Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yo c'est qui le Roi?

Ze Président and ze peuple
In a recent poll (Ifop) it transpired that 58% of ze peuple was disastified with ze Président's handling of the economic crisis. To boost the economy, public sector employees go on strike. Plus de grève.... Ze peuple (a majority) clamours for more government intervention. Plus d'Etat sauveur... To boost his public image, ze President flies to the Middle East to save the world. Plus de Superman.....
"L'Etat c'est moi" (I am the State) Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre (1638-1718) and Nicolas Sarkozy, Président de la République française (now). Plus de Roi aussi.....

"Sarkozy resign!" "...And it shall be forbidden to whistle, shout and demonstrate in the King's presence....". "Inform all the prefectures"

Reforming the state in the Kingdom of "Fonctionnarie"...
More than 50% of deputies and senators have a civil service background. Contribuables Associés (Taxpayers Associated Org) launches a petition for more independent representatives in our Parliament: "Fonctionnaire ou parlementaire. Il faut choisir". One can live in hope they will chose to do the right thing. "Impossible is nothing"... the Adidas-David Bekham philosophy.

France and Nato (and where the King should sit...)
Flash news from the EU Observer: French president Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to boycott the April NATO summit celebrating the 60th anniversary of the organisation, unless he is allowed to choose where he sits at the conference table.....
Yo, ze Sarko video: King of Bling-bling
Touching on issues like the cult of presidency, popular culture, relationship between power and business, elections, independence of the media, policing, accountability... Also featuring creative usage of la langue de Shakespeare like "I am ze Boss man".... Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi....

ze french umour

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Armenian lobbies fighting free speech and politicians not standing for liberty.

Post published as an Op-Ed in the Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey) on Feb. 12th 2009.
In Washington the “mischief of factions” is in full swing in the corridors of power to paraphrase James Madison, the father of the American Constitution. Lobbies are hard at work and not just for bailout money. Electoral promises were made, campaign money raised by the well organized Armenian interest-group. It’s time for reckoning.

American lawmakers would be well-advised to look at recent developments in France for a reality check. The 2001 Law[1] recognizing the event of 1915 as “Genocide” was passed. But the Armenian lobby asked for more, namely the criminalization of the denial of “genocide” [2]. When the bill reached the Senate in 2007, it finally dawned on a wise few that the logical legal consequence was that France would need to arrest and prosecute the entire Turkish nation. Our political establishment backpedaled.

The National Assembly issued a 480-page-Information Report (No 1262 of 18 Nov. 2008). Sobering reading! Contrary to what some intellectuals keep trumpeting, it is not the Armenian community (3) who requires further protection. The Report states the risks posed by the introduction of so-called memory laws: unconstitutionality, abridgement of fundamental freedoms, disguised censorship through the threat of legal action, creation of a precedent for a “thought” crime, restriction of the fundamental principle of freedom of scholarship. Last but not least, these laws due to their communitarian logic could weaken the fabric of our society. It concludes that it is not the role of the Parliament to write history. Eminent law professors have appealed for their annulment[4].

With a growing sense that a Rubicon against individual liberties has been crossed, the silent French majority is now speaking out. In growing numbers citizens are saying that “Liberty for history is Liberty for all” (2008 European historians “Appel de Blois”[5] see “Liberté pour l’Histoire” http://www.lph-asso.fr/). The practice of state edicted truth is not consistent with our democratic values. As Hayek’s famously commented in The Road to Serfdom, in totalitarian régimes “the disinterested search for truth cannot be allowed… Opinion must be controlled”. With these laws the “end of truth” in the field of history is staring us in the face. The Armenian lobby is increasingly looking like an Orwellian “thought” police intent on misusing the Ministère de la Justice as a Ministry of “their Truth”.

The story of socialist politician and Member of Parliament Dr. Jack Lang is enlightening. During a debate with historians, he admitted candidly that MPs had mostly voted for the 2001 Law “out of electoral concerns”. Hence a senior political figure essentially admits the obvious, namely that a small dedicated minority had imposed its “diktat”[6] on the majority under the guise of the “common will” (28 votes in a National Assembly of 577). His eloquent defense of freedom of expression resulted in him being targeted with a deluge of aggressive and unjustified attacks (letters, blog comments, etc…) which forced him to retract behind a wall of political correctness.

He is only the latest victim of the situation precisely highlighted as a “risk” in the Report. A letter[7] addressed to the former Minister by Alexis Govcivan, a leading figure of the pro-Armenian lobby, is a thinly disguised threat to sue. The free exchange of ideas and dissent within its own ranks cannot be allowed. The very notion that Armenians would apologize for the murders committed by the nationalist terrorist organization Asala (1970s and 80s) is abhorrent. Dr. Armen Gavakian from the Macquarie University, Sydney had to cancel the launch of a campaign inspired by a similar Turkish initiative apologizing to Armenians (http://www.ozurdiliyoruz.com/). The Turkish intellectuals’ campaign continues to gather signatures despite the pressure.

Almost a century after a dark period for all the peoples of Anatolia, it is time to leave history to the historians, time to look to the future. Turkey and Armenia have engaged in a dialogue started by the brave steps of the two leaders and the visit to Yerevan of President Abdulah Gül last September. History is being written where it matters.

Diplomatic efforts to normalize relations if conclusive may open a new era of trade and prosperity, cultural exchanges between the two nations, free debate between historians. The diaspora’s aggressive law-making and bullying strategy may satisfy the nationalists in their ranks but it is not helping to resolve present problems. Obstructing progress from the prosperous and free United States and Europe is easy…

Exercising judgment and leadership takes courage. When called upon to vote on the resolution, American law-makers should seriously ask themselves whether the founders of their democracy had given them powers to write Armenian and Turkish history. I hope they won’t chose to appease yet another lobby under pretence of justice and remember George Washington’s wise words: "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

[1] 29 Janvier 2001, Loi relative à la reconnaissance du génocide arménien. Resolution stating that « France publicly recognizes the 1915 Armenian genocide ». 28 voted in favour, 549 deputies abstained.
[2] Proposition de loi (bill) No 1643.
(3) Estimated at 350,000 individuals. Total population 64 millions.
[4] “Appel des Juristes” against memory laws (signed by 56 eminent law professors).
[5] “Appel de Blois”, October 2008. Appeal adopted by European historians during the Conference “Rendez-vous de l’histoire de Blois”, France.
[6] The expression is used in reference to a similar reasoning about the “common will” by Bruno Leoni in Freedom and the Law
[7] Letter dated 28 January 2009, The CCAF (Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spirit of capitalism on water

From the exploration of the 7 seas to the pursuit of sailing bliss.... Discover a 100 footer by Spirit Yachts, monument to the human spirit. Tradition, modernité, grace. Plaisir des sens sur l'eau en image

"When I look at the ocean, I feel the greatness of man's magnificent capacity that created this ship to conquer all that senseless space".
Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead.

Mariners and charts

"So what remains? The oceans that lies dark
Around, blessed islands. Come, embark".
Horace, Epode 16.41-2

"Explorers were the engineers of history's infrastructure, the builders of causeways of culture, forgers of links, spinners of webs".
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in Pathfinders. A global History of Exploration.

Surviving fragment of the first world map of Ottoman Admiral Piri Reis (1513)

At the helm
"My body sways, drunk with the shock of a discovery, and the yacht heels with my body, and it is the sea under the hull that reels with the heeling of my yacht - the discovery that my life is now in my own hands, that there is no necessity to argue, to explain, to teach, to plead, to fight – nothing but to see and think and act.....".

Paraphrasing Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) because she tells it better. Lire sur Rand en français www.unmondelibre.org/node/304?q=node/554

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Protectionism, cheese and the pursuit of happiness.

Governing a nation boasting 246 varieties of cheese is hard work as statesman Charles de Gaulle once famously said. The controversial Czech Presidency sponsored art work ‘Entropa’ and its portrayal of France as “en grève” (on strike) hits the nail. Taking to the barricades is a kind of national sport and most French people thought it funny. Maybe only until last Thursday if they had to go anywhere with public transport.....

These days the French government is certainly no longer laughing. With the latest wave of mostly public sector workers hits the streets for more demonstrations. When so many in the private sector are struggling to find jobs or keep them, job-for-lifers and privileged union leaders are asking for more protection – read "privileges". The Left disagrees with the government stimulus plan which they argue is favouring capitalist bankers. Unions demand that the pre-crisis plan to cut jobs in the bloated administration is scrapped. So they go on strike and cripple the economy a little more.... Of course the organizers see the use of taxpayers’ money to support them – read "legalised plunder" - as an eternal social given (acquis social). Not that these unions really need any subsidies. With workers understandably worried about their future, collectivist utopians are doing well. For them, business is growing.

Not so for Roquefort cheese producers whose exports to the USA have been dealt a final blow (the first was in 1999 was a 100% customs duty). Indeed one of the last decisions taken by the Bush Administration was to triple customs’ duties on the Aveyron cheese. One has to wonder what can possibly warrant such a harsh and unjust measure. A regular feature of the French diet, it poses no health threat. Lest you forget it in the boot of your car, it has no adverse effect on the environment. Producers have no other agenda than to earn an honest living in trying times…. The answer is the return of politics on our plates with the opening of a new chapter in the life of a cheese inextricably caught in a transatlantic trade war. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it isn’t good news for consumers on both side of the ocean. The G20 leaders had pledged to protect free trade but what we are being served is “appellation contrôlée” protectionism.

It is not known if President Obama is fond of Roquefort but he spoke eloquently of hope and free trade. So at the start of his presidency, here is an opportunity to demonstrate that he means change by revoking a ludicrous obstacle to free enterprise. Hence perhaps inspiring European leaders to do the same for US products. Fancy that! A variety of cheese influencing global governance...

The pursuit of happiness is as diverse as there are individuals. In a globalised economy, some see its attainment in the freedom to eat unpasteurized fromage accompanied with Californian red. But at a price determined by the “invisible hand” of the market, not by politicians.