A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for August 2005

[LINK] The Memory of New Orleans

At Slate, Josh Levin has an article up, “Mourning My New Orleans”, memorializing his home city. A sample:

I don’t remember much of what I did when I went down to visit my folks a few months ago: ate some fried seafood at some hole in the wall, went to my grandparents’ house, probably walked under the canopy of oak trees in Audubon Park. Maybe it’s a heartless thing to say when there are still people down there in the muck, but it’s tragic to think of all those beautiful trees, in the park and on the Uptown streets that I drove through every day, toppled and on the ground, waiting to be chopped into bits and trucked away. There are friends’ houses that will no doubt be so much flotsam, neighborhood restaurants that won’t serve another oyster po’ boy, bars where the jukebox won’t ever play Allen Toussaint or Ernie K-Doe again.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 9:12 pm

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[SHWI] If a Red Germany, can we have a French Union?

A soc.history.what-if discussion thread back in March regarding the possibility of a Red Germany and its the knock-on effects on the rest of Europe, especially France, spawned an interesting side-discussion at a CFTAG meeting in Toronto last July regarding the possibilities of a successful French Union or Community. I’ll quote from Paul’s analysis.

In France, the nation tries to recover psychologically from the Nazi occupation. In the real world, they develop and implement the ideology of a United Europe. Here this never happens as France’s potential partners are reduced to the much-smaller Belgium and The Netherlands, and the economically backwards Portugal, Spain, and the Federal Republic of Italy (“South Italy”).

Instead they continue the emphasis that the Free French placed on France’s major colonies in the Brazzaville Declaration. Merely having the Russians on the Rhine is not enough to push that idea over the top; I’ll throw in an unnamed young philosophe who has survived to 1945 here despite dying while under Nazi rule in the real world. Whoever he may be, he articulates the idea of France’s new place in the world to be radically democratic and “civilizing” throughout its empire. The ideology catches fire and is widely accepted by 1948.

The details can vary–we can get a united Italy facing a hegemonic Soviet Union at the now-Yugoslav city of Trst and along the Tyrolian frontier, or as per Rich Rostrom’s timeline of March all of southern Europe from Italy through to Bulgaria can remain neutral–but the gist of Paul’s timeline is that, without a democratic Germany, there can be no pan-European architecture comparable to the then-European Communities. Instead, for an outlet for its transnational energies and as a way to retain its great-power status, France turns to the idea of an integrated French Union.

I see two problems with pauldrye‘s uchronia.

1. Paul lets the entire Maghreb break away from the Community. I agree with him about Morocco and Tunisia, given the unique circumstances of their acquistiion and administration. This French Union will have to begin with the Algerian departments, though, simply because Algeria was the only part of the French Empire (excluding insular and quasi-insular territories) that was directly integrated into France. A greater France is going to rise or fall because of Algerian precedents. This means that, somehow, the Muslims of Algeria have to be integrated into the French political body, made full citizens and the like. Is this possible?

2. The French Union is going to need, desperately, a viable development model. Based on what we know now about economic development, the poorer territories of the French Union will require an environment with a secure and just legal system, a functional political regime, and a broad-based strategy for promoting human development (basic literacy, health care, et cetera). The Union’s African and other territories will presumably enjoy the rule of law and functional political systems. I worry, though, that the French colonial tendency on promoting the formation of colonized elites might backfire. Is this possible?

UPDATE (9:10 PM) : Originally posted on soc.history.what-if.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 9:10 pm

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[LINK] Two Soviet Ethnic Cleansings

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 8:42 pm

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[META] Blogroll Changes

I’ve added the Belarusian blog br23 to the non-SHWI segment of the blogroll, while deleting some inactive or rarely-read blogs and updating some URLs. Enjoy!

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 8:40 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Dishing and taking

This morning at work, I was chatting with a co-worker of Bosnian origin about Roger Cohen’s article. He escaped Sarajevo in 1992. Given how he meets Serbs who claim to have known nothing about the siege of Sarajevo, he’s understandably is fairly skeptical about Serbia’s future. He observed, in passing, how Serbs have been quick to claim ignorance about the horrible things done in their name in Croatia and Bosnia and Kosova/o, but how they’re outraged, positively outraged!, that Serbs are being persecuted.

“Oh,” I replied, “it’s like the old saying: You can dish it out but you can’t take it.”.

He asked me to explain the meaning of the saying. I explained it in brief terms, then went on to summarize a short story that illustrated this point. It’s an American short story, set in a small-town American environment. The protagonist is an old lady, pinched and proper and equally famed for her rose gardens and her gossip, who loved pushing anonymous notes through front doors’ mail slots late at night letting people know how others were misbehaving. After she broke up a young couple in love, one morning she went to her front door to find that someone had pushed a note through her mail slot. She opened the note, read the single sentence, and began to weep. “Go look at your rose bushes.”

Does anyone know who wrote this story and, indeed, what its title is? It has a certain piquancy to it.

UPDATE (7:57 PM) : The story in question is one of Shirley Jackson’s oeuvre, “The Possibility of Evil.” Thanks to princeofcairo for answering my question! I’m unsurprised that it was Jackson. As I wrote in May in connection with her Haunting of House Hill, she has a masterful sense of what is, and is not, unheimlich.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 7:57 pm

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[NON BLOG] The Ankle, Part 2

I think I’m recovering nicely from my sprained ankle of yesterday. I can walk, if with a limp. Looking down at my foot, though, I see three nasty bruises–one on my ankle, one below my ankle, the third on my foot–red-purple with blood. Ibuprofen’s good; so’s ice.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 7:27 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] New American Alliances?

Last week, the United States’ new ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, threw a spanner into the works by demanding the the UN massively revise its goals. Over at the European Tribune group blog, Jerome a Paris described the most prominent of these demands succintly.

Amongst his requirements:

  • drop “respect for nature” amongst our fundamental principles (human rights, freedom, tolerance, etc…);
  • drop the “millenium objectives” signed in 2000 (including by the US) that state among other precise targets that developped countries must target to increase development aid to 0.7% of GDP and help reduce poverty by half in 2015;
  • drop all references to the Kyoto Treaty, to the ICC (International Crimila Court), and and acknowledgement that global warming is a “serious issue”;
  • drop all references to the goal for nuclear powers to give up these weapons.

Now, according to Le Monde, the United States is trying to hobble the debate by introducing procedural matters to slow things down. One of the most prominent American allies? Iran.

It’s good to know that the Iranian-American alliance is working so well. First an Islamic republic in Iraq, now slowing down United Nations reform. What next, I wonder?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 4:35 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Modernizing Adultery

It’s a little-known fact that, under Canadian family law, a married person who violated his or her bonds of matrimony by having a same-sex affair did not, in fact, commit adultery. Why this is the case I don’t know. Perhaps it was a byproduct of the belief that same-sex relations weren’t real sex? A same-sex adulterous affair has historically been treated, instead, as cruelty and possible–though not automatic–grounds for divorce. This has changed, partly as a result of same-sex marriage legislation, partly (as Judge Gerson noted) because of changing mores.

I approve of this, since this decision tidies up some obvious loose ends. Others might be of different opinions, for various reasons. Regardless, it’s interesting to watch each of the different unexpected impacts of same-sex marriage upon Canada, to see the unspoken and often unadmitted assumptions respond to challenges of different sorts and examine how well they fare upon critical examination, to discover how much accepted wisdom in fact isn’t wise.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 1:47 pm

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[LINK] New Orleans

Doug Merrill at A Fistful of Euros has summarized the extent of the catastrophe fairly succinctly.

Imagine the entire population of Munich, of Lyon or of Copenhagen evacuated because of a natural disaster. That’s the situation now in the New Orleans area.

As I write, it’s the dead of night over there, and it is not clear whether the levee breaks, particularly the one near 17th Street that had been keeping out Lake Ponchartrain, have been plugged.

Reports are conflicting — the local newspaper evacuated yesterday and has become essentially a blog; the blogs of local radio and tv stations give differing accounts — on whether water is still pouring into the city or not. WWL reports (scroll down to 8:04pm) that helicopters scheduled to drop tons of sand into the breach did not show up; other media say they did.

Until that gap — estimated at 150 meters in width — is plugged, New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi River will remain a tidal estuary of Lake Ponchartrain. Our Dutch readers will appreciate the scale and severity of the problem. Water will pour into the city until it reaches the level of the lake, which will mean what the world knows as New Orleans will be under three to four meters of water. (The West Bank will be dry, as will a few isolated areas.)

I’ve written about hurricanes and New Orleans before, ending, “Eventually, they say, a major hurricane will inevitably hit New Orleans; I just hope it isn’t this one [Ivan].” One year later, “inevitably” turned into today; Katrina was the Big One.

Making Light has a lot of coverage of the New Orleans situation, in case you’re interested in more news from the blogosphere.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 9:04 am

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[LINK] What’s up with Serbia?

Could people better informed than me about Serbia and the West Balkans please tell me whether Roger Cohen’s article in the International Herald Tribune, “Years after Milosevic, Serbia’s illusions persist” is grounded in fact? The description of post-Communist Serbia as occupying the same sort of place that Austria did in the 1920s–impoverished, hit hard by wars, cut off from its old provinces–but with the addition of sanctions past and possibly future is rather depressing. If only Yugoslavia had somehow been able to manage the transition from Tito, at all; the entire country likely would have joined the European Union on fairly advantageous terms.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 8:38 am

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