Festive Spirits?

Well even though today is a holiday in many EU states, there is nothing particulary festive about the atmosphere. All eyes are on the commodity markets to see what is going to happen to oil prices. The consequences of a flawed Iraq play are gradually coming to be recognised, and even the ridiculous demise of a ‘restyled’ Berlusconi doesn’t seem to offer the entertainment value it once might have.

Go on David, tell me, I’m being too gloomy!

We have reached a turning-point in international politics as well as in Iraq. President George W. Bush is widely seen to have gambled on Iraq and lost. The impact of that loss goes well beyond Iraq. The US has not been defeated in battle and is unlikely to be so but it can no longer impose its will on Iraq because it lacks the moral authority to do so.
Lawrence Freedman, Financial Times


Metin Kaplan, the ‘Caliph of Cologne’, is a Turkish Islamist long resident in Germany. The Turkish government would like to try him for treason. The German government would like to oblige their Turkish friends by extraditing him. The courts, thus far, have stood in the way. It looks as though a final decision may be rendered soon. But that might all be irrelevant now, because Kaplan has gone missing.
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The Day After Tomorrow: An Anti-Review

Roland Emmerich is the Anti-Tarantino. There is in this notion a Master’s thesis in film theory for somebody, I’m sure of it. But it isn’t going to be me, so I open it up to anyone who want to take the job on. These two men belong to the same generation, and both could be avatars of postmodern film-making. Having grown up on the genre films of the 70s, they are both in the business of making films which are only comprehensible to audiences who share those same cultural signifiers. Just as Tarantino’s Kill Bill can only be understood and enjoyed in the light of a whole generation of martial arts movies and westerns, Roland Emmerich’s latest work – The Day After Tomorrow – is indigestible without the Pepto-Bismal of a lifetime of disaster science fiction.
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Talking About the Relationship

My old think tank had a discussion about transatlantic issues yesterday, which produced some interesting points:

A member of the German Parliament said that compulsive military service will probably come to an end sooner than outside observers think. A Fistful of Euros, we think it will end pretty soon, and it’s nice to have that view confirmed. (Though not too specifically; he didn’t want to end up in the local paper.)

The American ambassador said that after the ruckus of the last two years, intergovernmental relations are much better than they were. Public dissonance, however, has grown, and that’s a less tractable problem.
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Overproduction Crisis in Brussels

This wouldn’t be the first time. Now, however, it’s not milk or potatoes that are at issue, but words.

An acute difficulty of excess verbiage has lead Neil kinnock to crack down and order that in future no Commission report should be more than 15 pages long, except in undefined rare circumstances. This compares with the present average of length of 32.

The reason for this change unfortunately is not the arrival of sound sense, but rather that of 10 new members.

Officials at the European Commission produce a mountain of jargon-laden reports every year, some of them incomprehensible in any language.”

I’m not sure if verbal apoplexy is a fatal condition, or merely chronic: I shall have to check.

Ryanair redefines Communism

I note – probably with more amusement than Michael O’Leary intends – Ryanair’s recent defeat at the European Commission. I’m afraid I have never found it terribly surprising to see so-called entrepreneurs who complain about government distorting the markets do a 180 degree when it comes to their own subsidies, but O’Leary’s recent anti-EC tyrade should earn an award for doublethink.

I have never before heard a businessman scream about how the denial of government subsidies was “communist”, and I am hard pressed to understand how a decision to make Ryanair actually compete on the open market could be a “North Korean style” decision leading to a “communist valhalla” of high air travel prices. I realise that some folks set a very low bar for what sort of government intervention they consider legitimate, but this must set a record. Damn socialists, refusing to subsidise the free market! I should think this sort of discourse would have induced a reality check in Mr O’Leary.

This really brings new meaning to the old aphorism Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.
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Schr?der’s tax plan

Am I the only one here that thinks Gerhard Schroeder’s making himself look like a bit of a goon with his condescending lectures to east European countries that they’d better raise their taxes… or else?

Here’s an issue that’s been quietly bubbling for some time, at least here in Prague. Either both sides have raised the rhetorical notch a level, or the media’s just starting to pay attention. In an interview with The Slovak Spectator, Slovak finance minister Ivan Miklo? puts it nicely: “The fact is that many European states should make structural reforms like those that we are now carrying out in Slovakia if they want to prosper…”

In other words, yeah, tax harmonization, great idea! So let’s start with France and Germany lowering their taxes! Ha.
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Get Local

Overseas Republicans claim that their votes were decisive in putting G.W. Bush into the White House. Diana Kerry, one of Senator Kerry’s sisters, drew a lunchtime crowd of more than 100 in Munich today. Not bad for a surrogate during the middle of a work day six months before the election. It’ll be hard to specify the impact of the estimated 5 million Americans who live overseas. But it’s safe to say the Democrats abroad are taking aim at their Republican counterparts’ boast.

I’m told the outcome of this little contest may have an impact in Europe, and elsewhere.