Brexit Diplomacy Explained

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?
Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We ‘had’ to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch… The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.
Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal?
Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.
Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.
Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: Yes… We call it diplomacy, Minister.

Killing in the name of (Labelling Hate)

killing in the name of _ akkuza

In the wake of the Orlando massacre in which a gun toting madman entered a nightclub and coldly killed 49 other persons much debate has centred around “intent” and “motive”. One particular morning show on Sky UK featured a walk out by an angry guest columnist who was frustrated by the hosts’ obstinate refusal to acknowledge that the attack was “homophobic”. “Had this been a synagogue we would be talking about an attack on Jews and solidarity with the worldwide Jewish community”, he stated moments before storming off (I paraphrase), “Why don’t you call this what it is… an attack on LGBT community?”.

In Paris, a few days later a lone man armed with a knife brutally killed two employees of the police force stabbing the man to death on the street before holding the man’s partner hostage in her own apartment and ending her life shortly before the RAID police intervened killing him in the process. A three year old daughter survives the couple. The French government speaks of “indoctrination” and following of the “principles” of ISIS.

Both the Paris and Orlando attacks have been “claimed” by ISIS. Some sick mind sitting in the Middle East sees yet another tragedy unfold and rushes to own it as his own – as that of an ideology, part of some twisted form of religious goal. They are now not only armed with fear but also by ownership of the thousands of twisted and unhappy minds that exist around the world. Any dysfunctional misfit with a grudge against society is now a potential weapon in the hands of ISIS. That is what it boils down to.

And what do we focus on? We focus on labels. We are busy jostling over “victim rights” – this time it’s the LGBT community, last time it was the Free Satirical Press, there’s a threat that it could be the Sporting Comunity too. We’re doing it all wrong. I am in no way saying that there should be some form of diminution of empathy and solidarity with whatever part of society is struck, far from that. The LGBT and Policing Communities have been hit in the last week. Solidarity with the communities is normal in a caring society. It is however imperative that such attacks are put in context using a strong dose of rationality and reason.

Focusing on the the nature of the victims does not help at all. It only leads to a loss of focus. The truth is that it is all of society that is threatened – as it always has been – by the existence of misfits and grudge-bearers who would do more than write a letter to the editor complaining about how society’s mores have gone to the dumps. Intent and motive is beside the point if not only to understand how much pent up anger exists or needs to exist in an individual before he resorts to violence. The Orlando and Paris killers may have pinned their banner to ISIS and some contorted view of a religion but the fact remains that their twisted acts are the result of violent social misfits.

It is not even their creed or origin that should be under focus but the reasons why they failed to fit so badly in the societies in which they were brought up. Badly enough to pick up a gun or dagger and kill fellow human beings. Badly enough to not care.

If we fail to understand this and continue to squabble about labels and ideas we will remain far from avoiding such massacres in the future.


Water Babies

Watermarks

How do you know that? Have you been there to see? And if you had been there to see, and had seen none, that would not prove that there were none … And no one has a right to say that no water babies exist till they have seen no water babies existing, which is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water babies. – C.Kingsley, The Water Babies

Five consecutive days of heavy rainfall tend to instil a doomsday mentality in even the most positive of thinking persons.Europe is underwater. Literally. Old Europe that is.

In France the Louvre has been closed, parts of the metro that run parallel to the Seine are shut down and you cannot visit Quasimodo’s Notre Dame because that too has been deemed unsafe thanks to the alarmingly high levels of the river. Bavaria, home of beer and irritating football teams who get last minute draws , is also sinking. At the last count nine people had lost their lives in severe floods. More persons are unaccounted for on the German/Austrian border. In Belgium parts of Liege and the region of Limburg on the border with Germany were evacuated, also due to the floods. Italy’s north too is bearing part of the brunt of this mitteleuropean storm.

It’s water, water everywhere – in its dangerous and threatening form. Nature in its ire and full manifestation does not recognise borders. It does not ask for your passport before unleashing its full fury and requires no identification. Whether it is a swelling river filling the basement of an old couple’s home until there is no air to breathe or an angry Mediterranean swallowing a boatload of families and children, there is no discrimination. Death’s scythe accompanies the gods of winds and seas and skies with egalitarian perfection and democratic non-discrimination.

Water has become the latest instrument of the gods’ fury. The biblical story (as plagiarised from earlier epics) tells us that Noah’s ark was rocked for 40 days and 40 nights under incessant rain and storms (what people in Luxembourg call “summer”). In this end of days scenario we are made to suffer reports of Trump’s ascendancy, of the Brits sticking two fingers up to the European project, of politicians defying any form of accountability, of plans to overdevelop the island of milk and honey and of a worryingly increasing number of news items about tragedies involving animals.

 

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?


The Gonzo Leaks : Fear and Loathing Revisited

gonzo leaks _akkuza

 

In an exclusive for J’accuse, an unidentified source has provided us with a massive leak of the “Gonzo Papers”. Here we reveal extracts from a document that first appeared in the New York Times on January 1, 1974 under the title “Fear and Loathing in the Bunker”. Given that the main protagonist in the document subsequently benefited from a presidential pardon the document has been redacted and real names replaced with fictitious references. Any similarity or resemblance to other real persons is purely coincidental.
[…]
It was almost too good to be true. Josephus Inhobbkom Muskat, the main villain of my political consciousness for as long as I can remember, was finally biting that bullet he’s been talking about all those years. The man that not even Cameron or Obama could tolerate had finally gone too far – and now he was walking the plank, on national T.V., six hours a day – with the whole world watching, as it were.

The phrase is permanently etched in some gray rim on the back of my brain. Nobody who was at the counting hall in Naxxar on that night in 2013 will ever forget it. Josephus Muskat is living in Castella today because of what happened that night in Naxxar. Louis Gonzo  lost that election by a landslide of votes – mine among them – and if I had to do it again I would still vote for Arnie Kassel.

If nothing else, I take a certain pride in knowing that I helped spare the nation five more years of Gonzo – an administration that would have probably been equally corrupt and wrongheaded as Josephus Muskat’s, far more devious, and probably just competent enough to keep the ship from sinking until 2018. Then with the boiler about to explode from eight years of blather and neglect, Gonzo’s conservatives could have fled down the ratlines and left the disaster to whoever inherited it.

Muskat, at least was blessed with a mixture of arrogance and stupidity that caused him to blow the boilers almost immediately after taking command. By bringing in hundreds of thugs, fixers, and fascists to run the government he was able to cranks almost every problem he touched into a mind-bending crisis. About the only disaster he hasn’t brought upon us yet is an environmental meltdown or selling the nation’s sovereignty and assets on the cheap … but he still has time and the odds on his actually doing it are not all that long.

For now, we should make every effort to look at the bright side of the Muskat administration. It has been a failure of such monumental proportions that political apathy is no longer considered fashionable, or even safe, among thousands of people who only three years ago thought that anybody who disagreed openly with “the government” was either paranoid or subversive. Political candidates in 2018, at least, are going to have to deal with an angry, disillusioned electorate that is not likely to settle for flag-waving and pompous bullshit. The Panamagate spectacle was a shock, but the fact of a well-to-do Prime Minister’s aide and Minister paying less income tax than most construction workers while gasoline costs spiralled from Mellieha to Marsaxlokk and the spin of mass employment tends to personalise Muskat’s failures in a very visceral way. Even MPs have been shaken out of their slothful ruts, and the possibility of impeachment is beginning to look very real.

[…]

When he cold eye of history looks back on Josephus Muskat’s years of unrestrained power in Castella […] looking back at the nineties and noughties, the facts of Muskat and everything that happened to him – and to us – seem so queerly fated and inevitable that it is hard to reflect on those years and see them unfolding in another way.

[…]

One of the strangest things about these three downhill years of the Muskat premiership is that despite all the savage excesses committed by the people chosen to run the country, no real opposition or realistic alternative to Muskat’s cheap and mean-hearted view of the Maltese Dream has ever developed. It is almost as if that sour 2008 election rang down the curtain on career politicians.

This is the horror of Maltese politics today – not that Muskat and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed – but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned-out hacks who have been fouling our air with their gibberish for the last twenty years,

How long, O Lord, how long? How much longer will we have to wait before some high powered-shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face to face with the ugly question that is already close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it.

Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or would we all be happier admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn’t worked to hell with it.

[…]

A few months ago I was getting a daily rush out of watching the nightmare unfold. There was a warm sense of poetic justice in seeing “fate” drive these money-changers out of the temple they had worked so hard to steal from its rightful owners. The word “paranoia” was no longer mentioned, except as a joke or by yahoos, in serious conversations about national politics. The truth was turning out to be much worse than my most “paranoid ravings” during that painful 2013 election.

But that high is beginning to fade, tailing down to a vague sense of angst. Whatever happens to Josephus Muskat when the wolves finally trip down his door seems almost beyond the point now. He has been down in his bunker for so long that even his friends will feel nervous if he tries to reemerge. All we can really ask of him is a semblance of self-restraint until some way can be found to get rid of him gracefully.

This is not a cheerful prospect, for Mr. Muskat or anyone else – but it would be a hell of a lot easier to cope with if we could pick up a glimmer of light at the end of this foul tunnel of a year that only mad dogs and milkmen can claim to have survived without serious brain damage.
Or maybe it’s just me. […]

 

[Hunter S. Thompson, 1 January, 1974]

The full unredacted text of the document can be found here.


Watermarks: Projects and Burgers

Watermarks

The papers report that the deadline for the gas power station will be shifted for a third time. The government that loves to speak in terms of “deliverables and receivables” and other marketing bluff once again fails change words into action. There is worrying news about the actual tanker that is being converted too since there seems to be the need to remove large amounts of asbestos from it before it becomes viable. Why, in the first place, is there asbestos on a tanker that is to be used for a new project? Much talk, too little real delivery – and this missed deadline is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another report tells us that Malta’s geological maps need updating since they are missing 50 metres of rock. So it turns out that our already not too great planning decisions are based on outdated and grossly inaccurate geological maps. Such bad planning includes decisions about tunnels and quarries. It really begs the question… can we get one thing straight nowadays?

Finally much fuss was made about the reporting in the gossip columns of Muscat’s lightning visit to Rome in the company of Glenn Bedingfield to watch Milan get robbed by Juventus of the Coppa Italia. Many seemed to agree that this visit formed part of Muscat’s private life and need not have had such exposure – whether Muscat chooses to eat at Burger King or in a Michelin joint on such trips is his business after all.

They may have a point. Then again the trip did have a few elements of public interest. First of all it was a very public endorsement of the government appointed poison-pen (as some columnists would describe him). Rather than keep it private, Bedingfield tweeted pictures of him and his rival buddy (Glenn is a Juve fan) at the stadium on his very public twitter stream. X’hemm hazin? Nothing. It is just a huge coincidence that Muscat chose this very public way of affectionate buddy-buddy tripping during the Panamagate crisis when Bedingfield is playing a crucial role to keep the diehards satisfied with government rhetoric. That Bedingfield has taken to using the same underhand tactics as the ones that are being criticised here is by the by.

And then there is the queue at Burger King. Again, possibly a private matter for a private citizen looking for some grub post-football match delirium (and in Muscat’s case post-football disappointment). Images of Muscat queuing with the much praised “middle-class” should have the effect that the Uruguayan former President had on his people. But Jose’ Muscat is no Mujica. His private trip to Rome comes shortly after a private trip to Dubai in five star hotel splendor.

The admittedly irritating invasion of privacy becomes a necessary insight into the spending habits of a PM. One minute he is hobnobbing in Dubai on a highly unaffordable family trip in five star hotels, the other he is queuing humbly in a Burger King joint waiting patiently for his whopper.

Will the real Joseph Muscat please stand up?


Fawlty Towers

fawlty towers_akkuza
Today there are new reports on the latest crazy plan to build another tower in Malta. This time it seems that the Villa Rosa developers are intent on transforming Saint George’s Bay (bayside) into some sort of futuristic megapolis. The artist’s impressions show that most of the foreshore would be taken up by this megalith designed by recently deceased architect Zaha Hadid. Check out the link to see for yourself.

As if that is not enough, just up the hill towards Pembroke another tower is in the planning thanks to the controversial plans to redevelop the ITS land. Controversial because it turns out that lots of investors are furious that the tender specifications were not clear enough. I don’t have any sympathy for the investors really because it’s only just a matter of who puts his name to yet another monstrosity blotting the skyline of poor Saint George’s Bay.

That is just Saint George’s Bay. Sliema Residents are up in arms and purportedly would love for their council to “sue the government” (sic) because of all the scarring building that is going on – towers mostly. Manoel Island is in danger of losing its status as last green patch in the harbour area and a historic house in Victoria is in danger of being pulled down to make way for a car park entrance. Architects may be putting their weight behind an appeal to conserve Maltese architecture but for very one of these there are five more who are ready to pander to the cheque-books of developers hungry for more construction.

There was an admirable action for awareness by those guys pitching tents outside Castille. It’s a sad fact though that the policy makers of this land don’t give a damn about our living environment. I don’t mean trees and plants and recycling and all that. I mean quality of living that is being put in grave danger every single day by idiotic decisions spurred on by money and greed. Is it a childish argument? Yes it is. It’s happening though and the wanton destruction of our prime living space goes on mainly because those at the top have figured that not too many people give a real toss about it.

In the end so long as the policy makers can claim that we are living an era of economic boom, high unemployment, money in the pockets of households, then they know they can get away with murder. From olive trees being brutally clipped at University to prime land being sold off at peanuts to Chinese Investors (guaranteed by Maltese investors’ money in banks) or fake university peddlers there seems to be no hope ahead.

The assault on the quality of life of the inhabitants of the islands of Gozo and Malta has long begun. I could bother you with the usual cliches such as the native American saying that goes “It is only when the last tree has been cut, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then we will realise that one cannot eat money.”

I could do that but it would be useless, wouldn’t it? So long as the money keeps us happy and there’s free childcare and randomly adopted social rights… then it’s a.o.k … we could probably walk on water.

***

Click here to link to the page of Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar a not for profit, NGO, committed to preserving Malta and Gozo’s architectural and rural heritage.

I will add a link to the organisors of the KEA as soon as I get my hands on it.