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Interesting poll on British attitudes about America and Europe

by Ben P Fri Sep 16th, 2005 at 06:00:08 PM EST

Interesting stats from a recent YouGuv poll (most accurate British pollster, BTW) of Britain. It tends to confirm what I know just from my (largely Tory) extended family. That "Atlanticism" - or moving Britain closer to the US and away from Europe - is more an elite game. This is not to say that the British population is Europhilic.  While when push comes to shove, elite opinion chooses America - for important historical and political reasons - the general public will do just the opposite. This isn't to say the British public is "anti-American," either, although I do think it is becoming more so, as friends, relatives, and these poll results tend to suggest.

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The Geopolitics of Katrina - Part II

by Ben P Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 09:08:55 AM EST

Promoted from the diaries, with minor edits ~ whataboutbob

Courtesy of my favorite British blogger, Jamie Kennedy, quoting from the indispensable Stratfor.

The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in order to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In other words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United States, you need a workforce to do it -- and that workforce is gone. Unlike in other disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region because they have no place to live. New Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans is either gone or so badly damaged that it will not be inhabitable for a long time...

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This Hurricane is a Much Bigger Deal Than You Realize

by Ben P Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 06:17:15 AM EST

promoted by Jerome. Title shortened for clarity

updated, to include the entire Stratfor report, which I think adds a good bit - Ben P

Now, for the last hour or so, I've been scanning all the relevant blogs and news outlets, and it does appear at least in the US that the reality of just how devastating and significant what has happened is sinking in. Before I go on, I want to emphasize that this is not some kind of "garden variety" natural disaster like the flooding in Germany and Switzerland, the forest fires in Portugal, or the hurricanes (even some of the more devastating ones) that hit the US southeast every several years. What is happening is frankly unprecendeted, and will send shockwaves across the US and, potentially, the rest of the world for some time to come.

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Two Important Books About the EU

by Ben P Thu Aug 18th, 2005 at 05:56:18 PM EST

Originally posted as a long comment on the main thread, I've decided to expand this into a diary because I think that both of these books deserve widespread attention for the way in which they conceptualize the EU - in a manner that breaks out of the molds conventional wisdom typically dictates the debate about the EU occurs. If you are trying to use Jeremy Rifkin's unfocused musings as a justification or as a means of understanding the EU, I suggest you read Robert Collins's The Breaking of Nations or especially Mark Leonard's Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century instead.

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UK Politics Historical Primer

by Ben P Thu Jun 16th, 2005 at 09:15:47 PM EST

Rather than give a rundown of the British political system as it functions today, I thought I would offer a historical back drop as a starting point. Forgive me for not including a discussion of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The post is already very long as is!

To start, in the 19th century when British popular politics began, the Conservative party tended to represent aristocrats, rural communities, and the Anglican Church and was in favor of "national greatness" through empire, the monarchy, the military, and the "established" (Anglican) church. The Tories (as they are often called) were in favor of protectionism to buttress domestic agricultural and the idealized, hierarchical vision of Britain the rural order allegedly represented. To this day, many of themes still echo and are relevant to the Conservative party, especially its strength of support in rural Britain and a lingering sense of aristocratic "noblesse oblige" to the "less fortunate" that mean it is not a dogmatic capitalist party like the GOP, or at least to the extent the GOP is.

In contrast, the Liberal Party tended to represent the bourgeoisie of rising industrialists in cities like Manchester, the middle class (both small entrepreneurs and professionals), and more or less, the working classes as they became gradually enfranchised. The Liberals were in favor of free trade, the dimunition of the established churches priveleges, minimal government spending (including on the military) and the abolition of aristocratic and historical privelege. As to why the working classes generally supported this platform through the course of the 19th century is a very interesting question that is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that the working class saw government intervention as antithetical to their interests because of the view (with good reason) that government intervention in the working of British society tended to favor those with economic and historic power. Also, many in the working classes were members of "nonconformist" religions, meaning Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, etc., who were for much of the 19th century excluded in important ways in British society at the expense of the established Anglican church. As a final note, the Liberals - especially under the leadership of William Gladstone - were in favor of Irish "home rule" (or defacto independence) while the Conservatives were not. This issue was critical in breaking Liberal dominance of British politics in the late 19th century.

The 20th century has seen great changes to this original order. With the increasing urbanization and industrialization of British society, and especially with the rise of trade  unions, the Labour Party came to prominence int he early part of the 20th century (it had formed around the turn of the century). With this development, the Liberal middle/working class coalition broke apart, as the Conservatives were able to succesfully reposition themselves as defenders of middle class interests against the specter of the Labour Party's alleged socialism and trade union militance. Although it was a more complicated process than I am suggesting (that involved key splits in its leadership - particularly during World War I) the Liberal Party was squeezed in the middle by this realignment of British politics along class lines, and had effectively become a minor party by the 1920s. It is of crucial importance to note the fundamental class basis of British politics that developed at this time. For all intents and purposes, Labour was (or at least perceived as) a working class party, and this continues to be a major reason why it is mistake to compare the Labour Party to the Democrats (too closely, at least).

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