Rosneft dodge

It is always dodgy with the Russians, right?

Russian petroleum giant Rosneft just announced that they sold their interests and stakes in Venezuela.  They want to dodge U.S. sanctions.  Who did they sell to?  They ain’t saying.... [Read More]


I Voted—Now Get Off my Lawn!

J'ai Voté: NeuchâtelIn Switzerland, we’re always voting on something.  Under the system of direct democracy, federal legislation adopted by the parliament can be subjected to a popular veto in a referendum which can be required through only 50,000 signatures (around 1.2% of eligible voters).  Amendments to the federal constitution require a mandatory referendum.  With the signatures of 100,000 eligible voters (around 2.5% of the electorate), an initiative amending the federal constitution is placed before the parliament, which can either recommend or reject the initiative, with, in the latter case, the option of proposing an alternative (“counter-project”).  In any case, the issue is placed before the voters, who get to choose among the initiative amendment, the counter-project, or outright rejection of both.  In a referendum on vetoing a parliamentary act, a simple majority of the nationwide vote is required to reject the law, while for constitutional amendments a “double majority” consisting of a majority of the national popular vote and a majority of cantons based upon the popular vote within each canton is required.

A similar system exists at the two lower levels of government as well: canton and commune.  Each individual jurisdiction makes its own rules, but in general the threshold for a referendum or initiative is around 1% of the eligible electorate.  The population of the canton of Neuchâtel, where I live, is around 176,000, so subtracting off foreigners who are not permanent residents and children, it only takes around 1500 signatures to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot, and it isn’t that difficult to get that many signatures for just about anything.  I recall votes over the years on issues such as whether the bike lanes on the main street through Neuchâtel should be abolished and whether advertising shown before the feature in movie theatres should be banned.... [Read More]


Replacement for his royal highness….

Ya’ know, this has gone too far. Now he wants us to call him; “Your royal highness”! Impeachment is too good for him and if we let the democrats in this forum in charge of it, well you know how that goes, it will take forever.

I propose we just look for a replacement, and I have just the puppets in mind that will fill the bill nicely. They once stared on a segment of MTV and now they say they are ready to come out of retirement! Isn’t that great?... [Read More]


Swiss Army Knife on wheels!

As some of you know, one of my hobbies is model railroading. In following up on that I belong to a few Facebook groups that are in that vein. One is a group called “Switchers and Critters”. Switchers, (in England and a few other places called shunters), are small engines that are used to sort out the rail cars at a railroad yard, to organize them into trains in the order that they may be dropped off. The other, Critters, are a mixed breed, some are shop built, railroad shop that is, for specific purposes or uses. Some are rare special purpose bought by a railroad. In that group I found this “Critter”. With a tip of the Hat to John, I present a Swiss Army Knife on wheels! Seriously this is a vehicle used for maintenance on the Swiss Federal Railway.


Swiss Federal Elections: October 2019

Swiss flagYesterday, Switzerland elected a new lower house of the federal parliament, the Conseil National.  This has, since 1963, been composed of 200 seats, apportioned among the cantons based upon their population.  Elections are held every four years, with all seats in play.  Elections are by a curious proportional representation scheme called “panachage”, about which you can read more at the link if you haven’t filled your quota of confusion for the day.

The results were a substantial shift to the left, with the Green Party and its splinter faction the Green Liberal Party both gaining largely at the expense of conservative and centre-right parties.  Here is the makeup of the new Conseil National.... [Read More]


Monday Meals: 2019-06-03

Roast Goat Quarter

Roast goat quarter: ingredients

Easter dinner at Fourmilab is usually the traditional Swiss repast of roast leg of goat, served over rice with vegetables. This is an easy-to-prepare, can’t fail meal which is suitable for any occasion. Goat is considered a “red meat”, but I find it most comparable to turkey dark meat in flavour and texture. The taste is unique and not at all gamey. (Of course, this depends upon what the goat was fed. Swiss goats are usually fed on grass and forage; if your goat was fed on garbage and fish heads, all bets are off.)... [Read More]


How Liberty Dies – 21st Century Version

If polls are correct, the Swiss, who were once as liberty-minded as Americans were (past tense), are about to vote themselves a step closer to tyranny. They will vote, apparently, Sunday to kow-tow (cow-tow?) to the EU’s demand that, in order to retain certain touted economic benefits of the Schengen bilateral agreement, Switzerland must gut its existing gun laws so as to conform with those of the EU. It seems a thoroughly modern rendition of lèse-majesté perpetrated by an un-elected elite. That the Swiss would meekly go along would have been unthinkable not long ago.

All so-called media reports cite how the EU tightened its gun laws following the 2015 (Islamist is omitted) mass murders in Paris – “perpetrated by gunfire.” End of analysis. No matter that the fully-automatic guns used were already illegal everywhere; that they were illegally obtained outside the EU and illegally imported. The ready knee-jerk answer of EU unelected bureaucrats: disarm the general public so as to be absolutely certain their citizens can never even think of defending themselves! (against an unassimilable mass of individuals hostile to the host culture – intentionally imported by these same elites). So the venerable Swiss, threatened with some overstated economic penalties, are apparently about vote to surrender a right their ancestors fought and died to bequeath them. This seems to be the pattern by which liberty withers and fractional slavery encroaches upon the inhabitants of Western modernity. To my way of thinking, individuals who hand over more than half their earnings to government are fractional slaves. We can disagree as to the precise fraction.... [Read More]


How about Some Brass Band Music?

L'Avenir de Lignières, Concert annuel 2019Tonight was the annual concert of my village’s brass band, L’Avenir.  The brass band has two major concerts per year, in the spring and at Advent, and performs at events such as the 1er août and Désalpe.  The band often has joint concerts with other bands in the region, both in Lignières and their homes, and competes in regional and national contests and has historically performed very well for a volunteer band from a village of around 1000 people.

Vin: membre d'honneurThe concerts turn out a substantial fraction of the village.  I’m not skilled at estimating crowds, but this one pretty much filled up the school gymnasium where it was held, and I’d guess there were around 350 people there.  I rarely miss a concert, but this was one where attendance was obligatoire, because I was to be made an honorary member of the band due to my support over the last quarter century.  (If you knew how rudimentary my musical talent is, you’d appreciate what an honour this is.)  I got a specially inscribed magnum of Neuchâtel Pinot Noir and applause from the crowd.... [Read More]


Good fences make good neighbors

Came across this paper from years ago in Nassim Taleb’s Twitter feed that is fortuitously relevant today: Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence. As he summarized it, “…you don’t get peace forcing pple to hold hands & sing Kumbaya by the campfire.” Key quote from the abstract:

Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups. Mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas.... [Read More]