“Multiculturalism”? As if!

I’m going to barf if one more person writes that “multiculturalism” has somehow contributed to the riots in France. How exactly you square “multiculturalism” with France’s ban on the headscarf – and the fact that French is, officially, about as un-multicultural as you can get – is beyond me.

If you ask me, I’d hazard to say it’s a complete and utter lack of multiculturalism that had created the situation we have now.
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Then and now

Billmon, in a very eloquent post, says nothing. All he does is put up a series of quotations. Yet his message couldn’t be clearer; or more correct.

Lest visiting American wingnuts misunderstand me: I do not assert that Billmon is correct in inviting us to infer that Donald Rumsfeld is guilty of war crimes. That question would be decided by a court, in the extraordinarily unlikely event that Rumsfeld ends up before one.

No, what Billmon gets undeniably right is the far bigger and broader and more fundamental idea that (to use the words of Telford Taylor with which Billmon’s post comes to a close) ‘law is not a one-way street’. Whether a government is good or bad is decided by what it does and refrains from doing; not by who its members are or by the justifications they offer for their acts and omissions. That goes for the current government of the USA, and it goes equally for every other government entrusted with the running of a state.
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Scott into the breach

Well, I don’t read or speak French, have probably spent less than 30 days in France in my entire life, and I don’t tend to follow French politics much. But what the heck, here I go.

Of leading French politicians, it seems Nicolas Sarkozy has actually made one of the stronger efforts to reach out to the Muslim community…
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A Little Archipelago

If you had long suspected that under the Bush administration the CIA was running secret prisons around the world, now you know. It wasn’t just the one in Thailand, which was closed in 2003, and the annex at the tip of Cuba, closed last year.

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

Which Eastern European countries, you may ask?

UPDATE: FT Deutschland does indeed say more, as does the FT in English.
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Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

Michael Moore gives us a thoughtful article about Joschka Fischer (and some priceless Fischer anecdotes) in Slate today. Before going any farther I should make clear that I refer not to the notoriously fat filmmaker but to Michael Scott Moore, an American novelist living in Berlin. Of his fatness or otherwise I am entirely ignorant.

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H5N1

Like catastrophic flooding in New Orleans, an influenza pandemic is not a matter of if, but a matter of when and how bad. Fortunately, John M. Barry has written books about both. Until the definitive story of Katrina is told, Rising Tide, Barry’s book on the 1927 Mississippi River flooding that left some parts of the Delta a 100-mile-wide swathe of water, will stand as the classic work on power and high water and the Crescent City.

The inevitability of floods in New Orleans is a matter of geography; the inevitability of a flu pandemic is a matter of genetics. The natural reservoir for influenza viruses is in birds.
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A modest proposal for CAP reform

I’ve been in Canada for the last month, getting in my last family visit before settling in to the serious business of either going back to school or collecting unemployment checks. My family is large – Great-Grandpa had 25 children, and Grandpa had 9 – so it takes a while if you go to see my family. Ours is a large, disorganised, occasionally frightening clan who, depending on pure whim, identifies itself as either German-Canadian, Dutch-Canadian, Russian-Canadian or Ukrainian-Canadian. Our tribal language is an obscure dialect of Low Saxon (Platt for the actual Germans out there) spoken primarily in Paraguay, Mexico, Central America and Saskatchewan, and whose most famous speaker is, arguably, Homer Simpson. It’s a long story, don’t ask. It not being much of a literary language, we all just say our ancestors spoke German – the liturgical language of my clan’s particular sect.

In contrast to Europe and the US, Canadians are a lot less disturbed about asking people about their ethnic identities or expressing some loyalty to them. I guess the main reason is that Canada has never really pretended to be a nation built atop an identity, but rather a place where an identity of sorts has slowly built up from the existence of a nation. There is no Canadian myth of the melting pot, and as our soon-to-be new Governor General has demonstrated, no serious demand for nativism in public office. Michaëlle Jean, who is slated to be the powerless and unelected Canadian head-of-state when the Queen is out of the country – e.g., practically always – when she is sworn in on the 27th, is no doubt the most attractive candidate we’ve ever had for the office. And, like her predecessor, she is a former CBC/SRC reporter and talking head.

Ms Jean and I share an endemically Canadian charateristic: We both can and do identify ourselves shamelessly as several different kinds of hyphenated Canadians. She is French Canadian, but that’s hardly strange. She is also Franco-Canadian – Ms Jean has dual citizenship with France, making her the first EU citizen to be Governor General of Canada and the first French citizen to be acting head of state of Canada since 1763. But more unprecedentedly, she is Haitian-Canadian and – as logically follows – African-Canadian.

Yes, Ms Jean is black, and furthermore in an interracial marriage. Well, that’s Canada for you. America puts black folk in squalid emergency shelters, we put ours in Rideau Hall.
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The City Of New Orleans

While I was setting up a live sparring match between George W Bush and Tim Worstall over at New Economist I realised that George made his original provocative remarks on a show called Good Morning America. This put me back in mind of an old Steve Goodman song (Arloe Guthrie or Willy Nelson version, it’s the same to me), called City of New Orleans which has been going the rounds in my head over the last 24 hours. So, since I’m helpless to do very much for those poor folks stuck in all that water, here’s at least a little tribute.
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Menarché and Low Fertility

Earlier this morning I read this intriguing paper by US researchers Robert Drago & Amy Varner. The title of the paper is “Fertility and Work in the United States: A Policy Perspective” and it addresses the important issues of gender equality and the historical trend towards declining fertility in the United States. Now while I was thinking of how to write a post on this general topic I wandered over to Brad Delong’s blog and found he had this highly relevant post entitled Menarché vs Monarchy.

OK, what’s this all about.
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