August 25th, 2012


Geopolitics: Sweden vs the UK

Blogging has been pretty light here for a while - I had almost no net access for my three weeks in Ireland, and last week has been spent catching up on other stuff. So I have missed my chance to write on the various controversies of the interim, and I will skip things like royal bums that do not interest me.

But I have been following the Assange affair with great interest. One thing that strikes me is that there has been a vast amount of excellent legal blogging explaining exactly how we have reached where we are from the lawyers' point of view. (There are too many to link to, but David Allan Green's writings have been particularly lucid, and Swedish legal bloggers have been doing their bit too.) There has also been a lot of passionate discussion of sexual abuse, with some moving personal testimonies (and also some disgusting commentary from people who obviously know no better).

I've seen rather less sensible commentary on the geopolitics, in particular Assange's claim that he is in danger of a extradition to the US to face trial, imprisonment and/or summary execution from the US government if he returns to Sweden.

Folks, this makes no sense at all. I am talking about the politics of this claim, not the legal issues (though the balance of analysis from legal blogs seems to be in the same direction).

Frankly if you are worried that the Americans are out to get you (and in fairness to Assange they quite possibly are), and you have a choice between the UK and Sweden, you should choose Sweden immediately.

Sweden ranks higher than the UK in any global ranking of performance on human rights which you may care to choose, particularly as regards the justice system. (Just a few such lists: here, here, here/here, here.) The UK is blessed with an articulate legal commentariat, but has a significantly flawed system which means that it normally creeps into the top twenty in such rankings, whereas Sweden is usually in the top three if not actually in the top spot. Swedish process is different from the UK, which confuses people, but it is clearly a better process by any objective measure. If you are worried about a fair trial and the respect of your human rights, and you have a choice, go to Sweden.

But more importantly, the UK is practically an extension of the US in geopolitical terms. The UK has been a full member of NATO since its foundation; the British government completely bought into the Iraq invasion; the UK has a rather one-sided extradition treaty with the USA (according to noted lefty rag the Telegraph and the House of Commons); none of these things is true of Sweden. If you are worried about being hosted by a government which is a cat's paw of the USA, and you have a choice, leave the United Kingdom.

A couple of particularly silly points of detail have been raised by Assange's defenders and also fall into the geopolitical category. The first is that one of the women who complained about his conduct has links with the CIA through her work in Cuba, and therefore her testimony must be discounted. Even without investigating the details I found this line of argument rather fishy. If one is active in any way in interesting areas of international politics, as I am and as Ms A is, one inevitably comes into contact with all sorts of unsavoury people. Digging into it a little further I discovered that the group in question is the Ladies in White, a well-known human rights group of the kind that would obviously appeal to a lefty Swede with a long-standing interest in Cuba; it would be rather more surprising if she had no links with them at all.

The second particulary silly point is that Karl Rove is an adviser to the Swedish prime minister, and therefore Sweden must be regarded as an American satellite state. Apart from the points mentioned above about Sweden's geopolitical orientation, I would add that Rove has been out of office in the USA since 2009, and these days seems to be devoting his energies to attacking President Obama (I cannot imagine that he finds much time for political advice to the main centre-right political party in Sweden these days). Perhaps you can believe that while Rove heaps vitriol on the current administration in public he is secretly manipulating a foreign government on its behalf in private, but I have difficulty with that.

Any reasonable person must conclude that the political reasons given by Assange for his reluctance to return to Sweden are baseless. He is at greater risk of being whisked off to the US from the UK than from Sweden. His only rational grounds for not wishing to go to Sweden must be that he knows exactly how strong the case against him actually is.

August Books 23) The Great California Game, by Jonathan Gash

Completely by chance, the next in the random selection of Lovejoy books I have picked up recently takes place immediately after Jade Woman, which I read earlier this month. Lovejoy has escaped Hong Kong and arrives penniless in New York, where he soon gets sucked into a group of sinister plutocrats involved with raising questionable money as their stake in the Great California Game. The first half of the book, in which Lovejoy tries to grasp the reality of New York and also gets entangled in the conspiracy, is very well portrayed - both the richness of the setting and our hero's confusion in adapting to it. The second half was less good; en route to California Lovejoy and his rapidly acquired assistants encounter various American regional stereotypes, while Lovejoy demonstrates a hitherto-unseen talent for actually making money from his (possibly supernatural) gift for telling real antiques from fakes, and there is then a rather hard-to-swallow twist at the end. And surprisingly it is almost halfway through the book before Lovejoy gets together with any of the various women who as usual throw themselves at him. So, a book of two halves really. (And I am beginning to wonder how many of the Lovejoy books are actually set in East Anglia, or even England? So far I've had France, the Isle of Man, Hong Kong and now the US.)

HTC Desire for sale

After two years, I've had enough; I have been using my loathed Android HTC Desire for videos and ebooks, and that's OK, but I think I may as well sell it on to anyone who wants to try out the Android way for themselves, and use the profits (if any) for something like a Nexus 7 which is actually designed for videos and ebooks. After all, the Blackberry is still perfectly usable for phone and email, and not too bad for social media.

Offering it here for $100 or local equivalent; I have tried and failed to root it, so the purchaser may well wish to experiment on it in turn. If no bites from livejournal I'll try putting it on eBay.

August Books 24) Warlock, by Andrew Cartmel

I thought this was a particularly good New Adventure, a partial (though independent) sequel to the much earlier Warhead, taking the Doctor, Ace and Benny to very near-future England and America to deal with a peculiar new drug and a truly horrible animal experimentation centre. I was hooked, and felt that Cartmel managed to control the plot and characters in a very grownup Who story. Looking through my records I can see some of the themes from this and Warhead cropping up in Cartmel's later Who work, but not as well co-ordinated as they are here. Really very impressed.