Premature Evaluation: Albion’s Seed

Why is America the way that it is?

Wrong question, the author of Albion’s Seed would say. America isn’t any one way, and hasn’t been since the very beginning of European, particularly English, colonization. David Hackett Fischer puts the core of his argument straight into his subtitle: Four British Folkways in America. He identifies four distinct migrations from Britain, and to a much lesser extent Ireland, that shaped American culture and regions down to the present day. These migrations were fairly coherent in origin, destination and religion. Understanding these origins will help understand cleavages in the contemporary United States, and it will help understand America as a whole.
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Twitchers

Torture, war, elections. Let’s talk about birdwatching for a bit.

Twitchers. The term is British. When a rare bird shows up, twitchers are people who will drop everything and rush to the scene.

They used to have phone trees, then for a while it was beepers. It’s cell-phones and e-mail now. Here is an interesting thing: if you look back to the early days of twitching, the 1960s and ’70s, you see them using an alert system that’s eerily similar to the formal regime for planespotting developed by British civil defense during WWII. Direct copy, inspiration, accident? I wonder. Does anyone here know?

Anyway. Your classic twitcher will leave job, family, or church service behind, seize camera, binoculars and notebook, jump in the car, and roar off to the copse where the black-bellied whistling duck has appeared for only the third time in Britain since 1937.
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The Greens and Die Gr?nen

Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, an interesting article by Matthew Tempest in Spiegel Online (in English) comparing the rather contrasting fortunes of the German and British Green Parties. Both were founded at around the same time (the article does make an error in saying the Ecology Party renamed itself as the Green Party in the 70s – the change didn’t take place until the 80s, partly to link in with the increased use of the name Green across Europe and the rest of the world) but while the German party is now part of the Government with a number of representatives in the Bundestag, the British Party (or parties, given that the Scottish and Northern Ireland Green Parties now organise separately from the England and Wales Party) still seems some way from a breakthrough into Parliament, let alone government.

The article highlights two main reasons for the different levels of success achieved by the two parties – firstly, and most obviously, the different electoral systems in Britain and Germany and secondly, the way internal divisions were resolved in the two parties. Where the realists (‘realos’) won the internal party debates in Germany, the fundamentalists (‘fundis’) won in Britain, preventing the move towards mainstream politics that benefited the German party.
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Nationalism, regionalism and Spanish football

The Independent has an interesting article today entitled ‘Why will a quarter of Spain be supporting England tonight?’ (for those of you who aren’t aware, there’s an international football friendly tonight between Spain and England in Madrid) which looks at how the Spanish national football team is not supported by many of the people of Spain because of the strong currents of regionalism and nationalism.

In so far as Catalans will be taking an interest in tonight’s Spain v England game in Madrid, they will be – most of them – supporting England. Should England score, the whole city will know about it. It happens every time, just as it does when Bar?a score a goal: in every neighbourhood there will be someone guaranteed to set off a celebratory firework or two.

Now, admittedly, things could get a little complicated this time around. What if Owen or Beckham score for England? The spontaneous reaction will be jubilation, but a moment’s reflection will yield the alarming truth that they play for the most detested enemy of them all, Real Madrid.

At which point the mental systems of Catalan football fans everywhere may dangerously short-circuit. Or not. Love for England may momentarily trump loathing for Spain. Whatever the case, it will yield an interesting new twist on the complex tribal impulses that animate the otherwise sane and impressively civilised Catalan people.

The Catalans are not alone. The Basques are at least as zealous in their desire that the Spanish football team be beaten. And as far as tonight’s game is concerned, because they haven’t got as much of a thing about Real Madrid as the Catalans do, they’ll be cheering on Beckham and Owen with as much abandon as the rest of the England team.

There are other, smaller nationalist enclaves in Spain where they’ll be rooting for England too. A number will in Galicia, in the Celtic-rooted north-west (they play the bagpipes out there, the fields are green and they look Irish); some diehards will in the Valencia region; and the Balearic islanders (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza) will be happy for the most part to see perfidious Espa?a defeated.

Update: Unfortunately, the match was marred by some pretty despicable racist chanting from an element of the Spanish fans – see this discussion on Crooked Timber for more.

Housing Review

My out-of-consensus speculation that the Bank of England’s round of interest rate rises may be pretty much done looks sounder by the day. There may be one more rate increase, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were pretty much over with it, and even if the next move (the end of this year?) wasn’t downwards. The reason? Growing evidence that the UK housing boom is bottoming out, and with this, UK consumption starting to take a hit.

U.K. mortgage lending growth probably slowed in August and consumer confidence may have weakened in September, suggesting economic growth peaked in the second quarter amid rising interest rates, surveys of economists showed……

House prices fell 0.6 percent in August from July, the first drop since August 2002, according to Edinburgh-based HBOS Plc, the U.K.’s largest mortgage lender. It was the biggest decline since December 2000.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his rate-setting committee said they may have underestimated the effect of any decline in home values on consumer spending, according to minutes of the Bank of England’s Sept. 8-9 meeting.

“We’ve just come through a very slow holiday period and there is a general agreement that September is no improvement,” said Richard Hair, president of the National Association of Estate Agents. “We’re getting geared up for what may be a difficult market in the autumn.”
Source: Bloomberg

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UEFA: Home of the cliche

Earlier today, the draw took place for next year’s European Football Championships (Euro 2004), placing the sixteen teams into four groups:

Group A: Portugal, Greece, Spain, Russia
Group B: France, England, Switzerland, Croatia
Group C: Sweden, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy
Group D: Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany, Netherlands

The BBC Sport website has a good page detailing all the fixtures for the tournament.
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