Archive for March 2006
Have Vladimir and Estragon have given up on Godot to go to the disco? It might explain a lot about the world if they did and were trandsetters.
The most recent issue of The Economist has an interesting article on Jens Bullerjahn, a SPD politician in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt who wants to wind up the existence of his young state. In the context of pervasive economic decline and a depopulation that’s going to reduce the state’s population by a third over its 1990 levels of 2.9 million, Bullerjahn thinks that the only thing left to do is to merge Saxony-Anhalt with the neighbouring states of Saxony and Thuringia, thus forming a new state of Middle Germany.
Merging federal units as a response to decline has been raised as a solution before in the former German Democratic Republic, in relation to Berlin and Brandenburg in the 1990s. I’ve heard talk of this at home in relation to the whole concept of Maritime union, the merger of the three Maritime provinces of Canada–New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and my native Prince Edward Island–into a single province. It hasn’t worked so far as such; the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 came closest to realization, but that because a conference on Maritime union segued, to everyone’s surprise, into a general discussion on the unification of what was then British North America. The general consensus is that everyone’s regional identities are too strong, and the net benefits too sparse, for Maritime union ever to work. Do the same factors apply in East Germany? We’ll see. It’s worth noting that eastern Germany is in rather worse shape relative to the rest of Germany than the Maritimes are to Canada. Will necessity require union in the German case?
Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert in Afghanistan who was threatened with death for his conversion, has been freed. He’s expected to seek and be given asylum in a foreign country, since death threats continue to be made towards him.
This says rather bad things about the state of civil society, and religious tolerance, and the rule of law, in Afghanistan. It’s quite right to see this as proof that not very much has changed in Afghanistan between the Taliban era and the present, official American rhetoric aside. To no small extent I have to agree with Noel, who implicitly suggests that Bush had no choice but to do what he did. This is true. To no small extent, this is also begging the question. If there’s one individual anywhere on the Earth who bears responsibility for the state that Afghanistan finds itself in now, it’s him. The American president is the man who ordered the retaliatory conquest of Afghanistan back in 2001, after all, and the man who has done the most thorough job of articulating an ideology of forced modernization in the Muslim world via the conquest of hostile regimes. Why shouldn’t he be held directly accountable? That same responsibility is shared, to some extent, with all of the other citizens of all of the countries involved in Afghanistan, but he’s a central figure.
The more that is said about an Iraq that, as springheel-jack pointed out, is nominally run by a government that isn’t altogether sure if it’s in fact running death squads or not, the better. I can only imagine what would happen to Iranians in the case of war with the United States.
Why the lies of omission? Sometimes I wonder how I’d react if the Bush administration was simply honest and admitted that it didn’t care particularly about the fate of non-Americans.
Events in Belarus after that country’s recent election can perhaps best be summarized, by The Financial Times, as bad: “In Belarus, the liberal opposition failed to make any inroad on the ruthless machine of Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s irascible and autocratic ruler. His massive security machine – employing an estimated one in 10 of the population – ensured that the entire electoral process was heavily skewed in his favour. Even if it had not, most observers reckon that the maverick dictator would have won.” The resultant crackdown has seen a sweeping series of arrests in response to protests in the capital city of Minsk by members of the opposition. Here’s hoping that the space they carve out today and in the days ahead will last and can be put to good use. In the meantime, check out Belarusian blog br23 for the latest news.
Southbound on the Dufferin bus reasonably late on a week end party night, a more-than-presentable man 40 years old with the simple rectangular wooden head of a cane grasped in his hand on one side of the aisle, an attractive woman in her late 20s wearing a skirt that ran just above her knees on the other.
He was talking to her, politely and with smiles, about a party at a place near me. He named a boutique hotel with a name that’s probably excruciatingly familiar to most of the Torontonians reading this post, and went on to talk about how his friend had managed to reserve the place. She smiled back and talked with him, non-commitally but even so.
– You can’t come, he said. He’s buying a round for everyone, and he gave out tickets before so he wouldn’t end up paying for everyone.
He got off shortly afterwards at my stop. I didn’t turn to look at the woman.
The country is booming. The pragmatic policies of the new coalition government–a highly and increasingly popular government, incidentally–has ensured that GDP per capita has grown by a fifth in the past five years. With so much more well-spent money, France has been gleefully going about, doing things like building a prosperous Titan colony, accelerating the arcologisation of the French population, and the designing new colonies on Mars and in Alpha Centauri in association with its European allies. It’s very good indeed to be French now that the malaise of the past years has been shaken off.
Yes, fine, it’s true that the French economy has become so efficient that it doesn’t have much money at all left for surplus spending. The demiurge does say that France must either engage in cutbacks, increase taxes, or stop building grand projets. “Historic experience suggests the French, when presented with economic choices requiring something to be sacrificed, are never happy.”
Me, I’m thinking lots more new arcologies, and at least one more terraformed planet. Allons les enfants de la patrie …