFlag

How many divisions does the Supreme Court have?

By Aussiegirl

The Rhode Island legislature is defying the Supreme Court and has approved a medical marijuana law. Are we seeing the first rumblings of revolt against the imperial majesty of the 9 black-robed so-called justices?

First we have the evidently credible plan put forth to condemn Souter's property for a new hotel which is receiving, by all accounts, serious and widespread attention. One commentor on UT states that local reports show that Souter's property is being guarded by police cruisers -- giving a picture of trembling aristocrats quaking in their palaces as sentries guard them from the ire of the masses, which reminds us of nothing less than a scene in "A Tale of Two Cities". Second we have the Rhode Island legislature in effect saying -- this is state business -- keep your noses out of it.

Can pitchforks and torches be
far behind?

The natives are restless -- the people are sick and tired of being ruled by unelected magisterial fiat and may simply decide to defy the court. As the article states, most drug arrests happen on a state level. Who is going to send in the federal marshalls to arrest these medical marijuana users?

The Rhode Island Senate Tuesday approved legislation that protects patients and their primary caregivers who use and prescribe marijuana for medical reasons from arrest.

The bill passed by a 33 to 1 margin. It passed the House earlier this month and will be sent on to the governor for approval.

The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act allows patients under a doctor's supervision and their caregivers to grow or otherwise acquire marijuana plants in very limited quantities - up to 12 plants or 2.5 ounces of "usable" marijuana.

The legislation would grant a state ID card that would protect them from arrest under state drug possession laws. Despite the fact the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that federal officials have the authority to enforce federal marijuana laws, most drug arrests come at the state level.

State legislators emphasized the law doesn't legalize recreational marijuana use, and is narrow in scope to limit the drug's use to patients with a debilitating disease, who are under a doctor's care and registered with the state.

If the law is approved, Rhode Island would become the 11th state in the nation to allow medical marijuana use.

A good start -- Bush's speech

By Aussiegirl

Tim Birdnow, writing on his blog today, has some good thoughts on Bush's speech last night.

My own reactions pretty much echo Tim's, who sees a need for a stronger media message from the Bush administration regarding the war, among other things.

I wish, for instance, that the Bush administration would make better use of Dick Cheney, who always makes a convincing case and does it with a sense of calm and competent authority that is sorely lacking in any of his other representatives. He needs to be brought out of his secure location and put front stage and center to make the administration's case.

This would go a long way toward easing the sense that the Bush administration has moved on and is letting the war play out without much attention to the public reaction to it. If they are not careful, this reaction will redound badly on the Republicans in the mid-term election. Even die-hard supporters of the effort in Iraq can't be expected to weather the storms of endless negative media spin on their own without regular pep talks from representatives of the administration -- if not from the president himself on a regular basis. (Remember Churchill and Roosevelt during WWII? They knew that half the battle was keeping up morale at home.) Once the spin and the propaganda gets out of control where public opinion is concerned, as was so well stated by Herb Meyer in his recent "An Open Letter to the President", the war can be lost at home even while we may be winning on the ground. In this sense, perception is more important than the reality on the ground. As Herb points out, that is what happened in Vietnam -- we won the war on the ground -- but lost it in the media coverage and the public perception.

Social Security reform has been a big flop in the public relations department, and Bush should stop flogging a dead horse with these staged Social Security road shows and move on.

During last night's speech there were uncomfortable moments when it seemed that Bush was delivering his speech by rote -- gazing into the middle distance and reading a prepared script without his heart being in it. On a few occasions he seemed to become emotionally engaged and waxed passionate on a few of the points he was making and actually seemed to be talking TO the audience, rather than simply reciting a familiar laundry list of reasons why we are in Iraq.

It was during those moments that I too found myself becoming engaged and listening more closely. I was hoping he would make some new arguments or offer new information which would make his case more convincingly for those Americans, who, even though they support the war effort, may be flagging in their belief in the effort and may be discouraged by the daily barrage of negative information from the mainstream press and the mounting casualties. We are human -- the daily death toll wears on our souls and breaks our hearts. We are a compassionate people. We must be convinced that the administration is aware of this national mood and shares our concern -- but is confident in eventual victory and is laying out a convincing plan that will achieve it. The administration must formulate a consistent and effective war of ideas and messages to counter the endless defeatist propaganda that we wake up to daily. The president should have addressed this head on.

It makes me feel uneasy that my Commander in Chief appears to be somewhat disengaged and uninterested in the progress of a war which is still underway. I'm afraid Bush's speech didn't do much to allay that sense I have that his heart is no longer really in it, and that he is content to let the generals finish the job while he moves on to other issues. He should be framing the issues on the war on a daily basis, either personally or through competent surrogates, as Tim said -- we need a media war to match the war on the ground. A speech every six months is not going to do it -- but
it was a start -- but the President still has a long way to go.

Here are Tim's thoughts:

It was a good speech, and he made a pretty compelling case-John Tabin agrees in his article at TAS today. Still, I don`t understand why the President refuses to address the border issues; most of our recent military operations have occured in westernmost Iraq, where we have been attacking terrorists trying to get across the border into (and out of) Syria. I maintain that we will not be able to secure the country as long as Iran and Syria act as sanctuaries for Jihadists. For some maddening reason Mr. Bush does not want to point this out, or deal with it.

. . . Meanwhile, PBS dragged out every moth-eaten relic from Vietnam who managed to deny reality in ways I didn`t think possible. They denied Jihadists were working in Iraq, they denied we had made any plans, they denied we were gaining any ground, they claimed that the President`s use of the word terrorism was wrong because these were locals fighting for liberty (an echo of Michael Moore-on`s Minutemen comment). Even Rich Lowery from National Review seemed to have the life sucked out of him, making weak and innocuous comments so as not to disagree with the `60`s love in. It was disgraceful.

4. The President`s speech may help in the short term to boost public support, but he has got to develop a better communication team for his administration. This has been the problem Bush has had all along, and he doesn`t seem to get it. Condi Rice is not the person to use as a point-man for the Administration`s media face. Clinton, ever media conscious, had a slew of people whose sole purpose was to put a happy face on his misadventures. Carville, Begala, Morris, et. al. hovered about to deal with the media in times of need, while Bush tried to use Powell (he is a nice man, but has the personality of a stone), Rice, and other, well, DOERS. They are not professionals at manipulating the media, and it has always shown. Couple that with the fact that President Bush has an easygoing management style (he does not crush dissent in his administration) and you have a recipe for propoganda disaster. The President just can`t overcome the bias in the press with a group of amateurs. He needs a professional staff which is media-savvy-and he needs to reinforce his message regularly.
All-in-all, I would say the President helped his case last night. However, he still has much to do.

NEWSFLASH!! EU forces Spain to retract law used to grab private land for commercial development!!! Call David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsberg!

By Aussiegirl

In a stunning development, the EU proves to be more concerned with private property rights than our own Supreme Court. It turns out that Spain is being forced to reconsider a law which had grabbed the land of expat Britons on the Costa Blanca for commercial use.

In a development which suprised the lawmakers, the Spanish were threatened with being hauled before the European Court of Justice. Perhaps the people of New London should appeal to the EU -- they might get more justice than they did from their own highest court.

Not surprisingly, the law had resulted in ---- you guessed it ---- collusion between corrupt officials, greedy property developers --- and -- LAWYERS!!! We forgot about that one in the mix -- how could we overlook THE LAWYERS!!! -- who will troll around like sharks looking for desirable private property to peddle to developers and politicians.

As I said on the very day this decision came out, this ruling will result in the kinds of corrupt oligarchies and mafia clan-type organizations which have been the bane of post-Soviet countries like Ukraine and Russia. Only there at least they are trying to get away from that corruption -- while here we are instituting it under threat of law.

The Telegraph has the story:

Spain's notorious "land grab" law, under which hundreds of expatriate Britons have lost homes on the Costa Blanca, is to be scrapped in three months.

Faced with the prospect of being hauled before the European Court of Justice, Spanish provincial legislators have pledged to redraft the property laws by September and work out a compensation package for homeowners and those who have already lost their properties.

The move is a huge relief to thousands of residents on the Costa Blanca, many of whom faced financial ruin after their homes were seized for far less than their market value.

The next part is the real kicker. Just as in the recent New London decision, the reason for seizing the property was to make way for urban commercial development. (But I'm sure that the Spanish authorities had a "comprehensive plan", since this seemed to be the deciding factor in the Supreme Court's decision. There's nothing like a "cunning plan" a la Baldrick in the marvelous "Black Adder" series-- and look how well HIS plans always turned out.)

Under a loophole in the law, known as the Ley Reguladora de la Actividad Urbanista (LRAU), property agents could compulsorily purchase prime rural land by saying it was for urban development.

After a long campaign by local and expat homeowners, the Valencian regional government has finally dropped its opposition to reform the law and agreed to speedy amendments supervised by a Spanish parliamentary ombudsman. A spokesman for Rafael Blasco, Valencia's minister for housing, said: "The LRAU has a lot of problems, and the government of Valencia is working with the European Parliament to replace it with a new one by September."

The proposals have been welcomed by Leonard and Tessa Deacon, who faced losing a third of the land around their villa at Moraira, on the Costa Blanca. They had also had a �200,000 demand for infrastructure costs.
Mrs Deacon, 61, said: "This sounds as if it could be very good news. The fact that the Valencian ombudsman is to be consulted about a replacement law is excellent. He has been opposed to this land law from the beginning."

The apparent breakthrough was announced last week by Michael Cashman, the former EastEnders actor who is now a Euro-MP and a vice-president of the European Parliament's petitions committee.

Mr Cashman, who led an investigation by Euro-MPs into the law last year, said that Spanish politicians had conceded that the law had been abused. He will ask Tony Blair to raise the matter with the Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, when Britain assumes presidency of the European Union next month.

"I am certain Mr Zapatero will hear not only from Tony Blair, but also from heads of government from other members states whose citizens are equally affected by the abuses," Mr Cashman said.

And the money quote is:

The Euro-MPs' investigation found that the law had led to collusion between corrupt developers, officials and lawyers, although its call to end the practice was initially ignored.

Spanish officials are said to have had a change of heart after the European Commission threatened Madrid in April with huge fines unless it resolved the matter.

Last night, Charles Svoboda, the former head of Canada's intelligence service who led the anti-land grab campaign, said: "It will be fantastic if the LRAU is replaced swiftly with honest legislation. But I suspect that the Valencian government will bring a draft replacement law to parliament, and then delay and delay.

"They will find one reason after another to spin it out, and in the meantime the land grab law stays on the statute books. They said that they would amend the law to plug the loopholes over 10 years ago, and they have done nothing."

Officials delaying? What else is new?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A hotel just begging to be built

The Lost Liberty Hotel would provide a much greater public service than David Souter's old pile. Condemn it now!

David Souter watch out, your recent decision in Kelo vs. City of New London is coming back to bite.

Here's the press release from Freestar Media:

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

Logan Darrow Clements
Freestar Media, LLC


Billy D. has the following interesting comment. Since he's so close to this story we'll be watching for any developments or photos from his website In Deo Veritas. UT has reporters spanning the globe to keep you abreast of all the breaking news -- (except of course Aruba -- where all the hotel rooms have been booked by reporters from Fox News)

Billy D said...

I listened to an interview with Clements this morning. I have an update on my blog, but the jist is, the selectmen do not like the judge at all, in fact they rather loathe him.He's had millionaires call and pledge financial backing for the hotel (which, BTW, would rake in a fortune!) and this is snowballing into a realistic proposition.I will have pictures, should this ever happen, as I live only about 30 minutes away.

Birdnow on property rights

By Aussiegirl

Timothy Birdnow, writing in today's The American Thinker makes some excellent arguments and provides valuable historical context as usual for understanding the scope of the danger of the recent Kelo ruling in regards to the taking of private property.

Tracing the roots of our tradition of private property back through our history, from English law back to Roman law and even Judaic law, he explains how fundamental the right to private property is to a free and democratic society. Bit by bit our freedoms are being eroded, until soon there will be previous little left that the state does not control. If we let it go too long it will be too late to turn it around -- we will be reduced to little more than serfs -- paying rent on our properties until such time as the state decides it can use it better. Don't miss Tim's excellent tour through the history of property rights -- it's older than you think.

Property rights are the fundamental building blocks of Liberty.� The freedoms we enjoy in these United States may be our heritage through Natural Law and given to us by the Creator, but the free exercise of those fundamental rights is dependent upon a devout view of the�sacred right to property.�

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling�which stated, in effect, that the government of the United States has no interest in protecting property rights, and that these rights are at the mercy of state and local jurisdictions.�

. . . The Founders looked to the great natural philosophers of their day for guidance on setting up a better system of governance, and they appealed to Natural Law:
``We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.``

These words did not come out of a vacuum.� More precisely, they came from� the English philosopher John Locke, who, arguing from Natural Law, claimed all men had a right to Life, Liberty, Health, and Property.� Jefferson and company changed the wording slightly (on the urging of Ben Franklin) because they believed that property rights would be self-evident (given the source quote) and because they did not want to exclude non-property owners from the rights enjoyed by all.� Still, it is clear that they intended property ownership to be a sacred institution, and considered it important enough that it was addressed in the U.S. Constitution under the Bill of Rights�(which many of the Founders did not want to include, since they thought these rights should be self-evident.)

. . . Even though this particular issue may well be resolved at the state level, it still points to a dark malady in this country.� We have simply lost our zeal for the right�to property.� Too many people think that democracy should extend to property rights, and that the will of the majority should trump a landholder or property owner's rights.�

This is at heart a problem which transcends government; this is a moral and philosophical issue. Why, for instance, aren`t we controlling our borders?� I would argue that part of the reason is that Americans don`t value property rights enough; many of us don`t want to scratch a line in the Arizona sand and say "You shall not cross!"� Many among us don`t believe we have a right to possess this land, and don �t believe that our ownership means we can exclude others.� Too many Americans no longer believe in the sanctity of property.

Why didn't they take Durbin and Pelosi with them?

By Aussiegirl

There's nothing like getting the facts before you run your mouth -- paging Dick Durbin. By the way, the Washington Post found this story so compelling after covering the Durbin business on the front page for days, that it ran this story on page A-19. Yawn -- nothing here -- just move along -- no bad news to bash the administration -- if we print it on a back page we can't be accused of ignoring good news.

The biggest danger to these detainees appears to be weight gain, and we all know what a serious threat to health that is. And they don't even have access to a McDonald's -- so there's no one to sue when their arteries get clogged.

Democrats report no abuse at Gitmo

Two Democratic senators just back from reviewing U.S. detention facilities and interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said they saw no signs of abuse and said it would actually be worse to close the facility and transfer the detainees elsewhere.

"I strongly prefer the improved practices and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of interrogation to countries with a far less significant commitment to human rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who toured the U.S. facility along with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.

The two Democrats were joined on the trip by two Republicans, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho.
Their characterization contrasts with critics, including Democratic Party leaders, who have called for the camp to be closed as a bruise on America's human rights record.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called for a commission to document abuses at Guantanamo and worldwide, while the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, two weeks ago compared interrogation tactics at Guantanamo to those used during the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

"The United States, which each year issues a human rights report holding the world accountable for outrageous conduct, is engaged in the same outrageous conduct when it comes to these prisoners," Mr. Durbin said at the time, citing an FBI agent's e-mail detailing some of the tactics to which the agent objected.

But the four returning senators, in separate Republican and Democrat press conferences yesterday, said they saw no evidence of ongoing abuse.

"Everything we heard about operations there in the past, we'd have to say, was negative. What we saw firsthand was something different," Mr. Nelson said.

Mr. Bunning said he observed six separate interrogations, and only one detainee was questioned while in restraints. Four of the six detainees spoke to their interrogators, and the other two refused to answer questions. The interrogators were usually women, and the translators were usually men, Mr. Bunning said.

Mr. Crapo said of the 70,000 people captured and detained globally in the war on terror, only 800 have been taken to Guantanamo. Many of those have been released or moved to other facilities, leaving 520 at Camp Delta.
He said there have been 400 visits by 1,000 reporters to the facility and that nearly 20 senators, a larger number of House members and 100 congressional staff members have visited the camp.

"The detainees' meal was as good as any I had in my 31 years of Army Guard service, and I can see why the prisoners this year gained five pounds over last year," said Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican.

William Wallace weeps

By Aussiegirl

I guess they don't cook in Scotland -- or maybe they are just allowed a blunt dinner knife to gum their vegetables and meat into submission. What would William Wallace think?

HISTORICAL re-enactments and essential elements of Scottish ancestry could be ruined under ministerial proposals to clamp down on knife crime, according to historians.

Museums and swordsmiths have warned that Scottish Executive proposals to increase the legal age for buying a knife to 18 and to criminalise the carrying of a knife or sword are impractical and will be detrimental to the remembrance of historical events.

The executive consultation proposes that the sentence for carrying a knife should be doubled and that police should be able to arrest a person they suspect is carrying a knife.

However local authorities, including North and South Lanarkshire, criticised the proposals as being impractical to enforce and unlikely to have any impact on Scotland's high level of knife crime.

The International Committee of Museums and Collections of Arms and Military History has written to the executive with concerns about the potential criminalisation of its staff and how it ought to "sustain the live costumed re-enactment in, by and for museums that so increases public interest in the past".

Guy Wilson, its chairman, wrote: "There are
legitimate reasons for private individuals to own and use swords, daggers, and knives, and your proposals should recognise these.

"They include sport, study, collection, re-enactment, DIY, fishing, and gardening.
"There is also the legitimate trade in antiques to be taken into consideration and protected. The judgments, allowances, and exemptions that you may introduce will need to ensure that errors of judgment on all sides are rare to prevent the innocent and law-abiding being charged with serious offences."

Currently, the carrying of a knife or sword is allowed if the person can show they have a legitimate reason. Further details on the proposed legislation will be released by the executive today.


BonnieBlueFlag considers "Venerated Objects"

"Venerated Objects"

By BonnieBlueFlag

Late the night before last, I copied Mark Steyn's column entitled, "Don't worry, Old Glory can take the heat." I was just about to send it to Aussiegirl along with my personal note saying, "Okay, okay, I'm reconsidering my opinion about the public burning of the American flag."

Just as I was about to press the "Send" button, I had a change of heart, and pressed the "Delete" button at the very last second.

While I find Mark Steyn's arguments against making the flag burning illegal very attractive and compelling, I cannot support the belief that the destruction of the American flag is protected as free speech.
First Amendment Free Speech has many other limitations; most recently the "McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Law," which most assuredly places limitations on political speech, by and for the same public that is allowed to burn or mutilate the flag.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have a way of being very stubborn about something that I truly believe. Aussiegirl has changed my mind on occasion, unless it is something that falls into the "I truly believe" category.

I've asked myself why I cannot get beyond this feeling that I have about the American flag. You all seem like reasonable people for the most part, I know you love the flag too, and you have some very good arguments for not making it illegal to burn the flag.
Tonight I'm thinking about how my own southern heritage has been said to be racist, to have no value, and that the Confederate Battle flag is a symbol of hate and racism.

In years gone by, I have picked up some trinket or another that a picture of the Battle flag on it, only to have to hide it in other parts of the country. Yankees think only of the KKK when they see the flag, even though the flag was used long before the Klan came into existence.

The symbol of the swastika was used in many other ways, years before Hitler decided to use it for his own purposes. Now it is reviled the world over.

Today the Supreme Court made another of it's monumental decisions, that are nothing more than a gradual attempt to remove God from our history, our present, and our future.

Perhaps, because the southern symbols have already been scorned, burned and mutilated; perhaps, because I see our religious symbols slipping away, I have reached a point where I feel like a Muslim in New York stomping on the American flag, is the last straw.

You may think, at least they aren't burning the flag. But, if you will think back to what we have learned during the war with the Islamists, putting their feet all over something, is their highest form of insult.
Prior to the 1989 Supreme Court decision, each State and the District of Columbia, had their own laws regarding penalties for flag burning.� The Texas vs. Johnson case was based on their law against the desecration of venerated objects.

So in 1989 the Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) took away the States' right to legislate against burning the American flag within their borders.

Why does it not surprise me, that a southern state and States' Rights were involved, in this unfortunate Supreme Court decision?

When the US legislature tried to restore the penalty for burning the flag by law, the Supreme Court quickly said, "We've already told you that we are the higher power, and we are not going to let you do that."

All that remains is the Constitutional Amendment option, something that I do not readily agree with, but if the amendment ever gets out of the US Senate, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be ratified by the States.

Well, if worst comes to worst, we can all go out and burn an American flag, when the Federal Election Commission using the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, terminates the Free Speech of the independent Blogs that promote a particular candidate.

Written by: BonnieBlueFlag

Monday, June 27, 2005

An Open Letter to the President

By Aussiegirl

Herbert E. Meyer has written a much-needed letter to the president in today's American Thinker. I pray that someone in the administration reads this -- and takes it to heart. Truer words were never spoken. I urge everyone to read this article in its entirety:

Dear Mr. President,

I've no idea what your advisers are telling you, but based on my own experience in Washington I suspect they are talking more bluntly among themselves than they are to you. So I'm writing to deliver an unpleasant message you must hear, and hear now: We are in danger of losing the war in Iraq.

To understand why, think back for a moment to what happened in Vietnam. Even as our troops did better and better on the ground -- as they killed more and more North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and secured more and more of South Vietnam itself -- support for that war eroded here at home. For example, the Tet offensive was a huge military victory for our forces -- but a decisive political defeat in the US. Simply put, we didn't lose the Vietnam war in Vietnam. We lost it in Washington.

. . . History teaches that once public support for a war starts to erode -- no matter what may be the actual, on-the-ground situation -- it erodes at an accelerating rate. But what matters most isn't so much the actual date you project for when the two lines will intersect. Rather, what matters most is that you recognize these two lines now are on a collision course, and that you understand what this means:

You have less time to win this war than you thought you had. So to win, you will need to fight harder.

. . . In short, do whatever is necessary, and do it now. Second and in my judgment, even more important -- you need to fight harder in Washington. To explain why this will help win the war in Iraq, let me tell you about how one of your predecessors acted domestically in a way that had a huge foreign impact.

Shortly after President Reagan took office, our country's 13,000 air-traffic controllers went on strike. Reagan ordered them back to work, and when they refused he did the one thing neither the controllers nor anyone else ever imagined he would do: he fired them all. The ensuing political explosion is well known, but what isn't well known is what effect the President's decision had on the Soviet Union's leaders.

It terrified them, because they realized that in Ronald Reagan they were confronting a President who was willing to put all his chips on the table and go for broke no matter what might be the political consequences. I had access to a lot of top-secret intelligence in those days, and I can tell you that during the next few years there were several very dangerous things the Kremlin wanted to do, but refrained from doing purely out of fear over how President Reagan would respond.

. . . The outcome will be determined by the decisions you make both foreign and domestic in the coming weeks.

God bless you, sir, for all you have done to keep us safe. Now, go get 'em.

Herbert E. Meyer

Flag Amendment -- not a burning issue

Mark Steyn, as usual, has some insightful thoughts on the recent flag-desecration amendment passed by the House of Representatives.

Earlier this week I posted BonnieBlueFlag's passionate defense of the flag that she so dearly loves, as do we all, but it is clear that there are two differing conservative opinions on this matter of flag burning and I find myself agreeing with Steyn on this one, as much as I appreciate and understand BonnieBlueFlag's position. The long and the short of it is -- I'm against it on a number of grounds.

Now, I'm no lawyer, (but then again, look at the mess that lawyers have gotten us into in the recent Kelo "takings" decision in New London) but let's take a look at the nebulous wording of this amendment -- wording which can only lead to endless judicial mischief.

The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.

First of all -- what is meant by "physical desecration"? Let's look up the word "desecration" in the dictionary -- a curious word right off the bat, because it is a word usually associated with religion.

Webster's New Collegiate defines it this way:

desecration -- implies a loss of sacred character as through defilement or reduction to secular usage.

Right here I am caught up short. "Reduction to secular usage" imputes a religious symbolism to the flag, and elevates it to the status that the Muslims give their Koran, if we are to believe the prisoners in GITMO. The flag is a secular symbol of our nation. It is a symbol which all Americans recognize, whether they are religious or not. To give the flag sacred status virtually makes it the symbol of a state religion -- something the Constitution expressly forbids.
Further, what is meant by "physical" desecration? And -- what is meant by "Flag of the United States"? These terms are going to have to be specifically defined if this amendment is going to have any meaning. Do we really need to be wasting time on this?

Does "flag of the United States" mean any image of the flag? Every little hand held flag waved at a Fourth of July Celebration, and possibly dropped in the mud or stepped on or thrown away at the end of the day? Do they mean a tee-shirt with the flag printed on the chest? Do they mean wearing a flag patch on the back of your jeans? Or literally wrapping yourself in the flag as people are wont to do?
How about a beach towel in the pattern of the Starts and Stripes? Or a blanket? Is it a desecration to sit on it? To lie on it? To throw it on the ground and walk on it? Or is it a desecration of the flag to throw away paper plates bearing its image? Can't you just see the endless pointless litigation that this will bring about as the courts are called upon to examine whether or not a teenager desecrated the flag by wearing it on the seat of her very tight pants?

Or how about the great American pastime of putting the image of the flag on countless commercial products like beer cans, pop cans, furniture, clothing, trash cans, tourist items, etc.? I personally love to see the Stars and Stripes used in this way. To me it is a cheerful and joyous reminder of the boundless energy and optimism that is the America I love. I would hate to see all these innocent uses suddenly brought into question by mischievious suits brought by the very people who would disrespect the flag.

Ironically, through suits brought by such groups as people for the American Way and the ACLU I would fully expect to see these innocent and commercial uses of the flag called into question, and the Stars and Stripes could very well become some strangely worshipped and rarely seen item, so afraid will the average citizen be to run afoul of the Constitution.

Or perhaps we will have to have specially designated companies which will have the Federal Seal of Approval to manufacture the "Official Flag of the United States" -- with a tag attached which reads: Do not defile or desecrate this item under penalty of law persuant to the 28th Amendment to the Constitution." (It wasn't until I was much older that I got over my fear of removing those tags from mattresses and decorative pillows -- thankfully they now add the helpful words, "except by consumer" thereby saving countless future generations of children from the torments of guilt I suffered.)

Or we might see the opposite -- an endless series of protests involving mass burnings of the flag -- what shall we do then? Arrest them all?

Further, since burning the flag is the proper method of disposal, presumably this is not desecration. How then is burning it in protest a desecration? The only difference is motive. And motives are thoughts -- and opinions. Are we now making the thinking of thoughts, or the free expression thereof unconstitutional? Just as in the ill-thought-out hate crime legislation, this country should NOT be in the business of punishing motives or thoughts.

This amendment is nothing more than a frivolous waste of time by a do-nothing Congress which is spending the nation into bankruptcy, engaging in collegial comity at the expense of doing the hard work of the people, and is generally more concerned with lining their own pockets with political pork and feel-good gestures rather than taking hard decisions that the country desperately needs. If this is their answer to the crisis of national identity, than we are in more trouble than I thought. Meanwhile China arms herself in preparation for a war of aggression against us. Wrapping ourselves in the proud symbol of our nation and artifically elevating it to the status of a national religious object will not save us. And passing this amendment will not add one patriot to the ranks.

Here's Mark Steyn's take:

The strength of our nation has always been the freedom to express even odious or offensive speech -- and burning or otherwise vandalizing a flag is but one more means of expression, and should not be suppressed.

The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment on flag burning last week, in the course of which Rep. Randy ''Duke'' Cunningham (Republican of California) made the following argument:

''Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: Pass this amendment."
Unlike Congressman Cunningham, I wouldn't presume to speak for those who died atop the World Trade Center. For one thing, citizens of more than 50 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, were killed on 9/11. Of the remainder, maybe some would be in favor of a flag-burning amendment; and maybe some would think that criminalizing disrespect for national symbols is unworthy of a free society.

And maybe others would roll their eyes and say that, granted it's been clear since about October 2001 that the federal legislature has nothing useful to contribute to the war on terror, and its hacks and poseurs prefer to busy themselves with a lot of irrelevant grandstanding with a side order of fries, but they could at least quit dragging us into it.

And maybe a few would feel as many of my correspondents did last week about the ridiculous complaints of ''desecration'' of the Quran by U.S. guards at Guantanamo -- that, in the words of one reader, ''it's not possible to 'torture' an inanimate object.''

That alone is a perfectly good reason to object to a law forbidding the "desecration" of the flag. For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to make speeches comparing the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It's always useful to know what people really believe.

. . . One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of Western civilization loathe that civilization -- and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing. At last year's Democratic Convention, when the Oscar-winning crockumentarian Michael Moore was given the seat of honor in the presidential box next to Jimmy Carter, I wonder how many TV viewers knew that the terrorist ''insurgents'' -- the guys who kidnap and murder aid workers, hack the heads off foreigners, load Down's syndrome youths up with explosives and send them off to detonate in shopping markets -- are regarded by Moore as Iraq's Minutemen.

...In other words, if the objection to flag desecration is that it's distasteful, tough. Like those apocryphal Victorian matrons who discreetly covered the curved legs of their pianos, the culture already goes to astonishing lengths to veil the excesses of those who are admirably straightforward in their hostility.

If people feel that way, why protect them with a law that will make it harder for the rest of us to see them as they are? One thing I've learned in the last four years is that it's very difficult to talk honestly about the issues that confront us. A brave and outspoken journalist, Oriana Fallaci, is currently being prosecuted for ''vilification of religion,'' which is a crime in Italy; a Christian pastor has been ordered by an Australian court to apologize for his comments on Islam. In the European Union, ''xenophobia'' is against the law. A flag-burning amendment is the American equivalent of the rest of the West's ever more coercive constraints on free expression. The problem is not that some people burn flags; the problem is that the world view of which flag-burning is a mere ritual is so entrenched at the highest levels of Western culture.

Banning flag desecration flatters the desecrators and suggests that the flag of this great republic is a wee delicate bloom that has to be protected. It's not. It gets burned because it's strong.

That's the point: A flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that's not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can't stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business. It's the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand that the battle of ideas is won out in the open.

No, not Gonzales!

By Aussiegirl

Bob Novak has the rundown on potential Supreme Court nominees and the opposition in conservative circles against the rumored nomination of Alberto Gonzales. Looks like white men over 60 need not apply -- the president is looking for a politically correct nominee of the right sex or racial background.

George Bush now seems to have morphed into the original affirmative action president. I've got nothing against nominees of whatever persuasion as long as they are the most qualified person around. But it's beginning to look like the administration is not even considering candidates who are not politically correct in terms of race or sex.

Why, for instance, should the replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor be necessarily a woman?

And what's wrong with being over 60? Today a 60 year old is still a young person. Personally, the older these justices the better, as far as I'm concerned -- that will keep them from serving on the court for way too long as is presently the case. All we need is a bad justice on there for 30 years or more. At least nominating an old person puts SOME sort of a term limit on their tenures.

It was not merely a leak from the normally leak-proof Bush White House. For more than a week, a veritable torrent has tipped Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as President Bush's first nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has sent the conservative movement into spasms of fear and loathing.

For example, why the torrent of Gonzales leaks from a White House extraordinarily adept at holding back the president's intended nominations? It looks like a trial balloon, but there are also suspicions that Gonzales's name has been floated by critics in order to shoot him down.

. . . Conservatives fear Gonzales will be another in a long line of Supreme Court justices who have proved more liberal than the president who appointed them expected -- John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter. That is a view widely held inside the White House, but not by the occupant who counts most.

George W. Bush loves Al Gonzales and would like his former chief counsel to head a "Gonzales Court."

White men over 60 need not apply -- move to the back of the bus -- who imagined that the Bush administration would be the biggest proponent of affirmative action?

The White House has sent word that two favorites of the conservative movement -- Appellate Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Circuit, Richmond, Va.) and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson -- are ineligible because they are over 60. The two current favorites are Appellate Judges John Roberts (D.C. Circuit) and J. Michael Luttig (4th Circuit).

But sources report Rehnquist is not ready to resign and that O'Connor is readying the way for a return to Arizona with her invalid husband. While Bush would consider replacing one of the court's two women with its first Hispanic justice, neither Roberts nor Luttig for O'Connor would be politically correct.

Oh heavens, let's not be politically incorrect! You have to have a minority or a woman -- this is the Republican party?

Accordingly, White House judge-hunters are looking for a woman. They have interviewed Appellate Judge Edith Brown Clement (5th Circuit, New Orleans), a conservative who flies under the radar. She was confirmed as a Louisiana district judge in 1991, seven weeks after her nomination by the first President Bush, and was confirmed as an appellate judge in 2001, two and a half months after George W. Bush named her.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Chinese Dragon Wakes -- and looks to stretch its wings

By Aussiegirl

In a chilling article in today's Washington Times, Bill Gertz paints an ominous picture of China's growing military menace.

For some time I have been watching with great alarm China's growing encirclement of the United States, both economically and militarily. China has positioned itself strategically and insinuated itself commercially and economically into our hemisphere, in Panama, South America, the Caribbean and even in Canada -- while at the same time engaging in modernizing its military might with weapons ranging from tanks, sealift capability, to modern fighter planes, missiles, SAM's, space-based weapons and other means of projecting its power well beyond its immediate defense needs. Now comes a new assessment that shows that we may be waking up to the danger a bit late and that within a few years the United States faces the real danger of war over Taiwan.

In addition, the article makes clear that one of the things that makes this military build-up possible is China's vigorous economy and financial strength. So much for the idea that we would woo the Chinese and turn them into purring capitalistic pussycats once we introduced them to market economics and free trade policies. Instead, what we have done is to enable them to speed up their arms build-up probably by decades. Better that we should have pursued the policies that Reagan did in regards to the Soviet Union. We are not now in a position to spend China into bankruptcy. But it is too late for that.

Don't forget that most of the debt of the United States is currently owned by China, in the form of government bonds. What would happen if they one day decided to withdraw their funds and invest elsewhere? While making deals with the Saudis and the Middle east to cut of our oil? While colluding with Venezuela and possibily even building bases there, not to mention controlling Venezuela's oil? China has encircled us in a web of its own creation, and we are only waking up to the sticky mess.

Where are those wise old China hands, the ones who counseled for years that we could tame the dragon with dollars, and subdue him with western ways, which would seep somehow inevitably into their political life and render them all happy and free democrats, willing to walk hand in hand into the future with the United States, united in trade, united in prosperity, united in democracy.

This is what appeasement and accomodation and cooperation yield when one is dealing with a wily and implacable political and ideological enemy.

Note also, that America is operating under the crippling inability to penetrate China's inner workings -- in other words -- we have no intelligence capabilities there, while China has literally thousands of spies working in our country, as academics, business people and others engaged in ostensibly normal activities.

So, what do I see for the future? I see war. I see a perfect storm of an armed China, working with Russia, cooperating with the Middle East -- all joined together in a world war against the United States. This war will include not only military means, but energy supplies, and cyberwarfare and other means.

Once again the English-speaking countries will become allies, along with a newly armed Japan, which will have no recourse but to re-arm and perhaps become nuclear.

And then -- what of Europe? Europe will have to choose, but I predict that Europe will do what it has always done -- it will try to strike the best bargain it can -- hoping to profit at the same time it tries to play both sides against the middle. In this they will fail in the long run, and fall.

Perhaps the "New Europe" will join the United States, Great Britain, Japan and Australia in the defense of their newfound freedom. They would be unlikely to be willing to be swallowed by the Russian bear once again.

There are very grave dangers that lie ahead, and I fear that America is waking to the danger too late, and that even if we do, is there the will to face down these threats, when daily the media take the side of America's enemies?

Add to that the fact that we have stretched our military almost to its breaking point with our war in Iraq, which shows little signs of resolving. Instead, Iraq is beginning to look more and more like the front-line of fanatical Islam's war with America and the west.

It is clear that we are going to need great leaders in our near future -- leaders with a clear vision and the boldness and courage to face reality and to lead and not follow the latest poll numbers or react to the carping of the media.

God grant that it will be so.

China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials say all the signs point in one troubling direction: Beijing then will be forced to go to war with the United States, which has vowed to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

China's military buildup includes an array of new high-technology weapons, such as warships, submarines, missiles and a maneuverable warhead designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses. Recent intelligence reports also show that China has stepped up military exercises involving amphibious assaults, viewed as another sign that it is preparing for an attack on Taiwan.

"There's a growing consensus that at some point in the mid-to-late '90s, there was a fundamental shift in the sophistication, breadth and re-sorting of Chinese defense planning," said Richard Lawless, a senior China-policy maker in the Pentagon. "And what we're seeing now is a manifestation of that change in the number of new systems that are being deployed, the sophistication of those systems and the interoperability of the systems."

China's economy has been growing at a rate of at least 10 percent for each of the past 10 years, providing the country's military with the needed funds for modernization.

. . ."We may be seeing in China the first true fascist society on the model of Nazi Germany, where you have this incredible resource base in a commercial economy with strong nationalism, which the military was able to reach into and ramp up incredible production," a senior defense official said.
For Pentagon officials, alarm bells have been going off for the past two years as China's military began rapidly building and buying new troop- and weapon-carrying ships and submarines.

. . . Asked about a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan, the official put it bluntly: "In the '07-'08 time frame, a capability will be there that a year ago we would have said was very, very unlikely. We now assess that as being very likely to be there."

. . . It also is developing a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, or MARV, for its nuclear warheads. The weapon is designed to counter U.S. strategic-missile defenses, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The warhead would be used on China's new DF-31 long-range missiles and its new submarine missile, the JL-2.

Work being done on China's weapons and reconnaissance systems will give its military the capability to reach 1,000 miles into the sea, "which gives them the visibility on the movement of not only our airplanes in the air, but also our forces at sea," Gen. Hester said.

. . .The advances give the Chinese military "the ability ... to reach out and touch parts of the United States -- Guam, Hawaii and the mainland of the United States," he said.

. . . The conclusion of this official is that China wants a "blue-water" navy capable of projecting power far beyond the two island chains.

"If you look at the technical capabilities of the weapons platforms that they're fielding, the sea-keeping capabilities, the size, sensors and weapons fit, this capability transcends the baseline that is required to deal with a Taiwan situation militarily," the intelligence official said.
The report stated that China will resort "to extreme, offensive and mercantilist measures when other strategies fail, to mitigate its vulnerabilities, such as seizing control of energy resources in neighboring states."

. . .Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and specialist on China's military, said the internal U.S. government debate on the issue and excessive Chinese secrecy about its military buildup "has cost us 10 years to figure out what to do"

"Everybody is starting to acknowledge the hard facts," Mr. Pillsbury said. "The China military buildup has been accelerating since 1999. As the buildup has gotten worse, China is trying hard to mask it."

Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said that in 10 years, the Chinese army has shifted from a defensive force to an advanced military soon capable of operations ranging from space warfare to global non-nuclear cruise-missile strikes.

"Let's all wake up. The post-Cold War peace is over," Mr. Fisher said. "We are now in an arms race with a new superpower whose goal is to contain and overtake the United States."

BonnieBlueFlag ponders "The Spirit of Justice"

By BonnieBlueFlag

The next time you ask why there are no good people in Washington, DC, remind yourself of the former Attorney General, John Ashcroft?

Missouri sent a favorite son to be of service to the entire country, and in the days and months after 9/11, he did every thing humanly possible to unravel the facts of that event, and to set in motion new ways in which to prevent future attacks.
The Washington bureaucracy made his job darn near impossible. Howls from every corner could be heard across the land. "Don't blame me, or my department!" "Don't touch the funding, etc., for my department!"

The need for a "Top Secret" classification, of so much information regarding this new style war on terrorists, will prevent us from knowing all that he did to protect us for many years.

The Washington crowd made no secret from the get go, that they really didn't want a God fearing Christian in their midst. Even before 9/11, he was an easy target for the so called ladies and gentlemen of the press, and the print photographers lapping at their heels.

When the opportunity presented itself to embarrass the Attorney General, with pictures of the female anatomy just above his head, they jumped at the chance.

They positioned the cameras, so that the resulting photograph would not only be very unflattering of the man, but also make him look foolish.

I first became aware of the installation of the drapes, when I heard Whoopee Goldbergh on a talk show. She went to great lengths to tell the audience that John Ashcroft had spent $80,000 of tax payer money, to cover up the statues of Spirit of Justice and Majesty of Law. Her implication being that he was some kind of a religious freak who needed to be tarred and feathered and driven out of Washington.

At that time there was no mention any where, especially in the MSM, that the drapes were originally created by Richard Thornburgh, the Attorney General under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41.

Now that the news conferences are held in a new conference room, and Attorney General Gonzales doesn't have to face the problem of being made to look foolish by the photographers, he has authorized the removal of the drapes. Thereby giving the press one more opportunity to embarrass John Ashcroft this weekend. They did not disappoint!

John Ashcroft, a man much stronger than myself in many ways, remained a Christian openly in word and action, against a tide of secular criticism and personal attacks.
While I do not share Mr. Ashcroft's particular faith, I do consider myself a Christian. I pray every day, that if and when I am faced with the possible persecution for my own religious beliefs, that I will be as strong as he was in the face of those that only worship "earthy power" regardless of it's origins.

If my thoughts seem a little extreme in this regard, please remember the young girl at Columbine High School, who was asked if she still believed in Jesus Christ? When she replied, "Yes," they killed her in cold blood.

Written By: BonnieBlueFlag

Saturday, June 25, 2005

French fear and loathing of the "Polish Plumber"

By Aussiegirl

The New York Times has a story about the unbearable silliness of being French.

Seems one of the bogeymen used to defeat the EU Constitution was the image of the "Polish Plumber" (add scary echo-chamber effects and Bela Lugosi music here) coming to steal their jobs. The French were afraid that hordes of Poles, Latvians and Estonians would flood their country and -- are you ready for this? -- WORK HARD FOR LONGER HOURS FOR LESS PAY!!!!!! (insert REALLY scary music here -- preferably something dark by Bach, played on a big, big pipe organ, something worthy of the Phantom of the Opera -- the silent movie version with Lon Chaney, not the Disneyland Broadway pop version).

The crazy part is there is a severe shortage of plumbers in France.

And now, in the spirit of free enterprise and good cheer, the Poles have turned this bogeyman to their advantage, and have made the handsome young lad into a poster child for tourism to the beautiful country of Poland.

You can't beat Lech Walesa's comment:

"I suggest that he ask the French why the heck for so many years they encouraged Poles to build capitalism when as it turns out they are Communists themselves."

Blond, buffed and blow-dried, a come-hither half-smile on his face, the man in the travel ad grips the tools of his trade as he beckons visitors to Poland.

"I'm staying in Poland," the man says, a set of strategically placed pipes in one hand, a metal-cutter in the other. "Lots of you should come."

He is the "Polish plumber," a mythical figure who nevertheless became a major player in France's rejection of the European Union constitution last month. Poised to move to France and steal French jobs by working longer hours for less pay, this "plumber" has come to personify French fears about the future.

Now the Polish Tourism Bureau is using the character on its Web site to allay French fears and attract visitors at the same time.

"With all the bad publicity about the 'Polish plumber,' we thought why not have a sense of humor and make him work for us?" Krzysztof Turowski, the creator of the ad, said in a telephone interview from Warsaw. "We picked someone handsome and clean with a sexy look in his eyes - to get the French to come to our beautiful country."

"It's ridiculous, truly bizarre to say Polish plumbers are dangerous for France," said Wieslaw Zieba, 55, who has worked in France as a plumber and electrician for 25 years.

"Some of the things that have been said by political figures border on the xenophobic. This is a country that desperately needs more plumbers. But it's not a noble profession that everyone wants to follow. You have to clean up after flooding and unblock toilets."

Indeed, according to the French plumbing union, there is a shortage of 6,000 plumbers and only about 150 Polish plumbers in France.

When Mr. Zieba first came to Paris, he said, he had no friends, knew no French and slept in the Metro. He now has dual Polish-French citizenship and runs a thriving business that also does masonry and carpentry as well as plumbing and electrical work.

. . . The term "Polish plumber" was coined in March by Philippe de Villiers, the head of the right-wing Movement for France party, in response to a European Union proposal known as the Bolkestein directive, which would make it easier for workers to live in other member countries and receive the same salaries and benefits as if they had never left home.

The thinking behind the directive was that if goods could move freely across the borders of European Union countries, why not services?

The directive "will permit a Polish plumber to come to work in France with a salary and social protection of his country of origin," Mr. de Villiers said. He also expressed worries about the "Latvian mason" and the "Estonian gardener."

At a news conference in April, Frits Bolkestein, a former Dutch member of the European Commission, used the term himself, saying he was looking forward to the arrival of "Polish plumbers to do work, because it is difficult to find an electrician or a plumber where I live in the north of France." He said he hoped that "Czech nannies" and "Slovenian accountants" would find work in France as well.

And where but in good old France could you get the zany "band of rogue electricians". I bet they all needed a shave, wore black berets, had sullen expressions and carried well-thumbed pocket editions of Sartre sticking out of their back pockets.(insert a nasaly tremulo Edith Piaf voice)

The next week, a band of rogue electricians from the state-owned utility EDF cut off the power supply to his country home in the village of Ramousies (population 248).

BonnieBlueFlag ponders the meaning of Independence Day


By BonnieBlueFlag

The traditional nationwide celebration of the Independence of the United States is just a few days away. How do you plan to observe the 4th of July?

As I think about red, white and blue bunting and flags, sparklers, fireworks, picnics and backyard barbecues, I'm wondering just exactly what it is, that I am supposed to be celebrating this year?
The flood of "illegal aliens" (not immigrants) across our borders? People who are a financial drain on all of our social and health care resources, which in turn makes it very difficult for natural born legal American citizens, to afford sky rocketing health insurance premiums?

The "illegal aliens" who have become so emboldened as to demand the right to vote for representation in our government? The Democrats who will arrange for that vote to happen, because that is the only way they can hope to win elections?

The elimination of any sign of the Christian God that the early American pilgrims brought with them, as they escaped religious persecution in Europe? Where will we go to escape the same?

The introduction of Islam into our public schools, with children wearing the burkas and skull caps of the Muslims to class, so they can become sensitive to this violent religion? The same schools that are forbidden to allow any Christian thought or deed on the premises?

The court ordered death of unborn children by way of abortion, or stem cell experimentation; or, people like Terri Schiavo who can no longer speak for themselves?

The Supreme Court decision of this week, that not only makes most of our homes available for the highest bid to be paid to the local government, not the property owner; but, also suddenly makes long standing non profit/non tax paying Christian Churches vulnerable for conversion to a shopping mall, condominiums, perhaps even a mosque? Will the churches (and others) be forced to pay protection money to their city governments?
That China which already controls both ends of the Panama Canal, that we built and gave away, wants to buy an American oil company with vast reserves that we depend on?� Does anyone really think that they would continue to make that oil available to us?
If we were to attempt to purchase a Chinese oil company, their government would put a stop to it under penalty of death. However, someone in our own federal government will be paid 30 pieces of silver, and we will take one more step toward losing our "Independence."

That a number of US Senators elected by "We the People," let us know this week, that they will vote down an amendment to protect our American flag? Our flag that has been soaked in the blood of men who have given their lives and limbs to protect, cannot and will not be protected, by many of our government representatives with a simple vote!

That some of those same government representatives continue to undermine the morale and efforts of our troops in a time of war? If the year were 1776, they would be stood before a firing squad for the crime of treason! Why are they allowed to continue to debase everything that "We the People" hold so dear?

I would never dream of burning the American flag in protest. However, in my heart and in my mind, I see it now flying as a "Distress Signal," for this once truly great nation, that is being destroyed by the enemy from within.


From the people -- for the people

By Aussiegirl

There will be more of these sorts of "public/private" partnerships after the Supremes decision the other day. Hold on to your houses, people, there's a bulldozer in your future -- and a lot of bucks in the pockets of corrupt pols and greedy developers. Frankly, I even think "blight" is no reason to seize private property.

Donations flowed to key state officials in deal for S.F. piers

A company that sought state approval for a lucrative development deal on the San Francisco waterfront contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of politicians who held the fate of the project in their hands, records show.

Mills Corp., which long has lobbied to build a $210 million retail and sports complex on Piers 27-31, gave at least $53,250 to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, state Controller Steve Westly -- who recently announced a bid for governor -- and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer in the months before and after their endorsement of the project, according to campaign finance records.

. . . "In a sense, it's legalized bribery," said Bob Stern, who helped draft the state's Political Reform Act of 1974 and now heads a reform group, the Center for Governmental Studies. "They expect that their money will get them something."

Bustamante and Westly sit on the three-member California State Lands Commission, the body that manages millions of acres of land and regulates public access to waterways. In June 2003, they made up the 2-0 vote in favor of the Mills plan.

Lockyer's office provides legal counsel to the commission and determined that the project met state standards for development of the publicly owned piers.

Of course -- they did it for "The People", dontcha know:

. . . Russ Lopez, communications manager for Westly, said the state's chief financial officer endorsed the development project because he hoped it would bring economic development to San Francisco.

And forgive us our debts -- as we forgive our debtors

By Aussiegirl

The Telegraph has this little story from Nigeria -- 220 Billion Pounds Stolen by Nigeria's corrupt rulers.

Well, that does it! I'm not going to answer any more of those emails from Nigeria, which usually go something like this:

Dear sir or madam, as the case may be:

Permit me to introduce myself. I am your humble servant, a mere functionary in the government of His Excellency, Tomo Mjombo.

Our country currently finds itself in a curious situation, which we hope that you, kind sir or madam, will see fit to remedy. You see, we have ten million dollars that needs to be deposited immediately into a friendly account.

Sadly, all of our banks are currently full of deposits from the many Live Aid Concerts and the recent forgiving of our debt, plus the unusually generous contributions of former colonial powers who are discharging their collective shame and guilt by sending countless billions of dollars. You can understand our delicate predicament.

Now here is where you come in, kind sir or madam. All you have to do is to send us your complete bank account information, including all your credit card numbers and your bank account statement. We will immediately deposit the monies into your account, and as soon as we have spent some of the money that is currently clogging our own system on fine cars, villas, trips to exotic locations and other necessities, we will take back all but one million, leaving you a tidy sum for your kind efforts and help.

Your generous services to our great nation will never be forgotten by his Excellency Mjombo, who will strike a coin in your honor at the very first opportunity, bearing a flattering likeness of you in your choice of either profile or front view. Village women will compose songs in your honor, and should you ever choose to visit our beautiful country, you will be crowned as an honorary chieftain/queen (whichever is applicable) in a colorful native ceremony, complete with an album of photographs which will be provided to you at a nominal fee for the enjoyment of sharing this unforgettable experience with your friends.

Believe me when I tell you, that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity which you would be foolish to overlook.

I remain,

Your faithful and humble servant,
First Secretary, Harimi Majambomo, Esq.

Well, here we go again. Might just as well pour water into a sieve and hope for a nice, cold drink at the end. In the end, you're going to mighty parched -- as parched as the poor and dispossessed of Africa.

Until African leaders are brought to heel, until African leaders become something other than large-scale grifters and thieves, as well as murderers and despots, what's the point of sending money?

The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria's past rulers stole or misused 220 billion pounds.

That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa's most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent.

Former leader Gen Sani Abacha stole between 1bn and 3bn pounds.

The figures, compiled by Nigeria's anti-corruption commission, provide dramatic evidence of the problems facing next month's summit in Gleneagles of the G8 group of wealthy countries which are under pressure to approve a programme of debt relief for Africa.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has spoken of a new Marshall Plan for Africa. But Nigeria's rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country's 130 million people - one in seven of the total African population - live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply.

With more people and more natural resources than any other African country, Nigeria is the key to the continent's success.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up three years ago, said that 220 billion pounds was "squandered" between independence from Britain in 1960 and the return of civilian rule in 1999.

"We cannot be accurate down to the last figure but that is our projection," Osita Nwajah, a commission spokesman, said in the capital, Abuja.

The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the 220 billion pounds of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan.

British aid for Africa totalled 720 million pounds last year. If that sum was spent annually for the next three centuries, it would cover the cost of Nigeria's looting.

Corruption on such a scale was made possible by the country's possession of 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. That allowed a succession of military rulers to line their pockets and deposit their gains mainly in western banks.

Gen Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, stole between 1 billion pounds and 3 billion pounds during his five-year rule.

"We are only now beginning to come to grips with some of what he did," Mr Nwajah said.
Nigeria has scoured the world for Abacha's assets but has recovered only about 500 pounds million.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the current president, founded the commission and launched a crackdown on corruption to try to end the country's reputation as Africa's most venal. The figures all apply to the period before he came to power.