Monday, 30 May 2005

Plan B for the EU Constitution

Although I'm not keen on the EU Constitution in its present form, I agree that the EU should have a constitution.

The next step should be to recognize that every paragraph added to the Constitution makes more people fail to read it, fail to understand it, or fail to agree with it.

Therefore, whoever is responsible for the document in future should look at every paragraph in it and ask, "Is this paragraph vital for the future of the EU?" If not, take it out.

The resulting minimal document can then be resubmitted to the people of Europe with more hope of success.

It's perhaps unlikely that any conceivable Constitution would be approved by every EU country. Therefore, it's necessary to plan ahead and stipulate how to proceed with a Constitution without unanimous agreement. The obvious method is to say in advance that, if a large majority of Europeans approve the Constitution, any dissenting countries will be required to accept it or leave the EU.

If this seems too drastic, perhaps dissenting countries could be offered some kind of associate membership of the EU. But this status would be awkward to define, and would presumably have to be defined in the Constitution itself (an unwelcome complication).

Sunday, 29 May 2005

The French say no

It seems the French have, as forecast, rejected the EU Constitution; and I'm rather pleased about that, for several reasons.

  • A constitution of more than 300 pages full of messy compromises never deserved to succeed. Give us something clear and concise next time.
  • The EU strategy was to create this unappealing document and then demand that we vote for it or face some unspecified disaster. "There is no Plan B." There should have been a Plan B. Now the idiots who failed to prepare a Plan B will have to create one anyway.
  • It was never likely that all countries would vote Yes. In particular, Britain would probably vote No. However, speaking as a Brit, I'm pleased that fans of the Constitution (there are some) will now have to blame the French for its demise.
  • It's particularly amusing that the French voted against it because it seems too British, while the British will probably vote against it (if given the chance) because it seems too French. So much for compromise.

As for me: when Spain voted, I wasn't offered the opportunity to take part. I don't know whether this was a mistake or a matter of policy.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

No taxation without representation

I'm British, but I didn't vote in the recent British general election, for the very good reason that I'm not allowed to. Anyone who lives outside the UK for more than 15 years loses the right to vote, and I've been away for 19 years.

I live in Spain, but I'm not Spanish, so I don't have a vote in Spanish national elections either. I do, in fact, have a right to vote in local and European elections here, but these are not very important, and they sometimes forget to send me an invitation even though I have a right to take part.

If there were no taxation without representation, I'd be delighted. Like any sane person, I'd gladly trade my vote for a tax exemption. One person's vote makes no difference at all to any election result: I'm sure you're more likely to be struck by lightning on your way to vote than you are to have any effect on the composition of the government. However, to pay no taxes would have a very significant and tangible effect on my financial situation.

The dismayed invaders

The BBC reports from the Gaza Strip:

The settlers are appalled by the possibility that their homes may be taken over by Palestinian militants who have been attacking Gush Katif for years. To prevent that happening, the Israelis may demolish all their property before they leave.

"You don't want to destroy what you built," says Debbie Rosen, who raised her six children in Gush Katif. "It's home with all the memories that you grew up with... It's my kids, it's my garden, my flowers that I just planted. It's home."

"On the other hand, it is too hard to think that they are going to give it to terrorists. Terrorists that killed my best friends — and they are going to celebrate in my home. It's too hard."

Well, I'm sorry, Mrs Rosen, but if you try to steal another people's country, they will try to kill you and your friends. Two wrongs don't make a right, and terrorism is always wrong; but people always defend their own country violently, it's a fact of life. You knew in advance what you were getting into; if you don't like it, you shouldn't have decided to live in a place where you definitely weren't welcome.

I myself live far from where I was born, but my situation is entirely different from Mrs Rosen's. I live at peace with the Spanish people and obey their laws. I even pay their taxes, albeit reluctantly. I don't have British troops here protecting me, bulldozing Spanish homes, and killing Spanish men, women, and children. If I needed that sort of protection to live here, I would never have come here.

Monday, 23 May 2005

Starting point

Today I registered with Blogger in order to produce this thing, which I call an interactive diary ('blog' is an ugly word). Whatever it's called, it seems worth trying.

In order to fill it up with something quickly, I'll start copying in chunks of my existing non-interactive Web diary (below).

Sunday, 22 May 2005

A small step for a Web site

This weekend I've been moving my Web site from Burlee's servers to Interland's. Burlee was taken over by Interland two years ago, so this should have been a simple internal matter, but my Web site and e-mail have been down for 48 hours during the transition.

Last night I finally put a query on Interland's support site, and someone has now fixed the problem. But I still don't know what the problem was. I'm on Interland's cheapest hosting plan, and the company doesn't seem to think I'm paying enough to deserve explanations.

Saturday, 21 May 2005

Els castellers

This evening we wandered over to the town square for a children's party and a castles exhibition from two teams from Vilanova (a nearby larger town).

This is a Catalan team sport in which people try to get as high as possible by climbing onto each other's shoulders. It seems to be non-competitive, and quite often a display is given by only one team. Unfortunately we forgot to take a camera on this occasion.

It provides a role for most family members: the heaviest at the bottom, the lightest at the top. Typically, the first level is taken by older men, the second by younger men, the third by boys or girls in their late teens, and subsequent levels by boys or girls in their early teens or pre-teens.

Often the display is accompanied by the shrilling of the gralla, a traditional Catalan wind instrument.

A simple display features just one person at each level: an older man supporting a younger man supporting a teenage girl supporting a pre-teenage girl (who stands up straight and waves at the crowd before descending).

The most ambitious we saw today featured three people at most levels and reached a total of six levels, a height attained rather precariously by a girl perhaps eight or nine years old, who waved very briefly from a crouching position before descending.

The whole team is quite numerous and not all of them form part of the castle: some just cluster around closely to act as human cushions in case the castle collapses.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

World at War (2)

This morning I managed to finish my first game of Gary Grigsby's World at War, having started yesterday.

Playing as the Western Allies at Easy level, I scored a marginal defeat: when the game ended at the end of 1946, Germany was on the verge of complete defeat (mostly overrun by the Soviet Union) but Japan was still flourishing in the Far East, because I never really figured out how to attack it. My only achievements were to liberate North Africa, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Although the game is simpler and quicker than most games set in this period, it's still not as quick nor as easy to play as I'd like. The manual runs to 115 pages. As with most computer games, you can see only a small portion of the map at a time, and you can't see the disposition of forces at a glance: you have to mouse over a particular area to see in detail what units are in that area. The units are shown only as pictures, not all of which are easy to distinguish (a heavy fleet is shown as a ship just slightly bigger than a light fleet).

But my main problem with this game is that I don't really enjoy playing it, and this is a subjective matter that may defy analysis. I think the Second World War probably just doesn't suit me as a subject: for game purposes, I prefer the wars of earlier centuries.

Friday, 6 May 2005

It's Blair again

The British general election has come and gone. As I like none of the parties, I'm reasonably content to see that one of them has lost 47 seats and the others have failed to gain power. Not a good result, but perhaps the least bad result available.