THERE IS NO SPAIN (via Matthew Cohen):

June 30, 2006

Spain PM ready to open Eta talks (BBC, 6/30/06)

The Spanish prime minister has said his government will begin talks with the banned Basque separatist group Eta.

The statement in parliament by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist, was broadcast live on Spanish TV.

“The government is going to start negotiations with Eta,” he said. The group is demanding Basque independence.

Any people that considers itself a nation is one.



June 30, 2006

Reformist gains in Kuwaiti vote (BBC, 6/30/06)

The opposition reformists – many of whom are Islamists – gained four seats, taking their total number of seats in parliament to 33.

State media reported a turnout of up to 78% in some voting centres.

By electing reformist candidates, the voters have sent a clear message to the government that they want change in Kuwaiti society, our correspondent says. […]

Kuwait’s parliament is considered to be the strongest of those in the Gulf monarchies, and the National Assembly often expresses differences of opinion with cabinet in a robust fashion.

However the emir has the final word on most government policies and key cabinet posts are held by members of the ruling family.

Many candidates made fighting alleged corruption in the ruling elite a key issue.


June 27, 2006

Tolls and taxes keep India from the fast lane (Scott Baldauf, 6/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

On paper, India is an economic power, with vast natural resources and a massive population of talented workers. In reality, India remains a collection of 28 separate states and seven union territories, each with its own rules and regulations, its own tax code, and in many cases, its own separate language and cultural customs. To solve this problem, India may need a free-trade agreement with itself. […]

In many respects, the European Union is a more coherent polity. “India is more complex, larger, and more diverse than all of the European nations put together,” says Rajiv Kumar, director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi.

They have a wonderful opportunity to cut to the chase by devolving government power to the various regions while simplifying the trade rules.


June 24, 2006

Italians Get Ready to Vote on Referendum (Sabina Castelfranco, 23 June 2006, VOA News)

Italians will hold a two-day referendum June 25 and June 26 to decide whether to confirm constitutional reforms giving more power to regional governments. The reforms, which boost powers in areas of health, education and local policing, were passed by the Italian parliament in November. […]

While the center-left agrees on the need for some changes to the constitution, the prime minister and the other leaders of his coalition have branded the planned constitutional reform as fatal…for the country.

That’s the point.


June 22, 2006

How not to secede while really trying: Other countries cope with separatist movements. We cope with a never-quite-separating separatist movement (Mark Steyn, June 19, 2006, Western Standard)

Up to the eighties, the Cold War provided useful cover for Quebec’s bluff: the map was, for the most part, frozen. But, in the wake of the Soviet collapse, any folks who thought they were a nation could pretty much be one. And evidently Quebecers don’t, not in any meaningful way. Why not? They’ve got all the characteristics of a nation. Compared to their nominal compatriots, they speak a different language, they come from a different ethnic stock, they have a different (albeit mostly residual) religion. By contrast, Montenegrins are all but identical to Serbs in lingo, race, religion and culture. And yet 600,000 fellows up in the hills now have their own nation, and seven million Quebecers don’t.

You’ll search hard in Quebec for any signs of affection for Canada. The symbols of the state are all but absent. You can drive for hours in the hinterland and not see a single Canadian flag flying from anything other than a post office. The head of state hasn’t ventured any deeper into the province than Hull in 30 years. Her representative, the lieutenant-governor, isn’t allowed into the national assembly to read the throne speech.

Much of this is fairly recent. It’s well known during the blockbuster Royal tour of 1939 that the streets of Anglo Canada were jammed: a million turned out to cheer the king and queen in Vancouver, a million and a half in Toronto. But the Montreal and Quebec City stops attracted comparable crowds. As Their Majesties passed through Trois-Rivierès, 50,000 people swarmed the train station to sing “Dieu Sauve Le Roi.” The queen (i.e., the late queen mum) was asked whether she considered herself English or Scottish and replied that, ever since arriving at Quebec City, she’d been Canadian.

Sixty-seven years on, you’d be hard put to find anyone in Quebec City who considers himself Canadian, outside a few tourists in the bar of the Chateau Frontenac. Quebec “nationalism” did a grand job at lowering the province’s Canadianness to all but undetectable levels. What they failed to do was provide anything to put in its place. It’s an old political axiom that you can’t beat something with nothing. The Péquistes were very effective at transforming the Canadian something into a big nothing, and then they left it at that. But it seems you can’t beat nothing with nothing. Quebec nationalism successfully semi-detached itself from Canada, only to run out of gas in no man’s land.

Quebec is an object lesson in how multi-culturalism can remove any organizing principle whatsoever from a society.


June 20, 2006

Mexico’s Election (NY Times, 6/19/06)

Something unusual is going on in Mexico — a normal presidential election. Mexico’s relatively new democratic institutions are not being strained, and are not at risk. There are three major candidates, and while they have been doing a lot of mudslinging, they offer voters a real ideological choice.

Mexico lived through 71 years of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which fell in 2000 to an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox, who proved to be a lackluster president. In other new democracies in Eastern Europe and Latin America, voters at this point have tended to grow nostalgic for dictatorship or eager to find an outsider who promises revolution. The first democratic election after dictatorship is always joyous; the second one can be deadly.

Not so in Mexico. Roberto Madrazo, the PRI candidate, is far back. One front-runner is Felipe Calderón, who was Mr. Fox’s energy minister. He is a respectable model of the Latin American colorless, Harvard-educated, pro-business candidate. He wants to modernize Mexico and make it more globally competitive, thereby creating more jobs. Mr. Calderón advocates opening Mexico’s poorly run and underfinanced energy sector to foreign investment. It is an unpopular idea, but sorely needed.

The End of History doesn’t skip states.


June 19, 2006

Power of Scottish MPs ‘a threat to UK’ (Toby Helm, 20/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Growing anger in England over the power that Scottish MPs wield at Westminster could destroy the 1998 devolution settlement, a powerful Commons committee said yesterday.

The report by the Labour-dominated Scottish affairs committee makes grim reading for Gordon Brown by highlighting how a majority of people in the United Kingdom now oppose a Scot becoming prime minister.

The MPs say that the West Lothian Question – the anomaly giving Scottish MPs a say over English laws but English MPs no similar rights where power has been devolved – is a time bomb that urgently needs to be defused. “It is a matter of concern to us that English discontent is becoming apparent,” they said.

Scotland is a nation–it oughtn’t have any say in how Engalnd is governed & won’t.


June 19, 2006

Catalan Voters Endorse Greater Autonomy (John Ward Anderson, June 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Voters in northeastern Spain overwhelmingly approved a referendum Sunday giving their region, Catalonia, broad new autonomous powers, according to nearly complete preliminary returns. Many analysts see the autonomy measure as a model that could help promote peace talks between Spain’s government and separatists in the Basque part of the country.

About 74 percent of the voters who cast ballots in Catalonia, a region of about 7 million people centered on the cosmopolitan Mediterranean city of Barcelona, approved the autonomy measure, according to a tally of almost 99 percent of the vote that was posted on the Internet by the region’s government. About 21 percent voted no.

Dreams of a unified Europe were never going to withstand the reality of continental nationalism.


June 18, 2006

Catalonia votes on autonomy plan (BBC, 6/18/06)

The Spanish region of Catalonia is voting on a new charter that would declare it a nation within Spain.

If the “yes” vote for greater autonomy is successful, Catalonia, in the north-east, would become one of Europe’s most independent regions.

The draft plan allows for more independence in areas such as how tax is spent and immigration policies.

Latest opinion polls suggest most Catalans favour the plan, but more than half of all Spaniards reject it.

Yeah, but the Spaniards don’t matter.


June 15, 2006

China Easing Its Stance On Taiwan: Tolerance Grows For Status Quo (Edward Cody, June 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Gradually and without fanfare, China has substantially softened its stand on Taiwan, according to senior officials and diplomats. President Hu Jintao, they said, has begun to play down China’s long-standing vow to recover the self-ruled island by force if necessary and shifted the focus to preventing any move toward formal independence.

The adjustment, which has become clearer in recent months, has brought China’s policy on the volatile Taiwan issue closer to that of the United States. Washington has long maintained that the island’s half-century-old status quo — independent in fact but not in law — should not be changed until Beijing and Taipei can work out a mutually acceptable peaceful solution.

“Before, we never said ‘status quo,’ ” said a Chinese academic who advises Hu’s government on Taiwan. “Now we say it all the time.”

As Confucius said, if independence is inevitable, sit back and enjoy it.