EU Suspension for Poland?

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2005

The “Financial Times”: has an article today, suggesting that Poland may find itself suspended from voting in the European Union if allegations of secret CIA prisons on Polish soil bear out.

bq. Franco Frattini, justice commissioner, threatened the countries with “serious consequences, including the suspension of the right to vote in the Council [the Union’s main decision-making body]”.

bq. … Under the EU treaty, countries that do not act in accordance with “European values” on issues such as human rights can have their voting rights deprived – although such a step has never been taken. Poland and Romania, which Human Rights Watch, the campaign group, said were the most likely hosts of the jails, deny the claim, as do several other countries. Romania is due to join the EU in 2007.

This could prove to be an important catalyst. While the relationship between the EU and US is less overtly confrontational than it was a year ago, the US actually has less European friends than it did back then. There’s a general feeling of disgust among European political elites (including those who are usually pro-US) for America’s involvement in torture, extraordinary renditions and human rights abuses. Important allies of the US such as Blair and Berlusconi have been weakened, and likely aren’t around for too much longer. Not only that, but there are internal European politics too. There’s suspicion and dislike of the new Polish government in other EU capitals; while it certainly didn’t set up the putative prisons, it does have a distinct whiff of populist authoritarianism, and black prisons may prove to be a convenient excuse for taking action to clip its wings. Nor is there much appetite for Romania’s imminent membership of the EU either. Finally, action would be a very attractive way for EU officials to improve the European Union’s image with voters in France, Holland and elsewhere, by showing that the EU is about more than free trade and agriculture subsidies.

If evidence emerges showing that the Poles and Romanians are guilty, and the EU then takes action against them (perhaps suspending Poland; perhaps finding that Romania doesn’t seem sufficiently committed to the EU’s human rights regime), EU politics are going to get very interesting again. I still think that the odds are against this happening; there are very obvious risks to sanctioning (cf. how “l’affaire Joerg Haider”: fizzled out, giving rise to the beefier institutions that may be invoked in this instance). But they’re a lot lower than they seemed to me a few days ago.

Blogs and ads

by John Q on November 28, 2005

With the general resurgence in Internet-related commercial activity and speculation, it’s not surprising that a fair bit of attention has turned to the commercial and advertising possibilities of blogs. Blogging as a large-scale phenomenon came too late to cash in on the dotcom mania last time around, but plenty of people are keen on a bite at the cherry this time. The multi-million dollar purchase of Weblogs Inc got lots of people thinking about how much their site might be worth. High-profile launches like that of Pajamas Media (endorsed by Judy Miller!) have added to the buzz.

But just like last time around, there are plenty of reasons for scepticism. Looking at the prices being charged by leading bloggers on Blogads, it doesn’t seem as if many people are making a lot of money. Nic Duquette did the sums and concluded[1] that a site with 10 000 page views a day ought to be able to gross around $US4500 a year. Putting in 10 hours a week for this kind of return amounts to a wage of $US9 an hour, and that’s before you allow for any costs.

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by Chris Bertram on November 28, 2005

Never put off blogging something, or Matthew Turner will “beat you to it”: ! Last year Carol Gould wrote a “piece about an alleged epidemic”: of anti-Americanism in Britain and the some of the “decent”: “left”: linked to it enthusiastically (one describing the piece “as a breath of fresh air”: ). When I dared to suggest that it was a load of old tosh, the “decents cried foul”: . Will they, I wonder, continue to accord heroine status to Ms. Gould when they read “her latest hilarious effort”: . Some choice excerpts:

bq. Last week was the culmination of that poignant fortnight in which people all over the world wear a poppy in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. Nothing is more dramatic than seeing the sea of red flowers in the lapels of British men and women as they make their way to the office in the early-morning rush hour. … On British television, every presenter and anchor wears a poppy. In keeping with the motto of the British Legion—“Wear your poppy with pride”—every shopkeeper, publican, hotel manager and cabbie wears a poppy…. It was therefore all the more astonishing last week when I took a long walk along Edgware Road, the most densely Muslim section of London, and discovered that not one person was wearing a poppy.

bq. It is worth noting … that London Mayor Ken Livingstone is trying to institute an initiative to bring ethnic minorities into the taxi fleet, to tackle its almost exclusively white domain. Keeping in mind that Washington D.C. has one of the worst taxi systems in the world, in part because most drivers can barely speak English and do not know the meaning of the words “cordial” or “polite”, especially where female passengers are concerned, one prays the Livingstone initiative will be approached with caution.

bq. I walked and walked that evening, stopping in to every hookah café, every electrical shop and every hijab boutique. Not one person was wearing a poppy.

[One worries a little that since Gould’s piece is destined primarily for an American audience there will be readers who take her factual claims about British society at face value. Needless to say, lots of people do not wear poppies, there are many sights more dramatic than lots of people wearing poppies, and breaking the strangehold of white males over taxis is a good thing.]