09 Mar

2015: Watch the Mediterranean & Beyond

Italians have become very concerned [Corriere della Sera] about ISIS’ recent inroads into Libya, adding a new twist to a humanitarian crisis that has been going on for years [The Migrants Files]. Deutche Welle summarizes the situation in Lampedusa:

“The residents of the island are waiting and hoping that no war breaks out right at their doorstep. There are frightening new rumors that have found their way across the Mediterranean. Read More

16 Jan

Jeff Bezos, Hero of All Free People

Kudos to Jeff for standing publicly against the French Union of Expensive Books and France’s illiberal laws. He’s reading from the book written by Virgin retail stores kept open on Sundays even if that means paying a fine. Just the cost of business in a communist country where Guaranteed Unemployment is a dogma supported by all political parties.
As an aside, you’ll notice that laws that help companies collude against consumers with tools such as price fixing are just fine for the EU. I don’t think Americans realize how bad European consumers have it.

13 Jan

Braindead Brainwashing

I had a whole weekend rant in draft but Movable Type, obviously objecting to my Austrian economics, ate it. I don’t care to write again why and how Italy is going to start a domino chain that will push half of the countries belonging to the Euro out of it; or why Germany has better economic prospects than France. However, I’ll link to the original Foreign Policy article that inspired me to write on this in the first place: Europe’s Philosophy of Failure.

15 Sep

We Made It to Chile – A Small Tale of Three Continents

As I hinted this (northern hemisphere) summer, we decided a few months ago to relocate to Chile, the most stable, secure and less corrupt country in Latin America (see for instance recent coverage in The Economist). Well, now it’s done as of last Sunday. We’re in Renaca on the Pacific coast, 90 minutes from Santiago and less than three hours from pretty good ski options. Not only does Chile have great geography and climate to offer, but it seems one of the rare countries these days that hasn’t decided yet to melt down into a police nanny state. Since all we want is to be left alone, that’s an attractive value proposition. The best resource to prepare such a relocation ended up being the All Chile forum.

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08 Jun

Mundo de Warcraft and Frontline Thoughts About the EU

In this discussion thread many British World of Warcraft players want to be able to migrate their characters to US servers after Blizzard has effectively turned "English" servers into international ones where it’s OK to chat in any language. This translates into some servers being dominated by, say, Spaniards or Russians who seem to flood the general channels, insult English speakers or kick them out of groups. Not a nice customer experience and maybe Blizzard should be a little more proactive on this.
This is an interesting, real-world example of what’s wrong with ever-closer union within the EU and why I voted No to the European constitutional treaty (in the recent French referendum). Talk about putting the cart before the horse. By the way I voted from the French consulate in Lisbon since I’ve been living in Portugal for the last two years. My 4 1/2-year daughter is bilingual (well, she’s making progress in English too so she’ll be trilingual by age 6). Besides my native France I also lived in Germany and Italy in the past, and that leaves out tourism and business trips to England, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Russia.

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29 Jul

What Barack Obama’s Popularity Burst Tells Me

The guy delivers a decent speech at the DNC and now he’s all over the place. Isn’t this sudden excitement sign that the Democratic ticket is desperately boring? It’s just a speech people, it’s not like Obama has invented the cure for cancer. I’m sorry but I’m not excited by people whose major achievements are rethoric and pushing more legislation. The guy went to law school for chrissakes, that should tell you something (for one, that might get him a VP job one of those days!). Read More

10 Jul

A Triumph of Images

Peggy Noonan:

"Before that Mr. Kerry did nothing but boring boilerplate–John Edwards "shares American values"–all that vague stuff. What does that mean? It means someone’s focus group said “they like the word values” But they like it when it has meaning, when it is connected to issues that mean something, not when it’s just some dumb word cynically thrown out for the boobs. Boobs are sophisticated now. They may be sophisticated beyond their intelligence, but they know rote words used to please them are rote words used to please them. And they’re not impressed. "

I wouldn’t want to go beneath Peggy Noonan’s utterly civil but nonetheless lethal scalpel! But please, every columnist should have an RSS feed. Ditto for, say, David Brooks, or whomever you want to follow (Krugman triggers so much response he doesn’t need his feed, each of his columns will be abundantly praised or fisked anyway).

01 May

Those Who Don’t Respect Their Enemies Aren’t Better Than Their Opponents

The internet has a funny way to connect the dots. While the unacceptable behavior of a few American soldiers is raising legitimate fury all over the web, I’m reminded of something I angrily posted last year in memory of my grandfathers’ service during WWII by an American who recently inquired about the medals they were awarded. And these two men had deep lessons for me through personal anecdotes.
By some ironic twist of history, my father’s father fought Germans at almost the exact same spot in Somme where his own father had fought the same people 24 years earlier, illustrating how those who don’t learn from History’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them (and doom is not too strong a word to describe the pain France and Germany inflicted to each other through the 19th and 20th centuries). My grandfather was captured (the 1940 debacle is moronic out-of-touch French management at its "best"), and described his guards’ behavior as harsh but fair. POWs, at least on the western front, were given decent rations of Kartoffeln and not beaten up or humiliated at random. (What both parties did on the Eastern front was much more barbaric.)

Medals awarded to my late grandfather, Arthur Beckers.

My other grandfather knew for sure he had killed at least one German, somewhere near Monte Cassino, because he had seen the guy face-to-face fall from the mortal wound and discharge his weapon in the air. Now, it was clearly a "him or me" situation (in some way I’m alive thanks to a quick trigger), and as a Lorrain, the least I can say is that my grandfather didn’t entertain tender feelings about the German people (given they had repeatedly invaded and annexed our homeland — even in the mid-nineties, maybe two weeks before his death from cancer, to my question about finally trusting the Germans, his answer was a wary no). Still, that resentment, as well as the body count he witnessed during the war (Cassino alone is one of the most gruesome battles ever), didn’t jade my grandfather about the value of human life. He used to say he remembered that guy he killed every day thereafter, a young man far from home just like him. He had probably shot other people during these years, but with the distance and chaos in the battlefield he didn’t know for sure — the one dead right in front of him couldn’t be abstract or uncertain.
Human treatment of POWs is the last barrier between war and total barbaric mayhem. There are bad apples in every army, and conflicts as well as the chaos that follows them are usually ripe with rape and larceny, but such behavior needs to be prevented and punished as strongly as possible. I didn’t support the war in Iraq to see that kind of unapologetic thuggery (those guys photograph and film their deeds for chrissakes). I’m glad the warbloggers I’ve staunchly criticized for their insulting misrepresentation of French behavior in times of war, this time make sense and are clamoring for Court Martial.