Finished The Scar by China Mieville. It's set in the same world as "Perdido Street Station", but I thought The Scar was an improvement all round. Some of the writing in PSS veered off from the entertainingly extravagant into the irritatingly purple: his prose in the Scar is more restrained. The big-baroque-decadent-city theme in PSS was also a bit over-familiar from Mervyn Peake, Michael Moorcock, Mary Gentle and too many others: The Scar takes us away from New Crobuzon into new waters.
Quite literally: on an ocean voyage from New Crobuzon, the emotionally repressed protagonist Bellis Coldwine is abducted with the rest of the passengers by the rogue pirate nation of Armada. Armada is a floating city of pirated ships linked by bridges and cables, slowly pulled across the world by its flotilla of tugboats. Like Armada itself, the plot is fascinatingly complex, but doesn't actually move very fast: even so, the political manoeuvrings and chains of manipulation keep you entertained as the book moves to its inevitable conclusion.
One thing that doesn't seem to have got much UK attention is that they're weakening the Growth and Stability pact even further: now EU finance ministers can prevent the European Commission from punishing countries that break it. Still, that's one for the Eurozone members and their kamikaze economics.
(Backstory: the weakness of the single currency is that taxes, spending and borrowing are controlled by the member states, not the EU. So, a member state can pursue economic policies that damage the currency (inflationary policies for instance) and only pay a fraction of the price. The Growth and Stability pact is supposed to restrain them from doing that, but it's been broken by France and Germany, and they've got away without being punished).
Can't see the constitution being ratified in the near future though: most of the UK press have come out with all scaremonger cannons blazing, and they'll keep up the bombardment indefinitely. Plus there are various other countries holding referendums, some of which will doubtless fail, leading to the usual keep-holding-referendums-until-we-get-the-right-answer business.
Other links: the BBC Euro press review seems to encounter some traces of hostility. And I quite liked the Sunday Times Focus article UK PLC is top dog - who needs Europe? [login cypherpunk/cypherpunk]. Extracts:
Euroscepticism has become the intelligent option. There is nothing irrational about it. For the first time in half a century, Britain is doing demonstrably better than the rest of Europe. It used to be that we feared missing out on prosperity by not integrating more closely with Europe.
Now the rational worry -- which applies to both the constitution and the euro -- is that we will risk prosperity by entangling ourselves more tightly with Europe.
Britain's unemployment rate, on a comparable basis, is 4.8%, against 9.4% in France and 9.8% in Germany. Unemployment stands at under half the EU average.
Per capita gross domestic product in Britain, according to a new report from Capital Economics, is higher at $30,200 (
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