Bowling for Cubberley (Free Music Inside!)

Usually, it’s impossible to argue with people who make comparisons between the incumbent US administration and various past totalitarian systems, particularly when the argument turns to a comparison between George W Bush and the Austrian guy with the Charlie Chaplin moustache. Whatever you think of George W Bush and his administration – still a mystery to many people in the US as well as abroad – he’s no Hitler, and the US are still a largely liberal democracy – albeit a deeply divided and angst-ridden one with a progressively eroding system of common values.

A regular guy from Texas.
Though I hope to the contrary, I believe the weeks following the US Presidential election will become a much bigger electoral and legal debacle than most commentators are willing to admit now. In the end, this election might well become a testament of the principal current American weakness – deep social and partisan divisions, if not outright hatred between the camps. American politics now appears to consist predominantly of conceptually empty labels – very soon even rituals of Patriotism may be exposed as nothing more than a band aid for a mentally and spiritually ailing nation.
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The Economist endorses Kerry

The incompetent or the incoherent?

It’s hard not to giggle. The Economist is probably the most prestigious name in the business press in the US. The editors’ backhanded compliments to Bush don’t cover a contempt for his bungling, even as they support his efforts point by point.

[A]s Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America’s great tasks.

With Kerry, all they can seem to find to say about him that’s nice is that he’s a “fiscal conservative” and that he’s not in debt to the radical right. Fair enough, I suppose, but I recall them saying the same sorts of things about Bush in 2000.

Still, America has only had one CEO president: George W. Bush. To see the flagship of the business press toss him overboard is a real indictment, both of him and of the ideology he represents.

Update: Didn’t notice this til just now either:

Public Opinion Poll Indicates Iraqis Favor Kerry over Bush in U.S. Presidential Race (via Abu Aardvark)

It’s getting harder to suppress the giggling.

EU Constitution signing this morning

I didn’t know this until just now, but the signing ceremony for the EU constitution is going to start in a few minutes. Le Monde is reporting that the signing starts at 11:30 this morning Europe time – about ten minutes from now. The ceremony is in Rome – where the EU was founded with the Treaty of Rome – at the Campidoglio. It is to be televised.

Slouching toward Strasbourg

Trying to explain the inner workings of EU governance to non-Europeans is a bit like trying to explain the importance of the American League’s designated hitter rule to baseball neophytes. So it’s in the spirit of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox that I present my European press review, written for Slate, for your rumination and criticism.
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“Bild” for Bush

The first European newspaper to endorse George W. Bush ist the German mass paper “Bild”.

“With Bush, we know what to expect. With John Kerry, nobody knows what he stands for, what he stands against, and where he wants to lead America and the world.” So writes Hugo M?ller-Vogg, ex-editor of the more respectable “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.

In Germany, this has made the news. It’s not so much the choice of candidate — “Bild” is reliably right wing — but the fact that a newspaper did an endorsement at all. This is not common practice in Germany; in fact, it’s unheard of. Some experts find it amusing, some are concerned. Some think it might be a test run for the German elections in two years.

In this light, I find it amusing that one cannot access the official George W. Bush homepage from outside the US and Canada anymore. Europeans pining for info on the president of the US get this friendly greeting:
Access Denied. You don’t have permission to access “” on this server.

Well. Seems like Dubbya really doesn’t need us Europeans anymore, eh?

Hobbits among us

It seems the big science news today is the discovery of a new species of homind in a dig on Flores Island in Indonesia. Homo floresiensis, who apparently was about a metre tall apparently lived as recently as 13,000 years ago – much more recently than any known homnid other than humans, and there is already speculation that they survived much more recently. It seems that some people on Flores still tell stories of little people who lived in caves at the time of the arrival of the Dutch 400 years ago. This leads one to speculate that the less well expored areas of Flores, and perhaps other islands in eastern Indonesia, may still hold pockets of little people.

BBC is already calling them “hobbits”.
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2000 British readers of the Radio Times voted Homer Simpson for President. The cartoon character tops a list of several fictional TV characters, which UK tellly viewers would prefer as US president. According to the BBC, “The West Wing’s” “real” fictional US President, Josiah Bartlet, polled second, only slightly ahead of radio therapist Frasier (link via Pulpmovies blog).

While it is true that executing such a poll is utterly bizarre in itself, I must applaud those interviewed for assembling such a supreme cast for a fictional replay of the 2004 Presidential race. British humour at its best.

Naturally, the German ZDF television is not quite as subtle: The title of tonight’s feature about the President and the Senator was only slightly biased: “Cowboy vs. Gentleman.” Just another example of what Christoph Amend wrote about in last week’s “Die Zeit” (in German) – Fernsehweh (impossible to translate, the word means something like “it hurts to watch what is actually broadcast given our desire to watch something better” – true, German can be very concise at times).

Hitchcock in Rome.

“It is better to take time to get it right.”

When Jos? Manuel Barroso asked the European Parliament with these words not to vote on his current commission line-up, European Parlamentarians welcomed his decision, downplaying that he was rather late for the party, emphasizing that he showed up at all. But of course, the EP is having a party Mr Barroso had no intent to attend at all. His decision is a concession of defeat.
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