Aside from sheep-slaughtering, Mlle Bardot is also opposed to Canadian seal-culling. But when she denounces seal-clubbing, nobody prosecutes her for racism. Islam is everything but a race. It's a religion, an ideology, a politico-legal system, a set of cultural practices — and there's something disquieting about the zeal with which the French state is pursuing her under the catch-all of "racism". In the last decade, she's been convicted and fined on four occasions for "inciting racial hatred". The first was for some remarks about the number of mosques in France, and the most recent was for some observations about "the Islamization of France". She is not a lady of moderate disposition, but it would hardly seem to be in the public interest to give the impression that these subjects are now beyond discussion.
Via the Hyacinth Girl, who yokes Bardot's name to mine to a degree that would boggle Roger Vadim. Who would have thought the quintessential Euro-sex kitten would end her days as the Mark Steyn of France? Although I guess that makes me the Brigitte Bardot of Canada.
Mark Steyn, "Cette sacrée gamine", The Corner, 2008-04-15
From The Economist comes a fascinating look at the two different forms of Russian slang:
Finally, Russian is also rich in slang — so rich that it has not one slang, but two. The first, fenya, is a criminal patois similar in style to Cockney rhyming slang, Argentinian lunfardo and the mid-20th-century British gay argot, polari. It uses substitutions, as well as loan-words from other languages, to confuse the unwary: silver is "laundry", having sex is "frying", stealing is "buying", and so on.
Interestingly, fenya contains a lot of Yiddish and Hebrew words: Jews entered the criminal world during tsarist times, when they were barred from owning land and from many professions. A common phrase even today in Russian is na khalyavu, "for free", from the Hebrew khalav, "milk", because "milk money" was the name of donations for the Jewish community in Palestine.
The second kind of slang, mat, is like a much more sophisticated version of the Chilean huevón words — an entire language derived chiefly from a handful of sexual swear-words. One of my prize possessions is a 560-page dictionary of mat that I found at Grant and Cutler, a specialist languages bookshop in London.
The dictionary, published in Moscow in 1997 by one Professor Tatiana Akhmetova, seems to be an academic lexicon rather than a survey of current usage. Most of my Russian-speaking friends have never heard of much of it. But one particular phrase is so original and colourful that I have been running a small private campaign to bring it back into everyday use. To describe something that has shown up unexpectedly, out of nowhere, you say that it appeared kak iz pizdy na lyzhakh, which translates as "like out of a cunt on skis."
It's hard to credit, but the Finnish government is so determined to punish racists that it will even try to block your internet access when you quote government statistics on race issues:
Quotes from official crime statistics published by the Ministry of Justice undoubtedly "help maintain an anti-immigrationist political climate" because they prove that e.g. the Somalis commit more than 100 times more (over one hundred times more, as in, over 10,000% more) robberies per capita than the Finns do.
Yup, he quoted official crime statistics. Given that Finland has one of the highest rates of internet usage in the world, I hope this provokes a powerful backlash against the control freaks who run the country.
And, in this sort of thing, where Finland leads, Canada (and other wannabe Scandinavian countries) will follow.
I've pretty much given up rapier fencing in the last couple of years, more from lack of time than from any diminished interest. According to USA Today, the sport has continued to grow:
The golf cases propped up against the walls are full of swords, daggers and the occasional bit of chain mail. The halls of the community center ring with the clash of steel, the thud of shields and the quick snip-snip of rapiers. The books quoted are as often as not in medieval German or Latin.
Welcome to a Western martial arts conference. Not a cowboy or lariat in sight. Western in this case is Western European, as opposed to the better-known Asian variety.
These are the arts of warfare and self-defense of medieval and renaissance Europe. Also called historical martial arts, they employ bare hands, pikes, a variety of swords, daggers and rapiers in the way that practitioners of Eastern martial arts might use bo staves, Katana swords and Tanto knives.
Unlike in the East, these fighting traditions died out in Europe in the 1600s with the introduction of gunpowder-fueled weapons.
But now they're making a comeback.
If you watch the video, you'll see a variety of sword styles, but that only begins to scratch the surface of all the interesting ways to simulate the fine arte of skewering, hacking, slashing, and bashing your opponent. All good, clean fun!
Update: The inevitable Fark thread:
Thanks for the heads up. Now I have a totally new group of weirdos to avoid.
Translation: These are a bunch of cosplayers who have graduated from foam swords to the real thing and are making up shiat as they go along. Say what you will about karate and wushu practioners but when you can trace the lineage of instruction back 400 some odd years it means more than learning from some guy named Jerry who's WOW handle is Lord Dark Nightshade.
The Stealth Hippopotamus:
So it's the SCA without the drinking, drumming, and dancing. So basically its the SCA without the fun.
"Want to see cool, watch saber competitions. Blindingly fast and savage strikes. Shame the western media coverage of the Olympics does 98% basketball and diving, 2% track and field."
Saber bouts are fun to watch, but I swear they award the point to whomever screams the loudest.
/Been fencing for 13 years
///Will NEVER Saber fence again
Ah, Fark: the good, the bad, the plainly demented. The id, unmedicated.
There is a reason the urban jihadis of Amsterdam and elsewhere specifically target gay men. Islam as a memeplex and as an adaptive strategy is about access to and ownership of women and by extension the control of sexual behaviour. Any number of cults function as a means for a small, core group of men — usually around a single charismatic leader — to mate with as many women as possible while relegating the majority of men to non-breeding status. David Koresh, Mormon fundamentalists, Raelians, the SeaOrg core of Scientology, and, yes, Islam at its earliest foundations down to its most determined exponents today; the list goes on and on. We see this structure over and over again because it works, at least so long as their are neighbouring populations which can be conquered by the otherwise non-breeding males of the cult and mined as a source of slaves, concubines and the spoils these cults cannot produce for themselves. The jihadis target gay men because of the unacceptable truth their overt ideology denies in themselves. And, quite possibly, out of an unconscious recognition of the most dangerous among their enemy if Europe undergoes another phase change, enters a swarm state and carries out another apocalyptic genocide.
[Ghost of a Flea], "Where they make a desert, they call it peace", Ghost of a Flea, 2008-02-22
By way of John Scalzi, a primer for Americans on how Europeans think about other Europeans:
The Scandinavians — Widely respected by most other Europeans, because of their high standard of living . . . and blond hair and blue eyes. However, within Scandinavia there are some persistent stereotypes. The Norwegians, Danes and Finns all think the Swedes are stupid and uptight. Norwegians are considered racist. Danes are considered more blunt than the others, maybe a bit more cranky, and the Finns are oddly introverted, even by Scandinavian standards. Except for the Danes really disliking Germans, and Finns really disliking Russians, they don't really have anything against other Europeans.
The Belgians — Considered idiots by both the Dutch and the French. Belgians, in turn, consider the Dutch to be a bunch of cranky assholes, and French stuck-up.
The Dutch — The Dutch, like the Scandinavians, have an enviable economy and social order that's admired by southern European countries. However, they do have a reputation of being self-righteous "know-it-alls" and very similar to their German cousins in terms of their rigidity. But they do not like any comparisons to Germans, and if you remind them that the Dutch national anthem makes a reference to the Dutch being "van Duitse bloed" (from German blood), you might quickly get the silent treatment. The Dutch are also disliked for being the biggest misers in Europe, and because of this they incur the wrath of the tourist industry wherever they travel. The Dutch have been known to stock up on water before they take their campers down to the south of France.The Dutch, in turn, kind of look down on just about everyone. Yes, there's a bit of a reason for the "know-it-all" smart-ass reputation they have.
A guest writer at Samizdata goes through the (UK) Green Party's Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, to sort out the likely effects from the implementation of the proposed policies:
Rob Johnston has produced a very interesting essay on the true soulmates of Green Politics in Britain
* Forbid the purchase of corner shops by migrants
* Stop people from inner cities moving to the countryside to protect traditional lifestyles
* Grant British citizenship only to children born here
* Boycott food grown by black farmers and subsidise crops grown by whites
* Restrict tourism and immigration from outside Europe
* Prohibit embryo research
* Stop lorry movements on the Lord's Day
* Require State approval for national sports teams to compete overseas
* Disconnect Britain from the European electricity grid
* Establish a "new order" between nations to resolve the world economic crisis
These are the policies of one of Britain’s most influential political parties: a party that has steadily increased its vote over the last decade; a party that appeals overwhelmingly to whites; and a party that shares significant objectives with neo-fascists and religious fundamentalists.
Perhaps — the BNP? Despite its attempts to appear modern and inclusive and the soothing talk in its 2005 General Election Manifesto, of "genuine ethnic and cultural diversity" .
Or UKIP? It harbours some pretty backward-looking individuals — but would they stop Britain buying electricity from France if necessary?
Or, maybe, the Conservatives? Could that be a list of recommendations from one of Dave’s lesser-known policy groups — chaired by the ghost of Enoch Powell — quietly shredded to avoid "re-contaminating the Brand"?
Actually, affiliates of the progressive consensus may be surprised to learn that all the reactionary policies in the first paragraph are from the Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (MfSS) or were adopted at the party’s Autumn Conference in Liverpool over the weekend of September 13-16, 2007 .
It's a lengthy post, but well worth reading the whole thing.
Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)
Indeed, compared to Europe, this country is doing pretty well. It's almost tabloid newspaper free, with a bifurcated media that generally separates celebrity gossip and news into separate publications—although there are exceptions like the New York Post. In Britain, the three highest circulating daily newspapers (The News of the World, The Sun and The Daily Mail) are aggressively low-brow, a mix of top-heavy women and conjecture-heavy, populist reporting. The country's parliament, often praised as an honest, if overly raucous, chamber of debate from which America could learn, is Crossfire on steroids (and with even less honesty and more partisan hackery). The largest-selling paper on the continent is the ridiculous German daily Bild, a tabloid whose softcore front page make its British cousins seem downright priggish.
Michael Moynihan, "There is no truth: The problem with Jon Stewart's media criticism", Reason Online, 2007-10-18
Christopher Hitchens has some insight into the European psyche, especially when it comes to their views on the US:
I am occasionally asked why it is that so many Europeans display reflexive anti-Americanism, and I force myself to choose from a salad of possible answers. One of these is the resentment that I can remember feeling myself when I lived in England in the 1970s: the sheer brute fact that American voters who knew nothing about Europe (and cared less) could pick a president who had more clout than any of our elected prime ministers could exert. America could change our economic climate by means of the Federal Reserve, could use bases in Britain to forward its policies in Asia or the Middle East, and all the rest of it. Americans could also choose a complete crook like Richard Nixon, or a complete moron like Jimmy Carter, and we still had to watch our local politicians genuflect to the so-called Atlantic alliance.
Nowadays, this bothers me slightly less than it used to do. (George Bush at his worst is preferable to Gerhard Schröder or Jacques Chirac—politicians who put their own countries in pawn to Putin and the Chinese and the Saudis.) But I can still feel the old pang gnawing away. And I can still sense the European instinct for revenge or, to phrase it another way, for the chance to influence U.S. politics in return. One of the ways in which this influence can be exerted is the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. (And not just the peace prize, either; the so-called "prize" for literature has been awarded quite openly to figures who earned their reputations as enemies of the American imperium, just as the laurels bestowed on Jimmy Carter were accompanied by explicit remarks from Scandinavia to the effect that this might put a spoke in Bush's wheel.)
On Oct. 12, we shall hear again from Oslo, and I will be very surprised indeed if the peace prize is not awarded to Albert Gore Jr. (Don't ask what a campaign against global warming has done for "peace"; that would be like asking what Mother Teresa or Henry Kissinger had ever done to reduce global conflict. The impression is the main thing.)
The article quotes a pair of dentists, one from a Paris teaching hospital and one from the French dentistry association, and offers the following statistics (without citing sources).
- one million French citizens never brush their teeth
- half of all French do not brush their teeth in the evening
- 57% of French children under five have never brushed their teeth
- the average French citizen uses between one and two toothbrushes in a year
Of course, as one of the commenters pointed out at Megan's blog, half the children under five will be 0-2.5 years old . . . and another commenter pointed out that it was a "British columnist who read something in Le Figaro written by two French dentists who cited no sources for the stat".
But you guys all believe everything I post here, don't you? If it's on Quotulatiousness, it must be true . . . ish.
[Ghost of a Flea] waxes wroth about the idiocies on display during a recent BBC documentary on the reconstruction of Dubrovnik:
It seems to me there is more going on here than a mere academic propensity to find something to moan about no matter the cost***; even worse than rolling into town and imposing on local hospitality only to make a cretinous dismissal of years of effort in restoration. No, it is that Billings seems to think there is an authentic Dubrovnik to be replaced, a Dubrovnik simultaneously untouched by war and yet somehow ringed by fortress walls subject to hundreds of years of wind and rain. He is English and should know better. Oxford colleges plants small forests to replace roof timbers centuries in advance; two-hundred years sounds like a perfectly reasonable time-frame for some tiles to settle in. Or are we meant to believe some gruesome Disney-esque mock-aging should have been carried out instead?
The logic underlying Billings frankly creepy yearning for an unchanging world strikes me to be the same as that underlying the emotive anti-logic behind claims to anthropogenic global warming.**** Many people seem to believe there is something called Nature which, but for human intervention, would remain pure and unsullied for all time. Yet it should be obvious to any mind that has moved beyond Bronze Age metaphor that we live in a world whose only constant is constant change*****. It is sad that things pass away - glaciers, forests, whole species - but without them nothing new would come into being. This is as true for the ephemeral works of humanity as it is for continents or stars or galactic superclusters. It must have been a nightmare to live in Dubrovnik under siege and an almost hallucinatory strangeness its medieval walls should once again shelter its people in a time of modern mortars, artillery and 24-hour cable news. It is rubbing salt into the wound to be lectured on the subject by a proponent of a vampiric ideology of stasis.
The vineyards of Germany are terrorized by Nazi Raccoons. Really. Introduced by Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering in 1934 to enrich Germany's fauna, raccoons have no natural predators. Recently, a delinquent gang of them descended on the Brandenburg region, wiping out the entire grape harvest in days.
France suffers wild boars, but don't think they take it lying down. Always a country of action, they have decided to get the boars out of the vineyards by . . . feeding them in the vineyards. Truckloads of corn. If you think they'd understand that basic economic tenet: what you penalize you get less of and what you reward you get more of, then you haven't seen their welfare system.
Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "Animal Delinquents: There's more to wine fauna than cuddly kangaroos", The Cork Jester, 2007-08-24 (link goes to her main website . . . this article will be posted there later)
CDR Salamander has a distressing report from Somalia:
The Danish merchant "DANICA WHITE" was seized by pirates off of Somalia.
A small Danish-owned and, we understand, Danish-crewed general cargo vessel, has been captured by pirates in the latest series of ships and fishing vessels being boarded and taken over, with their crews held to ransom, off the Somalia coast.
What's worse . . . the piracy took place almost under the nose of a French warship:
A French warship reportedly looked on as the event unfolded, and refused to enter Somali waters as the mv DANICA WHITE was taken into the region.
Piracy is bad enough, but piracy enabled by illogical and inhumane standing orders? The French navy is looking particularly bad in this episode, but it's the crew of the Danica White who'll suffer the most.
H/T to The Armorer for the link.
Update, 8 June: See the following post for a clarification and a retraction . . . it wasn't a French ship which allowed the pirates to escape into Somalian waters.
A friend of mine, whose name I can't use for reasons which will become obvious, had to travel by way of Moscow recently. Unfortunately for him, he'll have to travel there again. He's not likely to be looking forward to the opportunity, however:
On [date] I booked flights from Kiev (Ukraine - not Russia) to Minsk (Belarus - also not Russia) through Moscow on Aeroflot. The email confirmation made no mention of any requirement for transit visas but when I collected the ticket from the Aeroflot desk [at a western European airport a week later] I asked if I need one and was told not, provided I had a valid Belarussian visa, which I did.
Some days later I was in Russia on a single entry visa and, on leaving for Kiev, again checked whether I needed a transit visa for my Kiev-Minsk flight and was assured I did not.
[Two weeks later] I lectured in Kiev and then caught the first of my Aeroflot flights.
On arrival in Moscow en route for Minsk I went to the transfer desk and was told to go Immigration. When I got to the head of the queue I was told to go to the transfer desk, who in turn sent me back to Immigration, who told me that I did need a transit visa.
After making me wait for an hour they produced an Aeroflot official who escorted me to the Russian Consular Office on the airport who issued me with a transit visa — it was now forty minutes before the flight to Minsk left from the other terminal, five road miles away. Instead of taking me to the aircraft Aeroflot told me to take a taxi round the perimeter.
Having queued at an ATM for roubles and found a taxi driver who spoke enough English to understand what I wanted I arrived at the other terminal to find that the officials who were supposed to have been alerted to my arrival had not been — and by the time they agreed that they should be helping me the flight to Minsk had long gone.
There was no flight to Minsk arriving before midday, and my lecture was at 09:00, so about 100 people from all over Belarus had to be sent home without hearing it.
Since there was now no point in going to Minsk I asked Aeroflot to rewrite my ticket back to Kiev, where my flight home was to depart (with no convenient flights from Minsk I had booked an overnight train back to Kiev to fly home via Amsterdam from there). There were no seats available until the following day but that would still have enabled me to make my connection.
So I found myself a hotel near the airport and waited.
[The next day] I checked in on the flight to Kiev and at Immigration was told that my transit visa had only been valid for two hours and that because I had not caught my flight I was criminally guilty of illegally remaining in Russia and would be fined $2,600. When I objected that I had not been issued with a visa in time to catch the flight and enquired what I should have done I was sent to an expensive hotel, which took my credit card for B&B but would not accept it for meals, nor, because I was an "illegal immigrant", would it change my money. So eating ceased to be an option, and my "No refund, no alteration" ticket to Amsterdam from Kiev died unused.
I was told that I could not leave Russia until [my country's embassy] had made a formal diplomatic apology to the Russian Foreign Ministry, and they told me that as it was a holiday weekend there was a real risk that this could take a week. Fortunately it did not and I was told at 16:00 on the [following day] that I must leave Russia by 20:00 or face the same problem again. Of course I did not have a flight booked so I had to find a flight in the time-frame with an available seat. This was not cheap — but I made it to Amsterdam where I discovered that my electronic ticket, which I had not seen because the only hard copy was handed to Immigration and not returned to me, was to Brussels as its final destination, not [my actual destination].
On Schipol I received all the help and consideration which, if I had had one tenth as much in Moscow, would have had me to Minsk in time and the audience not disappointed. KLM, the airline for the last leg, although it was not their fault reissued the ticket to the correct destination without charge and provided a car to take me to the aircraft to avoid my having to run to make the connection.
As I write my luggage, which did make it to Minsk, is still impounded by the Belarussian authorities awaiting my arrival in person to claim it. It will be interesting to see if I can ever pry it loose.
A pretty crummy experience, as you can see, and yet in a disturbing way . . . successful. In the sense that, at several points along the way things could have gone much worse. This sort of thing isn't by any stretch of the imagination new: travellers were reporting similar problems with Russian/Soviet officials in the 1950's and 1960's. The sad thing is that clearly little has improved since then.
Yeah, that's the ticket! You produce more wine than the market can absorb, and much of it is poor quality. You fix this by: A) reducing output B) improving quality C) both, or D) threaten to resort to terrorism.
In France, apparently D is the correct answer:
A shadowy group of wine activists has issued a one-month ultimatum to Nicolas Sarkozy threatening "action" if the new French President fails to help the industry.
The Regional Committee for Viticultural Action (CRAV) has been known to hijack tankers of foreign wine and dynamite government buildings or supermarkets.
In a pre-recorded message delivered to France 3, a regional television channel, from "somewhere in the Languedoc hinterland", five balaclava-clad men read out a statement addressed to Sarkozy.
Looking more like Corsican nationalists or masked Islamic fundamentalists than winemakers, the "wine terrorists" vowed that if nothing changed and the price they received for their wine had not gone up, they would go "into action".
Samizdata has more.
A potentially bench-clearing brawl was avoided through careful diplomacy:
A soccer game bringing Muslim imams and Christian priests "shoulder to shoulder" on a field in Norway was cancelled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part. [. . .]
But when the church decided to drop its female players, the priest team captain walked out in protest.
Just hours before Saturday's scheduled game, the church released a statement saying it had called it off because it was sending the wrong signal.
"We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women. . . . The reactions we have had today shows us that this is being interpreted as a gender-political issue. This is why we cannot go through with the soccer match."
This may be the only Western culture in which the phrase "creative destruction" is fully paradoxical. All of us balk for a moment at the phrase, but the French, I think, must just shake their heads and say, "no, it's creative or it's destructive." This is a culture that approaches perfection, and for a world like this all of the things that make other Western economies go, innovation, responsiveness, competition and innovations, these, in France, are wrong. These contradict the the French style of life.
The English could invent punk because there wasn't very much to keep them from the aesthetic violence it required. The Germans could rebuild the nation state because all it demanded of them was that they tear down a place stinking of cabbage and soft coal. Americans could push us all down the bobsled of post modernity because all it meant was surviving the the bouleversement of Silicon Valley in the late 1990s.
But the French, for them change must feel lapsarian, a fall from an exquisitely accomplished grace. The rest of us blunder from a uncertain present into the maw of a chaotic future, but then as one of my French respondents said, "it's not like you've got very much to lose." The French, you see, pay dearly for change, and sometimes they just can't bring themselves to budge.
Grant McCracken, "France at the intersection of anthropology and economics", This Blog Sits at the, 2007-04-16
The Times suddenly discovers — and views with alarm — that some model railway fans in Europe are doing things a bit more, um, adult in nature with their displays:
Thomas the Tank Engine, the cleanest-living locomotive on the track, would not approve. Train sets on display at the International Toy Fair in Germany include scenes of policemen raiding brothels, battery-driven copulating couples and round-ups of immigrants. There is trouble in Toyland.
[. . .] But visitors to the trade fair in Nuremberg have been gaping at the antics around the railway lines. Merten, which makes train-set figures, is offering a nudist beach, a waitress wearing only an apron and stockings and a couple of lascivious pole-dancers. One scene shows a man urinating against a wall, watched by a woman. Another shows a couple performing oral sex. Look carefully at the scene depicting a brothel raid and, behind the naked prostitutes, you will see the figure of a priest trying to make a quick getaway.
Steamy, irreverent stuff for the train set veterans. Sometimes the Lilliputian world of Exhibition Hall 4A resembles a splatter movie rather than a children's paradise. A horse is about to be battered to death with a hammer by a butcher. A worker at the blacksmith's appears to have lost an arm. Blood is spread around liberally. Near a castle, a squad of soldiers have just executed a man. And that's just the start-up kit.
I guess it's a slow news weekend in London, then.
H/T to Roger Henry for the URL.
Update: Also from the same mailing list, Craig Zeni points out the wonders of capitalism unfettered:
"HO scale, $185.00, sold out at Walthers
This product is on-sale today for $99.98"
Guess it could be on sale for $1 if that's the way it works . . .
"Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen collected the pet peeves and angst-ridden pleas of people in Helsinki and then composed this choral work around the list of complaints. Music composed by Esko Grundström."
H/T to Jerrie Adkins.
Another reader-contributed link (this from "Da Wife" . . . not my wife, just in case anyone is confused): an extreme case of moving:
Moving one household is a complicated ordeal that can take thousands of dollars and many weeks to organize. Try moving half a town.
The Arctic town of Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost municipality, is under threat as cracks caused by decades of iron ore mining slowly erode its foundations.
So two years ago the municipal council decided to move more than half of the town from the shadow of Kiirunavaara mountain, site of the world's largest underground mine.
This month it chose the new site for Kiruna's centre, at the base of Luossavaara mountain, about 4 km (2.5 miles) away.
The town's deputy mayor puts the cost of moving the buildings at about 30 billion Swedish crowns ($4.28 billion), not including rerouting the railway and roads.
The "good" news is that they're not having to do this overnight: the municipal government expects the move to take 40 to 50 years to complete.
The main French-language TV network in Belgium announced the breakup of the country:
At around 8:20 on Wednesday evening, the main French-language network in Belgium interrupted its regular programming for breaking news. "A major crisis at governing heights," declared a well-recognized announcer on RTBF, the state-owned channel, before cutting to reporters in the field.
Belgium, according to the bulletin, was at an end. The parliament in Flemish-speaking Flanders, which along with the francophone region of Wallonia makes up this low country, had just declared independence. Shots of jubilation in Antwerp, the largest Flemish city, contrasted with a small sorrowful vigil outside the Royal Palace in Brussels. The journalist outside the palace reported that King Albert and Queen Paola had fled the country for Kinshasa, the capital of the old Belgian colony, Congo. Grainy footage showed two people boarding a plane at a military airfield in the middle of the night.
The Wall Street Journal also said "Only in Belgium is it a 'surprise' that people may take badly to the sudden disintegration of their state." Hmmm. Another parallel to the Canadian scene.
For a really edgy thing to do on your next vacation, you might consider being thrown into a Soviet-era prison . . . and paying for the privilege:
Soviet style hospitality: Doing time in Latvia
On Latvia's Baltic coast, one hotel is offering bed, board and round-the-clock exercise classes for next to nothing. The bad news is, the only bars are those on the windows and it's your turn to clean the loo — with a toothbrush.
H/T to Fark.com for the link.
Jason Ciastko sent this link to one of the mailing lists I read regularly. It's one of those things that should end spectacularly . . . and probably fatally: high speed train surfing.
They've come up with a perfect solution to speeding: Speedbandits (NSFW).
H/T to Dave Slater.
Here in Italy, my Catholic friends think impure thoughts, use birth control and don't truck much with confession. While an American might seek out Our Lady of So What — a church to match his morals — Italians don't see it as a matter as religious choice, but one of identity. Sure, the Pope might be a loonbag, but he's our loonbag.
Plus, he supplies rules, much beloved in this country where you need a permit to paint a house or mow a lawn. Regulations permeate Italian life like smoke in a bar — passers-by see the cloud, but insiders are too acclimated to notice. Not that anyone follows rules, personally. Laws are necessary for other people.
Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "A Law is to Break" corkjester.com (note: link is to main website), 2006-11-04
Dana Hanley sent this link to the members of the Life, Liberty, Property bloggers: AIDS Prevention among Schoolchildren. It's a post at The Brussels Journal from December of last year. By the title of the post, you'd think it would be something along the lines of North American sex ed classes given to high school students. It's a bit different in Europe:
In Belgium the World Aids prevention day is a day of celebration for many. First and foremost for those who earn a living by it, especially the many government funded social workers who never need to go near an AIDS patient but spend their time "increasing awareness" among the masses. One powerful group in this respect is the Belgian organisation SENSOA (abbreviated from: "Increasing Awareness about Sexually Transmitted Diseases").
Because AIDS is such a terrible thing, no-one dares to question or criticise these people's activities. Their funds increase with every AIDS campaign and the government gives them any other convenience their work may require. Such as access to the nation's schoolchildren through the school curriculum and extracurricular activities.
Most of us would agree that educating people about the dangers of AIDS is a worthwhile process: it's certainly more dangerous than previous sexually transmitted diseases and combatting ignorance about how the disease is spread can help to slow down the rate of infection. That doesn't appear to be the main purpose of the current campaign, however:
"We want to teach the children that willies come in all shapes and sizes. There are hands-on activities for six-year olds, with crooked, straight and circumcised willies", the organisers tell another newspaper. Yet another paper: "Onto a doll covered in Velcro they can stick bodyparts at will, choosing between small breasts or sagging tits, between big willies and small ones that stick out in all directions." The local councillor for education proudly proclaims: "We have no taboos here.
Maybe they should have a few . . . if this was being done "retail" — one adult introducing six-year olds to this sort of sexual "teaching" — that one adult would be regarded as a sexual deviant and promptly removed from society. If it's being done by agents of the state, it's apparently completely innocent and healthy.
A journalist from Antwerp writes: "By turning blocks the children can put together a mum or dad of their own. Naked or dressed. Or they can make two mums or two dads. All types of relationships are shown. When you peep through a hole you can see two bears buttering bread and much more [from a Dutch nursery rhyme along the lines of "the animals went in two by two"]. And you can see the sleeping beauty having safe sex with her prince." "And through the peephole you also get to admire various sexual positions: the two bears illustrate that it doesn't always need to be a man on a woman," adds another.
And just why are six-year olds being provided with explicit information about sexual activities? Is there an epidemic of AIDS infection among the preschool set in Belgium? Are there orgies happening during nap time at the kindergarten classes?
And they go on: "In the orgasm corner you can explore Ken and Barbie's erogenous zones with the click of a mouse on a computerscreen." "The best part is the little room where the children can experience it all themselves. You can hear the sounds and watch a film showing the mouths of people in orgastic climax." "Anyone who is at secondary school gets a condom as an 'entry ticket.' So they can practise how to use it on an artificial penis at the end of the exhibition."
I don't tend to think of myself as a prude, but does it strike anyone else that this is, um, not to be too judgemental about it, but WRONG????
Dana, at Principled Discovery discusses a recent precedent-setting case on homeschooling in Germany:
There are at least 40 cases related to homeschooling in the courts in Germany as parents fight for their right to educate their children according to their values, religious convictions and in the best educational and safety interests of their children. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany and the courts have consistently ruled in favor of the state. Homeschool families are subject to heavy fines, police escorts to school and eventual loss of custody of their children. Many have fled out of the country, but for those who remain within the European Union, the decision of the German court is binding even across international borders. Eight cases have been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, given the structure of this court, cases can sit for years before the court even rules whether or not to hear the case. This is the case for several homeschooling cases, but yesterday an important precedent was set for how these cases will be handled by this court. The European Court has affirmed that the interests of the state in the education of the child supersede that of the parent.
The content is really unimportant. You can be sure none of the lunatics torching churches or burning the pope in effigy have any idea what he actually said. People who are more interested in this stuff than I am can debate whether Islam actually added anything to religion that wasn't already in Judaism and/or Christianity — beyond teetotaling, which is undoubtedly evil and inhuman.
Tim Cavanaugh, "Rope-a-Pope: Ben Seize takes the blows, does it his way", Hit and Run, 2006-09-16
Oriana Fallaci has died at the age of 76. I don't imagine she believed in God, but if she was wrong and there is a paradise, she's in it now riding a suicide bomber like a donkey, shouting orders to the other 71.
"Occam", "Eurabia Sighs In Relief", Occam's Carbuncle, 2006-09-15
At some point, independence movements stop being realistic. This one for example, may be a step or two over the line:
A kilt-wearing Czech rebel, inspired by William Wallace, has been causing chaos in his home country.
Dubbed the Czech Braveheart, Alois Stuzka is staging a one man protest demanding independence for his home region.
Stuzka, 27, said: "I want to give people in my home area pride in their heritage just like the Scots."
He caused chaos as he sped along one of the country's main racing tracks on a child's scooter during the Motorcycle Grand Prix in Brno.
He then interrupted a premier league football match as he ran across the pitch during a game between Brno and Slavia Prague, also in his home town of Brno.
Let's face facts: Islamism's appeal, is largely to the sort of type of person who would have been tempted to cheer on the blackshirts in the 1920's. It combines authoritarianism, militarism, anti-socialism and anti-liberalism with a special squeamishness about human sexuality.
Western Leftists who ally with Islamism because they think the phenomenon represents the interests of the masses are fooling themselves. If it represents anything it's the prejudices of the bazaari and clerical class in organised form and we've already seen that in Europe.
It wasn't nice then either, but at least in those days the left automatically knew they were against it.
Marcus, "Lumpenbourgeois Losers", Harry's Place, 2006-08-12
The billboards, which went up in the first week of June only in the Netherlands, showed a white woman dressed in white threateningly grabbing the face of a frightened-looking black girl, with a message saying "PlayStation Portable White is coming."
The provocative image was one of several versions showing the two women in different poses, company spokesman Nanako Kato said Wednesday. They appeared exclusively in Amsterdam and several other major cities in that country.
Sony said the ads were intended only to emphasize the colour contrast between the existing black PSP and the new ceramic white PSP.
Of course, the ads have more than repaid their creation costs by raising awareness of the company and its upcoming product release. In fact, by making a public gesture to withdraw the ads, the company has probably doubled the effective reach of the ads; people who were unaware or indifferent to the offensive quality of the ads are now being informed about the ads (and the product they promoted) in a different context. Sony's advertising agency has probably earned a nice bonus for all this.
When Salman Rushdie received his fatwa, British Airways refused to let him fly with them. Air France, asked about their position, replied: "We respect the French custom regarding the rights of man, which means that we transport passengers without discrimination. If Mr. Rushdie wished to travel with Air France, he would not be refused." It was an enraging piece of one-upmanship, morally superior, flourishing les droits de l'homme in our faces (as if the French had invented them!), and above all, right. In public life, the French are just as hypocritical as we are; the difference would seem to be that their hypocrisy pays lip-service to idealism, whereas ours pays lip-service to pragmatism.
Julian Barnes, Something to Declare: Essays on France, 2002
Despite our membership in the European Union, despite the Channel Tunnel's visual abolition of water and cliff, some of my compatriots still exhibit a Bouvardian alarm at having the French as neighbours, let alone closer ones. Francopobia remains our first form of Europhobia, though not of xenophobia (ethnic minorities have edged out the French in that regard). The French are genuinely puzzled by the bile of our tabloid press, shocked that a country known for phlegm and decorous manners can also deal in such jeering contempt. It's not really you, I try to explain; it's just that you are more than yourselves, you have become the symbol of all that is foreign; everything, not just Frenchness, begins at Calais. Whereas you may look across your different frontiers and be offered a choice of four great civilizations, we in our offshore islands are surrounded by you on one side and fish on the other three. No wonder we feel about you more strongly, more obsessively — whether as Francophile or Francophobe — than you feel about us.
Julian Barnes, Something to Declare: Essays on France, 2002.
Jon sent me this link with the following commentary:
Mr Kafka. Paging Mr. Kafka. Mr. Kafka, please pick up a white courtesy cockroach.
The article discusses the efforts of the Belgian Ministry of Education to force the author's family to give up homeschooling the youngest of their five children (all were homeschooled, and the older four all went on to university). The reason for the ministry's interest? The parents have refused to sign a document which states their agreement to conditions which, if not met, result in the child being forced to attend a government school:
The fact that a growing group of children seems to be escaping from the government’s influence clearly bothers the authorities. Three years ago a new school bill was introduced. The new bill refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and it obliges homeschooling parents to fill out a questionaire and sign an official "declaration of homeschooling" in which they agree to school their children "respecting the respect [sic] for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others."
The declaration does not specify what "respecting the respect for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others" means. It states, however, that government inspectors decide about this and adds — and here is the crux of the matter — that if the parents receive two negative reports from the inspectors they will have to send their child to an official government recognized school.
My husband and I have refused to sign this statement since we are unwilling to put our signature under a document that forces us to send our children to government controlled schools if two state inspectors decide on the basis of arbitrary criteria that we are not "respecting the respect for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others."
You would think, if common sense were a factor here, that having already established a 100% university admission rate among their children, these parents would be assumed to be capable of homeschooling their children to an acceptable level, wouldn't you?
[. . .] To return to the present day, may I say that it is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection. It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult, but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night, when Minister Verdonk informed me that she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship.
I am therefore preparing to leave Holland. But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country; the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: it is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.
I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions, despite the obvious resistance that they elicit. I feel that I should help other people to live in freedom, as many people have helped me. I personally have gone through a long and sometimes painful process of personal growth in this country. It began with learning to tell the truth to myself, and then the truth about myself: I strive now to also tell the truth about society as I see it.
That transition from becoming a member of a clan to becoming a citizen in an open society is what public service has come to mean for me. Only clear thinking and strong action can lead to real change, and free many people within our society from the mental cage of submission. The idea that I can contribute to their freedom, whether in the Netherlands or in another country, gives me deep satisfaction.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, I resign from Parliament. I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on.
Update, 18 May: Mark Dowling offered this link in the comments: Verdonk reconsiders revocation.
Question: What do you get when you take two world wars, add the two most malign ideologies of the century, throw in genocide, the collapse of religious institutions, radical secularism, a political elite sealed off from opinions it finds distasteful, spiraling social costs, deathbed demographics and growing numbers of an unassimilated immigrant population?
Answer: You get Europe in the new millennium — mired in aggressive pacifism, moral nihilism, resurgent anti-semitism and reflex anti-Americanism. And, if you want to blame all that on Bush and Cheney, you have to shut your eyes and ears to a mountain of statistical evidence. To those on the American left who find Europe more "sophisticated", you're right: it's sophisticated in the sense that a belle époque Parisian boulevardier is sophisticated — outwardly dapper and worldly, inwardly eaten away by syphilis and gonorrhea. It's only a question of how many others the clapped-out bon vivant infects before his final collapse.
Mark Steyn, "Europe Day", Steyn Online, 2006-05-09
Jon sent me a link to this post at Winds of Change, examining (with many, many links . . . most of which I haven't followed) the state of Europe, spiritually:
We've written a lot about Europe here. It was Cicero who coined the phrase "aggressive docility," and it's one that continues to ring true. While both France and Denmark performed much better than North America did during the Cartoon Jihad, the long term trends and comprehensive difficulty those societies have with defending themselves at any level is concerning. Watching its Weimarization bring Nietzsche's "Last Man" to life leaves many of us wondering if we are seeing the finale for Western Civilization in Europe unfolding in our time, even as some in Europe itself and beyond wonder, and not without reason, if that future Europe will also be Judenrein (German term, means "without Jews").
Ultimately, however, Europe's problem is spiritual - and I use that term in ways that go beyond any specific religion. Some say Europe's death began in the trenches of the Somme during World War 1, and note that all the rest from Bolshevism to Fascism to the postmodern nihilist Left has been the saga of its long death throes. Others place the fall later, noting that Europe died in Auschwitz and that The Holocaust was also "a form of self-administered lobotomy for Continental European culture."
We're hosting a French exchange student at our home this week (and yes, Jon has made all the obligatory jokes about gasoline and Citroen sedans, thanks). He arrived yesterday evening, completely wiped out from the trip, and immediately headed off to Victor's school at 7:00 this morning. He'll be on a tour of our area this afternoon, and we won't see him again until this evening after 8. Perhaps at that point we'll get a chance to talk. ;-)
France is still in the grip of precisely the political mentality that has prevailed here since the Middle Ages. As the protesters themselves cheerfully declare: It's the street that rules. Today's mobs, like their predecessors, are notable for their poor grasp of economic principles and their hostility to the free market. Only wardrobe distinguishes these demonstrations from those that led to the invasion of the national convention in 1795, when first the mob protested that commodity prices were too high; when the government responded with price controls, it protested with equal vigor that goods had disappeared and black market prices had risen. Similarly, the students on the streets today espouse economic views entirely unpolluted by reality. If the CPE is enacted, said one young woman, "You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked."
Claire Berlinski, "Paris Burning, Once Again", Washington Post, 2006-03-26
It sounds impossible, but it's true. For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, the Continent is by and large a woeful place for a woman who aspires to lead. According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden — supposedly the very model of global gender equality — they hold 29 percent.
Germany comes in at just under 27 percent, and Italian women hold a pathetic 18 percent of power jobs. These sad statistics say as much about Europe's labor markets, lingering welfare-state policies and corporate leadership as they do about its attitudes toward women. It's not that European women are stuck in the house. (After all, 57 percent of women in the EU 15 work, less than the U.S. rate of 65 percent, but not dramatically so.) The real problem is that Europe has been consistently unable to tap the highest potential of its female workers, who represent half of college graduates in most countries. Women, it seems, can have a job — but not a high-powered career.
Why is this? Simply put, Europe is killing its women with kindness — enshrined, ironically, in cushy welfare policies that were created to help them. By offering women extremely long work leaves after children, then pushing them to take the full complement via tax policies that discourage a second income, coupled with subsidies that serve to keep them at home, Europe is essentially squandering its female talent. Not only do women get off track for long periods, many simply never get back on. Nor have European corporations adapted to changing times. Few offer the flextime that makes it easier for women to both work and manage their families. Instead, women tend to get shuffled into part-time work, which is less respected and poorly paid. Those who want to fight discrimination find themselves hamstrung by laws favoring employers.
Rana Foroohar, "Myth & Reality", Newsweek, 2006-03-07
Jon sent this link to Free Will, which marks his month-long lead-up to "Tartan Day":
With Tartan Day (actually, with the massive growth of celebrations, it's now considered Tartan Week in NYC, and I anticipate going this year) ceremonies coming up in roughly four weeks, I may as well observe a sort of unofficial "Scottish History Month". So starting this weekend, I'm doing a two part bit on the little-known Garde Ecossais and their associated supporting regiments, several centuries of Scottish warriors who guarded the French monarch and, in several instances, single-handedly saved France from being wiped off the map. Then, in a final heroic gesture, one stood alone to stop France from turning to the Dark Side. So here's your history post for this weekend:
The Hundred Years War between England and France is widely remembered as something of an English Vietnam, as English troops, who won almost every engagement, were eventually crushed by epic feats of arms largely attributed by history to Joan of Arc, the teenage she-knight. This isn't, however, entirely the whole picture.
When my friend Vladan Sir first heard George Orwell's Animal Farm broadcast on either the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe (it's hard to remember which, he listened to both so much), he was 15 or 16, living in the mining-scarred region of northern Bohemia in Communist Czechoslovakia, in or around 1987. "It was amazing," he recalls, "how a fable could be so precise."
His parents, party members both, hadn't gotten around to letting him know that the entire system he'd been raised on was a fable in its own right, so when the same illegal source that delivered Billboard's Top 40 finally produced the forbidden anti-totalitarian classic he'd heard such excited rumors about, it carried the force of revelation. Within two years he was watching excitedly as his own high school teachers "cried during classes and apologized [that] they were teaching us bullshit."
Matt Welch, "Old Propaganda and New", Reason, 2006-02-28
Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.
This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work "The Open Society and Its Enemies," insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.
Flemming Rose, "Why I Published the Cartoons", Washington Post, 2006-02-19
At the same time Jyllands-Posten in Denmark is valiantly establishing that freedom of expression is a core western value and that the right to say what you will does indeed include the right to say what some people may find offensive . . . a court in Austria has in effect sided with Islamic extremists by sentencing 'historian' and fantasist David Irving to three years in jail for upsetting Jewish sensibilities by making preposterous claims about the Nazi Holocaust.
Am I the only one who sees the sickening irony of protecting Jewish feelings ending up giving aid and comfort of Islamic bigots who want to prevent the publishing of anything they find offensive? I can just hear them now: "Oh, so upsetting the Jews gets you thrown in jail but anyone can upset the Muslims . . ."
Perry de Havilland, "Denmark's pride . . . Austria's shame", Samizdata, 2006-02-21
A very timely piece published in The Stranger:
Bat Ye'or, a Jewish Egyptian woman whose splendid 2005 book Eurabia is a veritable catalog of the European political establishment's systematic toadying to autocratic Muslim governments, has a name for this toadying: "dhimmitude," a reference to the historical Islamic practice of tolerating infidels so long as they accept their role as "dhimmis," i.e., second-class citizens without rights under Muslim law. Clearly, many agitators saw Jylland-Posten's cartoons as an opportunity to nudge an already largely passive and sycophantic Europe a step closer to full-fledged dhimmi status.
No, most Danes don’t want to be dhimmis: In poll results released in late January, 79 percent of them said Fogh Rasmussen owed nobody an apology. (This is, let it be remembered, the only European country that stood up to the Nazi "final solution" by ferrying its own Jews to safety.) But millions of Europeans have already internalized Islamic taboos and accepted the need to curb liberties in order to "keep the peace." For them, Muslim rage — and its expression in acts of violence and death threats — is already an accepted part of life that is simply not to be questioned or criticized; in their view, the fault lies with those who provoke the rage by failing to be good enough dhimmis. "There is something wrong with a democracy," read a typical viewer SMS on a Norwegian news discussion program, "where an editor can put the whole country in danger!" EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson was one of many who spoke of outraged Muslims as if they were a force of nature — every re-publication of the cartoons by other European newspapers, he said, "is adding fuel to the flames." Across Europe, the same kind of leftists who reflexively cheer art for outraging Christians now uphold Muslims' sacred right not to be offended.
In the name of social justice, personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful, paralyzing all attempts to maximize collective endeavor. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where a survey published in the left-wing newspaper, Liberation, showed that three times as many people had warm feeling towards socialism as towards capitalism. (The ambition of three quarters of French youth is to be employed by the state). Yet French defense of personal and sectional interest is so ferocious that it renders reform almost impossible, at least without violence on the streets. Workers in the French public transport system, who enjoy privileges that would have made Louis XIV gasp, strike the moment that any reduction in them is even mooted, all in the name of preserving social justice as represented by those privileges, despite the fact that striking brings misery and impoverishment to millions of their fellow-citizens, and their privileges are bankrupting the state. The goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the economic cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake itself. Apres moi, le deluge has become the watchword not of the king alone, but of the entire population.
Theodore Dalrymple, "Is 'Old Europe' Doomed?", Cato Unbound, 2006-02-06
Apparently the corporate name "Carrefour" translates handily as "We Surrender".
Theodore Dalrymple, in City Journal,on the London protests against cartoons:
The weekend edition of Le Monde carried on its front page a startling photograph of a masked protester in London, holding up a placard demanding the death of those who insult Islam. Policemen flanked him on either side, as if protecting him from the vicious assaults of cartoonists.
Nothing could have captured better the cowardly and pusillanimous response of the British government to the crisis deliberately stirred up in many Muslim countries four months after the publication in a Danish newspaper of 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad (only one of which was remotely funny).
In condemning the cartoons, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a man with all the qualities of Neville Chamberlain except his fundamental decency, attempted to curry favor with the Muslim world, or at least to avoid its wrath. Revealing the practical value of such appeasement is the way in which Muslims burned down the Danish consulates and embassies even after the Danes, with equal cowardice, had apologized. But at least the Danes have the excuse of being a very small nation indeed — although their country produces far more, oil excepted, than the whole Arab world put together.
What started as an attempt to raise awareness in one country, has recently ballooned to encompass most of the Islamic world . . . and the surprise "aggressor" is Denmark. Of all the western countries, Denmark would be among the least likely place for something like this to start, and the Danish government appears to have been taken unsuspecting as much as anyone else.
A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth.
Unless we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamisation of Europe will have begun in earnest.
Ibn Warraq, "The Islamisation of Europe must be vigorously opposed", The Australian (originally published in Der Spiegel), 2006-02-06
Jon's off sick today, but tomorrow, we're talking about finding a pub around here that serves Tuborg . . .
Update: Kate helpfully provides a list of Danish products you may wish to consider purchasing.
In a well-written post at Samizdata, a guest blogger points out what is obvious to most of us (who don't publish North American newspapers, anyway):
No one can insult me or offend me unless I choose to be insulted or offended. In denying that, I deny my own power over myself. I understand that people may not have arrived at that understanding, but since I have it, I cannot in good conscience withdraw my own free expression when no hurt was intended.
Did all these politicians and pundits not learn this very basic lesson when they were five and got upset at a hurtful remark in the playground, and their teachers told them, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me"...?
Unfortunately, as many of the comments on the post point out, this works well only if you are dealing with similarly reasonable opponents. This situation will likely get much worse before it calms down, and it's going to be a very useful proxy for so many other issues. The problem is that, rather than the situation resolving itself as the original post hopes:
Then let it drop and let the fire burn itself out. It is called "agreeing to disagree" and is the very manifestation of treating everyone with equal respect.
. . . the situation is not going to be allowed to fade away. Silly as it might seem, the cartoons may have been the line in the sand for Europe and the Islamic world. If the European Union or the individual national governments fall over themselves to apologize and promise to squelch such potentially offensive publications in future, they're sacrificing much of what made western civilization possible at all.
In some ways, I've been heartened to find that not all newspaper and media outlets are backing away from the issue . . . especially in Europe and in Jordan. If it becomes impossible to say anything that might inflame or insult an easily inflamed or insulted group, it very quickly turns into a tool for that group to control more and more of what can be said.
French murder victim was hard to identify:
French police who spent two years trying to identify a woman who was murdered by a blow to the head were relieved to discover the reason their efforts were failing: the woman died half a millennium ago.
The skeleton of a woman in her 30s was found during an exceptionally low tide in December 2003 near the seaside Brittany town of Plouezoc'h. A long gash in the skull convinced investigators she was killed with a hatchet or other sharp implement.
[. . .] "We are satisfied because at least we know the date now. We reckon it was pirates," said Francois Gerthosser of the Plourin-les-Morlaix police on Tuesday.
Jon sent this link to me in an email with the title above. I thought it was highly appropriate.
Matt Welch revisits Prague and finds that the entire country is SMS-mad:
Aside from tourism, the entire Czech economy is run on SMS messages. I'm not kidding. Television is dominated by reality shows where the audience makes inevitably ridiculous votes using text messages on their cell phones. A friend who designs free open source software for Second World radio stations and news organizations reports that his Czech colleagues have developed a viable SMS-based revenue stream for organizations that are otherwise cash-strapped. In more than one transactional category, Czechs prefer to use text messages instead of credit cards, because obtaining plastic is just "too complicated." People text each other so much here that last night, when I made a joke about how "Czechs probably SMS each other on the toilet," two of my companions suddenly looked guilty, and admitted that they'd both done precisely that earlier in the day.
Theodore Dalrymple finds that the most profitable agricultural workers in the Netherlands are not, strictly speaking, farmers:
Near the Ministry of Justice in the Hague, and visible from its windows, is an area of the Dutch capital where many of the unemployed grow marijuana for a living. While continuing to receive about $1,200 per month from the state for doing nothing, they earn up to $6,000 a month as well (tax free, of course) by cultivating pot in their apartments. The easy money, observers report, has reduced the crime rate.
It still isn't legal in Holland to grow or to sell marijuana, but apart from occasional police raids, not much effort goes into suppressing the trade. Such prosecutions as there are result in confiscation of the horticultural equipment (which the drug-dealers replace within the week) and an easily affordable $1,200 fine.
The minister of justice does not like the trade but is in a quandary about how to respond. Three possible courses of action present themselves: to take serious measures to suppress the trade; to legalize it, either by creating a state monopoly or by allowing anyone to grow and sell the drug; or to allow the present situation to continue. All three have their inconveniences.
That's serious quasi-legal money. You'd think they'd only be able to do better by registering for the CAP money from Brussels!
Alfred Anderson's death was announced earlier today. The 109-year-old was the last known survivor of the British and German troops who stopped the war on Christmas Day, 1914:
His death leaves fewer than 10 veterans of the First World War alive in Britain.
Anderson died in his sleep at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland, said Rev. Neil Gardner of Alyth Parish Church.
Born June 25, 1896, Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier in the Black Watch regiment when British and German troops cautiously emerged from their trenches on Dec. 25, 1914. The enemies swapped cigarettes and tunic buttons, sang carols and even played soccer amid the mud and shell-holes of no man's land.
The informal truce spread along much of the Western Front, in some cases lasting for days.
"I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence," Anderson told the Observer newspaper last year.
"All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machine-gun fire and distant German voices," said Anderson, who was billeted in a farmhouse behind the front lines.
"But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas,' even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war."
Update, 22 November: A few news outlets have made a slight change to their reports, so that they're now referring to the last Allied survivor. This is interesting, as in the First World War, the "Allies" were the Germans and Austro-Hungarians: the French and British were the Entente. There have been no indications that there are any German participants in the Christmas Truce still alive.
Somewhere along the way these [Western European] countries redefined the relationship between government and citizen into something closer to pusher and junkie. And once you've done that, it's very hard to persuade the junkie to cut back his habit. Thus, the general acceptance everywhere but America that the state should run your health care: A citizen of an advanced democracy expects to be able to choose from dozens of breakfast cereals at the supermarket, hundreds of movies at the DVD stores and millions of porno sites on the Internet, but when it comes to life-or-death decisions about his own body he's happy to have the choice taken out of his hands and given to the government.
Mark Steyn, "Big Government, Small Citizens", National Review, 2005-10-28
Tim Cavanaugh views the riots in France through the lens of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange:
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you come across the phrase "Islamo-fascist" unironically deployed in an article, there's a 99-percent the author doesn't know what he or she is talking about. The rule has been in full effect over the past few weeks, as rioting in France's banlieus has allowed the usual gang of idiots to do what they do best: take a kernel of truth (in this case, that the rioters are Muslims and either immigrants or first-generation French citizens) and build it into an apocalyptic, hysterical tirade (in this case, predictions of a Euro-jihad and none-dare-call-it-Islamo-treason castigations of the politically correct mainstream media).
[. . .]
Most intriguingly, the rioters and their online supporters are employing something more than merely the hip slang of those crazy kids. A fairly new combination of bad French, borrowed English and Arabic words, verlan, (hiphop slang in which syllables in existing French words are reversed to produce a completely new word), and (in written language) nearly phonetic spelling, the argot is a key to understanding the society of the riots. Some examples: Cops are referred to as Schmits (supposedly a reference to the Nazi occupation of France), and a brouhaha in the Ile de France is called a hagra party, with "hagra" meaning "contempt" or "humiliation."
So you've got underemployed but well fed kids with plenty of time on their hands, the depraved indifference of a welfare state that usurps the role of parents but provides no useful structure for the youth, a housing-project culture that sees itself (not without reason) as a defenseless ward of the state, politicians who veer between mealy-mouthed coddling of sociopaths and vicious denunciation of people with legitimate grievances, and kids who react to it all with theatrical violence. Clearly, the last century's great prophetic novel was not George Orwell's 1984 but Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.
[Judgment at Nuremburg] begins in the streets of Nuremburg in 1948 — bombed out, no utilities, no reconstruction. They had cleaned the streets of rubble, and that's about it. The populace is outwardly amiable but seethes with resentment over the occupiers' treatment of the functionaries of the Nazi regime. The prosecutors, in fact, are warned that a harsh verdict will anger the population, and only serve to increase their shame — and the Allies need the German people to confront the future. Underlying it all is the realization that the nightmare scenario predicted by some has come to pass: the eastern portion of the country has been de facto annexed by a hostile power. And of course you say, were the Americans not once allies with the Russians? True. Well, this shows how short-sighted such decisions are; perhaps if that fool Roosevelt had a better plan, all of Eastern Europe would not have been swallowed by the nation' most implacable foe.
In short, I had no idea World War Two was such a disaster.
James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-11-08
The first country formally to embrace "multiculturalism" — to the extent of giving it a cabinet post — was Canada, where it was sold as a form of benign cultural cross-pollination: the best of all worlds. But just as often it gives us the worst of all worlds. More than three years ago, I wrote about the "tournante" or "take your turn" — the gang rape that's become an adolescent rite of passage in the Muslim quarters of French cities — and similar phenomena throughout the West: "Multiculturalism means that the worst attributes of Muslim culture — the subjugation of women — combine with the worst attributes of Western culture — licence and self-gratification. Tattooed, pierced Pakistani skinhead gangs swaggering down the streets of northern England areas are as much a product of multiculturalism as the turban-wearing Sikh Mountie in the vice-regal escort." Islamofascism itself is what it says: a fusion of Islamic identity with old-school European totalitarianism. But, whether in turbans or gangsta threads, just as Communism was in its day, so Islam is today's ideology of choice for the world's disaffected.
Mark Steyn "Early skirmish in the Eurabian civil war", Telegraph Online, 2005-11-08
Jon sent along another link, updating the Paris-area riot situation:
President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency Tuesday, paving the way for curfews to be imposed on riot-hit cities and towns in an extraordinary measure to halt France's worst civil unrest in decades after 12 nights of violence.
Police, meanwhile, said overnight unrest Monday-Tuesday, was still widespread and destructive but not as violent as previous nights.
"The intensity of this violence is on the way down," National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said, citing fewer attacks on public buildings and fewer direct clashes between youths and police. He said rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared with nearly 300 the night before.
The state-of-emergency decree — invoked under a 50-year-old law — allows curfews where needed and will become effective at midnight Tuesday, with an initial 12-day limit. Police who have been massively reinforced as the violence has fanned out from its initial flash point in Paris' northeastern suburbs were expected to enforce the curfews. The army has not been called in.
Jon sent me a link to the transcript of a Victor Davis Hanson interview:
HH: What is your assessment of the significance of what is underway, the Francefada, or the intifada in France as we speak?
VDH: Well, there's two messages. One, that we in America can see where an unassimilated un-integrated a population goes, and where that leads to, it leads to a sort of an apartheid. And two, we can see what happens with an EU that can't create real economic growth, and has high stagnant unemployment of 10%. And three, this is I think a little bit more controversial, that we can see what happens to a society that doesn't ask the immigrant to integrate, and the immigrant doesn't feel that he has to integrate, or to learn the language, or learn the traditions of the West. So you have this Orwellian situation when thousands of people are rioting, you want to say let me get this straight. You do not want to go back to the country, an hour or two away by air, that you praise in the abstract, but you surely want to stay in a country that you want to burn down to the concrete. It doesn't make any sense, other than this strong, psychological urges of envy, jealousy, wanting something you can't have. Then, besides all that landscape, you get the impression there's something very wrong in Europe that has high unemployement and generous joblessness benefits, so that it allows people not really to have to go look for a job, because there isn't any, but to stay home and sort of nurse these wounds, with enough money to survive.
Sarkozy only poured verbal kerosene on the flames, dismissing the ghetto youth in the most insulting and racist terms and calling for a policy of repression. "Sarko" made headlines with his declarations that he would "karcherise" the ghettos of "la racaille" — words the U.S. press, with glaring inadequaxcy, has translated to mean "clean" the ghettos of "scum." But these two words have an infinitely harsher and insulting flavor in French. "Karcher" is the well-known brand name of a system of cleaning surfaces by super-high-pressure sand-blasting or water-blasting that very violently peels away the outer skin of encrusted dirt — like pigeon-shit — even at the risk of damaging what's underneath. To apply this term to young human beings and proffer it as a strategy is a verbally fascist insult and, as a policy proposed by an Interior Minister, is about as close as one can get to hollering "ethnic cleansing" without actually saying so. It implies raw police power and force used very aggressively, with little regard for human rights. I wonder how many Anglo-American correspondents get the inflammatory, terribly vicious flavor of the word in French? The translation of "karcherise" by "clean" just misses completely the provocative, incendiary violence of what Sarko was really saying. And "racaille" is infinitely more pejorative than "scum" to French-speakers — it has the flavor of characterizing an entire group of people as subhuman, inherently evil and criminal, worthless, and is, in other words, one of the most serious and dehumanizing insults one could launch at the rebellious ghetto youth. Kerosene, indeed.
I had completely missed the connotations of the words Sarkozy used, but I can't claim to speak French at all, and merely depend on the decaying remnants of my grade-school lessons as hints.
Jon passed along a link to this Mark Steyn article on the current situation on the soi-disant "Arab Street":
Ever since 9/11, I've been gloomily predicting the European powder keg's about to go up. ''By 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations on the news every night,'' I wrote in Canada's Western Standard back in February.
Silly me. The Eurabian civil war appears to have started some years ahead of my optimistic schedule. As Thursday's edition of the Guardian reported in London: ''French youths fired at police and burned over 300 cars last night as towns around Paris experienced their worst night of violence in a week of urban unrest.''
''French youths,'' huh? You mean Pierre and Jacques and Marcel and Alphonse? Granted that most of the "youths" are technically citizens of the French Republic, it doesn't take much time in les banlieus of Paris to discover that the rioters do not think of their primary identity as ''French'': They're young men from North Africa growing ever more estranged from the broader community with each passing year and wedded ever more intensely to an assertive Muslim identity more implacable than anything you're likely to find in the Middle East. After four somnolent years, it turns out finally that there really is an explosive ''Arab street,'' but it's in Clichy-sous-Bois.
Kathy Shaidle links to an interview with Donald Rumsfeld:
SPIEGEL: What kind of sanctions [against Iran] are we talking about?
Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. I thought you, and the U.K. and France were.
SPIEGEL: You aren't?
Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. You've got the lead. Well, lead!
SPIEGEL: You mean the Europeans.
Rumsfeld: Sure. My Goodness, Iran is your neighbour. We don't have to do everything!
SPIEGEL: We are in the middle of regime change in Germany . . .
Rumsfeld: . . . that's hardly the phrase I would have selected.
I love that last line!
You can tell you're in Paris in the fall when the police can say things like this with a straight face:
More than 160 cars were reportedly torched in the Paris region, as well as 33 in the provinces.
But police said the night seemed calmer than the one before, when 315 vehicles were burnt in the Ile-de-France region around the capital.
Buses, fire engines and police were again stoned in the Paris suburbs, with five policemen reported slightly injured.
However, there were fewer direct confrontations between police and "troublemakers".
John Keegan discusses the most notorious non-nuclear bombing raid of World War Two:
Until the raid, Dresden remained almost the last of Germany's large cities not to have been laid waste. By the time the raids finished, much of historic and modern Dresden had been flattened and 35,000 people, mostly civilians, had been killed.
As a result, Dresden became a catchword for all that the opponents of the strategic bombing campaign most detested. In the controversy that ensued, the casualty figure was inflated; a number as large as 200,000 was widely cited while the name of Dresden was used to brand Air Marshall Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, a war criminal.
As the event receded into history, attempts were made to establish an objective account and above all to explain why so late in the war an undamaged German city, often described as a civilian target, was subjected to an all-out attack. The official explanation was that Dresden was a major communications centre, close behind Germany's eastern frontier which the Red Army was about to cross in its final offensive from Poland towards Berlin.
I know nothing about Swedish politics. I don't think I could even name a Swedish leader or political party. I would have guessed that Swedish politics were even less interesting than Canadian politics. I was wrong:
When it was founded six months ago, polls showed that a quarter of voters would consider supporting Feminist Initiative in elections next year because of rising domestic violence against women and higher salaries for men.
That goodwill seems to have faded after the party's recent founding congress, however, when radicals such as Tiina Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies, appeared to have secured control of the agenda. The resulting platform included proposals for abolishing marriage and changing the law to let people who undergo sex change operations legally alter their names.
The party called also for the creation of more "gender-neutral" names such as "Robin" or "Norva" that could apply to a boy or a girl. At present parents must choose names from an official list for boys or girls.
Abolishing marriage? Well, that'd certainly solve some of the debated issues over same-sex and plural marriage, wouldn't it? Allowing transsexuals to legally change their names? You mean that isn't currently legal? And the whole notion of legally restricting children's names to a list assembled by bureaucrats? Yikes!
It gets better, however:
Gudrun Schyman, another founding member of the party, [. . .] advocates what she calls a "man tax to cover the cost of violence against women in the home" but has stopped short of endorsing the opinions of Ireen von Wachenfeldt, who until recently ran one of Sweden's largest state shelters for battered women. In a recent television documentary called The Gender War, she proclaimed: "Men are animals."
The documentary noted that the shelter had printed excerpts of an extremist American feminist manifesto called Scum, which stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men. In it, women are urged to "destroy the male sex" and seize the chance made possible by science of giving birth only to females.
Hat tip to Baylen Linnekin at The Agitator.
This is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the most important battles in British history. The Register shows their irreverent side in their report:
Britain is today marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with a series of events around the country and a wreath-laying ceremony off Cape Trafalgar itself. Her Maj will take luncheon aboard HMS Victory on Portsmouth and later light the first of a series of 1,000 beacons around the country to honour those who royally thrashed a combined French and Spanish fleet back in 1805.
Naturally, the BBC is giving the whole thing plenty of coverage, and offers a timetable of events which kicked off this morning when Second Sea Lord Sir James Burnell-Nugent laid two wreaths aboard Victory — one on the deck and one where Nelson is reckoned to have popped his clogs after rather ill-advisedly getting shot by a French sniper as Victory tangled with the Redoubtable.
While Trafalgar was a critical battle for Britain, it was much less important to the French and Spanish: a loss for Britain would probably have led to an invasion of the British Isles. The Napoleonic wars continued for another ten years after the battle, so the battle can be said to have been a turning point, it was not as significant to the struggle on land.
In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.
At the moment, Europe is governed largely by politicians of "the right". Jacques Chirac, for example, is in French terms a "conservative". Granted, "conservative" is an elastic designation and, in the hands of the media, it's usually shorthand for the side you're not meant to like: thus, George W Bush is "conservative", and so are unreconstructed Marxists on the Chinese Politburo and the more hardline Ayatollahs. France's Jean-Marie Le Pen is usually described as "extreme right", even though he's an economic protectionist in favour of the minimum wage and lavish subsidies for his country's incompetent industries and inefficient farmers and is a longtime anti-American fiercely opposed to globalization — all of which gives him far more in common with the average leftie than with, say, me. The late Pim Fortuyn of the Netherlands was also labeled as "extreme right", though he was mostly a gay hedonist, and we on the right are usually seen as sour and joyless and too uptight to be any good at sex, insofar as we ever get any.
Mark Steyn, "Right Wing Europe", National Review, 2005-09-15
Rome was buzzing. Quite literally. Absolutely everyone had a mobile phone, and absolutely everybody was calling absolutely everybody else absolutely all the time. I wondered if there were some law making them compulsory. Frighteningly, it's possible, these days. I swear I saw a street beggar stop and take a call on his cellular. I even heard a trill from a baby carriage, but it turned out to be a toy mobile phone. They start dickhead training early in Italy.
Rob Grant, Incompetence, 2003
"Only Ken can go to Europe" is a weird post-modern inversion of the "Only Nixon can go to China" rationale: Mr Clarke wants to get credit as a straight-talking man of principle for refusing to equivocate about his willingness to sell Britain out to a European superstate, while simultaneously preserving his political viability on the grounds that, even though he's willing to sell out, nobody in Europe's interested in buying.
Mark Steyn, "Kenneth Clarke is all smoke and no fire", Telegraph Online, 2005-09-27
Rogier van Bakel adds a bit of culture to an otherwise barbaric day:
Though I grew up not very far from Brussels' famed statue of a little peeing boy, I must confess that for some reason, I don't think about urinating males (or females) all that often. Oh sure, I was perfectly happy to write about the Whizzinator half a year ago, a fake penis dispensing guaranteed drug-free urine. But on the whole, guys taking a leak is not a topic that commands my frequent attention.
Today, however, I find myself consumed by it. And it's all the fault of a Czech sculptor who created a piece of public art featuring two animatronic males who move their hips and their penises (penii?) to write messages with their simulated pee, a.k.a. water.
Wait, it gets better: you can send a text message to a phone number inscribed at the sculpture's base, and the two bronze figures will faithfully copy your every word.
Jon passed along a few links on easily offended religious sensibilities. First, a report at LGF talking about Burger King's "insensitive" ice cream cone label.
Then, a short article about the Danish supermarket Føtex being sued for selling bathing shoes which have lettering on them which appear similar to the Arabic spelling of "Allah".
It's fairly well-known that Muslims are forbidden to make images of Allah or Mohammed (unlike Christians, who often have paintings or stained glass portrayals of Biblical scenes including Jesus or Jehovah). It's now become obvious that even unintentional similarities to the Arabic lettering form of the word Allah are going to cause offense.
How long is it going to be before ad agencies and graphics companies have to have full-time Arabic scholars to vet every design to ensure that there are no incidental similarities to things that are going to upset or anger Muslims?
Jacob Sullum examines the reputation of La Fée Verte, Absinthe:
Like many liqueurs, absinthe, first produced commercially in 1798, was originally a tonic, building on millennia of wormwood's use as a medicine. Like marijuana in the 1960s, absinthe became an emblem of avant-garde creativity. Like marijuana in the 1930s, it was said to drive people mad. Adams reports that "it became popular to order absinthe under the nickname 'un train direct' or 'une correspondance,' from the phrase 'train direct á Charenton' or 'correspondance á Charenton': a fast route to the madhouse."
Now as then, absinthe's appeal is based largely on its notoriety. And just as pot would lose its countercultural cachet if it were sold by Philip Morris, absinthe is not the same when it is no longer prohibited. This year, a century after a Swiss vineyard worker triggered absinthe bans across Europe by murdering his wife and children while under the influence of the Green Fairy (along with copious amounts of wine and brandy), absinthe containing up to 35 milligrams of thujone per liter became legal again in Switzerland, where the drink was invented. Some connoisseurs are dismayed to see absinthe go legit. "I want to preserve the myth that comes with keeping absinthe forbidden," one told The New York Times last fall. "The myth is the thrill of breaking the law and not getting caught."
I've tried one of the modern incarnations of Absinthe, and while it's a very pleasant anise-flavoured drink, it's not quite liquid LSD.
Well, it isn't actually a joke, according to The Scotsman:
The Italian premier has given his backing to the book, written by the press director of his Forza Italia (Go, Italy!) party, which collects comments, both light-hearted and vicious, made by the left-wing opposition about Italy's billionaire prime minister.
Called Berlusconi, I Hate You, the collection of more than 500 insults — all reported over the years by Italy's national news agency, ANSA — is being published by the Mondadori publishing house, part of Mr Berlusconi's media empire.
The tamer insults include "clown", "bandit" and "Premier Pinocchio", while others such as "megalomaniac", "extremist", a man who speaks like a "drunken hooligan" and who behaves "like a Taleban" are more cutting.
"Berlusconi is like AIDS: If you know him, you avoid him," said Antonio Di Pietro, an anti- corruption magistrate turned centre-left politician, in 2002.
Hat tip to Jon.
. . . the state will control all media. Sound familiar? It's actually the way the game is played in France, according to information posted to Samizdata (but originally published in a subscriber-only article in Political Journal):
Even the "private" French press is massively subsidized. It enjoys lower tariffs for freight transport, a postal discount, a reduced value-added tax rate and a complete exemption from local taxes on investment. Government also subsidizes secondary printing facilities and helps pay for the distribution of French papers abroad. If you're a journalist — or just a "journalist" — you also pay income taxes at a lower rate. And the best part: If a newspaper faces revenue losses because of declining advertising or circulation, the government will help make up the difference. The only catch is that, to benefit from this munificence, publications must officially register with a state agency (the French call it an organisme) run by a committee of editors and government functionaries.
The ostensible rationale for all this madness is that the government wants to avoid capitalistic media concentration and foster a plurality of viewpoints. The effect, of course, is the exact opposite: Unlike in the U.S. or Britain, in which various publications tend to represent some segment or other of market opinion or taste, French journalists are utterly indifferent to the views of their readers. Instead, they tend to write articles with a view to impressing their colleagues, a classic media echo-chamber that's as conformist as it is insular. No wonder the French public tunes out: Le Monde, the biggest and most influential daily in a country of 60 million, has a circulation of only 400,000.
I had no idea that there was so much concentration of power in the French media . . . it certainly accounts for the monolithic viewpoints presented on so many issues.
I'm certain you'll all be glad to hear that the European Union is getting tough with some member nations who have some glaring maritime safety issues. Samizdata helpfully points out that both Hungary and Slovakia are failing to conform to EU policy on passenger ship safety and pollution caused by shipping.
Apparently, neither nation has any laws on the relevant topics. These slackers are basing their lack of concern for public safety on the spurious grounds that they're landlocked and have no ports. Imagine letting details like that get in the way of conforming to orders from Brussels!
Update: Yeah, I know, they both have river ports . . . it's not clear from the original report whether those are governed under different EU regulations (which I'd suspect to be the case), and that the rules in question are for deep water ports.
What does the soul of a people sound like? With the Germans, you have adequate proof; Wagner spoke for them, for better or worse — grandeur and myth that elevated the soul as easily as it rotted to the soundtrack for a meglomaniacal death cult. Italian music — well, no one ever marched off to war to Respighi's ode to a peacock. Music for life, lived without lasting consequence. (They did their part in the Roman times; they've earned a nap.) French music is best expressed by the gauzy wash of Debussy and his comrades, music that doesn't confront the ear but gently appeases it. America: cheerful tootling Souza marches or great broad optimistic Copeland yawps. Or jazz. Or rock and roll. Or country twangs. (It's not that we have no sound — we have many, and each is as much a part of us as the other. Few cultures can pull that off.) Russian music has that delicious third-drink moodiness. Canadian music — no such thing, really, which is telling. Unless you define it as American style music recorded in a Canadian studio to satisfy a government requirement.
James Lileks, Screedblog, 2005-07-08
I'd never considered the impact of increased paranoia of airline security arrangments on the manufacturers of Swiss Army Knives:
"It was an absolute catastrophe for us," Elsener says. "Until then our knives had sold very well both in duty free shops and on board planes. Most airlines sold them, including British Airways. Then suddenly this distribution was closed. It was zero. The merchandise came back to us. This was really very hard." Under new airline regulations, passengers could no longer carry the Swiss army knife in their hand luggage. Those who didn't comply had their knives confiscated — and they weren't returned at the other end.
The effects were sudden, and devastating. Sales of Swiss army knives dropped by 40% almost immediately. Finally, in April, Wenger SA — the only other Swiss firm allowed to produce Swiss army knives — went bust. Elsener's company, Victorinox, named after the mother of the founding Elsener, decided to rescue its rival, buying it for an undisclosed sum.
Despite 9/11 it would be an exaggeration to talk about the knife's demise, however. The Elseners are still manufacturing 34,000 Swiss army knives a day in the tiny village of Ibach.
Yesterday's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (where some guys beat some other guys, but we're not supposed to mention the war):
A spectacular fireworks display last night over the Solent followed by the illumination of the Fleet, brought the curtain down on a day commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The 10,000 fireworks launched from 35 pontoons and six barges could be seen five miles away.
On shore, 250,000 spectators had lined vantage points in and around Portsmouth to witness the event and remember a battle which had been fought at walking pace over nearly half a day rather than hours.
Earlier, as night fell, bursts of orange flame meant to simulate cannon blast illuminated the sky during a mock battle which included a replica 18th century frigate portraying HMS Victory — the flagship which Admiral Nelson had commanded in 1805.
A fleet of ships from all over the world lined up for Royal inspection in a celebration which also marked the death of Britain's greatest naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson.
To avoid upsetting anyone, the re-enactment was carefully staged between equal sized forces of "Red" and "Blue", with no winners or losers, and all got a prize. Some participants were less happy with the entire proceedings:
The irony of commemorating their defeat with their former enemies did not go unrecognised by all those on board.
"A lot of seamen on the Charles De Gaulle found it bizarre to celebrate with the English a battle that we have lost — it was provocative," said Stephane Lombardo, a pilot with the French Navy.
"If they have had a chance, half of the sailors would not have come," he added.
To be fair, the impact of the loss on the French was less than the value of the victory to the English: Napoleon could continue to fight on land, while England could not have kept fighting if the outcome of Trafalgar had been reversed.
Jon sent along a link to this article on Oriana Fallaci:
Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids — so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview — one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."
In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year — and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe — called The Force of Reason. Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs — which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.
And yet another example of why "hate crime" laws are antithetical to free speech. I have not read Fallaci's book, so I can't say whether she does "vilify" Islam, but I think it is a fair bet that what she may have written about Islam and the growing Islamic population of Europe is only a pale reflection of the anti-Christian, anti-democratic, and anti-European writings that do not attract the attention of the courts.
Some breaches of "hate" legislation are more acceptable than others, especially in this case.
Update: Jon found a longer piece, which examines some of the claims against Fallaci's book.
From year to year, it is becoming more obvious: the goal of medicine is not health but the extension of the health system.
Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)
The French navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its escorting vessels left Halifax after an uneventful stay. The Halifax Daily News reported:
Au revoir, mes amis. Bon voyage. Through a thick blanket of fog, the 3,000 sailors of a French aircraft carrier's battle group slid out of Halifax Harbour yesterday.
The whirlwind four-day visit by the French and British sailors was everything local businesses — and police — were hoping for. Euros flowed into local coffers, and sailors stayed out of local jails.
Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, said yesterday that while bars and restaurants did well, so too did retailers.
Hat tip to SOMNIA.
I thought Google was already the most wide-spread search tool in the world, but apparently they're still discovering new niches. The latest is a Google for Romansch, one of the tiniest linguistic groups in Europe:
Not many people have heard of Romansch. But in the future, those looking for websites in Switzerland may find themselves trying to decipher this Latin-linked language.
That's because Google Inc., the Internet's leading search engine provider, is now offering its service in Romansch, a language spoken by just 35,000 people in the mountains of southeastern Switzerland, the company said Wednesday.
The Swiss government has passed laws to protect the minority Romansch language, such as requiring its use in schools and on bank notes, but speakers will now have the opportunity to "tschertgar il web" - or search the web - in their native language.
The French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle arrived in Halifax harbour yesterday:
About 3,000 sailors who pulled into port Wednesday with a fleet of French naval vessels won't be at a loss for things to do during their stopover in Halifax.
"We're hosting our friends and allies from France — part of the task group we've been exercising with over the last few weeks," said Mike Bonin, a public affairs officer at Maritime Forces Atlantic in Halifax.
Six vessels from that task group are paying a visit to the home of Canada's East Coast navy, led by the French navy's flagship, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle.
French frigates Tourville and Jean-Bart, nuclear submarine Rubis and supply ship Meuse also arrived Wednesday morning, along with the British destroyer HMS Nottingham, another vessel that took part in the naval exercises.
Sicily may be a bad place to drive for gay men:
A court has intervened after Sicilian authorities had suspended a man's driver's license upon learning he was gay.
The court ruled, "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."
The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance."
License authorities discovered the sexual orientation of the 23-year-old man, identified by the Ansa news agency in Italy as Danilo G., when they discovered he had been exempted from military service because he was gay.
This one just floors me. The exemption from serving in the armed forces at least has some pretence of having a reason (however idiotic), but preventing you from driving because of your sexual orientation? Huh?
It might surprise you to find one of the Samizdata bloggers singing the praises of one of the bids for the right to hold the 2012 Olympic Games:
There is clearly everything to play for in a contest which is far from over and, despite all the predictions to the contrary, London is still in with an excellent chance of winning the right to stage the Games. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to impose upon my fellow contributors and our readers and ask them to join with me in grand effort to get behind the Olympic bid. The Paris Olympic bid, that is.
The amount of money that is wasted by cities and nations in pursuit of the right to host Olympic games is truly staggering. This is a good way to boost the careers of politicians and depress the incomes of taxpayers, for all bidders in general, but especially for the "winners".
Nine French fighter jets and a radar plane stayed overnight at Atlantic City International Airport after one suffered a mechanical problem and bad weather prevented them from returning to their aircraft carrier off the Virginia coast, authorities said Friday.
The U.S. State Department was contacted by French officials after one of the pilots tried to buy fuel Thursday and couldn't because he didn't have the available funds on his credit card, a Philadelphia television station reported.
I mentioned the story to Jon and he responded "Must have maxxed out his card at the casino. Or at the escort service."
He comes not to praise her, but to bury her.
The European Constitution died earlier this evening following a short but torrid illness.
The sad passing of the Constitution is unlikely to be a surprise to many people who doubted whether she would be able to recover from the savage beating she took in France last weekend. Indeed, it may prove to have been a merciful providence that she found herself in a terminal condition in the euthanasia-friendly Netherlands where she was emphatically put out of her misery.
For those who witnessed the last few undignified days of her life being dragged ignominiously around the squalid back-streets of Amsterdam, it will be easy to forget that the Constitution began her life as a daughter of the Europe’s elites; a cherished brainchild of the new aristocracy and the bearer of all their hopes and wishes for a secure and golden future.
A report on the BBC website gives more than just a nod to the far-left bloggers who led the online efforts to persuade voters against the constitution.
The French newspaper dubbed Marseille law teacher Etienne Chouard "Don Quichotte du non".
Mr Chouard did not much care for the EU Constitution, but instead of simply voicing his upset to his neighbours, he wrote an essay and set up a blog to explain why he was voting 'Non'.
Just ahead of the vote, his blog was getting 25,000 hits a day and his anti-constitution broadside had been photocopied, faxed and blogged about across France.
Despite overwhelming support for the constitution by the governments of both France and the Netherlands and a huge media campaign by political leaders in both countries, voters have rejected the constitution.
And just as the media and political establishment in the US found during last year's presidential election, European elites have now felt the sting of these online upstarts, the bloggers.
I guess this means that blogging is "over", now that the MSM is willing to grant that bloggers have had some effect in the real world. . .
Hat tip to Elizabeth for passing along the URL to the BBC article.
The Dutch are the next nation to be subjected to the "we know better than you, peasants!" treatment from the illumibureaucrati of the EU after their rejection of the EU constitution. The rejection was not unexpected:
"I think this is what many nations given the chance to vote would say: that there is a political elite out there moving around figures and people on a chart without really knowing what they think or feel." — Piet Muelder, from Amsterdam
Story in full
THE Netherlands last night buried the European Union constitution with a resounding No vote in its referendum.
Exit polls showed that 63 per cent voted "Nee", an emphatic result taken as an endorsement of concerns that the EU has grown too much, too fast — and is no longer willing to listen to smaller nations.
The key quote gets it correct: there is a distinct political class in Europe, separate from and self-consciously superior to individual nations. They know that they are better suited to make decisions than mere humans, and the official reactions to the French and Dutch referenda speak volumes about how deeply entrenched this attitude is in the EUcracy.
Many non-Europeans have pointed out that the reasons for rejecting the constitution differ substantially, but they stop short of agreeing with the Brussels attitude: they all feel that the process has run off the rails and should be fixed before any attempt to proceed.
It's very interesting! . . . In France, normally, we have a representative democracy. Is the correct word? With some little part of direct democracy. So it happens, and not very frequently, because it's dangerous, but when it happens it can result like with something more indicative than representative democracy. . . When people speak directly, representatives have to shut up. And it happened today.
Probably 95 percent of the professionals of representative democracy had one opinion, and 57 percent of the people had the other opinion. It's a great moment, really . . . It's a growing phenomenon — representatives don't represent any more the people. [. . .]
I am very surprised because normally French are cowards. When it's important for the state, the government tells you that you have to vote yes, there's no reason to vote no, it's irresponsible to vote no. And they repeated it at high levels with more and more stress until the last day. And the people voted no! . . . It's incredible.
Michel Houellebecq, quoted by Matt Welch in "'I am very surprised because normally French are cowards'", Hit and Run, 2005-05-31
With the decisive French 'Non' to the EU Constitution, clearly the whole project for European super-statist integration has taken a hit unlike any in its history thus far. In many ways the most significant feature of this is that it has made the intellectual and social disconnect between whole peoples in the EU's constituent nations impossible to paper over. In short, the nation called 'Europe' is seen to be a fiction and the 'inevitable march of progress' has been shown to be an illusion.
The only negative on this has been pointed out by Paul Wells (whose post I used as a QotD the other day), in that the majority of those who voted against the EU constitution were voting against free(-ish) markets and (slightly more) capitalism.
Now this attempt to get the UK to vote anyway is really splendid news and I hope that other people who share my views that the EU is an abomination will remember Napoleon's dictum "never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake" as any UK vote will almost certainly be a vote against the EU which will just widen the rift in political cultures between France and the UK.
I'm perhaps a bit of a "Little Englander", in that I've never seen the huge attraction for Britain becoming more integrated with the rest of Europe, so I share Perry's unholy delight in the unhinging of the Eurocratic plan. It will be interesting if the current British government follows through in their own referendum: I think, as Perry clearly does, that "Europe" is not a winning issue to British voters.
A sidebar item at American Digest led me to some scary stuff:
The horror. The horror!
Many scholars have been reluctant to discuss the question of European military superiority because either they confuse it with larger issues of intelligence or morality or they focus on occasional European setbacks as if they are typical and so negate the general rule of Western dominance. In fact, the European ability to conquer non-Europeans — usually far from Europe, despite enormous problems in logistics, with relatively few numbers of combatants, and in often unfamiliar and hostile terrain and climate — has nothing to do with questions of intelligence, innate morality or religious superiority, but again illustrates the continuum of a particular cultural tradition, beginning with the Greeks, that brought unusual dividends to Western armies on the battlefield.
Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture
Visitors since 17 August, 2004