If the EU was like the US

EU Map
Originally uploaded by Cea.

Although I’m often very critical of the US, I’m a big fan of their constitution.

So while we’re waiting for the results from the presidential election, I thought it’d be interesting to imagine how the EU presidential election would work if the EU had imported the US political system wholesale.

The EU Senate would consist of two members from each member state, so 54 members in total (there are 50 members of the US Senate).

The EU House of Representatives would have 435 members (see below for details), just like its US equivalent.

The Electoral College for the EU presidential election would have as many electors for each state as the two above figures combined. For instance, Denmark would have five members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate, so this member state would have seven presidential electors. Brussels DC wouldn’t technically speaking be a state, so it wouldn’t be represented in the two houses, but it would nevertheless have three electors.

Using the algorithm for calculating the apportionment for the House of Representatives that is used in the US would lead to the following figures for the EU, using the most recent population figures:

State House of Representatives Senate Electoral College
Austria 7 2 9
Belgium (excl. Brussels) 8 2 10
Brussels DC 0 0 3
Bulgaria 6 2 8
Cyprus 1 2 3
Czech Republic 9 2 11
Denmark 5 2 7
Estonia 1 2 3
Finland 5 2 7
France 55 2 57
Germany 71 2 73
Greece 10 2 12
Hungary 9 2 11
Ireland 4 2 6
Italy 53 2 55
Latvia 2 2 4
Lithuania 3 2 5
Luxembourg 1 2 3
Malta 1 2 3
Netherlands 14 2 16
Poland 33 2 35
Portugal 9 2 11
Romania 19 2 21
Slovakia 5 2 7
Slovenia 2 2 4
Spain 40 2 42
Sweden 8 2 10
United Kingdom 54 2 56
Total 435 54 492

(Whereas the most populous EU member state — Germany — would have 73 electors, the largest number in the US is California’s 55 electors.)

To become president, a candidate would thus need to get one more than half the 492 electors, or at least 247 electors.

Interestingly, it’s quite feasible there could be a draw (for instance, Austria, Belgium, Brussels DC, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and the UK against the rest would add up to 246 electors on each side), in which case the House of Representatives would choose the president, and the Senate would choose the vice-president.

Time gun

Last night I watched the second half of the Star Trek Voyager episode called the Year of Hell.

In general I must say that the fourth season of Voyager is much better than the third one — I was about to dismiss Voyager as the worst of all the Star Trek series, but the replacement of Kes by Seven of Nine seems to have changed the dynamics and made it much more enjoyable.

This particular double episode was extraordinarily good. In short, it’s about how a Krenim scientist called Annorax constructs a weapon that can erase a whole species from history. Basically, he would be able to fire his weapon at Earth, and suddenly humans would never have developed past the Erectus stage.

Annorax’s goal is to make his own species, the Krenim, the dominant civilisation in their sector. However, his removal of species always has unintended side effects, and he ends up a bitter man because he has no ability to undo his erasures. (I won’t reveal the ending here.)

This episode made he think of a potential planet-scale equivalent: the time gun. Imagine if you could pull the trigger on this weapon, and Hitler would never have been born. Or Stalin. Or Mao Zhedong. Or Genghis Khan. However, once you’d fired it, there would be no way to undo the change.

Would you be brave enough ever to fire it? If for instance you killed Hitler, wouldn’t there be a risk the Nazi party would have been led instead by somebody who would have killed just as many Jews, gypsies and other non-Arians, but who would have postponed the invasion of Poland for a decade in order to keep the UK out of the war until it was to late? That potentially killing Hitler could have led to a fascist Europe because nobody would have been appalled enough to oppose the fascists? Of course it’s also completely possible that killing Hitler would have had absolutely wonderful consequences, but would you be brave enough to press the button if you couldn’t undo it? Would you potentially end up erasing every single member of the Nazi party from history?

I think it’s likely you’d end up bitter and twisted like Annorax, trying to erase more and more people from history in the hope that one day you’d manage to restore the world you grew up in. It’s a fascinating thought, and I highly recommend watching the Year of Hell.

David Livingstone, the inventor of Newscots

(An article from the English-language Wikipedia of a parallel universe that slipped through a wormhole and ended up in my inbox.)

Livingstone's statue in Princes Gate Gairdens, Edinburgh
David Livingstone was born on 19 March 1813 in the mill town of Blantyre, five years before Scotland would regain her independence as a result of the Napoleonic wars, into a Protestant family believed to be descended from the highland Livingstones, a clan that had been previously known as the Clan MacLea. Born to Neil Livingstone (1788–1856) and his wife Agnes (1782–1865), David, along with many of the Livingstones, was at the age of ten employed in the cotton mill of H. Monteith – David and brother John working 12-hour days as “piecers”, tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines. The mill offered their workers schooling of which David took advantage.

Gradually, and by dint of infinite patience and concentration, the young cotton worker became master of many languages, and began the scientific study of their structure. About 1841 he had freed himself from all the burden of manual labour, and could occupy his thoughts with the dialect of his native district, West Central Scots; his first publication was a small collection of folk songs in the Ayrshire & Lanrikshire dialect (1843). His remarkable abilities now attracted general attention, and he was helped to continue his studies undisturbed. His Grammar of the Scots Dialects (1848) was the result of much labour, and of journeys taken to every part of the country. Livingstone’s famous Dictionary of the Scots Dialects appeared in its original form in 1850, and from this publication dates all the wide cultivation of the popular language in Scots, since Livingstone really did no less than construct, out of the different materials at his disposal, a popular language or definite people’s language for Scotland. With certain modifications, the most important of which were introduced later by Livingstone himself, but also through a latter policy aiming to merge this Scots language with Buikscots, this language has become Newscots, one of Scotland’s three official languages (the others being Buikscots and Gaelic).

He lived very quietly in lodgings in Glesga, surrounded by his books and shrinking from publicity, but his name grew into wide political favour as his ideas about the language of the workers and peasants became more and more the watch-word of the popular party.

Livingstone holds perhaps an isolated place in literary history as the one man who has invented, or at least selected and constructed, a language which has pleased so many thousands of his countrymen that they have accepted it for their schools, their sermons and their songs. He died in Glesga on September 23, 1896, and was buried with public honours.


Twin Towers
Originally uploaded by wstera2

It’s now exactly ten years ago that the first plane crashed into the Twin Towers. I was sitting in DAIMI‘s computer lab at the time, and I found out shortly afterwards from some Internet news source, and I quickly went up to the TV room together with lots of other people, where we watched the second plane crashing into the building live on CNN.

I remember thinking at the time that George W. Bush to a large extent was responsible by infuriating most of the world with his unilateralist, born-again, right-wing policies and that it would never have happened if Al Gore had become president instead.

I find it interesting to contemplate what would have happened if 9/11 had never happened. For instance, if the CIA had found out about the plot and prevented the hijackers from boarding the planes, there would probably have been a newspaper story about the plot, but most people wouldn’t have assumed that it actually could have brought down the Twin Towers.

So what would the consequences have been? Obviously Afghanistan wouldn’t have been invaded at that point, but I believe Dubya would still have been keen to invade Iraq. Would he have succeeded in building up an alliance without 9/11? He probably would have found it easy to convince Tony Blair, but I reckon it would have been hard to add many more countries to the coalition.

I also think Bush might not have been reelected in 2004, which would have led to all sorts of consequences later, for instance for the handling of the recession.

In most western countries, there wouldn’t have been such a rush to introduce anti-terrorism legislation, and civil liberties would have remained stronger.

In Denmark, I doubt Dansk Folkeparti would have managed to play such a pivotal role if the public hadn’t been scared witless by the thought of Muslim terrorists.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that al-Q??idah would have managed to pull off an even worse atrocity later if 9/11 hadn’t happened. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I find it more likely than not that the world would have been a slightly better place if 9/11 hadn’t happened ten years ago.

Statsminister Uffe Ellemann, og andre fortrudte sejre

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Originally uploaded by Radikale Venstre

Politiken havde for et par dage siden en kontrafaktisk-historisk artikel om, hvad der ville være sket, hvis Uffe Ellemann havde vundet i 1998. Den påpeger, at “Uffes nederlag var meget værre for det moderne Danmark omkring centrum-højre og centrum-venstre, end hans sejr ville have været. Thi tre år senere kom Anders Fogh Rasmussen jo blæsende, og så fik vi hele den lange periode domineret af de populistiske værdier, som Fogh har stået for. Det havde vi ikke fået, hvis Uffe havde sejret over Nyrup.”

Denne teori lyder meget plausibel. Valget i 1998 gav 8 pladser til CD, og 4 til Kristeligt Folkeparti, og Dansk Folkeparti var først lige blevet dannet af udbrydere fra Fremskridtspartiet, så Uffe kunne sikkert sagtens have lavet masser af forlig med midterpartierne.

Ved et hypotetisk valg i 2001, lige efter “9/11”, ville Uffe Ellemann sikkert have vundet stort over Mogens Lykketoft (som nok var den sandsynlige leder lige efter Nyrup).

I 2005 var udfordreren muligvis blevet Frank Jensen (Helle Thorning-Schmidt havde i hvert fald ikke været klar endnu), og han havde måske vundet, især da Uffe Ellemann havde det med at dele vandene.

Vi havde i så fald på nuværende tidspunkt haft et valg mellem statsminister Frank Jensen, sandsynligvis mod Anders Fogh Rasmussen, og det havde Frank nok vundet, så det er ikke noget under, hvis folk på venstrefløjen nostalgisk drømmer om at have tabt i 1998.

Artiklen slutter med ordene: “Hvem skal man så stemme på nu? Det er svært at spå.”

Mange af mine borgerlige venner gav i 1998 udtryk for, at de var blevet frarøvet en sejr, der retteligt var deres, og dette skabte basis for de meget revolutionære borgerlige regeringer under Fogh. Man kan man meget vel forestille sig, at en tilsvarende følelse kunne brede sig i den såkaldte “røde blok”, hvis det kommende valg igen ikke fører til ny regering.

Hvis de borgerlige vinder valget i 2011, kan man sagtens forestille sig, at de om ti-femten år sukkende vil ønske, at de dog havde tabt snævert i 2011, så Helle Thorning-Schmidt kunne have sat sig i spidsen for en kortlivet midtsøgende venstrefløjsregering, i stedet for i 2014 at have tabt stort til en meget mere yderligtgående SF-ledet regering.

Secure bus travel

Bus Queue
Originally uploaded by chamarisk

Yesterday, I wanted to go to Edinburgh by bus, and I managed to get a return ticket online at a reasonable price.

I arrived at the bus station two hours before the bus was due to leave to make sure I’d be on it.

I then had to stand in a long queue to check in.

They checked my passport, but then they said my bag was too big and I had to check it in, which cost me an extra five quid.

I saw my bag move away on the conveyor belt, and I then went through security.

I had forgotten I had a pen knife in my pocket, so they of course confiscated it, but apart from that, I got through without any problems.

I was very thirsty, but of course I couldn’t bring any drinks through, so I had to buy a drink at a far too high price in the transit area. I just wished I could wait outside, but of course that wasn’t possible.

Finally my bus was ready for departure, and I went to the stance and went on board.

When we arrived in Edinburgh, I went to pick up my bag from the carrousel, but it wasn’t there. At the information counter, they said it had ended up on the wrong bus and was now on its way to Inverness, but they’d get it back to me asap – which turned out to be two days later.

All in all a normal bus trip. But sometimes I wonder why bus travel can’t be as easy as flying?

Background information about the recent ethnic tensions in Zhongyu

Name:Zhongyu (Central Europe in Chinese).

Official languages: Chinese and Lingua Franca.

History: The Germans are the largest ethnic group in Zhongyu and the one that benefited most from colonialism, via education and employment. Some Germans fought back against the Chinese seizure of their lands. When Zhongyu’s first president, Herbert Schmidt, demanded “independence now”, China tried to form an alliance of other ethnic groups in opposition. The plan failed, and sowed the seeds of mistrust between Zhongyu’s peoples. Schmidt, a German, rewarded his followers with land abandoned or sold by yellows who left after independence. Much of it was outside traditional German areas. Schmidt was succeeded by Chang Palich, a Serbian. He could not enrich
his own people – there was less to distribute – but a few of his political cronies did grow hugely wealthy. When Palich was succeeded by Schwarzkopf, a German, in 2002, the Serbian elite was squeezed out and Germans politico-business bosses took over. Promises of a fairer constitution promised by Schwarzkopf in opposition were abandoned. Today, businesses in Zhongyu that are not run by Americans are predominantly in the hands of Germans – even outside their own areas. Others perceive that this is the result of political manipulation. That is why the angriest group are the Serbian. Other groups have once again failed to get to the table. The Serbians were at the table and got pushed aside.