Friday, January 05, 2007

Ruined Britannia, No Long Rules the Waves

For almost two centuries Britain was the world's foremost naval power. Eclipsed by American naval supremacy, its fortunes have fallen steadily. But once Tony Blair is finished with it, it will barely have enough ships to defend the British Isles.

Royal Navy commanders were in uproar yesterday after it was revealed that almost half of the Fleet's 44 warships are to be mothballed as part of a Ministry of Defence cost-cutting measure.

Senior officers have said the plans will turn Britain's once-proud Navy into nothing more than a coastal defence force.

The Government has admitted that 13 unnamed warships are in a state of reduced readiness, putting them around 18 months away from active service. Today The Daily Telegraph can name a further six destroyers and frigates that are being proposed for cuts.

A need to cut the defence budget by £250 million this year to meet spending requirements has forced ministers to look at drastic measures.

The decline of the British navy - along with all other elements of the British military - has been in motion since the end of WWI. But it has been sharply accelerated by the policies of Tony Blair's Labor Party, which have gutted funding for the military. As the British military has been emasculated, Blair has also looked increasingly toward military integration with Europe, rendering it plausible that the slashing of the British military is a calculated move to reduce British independence and force Britain to integrate more readily into the European Union. If so, this does a massive disservice to the British people (who want no such thing), and will only further marginalize Britain within the EU, in which Britain will become a secondary player to Germany and France. Britain's "special relationship" with the US (since WWI) has hinged on its independence from the Continent, and its ability to field relatively significant military force (though not comparable to US might) of its own. With these moves, the advantage of maintaining the "special relationship" vanishes for the US, and Washington will increasingly look toward Berlin as its major partner in Europe.

The slow trainwreck that is the modern UK - slowed only briefly by the Thatcher moment - is increasingly sad to watch.

A senior officer, currently serving with the Fleet in Portsmouth, said: "What this means is that we are now no better than a coastal defence force or a fleet of dug-out canoes. The Dutch now have a better navy than us."

Defence sources said it would be unlikely that the Navy could now launch an armada of the kind that retook the Falkland Islands in 1982.

Steve Bush, editor of the monthly magazine Warship World, said the MoD was bankrupt following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"After 10 years of Labour government, the Royal Navy is on its knees without immediate and proper funding. I cannot see how it can recover —especially if Mr Brown becomes the next prime minister," he said.

There are already reports that ships on operations are ignoring faults to weapons systems in order to save money but will spend cash if it is a health and safety issue.

And a particular ignominy for the once-proud British...

Meanwhile the French navy, which will be far superior to the Royal Navy after the cuts, will announce before the April presidential elections that a new carrier will be built.

Blimey! But at least Britain will still be the home of a vibrant (read: increasingly, violent crime-ridden), multicultural welfare state, where individual responsibility doesn't exist and politically incorrect opinions are punished by law. Good job, Mr. Blair.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Preparing for the Amnesty

The Bush administration has negotiated the outline of a deal with Mexico that would permit Social Security benefits earned by Mexicans in the U.S. (through payroll taxes) to be paid to them even after they return to Mexico. In principle, there is nothing wrong with such an arrangement. Foreign workers are required to pay Social Security and disability taxes, and they are thusly entitled to the benefits they have paid for even if they return to their home countries. However, the White House did everything in its power to keep the terms of the agreement with Mexico a secret, which should ring alarm bells right off the bat. Indeed, the administration only released the relevant documents after legal pressure from TREA Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for retirees.

After government officials refused for more than three years to release the document, the seniors advocacy group obtained it by suing the Bush administration. TREA embargoed the text for release today.

Illegal immigrants aren't eligible for Social Security. But their work history in the United States would count toward eligibility for benefits if they eventually obtain legal residence. Congress is expected to consider this year a bill giving most illegal immigrants a chance to qualify for citizenship, and President Bush backs the general concept.

"We could have billions, maybe tens of billions, being paid out to people who have been here illegally," said TREA Senior Citizens League spokesman Brad Phillips. "And we don't know where that money is coming from. And we don't know how much money we're talking about because the Social Security Administration isn't telling us."

The deal apparently has not been finalized, however.

It's uncertain when the administration would send the agreement to Congress. The deal has remained in limbo ever since its signing in 2004.
Lassiter said the administration is waiting to receive diplomatic "notes" from Mexico that would further clarify the issue of benefits for illegal immigrants. "There has never been a response from them," Lassiter said.

A Mexican government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said consultations continue.

"We believe that this agreement will provide substantial protections for both Mexican and American workers," the official said.

One assumes the only remaining obstacle is the adoption of some form of amnesty for illegal aliens by the US Congress. President Bush sent on to failure in the GOP-controlled Congress last year. With a Demcrat majority more ammenable to such proposals he will likely try again soon. The Mexican government is doubtless waiting for the outcome of that struggle so that they can fine tune the deal to Mexico's maximal benefit. Fortunately for Mexico, President Bush seems hell-bent of arranging matters to maximize Mexico's benefit as well.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also has questioned the Social Security Administration's math and assumptions, saying the payouts could be much higher than the agency claims.

"The Social Security Administration itself warns that Social Security is within decades of bankruptcy, yet they seem to have no problem making agreements that hasten its demise," TREA chairman Ralph McCutchen charged.

One wonders why Mr. McCutchen is in any way surprised by this. The Bush administration has gleefully run up the national debt, created brand new trillion dollar entitlements (drug prescription) and poured hundreds of billions of dollars down the rat hole in Baghdad. Why wouldn't they slam another nail into Social Security's coffin? Of course, Mr. McCutchen misses the point. The administration concluded this agreement with the understanding that it would open the door to millions of currently illegal workers gaining access to social security benefits, because it intends to legalize them, and assumes that in the long term, it will have its way on the issue. The obvious fact that this would help bankrupt the nation doesn't concern President Bush or his acolytes because they don't much care about the nation in the first place.