May 5, 2005

Waiting for the polls to close

I've had a bit of an embarassing day. I got my stuff together, went out to Leuven for my Dutch class, noticing only that traffic was kind of thin, and discovered that today is a national holiday. It's my own damned fault for cutting last week, but I'd had a day, and my wife was leaving in the morning. Now, I've got to make sure I get to the date of the exam right on Monday.

Anyway, so instead of Dutch, I'm at home waiting for the Beeb to start election coverage. The forgone nature of this election is taking all the fun out of it though. So, I'm spending the time trying to catch up on the blogs rather than studying, and now I'm starting to think about studying again.

I note Abu Aardvark's link summary of his debate on Kevin Drum's blog. The notion that the US invasion of Iraq has produced the recent upsurge in democratic protest does strike me at first as roughly on par with the claim that Ronald Reagan and John Paul II caused the fall of the Soviet Union - in short, as totally, utterly and hopelessly false. However, my Arab friends do see a link, albeit an unintended one: I have a Moroccan friend who claims that the Arabs are taking their anger to the streets in part because of the apparent powerlessness of their states to prevent the Iraq war, their close ties to the US, and the ineffectualness of their international presence.

And, via Atrios, I see a post on Pandagon which, were I feeling snarky, might suggest an excellent justification for keeping Europe's largely moribund state churches. If the Freedonian state has officially estabished the Orthodox Zoroastrian Church of Freedonia, but has a constitution that guarantees religious freedom and an ECHR membership that reinforces it, it does eliminate a lot of these dumbass problems and empirical evidence strongly suggests that it does more to undermine religious political aspiration than the US First Amendment does.

Turns out that the US used to have state churches, established on a state-by-state basis that lasted as late as 1833. Most of them were tacitly Anglican. Given the rather liberal policies of the Church of England and American Episcopalians, I'm tempted to wonder if it wouldn't have been better to keep them.

Jeanne over at Body and Soul has a post on US trade agreements and their relationship to US aid and the intellectual property claims of pharmaceuticals firms. Honest to God, if someone in the developing world doesn't say "screw IP laws" and withdraw from the lot in the next decade, I'll be shocked and amazed.

Edward over at AFOE notes, in a discussion of current trade messes involving China, that the Chinese negociator speaks fluent French. Indeed, from what I understand, French and Japanese are currently on par in China as third language of choice. My Chinese contacts are suggesting that China-Europe ties are getting higher priorities in public rhetoric, news coverage, and implicit policy than they used to, so this situation - the Chinese negociator speaks a relevant non-English language - is likely to become more and more common.

It's possible that the shoe is also going on the other foot: Woluwé-Saint-Pierre has a Chinese-speaking daycare service one day a week. They run this service where, every day, they bring together kids in the community with some common native language other than Belgium's three official languages and English. Since the Chinese embassy is in Woluwé, it may not be too surprising. But that's not the only thing I saw suggestive of some serious public effort in Europe to raise awareness of China.

I was in Geneva a couple weeks ago to meet an old friend from the eighth grade that I haven't seen in 20 years. One of the things I saw there was big signs, all over the city, advertising: 中国现代 - China today (or Modern China). This was, of course, imposed over low, low prices on primarily textiles, but it was also used to advertise Chinese food, books, and miscellaneous schlock. This was a big campaign involving - as far as I could tell - every department store in the city, from Carrefour to upmarket shops like Globus. This takes some coordination, but I suppose it could just be a gimmick motivated by the low cost of clothes from China.

Oop. It's 11. The polls are closed.

Posted 2005/05/05 23:00 (Thu) | TrackBack

*snort* ...darned Belgian holidays, LOL! ;-D

Posted by: Kiera Martens at May 7, 2005 17:52

Wow, Belgium celebrates el cinco de mayo? That I did not know.

Posted by: Aidan Kehoe at May 7, 2005 19:47

I still haven't figured out what the actual holiday was. Everything was closed Thursday and Friday. I'm sure I would have realised that if was still working.

Posted by: Scott Martens at May 8, 2005 11:13

'Twas Ascension Day, or Hemelvaart in Dutch. We had the day off in NL too. In fact it was a double holiday -- every 5 years on 5/5 the Dutch put on special celebrations for Liberation Day.

You'll be proud to know (if you didn't already) that Amsterdam was liberated by Canadians, so instead of Stars and Stripeses and Union Jacks all over the place, we get maple leaves instead.

Posted by: vaara at May 8, 2005 14:12

Ah! That's what it was! I didn't think cinquo de mayo was a likely answer.

Posted by: Scott Martens at May 9, 2005 3:01
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