Saturday, February 26, 2005


The blog is off to Switzerland for a couple of weeks, and what with broken limbs and tricky connections will likely be posting more sporadically for a bit.

This blog´s archive, however, is full of penetrating insights well worth checking out in the meantime..

"Is that a gun in your pocket...?" Mandy's Chinese Disembargo

Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, again signals his desire to sell China arms. Having described the arms embargo, imposed after the Tianamen Square massacre, as "anachronistic", Mandy now tells the Chinese that it would be so much easier to consummate the lifting of the embargo if China could show some willingness in the matter of human rights.

Not as a condition of lifting the embargo, mind. The Chinese need not fear that Mandy means any of this. What Mandy has in mind is purely cosmetic, purely for the purposes of spin, to help sell this shameful measure to the world.
EUbusiness - EU trade chief urges more evidence from China on arms ban, market status

The Curse of Von Esens (I) : Hervé Gaymard

The Curse of Von Esens strikes (see French Lessons in Cohabitation):

Hervé Gaymard, the wealthy French Financial Minister preaching frugality but living at the taxpayer's expense in a huge apartment in the best part of Paris, has resigned.
Times Online - World

German Visa Scandal (III): End of the Line for Fischer?

Joschka Fischer, Germany´s Green Foreign Minister, has lost his place at the top of the "Most Important Politician" ranking for the first time in three years, as the implications of the so-called "Visa Scandal" start to take effect.

As we wrote here last week, Fischer´s ideologically-correct, highly relaxed immigration policy resulted in hundreds of thousands of eastern European illegal immigrants entering the European Union. Up until now, it looked as though Fischer´s personal popularity might see him through. But the latest "Politbarometer" (from Germany's ZDF channel) shows that he has lost his place to the opposition CDU's Christian Wulff, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony.

It seems Germany may finally be tiring of its favourite son, whose personal predilections and developments so closely embody the nation's own. Fischer's youth was spent as a street-fighting peacenik, a policeman-beating anti-Establishmentarian. The Green party he helped found was to be an "anti-party", positioning itself as detached from mainstream "corrupt" politics. When Fischer became a minister, he ostentatiously continued to wear sneakers 'n sweaters into parliament. Like so many of his countrymen, part of him is a corpulent Feinschmecker (epicure), the other an austere, marathon-running fitness freak. He's been divorced four times and his current girlfriend, 28 years his junior, is young enough to be his granddaughter.

But despite his obvious fondness for the trappings of power, and his seamless shift from sneakers to pinstripes, his role as German Foreign Minister has protected him from political unpleasantness, or association with unpopular policies. He has been free to strike idealist pacifist poses on behalf of "World Peace", attitudes which are still so loved by pacifist-minded Germans. And somehow he can combine moral superiority of this sort with the stated wish to sell more arms to China and not be laughed out of court.

Many among Europe's political elite, of course, are up to their necks in such contradictions. But it may be that voters are beginning to see through them and their limitations. The more so in the wake of President Bush's European visit and the small green shoots of success of his policies.

That's what seems to be happening in Germany right now as far as Fischer and his Greens are concerned, anyway. At the very least, it'll prove a big vote-loser for the SPD/Green coalition in the upcoming regional elections in North Rhine Westphalia. At the other extreme, Fischer could be forced to resign and this would spell the end of the current German government. - Fischer verliert Spitzenplatz auf Top Ten Liste

Friday, February 25, 2005

The President´s Glove

The blog´s etiquette correspondent draws our attention to a dolorous faux pas in Bratislava. It seems there's been a spot of one-sided gloved handshaking going on in that quarter, with the US President failing to remove said item whilst greeting his Slovak hosts Ivan Gasparovic and Mikulas Dzurinda. Understandably, dismay has been widespread and vocal.

This blog is a bit of a stickler for etiquette and feudal form. Indeed it is one of the leading European authorities on how to tip one's hat to the grocer before the toast to the Queen and suchlike quandaries.

So here is our ex cathedra pronouncement: The fault is with the hosts, who should have put their gloves back on when they saw the President´s "what should I do with my gloves?" dilemma. Doing so would have put their guest at his ease, which is etiquette´s overriding concern on such occasions. A copy of my Handbook of How to Win With Your Gloves On is winging its way over to Ivan and Mikulas even as we speak.

New Sorrellism : "At Least Less Worse"

Sir Martin Sorrell, speaking about communications group WPP's 2004 performance in Europe, said that it was "at least less worse" than the previous year.

An excellent new Sorrellism (from Esens' Lexicograph: "Sorrellism : gnomic utterance about economy capable of multiplicit interpretation") to join his "bath shaped recession" of two years back.

Sorrell´s bath turned out to be a lot longer than conventional baths, certainly as far as Europe went. But his "prognostications" for the coming year, despite its being an odd-numbered year with neither summer Olympics nor US elections to boost adspend, are quietly positive. That´s good. Europe badly needs to get out of the doldrums of miniscule growth, and advertising is the economy´s weathervane in that respect.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Last Chinese Sex Slave Dies

Zhu Qiaomei, the last surviving "comfort woman", or sex slave used by Japanese troops during WWII, died in Shanghai last Sunday aged 96.

She never got a single yen´s worth of compensation from the Japanese, Xinhuanet reports.
Xinhua - English

Germany Would Pay to Kill Pact Off

A month back we wrote how the EU Stability Pact was effectively dead, but that it was hanging on in a kind of suspended animation as no-one could be found brave enough to pull the trigger and declare it dead.

Now the time has come for the poor Pact to be put out of its misery. Germany has become so frustrated at breaking the Pact four successive times that it is actually prepared to bribe the European Commission to kill it off. The bribe on the table is 0.14% of Germany´s gross national income.

Let´s see if the Commission picks it up.

The Ethics of Murder

We wrote last week about the murder of Hatun Sürücü - killed, apparently by her brother, for being "too German" and rejecting the marriage arranged for her.

Pupils at her school, we wrote, welcomed the murder and saw it as an entirely reasonable punishment. Now the Berlin-based CDU party wants to force these pupils to go on courses of ethics and philosophy.

Well, at least they're trying to engage with the problem. But they might have done better to compel the pupils to contemplate the life of the man who gave their school its name - Thomas More.

More knew all about ethics and faithfulness and, for that matter, being murdered for mixing them up the wrong way. His master, Henry VIII, was titled the "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope. But that didn't inhibit the monarch from cutting off More's head for failing to smooth the way for Henry´s first divorce. Moral qualms led More to the scaffold.

The lessons? Take your pick: - Sometimes it's better not to condemn unethical faithlessness. Sometimes ethics can lead you into trouble. Sometimes it´s better to go with the flow. Or - a martyr´s death awaits the morally steadfast.

We very much doubt the CDU's ethics and philosophy programme will inculcate such values, helpful as they might be for the murderous Muslim pupils. But it is criminally naive to pretend that a horror of murder can best be taught in a philosophy course! The uses to which Nietzsche has been put are surely warning enough. The pupils are much likelier to learn that there are no easy answers, in the realm of abstract contemplation as on earth, and this, as a result, will confirm them in their approval of the primitive and barbaric murder.

The well-meant ethics and philosophy courses, inasmuch as they teach the children anything practical, will furnish them with the semantic ingenuity to justify any amount of unspeakable, unChristian cruelties.

St Thomas More will be looking down on all of this with a quizzical, half-amused eye.

Bush Supporters in Mainz

Good to see that, despite everything, freedom of speech thrives in Germany and that the vastly outnumbered but determined group of pro-Bush demonstrators managed to make their point effectively.

The much larger numbers of rentacrowd protesters and Greenpeace activists in Mainz, in contrast, seem to be just going through the motions, these days. Opposition to the spread of democracy, which is how Bush has effectively positioned it, isn't a stance that will change politics in Europe or the US. And Western "oppositionism" - opposition for the sake of opposition - is a mere decadence, made possible by the security and comfort we enjoy in the West.

The plucky pro-Bush demonstrators, on the other hand, showed grit in standing up for an unpopular course, which is clearly one they believe in.
Davids Medienkritik: Bushs Visit to Mainz: A Demonstration of Success: ""

Harry Belafonte Savages Rumsfeld

Just as Germany and the US were wrapping up President Bush´s amicable visit, Harry Belafonte weighs in with a personal appeal to arrest and try Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes.

"As you know," he informs the German justice authorities, "I have been working for peace and freedom for a long time."

In light of this, he urges the immediate arrest of Donald Rumsfeld.

Were "Pinochet scams" of this sort to become accepted practice, all diplomatic intercourse between countries would soon grind to a halt, as their jails filled up with tit-for-tat "suspects". Right-minded, left-leaning celebrities like Harry, Bono, Richard Gere and Sting would have a field day, scavenging the globe for fresh victims to persecute with their pompous, self-regarding twaddle.

There is, of course, something highly attractive in this vision of politicians behind bars. Normally, this blog would support any move to cage them all, no matter how self-indulgent or foolish the justification might be. Anything for a laugh at politicians' expense, we say.

But Harry Belafonte has made the mistake of implying that Rumsfeld's arrest would bring peace and freedom to the world. I hate to say it, Harry, but it wouldn't do anything to foster the noble cause of peace - quite the reverse - it would just bring out a rash of tiresome Teutonic schadenfreude, and of course dollops of excellent publicity for whatever is the Belafonte Cause of the Week.
''Gegen Rumsfeld ermitteln!'' - - Ausland

Red Ken Puts Boot In

"Red Ken" Livingstone, the Mayor of London, is a ferocious supporter of Palestinians and a boon companion of radical Islamic clerics. Despite all this, no-one seriously suspected him of anti-semitism. But now he's at the centre of a self-created anti-semitic storm.

Having compared a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard and a German war criminal, he has steadfastly refused to apologise for the offence he knows he has caused.

If this most politically-correct, socially aware of Londoners feels he can insult Jews with impunity, then something pretty fundamental has changed in the UK. And it's more than just voting patterns and Muslim immigration, which help to make Red Ken feel electorally secure.

Israel (with whose "fascist" actions Livingstone associated the journalist) has become an accepted target for open leftist contempt - contempt like Ken´s, of the most carefree, kneejerk sort.
Jerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bad News for Cuboids (I)

It looks like cannabis can stop the onset of Alzheimer's.
Jerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Iran Says US Is Bluffing

Bellicose noises coming out of Iran.

A senior Iranian delegate to the UN treats President Bush´s hints of military action to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons with disdain. "Purely absurd", says Sirus Naseri about "such silly threats" from the US which "is simply too overstretched in the region."

So this particular war of words is heating up - to such an extent that one side is scornfully dismissing any possibility of it being succeeded by an actual war.

On the one hand, Naseri´s remarks are so obvious as almost to be disarming. On the other, it´s hard to imagine a more provocative remark for an Iranian diplomat to make at this stage...
Aljazeera.Net - Iran terms US attack threat absurd

Deadlock in Brussels

Despite the conciliatory noises emanating from Brussels in the wake of President Bush´s forthright speech, there isn´t a whole lot to show for it yet.

- On NATO, everyone, including NATO itself, agrees that it should reform to become politically relevant again. The only difference is that Schroeder proposed that this change should be foisted upon NATO from the outside (see Interesting Plans) whilst Bush and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO´s Secretary General, think it should reform itself.

- On Iran, the USA will bless the EU 3´s diplomatic efforts whilst reserving the threat of force as an encouragement to the mullahs to deal. Continuing Germans arms sales to Iran have not blown up as a huge impediment in this area yet but they underline the difference in approach.

- On China, the EU wants to lift the arms embargo and Bush does not. Again, the contrast is stark and straightforward: the EU wants to sell weapons to countries the US wants to use them on.

No change there yet, then.

Some folks in Europe reckon the most significant aspect of the visit so far is that, for the first time, a US President has met with all the EU chiefs as a body. There´s something to that. If there´s no specific policies and agreements coming out of this trip, it has underscored the EU´s desire to be high on the US President´s list of "ports of call" in Europe. How high on the list? Well, second. The President´s first port of call was in fact NATO.

The E 3´s Tricky Sale

In addition to persuading Iran´s mullahs to stop making atom bombs, the dashing "E 3" troika (Germany, France and the UK) has been doing the hardsell on Poland´s government regarding the purchase of aircraft for its (68% government-owned) national carrier LOT.

Schroeder, Chirac and Blair have personally spoken with Poland´s PM to close the sale on behalf of the EU´s Airbus company.

LOT has always bought from Boeing before, and this particular bit of salesmanship has a lot of political form.

Coming hot on the heels on the sale of 5 Airbus aircraft to China (see Way to Go), success in this matter would do much to establish the "E 3" as genuine EU superheroes.
Aerospace Notebook: Poland's choice has political subplots

Bayern München-Arsenal London

A miserable evening in Munich ends 3-1 for the hosts amid some dodgy refereeing (penalty not given to Arsenal) and the feeling that football is the last place in Europe where unapologetic nationalism remains normal.

This nationalism can take some pretty odd forms. Anyone watching German coverage of the game soon came to feel that - as far as the announcers were concerned - it all boiled down not to an epic struggle between two major sides, but a showdown between the two German individuals: the respective goalkeepers, Kahn and Lehmann.

Not nationalism as we know it, then. But what with international transfers, none of the sides in the top flight are dominated by the nationalities of their home countries. It doesn't seem to bother the supporters, who have got used to it over the years. The only British player on the pitch, for example, was Owen Hargreaves, and he was playing for München!

The next leg will be in two weeks in Highbury, London, where Arsenal, once they've recover their form, should be able to put things right and "the Germans" behind them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

George Washington´s Birthday

Today is George Washington´s birthday. There´s an excellent appreciation of the great man over at Powerline.
Power Line: February 2005 Archives

German Help for Iran´s Nuclear Weapons

As diplomats from the "E 3" (Germany, France and the UK) try to dissuade Iran´s mullahs from producing nuclear bombs, German firms are continuing to sell materials and expertise to support the development programme. Police in Berlin and Stuttgart are currently investigating cases involving German companies. Iran is said to be about 3 years away from full nuclear capability.
Bayerischer Rundfunk | report M?NCHEN

Anti-Muslim Violence in Holland

A throwaway remark of President Bush´s in his Brussels speech yesterday upset the Dutch Foreign Minister. Bush referred to unacceptable violence in Holland - referring, presumably, to the attacks on mosques and Muslim institutions in the backlash to Theo van Gogh´s murder in November 2004.

The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bot, feigning that he hadn´t completely understood Bush´s intentions, said he would have preferred it if the "mysterious little sentence" had been left out of the speech.

Meanwhile, another attack on a mosque in Holland was foiled last night. It is the 43rd such incident since van Gogh´s murder.
de Volkskrant - Moet dat nou, dat zinnetje over geweld in Nederland?

A Meeting of Minds

President Bush isn´t the only one doing his best to smooth the ground for a meeting of minds, with his soothing words yesterday to European leaders. They´re busily at it on the other side of the globe as well.

Hu Jintao, President of China, has been encouraging Kim Jong Il of North Korea to return to the six-party talks on atomic weaponry he abandoned last week. Kim Jong Il, for his part, said that he remained committed to the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" and was only waiting for the US to show "trustworthy sincerity and move."

Kim Jong Il´s famous book, "Giving Priority to Ideological Work is Essential for Accomplishing Socialism", meanwhile, is being published to great acclaim in India.

There´s nothing more fruitful than a true meeting of minds.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Spanish Si

Yesterday's Spanish Si to the EU's draft constitution is no surprise: it was a bit of a no-brainer in Spain.

The EU there is associated with the establishment of lasting democracy and peacable affluence in Europe after decades of Franco's fascist dictatorship. And with the billions of strongly-branded EU Euros invested in roads and infrastructure since.

There was a low turnout (40%). The consitution was "approved" by 78.5% of voters. That´s about one in three of the population. It's not an especially resounding vote of confidence - but then again, not a lot was seen to be at stake. In Spain, the EU project is truly mainstream and opposition is confined to the fringes. This is less and less true as the ratification process proceeds across Europe.


A regional election in Schleswig-Holstein sees the centrist CDU taking over from the leftist SPD as largest party.

This is partly a punishment for the SPD national government: it presides over 5 million unemployed, the worst level since Weimar.

And it´s partly a vindication of the underestimated CDU leader, Peter Harry Carstensen, who shows that uncomplicated decency is not always a weakness. Would there were more of his sort in Europe today.

Update: An alliance with tiny independent party the SSW (which represents the Danish minority) has meant that the SPD may remain in government even if the voting swing has indeed made the CDU the party with the most seats. The Schleswig-Holstein Prime Minister since 1993, Heide Simonis, was unwilling even to consider handing over power as long as there was a possibility she could cling on. It looks like this may now come to pass. The winning CDU party looks to be excluded from power-sharing.

Such political behaviour is not, of course, illegal - but in going so blatantly
against the electoral flow, it is undemocratic, and in pandering so shamelessly to
the lust for power of a poliician rejected by the voters, it is politicking at
its most immoral, In short, it merits the blog's strongest sanction.

Accordingly, and with some regret,the blog calls down the Curse of
Von Esens
and invokes it on Heide Simonis' head.

Bush in Brussels 2

Bush knows that the stronger and more federal the EU becomes, the stronger and more obstinate its resistance to US policies.

And the EU is recasting its place in the world. The EU is now more focussed on sharpening its own profile (see Outer Space). Fortuitously, Bush´s showing in current Euro-opinion polls is abysmal. The EU can thus conveniently sharpen its profile on the whetstone of US/Bush policies - vis à vis Iraq, Iran, and Chinese arms, to name but three. Schroeder's remarks about NATO (see Germany's Interesting Plans for NATO) should be seen in this context.

EU oppositionism to the US, therefore, is driven partly by this desire to fashion a separate identity.

Some folks reckon Bush doesn't and shouldn't worry about that. Maybe - there's certainly no votes in it for him - but then why bother with the whole fence-mending European trip in the first place?

The truth is that new blocs or alliances (outside Europe) are emerging to threaten US interests, and the US needs the EU onside to offset the threat. These blocs include Russia-Iran-Syria and China-North Korea. In Iran the "EU 3" (Germany, France and the UK) are trying to stop Iran through diplomacy, backed by the US military. In China, the EU is actively working against Washington to have the arms embargo lifted.

So there's plenty of conflict areas, beyond Iraq, where active EU support could help Bush, and continued oppostionism would damage him. Not directly in terms of votes, but in helping to turn some of his visionary goals into reality.

In this light, there´s a fair amount for Bush to gain. There may be more to this European jaunt than the usual diplomatic soundbites and pictures. The question is whether breaking the diplomatic deadlock will actually lead to tangible results, or whether it's just a preliminary manoeuvre.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The EU´s Space Policy

Quote from the EU's document: "Space provides a source of unique and essential tools, enabling governments and international bodies to tackle critical social and political issues."

One of the essential tools mentioned is presumably the EU Constitution, which the EU is launching into outer space (see Constitution in Space).

Anyhow, interesting. And this space document as a whole is full of projects, many of them excellent, many of them as crazy and pointless as sending the constitution into orbit.

Reading it shows you just how out-of-touch a lot of anti-EU commentators have become: - in a lot of areas, the EU is steaming full speed ahead, assuming powers and roles by a de facto assumption and/or usurpation of them.

What is clear is that the EU´s powers and roles will expand indefinitely and incrementally, if left unchecked. And the best way to define and limit those powers is what the constitutional debate should be all about. Otherwise, given the overweening appetites of politicians and bureaucrats, the sky will literally be the limit.
EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

Bush Defends NATO and Questions EU "Counterbalance"

In an interview with London´s Daily Telegraph, President Bush shores up NATO´s position against Chancellor Schroeder´s attack (see Germany´s Interesting Plans..) , and questions whether the role of the EU is to "counterbalance" US power. Given the values the EU and US share, he asks:
"Some have said we must have a unified Europe to balance America. Why, when in fact we share values and goals? As opposed to counter-balancing each other, why don't we view this as a moment when we can move in a concerted fashion to achieve those goals?"
The answer depends on the perspective you want to take: champions of a "counterbalancing" EU tend to see the world as containing a limited pot of goodies - goodies to be scrapped over by competing power blocs, the "zero sum game" approach. According to this view, the EU must unite and counterbalance the US or else the US will take all its goodies away. Bush (for the purposes of this interview) sees the world as one in which different power blocs can make common cause to promote shared values. In his view, more value will come from cooperating than from competing. It is an interesting moment of reversals: the leftist EU constitution-mongers championing a stance of Realpolitik and "self-interest", whilst the Republican President champions a stance of crusading freedom and democracy.
Telegraph News Bush rejects moves to boost EU military might

Killed for Being "Too German".

Hatun Sürücü, the 23 year old Turkish mother shot dead on Monday, was killed because she was "too German", said Muslim pupils celebrating the murder at a school in Berlin.

Hatun Sürücü had fled an arranged marriage at the age of 15, leaving Turkey to return to Germany with her son, Can. Born in Germany, she was imbued with Western ways, and was about to qualify as an electrical engineer. The police are still looking for the murderer.
Berliner Morgenpost: Kripo sucht Motiv f?r Mord an 23j?hriger T?

Friday, February 18, 2005


Diana West reviews Bat Ye´or´s new book "Eurabia", about the emergence of a new Euro-Arab axis in opposition to the US.

Everyone´s been saying that current population trends will make Europe a Muslim-dominated enclave by 2025 or thereabouts. This book considers whether such trends haven´t been foreshadowed by a sinister and cunning plan as well. Happy reading!
The emerging 'Eurabia' - The Washington Times: Editorials/OP-ED - February 18, 2005

French Lessons in Cohabitation

The French government is desperately drawing up rules to discourage its members ripping off taxpayers in the matter of subsidised living space.

Earlier this week it emerged that Hervé Gaymard (a minister especially vehement about the need to make financial cuts), had installed himself in a taxpayer-funded, 600 square meter apartment near the Champs Elysée.

Now Prime Minister Raffarin is saying that space will be strictly allocated - 80 metres for a couple, plus 20 metres for each additional child.

Space allocation for political mistresses is still being calculated, we assume.
Le : Trois membres du gouvernement vont se plier aux nouvelles r?gles des logements de fonction

Europol Rudderless

Europol, the EU´s police agency, co-ordinating Eurowide efforts against international terrorism and other crimes, has been without a chief for 6 months now.

There are deep-seated differences between the candidates and the EU is torn between them. The French are adamant that a job of this nature can only be performed by a Frenchman. The Germans, meanwhile, argue that a German would be the best suited for the job. In Italy, supporters of an Italian candidacy point to Italy´s long history of success in exporting international crime. The Spanish, on the other hand, with comparable success in the Inquisition arena, see Spain as the womb of counter-terrorist expertise.

How can such ideological differences be overcome? This blog proposes an intensive programme of miscegenation as the only fertile solution. We Europeans need to breed more, anyway, if we don´t want to come under sharia law in the next few years, and see institutions like Europol replaced with committees of mullahs.

Net Closing in on Fischer: Visa Scandal

Hundreds of thousands of criminals and prostitutes flooded into Europe thanks to Joschka Fischer´s insistence to allow virtually anyone who wanted to entry on visitors´ visas.

The scandal (see Visa Scandal Enmeshes Ficher 8 Feb) has been front page news for weeks, but Fischer´s personal popularity, and his slippery avoidance of making public comment on the particulars (other than the vague acceptance of "political responsibility") may still see him through. Either way, it will liven up the regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein (this weekend) and Nordrhein-Westphalen (this May).

Whether the weak opposition parties can make something out of it - given their inability to get much political traction even out of 5 million unemployed Germans - remains to be seen.
NZZ:? Joschka Fischers Befragung verz?gert sichInternational 2005 02 18 09 02

Unacceptable: the High Priests of Kyoto

Juergen Trittin, the Green Environment Minister from Germany, rebukes the USA for not joining efforts to save the climate:
"It is unacceptable to me and for the climate," he says.

It always amazes me that politicians clearly at a loss to deal with basic human matters like unemployment and immigration become so Messianic and dogmatic when it comes to the climate, something they have absolutely no control over at all. The idea that a dim, ineffectual fellow like Trittin can speak on behalf of the climate is laughable. But many people seem attracted to this sort of self-righteous posing.

The Kyoto Protocol itself is what is unacceptable, an example of our modern-day fetishisation of the ineffable. It should be resisted by all reasonable men.
EUbusiness - Germany scolds US, calls for dramatic EU cut in carbon pollution

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bush in Brussels

Preparations are underway for President Bush´s visit to Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

The initial impression is one of comic-opera type manoeuvres behind the scenes. Only a handful of EU leaders will be granted time to speak during the 90 minutes Bush will be spending with them. This has understandably upset those not invited, even if, au fond, everyone is delighted because 90 minutes with Bush is much more than they´d normally get.

Bono Beats Pope to Clinch Nobel Nomination

Apparently the Nobel committee objected to the Pope´s "conservative moral teachings".
Entertainment News Article |

"...trashing our culture and libelling our past."

Charles Moore writes a beautiful meditation on what will be lost when hunting is banned in the UK tomorrow.
Telegraph Opinion Tomorrow hunting is banned: this injustice cannot endure

The Eiffel Target

It´s not just in Hollywood movies that the Eiffel Tower gets blown away - at least, not if a couple of those Islamist installation artists (see Dadaist Death post 27 Jan below) start getting green lights for their productions:

The Eiffel Tower was one of the many targets in the fanatics´ sights in France, officials said yesterday. The information came from three Algerians detained on January 11th in an investigation into armed Islamic support for the Chechen rebels.
Yahoo! News - Officials: Militants Targeted Eiffel Tower

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance Remain, says Council of Europe

To no-one´s surprise, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), a taxpayer-funded body, says that racism is still alive and kicking in Europe. The ECRI today publishes reports on the racist state-of-play in France, Austria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia and Turkey.

It is a sign of our decadence that something everyone knows to be true needs to be confirmed, at great expense, by a public body, which tells us of its "continuing grounds for concern" and the pressing need for its work to continue.

These wretched reports have only one function: to act as an alibi for politicians who wish it to be known they care about racism and would love to do something, if only someone would tell them what.
Council of Europe: Reports on racism in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, ?the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and Turkey

Hunting Banned in UK from Friday

This morning hunting campaigners lost their last chance to stop the ban on hunting with dogs, which will now go ahead as of Friday.

It is a great victory for urban anti-hunting activists and for the class warriors who still thrive at a senior level within the Labour government.

The losers - apart from the ancient hunts and their many followers - are foxes, which will henceforth be killed more cruelly and less efficiently, and the beagles and other hounds who chased them, many of whom will have to be put down.

Another case of unintended consequences - the hunt ban gained much well-meaning support from people feeling that it was cruel to hunt, people who would be horrified to learn that their good intentions have served only to make life worse for foxes and, sadly, impossible for beagles.
Guardian Unlimited Special reports Court of appeal backs hunt ban

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

France: 100 years´ Separation Church & State

The celebrations began yesterday, low-key, and haunted by the realisation that the measure was introduced at a time before Islam was a fact of French life.
Le : Cent ans apr?s, la loi sur la la?cit? est l'enjeu de nouveaux d?bats

Monday, February 14, 2005

Germany´s Interesting Plans for NATO

The Germany government´s odd approach to international politics came to the fore again over the weekend. Peter Struck, Chancellor Schroeder´s messenger at the Munich Conference for Peace, was clearly uncomfortable with his master´s message. Struck had been no more in the loop on these interesting plans than NATO´s Secretary General or any of the other NATO partners. He´s only the Defence Minister, after all.

Calling for outside consultants to define a new role for NATO sounds like standard-issue political blether, but is actually an embarrassing faux pas which badly exposes the German government´s incoherence on international matters. A consultative process is already underway at NATO, as both Donald Rumsfeld and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO´s chief, pointed out.

To undermine NATO whilst angling for a German seat on the UN´s Security Council seems to be Schroeder´s current tactic. But he has alienated a number of key players in executing it - as Rumsfeld´s jocular reactions to Struck´s speech showed. Germany now finds itself in a strange position. It needs to build bridges - not beyond the wit of a Joschka Fischer, who, if he survives the current visa scandal, will have a big budget with which to impress doubters.

But Germany needs to build more than bridges. It needs to define its own international role far more urgently than NATO does. Its current diplomatic line - probably deriving more from lazy incompetence and bungling than from any master-plan - needs to be recast, fast. There is an inconsistency between Germany´s UN ambitions and its desire to undermine NATO in favour of an EU-based trans-Atlantic talking shop. One doubts Joscka Fischer is quite the man to reconcile this. He is wounded by the visa scandal, and is wedded to a very 1970s view of world politics. But he can´t easily be sacked, and there is no obvious candidate to succeed him as Foreign Minister.

In the meantime, Germany´s interesting plans for NATO will be dumped, and everyone will have forgotten about them by the end of the week.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

"No Tears for Krauts..."

"No Tears for Krauts" is the motto of the hard-left demonstrators who believe that mourning German victims of World War II is to mourn the passing of Nazism.

These folks will be in Dresden today - the 60th anniversary of the Allied firebombing of the city - seeking to disrupt the remembrance of the dead. More specifically, they want to disrupt the neo-Nazi NPD´s remembrance of the dead.

One would normally support almost any effort to oppose the drivelling neo-Nazis. But "No tears for Krauts" sticks in the craw.

It would be difficult to conceive of a confrontation more irrelevant than that between the neo-Nazis and the "No Tears for Krauts" gang. Both groups are politicising an event they do not fully understand. Both groups are playing with history and the memories of people whose fate has become a kind of political football. And mainstream German politicians are utterly clueless on this topic, unable to give a proper lead.

That will be left to the people of Dresden. The silent majority, in this case, will prevail, and will honour the dead with dignity.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

European Constitution in Outer Space

The draft European Constitution, which still awaits approval by the people of Europe, will in the meantime be launched into outer space.
EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

Extract from the press release:

"Once in orbit, the Constitution will circle not only Europe, but the globe. It is to be hoped that this symbol of European identity will be welcomed by both Europeans and their counterparts throughout the world."

Indeed. It is also to be hoped that the people who dreamt this one up will be sacked without further ado.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Nazi and Communist Symbols Equally Offensive, Says People´s Party

Last month, Franco Frattini, Vice President of the EU Commission, proposed banning Nazi symbols across Europe.

Nobody hates Nazis more than this blog does, but Frattini´s proposal is pettyfogging interference of the worst kind: it will prove ineffective (as experience in Germany has shown) and counterproductive.

Now Eastern European MPs, in a fit of reductio ad absurdam, are demanding that if swastikas are to be outlawed, then hammers and sickles should be binned as well.

The effects on fancy dress parties across Europe are incalculable. Let´s hope Frattini and his fellow activist chums on the European Commission see sense before they proceed with this act of mad censorship.

Germany Won't Prosecute Rumsfeld but Annan Wins Medal

It looks like Donald Rumsfeld can enter Germany without running the risk of being arrested as a suspected war criminal, says Germany´s Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm.

Rumsfeld was in Nice earlier this week before making his surprise visit to Iraq. He´s been weighing up whether to attend the Conference on Security Policy in Munich, which starts later, but fears of being arrested means he´ll be represented there today by Paul Wolfowitz.

Kofi Annan of the UN (who is not under threat of arrest in Germany either) will be presented with the Conference´s Peace Plaque, for the conference´s theme is "Peace through Dialogue" - an approach which is famously more Annan´s cup of tea than Rumsfeld´s!
Germany Won't Prosecute Rumsfeld Germany Deutsche Welle

Moron Defends Doubling MPs Pay

Edgar Moron, the Chairman of the Nordrhein-Westphalen socialist SPD party, today defends the proposal to double MP´s pay to 9500 euros per month.

Moron dismissed opposition suggestions that doubling their salaries might not be the best move, politically, at a time of record unemployment (over 5 million people are out of work in Germany). Moron said that such criticism smacked of "populism" and advised the opposition CDU party not to "isolate itself further" on the matter. Moron´s barefaced cheek in shouting down any criticism of his fat-cat package can only be seen as recklessly honest.
Edgar Moron MdL

In fairness to Moron, the doubling of the MPs salary will coincide with the removal of some tax-free benefits. All the same, it´s a damn fine paypacket for a part-time job, most taxpayers would agree.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Russian Missile Makes U.S. Defences Obsolete?

Today´s Moscow News not only states that Russia´s new Topol missile can get round US Star Wars defences, but implies that Iran and North Korea are trying to get their hands on it..
New Russian Topol Missile Makes U.S. Defenses Obsolete?? Expert - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM

Film Festival Opens in North Korea

In a dramatic development in North Korea, a ten day film festival has opened as part of the run-up to nationwide celebrations of the birth of leader Kim Jong Il on 16 February.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the seminal feature "Holding Great Brilliant Commander in High Esteem" which concerns Kim Jong Il´s feats of arms in spearheading the Songun revolution to glory.

Say what you like about the North Koreans, they certainly know how to celebrate with a bang!

The Royal Engagement: Trials of Foffi and Sweety (3)

Prince Ferfried von Hohenzollern ("Foffi") and his gorgeous bride-to-be, tragic widow Tatjana Gsell ("Sweety"), could tell Prince Charles and Camilla a thing or two about star-crossed romances (See The Prince and the Widow below), but with characteristic modesty, they haven´t spoken out on the matter yet.

Instead, they have been fending off an extraordinary deluge of lèse majesté. Many mocked them for the John Lennon-inspired "bed-in", with which they got the Ball rolling in Vienna last week. And yet who shall deny that a bit of love, peace and understanding is sorely needed in these horrid times? And who better to show the way than the shapely, pouting widow and her prancing Prince Foffi?

This blog called on the people of Vienna to honour the new royal pair (see Foffi and Sweety 2 below). It seems that Vienna has not responded with quite the enthusiasm which is Foffi and Sweety´s due. Their Right Royal Highnesses appear not to have had such a ripping time at the Ball - there were a lot of upstarts and, frankly, frightfully common characters there, of course, and the social mix was to neither Foffi´s nor Sweety´s liking.

But this blog will not desert them in this their hour of social purgatory. Let us be the first to acclaim the lovely couple´s dazzling performance. And until royalty is afforded the respect it deserves in Europe (a long wait, I fear), we shall simply have to stiffen our upper lips into a snarl of defiant contempt each time Foffi and Sweety´s names are dragged through the mud by that rabble of recalcitrant republican rascals.

NATO and Iraq

The US is preparing the ground for NATO to take on a bigger role in Iraq.

NATO as a body has been broadly supportive of President Bush´s approach after 9/11, something recently reconfirmed, in the most ringing tones, by NATO´s Dutch Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who said of the Iraq elections that "Bush was right... and the cynics were wrong."

If the US seeks support from NATO, it´ll be pushing at an open door. The last thing de Hoop Scheffer wants is to follow poor Kofi Annan on the road to perdition.
Rice, Rumsfeld Make Overtures to NATO (

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

ETA bombs Madrid

This morning´s bomb, the worst since the al Qaeda train bombing of March last year, was preceded by a telephone warning from the Basque separatist ETA group. 43 people were injured. As predicted here on January 14th, it appears ETA won´t accept any dilution of plans for autonomy. The bomb happened despite the fact that a referendum on the matter is set for April.
World News Article
A separate fall-out is that this bomb may well represent the end of the road for Madrid´s hopes of hosting the 2012 Olympics. It offers a grisly coda to the Olympic Committee´s visit of last week, reminding everyone that Spain has home-grown terrorists to destabilise it as well.

Moron says Government´s critics undermine democracy

A few days ago I mentioned that record-high jobless figures in Germany were causing political unrest. Edmund Stoiber, leader of the CSU, said that increased unemployment could cause increased support for extremist groups such as the neo-Nazi NPD, with its seats in the Saxony parliament. Although his remarks were harmless enough (and he has been reiterating them in Passau today), German politicians have been queuing up to scorn the "irresponsible" Stoiber for daring to bring the topic up.

Now Edgar Moron, Chairman of the socialist SPD party in Nordrhein-Westphalen, wades in with his own measured contribution. He says that to criticise Chancellor Schroeder by linking his government to unemployment and so to neo-Nazis is to undermine the very foundations of German democracy.

Funny, that. I´d always thought that criticising your government - especially when unemployment goes through the roof - was an eminently respectable and democratic thing to do. I clearly needed a Moron to put me in the right about that one.

Moron´s remarks were released on his own website earlier today:
Edgar Moron MdL

As the mudslinging continues, it is hard to see exactly who - apart from the NPD and the childish politicians themselves - will benefit from this Moronic attempt to seize the moral high-ground. Shutting down a debate about unemployment, its causes and its consequences, is unworthy of such a senior politician. Yet this is what Herr Moron is trying to do. None of this posturing will do anything to reduce unemployment. Edgar Moron should hang his head in shame.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Europe's Soft Power: the "Invisible Hand"

This richly comic article by Mark Leonard, foreign policy director of the pro-EU think-tank the Centre for European Reform, contrasts Europe´s "soft" with the USA´s "hard" power.

Leonard prophesies that the soft variant will rule the world, and that we will all soon be living in the "New European Century". Among claims that Europe has dragged "successive waves of countries out of dictatorship and into democracy", he is also remarkably forthright about the way the EU´s soft power insinuates itself into national institutions, chameleon-like, so as to defuse opposition. By disguising itself as weakness, Leonard writes, European power suffers none of the hostility aroused by American power. As a result, the European Way will become the World´s Way before too long, and the USA will be sidelined.
Europe's transformative power by Mark Leonard

Visa Scandal Enmeshes Fischer

For the second time in as many months, a high profile minister has enmeshed himself in a tricky visa scandal. First it was David Blunkett, who came unstuck in the UK having fast-tracked his lover´s nanny´s visa application. This time the scandal´s in Germany, and it´s Joschka Fischer´s turn.

Unlike Blunkett, however, who restricted himself to just the one visa, the German Foreign Minister fast-tracked the visas of millions. Not all of these people - maybe none of them - were his lovers. For he wasn´t deluded, as Blunkett was, by personal love of a woman, but by his blinkered Green Party enthusiasm for economic migrants of all sorts.

And all sorts seems to be precisely what he, and Germany, have got. Despite receiving warnings from all sides that his policy was a disaster in the making, Fischer stuck to it, with the result that the German consulate in Kiev alone - to take just one example - processed nearly a million visas in the 4 years to October 2004. It is a prime example of something noted before, that the Greens have ditched most of their beliefs and principles, but those few which still survive, such as the liberal encouragement of immigration into Germany, can still do untold damage (see Peaceniks and Realpolitik - Germany´s Greens post of 13th January).

The scandal is unlikely to sink Fischer, though. He´s pivotal to the SPD/Green coalition government, and won´t be dispensed with for a mere bagatelle like towering incompetence and putting party dogma before the interests of his country.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Carnival in the Rhineland

Carnival in the Rhineland enjoys its Rosenmontag today. Floats parade the streets and the people are showered with sweeties.

In Mainz and Duesseldorf this afternoon, among the many floats featuring political themes, there´s one with an effigy of President Bush baring his bottom, allowing Angela Merkel (leader of the supposedly conservative CDU party) ingress up his arse. On another, a grinning Bush as Uncle Sam aims a crucifix mounted with a rocket-head - "God Bless America!". Finally, moving from political to religious lampoon, a smiling Cardinal Meissner puts a torch onto a woman who has had an abortion.

Good-natured knockabout stuff. Just as well, in fact, that they stayed on the safe side and omitted to lampoon any Islamist figures of fun. That might have led to trouble. And Rosenmontag, at least until sunset, is for the children. We wouldn´t want some suicide bomber to get the wrong idea.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Neo-Nazi support grows in Germany

In an interview in today´s Welt am Sonntag, opposition leader Edmund Stoiber puts the blame for the increased support of the neo-Nazi NPD squarely at the door of the German government.

Stoiber sees record unemployment figures as one of the main reasons for a growth in support for the extremists.

Unfortunately for Stoiber, the spin put on his pronouncements is unlikely to win new supporters for his own party. The government immediately rejected Stoiber´s "instrumentalisation" of the neo-Nazis. SPD boss Muentefering says that Nazis become strong thanks to the support of rich people in ties and suits, not the support of the unemployed.

A moot point, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, the political mainstream in Germany always reacts badly to uncomfortable comparisons with the Nazi period. It´s not really done to make such unwelcome comparisons. And although Stoiber´s remarks were relatively bland, the SPD repsonse is designed to make them seem irresponsible and beyond the pale. In this way the government will wriggle out of any attempt to discuss the scandal of over 5 million unemployed, something indeed unknown since Weimar times.
"Schr?ders Versagen hilft der NPD"

Saturday, February 05, 2005

IRA to keep its weapons

Irish terrorists the IRA, having announced that they´re withdrawing from the weapons-decommissioning scheme, now protest that the British and Irish governments aren´t taking their announcement seriously enough. "They need to take their heads out of their asses for a start," Sinn Fein´s leader Gerry Adams remarked of the Irish and British governments.

The IRA are murderers and gangsters. That they were offered the chance to participate in government was one thing, arising out of the understandable desire to bring them within some kind of responsible political framework. Not all terrorist groups are willing to surrender the source of their power so easily, however. The IRA have clearly realised that they would prefer to hang on to theirs. One hopes that this will provide the signal to expel them from politics, and confine them to the illegal paramilitary activities at which they excel. That way, at least, their crimes and murders can be dealt with by the law, rather than being shrouded by the wilful blindness of the peace process.

RTE News - Govts playing down statement says IRA

Friday, February 04, 2005

Banning the Nazis: Action vs Actionism

Chancellor Schroeder is throwing his weight behind efforts to ban the neo-Nazi NPD party (which has MPs in the Saxony Parliament).

Paul Spiegel, head of Germany´s Central Jewish Committee, warns against "actionism", saying such measures will neither address the ignorance of many Germans about the Holocaust - nor remove the appeal of neo-Nazis to voters. Only the voters themselves can do this, he remarks in this article in today´s Tagesspiegel.

-Tagesspiegel Online : Politik#art

Spiegel is right. Political actionism is the equivalent of empty rhetoric - it makes the people doing it feel better, but does nothing to further the cause it purports to defend.

In the case of banning the NPD, it is indeed more likely to harm the cause, and allow the NPD to pose as the oppressed champion of democratic capitalism´s downtrodden victims. In a country with more than 5 million unemployed, that isn´t a good idea.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Foffi and Sweety (2)

It´s official!

Foffi and Sweety WILL be going to the Ball tonight (see The Prince and the Widow, posted 13th January below, for the full, heartwarming context)!

Recent scares - to the effect that the invitation had been lost in the post - have been shown up for the demeaning scraps of tittle-tattle they were. People of Vienna - kneel before the new Regal Pair!

Tatjana Gsell stellt Lugner auf Opernball vielleicht zur Rede - fashion_news_klatsch - Yahoo! Nachrichten

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

EU and Cuba: Appeasing the Dictator

The EU has ended the "Cocktail Wars" by agreeing not to invite opponents of Fidel Castro´s dictatorship to its parties in Havana.

This sorry and sordid appeasement is a cause for shame. It contrasts unflatteringly with President Bush´s call to spread democracy across the world, and it discredits the name of Europe.

Vaclav Havel articulates it well:
EU and Cuba: Freedom vs. appeasement "I can hardly think of a better way for the EU to dishonor the noble ideals of freedom, equality and human rights that the Union espouses -- indeed, principles that it reiterates in its constitutional agreement. To protect European corporations' profits from their Havana hotels, the Union will cease inviting open-minded people to EU embassies, and we will deduce who they are from the expression on the face of the dictator and his associates. It is hard to imagine a more shameful deal."

EU will focus on economy

Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, today announced that the EU would focus on economic growth and job creation.
EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases
A step in the right direction, even if Barroso doesn´t make any reference to tackling the EU´s labyrinthine bureaucracy and endemic corruption.

Even so, however, the Socialists, the Greens and the trades unions wasted no time in attacking the Commission President´s overly "American" focus on the economy, at the expense of more congenial environmental and social engineering projects.

They obviously haven´t heard about the extensive Eurowide goat-testing initiative featured here last week (see EU to test 200,000 goats, posted January 29th, 2005). If they knew how tenderly Markos Kyprianou, the EU Commissioner for Goats, is husbanding our goats, they wouldn´t rabble-rouse in so deplorable a fashion.

China buys 60 Boeings and 5 Airbus A380´s

So it looks like China is rewarding the intensive European efforts to have the arms embargo lifted - 5 Airbuses sold! Way to go!

Xinhua - English

Banana War Looms Once Again

The EU is tripling its import tariffs on bananas as of January 2006. Looks like we could be on course for another Banana War.

TRADE-EU: Banana War Looms Once Again

Home-grown imams...

France and Holland are to invest in the training of home-grown imams. The aim is to have imams familiar with the local culture, something many of them currently don´t have.
See Aljazeera:
Aljazeera.Net - European imams to receive funding

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Killing Patients with Kindness: Indoctrinology

The debate about political correctness often seems inconsequential: a mere spat between good manners and plain speakers. Sometimes, however, the ramifications of PC involve fantastical constructs of such obscurantist, neo-superstitious lunacy that they cry out to be demolished.

Take medicine, where the rigours of impartial medical science are increasingly threatened by the self-regarding dogmas of social engineering. AIDS, for example, is described in a paper from Brown University as a "biological expression of social inequality."

Plenty more examples of that kind of idiocy can be found. This article, from New Criterion, refers to it as "indoctrinology", the work of "indoctrinologists". A new if not especially catchy name for the old practice of killing patients with kindness - or, to give it an un-PC name, wilful stupidity.

Notes & Comments

Misappropriated DutchTax Money

In the referendum on the new European constitution, governments will spend taxpayers´ money to tell them which way to vote. Cynics won´t bat an eye at this; the rest of us can only weep for our misappropriated euros!

Today´s example comes from Holland, where 1.5 million euros have been earmarked to instruct electors to vote "yes". If it looks like enough taxpayers might vote "no", then their own money will be spent to persuade them otherwise.

This has become necessary in light of the latest poll results. Whereas normally the Dutch are reliably pro-EU and were assumed to be solidly in favour of the new constitution, a poll by Maurice de Hond last week showed a dramatically opposite tendency. The Dutch government realises, to its horror, that the debate is far more open and undecided than it had thought. Hence the need to help guide voters subtly toward the correct voting intention.

It seems foolish to waste money in this way. Surely it would be cheaper to cancel the whole referendum and approve the wretched constitution by government fiat?