This blog's mission: Thoughts on developments in the EU, developments in world politics, and lots more.

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Friday, May 30, 2003
Via Ibidem, who I have added to the blogroll, a behind-the scenes article article about the group of Eight letter and all that, from FT, but via NYT, so you can read it tomorrow too.

I'm gonna get my own domain and switch to MT and all of that, but I have no idea what hosts are any good or how much bandwidth I need. Anyone have any advice?

I was thinking Hosting Matters, and then they went down... But that's not usual right? I don't know anything.

Added Diplomatica and EuroSavant to the blogroll.

I now have RSS feed via BlogMatrix.

Link policy

I haven't had a need for one until now, but maybe I'm getting popular (wishful thinking) so...

I will blogroll anyone who blogrolls to me for two-three weeks and then evaluate if it's of any interest to me and my readers. Your blog should be both well-written and dealing with the right topics (or else be really well written.) If it's not, I'll remove it, since I want a relatively small high-quality blogroll. (Linking to me will still give you major bonus points.) There's some semi-daily reads like CalPundit and Talking Points Memo that I still don't blogroll, so you shouldn't feel too offended if I remove you.

Amygdala blogs about Congo:


The force of about 1,200 troops, whose mandate runs until Sept. 1, will be led by the French and will include a substantial contingent of South African troops.
Matthew Yglesias, who perhaps has not made much study of military matters, otherwise inexplicably calls this "good news," seeming not to recognize that it means nothing, given that a force numbered minimally in the tens of thousands, with major air support, and armor, is needed to accomplish any pacifying. 1,200 troops is nothing but a joke. A, dare I say it, extremely black joke."

I think it could lead to a more ambitious effort later, so there's still reason for hope. I see (via Matt Yglesias) that John Cole makes the same point. Still, there was a talks of a larger force before (as I reported) so I wouldn't call it that good news exactly, but news with a silver lining.

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Fantagraphics Books, arguably the world's premier publisher of comics and graphic novels must raise $80,000 in the next month or face a possible bankruptcy. They have therefore called on comics lovers to buy stuff from them, preferable from their website. I don't know if any of y'all are coics lovers, but they publish some of the greatest artists working in any artform. Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Peter Bagge, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Frank Woodring, Robert Crumb, George Herriman (reprints of Krazy Kat.) Everyone should read Krazy Kat.

You should be reading Henry Farrell's thoughts on the draft. More authorative than the news paper reports. A must read if you're interested in these things.

This BBC piece on the draft is one of the better ones. Especially since it goes into specifics more than most. (Via Chris Bertram.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
First thoughts on the draft: Giscard had to retreat, and thank god for that. So, they just ignored the major issues, the institutional issues. One wonders, if they haven't been able to agree at this fairly late date, will they ever? Will there be two versions or perhaps no version, in the sense that they'll bypass the contentious issues, ie most of it? Were in fact the asumptions that the assumptions that the convention would play a minor role wrong, wrong? That is, will the great convention experient be grandiose (partial, still valuble, but still) failure?

Another possibility is that since the federalists stopped Giscard in the praesidium, and they dominate the convention backbenchers, they will win?

I'll read and comment the whole damn thing at some point, and also say why I like/dislike all the different ideas flouting around, and I'ma do a primer for all the people who've no idea what I'm talking about right here. Yeah, in 2005 or thereabouts.

Update: Why did I trust prewss reports to get things right? Anyway, I've started reading the thing.

Henry Farrell thinks I'm wrong. I think he's misunderstood me somewhat, I didn't say there would be no change, I spoke specifically about positive rights. I do think there's a chance, likelihood even, of a change in the short term in the area of striking down laws and such: negative rights.

Or perhaps there will be a fair amount of forcing governments to provide this or that service, meaning positive rights. It will depend on what the charter contains, and the inclinations of the ECJ. I'm not as informed here as I'd wish. Anyway, the stuff that could theroretically give the court vast powers, but in the short term IMO will mean nothing, is a different set of paragraphs?

I'm somewhat out of my depth here, but still I will quibble with Henry.

First of all I maintain that what the text says isn't what's most important. On the other hand, it still is quite important.

Secondly, I would say for the last fifteen years or so, in the march towards "Ever Closer Union" the EJC have been taking smaller strides than the politicians and eurocrats. The EC have not led the way, they're not the vanguard anymore. I think that even if they start becoiming more aggressive, this will not change. They will not start a revolution. On the other hand, the trend still seems to be towards a further boost of the role of the judiciary.

Thirdly, I don't think a more aggressive stance is at all inevitable. Look at what they've done in the past, says Henry. Yes, but look at what they've done in the recent past, they've mellowed out. They're about to change and enlarge with the rest of us; ten new members. Not necessarily ardent interventionists. Central Europeans? Could it be the court will become (even) more timid?

Update: Gah, In hope noone read that before I corrected a certain major goof.
Update: Now I've done different kind of major goof and can't correct it. But nevermind...

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Chris Bertram says:
"I don't know why the likelihood is small, especially if NGOs decide to pursue issues aggressively - which they probably will."

First I should emphasize that I'm just another moron with a website, and not really an expert. Maybe I'm totally off base. Nevertheless:

The court will be restricted by their own sense of jurisprudence, which of course will be influenced by the spirit of the times, again the political context.
The Court used to be very, very aggressive in expanding their reach. At one point they were the prime motor of integration. But as the politicians have increased the pace, the Court has gradually become less agressive. They are still slowly increasing their authority, however.
They will also be restricted by what they think they can get away with, meaning what the public and the politicians would be willing to accept. If they go too far, they risk a backlash, which might in the end undermine their authority. If they went really far, for example saying the Irish abortion ban was unconstitutional, there would be a constitutional crisis. I hardly think the Irish would accept that.
A lot of what they've done recently has been in the name of the common market. My impression is that The European Court of Human Rights have had a greater role in expanding human rights and such. That may change in the future.

My feeling is that neither the Court nor the governments are prepared for more than a quite moderate increase in judicial activism, in the sense of promoting positive rights. It's not in the cards, it's not likely to happen in the forseeable future, and it won't be before the political situation drastically changes.

My other point was that what the constitution says in is probably far from the most important factor in changing the political situation, in determining the status of the court. The US constitution (with very little in the way of positive rights) and for that matter the EU treaties doesn't give the Supremes or the ECJ more leverage than than most western constitutions, rather the opposite is true, and yet they're more powerful than most constitutional courts and the like. They disdn't start off all that powerful, the political situation changed. (Well, they changed it.)

Still, I shouldn't go too far. A constitution will surely make it less or more easy for the courts to usurp power (if you will.) Although the short term effects will be small, it's not an unimportant matter. It could turn out to make a huge difference at some future date.

I'm very unhappy, because my computer ate a whole bunch of half-finished stuff I was going to post.

I was gonna change the template, and it's a months old version of it. This really takes the prize.

Monday, May 26, 2003
Another has been reached in the drafting of the constitution.

It should be emphasised that a the drafting process is not over, someething a casual reading of a lot of the articles might lead you to believe. Euractiv explains:

"The Convention Praesidium presented the first complete draft of Part One of the EU Constitution on 26 May. The draft will be discussed for the first time by the 105 Convention members at their plenary session in Brussels on 30 and 31 May.

The European Convention, set up by the EU leaders in December 2001 to simplify the EU treaties, reform its institutions and bring the Union closer to its citizens, is now in its final phase during which it must find consensus on the draft Constitutional Treaty.

The Convention Praesidium presented the first outline of the future EU Constitution in October 2002. The Convention is due to propose its final draft to the Thessaloniki European Council on 20 June 2003. The EU would like to adopt the new Constitution in time to accommodate 10 new Member States in 2004."

Here is the draft (pdf file.) I'll go read the and hopefully, will have something intelligent to say later.

A lot of the text is a 'declaration of principles', vague but high-minded rhetoric type of stuff. Chris Bertram wonders if it will means anything or is just window dressing.

Theoretically, the European Court of Justice could use these provisions to enforce all kinds of policies, i.e. legislating from the bench. The South African constitution is full of the same things, and I don't know if anyone of the framers thought it meant something but their supreme court used it to force Mbeki to alter his (scandalous) AIDS policies. But that was a wholly different political situation, and I would say the likelihood of The European Court of Justice doing something like that is very small. Only in a vastly different context, in the far future could it be an issue. Afterall, the treaties the constitution will be replacing already had that kind of provisions.

Having positive rights (because that's what's it is) enshrined in a constitution is problematic, but it should be noted that the US, one of the countries with the least posive rights in their constitution still has the most interventionist, and sometimes acticvist, supreme court in the western world. It's all about the political situation.

Sunday, May 25, 2003
The Eurovision is certainly pan-European news. I won't try to explain it to non-euro readers but Kieran Healy makes a valiant attempt. It really has to be seen to be believed though.

I normally don't, I'd planned to watch this year though, because of TATU (though I share Kieran's disapproval to some extent) but have missed everything up to the last songs. Man, how I regret that now. From the recap, it's even better than usual; Austria's entry seems gloriously surreal even by Eurovision standards. But the best part is the hosts. They're banter is just... otherwordly.

Update: TATU lost. Turkey won. Belgium's entry was apparently in a mock language.

Saturday, May 24, 2003
Vote the Note.

Friday, May 23, 2003
Read this:
Battle for Bunia takes a terrible toll

Harrowing, from a reporter on the spot.

Ituri's Greek Cypriot Community Finally Flees

Who'da guessed?

Forgetful of its previous mistakes in nation building and distracted by Iraq, the international community risks failing Congo with potentially disastrous results, writes Simon Tisdall

"France - which was briefly and some would say disastrously involved in Rwanda in 1994 - is believed to be the country most likely to step in. In the House of Commons this week, Tony Blair supported the idea of such a force and said Britain was considering what contribution it might make. Much the same goes for other EU member states.

So far, so good? Not really. For a start, Congo is as large as western Europe. Its intractable problems go back years, with Ituri province being but the latest troublespot. An international force of several thousand soldiers, even armed with a robust UN mandate, will be unable to do much more than secure the immediate area, and rescue the UN observer mission known as Monuc.

Foreign troops may stop the fighting between the Hema and Lendu ethnic militias. But then what? They may find that they are stuck, unable to leave without precipitating a return to chaos.

To avoid that scenario, a new, concerted, presumably western-assisted or western-led drive on both political and diplomatic fronts will be required to achieve some sort of lasting internal as well as regional settlement.

An essential prerequisite for that is a programme of generous humanitarian and then reconstruction aid and investment. Who is going to provide it? And for how long? Britain's international development secretary, Clare Short, was until recently gamely wrestling with these issues, with some results. But she has lost her job and it is unclear whether her successor, Baroness Amos, will be as closely engaged."

The problem magically disappeared. Life is strange.

Thursday, May 22, 2003
I've got soe pretty bad personal news today. I don't know how uch energy I'll have for blogging. Too bad, case I really have a lot ton say. I was lining up for soe long substantive posts. Almost finished that "what I think about the EU" thing I promised, but now I can't be bothered. Later....

I've had serious problems with Blogger lately, but that'll have to wait too. I don't think I'll stick around long enough to give the new Blogspot a chance thogh. I've been burnt as far as Blogger.

Henry Farrell blogged two days ago about Israel becoming an EU member, an idea some Israeli politicians sometimes like to flout. The Head Heeb wrote about this back in December. He explains the political context and discusses the ramifications and the arguments for and against; from the Israeli perspective, where he does a good job, and the European perspective, where I think both he and Henry misses what it comes down to:

Do you like or dislike the prospect of the European Union turning into the Global Union, maybe even morphing into a future One World Government? Israel does not lie in Europe. If you discard the geographic criteria, and make it all about values or whatever, what legitimate arguments do you have against excluding a future democratic Iran? And then why not Pakistan? And then why not India?

Now, you may say: that's never gonna happen, be serious David. I don't think you should be so certain; it's just too far into the future. But okay, Indian membership is very far off. However, it's quite likely various Arab states, and very possibly Iran will, in the distant but not too distant future, become democracies and then ask for membership. (Sadly, it's not necessarily more distant than an end to the Palestinian issue, that must be resolved before an Israeli membership.) I don't think we will let Israel in unless we'll also accept the possibility of lots of Muslim nations joining. Edward Hugh would approve, but I don't think neither our leaders nor the electorate are prepared to do that, and don't know if they ever will.

Not to discount the three-four people who's still here. Much love!

All my readers has somehow disappeared. That is very depressing, especially since I think Europunditry has never been as good as it is right now. I mean, I can honestly recommend people to read it.

For the first time since I started blogging I'm only partially dissatisfied with the blog, and all my readers abandon me? Life sucks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Just as I was lamenting the lack of reporting, lots of reports were being filed. But it still gets a lot less attention than what is reasonable. The reports play down rather than play up the genocide angle for whatever reason.

Even good ol' EUobserver has the story:

EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, presented Mr Annan's request to defence ministers from the member states. After discussions over lunch, ministers decided to task Mr Solana with drafting a response for the Secretary General.

The French government has already said it is willing to send troops, it now looks like more EU states are ready to back the move.

Irish Defence Minister, Michael Smith, stunned journalists by saying that he "would not be surprised to see Irish troops in the Congo in the not too distant future".

Hinting that this could happen without UN backing, the Minister said his government would need to look at changing current legislation which bars Irish peace keeping missions without a UN mandate, in case the EU wants to act without UN backing.

Sometimes, he said, "we seem to be coming after the holocaust" referring to the EU's inability to act in south east Europe, adding that peacekeeping is "probably one of the most noble things people can do".

Greek Diplomats told the EUobserver that Athens, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, also "strongly supports EU involvement".

The UK government’s position is not yet clear although diplomats say the proposal has found some favour in London.

So it seems certain an intervention will happen.

I don't think I exagerrated in talking about a profound shift. A cause for celebration.

And then I read this:

However, it would be a question of "months not of days," [Solana] said.

There's genocide warnings now. "Months" from now it may very well be too late. Why???

One could theorize this is a consequence of the much talked about alleged Euro underfunding of our militaries, or alternatively all the funding having gone to huge stationary armies, made for fighting the Warzaw pact, and no rapid deployment capabilities. But surely France and Britain at least have the capacity to react much quicker if they really wanted to, so it must be at least partially a question of priorities.

Monday, May 19, 2003
Here's an extremely important, extremely underreported, and extremely frightening story:

Ethnic clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have observers warning of a possible genocide in a nation that has already seen the worst of Africa's bloody wars. According to DRC's L'Avenir, a U.N. official in the region declared that without decisive action, the area could be headed toward a blood bath.
Papers said the violence in Bunia appears to prove many observers' greatest fear—that the withdrawal of foreign troops would create a vacuum, sending the region into a spiral of ethnic violence. The two tribal groups fighting in Bunia—the Lendu and the Hema—have long battled over land and resources. Congo's civil war, which raged throughout the 1990s, fueled the groups' bitter rivalry. Lendu militiamen reportedly flooded into Bunia once the Ugandan troops left; days later, Hemas drove the Lendus out.

The lack of attention to Congo's troubles in the past is a scandal in itself. But for the world to ignore a possible genocide and do nothing would be unforgivable. Rwanda cannot be allowed to happen again.

However, there are reasons for hope:

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the Security Council to form a "coalition of the willing" to halt the violence in eastern Congo. France has already said it will send troops but wants to see other countries do the same. France's Le Figaro reported that Britain has indicated a willingness to help and that the French and British foreign ministers are set to meet soon in the region. The paper added, "After the serious divisions created by the Iraqi crisis, [this] could allow London and Paris the beginnings of reconciliation." Congo's L'Avenir newspaper reported that Canada and South Africa have also said they will help with the formation of an international intervention force.

It almost looks like things have changed. Without prompting from the media or public opinion, or a strong national interest, these nations are prepared to commit troops for an extensive humanitarian intervention, redeeming themselves after the shameful abandonement of Rwanda. That would constitute a profound shift in international relations, a whole new set of rules. Please God let it happen, and let it be a success, and not a Black Hawk Dawn on a bigger scale.

There’s an EU angle to this, by the way. This could do wonders to French-British relations, to Euro self-esteem and therefore to the common foreign policy and defence policy.

Even knowing how the media works, it’s shocking how little attention this is getting. Maybe the genocide warnings are overblown. But then, maybe they’re not?

Update: I fixed all the typos right after I posted, (my keyboard is broken) but somehow something went wrong. I guess I screwed up, but on the other hand Blogger has been really, really screwy lately. I'm definitely switching, maybe as soon as this week.

Brought back "new and improved" permalinks. I've resigned myself to republishing all the time. This'll probably hasten a switch to MT though.

Sunday, May 18, 2003
The federalists enthusis for a referendum might be because it's linked in their mind to the idea

Not sure what I think abot this whole combined referendum idea..... I'm kinda fond of representantive democracy, and dislike the idea that referends are somehow more democratic, and think they should be used very judiciously, on the other hand if it's a question of relinquishing more than a small amount of sovereignty - we don't know that for sure yet - and the political party structure can't effectively deal with the issue (Say if 75% of parliament is in favor or divisions don't go along partisan lines) a referendum is probably appropriate.

In any case, one has to wonder how many of the people who wants a referendum know what they're asking for? Soetimes, as with the western establishent in Bosnia in the nineties, people seems to forget what elections are for. Do they want a referendum becase they think it will make everyone come together, and start loving the EU, and ake the democratic deficit magically go away? But a referendum is not a giant kumbaya singalong, it's about making a choice. Are they prepared to face that people will make the "wrong" choice?

Whatever the principal stance one has, it should be obvious it'll be major headaches. A referendum will likely be about general disatisfaction rather than the issues in most countries, like Ireland's Nice vote. Attendance will almost certainly be very low in the new member countries and others too. With 24 countries, it seems improbable the yes side will win in every country. And then what? I bet they won't just scrap the constitution, so why hold a vote then?

Governments know this and I really can't see it happening, though it's gathering momentum. It could mean referndus in some more countries than Ireland and Denmark (who always have one, when there's a treaty change.)

Saturday, May 17, 2003
Meanwhile, Slovakians says yes... and turnout seems to've narrowly passed the threshold - hopefully.

Hmmm... on second thought I don't wholly agree with Brad on democracy thing, but he has a point. No energy to elaborate.

The promised "substantive" post, basically me outlining my position on the EU and the democratic deficit will have to wait til Monday, cause noone's online til then anyway.

Friday, May 16, 2003
Long sbstantive post on the way. Eventually... sigh.

June Carter Cash dies at 73.

How rotten life is. Johnny Cash has been dying for like two years, he can't hae much time left, and he still has to live through this. And think of the children. It's so unfair...

She was one of the greats in her own right, in no way just Johnny's wife or one of the sisters. Such a loss... Well, she had very enviable life in many ways, at least.

Her work will always live on.

Only two weeks until the work on constitution will be finished, and few things are settled or certain to pass. History in the making, very draatic etc... I regret abandoning EU news for the last weeks, I plan to very much change my ways, however. More later.

Thursday, May 15, 2003
I managed to miss my one onth anniversary on the ninth. Boohoo.

Another milestone will soon be reached, though. One visitor away from 500 (accoding to SiteMeter). Hooray!

Update: 500. Hip Hip - Hooray! Hip Hip - Hooray! Hip Hip - Hooray! Hip Hip - Hooray!

"After all, throughout all of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the only choices history offers on its menu are chaos, dictatorship, and multi-party representative democracy. Try to undermine the third, and you have implicitly voted for either the first or second.

Democracy is not to be found in the streets. What we find in the streets are vanguard parties, the dictatorships they bring, and politics understood not as collective self-government but as expressive theatrical performances." Brad DeLong, apropos Argentine.

Hear, hear! He's not only right, he makes his so effectively it deserves to be the introductory qote to a book or something.

Brad despises Noam Chomsky as much as I do, too. Chomsky is a good example of how anarchist and totalitarians share the same mentality. Utopianism, intolerance, rejection of compromise, or deocratic imperfection. Anarchist, unlike pro-autochrats, are given the the moral highground by the mainstream. They're seen as naive perhaps, but not morally questionable. Yet they reject democracy. Anarchis, as in Chomsky's case leads to the same leads to the same stands and positions as autochratic sympathies. Chomsky's influence on leftists, Serbians etc. have been corroding democratic values.

I'm getting dissed!

The EUobserver poll idiocy reminded me of something I thought of before.

Romano Prodi has said a direct election of the Commission president would be a bad idea, with basically the same reasons as EUobserver (but less offensively put.) And, obviously that more power to the institutions isn't the answer. If so, how can it be tolerable that more and more decisions are getting made on the EU level? He actually admits, without meaning too, the severity of the democratic deficit, but still advocates more steps towards federalism and integration.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Blogger doesn't really have permalinks. I can't be bothered to republish all the time, so I've decided to remove the links, so as to not fool anyone - my Alexandrian solution.

I missed this sentence in Scott Grammel's old school post: "Parents do, on the whole, press their children to do well in school, and I don't think school enrolment will change if school ceases to be mandatory."
Eh, some of my criticism was a little off then, but not most of it. Note also, as I said I think enrollment would change.
Regarding his alternative plan, I don't know why he labels it "European."
Other than that I won't comment. (I have my hands full as it is!)
Scott was aused to be called a libertarian. In this particlar regard he is at least. He rightly noted "I don't think the positions he's arguing against are exactly the ones I took", but almost everything I said is still valid. He chose not to hasn't defended, which is most reasonable, but no fun. More later.

Since it seemed to work for every else, I brought back the comments. And it's working! (Fingers crossed.) Enetation, all is forgiven! (It's free after all.)

Lithuania voted yes to accession yesterday. Yay!

Monday, May 12, 2003
EUObserver draws far-reaching and absurd conclusions from a meaningless poll:
"An interesting experiment from a French opinion research agency, published by Le Figaro, has shown that EU voters would be likely to vote for a candidate from their own country in any future vote for an EU President.
This makes it difficult to envisage a fair or meaningful pan-European vote on the Constitution.
The Paris-based Ifop research agency ran an imaginary poll amongst the French people. Voters were asked whom they would like to see as President of the EU, but only one French name was on the list - that of former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is now the President of the Convention on the Future of Europe.
The French voted overwhelmingly in favour of Giscard, with 58 per cent, reported Le Figaro.
However, it is not clear what other names were on the list."

The headline is extremely telling: Voters not mature for EU-wide referenda

Obiously, no conclusions whatsoever can be drawn from the poll. But even a pan-european poll with name-recognition politicians would be meaningless, before there had been a election campaign. Most American voters pick Joe Lieberman among the Democratic presidential candidates because of name recognition, does that mean they're not "mature for" democracy?

Also, even if it were true that people wold vote along regional lines, what does that have to do with a referendum on the Constitution?

Don't know what's most appalling; the elitist anti-democratic bias or the staggering idiocy.

I plan to start link comment to EU news again, and finish writing something semi-substantive. More later.

The lack of attention to the European Union in the blogosphere as well as everywhere else is as I've said any times depressing, and a huge problem for European democracy. (well, the blogosphere part is only a tiny part of the problem of course, but you know what I mean.

Here's one of the abandoned unfinished posts I talked about two weeks ago:

Libertarian blogger Scott Martens have a radical suggestion: Make all education voluntary. An intriguing, and thoughtprovoking idea, but in my opinion severely misguided.
Problems with his argument:

  • First of all, he seems to assume parents would care what the kid wanted, a very odd assumption.

  • If this was implemented in Sweden, I think the number of drop-outs would be negligable. School stops being mandator at 16 and basically everyone attends gymnasium (16-19.)

  • However, in America, there are a lot of problem families among the poor, so I suspect there would be more dropouts at an earlier age than high school. (there are a few already, of course.) These persons would have basically no future. If they don’t turn to crime, they could never be more than the poorest of the working poor, and there’s a good chance IME that these menial jobs will largely dissappear.

  • No responsible parents will deprive their children of an education.

  • Scott claims (I guess) that no children who if they had a choice would not go to school, would not benefit from going to school. I claim that this is absurd. If some of these children would benefit, non-trivially, and in fact immensely, from getting an education, the decision should not lie with the child, that would be to betray the child. I claim that that is indeed the case, and that in fact any given child will potentally and likely benefit immensely from an education and there are no children that would benefit from not getting an education (except those with severe developental disabilities.)

  • Parents do not have the right to abuse their children, nor to deprive them of an education.

  • For a minor some forms of coercion isn’t just not a violation of one’s rights, it is a right. To not coerce would be to violate the child’s rights.

  • >>This has some clear advantages. The hardest thing in education is classroom management. Children don't always want to be in school, and keeping them there, beating into their heads how important it is that they learn, is little more than torture. It is much easier to work with children who want to be there.<<

  • Disruptive children, and generally those who demand much attention from teachers, would very likely be overrepresented among elementary or secondary school dropouts. Them droppping out would benefit the remaining children, but that is far, far outweighed by the cost of depriving the dropouts of education, both for the dropouts and for society.

  • The more direct method of not putting disruptive or slow-learning children in special classes, would achiee more of the benefits, at a far lesser cost. I think that method should be used very restrictively, but that’s another issue.

  • If (in some alternative universe) parents would allow their children to not go to scool, and a significant number of the wouldn¡¦t, the same applies, but with only somewhat greater positives and truly gigantic costs.

  • There would be no other benefits. After the year you turn sixteen, school is not mandatory in Sweden, and yet almost noone drops out. But that’s most definitely not because all of them wants to go to school, or enjoy the experience, it’s becase they have to to get a decent job. It’s not the government that forces people to go to school, it’s the demands of the marketplace and the modern economy.

  • Scott doesn’t like credentialism, and he thinks if people weren’t forced to go to school they would be happier, but making school non-mandatory would do nothing whatsoever to ameliorate those problems, his proposed solution has nothing to do with the problems.

I’ve only adressed part of Scott’s post. Next up is his assertions of school’s uselessness plus the tyranny of credentialism, after that where we agree and what my proposed solutions are.

So, it's still unfinished...

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Here's a terrific, knowledgeable blog by professor Juan Cole with analysis of devolopents in mostly Iraq and other Muslim countries. Called Informed Comment, not humbly but very aptly named.

Matthew Yglesias, like me, is not a vegan.

You say "the only question is do you support cruelty toward animals or not?" The point of what I'm trying to say is that this is not the only question. I, for example, strongly oppose cruelty toward humans. Nevertheless, I would not favor launching a full-scale nuclear war to wipe out the entire human race, even though this would drastically decrease the quantity of cruelty that human beings will endure over the entire course of history.
The aim of preventing cruelty only makes sense if we believe that life has some value, otherwise the simplest way to prevent cruelty will just be to have no life at all.
People eat cows because beef is tasty. The question is whether or not this is morally problematic. You say that it is problematic because in order to eat beef you have to kill the cow and treat it cruelly in a variety of other ways. I am suggesting that veganism, too, is morally problematic because its adoption would de facto eliminate cruelty to cows not by eliminating the cruelty but by eliminating the cows. It seems to me that if you consider the possibility of eliminating cruelty toward humans by eliminating humanity you will see that this is absurd.

I think Mathew is on to something, but the argument shold be rephrased. The question is: Why would turning doestic animals loose be doing them a favor? With egg and milk producing animals Matthew's example does a good job of showing why vegans are wrong, but not the ones we kill for eat. More later.

A drive to decrease nativity would not be

Saturday, May 10, 2003
We're all about underreported news here at Europunditry, and here's some news that may turn out to be a historical turning point, and this is the first time I've heard of it (maybe it's all over the news and I've simply missed it?)

Scientists in Pennsylvania yesterday said they had turned ordinary mouse embryo cells into egg cells in laboratory dishes -- an advance that opens the door to creating "designer" eggs from scratch and, if repeated with human cells, could blur the biological line between fathers and mothers.

The work undermines the standard model of parenthood because the scientists made egg cells not only from female cells, but also from male cells, indicating that even males have the biological capacity to make eggs.

If the science holds true in humans as in mice -- and several scientists said they suspect it will -- then a gay male couple might, before long, be able to produce children through sexual reproduction, with one man contributing sperm and the other fresh eggs bearing his own genes.

[. . .]

Until now, one argument for banning the creation of cloned embryos has been that it would require a huge supply of human eggs to make all the embryos and therapeutic cells that patients might need. That market demand could lead to an "egg-donor underclass" of poor women who might submit to repeated, health-compromising egg donation procedures as a way of making money.

But if scientists can grow lots of human eggs in the laboratory, experts said, that market would not appear. "Commodification and safety issues would be avoided," said Judy Norsigian, executive director of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, who has been a leader in the movement against what is known as therapeutic cloning because of the risks it might pose to poor women.

[. . .]

Perhaps most astonishing, said Eppig of the Jackson Laboratory, the lab-reared egg and follicle cells apparently engaged in the complicated cross-talk required for normal development. Follicle cells surrounded each egg in a gentle embrace as they would in an ovary, for example, and even produced female hormones, which the eggs need to mature.

"I am flabbergasted that these darn things are making estrogen," Eppig said. "Imagine what's going to happen when you can do the same thing and make sperm."

The genetic program for making sperm is believed to be more complicated than for making eggs, but sperm farming may not be farfetched, Schoeler said. Success could raise interesting questions about the biological relevance of males.

If sperm can be made from stem cells, for example, then lesbians could make babies by sexual reproduction. Unlike gay men, they would not have to turn to the other sex to gestate those babies.

"It will take a nanosecond for people in same-sex relationships to figure out the potential implications of this research for them," said Murray, of the Hastings Center. "People can just fill in the blanks."

Via Silentio, which seems like a real good blog about among other things genetics.

New Yorker review of "How Democratic Is the American Constitution?" by Robert A. Dahl

Friday, May 09, 2003
Salam Pax has returned.

Via David Stevenson, a must read from NYT Magazine on nuclear proliferation.

It struck me Eurocentric has rather negative connotations, so I changed the name again.

Thursday, May 08, 2003
By the way, whatever happened to Maria???

Henry also writes about Christain fndamentalists thinking the EU is >>the "beast-kingdom" from which Antichrist will emerge in Final Days.<< and Berlusconi's legal troubles (Corruption charges, of course.)
>>It's going to be equally interesting to see how the European Union responds. /----/ However, there aren't any very good ways for other member states to deal with this sort of problem; while there are procedures for handling member states that have strayed from the path of democracy, it would be hard to invoke them against someone who has, after all, won office in a reasonably fair election. More likely, perhaps would be the kind of diplomatic deep-freeze applied to Austria after Joerg Haider's Freedom Party was invited into government - but this is widely perceived as having backfired. More on this as it develops ...<<

Re the fundie nuttiness, regardless of how long it's been going on, it's part of the shift in most of the American right-wing from disinterested approval of the EU to angry opposition (It's not just bloggers; the Cato institute recently said the US should pry Britain fro the EU.) All because of the recent Francophobia, combined with rightwing British Europhobia seeping through, and with it equating the EU with French dreams of power, and a general increase of (paranoid) awareness of anything threatening US hegemony. I wonder how this will play out re longter US-EU relations and effects on the EU, on the UK esp. etc...

I commented earlier how similar my literary tastes were to Henry Farrell's. Now he's heaping well-deserved praise on Little, Big and said it might be the greatest fantasy novel, which got e thinking.

It's not really the best way to show your preferences or building a canon or whatever since 1) so comparatively little of the greatest fantasy is in novel form, but 2) the preference of fantasy writers of writing a cycle of novels or stories that forms an artistic whole, (for example the Gormenghast books.)

So I usually make it easy on myself and refer to the dying earth books as my favorite piece of writing. (Maybe an odd approach there since they're hardly interrelated storywise and written over a 33 year span) (And yes, without qualifiers, and no, I'm not kidding, idiot snobs. I read and appreciate for exampe Borges, Fitzgerald, Auster, Coetze, and still rate Vance as the greatest.)

On the other hand this kind of listmaking shouldn't be taken too seriously anyway. So...

1. Cugel's saga - Jack Vance
2. Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake
3. Little Big - Crowley
4. Swords of Lankhmar - Leiber
5. The Book of the New Sun - Wolfe
6. Lud-In-The-Mist - Hope Mirrlees
7. Deerskin - Robin McKinley
8. Lyonesse - Vance
9. House On The Borderland - Hodgson

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Real blogging (including posts actually dealing with the EU) will resume in the weekend, if not earlier.

Maria and Henry Farrell have switched to Movable Type and changed their adress in the process. As I said in the coments here, it's it's good to know some people have managed to get away from Blogger hell, maybe I can too some day. Let me take this opportunity to say that their blog is very good, a daily read in fact, and you should read it too.

Heh. I feel better now. The description change has gone through, even.

Monday, May 05, 2003
I can't change the wack ass blog description or any other of the settings. Do you have any idea how much that pisses me off?

Another thing: An big league blogger that I won't name, when rejecting an entry that I sent, told me my pertmalinks weren't working. DUH, that because Blogger DON'T HAVE fucking permalinks, they only PRETEND to have them, to MOCK US.

(don't get me wrong, I can't believe he took the time to answer me, whatta great guy.)

(Yes, I said fucking. I decided this isn't a family blog. I even went and edited in the 'fucks' in yesterdays post. I don't risk turning away any readers, because I don't HAVE any readers.)

Head Heeb posts (today, no permalinks on blogger sites) on the elections in Nigeria.

>>The election will solidify what many analysts are already calling Nigeria's "one-party creep." Some Nigerians are worried that the country might be headed the way of Mubarak's Egypt, but I think the more likely model is Malaysia. Like Nigeria, Malaysia is a federal state in which the ruling party is a coalition of diverse interests and elites whose ideology consists, in practical terms, of staying in power. A primarily Islamist opposition is strong in a few states, but the ruling party's hegemony is elsewhere disturbed only by a few small regional organizations.<<

My two cents:
The situation is very far from ideal but the likeliest alternative outcome, an even split betwween the parties would maybe have been worse some ways, since it would be a split between the north/muslim/ethnic group and the southern/christian/ethnic groups = conflict, even less acceptance That'll be much less pronounced since they doinate so much and in many northern states too.

A good thing is that the parties can't really
Also, if the ruling party will win solid majorities without for some years to come, without haing to cheat, eh I mean to completely rig the elections, or resort to complete autocracy (like Zimbabwe, or at least Zambia until recently, maybe that's a good thing. I mean - wouldn't they?

More silver lining is the parties aren't strictly split ethnically, esp. PDP.

The positives in Nigeria is that autocracy or a great escalation of ethnic conflicts doesn't seem imminent. The negatives is that the goernance is so poor and what they hae to work with isn't much, so the stability, the oppurtunities for improvements, will not lead to anything.

Yes, written in a rush.

His blog is one of my favorites by the way. Go read it.

Sunday, May 04, 2003
I'll keep blogging at half-speed for some days. Those longish half-finished posts won't get finished in a while. Sorry.

I'm a fairly productive blogger anyway. I gess I decided choosing quality over quantity, to some extent.

Here's a good review of the Lord of the Rings movie (except missing that LOTR was (among other things) a refutation of Wagner's Ring:

Congratulations to weblogger Ian Coleman, who just won election to the Cambridge City Coucil. He was the second first person to put me on his blogroll, and I haven't repaid him the favor until now. (Made me add new categories, which was a good thing anyway.)

He's a liberal too, so he's fighting the good fight!

Saturday, May 03, 2003
What the fuck?
EU to cut ties with Hamas
We had ties to Hamas??
>>...European Union special envoy to the Middle East Miguel Moratinos... "Hamas has been identified as a terror group by the European Union but there is a dialogue with its political arm, which is backed by Syria, Iran and part of the Palestinian Authority."<<
Oh that doesn't sound that bad...
>>"Hamas faces a clear choice between the Turkish model, of democratic Islam, and the Al-Qaida model."<<
Didn't it make that choice, like, when it was founded?
>>"If it chooses the second model, the EU will cut its ties, drop out support and end our aid to it."<<
Wait... "aid"? Does that mean aid as in my tax money goes to funding Hamas? It could mean something else I guess, and maybe the translation is off? Moratinos coments are in themselves offensive, as well as ludicrous. Not just him but the to some extent the EU loses credibility. But if we fund Hamas, that would be appalling.

What the fuck?

Various Volokh and Farrell people have been blogging about imaginary maps. Maybe they or someone will find this map of the Dying Earth a treat. I know I did. It's funny - those books are maybe my favorite piece of literature. (I think of them as a whole) and it wasn't that long ago since I last read them (gosh, it's been two years already) and I still could't connect most the places to scenes in the books, or trace people's journeys.

Everyone: read the Dying Earth books by Jack Vance. They're stunningly great.

So busy..... but I have a LOT of half-finished longish posts. Might post the late at night tonight, or tomorrow. Indulge me.

Update: Heh, it's already tomorrow.

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Here's a really great blog concentrating on international politics: Casus Belli. Go read it.

I found it through BlogStreet's "Neighbourhood" listing for my blog. BlogStreet is easily the best of its kind.