This video posted from a Fukushima town-hall meeting on YouTube was brought to my attention by a colleague. It is remarkable on many levels. It shows a group of citizens listening to bureaucrats from Tokyo with less than the usual deference shown to the mandarins who have run Japan since the war.
The audience is made up of citizens who live far enough from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant not to have been evacuated by the government, but close enough to have genuine concerns about elevated levels of radiation. Read more
Normally, if I write something critical about a country, I brace myself for a flood of cross e-mails. I was certainly expecting something of the sort when I wrote a column on Greece last Tuesday, suggesting that the country suffers from a culture of corruption. In fact, one of my most cherished abusive e-mails came from Greece many years ago, when had I written something about Cyprus that had displeased a reader. It was addressed to “you British snake”. Read more
Norway, Gaddafi, and high speed trains in China
In this week’s podcast: Terror in Norway: a lone attack or a signal that the far right is rising? Libya – what next for Gaddafi? And, China’s ambitions for high speed rail are dealt a blow. Read more
George Osborne. Image by PA.
George Osborne has a history degree, so perhaps the UK chancellor felt the hand of history on his shoulder, when he made an apparently casual remark to the FT in an interview last week. What Osborne said was:
“I think we have to accept that greater eurozone integration is necessary to make the single currency work and that is very much in our national interest. We should be prepared to let that happen.”
On one level, this is no more than common-sense. But it is also a reversal of centuries of British policy, which has always opposed the idea of a single, unified power arising on the other side of the Channel. A classic statement of this doctrine was made by Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary in 1914, when he explained to the House of Commons why Britain was entering the first world war. The goal, he said was “to prevent the whole of the west of Europe opposite from us falling under the domination of a single power.” Read more
There are not many luxury hotels that allow stray dogs to lie sprawled across their entrance. So I was charmed last week to come across the “Greek riot dog”, sheltering from the summer heat, on the steps of the Grande Bretagne, the smartest hotel in Athens. The yellow pooch has become famous on YouTube because of the enthusiasm with which he participates in anti-government demonstrations. He may soon be back in action. Read more
Saturday’s high-speed train accident in China is above all a tragedy. At least 35 people have died and more than 200 people have been injured.
The number of casualties may yet rise. But the accident also has a broader meaning. It will strengthen the case of those who have accused Chinese authorities of building a high-speed network too quickly and of cutting corners in the interests of leapfrogging other nations and, possibly, generating kickbacks for corrupt officials. Read more
Greece bailout, Cameron, US/China relations
In this week’s podcast: Have European leaders done enough to save Greece and the eurozone? UK prime minister David Cameron struggles to keep a lid on the News of the World phone hacking scandal; And, has Obama’s meeting with the Dali Lama endangered US/China relations? Read more
There must be enormous relief in Athens right now. The anxiety and tension amongst bankers and senior politicians, in the early part of the week, was palpable. Many feared that if the euro-summit went badly on Thursday, you could have a bank-run in Greece by the end of the week. “Friday could be a very difficult day”, said one Greek financier to me, sighing deeply. Well, Friday has come and everybody is still standing – for now. Read more
Herewith an amateur sociological-political-cultural explanation for the eurozone policy shambles.
First, a new expression with which to impress your friends, the “polder model” of politics: a Dutch term for an iterative process where everyone gets their say and a consensus solution is worked out gradually. My intensive researches (Wikipedia) tell me it derives from the fact that villages in the “polder” tracts of land, below sea level but enclosed by dikes, were forced to cooperate over time if they weren’t all to drown. Read more