In completely expected news, JP Raffarin, Prime Minister of France has handed in his resignation and been replaced. L'Escroc, in a demonstration of Tin Ear-ness that is utterly mind-blowing, has appointed Dominique de Villepin as the new PM - even the BBC points out that Dom has never ever won an election, indeed he does not appear to have ever stood for one:
But the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says that as a career diplomat never elected to public office, he of all candidates most typifies the French elite so roundly rejected by the French people on Sunday.
The end of the article is a brief bit about the unfortunate Mr Raffarin:
After Mr Raffarin resigned, he said in a TV broadcast that he had made his decision independently of the EU vote.
He attempted to justify his attempts to reform France, but acknowledged these had not been accepted by the French people.
"I have always been aware that what is healthy for the nation does not go unblamed by public opinion," he said.
Opinion polls suggest that Mr Raffarin was one of France's most unpopular prime ministers since the Fifth Republic was set up in 1958.
He offered his support to his successor, who needed, he said, to continue the vital European project.
L'Escroc's treatment of Raffarin was, all in all, a disgrace. Chirac told him to implement the reforms that all but the totally braindead French left recognises must be implemented and then gave him an absolute minimum of support when those reforms went down like a lead balloon with the French population. Indeed with the benefit of hindsight it looks like Raffarin was pretty much picked to be scapegoat when things looked grim. After the recent local elections where the Gaullists lost quite a lot to the socialists as a result of the Raffarin "reforms", Raffarin attempted to quit but Chirac insisted that he stay, apparently Chirac wanted to save up this scapegoating act for a real disaster. Now it seems one has happened and Raffarin has been sacrificed in an attempt by Chirac to remain in power.
Now Chirac has picked de Villepin as his next goat. De Villepin does have one strong attractiont for Chirac, he has much diplomatic experience in Arslikhan (as Private Eye might put it) and, cynically, his complete lack of a common touch does make him an excellent prospect as a second scapegoat when one is needed in the next couple of years. Countering that cynicism is that, apparently, l'Escroc appreciates de Villepin's rectal cleansing which makes me wonder whether Chirac has lost his touch with French public opinion and indeed, from what we are told, opinion within Chirac's own party the UMP. On that note the Wapping Liar's profile of de Villepin is a must read. A short extract:
The President’s admiration is not universally shared in the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), his party. The new Prime Minister is known for dismissing bothersome MPs as “connards”, or a***holes. They are also worried that M de Villepin’s impetuous, hard-charging style will land him in trouble, as it has in the past.
M Chirac’s choice is risky because France voted in anger against the arrogance of the governing elite and its remoteness from the concerns of daily life. His new Prime Minister is the perfect example of this.
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin, the son of an aristocratic senator and businessman from the colonies, is the antithesis of la France d’en bas, the ordinary people with whom M Chirac and Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the outgoing Prime Minister, have failed to connect.
A Parisian charmer with no common touch, he is a product, like most of the political elite, of the Ecole Nationale de l’ Administration, the Gallic mandarins’ academy.
The general distaste for the aristo is repeated in the Torygraph (leader - "Chirac turns to a crony") and the FT reports that the nomination went down like a lead balloon in the financial markets:
Financial markets reacted badly to Mr de Villepin's appointment in the eurozone's second biggest economy, with the euro tumbling 1 per cent to $1.235 to the US dollar, its sharpest one-day fall in two months.
"Villepin is viewed as maintaining the status quo. He supports the 'French economic model' and does not see any need for urgent reform," said Hans Redeker...
This seems likely to be precisely the case. Chirac has someone who seems destined to bend over backwards to accomodate the unions (SNCF goes on strike tomorrow for the fourth time this year) and as a result no doubt, France will ignore almost every rule from Brussels that fails to suit France and will instead implement whatever protectionist idiocy the unions demand as the Torygraph reports:
He promised a concerted national drive to tackle the jobs issue. No solution would be ruled out, he said, but the strategy would be devised "with total respect for the French model. . . not one of the Anglo-Saxon type".
EURSOC (and many others) points out that the alternative for l'Escroc would have been to nominate Sarko for the PM's post. Sarko is undoubtedly more popular, is demonstrably competant and activist, indeed hyperactive, and has made rather sound comments recently about the need to ditch the "French model"
Such is the dread inspired by the word "reform", most particularly "liberal reform", that despite a persistently high unemployment rate of 10% and a welfare state that, most economists agree, France can no longer afford, only one politician has so far dared suggest France should vote yes because it needs to change.
"The best social model is no longer our social model," Nicolas Sarkozy told a rally last week. "The question is this: can France escape the effort, the work, the questioning, the reforms that some of our European neighbours have put in before us? My answer is no. Europe demands that we change."
Of course as the Torygraph also notes in its leader, Sarko and Chirac are not precisely best buddies. Chirac has done everything he can to derail the career of Sarko including coming up with a curious rule the Sarko could not be both minister and party president - something that he now seems to have forgotten about just 6 months later as he reinstates Sarko as interior minister.
It does occur to me that just possibly Sarko was offered the PM job and rejected it because he realized that it would be the poison chalice to end all poison chalices. Sarko showed great skill in his previous ministerial positions where he managed to dodge the miscellaneous traps laid by Chirac but I suspect that even he would be unable to make a success of being Prime Minister with Chirac as his president.
Indeed I would say that, contrary to EURSOC's view that being PM helps de Villepin become the next French president, Sarko is now well positioned to be next president. I have absolutely no doubt that things are going to go even more pear-shaped in France over the next year or two and that the French population will lay the blame for that squarely at the doors of l'Escroc and de Villepin. Sarko meanwhile should do an reasonable but high-profile job as interior minister and will be able to position himself as the only electable candidate on the right. If (as is likely) the left fractures between the "Non" and "Oui" parts in choosing a presidential candidate then Sarko should have no particular problem seeing off his lefty challengers too. The interesting question therefore will be whether Chirac manages to get a law passed guaranteeing permenant immunity from prosecution, because if he doesn't I can't see him avoiding some lengthy court appearences as soon as he vacates the Elysee palace.
Just possibly Chirac has done France and Europe a great favour by holding this referendum and will be seen to do an even greater one by single-handedly discrediting the "French model" over the next year or two. Further pertinent comment at the Belgravia Dispatch as well as all the usual suspects (EU referendum, EU Rota....) Permalink
Not a great surprise except for the size of the vote but the Dutch have also rejected the EU constitution by a significant margin - exit polls indicate that some 63% voted against with a turnout of 62%. In both Holland and France this works out as a hair under 40% of the entire electorate felt strongly enough about the treaty to reject it. At first blush that doesn't sound terribly good but recall that in the only referendum to date that went the other way - in Spain - the total turnout was just 42%. In other words when people care they vote NO.
Undoubtedly more reaction at the usual suspects (see previous post) and at Zacht Ei. Permalink
TEBAF Margot has a post up about her disappointment with the French "non", no doubt with the news of the latest rejection in the Netherlands she is even more unhappy. However even Margot can sometimes be correct and she has a number of entirely accurate statements:
At the same time the result is clear and has to be respected.
As regards what happens next, this of course will be assessed and discussed at the European Council meeting in the middle of June.
I haven‘t heard anyone believing that it is a realistic option that there will be renegotiation. This text took so many years to negotiate, I don‘t think anyone will have the courage or a realistic belief in reopening a negotiation with 25 Member States involved again. What would that bring? This was a very difficult process and at the same time the most open and transparent process we have ever had. So I think this will take time. In the foreseeable future we cannot see a renegotiation, but other solutions have to be found in the end.
Of course she then goes and blows it when she discusses "No"
We will probably now see a debate that follows with also interpretation of exactly what kind of No this was. I have met a number of those who participated and said ‘No‘ in this referendum but who believe in European integration. They say that they don‘t think that this Constitution is the solution but they want European integration to continue and they believe in the European project. It is clear that people voted ‘No‘ for many reasons. Even in the comments section in this blog you see several shades of ‘No‘ – people who do not want the EU at all and people who think the idea of the EU is good but are not happy with how it is working. It is important to examine this thoroughly in order to find a solution.
Take this paragraph out of context and assume that we are talking about sex and alleged rape. What she says is precisely what the scumbags who excuse assaults with mealy phrases about "she asked for it dressing that way" and "just one of the lads". If, as I suspect, such parsing of "no" would be unacceptable in a case of rape why is it acceptable in a case where the unelected are assaulting the liberties of their citizens? Indeed the way Margot's colleagues in the corridors of power in Brussels seem to be acting just the way bullying salesmen of products like insurance or timeshare flats do - pushing us to sign up for something that we know we're going to regret the next day when it is too late. And the 400+ page constitution is just like the small print of these iffy sales, with hidden clause III subsection 2.1A that states that we can only void the contract by sacrifcing our firstborn to the devil. The shock should surely be not that the people of Europe disagree in the way they dislike the proposed EU constitution but in the arrogance of their leaders, elected and unelected, who thought that they could force agreement to such a bloated and unreadable document without recourse to threats of mafia-style revenge on those who demur.
The former French ambassador to Arslikhan, poet, admirer of Napoleon and now Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin "has set himself a target of 100 days to restore the confidence of the people, promising to make monthly accounts of his government's progress" according to the FT (and the BBC, Reuters etc.). There is no doubt that this is intended to be a reference to his hero's famous campaign of 100 days in 1815 so perhaps we should look and see whether de Villepin is likely to also suffer from a Waterloo-like defeat. As someone who lives a few hundred metres from the "Route Napoleon" between Cannes and Grasse, de Villepin is metaphorically passing my door as I write this so it seems suitable for me to look ahead towards de Villepin's 100th day and see what Alps, rebellious peasants, foreign armies and so on are likely to cause trouble.
Number one problem is that the 100 days are starting on the wrong date. 100 days from June 1st is mid September which means that de Villepin already faces a problem that about 60 of his 100 days are going to be absorbed by the entire nation heading off to my neck of the woods for "les vaccances". It is hard to get bureaucrats to do things quickly at the best of times and next to impossible when they are either preparing for their holidays, on holiday or recovering afterwards.
Not only does this rather restrict the number of days available for making progress in actions rather than words it also hints at one problem that de Villepin surely hopes does not recur - namely the canicule or heat-wave of 2003 and the resulting deaths of some 15,000 mainly elderly people. However the canicule is not just a potential problem as it was, indirectly, one of the reasons for the "non" vote in France. The Whitmonday holiday two weeks ago was supposed to be cancelled in order to fund measures to stop a repetition of the deaths and this cancellation was not exactly popular and contributed to the general feeling of discontent within the country.
If another canicule occurs, I have no doubt that there will be extensive coverage of government ministers and senior bureaucrats making Marie Antoinette like statements from their villas in St Tropez as well as a number of them failing to curtail their holidays to organize a response. To some extent this is fair enough - if things have been properly organised in advance then they should not need to personally coordinate things but, in politics, and especially in French politics, the government is supposed to be active in these kinds of situations and the action needs to be directed from the top.
In other internal affairs there is de Villepin's assumed rival for the 2007 presidency - Nicolas Sarkozy. Going on his daming with faint praises act while campaigning for the "Oui" vote in the referendum, Sarko is going to be taking every opportunity he can to contrast his down to earth competence and popular touch, especially towards "La France en Bas", with the elitist and more abstract de Villepin. Sarko will undoubtedly do things that need to be done which should be good, but he will undoubtedly take credit for them too and make it clear that he did them without help from de Villepin or Chirac.
Next is the fact that September is the traditional month for strikes (which hasn't stopped the train drivers from going on strike today) as the unions make their pitch for more government aid for something. De Villepin's priority is to reduce unemployment but 100 days containing two months of vacation is not going to make a dent in that issue either and any proposals made will only take effect after la rentrée when people return in September. Either de Villepin's proposals will upset the unions because they involve some sort of reform or they won't work, because only the communist morons running the main trades unions are unable to recognise that the 35 hour week and related labour restrictions are a major cause of unemployment.
Then there is foreign affairs. The Germans will be having an election about the time the 100 days expire and at the moment it seems likely that l'Escroc's dachshund will be replaced by the Prussian Angela Merkel. Coulld she become de Villepin's Blucher? Certainly the EU's future is going to be top of the agenda over the summer and while I regret that the "Anglo-Saxon" takeover of the EU is merely a French fantasy, the more we see debate on the EU the more clear it becomes that most of Europe does not want to pay for French ideas such as the airline tax, which even the European Commission thinks is a bad idea. We can also expect a less than cordial relationship with the Tony Blair, who is unlikely to forget de Villepin's fun and games during the run up to the Iraq invasion, and who will be rather important EU-wise since the UK takes over the EU presidency in July. At least one subject under discussion over the summer will be the future of further EU enlargement with Bulgaria and Romania due to join in 2007 and Turkey waiting impatiently in the wings along with the rest of former Yugoslavia, the Ukraine and Georgia. French rejection of Turkey, although justified by domestic oppinion, will definitely cause diplomatic problems and could help inflame the immigrant communities within France. If there is domestic unrest Sarko will undoubtedly crush any overt protests, but there is also no doubt that he will, as noted above, use such action as an opportunity to promote himself at the expense of de Villepin.
Finally, and related to foreign affairs, there is the Euro. Since the EU constitution has started unravelling, the Euro has weakened against the dollar. Normally this would be a good thing, but given that the Eurozone economies are practically in recession, it may be bad because, as the FT notes:
The beneficial currency effects would take many months to feed through, while the euro's fall might strengthen the ECB's determination not to cut rates, in spite of growing political pressure for such a move.
Combine this with the mutterings about the Eurozone growth and stability pact (which France will flagrantly ignore even in its revised form) and with the unhappiness in countries like the Netherlands about their Euro experiences and we could see a currency crisis sometime soon too. If such a crisis occurs France will undoubtedly be blamed for much of it and de Villepin will face attack from yet another direction.
Perhaps this explains why I titled the previous post about de Villepin as "The Short Straw".
This is just an anecdote - but a telling one none the less. A friend of ours teaches English in local schools here on the Riviera. One of the schools/classes she teaches is made up heavily of the children of North African immigrants to France. She had two interesting comments about her expereinces with these children while we were discussing her job and how as a part-time assistant teacher she earns little more than minimum wage for the hours she works.
The first comment was that the vast majority of immigrant children showed no interest in learning English. Now it is true that in France English is clearly a foreign language so learning English isn't exactly critical but, on the other hand, here on the Riviera the main industry is tourism with many tourists from the UK and other parts of Northern Europe, not to mention semi-permenant expat residents such as me and my wife. If you want to work in any tourism related field or get a decent job in Sophia, where all the high tech companies are, then you have to speak English. Not speaking English immediately limits your job prospects and potential salary.
The contrast between this attitude and the attitude of many Indian or Chinese immigrants to the UK (the only other immigrants I know relatively well), is staggering. The children of these Asian immigrants are pushed the way that I had thought was limited to urban legends about E Europen Jews in Brooklyn whereas the French North Africans seem to have no push what so ever. Unlike the Asians whose children are attend university and earn top salaries in white collar professions, these North African children will be relegated to low-skilled jobs that require no communication with foreigners. Given that most of these jobs are precisely the ones that are most easily outsourced abroad or replaced by machines their future prospects as contributing members of society seem to be limited.
The second comment was that these children don't think of themselves as French. During one class she asked them where they came from and the replies were "Tunisia" or "Morocco". The (French) teacher apparently laughed at that and said "no no really they are all French even many of their parents were born in France". If second generation immigrants don't see themselves as French then the country has a big big problem. Again I think back to the Asian immigrants in the UK who all say they are British and who can joke about how people never know whether Satinder is male or female.
If you wonder why many of my French neighbours have sympathy for the fascist Le Pen then this would probably explain it. If the immigrants don't see themselves as French, don't seem to care about education or working then is it any surprise that others want to send them "back"? Permalink
So from the reports US guards at Gitmo "mishandled" a Koran at least five times and possibly as many as nine times. The prisoners themselves mishandled the Koran, including ripping it up and flushing bits down the loo, at least fifteen times. Funny how no one seems to be bitching about the latter.
Apparently when Muslims do it it isn't desecration. This is probably a good thing because in recent days Muslims in Pakistan and Iraq would otherwise have desecrated rather a lot of Korans. At least I assume that blowing it up with a bomb and covering its pieces with the blood of its (former) owner is desecration. It is true that there is no mention of the Korans being present but I'm going to guess that when you have a group of Muslims gathered together for a religious ceremony that Korans are going to be brought along too....
I know I piled on Fableweak for breaking the initial story, and I stand by most of that criticism, but I do agree with the people who say that Fableweak are not entirely to blame. It seems to me that is Muslims want to be taken seriously then they need to GROW UP and stop acting like spoiled children, something that I stated in my Evangelical Jihad post.
There have been a number of thoughtful posts by bloggers on my blogroll about the future of Europe (and another by OxBlog who isn't on my blogroll but probably should be). Comment is always good, but I do sort of disagree with the writers in places so I'm going to link to each in turn and point out my complaints.
To start with the simplest complaints: Samizdata wrote a moving obitury to the constitution, unfortunately I agree with EU Referendum that it might be slightly premature, and likewise I am somewhat sceptical of Stephen Pollard's theory about Blair, I agree that l'Escroc did chose a referendum because of Blair but I do not think that Blair expected the result.
The first substantive problem I have is with Oxblog. The Oxblog post is spot on here
At the heart of this confusion is the remarkable ability of pundits of almost every stripe to project their own identity on to that of the victorious anti-constitution majority. The American center-left has persuaded itself that the 'no' vote represents a backlash against laissez faire Anglo-Saxon capitalism.
In contrast, American conservatives are celebrating the defeat of the constitution as the rejection of everything represented by the left-leaning European elite.
because in fact to some extent the voters did both reject the dreams of the European elites and Anglo-saxon capitalism. However the final paragraph is wrong:
To a certain extent, I am puzzled by the fact that the relatively bland E.U. constitution has become the Rorshach-style ink blot onto which European citizens have projected all of their resentments. Yet there are few things that antagonize democratic citizens more than an institution that threatens to take away their control of even some small part of their own lives and hand it over to unelected bureaucrats.
Firstly the EU constitution is not a bland document. It is a turgid collection of bureacratese and frequently appears to be ambiguous if not deliberately contradictory, but it is not bland. The problem is that it is so long and ambiguous that anyone can find something to disagree with in it. Furthermore I don't think the problem is the unelectabiltiy of the bureaucrats so much as their foreigness. In almost all of the "no/non/nee/.." rhetoric one telling point has been how national governments lose power to Brussels with its lack of local control. This hasn't been helped by the way that politicians of all nations and political stripes have used Brussels as a helpful excuse for unpopular measures, but I think it would exist despite that and is a sign that most Europeans think of themselves as English or French or Dutch (or ...) rather than as European.
Harry wrote an excellent summary of the good and bad things that the EU has done and while I disagree with some of his more socialist points, he does explain precisely why I used to support the idea of Europe and why I still regret at times my conversion to my current position of rejecting the EU. The problem with Harry is not so much what he says as what is omitted. The first omission is the EU's moronic CAP and CFP. Given that these consume half of the EU's entire budget, this is a serious omission. Given that the CAP and CFP didn't get much play in either France or Holland (as far as I can tell) this is perhaps excusable but if you are looking at the whole of the EU, as the article is, it is a serious omission. The second omission, is the corruption and waste of money in the system. The EU's institutions make Enron look like a model of auditing practice with their inability to produce auditable accounts for years.
Vodkapundit posted a long essay entitled "Whither Europe?" which, had it been me whould have omitted the H and the instapundit did (sort of). Anyway that little piece of joing aside there is a bit I do disagree with
It's all too easy to be a pessimist on Europe these days – especially when you'd rather be an optimist.
Look: Europe has got to integrate, even though a Single Europe goes against a century of American policy (and more than two centuries of British). Left to their own devices, European nations get into all sorts of mischief, like starting world wars, cleansing their ethnics, or colonizing entire subcontinents. Left alone, modern European states are too prone to protectionism and welfare statism to compete to global markets. Left alone, there's not a Continental nation with markets or muscle enough to matter on the world stage.
But didn't we fight a couple world wars, just to keep Europe safely fragmented? Didn't Britain play all the angles against Napoleon for the same reason? Well, yes – and whether we admit it to ourselves or not, any thinking person must be of two minds on the European integration. Without a Union of some sort, Europe's nation-states can cause – and have caused – grief all around the world. But united, Europe could prove bigger, richer, and meaner than even we are.
Reminds me of my third-favorite Cold War joke. Goes like this: "France wants a West Germany strong enough to keep the Soviets at bay, but weak enough to be held in check by Luxembourg."
Ironically enough, today we find ourselves in the same situation as de Gaulle's France: We'd like a Europe strong enough to keep things quiet over there, but weak enough not to threaten our interests.
If a single strongman (named, say, Hitler or Stalin or Napoleon) ran the Continent, then we'd be in trouble – hence all those nasty wars, hot and cold. A federation of mostly-equal states, much like our own, would nicely fit our needs – and Europe's, too.
Problem is, the European Union – at least as currently constructed – isn't the answer. While the EU is far too weak to produce a Hitler (or even a Mussolini), it's also too strong, too suffocating to give Europe's economy the dynamism required to compete in the 21st Century. Instead of a NAFTA-like free-trade zone, the Eurozone is a managed economy. And as everyone knows – even those people loathe to admit it – a managed economy can manage only to just scrape by.
So shouldn't we rejoice now that French and Danish voters have all rejected the niggling EU constitution? Not really.
Some French voters said "non" because they feared the new charter would lead to too much capitalism, and others to stick it to President Jacque Chirac. And still others voted just to demonstrate some good old-fashioned French nationalism. Worse still, many Dutch voters were showing their newfound (and somewhat earned) anti-Muslim xenophobia by voting "nee." Joining a club with Turkey knocking on the door just didn't sound fun to a lot of Dutch. Not after what they've been through the last couple of years.
In other words, the French and Dutch didn't reject the EU Constitution because it would increase the welfare state, harm competitiveness, or lead to peace with their Muslim neighbors. They rejected it because they feared it would shrink welfare, increase competition, and make things too easy for too many Muslims.
With or without a new Constitution, right now the EU looks increasingly unhealthy – politically, economically, and culturally. If this road looks familiar, it is. We went through much the same during the years before the Second World War. But that's not to say Europe is gearing up for WWIII.
In the modern age, wars between nation states are almost passé. Even the American-led invasion of Iraq was less about nation-on-nation warfare than it was a pre-emptive strike to try and prevent a global "clash of civilizations." So – don't buy into fabulist notions of Europe getting us into a new World War, at least not in this lifetime.
That doesn't mean Europe, or at least a few key cities, couldn't devolve into new Sarajevos, with all the random murder, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing that implies. Don't believe me? Then look at French attitudes toward Muslim immigrants, and then look at the Muslim slums outside Paris. Still not convinced? Then ask a fourth-generation German Turk why he doesn't count as a second-class citizen – or even as a citizen at all.
There's a lot of resentment on both sides, some earned, some not. A booming economy could smooth things over, but that's not going to happen so long as European voters cling to their outmoded welfare systems. The EU Constitution wouldn't have helped any, but its defeat doesn't mean that anything is going to improve, either.
We want Europe economically strong, and we need Europe internally at peace. As things stand now, the best we can expect is one or the other, but not both. Recent events, however, indicate we won't get either one – and that's bad news in any language.
After all the excitement of the votes in France and Holland, the Swiss vote today has somewhat slipped under the radar. This is partly because the Swiss regularly put questions to a referendum and today they are having one with two questions on the ballot. The first is whether to permit same-sex marriage and seems likely to pass. The second is whether the Swiss should sign the EU's Schengen and Dublin agreements about freedom of movement (no passports) and sharing of immigration data.
This one is much more controversial as it is seen as a way for the government to move towards joining the EU despite the rejection of that proposal last time it was put to the vote. Of course those who are in favour of closer relations with the EU see it differently and fear that if there are too many "No" votes the EU will simply ignore Switzerland and that this will be bad for Switzerland.
It also potentially affects some of the differences of Switzerland such as its widespread gun ownership. This is not a trivial difference between Switzerland and the rest of Europe, Switzerland has a higher percentage of private gun ownership than the USA let alone anywhere else in Europe. This heavily armed state has been the case for literally hundreds of years and many Swiss see it as the reason why Switzerland remains an independant country.
For those of us who are Eurosceptics the Swiss are an excellent example of how it is possible to work with ones neighbours in Europe without being a part of the EU. Although I sometimes find the Swiss to be rather selfish, on the whole I sympathise with them in their desire to remain apart from the idiocies that occur in the Europe outside their mountains and valleys.
The Torygraph today has printed a proposed EU constitution that is worth pondering. Compared to the actual doorstop we were presented with by Giscard d'Estang and his pals it is significantly better and it has the major benefit of brevity. Indeed, by my count it is a mere 735 words long which is probably a bit too short, however I reckon it makes a good start and a few tweaks to flesh out the details would make it a reasonable document. The really good bit about it is that it explicitly defines a "multispeed" continent with countries being able to sign up only to those treaties that they want to and not having the requirement to take the whole lot in one indigestible chunk.
TimW thinks it is OK. The EU Referendum blog is less sure for a reason that I understand and share. The problem basically is that it is never going to be agreed on because it removes all sorts of power from the EUro elites and thus is a non starter. We can't get to this sort of a EU without totally trashing the institutions of the current EU and those institutions are not so broken that the political will exists to remove them. In other words this is a waste of time because it requires a starting point that does not currently exist in the universe.
In addtion there are two problems to it that I see. The first is the delicate question of money. Even the Telegraph's stripped down EU will need money but it seems to have neither tax-raising authority nor an agreed formula for funding from member states. The second is that it throws out the baby with the bathwater in terms of the bits of the EU that do provide useful services. Harry's Place had an excellent article about the EU which lists a number of its good points.
However, having said that I don't think that it is realistic for now, I still think that it is an interesting document and it could be used to effect by "No" campaigners as a suggestion for an alternative Europe. The idea being that you show that you aren't against Europe so much as against the corrupt festering mess that is the current EU. It could also be used as a rallying point for Euroscpetics in other countries and could certainly be a starting point for the "Doughnut" if certain countries decide to press on into a social-humanist blackhole on their own. Permalink
The "outspoken" mayor of Tokyo, Ishihara Shintaro, is being sued by a group of lovers of France and things French because of his comments about the French language. Japundit links to this Asahi Shimbun article that gives the background:
Ishihara, who is no stranger to controversy, stunned a group of French speakers last October when he said: ``It may well be that French fails to qualify as an international language because it is one that cannot count.''
Gallic pride being wounded the French responded:
Taking the comment as a slur that ``defamed the honor'' of French speakers ``on the basis of mistaken ideas,'' about 10 people, including a French language school principal in Tokyo, are planning to sue the governor later this month.
They intend to seek compensation on grounds Ishihara's remark could have discouraged people from wanting to study French, thereby obstructing their business.
Well I don't normally agree with Ishihara-san, actually I don't think I have ever agreed with him before, but in this case he would seem to have a point. Almost every language in the world apart from French (I am tempted to say every language but I'm sure there are a couple of exceptions) count the numbers from 60 to 99 in a consistent way that is the same as the way they count the numbers from 20 to 59 with the words for seventy, eighty and ninety clearly derived from the numbers seven, eight and nine respectively. French on the other hand can't manage this: 70 is "Soixante dix" or sixty-ten, 80 is "quatre-vingts" or four-twenties and 90 is "quatre-vingts dix" or four-twenties ten. This is presumably what Ishihara-san is referring to and you have to admit he has a point or 92 (quatre-vingts douze/four twenties twelve).
Further evidence of French innumeracy comes from its word for today - "aujourd'hui" which is derived from "this day of the week" but the "week" part is a contraction of the number eight. Apparently the French at one point laboured under the delusion that the week has eight days. Likewise a fortnight (= 2 weeks = 14 days) is called a "quinzaine" which is derived from the word "quinze" that is 15. I could go on and examine the illogic behind "quotidien", "hebdomaire" and "mensuel" but I think the point is made.
Although strictly speaking Ishihara-san is wrong in that the French can count but since they don't seem to do it in a terribly rational fashion his complaint does have merit. However there is an important exception: French speakers from Switzerland and Belgium manage to use "Septante", "Huitante"? and "Nonante" for 70, 80 and 90 respectively, it is only the inhabitants of France who have problems counting beyond 69. No doubt one could make a smutty comment about that fact.
PS I wonder if l'Escroc is aware of how his mother tongue is valued in the home of his favourite sport: Sumo. Permalink
Since before 29 May columnists have opined that a Yes vote would speed much needed economic and labor reforms in Europe. Where is the proof of this? In the run-up to the elections Chirac offered up nothing of the sort which would even hint at economic and labor reform.
Quite the opposite in that Chirac offered nothing but a pale version of the No camp's insane economic rhetoric based on the failed fossilized social-humanist model*. Who favored a Yes for Anglo-Saxon economic reasons? (cue crickets)
In the short-run the No will be disasterous to the ideas of economic growth, labor reform, and job growth. This is a good thing. Had the Yes side won it would have been more years of countless half-measures leading nowhere, as promised by Chirac.
Since the Non campaign won economic collapse is on the cards. De Villepin's 100 days challenge will undoubtedly involve him spending July and August getting his back passage nicely flexible and lubricated so that it can take on the demands of the trade unions when they (threaten to) go on strike in September (note to self - must see if I can place a bet on how many days strikes will occur).
Since the average man in the boulevard is aware of this no wonder he is unwilling to go on a spending spree as our glorious leaders would wish. When even central bankers say "Rational consumers and savers should consider expectations of the future" you can be sure that things are not good and hence that pleas to splurge will be ignored:
Jean-Claude Trichet, ECB president, departed last week from the usually cautious language of central bankers to urge Europe's consumers to open up their purses. Stressing the ECB's commitment to price stability, he said: "You can trust us. If you have the intention to embark on an increase in consumption and you are still hesitating because you have some lack of confidence, you can do it - perhaps it is time to consume."
If nothing else the "non" votes showed that European voters - who are of course also consumers - simply don't trust the assurances of their leaders which is why, one suspects, said voters/consumers are voting with their wallets until it is clear just how screwed up things are going to get. Meanwhile the "Central banker award for stating the blindingly obvious" appears to belong to the ECB in perpetuity:
...Mr Trichet said recent economic data had "heightened the uncertainties" about the outlook for domestic demand. The ECB believes responsibility lies with governments to push through structural reforms, especially those that would increase labour market flexibility.
It fears that the expanding fiscal deficits of some eurozone countries are simply adding to the nervousness of consumers, boosting saving not spending. In its latest economic forecasts, the ECB expects the savings ratio - the proportion of incomes saved - to rise slightly over this year and next, partly because of "concerns about the development of public finances and the longer-term prospects for public health and pension systems".
PS if anyone wondered why Jean-Claude Juncker is so keen on the EU constitution then the FT's profile of him today lets the cat out of the bag:
As well as capturing the job of political Mr Euro, he also had his sights set on becoming the first full-time president of the European Council. Unfortunately for Mr Juncker, that post will not be created unless he can find a way of saving the EU constitution.
In a whine that seems to call out for vehement refutation Owen Gibson writes in the Grauniad today about the lack of British blogs in the "heavyweight" division as it were:
While Belle de Jour got the mainstream media speculating on her (or his) identity, and the likes of Scary Duck greatly amuse, there is a sense that the Americans take their blogging more seriously than we do. With the odd exception (Guido Fawkes’ Order-Order.com and Mick Fealty’s Slugger O’Toole blog on Northern Ireland for example), there is little heavyweight comment and it is rare to see a blog break a story or substantially move it on.
So I think I'll try and do my little bit to refute. It occurs to me that one reason why the Grauniad doesn't see any "serious" blogs is because many of the cruiserweights, such as they are, all seem to be focussed on Europe - a topic which the MSM in the UK seems to do its best to belittle if not ignore. For example the EU Referendum blog has most certainly contributed to the discomforture of Barroso and his pals with the one-two team of Booker in the Torygraph plus North on the Blog providing plenty of ammunition to those that wish to put our Eurocracy under pressure. nIt is unclear to me just how many Eurosceptics there are but Eu-Serf, Tim Worstall, EurSoc, England Expects are just the first few to trip off my history list (mental note add England Expects to blogroll). Tim Worstall appears to be remiss by not telling the Grauniad about his Britblog roundup which always delights and provides links to numerous blogs that are sort of British related.
Then there are the lefties and sorta lefties such as Oliver Kamm, Harry's Place, Norm and blogging journos such as Melanie Philips, Stephen Pollard and Johann Hari. When it came to (say) the recent AUT decision to boycott Israel all these sites greatly aided the anti-boycott faction. Again, as with Europe, I wonder if the problem is that these blogs tend to hold positions that are contrary to the Grauniad's ones and thus are automatically categorized as shrill loonies.
One of the bloggers at "A Hot Chick called Lakshmi" wrote an article a year ago about the British Blogosphere where he makes an excellent point about there not (yet) being a big issue that drives debate and I think that is true. Certainly in France the referendum on the EU Constitution drove interest in blogs and I would expect something similar to happenin the UK if we ever get a referendum on the EU. It is possible that some other mad ideas of the ZaNu Labout will also galvanise debate and bloggers, as perhaps would a major terrorist outrage in the UK. Amusingly TimW notes, however, that Owen managed to be infected by a blog-inspired meme in his article though so perhaps blogs are in fact influencing debate in the UK despite their relatively lower profile. Permalink
A post on a blog which I have just discovered - la petit anglaise - discusses the writer's fun and games at Roissy- Charles de Gaulle Airport recently. This reminded me of a post I made at the Motley Fool when some unfortunate complained about that airport, which I think is worth salvaging from the past:
For example, what the %#%$* is up with Paris' Charles De Gaulle airport?!
You were clearly misled. CDG is not intended to be a practical airport, it is actually a museum to style, modern French architecture and concrete.
For those that doubt me I suggest taking the guided bus tour otherwise known as the shuttle between T1, T9, T2 and the station. You get wonderful views of excitingly styled buildings, curved flyovers going nowhere and other monuments to modern living and just like all good museums the tour is free, although in France it is quite acceptable to tip the guide if he performed an adequate service. The fact that millions of people persist in trying to fly in and out of it is a cunning French ploy to get visitors to the CDG "musée de l'art concret" to participate in the largest performance art installation in the world. Without such a constant stream of humanity the exhibits would look too austere and it would be hard to judge the proportion and scale of some of the more dramatic monuments. Moreover the performance artists often perform amusing vignettes that provide a scathing commentary on the callousness of the modern propensity for horological exactitude and the deplorable habit of dehumanising personal interactions.
I particularly recommend the T1 exhibit which has a cafe on the "Niveau de départ" where you can both admire the atrium and the dramatic cross atrium escalators as well as watch the artists provide moving renditions of many human emotions. I particularly recommend showing up for an "en grève" annoucement where the artists graphically show the stresses and frustrations that are inherent in the modern globalised capitalist economy. If I have one criticism of the museum it is that it has become excessively commercial with far too many shops selling far too many knick-knacks, but even this can be taken as a part of the performance art as the store clerks show that charming Parisien arrogance and lack of customer service that is such a refreshing contrast to the subservience displayed by their counterparts in real airports or shops.
I didn't add to that post, but will here, that despite the criticism above CDG is far better than Orly as a gateway to Paris, although arguably Orly's utterly sleazy and decrepit outlook on life is an excellent preparation for Paris as it really is... (and if you think I'm a little anti Paris at the moment that would be because our Riviera roads are currently clogged up with clueless Parisiens unable to read a map or cope with a "rondpoint"). Permalink
Yesterday I suggested that the "Central banker award for stating the blindingly obvious" appears to belong to the ECB in perpetuity. Just in case this was in any doubt Jean-Claude Trichet rams the point home in this Reuters piece from Beijing.
"Reform is of the essence because we must elevate the growth potential of our vast economy of 307 million inhabitants, growth potential which is too low and which could be substantially, significantly augmented if we were to embark on reforms," Trichet said.
The ECB has been pushing the 12 members of the euro zone to press ahead with structural reforms that include changes such as deregulating labor and product markets.
Of course the Reuters article misleads with an initial line that states that "Europe is poised for strong economic growth", which seems to be a creative use of the word poised. I believe equivalent usage would be describing a 90-year old man with a Zimmer frame as "poised" to hobble down the hall to the toilet. The Eurozone may indeed be "poised" for strong economic growth once deregulatory reforms are introduced, however someone forgot to point out that the Eurozone countries are not poised to introduce deregulatory reforms, indeed the three biggest Eurozone economies, France, Germany and Italy, seem if anything poised to introduce more regulation and protection.
This means that the only thing Mr Trichet's comments do is make life a little uncomfortable for his fellow Enarque, Dominque de Villepin who has to balance the ECBs demands for deregulation with the trade unions demands for protection. Any guesses for which demand is going to be accomodated?
Update: I'm beginning to wonder if George at the EU-Rota blog is my long los twin - today he has yet another post with statistics to illustrate my story. Permalink
A pet project of the Instapundit (amongstotherbloggers) is to raise awareness what is going on in Darfur and they even have concrete suggestions about what to do. As I noted in February the UN decided it wasn't genocide and although there has been some coverage in the NY Times (e.g. Nicholas Kristof on Sunday) and by the BBC (see this piece on possible war crimes) Darfur seem to be ignored by most of the media (and many leftish bloggers, even feminists) who seem to be more concerned about the possible religious insults to a few hundred men in a prison in Cuba.
[On that note it is worth pointing out that the BBC article can't resist a slag off at the US about its dislike of the ICC which would seem to be rather less important than the actual crimes that are being investigated, said crimes not rating a mention in the article but I digress]
Then there is that blackhole called Zimbabwe. Again media interest has been spotty - the Torygraph has been pretty good, the BBC does OK and you see stories like this in the Grauniad - but the wall to wall coverage just isn't there. On the other hand quite a fewblogs have frequent in depth reports.
To put it bluntly it looks like the mainstream media is going for the easy stories. Iraq is an easy war to cover, so is Israel, non war stories such as Michaal Jackson or the EU constitution are even easier to cover and can be reported from places with nice comfortable hotels. The MSM claims that it is better than the blogosphere because it has the resources etc. to cover news properly but there is an entire continent where that is not the case. In much of Africa foreign journalists are severely hampered by the local governments and local journalists live in fear of being tortured or killed. Curiously in Iraq, despite the claims of Linda Foley etc., the MSM does not have a problem making its reports about the "insurgency". Maybe the MSM should start paying attention to the African sections of the reports of NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch and following up on them instead.
However we may be seeing a change in the air and if so then that will be due to the odd combination of Blair, Bush, Bono and Bob Geldof. Initially I was pretty sceptical about Live8, but Bob Geldof had a conferencecall with anumberofbloggers to explain what he is trying to do with Live8. My respect for Sir Bob rose when I read what he thought of the EU's CAP - "The EU is a protection racket that Al Capone would love. The trade cartels exist to protect domestic production." I wonder what Sir Bob thinks of the EU's DDT policy? I imagine he would consider it to be a classic illustration of his statement.
I find it interesting that the blogosphere was used to raise awareness of Live8 and that the resulting discussion is all about what sort of aid and assistence should be provided to Africa (see links above), because a Google news search shows headlines about the scramble for tickets, the lack of Parisian venues and so on rather than about the underlying reasons for the concerts.
However I reckon Sir Bob should have included Mark Steyn in his call, Steyn's column today is pretty much what I would have written if I hadn't read the blogosphere transcripts of the conference call (and if I had Steyn's gift of writing). He does however make some good points such as asking the question of why no one outsources things to Africa? and the way that Africa's leaders and the UN are unwilling to criticise other African leaders. He also nails the "progressive attitude"
After all, Kershaw's remedy for avoiding the "reinforcement" of "global perceptions" about Africa would surely reinforce the oldest stereotype of all - that say what you like about these darkies, but they've got the most marvellous sense of rhythm. [...]
As long as Western progressives are divided into those who wish to keep Africa in a backward subsistence agriculture economy and those who wish to keep Africa in a backward subsistence agriculture economy but if the rude fieldhands break into something catchy enough when Andy Kershaw's passing they'll be in with a shot as the warm-up to Bananarama at the next all-star charity gala, the do-gooders will have no useful contribution to make to Africa's future.
I don't think he quite goes far enough in nailing the damage that political correctness does to the cause of actually helping Africans. Just because they are black and dislike Bush, Blair etc. doesn't mean that we should not roundly condemn certain African regimes. Yet when you read the press comment about the G8 summit you get the impression that the problem with Africa is that Bush (and America) are too stingy.
(extra gold stars to people who can work out why I'm using this as a title) Trish Wilson has been tagged for a blogger thing about books and since she a) asks people to hijack it b) I'm mad about books and c) I love the idea of a woman in thigh-high boots and a whip I'm going to borrow it.
Number of Books I Own
A lot. At least 500 in paper form plus (with duplicates) over 100 eBooks - the latter almost exclusively from Baen's webscriptions
5 books? Just 5 books? how about 5 authors? no? OK then.
Kipling's Stalky & Co - must be good because I know it practically by heart also when I was an inky schoolboy it gave me quite a lot of pleasure to identify myself with "Beetle" i.e. Kipling himself. Mind you I love many other Kipling books and sometime back reviewed "The Day's Work" which is probably my other favourite Kipling work
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger - another one from my schooldays for much the same reasons as Stalky & Co. You may infer from this that my school days were not universally happy, though they turned out well in the end.
Heinlein's Starship Troopers - as with Kipling I find it hard to narrow myself down to one book, but since I want to spread myself I'll limit it to this one.You can credit ST for severely influencing my politics and hooking me in to other Heinlein books such as The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
The Prayer Book of 1662 - I'm not religious any more but I grew up with this book (or its derivatives) being used every Sunday. Directly this book influenced me by the richness of its English and by the way my father admired it particularly compared to the ASB and other more recent C of E clappy happy crud. Indirectly it has influenced me and I would guess almost every reader of English prose published after it simply by existing.
Eric Flint's 1632 - Eric Flint published my story Hobson's Choice as part of the Grantville Gazette spin offs from this book. It it hadn't been for 1632 I wouldn't be a (kind of) published author.
If you note the lack of books set in the present day then that is no accident. I find most of them tedious in the extreme. I also find most non-fiction to be only temporarily interesting. Good historical novels or SF are timeless and frequently the stories are used to illustrate deeper truths.
In Eric Flint's Alternate History/SF book 1632 covering the time of the thirty years war there is an excellent description of democratic nation building that, I think, applies very strongly to what we are seeing in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
.... Such is the whirlwind which brings new societies onto the historical stage. Forging a nation does not happen in a test tube. It happens in the real world, sweeping real people into the political arena for the first time, bringing with them all the accumulated baggage of centuries. Turbulent, chaotic, confused—messy.
So be it. Mike was not dismayed. Not in the least. A basket full of puppies is messy too. Which is simply nature's way of saying: Alive and well.
* * *
Even the new political structure was messy. Half-formed, half-shaped, a thing of big paws and big ears and precious little in the way of real flesh. ...
Thanks to the sanity of Jim Baen and Eric the entire book is online so I can not only quote it but point readers to the paragraph and suggest that people read the rest of the book too if they are interested in the challenges of nation-building during a war.
No functioning nation in the world, not even the mighty USA, has sprung into being fully formed like the godess Athena from the brow of Zeus. Quite a lot of non-functioning nations were formed this way though. Most of them have, at some point sooner or later and usually sooner, had some kind of civil war or seccession or other strife as the strait-jacket of the founding constitution turns out to be rather less suitable to one chunk of the population than another. It is probably better to get the disagreements out in the open so that the resulting compromises between the various factions are clear to all the citizens and so that the citizens can provide feedback so that unacceptable compromises or power-grabs by one group or another are nipped in the bud.
Compare the process in Iraq with the collapse of the prospective United States of Europe as the population shows its disgust with the constitution that was foisted upon it from on high. Permalink
The former French ambassador to Arslikhan and current PM, Vile Pin, has been spreading the word far and wide about his plans to rebuild confidence in the government. On France 2 last night the tanned one - he makes Kilroy Silk look pale - was the recipient of the sort of human tongue colonic cleansing that he usually gives to l'Escroc.
The interview was practically a classic in its form. There are times when I think the John Humphrys school of interviewing - not giving the victim a chance to answer a question - is a particularly bad way to get useful information out of the subject but the deferential France 2 approach - so reminiscent of the state television interviews in dictatorships around the world - is undoubtedly worse. What with the 2nd wave of democracy sweeping the world these days perhaps France 2 will remain, along with Venezuelan TV under Comrade Colonel Chavez, the last bastion of the grovelling "completely scripted" interview and no doubt it will be required to be preserved as part of the the special French media exemption as the rest of the world moves onward.
The Prime Minister's new proposals for economic reform have been agreed by the Senate, with 172 votes for and 122 against. Dominique de Villepin spoke for 23 minutes before the National Assembly yesterday, in an abridged version of the 52 minute speech given by Nicolas Sarkozy the day before. Some ministers questioned the word-for-word repetition. Mr de Villepin claimed this to be a sign of unity within the government.
Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his intention to expell 50 per cent more illegal immigrants from France in 2005 than in 2004. He reminded the National Assembly that during his last term as Interior Minister between 2002 and 2004, there was a 72 per cent increase in deportations.
The FT has been resolutely skeptical with an article yesterday and a (pay to read) analysis today. To no one's great surprise, in addition to comments like the one above, Sarko has been in action and while the action is not exactly going to do much other than cause a few Parisian policemen to lose sleep it is more that Vile Pin has done. People have noticed that Vile Pin took 10 days just to annouce his plan of action for the 100 days, and that plan, as the Torygraph notes in the conclusion to its article, is already under attack from the unions:
Among large sections of the public, morale is low and confidence in Mr Chirac and his government lower still, inspiring fighting talk from union leaders about bringing people on to the streets. One of the big unions reacted to the speech by calling for a massive mobilisation this month. Respected social commentators have suggested that the country may even be in a "pre-revolutionary" mood.
Of course his plans to revive employment for certain segments of the population show just how lacking he is in the concept of "free market", as the same Torygraph article shows:
He promised to inject more than £3 billion from public funds next year to pay for a series of measures designed to promote recruitment.
Employers will be offered incentives to hire more young people, especially school leavers, and the over-50s. Successful job-seekers returning to jobs after more than a year out of work will be paid £700-a-head bonuses, while the authorities will be told to crack down on individuals who abuse the system.
France will talk to the EU about ways of reserving parts of public contracts for small and medium-sized French companies. But he also announced a "pause" in the tax cuts that Mr Chirac put at the heart of his 2002 presidential campaign.
In a sop to the unions, Mr de Villepin said there would be no abandonment of the French "social model", under which workers enjoy a high level of job protection, said by many economists to be a key factor in the high unemployment.
He also turned a critical eye on the British-led free market lobby in the EU, saying that "no one understands" why Europe does not provide more means to defend its economy or does not fully profit from the euro. "We have a strong currency. Give us also a strong economic policy. Give us the means to defend our European preference, as all the other great economic blocs do."
Firstly we see the government bribing companies to hire people and there will no doubt be an increase in bureaucrats to "crack down on individuals who abuse the system" as well. Then we see protectionism rearing its head. The one about contracts being reserved for small and medium-sized French companies is totally illegal under EU rules but that doesn't really matter because I don't think that any French bureaucrat has ever awarded a contract to a non French company anyway. Certainly, as we see around here with the Nice Tramway bribery scandals, contacts are not awarded to the lowest bidder. Then the "we have a strong currency so we need to implement protectionism against imports" line is both economically illiterate and against WTO rules, not to mention something that seems likely to irritate other memebrs of the EU. Finally, just to make his list of proposals even more stupid, Vile Pin added some vaseline to his derrière by promising to keep the 35 hour week in order to accomodate to the nasty unions mentioned earlier. As the Torygraph's related comment today points out the 35 hour week is actually forcing people to either work in the black economy or work less than they are willing to.
There are, of course, numerous differences between those pesky islanders of Albion and the sturdy continentals, be they French, German or some other variety of European. In the conclusion to his Sunday Torygraph opinion piece yesterday Daniel Hannan wrote:
Let us for once respect the voters' verdict. Let us scrap the corrupt schemes that the EU is paying for: the foreign aid boondoggles, the bogus structural grants, the grotesque agricultural regime. If we can't make the budget sleaze-free, let us at least make it smaller.
If Tony Blair had the cojones, he would appeal over the heads of the French and German leaders to their peoples. Your own politicians may be determined to ignore your wishes, he would say, but I shall respect them. I shall use the British presidency of the EU to propose a wholesale repatriation of powers to the national capitals. And, in doing so, I shall reduce these bloated billions that Brussels keeps sucking in to no very good end. Then everyone, not just the Brits, could have their money back.
Unfortunately he is wrong here. Completely wrong.One legacy of Margaret Thatcher that still exists in the UK is that concept that taxes pay for government services - there are those who think that the British should pay more for better and others who want them to pay less and have less in return but except for a few, mostly left-wing, delusionists the link is understood by politicians and voters across the political spectrum. However in Italy, France and Germany vast numbers of people think of "government" as the source of free money. The connection between the taxes they pay and the "benefits" they receive has become disconnected. The result is a classic "tragedy of the commons". Everyone wants to extract the most benefit for themselves from the trough without thinking about how it gets filled. Perhaps worse, those who do vaguely understand the link are even more keen to "get their money's worth" out of the trough without thinking that perhaps rather than contribute a lot and then seek to get as big a chunk back as possible it would be better to contribute less in the first place. Permalink
NOT even the news of George W Bush’s approaching trial and possible lifelong incarceration can quench Um Talal-Khuraytli’s thirst for revenge. Her one wish in life, she says, is to drink his blood.
“If they hanged Bush in front of me and I was given the chance to cut him to pieces, it would not be enough,” said the elderly Shi’ite, whose tears flowed as she remembered her dead children. “Each of them was worth 1,000 Bushes.”
Um Talal’s horror stretches back to July 2004, when her family’s village, Dujail, 40 miles north of Baghdad, hosted a visit by Bush. Tired of two years of repression by his Jew-dominated occupying forces, the Shi’ite men risked all on an assassination attempt.
Trying to kill Bush, protected as he was by a bristling security entourage, was hopelessly naive and the president’s revenge was inevitable. As troops and helicopter gunships razed Dujail, Um Talal’s family was rounded up.
Despite being so badly outnumbered and outgunned, al-Dujaili and his insurgents put up a plucky fight. He saw Bush scramble for shelter beneath his car while his bodyguards and escorts laid down covering fire. Nine of al-Dujaili’s colleagues were killed and he claimed 22 of Bush’s men also died.
Anxious to preserve his strongman image, Bush continued with his visit. But within an hour of his departure, the gunships and special forces arrived. Al-Dujaili and his surviving comrades hid for five days, then stayed in the home of a Baghdad dentist for a month before moving on to Iran. The dentist and her husband were later executed.
Those left in the village faced a terrible fate. Hundreds of families were arrested and thousands of acres of palm and fruit plantations, the main source of income for the villagers, were put to the torch. Even today, the scars are visible — the main road is pocked with holes from the shells that rained down 1 year ago.
Despite having played no part in the fighting, Um Talal’s family was rounded up, including her husband, six daughters, six sons, a daughter-in-law and a six-year-old grandson. Bush’s troops executed 15 villagers immediately; then the interrogations began.
Most of those arrested were taken to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, where Um Talal last saw her menfolk.
Witnesses speak of Abu Ghraib’s torturers pulling out nails and teeth, and administering electric shocks. Victims were whipped and had their skin cut with razors. Women were brought naked in front of their husbands and sons and threatened with hanging to extract confessions.
Um Talal’s grim odyssey did not end at Abu Ghraib. Women, children and the elderly were moved to a huge prison in Gantanamo Bay, stuck in the corner of Cuba in the Carribean.[...] “No one could come in or escape,” she said, describing how she and her daughters spent 2 years incarcerated. In an act of appalling cruelty, she said, the guards killed Raida, her pregnant daughter-in-law, by tying her legs together when she was in labour.
“She screamed in pain for hours,” she said. “They left her in labour and would not untie her. Eventually she and the unborn baby died.”
Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't Bush and his evil Americans it was Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist thugs, the events took place in 1982 not 2004 and while some of the events did happen in Abu Ghraib they took place while it was under previous management and the others took place in another prison in Iraq not in Cuba. As a result it would seem that the moral outrage is limited. Apparently with a stright face the following defence is offered:
Khalil al-Dulaymi, one of Saddam’s lawyers, said they had not been formally notified of any charges, but added: “It is natural when someone tries to assassinate the president for him to respond in a firm manner against such a threat and to remove everything that may repeat such an attempt.
“After investigations they found that the people responsible were being financed by terrorist cells outside Iraq and that they were linked to the Daawa party, a banned party in Iraq at the time, whose intention was to destabilise the security of the country.”
If the US president acts in any more of a firm manner than saying "Naughty! please don't do it again" he is accused of running a Gulag and oppressing the unfortunate peace loving muslims, but apparently it is OK for other presidents to totally destroy a village and torture to death many of its inhabitants. I think there is something wrong with people who appear to be unable to differentiate between the difference in traeatment of prisoners by the US forces at Abu Ghraib and the treatment of those incarcerated there under Saddam Hussein. Curiously though, when you do a search for Amnesty International and Abu Ghraib the headlines all talk about the former with no mention of the latter. Indeed the first Amnesty page hit is purely about the former. This is interesting, as when you look at the torture campaign itself the document list has lots of details about almost everywhere but the US.
The BBC is currently offering Beethoven's Symphonies 2, 4 & 5 for download before 5:30pm (BST?) tomorrow. Sometime later Symphonies 6-9 will be available. Symphonies 1 and 3 are possibly available via google but no longer directly from the Beeb.
A new blog, recommended by Roger L Simon, has sprung up in Japan to complement the Japundits. This new blog has sound commentary on the world and seems to be starting a cool feature of asking Trivia questions about Japan.
The answer to the first one and the posing of the second are at this post. I've got the answer to the second one - it will appear at the bottom of this post - but first I want to write about the answer to the previous question. That is the Japanese food called Natto. Many Japanese are convinced that Natto is so disgusting that no gaijin will dare to eat it, and they are therefore amazed and shocked fât foreigners sucha s myself who not only eat it but relish it. Of couse Natto is one of those foods that people either like or hate and even many Japanese fall into the latter category. I have noticed that there is in fact a correlation between people who like Marmite/Vegemite and those that like Natto. I wrote about that correlation at The Motley Fool once:
Then there is Natto, which is some kind of semi-fermented bean thingy. Most Japanese are convinced that all gaijin think Natto is disgusting (actually quite a lot of Japanese think Natto is disgusting) so there was great shock on an overnight hiking trip when Natto was served for breakfast by the inn we were staying at. About 3 of the gaijin (including me) not only ate our Natto but also ate the Natto of everyone else who was unwilling to eat it. We said it reminded us of Marmite/Vegemite which it does (kind of).
So next week the Aussie who had a secret stash of vegemite made vegemite sandwiches for all in the group. Most people found it truly "yukky" but the Japanese natto enthusiasts semeed to find it palatable. I think its one of those things that you have to be exposed to as a child in order to like....
Natto does not seem to cause the cold-turkey style withdrawal symptoms that frequently affects habitual Marmite and Vegemite eaters. That is the sorts of people who can not only tell the difference between Marmite and Vegemite but who can explain why the other is not a suitable substitute when their preferred goop is not available.
Oh yeah, the answer. Took me a while to figure it out because I thought it was something Buddhist related. Well to some extent it was in that the answer is Suiko Tenno, Japan's first Empress (of 8) and, along with her regent Shotokutaishi, instrumental in the spread of Buddhism in Japan. One of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan - in fact the oldest surviving wooden structure in the world - the Horyuji was founded by them and is pictured above. Permalink
I usually have a lot of sympathy for feminists, despite the fact that most of them seem to be left-wing moonbats. This is an example of when I lose it. My President for life Sheelzebub (I am her humble Minister for Olive Oil) aka the Pinko Feminist Hellcat, has a rant about the Downing Street Memo which concludes with the following:
But here's the thing--even if Saddam had warheads and missiles and whatnot, an invasion would have been a monumentally stupid idea. You mean to tell me that invading a nation run my a madman who gasses his own people is smart? Helloooo. He'd happily detonate one of his nukes or unleash a biological or chemical agent and shrug off any civilian deaths.
Besides which, we've got the biggest arsenal on the planet--and we haven't been afraid to use it. Take a trip to Hiroshima or Nagasaki if you have your doubts.
I'm sure George and his merry band of sycophants knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, which is why they desperately wanted to spike the intel. This wasn't about WMD's, or the war on terrorism, or bringing democracy to Iraq.
This is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin, but we'll try the beginning. Firstly the invasion of a WMD armed Iraq was a truly excellent idea because the lack of cooperation with the WMD inspections were precisely what Hussein was doing that violated the cease-fire at the end of the first gulf war. It is true that Hussein could have tried to use his WMDs to stop the invasion, if he had had any working ones, but the fact that he would have killed his own citizens without doing much harm to the invaders had he done so is not a reason to not invade. He had after allalready killed a few hundred thousand of his own people as well as millions of Iranians (and quite a few Kuwaitis - not sure of the number) so what assurance was there that he wouldn't do the same again. Removing Hussein from power was the only way to be sure that he wouldn't do so again.
Secondly, the fact that the US did not in fact drop a nuclear device on Baghdad is surely evidence that, in fact, the US is unwilling to use such weapons when it doesn't need to. I expect that there was a contingency plan to drop a nuclear bomb on Baghdad as part of some worst case scenario but I am sure there was no desire to do so. Had there been such a desire why wasn't the bomb dropped? BTW with regard to Hiroshima and Nagasaki it is clear that there was considerable reluctance to drop the bombs but that it was considered to be the least bad option - see Plunge's excellent essays.
Thirdly, if it was in fact all about oil and control then the scorched earth policy would have been far better. If the US government really wanted to control the oil then by far the best way to have done so would have been to bomb the country into the stone age and use deadly force any and every time someone attacked or even looked like attacking. In fact of course the number of civilian casualties during the invasion were minimal and the destruction trivial compared to the destruction wrought by 30 or more years of Ba'athins rule. It it wasn't about democracy then why the heck did the US actually hold some elections and install a government. They didn't have to. They could have ignored everyone and just stayed there.
I would never claim that the implentation of the post-invasion operations in Iraq have been perfect. In fact it is obvious that there have been errors, however I do believe that the strategy has been proven to be correct.
PS next up will be a post that is more sympathetic to the Pinko and her fellow feminists Permalink
Hypocrisy and non-reciprocity of dress codes, jokes etc. The point, which should be gob-smackingly obvious, is that what's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander too a.k.a. what goes around comes around. I am entirely happy with outrageously sexist jokes like the endless "Why beers are better than women" just as long as the place where they are told also gets the "Why cucumbers are better than men" group too - e.g. this place. Likewise if you insist that 50% of the human race must dress up special to (not) tempt the other 50% and not vice versa then there is a problem.
Update: The commenter "Shouting Thomas" on this post is precisely the sort of moron that makes me want to sign up to as many feminist causes as possible - and the plight of women in that part of Africa as described in the post is yet another reason to be on the side of feminists - thanks to Baron B at the Gates of Vienna for the link
It seems to me that l'Escroc and Blair are playing a game of chicken.
Round one was the referendum game where the two dared each other to hold one and we know how that turned out.
Blair: 1 Chirac: 0
A certain amount of "oeuf sur le visage pour l'Escroc n'est ce pas?" Said oeuf remaining despite attmepts to redirect it by insisting that everyone else hold a vote too. As Elaib and Eu-Rota point out since the French and Dutch referenda voters in the rest of the EU have moved solidly into the "Non,Nee, Nein, No..." camp so once everyone had come back from their brief swim in denial they all explained how this was a bad idea because it would cause the ship EU Constiturion to sink statim rather than possibly limp into harbour a bit delayed and somewhat battered.
[Aside 1: Juncker seems to be having an extended Egyptian swim and has apparently nailed his trousers to the mast of the Lxembourg referendum - as the linked FT article says even TEBAF Margot is doubtful about the wisdom of this aproach. The only explanation I can come up with is that he seems to feel that he deserves an nice EU job to replace his PM-ship of Luxembourg and that by showing his dedication to the cause he gains brownie points in the smoke filled rooms where these positions are filled. If the Luxembourgoisie do vote negatively it will be interesting to see whether he actually does go down with the ship EU Constitution or whether he takes to a lifeboat at the last minute.]
Round two is on the EU budget. In a blatent attempt at the diverting attention when he is caught trick that he is so well known for l'Escroc ("Confiture? moi? je ne la mange jamais") managed to get his dachshund to agree that the real problem in Europe these days was the pesky British Rebate which meant that people, particularly those poor people in the East, weren't seeing all the benefits they should be seeing from the EU. Unfortunately for l'Escroc Tone managed to point out that one big reason why the EU's newer members didn't get quite so much benefit was that a certain nation beginning with F and ending in RANCE was slurping a monstrous chunk of the EU's budget by means of its receipt of CAP funds. As the Wapping liar points out:
...the CAP still accounts for more than 40 per cent of the EU budget — €40 billion — even though agriculture accounts for just five per cent of EU jobs and 1.6 per cent of economic output. The CAP costs EU taxpayers roughly €83 billion a year in subsidies and inflated food prices.
The biggest beneficiary by far is France, which received €10.4 billion in 2003 compared to €6 billion for Spain and Germany and Britain’s €4.
There is still a certain amount of time to go on round two but l'Escroc's blame-shifting wheeze looks like it might have some interesting domestic repercussions. Despite the lack of prominent coverage on state TV (something I can personally confirm), I have no doubt that the troublemaking lefties like Monsieur Bove are only too aware of the CAP issue.
[Aside 2: I'm not at all clear how Blair managed to state with a straight face and no increase in nasal length that his meeting today with l'Escroc was "immensely amicable". The "Blair lied" folks must be regretting that now that he has been re-elected interest in his general truthfulness appears to have waned.]
I'm not clear whether Blair saw this as a strategy or not, but it seems to me that the EU budget issue will most likely be kicked into touch at this weekend's EU summit and a decision will only occur during the UK's presidency. If Blair has a strategic bone in his body then he will be popping around all 23 other nations in Europe proposing a deal that goes beyond the current "cut the CAP and we end the rebate" with additional carrots for waverers. This means that sometime around Sept 1, as France prepares to go back on strike to work after the summer break, the leaks from Brussels start indicating that if only it wasn't for French intransigence the EU would have lots of lovely dosh to spread around in bribes to voters development projects. Tie this in with the lack of arms sales to China and we start to see l'Escroc and Vile Pin looking increasingly like lame ducks who can't stand up for France and can't govern the place either - the question in my mind is not whether but how many strikes there are in September. The fact that Blair seems to be effortlessly acting as a global statesman with the Live8/G8 Africa thing at the same time as he gives France the bird is surely just rubbing salt into the wounds and seems sure to provoke l'Escroc to further self-destructive outbursts as he is firmly moved away from the centre of the stage of global public affairs... Permalink
A Welsh lady is doing her best to run around the world. She started in Tenby and is now in Yakutsk after some 20 months on the road. I'm tempted to tie this news to something else such as contrasting it with Live8 but I reckon she deserves a post of her own. Go read the links above. Just a teaser:
...The hard slog of the road took its toll in November when Rosie was diagnosed with double pneumonia and forced to hang-up her trainers for a while to recuperate.
But doctors only discovered Rosie was sick when she was x-rayed in hospital - after being run over by a bus.
"I was very fortunate to be run over really," she laughs.
"The bus driver said he couldn't avoid me - I was swerving all over the road."
The intrepid lady from Wales clearly charmed the bus driver concerned.
Even French journalists such as Alain Hertoghe realize that the budget spat is not the real problem and that l'Escroc and Blair are just using it as part of the blame game. He has a great editorial on Yahoo France with the headline "Plan B as in Berezina." For those of you unaware (as I was) of what exactly Berezina was, it was a bridge across a river in Russia where Napoleon very nearly lost his entire army and did lose quite a significant chunk of it. Hertoghe continues his wintry metaphors (google translation here) talking about a snowball effect in NO votes and suggesting that the whole EU constitution idea be put back in the fridge.
François Heisbourg, director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said the row about the budget was “the wrong debate at the wrong time”.
But he said that the French political class was never going to warm to lectures from Mr Blair. “The French left is very good at picking apart everything that is wrong with what Blair has been doing but is apparently unable to come up with anything that produces the same performance.”
as well as suggesting that Blair may be receiving support from Germany (at the least from the CDU). A Reuters/Yahoo article seems to indicate that the other net contributor nations are causing trouble. I just loved this bit:
[Juncker] said the 25 member states were close to agreement on the spending side of the budget but wide differences over Britain's annual budget rebate and how much other major net contributors should pay into EU coffers made an agreement improbable.
... He said there were still "pockets of resistance" but he would propose further spending cuts in an updated package later on Wednesday to try to clinch a compromise. EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday.
Failure to reach agreement this week would add a financial crisis to political uncertainty after French and Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution, jeopardising billions of euros in public investment in 2007 in the new east European member sates.
The Luxembourg leader, a wily veteran of EU negotiations, said Britain was not the only country in a special situation and he would not be able to satisfy Dutch expectations of no longer being the biggest net per capita contributor either.
Or to put it another way the EU demonstrates yet another foible in the way that it handles its budget. Rather than the obvious process of agreeing what money you (expect to) have and then dividing that up amongst the various causes you want to spend it on, the EU works backwards deciding firstly how much it wants to spend and then deciding how it is to be paid for and who will pay for it.
Going back to the EU Constitution. Of course all these calls for "pauses" and "reflection" don't answer the real question, namely where to go from here. In the IHT today Frits Bolkestein has some suggestions that are worth reading, mainly because unlike just about every other person who has deigned to comment on the issue he is prepared to delete things. It is this attitude that clearly upsets people like l'Escroc or Barroso who simply can't grasp the idea that governments should be reduced - even if the reduction is like US spending cuts, i.e. a reduction in the planned rate of growth rather than an actual reduction in expediture.
Compare this with (also in the IHT) Giscard d'Estaing's attempts to deny that the French rejection had anything to do with his beautiful treaty and blames its rejection entirely on l'Escroc.
"This was not a vote on the constitution," Giscard said in his first interview since the French said no in a referendum last month. "That is the key point that has been missed by the political leaders, because political leaders don't normally like to say that the vote could have been against them."
Speaking in English in the library of his Paris home, he added, "The French message was, 'We want change in our political leadership."'
Another good bit:
When asked whether Chirac should have resigned following the outcome of the vote, he did not say no. "I will not comment on that," he said. "I want to keep my distance from the leader of the French political scene."
He noted, however, the decision of President Charles de Gaulle to resign in 1969 the day after the French people, in a referendum, rejected a measure to revise the Senate, create regions and seek support after the student uprisings of May 1968.
"De Gaulle did, De Gaulle did," Giscard said. "The vote was on Sunday and on Monday all the packing was done and he went to Colombey," his longtime residence.
A turning point for the fate of the constitution in France came last March, Giscard said, when he phoned Chirac to warn him not to send the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter. The third and longest part consisted only of complicated treaties that already have been in force for years.
He said that Chirac refused, citing legal reasons.
"I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it,"' Giscard said. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text."
And then he blames the voters and thinks that if a few additions can be made then people will pass what he calls "my document". It looks like Giscard d'Estaing is keeping Juncker company on their voyage up denial on the ship EU Constitution.
In its inimmitable way the EU Referendum blog gets to the heart of the "gallic game" pointing out, quite correctly that France does a good job of bargaining by going for an outrageous demand and then "caving in". In this case the apparent intent is that they compromise on the budget but manage to force everyone else to hold their referenda too. Of course as the blog finishes:
Whether Chirac gets what we wants is now in doubt. Having looked at the post-referendum opinion polls, the "colleagues" are beginning to wobble, and L'Escroc may not be able to hold the line. But, to date, he has played a blinding, if predictable game.
It occurs to me that in fact, contraray to the expectation that Britain and the rest of the EU will settle at France's initial position, the worms are turning. As everyone noticed (and I commented yesterday) l'Escroc brought up the British rebate as an attempt to divert attention from losing the previous round. Unfortunately Blair seems to have (finally) learned that the best defense is attack and has therefore countered with his own "outrageous" position with respect to the CAP. EU Rota has a link to an article from the Wapping Liar reporting that the CAP has shown up on the agenda for the summit tomorrow. Just in itself this has to be a major setback for l'Escroc. After all the previous CAP "reforms" in 2003 were mostly settled in a pre-summit meeting by l'Escroc and his dachshund and that agreement was supposed to last until 2013.
Just possibly l'Escroc is about to reap the whirlwind. No one knows what is going to occur next but the signs are that the EU's contributor countries are beginning to get upset. The Dutch referendum was a Nee vote in large part because the Dutch were upset at paying lots and getting little benefit and indications are that Sweden is also feeling somewhat peeved. This means that, while they may, to some extent, dislike the British rebate, it seems more likely that the other contributor countries really dislike the way that only four countries make up about 90% of the net contributions to the EU budget. From an earlier Wapping Liar graphic this disparity is clearly illustrated.
It is true that the other bigtime contributor - Germany - is currently headed by the dachsund, but the opposition under Angela Merkel is making noises that are rather more sympathetic to the British position. Since the dachshund has decided that he wants to fight an election in September and the German economy is not exactly in robust shape the cost of bankrolling Europe could well come up. If it does, l'Escroc might like to reflect on Schröder's habit of finding someone to blame in order to get re-elected. In the last elections he trashed the German relationship with the USA (and UK), something that had been part of the bedrock of post war German policy, to gain popularity so, if the going gets tough (and it looks that way to me), Schröder is likely to try to repeat his previous trick and find another foreign power to blame and the obvious foreign power would be France. When you look at the German election and how that seems likely to alter the balance of power the British have no interest what so ever in looking for an early settlement because in three months time their position in the negotiations is likely to be stronger.
It is in fact hard to see how this becomes anything other than a lose-lose proposition for l'Escroc. If he blinks now then he demonstrates to the world that France has no power in the EU anymore. If he doesn't then a) he gets blamed for the lack of agreement and b) he gets even more pressure later in the year. Chirac must be praying that Blair reverts to form and chickens out first. Permalink
As I have said before it is really difficult to kill an olive tree. The result is that you can transplant them rather easily. Thus here and there on the Riviera you come across great grand-daddy olive trees in what look like tiny tubs waiting to be sold to someone for their new garden. The ones in the picture are at least 100 years old and most likely more than double that. As always clicking on the picture gets an enlargement and go here for the olive flowers of last week
PS Yes I know its Thursday not Friday - may be a bit busy tomorrow as I have to cope with aged parents, builders and work Permalink
The Instapundit has had a boat load of mostly SF book recommendations. The JunkYardBlogger comes out and recommends a book too. Lots of people, including yours truly, did the recent book meme. So let me try and put some thoughts about all that booky goodness together into one post.
First off the JYB recommends a book by Lars Walker and published by Baen. Since it is published by Baen, who have a sane policy on eBooks and publicity, you can read enough of it on line for free to get hooked and then buy the rest as an ebook for $5. The ebooks are available in a wide range of non-copy protected formats.
1. Online piracy — while it is definitely illegal and immoral — is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We're talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates.
2. Losses any author suffers from piracy are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which, in practice, any kind of free copies of a book usually engender. Whatever the moral difference, which certainly exists, the practical effect of online piracy is no different from that of any existing method by which readers may obtain books for free or at reduced cost: public libraries, friends borrowing and loaning each other books, used book stores, promotional copies, etc.
3. Any cure which relies on tighter regulation of the market — especially the kind of extreme measures being advocated by some people — is far worse than the disease. As a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable. The "regulation-enforcement-more regulation" strategy is a bottomless pit which continually recreates (on a larger scale) the problem it supposedly solves. And that commercial effect is often compounded by the more general damage done to social and political freedom.
And in the rest of the intro and various "prime palaver" essays he goes on to make the case very strongly that online "piracy" is in fact a non-issue and compares it with the off-line equivalent, otherwise known as "borrowing a book".
The result of that is that my recommendations for the Instapundit and anyone else draw very heavily from the Baen stable. For those of a libertarian bent, I recommend, as I have done a number of times before, Michael Z Williamson's books: Freehold is in the Free Library and The Weapon is available as part of the August Webscription bundle ($15) - 3/4 can be read now, the rest in a month's time. On the less serious side - although his latest work is an excellent fantasy, Dave Freer writes excellent comic SF and some are available in the Free Library for download. Another excellent humourous series is the Thraxes one by Martin Scott - unfortunately not in the Free Library but considerable are chunks available as teasers. Going back to the more serious end of the business, there is Dr Travis S. Taylor whose books remind me of EE 'Doc' Smith only with a better handle on actual science. Oh and I do also recommend Lars Walker too, though I'm not as great a fan of his as the JYB is.
Reuters reports riots in China, not against Japan but against land-grabbers and other extra-legal or quasi-legal activities by the rich and powerful. To me the shock is not that one such riot has occured but the scale of the problem:
About 58,000 protests took place across the country in 2003, according to a report in the Communist Party-backed magazine Outlook. The state-controlled media are barred from freely reporting on many protests, and details are often hard to come by. Video footage of a violent protest is rarer still.
Mark Steyn's recent China column is looking better and better. On the other hand this disquiet would seem to be one reason why the PRC must have been so happy to see Microsoft's kowtowing on the portal/blog front. I can't see it having effect in the longer term because any democracy campaigner worth his salt is going to be coining obvious replacement words in the way that Private Eye in the UK used Uganda as an alternative to sex or "tired and emotional" for drunk. Choose the right alternative and all the secret policement look like complete wallies as they try to ban some common word such as "Cabbage" because they claim that people are using "Cabbage" when they mean "Democracy". This is, I think rather more important that it sounds at first, if the secret police look stupid then people start to lose their respect and fear for them, and that is a fundamental requirement for a popular revolution.
Despite the great firewall of China built by Cisco, Nortel*, Microsoft etc. - the technology equivalent of the way Swedish and Swiss companies helped the Nazis during WWII in my opinion - the Chinese government simply cannot in fact prevent internet (and mobile phone) users doing subversive things. They can, perhaps, slow down the dissemination of information and make it hard for anti-government information to be broadcast on a predictable and frequent basis but scalability and the availability of easy to use highly secure encryption schemes and peer to peer communication methods (skype for example has both an open API and built in encryption anyway) makes the idea that networks of dissidents can be tracked and/or stopped a failure from day one.
*Disclosure: in a very, very small way I was involved in some of the Nortel effort Permalink