Thursday, 30 November 2006

London Bridge wanna go down

Ouch. Some devastating comments by a state department official Tuesday night regarding the Atlantic Alliance and the UK's traditional role as a bridge between America and Europe. Namely, that it has been irreparably harmed by the Iraq War, and will probably never recover.

Kendall Myers, a senior State Department analyst, told an academic forum that for all Britain’s attempts to influence US policy in recent years, “we typically ignore them and take no notice."

The comments left government officials on both sides of the Atlantic scrambling. Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham and a former Foreign Office minister, who supported the Iraq war, said: “After the Republican defeat in the midterm election, every little rat who feasted during the Bush years is now leaving the ship. I would respect this gentleman, who I have never heard of, if he had had the guts to make any of these points two or five years ago.”

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Should Europe cross the Bosporus?

As Pope Benedict XVI continues his 'contrition tour' in Turkey, the world has been attentively scrutinizing the visit. Will the pope’s visit help smooth over the anger created by his recent Islam-bashing? Will he be able to convince Orthodox leaders to unite with him in a holy alliance against European secularism? Will the pope change his stance on Turkey’s entry to the EU?

On this last question we already have an answer. Yesterday the pope told the Turkish prime minister that he gives his blessing to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. This is a complete about-face from his previous assertion that the EU should not admit an Islamic state. It's possible that without the PR nightmare created for the church by his recent comments, he would not have changed his tune.

It remains a difficult question. But first, a bit of history.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

"Arrogant self-delusion"

Wow. Did anyone else see Jordan's King Abdullah on This Week this morning? His observation that the middle east could see three simultaneous civil wars in 2007 was really scary. He painted a scenario in which the Palestinians, Iraq and Lebanon all descend into civil war and chaos. This would be an earth-shattering catastrophe that could easily spread even further to neighboring countries.

And as long as we're talking about all things shocking GOP Senator Chuck Hagel's editorial in today's Washington Post literally made my jaw drop to the floor. It was probably the most sobering, brutal and realistic assessment of what has happened and what needs to happen in Iraq to ever come from a Republican. And it's dead on.

Monday, 20 November 2006

The pitfalls of market regulation

Here's some interesting news this morning from London. The NASDAQ has made a proposal to buy the London Stock Exchange. The LSE has rejected the first offer, but analysts are saying they expect this deal to eventually go through.

This is interesting for a variety of reasons. This will now mean that two of the major stock exchanges in Europe will be owned by American exchanges. The New York Stock Exchange has just about completed its acquisition of the Euronext, a Paris-based Europe-wide exchange.

So at first glance this would look like bad news for Europe and good news for the US right? In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s important to point out that the reason these acquisitions are happening is not because the US is riding in on a white horse to prop up the European exchanges and help them grow. They’re grabbing them because the European exchanges have been so wildly successful in the past few years, outperforming their American counterparts.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Muslims in European parliaments

On Tuesday CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck did an interview with newly-elected congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim ever elected to the US Congress. A lot of people have reacted with outrage to the first part of this segment, where Beck demands that Ellison “prove” that he’s not working with terrorists. It was truly a ludicrous, outrageous thing to say, assuming that Ellison could be in league with terrorists simply because he’s Muslim.

But it was the second part of this clip that interested me, the part where Beck is seemingly beaming with pride that a Muslim can be elected to office in America. Here’s the transcript:
BECK: With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There's no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don't need to -- need to prove my patriotic stripes.

BECK: I understand that. And I'm not asking you to. I'm wondering if you see that. You come from a district that is heavily immigrant with Somalians. And I think it's wonderful, honestly, I think it is really a good sign that you are a -- you could be an icon to show Europe, this is the way you integrate into a country. I think the Somalians coming out and voting is a very good thing.
This last part is probably the least offensive, but to me it is the most idiotic. Nearly every country in Western Europe has Muslim members of parliament. For Beck to hold out the first election of a Muslim to congress in the United States as some sort of example for Europe, which has had Muslim members in its parliaments for over a decade, is just silly.

A European approach to Middle East peace

News came today that Spain is leading the charge for a new Europe-focused middle east peace plan. Prime Minister Zapatero has announced that Spain, France and Italy are going to launch a new Middle East peace initiative without the United States.

The three countries are going to put the plan to the European Council summit in December. The idea could go hand-in-hand with Tony Blair’s emphasis on solving the Palestinian crisis. So what would a European approach to solving the crisis that leaves out the US mean for the crisis? Well for one thing such an approach is certain to be significantly less sympathetic to Israel. As long as Israel thinks it can act with impunity, it will be hard to resolve the situation. Israel will continue to react disproportionately to the violence, escalating the situation further.

Considering how preoccupied the Bush Administration is with Iraq and how little interest it has shown in Palestine, perhaps they would even welcome the help. Perhaps this is the best time for Europe to step in and take charge.