November 26, 2007

Tanja Nijmeijer

Tanja Nijmeijer seems to have found out the hard way that joining up with the socialist revolution really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

_Nov. 24, 2006: I'm tired, tired of the FARC, tired of the people, tired of communal life. Tired of never having anything for myself. It would be worth it if we knew why we were fighting. But the truth is I don't believe in this anymore. What kind of organization is this, where some have money, cigarettes, candy, and the rest have to beg, only to be rejected or met with grumbling? This is how it was when I arrived almost four years ago, and it hasn't changed.

_Nov. 24, 2006: I want to leave here, at least this unit. But for the time being, you know that you're more or less a prisoner. What can you do? I don't want to hear any more about being a communist, being honest, not wasting, being obedient. And then see how hypocritical the commanders, like braggarts and traitors, showing no mercy if you dare to criticize them.

The thing is, you see, once you've got in, you're not allowed to leave. Very Hotel California, don't you think?

The first known person from outside Latin America to join the region's largest rebel army wasn't just disillusioned. Like most FARC foot soldiers, Tanja Nijmeijer apparently wasn't permitted to leave....

From the entries, written in Dutch, English and Spanish, Ms. Nijmeijer emerges as a passionate left-winger who is occasionally homesick and has had second thoughts since joining the guerrillas in 2002.

"I don't know where this project is going. How will it be when we come to power? The girlfriends of the commanders in Ferrari Testa Rossas, with breast implants, eating caviar? It seems like it," one entry said.

Other entries, however, show a woman still committed to violent means and impatient for action. "Damn! I've been waiting three days for a helicopter to shoot it down, but it hasn't flown over the area."

Ms. Nijmeijer, who wrote her thesis on FARC at the University of Groningen, moved to Colombia in 2000. She taught English to wealthy children in Pereira and appears to have been radicalized by volunteer work in poverty-stricken slums.

She joined a humanitarian aid mission into rebel-held territory in August of 2001 and later joined the fighters, a force made up largely of peasants and professes a commitment to social justice.

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at this really, wouldn't you? It's not as if the history of revolutionary movements doesn't show that this happens every single time:

CONTENTS of an intimate diary chronicling the declining morale of Tanja Nijmeijer, a 29-year-old Dutch woman who joined the FARC rebels in Colombia, have been released by the Colombian government.

The diary had been found during an army raid on a rebel camp in June. Ms Nijmeijer became the first person from outside Latin America to join FARC, the region's largest rebel army, but ultimately came to realise she was "more or less a prisoner"......

She condemns the strict discipline imposed by the male commanders - no smoking, no phone calls and no romantic relationships without their consent - while portraying them as materialistic and corrupt.

You don't say! It's worth remembering that FARC was the same group that employed several IRA men to show them howto build mortars. 'Nuff said, really.

And this is wonderful, no, not cruel at all:

Elsewhere, however, our terrorist Bridget Jones yearns for action: "Bored and hungry", she writes, "We can't find the enemy, and so I have to study Farc documents for the millionth time."

November 26, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2007

BBC Question

The BBC World Service (World Have Your Say show) will today be debating the question:

Does every child have the right to have access to sports facilities?


This is another in the series of short answers to stupid questions.

September 21, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

Can Both These Things Be True?

Not sure:

Three decades of multi-culturalism have left Britain an unequal and segregated nation that is in danger of breaking up, race watchdogs say in a report published today.

Things are terrible.

On the positive side, it says there has been significant progress since it was set up under the Race Relations Act in 1974.

Things have got better.

Logically, yes, it is poosible for both to be true. But I have a feeling that it's the headline claim  which is a little off. Things are indeed better than they were which means that society is less likely to break up.

''Segregation - residentially, socially and in the workplace - is growing."

I'm not sure that's true either. Of course, we have to differentiate between first generation immigrants and second. An influx of new immigrants will clearly increase the amount of segregation. The interesting thing, though. the thing we might want to note, is what about the second generation? Does it remain segregated? Now I know that there are some examples where this is so, but in general, doesn't the UK have one of the world's highest racial (or cultural, if you prefer) intermarriage rates?

That would indicate that, absent any waves of new immigration, that the place it getting less segregated all the time.

September 19, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 18, 2007

Hammer the rich!

Yes, Polly's in the paper again today:

'Hammer the rich!' At last a political leader has the nerve to say what pollsters find most people think.

Jealousy is just so unseemly, isn't it? Not, one would think, a great basis for public policy, either.

Alas, Adam Applegarth, Northern Rock's chief executive, is no James Stewart. He did not hurry to give hard-hit shareholders back any of his pay: if he took 10 times less, he'd still be left with £140,000 - and that's not counting his pension.

He's very likely not to have a job soon enough: but much more interesting is this:

Despite promises, there is far too little money to help more people buy their own home, and this cheap mortgage collapse will make it worse.

Now what Applegarth has been making his money from is offering "cheap mortgages". Mortgages to those who had low incomes, offering high multiples and high valuations. That might be a good or a bad business idea (we don't know yet: all we know so far is that funding such loans from the commercial paper markets wasn't). But it was a business idea which offered aid to those other's would not lend to.

So Polly is both condemning the collapse of this aid to the poor in getting their foot on the ladder and condemning the person who made it possible.

Is Doublethink now actually a requirement to write for The Guardian?

There is, as ever, at least one true line in her piece:

All these the chancellor of the exchequer should steal wholesale for his next budget: think what he could do with £13.5bn in a very tight spending round.

Taxation as theft? Who would ever thought to have heard Polly say that? And, as ever, there's one thing in her article which is batshit insane:

We are a low-tax nation.

According to the OECD (in 2004) our tax to GDP ratio was pretty much right on the average for OECD nations. As the tax share of the economy has risen since then I think it's fair to say that we are in fact a high tax nation.

September 18, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

Will Hutton on Northern Rock

Here's a surprise. It's all Maggie's fault.

The pictures of Gordon Brown having tea with Lady Thatcher in Downing Street in the middle of a bank run could hardly have been more compromising. It was her philosophy that above any other has led us to this pass.

I was looking for some sort of guide as to what should actually happen:

We need a solid, social democratic government to reduce the risk of such recklessness in future, not tell us that finance should be left to finance while the taxpayer picks up the pieces.

A social democratic government, eh? You mean a little more like Germany? You know, Rhineland capitalism...that's what Will normally means when he says such things. Certainly, Germany has never had that dose of Thatcherism now, has it?


SachsenLB is the second German bank to be caught up in the subprime turmoil which has hit stock markets across the world after the troubled IKB, which was rescued with an 8.1 billion dollar liquidity line extended by state-owned KfW, its main shareholder.


The German bank Sachsen LB is the newest victim of the subprime turmoil that has hit European commercial paper markets. The government-backed German Savings Associations have provided a €17.3 billion credit line for the investment fund called Ormond Quay belonging to Sachsen LB. This is the third German bailout in three weeks.

So, from the available evidence. A social democratic system of bank regulation has seen three banks requiring salvaging because they have already lost money in these mortgage markets. They've been rescued at great cost to the taxpayers.

A more free market system has had one bank run, this brought on by the inability to roll over short term borrowings. No cost to the taxpayer (as yet. Given the interest being charged, likely a profit in fact).  No losses as yet in fact. Just a credit crunch.

And our Will says that the second system is worse than the first and we should move from the second to the first. What excellent advice, eh? Guess that's why they pay him the big bucks.

September 16, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

Gaian Economics

This is excellent. It's got everything. Fractional reserve banking is the root of all our troubles. Bioregional distribution systems (meaning, I think, that you can only trade with those in the same area. Say bye bye to ever eating pineapple again, for example). But the best is this:

...that capitalism is adapting to the strictures climate change brings.

And she's complaining about it!

September 14, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Fashion Victims

War on Want is making noises again about how little sweatshop workers are paid in factories overseas.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer for War on Want, said: "This report exposes retailers' empty rhetoric on ethical treatment for workers who make their clothes but remain trapped in poverty." Staff in Bangladesh earn 7% of a UK living wage - even taking into account the cheaper cost of living. This compares with 9% of a UK living wage earned by the average garment worker in India, 11% in China and Vietnam, 14% in Thailand and 25% in Morocco.

Lessee, Bangladesh is poorer than India, which is poorer than China and Vietnam, which is poorer than Thailand which is poorer than Morocco which is poorer than the UK. Amazing how this works, isn't it? People in poor countries get lower wages. Almost as if there's some sort of connection between people getting low wages and a country being poor or something.

Why not do something about it then? Like, ooooh, maybe pay people in Bangladesh a UK style living wage? The obvious answer then being that we'd use Bangladeshis living in England to do the work, leaving those in Bangladesh without any wages at all.

September 14, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

Richard Murphy, Again


Question: What’s £757,000?

Answer: The average earnings of a partner in PWC in the UK last year.

Justification: There isn’t one.

Why?: They take no risk. PWC cannot fail. It’s the biggest firm of accountants in the world. The collective governments of the world cannot see it disappear; ergo, there is no downside risk. In that case their should be no risk premium in their pay.

Good grief, the man is an accountant, one with an economics degree even. Hellooo! Even, Hellooo?

What risk have those who are partners taken in the past in order to climb the greasy pole in order to become partners? Do all who balance the books become partners? Do some not reach that point?

About accountants I don't know. About law partners there have been many studies: as indeed, famously Freakonomics did about drug dealers. The average expected return to the latter when they start is less than minimum wage. Those who reach the top do very well: but that's because of those who drop out along the way. Another way of describing this is superstar economics. In a highly competetive field, those who get to the top do indeed make fortunes while those who make the same investments fail.

D'ye think that somene with that economics degree is ignorant of this simple truth, or prefers to ignore it? Your choice.


September 12, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Gary Younge on Naomi Klein

A little difficult to tease out here exactly what is meant as it's rather rambling.

However, what I think is being said is that the failure of FEMA, a bureaucratic and Federally funded organisation, to help in the immediate moments after Katrina, plus its further failure to do very much about the long term rebuilding, shows the  iniquity of the free market.

A somewhat odd argument really.

September 12, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

Mary Riddell

Ooooooh, my, this is excellent logic. A proper triple axle with a twist.

Four out of five Britons believe doctors should be allowed to help the terminally ill die, if he or she so wishes. But the churches, once impresarios of death, block any attempt to make assisted dying lawful. In a ghastly travesty last summer, a consultant who helped ease the gasping of two dying babies was dragged through a misconduct case before being cleared. I do not know Jane Tomlinson's views. But such cruelties seem to fly in the face of her triumph as she crossed another finishing line. Our legislators should heed the lesson her courage offered to strangers: that people should be entitled to die whatever good death they choose.

I don't know anything about Jane Tomlinson's views but I'll use her seven year fight to stay alive to argue for euthanasia.

Pretty good, eh?

September 9, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack