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Archive for april, 2013

SPRÅK | Politiker komplicerar sitt sätt att uttrycka sig av olika anledningar. En som inte alltid är lätt att förstå vad han menar är Barack Obama.

Barack Obama

Ibland handlar det om att man har något att dölja. Vid andra tillfällen vill man kanske helt enkelt undvika att vara tydlig.

Eller så vet vad man inte vad man tycker men känner att ändå måste säga något.

President Obama har en förmåga att uttrycka sig på ett sätt som får många att undra vad han egentligen menar. Många gånger låter det direkt kryptiskt.

John T. Bennet har skrivit nätartikeln “Deciphering Obama: The President’s Complicating Syntax”:

The 44th president has taken plenty of heat over his rhetorical gyrations on both sides of the very “red line” he set last year on Syria’s bloody civil war. And political pundits and those with a stake in overturning the much-maligned sequestration cuts are still scratching their heads over the the newest Obama turn-of-phrase: “permission structures.”

The problem for Obama — and by extension, stakeholders in the quest for a “grand bargain” fiscal deal that would undo the defense and domestic sequestration cuts (and by further extension, the entire country) — is his syntax has become complicated. And, as a result, it is complicating the work of getting things done, maintaining a sense of presidential authority in Washington and transmitting consistent leadership on the world stage.

For another project, I have spent the last five months closely examining the words of Candidate Obama and then President Obama. What I found was a coarsening over time of Obama’s syntax. Candidate Obama was hailed as one of the great orator’s in U.S. political history.

My examination of Obama’s rhetoric — which focused on drone strikes, covert raids and the fight against al-Qaida — reveals the longer Obama is inside the infamously insular “presidential bubble,” the more his rhetoric is becoming a double-edged sword.

For instance, since he emerged on the national — and world — stage in the mid-2000s, Obama’s style is to use bold descriptors. “Red line” is a perfect example.

But, the longer he is president, the more he wraps these bold action phrases in murky qualifiers.

Ett annat exempel är omröstningen i kongressen om striktare vapenkontroller.

Obamas sätt att uttrycka sig fick Paul M. Barrett i Bloomberg Businessweek att undra om han ens själv trodde på ett positivt utfall.

While liberal activists decried the legislative flop, the outcome should not have shocked anyone who listened to Democratic leaders’ tentative tone since the December massacre in Newtown, Conn. In the crescendo of his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, Obama said of gun-violence victims, “They deserve a vote.” Not that they deserve swift passage of curbs on assault weapons, large-capacity ammunition magazines, and so on. They deserve, the president said, a vote.

[…]

Two factors inhibited influential Democrats from engaging in a real brawl on guns: First, they fear losing their tenuous 55-45 hold on the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. Second, there’s a palpable sense in Washington that Obama’s other major social-issue priority, immigration reform, has a better chance than gun control in the House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner, contending with the rambunctious Tea Party wing of his party, had refused to commit to allowing a House floor vote on firearm limits. In the end, Democrats calculated that, even after Newtown, expanding immigration is a better bet than restricting guns.

Det är alltid lätt att vara visionär i en valrörelse. När man sedan skall styra räcker det inte alltid bara med fina ord.

Det är då lätt att politiker väljer att gömmer sig bakom fina fraser för att åtminstone låta som om man vet vad man gör och vart man är på väg.

Eller så uttalar man sig kryptiskt för att alla skall kunna tolka in vad man önskar höra.

Bild: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

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AFFÄRER | Tony Blair rör sig fortfarande i politiska kretsar. Numera är han en kombination av lobbyist och internationell dealmaker.

Bloomberg Markets, maj 2013

Precis som Bill Clinton ägnar sig Tony Blair både åt att tjäna pengar och idka välgörenhet. Men till skillnad från ex-presidenten är Blair betydligt populärare utomlands än på hemmaplan.

Stephanie Baker skriver i Bloomberg Markets:

In his new incarnation, Blair is taking on highly paid roles that don’t sit well with Britons still agitated by what they saw as Blair’s foreign adventurism when he was in office.

He’s a paid adviser to the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, which is chaired by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He’s helping to arrange deals with China Investment Corp., the country’s $482 billion sovereign wealth fund.

Blair also is advising President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, whose administration has paid Blair’s team of advisers 8 million pounds a year since the spring of 2011, including fees to Portland Communications, a PR firm set up by his former deputy press secretary Tim Allan.

Human Rights Watch Inc., a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group, condemned the Kazakh government for the shooting deaths of 12 striking oil workers during a clash with police in December 2011.

In 2012, Blair signed an agreement with Geraldo Alckmin, governor of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, to assemble a team of advisers to help modernize the state’s public services.

[…]

“I wanted to create a different type of post-prime ministerial career altogether,” he says. “From the outset, I had a very clear view of what I wanted to do. I wanted to create my own set of institutions.”

He’s done that. The Office of Tony Blair manages his work advising governments. Tony Blair Associates runs his financial consulting business. His charities include the Africa Governance Initiative, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Tony Blair Sports Foundation.

[…]

At the heart of Blair’s firms — all ultimately owned by him — are two serendipitously named London-based limited partnerships that aren’t required to publish accounts under English law, Windrush Ventures No. 3 LP and Firerush Ventures No. 3 LP.

[…]

“There’s no reason to make your life that complicated unless it’s to reduce tax or hide something,” says Adrian Huston, a former U.K. tax inspector and director of Belfast, Northern Ireland-based accounting firm Huston & Co. “The only reason you do all these intervening transactions is to create a smoke screen.”

Blair shrugs off with a laugh any suggestion that he is trying to dodge taxes.

“Anything I get, I pay full 50 percent tax on,” he says.

Unlike many rich Britons who make money overseas and devise tax avoidance strategies by spending time outside the country, Blair says he has always been resident in the U.K. for tax purposes.

The rationale for his Byzantine-looking business configuration is simple, he says.

“We wanted confidentiality,” he says. “There’s a section of the media that will go after anyone connected with me, and I can’t operate like that.”

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är Bloomberg Markets, maj 2013.

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VAL | Margaret Thatcher hade två nederlag bakom sig innan hon blev invald i parlamentet 1959. Här kampanjar hon som Margaret Roberts i Dartford.

Margaret Roberts plans her election campaign 1950

1950: Margaret Roberts planerar sin valkampanj i Dartford, Kent.

With voters on the piano in a sing along after a brief political argument in the bar of the Bull Inn, Dartford, England in 1950

1950: En ”sing-along” med väljare på puben Bull Inn. (Associated Press)

Margaret Roberts campaigning in 1951 for the constituency of Dartford

1951: Margaret Roberts håller tal i Dartford. (Photoshot)

Oktober 13, 1951, Margaret Hilda Roberts on a canvassing tour of her constituency--Getty

1951: Margaret Roberts värvar röster i valkretsen. (Getty)

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SKANDAL | När The Spectator 2009 skulle ranka landets politiska skandaler utsåg man Profumoaffären på 1960-talet till den största.

Christine Keeler 1963, Lewis Morley

Skandalen som tvingade John Profumo, premiärminister Harold Macmillans krigsminister, att avgå innehöll allt ifrån sex, politik och ryska spioner.

Clive Irving, som då ledde ett team av undersökande journalister på The Sunday Times, har nyligen i Newsweek berättat om händelserna och hur Macmillan försökte hantera media.

I call Macmillan’s press officer, Harold Evans (in this era the prime minister has no spinmeisters; Evans—not the illustrious namesake who later became editor of The Sunday Times—is a career civil servant, avowedly apolitical). I ask if I can submit a list of questions. Evans invites me to call and present them in person.

I take Wallington with me—his legwork is the reason our timeline has the goods. It’s obvious that Evans is well briefed on where we’ve been, who has talked, and how deep our knowledge is. He goes through the timeline and ticks every box, adding some details about who has been present during interrogations, but denying nothing. The final question then asserts itself: why did Macmillan leave the interrogation of Profumo to others?

Evans asks that we go off the record. Nothing he says can be explicitly used. We have to understand what kind of man the prime minister is—his life, his values, his scars. He sees himself as a statesman. Profumo’s behavior was beneath contempt: members of Macmillan’s clubs don’t lie. That was the shock—not the squalor of the scandal, but the total absence of honor.

I realize as I listen that there is probably only one door between us and the subject of our conversation. Macmillan is working in his study.

But Evans isn’t finished. There is more, he says, and this is absolutely unpublishable. Macmillan had been cuckolded. For 30 years his wife, Lady Dorothy, had been having an affair with a famous bad boy of the Tory party, the bisexual Robert Boothby, and there had been a daughter from the union. Evans is surprised we don’t know—it’s a mark of how wet behind the ears we still are. (Unpublishable but not unknown to older colleagues at the paper, as it turns out.) The prime minister just could not confront a sexual scandal and wished that it would go away—which it very nearly had.

At the time, this revelation had the desired effect on our final judgment on Macmillan in the book we published, that he had shown “willful amnesia.” On reflection, as bizarre as the Macmillan ménage was, its use as an alibi now appears to me to be weak. Double lives like Profumo’s (and other members of the Macmillan cabinet) were a commonplace—whether in domestic arrangements or espionage. As long as it seemed that Profumo could get away with his lie, Macmillan was not disposed to deal with it.

Bild: Lewis Morleys klassiska bild av Christine Keeler.

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DOKUMENT | Det var sovjetisk media som var först med att döpa Margaret Thatcher till Järnladyn. Det var ett smeknamn som Thatcher gärna tog till sig.

The Spectator, 20 april 2013

Att hon var en Iron Lady visar de protokoll som Kreml upprättade över samtalen mellan Thatcher och Michail Gorbatjov.

I en artikel i The Spectator har Pavel Stroilov översatt delar av samtalen. 

M. Thatcher: The Soviet Union is committed to the doctrine of world domination of communism, the Brezhnev doctrine… Of course, it is only natural that we should have ideological battles, but that should be done in a proper way. What we see is communism seeking to dominate everywhere. Look at Yemen, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua, Cuban forces in some African states. And what about Vietnam? As soon as they got rid of the American troops, they would not turn to their domestic problems, but instead invaded Cambodia. And what about Afghanistan? That is why we say that the communist foreign policy is aimed at world domination.

There have been impressive developments in the Soviet Union recently. It is interesting to see whether those developments will affect the foreign policy. If not, we will have to take this into account… I very much hope that if you succeed [in your reforms], that would also change your approach to the idea of world domination of communism…

Gorbachev hotly denied that the Soviet Union sought world domination and attacked Thatcher’s ‘way of thinking’ as belonging to the 1940s and 1950s.

Thatcher protested that all her examples of communist wars and revolutions were recent. She attacked the Soviets for their arms supplies to the Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua (who used them for the civil war), to Gaddafi (who then resold those weapons to Iran) and to Syria (who ‘supported terrorism all over the world’). She was quite open with Gorbachev about her distrust:

M. Thatcher: It is only natural for us to be suspicious about a system which restricts the freedom of its own people… The Soviet troops had no hesitation before invading Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and now Afghanistan. So why would you hesitate before invading anywhere else?

M.Gorbachev: So that is what the ‘bloody Russian bear’ is up to!

M.Thatcher: I simply want you to know how we feel. We were once mistaken about your plans in Czechoslovakia. We thought you would not invade because that would damage your prestige in the world. Yet we were mistaken. We do not want to repeat that mistake.

M.Gorbachev: And what about your actions in the Falklands? What about the French actions in Chad?

M. Thatcher: The Falklands are a British land populated by the British. It was invaded, and we removed the invaders…I have given you more recent examples which make us mistrust communism. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979. You sent troops to Afghanistan and this wrecked the ratification of the START-2 treaty.

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är The Spectator den 20 april 2013.

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TAL | Under Kubakrisen för lite mer än 50 år sedan höll John F. Kennedy ett tal som skulle förbereda nationen för ett eventuellt kärnvapenkrig.  

Prologue hösten 2012

Efter TV-talet var det knappast någon amerikan, eller för den delen någon annan heller utanför USA, som inte insåg allvaret i denna uppgörelse med Sovjetunionen.

Därmed uppnådde Vita huset den primära uppgiften att informera och förbereda medborgarna samtidigt som man samlade landet bakom presidenten.

Professor Martin J. Sherwin skrev 2012 i Prologue:

The public learned that nuclear war was an imminent possibility on Monday, October 22, 1962, at 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

”This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba,” President John F. Kennedy began in what has to be counted as the scariest presidential address of the Cold War.

”Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.”

Kennedy went on to explain that Soviet officials had repeatedly lied about the buildup. He said the United States was demanding that all the offensive missiles be removed from Cuba forthwith—or else—and announced that a ”quarantine” of Cuba (calling it a blockade would have represented it as an act of war) was only the first step toward forcing the removal of the offending weapons. And he added that any missile launched from Cuba would be considered to have originated from the Soviet Union and would require ”a full retaliatory response” upon the USSR.

”We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth,” he said, but warned, ”neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”

The blockade of Cuba, and the other responses detailed in the President’s dramatic 20-minute speech, had been devised by a select group of advisers during the previous week in secret meetings that often lasted late into the night.

[…]

Looking back at the Cuban Missile Crisis from the perspective of 50 years, it is clear that the dangers were greater than contemporaries understood: that most of the advice the President received would have led to war and that Khrushchev and Kennedy entered the crisis as adversaries seeking advantages but quickly became partners in search of a peaceful resolution. In all of this, good luck was an indispensable ingredient. Five decades of research also reveals why, absent revision, history petrifies into myth.

The crisis was the transformative event in U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Cuban Cold War relations. It not only assured Castro’s survival (the putative aim of the Soviet deployment), but it reset the unstated rules of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear relationship.

Nuclear deterrence could no longer be viewed as a stable condition that allowed governments to brandish nuclear weapons for diplomatic advantage. The crisis had exposed deterrence’s fragilities, requiring that it be managed openly as a delicately balanced process. Kennedy had made the essential point in his October 22 address:

Nuclear weapons are so destructive, and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.

[…]

Expanding the boundaries of the 13 days to Castro’s revolution and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (1959 and 1961 respectively) explains the circumstances that made room for the crisis but does not deal with its root cause. The root cause was the central role that nuclear weapons had come to play in the American-Soviet relationship.

Disregarding how those weapons were seen and valued by Soviet and U.S. leaders during the 17 years that preceded the crisis is analogous to explaining the cause of the American Civil War by focusing solely on Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 while ignoring the history of slavery.

Bild: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) har publicerat tidskriften Prologue i över 40 år. Ovanstående tidskriftsomslag är höstnumret 2012.

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