Sunday, September 30, 2007

Paris Hilton on Letterman


Not usually known for being particularly critical, Letterman takes a few swings at Paris Hilton:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NYC Part 1

Search by

Last NameFirst NameEntry NumberAccepted?AgeCityProvinceCountry of ResidencyTeam

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mark Mardell

Mark Mardell on the Dutch Referendum discussion:

Another Dutch No?
Mark Mardell 21 Sep 07, 12:15 AM

People whistle through the Binnenhof’s cobbled square on their bikes, scarcely giving a glance to either the rather lovely understated architecture or the politicians bustling in and out of the many ministries.

This part of The Hague could be a quiet monument to democracy. Even a rather showy fountain in brown and gold doesn’t undermine the impression of a rather harmonious relationship between the rulers and the people who chose them.

The office of the Dutch Prime Minister in one courtyard, the entrance to the upper and lower houses of parliament in another, various ministries scattered around these two unpretentious courtyards, which have long been the seat of the government of the Netherlands.

But when cabinet ministers meet at Number 19 later today, will they give the people a say over the new European Reform Treaty?

My strong guess is No, but as you’ll see that won’t quite be the end of the story.

The Dutch government is a coalition. The dominant partners, the Christian Democrats, are - like all the governments in the European Union - in favour of the treaty and anxious to avoid a referendum. Gordon Brown too will be hoping they don’t hold one.

It was of course the Dutch who nailed the constitution. Days after the French voted "Non" their "Nee" made sure it was in effect dead. This saved Tony Blair from holding a referendum he never wanted. But a second Dutch referendum now would put wind in the sails of those who want one in Britain and pile the pressure on Mr Brown.

Curious allies

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, a Christian Democrat, said I would have to wait and see what the cabinet decided but he was sure there would be a unanimous decision.

"We listened to the Dutch public, they said No to the constitutional treaty, now we have a treaty which is completely different," he said. "It is not forecasting a European superstate, there is a clear division between what should be decided in member states and what should be decided in Europe."

The Dutch Christian Democrats have very curious allies in their argument. The Christian Union shot to prominence during the referendum campaign, noisily and successfully championing a No. So you would think their position would be obvious. But they don’t like referendums, and never have.

But it's not just that. One of their MPs, Esme Weigman, told me: "The new treaty is just a modification of the Treaty of Nice, it's another situation from when we had a constitutional treaty. The decisions during the summit in June were very good."

They now have three seats in the cabinet so I suggested that cynics might say the reason for their change of heart was obvious, that they were now part of the government and wanted to stay part of it.

She said, "Yes, people say the Christian Union has changed. But it's not the Christian Union that has changed but the cabinet that has changed on Europe. The most important thing is now Europe will go forward in co-operation but not go forward to a United States of Europe."

The problem for the Dutch government is their Labour Party partners. It's the party's policy to hold referendums. Even though it is for the treaty.

The Dutch parliament is a rather wonderful building, combing old and new with sweeping empty halls and strange giant mobiles hanging in the air. Comfy too: I wish we had had squishy leather sofas and flat-screen TVs during my days at Westminster. It makes the traditional journalistic job of hanging around to “doorstep” ministers a lot more comfortable.


The most interesting politician I spoke to was Labour's Luuk Blom. He said: "I’m in favour of a referendum It's part of our programme, referendums are a new way to decided things in a country, to link people more closely to politics. You have to take the people very seriously. The No was a very strong No... I’m in favour of a referendum, and the chances are 50/50."

But he likes the treaty and was obviously in some agonies about what the people might decide if they did get that vote, a view that I think is very common among the political class in the Netherlands, and indeed elsewhere.

"Is it possible to take a No this time? Holland would be in a very difficult position in Europe. We’d be on the bench in football terms. When the Dutch said No two years ago there was a possibility to start new negotiations. That’s not possible any more. This treaty is it. So if we said No, would we be in the European Union? Maybe that should be the question."

The parliament is open to a constant stream of visitors who come to listen to the debates and look at the building. But during the time I was there I never saw anyone approach the displays and the giant yellow flags that cover one wall and part of the floor, emblazoned with the question "Hoezo EU?" ("What’s the EU about?")

There were different views, of course, from those I spoke to, but none of the No-voters said they were happy with the new treaty. In fact none of them mentioned the treaty itself: their complaints were broader.

Professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam Jos de Beus surprised me, telling, me that he thought a referendum was likely. He added: "The mood is Eurosceptic, there is no sense of European identity. There is still a sense that the European space is a space of globalisation, of Islamisation, that Brussels is a superstate. The climate is still quite volatile, so the government is afraid of a second failure. It's still quite easy for the Eurosceptics to win a referendum."

This is exactly the fear of politicians that people, supposedly voting on a technical matter, will give the answer to a big political question, and an answer which most European politicians do not like - and regard in fact as untenable, unpractical, unworkable.



Pajiba is the best review site on the internet, and sometimes they have silly stuff, too.

To illustrate, this is their review of the glorious DOA: Dead or Alive:

Will Someone Please Bash Me to Death With a Truncheon?

DOA: Dead or Alive / Phillip Stephens

In my loftier moments I’ve often wondered if there are any truly redeeming merits to be found in writing about movies. Trying to gauge an art form is a tenuous business, especially when most of our intellectual traditions accept relativism to the degree that ours does. Often film reviews are mired in a subjectivity that bashes or defends their charge based on expectation, personal preference, or any myriad of reasons that can’t rightly fit into an objective mold, even if we assume one exists at all.

To further muddle things, what does one make of a film’s self-consciousness, of its actively choosing style or content that can’t help but draw derision from those who’d judge it against? Is it ridiculous to take a subject matter seriously when those responsible had no intention of extending the viewer the same courtesy?

My point in bringing all this up — DOA: Dead or Alive, a film based on a series of fighting games, is so bad it defies description. Truly, there’s not one line of dialogue that doesn’t grate in your head like bagpipes in a garbage disposal, not one cheap, gratuitous shot of nubile flesh that doesn’t make your eyes roll, not one plot incongruity that doesn’t make you question the existence of a benevolent deity.

The plot is so repellant that I’m not going to waste precious seconds of my life rehashing it. Suffice to say: three women, all of whom are ambulatory tits with no higher-brain function, compete in a fighting tournament and kung-fu kick the Christ out of each other while an evil Eric Roberts (of-fucking-course it’s Eric Roberts) plans to take over the world with sunglasses that can predict the future. Also, Jaime Pressly is top-billed. It’s so ridiculous it just might have worked …

The thing is, there are already hordes of apologists for Dead or Alive who are positively hailing the film for exactly the same reasons I would decry it, mostly those primordial twats who haunt the IMDb message boards: “This movie isn’t trying to win any awards, so why not have fun with it JAYKAYLOLBBQ?” It sounds reasonable, sure, but I personally have a hard time having “fun” with a film that causes me to hate the rest of humanity for tacitly endorsing said fun in such vapid, visceral terms. If you want bikinied bimbos, get some porn; if you want ludicrous kung-fu violence and its accompanying aesthetic, play the same video game this crap is based on; if you want to see Eric Roberts ever work again, please keep that knowledge to yourself and hide your shame from the rest of the world until you’re dead.

Self-conscious stupidity is still stupidity, people, and Dead or Alive is so stupid it would give ass-cancer to lab rats. It’s too big a risk to say that in the proper context this film could be enjoyed, because that context could range from sheer mental ineptitude to the imbibement of lethal quantities of alcohol. Is it fair to ask someone to effectively cripple their cerebrum in the off chance that they would maybe derive some pleasure from this ignominy? I fucking hope not.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

And this is something silly I found on their site:

Bush pronounces Mandela dead

Friday, September 14, 2007

Obsidian Wings


The single best blog about all things Iraq is Obsidian Wings. This is the entry of today:

Bush's Pointless Speech
by hilzoy

In a move that caught all of Washington by surprise, President Bush announced tonight that he will begin drawing down troops at almost exactly the rate that he must draw them down unless he is prepared to extend troop rotations or institute the draft. In another startling move, he described this drawdown not as forced on him by deployment schedules, but as a "return on success": the tremendous success of the surge. In so doing, once again, our President shows himself to be a true visionary: seeing things invisible to ordinary men and women. Where we see only a country in the process of falling apart, our more discerning President sees success. Where we see millions of people fleeing their homes, he sees 'civil society taking root'. And, somehow, he sees "a young democracy" where we see dead people.

And to top it all off, where we see a President determined to keep our troops in harm's way for as long as possible, hoping that the civil war unleashed by his folly will unfold on someone else's watch, he sees a chance, "for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together." Although why he thinks this is so novel escapes me: it has always been possible for both sides to come together if all those who disagree with George W. Bush simply abandon their positions, and this is not the first time he has suggested that we embrace this sort of bipartisanship.

The President also said this:

"In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people. We are now at such a moment."

Here, for once, I agree completely. We have had clear evidence that our policy in Iraq is unworkable for some time. We need to decide what to do about it. And we have, essentially, two choices. On the one hand, we can face up to this fact, as unpleasant as it might be, and figure out the most honorable way of extricating ourselves. On the other, we can continue to defer the moment when we have to realize that we have failed, and go on sacrificing good and decent men and women to our unwillingness to face the truth.

This will, as President Bush says, reveal our character as a people. I would much rather it reveal some capacity for maturity and decency than a willingness to ask people to die so that we can pretend we haven't lost.


And by the way: don't you love all those youth and growth metaphors? "A young democracy", for instance: if you have a young anything, just give it the food and care and love that it needs, and it will grow. "For lasting reconciliation to take root": if you have a plant, and you set it in good soil and water it conscientiously, its roots will grow. If Iraq were a child or a plant, then the surge -- whose entire aim is to provide the conditions in which reconciliation can flourish and democracy can grow to maturity -- would be exactly what was needed.

When I hear these metaphors, I think: it's as though Bush had planted a stone in fertile soil, and watered it, and said: any moment now, it will put down some roots and begin to grow! Eventually, it will become a boulder!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007



No, he's not mine.
And he isn't my sister's, either.
This is Stijn, and his mother is my cousin.

And this is my grandmother (and his great-grandmother):

More Pictures here.

Wallström Blog


What can I say? Hans-Gert Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament, spoke at the opening of the academic year here on Monday, and I was inspired. (And irked.) So I overcame my reluctance and wrote another rant for the Wallström Blog, even though the only people who ever read those comments are those that agree with me already, and a bunch of Eurosceptics from Britain who wouldn't be convinced no matter what I say.

More pictures from the opening are here.

martinned Says:

September 12th, 2007 at 10:15 am

Robin Says, September 11th, 2007 at 9:57 pm:

Ben Murphy,

Floods of bilge,nonsense,infantile, slurry, morons, shrill, wrong headed,unpleasant characters,xenophobic.

That’s rich! A nice case of the pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Murphy, as far as I can see, has stated his case [fairly and reasonably], after I’d already been worn out by incessant Eurosceptic drivel. It takes real stamina to keep repeating the same arguments over and over, knowing that most likely none of the Eurosceptic gentlemen you’re aiming them at will honestly listen to them even a little bit.

Yes, we have to go out and sell the EU to the population better. One advantage of a referendum is certainly that it forces us to do that. Which reminds me, a propos democratic deficit, this is an article by (intergovernmentalist pioneer) Andrew Moravcsik on the issue. I can recommend it. So if we can get over such myths as the no-demos thesis and the mythical democratic deficit (I don’t know about others, but over here it is virtually impossible to form a government without Christian-Democrats, i.e. virtually impossible to vote them out of government, just to give an example.) It would also be nice to drop any rubbish about EU bureaucracy (fewer civil servants than the city of Amsterdam, and that includes the translators, if I’m not mistaken). Corruption, finally, is also at least partially a myth, because the main reason why the Court of Auditors have not been able/willing to sign off on the budget for the last X years is that their standards are simply much more strict than those of any single Member State. (Again an example of the EU trying to be sweeky clean, cleaner than clean.) I just took a sample from Crapaud’s post, above.

Lord knows there is a lot wrong with the EU. In part because the Member States have never allowed it to be run in the way I’d like to see it run. (I.e. as a proper bicameral parliament with the Commission as an executive.) But Eurosceptics cannot on the one hand argue that there are so many things wrong with the EU while at the same time arguing for more veto-points and opt-outs. Because the writers of the Treaty, as well as the people on the ground today, have always been concious that they needs widespread support every step of the way, the legislation created is sketchy, rickety and often inconsistent. Yes, under EU law it is allowed to treat your own citizens more poorly than citizens of other Member States, but what country would want to do that??? Telling Member States what they can or cannot do in legislating their own citizens in such general terms would surely violate the principle of subsidiarity? The EU is the way it is for a reason, a reason explained by history, both the history of world wars I and II, when early integration efforts organised by Jean Monnet between France and the UK (world war I) and between the UK and the US (world war II) significantly helped the Allied cause, and Europe’s history since the war. Path depencency, people.

Of course, the British are welcome to s**d off, if they don’t want to be a part of our glorious experiment. Norway is doing fine as a part of the EEA, although that does of course mean they pay large sums of money into the budget without any say in how they are spent. I guess with all their oil money they don’t really have to care. In any event, whether this experiment will turn out as self-destructive as Yugoslavia is largely a matter of PR. Just like power-hungry politicians in Yugoslavia turned neighbours into enemies, this might happen at an EU level. Personally, I would think that example would be all the more reason to minimise nationalist rhetoric, given that quite obviously nationalism is spawn from hell, but that’s just me.

Part II:

martinned Says:

September 13th, 2007 at 3:19 am


To start with the bureaucracy point: I figured I’d start by establishing some facts that we might be able to agree on, i.e. that there’s not that many eurocrats to begin with. Having achieved at least that, I’m afraid I’m going to have to do an impolite thing, and debate the premise instead of the main argument. Yes, I do know how the EU works, and yes, I have seen legislation in action, as well as on paper, and I’m afraid the excess bureaucracy perception is just that: perception. I can certainly think of cases where EC legislation has led to more paperwork than strictly necessary, but mostly that’s just things that never cause any trouble for ordinary citizens. For example, I don’t even want to think about how many rapporting requirements were put into the final version of the services directive. However, those rapports have to be written by national civil servants, and they were put in place so that the law makers could dispense with any more drastic measures to assure compliance, or, alternatively, so that they could dispense with taking any measures at all. As far as I can tell, much of the alleged EU bureaucracy is of this type, and that hardly seems enough to warrant the displeasure of our friends accross the channel. An admitted exception is the Common Agricultural Policy, which is a monster and which should be abolished yesterday rather than tomorrow. (As usual, understandable political issues have gotten in the way so far, but the fight goes on!) Some examples would be nice.

In other news:
- If Britain wants to discriminate against its own citizens, (I don’t know that they do, but I’ll take the Brits’ word for it.) don’t you reckon that’s the kind of thing you ought to take up with your own national government? Just a thought.
- We still seem to be confused about the merits of unfettered democracy. In any country, democracy is limited by measures that are in place to prevent a tyrrany by the majority. However, such a general philosophical discussion was out of place on this blog the last time I went there, so I suggest we not try that again. I recommend The Federalist numbers 10 and 14. Fact of the matter is that to have referenda about everything is undoubtedly more democratic, the more the better, but that does not necessarily make it a good thing.
- Of course corruption happens in the EU, just like everywhere else. That’s why we have OLAF. I’d say the Santer commission resigning was a resounding success in the fight against corruption. For other examples, I’d say the most recent one is the mess the Walloon Socialist Party (PS) is in at the moment. They got crushed in the election in June as a result.
- Finally, I cannot do better than point to any good text on the history of the European Union, ideally Moravscik’s ‘From Messina to Maastricht’ (which caused a bit of an uproar when it was first published, on account of it being so cynical about the EU, but it is without question the best analysis of why the treaty changes turned out the way they did, with ample background materials to back it up). Generally, the Member States got exactly what they wanted. There is no magic in play, no Commission hypnotist forcing negotiators to agree to things they did not really want. Sometimes countries said no after negotiating (eg. Norway), sometimes additional opt-outs were included. Sometimes they cheat. (Sweden on the euro, several big Member States on the budget rules for the Eurozone) In the 1960s and 70s, when there was no support for further integration, the whole project stood still, and there is a good chance that that will happen again in the near future. (I’m not optimistic about the reform treaty’s chances of being ratified by all 27 Member States.) For my taste, I think mrs. Merkel has pushed too hard. This time last year, I did the math and estimated they would not be able to put something together until some time in 2009 or 2010. (After the elections, at the same time as the negotiations about the second half of the budget cycle, probably during the Swedish presidency.) Clearly I was wrong, in part because the French elected themselves a pretty pro-EU president, and in part because I was wrong about the big Member States’ theoretical inability to reach such results during their presidencies. (In the past, the best deals have usually been made by medium-sized Member States that are big enough to have enough diplomats, but not so big that the others are annoyed at being pushed around.) My point is, I don’t see how anyone can look at the history of the EU and see anything other than an endless string of one compromise after another.

P.S. I, too, “can accept that there is a valid, debatable, viewpoint which is not coincident with mine”, and it certainly wasn’t my intention to disparage anyone’s “intellectual capabilities” (except maybe Marcel’s). However, I am getting a little tired of this discussion, because it feels like I’m talking to a wall. Nothing I say seems to sink in even a little bit. (I’m fortunate we’ve at least established we agree on how few Eurocrats there actually are, even if we don’t agree on what that means.) I imagine quite a few of my honourable opponents must feel the same way, even if they seem to have more stamina than I do. Logically, what this means is that we must be arguing at the wrong level. If, in a discussion, A says something that is true, and, in reply, B says something that is also true, and so on and so forth, without them ever agreeing, theory dictates they should examine their premises. And if that doesn’t work, they should examine the premises of their premises, until, finally, they reach common ground. In practice, it doesn’t always work that way, but talking about such things as democracy vs. civil liberties and referenda vs. delegated democracy helps clear some things up. To the extent that my disagreements with some of the other commenters are caused by our different appreciation for referenda, generally, there is no need for frustration. On such points, we can simply agree to disagree, and leave it at that. It would be nice to resolve some more sub-issues or premises like that, but I’m not immediately sure where to look…

Part III:

martinned Says:

September 14th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

@Robin (last time I meant to write to a number of other commenters at the same time): We almost agree on how the bureaucratic system works: the EU legislator, first and foremost, determines the kind of rapports that are to be written, etc. Where the legislation requires blanks to be filled in, this is usually arranged through comitology (where the MS again have the most important vote). Authority to do things is usually given either to the Commission, or to national authorities, but rarely such that the Commission can boss MS around without a direct basis in treaty or secondary legislation. (Example, what you would see is that a directive compels MS to write a rapport every three years about their progress on something or other, and then the Commission’s civil servants would be tasked with making sure these rapports are actually written, as well as with reading them.)

In addition to this, there is of course the Commission’s own authority under the Treaty, which is mainly investigative in nature and which I don’t think anyone would want to abolish. (Investigating state aids and measures having equivalent effect.)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, excess red tape is not an inherent consequence of the Community’s existence any more than it is a consequence at a national level of national government existing. Any state authority will always involve more red tape than a private corporation, because potentially more power is wielded with fewer guidelines as to how. Both at a national level and at the level of the Community, efforts are constantly under way to streamline the workings of the civil service, with varying levels of success. To the extent that one is unhappy about the efforts so far, the more constructive thing to do would be to suggest alternatives.

If your government blames the EU for discriminating against their own citizens, they might as well be blaming Santa Clause. I hardly see how that’s a problem for the Commission, or for the EU generally.

I’m not sure how good your German is, but earlier this month a study was published by the Swiss Commission against Discrimination: German version, French version, Italian version. They concluded that the Swiss system for deciding whether someone should be able to acquire Swiss citizenship, which requires a referendum in the person’s municipality of residence, is inherently discriminatory because it discriminates against muslims, non-Europeans generally and the handicapped. The recommendation is to use the same procedure as other countries, with a civil servant deciding. Referenda are democracy, but are they always a good idea?

I’m curious how EU member ship affected your business. Generally, one would expect that having access to the common market would give competitive business the opportunity to sell to more customers, would give uncompetitive businesses a problem, and would leave those trading in “untradeables” largely unaffected. However, I’m going to go ahead and guess that your problems weren’t quite that simple.

Would you like me to go over the general list again? Peace in our time, a strong voice of reason in international relations instead of many weak voices, economic prosperity due to a large common market, freedom and democracy guaranteed for all European citizens.

P.S. Cool story that I read about yesterday: In May 1940, while being busy doing the same thing he’d been doing in World War I, i.e. setting up an Anglo-French pool of resources, Jean Monnet went a few hundred steps further, and proposed merging the UK and France into a single country. Churchill’s cabinet accepted, but the French government resigned over this. (The French PM, Reynaud, wanted to sign on, but semi-fascist conservatives like Pétain were dead against.) Monnet’s French language wikipedia page explains it better than the English one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Haka


Now that the Rugby World Cup has begun again, here's the New Zealand team's Haka:

And again:

This is what it is supposed to look like:

This is the Samoan Rugby team doing their national equivalent:

And finally, Tonga and New Zealand doing opposing hakas:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bill Hicks


This is what I did this weekend: I watched Bill Hicks. (If you're wondering why these clips look so old, that's because Bill Hicks died back in 1994, age 32, of cancer, of all things.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

On referendums - Part II


@Anon, again. Referendums are not required for democracy. At least half the EU (off the top of my head: UK, NL, Belgium, Lux, Germany, but I could probably find more if I did some googling) have never had a referendum on anything other than the EU, and have no constitutional tradition of having referendums. It simply does not fit in our democratic traditions, and the 2005 constitution referendums show why: people voted "no" not only on reasonable grounds (e.g. protecting national identity) but also for reasons that had nothing to do with the EU (e.g. dissatisfaction with the national government) and for reasons that were outright stupid (e.g. the Treaty is too complicated; I don't understand it).

We should never have a referendum about anything ever again, and leave our elected representatives to do their jobs instead.
Posted by martinned on juli 24, 2007 at 04:45 PM CEST


@Robin: If our elected representatives "allow" (your word, not mine) a referendum, what they're essentially doing is passing the buck. Rather than showing some leadership and passing the buck, they're choosing the no-risk option that has the lowest likelihood of backfiring.

As for your second comment: I don't see how anything I've said about referendums undermines my position that laws passed by the legislature should be annulled if they violate civil liberties.
Posted by martinned on juli 25, 2007 at 06:41 PM CEST


Marcel's comment has so many wrong statements, I hardly know where to begin. Why not at the top:

Well, martinned, 2 years ago many people that voted yes on the constitution establishing the fourth reich in Europe, also voted yes for the wrong reasons.

Letting this "fourth reich" BS slide for the moment, I've hardly said otherwise. I am against referendums regardless of whether I think I am going to agree with the outcome.

Many blindly voted yes because they have been brainwashed to believe the EU is something good (which it quantifyably is not).

I'd like to see how you quantify that one, because particularly in fields that you can quantify, like the economy, the EU has helped tremendously. Most people's problem with the Union lies exactly in areas that you can't quantify.

This matter cannot be left to the politicians because, as I said, many of them have a vested interest in approving it.

I'm still not quite sure how that argument works. How does ratifying a new treaty increase the number of jobs available in BXL? For one, it reduces the number of people in charge of RELEX. Or are you saying that there are going to be more civil servants in Brussels as a result? Surely not, because that would make no sense given your argument, since I hardly think that national parliamentarians want to be EU civil servants, not to mention that it is much easier to get a job as a national civil servant, given that there are only about 25.000 EU civil servants to begin with. Could you explain this one to me again?

National parliaments are holders of sovereignty, but not the owners of said sovereignty. The owners are the peoples, who have not ever given a mandate for giving that sovereignty away. This is why on matters such as this a referendum is a requirement. Parliaments cannot approve this without a clear mandate which (certainly in case of the Netherlands) they don't have (it wasn't an issue in the election therefore they have no mandate for it).

Well, for starters in most countries (not the UK), the official doctrine is that the people are sovereign, and this sovereignity is certainly not being given away. Your distinction between the "holders" and the "owners" of sovereignity is a nice bit of property law, but otherwise completely new to me. As for what parliament have the mandate to do, please look at art. 34 of the Belgian constitution, art. 91 of the Dutch constitution, or any equivalent article in another constitution, all of which discuss the treaty making powers of parliament. (In case you hadn't noticed, that's what constitutions are for: establishing exactly who can do what.)

The second coming of the constitution (a treaty, as was the first one) must be stopped at all costs. Everyone with some legal wit knows that this 'new' treaty is the same thing as the 'old' treaty (which they had called constitution). As a matter of fact, this 'new' thing goes even a bit further.

Both were treaties, and I tended to call the old treaty "Constitutional Treaty", just to be clear about that. And yes, to a large extent they are the same.

The 'new' treaty introduces (in Annex I, Title II of the European Council 'mandate' (page 27) proposes a new 'obligation' which requires that national parliaments 'work to actively support the funtioning of the union.

The principle of loyal cooperation is currently in article 10 of the EC treaty. Look it up.


How can it be a violation of national sovereignity if the member states give their consent? (And if they dont't the treaty goes out the window just like the last one.)

The EU tries to make national parliaments mere 'division' of the EU. Totally and utterly unacceptable.

In your mind, does this statement follow from your loyal cooperation faux pas? If it doesn't, I don't see how you arrive at this conclusion? The Reform Treaty will strengthen the role of national parliaments, although not to the point of giving them a red card. (Which, incidentally, I would be in favour of.)

It is clear that not only is the 'new' treaty almost a carbon copy of the 'old' one, in a few cases it goes even further!

Carbon copy goes a bit far, but more importantly: you have yet to give any example of where it goes further than the constitutional treaty.

Finally: I wish to state my demand of a referendum in every member state regarding the status of the EU as a supranational supergovernment. Do people want to be ruled by the unelected and unaccountable crowd? Then by all means continue. Do people not want this? Dissolve the thing now!

You are free to demand what you like. Unelected is wrong because the EP is elected directly, the Council consists of nationally elected representatives and the Commission is appointed (and, if need be, removed) by those two working together. Unaccountable is clearly rubbish, cf. what happened to the Santer commission, or how some states, such as Denmark, have very strict procedures allowing parliament to control what their representatives do in the Council. In many parliamentary systems, particularly, the close links between parliament and government mean that the latter can pretty much get away with murder. That also affects their freedom to operate in Brussels. However, that is clearly not a flaw of the EU, but of national constitutional systems.
Posted by martinned on juli 26, 2007 at 11:59 AM CEST


@Crapaud. (...) As for manifesto commitments, I'd say that they mean very little, although clearly more in the UK than here in NL, where we have coalition governments that are the product of negotiation. Anyway, to the extent that the Labour party promised in it's manifesto to have a referendum on the constitutional treaty, they'd better have a damn good story as to why they wouldn't have a referendum about the Reform Treaty. I'm not willing to exclude the possibility altogether that an adequate explanation might be possible (I will try to take some time to carefully compare the Reform Treaty to the Constitutional Treaty once the IGC is finished).

In any event, it's a moral obligation/political obligation, not a legal one. If the labour party break their promises, they can only be punished in the polls.
Posted by martinned on juli 26, 2007 at 02:36 PM CEST


Improving the system, for example by placing certain competences at one level of government rather than another is hardly passing the buck. The point is that decisions are made by professionals at that level where they are most appropriate. (No complaints against the principle of subsidiarity.) Abdicating one's responsibility under the constitution by having the decision made by amateurs who have had neither the time nor the opportunity to study the issue is passing the buck.

I don't think I've used the word "elite" in this comment series, although I know I've used it in the past. The point is that the people are free in all respects unless they consent to be restricted by laws, etc. (This is a social contract model, which is obviously not meant as a literal description of history...)

The best way to organise this, in my view, is representative democracy: The people choose "the best" from among themselves to study the problems society is faced with an enact the laws to deal with these problems. Periodic elections serve to renew parliament's mandate or take it away, based on the people's opinion on past performance, to the extent that they are capable of giving it, based on the extent that the candidates share voters' values and general outlook on how society should be run. Checks and balances between the branches of government are essential, just like the periodic renewal of the mandate.

Posted by martinned on juli 26, 2007 at 05:16 PM CEST


Just to clear up a few things at the same time: Since I study European Law for a living, I do consider myself an expert on that issue. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I'm afraid I'm running out of patience with our friend Marcel. Maybe if he can explain how the EP isn't a real parliament, rather than a real put relatively powerless one, I'll take the time to respond to his other points. As to the more general issue of who are the "elite", the answer is simple: the people decide in free and fair elections who they consider the best from their midst. In a practical model of voting there is a lot to be said about this, but as long as I'm sticking to a more theoretical approach, I'd consider the people's judgement unimpeachable; the elite are whoever the people elect to be the elite. (...)

Posted by martinned on juli 30, 2007 at 04:05 PM CEST


Responses to the last few comments, bulletpointed, in the order that the comments were made:

- The parliamentarians are not always right, but because they are full-time professionals, studying the issues before them as best as they are able, they are more likely to be right than the uninformed electorate.

- The Commission do not "strike out" legislation. The judiciary do so, based on their constitutional mandate, which positions them as protectors of the minority. The civil liberties described in the constitution and in various treaties describe ways in which the freedom of individuals and minorities cannot be reduced. (Put differently: free speech, for example, protects only impopular opinions). In the parlance of the US founding fathers, protection of this kind, as well as government through representation, are the key characteristics of a republic instead of a democracy. (Cf. art. IV (4), cl. 1 of the US constitution.)

- @Marcel: I have never claimed that the European Council's conclusions, as a point of law, restrict the IGC in any way. Legally, such a statement would clearly be incorrect. In fact, I don't recall saying anything about the relationship between the European Council and the IGC.

- More generally, the simple fact that the Treaty on European Union contains a procedure for calling an IGC does not mean that the EU has Kompetenz-Kompetenz.

- The EP does have parties and manifestos. Each national party that takes part in the election will write a manifesto. It is not my fault that no one bothers to read it.

- Influence on government formation is not a defining characteristic of parliaments. US congress does not have such influence, for example.

- Similarly, a clear division between opposition and government is also not necessary. In many parliaments, past and present, support for proposals is highly fluid and ad hoc. In fact, I would say that parliamentarians working in this way more effectively fulfull their mandates.

- @Guessedworker: I'm quite surprised that you got all that from my blog, given that I use it mainly to post pictures and various crap I find on-line.

- I would also say that the discussion I find myself in at present effectively demonstrates my ability and willingness to contradict the conventional wisdom.

- I kindly refer our friend Guessedworker to Godwin's Law.

- I'm not sure if legalism is the word. Being a jurist myself, I tend to have a particular eye for the legal aspects of certain discussions, but I always try be careful to separate them from the rest. At present, I don't see a particular legal angle.

- Generally, I think it is important to distinguish general models of how government ought to work from more practical discussions of how it does work. My arguments here go back to Edmund Burke, and they are meant to give a fairly abstract view, using insights from public choice theory and other forays of economics into political science. In my experience, the more you admit practical observations into the story, the more depressed you will get. (I.e. both government by representative parliament and government by referendum have significant drawbacks, thus again confirming that "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time", to take the literal quote from Churchill.)

- The problem is that there is no such thing as a "real will of the people". To ascribe such a thing to individual voters, let alone to all of them collectively, implies a minimum of rationality and a minimum of informedness (that's probably not a word, I know) which they simply do not possess. The closest we can get is to admit a will of the people with respect to the question whether the past administration has generally done a good job, and which politicians have the confidence and trust of the voters.

- After that Guessedworker seems to be going off the rails a bit. Suffice it to say that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as "ethnic interests", and any appeal to it is nothing more than a populist, and often very dangerous, scam to manipulate the people. I'm not sure how Marx got stuck in this comment, so I'll let that rest for now. Dito for transgender individuals.

- Dito also for the Holocaust denial laws, except to say that I am generally against them, with the exception of Germany where I can understand their rationale.
Posted by martinned on juli 31, 2007 at 09:38 PM CEST


Responses, continued. (The previous comment was written in the evening of July 30, this one around noon on July 31.)

- Clearly Insideur wrote a longer answer on the "parliament" point, with pretty much the same counterexample: US Congress. My thanks.

- As for Marcel (31/07/07, 0859), I think he is confused between the rise of the regulatory state, generally, and the question of where this regulation comes from. There is no reason to believe that, if the common market were abolished, the national states would not enact similar legislation themselves. What's more, to a large extent the EU legislation that irks you was enacted to replace national legislation that already existed.

- Also, there is a problem with the word "free". Clearly, Marcel imagines a free market as something like the early internet: No limitations on anyone's ability to do as they please, consequences for others be damned.

- As for the trade barriers, there is very little excuse, other than to say that their unilateral abolishment is not in the best interest of EU citizens. Their original rationale, as that of the CAP generally, was to ensure food self-sufficiency in Europe after the war. (...)

Posted by martinned on augustus 01, 2007 at 11:31 AM CEST


Well, it is insofar not a constitution that the old treaty meant to replace all the founding treaties by a single document, while the new treaty, one its face, simply amends them in the same way as the SEA and the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties have done.

And, even though the situation created by the new treaty does not differ a great deal from the situation that would have been created by the old treaty, that is not to say that this reform treaty makes greater amendments to the Community Legal order than, say, the Maastricht treaty.
Posted by martinned on augustus 01, 2007 at 02:28 PM CEST


@Robin: You're right, I meant to say that in a democracy, where majority rule governs in most circumstances, popular opinions do not need protection. Obviously, in a tyranny, many things, as well as people, that ought to be protected, aren't.

On any given issue, parliamentarians are usually less informed than at least some voters, that is true. That is why most parliaments have hearings, where experts and other stakeholders can inform them. However, since it is their job to be as informed as possible about the advantages and disadvantages of existing and proposed legislation, parliamentarians will inevitably be more informed than the average voter.
I, myself, for example, have very little interest for many of the issues parliament are faced with, and as a result I know fairly little about them. By delegating my decision making power to parliament, I can stay relatively uninformed, except for those issues that particularly interest me. In my experience, the same goes for most of my fellow citizens.

Which question, exactly, would you (Robin) like me to answer. I already said that the elite/parliament are certainly not always right. They are just more often right and more likely to be right than the average voter.
(Mind, I do not mean to imply that voters are stupid, although many of them presumably are. Instead, the argument is that a rational voter would simply not be prepared to pay the cost of informing herself, given the infinitesimal probability that her vote will turn out to be decisive. As a result, voters are only interested in political issues to the extent that they derive some exogenous benefit from this knowledge.)
Posted by martinned on augustus 01, 2007 at 08:22 PM CEST


@Crapaud: That was certainly not the point. Instead, Bigfoot and I meant to argue that you cannot get rid of excess regulation simply by getting rid of the EU. In fact, such aspects of EU law as State Aids law, the four freedoms, etc. often work as a barrier against regulation at any level.

(Examples: in the famous love-love-dolls case of Conegate, Case 121/85, the Court of Justice forbade the UK government from banning the importation of various sex toys on the basis of art. 28 and art. 30 EC., in the Asia Motor France case, Case T-387/94, upheld on appeal in C-401/96, the Court went after French regulation in the automotive industry on the basis of competition law. Even the Court's most important case, Cassis de Dijon, Case 120/78, ended with the annulment of certain French laws forbidding the importation of Cassis with less than x% (I can't remember the number) alcohol.)

Point is: the Community legal order is no different from the national legal order, in that there is a certain tendency to overregulate. At the same time, the Community legal order provides citizens with legal instruments to fight this tendency, much more so than certain member states. (Off the top of my head: in the Netherlands, the UK and France ordinary citizens cannot sue to have a law declared unconstitutional, let alone that they could sue on the grounds that it is stupid.)

Other examples:
- Commission v. UK, Case 261/85, Court stops UK overregulation in the milk industry
- Dutch Plant Checks, Case 272/80, Court forces Dutch regulatory agency to accept mutual recognition
- Gilli and Andres, Case 788/79, Italian overregulation of the vinegar market
- German beer case (aka Reinheitsgebot case), Case 178/84

The list goes on and on...

Posted by martinned on augustus 02, 2007 at 02:28 PM CEST

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peter's Evil Overlord List


Because I'm reading Harry Potter 7...

The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.

14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

16. I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."

17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.

18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.

19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.

20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.

22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.

23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.

24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)

25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.

26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.

27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.

28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.

29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.

31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.

32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.

33. I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.

34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.

35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.

36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.

37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he's my trusted lieutenant.

38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.

39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.

40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.

41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.

42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.

43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.

44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.

45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.

46. If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.

47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.

48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.

50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.

51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.

52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.

53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.

54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.

55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.

56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.

57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.

58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.

59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.

60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.

61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.

62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.

63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.

64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.

65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.

66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.

67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.

68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.

69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.

70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.

71. If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.

72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.

73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.

74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.

75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.

76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)

77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.

78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."

79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.

80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.

81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.

82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.

83. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.

84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."

86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.

87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.

88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.

89. After I capture the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.

90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.

91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.

92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)

93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.

94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.

95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.

96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.

97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.

98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.

99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.

100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Since this list is in fact really old (in internet terms; it dates back to the mid 1990s), there's more!

  1. I will not order my trusted lieutenant to kill the infant who is destined to overthrow me -- I'll do it myself.
  2. I will not waste time making my enemy's death look like an accident -- I'm not accountable to anyone and my other enemies wouldn't believe it.
  3. I will make it clear that I do know the meaning of the word "mercy"; I simply choose not show them any.
  4. My undercover agents will not have tattoos identifying them as members of my organization, nor will they be required to wear military boots or adhere to any other dress codes.
  5. I will design all doomsday machines myself. If I must hire a mad scientist to assist me, I will make sure that he is sufficiently twisted to never regret his evil ways and seek to undo the damage he's caused.
  6. If my supreme command center comes under attack, I will immediately flee to safety in my prepared escape pod and direct the defenses from there. I will not wait until the troops break into my inner sanctum to attempt this.
  7. Even though I don't really care because I plan on living forever, I will hire engineers who are able to build me a fortress sturdy enough that, if I am slain, it won't tumble to the ground for no good structural reason.
  8. Any and all magic and/or technology that can miraculously resurrect a secondary character who has given up his/her life through self sacrifice will be outlawed and destroyed.
  9. I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall REGULARLY climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along.
  10. I will not employ devious schemes that involve the hero's party getting into my inner sanctum before the trap is sprung.
  11. I will offer oracles the choice of working exclusively for me or being executed.
  12. I will not rely entirely upon "totally reliable" spells that can be neutralized by relatively inconspicuous talismans.
  13. I will make the main entrance to my fortress standard-sized. While elaborate 60-foot high double-doors definitely impress the masses, they are hard to close quickly in an emergency.
  14. I will never accept a challenge from the hero.
  15. I will not engage an enemy single-handedly until all my soldiers are dead.
  16. If I capture the hero's starship, I will keep it in the landing bay with the ramp down, only a few token guards on duty and a ton of explosives set to go off as soon as it clears the blast-range.
  17. No matter how much I want revenge, I will never order an underling "Leave him. He's mine!"
  18. If I have equipment which performs an important function, it will not be activated by a lever that someone could trigger by accidentally falling on when fatally wounded.
  19. I will not attempt to kill the hero by placing a venomous creature in his room. It will just wind up accidentally killing one of my clumsy henchmen instead.
  20. Since nothing is more irritating than a hero defeating you with basic math skills, all of my personal weapons will be modified to fire one more shot than the standard issue.
  21. If I come into possession of an artifact which can only be used by the pure of heart, I will not attempt to use it regardless.
  22. The gun turrets on my fortress will not rotate enough so that they may direct fire inward or at each other.
  23. If I decide to hold a contest of skill open to the general public, contestants will be required to remove their hooded cloaks and shave their beards before entering.
  24. Prior to kidnapping an older male scientist and forcing him to work for me, I will investigate his offspring and make sure that he has neither a beautiful but naive daughter who is willing to risk anything to get him back, nor an estranged son who works in the same field but had a falling-out with his father many years ago.
  25. Should I actually decide to kill the hero in an elaborate escape-proof deathtrap room (water filling up, sand pouring down, walls converging, etc.) I will not leave him alone five-to-ten minutes prior to "imminent" death, but will instead (finding a vantage point or monitoring camera) stick around and enjoy watching my adversary's demise.
  26. Rather than having only one secret escape pod, which the hero can easily spot and follow, I'll simultaneously launch a few dozen decoys to throw him off track.
  27. Prison guards will have their own cantina featuring a wide variety of tasty treats that will deliver snacks to the guards while on duty. The guards will also be informed that accepting food or drink from any other source will result in execution.
  28. I will not employ robots as agents of destruction if there is any possible way that they can be re-programmed or if their battery packs are externally mounted and easily removable.
  29. Despite the delicious irony, I will not force two heroes to fight each other in the arena.
  30. All members of my Legions of Terror will have professionally tailored uniforms. If the hero knocks a soldier unconscious and steals the uniform, the poor fit will give him away.
  31. I will never place the key to a cell just out of a prisoner's reach.
  32. Before appointing someone as my trusted lieutenant, I will conduct a thorough background investigation and security clearance.
  33. If I find my beautiful consort with access to my fortress has been associating with the hero, I'll have her executed. It's regrettable, but new consorts are easier to get than new fortresses and maybe the next one will pay attention at the orientation meeting.
  34. If I am escaping in a large truck and the hero is pursuing me in a small Italian sports car, I will not wait for the hero to pull up along side of me and try to force him off the road as he attempts to climb aboard. Instead I will slam on the brakes when he's directly behind me. (A rudimentary knowledge of physics can prove quite useful.)
  35. My doomsday machine will have a highly-advanced technological device called a capacitor in case someone inconveniently pulls the plug at the last second. (If I have access to REALLY advanced technology, I will include a back-up device known as a battery.)
  36. If I build a bomb, I will simply remember which wire to cut if it has to be deactivated and make every wire red.
  37. Before spending available funds on giant gargoyles, gothic arches, or other cosmetically intimidating pieces of architecture, I will see if there are any valid military expenditures that could use the extra budget.
  38. The passageways to and within my domain will be well-lit with fluorescent lighting. Regrettably, the spooky atmosphere will be lost, but my security patrols will be more effective.
  39. If I'm sitting in my camp, hear a twig snap, start to investigate, then encounter a small woodland creature, I will send out some scouts anyway just to be on the safe side. (If they disappear into the foliage, I will not send out another patrol; I will break out the napalm.)
  40. I will instruct my guards when checking a cell that appears empty to look for the chamber pot. If the chamber pot is still there, then the prisoner has escaped and they may enter and search for clues. If the chamber pot is not there, then either the prisoner is perched above the lintel waiting to strike them with it or else he decided to take it as a souvenir (in which case he is obviously deeply disturbed and poses no threat). Either way, there's no point in entering.
  41. As an alternative to not having children, I will have lots of children. My sons will be too busy jockeying for position to ever be a real threat, and the daughters will all sabotage each other's attempts to win the hero.
  42. If I have children and subsequently grandchildren, I will keep my three-year-old granddaughter near me at all times. When the hero enters to kill me, I will ask him to first explain to her why it is necessary to kill her beloved grandpa. When the hero launches into an explanation of morality way over her head, that will be her cue to pull the lever and send him into the pit of crocodiles. After all, small children like crocodiles almost as much as Evil Overlords and it's important to spend quality time with the grandkids.
  43. If one of my daughters actually manages to win the hero and openly defies me, I will congratulate her on her choice, declare a national holiday to celebrate the wedding, and proclaim the hero my heir. This will probably be enough to break up the relationship. If not, at least I am assured that no hero will attack my Legions of Terror when they are holding a parade in his honor.
  44. I will order my guards to stand in a line when they shoot at the hero so he cannot duck and have them accidentally shoot each other. Also, I will order some to aim above, below, and to the sides so he cannot jump out of the way.
  45. My dungeon cell decor will not feature exposed pipes. While they add to the gloomy atmosphere, they are good conductors of vibrations and a lot of prisoners know Morse code.
  46. If my surveillance reports any un-manned or seemingly innocent ships found where they are not supposed to be, they will be immediately vaporized instead of brought in for salvage.
  47. I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.
  48. Before ridiculing my enemies for wasting time on a device to stop me that couldn't possibly work, I will first acquire a copy of the schematics and make sure that in fact it couldn't possibly work.
  49. Ropes supporting various fixtures will not be tied next to open windows or staircases, and chandeliers will be hung way at the top of the ceiling.
  50. I will provide funding and research to develop tactical and strategic weapons covering a full range of needs so my choices are not limited to "hand to hand combat with swords" and "blow up the planet".
  51. I will not set myself up as a god. That perilous position is reserved for my trusted lieutenant.
  52. I will instruct my fashion designer that when it comes to accessorizing, second-chance body armor goes well with every outfit.
  53. My Legions of Terror will be an equal-opportunity employer. Conversely, when it is prophesied that no man can defeat me, I will keep in mind the increasing number of non-traditional gender roles.
  54. I will instruct my Legions of Terror in proper search techniques. In particular, if they are searching for escapees and someone shouts, "Quick! They went that way!", they must first ascertain the identity of this helpful informant before dashing off in hot pursuit.
  55. If I know of any heroes in the land, I will not under any circumstance kill their mentors, teachers, and/or best friends.
  56. If I have the hero and his party trapped, I will not wait until my Superweapon charges to finish them off if more conventional means are available.
  57. Whenever plans are drawn up that include a time-table, I'll post-date the completion 3 days after it's actually scheduled to occur and not worry too much if they get stolen.
  58. I will exchange the labels on my folder of top-secret plans and my folder of family recipes. Imagine the hero's surprise when he decodes the stolen plans and finds instructions for Grandma's Potato Salad.
  59. If I burst into rebel headquarters and find it deserted except for an odd, blinking device, I will not walk up and investigate; I'll run like hell.
  60. Before being accepted into my Legions of Terror, potential recruits will have to pass peripheral vision and hearing tests, and be able to recognize the sound of a pebble thrown to distract them.
  61. I will occasionally vary my daily routine and not live my life in a rut. For example, I will not always take a swig of wine or ring a giant gong before finishing off my enemy.
  62. If I steal something very important to the hero, I will not put it on public display.
  63. When planning an expedition, I will choose a route for my forces that does not go through thick, leafy terrain conveniently located near the rebel camp.
  64. I will hire one hopelessly stupid and incompetent lieutenant, but make sure that he is full of misinformation when I send him to capture the hero.
  65. As an equal-opportunity employer, I will have several hearing-impaired body-guards. That way if I wish to speak confidentially with someone, I'll just turn my back so the guards can't read my lips instead of sending all of them out of the room.
  66. If the rebels manage to trick me, I will make a note of what they did so that I do not keep falling for the same trick over and over again.
  67. If I am recruiting to find someone to run my computer systems, and my choice is between the brilliant programmer who's head of the world's largest international technology conglomerate and an obnoxious 15-year-old dork who's trying to impress his dream girl, I'll take the brat and let the hero get stuck with the genius.
  68. I will plan in advance what to do with each of my enemies if they are captured. That way, I will never have to order someone to be tied up while I decide his fate.
  69. If I have massive computer systems, I will take at least as many precautions as a small business and include things such as virus-scans and firewalls.
  70. I will be an equal-opportunity despot and make sure that terror and oppression is distributed fairly, not just against one particular group that will form the core of a rebellion.
  71. I will not locate a base in a volcano, cave, or any other location where it would be ridiculously easy to bypass security by rapelling down from above.
  72. I will allow guards to operate under a flexible work schedule. That way if one is feeling sleepy, he can call for a replacement, punch out, take a nap, and come back refreshed and alert to finish out his shift.
  73. Although it would provide amusement, I will not confess to the hero's rival that I was the one who committed the heinous act for which he blames the hero.
  74. If I am dangling over a precipice and the hero reaches his hand down to me, I will not attempt to pull him down with me. I will allow him to rescue me, thank him properly, then return to the safety of my fortress and order his execution.
  75. I will have my fortress exorcized regularly. Although ghosts in the dungeon provide an appropriate atmosphere, they tend to provide valuable information once placated.
  76. I will add indelible dye to the moat. It won't stop anyone from swimming across, but even dim-witted guards should be able to figure out when someone has entered in this fashion.
  77. If a scientist with a beautiful and unmarried daughter refuses to work for me, I will not hold her hostage. Instead, I will offer to pay for her future wedding and her children's college tuition.
  78. If I have the hero cornered and am about to finish him off and he says "Look out behind you!!" I will not laugh and say "You don't expect me to fall for that old trick, do you?" Instead I will take a step to the side and half turn. That way I can still keep my weapon trained on the hero, I can scan the area behind me, and if anything was heading for me it will now be heading for him.
  79. I will not outsource core functions.
  80. If I ever build a device to transfer the hero's energy into me, I will make sure it cannot operate in reverse.
  81. I will decree that all hay be shipped in tightly-packed bales. Any wagonload of loose hay attempting to pass through a checkpoint will be set on fire.
  82. I will not hold any sort of public celebration within my castle walls. Any event open to members of the public will be held down the road in the festival pavilion.
  83. Before using any device which transfers energy directly into my body, I will install a surge suppressor.
  84. I will hire a drama coach. The hero will think it must be a case of mistaken identity when confronted by my Minnesota accent (if everyone sounds American) or my Cornwall accent (if everyone sounds British).
  85. If I capture an enemy known for escaping via ingenious and fantastic little gadgets, I will order a full cavity search and confiscate all personal items before throwing him in my dungeon.
  86. I will not devise any scheme in which Part A consists of tricking the hero into unwittingly helping me and Part B consists of laughing at him then leaving him to his own devices.
  87. I will not hold lavish banquets in the middle of a famine. The good PR among the guests doesn't make up for the bad PR among the masses.
  88. I will funnel some of my ill-gotten gains into urban renewal projects. Although slums add a quaint and picturesque quality to any city, they too often contain unexpected allies for heroes.
  89. I will never tell the hero "Yes I was the one who did it, but you'll never be able to prove it to that incompetent old fool." Chances are, that incompetant old fool is standing behind the curtain.
  90. If my mad scientist/wizard tells me he has almost perfected my Superweapon but it still needs more testing, I will wait for him to complete the tests. No one ever conquered the world using a beta version.
  91. I will not appoint a relative to my staff of advisors. Not only is nepotism the cause of most breakdowns in policy, but it also causes trouble with the EEOC.
  92. If I appoint someone as my consort, I will not subsequently inform her that she is being replaced by a younger, more attractive woman.
  93. If I am using the hero's girlfriend as a hostage and am holding her at the point of imminent death when confronting the hero, I will focus on her and not him. He won't try anything with his true love held hostage. On the other hand, the fact that she has been weak, slow-witted, naive and generally useless up to this point has no bearing on her actions at the moment of dramatic climax.
  94. I will make several ludicrously erroneous maps to secret passages in my fortress and hire travellers to entrust them to aged hermits.
  95. I will not use hostages as bait in a trap. Unless you're going to use them for negotiation or as human shields, there's no point in taking them.
  96. I will hire an expert marksman to stand by the entrance to my fortress. His job will be to shoot anyone who rides up to challenge me.
  97. I will explain to my Legions of Terror that guns are ranged weapons and swords are not. Anyone who attempts to throw a sword at the hero or club him with a gun will be summarily executed.
  98. I will remember that any vulnerabilities I have are to be revealed strictly on a need-to-know basis. I will also remember that no one needs to know.
  99. I will not make alliances with those more powerful than myself. Such a person would only double-cross me in my moment of glory. I will make alliances with those less powerful than myself. I will then double-cross them in their moment of glory.
  100. During times of peace, my Legions of Terror will not be permitted to lie around drinking mead and eating roast boar. Instead they will be required to obey my dietician and my aerobics instructor.
  101. All giant serpents acting as guardians in underground lakes will be fitted with sports goggles to prevent eye injuries.
  102. All crones with the ability to prophesy will be given free facelifts, permanents, manicures, and Donna Karan wardrobes. That should pretty well destroy their credibility.
  103. I will not employ an evil wizard if he has a sleazy mustache.
  104. I will hire an entire squad of blind guards. Not only is this in keeping with my status as an equal opportunity employer, but it will come in handy when the hero becomes invisible or douses my only light source.
  105. All repair work will be done by an in-house maintenance staff. Any alleged "repairmen" who show up at the fortress will be escorted to the dungeon.
  106. When my Legions of Terror park their vehicle to do reconnaissance on foot, they will be instructed to employ The Club.
  107. Employees will have conjugal visit trailers which they may use provided they call in a replacement and sign out on the timesheet. Given this, anyone caught making out in a closet while leaving their station unmonitored will be shot.
  108. Members of my Legion of Terror will attend seminars on Sensitivity Training. It's good public relations for them to be kind and courteous to the general population when not actively engaged in sowing chaos and destruction.
  109. I will not, under any circumstances, marry a woman I know to be a faithless, conniving, back-stabbing witch simply because I am absolutely desperate to perpetuate my family line. Of course, we can still date.
  110. All guest-quarters will be bugged and monitored so that I can keep track of what the visitors I have for some reason allowed to roam about my fortress are actually plotting.
  111. If my chief engineer displeases me, he will be shot, not imprisoned in the dungeon or beyond the traps he helped design.
  112. I will not send out batalions composed wholly of robots or skeletons against heroes who have qualms about killing living beings.
  113. I will not wear long, heavy cloaks. While they certainly make a bold fashion statement, they have an annoying tendency to get caught in doors or tripped over during an escape.
  114. If a malignant being demands a sacrificial victim have a particular quality, I will check to make sure said victim has this quality immediately before the sacrifice and not rely on earlier results. (Especially if the quality is virginity and the victim is the hero's girlfriend.)
  115. If I ever MUST put a digital timer on my doomsday device, I will buy one free from quantum mechanical anomalies. So many brands on the market keep perfectly good time while you're looking at them, but whenever you turn away for a couple minutes then turn back, you find that the countdown has progressed by only a few seconds.
  116. If my Legions of Terror are defeated in a battle, I will quietly withdraw and regroup instead of launching a haphazard mission to assassinate the hero.
  117. If I'm wearing the key to the hero's shackles around my neck and his former girlfriend now volunteers to become my mistress and we are all alone in my bedchamber on my bed and she offers me a goblet of wine, I will politely decline the offer.
  118. I will not pick up a glowing ancient artifact and shout "It's power is now mine!!!" Instead I will grab some tongs, transfer it to a hazardous materials container, and transport it back to my lab for study.
  119. I will be selective in the hiring of assassins. Anyone who attempt to strike down the hero the first instant his back is turned will not even be considered for the job.
  120. Whatever my one vulnerability is, I will fake a different one. For example, ordering all mirrors removed from the palace, screaming and flinching whenever someone accidentally holds up a mirror, etc. In the climax when the hero whips out a mirror and thrusts it at my face, my reaction will be "Hmm...I think I need a shave."
  121. My force-field generators will be located inside the shield they generate.
  122. I reserve the right to execute any henchmen who appear to be a little too intelligent, powerful, or devious. However if I do so, I will not at some subsequent point shout "Why am I surrounded by these incompetent fools?!"
  123. I will install a fire extinguisher in every room -- three, if the room contains vital equipment or volatile chemicals.
  124. I will build machines which simply fail when overloaded, rather than wipe out all nearby henchmen in an explosion or worse yet set off a chain reaction. I will do this by using devices known as "surge protectors".
  125. I will explain to my guards that most people have their eyes in the front of their heads and thus while searching for someone it makes little sense to draw a weapon and slowly back down the hallway.
  126. I will have a staff of competent detectives handy. If I learn that someone in a certain village is plotting against me, I will have them find out who rather than wipe out the entire village in a preemptive strike.
  127. I will never bait a trap with genuine bait.
  128. If the hero claims he wishes to confess in public or to me personally, I will remind him that a notarized deposition will serve just as well.
  129. If I have several diabolical schemes to destroy the hero, I will set all of them in motion at once rather than wait for them to fail and launch them successively.
  130. I will not procrastinate regarding any ritual granting immortality.
  131. Mythical guardians will be instructed to ask visitors name, purpose of visit, and whether they have an appointment instead of ancient riddles.