Friday, April 29, 2005

Bombshell for Müntefering: Proposed EU Constitution

The blog would like to draw the German government's attention to a section of the draft constitutional document (which, by the way, it intends to approve without consulting the German people), a section which appears to have escaped its notice.

It is of especial relevance in relation to Chairman Müntefering's repeated condemnation of "international capitalists" and their locust-like ravages on the poor German economy.

It is our old friend Article I-12;3, relating to Categories of Competence:

"Member states shall coordinate their economic and employment policies within the arrangements as determined by Part III, which the Union shall have competence to provide."

What this means is that economic and employment policies shall be determined by the European Union. To be specific, policies will be initiated by the (unelected) EU Commission and a vote will then be held by the European Parliament. National states will be subservient to the laws which emerge from this process, and will merely be there to execute and enforce the EU's policies, as far as the economy and employment are concerned.

In light of this, the blog again asks what is the point of Müntefering's soi-disant Kapitalismusdebatte, which is currently raging in Germany, when the German government is fully intending not only to hand over the power of action in this area to the EU, but is proposing to do so without even consulting the German people?

Surely, if Müntefering wants his Kapitalismusdebatte actually to lead anywhere - other than the cul-de-sac of cheap polemical points against capitalists and businessmen - he should be doing so in Brussels? And if he doesn't like the sound of that, shouldn't he be agitating for a Verfassungsdebatte (a debate on the draft constitutional document) instead?

The link is to a pdf of the English version of the draft constitutional document:

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Anyone for a Kapitalismusdebatte?

Chairman Müntefering's Marxist anti-capitalist remarks are widely reported in Germany as initiating a "debate", rather than as a desperate election tactic to distract voters from the record levels of unemployment his government has presided over.

Quite so. One of his points, though, is about the impotence of national governments in the face of global movements of capital, economic migration and so on. It is surely true that if you want to have an effect on such things, you have to operate at a supra- or multinational level.

That being so, isn't it odd that Chairman Müntefering and his government are denying their citizens the opportunity to vote on the draft EU Constitution? A plebiscite on the constitution would be the best way of kicking off a true debate, and of shaping it in light of actionable issues and proposals which have a direct effect on everybody.

But no. The arid polemic the Chairman casts about him suggests that, in his mind, the debate is already over, and probably has been since Marx first published Das Kapital.

Lessons in Corruption What can national officials do for their compatriots, once they've got to Brussels? 'There is a popular assumption that officials can lend a hand to their nationals, and so the countries best represented in the EU institutions will do best in pursuing their interests in Brussels.'

'But that is not so; rather, it is up to companies and representatives to develop good contacts with officials of different nationalities. And several new member states still need to learn this,'
Mr Bachraty (a Slovak lobbyist) told the EUobserver.

The founder states would do well to learn this important lesson too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Carstensen Ends 17 Years of SDP Rule in Schleswig-Holstein

Two months after the Curse of Von Esens was first invoked against Heide Simonis (SPD) - then still clinging on to power as Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, in defiance of her rejection by the voters - the blog is delighted to announce that tomorrow, all things being equal, Peter Harry Carstensen (CDU) will take over as Prime Minister there.

The fall of Simonis was sealed after her immoral and arrogant machinations incurred the blog's wrath back in February. She was brought down in a melodramatic denouement during which one of her own "supporters", acting in the interests of democracy, failed to give her the deciding vote she needed.

Peter Harry Carstensen, who is a farmer, is certain to be a big improvement, as well as a portent for the national German government, which faces the voters next year.

The link is to ntv and is in German only:

Europe and the Destabilisation of Asia

Although the EU has not explicitly abandoned its aim to lift the arms embargo on China (against which this blog has been campaigning), it does look increasingly likely, says today's Daily Telegraph, that the policy will be quietly dropped.

The growing threat of instability in the region is becoming impossible to overlook. North and South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan are all involved in an atmosphere of sabre-rattling, mutual suspicion and threats. The prime agitator behind all of it is China. Even the EU's leading advocates of lifting the ban, Chancellor Schröder of Germany and President Chirac of France, can no longer pretend that lifting the arms embargo is all a "symbolic" matter with no consequences.

And yet only last week, the French PM Raffarin, whilst closing the sale of 10 Airbuses to China, was still referring to the "anachronism" of the embargo, assuring the Chinese of France's determination to lift it and - most sickeningly of all - giving China France's blessing in the matter of bullying democratic Taiwan with its threats of invasion.

It is far too optimistic to say that the EU will back off from the plan. Admittedly, the more Atlanticist EU countries, such as Holland and Britain, have the strongest misgivings about it, but that doesn't mean they will prevail against France and Germany, who seem to have set their caps at making a big anti-American splash by lifting the arms ban.

The good news in this respect is that both France and Germany have other pressing matters to deal with right now. With the EU Constitution referendum in France and key regional elections in Germany, their governments' attention is fixed elsewhere.

But madcap EU schemes of this sort have a habit of resurfacing just when you thought they'd been comprehensively sunk. And the German government's current onslaught on the evils of capitalism makes one think it will stop at nothing to show its support for its Chinese comrades.

The link is to the Telegraph's article:Telegraph Opinion Europe is blind to Asian instability

The Global Police State

Statewatch's new report, detailing the growth of the global police state (the link is to the executive summary) highlights 10 "signposts" which indicate the intentions concerning social observation and control among the many governments involved.

An international aparatus already exists, coordinating confidential information about all citizens, and further convergence is underway.

The European Union, of course, is an enthusiastic participant. Indeed, the report says, it has violated its own Data Protection Directive, as well as the Europol Convention, in overriding the rights of its citizens in this matter.

These developments are depressing enough to concern even those who fully support the war on terror and the need for international cooperation against terrorists.

Fischer: Off the Hook?

Joschka Fischer, after nine hours' questioning at the inquiry into the disastrous Visa Scandal - which led to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants exploiting Fischer's relaxed visa regulations for entry into Germany - seems to have survived the process intact, so far.

Although he demonstratively admitted that he was responsible for the policy, he added enough riders to allow him to wriggle off the hook, should further damaging revelations emerge.

Fischer claims that he cannot recall having read the countless warnings from diplomats and politicians about the catastrophic consequences of his policy, which has been summed up with the tag In dubio per libertate (In doubt (decide) for freedom (to enter into Germany)). So it would seem either that his officials were stopping those warnings from reaching him, or that his memory is seriously at fault.

He also says that, should it come to light that he had received and read the warnings, he would have concluded that the dangers highlighted were the result not of his policy but of the incompetence or misunderstandings of the people dealing with the visa applications at the embassies.

As is usual in today's German politics the opposition were unable to land a knockout blow. When soundbites came, they were shouted by Fischer. Fischer is still repeating the mysterious claim, by the way, that his policy made the Orange Revolution in Ukraine possible. He must know something we don't, in that respect. In any case, Fischer was far wittier than his opponents, and successfully carried the attack to them on several occasions, as when he deplored the "scandalisation" of the affair by the opposition, and, in that case as in others, he got away with it too.

A golden opportunity to hold the German government to account for one of its biggest mistakes was missed yesterday. It is as though the complicity of all the parties in this system of government prevents the apt punishment and correction of such abuses. It may be that, as the inquiry continues, or as people digest the incredible arrogance with which Fischer tries, with apparent success, to shake off personal and institutional failings, a reaction of disgust will set in, and damage Fischer, but it looks unlikely.

For although Fischer is nominally to blame, that is merely an empty form of words, which no-one can expect to take seriously. A shaming result.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Fall of Europe

Romani Prodi, who used to be President of the European Commission, is seeking to persuade the French to approve the draft European consitution. He says that if they vote non, it will mean "the fall of Europe."

This is a somewhat hysterical scare-tactic and - insofar as it means anything - it is completely untrue. A French non may mean the end of this particular draft of the proposed constitution (although we suspect the EU Commission will find some way to resuscitate it), but there is no reason whatsoever that Europe should grind to a halt in the wake of a French rejection. Prodi knows this full well.

It is always sad when senior politicial figures demean themselves by telling deliberate lies, but especially so when they do so to obscure and discourage discussion, in this case about a deeply undemocratic and dangerous document. That kind of intervention does far more to contribute to the potential "fall of Europe" than French voters exercising their democratic rights.

Fischer Filibusters

Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, is still going strong after over an hour and a half of his stream-of-consciousness-type statement - interspersed with shouted soundbites - to the inquiry into the Visa Scandal. The main points he's made so far are:

- the scandal has been gravely exaggerated by the opposition;
- the Visa policy as initiated by the Greens (allowing unprecedented freedom to travel to Germany) was a continuation of the previous government's arrangements;
- the Orange Revolution in Ukraine could not have happened without this policy;
- the policy was fine in itself but was misapplied by officials in Kiev (whence most of the illegal immigrants originated).

It will be interesting to see if opposition supineness allows Fischer to get away with this travesty.

The early signs are not good - the chairman of the inquiry, asking Fischer how long he proposed to continue with his marathon of equivocation, wasn't answered. Fischer just said he would finish ploughing through the pile of documents he had brought with him. It looks as though Fischer will indeed bore everyone into submission.

Madonna's UK Voting Drive

The UK will go to the polls on May 5th and, as seems to be becoming a standard part of the electoral process, sundry stars are wheeled out to tell people to go and vote.

Madonna is joining the gang this time round. It is all being organised and publicised by Rupert Murdoch's tabloid the Sun.

Murdoch has positioned the paper to support Blair's re-election. One of the biggest threats to Blair's success is voter apathy. If enough Labour loyalists stay at home, Blair's share of the vote will suffer.

The self-important posturing of Madonna and her friends is thus far from being politically neutral. The fact that not voting is every citizen's right and in itself a democratic statement has probably not occurred to them. But it is a right well worth protecting - Iraqi bravery notwithstanding - from this fascistic urge to oblige everyone to vote.
The Sun Newspaper Online - UK's biggest selling newspaper

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Locusts of Capitalism Flailed

Franz Müntefering, the Marxist chairman of Germany's ruling SPD party (see Blitzkrieg on Capitalism), appears on a TV chatshow.

The blog watches it in great hopes of seeing the unpleasant fellow humiliated by having his nose rubbed in his own words. But this is not to be.

Instead, the audience is happy to applaud Chairman Muntefering's dated references to the evils of international capitalism and its "locusts", the powerlessness of mere national governments, and all the rest of it. With a smirk, he says that it was high time to start a debate on this matter. He is enthusiastically applauded.

The capitalist spokesman, a Christian businessman, is patronised by the feminist, who tells him he isn't the target of Chairman Müntefering's attacks. When the businessman protests that, actually, he is, she smiles at him dismissively, as one might at a tiresome child.

Even the Cardinal-Archbishop of Berlin, a jowly, self-satisfied looking man, cannot bring himself to censure the important politician's grandstanding and scapegoating.

The opposition man, Rüttgers of the CDU, wants to be the next Prime Minister of Nordrhein-Westphalen (the elections are on May 22nd). He doesn't perform like a politician eager for votes and speaks rather quietly, as if armed with a foreknowledge of doom. Understandably, he finds it hard to secure the audience's applause.

Rüttgers was the victim of a non-story last week when he told the interviewer Michel Friedman that he considered Catholicism superior to other religions. This was supposed to have upset people and indeed a Muslim was found to claim that he had been upset. Rüttgers seems a listless candidate, not best suited to the media age, and he did not come out of his TV confrontation with Chairman Müntefering particularly well.

The bottom line (as we capitalists love to say) is that Chairman Müntefering has been allowed to get away scot free with his preposterous claim that capitalism, and not his government, carries the can for Germany's 5.2 million unemployed. The sclerotic, overregulated state of the German market, has nothing to do with it - in fact, says Müntefering, there should be more state regulation, not less.

The next set of polling results may show us if the German voters will still swallow such guff.

Barroso's Chum and the Missing 2 Billion Euros

Christopher Booker writes on Spiros Latsis, President Barroso's old friend, and the billions of taxpayer euros that have gone missing during the course of building Athens International Airport, a project with which Latsis was closely involved.

Barroso and the EU Commission see no conflict of interest in Barroso holidaying on Latsis' yacht. Common sense suggests otherwise.
Telegraph News Christopher Booker's notebook

Saturday, April 23, 2005

British Elections: Pilger's Dance of Death

Here's a view on what you will be doing if, as a British voter, you opt to return Tony Blair to power on May 5th:

"By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people, most of them innocent women and children and the elderly, slaughtered by rapacious forces sent by Blair and Bush, unprovoked and in defiance of international law, to a defenceless country. "

Fair enough, eh? It's by John Pilger, a man who loves to mix portentousness with sanctimony in a fashion reminiscent of Terry Eagleton, another blog favourite in this regard.

It was for verbal gems of this sort that Auberon Waugh, many years ago, invented the verb to pilger and its concomitant noun pilgerism. Good to see them thriving still.

Friday, April 22, 2005

German Minister Quizzed About Visas

The inquiry into the "visa scandal" in Berlin is the first such inquiry to be televised in Germany.

Observers note that although it is in most respects identical to other inquiries, the men have paid especial attention to their neckwear. Ludger Volmer, ex-Foreign Office Minister from the Green Party, and initiator of the visa regulations which led to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants entering Europe, was wearing an orange tie.

This is apparently a reference to the fact that the Green Party believes their visa regulations led to the wonderful peaceful Orange Revolution in Ukraine. That'll be news to the Ukrainians, but it's the Green Party line here in Germany.

Volmer says the new policy was framed for "humanitarian" reasons. The old regulations, presumably, were inhumane. Volmer made some rum revelations:

- he claims was not aware of the old regulations which his new regulations were to replace (so how come he brands the old rules as inhumane?);

- he was not aware of the many publicly-available warnings from diplomats that the new policy would cause serious problems;

- he pins the blame for the debacle not on the new relaxed regulations (since cancelled) but on embassy staff, who must have "misunderstood" the regulations.

Criminal incompetence or political mendacity? Who can tell, the two more often than not merge into each other in an unappetising way, and it's hard to make a call between "idiotic liar" and "lying idiot".

Volmer's boss, the repulsive Green Party icon Joschka Fischer, is due to appear for questioning this Monday. His testimony is unlikely to be quite as self-contradictory and foolish as Volmer's, so it will be interesting to see if he can wriggle out of taking any responsibility too.

The link is to the (German only) Rheinische Post.RP Online - Nachrichten - Zehn Stunden Volmer-TV

Raffarin Gives China Carte Blanche to Attack Taiwan

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister of France, said yesterday that the new Chinese "anti-seccession" law, which has caused many to fear that China is preparing to increase its military pressure on democratic Taiwan, "is absolutely compatible with the principle of one China and two systems defended by France."

In line with this dubious asseveration, the Frenchman referred to the Chinese arms embargo as "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" and confirmed that France wants to lift the embargo in June.

The French Prime Minister was rewarded for his performance with the sale of 10 Airbuses to China.

The link is to Taiwan News Taiwan News Online

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sex Trafficking

The sex industry in Thailand generates fantasies. There are the fantasies of pliant girls which draw the western sex tourists, and then there are the fantasies of lurid exploitation which draw the western moralisers and NGOs. But what is the actual scale of prostitution in Thailand? And how serious is the trafficking problem?
(Alex Renton: "Learning the Thai Sex Trade")

There are 13 separate UN agencies and 8 international NGO's in Bangkok working to stop the sex trafficking trade - so many, that another UN body, UNIAP, has been set up to co-ordinate them. Despite this, there are no reliable figures on the scale of trafficking in Asia.

Critics are beginning to see that the lurid numbers often bandied about may actively harm the agencies' reputations, and the validity of their cause, should the perception arise that agencies are deliberately using overblown figures to stimulate more funding and contributions. In this way, overstating the case may, in the medium term at any rate, inhibit support.

The link is to Alex Renton's excellent article in Prospect which looks at the numbers for the sex trade and sex trafficking.
Prospect - article_details


Therapy which can prevent the onset of AIDS after exposure to HIV has not been publicised well enough, according to two HIV-positive men who are suing the British government for its failure to implement the treatment.

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online

EU Commission Asks Media How to Improve its Coverage

Margot Wallström, the European Union's Communications Commissioner, yesterday asked the media how they could "improve co-operation" and help to "put across the exciting reality of the EU."

One of her own ideas was to make a reality soap showing how the EU works on a day-to-day basis. The mind boggles. The blog is sure that Commissioner Peter Mandelson, for one, would be delighted to star in such a circus. But Margot was quick to reassure sinking hearts that the Commission would not itself pay to produce such a programme. In fact, she was notably punctilious about maintaining that her job and the media's are separate, and have separate ends in view. Good to hear that this topic preoccupies the Commissioner so.

This link is to the EU's press release: EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Germany's New War: the Blitzkrieg against Capitalism

As Germans across the country danced in the streets to hail Joseph Ratzinger's elevation to the papal throne, businessmen amongst them felt the cold blast of governmental disapprobation.

Last Thursday Herr Müntefering, the leader of Germany's ruling SPD party, rounded on capitalists and pronounced them to be the enemies of democracy and full employment.

Yesterday Frau Vogt, the Deputy Chairman of the ruling SPD party, suggested the logical next step: a boycott: "Consumers have the power to avoid the products of companies who make people redundant on a big scale," she said.

Boycotts have been loved by agitators across the ages. It is less usual to see them made a plank of governmental policy. Especially when the boycott's victims are law-abiding, tax-paying members of society. But this student-union level of politics is not unusual in Germany. Politicians act as though their words have no connection with reality, that they may say whatever they like without making any impact. The only thing that counts is the overall posture. The German government's onslaught on capitalism springs from such instincts.

But of course governments - even European ones - are not quite as impotent as they sometimes like to cast themselves, whenever they wish to elude responsibility for their mistakes. And for a German government to ostracise unfavoured groups sets a bad example, as well as sounding an evil echo.

Now another senior member of Germany's ruling party, Herr Müller, who is deputy leader of Nordrhein-Westpahlen's SPD, joins the fray. He says that there's an "undeclared economic war" going on ("Unerklärten Wirtschaftskrieg"). "Undeclared"? Doesn't sound that way from here. The government's vitriolic anti-capitalist salvoes could hardly be louder.

This talk of boycotts and war and undermining democracy and all the rest of it emanates, not from the overheated minds of students and teenage poseurs, but from the mainstream politicians and leaders of Germany's ruling party. It is entirely fitting, in the circumstances, for the blog to call the Curse of Von Esens down upon their heads.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oxyrhynchus Papyri Deciphered

After lying unread in an Oxford library for over a century, hundreds of thousands of papyrus fragments found in an Egyptian rubbish-dump in Oxyrhynchus ("City of the sharp-nosed fish"), works by Sophocles, Lucian, Euripides and Hesiod now seem decipherable using infrared technology, and scholars are looking forward to huge additions to the store of ancient literature.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Command Economy is Answer to Germany's Problems, Says Government

The blog wrote last Thursday about the Chairman of Germany's ruling SPD party, Franz Müntefering, who had blamed capitalism for unemployment and for being a threat to democracy.

Central planning by the State, Müntefering said, should create jobs and guarantee democracy against the threats of the capitalists.

One would have expected a deluge of protest to have come to the aid of businesspeople and other capitalists, so shamelessly traduced and scapegoated by this pillar of social democracy.

But the opposition parties have been strangely silent. No political capital has been wrung from Müntefering's antiquated stance, and the implications of his aggressive polemics - which could hardly be better calculated to deter foreign investment in Germany - have been largely ignored.

Over the weekend, Müntefering expanded on his views. He admitted that he did not like capitalism.

His dislike is visceral. And although it is aimed primarily at asset strippers, interventionist international fund managers and suchlike predators - for people of Müntefering's ilk, that covers all the possible bases of capitalist endeavour. He is averting to it at this stage (the crucial Nordrhein-Westphalen elections are on May 22nd) to appeal to all the "little people" who have been hurt by his government's incompetence, and to the right-on leftists who have never had any truck with business, or money-making, to begin with.

Obviously Müntefering calculates that there's votes in it for his party. And the absence of a strong response from the opposition supports his calculation. No-one can be bothered to point out that capitalists tend by and large to be law-abiders, or that capitalists are great job-creators and innovators. To set out positives like that just seems too much of an uphill struggle (in Germany as in much of the EU). No-one, even in opposition, believes there's any votes in taking that line, so they're happy to hang the capitalists and their shareholders out to dry.

As a result, Müntefering is being allowed to tar all capitalists, all businesspeople, all shareholders with his libellous rhetorical brush.

And no-one in Germany appears particularly concerned by any of it. It's no surprise, in this climate, that the German government is pushing for a lifting of the Chinese arms embargo. If voters have no sense of shame, why should the government? And the Chinese government, with its centralised system and unlimited power, holds a mystical appeal for Germany's ruling coalition. So much easier to cut capitalists down to size over there (even if China's current economic explosion is down to the capitalists).

A command economy is the ultimate prize for these clueless antediluvians, as it is for champions of the European Constitution, who think similarly about the respective roles of business and government. Only occasionally can this truth be as clearly discerned as it can today. For this, if nothing else, we should be grateful to Germany's leftist rulers and their snivelling evasion of responsibility for Germany's sad decline.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Dutch and Danish Constitutional Support Cooling

Support for the EU Constitution is weakening among voters in Holland and Denmark, according to polls conducted last week. The scepticism in the two countries is not yet as marked as in France, where President Chirac last week markedly failed to enthuse young voters for the project, but suggests a trend.

This encourages the blog, which, whilst European to its fingertips, abhors the draft constitution. Overall, it seems foolish to grant more powers to federal institutions which are completely unable to balance their own books, and which, to put it at its most charitable, turn a blind eye to corruption. The draft constitution, a confusing, overlong, overambitious document, undemocratic and dangerous in its implications, richly deserves to be rejected by voters.

There are far too many disparate elements contained in the current draft - not only making the EU formally a state, but also allocating seemingly unlimited power to EU insitutions ahead of national institutions, proliferating rights and restrictions which can only weaken Europe's flexibility when it should be strengthened.

The blog has mentioned before that the draft's low-interest nature makes any "debate" potentially sententious. But these polls suggest that voters are seeing drawbacks to a constitution whose approval previously seemed a foregone conclusion.

The EU's bureaucratic behemoth is facing unaccustomed resistance from people whose opinions it is unaccustomed to consult - its own voters and taxpayers - people it normally prefers not to involve in such matters. Were the draft constitution to be approved, matters would go back to the way they were. Were it to be rejected, the EU would have to think again about its role.

This is an outcome richly to be welcomed.

This link is to the (Dutch only) Volkskrant:de Volkskrant - Verzet groeit tegen Grondwet EU

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Musharraf and Singh Revive Cricket Diplomacy

President Musharraf of Pakistan today starts a visit to India as part of the ongoing negotiations over Kashmir.

His visit will take in one match of the six-match cricket series being played in India over the weekend between the two countries - a sign of thawing relations - and so marks a return to "cricket diplomacy."

This is the first such visit since the disastrous summit of 2001, which saw India and Pakistan on the brink of war. This time round the mood is much more positive, even if nobody expects any concrete result from the visit. It comes a week after the launch of the trans-Kashmir bus service, which first highlighted the determination of the people to achieve peace.

Update: Remarks by President Musharraff at a banquet over the weekend:

"People's wishes and aspirations have overtaken their leaders' and their governments. Therefore, I think the [peace] process is irreversible... The period of conflict management is over. We have entered an era of conflict resolution... It needs two hands to clap. They say it takes two to tango. We may be too old to tango but my hand is extended to clap."

Pakistan won the cricket by 3 matches to 1.

Musharraf in India, for peace, prayers and cricket#compstory

RIP: "Black Harry" Huddleston

"Black Harry" Huddleston, the champion sheepdog handler, has died, aged 94.

Telegraph | News | Harry Huddleston

Friday, April 15, 2005

Chirac Flails Anglo-Saxons

President Chirac of France, trying to persuade his countrymen to ratify the draft EU Constitution, tells them that voting non will perpetuate the "Anglo-Saxon" despoliation of the French way of life, business, and government. (It goes without saying that, whether or not they agree with his curious claim, most French voters would see this as a distinctly mauvaise chose.)

These are bad days to be an Anglo-Saxon or indeed a capitalist in Europe, under sustained fire from the political mainstream, both left and right.

Earlier this week, the leader of Germany's ruling SDP party (left) said that "capitalist greed" caused unemployment and was a menace to democracy. Lord, how we laughed in Esens, to hear that from the mouth of such a redoubtable socialist. Now Chirac (right), almost en passant, gives Anglo-Saxons, and their market-led approach, a big Gallic cuff around the ears.

The thing that irks the blog most is the fact that these outrageous claims are made in the full expectation that they will be swallowed whole. Admittedly both men are electioneering right now, and should be allowed some leeway in the matter of strict accuracy. But both of them clearly think there's votes in knocking les Anglo-Saxons and capitalism.

It is all rather depressing, the blog thinks. Maybe it's time to turn our back on Esens and move to Moscow, where we won't feel quite so out of place.

Annan Lashes Out at UK & US

Kofi Annan's bridge-burning outburst against the UK and the USA governments today, alleging they turned a blind eye to the smuggling of oil from Iraq during the Oil for Food programme, has been denied already by the UK.

Annan's claims are unlikely to be without all foundation: corruption appears to have been endemic to the whole programme.

Even so, Annan's manner betrays a siege mentality - one which is understandable, yet won't win him new friends. In fact, it is difficult to see what advantage he thinks he might gain from today's attack, other than the satisfaction of lashing back at his perceived tormentors.

EU's Grotesque Publicity Stunt Lifts Off Today

The EU Constitution lifts off into outer space today.

Many readers had assumed that, in our previous references to the madcap scheme, the blog was playing some kind of a weird joke on them. But it is not so.

Cosmonaut Roberto Vittori, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, will be clutching a copy of the constitution on lift-off from the Baikonur space base in Kazakhstan today. The take-off location may not be the most positive symbolic launch-pad, but EU leaders hope that the publicity generated will inspire citizens to ratify the very long and highly dangerous Constitution.

'Nuff said.

EUbusiness - EU constitution sent into space

German Foreign Minister Sacks Ambassador

Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister, and Frank Elbe, until yesterday Germany's Ambassador in Switzerland, have previous form. Elbe was a socialist in his youth and served in Helmut Schmidt's government. After Schmidt's fall, Elbe responded by defecting from the SPD to the centrist FDP.

Fischer was determined to demote Elbe from the day he took over at the Foreign Office - and a posting to Switzerland, after previous postings in India and Tokyo, is certainly a demotion in terms of diplomatic weight.

But Elbe's sacking yesterday was motivated by the fact that he'd gone public with criticisms everyone knows to be true - namely, that Fischer's management of the Visa Scandal was terrible ("miserables Krisenmanagement") and that Fischer had divided the Foreign Office.

Not the most career-enhancing remarks, as Elbe well knew, but the outcome will do nothing to shore up Fischer's increasingly exposed position.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

EU Fraud

Last year the EU spent some 54 million euros of taxpayers' money to combat fraud.

At just over a million euros a week, that's probably seen as the most negligible of peanuts by the European Commission. As a humble taxpaying blog, however, we note the following:

- The European Parliament has just voted to continue with the much derided system which allows MP's to claim travel expenses without any backup. This is turning our own representatives, who should be setting an example to us all, into cheapskate freeloaders.

- OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office) conducted an inquiry into the use to which EU money given to the Palestinian Authority was put - ie. was European taxpayers' money used to finance terrorism against Israel? The answer? OLAF couldn't prove it because it wasn't allowed access to all the figures. Oh well, never mind then.

Note to the EU Commission: we all know it's just window-dressing, but those 52 million euros, quite frankly, are going straight down the pan, aren't they?

The link is to the EU's own figures relating to fraud-busting:

Capitalism Threatens Democracy and Causes Unemployment, Says German Government

The German government has in its last two terms presided over a huge increase in unemployment, which now stands at 5.3 million.

As elections loom, scapegoats are sought. Voters have been known to blame their governments for such mishaps, and this one's got the government's fingerprints all over it.

So it is good to see that the socialist government's SPD leader, Müntefering, has been leafing through his well-thumbed copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital, looking for inspiration. The bushily-bearded Victorian sage's strictures about proto-capitalist practice may seem somewhat removed from today's economic context, but they are always handy when a soundbite is needed.

"Greed for profit is a danger for democracy," Müntefering warned in a speech yesterday, sounding disconcertingly like a 1930s vintage apparatchik. "The role of the state must become more important. The state must create (Gestalten)." He also warned against "economisation" and "the internationally growing power of capital".

Sentiments aimed at mobilising the right-on leftist vote. But also, sadly and incomprehensibly, the seemingly sincere sentiments of a key figure in the current German government. A man who shapes the policies which blight the biggest European economy - and with it the whole of Europe.

Paraphrased, the sentiments are quite stark: "Unemployment is caused by greedy capitalists; capitalism's only pursuit is profit; international capital is especially evil. The state needs more power to defeat the evils of business and to create jobs."

It defies belief that such playground polemics can emanate from the mouth of a senior mainstream politician in the West. (The North Korean News Agency, which sets the doughtiest standards of hard-core, Cold War type anti-capitalist propaganda, would hesitate before issuing drivel so unimaginative and dated.) Alas for Germany. Alas for Europe. Like the Bourbons of old, our politicians have forgotten nothing, and learned nothing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Euro-MP's Vote for More Freeloading and Corruption

The European Parliament's MP's are determined to keep their inefficient and corrupt expenses system just the way it is. This means many MP's will continue to defraud their taxpayers, as they are not even required to justify their expenses! Not surprisingly, the corrupt ones among them (and there is obviously no way of establishing how many) treat their travel expenses simply as an addition to their salaries.

The system thus actively turns weakwilled MP's into freeloaders.

In a separate vote yesterday, the MP's voted to retain the ludicrous system of having a "seat" in Strasbourg as well as in Brussels. This is important symbolically for France, we are always being told. It costs taxpayers some 200 million euros a year to bus the MP's, their assistants and and all the files and paperwork between Brussels and Strasbourg, but so be it, it keeps "the French" (which French? one always wonders) content.

The contempt with which these squalid European MP's treat their voters and taxpayers is so blatant and blithe that it goes far beyond mere folie de grandeur. The blog is certain that the depressing and disgusting turpitude which MP's seem to acquire as part of the job spec will be punished and corrected in due course - natural justice and fairness require it, even if politics don't work on that basis day-to-day.

But if EU insitutions themselves cannot bring themselves to do it, who will? It is a terrible indictment of our current European decadence and pusillanimity that taxpayers have not leapt up to prowl the Parliament's corridors with loaded shotguns, demanding a refund and an instant end to the sleaze.

A major scandal of some sort will be needed before politicians and policemen are impelled to put things right, and to stop them doing what they currently do, which is actually persecuting the brave, foolhardy people who expose such crimes!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lost Tribe of Israel Found in India

A group of around six thousand northeast Indians who claim to be a Lost Tribe of Israel have been "recognised" by Israel in that the chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, has ordered that they be formally converted to Orthodox Judaism.
Born in India, lost Israeli tribes!- The Times of India

Bad News for Cuboids (II)

Is there no physical threat you can't spike by smokin' dope? First Alzheimer's, now cholestrol.

A study shows that THC, a compound derived from cannabis, protects blood vessels from clogging up.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan. Keep tokin', man!)

Moron Launches Vote-Winning Gimmick

Edgar Moron, Chairman of the Nordrhein-Westphalen Social Democrats, has found an exciting initiative with which to entice voters in the upcoming regional elections in the biggest of Germany's Länder. He advocates, with unwonted passion, that caravans should not be subjected to a higher rate of taxation.

Although punitive taxation was entirely appropriate for unpopular four wheel drive vehicles, taxing caravans on the basis of the extra emissions they cause was not, Moron maintained.

This blog has nothing but respect for politicians who don't want to raise taxes and, in a different way, for Moron's always entertaining effusions - and this is a true Moronic gem. With over 5 million unemployed, economic stagnation, and millions of illegal immigrants swarming across Europe as a result of his government's idiocy, Moron clearly needed something pretty sensational to distract embattled voters from the comprehensive failure of his party's policies.

This caravan ploy might just do the trick. But I wouldn't count on it, Herr Moron.

The link is to the (German-only) Moronic site.
Edgar Moron MdL

Zimbabwean Opposition Challenges Election

The Movement for Democratic Change has uncovered huge discrepancies between the amount of votes the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission claims were cast and the actual numbers, and has challenged the ZEC to account for them within 24 hours.

In many constituencies, the ZEC report of votes cast was grotesquely out of synch with the reality. In the Beitbridge constituency, for example, the ZEC claimed that 36 thousand votes had been cast. In fact, only 20 thousand votes were cast, leaving 16 thousand unaccounted for. Across the country, in more than 30 constituencies (out of a total of 76) 5000 or more votes have "gone astray" in this way.

The MDC has reported this to the observers but has seen little or no response. Kofi Annan of the UN, although recognising the opposition's complaints, has blandly urged the two sides to enter into a peaceful dialogue.

"President" Mugabe, meanwhile, has jetted off to Rome to gatecrash the Pope's funeral (see below). It would be uncharitable to hope that a touch of deep-vein thrombosis would see him off. All the same, the blog salutes the continuing courage of the Movement for Democratic Change and the people who voted for it.

The Daily News

Mugabe to Gatecrash Pope's Funeral

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will attempt to attend tomorrow's funeral service for Pope John Paul II at St Peter's in Rome, despite being the subject of an European Union travel ban.

The EU imposed the ban after its observers were denied access to observe the 2002 elections. It will be interesting to see how the matter is dealt with, if at all.

Mugabe was raised by Jesuits, and it requires Jesuitical parsing of an extremely high order to justify the murderous tyrant's presence at the ceremony.

But the EU's position is, predictably, so morally opaque as to see no especial problem with "President" Mugabe's attendance. The Vatican, you see, is not a member of the EU and Italy, through which the "President" had to pass to reach the Vatican, has a treaty with the Vatican under which it will not stop travellers who have business with the Pope.

The Daily News

Nuclear Winter

Joe Kaplinsky, writing in today's Spiked, analyses why nuclear power isn't getting the political support it would seem to merit, and why it isn't benefiting from significant future-orientated investment.

He thinks that it remains such a sensitive issue amongst voters (he is writing about the UK but this would apply to much of Europe) that politicians won't touch it with a barge-pole, even though, to the "impartial" observer, it seems to be the only answer to the challenges of both the finite supply of fossil fuels and global warming.

Shame, that.
spiked-risk Article Looking to nuclear for all the wrong reasons

Trans-Kashmir Bus

Despite threats from terrorists, the new trans-Kashmir bus service between India and Pakistan started today.

Great news for Kashmiris and for prospect of regional peace.

The link is to the Times of India.Braving threats, Kashmir bridges the divide- The Times of India

RIP: Rainier III of Monaco

Rainier III had a racy and, to older generations, almost unsavoury family background. For starters, he wasn't actually a Grimaldi in the male line - his father was Comte Pierre de Polignac. Pierre was husband to Charlotte Grimaldi, who was born "the wrong side of the blanket" - the daughter of Prince Louis and his mistress, laundrymaid's daughter Marie, who worked in a Montmartre nightclub.

But a few commoners in the family tree isn't the slightest bit uncommon in aristocratic circles and is apt to do nothing but good.

Charlotte Grimaldi once complained of de Polignac that "to make love he needs to put a crown on his head." She herself was legitimised in 1919 to ensure the succession.

Rainier was sent to an English prep school where he was known as "Fat Boy Monaco".

During the war he distinguished himself and won the Croix de Guerre for bravery in action in the Alsace.

At the instigation of Aristotle Onassis he looked for an American movie star to marry. The idea was to lend Monaco more glamour and lustre. When Marilyn Monroe heard of the plan she wasn't interested for herself but claimed that if she were, two days alone with him would suffice to make him hers (Marilyn was under the impression that Monaco was in Africa).

In choosing Gracia Patricia Kelly, however, Rainier hit the proverbial jackpot - not only did she supply glamour by the bucketload, but she was also a dignified and conscientous Princess. Her concupiscence, and the stories about her countless affairs, did nothing to detract from that.

After Princess Grace's untimely death, in a car crash in the hills above Monte Carlo, it was rumoured that Rainier might marry Princess Ira von Fürstenburg. In this connection came Princess Margaret of England's remark that Ira was "too big a woman for so small a principality."

Partly at Onassis' encouragement, Rainier turned Monaco into a concrete jungle where five thousand natives are outnumbered by 24 thousand tax exiles.

Not, perhaps, the most savoury outcome, but one that has returned the Grimaldis to a level of wealth they hadn't been accustomed to before.

"Hofstad" Terror Suspect Freed in Rotterdam

A suspected terrorist, Samir A. (18), has been cleared of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks in Rotterdam. He was a friend of Theo van Gogh's murderer, Mohammed B., and allegedly a member of the "Hofstadgroep", a cell of Islamists based in The Hague, some of whom were arrested in the wake of the van Gogh murder.

Samir B. was in possession of unspecified weapons, a bullet-proof vest, and plans of potential bombing targets. Nevertheless, the court found that there was a lack of proof to convict him of conspiracy. The prosecutors will appeal against the decision.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, the two Dutch politicians explicitly threatened with death by the Hofstadgroep, reacted with alarm to the news. There was a chorus of unease from other Dutch politicians too.

The result is good news for the other Hofstadgroep members still awaiting trial in custody. It seems the burden of proof is unfeasibly high - as any attempt to prove an intention must be - and that most of these Islamists will be set free to carry on with impunity.

The link is to the Algemeen Dagblad (Dutch only) - 'Als Allah het wil ben jij aan de beurt, Ali'

Flunkeyists Flailed

The North Korean News Agency describes how plans by South Korean authorities ("pro-American flunkeyists") to build a memorial to US GIs killed in Iraq after being transferred from South Korean postings have been described by the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland as "an unbearable insult to the dignity of the Korean nation... The south Korean authorities should immediately stop such shameful criminal action, clearly mindful that their treacherous acts of going against the aspiration of the nation and the trend of the times will invite their self-destruction."

The general tone and tenor of this North Korean protest is, it strikes the blog, distinctly mild and reasonable, if one compares it with the level of outrage that would explode from all sides, should a European government consider similar plans to honour US soldiers for their sacrifice in Iraq.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Charles and Camilla

Up until now, the blog has kept silent on the upcoming wedding of Britain's Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker-Bowles. But the mean-spirited venom it has aroused disgusts us. This venom partly emanates from the enmity of UK mass-market tabloid the Sun and the dumbed-down (London) Times.

Both of these downmarket titles are owned by Rupert Murdoch, the anti-royalist billionaire known as the "Dirty Digger" in the UK. The "Dirty Digger" also owns Fox in the USA. No opportunity is lost to mock and belittle the royal family, and Prince Charles' current difficulties present an easy target.

The "Digger" is much richer and more powerful than Prince Charles. Having inherited vast wealth from his Australian father, Murdoch augmented his pile by debasing the UK media, pandering to the lowest populist instincts. Few will raise their voices against a man so powerful in the media world, and so vindictive in his petty spite.

This blog always sides with the weak against those who bully, intimidate and humiliate them. In this case, we strongly encourage Rupert Murdoch to order his tanks off Prince Charles' lawn. Failure to comply will result in the calling down of the Curse of Von Esens on the tycoon's head.

Setback for Sweety

Speaking of royal heartbreak, there's a sad development in the romantic story of Foffi ("Prince Ferfried von Hohenzollern") and Sweety ("Frau Tatjana Gsell"). There's bad news for Sweety, who has, unfortunately, failed in her appeal to suppress all public reference to the fact that she was tried, found guilty and received a suspended 16 month sentence for her involvement in a tragic insurance fraud (the "theft" of her then husband's expensive car, organised by her and accomplices) in which her husband died.

Uninformed commentators of a malicious bent may take this as a license to assail poor Sweety in the public prints! Luckily, she has found deep solace in the arms of her own dear Prince Foffi.

The blog, although it would have faced a stiff fine or jail sentence if Sweety's appeal had come off, nevertheless wishes the regal pair all success (especially in regard to Prince Foffi's committed support of the campaign to stop the EU from lifting the Chinese arms embargo).

Left-Wing Loonies Resurface in Germany

A new left-wing protest party, the snappily-named Wahlalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit (Voting Alternative for Work and Social Justice, or WASG) is making headlines in Germany ahead of the May 22nd regional elections.

It is a genuine left-wing loony set-up, with a strong focus on Verteilungsgerechtigkeit (economic redistribution) and on taking back into state ownership services which have been privatised, such as telecoms, the postal service and cultural and sporting organisations.

Despite disagreeing with all its policies, the blog welcomes the WASG with open arms. The party is aimed at the disadvantaged and dispossessed - something Germany badly needs, with its 5 million unemployed, its uncertainties about the economic future, an utterly clueless government, and a supine opposition. A party such as WASG adds a valuable dimension to what would otherwise be a barren political landscape dominated by unsavoury and unelectable neo-Nazis. The WASG also has, in the shape of Mönchengladbach's candidate Britta Pietsch, a trained nurse and filmmaker, a budding political Powerfrau.

In terms of its political effects, the new party is a bit of a mixed bag. It is unlikely to surmount the 5% voting hurdle required to get any of its representatives into power, but what votes it does get will be taken from the socialist SPD. Even if it does get someone elected into parliament, the party says it would not enter into a coalition with the SPD, preferring to remain a strong oppositional party. This is good news for the centrist CDU and may indeed make a significant difference to the outcome of the election. But at the same time, the advent of a throwback protest party of this sort will also have the effect of making the policies of the dead-duck SPD/Green government seem reasonable.

At any rate, the blog welcomes the new party and wishes its comrades well, this side of a People's Revolution, of course.

Austrian Nazis: the Curse of Von Esens

Jörg Haider with beer-drinking buddy

The Austrian government minister Jörg Haider, a keen admirer of Adolf Hitler and his policies, has just pulled off a coup worthy of his hero: he has abandoned his party (the FPÖ), formed a new one (the BZÖ), with a shiny, more mainstream positioning, and has taken all the ministers from the previous party with him.

It's reported that Haider's Austro-Canadian paymaster, billionaire Frank Stronach, ordered Haider to move further away from the Nazi image which taints the FPÖ party. Haider was, as it appears, more than happy to oblige. The FPÖ is deeply in debt. In such circumstances, it is expedient to rip it up and start again.

The crazy thing is that Haider and his seedy chums can remain in government! A huge fraud has been perpetrated on Austrian voters.

By some weird circumstance, this procedure is acceptable under the Austrian constitution.

A clear case for the Curse of Von Esens, which is herewith called down on Haider and his spineless coalition partner, Chancellor Schüssel.

Jörg Haider's Volkswagen Phaeton, 11th October 2008

UPDATE: On 11th October 2008, a mere three years after the Curse of Von Esens was called down on him, Jorg Haider died in a car crash on his way back from a gay bar in Klagenfurt where he had been drinking with a young man. Haider's car was travelling at 142 km/h (88 m.p.h.) more than twice the limit. His blood alcohol level was 1.8 mg/L, more than three times over the limit. (By another weird circumstance, an Austrian court has ruled it illegal to describe Haider as homosexual or bisexual on the grounds that this would breach his "personal and privacy rights)

Dutch Constitutional Referendum

The Dutch government is considering cancelling the national refereundum on the EU's draft constitution should the French vote non.

On the one hand, the referendum was an initiative not of the Dutch government but of the Dutch parliament, so that it seems the government is meddling where it isn't wanted.

On the other, it is a commonsense idea. If the French vote non, the consitution is a dead letter. The opinions of other countries won't change that.

Update - In the event, of course, the referendum went ahead and the Dutch voted nee by an overwhelming margin. The outcome, far from making the constitution a "dead letter", has been beyond what even the most cynical observer could ever justify - the constitution, brought back under a different name ("The Lisbon Treaty") is simply being brought into law, by "governmental acclamation", against the express wishes of Dutch and French voters. In this way democracy is being fatally subverted in Europe. National democratic governemts are allowing their authority and authority to be taken over by the EU Commission whose members they nominate, on the whole, from the ranks of their most mediocre ministers.

For an interesting viewpoint on how government was managed in a gentler age, this links to an extract on local, squire-based governance, from Gilbert West's Journey Through Groningen and Frisia and the Frisian Isles. West is writing about the Oldambt, a county of the Ommelanden in the northern Netherlands, in the eighteenth century. How much more sensibly and locally things were run then. How much cooler and objective a view of government did people like West, Oomkens and Johnson have than most present-day comentators and policy wonks.

Chinese Arms Embargo: Not in Our Name ! (III)

The blog's campaign to stop the EU's disgraceful plans to lift the Chinese arms embargo continues to gain prominent adherents. Richard Gere and Prinz Ferfried "Foffie" von Hohenzollern were quick off the mark to signal their support.

Now one of the policy's chief sponsors, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, has indicated that he doesn't support the policy either! The reason for this apparent volte-face is that Fischer is facing his Green party's conference and he wants to avoid any embarrassing attacks from within his own ranks.

So Fischer's months-long silence about the China arms embargo - designed to support the Chancellor's stance of support for Chirac in promoting the scandalous policy - has had to be sacrificed for the greater good of his own political survival.

Good luck with that, Joschka, and welcome aboard!

Hero von Esens: EU Lifting of China Arms Embargo: Not In Our Name!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Khodorkovsky Trial

The link is to yesterday's Moscow News' article detailing the course of the trial, which strikes one as a return to the Stalinist show trials of the Fifties.

The Khodorkovsky Trial - FEATURE - MOSNEWS.COM

Airbrushing the Nazi Past

The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, has always found it understandably irksome that some of his more senior diplomats, in their youth, were members of the Nazi party. Difficult to avoid, of course, in Germany, but not the kind of employee profile to warm the heart of a Green.

Tiresome publicity might accrue if such people were publicly recognised for their service - publicity which might reflect badly on the person of Fischer himself.

In light of which, Fischer decided last year to ban obituaries of ex-Nazi party members in the Foreign Office's internal magazine.

This has led to anger and protests in his department. Diplomats by and large loathe Fischer, and it isn't difficult to see why. In this instance the parallels between the youthful Nazis and the youthful Fischer aren't far to seek. Fischer is a man with much to be deeply ashamed about in his youth, when he was a foaming-mouthed radical agitator, a street-fighting policeman-beater.

Diplomats wonder why such a man should order them to wipe out the memories of other men - men who erred in youth but were, like Fischer, given a second chance.

During the past 60 years Germans have managed to deal with such issues quite well, on the whole, and successive generations of German politicians and diplomats have done their level best to atone for the nation's crimes. In light of which, it is indeed scandalaous that a man of no fixed principles like Fischer - whose Green party (or "non-party" as it was launched to be) is closer than any other in spirit to the Nazis of old - should order the Nazi past to be airbrushed out in this way, in the interests of personal political expediency.

The German papers this morning are reporting that Fischer, stung by the criticism from his own ranks, has embarked on a Kuschel-Offensiv (lit: "Cuddle-Campaign") to win back the support of his diplomats. It is highly doubtful he will succeed. So much damage has been done in other areas - the "Visa Affair" being the highest-profile scandal to taint Fischer - that it's probabaly too late to regain the confidence lost.

How much electoral damage it will do is a question only the voters can answer - the first installment being the regional elections in Nordrhein-Westphalen on May 22nd. If the leftist coalition falls there, after decades in power, the momentum for national change will begin to seem unstoppable.

But it would be a foolish to underestimate the electioneering skills of Fischer himself and, still more, of Chancellor Schroeder. If their personal alliance holds, they could still swing it for the leftists.

Friday, April 01, 2005

North Korea 0 Iran 2; Syrian referee Flayed

The disturbances and riots in Pyongyang after Wednesday's World Cup qualifier between North Korea and Iran were caused by spectator rage at the "wrong refereeing" of the Syrian referee and linesmen, the Democratic People's news agency has said.

There's no honour within the Axis of Evil, it seems.

Has the German Government Lost It?

The disintegration of the German government would be laughable were it not so harmful to the interests of Germans and their neighbours.

Germany's current foreign policy, especially, is ill-considered, irresponsible and irrelevant. Its incoherence shows Germany's government to be acting without any firm set of principles or beliefs:

- The (post-WWII) German politician's traditional pose of championing peace and brotherly understanding has been well and truly ditched by the Green Foreign Minister and the SPD Chancellor, who favour selling arms to China, the biggest violator of human rights in the world. In this they are opposed not only by this blog, the US and a majority of the Bundestag, but also by their own parties!

So at a time when "democracy is on the march" across the globe, and this is widely seen as the only effective means of combatting international state-sponsored terrorism, the Germans are committed to propping up the rabidly aggressive and repressive Chinese government. (It isn't just the Germans of course. The EU as a whole - or rather, the folks who define and execute the EU's foreign policy - supports this morally depraved policy. All EU citizens should be ashamed that we have let politicians of such towering moral turpitude take over our governing institutions. But the German government should take the lion's share of shame, as it has betrayed German values so fundamentally.)

- At a time of record unemployment, the German government encouraged mass illegal immigration into the country. This policy is shorthanded as the "Visa Scandal" and has been on the front pages of German media for weeks now. As a result of the policy, hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans have illegally entered the European Union. The man responsible for this travesty is the Green's Joschka Fischer - still, incredibly, Foreign Minister of Germany - and it seems, in the absence of any justification from the very busy man himself, that he only wanted to further international understanding. A noble ambition, frustrated by the policy it inspired. The good old expression "hoist by his own petard" comes irresistibly to mind when one thinks of Fischer and his Visa policy.

- The German government, acting in tandem with the French, has destroyed the Stability Pact, which was designed to protect the strength of the EU's currency and its independence from short-term political considerations.

The Pact, for all its shortcomings, was another measure largely inspired by a German wish for financial stability; it was the Germans, after all, who gave up the rock-solid Deutschmark in favour of the euro. As it happens, the euro is currently strong: ditching the Stability Pact won't cause too much ruction just yet. However, killing the Pact will likely lead to higher interest rates soon, and it has certainly undermined markets' confidence in the euro - a currency whose strength, as conventional wisdom has it, is more an expression of the dollar's weakness than the euro's own inherent robustness. Be all that as it may, the dismantling of the Pact was badly handled, with some of the smaller EU countries (who had stuck to the Pact's strictures) feeling roughly treated by the arrogant French and Germans.

These three policies (Arms for China; the Visa Scandal; the killing of the Stability Pact) are not merely policies with defects, they are policies with no dicernible benefits. They betray German values. They are signs that the current German government is nearing its end.

The opposition parties have been unable to mobilise large-scale expression of voters' disgust. National elections are over a year away, so perhaps they feel there's still time. In Nordrhein-Westphalen, the biggest and most powerful of Germany's Länder, the regional elections are on May 22nd. If the ruling SPD-Green coalition is toppled there, it will represent a dramatic shift in political power. The left has been in power there for decades. In most countries this shift would be an expected outcome. But, although the centre-right parties have recently squeezed ahead in opinion polls, it is far from a given in Germany.

Chancellor Schröder is an effective, charming politician with the common touch, far more popular and accessible than the centre-right's Angela Merkel. And Fischer, for all his self-indulgence and love of power, remains an electoral asset, although less so of late.

The opposition hasn't yet articulated a coherent stance to voters yet, nor set out a programme to counter the government's depredations. It badly needs to do so if it wishes to upset the electoral apple-cart this May.

The German government has lost it all right. The opposition must be hoping that the electorate notices. It would be more effective if they got out there and showed everyone why they would be a better alternative. Of that, so far, no sign.