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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 07:23:04 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP, Europe (all tags)
Reading: "Let it Bleed". Watching: "Henry V", "The Happening". Europe and Lisbon treaty. Web.

What I'm Reading
Liked the last one so went straight on to the seventh Inspector Rebus novel: Let It Bleed by Ian Rankin.

Another very good one. Rebus is falling apart mentally, but does finally get his teeth seen to. The plot carefully balances corruption in high places in Scotland, with some stuff at the other end of the social spectrum. This time the corruption seems more plausible, with the generous business development grants being diverted with the aid of the complex bureaucracy of Scottish government.

Worth reading. This series is a bit of a slow starter so if you're pushed for time you probably wouldn't want to start right in the middle. While the books are self-contained there are a few continuing plot elements and the odd in-joke like the villains using Ford Escorts. "The Black Book" (number 5) wouldn't be a bad place to start.

What I'm Watching
Watched the last of the Henry plays from the BBC Shakespeare series: Henry V.

Not too bad, but a little disappointing. They seem to be trying for a kind of grittiness popular at the time (it was made 1980ish), but not sure it totally works. "Once more unto the breach" seems a little forced with Harry chivvying exhausted soldiers individually. The prolonged rom-com stuff at the end where he tries to seduce the princess across the language barrier also makes a jarring change of tone. I think it's better to either romanticize the war stuff, or cut out the romance stuff.

David Gwillim does a pretty good job in the title role, and the other performances are OK.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie The Happening, since I'd managed not to be spoilerified this time. Thought it was pretty good with some nice tense and creepy scenes. Was a little let down in some ways by the ending: could have been tighter and tougher. Not bad on the whole though.

Euro-crisis redux
Looked though some of my diaries from earlier in the series.

2003: talks fail.

Well, the constitutional talks have failed. Seems like a good thing: behind all the details and sub-clauses and voting schemes lies a basic fact that people don't want the EU to exist as the vast, bureaucratic, undemocratic, command-and-control system that the Eurocrats want it to be.

...a "two-speed europe" is actually a pretty good idea. Keep the free-trade and free travel zone as it is; but let France, Germany and their allies unify themselves into the high-tax, high spending superstate that they want so much.

2004: constitution introduced
So, looks like there's a new constitution to think about... Will have a look through after the toilettage, but it looks like this one might be vote-uppable...

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.

May 2005: French referendum
French Referendum. I'm broadly in favour of the constitution: we need the voting changes, but not that enthusiastic about it. If the French reject it, they'll want a load of anti-market concessions to reapprove it; but since the new Eastern nations would have to be involved in the renegotiations, the French would find it hard to get a better deal. No idea how it would all play out.
June 2005: French vote No
The basic fact is: nobody knows why the French and the Dutch voted no. The no campaigners were a disparate bunch from all across every spectrum. The vox pop interviews with no voters show diverse, contradictory and often self-contradictory opinions. Nobody knows anything.

And so, the obvious response from every commentator and politician is: to solve the problem we have to do exactly what I already wanted...

Ultimately, it's not that there is no Plan B. The difficulty is that there are plans B,C,D,E, F right through to Z, and most of them are completely incompatible with each other.

2008: Irish reject Lisbon treaty
Don't really have that much to add. The big problem was that the EU voting system was designed for fewer countries, and the plethora of vetoes and weak, 6-monthly rotating presidency don't work very well for the expanded EU.

Now in everyday operation, this hasn't proven as unworkable as some feared. Most routine stuff still gets done.

The problem though, is that this cumbersome system makes reform of the EU very difficult. Major changes like CAP reform, proper accounting and reducing corruption can't really be pushed through.

So, I think the moderately Euro-disgruntled are basically shooting themselves in the foot. Those who want a more efficient, less corrupt, less profligate EU aren't going to get one, because they keep cancelling the legislation that would actually make that possible.

Mental illness in real life. Hello world from The New Republic, blog of an autistic adult. Also, an emo cutter.

Anti-fart pads.

Homophobia quiz: spot whether the quotes are from rappers or pastors (I got 7/10).

Video. 6D hypercube. Ouch: idiot vs wall. 1928 animated porn (NSFW, WP).

The Reel Geezers are a pair of octogenarian movie veterans doing YouTube reviews of Iron Man, Sex and the City, Juno etc. They're not just Statler and Waldorf: it's genuinely insightful.

< Poem of the Day: "I cease not from desire" by Hafiz | Finally, >
Shall we shog? | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
French vote by thunderbee (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 09:40:51 AM EST
It's not that nobody knows. They don't want to know.
Most people who voted against the "constitution" did if for simple reasons: Politicians decided that people voted "no" for a whole lot of reasons that had nothing to do with the constitution, but the truth is, most people voted against the very thing they tried to pass as a constitution.

I believe a lot of people are pro-european, but very anti-"bureaucratic, undemocratic, command-and-control system" as you put it.

And I honestly don't believe that the legislations that keep on failing would improve europe citizens-wise. It'll improve bureaucratic decision-making, but not democracy.

So, I cheer at the Irish vote, because they had a chance to refuse what we no longer can vote on. If their idea of democracy is "ok, you voted against, but we are going to do it anyway 'cause you don't get it", then I certainly don't want them to get any more power.


10 pages seems pretty short by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 10:31:43 AM EST
Assuming 250 words per page, I make the German constitution 87 pages, the French 37 pages, the Indian a massive 469 pages. The EU constitution could certainly have done with some trimming. But the US constitution is highly exceptional in being so short: constitutions are generally pretty long documents.

while improving some european mechanisms, it concentrated power into unaccountable, unelected hands. The fine details I can't recall now, but power was redistributed in a "you vote for trivial matters, we'll handle the rest without this cumbersome democratic process".
Can you be more specific about that? Do you mean the removal of national vetoes in certain areas, or something else?
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
The US constitution by ucblockhead (3.33 / 3) #3 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 01:32:56 PM EST
Is also the one that has lasted the longest. (Ignoring the longer lived unwritten British one.)

There's lots of value to having a constitution that your average non-lawyer can read and understand, even if it does lead to century-long arguments about what "militia" means.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I don't think it's really comparable by TheophileEscargot (3.00 / 1) #6 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 10:20:06 PM EST
First, because it describes a republic not a democracy, the US constitution leaves most of the details of how senators, congressmen and the electorial college delegates are selected to the State constitutions, which are generally much longer.

Second, it was was written in an age without much technology, without much regulation, for a rural population, in colonies without long legacies of existing law. You wouldn't write an 18th century constitution if you were starting in the 21st.

Thirdly, as I see it the US constitution was a bit of a fudge, designed to be as vague as possible to get it accepted. As an actual working modern constitution, it has significant problems.

As I mentioned here its vagueness means that in practice, the unelected supreme court can basically legislate. It misses crucial details like the how many people should sit on the supreme court. It weirdly had nothing on whether and how states could secede. It was vague enough to allow black men to be disenfranchised. Thing like abortion rights end up being decided by the unelected supreme court based on side-issues like a woman's right of privacy with her doctor.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
That is true by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 05:21:43 AM EST
However, given that European countries are likely to want even more independence than the original US colonies did, it seems to me a good model.

It should also be pointed out that the vagueness that allowed black men to be disenfranchised was quite deliberate.

Truth is, both the cases you complain about have more to do with deliberate misreadings of the US constitution.

This is not to say that I think a longer constitution is bad. 37 pages is reasonable. 469 is not. A nation's constitution should be simple enough for schoolchildren to understand.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Nation's constitution by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Jun 16, 2008 at 12:05:10 AM EST
The EU is not and should never be a nation. Therefore even a vague constitution is possibly a step too far.

I liked it best as a set of trade agreements and as a tool to improve people's rights across the EU. Without an EU, women in Ireland would not have the right to equal pay for example, nor would homosexuality have been decriminalised as 'early' as it was. I think Colm Tobin has an interesting point undeveloped in that article. As the political establishment becomes unquestioningly pro-EU, the people become more anti that version. Yet, these same people continue to elect that political establishment.

[ Parent ]
I thought by R Mutt (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Jun 16, 2008 at 05:43:34 AM EST
This was an interesting idea. Every country except Ireland should leave the old EU and join a new EU with the new voting rules. Ireland would then be in the EU on its own.

I think his analysis is a bit over-complicated though.

The No vote in Ireland has exposed a glaring inefficiency in the legal structure of the EU. Simply put, the requirement of unanimity creates a giant external effect: A No vote imposes a high cost on all EU members. However for the electorate in any one country, especially a small one, it is entirely rational to vote no. They can thus punish at a low cost to themselves in one go ‘Brussels’ and their own political class. Ireland represents 1 % of the EU; 99 % of the cost of a badly functioning Union is thus borne by the other 26 member state. No political system can long survive such a misaligned incentive structure.
Basically I think it just comes down to the problem that direct democracy doesn't scale. I think Plato had 5,000 citizens as the maximum for a city-state. When you get to the 500,000,000 or so people in the EU it gets hard for any kind of sensible compromise to referedized everywhere...

[ Parent ]
Technology has nothing to do with it. by thunderbee (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 10:41:54 PM EST
The way I see it, a constitution is not a law.

The constitution is what makes it possible to elect a body that will debate and pass laws, and change laws when the need arises (because technology or population or the world changes).

Thus, a constitution is a short text, because it is not concerned with details nor with the current times. It puts forward the principles that will be used to set up the process to set up the laws.
The democratic process (if you really intend to have one, which they did not) does not change with times or technology.

It should be a text that can be read and understood, and voted upon by all, and it should safeguard basic human rights and the democratic process.

The European constitution had some of those items, with a whole lot of laws, policy choices, inter-states treaties, and was almost impossible to revise due to the voting requirements with 27 countries.

[ Parent ]
Parliament & commission by thunderbee (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 10:33:12 PM EST
From what I remember, there was a power shift from the EU Parliament to the Commission.
The Parliament (elected) got power over a few more issues (thus they could say that the new constitution was "more" democratic), but in the meantime, very important issues were handed to the Commission whose power was vastly increased, and who was answerable to no-one.

There is a very interesting website (french only, and very bad-looking, sorry).

The guy really picks the "constitution" apart, with regards to what a constitution is supposed to be and how it should enable and protect the democratic process, but not set policy.
And for every point he makes, he gives precise pointers to the text of the constitution, so that you don't have to take his word for it, but can check by yourself.
I convinced a whole lot of people using that site.

The constitution was wrong on so many levels, I'm really disgusted that they just brought it back as a treaty, and I'm really glad the Irish got a chance to say no (even thought they'll move on with it anyway by the look of things).
At least it's just called a treaty now...

[ Parent ]
Ha, the real geezers are awesome by spacejack (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 04:01:29 PM EST
So I take it you thought The Happening deserved better than the 20% it got on RottenTomatoes?

Don't know why some critics seem to have hated it by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 10:18:02 PM EST
It seemed like a pretty well done suspense/horror movie to me. Thought it was better than "Unbreakable" and "The Village". It doesn't have an irritating cameo, it's a crisp 90 minutes not dragged out like too many movies these days.

I think Roger Ebert might explain it: it's a low-key movie without much ostentatious running around and screaming type drama.

I suspect I'll be in the minority in praising this film. It will be described as empty, uneventful, meandering. But for some, it will weave a spell. It is a parable, yes, but it is also simply the story of these people and how their lives and existence have suddenly become problematic. We depend on such a superstructure to maintain us that one or two alterations could leave us stranded and wandering through a field, if we are that lucky.

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
RealGeezers on No Country For Old Men by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #7 Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 11:17:30 PM EST
"It's very easy as a writer if you make a guy psychopathic, you don't have to explain anything".


The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

Shall we shog? | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)