Your Sclerotic European Economy

Is doomed to be overtaken by the tech-fuelled surgeosity of US vitality, right?

Well, perhaps. Where would you decide to put a factory for the mass-production of Li-Ion batteries, the key technology in getting oil out of cars? California? China? Brazil? Try France: that’s what Johnson Controls is doing. Or how about launching 150kg satellites into LEO within the hour?

From the Metro Section of the Washington Post

Sometimes it pays to read beyond the front page:

Federal and local law enforcement authorities are investigating a shooting in Prince George’s County that critically injured a prominent intelligence expert who specializes in the former Soviet Union.

Paul Joyal, 53, was shot Thursday, four days after he alleged in a television broadcast that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the fatal poisoning of a former KGB agent in London.

Law enforcement sources and sources close to Joyal, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the motive for the shooting was unclear. But several sources confirmed that FBI investigators are looking into the incident because of Joyal’s background as an intelligence expert and his comments about the Alexander Litvinenko case.

Joyal was shot by two men in the driveway of his house in the 2300 block of Lackawanna Street in Adelphi about 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The shooting was reported yesterday by Channel 4. …

In the “Dateline [NBC, a long-running news magazine program]” interview, Joyal accused the Russian government of being part of a conspiracy to silence its critics.

“A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: ‘If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you, and we will silence you — in the most horrible way possible,’ ” Joyal said. …

He is well-known for his expertise on intelligence and terrorism and for his network of friends in the former Soviet Union, and he published a daily intelligence newsletter for 10 years that offered information on the former Soviet Union. In 1998, he was a lobbyist for the Georgian government in Washington.

Holy shit.

(Thanks to Laura Rozen for bringing this to my attention.)

Journalists spied on in Germany


The German government admitted Monday that the Federal Intelligence Service had recruited and spied on journalists from 1993 until as recently as last year.

“The government regrets the incidents,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman after he had been bombarded with questions during the Monday regular news conference.

Wilhelm said the Chancellery had ordered the Federal Intelligence Service to stop such activities following a string of allegations emerging over the last few days that the agency had recruited journalists to spy on their colleagues.

The parliamentary controller’s committee, which monitors the activities of the intelligence services, will hold a special session Tuesday amid calls by the German Association of Journalists and the Association of Newspaper Publishers for a “rigorous investigation.”

A Little Archipelago

If you had long suspected that under the Bush administration the CIA was running secret prisons around the world, now you know. It wasn’t just the one in Thailand, which was closed in 2003, and the annex at the tip of Cuba, closed last year.

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

Which Eastern European countries, you may ask?

UPDATE: FT Deutschland does indeed say more, as does the FT in English.
Continue reading

More Theories

Very hard to interpret the information we are receiving right now. Much of it may well be aimed at the terrorists themselves so it is also perhaps better not to dig too deeply.

There are, however, a number of rival (but possibly) compatible theories. One of these, and it is the one I am following most closely (possibly for obvious reasons) is that of the Spanish connection. Now following this along the road a little (and just in a kind of ‘what if’ sense) it may not be entirely without relevance that raids were carried out in Italy on Saturday. (The FT today also also has a piece on the Italian raids. What stands out is the ‘cover’ provided by mass illegal immigration for such groups. I am in favour of increasing economic migration to meet demographic needs, but this process needs to be regulated and orderly, here we can see one more reason why). It is just me speculating, but the rapidity of the raids in Italy may relate more to the fact that there are ties between the Spain-based Jihadists and the Italian-based ones than to the immediate threat of an attack in Italy. This article contains the following information sourced from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra:

In 2003, the Italian Police and the carabinieri from the Special Operations Unit uncovered a link between the alleged Italian cell and its extremist associates in a number of European countries, primarily Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. The Milan probe revealed that “young North Africans were ?trawled for’ in the European mosques, given money, and supplied with a visa?” to travel to Iraq to conduct suicide operations.”

This connection is loose, but is one possible route. Those who feel there might be an Iraq connection (and the lack of any explicit information about the explosives might point to this: this origin would be politically sensitive) would do well to note that the Italian net appears to have close links with Ansar Al-Islam which is based in the Kurdish zone, and was once host to none other than Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. As I say, I wouldn’t even call this a conjecture, just some isolated pieces of information which are worth keeping track on, irrespective of whether or not the people mentioned were implicated last Thursday.

Finally, the NYT highlights the way in which the kind of terror we are seeing is in fact bringing Europe closer together:
Continue reading

Daniel Pipes on Tariq Ramadan: Why French literacy still matters

Readers of my previous comment on Tariq Ramadan will no doubt have come away with the impression that I don’t much like Daniel Pipes. This is not an entirely accurate assessment of my opinon of him. I think Pipes is an unreconstructed bigot and xenophobic fanatic whose academic work fails to meet even the lowest standards of scholarship, whose career has been built on politically driven attacks, and who has set up with his “Campus Watch” as a terrorist front designed to intimidate academics and ensure that there is as little debate, discussion or rational thought on Israel, US foreign policy or Islam as possible. His reseach and scholarship are not intended to better inform action but to support specific agendas, usually revolving around hating some foreign force or people. Instead of fostering debate, his work is intended to intimidate. Pipes advocates religiously targetted surveillance, he supports making federal university funding conditional on ideology, and he has helped to terrorise professors who are named on his website. In short, I think Pipes is swine.

He is a second generation right-wing tool, the son of one of the men most responsible for America’s “Team B”, which grossly overblew the Soviet menace in the 70s and 80s – causing massive US defense spending and resulting deficits – and complained that anyone with a better sense of reality was soft on communism. Normally, Pipes’ parentage would constitute poor grounds for condeming him as having a pathological relationship to facts. But keep this in mind, since it constitutes one of his arguments against Ramadan.

All you need is Google to find out why I think these things about Daniel Pipes. It’s not a lot of work. His own website provides ample examples.

But, today, I will be targeting something a little more specific. Pipes has put up on his website his comment on Tariq Ramadan’s visa denial, originally published in the New York Post on Friday. In it, he makes specific points against Tariq Ramadan, linking, in some cases, to articles on the web in support. These articles are primarily in French. As a service to our non-francophone readers, we will be translating the relevant sections, since they lead one to the conclusion that Pipes assumes his readers will just take his word on their contents.

We report, you decide.
Continue reading

Metis, Bie and Kerdos: Some Thoughts On Defeating Terrorism

Maybe it’s the presence of Talos in the comments section, or maybe it’s the arrival of the Athens Olympics on my personal horizon, but something this morning is carrying me back to the world of the Greeks, and to some early ideas of how best to secure objectives in the face of adversity.

First metis and bie:

What Does Metis Mean?

The history of the word goes back more than 28 centuries to the time of Homer around, 850BC. To the ancient Greeks, metis represented a particular type of cunning intelligence used if success was to be won in the most diverse fields of action. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Odysseus is the hero most commonly associated with metis. The most famous strategem (metis) is the Trojan Horse, by which the Greeks finally managed to conquer Troy. This is a good example of metis for it represents a solution to a problem not resolvable by conventional means.

Metis is often contrasted with the word, bie, which means brute force. All through the Iliad, the big question is, will Troy fall by metis or bie – by wiliness or brute strength? The answer is by metis.

In the intellectual world of the Greek philosopher, there was a radical dichotomy between being and becoming, between the intelligible and the sensible. On the one hand there is the sphere of being, of the one, the unchanging, of the limited, of true and definite knowledge; on the other hand, the sphere of becoming, of the multiple, the unstable and the unlimited, of oblique and changeable opinion. Metis is characterised by the way it operates by continuously oscillating between the two opposite poles. Within a changing reality with limitless possibilities, a person with metis can achieve.

So metis is a type if intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, forethought, resourcefulness, vigilance, pragmatism, opportunism and the wisdom of experience.

When art and science unite, extra possibilities and opportunities are made resulting in innovation that can be driven by creativity. Metis is about finding elegant solutions to difficult problems instead of relying on brute force.

Now are you with me? What is lacking in our war with terrorism today, and all too often woefully lacking, is the component of metis. It is as if 2,000 years or more of history did not lie behind us, as if we had to learn every day anew the painful lessons of yesterday. Why am I saying this now? Well look what happened in Spain yesterday, what is happening today, and what will happen in the elections tomorrow.
Continue reading

The price of monolingualism

A few months ago on my other blog, I made a point about how the costs of multilingualism have to be set against the costs of monolingualism. It seems certain quarters of the CIA and the American Republican party agree with me, according to today’s New York Times.

C.I.A. Needs to Learn Arabic, House Committee Leader Says

Continue reading

Spain in the Line of Fire?

OK here’s a post about Spain that’s all in English. Juan informed comment Cole has a piece about the assasination of the Spanish intelligence officer in Bagdhad yesterday. Cole argues that Bernal may have been singled out in an attempt to get at Spain, who may be seen as a ‘soft’ target. Support for Aznar’s Iraq policy has never been exactly universal in Spain, and elections are due early next year. There is a big disconnect between the declarations of Spanish politicians in the international arena and what they say here in Spain. Officially Spain hasn’t even participated in a war, and any Spanish deaths in Iraq are highly sensitive. Cole’s speculation about the Baathist connection seems to be borne out by the statement from the Spanish government about the victim’s long-standing connections with Iraqui security.
Continue reading

The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

Today, the British government has once again been cleared by an Intelligence and Security Comittee (ISC) report [600kb, pdf] of the alligation to have deliberately “sexed up” a report on the state of the former Iraqi regime’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programme. Really? It has? Well, I guess that will depend on what your definition of “is” is…

On a philosophical level, there might be room for discussion regarding the inter-subjective differences of meaning between truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. For any practical purposes, there should not. Obviously, I am saying this against better knowledge: scores of people are making a living by creating precisely this kind of confusion, especially in politics.

Whatever really happened to Joint Intelligence Comittee’s Iraq Dossier – today’s report claims that its chairman, John Scarlett, assured the investigators

“… that he did not at any time feel under pressure, nor was he asked to include material that he did not believe ought to be included in the dossier…’ (page 31) –

has likely already fallen in the cracks between the different versions of truth mentioned above. Legally, the dossier might have been corect. But it was obviously slanted in a way that was supposed to increase the credibility of the government’s rather unpopular Iraq policy. By accident? Well, if it was really just an accident, some organisational changes in the British administration appear to be overdue. In this case the British government cannot avoid to explain such a severe administrational failure in all the detail available. No one on Whitehall can possibly believe they have the benefit of the doubt in this respect. Quite to the contrary – cleared or not, what is one supposed to make of the Comittee’s statement that the dossier’s

“… 45 minute claim, included four times, was always likely to attract attention because it was arresting detail that the public had not seen before. … The fact that it was assessed to refer to battlefield chemical and biological munitions and their movement on the battlefield, not to any other form of chemical or biological attack, should have been highlighted in the dossier. The omission of the context and the assessment allowed speculation as to its exact meaning. This was unhelpful to an understanding of the issue.? (page 43) –

– or that –

“Saddam was not considered a current or imminent threat to mainland UK, nor did the dossier say so. The first draft of the Prime Minister?s foreword contained the following sentence:
?The case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London
or another part of the UK (He could not).?
This shows that the Government recognised that the nature of the threat that
Saddam posed was not directly to mainland UK. It was unfortunate that this point was removed from the published version of the foreword and not highlighted elsewhere.” (page 43, hightlighted by me)

Unfortunate, indeed. Neither this report nor the Hutton Inquiry are going to end the affair. The Blair government is facing a credibility crisis that spreads like metastasizing cancer. Maybe a quick surgical removal of Geoffrey Hoon, singled out in today’s report for explicitly not mentioning a part of the truth, will buy time. With the next election years away and still no opposition to speak of it is clearly to early to tell what the consequences will be for Labour. Tony Blair still has reason to hope that the cancer of mistrust has not yet spread too far in Britain.

But he will have to seriously change his government’s communication attitude. The British public might not know whether technical details in intelligence reports relate one or another category of weaponry. But it evidently has a very clear idea under which circumstances it should be willing to enter into a philosophical discussion about truth with its government. What might still be acceptable with respect to NHS-waiting lists is apparently not in order when it comes to sending soldiers to the desert.

And rightly so.