Saturday, November 09, 2002

Well, it looks like all concerned got what they wanted out of the UN resolution. France and Russia got to feel important and respected, America and Britain will have their war against Saddam (no one seriously thinks Saddam is going to comply), and China and all the other countries that voted yes mark up one in the Favor Book. In other European news, a bunch of antiglobalization wackos marched this afternoon in Florence. It looks like they got a pretty good demo together; I didn't see any figures but I'd bet at least 10,000. What cheesed me off was that the Spanish TV reporters kept referring to these people as "peace marchers" and "hunger activists" and "solidarity groups". All I can say is that from the brief footage of the demo on both the TV3 and then Antena 3 news, there sure looked like there were a lot of red flags. So far, at least, there hasn't been any violence, but I'm writing at six in the evening, around dusk, and that's the time that the demos get ugly in Barcelona--the local folks, union members, high school kids playing rads, and lefty-foo-foo teachers and bureaucrats have all gone back to their comfortable homes. Then the real rads, a lot of whom have come in from out of town for the occasion and now have nothing else to do, come out just around when it gets dark and start smashing shit up and attacking the cops when they arrive at the scene of the disturbance. A few local high-school kids who really shouldn't be out after dark anyway in downtown Barcelona and especially not when there are angry cops in the vicinity join in and get whacked around too and then their parents sue the cops. In case you were wondering, the three McDonald'ses in Florence have shuttered up and taken down the Golden Arches signs in order not to become mob targets, as have many of the famous Florentine luxury shops, so much fun for window-shopping. Here in Barcelona the traditional targets are first the McDonald's on the Ramblas and then bank branches in general, and if I were running a luxury shop on the day of a demo I'd close it up too. Valéry Giscard "d'Estaing", president of the Convention on the future of the European Union, whatever that is, said that the admission of Turkey to the European Union would be "the end of the EU". Well, at least he's being honest; many other European Thlaylis don't like the idea of admitting Turkey, either. Giscard said that "Turkey's capital is not in Europe and 95% of its population lives outside Europe...Turkey, with its 66 million inhabitants, would become the largest member State." To pick a few nits, Ankara is not in Europe but Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, with its 10 million people in the metro area, 10 times the population of Ankara, is famously in Europe. I would guess that 15-20% of Turks live on the European side of the Straits. Also, Germany, with its 83 million, would remain the largest member State in population, though Turkey would become the largest EU country in area. Giscard added that the next thing that would happen after Turkey's admission would be Morocco's pressure to get in too, as Morocco has also petitioned to be allowed into the EU. Well, good. Tell the king of Morocco, hey, set up a representative democratic government with an independent judiciary and the rule of law backed by an inviolate Constitution, which everyone else has to do to get into the EU, and we'd love to let you in. That would be the best thing that could possibly happen to Morocco, being forced to liberalize and getting payback by being let into the economic club when they've proven they're serious about it. If the Turks successfully continue their evolution toward meeting the above conditions--they're not there yet, but they've been making progress, and the way the new "Islamic Democrat" Turkish government behaves and how the army reacts will let us know how close they are to getting there very soon--they damn well deserve to be let into the economic club as soon as they meet those criteria, since they've stood by the European NATO countries for more than 50 years in the military club, including when the going was tough. M. Giscard, by the way, is extremely well known to be a snooty bastard in general. Apparently everyone who has ever known him hates him except maybe for Chirac. He picked up the noble-sounding "d'Estaing" as part of his endless quest for public homage; his uncle, René Giscard, a social climber, had sought to add luster to his surname by adding the appendage d'Estaing, which was in disuse as its last holder got shaved by the rasoir national in 1794, a very bad year in general anywhere near France. This appendage-adopting is permissible in France, and Uncle René was confirmed as the rightful possessor of the appendage in 1923. Valéry Giscard, as Uncle's nephew, saw fit to add said appendage to his own name. Giscard, get this, claimed that he was descended from Louis XV through an illegitimate connection; one of his female ancestors had been one of Louis's chambermaids. He also tried to get into the Society of the Cincinnati, a very exclusive club that is restricted to the descendants of French officers who fought in the American Revolution, on the grounds that the last d'Estaing (who was an admiral) was his ancestor. Didn't work. (Source: Fragile Glory by Richard Bernstein, an excellent overview of French society, now just a little out of date as it's from 1990.)

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