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Call him "Basil"

If you really want to know why Europe is collapsing in economic ruin and moral decay, it’s because they’re all completely insane:

France is failing in its duty to protect the Great Hamster of Alsace, a cure fur-ball facing extinction with fewer than 200 remaining, the advocate-general of Europe’s top court said on Thursday.

“If agro-environmental measures were put in place, in 2008, to protect the Great Hamster, they are incomplete at this stage,” Juliane Kokott, a top legal expert at the European Court of Justice, wrote in an opinion.

The opinion of the advocate-general is not binding, but in most cases the judges in Luxembourg take the same line – in which case France could land a multi-million-euro fine.

The European Commission brought the case, arguing that France has not applied European Union law covering protected species.

The hamster, Cricetus cricetus, an animal that hibernates for six months and spends the vast majority of its life alone, has been protected legally since 1993 but is now only found in fields around the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

Commission figures show its numbers fell from 1,167 in 2001 to as few as 161 in 2007.

The creature, which can grow to 10 inches (25 centimetres) long, has a brown and white face, a black belly and white paws. In old times, the paws were much prized by farmers who made them into trinkets.

The preferred grazing of the Great Hamster of Alsace – forage crops such as alfalfa – have largely been replaced by the more profitable maize, which it cannot abide.

France has previously given subsidies to farmers to grow alfalfa or wheat, but the commission wants it to do more.

We stopped the Soviet juggernaut in its tracks for this? I want my money back!

I see where the Google Doodle© today is commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inaugural address.

Meh.  I never did buy into the whole Kennedy mystique.  By the time I was old enough for political consciousness, that particular bubble had already started its rapid deflation (not that it had ever inflated to any great extent in my household).

I still remember the time when I suddenly realized that by “Camelot”, nobody was referring to the legends of Sir Thomas Malory or Geoffrey of Monmouth, but instead to the rayther awful musickal of  Lerner and Loewe, as if the White House as an over-wrought stage show was somehow a good thing.

Perhaps as a result of the first, faint onset of creeping senility, I had clean forgotten that this fellah, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, was one of Montcalm’s chief lieutenants during the French & Indian War.

Bougainville is one of the better sort of Frenchmen.  He served under Montcalm with distinction and bravery, joining in the guerilla brush-war around Lakes George and Champlain as well as the more formal battles of Forts Oswego, William Henry and Carillon.

After the war, Bougainville went to sea, first attempting to establish a French colony in the Falklands, and then, of course, becoming the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the world.  (Unfortunately,  Bougainville’s descriptions of Tahiti as a paradise fueled the French philosophical mind with visions of the Noble Savages.  And I presume you know what that unfortunate event led to?  Odd that someone who had seen (and participated in) so much barbarism in Canada could still produce such utopian drivel.)

Bougainville later saw service with the French Navy in the American Revolution,  putting in a creditable effort at the Battle of the Saintes, in which British Admiral Rodney soundly thumped the Comte de Grasse.  He somehow survived the Reign of Terror and ended up with a prominant place in Napoleon’s court.

I notice over at the devil’s website that Bougainville’s journal of his time in Canada from 1756 to 1760 is available.  When I’m in the grip of historickal fevah, these original sources are like catnip to me.  (The last time I read up on the French and Indian War, I dashed out to snap up a copy of the journal of Robert Rogers, the famous bushfighter.)  And the excerpts from Bougainville quoted by Parkman are quite interesting and entertaining.   However, this one is out of print and rayther too pricey for me to justify to the port-swiller exchequer.  So if you happen to clap eyes on a copy lying about in a remaindered bookstore or a library sale, you might think to drop me a note.


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January 2011