Monday, June 27, 2005

RIP: William Donaldson, alias Henry Root

William Donaldson, who died on June 22nd, was an ironist, impresario, serial bankrupt and adulterer, and founder of The Ordinary Folk Against the Rising Tide of Filth in Our Society Situation, best known for his alter ego, Henry Root.

Root, a retired wet fish merchant, gulled many famous people and politicians with his deadpan letters of admonishment and encouragement. Writing to the judge of the Thorpe trial after Thorpe was aquitted, Root wrote, "You tipped the jury the right way and some of your jokes were first class! Well done! You never looked to me like the sort of man who'd send an old Etonian to the pokey."

As with all true ironists, Donaldson's irony was less satirical than sincere, a distinction quite lost on his victims. He wrote to Nigel Dempster, a gossip columnist, "Some folk deride sycophantic gossip about one's social superiors as a lot of snobbish nonsense, but I am not of their number."

Kenneth Tynan said of him that he was "an old Wykehamist who ended up as a moderately successful Chelsea pimp," referring to Donaldson's stint in the Elm Park Mansions brothel run by his ex-secretary, whom he claimed to have "tipped onto the game".

"I am much happier in the company of thieves and prostitutes than of literary people," he said.

At Winchester, Donaldson lost out in the stupidest-boy-in-the-school competition when his nearest competitor, an unnamed Earl, was advised to "try Eton" instead. Donaldson pioneered "positive bullying" whereby junior boys would confront prefects.

Donaldson inherited a tidy sum from his shipowner father whilst up at Magdalene and used the money to finance literary publications (he was the first to publish Ted Hughes' poetry) and put on shows. This led to his first notable successes, co-producing Beyond the Fringe (the producers were on 2000 pounds a week, the performers on 75) and promoting Bob Dylan ("He was sitting in my office when I came back from lunch," Donaldson recalled. "I couldn't get rid of the f**ker.").

Donaldson, married three times, was a serial seducer, with enough charm and wit to make Carly Simon, one of his jilted fiancees, say afterwards that he was "wonderful, wonderful: the funniest man I have ever met."

The link is to the Telegraph's obituary:Telegraph News William Donaldson

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

RIP: Cardinal Sin of Manila

Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila has died aged 76 in Manila. Leader of some 75 million Filipino Catholics, Cardinal Sin was a witty conservative noted for his spirited pronouncements. He flaunted the comedy inherent in his name: his Manila centre was called "The House of Sin."

He was an openly political churchman, playing a central role in the popular toppling of two Phillipine presidents. In 1986, Cardinal Sin spearheaded "people-power" demonstrations which led to the departure of long-term dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"We got rid of Ali Baba, " Cardinal Sin observed of this coup, "but the forty thieves remained."

Marcos' immediate successor was Cory Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader. She was succeeded in her turn by the notoriously louche President Estrada, during whose term the distribution of condoms became government policy. When scandals engulfed Estrada's administration, Cardinal Sin was again a key figurehead in bringing the tainted President down.

"My duty," he once said, "is to put Christ into politics. Politics without Christ is the greatest scourge of our nation."

His political interventions made Cardinal Sin a bit of a maverick whose actions ruffled feathers not only in Manila but also in Rome. One example was his visit to China where the Cardinal was compromised by contacts with Christian groups supportive of the Chinese regime.

Cardinal Sin will be lain to rest this Tuesday in the crypt of Manila Cathedral.

Telegraph News Cardinal Sin

EU Commissioner for Goats Gets Shiny New Food Safety Authority in Beautiful but Inaccessible Place

Richard North, on the EU Referendum blog, focusses a beady eye on the way that EU insitutions are continuing to augment their "competencies" (ie power and role-definition) despite the rejection of the draft constitution.

In some cases, such as with the EU Foreign Minister's office and functions, the EU's actions are an outright insult to democracy: the (de facto) FM's office can only be established (de jure) by the passing into law of the rejected constitution's provisions.

In other cases, such as the one highlighted today, we are confronted with the unchanging arrogance of the EU's masters in extending their bureacratic interference into all aspects of life.

The EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is a good example of this. It was inaugurated yesterday in Parma. The highly inconvenient, if pleasant, location is courtesy of Italian PM's Silvio Berlusconi's self-confessed mastery of pork-barrel politics. He made Finland's goverment a few offers it couldn't refuse and ensured that this key European office would come to Parma rather than Helsinki.

The result? The huge expansion of a bureaucratic agency which will soon employ, North calculates, around 300 experts and ancillary staff for an annual budget of 46 million euros.

Good news for our old friend Markos Kyprianou, the EU Commissioner for Goats, who will now be able to have his wicked way with all manner of directives to control the flora and fauna of Europe. Earlier this year, we noted that Kyprianou seemed short of sensible things to do - he was testing 200,000 of his goats, despite ensuring us all that the critters were perfectly all right.

Now Kyprianou will be able to get his teeth into more substantial fare. Excellent result for him, but a lot less cheering for EU taxpayers, who will be paying for more and more "experts" to pontificate and draw up absurd new legislation to ensnare us all.

Link to Richard North's posting on the EU Referendum blog.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Freed Hostage Apologises to President Bush

After being freed by Iraqi and US troops, an Australian hostage, held for 47 days by Islamist terrorists, offered his apologies to President Bush, and Prime Minister Howard for having called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq whilst he was in captivity.

Douglas Wood, an engineer of 64, said, "I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army ... works because it was Iraqis that got me out," he said.

Prime Minister Howard welcomed the apology although he said that it obviously hadn't been sought.

Freed Australian apologizes to Bush?-?World?-?The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Monday, June 20, 2005

Europe's Leaders Indulge In Undignified Scrapping and Pin "Blame" for Collapse of EU Budget on Britain and Holland

Last week, the blog hoped that the EU's summit to discuss the 2007-2013 budget would collapse "ignominiously." The outcome has exceeded all expectations on this front, as the EU's national leaders settled down to an undignified scrap, and left Brussels like a pack of snarling rogues, with muttered imprecations and outright insults being bandied about.

Chirac called Blair "pathetic." Blair said he wouldn't be "called out" by someone like Chirac on what Europe should look like. Germany's Chancellor Schroeder supported Chirac and laid the "blame" for the summit's collapse at the feet of Blair and Holland's premier Balkenende.

Many will deplore the unmannerly performance of the politicians. Certainly Chirac's cynicism, in getting the whole dispute rolling - conveniently bringing up the question of the British rebate whilst refusing to discuss the possibility of agrarian reform - was nothing short of sick-making. But Chirac has always disgusted men and women of taste, and at least the politicians were no longer even bothering with the pretence that they had some kind of grandiose vision of what Europe could be. Instead, they openly traded insults in the (supposed) interests of their respective nations.

The EU Commission now has an opportunity to step in and give an impression of statesmanlike restraint, with calls to "get Europe back on the tracks" and the like. Commissioner Wallström is well placed for this role, although her keenest attention is still focussed on her native Sweden, where she is hoping to take over as Prime Minister. Commissioner Verheugen, meanwhile, has been highly active over the past week, seeking to preserve his model of EU expansion. He wants to prevent the policy of expansion from getting too much flak for the demise of the draft constitution.

Verheugen is doing his manful best to protect his pet project, but the central question raised by the voters' rejection remains - should the EU be composed of many nations within a loosely federal framework, or should it be a smaller number of highly-integrated, centrally-steered countries? This is the question which Tony Blair, who now takes over the 6 months' rotating presidency, will attempt to get to grips with. His first official speech on the topic will be on Thursday. Prepare for a vast eructation of Gallic bile.

Hero von Esens: EU Budget, the British Rebate, and the Hope Budget Talks Will Collapse "Ignominiously"

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A German Diplomat's View of the USA

A senior German diplomat gives an unusually frank insight into the view of America shared by many members of the German mainstream. The content won't surprise anyone too much, but it's likely to be the first time since Nazi days that any member of the German diplomatic corps has been reported espousing such flagrant, moronic anti-Americanism.

The highlights:

- Guantanamo Bay is worse than Stalin's Gulag;

- Civil rights in the USA are worse than they were in Europe in the Middle Ages;

- "The only people who appreciate American foreign policy are poodles."

There you have it. A neat summation of how "progressive" politicians, diplomats and media folk in Germany (and much of Europe) currently see America. The only thing missing is the old "George W. Bush is a moron and a puppet" misunderestimation - but maybe the German diplomat thought that was too obvious to need saying..

Link to the full article in the Wall Street Journal:OpinionJournal - Taste

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Archbishop of Canterbury Lashes Out at "Lethally Damaging" Media

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, yesterday attacked aspects of "the media" in terms all people of sense will want to support (assuming they can understand the nature of the charges the Archbishop is making), and which may well spark off a great revival of the Church of England.

The Archbishop seemed especially agitated by "the media's" manipulation of debate to distort and mislead public understanding. Complex arguments, the Archbishop reckons, are being debased for purposes of vulgar entertainment.

He is also exercised by the socio-economic origins of those who choose to work in "the media", presumably worried that the famous "left-wing bias" of the typical media worker may corrupt our worldview.

And he offers some interesting speculations concerning the broader picture:

Corrupt speech, inflaming unexamined emotion, reinforcing division, wrapped up in its own performance, leaves us less human: fewer things are possible for us. Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow.

In short, if we have read him right, the Archbishop believes that "the media" dehumanises us all. "Bad human communication," as he says, is indeed the root of much evil in this fallen world. Maybe the Archbishop is also right to warn us that it "leaves us less room to grow" -although this sounds a bit wimpish - our growth as humans isn't really predicated on the quality of the media we consume.

Barring a few quibbles with the logic and the overall argument, this is just what the blog has always believed. The brutish populism spawning all around us is a potent force for evil. It is high time "the media" which promotes it, and the inarticulate oafs who pontificate on it, were rebuked, brought face to face with the consequences of their sins, and compelled to cultivate an elegant and seemly eloquence. How grand to have one's deepest prejudices confirmed by such a distinguished Man of God. Media Archbishop attacks 'lethal' media

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Giscard d'Estaing Admits EU Draft Constitution Was "Not Possible To Understand" But Sidesteps Blame for its Demise

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the "architect" of the EU's draft constitution - thrown out by referendum in Holland and France last week - now admits that his document was incomprehensible.

"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," he says (with no outward sign of shame) in an interview with the New York Times.

Despite what most people would consider a grave handicap in any constitutional document, let alone one that requires legitimation by the approval of voters, Giscard blames "the present generation of leaders" in Europe - President Chirac foremost amongst them - for the debacle, saying they "never put Europe at the top of their agenda." One of the biggest errors Chirac made, according to Giscard, was letting French voters read the document. "I said, 'Don´t do it, don´t do it,'" he recalls warning Chirac back in March.

Yesterday evening the President of the EU Commission, Barroso, confirmed that there should be a "pause" in "the ratification process" of the rejected document. In saying this he is recognising that getting the "process" back on the road is a far taller order - and so a far lower priority - than getting the European nations to progress on the 2007-2013 budget during this week's summit in Brussels.

In any case, there can be no progress on the constitution until the budget is agreed. Chirac's decision to attack the British rebate this week has seen to that. For it has forced Tony Blair to point out that discussion of the UK rebate cannot be disentangled from a discussion about the overall budget, in particular, its outdated Common Agricultural Policy (which happens to favour the French farmers). And the discussion about the "legitimate scope and competencies of the EU" which Blair is now recommending, as he aims to deflect specific criticism of the UK rebate and broaden it out into criticism of wider budgetary issues - will have a direct effect on any new putative EU consitution.

In light of which, it is obviously right to stall the "ratification process" of a document which has been undermined most radically by the very politicians who were, until last week, presenting it to voters as the only way forward.

In this sense, Giscard's attack on the "present generation of leaders" which has failed to secure the approval of his "impossible to understand" document is fair enough. After all, these politicians have allowed the "ratification process" to be derailed by their own voters, a thing unheard of in Giscard's day...

Goebbels Saved Jewish Ex-Fiancee to Hide His Past as Communist Clerk at Dresdner Bank in Cologne

Before Joseph Goebbels became a Nazi, he was a communist.

His fiancée at the time was a Jewish girl called Else Jahnke. To help Goebbels out, Else got him a job at the Dresdner Bank in Cologne.

Unfortunately, the future Reichspropagandaminister only lasted three months at the bank. Goebbels' communist principles, it seems, were too rigid and principled for him to make satisfactory progress in such a kapitalistischen Stellung (a capitalist position).

Years passed, and Goebbels duly progressed from communism to Nazism, and to senior office in the German government. Else Jahnke, meanwhile, was sacked from her job as a schoolteacher in 1933 for being Jewish.

Luckily, she was able to blackmail Goebbels with details of his shameful communist past. To protect his reputation, Goebbels was obliged to protect Else, giving her a job at the Reichsfilmkammer. As a result, she and her husband managed to survive the war.

These details have emerged this week, following the discovery of Else's husband's de-Nazification files in the Hauptstaatsarchiv in Düsseldorf.

The young communist Goebbel's unsuccessful stint as a junior clerk at the Dredner Bank in Cologne is reminiscent of a Tom Stoppard scenario, full of comic yet discomfiting echoes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

"Arms to China - Not In Our Name!" Campaign Successful

On March 16th, this blog launched its campaign to prevent the EU from lifting the arms embargo on China.

After yesterday's meeting of the EU's Foreign Ministers, we are delighted to announce that the campaign has been successful, and the reprehensible plan, which was championed by the French and German governments, has been abandoned.

Many thanks to all who supported the blog's initative. The most prominent of our supporters - Prince Ferfried "Foffi" von Hohenzollern and Richard Gere, will be as delighted as all of us, and the celebrations will be continuing long into the night...

International Relations and Security Network ISN - Security Watch

Michael Jackson Free After Disturbingly Prurient Trial

The grotesque lynching of Michael Jackson's reputation has ended with the star found not guilty on all 10 counts.

In a disturbingly prurient trial which boiled down to one set of mercenaries' words against another, the credibility of the accusers was the sticking point, and this was so compromised by their grasping natures and inconsistencies that the jury had no alternative but to set Jacko free.

This has disappointed a lot of citizens who were hoping for his semi-public immolation in jail. Some of the commentators on CNN Europe, for example, who had been smilingly confident that Jackson would be convicted, were surprised and affronted when the verdicts were read out.

But all these lynch-mob minded people should rest easy - Michael Jackson will be under much more public scrutiny outside than inside, and will probably end up suffering far more.

As the Reverend Jesse Jackson would do well to remind us, our Christian feelings of compassion should be directed as much at Michael Jackson himself, as at his accusers, who appear to have been deluded and defrauded by greed.

Professor Jörg Immendorff's 60th Birthday

Jörg Immendorff, who shot to fame in the 1970's with the Cafe Deutschland series - cartoon-like collocations infused with a dyspeptic left-wing sensibility - is 60 today.

Immendorff has a pleasingly reassuring, pontifical view of the artist's role in society - most of his productions were generated pour epater le bourgeoisie and "to force people to see their context in a new way."

His modish, undemanding postures were rewarded with a professorship at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, a lucrative sinecure giving him financial security, as well as an ivory tower from which to look down on and epater the taxpayers who help to fund his lifestyle.

He is partial to self-indulgence. During the 1980's he was a fixture on the German social scene. He recalls parties given by Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis as an especial highlight.

"People liked having painters around in those days," he once said, "and I always liked to party. Maybe I liked all that a bit too much for a while."

Last year Immendorff was arrested in the Steigenberger Parkhotel in central Düsseldorf in possession of 21.6 grammes of cocaine and seven prostitutes. The professor defended himself by saying that, as an artist, he was under no compulsion to live within the law. He was later to regret those arrogant words, not least because his conviction threatened his pretty young wife's state-funded pension arrangements.

He was given an 11 month suspended sentence and a fine of 150,000 euros for his crimes. His employers, the Nordrhein-Westphalen Wissenschaftsministerium (Ministry of Science) held back from further punishment "in recognition of his serious illness". Because his sentence was under 12 months (which would have required mandatory disciplinary action), Frau Immendorff's pension was saved.

Aside from the pension, suffering from the incurable muscle-wasting syndrome ALS has given Immendorff's life a purpose and point not given it by art, professorship and politics alone. Immendorff has endowed the Jörg Immendorff Stipendium, which is devoted to finding a cure for ALS.

It may not save his life, nor his artistic reputation, but it allows Professor Immendorff to give something back to the society which has given so much to him.

Monday, June 13, 2005

EU Budget, the British Rebate, and the Hope Budget Talks Will Collapse "Ignominiously"

The EU Budget for 2007-2013 is on the agenda this week as the European Council (the representatives of the national governments) meet in Brussels on June 16-17. It is a moment of rare and high drama in EU history, as politicians are confronted with the failure not only of their constitutional plans (last week's referenda in Holland and France), but with the even more pressing matter of their faltering finances.

President Jacques Chirac of France has decided to attack the British rebate, secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, as a way of taking attention away from the overarching weaknesses of the EU budget, by focussing instead on one "guilty" country, the punishment of which will atone for all of the EU's failures.

The UK rebate - which can be defended or attacked to taste, it all depends on what justifications one chooses for what countries "ought to" pay - is an easy target because Britain is the only country which gets a rebate, even though it is neither the largest net contributor nor the largest per capita contributor.

Other countries have their own reasons to complain about the British rebate, but in reality, it is the failure of the system as a whole which they resent, not one particular aspect of it.

The Dutch, for example, are the highest per capita contributors to the EU. The Dutch have also learned that, when they gave up the guilder for the euro, some 10% of their savings were wiped out due to undervaluation of the guilder.

So the Dutch government, fortified by last week's strong "Nee" to the draft EU constitutional document, is less likely than usual to accommodate the bigger countries which normally bulldozer it into compliance. The British rebate may be an issue, but the larger question is the necessary overhaul of the overall system.

The Italians are facing economic meltdown thanks to the strong euro and low interest rates - both of which are hurting the Italian economy and neither of which the Italian government has any power to affect. There has been much wishful thinking from Italy, yearning for a return to the lira.

The lame-duck German government also has millions of dissatisfied voters (who will most likely kick them out in the national elections this September), mired in unemployment and concerned about their contributions to the EU. The government will be tempted to offer concessions, as they won't be around to pay the bills, but doing so too blatantly will make Chancellor Schroeder and his unpleasant Green sidekick Fischer look bad back home and in the history books - their primary consideration at this point.

The French, in the shape of their farmers, are big winners in the current budgetary system, the farmers receive some 10% of the entire budget in subsidies! Spain benefits even more, as by far the biggest net receivers. Both countries can be expected to argue for "no change".

Given this clash of interests, put into unwonted context by the referenda in Holland and France (which have dampened enthusiasm for the EU's wide-scale spending plans), this week's budget discussions will not produce agreement, unless the usual face-saving compromise is found.

But as a face-saving compromise only postpones the moment of reckoning for the current opaque, corrupt and unwieldy EU budget arrangements, it would be far better for all of us taxpayers if the discussions were to collapse in ignominious failure. The politicians could then go home to figure out how to start pruning the system down to a more manageable shape.

BBC NEWS Politics Straw goes on EU budget offensive

Friday, June 10, 2005

Joschka Fischer Returns from Washington Empty-Handed

Joschka Fischer, the policeman-beating pacifist Green who metamorphosed into Germany's Foreign Minister, was in Washington this week, angling for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. He met Condoleezza Rice who gave him what can only be described as a cordially dusty diplomatic response.

As this blog has repeatedly pointed out, the Germans were on a hiding to nothing with this one, and the mammoth efforts of the German socialist government were no more than political actionism and time-wasting.

No interest of the United States is served by further dilution of the Security Council. The UN needs radical reform, in any case, so there isn't a lot to be gained from tinkering with the composition of its committees and councils. The anti-Americanism of Fischer and his socalist colleagues, with their contemptuous dismissal of US policies and their visceral dislike of George W. Bush, won't have won them many friends in Foggy Bottom, either.

A fitting outcome, then, for Germany's unpleasant and arrogant Foreign Minister, a man whose career and policies are coming to their well-merited end.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Zimbabwe - Mugabe's Murambatsvina

Zimbabwean opposition to the dictatorship of Mugabe is hardening as Mugabe clamps down with ever-increasing brutality on his opponents. The latest victims of Mugabe's megalomania are hundreds of thousands of citizens who used to live in the townships of Harare and Bulawayo - areas in which people's hatred of Mugabe is well-founded and vocal. Their homes have now been bulldozed away, part of a cynically-termed "clean-up operation", or, in Shona, Murambatsvina. 20,000 arrests have been made.

The media in Europe highlight a Dominican AIDS-orphans hospice which has been swept away in Hatcliffe Extension in Harare. But, exciting as Mugabe may find the persecution of nuns and orphans, his trigger-finger is really itching to wipe away the opposition, whose dispersal - away from the townships and into the country - makes them far easier to control.

Voices calling publicly for Mugabe's removal continue to make themselves heard in Zimbabwe. Jan Lamprecht, for example, writing in Zimdaily today, calls for Mugabe's dictatorship to be removed by force. Mugabe's days are certainly numbered, and it is hard to think that things could get worse for Zimbabweans if it happens sooner rather than later.
Zimbabwes Biggest Daily Online Newspaper - Zimbabweans Consider Millitary Action Against Mugabe

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tractor-Seat Regulation - EU "Not To Blame" Says Vice President Verheugen

The Vice President of the European Commission, Guenter Verheugen, is at pains to explain that an EU regulation concerning the safety of tractor-seats cannot be blamed on the EU.

The tractor-seat nonsense was in fact initiated by the German government, he says. The German government, it seems, was inveigled by a tractor-seat maker from Bayern into proposing the measure, so as to give him (the tractor-seat maker, not Verhuegen) a competitive advantage.

The EU Commission then took the tractor-maker's rule and simply got all the other governments to roll it out across Europe - presumably to do the tractor-seat making chap a favour. It seems a decidedly rum way of drafting Euro-wide regulations, and one supposes the tractor-seat making guy had some influential friends. Anyway, good to see VP Verheugen putting the record straight.

But then the VP says that this means people should not laugh about him and the whole tractor-seat situation in beer tents. The blog is completely mystified by all this (which can be read in today's Rheinische Post) but wants to pass it on all the same. It might mean something to somebody. In the meantime, the blog is heading off to the beer-tent for a jolly good laugh at VP Verheugen's expense. What a prize booby that fellow is, and how entirely deserving of beer-drinkers' mockery!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Constitutional Debate in Taiwan: Model for EU

The new constitutional arrangements of Taiwan are being debated with much furore in Taiwan - by politicians, as well as mere voters.

Unlike in Europe, fullblooded parliamentary debate is seen as a perfectly normal accompaniment to proposals for major constitutional change, and mainstream politicians, rather than presenting a "united front" openly embrace conflicting viewpoints, which they articulate with a view to persuading their electorates.

Much material here for the EU's chiefs to ponder. And all the more reason to cherish the democracy of Taiwan, and to desist from offering comfort to Taiwan's mortal enemies, the current Chinese regime, by lifting the embargo on European arms, with which Taiwanese democracy and freedom could so easily be crushed.

Taiwan News Online

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Headless Chickens of Europe

They've all been at it over the weekend - President Chirac of France, Chancellor Schroeder of Germany, EU President of the Commission Barroso, EU President Juncker - saying that the "ratification process" must continue.

It is no point telling these men that the constitutional document, since its rejection in Holland and France, can no longer be ratified (unless Dutch and French voters are asked to vote again, a procedure unlikely to fly). And, as we mentioned here last Friday, the UK will today be cancelling - sorry, postponing - its own referendum.

So why are they all still at it? Headless chicken syndrome? Trying to win time? Forcing the "blame" for the killing of the treaty to fall on the UK? They're so panicked and out of touch, these senior politicians, that their current sottises are probably down to "all of the above."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Britain To Nix EU Referendum

This coming Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will tell MP's in the House of Commons that the European Union Bill (to set up a referendum on the draft EU constitution) will be withdrawn - so that no referendum will happen in the UK, the Daily Telegraph reports.

This exposes divisions amongst pro-constitution politicians. Some of them are still sticking to the line that the "ratification process" should proceed - even though the constitutional document can only be ratified if all countries approve it. The "ratification process" is thus reduced to a series of plebiscites and parliamentary affirmations which have no actual legislative point - they're more like a research tool to gauge national positions.

It is now clear that there was indeed no "plan B" in the event of a "No" vote, so blindly confident was the European political mainstream of securing approval for its wretched document.

Commissioner Wallström, the beleaguered and bewildered Swede in charge of institutional relations and communications, is now talking about a "Plan D" - D as in "Democracy" and shorthand for bringing the tattered European project closer to the people. That approach has been long overdue. Commissioner Wallström may not want to hear what the people tell her, though. Au fond, they want less of Europe, not more.

In the meantime, the draft constitutional document is effectively a "D" as in "dead letter", but it is being left dangling in the wind a bit longer, for form's sake, probably until the European Council meeting on June 16th.

The link is to the Daily Telegraph:Telegraph News Britain shelves vote on Euro treaty

Schroeder "A Social-Climbing Plebeian With Frightful Inferiority Complexes"

Gerhard Schroeder Toasts the Class War

Vicious snobbery has been going out of fashion for a while now.

Here in Germany, it is scarcely even salon-fähig (socially acceptable) these days.

Marxism too, for all Chairman Müntefering's attempts to reintroduce it into mainstream German politics (see the various posts on the Müntefering Terror below), has lost most of the elan it undoubtedly possessed in the 1920s.

So it is good to see the left-wing Stern magazine resurrecting both in an impressive double-whammy of an interview with 80 year-old ex-SPD figurehead and "social conscience" Peter von Oertzen. Speaking of the German Chancellor, von Oertzen remarks:

"Schroeder is driven by simple things, he wants to be be recognised by cultured people, by the rich and powerful. He is a social-climbing plebeian full of the most frightful inferiority complexes."

It's funny how almost all the Marxists are such howling snobs. It was always so. Love of the proletarian masses in the abstract seldom translates, alas, to love of actual proletarians. It's no doubt something to do with blanket condemnations of entire classes of society - not to mention the chance to be insufferably unpleasant about people under guise of a spurious superiority, another vice to which which both snobs and Marxists are hopelessly addicted.

Still, in this case, it has to be said that von Oertzen has hit the nail on the head, and is highly to be commended. He has put the horrid little working-class oik Schroeder in his place, where he belongs.

This equality lark has gone on long enough. It is time to talk about the things which really matter.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

EU Needs "More Supranationalism" To Avoid "Meltdown"

Hard to know whether to laugh or cry, but the attached article shows how the political mainstream in Germany would like to spin the EU referendum rejections in Holland and France. It is by Hans W. Maull, who holds the Chair for Foreign Policy and International Relations at the University of Trier, and draws the conclusion that:

- the "democratic" deficit in the EU is mostly about the political defects of member governments and their efforts to force European politics in the service of their own, often very petty, preoccupations.


- the problems leading to the "non"/"nee" were not with the promotion of "more Europe", but with the lack of credible promoters (ie the national politicians).

So the draft constitution, according to Maull's almost surreal analysis, was primarily rejected because of dissatisfactions with the voters' national governments, with their attempts to soil the clear waters of the European project with their "petty" national concerns (imagine!). And the answer, says Maull, is to steam ahead, increase "supranationalism" and generally have "more Europe".

In fairness to Maull, the vote in France did seem swayed by a wish to punish Chirac. Even so, there was much more to it than that. And the Dutch referendum strongly featured voters' concerns about "more Europe" and the feeling that it was moving ahead too fast.

Maull's analysis and concluding precepts show that, no matter how clearly voters reject its direction, the European political mainstream (for which Maull is acting as a mouthpiece) simply will not be diverted. Maybe it really cannot be diverted, but if that is so, it will have to be dammed.

Your Gateway to German Foreign Policy

Rip It Up And Start Again: Euro Misery

The euro was a terrible idea - prematurely implemented to hasten European union, and calculated to bring financial misery to its sponsors - but once the currency was in place, the blog hoped against its better instincts that it would somehow work, as the price of failure would be too high.

Now many voices are saying it is time to scrap the euro, too. The price of maintaining it, they say, is too high.

What they have realised is that the weaknesses of the euro and the now rejected draft constitution are identical: both may serve the interests of nascent supranational governance, but not of the individual nations and citizens intended to be governed.

And there is nore to this than "one size doesn't fit all"; it is often more like "one size doesn't fit any."

The blog always assumed that a euro crisis would happen when markets saw that the political will to prop the currency up was sapping away. The political will was ditched a while back, along with the Stability Pact, earlier this year. The markets only overlooked that because the relative weakness of the dollar disguised the euro's plight.

But now the voters of Holland and France are signalling, as clearly as an electorate can possibly do, that the European project has already gone too far for them in terms of surrendering national to supranational policy-making. The euro looks to suffer as a result.

But the taxpayers who funded the whole ghastly state-building experiment will suffer far, far more.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holland' s Nee and the Aftermath: EU Constitutional Process

Many folk are saying that today's Dutch Nee vote will kick the EU's draft constitutional document into touch, and soon kill off the treaty, whilst others are saying, with equal conviction, that the "ratification process" will continue.

The point is that the document will never be "ratified" as it stands - it would need to be ratified by each EU country, and, no matter how cynical one's view of the EU's politicians, such high-handed and open contempt of the vox populi is highly unlikely to appeal even to them.

The more likely outcome is that, after the so-called "period of reflection" which follows on a "period of rejection", the upcoming Council of Ministers will gather for a stormy summit meeting on June 16th (where the EU's budget will also be on the agenda), and call for a wide-ranging review of the whole constitutional process, vowing to "consult the people" and all the rest of it.

If they are brave, they will conduct this in a proper and professional way, rather than letting a bungler like Giscard d'Estaing, or some other faded politician, run the show. A proper review leading to recommendations could easily be set up, using marketing communications techniques used for new product development in the commercial sector.

The constitutional project is essentially an NPD project, one which has been catastrophically badly managed. Giscard d'Estaing and his team screwed up on the content of the document (too wide-ranging and badly written) as well as on the process of formulating it and getting it approved within the EU and the nation states. It has been a story of astounding ineptness, compounded by the disengaged and cloth-eared way the Commission has since communicated what it sees as the benefits of the draft document.

The complexity attendant on developing a new consitution for Europe is not really one of content, but of process. It is not so much the number of countries involved (commercial companies regularly launch new products on a European or global basis), nor the inherent complexity of constitutional matters - but far more because so many different institutions and governments are involved, all of which need to be integrated into the process, each of them adding a new layer of complexity. That is what makes the process less one of answering the question: "What would be the best constitution for Europe?" than: "How can we find a compromise which keeps everyone quiet?"

The key to producing a better constitutional document would be to allow citizens to evaluate different constitutional models, from loose trading federation to centralised state - as opposed to confronting them with a fait accompli, which has been the case this time around. This is relatively unproblematic in itself. It wouldn't require a referendum for each aspect of the constitution, as representative samples of voters would be quizzed in focus group discussions. In this way, a "big constitutional picture" could be built up.

Whether the Council of Ministers and the Commission are prepared to opt for such a process will be clearer after the June 16th meeting.

At the same time, because the current draft document contains so many discrete measures, it is entirely likely that attempts will be made to process key elements into law on a separate basis. This is understandable, as, in rejecting increased centrally-led integration, voters have been forced to reject a host of other measures too, some of which might well have been entirely unexceptionable to them.

The difficulty is that it is almost impossible to separate, say, a technocratic measure designed to "streamline" decision-making in an enlarged EU, from the concomitant erosion of national powers against which voters have voted. Attempts will nevertheless be made to do so.

The best advice one can give the Council and the Commissioners now, especially Margot Wallström, who has the communications brief, is that they should admit that their voters have, completely unexpectedly, transformed the whole political landscape in Europe, but that this represents a fundamental opportunity for the EU to reconnect with voters. The voters, in fact, created a golden chance to remodel the EU's systems and institutions better to reflect and express their political will.

The devil will be in the detail, of course, but if a strong democratic framework is set up, there would be everything to play for.

Guardian Unlimited Special reports EU braced for big no vote in Dutch referendum

Uodate: This post was overly optimistic. In the end the draft constitution, having been declared dead, simply came back under the guise of "the Lisbon Treaty" and will now become law. Thus will end the era of national democracies in Europe.