31 October 2006

Weird Dutch Piece of News

Dear readers,

I have the luck to sit in the train every morning when commuting to work. It is good, because it allows me to read the newspapers, maintaining my Dutch to a relatively acceptable level. This morning, an article in Metro News Rotterdam (page 3) particularly draw my attention: "Oppassen voor ontploffende kroketten". Or in English, "attention to exploding croquettes". Most of you know or at least have heard about this summit of Dutch delicacies (yes, this is sarcasm), the croquette. According to the newspaper, some of these can explode from the heat of the oven, spreading their hot filling all over the place. Scary ! In this Halloween time, it is certainly frightening me more than ghosts or witches... A cooking grenade ! Pheewwww...

See you.

30 October 2006

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Dear readers,

I am back this week (after some training) with a book review. I'd like to tell you about this little jewel: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, written by Maria Lewycka. It has been published by Penguin Books, and is easily affordable anywhere in Europe.

The book is all together mean, hilarious, melancholic, ranting, tender and many other qualificatives could apply. The story, in short and without spoiling your pleasure too much, is pretty simple. An old Ukrainian man, living in the UK, father of two sisters is trying to remary with a young blond Ukrainian woman, shortly arrived in England. The whole thing turns to a catastrophic farce when the daughters try to stop what they see as a treason of their dead mother as well as an attempt to abuse their father! In the meantime, the father is writing what should become his life work... A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.

Buy it, read it, believe me, you won't be disappointed.

14 October 2006

Kamini on Youtube

Dear readers,

Today is a good day. I gratify you with a second post. Actually, just a funny link. Here it is, on Youtube: Kamini. Enjoy, if you understand French... The guy is now so famous that a producer proposed to have his first EP recorded. It was even in the French news on TV and he was also invited by some music program too. Amazing. And for someone like me, raised in a microscopic village too, hilarious memories.

Laws, Memory, History

Dear readers,

As so often before, French lawmakers have made themselves fools. Overkill in lawmaking is always a huge mistake. Unfortunately, it is a common one in Europe and especially in France. So what happened. Well, as the newspapers and TV have put it, the French lower House of the Parliament (the Assemblée Nationale) has voted, despite massive abstention, a law which makes it a criminal offense to express publicly the negation of the Armenian genocide by Turkey in 1915. This has obvioulsy provoked the usual outcry from Turkish politicians and people, both in France and in Turkey. Armenian reaction has been measured in France and slightly astonished in Armenia.

To quote a famous Armenian author, the law is very wrong. It (again) breaches the freedom of expression, in favor of one specific reading of History. It also directly attacks Turkish Memory (admittedly a wrong one, but that is not the point here). France is unfortunately used to this kind of laws. There is an old one punishing the negation of the genocide of Jewish people by the nazis during Second World War, and there was another questionable one about the "benefits of colonization". Right and left wing parties in the three cases argued that it is the "honor" of the French lawmakers to make an exception to the freedom of expression for these historical points.

Obviously, Historians and other political parties have denounced the totalitarism which imposes the obligation to think in one way rather than another, or at least to avoid expressing such thoughts. In my view, these laws are actually unconstitutional. As long as no one publicly express an incitation to discrimination or violence everyone should be allowed to express his or her own view on History, Memory and anything in general. The French constitution stipulates in the article 11 of the declaration of rights, included in its preamble, that anyone is entitled to express, print and share his own opinion. I believe and ask that lawmakers who refuse these unjust laws should appeal to the Constitutional Council and ask the scrapping of these laws all together.

No racism is ever succesfully fought by such laws. They only enforce the idea, in the sick minds who believe that, for instance, nazis never committed genocide against Jews, that they are the ones being right and persecuted. That if it is forbidden to express oneself one these topics, it is because the case of the majority of historians on them is weak, that something has been hidden that politicians don't want us to find. And it gives these ideas the savour of the "forbidden".

Another piece of information in the last week showed us exactly the right path to follow. The same day that this stupid law was voted, the literature Nobel Prize was given to Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish author persecuted because he spoke publicly about the Armenian genocide and dared to write about it. This made the very same Turkish people, who denounce even the idea that a genocide took place, so proud that they praised Pamuk in the media. This in turn will probably help Pamuk to actually express himself and make Turkish people accept the fault of their grand-parents. Just like modern Germans accept that their parents committed a crime and deal to live with it.

Interestingly enough, the law that allowed Pamuk to be prosecuted in Turkey (law 301 which forbids any public expression "of a nature insulting Turkishness") is of the same type of the ones voted in France... Who said: "One easily sees the straw in the eye of the neighbor, but not the beam which is in its eye"?

08 October 2006

Russia's lost honor.

Dear readers,

I could have made a new entry about the last book I read, or begin my future chronicle about constitutional law. Unfortunately, there was a sad piece of news yesterday that I'd like to comment. One of Russia's last free journalist, if not the last, has been assassinated in here lift, in Moscow. Anna Politkovskaïa was the victim of a professional. The gun and empty cases were found near the riddled body. Anna Politkovskaïa was the conscience of Russia, writing critical articles and photo reports for Novaïa Gazeta, an opposition newspaper.

She was just preparing a report about torture in Chechnya. She had been threatened by the Russian power as well as its Chechnyan subsidiary. She had been the victim of poisoining attempts, anonymous calls, etc. But she was saying: "I have children. What will I tell them in 20 years from now, if I don't say anything today, if I don't testify..." She was a woman of honor and courage. As it seems, Russia has none of both anymore. Putine killed Russia's honor.

Or he did let kill... does it matter?

07 October 2006

Bourg Saint Maurice

Dear readers,

Who would have thought that to go from the greyish skies of Den Haag to the trendy ski resort of Bourg Saint-Maurice, one had to cross Leiden and Haarlem... Well, according to the NS (and to copy a slogan belonging to its French counterpart), everything is possible ! This photo was taken three days ago. The train trip between Rotterdam and Den Haag Laan van NOI was turning to a nightmare, with people unable to find their way between cancelled trains and very late departures. Another bad week for the NS, and unfortunately for the commuters like me... Posted by Picasa

05 October 2006

Citizens, Blogs and Politics

Dear readers,

A good friend recently made the remark that this blog is mainly about politics (and sometimes books) and rarely or never about transports. This despite the fact that I work in a transport company. Well, the answer is simple, I am normally not authorized to disclose any information about my work or any information that I accessed through my work. So I am sticking to issues which are safer, namely politics and literature. Sorry mate !

Which leads me to my second point: citizens, blogs and politics. I have read many blogs, written by politically conscious citizens and treating politics through various angles. Most of them (just like the one you are currently reading) are expressing opinions, more or less based on news items and our own level of understanding of these. Well, I intend to do something a bit newer. Not that it does not exist elsewhere, but at least it will be an attempt at being slightly more original. Or so I hope. And I also hope you will like it and that you will react to it too...

My intention, in the coming months, is to add some more personal ideas on this blog by actually listing out (and hopefully discussing with you) my ideal political principles. One can call it constitutional principles. But it is a bit more than this, as it includes rights and duties of citizens as well as some other legal principles. I will willingly keep any specific national or geographical reference out, as I expect this to be wide enough to englobe a country as well as, let's say, a supranational organization.

So, keep tuned...

04 October 2006

EUobserver.com - Robots to shape EU military future

Dear readers,

I came to read the following article on the always excellent EUobserver: Robots and media scrutiny to shape EU military future. It is quite a wonder of a report, I think. The author, Honor Mahony, comments on a European Defense Ministers' Council report on the future of European armed forces. And there is no word about common defense forces or anything like this in it. It is all about technology, threats and political perception.

Quite unsurprisingly, the report quotes new threats in the direct European geographical environment (terrorism and guerilla war threatening EU vital supplies routes, rogue states, new nationalisms and religious fanaticism). The reports also explains that armed interventions to answer these threats might meet resistance from the public opinion, especially if they are not specifically authorized by the United Nations. War is getting more and more unpopular in Europe (which is obviously good) but that means a deterrent defense is also becoming more unpopular too (which is obvioulsy bad). Additionnally, with the aging of population as well as the sounding of States budgets, armies in Europe have more and more difficulties to recruit young, qualified and quality people.

So what are the answers of these estimate Ministers... Well, believe it or not, robots and computers. The war of the future on and around the European battlefield will be a war of information, communication and automated soldiers ! Who said Terminators ?...