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My one consolation when contemplating British politics is that we're not Italy (yet):

As Silvio Berlusconi yesterday tried to shore up his position by declaring himself irreplaceable as Italy's head of government, a court in Milan was told it had been "amply demonstrated" that he was guilty of bribery.

"I am, and not only in my own opinion, the best prime minister who could be found today," he told a press conference. "I believe there is no one in history to whom I should feel inferior. Quite the opposite."

The problem, he explained, was that "In absolute terms, I am the most legally persecuted man of all times, in the whole history of mankind, worldwide, because I have been subjected to more than 2,500 court hearings and I have the good luck — having worked well in the past and having accumulated an important wealth — to have been able to spend more than €200m in consultants and judges ... I mean in consultants and lawyers."

In other news from Italy, his personal friend and close business associate Marcello Dell'Utri, who hails from Palermo, said on a talk-show:
"You're all against me only because I'm a mafioso — I mean Sicilian, you're all against me only because I'm Sicilian."
(NB: I am assured by my Italian translator friend that neither of these quotes are the result of mistranslation into English.)

Cheap jokes aside, I can't help noticing that Silvio Berlusconi was a member of a certain secret organization back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

I wonder ... if it existed, what would a British equivalent of Propaganda 2 look like? And where would one look, if one was searching for its fingerprints?

55 Comments

1:

How intriguing. I wonder how he was connected to Gladio and Banco Ambrisiano? No doubt in it up to his neck.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of an exactly analagous UK equivalent. In a way there was no need, instead of hanging around in the shadows the right wing power elites could associate freely in public under the auspices of the top echelons of the Conservative Party. Unless you mean the real nutters who were plotting coups, Cecil King, David Sterling and others. Except they were fringe figures with no real grasp on power or indeed reality.
So, for any fingerpirnts think about who was bankrolling the Tories throughout the period, especially the Chicago School zealots who rose to power. Think about who they were and who they associated with and you'll have some ideas.

2:

The closest thing in American politics would be funding by tobacco companies, I think, given how it turned out they've been behind a whole spectrum of anti-science advocacy more or less as cover.

3:

I've just started a Masters degree in London, and am living in a housing block with a bunch of Italian students. The level of their hatred and loathing for Berlusconi is, well, really quite startling.

Combined with the financial crisis, and lack of opportunities for young people without family connections, I'm wondering whether Italy might end up like Egypt, with all the educated under-30s leaving the country for greener pastures.

4:

Basically you should be looking for groups of low entropy. The upper 10,000 qualify, so do churches and similar institutions.

I don't think that you can have any kind of organisation that relies on gatherings of homogeneous groups without having some sort of conspiracy sooner or later, for good or bad. Any somewhat homogeneous group will tend to follow a more limited set of goals than the society as a whole. Break such a group down into subgroups on several levels and the result will be indistinguishable from a conspiracy.

There should be ways to identify such groups through their actions and statements.

Being in a blissful state of ignorance about Great Britain politics, I would suggest looking for groups of individuals and companies that tend to make similar statements and PR-campaigns.

Ignore the urge to find out what it is all about, just collect the data and look for cross-sections. When certain groups come to share an unlikely number of points, you may have a closer look.

Sure, you will "uncover" lots of groups, like political parties, religious groups and corporations where all of this is quite unsurprising. But if there is such a thing as a powerful group having serious impact on politics, it should stand out quite brilliantly after the other ones have been taken into account. You can't hide a lack of entropy.

5:

There were equivalents of P2 in 70s Britain - there was the 'secret army' called GB75, which was part of the wider plots for a military coup against the Wilson government, for example.

Remember this was a period when the British state was using torture against those interned without trial in Northern Ireland (this is not a joke - and before anyone asks, no, I'm not a supporter of PIRA).

But let's remember that Silvio B. has provided us all with a good laugh:

http://us.tnpv.net/2009/CND200910/CND2009100847017_PV.jpg

That's a 'safe for work' link, btw.

6:

As someone aged under 30 and living in Italy, I can tell you that your view of Berlusconi and indeed the current political situation in Italy is rather biased. That is not at all your fault, though. At the moment, trying to understand Italy from abroad would be like somebody getting the entirety of their political information about the UK from the _Morning Star_. The situation is a fair bit more complicated and nuanced than that, but what generally happens is the following:

a) An Italian journalist writes an article, published in an Italian newspaper, decrying the terrible state of affairs in Italian politics;
b) The same journalist writes his column in e.g. the _Economist_ picking up his own earlier article and those of his colleagues;
c) The very same journalist now writes a third article, for publication in Italian newspapers, excoriating Berlusconi and his allies for dragging Italy's good name through the mud in the foreign press and making the country a laughing-stock.

A recent variation on this involved political parties purchasing full-page advertising spreads in foreign newspapers to denounce Berlusconi, and immediately following up with "see? he makes us look bad, and now people won't talk to us at parties in Brussels" articles in the Italian press.

Sure, Berlusconi is hardly a saint, but then again, my sig file includes "Politician. Rope. Tree. Some assembly required.", so my expectations are low to start with. However he does have a point when he says that he doesn't get a fair break. People, again especially non-Italians, make a big deal of him owning a chunk of the media, but what people miss is that his own networks run anti-Berlusconi satirical programmes, and that out of a dozen top-level newspapers only two can be said to be on his side, while most of the rest are actively against him with only a few bothering to attempt neutrality.

At this point, even if they did find him in bed with a dead goat and a live boy, to quote our kind host, my first reaction would be to assume that he was framed - and that goes double if the report came from foreign media.

7:

A couple of comedic news podcasts, The Bugle & Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, have started having "Berlusconi moment of the week" segments.

8:

As someone aged under 30 and living in Italy, I can tell you that you should disregard RiotNrrd's astroturfing.

He's just repeating every single talking point and canard ever put out by Berlusconi's lackeys including the unashemedly moronic "his own televisions' programs attack him!".

That is patently false, the "satiric attacks" in TV programs like "Striscia la notizia" are at best "nudge nudge, wink wink" base jokes about his penchant for courting women (you'd expect at least something about his penchant for prostitutes forced to sing his party new official anthem "Thank goodness for Silvio", but nothing), while the news reports give him between 70% and 90% of the time while silencing the opposition.

9:

Hey Giacomo, astroturf should be paid work, right? The guy even got my vote for free...

The _Striscia la Notizia_ segments may be wink wink, nudge nudge in tone, but since a worryingly high percentage of people seem to get their actual news from that programme, the end result is that Berlusconi's involvement with young women, whether for pay or not, is taken as a proved fact by many.

If you are referring to Rete 4, sure, the TG4 is pretty biased, but it is openly biased and has no problem admitting as much. The Sky News programming is nearly as biased in the opposite direction, but hides it behind a veneer of impartiality.

Once again, I'm not saying he's a saint, and the various Facebook apps generating variations on his (in)famous quote about being the best prime minister ever made me laugh a lot. I just find the bias, especially in the foreign news coverage, to be a bit much.

If you want to disregard what I say, go right ahead, but you should at least ask yourself why even now most Italians would still vote for the guy. Hint: it's not that he's so good, it's that the other shower are so ridiculously bad. Focus on fixing that instead of trying to chip away at the few good things Berlusconi has actually got done between one call girl and the next, and things might change quite quickly - and nobody would be happier than me.

10:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTVr0zkDfys

This is the official anthem I mentioned in my previous comment. No, that's not a joke, that's the official anthem of Berlusconi's party, played at all the party conventions.

When I was a child, during the firts Gulf War in 1991, I was baffled by the segments of Iraqi propaganda video occasionally aired by our televisions... "I'll never see anything like that in my country", I remember thinking at the time.

Now I wouldn't be surprised if our rubber-stamping parliament decided to proclaim Silvio Berlusconi as Eternal President and Sun of Mankind...

11:

Hang on, that would be the same "rubber-stamping parliament" that turned down his law just the other day? Just so we're clear...

Also, the only cites for _Meno male che silvio c'è_ being the "official anthem" are in the tags for the video itself on various sites around the net. The official site for PdL doesn't mention it, and searching Corriere.it also brings no matches.

Finally, what was that about the prostitutes singing? Cite please? Look, it's ridiculous on the face of it - the guy owns an armful of companies that can make the video professionally, and if the call went out you wouldn't be able to move in Cologno Monzese (where Mediaset HQ is) for aspiring singers eager to star in the video for free - so why in the name of Cthulhu would he hire prostitutes to sing in his video? Of course the same argument goes for hiring prostitutes for any other purpose as well, but let's leave that one for the moment.

More generally, this is exactly why I have an increasingly low tolerance threshold for this sort of stuff. Sure, the video was made - by others, as a jokey present. Sure, it was played in public. No, the guy did not endorse it in any way, but still it's all over the web as "the official anthem of the party", "prostitutes forced to sing", and so on. Seriously, let's talk about actual policies all you want, but the reason I don't rate the opposition to Silvio is the increasing suspicion that this is the best they have. That's hardly a ringing endorsement of statesmanlike ability to govern.

12:

And here is another talking point: "oh, yes, Rete 4 is biased, but everybody knows it and the other channels are just as biased toward the opposition."

No, that's not true. First, because Rete 4' viewers are among the most easily influenced: women and elderly with low schooling who get all of their information from the free-to-air television. Second, because you can easily find the data gathered by the (independent) Osservatorio di Pavia, and those data show not only that, while Rete 4 gives 90% of the time to Berlusconi (party and government), the other two Mediaset channels give him about 80% (Studio Aperto) and 65-70% (TG5, the second most viewed news program), but also that Rai 1 and Rai 2 are almost as biased in favour of the government.

13:

Giacomo, I suspect we may now be boring our host and others, so I will just note that the front page of the Osservatorio di Pavia's website links to their recent research, published by... Mediaset RTI! (one of Berlusconi's family's many companies, for the non-Italians)

My copy of _The Evil Overlord's Guide to World Domination_ does not mention the tactic of publishing incriminating research on one's own activities, but Silvio may have an older edition or access to some restricted appendix that I did not get.

Also, and on a separate note, fornicate the RAI. I didn't mind paying the BBC license fee when I lived in the UK, because after all the Beeb doesn't broadcast advertising, but for the RAI to demand a tax and then broadcast just as much advertising as Mediaset (from a viewer's point of view, I haven't run the numbers) is a bit rich.

14:

Dr X @5
how serously was Stirling and GB75 taken? I always thought they were thought of as fringe players on the right, a sort of 'unacceptable face of the Conservative Party' Their presence actually strengthened Thatcher and co by making them look normal by comaprison. Then again I could be wrong being barely out of nappies at them. Wasn't Mountbatten approached at one the late 60s to take the throne 'when the time came'? (The thinking was, that as a royal, and a recently retired Chief of The Defence Staff, he'd ensure the military would accept him as a monarch, and ensure their loyalty, at least in the short term while the new regime entrenched itself. Apparently he told them where to go in the explicitly blunt terms one would expect from one Her Majesty's Admirals.
Um, that Berlusconi video is cringeworthy in the extreme. Please don't let it go anywhere near contempory british politicians, they might try and emulate it; the resulting damage to the national psyche would be impossible to quantify.

15:

Not even funny anymore, I'm really tired of Berlusconi's supporter ignorance. This is my last comment, we're monopolizing Charlie's blog and I don't think this is appreciated.

1) The law wasn't turned down by the Parliament, who approved it, but by the Constitutional Court: they're two different things, you know?

2) a "karaoke and dancing" performance of "Meno male che Silvio c'è" was an essential part of Silvio's parties with the escorts. Just read the interviews with Patrizia D'Addario or Barbara Montereale.

3) Oh, what the fuck. Youtube is full of videos of the first convention of the Popolo della Libertà with "Meno male che Silvio c'è". This is just one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kNxMaan8Uk&feature=related. There are also the news report, like the one from Panorama (owned by Berlusconi): http://blog.panorama.it/italia/2009/03/27/congresso-a-roma-oggi-nasce-il-popolo-della-liberta/

16:

One of the nifty things about P2 was how they recruited. You had to give a full confession of your sins when you were admited, which was then used to "encourrage" others to join (well, Robert Anton Wilson said blackmail). Also, the guy who was killed in London (a Mafia hit man later confessed to doing it that way) was made to look like the Masons had done it (hung from a bridge with bricks in his pockets where his body would be covered by the rising tide). That is from a 1st deg Masonic oath.

17:

How many former UK Marxists are now in places of power and influence? Haven't they similarly succeeded in bringing distinctly more authoritarian and less free government than their predecessors?

In fact, much the same sad history, I think, can be seen in too many democracies, on both sides of the aisle, in the last generation, including both the US and UK, and Italy, of course. In the UK, it's privacy and the plot to obsolete that annoying Parliament thing (look up save parliament). In Italy, it's unfree media. Here in the US, our constitution allows less authoritarianism, despite quite the blind eye turned by too many justices, so here it's more checkpoints and throwing a party on later generations' tab.

Mind you, Mexico and Brazil seem to me have gotten better, not worse. And, so far, Obama seems ungripped by that kind of corruption, though the Nobel Committee's been working hard on bringing him some arrogance....

18:

Jon: Marxists? In power in the UK? That'd be a fine thing.

New Labour is a fish of a different feather: they're about as marxist as your friendly neighbourhood Beltway neoconservatives.

19:

He did say former Marxists. Just look at the RCP/LM/Spiked/IoI multi-headed octopus of libertarian contrarian kookiness. Not just former Marxists, but former Trots.

20:
New Labour is a fish of a different feather: they're about as marxist as your friendly neighbourhood Beltway neoconservatives.
As Simon said, it was former Marxists. As such, the comparison to neocons is almost spot-on, since a lot of them were former Marxists. That sort of phenomenon shows up a lot, such as in 'born-again' Christians, so I suspect it's some kind of general manifestation of a weird kink in the human mind.

On the OP: Italian politicians: Disappointing since 1861!

21:

Interesting. Mr. Berlusconi makes America's ex-Governor Blagojevich look tame, although the attitude and defensiveness definitely seems familiar.

22:

That sort of phenomenon shows up a lot, such as in 'born-again' Christians, so I suspect it's some kind of general manifestation of a weird kink in the human mind.

You got it. Eric Hoffer's true believer; Erich Fromm and Theodor Adorno's authoritarian personality; Eric Altemeyer's The Authoritarians; Chris Lightfoot's principal-components analysis of the UK polling data; the "kiss up, kick down" characters that peopled the Bush administration; Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah.

Some people just find it impossible to maintain the stability of their personality without a Cause and a Leader to melt into and a Despised Enemy to kick down, for whatever reason.

I lean towards the view that this is a learned behaviour, a response to trauma, but only because that offers more room for optimism than the alternative view that it's innate, and having about 20% of pathological authoritarians is as much a human trait as breathing oxygen.

23:

In Belgium we had the same CIA sponsored mix of left-behind networks, conservative politicians, industrialist noblemen, imperialist businessmen, criminals mixing with police, and prostitution back in the eighties. With the same attempt at a military coup. Luckily they blundered, got caught, everything got swiped under the rug and the cold war ended.
It's a different game now, the CIA stopped picking up the tab, for one, after the wall fell.
So you're going to have to look for a group of 'friends' surrounding businessmen who got into money in the early eighties, built up an empire in the space vacated by a privatizing government and now keep a cauldron of corruption, prostitution and military-industrial scandals just below boiling point.

And yes, they are, all of them, obsessed with hookers and sex parties. Any psychologists posting here are welcome to share thoughts on that.

24:

simon@18, come off it, my brother may be a pain in the bum but you certainly can't accuse him of running the country.

25:

Where would we look for a British P2?

Firstly, what would drive people to join? In Italy, it was a response to the possibility of an ideological opposite gaining power - and in GB since the 1970s, our political parties haven't been that far apart, or that far from the centre. The Communists gained generous support because they opposed Fascism; the P2 was a reaction to that, for those scared that the Communists would gain power as in the Warsaw Pact countries.

The coup thing just doesn't work in the UK. We stopped conscription nearly 50 years ago, so we haven't got a large enough standing army to run a large street party, let alone take control of a country; e.g. there are only five battalions of regular infantry based in Scotland (Fort George, Arbroath, Penicuik, and Dreghorn/Redford in Edinburgh). Put in perspective, that's 100 truckloads of soldiers, for five million people - it just doesn't work, even before you consider that the Army would very likely tell any coup leaders to f*** off and stop being silly (I say that after spending fifteen years as a TA infantry officer).

If you wanted to see a P2, you'd have to look at the Police and Judiciary, coupled with some anti-terrorist powers that turned out to be rather wide-ranging. You'd either need some statutes that allowed you to either direct the media, or to own it. Maybe something that allowed you to charge people with "having information likely to aid terrorism" (shades of Ken Macleod here - "Execution Channel" as a "V for Vendetta" in the 2000s).

Worry when Rupert Murdoch's heir gets too close to an extremist politician, or stands for election; or PCSOs are granted real authority, to create "private police forces" rather than the "private armies" of 1970s dystopiae.

26:

Sorry, but any discussion of British poikitcs requires at least one obligatory Monty Python reference:

Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis: You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Arthur: [grabs Dennis] Shut up! Will you shut up?!
Dennis: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system!
Arthur: [shakes Dennis] Shut up!
Dennis: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

27:

Personally I believe that Lord Acton had it backwards. Power doesn't corrupt so much as corrupt people crave power. Frank Herbert of Dune made some excellent points about power attracting people who were essentially psychotic.

So how about doing away with elections entirely and using the Athenian system where officials were chosen by lot, not be election, like jury duty? I also believe that a truely random statistical sampling of the general population would result in an improvement in the honesty, quality and capability of public officials.

28:

"five battalions of regular infantry"

That'd do it. So long as nobody else had any. Read Luttwak's _Coup d'Etat: A Practical Guide_ for confirmation of this.

29:

@26

One self-confessed sociopath has a blog, and he says he especially loves power. His vice is ruining people and fucking with their heads, though he sort of refrains from doing that too much, as people are more useful to him intact..

Funny political fact: Czech Republic's gov't fell apart, and an interim non-partisan caretaker gov't was appointed.

After what, three months, their approval rating is ~75%, far better than what their predecessors managed.

Too fucking bad Czechs can't leave them in charge for a few years.

Instead, we can choose between a right-asshole and pal of Berlusconi(and indeed, there's a picture of him sporting an erection at Berlusconi's villa online) and a Gottwald-style totally corrupt loathsome Blob(known well for his quote" if the welfare of this country demanded it, we'd have a coalition gov't with Martians.." answering criticism of him wanting to join up with hardline commies)

@17

Marxists? In power? Sure, but my family would be packing it's bags, selling all that can't be moved as we have had rather bad experiences with them.
Several of my great-uncles have been shot dead by Red Army, my own great-grandfather narrowly avoided being shot by them four times and so on. Bolsheviks confiscated all his property not once, but twice.
He must have been pretty bitter, as both times he started just with a loan and built a successful business.


Yeah. You know what?
We have a Marxist party here, the KSČM. Last month, a photoeditor at one magazine pulled a sting and impersonated a lobbyist for gambling interests offering 40K € for scuttling novelisation of certain law.

Communists were one of two parties who fell for it, they even provided him with a ready-made framework for laundering the money, so it wasn't the first time they did something like that.

So, even without USSR, they're a band of hypocritical demagogue scumbags. I sort of wonder what they'd do if they had majority. Trying to impose people's democracy on a NATO country whose army would tell them to go fuck themselves with something sharp wouldn't fly, but they could still fuckup a lot of other stuff.

Or maybe you meant some elusive UK-specific species of Marxist? Some sort or hybrid, too rare to die and too weird to live that wouldn't take power and abolish democracy given half a chance? Well, you better clone them, as there sure are not many of them to go around...

30:

Karl or Groucho?

31:

"Don't give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero's facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem. It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced — in a word, insane." Frank Herbert

Given the inferior material we have to work with, no governemnt system is ever going to be adequate let alone perfect.

32:

For those of you interested in Machiavellian Italian politics, P2, and the corruption of power, I recommend the biopic of Prime Minister Andreotti, Il Divo (2008)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023490/.

In the course of his lifelong career of political manipulation, Andreotti threw over all the attributes of a normal life: morality, relationships, friendships and even emotion. This guy was one weird cat.

33:

It's not -- pace doowop -- all that hard to build a system of government that works. (It's not any harder in principle than building an automobile manufacturing company that works, or an aircraft maker, or a chemical plant, or any of a number of things that get done successfully all the time.)

What is genuinely extremely difficult is making the thing work so that it's hard to take it over for personal purposes. It's especially tough not just because of the sheer magnitude of the value of the capture, but because of the complete conviction with which some fraction of the population will pursue a course that confirms that they are special. Just shooting people who think they are special and deserve to have society structured around making them happy is not a stabilizing move, but it's also difficult to see what else will stop them.

Really bad insecurity management does seem to correlate with something about upbringing; I am not at all sure that's helpful, though, because it's effectively impossible to run the experiment that could tell you what, specifically, about upbringing.

Historically, there's been enough economic innovation since 1800 or so to drive a constant established-versus-rising political dynamic, which got short-circuited very effectively in the 1960s. Ever since, it's been co-option, stagnation, and suppressing outside a few small areas (mobile communications, computers) everywhere in the developed world. My general take on this is that's when the oil-based plutocracy realized that it wasn't in a stable position, but that's very much a guess.

34:

I've been thinking, overnight, really, it's not so much about political extremism as authoritarianism and valuing of violent rebellion. Creeping authoritarianism and corruption wasn't just popular among the Clintons and Brown and and Bush II, there was broad popular support for an increasingly unfree mommy state, mostly just within a couple of generations. There was much more love for the authoritarian Mao and Pinochet. Both "The Coup" and a manual for pulling coups off sold well. Of course, on the other hand, they gave us a major decrease in racism and sexism, an important thing. I'm thinking it's about reform generations - there was similar corruption spike a few decades after the Civil War.

35:

I was told by one of my Indian friends that every scam known to humanity was invented in India centuries ago.

A month ago, I brokw off years of friendship with a PhD physicist. I finally decided that it was not his (admitted) Aspergers that was the problem -- I have at least 4 Asperger's friends whom I see regularly -- but that he'd turned into a clone of his monstrous 95-year-old delusional father, unable to ever admit that he was wromg, or say "I'm sorry", or say anything nice about anyonme else's work, or to treat any social event as a chance to prove that he was the smartest man in the room. Dude, in the same room with my son and my wife?

Anyway, it means I never have to hear another of his excruciating explanations of why ther was NO "corruption" in the Bush White House. None.

I now return you to the Italian-UK level of corruption. Not to be confused with the stylistically different Indian, Chinese, and Russian versions.

36:

Chris@27:

Nope. Any officer worth their salt would refuse to take part. I certainly would have, and I'm pretty sure that all of the officers I knew would do likewise. "Coup" is another way of saying "mutiny" - unlikely.

The concept of an illegal order is not perhaps quite as strongly trained in the British Army as in the Bundeswehr, but any change to that culture within the officer and senior NCOs will take another ten to fifteen years to feed through.

Additionally, of those five units, at least one is on operations in Afghanistan, and another will be providing individual reinforcements; the Commando of Royal Marines in Arbroath will probably be in Norway. All are at least 10% undermanned. All are short on vehicles because of the Government's desire to save money through "Whole Fleet Management" (in other words, why have all the trucks you need for war, we'll save money by letting each unit hold just enough to allow peacetime training, and hold a central pool for the rest). That "100 truckloads" would actually be "20 trucks and a lot of ferrying in hired minibuses".

In other words, it's no use having the Army on board for your coup unless you've got the police on board first.... If you look at the P2, the Carabinieri Generals appear to have been well-represented. We don't have an equivalent paramilitary force in the UK (equivalent to the the Gendarmerie in France, or the Guardia Civile in Spain, perhaps FSB or OMON in Russia), although they were obviously brought into existence as counterbalances to Armed Forces.

37:

@35

So, how are Americans going to solve their gov't problems? Seems to me that their gov't has been entirely captured by special interests and assorted lobbyists. There is a zillion of them, all around D.C.

Maybe nuking them from orbit is the only way to be sure...
(according to C.Northcotte Parkinson, the older an organization is, the more bureaucratic and dysfunctional it gets. Perhaps a radical cut is just what is needed..)

BTW, Lewis Page over at the Register seems to think that the UK has the world's most expensive armed forces. The calculations he has show that if kit was manufactured overseas and every laid off UK worker got 70 K pounds.. it'd still be half as expensive as continuing the present model..

Politics. A fucking popularity contest, that's what they are. Sort of funny that everyone and their dog thinks popularity equals fitness to govern.

38:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/12/guardian-gagged-from-reporting-parliament
Can any of the Brits here enlighten us on what this is probably about?

>He said: "Four rebel MPs asked questions giving the identity of 'Colonel B', granted anonymity by a judge on grounds of 'national security'. The DPP threatened the press might be prosecuted for contempt, but most published."

Is this related to GB75?

39:

Martin @35: in other words, watch ACPO.

"a query" @37: The quote you gave is related to a case in the 70s -- that set a precedent finding that the press could report on parliamentary questions. The article itself seems to imply to this layman that Carter-Ruck served an injunction on The Guardian which effectively prevented them from doing so. You can find that day's parliamentary questions here -- look for questions 60 to 62, and note that Pressdram Publications are the holding company of Private Eye.

(Any further comments on this topic are strongly discouraged -- read: they will be moderated -- because we're tip-toeing around the sucking vortex of insanity that is English libel law and I don't have a couple of million pounds to throw at lawyers in the event that any of the participants notice me. As one of the entities named in the parliamentary questions is allegedly a large and actively litigious multinational all I can say is WITNESS THE CHILLING EFFECTS INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM and HELP HELP I'M BEING OPPRESSED ...)

40:

Martin @36: Note that I didn't opine on the likelihood of the British army (especially the British army of 2009, compared to that of say, 1974, 1914 or 1647) planning a coup: I merely pointed out that it's quite suprising what you can get away with if you've got _all_ the armed forces on your side, even if there aren't very many of them. You don't need to be actively running the country yourselves, merely to convince the top bits of the civil service (and the top bits of the police) to carry on with their day to day jobs, all the while making sure that there's nobody else in the position to threaten the ultimate authority of the Special National Committee. Look out for that general strike, but I very much doubt this is a realistic option in the UK any time after about 1990.

But what you do need is a monopoly of force. Thus, a merely police-based coup isn't going to cut it, not when the representative of the GOC commanding land forces turns up outside New Scotland Yard with a magistrate, a writ of habeus corpus and some friends with tanks. NSY's doors are pretty solid, but I'd give them about 5 minutes.

Of various kinds of gendarmerie "they were obviously brought into existence as counterbalances to Armed Forces." Well, no, apart from the Gaudia Civil (and perhaps OMON - I'm not sure). One sentence summary: they were brought into existence because they were so damn useful. Last time I checked, the Guards Mobiles section of the Gendarmerie could turn over the CRS (now, they _were_ brought in to balance the Gendarmerie) with a bit of effort, but would only last a couple of days against evern a small part of the French army.

As for ACPO . . . I think that ACPO was a paper tiger at least until the early 1980s, and probably beyond that. Its operational capacity - even after the introduction of the National Reporting Centre - is very threadbare.

41:

The 'Colonel B' incident arose in the pre-trial hearings of the 'ABC Trial' in 1978, in which left-wing newspapers were prosecuted for publishing alleged national secrets.

42:

Charlie@39: certainly won't comment on the case in question but I can't help but think this might blow up in the face of libel lawyers in general. We don't have an all-in-one-place written constitution of course, but one bit that is written down and appears to be quite clear is "That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament."

I don't think Messers CR's colleagues in libel practice are going to thank them for putting the libel law four-square up against parliamentary privilege, especially at a time when the political classes are desperate for a nice juicy issue that could deflect public attention from their own little troubles (expenses). We /might/ just end up getting a non-batshit-insane libel law out of this.

43:

Roy: if this wasn't happening at the tail-end of a government who're pretty much sure to be unseated, I'd agree with you. As it is, though, reform of the libel law would require either time in NuLab's rapidly-diminishing legislative schedule, or enthusiastic endorsement by the incoming Conservative government next year. While I won't rule the latter out, the Conservatives have traditionally had an even closer relationship with The Money (who the current libel law serves most effectively) than Labour; which suggests to me that the current situation may cause a scandal, but it'll die down before any substantial changes are made.

44:

PS: If you're wondering what the bean-fest is about, just google on "Trafigura".

(Don't repost summaries of what you read here, please, this is not the discussion topic you're looking for. We now return you to your scheduled programming ...)

45:

Schmidt@37

Lewis Page at the Register is unfortunately a not-very-credible UK defence commentator. He's plausible (as a former RN officer), but has some fairly well-known axes to grind, and once you look at his conclusions the gaps start to appear.

A reading of the various Armed Forces fora over the years led me to the conclusion that he's still a bit annoyed that their Lordships of the Admiralty failed to recognize his brilliance and promote him beyond the rank of Lieutenant. He certainly doesn't "get" the Army or RAF, and rather misses the point when he isn't oversimplifying it.

Take a look at the lower-ranking reviews of his book ("Lions, Donkeys, and Dinosaurs") on Amazon...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/0434013897/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar

For instance: he hates the Eurofighter. Fair enough, but he doesn't need to lie about it in order to report on it:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/08/eurofighter_e_petition/
is cute, but so riddled with easily-checked inaccuracies that you have to wonder whether it's malice or incompetence (I spent ten years helping to design its radar, so I have a passing understanding of the timelines). For instance - he keeps claiming that it's a "pure air-superiority fighter", yet I can remember the original 1989 specifications clearly requiring a full suite of air-to-ground capability... it's just that the air-to-air capability was always set to be delivered first, because the Italians and Spanish desperately needed something more modern than the F-104 for air defence...

47:

Charlie @ 44: Someone has found out how to completly screw this absurd gagging-order nonsense.
Look up the Beeb news page - apparently it was twittered out of existence.

ORIGNAL subject, a Brit P2 (and NOT the magnificent Grsley locos of that class, either!)
How about the incredibly shadowy and very suspicious (I'll say no more, bacause of those libel laws)..
Lord Ashcroft, deputy treasurer of the tory party, who may (or may not) be paying UK taxes.
Just think about that, and his erm, honest, dealings in Belize, and ,mmmph, gerrroff.....

48:

Graydon
One of the things that worries me is that we have not had an advance in nuclear physics since NMR in the early fifties.
Sure, we have had lots of progress in photon-electron engineering, lasers, semiconductors, etc, and some work in chemistry, biology, etc, but nothing basic.
Contrast that with the paradigm destroying 1900 to 1950 period.

49:

Aren't we running out of physics because we're running out of quarks to find? We've not had much of an advance in room-temperature electromagnetism since 1920 either, but I always thought (could be wrong - O Level Physics) that was because Kelvin essentially worked it out.

As for P2-GB, my fave real-life Bond villains must surely be the Barclay brothers, down to the island hideout. Fictionalised, by the way, there would need to _actually_ need to be three of them. Or else we have our dodgy newspaper magnate who is actually secretly twins - it's a top alibi after all.

50:

@45

Thanks for the info...

Anyway his statements regarding procurement costs, if not capabilities, are essentially correct? Or is he wrong in that area too?

BTW.. as to EF 2000. I sort of wonder how fighters are going to square off against UAVs. Making free-flying fighter jets is rather easier than making robot grunts.. plus there's the g-force advantage and need for very fast reaction times.

51:

Schmidt: AIUI the current thinking is that the last generation of manned jet fighter will be JSF/F-35. Thereafter it's all going to be drones. You can make a drone smarter; you can't make a human pilot withstand 45g turns.

52:

DRONES?

As in "The Culture?"

Ahem.

53:

@51..I thought so.

DARPA is counting on it.. they have a long-time project of making software of at least cat intelligence with IBM. I expect them to finish it by 2030, more likely USA will default first. (..funny thing, isn't it Krugman's position that rampant money-creation is okay? I'd wonder what he thinks of Zimbabwe.. )

54:

@53 - what do you mean AT LEAST of Cat intelligence ?????

If they really do that we're all fucked.
Unless your cat is really unspeakably cute, of course .....

Or were they running along the lines of "cat Melanie" I wonder, or "The Lady May" ???

P. M. A. L. - all is forgiven.
But what will be the instrumentality of this change?

55:

P2? I've often wondered how on earth Mandelson keeps popping up in stronger and stronger situations?

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