Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nothing to celebrate in Northern Ireland

Tony Blair has been hailed for his one achievement as PM....peace in Northern Ireland. But it has come at a heavy price.

Peter Hain has bent over backwards to accommodate the paramilitaries and as a result, it is their backers who effectively rule the province, not the moderates. Sinn Fein, a party financed and run by organised crime has gained legitimacy as a result and is poised to become the dominant party in the Irish republic. It's not an achievement that Blair should be proud of.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery

Another opportunity for collective breast beating.

Africa's reaction to Mugabe should make us think very carefully before giving aid

The South African Development Community (SADC) have predictably rallied around Mugabe and resisted sanctions against his regime. As Zimbabwe descends even further into the abyss, western donors should consider very carefully how they go about giving aid to Africa.

Whilst Mugabe has destroyed his country, his neighbours have refused to utter even a word of protest, African solidarity matters more to them than anything. Zimbabwe was supposed to be Africa's great hope. If Africa's leaders are prepared to stand by and let Zimbabwe fail, what hope is there for the rest of the continent?

How is debt relief going to help when half of Africa is run by thieving dictators and the other half turns a blind eye?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Iran's capture of Royal Navy personnel is not dissimilar to Hezbollah's kidnap of Israeli soldiers

Iran has carried out an act of war, yet Britain's response to the kidnap of its personnel has been feeble. It tells you a lot about Britain's anti-terrorist policies both home and abroad. Appeasement and diplomacy are the order of the day. The welfare of its citizens and its troops are an afterthought.

Last summer, Israel attacked Hezbollah's bases in southern Lebanon after it kidnapped Israeli soldiers from Israeli territory. Many in Britain demanded Israel call an immediate ceasefire. Israel were seen as the aggressors, not Hezbollah. It goes a long way towards explaining Britain's apparent indifference to the fate of the hostages. Despite the fact that Iran has carried out an act of agression against us, Britain can offer nothing more hostile than harsh words.

All this is happening on the 25th anniversary of the Falklands war, how ironic! Had Argentina invaded the Falklands today, we would have stood by and let the Argentinians annex them.

Congress has done more damage to New York than 9/11 ever did

There have been a lot of articles recently about London overtaking New York as the world financial centre. This week's Economist goes a long way towards explaining why.
...the national debate on immigration has recently acquired a bilious tone, focused overwhelmingly on the threat of illegal immigration. A country that has been built on immigrant labour is now building fences and demonising foreigners, almost as if it did not need them.

America also makes life difficult for them. Since the mid-1960s the immigration system has been skewed to uniting families rather than to attracting talent. And in recent years it has been driven by a combination of fear of terrorism and rising protectionism. In 2003 Congress reduced the number of H1B visas (temporary visas for highly skilled workers) from about 200,000—well below the number needed—to 65,000.

Potential graduate students and high-tech workers tell nightmare stories of waiting for months for the right bits of paper. And high-tech companies relentlessly complain about not being able to get visas for some of the world's best brains. A few attempts have been made to fix the system. Bill Gates and other high-tech barons have lobbied Congress to create a more flexible process and make it easier for foreign students to stay in America on graduation. But so far all attempts to sort out legal immigration have been swamped by Congress's inability to deal with the illegal kind.

America's legal immigration system is falling apart at just the time when talented foreigners have more choice than ever. Many other countries—including Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany and even France—are bending over backwards to attract talented people. European companies can easily draw on the skills of an entire continent, thanks to the free movement of labour there. At the same time the Indian and Chinese economies are booming. Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro have California-style campuses, state-of-the-art equipment and generous pay packets (which, incidentally, allow employees to afford a house full of servants). American multinationals such as Microsoft are establishing research and development facilities across the developing world. Indians and Chinese were once willing to put up with any humiliation for a chance of a career in the United States. Now they have more and more choices back home....

....There are still good reasons for immigrants to put themselves through all this. America has the world's greatest universities and biggest opportunities for the truly talented. But American officialdom needs to stop thinking that people will tolerate any humiliation to work there. Uprooting yourself from your native culture is difficult enough, without having to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. America also needs to realise what will happen if the immigrants stop coming. University departments will grind to a halt. High-tech companies will be starved of personnel. New York could find itself eclipsed by London as the world's financial hub.

The Americans could learn a thing or two from the British. In the 19th century, we were the richest most powerful nation on earth. But by the mid twentieth century, we were bankrupt and losing an empire we could no longer afford to maintain. And by the 1970s we were trailing Germany and France as an economic power. Britain learnt the hard way that if you get complacent, you end up getting left behind. It's by no means clear that America has learnt the same lesson.