14 Jun

Why I Unsubscribed from The Economist

I used to really like this magazine. A couple years ago they changed their Editor in Chief. Seems the new guy’s goal is to turn it into another wishy washy leftist vehicle. Look, there’s Newsweek, Michael Moore movies and countless others for the reality-challenged masses. Suddenly The Economist was publishing articles blaming Estonia for daring to move a statue erected to praise their Russian invaders. Now there’s routinely similar nonsense such as this on corporal punishment citing the indisputable authority of the UN or some semi-literate social “scientist” no doubt confusing correlation with causation. Seems the government is superior to parental judgment on educational matters. Yeah, Sweden for everyone! Confusing a regular spanking with abuse is about as dumb as it gets. I’ll spank whenever I feel it’s the only option left to get some sense into my kids. (As an aside and just to get it off my chest, on such issues my view on the opinions of childless people is, shut the fuck up, have kids of your own and show us what a great parent you are.)
I now fully expect a glowing endorsement for Barack Obama. Hay for change and hope! Free rainbows and unicorns for all! Another publication goes the PC crap drain. Oh well. We’re in a “stagflation/stop the war” mood these days so I guess it’s not fashionable to be a right-winger, just like in the 70’s. Big thumbs down to George Bush for screwing up the conservative cause so badly.

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

listen pal, I know what's good for ya

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!).
One can always hope the US will shake up from its current drift ever closer to Euro-like over-regulated nanny state. The difference between Bush’s "compassionate conservatism" and social democracy is thin — it’s just that the former doesn’t even pretend to balance its outrageous expenditures with enough taxes. But getting back to core American values of freedom, responsibility, openness and opportunity is not going to happen with creeping statism. Go ahead, impoverish people with high taxes, waste most of it and give some targeted "relief" back to buy some love (wait a minute, wasn’t this my money in the first place?). How about getting out of the way instead, big daddy? Have you seen how every American politician is sold to you as a great father and spouse? How telling, how patronizing.
Anyway, whether Barack Obama is the new Doctor General Howard Clark is an irrelevant detail (it’s funny though how the Democrats get excited by a new guy every quarter). At least he’s good looking and articulate and he blinks like a real human being. No, the big story is the zombification of the GOP. The fact Bush has not been challenged through Republican primaries is a disaster, the unraveling of the Reagan legacy. Now we have a competition between two flavors of protectionists and big spenders who want the federal state to have a finger in every pie because someone has to think of the children in the name of God.
What a waste of opportunity. I’m left (bad pun intended) with rooting for a Kerry victory so that the GOP kicks the religious nuts and prescription drugs collectivists out and reinvents itself into something finally palatable to fiscal conservatives and libertarians. Much like in Europe, it needs to get worse before it can get better.
09/02/04 update: Ken Layne: What Conservatives?.
08/22/05 update: I miss Republicans; The Gingrich Legacy.

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.