After the abdication of bishop Vangheluwe of Bruges, the situation in Belgium has continued snowballing, going far beyond concerns for victims of abuse. Let me set the stage first: in January 2010, Cardinal Danneels retired as archbishop, and the conservative bishop Léonard of Namur stepped up to replace him. Then, on April 23rd, bishop Vangheluwe of Bruges abdicates, after his nephew threatens to take the sexual abuse at his hands public.

Fallout from Bruges
The Pope accepts his resignation, but it creates a furor: hundreds of people who had been sexually abused by clergy as children step forward, contacting Father Rik Devillé or the Adriaenssens Commission, which is investigating child sexual abuse in the Church. This commission isn't a secular institution, though— it's attached to the bishopric of Tournai. An ex-deacon and a chaplain who had been convicted for pedophiliac abuses were dismissed from the bishopric of Bruges.

Belgian bishops as a whole step forward, make a case that the Church is turning a new leaf as evidenced by Vangheluwe stepping down, and confers with the Pope. The Department of Justice says it has some evidence that points at other victims, though, which the Church has not come clean about, and the suicide of the brother of the original victim a few years ago gets a lot of airtime in the media. The bishopric palace in Bruges is vandalized. A hiphop song about paedophiliac pastors becomes popular. But, gradually, things die down.

One of the questions that remains unanswered is how his own guilt influenced his handling of clergy who had sex with minors, and the tendency of the Church to forgive and forget.

Search & seizure
On the 24th of June, the State Counsel's Office obtains a search warrant and raids the premises of cardinal Danneels' home, the archbishopric palace, the offices of the Adriaenssens Commission as well as Saint Rumbold Cathedral, which is part of the archbishopric of Mechelen-Brussels.

There's an outcry by both Catholic partisans and the victims who had approached the Commission, whose private files are now in the hands of a Brussels court. Doctor Adriaenssens denounces the raid, but the reaction by the Vatican is downright incendiary— it accuses the Belgian state of engaging in repression that surpasses that of the former Eastern Bloc, and is particularly offended at the opening of graves inside the cathedral.

Justice Minister Stefaan Declerck of the Christian Democratic party gives interviews in which he tries to minimize the outrage, pointing out that a single grave, recently restored, had been opened at the suggestion of a member of the clergy who hinted that documents may have been hidden there. Images of officers throwing boxes of files out the windows of the archbishopric palace are shown on TV.

A few days later, the Pope bestows the pallium on archbishop Léonard. Brussels courts suggest the victims come to them for counseling, debate rages about a successor to the disbanded Adriaenssens Commission, magistrates and Rik Devillé get death threats.

Leaks & justice
In the days after the search, many leaks to the press occur: the location of the 12-hour interrogation of the cardinal, the knowledge that archbishop Léonard possessed a copy of files from the prosecution in the Dutroux Case that shocked Belgium in 1996 and was related to sexual abuse of children. Even on the personal computer of cardinal Danneels, a picture of a naked preteen in the shower was found.

Meanwhile, an anonymous letter was sent to a local paper, naming 19 priests from the bishopric of Ghent and pointing out their violations of celibacy, from cruising for anonymous sex in parks to using dating sites and going to leatherbar and S&M clubs in the Netherlands and the United States. These are all victimless crimes, though the author claims they are all 'homosexual' and violate celibacy. The bishops and the cardinal point out that this resembles an anti-Catholic witch hunt rather than a concern for any victims.

The extent of the leaks, however, seems to indicate an internal power struggle in the Department of Justice between Catholic and secular judges, both of whom are trying to get the upper hand. Before 2000, the road to being appointed judge went through the offices of the political parties, whose support was crucial. This led to a number of famously partisan judges, with the secular faction containing a few freemasons and the Catholic faction a number of Opus Dei members. Due to the strength of the Christian Democrats, a majority of the judges are Catholic.

Catholic upswing
As the showdown continues, the Department of Justice admits that the cathedral was searched after a suggestion from ex-magistrate Halsberge, formerly head of the commission on sexual abuses in the Church, that it contained files and documents incriminating cardinal Danneels in covering up abuse scandals. However, public opinion turns against the State Counsel's Office as the leaked information turned out to be misrepresented: the files of the Dutroux Case that were found in archbisshop Léonard's archives were sent to him by a third party and had been distributed to the media by the Justice Department itself, and the 'nude picture' found on cardinal Danneels' personal computer was found in his browser cache. It turns out to be an 'art picture', La Douche II, published on a culture site associated with public broadcasting. The Council of Bishops officially questions the legality of the search.

When Jozef De Kesel was invested as the new bishop of Bruges on the 10th of July, cardinal Danneels received a standing ovation, a rather unusual occurance during mass. Admittedly, he was born near Bruges and Catholicism is still very strong there, but he hasn't been cleared of all wrongdoing yet. The oddness of the 2010 appointments seems to indicate another conflict, one within the clergy: cardinal Danneels stepped aside despite enduring popularity, though his tense relationship with the new Pope was common knowledge. Pope Benedict XVI then named Léonard, most conservative of the bishops, as the new Primate, even though the Council of Belgian Bishops hadn't even put his name in contention; the favored choice of the Council was Jozef De Kesel, against whose appointment as the bishop of Bruges Léonard has lobbied strongly. In fact, aware of De Kesel's popularity and the cardinal's approval, one of Léonard's first acts as archbishop was demoting him from coadjutor bishop of Brussels to coadjutor bishop of Flemish Brabant.

Conclusion
Hopefully concern for justice will take center stage again in the future, which would mean that the victims get support and the abusers get prosecuted, no matter who they may be. As it is now, the Department of Justice is split between secular and Catholic, and the Catholics are split between loyalty to their liberal cardinal and the conservative Pope, and the Adriaenssens Commission is dead. These partisan power struggles have caused both secular and spiritual organs of justice to lose sight of the important things.
Even though civil unions were legal in Iceland, the government has found the courage to legalize same-sex marriage.

The first people to be married under the new law were Johanna Sigurdardottir, the Prime Minister, and her journalist partner Jonina Leosdottir. (That would make her the first openly gay world leader, too. Belgium may get a gay Prime Minister later on.)

With this and the recent passage of the Icelandic Modern Media Institute bill, it sounds like they've got their heads on straight.
The good news: Beenie Man's act has been dropped from Couleur Café.

The bad news: The shrill homos did it! They discredited the pro-tolerance nature of our festival! He signed a contract! Well, if he's calling for my death in Uganda, I'm not sure what him not calling for my death in Brussels is supposed to accomplish. And the only persons discrediting your festival are you. I doubt your being "baffled by the size of the anti-Beenie Man campaign orchestrated by a few LGBT groups" is warranted; it shows a profound ignorance of what tolerance actually means. Hint: if it flakes off when you touch it, it's not real tolerance.

I in turn am baffled by the statement that the campaign has discredited Couleur Café, because "extremist points of view or attitudes have no place on or beside our stage." Doesn't the evidence absolutely contradict that? Are you organisers so hung up on the marketing of the festival that you don't care about the reality?
At The Hague, Beenie Man, a reggae artist who'd been rustled up to replace Snoop Dogg at Parkpop, has been precipitously dropped from the lineup after the festival heard about his homophobic exploits.

While Beenie Man has signed contracts promising not to bring any homophobic material and issued plenty of apologies, he apparently had no such contract for Uganda, where he brought Mih Nah Wallah, which advocates slitting queer people's throats. Considering that Uganda's debating instituting the death penalty for some queers, well...

His signing of the Reggae Compassionate Act is quite obviously a pose if he's willing to advocate violence against LGBT people at a Pepsi-sponsored contest. And now, he's coming to Brussels on Saturday! Groen!'s Bruno De Lille has told Couleur Café, the people organizing the event, to drop him from the lineup as well, where advocacy group vzw WISH had failed to do so before. And Couleur Café is not sponsored by Pepsi or Toyota; it's an ecological multicultural pro-tolerance world music affair, sponsored by such people as Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Caritas Belgium, fourth world organisations and, oh, the Brussels government, who dropped €55,000 on the organisation of it.

If he doesn't get dropped, I'll see whether I can pop by on Saturday.
Okay, Twitter is full of fail. Read from the bottom up.
22:46— Ronse changes hands, too: sp.a 22.5%, N-VA 18.5 %, Open VLD 17 %.
22:32— Lokeren N-VA 27 %, Open VLD 19 %.
22:31— Tienen, last minor town in Leuven, goes for sp.a over N-VA 24 % to 22.5 %.
22:29— Borgloon is in! N-VA 25 %, sp.a 20 %, Open VLD & CD&V share third. And with that, Limburg's put to bed.
22:27— Geraardsbergen N-VA 25 %, sp.a 21.5 %. Herzele N-VA 30 %, Open VLD 21.5 %.
22:22— Tielt CD&V 29 %, N-VA 22.5 %. Nazareth N-VA 29 %, Open VLD 27 %. Ninove N-VA 25 %, VB 21.5 %.
22:19— Sint-Gillis-Waas N-VA 33 %, CD&V 19.5 %.
22:17— Maaseik's N-VA at 28 %, CD&V at 20 %. Only Borgloon in Limburg is still out, Tienen in district Leuven, and the mail-in votes in Antwerp.
22:13— Merelbeke 29 % for N-VA, Open VLD 21.5 %.
22:11— Whoa, 364 polling stations just came in at once. The extreme right Vlaams Belang loses its grip on Antwerp City, losing 10% and falling to third place. Ahead of them are sp.a at 19.5 % & N-VA at 25.5 %. Groen! is at 11 %.
22:07— In Lochristi, the traditional Open VLD falls to 25 %, N-VA is at 29.5 %.
22:06— N-VA Hamme 32 %, Open VLD loses 8 %.
22:04— Poperinge CD&V 27 %, N-VA 19.5 %, Open VLD 19 %.
21:59— Kortrijk, further inland, has both CD&V & N-VA at 24 %, CD&V ahead by O.54 %.
21:55— Oostende is the first large town completely in, and the sp.a slips into second place with 20 %, with N-VA at 23 %.
21:53— Diksmuide's CD&V is at 29 %, 10 more than the N-VA. In Gistel, the difference is only 2, 22 % against 20 %.
21:52— Bree is the only place in Limburg where CD&V remains the largest, 30 % against the N-VA's 29 %.
21:51— N-VA Destelbergen 33 %, Eeklo 26.5 %. Seconds are Open VLD & CD&V.
21:49— Deinze's N-VA is the largest with 28 % of the vote, orange & blue are at 19 %.
21:46— Meulebeke N-VA 32 %, CD&V 26 %; Ruiselede CD&V 31 %, 23 % for CD&V. Nearly a mirror image.
21:43— N-VA attains 29.5 % in Lier. VB & CD&V are tied for second.
21:42— The Heist-op-den-Berg N-VA scores 28 %, CD&V 21 %.
21:39— The mail-in votes in Limburg have been counted too: 25 % N-VA and an unexpectedly good 21.5 % for Open VLD. Groen! even reaches 14 %, reflecting the more liberal and younger electorate abroad.
21:37— N-VA is only the third party in Wervik with 19.5 %, behind sp.a's 22 % and CD&V's 25 %.
21:34— East Flanders is finally coming in, hard right Beveren-Waas with a whopping 36.5 % for N-VA, taking 11 % from VB. CD&V & VB hover around 17 %.
21:30— The same goes for Horebeke, 32 % vs. 22 %. East Flanders still has a number of blue holdouts.
21:29— In Brakel, Open VLD remains the largest, but the N-VA tsunami strikes here, too: 28 % vs. 24 %.
21:24— We don't seem to be going anywhere. Menen just came in, N-VA edges out CD&V 22 % to 21.5 %.
20:56— Zottegem? Hm. Hold on. N-VA 27.5 %, sp.a & Open VLD share second place.
20:54— In Hooglede in West-Vlaanderen, CD&V remains the largest at 31.5 %, N-VA 25 %.
20:50— Hm. I lost Herk-de-Stad somewhere. N-VA 30.5 %, sp.a 19 %, CD&V 17 %.
20:47— Roeselare's N-VA edges out the CD&V, 26 % to 24.5 %.
20:31— Tongeren, the liberal stronghold and home of its head-of-list, turns to... sp.a? Seriously? The conservative vote is split, CD&V 18 %, Open VLD 20 %, N-VA 21 %. So the sp.a squeaks in there with 22 %. That's amazing.
20:28— Nieuwpoort's N-VA reaches 23 %, 19 % for CD&V.
20:28— N-VA reaches 30.5 % in West-Flemish Izegem, CD&V in second.
20:26— Ganja break over! In Landen, traditionally red, the sp.a has a rare gain in vote percentage, ending at 24.5 % of the vote. N-VA follows at 21 %.
20:10— CD&V is at 31 % in rural West-Flemish Mesen, N-VA second at 19.5 %.
20:08— Ieper is the first small town where CD&V is still top dog at 34 %, with N-VA at 20 %. N-VA doesn't perform as well in the province of West-Vlaanderen.
20:02— Diest, another middlin'-sized town in Vlaams-Barbant, is in. Largest party is N-VA at 24.5 %, then sp.a at 20 %, CD&V 17 %.
19:52— Zomergem has N-VA at 30 %.
19:50— CD&V remains largest in Vleteren at 27.5 %, N-VA strands at 21 %.
19:49— In Aarschot, a minor city, N-VA gets up to 25.5 % while sp.a & CD&V share second at 17 %.
19:43— Similarly in Zonnebeke, CD&V is at 32%, N-VA 22 %.
19:42— Oostrozebeke keeps CD&V in the lead at 31 %, N-VA is second at 26.5 %.
19:40— N-VA gets up to 32 % in Bilzen, the rest linger around 15 %, including VB.
19:36— In St. Truiden, another ex aequo, with sp.a at 24.79 % and N-VA at 24.72 %.
19:35— CD&V holds on in Lichtervelde with 30 %. N-VA reaches 23 %.
19:33— Boom's top three: N-VA 29 %, VB 19 %, sp.a 18 %.
19:24— Leuven is in! N-VA 28 %, sp.a 17 %, CD&V 15.5 %, Groen! 14.5 %, Open VLD 13.5 %, VB 7 %.
19:22— In Zaventem, MR-FDF edges out N-VA with 0.1 %, both at 20 %.
19:20— I want a copy of the victory speech of Bart De Wever. He clearly wants to be a statesman, not a gadfly. I can only applaud that.
19:18— The results are picking up steam, Antwerp's in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Mol is up to bat. N-VA 33 %, CD&V 20 %, next.
19:16— In rural Avelgem, N-VA is only the third party at 18 %. sp.a is second with 20 %, CD&V first with 23 %.
19:15— In Brecht, N-VA reaches 34 %, CD&V is distant second.
19:14— N-VA reaches 36 % in the home canton of Jan Peumans, Riemst. CD&V is second.
19:12— "Tonight, N-VA stands for Nil volentibus arduum. Nothing is impossible if you desire it enough." --Bart De Wever
19:11— In Nevele, N-VA edges out CD&V, 28 % to 25.5 %.
19:09— In Haacht, N-VA reaches 32 %. CD&V, sp.a & Open VLD share second place around 15 %.
19:08— Herentals' people prefer the N-VA by 32 %. CD&V is in second place, and probably a more obvious coalition partner than sp.a at this point.
18:55— The first Flemish canton where N-VA is not the largest is Torhout, where the Christian Democrats of CD&V have 29.5 %. N-VA strands at 22 %.
18:54— N-VA is at 30.5 % in Peer in Limburg. CD&V barely edges out sp.a for the second spot.
18:52— In Vilvoorde, extreme right loses 10 %, and N-VA reaches 26 %.
18:51— Open VLD loses its primacy in Asse, ceding it to N-VA at 29.5 %.
18:48— There they are. Mechelen is normally extreme right, but it moves left: VB loses 10 % and ends in third place behind sp.a. N-VA is at 27 %.
18:45— Huh. The results for Mechelen just came in, then they disappeared before I could transcribe them. Come back!
18:37— CD&V holds on okay in Puurs with 25 % of the vote, largely thanks to Kris Peeters, but N-VA still leads them with 28 %.
18:28— In Temse, normally rather conservative, N-VA attains 34 % of the vote. Vlaams Belang loses 8 %.
18:26— In Zandhoven, N-VA scores 38 %. Vlaams Belang loses 9 %.
18:21— N-VA reaches 29 % in Genk. The midsize cities in Limburg that went red in 2003 and orange in 2007 are now going yellow.
18:19— In Evergem, N-VA reaches 31 %, the same as the combined CD&V/N-VA list in 2007.
18:14— In Veurne, N-VA 'only' reaches 25 %. There are no Flemish cantons yet where N-VA isn't the largest. 7 years ago, this party couldn't crest 5 %.
18:11— N-VA Kapellen 36.5 %, is now the largest party, replacing the extreme right VB.
18:09— N-VA Arendonk 35 %, Dendermonde 32 %, Sint-Niklaas 33 %, Zele 29 %.
18:07— Turnhout N-VA 32 %, Westerlo N-VA 31 %.
18:06— N-VA is at 34 % in Duffel, CD&V 19.5 %.
18:02— Neerpelt, also in Limburg, has N-VA at 30 %, CD&V at 21 % just ahead of sp.a at 20 %.
18:01— Beringen has N-VA at 30 %, their traditional favourite sp.a at 20 %.
17:53— Hasselt, provincial capital of Limburg is in. CD&V was previously the largest party, but now it's N-VA with 31.5 % of the vote. Second largest is sp.a with 15.5 %, Groen! is at 7 %.
17:48— Ganja break. It's notable that no large city's results have come in yet, but currently N-VA leads everywhere, and its average result is 31.5 %, overperforming the polls by 6 %. CD&V, Open VLD & LDD are the biggest losers, but while the first two can take body blows, the latter can't. It may be reduced to as little as a single seat.
17:36— In Glabbeek, N-VA is the largest party at 30.5 %, the other party that gains is Groen! by 1.5 %.
17:22— Maasmechelen, traditional Open VLD bastion, changes its mind. N-VA is largest at 23 %, Open VLD loses 11 % and becomes the third party, a hair behind CD&V.
17:15— In Kontich, N-VA is at 37 %. No other party crests 13 %.
17:06— N-VA is at 50.5 % in Voeren! That's... A lot.
17:00— Zoutleeuw has N-VA in the lead at 24 %. CD&V second at 21 %.
16:59— De Donnea is on TV, making very thinly veiled threats.
16:57— In Hoogstraten, only CD&V loses heavily. However, N-VA is the biggest party at 28.1 %.
16:48— Waarschoot Chamber: N-VA 28 %, CD&V 21.5 %, sp.a 14 %, Open VLD 13%.
16:42— In Walloon Herstal, the PS is up to 47.47 %. I smell a Walloon Prime Minister.
16:37— First official results are in Kaprijke: N-VA 32.33 %. It's not a total annihillation, but N-VA gains in a landslide.


15:58— Results are flying fast & furious now. Switching from partial result reporting to complete reporting, which might be a while coming.
15:58— Groen! is booking decent results — for a green party in Flanders. If it ends up slightly ahead, it'll be a credible negotiation partner, though it's ideologically distant from the N-VA. My prediction of N-VA, sp.a & Groen! being the Flemish victors might even realize itself.
15:35— The Chamber result in Meise is surprising in that VB loses 9 %. N-VA is at 30 %. Groen! is as big as sp.a at 7.4 %. CD&V is still barely the biggest in Vleteren.
15:19— The first Chamber result out of Landen is the first where a non-N-VA party is the biggest: sp.a.
15:15— An exit-poll by RTL in Wallonia pegs the PS at 34 %, MR at 21 %, cdH 14,9 %, Ecolo 14,3 %.
15:00— All polling stations are now closed.
14:43— One bureau in Bruges has come in, with Groen! up 3.5 %. N-VA is at 23.6 %. Very preliminary results, but if they keep up, the N-VA is steamrollering.
14:33— First putative result from Heist-op-den-Berg, where N-VA is the biggest party at 32,3 %. Open VLD loses nearly 10 %. On the other hand, it's just a single bureau.


13:30— The layout of deredactie.be is looking a lot like the one the NOS used on the 9th.
13:19— N-VA will probably become the largest party in Flanders, PS in Wallonia. Open VLD might gain, but MR loses heavily. There is no standard coalition in the cards, though I assume the Christian Dems will be shunted aside, since they had the last three years & aren't likely to see any electoral gain.
12:40— "The worst thing that can happen to you in this country is winning an election." — Bart De Wever.
12:34— The anti-compulsory voting campaign is themed as the Knights Who Say Ni? Belgium: still surrealist.
12:26— Ivan De Vadder announces that the VRT results will be their own, not the official government count; they have a reporter network set up on location. Results will be coming in starting at 2 PM, and we're interviewing politicians.
12:23— Open VLD keeps taking more pages from the American playbook, R & D. Both Obama's slogan and tax cuts. They're more like moderate Republicans in reality.
12:16— Flemish nationalists block a polling station & are turned out, francophone voters sing the national anathem.
12:08— VRT starts their coverage even though polls haven't closed. Martine Tanghe is host. Why doesn't Stefaan Meerbergen have more speaking parts? Anyway, the Rand didn't have issues with bijzitters as they feared, but in Rode Flemish nationalists are protesting, waiting for Van Rompuy.
That's hilarious. It's only 11 AM. Whatever electoral coverage I wanted to follow there, it's not happening. (And it's still 2 hours until the first polls close, anyway.)

Anyway, I voted for the women of Groen!, and I'm very amused by [personal profile] nwhyte's vote for Tine Van Rompay, and jealous of his candidates-I-actually-want-to-vote-for. The only higher-profile green Limburg has is Toon Hermans, and... Yyyyeah.

I have half a mind to just liveblog the results here as they come in, though. Possibly Belgian, probably Flanders alone. I can't watch 2 TV sets at the same time, I've tried.
The first same-sex marriage took place in Portugal today, after it was legalized earlier this month. Homosexuality used to be outlawed as late as 1982.

Congrats to the people of Portugal for doing the right thing.
Thomas Leys heeft zo'n leuke poll over Twitter waarin hij vraagt wie het Groot Debat gisteren gewonnen heeft. En dat was Bart De Wever, omdat Bart zo'n mediawezen is, zo iemand die je kwinkslagstukjes in de krant ziet schrijven. Alexander De Croo deed het ook behoorlijk. En toch zijn dat niet de mensen waarvoor ik bolletjes ga zitten kleuren.

En ik geloof niet dat zo'n debat de mensen echt heel veel beweegt; onze politiek is kleurrijk en hoofdbrekend genoeg dat de meesten op voorhand al weten waarop stemmen. En dat, denk ik, is heel sterk een zaak van vertrouwen, een concept dat net zoals in Duitsland steeds belangrijker wordt.

Van de traditionele partijen loopt dat zo:
Open VLD < CD&V < sp.a
Open VLD
  • ⟰ Tja. Ze zijn verniewd? Bijvoorbeeld, de voornaam van de voorzitter is nieuw.
  • ⟱ Ze hebben een sterk Rooms-rood budget verkwanseld vanaf '99, door het zogenaamde sale-and-lease-back, een statistisch truukje op korte termijn is dat door bedrijven wordt gebruikt om winstgevend te lijken. Het is eerder een grote aderlating.
  • ⟱ Ze kiezen eerder de kant van de multinationals dan die van de KMO's, iets dat de kloof tussen arm & rijk gewoon vergroot.
CD&V
  • ⟰ De partij van matiging, goed bestuur, en een besef van het belang van solidariteit en het sociale. Naargelang haar reputatie.
  • ⟱ Maar dat was vóór Leterme. Perceptueel heeft CD&V proberen te teren op haar reputatie, en het dan zwaar verkorven. Thyssen is nog min of meer geloofwaardig, maar Leterme was niet klaar voor prime time.
sp.a
  • ⟰ Eén van de pijlers van de maatschappij, en de enige partij nog een beetje geneigd om te denken in termen van sociale rechtvaardigheid en klassen.
  • ⟱ Maar Vandenbroucke buitenspel zetten, naamsverandering, verdeeldheid, onduidelijkheid...
  • ⟱ De sp.a hebben eigenlijk de hele voorbije eeuw gewonnen. Niemand twijfelt nog aan de noodzaak van pensioenen, arbeidswetgeving, rechten, de welvaartsstaat. Dus de sp.a focust zich noodzakelijkerwijze op verdediging van die verwezenlijkingen, en op het scherpstellen van het systeem. Dat is niet de meeslepende boodschap van de rooien van weleer.
Behalve dat zijn er een hele reeks partijen die zich nog niet of nauwelijks hebben laten gelden:
Vlaams Belang < LDD < N-VA < Groen!
Vlaams Belang
  • ⟰ ...
  • ⟰ De mensen die fout waren in WO II willen zich kunnen verhalen?
  • ⟱ VB is en blijft de partij van de angst en het reptielenbrein. Dat wil niet zeggen dat ze nooit ideeën hebben, maar die worden voor zo'n vreemd beest gespannen dat je er moeilijk akkoord mee kan gaan.
Lijst DeDecker
  • ⟰ Verieuwend en eigenzinnig. Ja, dat wel.
  • ⟱ Maar eerder op de leest van Pim Fortuyn of Geert Wilders geschoeid, en op een heel opvallende manier. Je komt eerder over als demagoog & opportunist dan als staatsman.
  • ⟱ De partij bestaat past, maar staat nu al in de schaduw van de N-VA. Ik kan geen enkel scenario bedenken waarin ik LDD verkies boven N-VA.
Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie
  • ⟰ "Eindelijk! Kunt ge u da voorstellen? Eindelijk de Volksunie de grootste partij van de Vlaanders!"
  • ⟰ Of, met andere woorden, regionalisme troef op een manier die tien jaar geleden onvoorstelbaar was, die niet bestond.
  • ⟱ De Wever pronkt met Burke als zijn idool, wat in de Engelstalige wereld code is voor "ik ben een weldenkende oorlogslievende idioot". Het is ook sterk traditioneel en wordt vrij weinig nog aanhangen, vaak omdat de aanhangers niet flexibel genoeg waren. Denk maar aan de Whigs.
  • ⟱ De N-VA (& Open VLD) zijn eruit gestapt toen alles strop leek te zitten, iets wat je je als sterke regerende partij eigenlijk niet kan veroorloven. Ik hoop dat ze inderdaad de grootste worden - dan valt er te zien uit welk hout ze gesneden zijn, dan kunnen ze zich bewijzen. Voorlopig prefereer ik hen boven OpenVLD, LDD, VB en misschien zelfs CD&V.
Groen!
  • ⟰ Hey, ik moet niet meer beslissen of ik op Groen! of op de SLP stem!
  • ⟰ Groen! is de enige partij bij wie de bezinning wel degelijk gelukt is, en die nu veel coherenter is dan tien jaar terug.
  • ⟰ Groen! is de enige partij die nieuwe kopstukken heeft, die een meritocratie lijkt. Als ik zelf ooit in de politiek stap, doe ik dat bij Groen!
  • ⟰ Het homohuwelijk. Groen! deinst niet terug voor onderwerpen die niet bon ton zijn, en ook niet voor intensieve onderhandelingen.
  • ⟱ Ze zijn zo postmodern, met een hele waaier aan programmapunten, dus het is makkelijk er te vinden waarmee je niet akkoord bent. Met de uitbreiding daarvan hebben ze ook niet echt een consistent "groot verhaal". Zo zou ik bijvoorbeeld steenkool- voor kerncentrales willen sluiten, en lig ik veel meer wakker van mensen- dan van dierenrechten.
  • ⟱ Hun beleid treft niet altijd doel, zoals bijvoorbeeld het idee dat de vervuiler betaalt voor saneringen. Het is misschien een randgeval, maar ik weet dat een onhandige mazoutvrachtwagen die over een oudere begraven ton rijdt na die juist vol te hebben gedaan een alleenstaande weduwnaar al zijn geld heeft gekost. Dat zijn toch misstanden?
  • ⟱ In Vlaanderen heeft veel groen gedachtegoed een soort Katholieke inslag, waarbij men voor milieubehoud af en toe teveel nadruk legt op persoonlijk initiatief en 'zonde', en waar het gedachtegoed in vraag stellen met een scheef oog wordt bekeken. (Dat laatste is natuurlijk ook omdat het grootkapitaal tegenwoordig groen in het vizier heeft.)


Dus op wie stem ik? Groen! Uiteraard. Het N-VA zal hoogstwaarschijnlijk wel winnen, en als de groenen het aan weerszijden van de taalgrens goed doen winnen ze aan geloofwaardigheid. En als dat gebeurt wil ik hen echt wel in de regering als diplomaten, als alternatief voor de opbodpolitiek. Een plastic olijfboomcoalitie met N-VA, Groen! en de sp.a aan Vlaamse kant zie ik echt wel zitten. (De peilingen lopen tot 1,5% uit elkaar, jammer genoeg, wat veel is voor een kleinere partij. Moeilijk voorspelbaar.)

Als ik één overheersende kritiek heb op alle partijen, is het wel het 'kunstzinnige' element, zoals De Croo dat noemt. Ik had graag hardere cijfers en een meer technocratisch beleid gezien dat naar resultaat kijkt in plaats van puurheid. Hervorming van het pensioensysteem en sociale zekerheid, laat staan de door te voeren besparingen, zijn absoluut niet duidelijk. Krachtdadigheid is nodig, maar daarvoor heb je eerst een heldere blik nodig op de gevolgen.

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The bill passes with three votes to spare, Bart Stupak finishes his month-long publicity stunt, and HCR passes on to the Senate. Good. I think Josh Marshall hits the nail on the head here:
The US has had several runs with major pieces of social legislation. And the record is that they don't get repealed. They're expanded and become embedded in the national political economy.
And like I say yesterday, the bill is flawed, but that's not the point. Ideally, every Democratic majority in the future will pick up this ball and run with it, because it's shown that social reform is possible. That should make cases for its necessity easier in the future.

Also, 200,000 people marched on DC for immigration reform yesterday. I don't think any talking head paid them any heed, but there sure was plenty of Teabagger footage.
So it turns out my earlier predictions were correct — instead of running the table, the left actually incurred the net loss of a region. The higher turnout ensured the rightist slant dominated in Alsace, and the Presidential Majority won by ±40,000 votes. The incumbent party in Guyane dragged down Taubira's list and left her ±39,200 votes in the hole, and in La Réunion, the PS and the bizarre PCR-led unity coalition split the leftist bounce and left blue in the lead by ±21,000 votes. Three regional presidencies for the right, as opposed to 2004's two.

Late last night, over on Daily Kos, Jerome a Paris was trying to spin this into a victory for the left, which seems harder to do now. I suppose you could be arguing that nobody cares about overseas departments and that the métropole is what matters. You could argue that there's no significant backswing, and that the lack of one is evidence enough.

Even if you go the obvious route and point out that Guyane and La Réunion were lost because of idiosyncratic anti-incumbent sentiment, and that little microcosms like that shouldn't be held as indicative — well, Corsica is the left's only gain, and its politics are hardly less peculiar. I guess it doesn't count either, then?
People often seem to wonder why I pay attention to American politics at all, especially when I theoretically don't even have a horse in this race. They may be able to excuse foreign policy, but health care reform?

Health care is a basic human right — take a look at articles 22 and 25.1 in the Universal Declaration if you don't believe me. That means that there are 46.3 million people in the United States alone lacking that basic right. Among them are my ex-fiancé and my oldest friend online, who would be paying insane sums of money every month if they didn't live in places that already provide them with shoestring health care, and who wouldn't be buried under crushing mounds of debt if they'd been properly insured. And they're the lucky ones.

Is this a good bill? Of course not. It's deeply flawed and compromised, merely kicking the can down the road. On the other hand, this is lightyears ahead of the previous "there is no can" handwaving — the problem has been acknowledged and there being any legislation at all is a miracle. After all, this agenda item is older than any of the seated Democrats in the House. Simply passing it would be a historic turning point.

In fact, it's the turning point. Electoral victories are worthless if they don't result in actual policy changes. What use is it to have House, Senate and Presidency in blue hands if they can't pass their key reform? Democratic credibility absolutely hinges on this bill. The Bush hangover will fade, and the swing to the left will reverse itself unless the Democrats anchor it down by actually implementing their program.

And that's not a miracle solution, but it's a start. Just like the bill itself.
The most recent poll for Le Figaro has the PS-led left unity list and the Presidential Majority list both at 43.5% of the vote. The left might end up with a full sweep after all.
Though in this case, 'fort' doesn't refer to the the French adjective so much as it's about 'holding down the'. If anything, the right's options are less limited than they were in 2004, but also more unlikely, with some chance to come out on top in a few different régions. A low first-round turnout is usually followed by a large second round, so it can be hard to really gauge the results. On the other hand, I do want to make a few predictions.

Alsace — likely keep.
Alsace hasn't been immune to the leftist strength of the last two cycles, but that doesn't mean the left will get there. By and far the crustiest of the French regions, it's been under a rightist presidency since the founding of the Fifth Republic. Then again, so had Haute-Normandie in 2004, so anything's possible.

In fact, the left start out ±46,000 votes ahead of their first round position, the main right ±44,000 behind, and indeed, if you count the PS and EÉ together, they're only 1,960 votes in the hole. Considering that they usually receive the bigger second round bounce (and indeed did so in 2004), it looks comparatively better for them at first blush. On the other hand, those ±44,000 rightist votes didn't swing left — they're in the minor extreme right party Alsace d'Abord, and are highly likely to come home in round 2. And the leftist coalition can't count on the crossover votes of Antoine Waechter's Independent Ecologist Movement this time, since they're already in the EÉ, or on many of the extreme left's votes. Only 43.36% of Alsatians turned up to vote in the first round, too, and in a place as conservative as the Alsace, you have to assume the silent majority tilts towards the blue. With the PS breathing down their beloved UMP's neck, they might be inspired to show up on Sunday.

On the other hand, this is the best result of the left here in a generation, and being within striking distance could draw weaker leftist and centrist supporters just to give the right a bloody nose. This would depend largely on the response of those ±23,000 centrist MoDem voters who stranded short of the 5% mark.

Guyane — lean gain.
Guyane, home of the European space program, oodles and oodles of rainforest and the lowest population of any of the regions, unexpectedly veered right in the first round results, with the PSG list of current president Gabriel Serville coming in a distant third. The Presidential Majority has ±12,200 votes to the second-place Walwari-MDES with ±6,900. Christiane Taubira is quite busy marshalling the PSG and EÉ lists (and even a dissent leftist list) under a single banner. The biggest factors here are turnout — 44.44% in a region where your vote has a lot of comparative weight — against the collapse of the regionalist PSG, which can't be expected to repeat its vote-doubling leap in 2004's second round. Even though Taubira's math is good, its sudden popularity loss might drag down her entire left unity list.

La Réunion — tossup.
Another Outremer, but a much more populous one, where the sitting president's Communist Party of Réunion has suffered some decline as well. It's tried to stave this off by means of an alliance with the EÉ and MoDem, but the Presidential Majority is only ±9,000 votes behind, and there are a metric ton of dissident rightist lists that will close the gap in round two. I actually had this listed as 'likely gain' until I came across the news item that dissident conservative and ex-convict André Thien-Ah-Koon will be forming a unity list with that Communist-led alliance. He has a very strong local power base that's based more on personal popularity than on ideology, so he'll probably deliver most of those ±13,000 votes. Still, there's a lot of dissident right.

Corsica — lean loss.
Shamed by their utter disarray in the 2004 regionals, the Corsican left resolved to present a single bloc in the future. So it stands to reason that four different leftist lists showed up for round one. Thankfully, they all made the 5% cut, and are finalizing a predictably fractious unity list process that should leave them in the driver's seat. Still, the right's vote loss went almost integrally to regionalist parties, who could outperform the left if they could set aside their ideological differences. They won't, so there might be a significant blue bump there. Still, when conservative newspaper Le Figaro describes the Corsican left as 'menacing', it's wise to take them seriously. And like Alsace, la Corse has been solidly in conservative hands since the start of the Fifth Republic.

Rhône-Alpes — likely loss.
What gives? The Presidential Majority is only ±17,000 votes ahead of the PS, and both Philippe Meirieu of the surging EÉ and Élisa Martin of the Left Front have signaled their desire for a unity list. This should be a done deal.

The issue here is Jean-Jack Queyranne, current PS regional president and probably the weakest in France today. When polled, only 20% of the region know who he is, and 28% surmises the regional council is currently being run by the Presidential Majority. When faced with Meirieu's results just after the first round, there were reports of Queyranne physically avoiding the rest of the leftists, and it's hard to negotiate unity if one of the partners doesn't show up. I haven't heard anything more, though, so I'm hoping Queyranne has come to his senses. Otherwise, it's possible that bleed away from the PS to the LF or EÉ combined with National Front's Bruno Gollnisch hemorrhaging support (like he always does in the second round) will result in an upset Presidential Majority victory.

I'd qualify the rest of the regions as 'safe PS', but you never know, of course. (I definitely don't know in Languedoc-Roussillon, but I suspect dissident Georges Frêche and his ramshackle collection of minor parties will carry the day for the left.) If you'd like to take a look at the numbers for yourself, you can find them on Wikipedia, but be aware that the labels and attributions aren't correct.

And then, we're just awaiting the results of round two, which happens tomorrow.
Lists, blocs and rounds.

When the French go to the polls, they vote not for parties but for lists, which are made up of candidates from several parties and are agreed upon by all of them on a regional basis. There is, however, something called a dissident candidacy, where a candidate who feels shortchanged in the list-making process starts some parallel negotiations or simply goes it alone, trying to prove his value by drawing votes away from the main list. Now, as if this weren't confusing enough, many parties are part of an ideological bloc, which often does the list negotiations. Two big leftist blocs, buoyed by their success in the recent European elections, have stayed together to great effect.

Voting takes place in two rounds, with every list with over 10% of the vote in the first going on to the second round. Any party that score's over 5% is allowed to open negotiations to merge their first round list with one of the ten-percenters, and many of them do. This system allows and encourages a lot of inter-party cooperation. This very rarely crosses the left-right divide, though, and virtually ensures that the resulting government will be conducted under the auspices of one of the big dogs.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes.

You could divide the political blocs in France into roughly four tiers, with the classic liberal-socialist divide dominating the top tier. The Presidential Majority is the traditional name for the bloc around the French President's party, in this case the Union for a Popular Movement or UMP. The parties around it are minor things, agrarianists, Blairists, christian democrats and chauvinists. Even though they came first in 10 out of 26 constituencies in the first round, often barely, they have serious issues going into the second round, because they've already hit their ceiling — there are no more moderate right parties they could hit up for extra votes.

The Socialist Party has trended to the right over the decennia, and is best compared with the British Labour Party, though it's a little truer to its roots. They're a ponderous, establishment party of the left or center-left, and their track record's considered an asset. The leftist blocs piling in after the second round strengthen its credentials, as the resulting government tends more to the left than it would otherwise have. In the 2004 elections, they outright won 21 of the 26 constituencies, and some of its minor allies won 3 more. It's stated goal for the 2010 regionals is to run the table, and they're really not that far off.

The next tier is occupied by two very different parties, the largest of which is the National Front under the auspices of Jean-Marie Le Pen. They themselves claim to be mainstream right, but observers point out the virulent rhetoric against everything that's not a straight white male and stuff like trivializing the Holocaust marks them as extreme. Its numbers skyrocketed in 2002, but they've lost ground in every election since then.

So much so, in fact, that they've been overtaken by Europe Écologie, a smattering of Green parties whose long bloc formation paid off in the last European elections, when they outperformed the Socialists in some places. Their main goal now was to match that performance, which sadly didn't work out. They're committed to forming governments and playing matchmaker for anyone who looks vaguely leftist, and they've opened negotiations with the Socialist Party in every region they can.

The third tier blocs are either a bit unstable or in an unfortunate position, but they often hit the 5% threshold. The Left Front, an uneasy and variable alliance of leftist and socialist parties, is at least on an upswing. It usually consists of the French Communist Party and the Left Party, with a few less robust leftist parties thrown in. This arrangement has paid off massively, because there are quite a few regions where they can simply play kingmaker, and it's bound to have drawn its lessons. (The New Anti-Capitalist Party, though, refuses to work together with the SP, so the LF finds itself sidelined in regions where their list includes them.)

The Democratic Movement, a centrist party that tore itself away from its long-standing alliance with the right and has just been hemorrhaging support since then. The regionals held it to just 4.2% of the vote, and it's found itself trapped — the Left Front refuses to work with it and is a more appealing partner for the Socialists, but working with the UMP would just be too bitter a pill to swallow.

Fourth tier are all those that remain, over fifty parties of all stripe, which includes all the regionalists. The New Anti-Capitalist Party is one of them, as is Workers' Struggle, the Trotskyists.

So who comes out on top?

The Socialist Party and the left, obviously. However, the Presidential Majority isn't quite dead yet. Coming soon.

Hm. Oops.

Mar. 17th, 2010 09:07 am
Well, my plan to pay more attention to actual European politics is proceeding apace, I suppose. The real issue is that I've never bothered with them before, so that analysis of the French regionals I wrote yesterday? It's full of bone-headed mistakes and misinterpretations, which swiftly came to light once I bothered looking up some primary sources. Oops? Please, enjoy some random statistics-mongering while you wait for a better post.

Largest victory percentage,
  • Independent extreme left — 4.19%
    Auvergne by Alain Laffont with a New Anti-capitalist Party list allied to two minor Green parties.
  • United extreme left — 14.24%
    Auvergne by André Chassaigne with a Left Party list allied with a minor anti-globalist party.
  • Green parties — 17.83%
    Rhône-Alpes by Philippe Meirieu on the united Europe Écologie list.
  • Socialist party — 40.93%
    Midi-Pyrénées by Martin Malvy with a Socialist Party list with a minor centrist ally.
  • Centrist Party — 10.43%
    Aquitaine by Jean Lassalle on a pure Democratic Movement list.
  • Presidential Majority — 34.94%
    Alsace by Philippe Richert of the united Presidential Majority list.
  • Extreme right — 20.29%
    Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur by Jean-Marie Le Pen on a National Front list.
Most lists going through to the second round, Nord-Pas-de-Calais with five. (Presidential Majority, Socialist Party, Left Front, Europe Écologie and Democratic Movement.)
Largest victory percentage of a coalition, the Socialist Party, Progressive Guadeloupe Party, Greens and Democratic Movement unity list in Guadeloupe gains 56.51% of the vote and thereby obviates the need for a second round.
Fewest absolute number of votes, Euskal Herria Bai, three Basque seperatist parties constituting a single list, with 250 votes.
So, psionics. They started showing up in AD&D, made little to no sense there, and have been tagging along, messin' up my campaign feels for ages as players inevitably decided they felt like playing someone psi-active. We've had the blissful transitional period of the first two PHBs of 4e, but now the wretched pointsbuy third wheel has caught up with us.

And I have to say... This could be a lot worse. The classes have a distinct psionic flavour, though not all of them are based on psi. Runepriests, for example, combine the power of their runic lore with divine inspiration, and the bows of Seekers fire bolts of pure primal energy to confound the foe. But we're here for the psionics.

The Ardent, Battlemind and Psion gain three at-will powers instead of encounter powers, which they can swap out for higher-level ones when appropriate, and has a pool of psionic points to boost those. Bit of extra accounting, but not a bad trade-off if you want to try something new. I like the idea of the Ardent's feelings of elation being so strong that they radiate out to her friends and inspire them. The Battlemind looks solid, like a tank should, though I'm not so sure I like them being described them as 'arrogant'. It feels like WotC just introduced a ton of obnoxious kids to rules lawyering. ("But it says so in the book!")

I suppose that's just small fry next to one of the lines the Psion has, though —
Q: If a god can reshape the world and you can enthrall a god, what does that make you?
A: More arrogant than the Battlemind? I dunno, just a thought.
In fact, she gets to become invisible to a single foe as a standard action by reaching into his brain and ripping out his perception of her. At 19th level, you can do the Darth Vader choke thing, and at 23rd you can just step in and mindcontrol him. Pretty hardcore, right? And with the Uncarnate Paragon Path, you can add a dash of transhumanism to your sexy fantasy Sith Lord. I've always been intrigued by mental processes and how they shape the world for every one of us, and the idea of a hero who reaches in there and rearranges them to please her... Well, that seems more villainous than heroic, and it intrigues me more than the lot of the new classes from PHB2.

Most of the new classes seem okay to good; if I had to pick one to try out, I'd go for a Runepriest or a Psion. The Runepriest is like a house, and the Psion can get quite amazingly powerful and creative. Stuff I can't wrap my mind 'round: the Monk and the Seeker. The Seeker just seems gimmicky, and the Monk is a striker that's supposed to hit-and-run. It's the fourth psionic class, but doesn't get the augment thing, which is a little disappointing. Apart from that, it's got a 'supernatural martial arts' flavor that seems more at home in wuxia than LotR with the serial numbers filed off. It's able to swap out a move action for something more awesome, which is nice, but it seems like the most unusual of the psionic classes, and I'd much rather it were a purely physical striker.

The races are very much a mixed bag. It was perhaps inevitable that the githzerai was coming — they're an oldschool fan favorite, they've got tons of quirks and a backstory worthy of Marvel Comics, they were featured in a CRPG recently... They're also psionics and great monks, so they're here. The problem is that, during worldbuilding, I never want to use them. That would mean dragging the whole cosmology in and mixing it up, and that's just not worth it. Next up's the minotaur. Finally, 19 years later, I actually can play one! The have a Goring Charge class special, which is just as it should be, but they're apparently tragic and 'given to dark urges', which makes me picture them dark-haired and with septum piercings. Their only issue is that they're kind of narrowly defined, much like Goliaths were.

The other two are the Shardmind and the Warden, who are... Weird, in a boring way. Wardens are spiked creatures of fey nature, and a sturdier playable than the eladrin, more obviously infused with leafy verdance. To strengthen the link, they've got a racial that reminds me of Warhammer Fantasy Battle treekin. The shardminds are merely puzzling, because they're thoughts given shape or fragments of a crystal gate to a realm of insanity or... I don't know. What I do know is that for being crystal, they have a bizarre amount of sexual dimorphism. Worse, they have an ancient culture, but we're not told what this might be, and they're portrayed as emotional naifs. I'll need to do some hammering here, just to make these guys make sense.

The rest of the material in the book is just good. You have the requisite feats to let the Runepriests and the psios work, of course, but an added and excellent bonus are the skill powers. They're a really simple, clean idea that puts a little more weight on skills that might go unused — if your skill's high enough, you can swap out a class power for a skill power. That's it. A brief skim shows that they're all useful and usable, too! No obvious duds.

In brief, though I grouse about the succession of handbooks and editions, I actually really like this. Thanks, [profile] aekiy!
I thought these might be interesting to look at, especially the first round, to serve as a bellwether for the first round of the presidential elections of 2012, when Sarkozy will be running for a second term. Of course, that's quite early, but the precedent is 2004, where the Parti Socialiste won a massive victory, leaving only two régions under the control of the ruling UMP of Jacques Chirac.1 The régions in question were Corsica and the Alsace, quite peripheral to France as a whole.2

With as big a swing as that, you'd expect a return to the mean for these elections. The UMP is quite unpopular in France, though, especially because of the soaring unemployment. On the other hand, the PS is in no position to capitalize on this, so we're seeing low turnout and a lot of protest votes, away from the traditional big bruisers. On the left, the big winner is Europe Écologie, on the right, the Front National. In mainland France,3 though, this movement results in a lot of second rounds with these four parties still competing.4 In the 2004 election, the second round was usually UMP-PS-FN, and with FN voters sticking to their own party, the Left cruised to some easy victories with the support of Green voters. The big question here is whether they're likely to push for a Left or a specifically Green victory.

In a really rough estimate, splitting the votes of the parties that didn't make the cut evenly between the parties that share some of their ideology,5 the UMP is projected to retain control of the Alsace and gain control of Guyane and Rhône-Alpes. The great unknown factor here is the splintered left. It's become more and more fractious in the last ten years, and with nine of the constituencies, including Corsica, coming down to less than 5% of the vote — five less than 1%! — I'm finding it really hard to draw conclusions.

In Auvergne, for example, the UMP racked up 28% of the vote, the PS 28% as well, the Left Front 14% and the Greens 10%. The FN stranded outside of the second round with 9% — but if the left sticks to its guns, the FN voters will pile in and hand the UMP the victory, even though the three leftist parties just got 52% of the vote!

It seems that these regional elections haven't just confirmed what was already known, they're also turning into a test for the Left electorate, and whether it'll choose being able to set a policy over ideological purity. Since so many of the régions are already in PS hands, though, I assume there'll be relatively little crossover voting. Still, in the worst-case scenario the left hangs on to 14 régions, compared to the UMP's 12.

Footnotes. )
She discovered something nicely unsettling: LiveJournal removes/d your kickback IDs from links to sites like Amazon, iTunes and tons more, and substitutes its own. I suppose kickback theft is one way to make money off of blogging farms...

LJ has responded by now, saying the code has been pulled. Apparently, it hasn't been excised completely, though. [livejournal.com profile] vichan has been keeping tabs on the whole thing, and I hope she'll keep doing so.

The official line is "this code didn't do what it was supposed to do", but inasfar as I know, there's no such thing as a composite referral tag; you can't catenate them, as LJ claims it was attempting, only overwrite them. It should've been obvious the code couldn't work, but it's been in place since January. That's kind of an inexpert jab at misdirection.
Several earthquakes struck Chile, 24 in total, the two largest 8.8 and 6.9 on the Richter scale.
The entirety of the Pacific is under tsunami warning. [BBC] Eyewitnesses on the San Juan Fernandez islands described being hit by a 130ft. tall wave. This after the 7.3 quake in Japan yesterday.
Speaking of unacceptable appropriation, German literary Wunderkind Helene Hegemann ripped off the edgy, drug-fueled parts of her New Great German Novel from the real life drug and nightlife experiences of "some blogger" from Berlin.

The conclusion of the author of the Spiegel article claims that this is something laudable, drawing an analogy with pop music. And I agree; like pop music, that kind of attitude is cynical, vapid and rapacious.
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