28 December 2007

Big Brother

Dear readers,

This is just an extra for you: Slate wrote an article on the top 10 things encroaching on our privacy these years... A very interesting piece.

Nice reading and don't forget: "Big brother IS watching you!"

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Dear readers,

Before taking a couple of days of badly deserved vacations in France, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and most of all a very happy New Year 2008.

Yes, I know, Christmas is over and New Year's Eve is not now yet, but that's the spirit... I personally would like to share my wishes for 2008. I know most of these are totally unrealistic, but who cares?

I wish that Dutch people learn the meaning of the words "cooking" (no, it is not something Gordon Ramsey is doing on telly, it can happen in your kitchens...) and "service" (it is something worth paying for, yes...). Sorry darling, if you read this, it was not meant for you personaly.

I wish that French people learn the meaning of the expressions "arrogant ignorance" (that's unfortunately the summary of your foreign policy) and "Europe" (no, it is not an extension of the Francophonie, neither the source of all your local problems).

I wish that American people learn the meaning of "democracy" (it is not just the name of a liberal commie party, you know, it is also a political regime you used in the past) and "arrogant ignorance" (strange how problems can be similar, regardless of size or power, he?). To all my American friends, you know I love you very much and that you are not included in this.

I wish that Afghan people learn the words "Human Rights" and "Women Rights". I know it is not only your fault, considering the Great Game was played upon your heads since the 1800's... Anyway, Nasim my friend, if you are reading this, I wish you particularly all the best, considering that, unlike me, you are risking not just the estim of your friends but your very life by blogging for your people and fighting for a free press in your country.

I could go on like this for the 180 countries or so that are members of the United Nations, but you are already bored, so I am going to do something else. I am going to speak for countries that are not. ;-)

To my Taiwanese friends, I wish that China let you go and that other countries grow some spine and tell Beijing to shove it up where the sun never shines... Yes, you have a free country, and the continentals are only jealous because they can't even dream about achieving what you did.

To residents of Somaliland, I'd like to say good luck. Nobody knows where you live and nobody cares about your lives. Nevertheless, you have achieved what few managed in a region of the world better known for its pirates, civil wars, terrorists, dictatures and extremists: building some haven of peace, relative prosperity and civility.

To Kurds, I'd like to say good luck too. Everybody knows where you live now, and especially the Turks. Sorry for you about this...

To Kosovars, I'd like to wish a lot of patience. It's worth a lot, believe me. And I am sure you know first hand that nothing is worth war.

To my family and friends I wish you all happiness, wealth, health and a lot of friends. ;-)

20 December 2007

Sarkozy and the EU - follow up

Dear readers,

Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French president, loses no opportunity to look like a fool. He had, before his election, made very clear that he was opposed to Turkey's accession to the European Union. He had even strongly supported his predecessor's idea to include into the French Constitution an article stating that before any EU enlargement (after Croatia's), French people would have to approve it by a referendum (as a constitutionalist, I strongly reject the idea of mixing levels of priority in legal texts, but that's another story).

Furthermore, he had put as a condition to any extra discussion with Turkey (such as the opening of new "accession negotiation chapters") that an EU committee would discuss enlargement rules. This was accepted by other EU members (under Greek and Cyprus pressure) and such a committee was indeed created last week. Though the UK managed to exclude from the committee powers any discussion on the final borders of Europe, Sarkozy claimed loudly in the (French) media that such powers had been indeed included. Denying the obvious can be damaging in the future, but it seems that an otherwise relatively clever Sarkozy has suddenly lost touch with reality. Of course, the fact that French people and media did lost touch with any reality a long time ago probably helps.

Now Sarkozy has another issue at hand. He wants to be seen as the President who changes things (especially things made by Jacques Chirac, his predecessor and mortal enemy). So he decided yesterday to ditch the Constitution article mentioned above and replace it by one where the President has the right to chose between a referendum and a vote by the Congress (both French Parliament Chambers gathered together). Needless to say that it is usually a lot easier to get the second right than the first. This infuriated politicians and media opposed to Turkey's EU accession. They see it as a concession to Turkey, as French MP's are globally more in favor of Turkey's accession than French citizens themselves. I truly wonder how Sarkozy is going to sell this to his party and his voters without looking like an idiot... On the other hand, he seems to have other preoccupations right now. And about this one, I have only one thing to say: the bastard! OK, I am only jealous. ;-)

18 December 2007

Belgium again

Dear readers,

As an update on my last post, I would like to announce that Guy Verhofstadt was indeed asked by the king to begin the formation of a new government in Belgium (without Yves Leterme's party, but with the French speaking ones). This will be a transitional government, without any real power except the one, specified by the king himself, to undergo a complete institutional reform. If this puts an end to extremely damaging times for Belgium, it does not really solve anything yet. There is still absolutely no majority in Belgium, at the Federal level, to govern the country. Worse, there is absolutely no consensus on what institutional changes to achieve. And last but not least, if the will to "live together" has been restated by some of the major politicians, there is no consensus on how to achieve and perpetuate this.

It seems to me that Belgium problems are far from over. However, the style of Guy Verhofstadt will certainly help improve the situation. To be honest, anything would have been better than going on with Yves Leterme...

Update: my bad! I failed to realize that Yves Leterme party is still in the new transitional government. So good luck to the new Prime Minister...

10 December 2007

Kigali - Brussels

Dear readers,

Sorry for such a long absence. I will soon be writing regularly again. This week, we will have a band review and a film critic. But today I can't resist bashing our Southern neighbors a bit (I mean Belgium, of course).

Yesterday, Yves Leterme, who had received from the Belgian king the responsibility of negotiating a new government, declared to the press that the RTBF, the French speaking national Belgian TV channel, was like "Radio Mille Collines", the genocidal civil war time Rwanda radio. The absurdity of the charge alleviates probably some of its sting. RTBF is a highly respected quality public channel, relatively independent despite its language bias. The same case can hardly be made about Flemish channels who gather certainly more funds but for a result which is not really shining.

Obviously, it is Yves Leterme himself which will be the most damaged by this moronic and insulting comment. C&V leader Yves Leterme lost all credibility, adding to an already long list of past outrageous comments. The Flemish politician was once seen as the next Prime Minister to replace Guy Verhofstadt after the present record power vacuum. Unfortunately, it is now unlikely that the French speaking community parties can ever trust him anymore. This is probably the reason why the king asked Guy Verhofstadt to renegotiate a government agreement. But furthermore, it underlines again (if it was ever needed), the unlikeliness of a Blue Orange coalition in Belgium. The differences between the coalition members is so obvious, core to their convictions and rooted in their voters that I can hardly see them working together. Their only points of agreements are on economic policies. This proves again (if it was still needed) that there is more to politics than economics. Our European leaders seem to forget this fact all too often.

Let's hope that the sad Belgium example is going to give them food for thoughts. Politics, let's repeat it once more is what binds us as a community. It is the basic contract of living togetherness (if you allow me this weird expression). It is what the Dutch call "samenleving", or the French "contrat social". Belgium has reach a point where Flemish and Walloons will have to chose if this still exists between them and under which conditions. I desperately hope for them that they will. Despite the Dutch good will towards such an idea, I doubt that a Flanders reunification to the Netherlands is desirable...