Friday, April 29, 2011

24 Hours in London

This lovely video highlights 24 hours in London, the city I lived in for years.



The poll will be open for a while longer, but so far it has over 50% of you wanting to head off to Europe or a specific country therein, so while I will still be focusing on the world as a whole, it's clear that a heavier focus on Europe is not a bad thing.

And yes, I'll be posting poll results.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MPs for Expats

Side note: I've had one or two responses on this blog which use rude language. They will be deleted. You can disagree with me as much as you would like, so long as you're civil about it. I also don't give warnings if I'm going to delete something. Litmus test: if you're not sure, don't post. How hard can it be to be civil?

France, Château de Beynac VS Little Child
Château de Beynac, France
Photo by Vincent van der Pas
More countries are recognizing that ignoring their expats is not just. I've mentioned before that it's frustrating to me that expat interests are generally ignored by the US government. As it turns out, France and Italy don't have that problem as they have MPs to represent their foreign constituencies. While Italy has had this for years, France has done this relatively recently.

Until recently, France was like the UK in simply disenfranchising citizens after they had lived abroad a certain period. This is far worse than the US, but now they're taking positive steps to address a changing, more interconnected world. I would love to see something like this for US expats, but I doubt it will happen any time soon (and I'm unsure if our Constitution would allow this, particularly since expats are not counted in the Census).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Au Pair

DSC02653.JPG
Au pair with children
Photo by Evan Carroll
For those without specialized skills, an au pair job may be just the ticket. Typically these positions are for young women between 18 and 25 years of age who would like to live for a short time in a foreign country and interact with children (note that men are becoming more common for this role, but still not the first choice). An au pair works part time and doesn't have a lot of responsibility, but they'll do the occasional babysitting, cooking and some light housework. Au pair's are not maids, but some families who get an au pair don't seem to respect that. Au pairs expected to know a bit of the local language and talk to the children in the household you're at. It's a good way to lightly expose the children to another culture and for the au pair to see a bit more of the world.

Au pairs are given a room, food, a bit of pocket money and maybe a local travel card. Different countries may have different legal requirements. For example, if you want to au pair in France, you'll be required to enroll in French language courses.

The Transitions Abroad web site has a decent introductory article on au pair requirements for different countries.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My wife at 7 years old

Wife and daughter
My wife, feeding our daughter
My wife grew up in the north of France. I found a letter she wrote when she was around seven years old:
La souris,

Vous faites mal votre travail. ça fait deux dents que je perds. Je n'ai toujours rien. Je vais me plaindre au roi des souris!

Leïla
Translation:
Dear Tooth Fairy,

You're doing a bad job. I lost two teeth. I still have nothing. I'm going to complain to the King of the Tooth Fairies!

Leïla
In France, the "tooth fairy" is a little mouse who takes your teeth and leaves a bit of change in return.

Around the letter she wrote various things such as vilaine and méchante — "naughty" and "mean".

Even at seven years old, my wife was a bad ass.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Overseas Exile Poll

I'd love it if you can provide me with more information about your desire to move to another country and what you'd like to see out of this blog. If you don't want to live and work in another country, just ignore the poll.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Perl Foundation

The Perl Foundation
Another quick personal post due to a sick daughter (and daddy and mommy). The readers of this blog are pretty much divided into three groups:
  1. Programmers who like the Perl programming language
  2. Friends and family
  3. People who genuinely want to live in another country
Those who fall in the "Perl" category, if you have a Facebook page, may wish to check out the Perl Foundation page I've linked to. Yes, this might be a bit self-serving as I sit on their Board of Directors, but head over to that page and click "like" to help show your support for the work we do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No taxes, no passport

I know this has been discussed and rejected in the past, but it looks like Congress may again consider going after international tax dodgers. While it's admittedly a press release put out by an expat tax service, the claim is that a March 2011 report by the GAO recommends withholding the passports of tax dodgers.

If this goes through, it could be interesting. It's estimated that there are over 5 million Americans living abroad. Quite a few of them have likely stopped paying taxes. I wonder how many might be impacted?

While some of this mess is undoubtedly for taxes incurred while living in the US, much of it's also for taxes incurred while living abroad. Yes, it sucks that the US is the only developed nation to tax its citizens overseas (in fact, the only other nation I know taxes their expats is Eritrea and it was being considered for Zimbabwe). Nice company the US is keeping there.

I do find this particularly worrisome because the US has not had a stellar track record in being reasonable in this area and expats are always an easy target for politician's ire. Further, as I understand it, the US tax courts do not allow you to challenge a tax assessment until you've paid the assessment. Thus, I wonder if people could find themselves in the position of having their passports confiscated because the IRS mistakenly thinks they're delinquent.  If you live and work overseas and are visiting in the US, this could destroy you financially.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

French in Action

Yesterday was the last day that our relatives from Calais were visiting. My niece, Manon, likes to run up to me, throw her arms around me and call me tonton Curtis, a sweet way of saying "uncle Curtis". It's very strange hearing that because I first heard the word tonton for «tonton Guillaume», the name for the favorite uncle in French in Action, a teaching course used to teach French to English speakers. The course is 52 half hour television episodes, accompanied by reading and writing materials. It's developed a bit of a cult following amongst those who learned French this way and they even had a 25 year reunion of the actors. Going from watching an educational TV series about French to hearing myself called tonton Curtis was a rather strange, but pleasant feeling. 

If you have a chance to learn French via this program (check your local university as many use it), I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not much of a post today

French relatives in town again today. Took them to an inexpensive Italian restaurant last night. It's right off Leidseplein and most plates only cost €5. With a couple of drinks, dinner for all of us came to only €32. not bad!

I keep forgetting that people over here often don't have "sliced" pizza. My wife tells me that in France, they always eat pizza with a knife and fork. Eating with the hands in public simply isn't done. Takes a bit of getting used to, but I had tortellini al gorgonzola, so no struggle for me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hackathon

This weekend I've been participating in the 2011 Perl QA Hackathon where many of the people involved in the Perl programming language come together from around the world and work face-to-face developing new tools or fixing old problems. Some of these folks are friends of mine whom I've known for years and others are new faces. I've no idea how many countries are represented but just off the top of my head I know of people from:

  • Austria
  • France
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • United Kingdom
Crater Lake
My wife and I at the gorgeous
Crater Lake in Southern Oregon
I'm sure there are many more nations represented, but it's just after six in the morning here and I'm a bit too tired to think

My friend Phillipe from France asked about this blog and as he's also a father, he asked me how on earth I was able to post five days a week. I told him my tricks, including have many relevant sights bookmarked and having Google searches emailed to me daily and keeping my eye out for interesting discussions in Reddit's IWantOut community, but mostly I just manage to write two or three posts over the weekend and post them during the week. That only leaves a couple of more I'm actually writing during the week.

Which is my way of saying that since I was at the Hackathon for two days (and today), plus the fact that my sister-in-law and her family are now visiting from Calais to see her new niece, I've not written anything about expat issues this weekend. I try to have good posts with plenty of links, but those take a lot of time. This week might simply be quick posts about life (believe it or not, but this is a quick post because I didn't have to do any research).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Not Photo Collection: Paris

In this blog I have, roughly, four "types" of posts.
  1. How to move abroad
  2. How to stay abroad (assimiliation, dealing with homesickness, etc.)
  3. Random stuff when I don't have much time
  4. Dreams
Fridays are usually about dreams. These are to get your head in the right spirit. You need to be able to keep your dreams fresh and in your mind if you want to accomplish them. Normally on Fridays I post a photo collection. I originally did this because researching for this blog and maintaining it are hard work and I thought photo posts would be quick and easy and I was dead wrong. It's a lot of work to find six related photos which are both aesthetically pleasing and appropriately licensed. Then I have to post and caption the damned things.

Today is simply a pair of videos by YvelinesFrance. Just music, no words, and all Paris. It's 18 minutes of Old-World beauty and would have been quick to post had I not written all of this.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting your Overseas Exile Fix

This is very off-topic, but I know that a lot of folks simply bookmark this site, hoping to come back to it or they hope to find the URL in their email after being sent it by someone. I used to do that a lot.

For those of you who don't pay much attention to the Internet beyond reading interesting stuff, you can catch up with Overseas Exile by "subscribing" to this blog. You can subscribe to my Atom feed or my RSS feed in your favorite feed reader and automatically receive new content. Google has an nice help page explaining how feeds work.

Our beautiful daughter
My daughter at nine weeks
I personally use Google Reader. You can sign up fo a free Google account (if you don't have one already) and in the top left hand corner, you can click the "Add a subscription" button and paste in the URL of the site you want to subscribe to. If they have feeds, every time you log into Google Reader, you'll automatically see the latest content there without having to remember to go back to the site and check every time.

Feel free to share other suggestions below, but remember that people who know what they're doing may have already subscribed, so suggestions should be for easy to use software.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Danish Green Card

So I've posted about the Czech Green Card. The Danish Green Card is another beast entirely and it's a completely different way in to Europe, not just in terms of destination, but also method.

Photobucket
From one of my trips to the lovely city of Copenhagen
If you've been reading this blog for a while — or just researching moving abroad in general — then you know that the basic way to acquire a work permit is to apply for a job while outside of your target country and then the company applies for the work permit. You must not be in the country while the permit is issued lest it be considered invalid. The rules on this are so strict that I was forced to miss my father's partner's funeral in the UK because I was getting a work permit issued.

Countries do this because they don't want people seeking work on tourist visas and possibly becoming illegal immigrants if they don't find it. Denmark has tried a different approach, the Danish Green Card. This allows you to move you and your family to Denmark for up to three years and live there while you look for work. There are several preconditions:
  • You must score 100 points on their assessment
  • You must document that you can support yourself financially for a year
  • You must have health insurance
  • You may not receive any public funds
Photobucket
Again from a trip to Copenhagen
The points are fairly straightforward and are well-documented. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree (30 points) to qualify for the green card and you'll receive a bonus of 10 points if your education qualifies you to perform a job on in which they have a skills shortage.

You must also speak one of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English or German (since you're reading this, you can figure out which one you qualify for). They make it clear that even if you speak English, without the ability to speak Danish your opportunities in the Danish market are somewhat limited. You will also be given a few points if you've worked in your field recently, gone to school in the EEA and are young enough.

You'll need to have the equivalent of around $1,100 to $1,300 US per month (for a year) to prove that you can support yourself. Obviously, this will increase if you bring your family.

This is a fantastic scheme for a fantastic country. I've been to Copenhagen twice and not only is the city gorgeous, but the people are friendly and things are simply relaxed. It's also possibly more bike-friendly then Amsterdam. You should also be happy to note that Danish is a "category 1" language and thus is considered easy for English speakers to learn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Better Life in Europe

Just a quick post today, but in case you're wondering why almost 1 in 4 US expats live in Europe, I think this article sums a lot of it up. Many Americans came over here for the sheer beauty of Europe (thousands of years of history adds up over time), but we stay for the better life. We have better health care, less crime, and our politics, while arguably screwed up in many ways — as you'll find everywhere — are far less hostile than the politics of the US.

London
London, Houses of Parliament
Photo by Brianna Lehman
And it certainly doesn't hurt that you can drive for a day and pass though multiple countries, just waiting to be explored.

And a couple of quick notes about yesterday's Czech Green Card post. First, it was pointed out to me on Reddit that the Czech Republic does not usually recognize dual nationality. If you wish to us the Czech Green Card as a permanent route to Europe, you will either have to give up your own nationality if you take citizenship, or accept permanent Czech residency which means that you can't live and work in other EEA countries, but at least you'd still be living in a gorgeous country and can easily visit the others.

Second, in one day, the Czech Green Card post has become this blog's fifth most popular blog post of all time. I expect it to rise through the ranks even further as today progresses. Obviously the "secret back door to Europe" really grabbed people's attention. I knew it would be popular, but not that popular. I won't focus exclusively on Europe, but maybe I should put more emphasis there if that's what people want?

And while we're at it, I've found yet another article about Americans giving up their citizenship. The only major industrialized nation to tax its citizens abroad, but they refuse to count us in the census and a quarter of us who vote never get our votes counted. Truly this is taxation without representation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Czech Green Card - Secret Back Door to Europe?

I recently wrote about the Czech Blue Card. It's the Czech Republic's implementation of the European Blue Card. The Blue Card is possibly helpful as a way into Europe long-term in that it will eventually let you live and work anywhere in Europe which accepts it (though for political reasons, this is being watered down quite a bit), but the downside to the Blue Card from the potential immigrant's point of view is pretty clear: it doesn't seem to offer any mechanism to make it easier to get in. However, when I read about the Czech Blue Card, I stumbled across this intriguing quote:
These new permits do not replace the Green Cards introduced in 2009 which simplify the hiring of workers without professional qualifications from certain specified countries.
That's very interesting. For many people who want to work abroad, their holy grail is an easy way into Europe. For most people, that "easy way" simply doesn't exist. However, the Czech Green Card might be that way for some.

Back in 2007/08, after the Czech Republic entered the EU in 2004, they simultaneously lost some citizens to emigration and had a huge economic boom. A strong, export-driven market meant that they were creating jobs faster than their citizens could fill them and, like many economically strong countries, many of their citizens didn't want jobs as waiters or lorry (truck) drivers. In response, the Czech government created the Green Card in an attempt to make it very easy to attract unskilled labor.

There was just one problem: they launched it in 2009, right as the world economy was collapsing. Many Czech residents were upset at the thought of their jobs being offered to foreigners because unemployment skyrocketed and they understandably wanted to protect their economy.

Things are a bit better now and the Green Card scheme survives. The Czech Ministry of the Interior maintains a Green Card explanation site (in English, no less!). This site explains how the card works and what steps you need to take to apply. Basically the card is a combined residency and work permit. There are three types of cards available:
  • Type A: for qualified workers with university education and key personnel
  • Type B: for workers in jobs with a minimum educational requirement
  • Type C: for other workers
The validity of the green card is for 2-3 years. For green card types A and B it is possible to extend their validity under certain circumstances for up to 3 years. Thus, you probably want to avoid Type C if you wish to stay in Europe permanently. Also note that the green card is only available to citizens of the following twelve countries:
  1. Australian Commonwealth
  2. Montenegro
  3. Republic of Croatia
  4. Japan
  5. Canada
  6. Republic of Korea
  7. New Zealand
  8. Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  9. Republic of Macedonia
  10. United States of America
  11. Serbia
  12. Ukraine
The government also provides  a great portal to help you find Czech Green Card jobs. I like their jobs by category page myself. They have jobs for secretaris, clerks, beauticians, cleaners, travel guides, actuaries, cabinet makers, bartenders, and so on.

If you apply, you can receive an answer in as little as two months. You still have to fly to the Czech Republic, but this looks like the easiest way into Europe for those without skills.

Prague
Prague, City Center, Capital of the Czech Republic
Photo by Moyan Brenn

There are still a few issues. I suspect that not speaking at least basic Czech could be an obstacle and it's unclear to me whether or not one's spouse/partner is allowed. I also don't know how many green cards are issued per year, so merely having green cards available but not issuing them could be an obstacle. If anyone has more information they can share with me about this, I'd love to hear it.

Here's a free Foreign Service Institute basic Czech course to get you started with the language. Combine that with a Pimsleur course for pronunciation and you'll have a great head start.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Photo Collection: Life, March 2011

Still recuperating from the accident, so today is just a random selection of photos I've taken from our life here in Amsterdam in March, 2011.

Baby Acne?
Babies get acne? Who knew?

If you look closely, you can see zits on our baby daughter. They cleared up pretty quickly, but I never knew babies could get acne.

Our daughter, asleep in her room.
Our daughter's bedroom.

I really like the house we're living in, but we probably have to leave it in November. Not sure where in Amsterdam we'll move. I would love the Jordaan area, but I also love being able to afford to eat.

Duvel
Duvel, one of my favorite beers.

Gotta love that pacifier at the left, eh? This photo was taken at a café by the world famous Bloemenmarkt. It's not the grand market that it once was, but you can still find some lovely flowers there. I used to live about a two blocks north of here in an apartment overlooking the Singel canal.

Wife and daughter
My two favorite women.

It's been good to be able to get outside again. The weather is starting to get warmer.

Raclette
Our friend Armgard was in town, so we made a raclette for dinner.

I need to get Armgard to write a guest post one day. She's a Nigerian who's also lived in South Africa, Germany, the UK, the US and now is in Sweden with her wonderful partner Josef. Interestingly, she lived in Portland, Oregon, the same time I did but we didn't meet each other until we lived in London and shared a house together.

Alix and Arthur
One of my wife's childhood friends and a cat who adores her luggage.

This is Alix, one of Leïla's oldest friends. She was at our wedding and she and my wife have known each other almost 30 years now (I think). She and her boyfriend drove up from France to see our daughter. I'm sad I missed the photo of our cat burrowing head first into her luggage. There was something there he was desperate to get at.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Biking Accident

Due to a biking accident, I'm off work and at home recovering. I just don't have the energy for a blog post today, so here's a picture of my wife relaxing with a Kriek in the Amsterdam canal district (Singel, if you know the area).

Out for an evening in downtown Amsterdam
The first time my wife and I were out after the birth of our daughter.

In the meantime, I think I've found a possible back door into Europe for those with little money or skills. There's a catch, but I'll publish later when I can write it up.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How the European Union Works

I am, to be honest, appalled at how poorly the workings of the European Union tend to be spelled out, so I guess this is going to be largely a "political" week. Many people don't understand what's going on with the EU and why it's simultaneously so strong and so weak.

The European Union, as we know it today, was formed via the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 and amended by several subsequent treaties. It is currently comprised of 27 member states and the goal is to create a single market within the EU, though there is work on common foreign policy and other ventures. There are several components to the EU government.
  1. European Commission
  2. Council of the European Union
  3. European Council (not the same thing!)
  4. European Parliament
  5. European Central Bank
  6. Court of Justice of the European Union
  7. European Court of Auditors
Sound complicated? It is.

The European Commission is where the real power lies. They're the "executive branch" of government and handle day-to-day affairs. There are 27 Commissioners, one for each country, and one of them serves as the President of the EU on a six month rotating basis. They have the power to propose laws.

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (#2 above) form the two halves of the legislative body of the EU. The parliament is comprised of hundreds of directly elected parliamentarians, their numbers proportional to state populations. The Council, however, is comprised of 27 members, one from each state, and depending on the topic they're considering, the council's representative for each state will be the minister of that state who handles the area in question. For example, if discussing foreign policy, the UK will send a minister who deals with foreign policy, not one who deals with agricultural policy.

The European Council (#3 above) is comprised of the 27 heads of state of the various countries and they meet at least twice every six months. Though having little formal power, their decisions help set the tone for upcoming EU decisions.

The European Court of Justice attempts to ensure that laws related to the EU treaties are being observed. The European Court of Auditors, on the other hand, isn't really a court. They audit the EU budget and make sure legally and appropriate management. The European Central Bank, naturally, handles the monetary policy of the EU.

What does this mean?

As my wife is keen to make clear, the European Union is not a government. It's merely a framework of treaties in which the member states work together to achieve commonly agreed upon goals. Primarily they work to maintain a single market across the EU with monetary union (the Eurozone) being the driving force, but increasing attempts to develop a common foreign policy and human rights agreements. For the US readers out there, the EU represents the "state's rights" which so many Republicans talk about. While hardly a perfect comparison (it's impossible), it's a pretty good one.

What makes the EU powerful is that it's a common market with a population of 500 million and a strong currency. Many markets have considered switching from dollars to Euros and there's been some discussion of oil markets making this switch. The collapse of the dollar against the Euro is leading this and there's been discussion of switch oil revenues to a basket of currencies instead of relying solely on the dollar. The euro, of course, being one of the leading currencies in said basket.

However, the EU as a major political union is hobbled by their lack of a common foreign policy and their lack of a strong central government. The lack of a common foreign policy means that they can be divided on their response to political issues, but their lack of a central government means that separate states maintain separate economies with only a common currency and market to bolster them. This means that individual countries have the power to threaten the stability of the euro; individual US states do not. I'm unsure of how, or if, the EU can overcome this problem. Currently, the euro is holding together, but in the long term, several countries are threatening it due to mismanagement of their economies.

Currently, I suspect China is going to dominate economically and eventually they're going to use this to leverage political power. They have little internal dissent and if an economic policy is counter-productive, their single party system means they can change it with the stroke of a pen. Note that I'm not endorsing the Chinese goverment — I don't like their record on human rights — but they have a political strength that neither the EU nor the US possess.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Czech Blue Card

It looks like the Czech government is now introducing the European Blue Card. From a recent article:
Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
Photo by Moyan Brenn 
A new type of permit – the Blue Card - has been introduced for highly skilled workers from outside the EU. Applicants will have to demonstrate that they have a University background, are intending to work in the Czech Republic for at least a year and will be earning at least 150% of the CZH 283, 176 Czech annual average salary. Blue Cards will be valid for up to two years, but can be further extended. Foreign workers already in the Czech Republic can also apply, provided that they satisfy the same criteria. These new permits do not replace the Green Cards introduced in 2009 which simplify the hiring of workers without professional qualifications from certain specified countries
So this doesn't help people immigrate to the Czech republic easier, but it does have that "blue card" advantage that many people are hoping for. Amusingly, it also mandates a health insurance requirement strict enough that no Czech insurance providers offer it.

I'm going to have to read up on the Green Card, though. It's only available to citizens of 12 countries, but it appears that the US is one of them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Britain's AV Vote and the US

This certainly isn't one of my normal entries because it really doesn't concern living and working in another country, but it does concern something which is could have a huge impact on the USA, but it appears to be largely ignored in the US press (perhaps they don't understand what's going on). In short, Britain will soon vote on whether or not they will adopt the alternative vote. If they do, I predict a long-term political shift away from US world dominance. Things won't be the same again and it's important to understand why.

David Cameron - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011
David Cameron, Tory Leader
Photo by World Economic Forum
In the UK, there are two main parties, Labour and Conservative (generally known as "Tories"). These are roughly analogous to the US Democrats and Republicans respectively, but with the exception that Tory policies tend to be closer aligned to the US Democrats with the Labour party to the left (though some argued for a while that Labour had gone to the right of the Tories). Unlike the US, there are a variety of smaller parties which actually have an impact on voting, the most important of which is the Liberal Democrat party ("Lib-Dems" for short). I find it hard to pin down exactly what the Lib-Dems stand for, but they tend to support free markets, protection for the disadvantaged, a greener economy and strong civil liberties protection. They also came in third in the 2010 general election and as a precondition of joining their natural enemies, the Tories, they demanded a referendum on the alternative vote.

The UK, like the US, employs a first past the post voting system. This simply means that the candidate with the most votes wins. Unfortunately, it has a nasty side-effect of locking out smaller parties. For example, in the US, many people argued that a vote for Ralph Nader in the 2000 Presidential election was a vote for George Bush. First-past-the-post voting systems tend to produce stable, two-party governments and rarely allow other parties to gain a foothold.

Ed Milliband, Labour Leader
Photo by Off2riorob
In the alternative vote, instead of voting for your candidate of choice, you can choose several and rank them. If a candidate doesn't get 50% of the vote, the lowest candidate is eliminated and and votes for them ignored. The process continues until one candidate has 50% of the vote. It's actually fairly simple and allows people to vote for candidates they want rather than against the candidates they don't want. It's certainly a far cry from proportional representation but it's better than first-past-the-post.

In the UK papers, you find that left-leaning papers support the AV vote while right-wing papers oppose it. In fact, it appears that the only group which opposes the AV vote in the UK is the Tory party (though Labour struggles with the idea). Why? Because the AV vote may very well destroy the Tories and this would have a huge impact on the US.

UK politics is comprised of a number of parties, though their first-past-the-post system still keeps Labour and Tories firmly in power.  In an AV vote system, many smaller parties will have much greater chances to make an impact. Though some claim the impact will be minimal, the reality is that once people realize that they can finally vote for who they want, rather than against who they don't want, politics in the UK could be irrevocably altered and I seriously doubt the UK love affair with the US will survive. And that's why the AV vote could have such a huge impact on the US.

The US and UK have long had what Churchill first described as a special relationship and the UK has long been keen on maintaining it. Part of the problem is simply that the UK doesn't like to think of themselves as part of Europe and thus ceding some influence over world events to a "United States of Europe". Like many countries wanting to maintain influence in world events, the UK has struggled to figure out how to remain relevant. Hence, by hanging on the coattails of the US, the UK has tried to claim themselves a strategic "bridge" between the US and Europe or, in fact, the US and the rest of the world. However, Margaret Thatcher's pro-US policies followed by wide derision of Tony Blair as being George Bush's poodle has led to the UK admitting that the "special relationship" was dead. Tired of being viewed by some as the 51st state, the UK is trying to find a new place in a new world.

Nick Clegg Q&A 12
Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader
Photo by Liberal Democrats
The Tories, though helping to end the notion of the "special relationship," often strongly admire US economics and thus strong ties to the US. My wife, for one of her jobs in the UK, found herself at Tory political meetings where they expressed strong support for the US model and a desire to emulate it more closely. I think this is a desperate attempt to find some way of changing the moribund UK economy. Currently the UK really doesn't offer much in the world other than military influence and a strong banking system. They have little in the way of manufacturing and with the top three economies in the world being the EEA, China and the US, the UK doesn't quite know what they're going to do.

So what does the AV vote do in this context? Most predict that the Tories, the major "pro-US" party, getting locked out of power in the long term. They still have plenty of business support, so they're not going away, but they're going to be limited. Also, much of the UK does not want closer ties to Europe, so it remains to be seen what will happen there, but in an AV UK, I can't imagine the Prime Minister being such a blatant poodle that he would act so strongly against public opinion again. After all, there would be no more of a Clintonesque "who else you gonna vote for?" attitude. Under the AV vote, the British people are going to get a chance to have a new voice and that voice isn't guaranteed to be singing the praises of the US.

For the US, that means that one of our closest allies may very well no longer do what we want them to, thus further isolating the US. Clearly the US can't push China around and without the UK to cajole Europe to play along, the US may find itself having less world influence. Can you imagine the last Iraq war without the UK? I seriously doubt it would have happened. The world would clearly be a far different place. Thus, if the AV referendum passes, world politics could be radically altered in the long term.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools' Day

No post today, I'm afraid. Our baby is struggling this morning and it's simply not possible for me to research and edit a post today. As much as I want to help people out, my family comes first.

Six weeks!
Our daughter
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