Unilateral Continent

“Trade Trouble Ahead: The fast spread of genetically modified crops means transatlantic trouble,” The Economist, pg 59, 15 January 2005.

News of the worldwide scientific revolution to increase food production and decrease food prices, and the dying Continent’s predictable response

As the world marches ahead…

After an 11% rise, America still accounts for nearly 60% of the total, but GM areas in other big food exporters, bar Australia, were rising fast: in Argentina by 17%, Canada by 23%, Brazil by 66%…

Europe reacts unilaterally, shutting its doors to farmers from the developing world and my brethren South Dakotans

The European Union (EU), whose consumers mostly fear GM, is already underfire from America, Canada, and Argentina for its past ban on their GM exports. And though the ban has gone and the EU recently approved some GM varieties of maize, its news GM rules look — from the pairies — just as obstructive…

Fortunately, there are elements inside the EU which work to subert Brussels. They are our friends.

Yet the EU has a fifth column inside: Spain plants a small but rapidly increasaing area with GM maize and Romania, which is likely to join the EU in 2007, grows GM soya.

The Jordanian Candidate

Iraq to arrest Ahmad Chalabi after Eid,” Reuters, http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=658423, 22 January 2005.

Allegations of dirty tricks fly before the Iraqi elections

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iraq’s interim defence minister says the government will arrest Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defence ministry.

“We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defence ministry and defence minister,” Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television on Friday.

The satellite channel quoted Shaalan as saying Chalabi would be handed to Interpol over his conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court in 1992 of embezzling millions from Petra Bank, whose 1989 collapse shook Jordan’s political and financial system.

Shaalan told London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published on Friday he would order the arrest after Chalabi accused the defence minister in an interview of stealing $500 million from the ministry and posted documents on a Web site accusing Shaalan of links to Saddam Hussein’s government.

This sounds very political. And stupid. And it might work.

Both Chalabi’s speech and Shaalan’s rants are examples of negative campaigning. Chalabi’s anti-military-clique patriotism had led him first to oppose the Ba’athi government, and then to ally himself with Iranian forces. Chalabi’s early purging of Ba’ath officials shows his true fears — that a sufficient number of Ba’ath in the Iraqi army and bureucracy could launch a bloddy coup and reestablish the Sunni order as a fait accompli.

Note that I said a Sunni order, not necessarily a Ba’ath tyrannt. The INA (Iyad Alawi’s party, part of The Iraqi List) is composed primarily of Ba’ath officers who eventually fell out with Sadaam Hussein. They are also patriots. They see Sunni predominance over Iraq as “natural” and blame Saddam for being paranoid and stupid.

The Iraqi List and the INA has to prevent a Untied Iraqi Alliance landslide. If the UIA, the “Shia” party in Iraq, winds a landslide the Sunnis may be shut out for ever. Suppose that the UIA gains only two-thirds of the Shia vote, or 40% of the total possible vote. Presuming that all Kurds vote for the Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of the UIA and KU would have 60% of the seats. But for the Iraqi List it gets worse, because Sunni turnout will be depressed by boycott moves. If half of the Sunnis boycott a UIA-KU alliance that gains 60% of the possible vote gains 66.7% of the seats.

A UIA-KU alliance is quite likely. In its own sphere, each could take extreme positions and rely on the other for support. KU could demand autonomy, Kirkuk, and revenue from Kurdish oil, UIA could demand a military alliance with Iran and some form of Sharia in the Arab lands, and each would vote for the ohter. In the scenario above, this could be accomplished in spite of any Iraqi List efforts, and in spite of a Sunni opposition.

Hence, the dirty trick. The Iraqi List is trying to paint the United Iraqi Alliance as “the foreign candidates.” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Iranian birth and accent are talked about, as it the very Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (part of the UIA). By publicly descring Chalabi as a Jordanian, and worse a Jordanian thief, the Iraqi list is trying to drive this point home.

I don’t like dirty tricks. But I’m happy Iraqis are fighting with words, not bullets. The Iraqi elections are monumental in Iraqi history, and they are the way to resolve this dispute.

Pension Health

“Raw Nerves in Motown: Making money remains tough for America’s big three carmakers,” The Economist, ppg 58-59, 15 January 2005.

It’s hard to find a more apt example of the Social Security crisis than what is happening to pensions in the car industry. Huge greying behemoths, tied down by increasing unaffordable pensions, are becoming a shadow of their former selves. New competitors, relying on 401ks and more modern retirement vehicles, are winning market share hand-over-fist. Perhaps not coincidentally, the inflexible 1930-era dinosaurs are based in a blue state (Michigan), while the nimble new entrants are in red states.

One reason for the (belated) success of Japanese firms in light trucks is their effort to promote themselves as “domestic.” Last year, Nissan sold 985,000 vehicles in America — and built 950,000 of them in Tennessee and Mississippi. Toyota’s TV ads stress the billions of dollars it has invested in America and the size of its American payroll.

Faced with this, it was hardly surprising that GM’s chairman, Rick Wagoner, could manage only a strained smile when he posed in front of the Sequel, a prototype fuel-cell vehicle. The hydrogen-powered car, he said, would put GM at the forefront of automotive technology. But few expect the technology to be ready for mass production soon. Meanwhile, GM must content with the crushing burden of health-care costs for current and retired workers: $4 billion a year, roughly $2,000 for each vehicle it makes in America.

Pensions aren’t the only mess. America’s wildly unaffordable health care system are also dragging workers down

Without its health-care costs, GM would show decent profits in its North American business

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No Longer Jordanian Candidate

Iraq’s interior minister says no arrest warrant for Chalabi,” AFP, http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/focusoniraq/2005/January/focusoniraq_January178.xml&section=focusoniraq, 22 January 2004.

Another explanation for the news is that if the UIA is the pro-Iran ticket, threatening a candidate wanted by Jordan would make the Iraqi List a pro-Arab ticket. But now…

Apparently, no arrest warrent will be issued for Dr. Chalabi. Did the minister just Howard-Dean out? Was there a plan, but ruled out by a higher up? Did Ambassador Negroponte point out how bizarre it is for a modern state to arrest someone for defaming a government official?

Who knows.

The Interim Iraqi government is undeniably brave. But a democratically elected one will be better.

Aikokushin

Playing with fire: Japan’s ruling party wants to inject patriotism into schools,” The Economist, http://economist.com/world/asia/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3578090, 20 January 2005.

There are those who hate patriotism. They hate patrios, everything that is of the fathers. They purposefully attack our traditions hopign to divide us from our pasts. Their aim is radical social change. Fortunately, these attacks are weaker now than they have been in a long time. A century of calamnities caused by these reformers, including the disasters of Germany, Russia, and China, have made humanity skeptical of their claims that they can create a New Style Man. They purposefully attempt to destroy the way, the tao or the sharia, of Man so that they can create not just a New Style Tao, but a Perfect Sharia.

Pol Pot was one of these revolutionaries, a very highly educated man who studied in France. The painfully ignorant and simple Mullah Muhammed Omar was too. Because their new styles are unnatural styles, they will either see the people reject or subvert their ideals, or they will kill the people. In the case of Maoist China, both happened.

The postwar politics of Japan are convoluted, but the patrios of Nihonkoku suffered severe setbacks after the war. Many of these were necessary, but the foundation of Sun-Root-Land was almost destroyed.

I bring up this because I believe that there are those who would send the same cultural devestation to us that we unleashed on Nippon. And not foreigners. I believe that a significant fraction of “liberals” in American politics would destroy popular respect for symbols of America in order to make the people more ameniable to radical politics. I believe the athiest-pledge controversy is a symptom of this. (I believe there is also a smaller but real threat from some religious conservatives, but that discussion is for another time).

In that context, I am heartened by Japan’s plan to reintroduce aikokushin, or patriotism, into their educational system. It would be better if there were no state schools. But if there must be, they can at least reinforce the stability of culture and society.

The draft revisions, which include platitudes about modern learning and better teaching, say that Japanese schools should foster a sense of aikokushin among pupils. This word could be translated as “love of country”, but to most Japanese it has other—and liberals would say darker—connotations. Many Japanese are indeed discovering things to love about their country these days, but aikokushin, say worried liberals, implies devotion to a particular idea of Japan: as a uniquely entitled nation supported by hard-working but unquestioning citizens. And although a return to militarism and rampant chauvinism seems hugely unlikely, the LDP’s latest ideological games risk antagonising Japan’s neighbours and reopening deep domestic wounds.

The LDP’s educational revisions could do even more damage at home. During the cold war, many left-wing teachers embraced extremist notions about Japan’s government and its alliance with America, and they were fond of using war guilt as an ideological weapon in classrooms. Over the past 15 years, however, those divisions have faded from politics, and from many classrooms as well. Enacting the patriotism clause now could erase that progress and reignite the ideological wars. Many teachers are already upset with the nationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, for pushing devotion to the national flag and anthem in the capital’s schools.