Aznar admits he lied

Remarkable.

The comments by Jose Maria Aznar broadcast on Friday indicated the government knew on the morning before March 14 elections police were starting to rule out the separatist group ETA, though that afternoon it said ETA was likely responsible.

I guess he figured the truth would come out anyway. I’m sure he would disapprove of my headline, but can’t see how else one could interpret his remarks. Or am I being shrill?

The news reports are unsatisfactory. It sounds as if he wasn’t very apologetic. How did he justify his behaviour?

I’m hoping Edward will give us a more informed take.

The trouble with referendums…

…Is that they tend to only give you two options.

Following Jacques Chirac’s announcement that France will be joining the other countries holding refeendums on the constitution it’s prompted me to post a thought about the constitution referendum(s) that I’ve had before – wouldn’t it be nice to have a third option?

I’ve written here before about the concept of being ‘alter-European’ – that is, being generally in favour of the EU but not being convinced that the current and proposed structures of the Union is the best way to proceed. What I’d like (at the moment, anyway, all opinions are subject to change) is some way to register this opinion in a referendum. Instead of just voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the constitution, I’d like the option of a ‘No, but only to this constitution, I’m not opposed to the idea in principle’ vote. (Those who like to dismiss me as a wishy-washy, sit-on-the-fence liberal will find all the evidence they need in that last sentence)

I’m reminded of the 1999 referendum in Australia on whether to replace the Queen as head of state. Polls showed (and still show, I believe) that the majority of Australians wanted their country to become a republic, but when it came time to vote, they voted against change because they didn’t approve of the specific plan (a President appointed by Parliament rather than popular vote) proposed to them. I fear the same happening to Europe – a rejection of a poor constitution is likely to be seen as a rejection of all constitutions, not just this specific document. So, why not allow people the chance to say what they mean instead of forcing us into strange alliances with people we disagree with?

No End In Sight

On a day which sees yet more evidence that the US economy may in fact be slowing down, and when news from the courts only serves to highlight the continuing precarity of the growth and stability pact, the FT runs a story about how a group of prominent Italian economists are suggesting that the budget measures adopted last week under heavy EU pressure may only consists of a batch of one-off measures that disguise the deteriorating underlying state of Italy’s public finances.
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Europa Belongs to the Next Planet Sunward

But everything coming from the Cassini-Huygens mission is just too spectacular to ignore, even if our name is not a fistful of Titans.

The mission’s well-organized home page offers many splendors, including:

Cassini’s current position, from several different vantage points
Latest videos
Raw photos.

If the news, the economy, or the persistence of April-like weather into the middle of July have got you down, spend a few minutes reveling in this human achievement revealing the wonders of our universe.

The Broader the Band

Hi everyone. I’m back from holidays, work and stuff like that. Well, now we know what all that amazing broadband in South Korea is being used for. What is rather less well known is that whilst South Koreans are apparently happily downloading pirated movies they are quietly enduring a government inspired block on a big part of blogland. So the PRC isn’t by a long way the only state which practices blocking!! Rebecca McKinnon reports that her Nkzone site, which ironically is to raise peoples awareness about the conditions of life in North Korea, is in fact subject to blocking in the South. Even the popular South Korea expat blog The Marmots Hole seems to have to be constantly on the move to avoid the block.

Item

Alright, here’s your joke for Sunday… if you can receive German ZDF television, you can enjoy your breakfast tomorrow making fun of me – Tobias – cycling on an ergometer for half an hour as a “surprise candidate from the audience”. Don’t ask me how I got into participating in a “Tour de Fernsehgarten” – a strangely popular “family oriented” (meaning entertainment without any real focus) tv programme I have never even watched in my enitre life – when I have to be on the set at eight on a Sunday and then proto-cycle while being forced to listen to “Overground” playbacks… (if you have to, ask my sister when she starts her blog eventually.) At least I did not have to rehearse 😉

Blogs?

Our blogroll is meant to be a sort of mini-directory of good european blogs. I’m always looking for blogs to add, so I thought I’d ask for sugggestions. I?m especially interested in blogs with an European perspective and ones covering the politics of a European country or region, but any good blogs are of interest, even non-europeans.

Trying Times

Missed most of the first half of Milosevic’s trial?

Since the case began in February 2002, a tangle of bureaucratic setbacks has mired the trial in costly delays. Milosevic is accused of 66 counts of human rights abuses, from violations of the “customs of war” to genocide. After 298 witnesses, 30,000 pages of documents and millions of dollars, the case will reach its halfway point this week ? a level of inefficiency that has strained the patience of even the trial’s most ardent defenders.

So writes Mary Bridges in the Los Angeles Times (free registration may be required). And it may be about to get worse.

When the trial resumes July 5, its credibility will face even greater strains. Milosevic has announced his intent to call a staggering 1,631 witnesses, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former President Clinton, in his defense.

To finish in the 150 days he has been allotted, Milosevic would need to question 10 witnesses a day, a pace that would turn the courtroom into a revolving door of diplomats, dignitaries and press.

The trial of Saddam Hussein is likely to cause just as many headaches.

Of course art was there long ago. In 1992, Julian Barnes wrote about the trial of the former Communist dictator of a fictional country that bears a strong resemblance to Bulgaria. The book, The Porcupine, covers the whole territory of trying former heads of state. Read the novel, skip the newspaper reports.

49 Great Ones and a Stinker

Not too long ago, I noted that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung was publishing a set of 50 great novels of the twentieth century. I got into the game a little bit late, but since then I have been more-or-less keeping up with their pace of one a week, largely by the not terribly edifying expedient of sticking to the shorter ones. It’s been a delight.

Despite their no doubt monumental efforts, the Sueddeutsche editors let a stinker through. Lucky number 13 on the list, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Keeper’s Fear of the Penalty). The novel purports to show a man’s disintegration, before and after he commits a senseless crime. Trouble is, the crime really is senseless, making it beyond the author’s capability of approaching with his art. The book turns on the sentence, “Suddenly he strangled her.” Snoopy could write as well.

As the jacket copy says, the narrator wanders aimlessly through Vienna and everything irritates him. Most everything about the book irritates the reader as the story wanders aimlessly through the pages. Most irritating were the typographic tricks toward the end that were supposed to simulate the narrator’s almost completed disintegration. Maybe this sort of thing was daring or something similar when the book was published in 1970, but now it just looks silly.

There are 49 other books in the series, no need to bother with this one.

All over

Well, Greece are the European Champions for the first time. The side that had never won a match in a major tournament before this year beat Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon to take the title. Expect wild party in Athens for the next few days.

Commiserations to Portugal – if it’s any consolation to Portuguese fans, you hosted a fantastic tournament that will be remembered for a long time.

Update: Reuters have a report on the start of the celebrations in Athens and elsewhere around the world.