June 28th, 2005

[LINK] Iran's Red Provinces?

Over at Asia Times, Spengler writes about the Iranian presidential elections, explaining the election of conservative Mahmud Ahmadinejad as the defensive reaction of an atrophied rural Iran against the cosmopolitan and secular urbanites who threaten their traditional cultural and economic structures. He makes a very good point; he also forgets that urban Iran and the secular-minded aren't imports from Tau Ceti, that they also came from Iran and emerged as the individual products of Iran's 20th century modernization and their personal experiences of the Shah and the Islamic Republic.

Don't think about the inextricable power of Islam. Rather, think about the Red and Blue states (or départements). Iranians are people, too.

[NON BLOG] Reading Speed

Soon after I signed up for a speed-reading course at UPEI in the summer of 2003, I found out that I in fact didn't need to pay the $C80 since I had a reading speed somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 WPM. This is reading, I think, not skimming, since I do retain knowledge of what I read, so let's call what I do with text just that.

One thing I've noticed recently is that my effective reading speed varies according to the type of material I read: simple clean-structured prose can be read at a higher speed than more complicated writing styles, and non-fiction more quickly than fiction. Sometimes I have to pace myself so that I'll be able to follow the author's original intentions and not miss structural details. Some things are meant to be read at a certain speed, it seems.

[BRIEF NOTE] Why The New Tories Won't Break Into Québec

From the London Free Press:

Stephen Harper says any gay marriage law will be stamped with illegitimacy because it will owe its passage to Quebec separatists.

Same-sex marriage legislation, which is expected to clear the Commons this week with help from the Bloc Quebecois, would have been thwarted if only federalists MPs were casting ballots, the Conservative leader said yesterday.

"Because it's being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians," Harper said.

"The truth is, most federalist MPs oppose this."

Conservative justice critic Vic Toews went further.

"The federalist MPs in Canada, the majority of them, would oppose (gay marriage) on a free vote. So what we are seeing now is simply an agreement by this government with the separatist Bloc -- who have no long-term interest in staying in Canada."

The comments were swiftly rebuked and mocked by rivals of all political stripes.

"We're elected," said Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe. "Our mandate is every bit as legitimate as any member who sits in this chamber. That's what they call democracy."

The Conservatives could help end the Bloc's influence by supporting Quebec independence, Duceppe wryly suggested.

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said the remarks are further proof of why Conservative popularity has stalled or dropped.

"Mr. Harper is essentially saying that Quebecers' votes don't matter -- aren't on an equal par with the rest of Canadians. So he wants to deny equality to same-sex partners, and he wants to deny equality to Quebec voters.

"Maybe Mr. Harper should think about why people aren't listening to him by just simply looking at what he says."

[. . .]

"Are sovereigntists more homosexual or heterosexual?" quipped Transport Minister Jean Lapierre, the Liberal party's Quebec lieutenant. "Does (Harper) have a study on that?"

David Docherty, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, called the Conservative tactic a "mind-boggling" insult to Quebec. The Bloc, with 54 seats in the 308-seat Commons, is a force that can't be ignored.

"It's silly, is what it is. (Harper) really seems to be fumbling the ball."

It is worth noting that André Boisclair, one of the two front-runners in the race for the leadership of the Parti Québécois (Blogspot blog here, official site here, French-language biography at the website of the Assemblée nationale here), is in fact openly gay, as Lysiane Gagnon noted recently in The Globe and Mail.

For now, Mr. Boisclair's candidacy is generating much more excitement than Ms. Marois's. In a province where same-sex marriage is hardly an issue, Mr. Boisclair's sexual orientation doesn't seem to hurt him. "He's gay, yes, and so what?" wrote Vincent Marissal, a political columnist for La Presse, in summing up a general feeling.

The man is (relatively) young, he's a perfectly fit athlete, and he's bright and attractive with a seductive smile. He projects an image of renewal -- something that the PQ, a party of baby boomers, desperately needs. In contrast, Ms. Marois, a matronly mother of four who often speaks like a technocrat, has been around forever. Although her ambitions have been known for decades, she's never captured the hearts and minds of the electorate; even within the party and the caucus, she has surprisingly few supporters.

Harper and Toews might, in fact, be right about a positive association between being non-heterosexual in Québec and supporting separatism. I'd be interested to see any research proving or disproving this connection. For the time being, I have to congratulate them for the clumsy way they permanently hobbled themselves in Québec.
  • Current Mood
    amused at the Tories' stupidities

[LINK] Dubrovnik

optimussven reports from Dubrovnik. He's right to note that the city plays an important role in Europa Universalis II, though in my experience it has more often been a subject of conquest (by Venice, Bosnia, or perhaps Serbia) than a conquering power in its own right. This is a pity, for the game and for our own history, since the old Ragusan republic was so remarkably advanced.

[BRIEF NOTE] Alliance Politics

For the past three months, I've been participating in Century 22 PBEM, a play-by-E-mail game where players run countries of their own in order to simulate the competitive environment of the 22nd century. I'm lucky since I got France, and as a perusal of the turn reports would suggest I'm doing reasonably well. The simulation is underpinned by a complex model that seems to work well, despite assuming much too complete government control over social attitudes, as well as odd migration models which have contributed to a tenfold boom in the populations of French America and the French Pacific over 2005 levels when all I've done is maintain the same high levels of social services. The geopolitics--and, with FTL, astropolitics--are still the drivers.

International politics are cutthroat. Smaller nations have generally grouped together in regional confederations--France, for instance, is embedded in a European bloc--while the Great Powers of the United States, Brazil, India, and China went their own ways. China has recently gone fairly low-key and chose to become a non-hegemonic member of an East Asian bloc, but the other three Great Powers are quite active. Back in 2115, the Great Powers nearly came to blow over Chinese plans to establish an enclave in the failed state of Surinam. Most recently, Turkey's decision to change its system of government from "Electronic Democracy" to "The Matrix" provoked a largish regional war, as the artificial intelligences controlling the Turkish government precipitated a largish regional war against Russia and Arabia. The war ended with the deposition of the dysfunctional system of government, though not before the other Great Powers and blocs risked being dragged into the conflict.

The game is fun, but the players are aggressive. To a certain extent this is because of the truism that people roleplaying countries are often significantly more aggressive than those very same countries would be in real life. One factor that shouldn't be underestimated is the fact that memberships in the various blocs and hyperpowers don't overlap, and whatever cooperation does exist tends to be aimed against potential competitors. With no institutionalized dialogue, there's one reason less to send your fleets and FTL gunships to fight.
  • Current Mood

[BRIEF NOTE] Turkish Prospects

In the issue of the 25th of June 2005, the Economist features a survey ("The EU's Eastern Borders") of the eastern periphery of the European Union. An interesting article examining Turkey's economic prospects, "The 4% Solution," appears on page 14 of this survey. The article is centered around a Deutsche Bank study which claims that a Turkey properly embedded in the European Union could experience more than twice as much GDP growth per annum than a Turkey allowed to drift into the Middle East torn by conflict between religious and secular Turks (4.1% per annum versus 1.9%, respectively). The former Turkey would be about as wealthy in 2020, measured by GDP per capita at PPP, as Poland now in 2005; the underachieving Turkey would be about as prosperous as Bulgaria. The article concludes by referring to the claims of Daniel Gros, at the Centre for European Policy Studies, that if everything goes right for Turkey it could experience 3 to 6% more GDP growth per annum than western Europe and 1 to 3% more than central Europe.

These conclusions aren't very surprising, since by all accounts the demands imposed by the European Union are the perfect ways to ensure a country's successful growth, focusing on the political and social aspects of a country at least as much as the economic. If one follows the arguments of Refik Erzan, Umut Kuzubas and Nilufer Yildiz in their paper "Growth and Immigration Scenarios for Turkey and the EU" (PDF format), written for the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Turkey successfully rooted in the European Union would produce fewer migrants than a Turkey given the "special partnership" preferred by Germany's CDU. (It's a minor irony that the CDU would seem to prefer keeping Turkey outside, among other reasons, to prevent an influx of Turkish immigrants).