Monday, 25 August 2008

How Does Mugabe Stay In Power?

The sequal to 'Death Force' is called 'Fire Force' and is set in Zimbabwe. I've been doing lots of research on the country as I write the book, and my favorite writer on the country is Peter Godwin. His piece in Vanity Fair is brilliant. As he correctly points out, Mugabe didn't turn to violence and repression once the economy turned sour. He used it right from the start - it is just the rest of the world chose not to look.

Herlmand's Opium Crop

According to this report, there is likely to be a record opium crop in Afghanistan's Helmand province this year. The central premise of 'Death Force', my upcoming thriller from Headline, is that the opium money is being used to finance the war against the British Army there. They won't start winning the war until they cut off the suppply of money. It is a pretty simple point, and one that makes a good basis for a story. But if it has occured to me, it must have occured to someone in the Army as well? Surely some raids on the drugs lords are taking place - and if not, why not?

Friday, 22 August 2008

How Strong Is Russia?

Most of the discussion around the Russian invasion of Georgia seems to assume that the country is still a powerful enemy, the same way it was during the Cold War. But that surely is a mistake. Russia has been booming economically, but that is the result of the oil price being so high. It increasingly look like Saudi Arabia with snow. The money is being squandered on arms spending, and by playboys in London. It isn't being used to build a modern economy. Meanwhile, it has a rapidly falling population, which means there won't be many 18-year old boys around to invade even tiny nations like Georgia.

Zero Percent Growth

British economy grew by zero per cent in the latest quarter according to the latest figures. Does that count as being in recession or not? We wait with interest to see how Gordon - "I abolished boom'n'bust" manages to spin that one.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Mercenaries for Africa

The Wall Street Journal has run an interesting editorial piece wondering whether a mercenary force shouldn't be sent into Dafur to try and sort the place out. It quotes Erik Prince, the controversial founder of the Blackwater private militart corporation, advocating a force of about 250 trained men, who would in turn train up a larger force of African soldiers. Could it happen, I wonder? I suspect it might, although it will be a long time before we are ready for it. Billions are being spent on aid to Africa, but we all know the problems are more political and military than economic. Until you have stable governments, with the rule of law, there isn't going to be any real progress. That mean toppling the madmen. In the long run it would be far cheaper and far more effective to employ a mercenary force to impose order. People will resist the idea, largely because of the legacy of colonialism. But it so obviously makes sense, I suspect they will come around to it eventually.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Paris Hilton Has a Brain Shock

Is it possible that Paris Hilton has a brain? If not, how can you explain the fact she's made a realy funny video about the American presidential election?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Greenspan Defends Himself

Anyone interested in the debate over the credit crunch should take the time to read Alan Greenspan in the FT this morning. The great man is as lucid as ever. Ever since the credit crunch started people have been queuing up to blame deregulated capital markets. Yet as Greenspan points out the real problem is the tendency of human beings to swing between euphoria and despondency -- and that is true of any economic system. He's certainly right about that. Of course, if he owed up to the fact that his failure to prick the housing bubble in the US was also part of the problem, he might be even more convincing.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Milliband Falls Flat

Am I the only person who thinks David Milliband now looks like a bit of a twerp? Surely, if he wanted to challenge for the leadership, he should have resigned and stood against Gordon Brown. He'd probably win - although he is so untested in front-line politics it is hard to say how he'd fare in an actual campaign. Instead, he expects the job of PM to fall into his lap. This week will be the first time most people have heard of him, and I suspect he hasn't come across as bold, decisive or brave. He's come across as someone who makes snide remarks, then goes off on holiday.