Toward a Cashless Society
By David R. Warwick
Hundreds of lives and more than a trillion dollars can be saved each year in a society without cash. Investor David R. Warwick proposes a secure government-operated electronic currency that replaces cash while delivering enormous social and economic benefits. But such an initiative faces current obsessions with privacy and irrational fears of governmental prying.
As far back as 1888, novelist Edward Bellamy envisioned a cashless society by 2000, but it still hasn't come. A major step toward cashlessness came with the advent of electronic funds transfer (EFT) technology, which ushered in the era of credit-card transactions in the mid-twentieth century. As the use of "plastic"--which subsequently included debit cards--gained momentum, the world seemed bound for complete cashlessness as the end of the century neared.
But the march toward cashlessness stalled due to wariness about invasions of privacy. Scholars and public leaders alike are reluctant to consider the idea of replacing cash with an electronic currency system, particularly one operated by government, lest they be seen as willing to compromise privacy. These concerns have also hindered discussion of significant social and economic benefits that could result from ending the use of cash, including major reductions in taxes, vastly improved public services, and the total eradication of many of the most serious and violent crimes.
True cashlessness will come about only if a government undertakes the project since only government can put an end to the production and circulation of cash, and only government can realistically administer an electronic replacement for cash. The payment industry (including VISA, MasterCard, and Citibank) cannot replace cash completely, despite smart cards, cybercash, and other innovations.
Though the public enjoys the conveniences of "plastic," it still loves money. Virtually everyone carries some currency and coin, and the amount of cash in circulation continues to rise. The very idea of abolishing cash in favor of a government-operated electronic currency strikes many citizens as peculiar and questionable. A typical reaction is, "I use very little cash nowadays anyway, because I use a credit (or debit) card for most of my purchases. Cash will probably fade away of its own accord someday." And, "We're getting along fine, so why put everyone to the bother of learning and adopting some new money system?"
The world is hardly "getting along fine" with cash. Most crimes are either committed to steal cash or use cash as a method of payment. Drug trafficking is conducted exclusively in cash. The bulk of tax evasion is hidden in cash transactions. Cash carried in purses and wallets continues to make everyone a potential robbery victim. Throughout history, cash, in coin or paper notes, was a problematic necessity for which there was no practical alternative. With the advent of EFT, however, the relative detriments of cash can be targeted, if not eliminated.
Ending the use of tangible cash would greatly boost the quality of life by reducing crime. The most direct and noticeable effect of ending tangible cash would be the disappearance of bank robberies, cash-register robberies, and muggings. Other illicit activities reliant on cash, such as receiving stolen property and bribery, would nosedive as well, because with anonymous cash gone, any alternative payment medium would leave a trail that would serve to detect and prove, and hence deter, those criminal acts.
Crippling underground illicit activities would also generate billions of dollars in previously unreported tax revenues. Ending cash would also save industry the billions of dollars required to handle currency and coin. Overall, the social and economic potential in converting tangible cash to an electronic system is staggering.
Reducing Cash-Related Crime
I have proposed that government replace currency and coin with an electronic equivalent that I label FEDEC, or federal electronic currency, which would emulate tangible cash as closely as possible except for its physical form as paper or coinage. The national government would operate the system and guarantee the new electronic money. FEDEC would not replace credit card and other private-sector EFT systems and networks, nor would it replace bank-checking systems. It would operate as a separate system in which every person and legal entity would have an account. Funds would transfer within the system only from one account to another, and there would be no direct interchange with private-sector payment systems.
Each year, nearly 3 million Americans are victims of crimes in which criminals target cash, according to extrapolated statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. All over the world, cab drivers, convenience-store clerks, bank tellers, and others who deal almost exclusively in cash are accosted daily and often murdered, simply because they possess currency, and the impact of these crimes resonates throughout society....
Making cash electronic has the potential of making workplaces and crime-ridden neighborhoods safer, reducing prison populations, and freeing up emergency rooms. It could bring down insurance rates, cut public outlays for law enforcement and courts, and much more. If drug crimes and tax evasion, both of which are conducted almost exclusively in cash, are included in the calculations, the fiscal relief could run as high as a trillion or more dollars each year.
Abolishing cash would necessarily entail some loss of privacy because one could no longer transact monetary business without the possibility of recording payment data and thus having it exposed. But this loss would be limited to data from illicit acts and would result only from the fact that cash transactions, as a matter of feasibility, are usually beyond the observance of authorities or others entitled to it. That should not be regarded as a legitimate loss of privacy.
America loses more valuable resources from the side effects of tangible currency than it does from wars, terrorism, and even natural disasters. That makes electronic currency, whether recorded or anonymous, is simply too advantageous a step to pass up.
As we enter the new year and survey the turbulent horizon ahead, global enigmas continue to challenge any competent analysis. Anyone who assumes that the years ahead will be smooth sailing is underinformed.
While most of us are probably underwhelmed by the current contenders competing for the highest office of the land, the ensuing election debates will consume most of the media attention through November.
Nevertheless, whoever ultimately enters the coveted Oval Office is likely to be overwhelmed by the emerging realities that will confront the new president.
Mushroom Clouds on the Horizon
The nuclear threats continue to intensify and multiply. Despite the politically motivated disinformation of the “National Intelligence Estimate,” most serious observers remain convinced that Iran is intrepidly pursuing its aggressive nuclear weapons objectives, and the intentions of its radical leadership have certainly been clearly declared.
There are many who anticipate that Israel may be planning a preemptive nuclear strike, but Iran has warned that it will launch 11,000 rockets at Israel and U.S. military bases in the Middle East if it is attacked.
Further, the threat of a clandestine EMP attack on the United States remains a top concern to the Department of Homeland Security. The implicit deadlines are a matter of months away, not years.
Meanwhile, “the most dangerous country on earth” (as described by Newsweek) - Pakistan - appears to be spiraling out of control. As the primary nuclear power among Islamic nations, many Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters are now fleeing from Afghanistan to take refuge in Pakistan, and this has raised further concerns that Pakistan’s nukes could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The Struggle for Jerusalem
Compelling evidence has also been uncovered that North Korea may be helping Syria develop nuclear weapons. Syria’s nuclear ambitions and its cooperation with North Korea will undoubtedly complicate the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Despite some ostensible progress, intelligence officials warn that the secretive and often unpredictable regime has not yet ceased all of its proliferation activities.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the “Palestinian territories” have spiraled deeper into chaos: Hamas has driven Fatah from Gaza, and the Palestinian territories are now effectively divided-with Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the “West Bank.”
The short-lived Palestinian unity government has crumbled and the two groups are now battling for power.
Tensions between Israel and its enemies have increased significantly in recent months, making Syria and Iran’s growing alliance with nuclear-capable nations like Russia and North Korea all the more concerning.
Russia has repeatedly expressed a desire to play a larger role in the Middle East, at the same time its diplomatic relationship with the EU and the U.S. has soured.
Russia has announced that it is withdrawing from a key treaty regulating conventional armed forces in Europe, and it has also threatened to pull out of its 1987 treaty with the United States banning intermediate range nuclear forces.
Over the summer Russia resumed bomber drills near North America, prompting the U.S. military to scramble its fighter jets on at least seven different occasions. The political friction building between Russian and the Western World has raised speculation that we could once again be plunged into a Cold War scenario.
These developments could be a sign that the famed battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39 might be emerging on our near horizon. It is during this battle that God will directly intercede to protect Israel from Magog and its allies. (And an enigmatic reference in Ezekiel 39:6 hints that a “third party”- the U.S.?-may suffer collateral damage.)
The Rise of Islam
Islam is one of the world’s fastest growing religions, and it is second in size only to Christianity. Virtually every country in the Western World has birth rates well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, while Muslims have high birth rates. Europe is projected to be Islamic by mid-century. Russia has also experienced difficulty integrating its growing Muslim population. Ethnic tensions in the former Soviet Union have begun to mirror those of its European neighbors. Russia’s Muslim population has increased by 40 percent since 1989, to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims will make up a majority of Russia’s conscript army.
The Rise of a European Superstate
This year began with the admittance of two new member states: Romania and Bulgaria. On December 13th Europe’s leaders signed the historic EU reform treaty, also called the Treaty of Lisbon. If all goes as planned, the treaty will be ratified by member states next year and will enter into force on January 1, 2009.
The Treaty of Lisbon is essentially the same as the failed EU constitution, except this time around its fate won’t rest in the hands of the people. Also in December the EU expanded the border-free zone and announced plans to merge its overseas embassies.
The EU now encompasses more than 460 million people, stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and east all the way to the Black Sea. Europe’s economy has grown steadily in recent years and can now boast a GDP larger than the United States. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan made headlines in September when he said that the euro could eventually take the place of the dollar as the world’s primary reserve currency. Earlier this year Europe eclipsed the U.S. in stock market value for the first time since the First World War.
The Rise of the Far East
Just as Henry Luce dubbed the 20th century as “the American Century,” many are recognizing that the 21st century will be “the Asian Century.” In just one generation, China has tripled their per capita income and lifted over 300 million people out of poverty.
China has an average annual GDP growth rate above 10 percent and its growth always seems to exceed analysts’ expectations. China has already surpassed the United States as the world’s second- largest exporter and is set to eclipse Germany as the world’s largest exporter in the coming months.
China’s foreign currency reserves have surged to an astounding 1.4 trillion dollars, setting a new record for the world’s largest currency reserves and sparking a debate over China’s economic policies. China’s currency reserves have been growing at a rate of nearly 30 million dollars per hour. Experts estimate that over 70 percent of China’s reserves are U.S. dollars, but China has threatened to liquidate those reserves as it sees fit.
North American Union
The hidden agendas moving toward a form of global governance continues to surface. One of the most disturbing breaches of the current Administration is the covert pursuit of a North American Union, patterned after the European Union.
Several dozen working groups, headed by the top three cabinet officers of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, have been empanelled as the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” (SPP) since March of 2005, to work out administrative details for the eventual merger.
One manifestation of this agenda is the pursuit of the NAFTA Super Highway, from Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, through Laredo, Texas and an advanced “Smartport” at Kansas City, and on to Canada. Foreign investors are supporting its development “below the radar.” Hutchison Whampoa, the Chinese company that controls both ends of the Panama Canal and the Port of Long Beach, California, will control the container port at Lázaro Cárdenas.
What makes this most disturbing is that it is being done without the benefit of public discourse-in total disregard to the Constitution and rule of law!
Our Economic Predicament
Meanwhile, the economic plight facing the United States is widely being underestimated - even by the tense mudslinging among the political contenders. The national debt is growing at a rate of a million dollars a minute, the dollar continues its decline, consumer debt has skyrocketed, and we are experiencing a nationwide housing crisis in which about one out of every 100 mortgages are expected to end in foreclosure.
The official Financial Report of the U.S. Treasury indicates that, on the basis of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), since the liabilities exceed the assets, “arguments that the U.S. government is bankrupt have increasing merit.”
If the U.S. government continues to conduct business as usual over the next few years, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation.
A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that large would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today. And every year that nothing is done about it, the problem grows by 2 to 3 trillion dollars (yes, that’s with a “t”).
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that an economic upheaval is in the making. There are some that are suggesting that, ultimately, a new currency-for all North America-will replace the U.S. dollar, the Canadian dollar and the Mexican peso: the amero.
In fact, some cynics suspect that our current indebtedness is the result of a deliberate globalist strategy to help the North American Union achieve a key step in a larger goal toward global governance.
Our current economic predicament appears consistent with the Bible’s description of the end times. The black horseman of Revelation 6 calls our attention to, not just famine, but also to hyperinflation.
Your Action Plan?
Other than acquitting ourselves responsibly at the voting booths, you and I cannot impact significantly any of the strategic trends that are destined to buffet us in the coming months and years. It is clear that most of the presumptions that we have adopted from previous decades are going to drastically change and prove obsolete and ineffectual. What we can do, however, is prepare ourselves, as much as possible, as stewards for our families.
This article was originally published in the
February 2008 Personal Update NewsJournal.
“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”
-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
The Best of Times?
By many reckonings, it appears to be the best of times in America: We enjoy a robust economy, reinforced by continually advancing technologies. At least one computer in every home, and a personal telephone on almost everyone’s belt. People are buying their 3rd and 4th cars. Our military is the most feared throughout the world. Indeed, in many ways, it seems like the best of times.
Judgment on the Horizon?
However, let’s assess the State of the Union in the mirror of God’s Word. We [terminate] babies that are socially inconvenient. We change marriage partners like a fashion statement. We have abandoned the sanctity of commitments in our families and in our businesses. Immorality and deceit have come to characterize the highest offices in our land; our politics have condoned and covered up more murders than we dare list. Our public enterprises have been prostituted to the convenience of the elite. Our mainline media takes pride in forming public opinion rather than informing it, which had been its sacred role in a representative republic. Our culture has disconnected character from destiny. Our entertainments celebrate adultery, violence and every imaginable form of evil. We have become the primary exporters of everything that God abhors.
One of the major theological mysteries is why hasn’t God judged America? The parallels in Bible (Cf. Hosea 4-14; Isaiah 5; et al) would suggest that it is long overdue. The only ostensible answer is God’s commitment in Genesis 12:2-3, in which He promises Abraham that He “will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee.” It may well be that America has been spared, so far, due to its support of the nation of Israel. But that, too, may be short lived...
Conspicuous by Its Absence?
One of the mysteries in the Biblical prophetic scenario, is where does America appear?
The final battle-the Battle of Armageddon-is a four-power conflict: triggered by the “Kings of the South” (Egypt?), responded to by the “Kings of the North” (Syria? Russia? ...various opinions), and dominated by a Western Confederacy (The Antichrist, et al) until the “Kings of the East” are drawn in.
Where is the United States? There are many conjectures among scholars. Some assume that we will ultimately be somehow associated with the Western Confederacy. The continuing erosion of our constitutional republic, plus the increasing move toward a police state to “fight terrorism,” seems consistent with the growing tide toward a global government.
Others assume that America simply will not be a major player at that time. As variations of this second view, some suggest that America will have become economically and militarily less relevant by then. Others (disturbed by the hint in Ezekiel 39:6), fear that we may have been the subject of a major nuclear exchange over the growing tensions in the Middle East.
Life Cycle of Nations
As we study the rise and fall of nations, there is a disturbing sequence throughout history. The sequence of nations, as observed by Alexander Tyler, 1750, follows a predictable pattern:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependency;
from dependence back again into bondage.
It is hard to deny that we may well be at the zenith of that sequence. If you ask the average American what is the biggest problem facing our nation, Is it ignorance or apathy? He will likely answer, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”
It remains to be seen whether the wake-up call of September 11, 2001, will prove to be more effective than simply a brief spasm of patriotism, or whether it may lead to a more serious revival and return to our heritage. In any case, we each need to prepare and to rise to the opportunities that present themselves for a spiritual revival and we must begin with ourselves.
Last edited by FirstGarden : 02-02-2008 at 12:57 AM.
Nuclear Proliferation: The Nth Degree
December 04, 2007
By Chuck Missler
The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union might have become World War III were it not for the threat of "mutual assured destruction." Nuclear war was avoided because of the delicate balance between the world's superpowers and their respective nuclear arsenals. Throughout the Cold War US policymakers, intelligence analysts, and academics recognized that the addition of new nuclear-armed states would create a more unstable and perilous world. They referred to this frightening prospect as the "Nth country problem" - the possibility that some undetermined number of countries would develop nuclear weapons capabilities.
Who Has Nukes?
The Nth country problem, foreseen in the early days of the Cold War, has since become a reality. Today there are at least nine nations that possess nuclear technology: the US, the UK, France, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India, China, and now North Korea. And other nations, such as Iran, are actively pursuing nuclear weapons technology. Furthermore, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that there are more than 40 countries with peaceful nuclear programs that could modify their technology to create nuclear weapons.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 30,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. In 2002, President Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty. Yet the United States and Russia still possess substantial stockpiles. The US nuclear weapons arsenal is estimated to number nearly 10,000 while Russia's number closer to 16,000.
China, which possesses 130 nuclear bombs, has refused to take part in arms control measures until the US and Russia reduce their arsenals to a level comparable with Britain and France. The UK, which conducted its first test in 1952, has a submarine based deterrent of about 200 nuclear weapons. France, which also maintains a deterrent force, possesses approximately 350 nukes.
India detonated its first nuclear device, code-named "Smiling Budda," in 1974. For over two decades it claimed that its nuclear program was only meant for peaceful research purposes. Then, in 1998, India all but declared itself a nuclear power with a series of nuclear tests, a move that angered the West and prompted its rival Pakistan to follow suit. Pakistan began a secret nuclear weapons program in 1972, and now has between 65 and 90 nukes - roughly on par with the suspected size of India's arsenal.
Israel is perhaps one of the most controversial members of the nuclear club. Israel's officially unacknowledged nuclear arsenal has been described as "the worst-kept secret in the Middle East." Reports indicate that Israel possesses a little over 100 nuclear missiles. The Jewish nation has never officially conducted a nuclear test, however some suspect that such a test may have been conducted in secret in 1979 off the coast of South Africa. On September 22, 1979 a US satellite detected a massive explosion over the Indian Ocean. The explosion is known as the "Vela Incident". Most of the information about the incident is still classified, and there are many different conjectures about who may be responsible for the blast. However the most popular theory is that Israel, which almost certainly had nuclear weapons in 1979, conducted a nuclear test with the assistance of South Africa. South Africa also had a nuclear weapons program at the time, before the fall of the apartheid, and the geographic location of the tests points to their involvement.
The Growing Threat
On October 9th, 2006, North Korea carried out its first-ever nuclear weapons test - officially joining the nuclear club. Experts suspect that North Korea currently possesses between six and eight nuclear weapons. However a report published by the Institute for Science and International Security says North Korea has enough radioactive material to build as many as 13 bombs. North Korea is the most unstable member of the nuclear club, and the test has triggered an Asian arms race. North Korea is under increasing international pressure to abandon its nuclear program, and in recent months it has shown some signs of compliance, but there have also been reports that it has sold nuclear technology on the black market to countries like Syria and Iran.
Iran's uranium enrichment program has also been the subject of intense international scrutiny in the debate over nuclear proliferation. Yet with troops already deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush appears - at least for the time being - to be committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff. Some experts have speculated that Israel may be planning a pre-emptive strike, although military action would most likely be used as a last resort. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor when it believed Saddam Hussein was close to producing a nuclear bomb. If Israel does attack Iran it would undoubtedly bring about a firestorm in the Middle East. Unfortunately we are running out of time, and neither Israel nor the United States are willing to accept the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. If diplomacy continues to fail, military action may be our only option.
The threat of a nuclear attack is very real. Thomas C. Schelling, an economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy and arms control at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, once wrote that we have "a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered looks strange; what looks strange is therefore improbable; what seems improbable need not be considered seriously." Those words were written in regards to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In that instance American forces were taken by surprise and the result was catastrophic. Have we learned from our mistake or is history destined to repeat itself? Will we once again be taken by surprise by our adversaries? To some, the threat of a nuclear attack may seem improbable, but we would be foolish not to take it seriously.
The now-infamous National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear intentions has prompted some to write off the Iranian threat. The NIE report appears to represent a surprising about-face in the US intelligence community's interpretation of the facts. However in reality the portion of the report that is available to the public (only about 4 pages of analysis, the remaining 140 pages are still classified) is so narrow in scope that its conclusions are fundamentally flawed. So much so that even the IAEA (which is no friend of the Bush administration) has contradicted its findings. It disregards many important facts and prompts more questions than it provides answers. The report represents the lowest common denominator in the combined opinions of 16 different government agencies, as a result it is too watered-down and bureaucratic to be of any real value. Furthermore, most of what the public has heard has been taken out of context and distorted by the press.
While the NIE report has confused some, embarrassed others, undermined negotiations, and caused something of a furor in the press, it seems Israel is unfazed. There is no doubt in the minds of Israel's leaders that Iran poses a serious threat to the Jewish state. Diplomacy isn't working and with each passing day Iran gets closer to its goal. There has long been speculation that Israel is preparing for a possible strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Some even suspect that Israel may target Iran's clandestine nuclear program with a tactical nuclear strike.
Such a bold move would no doubt reap the ire of the international community and probably trigger a violent backlash if not a full-scale war. Yet it wouldn't be the first time Israel has taken such a risk. Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981 shortly before it became operational - a move that was widely condemned at the time by the international community. More recently, in September of this past year, Israel carried out a covert air strike deep inside Syrian territory. The mysterious raid remains cloaked in secrecy, however it is believed that Israel conducted a preemptive attack on a Syrian nuclear facility.
Analysts say that a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be much more difficult than the raid on Osirak or Syria. Primarily because there are multiple sites, spread throughout the country, and many of them are fortified in underground bunkers. Other possible complications include the sheer distance to and between the various targets, as well as Iran's plans to purchase new and improved Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.
The clock is ticking. Iran's possession of nuclear weapons is only a matter of time. Wait too long and the consequences could be disastrous, yet move too quickly and risk alienation. There are "benefits" to striking before the Bushehr nuclear power plant becomes operational, however taking the offensive when there is no immediate or undeniable threat of a nuclear attack could be hard to justify. With the risks high and the outcome uncertain, why would Israel consider taking such drastic action? Because what is at stake is Israel's very survival.
Here's something you can sink your teeth into. imho, I think Johnny Kay was a visionary.
This was one of my all time favorites.
"America, where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster"
I first saw this when I was 16. If you look closely at the bottom of this scene, you can see them eating sausages and things. One of them is taking a bite right out of the back of a steer. After seeing that, I was a vegetarian for years.
Last edited by FirstGarden : 02-02-2008 at 03:10 AM.
"I'll be president of Europe if you give me the power." - Blair
Former PM consults old Downing Street allies on campaign for new EU role
Patrick Wintour, political editor
Saturday February 2, 2008
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and former British prime minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair has been holding discussions with some of his oldest allies on how he could mount a campaign later this year to become full-time president of the EU council, the prestigious new job characterized as "President of Europe". Blair, currently the Middle East envoy for the US, Russia, EU and the UN, has told friends he has made no final decision, but is increasingly willing to put himself forward for the job if it comes with real powers to intervene in defense and trade affairs.
Blair, who is being actively promoted by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, recognizes he would need to abandon his well-paid, private sector jobs if he won. His wife Cherie - often portrayed as seeking ever more wealth and well-paid consultancies for her husband - is understood to be supportive of him accepting the job.
Some Blair allies also say that he now recognizes that as envoy in the Middle East he is not going to be allowed to become the key player in furthering Israeli-Palestinian talks this year, and will be reduced to a role of supporting political development in Palestine and boosting its economy.
The president of the European council of ministers is a post created under the Lisbon Treaty. The president will be the permanent chair of the council of ministers, Europe's chief decision-making body.
Jonathan Powell, Blair's Downing Street chief of staff, is among the former lieutenants he has met to discuss a bid for the European role.
Some senior figures believe he could yet be a loser in the carve-up of four big European jobs due to be distributed at the end of the French presidency in the second half of this year. Some claim that if the commission president, José Manuel Barroso, wanted to remain in post for a second term, it would be difficult for Blair, a political ally and previous advocate for Barroso, to hold the parallel, prestigious European council job.
Decisions also have to be made on the appointment of a new, "high representative" on foreign policy, and the post of president of the European Parliament. Smaller EU countries are sensitive about key jobs being taken by leading figures from larger countries, especially from one that is not part of the eurozone or the Schengen free-movement area, and that actively supports Turkish membership, as Britain has. Some French socialists have already come out against Blair, citing his role in the war in Iraq. Former French president Valéry Giscard D'Estaing has also expressed his opposition.
It is thought that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is not persuaded of the advantages of a Blair presidency. The Christian Democrats have recently been politically weakened in state elections, and fear a Blair presidency might strengthen the German Social Democrats. Neither the Germans nor the French would push Blair if they believed his appointment was going to be opposed by Gordon Brown.
Blair himself is still doubtful that the role of council president will become a powerful job, saying he senses that even pro-Europeans might recoil from ceding power from the nation state.
With most countries currently focused on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty through their national parliaments, decisions on the powers of the full-time president are unlikely to be made until the second half of the year.
Apart from Blair, two other candidates most often mentioned are the former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, promoted by Germany, and the current Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Did you know that The Devil's Bit mountain near Thurles, County Tipperary, is so called because Satan, furious at finding no wicked souls in Ireland as he flew over it, supposedly bit a chunk out of the rock in his rage? Thank God for the Irish.