Western European News Digest
Blair, at UN, Proclaims End of National Sovereignty
In his Sept. 15 speech to the United Nations, British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared: "For the first time at this summit, we are agreed that states do not have the right to do what they will within their own borders, but that we, in the name of humanity, have a common duty to protect people where their own governments will not."
In the name of "common values," Blair insisted that: "The UN must come of age. It must become the visible and credible expression of the globalization of politics." Blair's "values" are what he calls "freedom" and "tolerance." He has been making a world tour attacking "extremism," which is replacing "terrorism" as the enemy image.
Blair blamed "failed states" for the problems of terrorism, WMD, environmental destruction, and everything else. The UN, he proclaimed, must lead against terrorism, and support non-proliferation and human rightsagainst national governments.
Blair Presents His 'Anti-Terror' Resolution to the UN
British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented his "anti-terror" resolution to the UN General Assembly Sept. 15. Blair defined the strategy of "terrorism" as the intention "to cause chaos and instability and to divide and confuse us"exactly the strategy of Blair's neo-cons.
The resolution proclaims that the "root cause" of terrorism is "a doctrine of fanaticism." Anti-terror nations must take "action against those who incite, preach or teach this extremism, wherever they are, in whichever country." The anti-terror nations, Blair said, must fight "not just the methods of this terrorism but their motivation, their twisted reasoning, their wretched excuse for terror."
UK 'Probably' Faces a 'Nuclear Enemy in Long Term'
British Defence Secretary John Reid told the Guardian in a Sept. 13 interview that he was launching a national debate on the future of Britain's nuclear deterrent, which, although called "independent," is actually totally dependent upon the United States. The current deterrent, called the "Polaris," of the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile, deployed in four Vanguard-class ballistic-missile nuclear-powered submarines, will be obsolete in 15 years, and Britain must decide soon on what to do.
Asked if Britain would face a nuclear enemy in that time, Reid said that: "Recent history teaches us it is impossible in most cases to predict where your enemy will come from. Nobody, or very few, foresaw the invasion of the Falklands or that Saddam would invade Kuwait.... So to say whether we might have a nuclear enemy in 15 years' time is a difficult question to answer, other than to say history probably suggests we will." Reid opposed any view that "just because a new threat of international terrorism has arisen the old threats will necessarily go. They may change."
Britain Considers Gasoline Rationing
Gasoline rationing is being discussed in Britain, as prices approach 1 pound a liter (almost $8 a gallon). Prices have risen by 20% in recent months. The "Fuel Lobby," comprised of several groups including farmers, truckers, and others who staged nationwide protests in Britain in autumn 2000, is planning protests beginning on Sept. 14, and is calling on the government to cut taxes on fuelwhich are now 47.1 pence, about half the average price of 94.4 pence/liter. The British Department of Trade and Industry might order some gas stations to close, or to limit the amount which can be purchased, or even restrict buying to "priority users." Government ministers discussed these possible measures last week.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has denied that rationing is being planned at this time, but did admit that the current "oil shock" is as big as that of the 1970s.
British Authorities Warn of Falling House Prices
On Sept. 13 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), claimed that house prices in July were just 4% higher than a year ago. London price rises were much slower: there, prices were just 0.9% higher year-on-year. Inflation had been 12.6% in March, but has fallen every month since. This is the slowest rate of housing inflation since 1996.
City of London analysts cited by the Guardian Sept. 13 are warning that homeowners must prepare for "a period of falling house prices." They also doubted the accuracy of the ODPM figures. Research company Hometrack is reporting that property prices are actually 3.7% lower than a year ago. Hometrack and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors survey all properties on the market, not just those which have sold, which is what the ODPM looks at. Overall, the British "economy" is falteringconsumption is way down, inflation the highest in eight years, and energy costs soaring, and house price inflation, which had sustained it all, going down.
Speculators Fear Lost Billions if German Neo-Cons Lose
In a commentary headlined "Kirchhof Radicalism Takes German Poll to the Wire," Bloomberg columnist Matthew Lynn wrote Sept. 14 that until very recently, Germany's "Mr. Flat Tax," Paul Kirchhof, the neo-con economic advisor of CDU Chancellor candidate Angela Merkel, and his radical free-trade ideas seemed to be unstoppable, in their attempt to conquer the Chancellorship of Germany.
"And now? A ballot that seemed like sure thing for the CDU is set to go down to the wire. At the very least, Kirchhof's proposals have dashed CDU hopes of ruling with a majority."
"That may also end up costing billions for the global investors who piled into Germany on the near-certainty that a new CDU-led government would bring about the pro-business, free-market change the country needs to revive its flagging economy."
"The lesson: There is nothing wrong with having radical economic policies.... There is, however, no point in bothering the electorate with them. Politicians do better with bland promises during the campaign, followed by bold action after the election."
"Money has poured into Germany since the elections were called.... Hedge funds now hold about a quarter of German company shares, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said this month. The bet was that market-friendly measures would be pushed through by a triumphant CDU-led government." That would have been a coalition government with the Free Democrats, which won't happen now.
Neither Margaret Thatcher, nor any other conservative leaders ever went public with their economic radicalism before elections, as Merkel has done. "If Merkel finds herself negotiating a coalition with the SPD next week, she'll only have herself to blame for endorsing Kirchhof. And it will be a long time before any Western European politician mentions a flat tax with an election looming," the Bloomberg commentary concluded.