Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Sunday special

Spanish Festivals: There are a lot of these, thank God, but here and here are articles on the one widely regarded as the most spectacular – Las Fallas of Valencia. I've yet to see them, as I first have to negotiate a loan so I can afford a week there this time of the year. It all goes to show the truth of my regular observation that the Spanish are never more impressive and efficient than when they're having fun. BTW . . . I read in the article that today is Fathers' Day. Who'd have known?

Spanish Politics: For those interested, here's an article on the lessons being learnt by the young (rather academic) Podemos party. Which possibly doesn't have the kingmaker capability it thought it had. And which it probably wouldn't know what to do with, if it did.

Anglo Universities: These are undergoing a period of communal madness, designed to eliminate any action – opinion even – which might just upset anyone at all. When the current student corpus looks back, as mature adults, on this episode, they'll be even more incredulous than most of us are about our university antics. Anyway, here's a relevant article, from the estimable Alison Pearson.

Mercy: I listened to 3 theists discussing this concept yesterday. Asked how he reconciled Islam's very harsh punishments with the belief that Allah was 'all merciful', the Imam replied that Allah only showed mercy to 'those who deserved it'. And this s didn't include those who went against God's law as set out in the Sharia. So, a pretty narrow definition, then. God's laws, of course, have always been defined by humans. Men, to be exact. After which they've been labelled God's will and, therefore, immutable. I guess it makes sense to to someone.

Finally . . . Want to know what Google has on you? Click here


The Spanish government says there are only 282,000 Brits here. Everyone knows this if a daft figure, and the real number is felt to between 800,000 and 1 million. Not all of these are as anti-Brexit as Lenox, it seems. Click here for their views.

Two Outers today.

First, here's a Flexit pamphlet from Richard North, the immensely knowledgable writer of the EU Referendum blog. The Leave Alliance last week launched its official pre-referendum campaign, publishing this pamphlet as part of this. It's the only pro-Brexit group which has had the knowledge, skill and the cojones to do this.

Secondly, below is an article which gets to the non-economic heart of the Brexit issue - Is the EU really the sort of club which Britain should want to be a member of? From Dominic Raab of The Times.

Tyrannical EU threatens our liberal laws: From arrest warrants to free speech, Britain finds its legal judgments increasingly dominated by an inflexible Europe.

Why do so few make the liberal case for the European Union? In reality, Brussels resembles an increasingly authoritarian wolf in progressive sheep’s clothing.

After the Second World War, European integration was meant to meld the jagged edges of nation states trapped in a cycle of savage violence. Inspired by noble aims, the EU’s political design evolved from breaking down barriers to imposing uniform rules. In 1953, the British liberal Isaiah Berlin presciently captured these competing visions for Europe in The Hedgehog and the Fox. The hedgehog with its single defence mechanism, rolling into a ball, believes in one big thing, one all-encompassing truth. The fox guilefully searches out different ways to achieve diverse, sometimes competing, ends. Berlin was a liberal fox. He believed the world too complex to be sliced and diced into rigid, one-size-fits-all templates.

In Europe, the British fox hankers for an adaptable relationship, offering maximum flexibility. That has been rebuffed by the continental hedgehog, which clings to a uniform and integrationist EU blueprint. The balance-sheet pros and cons dominating debate on Brexit largely ignore what is, at root, a deep-seated difference of values: liberal pluralism versus progressive homogeneity.

If that sounds abstract, consider the toll of the EU’s unyielding paradigm on Greece. Since the 2008 financial crisis, one in four businesses have collapsed, youth unemployment hit 48 per cent, and suicides have soared. Little wonder the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis labelled the EU “authoritarian, irrational and anti-democratic”. Sacked for his views, he now advises the British Labour party.

If Britain is at little risk of such tragic convulsions, it’s exposed to the EU’s progressive authoritarianism in more surreptitious ways. The jurist Sir William Blackstone articulated the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of British justice: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” The Napoleonic code that influenced much of continental Europe, and the EU, lacks that respect for individual liberty.

Take the European arrest warrant (EAW). Innocent British citizens have been subjected to Kafkaesque justice systems by a fast-track process that sidesteps basic safeguards. In 2014, Keith Hainsworth, an Ancient Greek tutor sightseeing in Greece, was wrongly accused of setting a forest ablaze. Arrested without a shred of evidence, a five-week nightmare saw him holed up in a notorious Athens jail. A Greek judge eventually released him, admitting a simple error that could have been cleared up with one phone call. The Hainsworths were left with legal bills approaching £40,000.

I’ve met many EAW victims. The coalition government introduced some extra safeguards to mitigate the problem but they can’t solve it without changing the rigid EU rules and that’s not up for discussion. Brussels is in denial of the cruel impact of its blunt regime. The current lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, summed up Brussels’ self-delusion, giving evidence on the EAW to an independent review: “One of the problems with the way in which a lot of European criminal justice legislation has emerged is that it presupposes a kind of mutual confidence and common standards that actually don’t exist.”

Yes, we need effective extradition arrangements with Europe, but they should include proper safeguards. And the last word on the fate of British citizens should lie with the UK Supreme Court, not the European Court in Luxembourg. Perversely, as EU law catapults innocent Britons to face rough justice abroad, it has made it harder to deport convicted foreign criminals.

EU pressure to share the DNA of Britons with European police, many with lower standards than our own, risks dragging more innocent people into squalid foreign jails.

Then there’s the EU’s disdain for free speech. EU hate-crime legislation requires criminalising historic debates about war crimes, if someone finds it “insulting”. Continental-style privacy laws allowed Jacques Barrot to be appointed European commissioner in 2004 without disclosing a conviction for embezzlement. When this lack of transparency was revealed, the EU responded with scorn. The commission president Manuel Barroso retorted that Mr Barrot was an “excellent” choice, while the European parliament president Josep Borrell threatened legal action.

Most recently, the new EU data protection regulation enshrines the “right to be forgotten”, a power for the rich, famous and powerful to remove online remnants of their misbehaviour, from peccadillos to crimes, that the public have a right to know about. These erosions of transparency and free speech may have progressive intentions, but they are no less illiberal for that.

The EU’s drive for uniformity goes to ludicrous extremes. In 2008 Janet Devers, running a stall in east London, was convicted of selling in pounds and ounces in defiance of EU rules and left with a criminal record and a £5,000 legal bill. All for the temerity of selling scotch bonnets and okra in bowls, rather than by the kilo.

Will it get worse? In 2013 the commission set out its vision for a single EU justice system enforced by the Luxembourg court and replete with an EU justice minister. That’s where we’re headed.

Last year, we celebrated 800 years of Magna Carta, a totem of British liberty. On June 23 Britons will choose to retain their particular creed of liberal pluralism, or sign up for the EU’s brand of progressive authoritarianism — and give up ultimate democratic control over laws that defend our freedoms and define our way of life.

A detail from the Persian city of Persepolis, destroyed by Alexander the Great but Unmerciful

The desert city of Yazd in southern Persia, I believe. Where I was once given food midday in Rámadan. In a mosque. On Friday.


Eamon said...

March the 19th is the feast day of St. Joseph so now you know why it is celebrated as father's day in Spain.

Perry said...

Oh, those Greeks!

I'm sure you you know the story of Gaius Popillius Laenas, according to Livy.

"After receiving the submission of the inhabitants of Memphis and of the rest of the Egyptian people, some submitting voluntarily, others under threats, Antiochus marched by easy stages towards Alexandria. After crossing the river at Eleusis, about four miles from Alexandria, he was met by the Roman commissioners, to whom he gave a friendly greeting and held out his hand to Popilius who however, placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him first of all to read it.

After reading it through, he said he would call his friends into council and consider what he ought to do. Popilius, stern and imperious as ever, drew a circle round the king with the stick he was carrying and said, "Before you step out of that circle give me a reply to lay before the senate." For a few moments he hesitated, astounded at such a peremptory order, and at last replied, "I will do what the senate thinks right." Not till then did Popilius extend his hand to the king as to a friend and ally. Antiochus evacuated Egypt at the appointed date, and the commissioners exerted their authority to establish a lasting concord between the brothers, as they had as yet hardly made peace with each other."

Ab Urbe Condita, xlv.12

Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear Perry,

A Greek minister just had to resign (and then go into hiding) for the audacity of using the name 'Macedonia' on Greek radio…

And here YOU are, calling Antiochus Epiphanes a GREEK??

Have you gone out of your mind?


Colin Davies said...

@Perry: Thanks for the 2 references and for refreshing my memory - honest - on Gaius Popillius Laenas.

I apologise for Mr Mittington's nastiness but I can't control my readers . . . But I was going to question whether Alexander's army was truly Greek, rather than Macedonian like him.

@ Afie Mittington: Go away.