Friday, July 29, 2005

A Bloody Sylvan Tragedy

On a wretchedly sultry day, the only thing of the remotest interest in the papers is a curt report about an intriguing, bloody sylvan tragedy.

A 52 year old man called the police at 8:30 yesterday from the woods of Weeze, saying that he had been castrated. When the police arrived, they found him lying on a blanket, bleeding profusely from numerous wounds to the genitalia. It seems he had met someone on the internet, and then for real - with the usual consequences.

Not for the first time, the blog urges those who are unable to control their masochistic homosexual impulses on no account to meet strangers in the woods. No good can come of it.

If you're very lucky, you'll escape with just a nasty rash. But if lady luck looks the other way (and who can blame her, given the circs?), you'll end up emasculated, or worse.

Claude de Bigny, as always trying to root out a glimmer of hope in the most barren of contexts, sees only positive consequences in this revival in public immolation and flagellation. His eyes alight with a burning Catholic intensity, he hopes it will lead not merely to the extirpation of sexually-motivated evildoers, but the rebirth of the Vatican's famous choir of castrati! Sadly, the blog corrects him. A boy's pure treble voice is irretrievably lost, we explain, once he has passed through the living hell of adolescence with his gonads intact. Once broken, the voice is forever gone, even after subsequent removal of his testicles. And the fact is that perverted sexual desires of the sort likely to lead to emasculation only kick in during or after adolescence, when the warbling treble has already given way to the boom of the bass. De Bigny's dreams of celestial Sistine harmonies are shattered.

There is, in short, no comfort in this tale. One can only hope that the men in the woods found what they were looking for.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sinn Fein/IRA Calls Off Terrorist Campaign But Cannot Control Gangsterism of its "Volunteers"

Gerry Adams has seen that, with the current President in office for another term, invitations to the White House - even jolly fund-raising jaunts to the States - were no longer on the cards for him. Most Irish-Americans have now seen through the whole Sinn Fein-IRA scam for the fraudulent simplification and sentimentalisation of murder and repression it is. The wider war on terror, meanwhile, has increased squeamishness about funding terror of any stripe even among those who still hanker after republican delusions.

So not only was Adams' flow of ready money drying up, but his political credibility was fading fast too. Adams has wisely, if belatedly, decided to jack in the armed struggle on the IRA's behalf. This may help to make him and his fellow ex-terrorists salonfähig again, and he will be rewarded soon enough with a return to political power. Sickening as this is, it's certainly an improvement of sorts, and one for which George W. Bush's resolute stance deserves some credit.

The big question is whether Adams can persuade the gangsters who make up the rest of the IRA to jack in committing their crimes as well - the kneecappings, bribery, money-laundering and extortion on which the livelihoods of so many "Volunteers" depend.

Good luck, Gerry. You'll be needing it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Skoda-VW Scandal (III) - Pischetsrieder Sends Ex-Ambassador Elbe to "Pacify India"

One of the Skoda/Volkswagen scandal's many shameful aspects is that corruption and bribery are alleged to have been rampant not merely in the heartland of Rhineland capitalism, but have spread out across the globe, to the Indian province of Andrha Pradesh, for example, where a planned VW factory has been put on the back burner in the wake of unsavoury allegations.

This has done VW's image no favours in India. So the Volkswagen chief, Bernd Pischetsrieder, has hired Germany's ex-ambassador to India, Frank Elbe (posted to New Delhi 1993-7), to help out.

Earlier this year, Elbe clashed with Germany's Foreign Minister, the policeman-beating Green pacifist Joschka Fischer. Fischer had already demoted Elbe: the Indian posting was followed by Switzerland, a bit of a come-down. But this year, when Elbe protested against Fischer's determination to humiliate diplomats who had been Nazi party members as kids, Fischer grabbed his chance and sacked Elbe for his lèse-majesté. (see Elbe-Fischer background here)

This skeleton-filled past shouldn't prove too much of a handicap for Elbe, though. He is being hired for his connections in India, not his relationship with the doomed German administration. And a bit of diplomatic plain-speaking - if such a thing exists - might just do the trick.

Anecdotal comment/historical parallels by the blog's historical correspondent, Claude de Bigny:

For all that he is trying to expunge his company's guilt, Herr Elbe should avoid saying "peccavi" too often, as this will raise quite the wrong kind of imperial associations. As it happens, there are some intriguing parallels between this Volkswagen scandal - insofar as it concerns India - and the conquest of the Indian province of Sind on behalf of the East India Company.

When Sir Charles "Fagin" Napier conquered Sind, it was as much through bribery as valour, critics claimed. The conquest completed, Sir Charles is said to have sent the East India Company's Governor General the famous laconic message Peccavi - "I have sinned". It is a pun "familiar to generations of schoolboys". At any rate, a contemporary cartoon in Punch (critical of the action) publicised the pun, either referring to Napier's actual message, or setting the apocryphal anecdote in motion.

The invasion of Sind appears to have featured notable instances of hypocrisy, if the link above is to be believed. The historical parallels are piquant, if unsurprising:
- Both Volkswagen and Napier allegedly used bribery to secure kickbacks and profit;
- Both the East India Company and Volkswagen had intimate connections with the highest echelons of their respective governments.

Skoda-Volkswagen Scandal (I)
Skoda-Volkswagen Scandal (II)
Fischer Sacks Elbe

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On The Political Roots of Islamist Violence - Islam's Schisms

This extract is taken from Thomas Keightley's Secret Societies of the Middle Ages (1837) - and describes how Islamist violence is rooted in the earliest schism of the Muslim faith. The schism (between the Shias and the Sunnis) first arose from a political, not a religious dispute. It was solely about achieving power:

"It must be steadily kept in mind, in every discussion respecting the Mohammedan religion, that Mohammed and his successors succeeded in establishing what the lofty and capacious mind of Gregory VII attempted in vain - the union of the civil and ecclesiastical powers in the same person. Unlike the schisms of the eastern and western, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, which originated in difference of opinion on points of discipline or matters of doctrine, that of the Mohammedans arose solely from ambition and the struggle for temporal power."

When we try to assess the nature of the Al Qaeda threat, we have little firm information as to its true ambitions, and those of its allied groups. A multiplicity of competing aims is articulated by a multiplicity of spokespeople.

However, it is clear that international violence (similar to Al Qaeda's) has been associated with the spread of Islam since its beginnings in the 7th century. And the springs of this violence have consistently been political, not religious.

Put another way, to extricate political from religious aims, when dealing with
Islamist violence, is to miss the point: the Islamist's religious aims can only
be met through the assumption of political power.

Theo van Gogh's Murderer Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

The court in Amsterdam found the murderer guilty on all counts and gave him a life sentence.

Full article in Volkskrant (in Dutch):de Volkskrant - Levenlang voor Mohammed B.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Zimbabwe Government's Clampdown on Opposition Continues

The latest victim of 81 year old President Mugabe's tyranny is the Mayor of Mutare, Joseph Kagurabadza, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), today's Zimdaily reports.

The Mayor's crime was to show a UN envoy some of the results of Operation Murambatsvina, the cynically-named "clean-up" in which thousands of Zimbabweans' houses were bulldozed away, leaving them homeless. Operation Murambatsvina especially targetted areas where opposition to Mugabe is strong. The UN envoy's report, needless to say, was damning about Operation Murambatsvina.

The Mayor of Mutare was admonished by Mugabe's Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo. Chombo said that Kagurabadza was "an unpatriotic mayor who was happy with seeing the people of Mutare staying in illegal structures."

Although there have been reports about infighting within the MDC, opposition to Mugabe remains firm. Zimdaily continues to report on the instability and panic gripping Mugabe's regime, which has passed a series of repressive acts, such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to retain control of the country.

Link to Zimdaily:Zimbabwes Biggest Daily Online Newspaper - Chombo Fires Mutare Mayor Over UN Report Zimbabwe News,Zimdaily,Zimbabwe,Zimbabwe Daily,Mugabe

RIP: Jean Charles de Menezes, An Innocent Man Shot On Suspicion Of Being A Terrorist - The Israelification of Our Security

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot last Friday by policemen under the impression he was a suicide bomber.

His death is the result of the UK police's "shoot to kill" policy, which applies to potential suicide bombers, who can most effectively be "disarmed" by shots to the head.

The police have made a terrible mistake for which Mr de Menezes has paid with his life.

The policy is not being reviewed; the police are openly saying that more innocents may be shot on suspicion of being terrorists. This may well be a consequence we have to accept if we want "effective policing" to control suicide bombers. After all, no-one would argue that the police should let suspected suicide bombers loose on crowded Tube stations. But this Israelification of our security means it is no longer possible to say that UK society hasn't changed, for the worse, in reaction to terrorism.

R.I.P.Telegraph News More innocents could be shot

Saturday, July 23, 2005

St Apollinaris' and St Phocas the Gardener's Day - Problems of Meekness and Martyrdom

Today is the feast day of St Apollinaris, patron saint of, amongst other things, Düsseldorf and diseases of the sexual organs.

Apollinaris was born in Antioch, Turkey in the first century and may have been a disciple of St Peter. As first bishop of Ravenna, he was martyred after Emperor Vespasian banished the Christians.

Today is also St Phocas the Gardener's Day. St Phocas was a Christian gardener of Sinope, on the Black Sea in Paphlagonia, whom Roman soldiers were sent to execute. Not knowing what he looked like when they got to Paphlagonia, they asked St Phocas to help them find him. St. Phocas promised that he would, even offering them food and a bed for the night. That night, St Phocas dug his own grave in his garden. Then he prepared himself for death. In the morning, he led the soldiers to his grave and revealed who he was. The soldiers were aghast and at first reluctant to carry out the execution. But St Phocas reassured them and persuaded them to behead him.

The example of St Phocas' Christian meekness perplexes the blog amid today's terrorist onslaughts. How should a Christian blog behave in the face of Islamist violence? Whom should we follow - St Phocas, obeying Christ's injunction to "turn the other cheek"? Or the Church Militant and the noble Crusaders?

The problem with meekness is that it is leads to martyrdom (and extinction). The problem with Crusading is that it doesn't conform to today's conception of Christianity. Maybe the best thing is to retire to a pillar in the desert. For a blog with a wife and children, this is not an easily realisable course of action. But the alternatives don't bear thinking about.

Catholic Online - Saints & Angels - St. Apollinaris

Thursday, July 21, 2005

President Köhler Gives Go-Ahead to German Elections

President Horst Köhler, Germany's head of state, has just announced his approval for national elections in Germany, based on Chancellor Schroeder's lost vote of confidence last month.

Whilst no surprise, his decision lets Schroeder and the SPD off the hook. In fact, the government did have a perfectly workable majority. Schroeder's sidekick, Müntefering (he of the Müntefering Terror), said as much immediately after the lost vote of confidence, in which the SPD voted tactically against their own Chancellor. But the SPD has lost the will to govern, whilst Schroeder was unwilling to do the decent thing and resign. So he opted for this route. Not unconstitutional, therefore - although technically, the President's decision remains open to challenge, if anyone can be bothered - just a little bit sordid.

But as all the parties and opinion polls show a huge majority for elections, a challenge would be no more than a quibble on a technicality. The election is set for September 18th. The centrist CDU is comfortably leading the polls, with about 42% to the SPD's 27%, but an outright majority is far from being a given, and the newly-formed Left Party, led by an ex-communist (Gysi) and a self-publicist (Lafontaine), could pick up a respectable protest vote (current poll:12%) on the back of populist promises.

Still, anything would be an improvement on the current Socialist/Green crowd, probably the worst German government since the war.

Peter Tatchell: A Leftist Repents

"I used to be proud to call myself a leftist. Now I feel shame."

Peter Tatchell, famous as a hard leftist gay-rights activist, explains why at Unite Against Terror.

His article in full: Why I Signed: Peter Tatchell (Human Rights campaigner, London)

EU Translation Capacity Increased

Facts and figures from EU Observer: the EU Commission spent €320 million on translations last year, and the EU institutions altogether spent some €800 million.

The old joke comes to mind - "What part of the word "No!" do they not understand?"

Happy Birthday Belgium: 175/25 Today

A 175th birthday is to be congratulated, even if the blog deplores the rebellion of (some) Walloons and Flemish against the benevolent rule of Holland in 1830. The 25th anniversary, less excitingly, is for Belgium's existence as a federal state, a recognition of its linguistic divisions, the roots of which go back to Roman times.

Belgium remains famously divided: "Sire, il n'y a pas de Belges", said the socialist Jules Destrée in 1912. Socialist bilge, perhaps, but it hit a nerve and is still much quoted today, almost as if it were true. A sense of existential crisis still pervades the country, expressive of the problems attendant on creating a federal unity where no unity exists - and, as such, deeply instructive to today's Eurocrats in Brussels, who are busily drawing up the same construct, on an even broader canvas.

But the Belgians have somehow managed to create a splendid country - or whatever is the right term - out of this schizophrenia. This may be more apparent to an outsider than to the Belgians themselves. There is still a lot of bitterness between the French- and the Dutch-speakers. But 87% of Belgians still believe in the future of their country. So its component regions won't be subsumed into the EU superstate just yet. The blog raises a glass of Witbier to the plucky Belgians and wishes them, and the Rooie Duvels , well.

de Volkskrant - Jarig Belgi? takelt langzaam af

Free Akbar Ganji, Iranian Writer and Dissident

Link to blog which publishes the writings of imprisoned Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji.Free Ganji

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

RIP: Claus von Stauffenberg - The July 20th Plot

Today is the anniversary of the July 20th plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944.

Claus von Stauffenberg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Holland Joins Britain To Call for EU Budget Reform In Face of French Opposition

Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, writes in today's Guardian about the need for radical reform of the EU's budget. Balkenende's unequivocal support for reform will hearten Tony Blair as he seeks out ways to overcome diehard French and German opposition.

Link to Balkenende's article in Guardian Unlimited:Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment Our rude awakening

Germany's Merkel Goes to Paris and Makes Some Encouragingly "Anglo-Saxon" Noises

Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany's centrist CDU party, who is still in with a decent chance of becoming Chancellor in September, jets off to Paris to pose for some pictures and show her statesmanship.

She is gruff enough with President Chirac, France's morally-challenged head of state, and informs him that the German-French "Axis" is all wrong in its oppositionism to the USA, its wish to sell arms to China, and its constant sidelining of other EU countries.

Then she rushes off to "flirt" - as much of the media insists on dscribing it - with Nicolas Sarkozy, the supposedly more Anglo-Saxon minded presidential candidate in the wings.

It would be nice but naive to think that Nicolas Sarkozy - should he succeed to the French presidency in 2007 - would temper France's traditional de haut en bas relations with the USA, with Israel, with the other EU countries (especially the smaller ones), and allow a more market-driven France to champion reform of the EU. But experience tells one that as soon as Sarkozy slips his elegantly-shod feet under the Elysee desk, he will be just as protectionist and chauvinistic as his predecessors.

The primacy, for both Sarkozy and Merkel, of their national power bases - for all the powerful and baleful vested interests of French farmers, German unions, and so on - is far from being a bad thing: if it didn't apply to them, it wouldn't apply to the hardline federalists either, with disastrous consequences for us all.

It does mean, though, that the "statesmanship" of these as yet unelected leaders is premature, even bumptious, and both of them should beware that it won't be stillborn.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Skoda-Volkswagen Scandal (II) : Suggests Systematic Corruption

The endless litany of Skoda-Volkswagen linked scandal emerging daily in the media emanates from the deepest innards of "System Volkswagen" - an incestuously intertwined body representing the interests of employers, unions, suppliers and politicians - which steers the automotive group.

The scandal's head of steam first built up at VW's Czech subsidiary Skoda, but the juiciest details so far have come from sacked Volkswagen employee Klaus-Joachim Gebauer, who has supplied his lawyers, led by the FDP (centre-right) politician Wolfgang Kubicki, with over 60 pages' worth of ammunition to embarrass his erstwhile employers.

The resignation of Peter Hartz, close associate and adviser to Chancellor Schroeder, has been the highest proifle scalp so far. Hartz, in his role as adviser to the socialist SDP/Green government, was the champion of measures designed to address the chronic problems of German unemployment by putting more of a squeeze on the unemployed. "Hartz IV", one of his programmes, was implemented disastrously, resulting in a massive waste of tax money, organisational duplication and incompetence, and - as always with such plans - unnecessary human suffering. The imbecilic way in which "Hartz IV" was implemented stiffened the resistance of many amongst Germany's 5 million unemployed, and the people who fear to join them - against even reasonable reform of the sclerotic welfare state. Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Niederschden, Christian Wulff, and the boss of the IG metals union, Jürgen Peters, met to discuss whom should succeed Hartz. No name has yet emerged.

No-one, as far as the blog is aware, has yet asserted that senior politicians associated with Volkswagen - like Chancellor Schroeder, who as Prime Minister of Niedersachsen served on its board - were themselves party to the whoring and bribery that is alleged to have been an integral part of "System Volkswagen". But at the very least, the mere fact of their involvement throws aspects the system into further doubt. For whilst it is quite credible that the politicians knew nothing of the sordid goings-on, one might justifiably ask what, if they knew nothing, they were doing on the carmaker's board in the first place.

"System Volkwagen", in its close connection with high politics, has a long and unsavoury history. Everyone knows that Adolf Hitler himself gave the first impetus for the building of a "Volkswagen" - a car for the people. But even today, there is a dispute between the company and the designer who was never paid for the famous logo he designed - as he claims - at the direct behest of the Nazi government in 1939. If this is not a failure of justice or of ethics, it is certainly a failure of basic communications and PR for such a fundamental theme to remain unresolved.

Meanwhile, the prosecution of "System Volkswagen's" head of procurement, Francisco Garcia Sanz, is proceeding. A supplier alleges false financial details supplied by Sanz led to bankruptcy. Sanz, an integral player within "System Volkswagen" is also alleged to have held shares in various VW suppliers - a brazen conflict of interests which, it appears, was tolerated, if not actively encouraged, by the system.

And, as the blog reported before, it is precisely the smaller suppliers who may suffer most as light is thrown on the murkier aspects of "System Volkswagen". To take one example from the pool of communications agencies - companies like the relatively unproven cayenne communications agency, which have helped to build up their business on the back of Skoda-Volkswagen international contracts, are far likelier to suffer damage to their reputations than proven suppliers with established creative reputations, such as DDB or Fallon.

The failure of "System Volkswagen" is emblematic of the failure of corporatist Germany as a whole, and betrays shortcomings in the Rhineland Model, with its cosy interdependence of industry, politics, finance, unions and suppliers. At some point, excess cosiness seems to have become outright corruption.

Update 27th July 2005: VW Chief Pischetsrieder Sends Ex-Ambassador Elbe to "Pacify India".

Monday, July 18, 2005

Appeasing the Dictator (III): France Undermines EU Position on Cuban Dissidents

As part of its "celebrations" on Bastille Day, the French government invited representatives from Cuba, thus undermining the EU's position on diplomatic links with the benighted country, still suffering the military tyranny of Fidel Castro.

The EU froze links with the murderous dictator in 2003, after the arrest and persecution of some 78 dissidents there. There was a "thaw" in the EU's position in February this year, when the EU embassies shamefully undertook to bar anyone opposed to Castro from their wretched cocktail parties.

This blog protested, alongside many others, and Vaclav Havel said, "It is hard to imagine a more shameful deal." As always, appeasement did not pay off, and Cuba has continued its persecutions. Now France, in keeping with its amoral maverick stance on such matters, is the first country to extend an open hand of friendship to the communist regime, which has been as undiluted a disaster for Cuba - in the half century it has oppressed and terrified the lovely archipelago - as the French revolution was for the French.

The Left Party: New Conservative Movement in Germany?

The blog decides to second Dr Sigismund Heuschrecke, the "capitalist locust" communications guru, to the hard-left WASG party, and its Stalinist East German partner, the PDS.

These parties are the only true conservatives in the upcoming German election, and the only movement with a fighting chance of turning the clocks back a good fifty years. They will insulate us against the modern world with a host of exciting initiatives:

- bring back the class war;
- beef up protectionism;
- punitive redistributive taxtation;
- send East Germany back into a communist ghetto.

The effect of all this admirable atavism will be entirely positive, the blog believes. For one thing, it is likely that the servant problem will be dealt with for once and for all. Hopeless poverty will engulf the 5 million German unemployed, and they will be looking desperately for work of even the most humiliating kind. That will solve all Lady von E's headaches about recruiting a brace of second under-footmen. And thousands of beautiful castles - currently on the market in East Germany at prices as low as a couple of euros - will become even cheaper, allowing the blog to maintain a few more hunting lodges, discreet harems, goose-liver stuffing factories, knocking shops, and the like. The opportunities are literally unending.

But the challenge facing Dr Heuschrecke is enormous.

"It doesn't look good," he mutters, grimly scanning a picture of Oscar "the Bolter" Lafontaine, the twinkly-eyed, shifty-looking leader of the WASG. Lafontaine may indeed appear to be the most appalling shit, but appearances can deceive. Keep him off the politics, says Heuschrecke, and he's a perfectly agreeable chap.

The great joke about Lafontaine is that he resigned right at the start of the first Schroeder administration. There was some unpleasantness, with Chancellor Schroeder wanting to be nice to "business", and Lafontaine wanting to be nasty. Lafontaine looked like losing out. He shrank back, aghast, from the levers of power. Recently, he has also left the SPD party (whose chairman he once was). Hence his nickname, "the Bolter."

Now the Bolter is aiming to ally his WASG party to the jolly Stalinists of the PDS, who have just changed their name to Die Linkspartei (The Left Party). Whilst this name might have the trusted sound of a tedious play by Harold Pinter, it is, Dr Heuschrecke opines, hardly going to electrify the punters. Should a merger happen, Dr Heuschrecke is tossing a few alternatives in the air, such as "The New Conservatives" or "The Popular Front".

One thing is clear. Whilst these people may only have some 11% support in the national opinion polls, in the former East, this rises to 31% - the largest party. But if Dr Heuschrecke brings some rigour to their communications, and steers the Bolter away from excessive tendency to talk politics, they might attract a sizeable protest vote.

They will strike a great blow against the poor, and condemn the late working class to permanent, state-sponsored servitude. It may seem a high price to pay to furnish Lady von E with her second under-footmen. But we think it's more than worth it!

RIP: Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Heath, who died yesterday aged 89, had a distinguised record during World War II, when, as adjutant of the 107th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, he helped keep the bridge at Nijmegen open against a fierce German onslaught; after the war, despite becoming Prime Minister of Britain and performing at high levels as a sailor and conductor, he was afflicted by an excessive desire to compromise and trim his policies - partly responsible for Britain's terrible decline during the 1970's - until he was replaced as leader of the Conservative Party by Margaret Thatcher, whom he hated and attempted to undermine, greatly to his discredit, and whose successes blighted his twilight years in his exquisite mansion in Salisbury Close.

Link to the Telegraph's obituary: Telegraph News Sir Edward Heath

The Uglification of Language

Ten years ago, the German government decided it needed to reform the spelling of the German language (Rechtschreibreform). A committee was duly set up to do so. The reforms dreamt up by this body met with such resistance that they can only be implemented piecemeal, if at all. Some of the German Länder have therefore refused to implement them, knowing full well that further "reforms" will soon come to further confuse their schoolchildren and teachers.

Here's some examples of the proposed changes: the word "Tip" (meaning "tip") is to be spelled "Tipp"; "Mayonnaise" is to become "Majonäse"; whilst "Stoffetzen" becomes "Stofffetzen".

It is clear that, like everything produced by committees, these "reforms" will result in the uglification of something much better left alone.

The only comfort is that this is truly an academic exercise, without the slightest relevance to the modern world. First, because a quarter of Germans aged 15 can't read or write anyway, according to the latest Pisa study. Second, because in a couple of decades, there won't be any requirement for the German language. On present trends, we will all be using Arabic by then.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Make More Money!" Green Spokeswoman for Women Orders German Women

A study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (a sinister UN agency which "seeks the promotion of social justice") has just published some statistics showing that German women earn less than German men.

As a UN body, it is unlikely that the ILO and its figures are even remotely accurate. Even so, the German newspapers splash them all over their front pages, with shrill headlines bewailing the injustice of it all, although there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that women get paid less for doing the same jobs - it's just that women tend to choose jobs that are less well paid than men.

A woman called Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk, who is the Green Party's Spokeswoman for Women, says that girls should adjust the criteria they use to choose a career (their Berufswahlverhalten, as the handy German compound word has it), priorising money-making above everything else.

It seems that the Greens have given up any pretence of being a nice middle class environmental party, whose policies, whilst impeccably dolphin-friendly, were economically naive. These days Gordon "Greed is Good" Gecko would be perfectly at home in the Greens.

But who does Frau Schewe-Gerigk think she is, doling out such cynical and amoral advice to impressionable girls? And what business is it of the Green Party to try and persuade everybody that nothing is more important than money?

If schoolgirls were to take this ridiculous, fatuous woman seriously, we'd have to create thousands upon thousands of highly paid non-jobs. We'd have the Spokeswomen for Women coming out of our ears. Literally.

Luckily, only the most stupid and greedy schoolgirls are likely to follow this foolish woman's advice. Nobody listens to the Green Party anymore, having seen it for the pathetic collection of losers it is.

Friday, July 15, 2005

German Home Secretary Filibusters In Visa Scandal Enquiry

To Berlin, to attend the enquiry into the German Visa Scandal. People want to know why hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants were allowed into Europe, and the enquiry promises to get the answers. Today's star witness is Otto Schily (rhymes with "silly-billy" rather than "shyly"), the Home Secretary. He produces a thick wodge of documents. Everyone's heart sinks as he starts to read them out in a flat monotone.

For five hours and eleven minutes this terrible bore filibusters away, scarcely modulating his voice. By the end of the second hour, most of the hacks are fast asleep, and those that are not are stuffed up to the gills with coke. By the fourth hour, the only people left awake are Schily and myself.

When it is over, all the hacks crowd round me to ask what Schily said. I haven't a clue, of course, but I make something up to keep them quiet. "It wasn't me, honest," all the newspapers quote Schily as saying the next day. "It was Joschka Fischer too. And a few very very lowly minions in my department, but you can't expect me to know what they were doing."

Everyone is satisfied. Democratic accountability is a wonderful thing, in its way, but I don't think I shall be coming back to Berlin for a while.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille Day: A Day of Mourning and Reflection

A day of mourning in Esens, as we remember countless cousins murdered in cold blood by the revolutionaries of 1789 - terrorists who indulged in unspeakable atrocities against thousands of innocents in the name of liberty, fraternity and equality.

France never really recovered from its revolution.

Today, we gather in the church of St Magnus in Esens to pray for the souls of the victims, and for those of their present-day successors everywhere. May God bless and comfort them all!

Terror Watch: German Writer Claims Turkish "Master Race" Less Inclined To Anti-Western Aggression

This blog occasionally highlights particularly ludicrous examples of supposed "insight" into Islamist terror. Today's example comes from Herbert Kremp, in his column in today's Rheinische Post. Here he explains why people of Turkish background are less attracted to anti-Western aggression than other Islamic citizens:

"Turkish minorities have less of a tendency to it (anti-Western aggression) because, despite the loss of the Ottoman Empire, they are filled with the consciousness of being a Master Race."

(Türkische Minderheiten neigen dazu am wenigsten, denn sie sind trotz der Verlusts des osmanischen Reiches vom Selbstbewusstsein eines Herrschaftsvolks erfüllt.")

Loopy one, eh? Still, if Herbert Kremp's assumption were correct, it would be yet another excellent reason for welcoming the Turks into the EU.

You may be wondering who Herr Kremp is. He is a "veteran" journalist, apparently respected in Germany. One doubts that this apercu will go down as one of his successes, though - even in Germany, where the wildest nonsense about the outside world is often accepted without a murmur, by seemingly intelligent people.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Campaign Against Scandalous Treatment of Prince Eric of Monaco

The blog has refrained from commenting on Prince Albert II of Monaco and the son he finally had the grace to acknowledge as his. This was mainly because everyone knows the Grimaldis have always shagged pretty much anything that moves, and this story seemed designed to take attention away from the Prince's rumoured homosexuality and taste for unconventional amours in advance of his coronation.

As a German paper commented, the Monagesque people had been "stinksauer" (well pissed off) about the homosexuality rumours, and were relieved dass ihr Fürst endlich seine Manneskraft unter Beweis gestellt hat (that their prince had finally proven his manliness). Well, quite. No use having a pooftah on the throne, is it?

In fact, some of the rumours swirling around the prince's head were too disgusting to bear repeating in a family blog. Not for nothing did the EU Commissioner for Goats, Markos Kyprianou, pay especial attention to Monaco when he kicked off his policy of testing 200,000 European goats.

But now that the Monagesque people have rewarded the prince by acclaiming him as their ruler, the blog feels suddenly guilty and uncomfortable about the matter. Looking at Nicole Coste and her remarkably intelligent looking infant, Eric Alexandre, it is clear that a grave injustice has been perpetrated.

For one thing, there was the ludicrous statement saying that young Eric Alexandre will not be allowed to use his father's surname. Normally speaking this would not matter in the slightest as the Grimaldis (the divine Princess Caroline apart) are a by-word across Europe for fast living and loose morals, and the surname is so tainted with their moral squalor that even fishwives in Monte Carlo unfortunate enough to bear the Grimaldi moniker usually prefer to change it to something more uplifting, like "Esens" or "Capone."

But the charming and attractive-looking Eric Alexandre is clearly a special case, and this petty-minded ruling (which is in any case a dead letter as any child is fully allowed to use his father's family name, should he want to), combined with the equally fatuous decision by Prince Rainier to disbar illegitimate children from the line of succession, has finally tipped the blog over the edge and into a determination to see that justice is done.

Shame on the Princes Rainier and Albert - themselves descendants, through the female line, of an earlier Grimaldi's illegitimate coupling with a dancing girl! How dare such hypocrites deprive Prince Eric of the inheritance that is rightfully his!

The Curse of Von Esens is hereby invoked on Prince Albert for his meanminded actions, and we vow not to rest until the crown is placed firmly on Prince Eric of Monaco's head, where it belongs, and the Coste family succeeds to the Grimaldis as rightful rulers in Monte Carlo.

Nicole Coste - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Turkey Wants Full EU Membership

Ali Babacan, Turkey's EU negotiator, tells MEP's his country is still aiming for full membership of the fading entity - rather than, as the French and Germans now propose, something called a "privileged partnership."

It seems highly generous, not to say foolhardy, of the Turks that they are sticking to their guns in this matter, when everyone knows that, should they eventually - and it'll take a minimum ten years of tedious negotiations - gain admission to the inner sanctum, their main role will be to provide workers, carers and capital for a continent otherwise populated only by elderly buffers and toothless crones, presided over by a set of corrupt and witless apparatchiks, and whatever other flimflam that the tide of time has washed up on Europe's shores.

Were I a Turk, I would do everything I could to persuade my government to abandon this risky and somehow depressing step. As a European, of course, I am delighted that the Turks are still minded to join us in our gently decaying, would-be superstate.

Link to EU

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Theo van Gogh's Murderer: "I'd Do It Again."

Mohammed Bouyeri, the self-confessed murderer of Theo van Gogh, told the court this afternoon, "If I should ever be freed, I would do the same again. Exactly the same."

He then addressed van Gogh's mother, Anneke:

"I don't feel your pain," he said. "I can't. I don't know how it is to lose a child who has been brought into the world with so much pain and so many tears. What I do know is that I acted out of my own convictions, not because I hated him."

Link to full report (in Dutch):de Volkskrant - Mohammed B.: ik zou het weer doen

London suicide bombers 'were all British'

The police announced tonight that four men were probably involved in last week's atrocities in London; that they were all British (one of them even worked in his parents' fish and chip shop) of Pakistani origin and lived in West Yorkshire; that the bus bomber almost certainly died; that two of the Tube bombers, whose property was found on two of the sites, were almost certainly suicide bombers, whilst the fate of the fourth attacker remains unclear.

Link to this evening's BBC report:BBC NEWS UK London bombers 'were all British'

Dutch-Moroccan Reaction to Theo van Gogh Murder Trial: "Dutch Democracy Has Gone Too Far."

Young people of Moroccan descent living in Holland are full of admiration for Mohammed Bouyeri, Theo van Gogh's confessed murderer, according to quotes in today's Volkskrant.

"Theo van Gogh went too far," says Mohammed.

"What Mohammed B. did is good," says Achmed. "He is my model."

"If Islam is insulted, then freedom of speech no longer counts," says Chapi (23). "Dutch democracy has gone too far."

Some of this might be ascribed to the bravado of youth. At the same time, it shows how much even well-integrated, well-educated young Muslims can despise Western freedom of expression. Given the subject of Theo van Gogh's "offending" film, Submission, moreover, which was about Islam's repressive treatment of women, it also shows how little they respect the Western belief that women are equal to men.

The question is how such attitudes harden from generalised feelings of contempt into an actual hunger to kill.

Islam expert Peters has read Mohammed Bouyeri's writings and discerns four stages in the "radicalisation" of the murderer. The progression holds no surprises, and is, indeed, somewhat bathetic:

1. Rejection of Western values and norms, January 2003.
2. Rejection of the Western legal system.
3. Call to global jihad, March 2004.
4. Specific calls to violence against those who insult Islam; threats to the entire Dutch people, who may no longer feel safe anywhere, July 2004.

The key, of course, is that "the entire Dutch people" - merely by virtue of existing within a Western society - "insult Islam," in the eyes of the radicalised Islamist. The mere fact that Westerners live in Western societies means that they "insult Islam" and deserve to die. And devotion to Islam releases one of the legal obligations which apply to one's fellow citizens.

That Islamist terrorists believe this is no surprise. But that so many apparently well-assimilated, second-generation Islamic citizens are happy to echo it in the streets of Amsterdam - where they fully participate in all the benefits of a wealthy modern welfare state - remains mortifying.

It isn't new, of course. Back in February, when a girl in Berlin was killed for being "too German", some of her classmates celebrated her murder, and agreed she paid the right price for her Westernisation. But it is a standing rebuke to our society that we are doing so little to counter it, still preferring to kowtow to the sick communities amongst us, nurturing the seedbeds of our deadliest enemies.

Link to Volkskrant (Dutch):de Volkskrant - Op straat overheerst de bewondering

EU Enables National Politicians To Avoid Their Voters

Richard North writes of a disturbing instance of law-making via the EU construct - bypassing the national legislature. North refers specifically to a law desired by the British Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to oblige phone and email records to be kept so that they can be checked in the wake of Islamist terror atrocities and the like.

The rights and wrongs of this specific case are not so much the point as the process by which Clarke is seeking to get his way. An agreement he makes with the other EU ministers today can be made UK law tomorrow, according to North, if Clarke can get the British Parliament to approve the agreement "on the nod" through a single "enabling act" vote. In this way, national politicians can speed up the passing into law of ill thought-through law, often the result of a knee-jerk reaction to a specific event, using the EU system to avoid the normal legislative process and their own electorates.

In other words, it is another example of how the war on terror is being misused to erode liberties many of us thought sacrosanct, and guaranteed us through our national institutions.

Permalink to Richard North's article:EU Referendum

Monday, July 11, 2005

"I Swear to God. If they had the death penalty, I would beg for it. Suckers." Trial of Mohammed Bouyeri for Murder of Theo van Gogh Starts

Mohammed Bouyeri, the sole suspect for the murder of film director Theo van Gogh on 2nd November last year, goes on trial in Amsterdam today.

As he is using his right to silence, some of the evidence against him is in the form of tapped calls he made, to his brother, Hassan, amongst others.

In a call made last January, Mohammed Bouyeri laughingly confessed to the murder. "I knew exactly what I was doing", he said. "Yes, I slaughtered him."

He also confirms that he aimed to be killed by the police in a gunfight after the murder, and that, if Holland had the death penalty, he would welcome the martyrdom his own execution would bring him.

"I swear to God. If they had the death penalty, I would beg for it. Suckers."

But Mohammed Bouyeri's failure to secure the holy martyrdom he so desires makes him more of a sucker than the Dutch state in this affair. His trial also provides an opportunity to peer into the perverted mindset of an Islamist grouping in Holland, the Hofstadgroep, an inquiry which is highly unlikely to benefit the terrorists. Indeed, the sooner Western societies realise that the "enemy is within" - in that well-educated and integrated people like Mohammed Bouyeri are potential terrorist recruits - the sooner they will be able to deal with them. In this way, Theo van Gogh's murderer may be doing us more of a service than he realises.
de Volkskrant - Mohammed B. had de doodstraf gewild

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Evidence of al Qaeda's Links with Saddam's Iraq

New evidence about the strength of al Qaeda's connections to Saddam's Iraq is featured in the linked Weekly Standard article. The evidence comes from Iraqi secret service material and shows that Saddam did indeed have many and varied connections with the terrorists - which contradicts the received opinion that Iraq and al Qaeda had little or nothing to do with each other .
The Mother of All Connections

Friday, July 08, 2005

The EU's New Communications Approach: Tell the Same Old Story, But Better

Attached is a speech made by Danuta Hübner, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, to the Committe of the Regions on behalf of ailing Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström.

It it is interesting not so much for its specific proposals, which are characteristically woolly, as for the way it reveals underlying strategies and assumptions within the EU's apparat. One of these strategies is the "divide and rule" approach of setting regional representatives against national governments. The speech refers to "the blame game" - whereby national governments take the credit for successful EU policies, whilst blaming the EU for any failures. The Commissioner appeals to the regional representatives to resist their governments in this matter.

Aside from this, the speech implicitly assumes that the failure of the Dutch and French constutional votes was due to the failings not of the constitutional document itself, but to the way it was communicated to voters. A better, "more professional" communications platform, it is implied, will overcome citizens' concerns (and, it is implied, citizens' annoying inability to understand such complex matters). That assumption is worrying for more than its casual arrogance alone. For it shows that the EU - for all the noises it's making about "wanting to listen" - has no serious intention of doing so with a view to coming up with a different approach, but only with a view to selling the existing approach in a more effective way!

Commissioner Wallström's much-trumpeted "Plan D" (for democracy and dialogue), in other words, will exclude the give and take of actual democracy and dialogue, then. That is a great pity, as Commissioner Wallstöm had a golden opportunity to transform not merely the communication of overall policy, but the formulation of a new policy truly responsive to voters' manifest concerns.

The speech is in pdf format:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London, July 7th 2005

Photo from Underground
Originally uploaded by Frankie Roberto.
Escape from the Underground.

London Rush-Hour Terrorist Explosions

On the morning London should've been celebrating winning the 2012 Olympics, a major terrorist attack rips into the rush-hour commuters. At least four explosions, starting at 8:50 AM local time, at Underground stations including Aldgate East, King's Cross, Russell Square, Edgware Road - all central London stations servicing the City, the financial centre - as well as explosions on the buses. The top story of a bus in Tavistock Square was ripped off. The whole Underground and bus system has been stopped. No confirmed casualties yet; a statement from Blair promised in 45 minutes.

Update 11:44 GMT: 2 confirmed dead, 90 injured.

Update 12:07 GMT: PM Blair says he will leave the G8 summit to be in London, says it is "reasonably clear" that this is a terrorist attack aimed to coincide with the Edinburgh summit, saying it is especially "barbaric" that the attack should come at a time when world leaders are meeting to discuss African poverty and global climate change.

Update 12:25 GMT: The German TV stations N24 and Phoenix are reporting that al-Qaeda has admitted to the attacks on an unspecified Islamist website.

Update 12:39 GMT: The casualties increase: CNN reports 10 confirmed dead at King's Cross.

Update 13:33 GMT: In speaking about the attacks, President Bush refers to how, in fighting the terrorists, the free world will spread "an ideology of hope which will overwhelm their ideology of hate."

Update 13:40 GMT: The Mayor of London, "Red Ken" Livingstone, speaking from Singapore (where he has been helping to pitch for the Olympics), makes a sombre, defiant statement saying the attack was directed not at the rich and powerful but at "ordinary people." He says that, no matter how many people they kill, the terrorists cannot win because people will continue to flee from them and come to cities like London to be free.

Update 15:30: Police confirm "at least 33 dead."

Haggis for Breakfast, Heartburn for Chirac

There was porridge and haggis on the menu for breakfast this morning in Gleneagles.

President Chirac of France - who's just lost out to London on the 2012 Olympics, whose beloved Common Agricultural Policy is about to be dismantled by President Blair, and whose voters contemptuously rejected the EU constitution he so passionately advocated - will be feeling gobsmacked by failure.

Still, he's in a good place to wallow in it. He should ask for a generous tot of whisky in his breakfast porridge, that'll soon put the hairs back on his chest. In fact, the most dignified thing Chirac could do at this stage is to sink into the befuddling embrace of alcoholism, surrendering his cares to its all-forgiving, all-forgetting stupour. We're sure his fellow world leaders at the G8 meeting, Sir Bob Geldof and Bono, can deal him some handy tips on chemically-induced oblivion. Chirac has had a decent enough run for his money, and fooled most of the people some of the time, but now it's really time to consign his dismal career to the dustbin of history. Salut, Jacques!


German Opposition Shows Signs of Unbecoming Arrogance

As the governing Left rips itself to shreds in Germany, in advance of an election that hasn't been called yet, the opposition, centrist coalition (CDU/CSU/FDP), intoxicated by polls which give it some 53% of the national vote, is already quarrelling over ministerial posts.

Bad move, that, and a big turn-off for voters. No matter how complete the routing of the socialists may seem (current polls put the SPD on 26%, and the Greens on 7%), the electorate remains volatile. The hard-left, ex-communist, quasi neo-Nazi WASG/PDS protest grouping is getting a lot of airtime right now. One effect of their attention-seeking tomfoolery will be to place the SPD's backward-looking, punitive policies in a deceivingly mainstream light.

The centre still has a huge amount of work to do if it wants to move the political mainstream in Germany decisively to the right. Arrogant scrapping over ministerial places now will only undermine its efforts.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

German Left Reaches Out to Xenophobes (Again)

The Left in Germany has become distinctly xenophobic of late. Today's left-wing politicians, it seems, whilst not perhaps disliking foreigners on principle, nevertheless believe that scapegoating them is a sure-fire vote-winner.

The blog isn't so sure. Take Chairman Müntefering of the SPD, who memorably attacked international Jewish capitalists for causing Germany's decline and unemployment during the period now known as the "Müntefering Terror". It did his party no good at all in May's Nordrhein-Westphalen elections, as they were kicked out of office for the first time in 39 years. Some vote-catcher.

Now, the hard-left PDS-WASG formation, which is trying to cobble together a coalition made up of ex-communists, disaffected SPD voters, neo-Nazis and other malcontents, is keen to purloin Müntefering's xenophobic demagoguery. Their leader, Oskar Lafontaine, has been sounding off about how foreign workers are taking the jobs of decent Germans. In response to criticism that this makes him sound somewhat Nazi-like, he replied that "the Nazis weren't primarily xenophobic, but racist. That is a big difference." (Die Nazis waren nicht in erster Linie fremdenfeindlich, sondern rassistisch. Das ist ein grosser Unterschied.)

So in effect Lafontaine is telling foreigners that it isn't their race which offends him, but the fact that they are foreign. It's good he clarified that for us, and pointed out the often-overlooked, but gaping gulf between xenophobia and racism.

Whatever - clearly Lafontaine thinks baiting foreigners will win him votes.

We'll see. Current opinion polls show the WASG-PDS grouping at around 10% nationally, with a 30% support level in the ex-communist east. That's a respectable showing, but it won't grow on the back of xenophobia which, if anything, remains unrespectable in Germany.

The Skoda-Volkswagen Scandal (I)

Allegations of bribery, fraud and corruption are raging around the Volkswagen concern, centring on VW's Czech Skoda operations but fanning out way beyond them.

There are two main aspects to the scandal: the corruption is alleged to involve both Skoda/VW's internal works councils as well as the company's external suppliers.

The "works councils" are a peculiarly German set-up which allow "worker representation" on the boards of major German companies. The head of the VW works council, Klaus Volkert, has resigned amidst allegations of whoring and fine living at the expense of VW´s workers, shareholders, and customers.

Skoda's head of human resources, Helmuth Schuster, meanwhile, stands accused of taking bribes from suppliers, in one instance linked to the setting up of operations in India, a plan which has been abandoned in the wake of the scandal.

That the head of one of Germany's biggest works councils should be brought down in this way is especially piquant in light of the recent "Müntefering Terror" - in which the chairman of Germany's governing SPD party sought to blame all the country's economic ills on evil international capitalists.

This new scandal shows that Germany's problems, pace Chairman Müntefering, can spring from home-grown practices too. In this case, the old Rhineland-capitalism model, which stood for Sozialgerechtigkeit (social justice) alongside creation of stakeholder value. Worker councils remain an integral part of this model, which was often hailed, during the 1970's, as a viable alternative to the more red-blooded Anglo-Saxon model. (In fairness, the Rheinland model was notably successful at one stage - from the 1950's until the late 1970's.) Since then, of course, it has become somewhat dated and sclerotic, in patent need of reform.

The scandal's alleged perpetrators thus have a twinned, Janus-face: that of the workers' representatives, scowling to the left, and that of the evil international capitalists, sneering to the right. Unedifying as it all is, it may yet have a positive effect. For one, it makes it impossible for German politicians such as Chairman Müntefering to cast the scandal in a purely anti-capitalist light. The comrades have their snouts in the trough, too, not to mention the charms of Adriana B., the Brazilian VW employee with purely horizontal duties. And the scandal may even encourage a more nuanced view of Germany's economic plight, something devoutly to be wished as national election campaigns come to a head, and the populists are sniffing about for their usual, convenient scapegoats.

Update, 27th July 2005: VW chief Pischetsrieder sends ex-ambassador to "pacify India".

Fallstricke quer durch den Konzern - - Wirtschaft

EU Fraud Goes Unpunished as Whistleblowers are Sacked

In the latest chapter of the EU's continuing struggle with fraud, the denouement is depressingly familiar: the person who uncovers the fraud - in this case, the Danish accountant Dorte Schmidt-Brown - gets sacked, whilst the alleged fraudsters ("mostly French officials," as the London Telegraph helpfully observes) stay in their posts or retire on fat pensions.

The Eurostat scandal - involving the misappropriation of millions of euros, which are still unaccounted for - was publicised by the German journalist Hans-Martin Tillack. As a reward for this public service, his files were confiscated (an offence against European human rights law) after a dawn raid on his apartment by Brussels police, who were thus able to collar Tillack's source. Despite this jackbooted and repressive approach, the European Court ruled in favour of Brussels in that case, something which seems explicable only by considering that political considerations may have usurped the role normally allotted to legal ones in such matters.

The EU has form in this - Paul van Buitenen was another "whilstleblower" who lost his job after revealing financial abuse in Brussels. This time, though, even Brussels insiders, such as the ex-Commissioner Neil Kinnock, are outraged. It will be interesting to see how the Commission sweeps this one under the carpet, given the increased attention the case will now receive.

Telegraph Money Outrage grows at EU treatment of whistleblower

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

President Chirac Makes Bovine Jests at British Expense

President Chirac's sense of self-irony is not normally his strong suit, but you have to hand it to him for effort. The little jokes he made to his fellow "statesmen" Schroeder and Putin in Königsberg are dripping with an almost British sense of self-mockery. But only a Frenchman could link international politics so unequivocally to food.

"You can't trust people who cook as badly as that," he remarked of the British. He recalled a meeting with the previous head of NATO, George Robertson, during which the Scot is alleged to have foisted haggis on the unsuspecting President. Chirac dates all of France's subsequent "problems" with NATO to that moment. And his observation that "the only thing the British have ever given European farming is mad cow disease" is, if anything, over-generous. Clearly, the French President has forgotten the great salmonella scare.

Normally speaking, this blog doesn't have any time for the likes of Chirac. But all credit to him for trying to lighten up the atmosphere in advance of what will be a distinctly bloody G8 meeting in Edinburgh.

Telegraph News Chirac: 'The only thing the British have ever given European farming is mad cow'

Monday, July 04, 2005


Flags, originally uploaded by Blue Cockatoo.

May God Bless America!

Free Trade for Africa: Bush Challenges the EU

According to today's London Times, President Bush has said that he is "absolutely" prepared to reform America's farm subsidies and open up markets to African companies if the EU will do likewise.

This may prove to be a form of empty words, as big vested interests, both in Europe and America, oppose reform. But it is good that the subject has been put on the agenda, in this context, for the G8 summit this week. In terms of doubling aid and forgiving debt - emotionally significant measures - the USA and the EU are already aligned.

But the clincher - aside from "good governance" - is surely the issue of free trade. Bush's openness to reconsider US farm subsidies and protectionism, and the way he has linked that to a corresponding willingness of the EU to reconsider its disastrously corrupt and counterproductive CAP policy, will introduce a welcome practical aspect which the politicians have to tackle, and it will also deflect the knee-jerk tendency to cast the US as the bad guy in all such matters.
G8 summit at Gleneagles Times Online The Times

Saturday, July 02, 2005


In comparison with Live Aid in 1985, the demands driving today's concerts are more nuanced: we are not being asked simply to donate our f**king money, but to encourage our politicians to open up our markets to Africa.

If our politicians take that seriously, and recast the current systems of subsidies in favour of free trade, something significant will be achieved. It's a tall order, of course, and huge resistance will come from vested interests in France, Germany and the US, but it's well worth a try.

LIVE 8 - The LIVE 8 List