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Chris Bertram

David Frum on the crisis in the mediterranean

by Chris Bertram on July 29, 2015

David Frum is a US pundit, who writes on US politics. So, being based elsewhere, I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to him. Unfortunately, today, somebody drew my attention to this article in the Atlantic in which he argues, as a prelude to some boilerplate anti-immigrant conservative points, that the people who are crossing the Mediterranean are economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. Although there’s a rather dismissive mention of Syrians at the beginning of the piece “just 30 per cent” (30 per cent of a large number is a lot of people), the message of the piece is clear. Frum calls in aid the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, who knows his stuff and usually writes sensibly on immigration matters.

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Sunday photoblogging: Hekla, Iceland

by Chris Bertram on July 26, 2015

Hekla

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Monday photoblogging: Boat at Solva

by Chris Bertram on July 20, 2015

I couldn’t get to a computer yesterday and photoblogging from a mobile device proved beyond my powers, so Sunday photoblogging has changed to Monday for this week.

Boat, Solva

Sunday photoblogging – Strasbourg: Ponts Couverts

by Chris Bertram on July 12, 2015

As we wait to see whether Europe can survive in its current form, I thought something from Alsace would be suitable.

Strasbourg, Ponts Couverts

Sunday photoblogging: near Nant Peris, Snowdonia

by Chris Bertram on July 5, 2015

Near Nant Peris, Snowdonia

What’s left of the European Union?

by Chris Bertram on July 3, 2015

The first few hours the atmosphere was hearty
With fireworks, fun, and games of every kind;
All were enjoying it, no one was blind;
Brilliant the speeches improvised, the dances,
And brilliant, too, the technical advances.

Today, alas, that happy crowded floor
Looks very different: many are in tears:
Some have retired to bed and locked the door;
And some swing madly from the chandeliers;
Some have passed out entirely in the rears;
Some have been sick in corners; the sobering few
Are trying hard to think of something new.

(From WH Auden, A Letter to Lord Byron)

One of the consequences of the Conservative victory in the recent UK general election was that there will be an in-out referendum of the UK’s membership of the EU at some point in the next couple of years (details yet to be finalized). How should people who think of themselves as being on the left, egalitarian, liberal, progressive vote?
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Sunday photoblogging: Clifton suspension bridge

by Chris Bertram on June 28, 2015

Five pictures of Clifton Suspension Bridge (5 of 5)

Sunday photoblogging: Dalmatian, Chipping Campden

by Chris Bertram on June 21, 2015

Dalmatian, Chipping Campden

Sunday photoblogging: Liverpool, pier head

by Chris Bertram on June 14, 2015

Liverpool: Pier Head

Sunday photoblogging: dusk

by Chris Bertram on June 7, 2015

Dusk in St Albans Road

Pulleys ... and davits

A Paris memoir from 1978

by Chris Bertram on May 25, 2015

One thing about the interwebs is that you sometimes get to find out about someone you’ve been disconnected from for years. It happened to me yesterday, when I discovered that the guy who had been my “handler” in Lutte Ouvière had died in 2011 aged 62, following a stroke. I’d noticed that some prominent French administrator had the same name and googled to see if it was the same guy. It wasn’t, but up came the obituary of Denis Robin, comrade Cerdon, and with it a whole bunch of memories of the nineteen-year-old me from 1978.

Back then I had finished school, having taken the Oxbridge entrance exams before Christmas. I therefore had about nine months on my hands and wanted to spend it in Paris, where I had friends (and still do) through a language exchange with a family there. I landed a job as a courier with an agency called the Banque Centrale de Compensation which recorded transactions on the Paris commodity exchange, the Bourse de Commerce. This meant that I spent my days running from our office to the Bourse and to the HQs of the various coffee, cocoa, soya and sugar companies.

I’d long been interested in the French left and had even done a school project on May 1968, sucking up lots of information on the various groupuscules. This was, I think it fair to say, alternately irritating and amusing to my French friends who were stalwarts of the Socialists, then in electoral alliance with the barely post-Stalinist Parti Communiste. After one dinner-table debate they expressed scepticism about whether my money would ever follow my mouth, and I took this as something of a challenge. The following day, when I was making a delivery to the main offices of the Crédit Lyonnais, I encountered a bunch of militants selling Lutte Ouvrière, a Trotskyist weekly newpaper and engaged them in conversation. One of the people there was comrade Cerdon, and I agreed to meet him on the evening of Mayday for a conversation, ideally having joined up with their contingent on the big demonstration. I never found LO demonstrators that day and ended up marching with UNEF, the Communist student union. But we did meet in a café in the Place de la République that evening and began one of a series of long conversations about politics and related matters, the purpose of which was to recruit me to the organization. [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: Florence scooters

by Chris Bertram on May 24, 2015

Florence scooters

Sunday photoblogging: Pantheon

by Chris Bertram on May 17, 2015

Possibly the greatest building in the history of the world ….

Rome: The Pantheon

Britain’s new government

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2015

Within less than a week of coming to power, the new British government has made financial threats or legislative proposals with the following effects:

In a rather chilling turn of phrase, the Prime Minister tells us (by way of explanation):

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

By my rough estimate, the party making these proposals has the positive support of around 22% of the adults subject to coercive state power who are resident on the territory. This was the party that used to go on about the perils of “elective dictatorship”. So it goes.