“Vladimir Obama”

They told me if I voted for John McCain, the special relationship with the Britain would deteriorate. Man, the Brits aren’t happy.

The vitriol has a xenophobic edge: witness the venomous references to “British Petroleum”, a name BP dropped in 1998 (just as well that it dispensed with the name Anglo-Iranian Oil Company even longer ago). Vilifying BP also gets in the way of identifying other culprits, one of which is the government. BP operates in one of the most regulated industries on earth with some of the most perverse rules, subsidies and incentives. Shoddy oversight clearly contributed to the spill, and an energy policy which reduced the demand for oil would do more to avert future environmental horrors than fierce retribution.

Mr Obama is not the socialist the right claims he is (see article). He went out of his way, meeting BP executives on June 16th, to insist that he has no interest in undermining the company’s financial stability. But his reaction is cementing business leaders’ impression that he is indifferent to their concerns. If he sees any impropriety in politicians ordering executives about, upstaging the courts and threatening confiscation, he has not said so. The collapse in BP’s share price suggests that he has convinced the markets that he is an American version of Vladimir Putin, willing to harry firms into doing his bidding.

Guess that relationship will have to be on hold until 2013.

[Updatea early afternoon]

Barack Obama, most unpopular man in Britain. Glad we have that “smart diplomacy.”

An Obituary

To Norman Macrae:

Norman’s early experiences did not just sour him to politicians. They soured him to collectivism in all its many varieties. He had no time for the government-worshipping intellectuals he found when he studied economics at Cambridge in 1945-47. He loathed the feminists and black-power activists he came across in America in the late 1960s and 1970s, smelling in their affection for group rights and their willingness to use intimidation the same intolerance he had smelt in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. He took his children on trips to eastern Europe in order to teach them the difference between freedom and tyranny. He seldom missed an opportunity to champion the “hard hats” over the “soft heads”.

Norman’s case for market capitalism did not rest merely on its ability to create wealth, but on its capacity to advance individual freedom. He was almost as critical of big-company capitalism as he was of big-government socialism. In a 1976 survey on “The coming entrepreneurial revolution” he argued that big business was as doomed as big government. Hierarchical managers sitting in their skyscrapers could no longer arrange how brain workers should best use their imaginations. The future lay with small firms that could exploit individual creativity and with bigger firms that could split themselves into small centres and encourage competition between them.

Norman’s critique of the welfare state was inspired by a similar belief in individualism. He pointed out that the market had produced a remarkable equalisation in people’s lives. Rich and poor had access to the same consumer goods—the same television programmes, the same comfortable armchairs, the same plethora of goods in supermarkets, which were spreading from the suburbs to the slums. In 1945 the average Englishman had only one pair of trousers; in the swinging 1960s he had access not only to lots of pairs of (tight) trousers but also to holidays in the sun and cheap mortgages.

I think that The Economist has gone downhill considerably since he left it.

Their Finest Hour

While it’s the seventieth anniversary of the fall of France, it’s also the seventieth (related) anniversary of one of (if not the best) Churchill’s finest speeches:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Sadly, it may have been. It’s certainly been downhill since the end of the war.

Dunkirk Evacuation Delayed For Safety

June 1, 1940

DOVER (Routers) The evacuation of British and French troops from the besieged French city of Dunkirk was halted today, over concerns that many of the private vessels that had been deployed for the task were unsafe for troop transport.

Government officials ordered all soldiers to hold their places on the harbour waterfront and beaches, and those in the water were told to hold up boarding as well, until the various fishing and pleasure vessels could be inspected by the Home Guard, to ensure that there were sufficient life vests, fire extinguishers and other safety devices on each one. Each boat will also have to be tested for leaks before it will be deemed safe for the passage across the Channel.

“We can’t risk our soldiers’ lives on these cheap boats,” explained one official. “The Germans are firing on our ships, and we’ve already lost six destroyers to submarines and aerial bombardments, three of them just today. If all those non-military boats don’t have the proper safety gear, they won’t stand a chance,” he shouted over the din of incoming mortar fire from German troops only two miles away.

Many of the troops agreed. One of them, standing chest deep in the surf, holding his weapon out of the water, said “The Home Guard always knows best, that’s what I always say.” Ducking down at the sound of a nearby artillery shell hitting the beach, he came back up for air. “We can’t be expected to risk our lives on those floating death traps. The colonel said that some of those fishing boats have exposed hooks on the deck. We could stab ourselves something nasty if they go through our boots. And look at that rickety dinghy there. We’d probably spend half the trip to old Blighty bailing it. And think of the splinter danger.”

In response to concerns that the troops might be in danger if they remained much longer, the notion was pooh poohed. “Jerry knows how dangerous those boats are. That’s probably why they’ve held up on the final assault. It will only be a couple more weeks until we can get a shipment of life preservers and fire extinguishers in from Southampton. Nothing comes before the safety of our troops.”

[Copyright 2010 by Rand Simberg]

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!