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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Monday, 11 March 2013


... Important things, stripes. My late father's photographs from his decade in the King's Regiment include a number of one of his friends (whose name is now lost to posterity) who was raised to the exalted rank of lance-corporal. Most of the photographs of this eminence have been captioned with some comment about his rank, along the lines of 'it's that stripe again!'.  The anti-camouflage striping on the SM81 has been well-received (thank you, gentlemen), and perhaps need a little explanation. I'm not absolutely sure as to the origin of the striping, but the general view is that the red stripes on the basic ivory (not white - that's my poor photography) finish was designed to make recovery of crew from downed aircraft easier during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. That is understandable - I remember a review of Anthony Mockler's history of that war, which came out a few decades ago, commenting that 'Italian frightfulness in the air was matched by Ethiopian frightfulness on the ground'. Many people are aware that the Italians used air dropped gas in their invasion of Abyssinia (a practice pioneered, in an imperial context, by a certain RAF chap called Harris during the UK's post Great War fighting in Iraq), but few know that the slave-owning and trading Abyssinian state routinely mutilated captives. Given that, one can understand the Italians' desire to pick up their aircrew as quickly as possible. However, I do wonder if the striping practice pre-dates the invasion of Abyssinia, as Italy's conquest (under a Liberal, not a Fascist government) of Libya was a generation before, and the Italians had used both armour and aircraft then. The expanses of desert in Libya may well have suggested anti-camouflage finishes. Indeed, such finishes were used by others:

 This is the old Heller kit (it did have two prop blades once!) of a Caudron Simoun, which, as the name suggests, was designed for long distance flight. In fact...

it is finished as the Simoun used by Anoine de Saint-Exupery in one of his abortive pioneering flights that ended in a Sahara crash, and the discovery that neither he nor his crewman had bothered with survival equipment. The upshot of that slight oversight was that they attempted to drink the iodine from the first aid box !!! What ?! Fortunately for the two crazed Frenchmen, a passing Bedouin found them. The story of the rescue appears in Saint-X's famous book:

Of which this is a very nice 1940 copy. By the time this copy hit the shelves, Saint-X was either flying reconnaissance missions against the invading Hun (see his Flight to Arras), or had skipped off to the USA. Saint-X wrote some significant stuff and did good pro-Allied work in the US, but he was neither a Gaullist nor a Bolshevik, which caused him problems. Finally, of course, he died flying a reconnaissance P-38 over the Mediterranean. In recent years, there was some claim that the remains had been found, but, the last I read, there were question marks over the serial numbers on bits of the P-38. A decent man, not as good a pilot as he perhaps thought (writes a bloke who has problems with a push bike), and with a very tempestuous love life (well, he was French). He fully deserved his place on the last issues of the 50 Franc note: 

Now, of course, no more, as the useless, failed Euro has replaced the French franc, and replaced proper symbols of nationhood with pastiches of bridges, buildings and towns that don't actually exist, but represent some kind of imagined Europe - imagined by the sort of people who want secret votes in the so-called European Parliament (so those nasty, horrid things - the people - don't get to know how their 'representatives' vote), or EU control over the press across Europe, so that nasty things about the EU aren't read by the smelly little people. Make no mistake, the EU is a continuing, and growing, threat to the very hard won democratic freedoms that we do have (and there are not as many of them as there should be).


  1. Interesting and informative post.
    I too am very suspicious re the EU...

    1. Hi, Alan. Indeed, see the comment below, and my (rather long-winded) response.

  2. "the useless, failed Euro has replaced the French franc". Hmm, you mean that thing that's now worth nearly as much as the pound in your pocket and has gone from parity with the dollar at its inception to being worth $1.30? Legal tender for 1/3 of a billion people. Those useful little tokens in my pocket that I have as change from the taxi in Cork that I can spend at the kioski in Helsinki.

    Come on, if you want to have a dig at the EU there are much easier targets. Or is this black propaganda to discredit the UKIPs?

    1. Er, no, I mean the thing that is playing a key role in the erosion of parliamentary democracy in Europe. The Euro has, like all things EU, a dual function. The economic function is subordinate to the political project of the creation of a European State. This has been the case since the earliest days, with the creation of the European Coal & Steel Community - the idea being that the political difficulties associated with trying to convince the peoples of Europe to accept a European State could be avoided by creating economic structures that would by-pass political (i.e. democratic) objections. The founding fathers believed that this functionalist approach would draw power away from national parliaments and governments towards the new centre of power - the nascent European State. This is what lay behind the decision to include countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland in the Euro, despite the fact that there were serious questions about the strength and structures of each of those national economies, questions that should have meant that their inclusion was, at the very least, delayed. Instead, they were included. We can see the results in Greece, where the weakness of established politics and politicians, combined with the strains imposed by the failure of the Euro have created a serious political crisis. The elements of that crisis include the emergence of a clearly neo-Nazi party, food kitchens, mass unemployment (only rivalled by the level of youth unemployment in Spain), serious anti-parliamentary unrest, and more hatred aimed at Germany. (to be continued below...)

    2. Interestingly, the difficulties of the Euro have, in the eyes of the Eurostatists created an opportunity to further extend the EU's power. The idea is that Eurozone countries will have to submit to EU control of their fiscal policies - that is the tax, borrowing and spending decisions that each country makes. Those decisions are, currently, to some degree, the result of elections where people directly elect their parliamentary representatives - it's what we commonly call 'democracy'. If that goes, people in the Eurozone will have no direct method at all of influencing the decisions that affect their daily lives as tax payers, benefit recipients, and consumers. Of course, had the current crises not emerged, then the 'success' of the Euro would be given as the reason why we needed to surrender national, democratic control over fiscal policy!

      You think that the fact that a lot of people use the Euro is a sign of success, well, nearly 300 million people used the internal ruble in 1991 - does that make the USSR of that day 'a success'? As for the minor convenience of being able to use the same currency in Cork or Helsinki, yes, you can say that is a success, but only if you value that above basic principles of parliamentary democracy (which, God knows, are getting weaker by the day, thanks to the pressures of globalisation and the elite buy-in to the siren calls of EU statist life, for them and their kind).

      When it comes down to it, the currency market strength of the Euro is simply a reflection of the fundamental economic strength of Germany. It is the German state, the German economy, and, for the moment, German politicians and tax payers, who are holding this together. The old ECs were essential to the reincorporation of Germany into European life (not to mention being part of the structural protection of West Germany against Soviet expansionism), but that time has passed. In fact, the European project of Monnet, Schuman, de Gasperi et al is from a different age. Time for a renewal of our commitment to parliamentary democracy - and one element of that must be no more Euro-statism.

  3. Parliamentary democracy is imperilled by other forces. You could just as easily argue that the EU has done more for individual rights and freedoms than (our own) parliament is doing. In fact UK tendancies are towards fewer rights for individuals.

    We have directly elected MEPs pressing for control over EU institutions but our own government (and main opposition) are resisting it because they don't want democratic control over the EC. It doesn't suit their own purposes. Meanwhile to cover their tracks they claim they are defending our liberties!

    I agree the accession of the PIIGS to the Euro was a mistake because they clearly weren't aligned fiscally with the North. That doesn't mean the Euro itself is a failure. The steepness of the austerity curve is more about meeting the demands of the ratings agencies rather than some plot dreamed up by scheming bureaucrats in Brussels. It's also self-defeating and shows the same kind of economic illiteracy our own leaders are displaying.

    To compare the adoption of the Euro with the Soviet rouble is, well comparing Jacques Delors with Stalin.

    So no, I'm not setting "minor" conveniences against the loss of parliamentary democracy. In my incompetent way I was trying to illustrate the fact there are real economic benefits from a currency that is accepted across a continent.

    As for the strength of Germany holding up the rest of the Eurozone....Well Germany is holding up well precisely because it's in the Euro. Problems in the South are having a dampening effect on the currency. I think you'll find that the proportion of GDP spent on the EU is tiny - and of that only a proportion is a net subsidy. Big numbers but what the meeja won't point out is how insignificant they are by comparison.

  4. Aha!(Little Englander rubs his tiny tin hands together) the dialectical process begins! I agree, parliamentary democracy is threatened by a range of forces - globalisation being to the fore - but those forces include the EU. I suggested as much when I said 'a key role', i.e., not the only one. You could argue that the EU has done much for individual rights and freedoms, although the foundation of human rights law in the European context is the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). And, of course, that pre-dates the earliest EC - the ECSC - and is entirely independent of the EU. In fact, the ECHR was largely the product of British legal expertise in the late 1940s, and reflected the British-American tradition of rights and freedoms, built on key documents such as the Magna Carta. Interesting, eh? So, the ECHR, signed by most European countries (including the UK) in 1950, is the source of the rights that you ascribe to the EU.

    On MEPs pressing for greater powers. Yes, again, this is the case, but the motive power for 'ever greater union' is provided by the Commission (supported by the heavily politicised European Court of Justice). The Commission is a body undisturbed by representative democracy, and, constructed in the technocratic model of French civil servants in the 4th Republic (i.e., at a time when French politics was in a state of permanent crisis and impotence) it sees its role as driving forward union with no reference to what any of the peoples of Europe might want or think. Even if the European Parliament was to suddenly acquire what we might think of as normal powers and functions, I would argue that it would be incapable of representing peoples. There are no pan-European political parties offering the same manifesto across the whole of the EU, and I can't see how there could be, so how could, for example, the British people be represented? Even if the entire UK electorate voted for just one party at a European election, say the Labour Party, then only we would only have 72 MEPs in a parliament of 736 MEPs - not really a strong basis for representing the British people.

  5. If you agree that at least five countries should not have been incorporated into the Euro, then you admit that the launch of the Euro was spectacularly mistimed, at the very least. Indeed, that reinforces my point about the underlying, and primary, political driving force behind EU strategy - i.e., the drive to Union at all costs. The credit ratings agencies are obviously a nuisance, and I suspect that their self-interested Jeremiads are actually undermining their own status; but that's by the way. But it isn't just the credit agencies, it is very difficult to sustain the view that it is just the agencies misrepresenting matters when you have, for example, an unemployment rate of 27% in Spain, or 16% in Ireland, or perhaps over 30% in Greece.

    On the Euro and the internal ruble - I wasn't making a comparison of systems, I was simply pointing out that just because a lot of people use the Euro doesn't confer any credit on it - a lot of people used the internal ruble.

    As for Germany being held up 'precisely because it's in the Euro' - I don't think so. Germany's economic strength, its manufacturing base, its remarkable exporting capacity, high wage employment, low levels of unemployment, all long pre-date the Euro. Its strength was such that it was able to effectively buy East Germany back from the old USSR, thereby ending the 'Eastern Question'; long before the Euro. Germany doesn't depend on the Euro (in economic terms), the Euro depends on Germany. Of course, for countries like Greece, that creates a dreadful two edged dilemma - it needs Germany to continue to bail it out, but that, effectively, gives Germany control of Greece's fiscal policy; i.e., it is no longer in the hands of useless Greek politicians, or the unfortunate Greek people, so we're back to the democracy question. At the same time, Greece's economy continues to flounder, while Germany's continues to grow (unemployment in Germany is 5%, growth 1%, and expected to reach 2% by the end of the year). So, the monetary policies required by an expanding German economy are quite different from those needed by a collapsing Greek economy. In fact, the Greeks do not need the highly valued Euro that you think is such a good idea, what they actually need is a very low valued currency to help boost their exports and encourage inward investment.

    Over to you... Oh, do you have any wargame/toy soldier/modelling interests, or are you just a Eurocyberwarrior?