Facts & Faith, European Style.

After linking to Ron Suskind’s critique of the Bush administration’s faith based decision style, it is only appropriate to mention that Rocco Buttiglione, Silvio Berlusconi’s nominee as Italy’s European commissioner, is causing a similar debate on this side of the pond – one with possibly important cnostitutional repercussions.
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Buffy as a metaphor for Bush

Readers of AFOE may know that I am a fan of the now defunct American TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Which is why I couldn’t possibly resist linking to this:

In other words, Season 7 of Buffy always struck me as a fairly explicit critique of Bush’s foreign policy (even if dullards on the right missed it), and a foreshadowing of a superior Kerryist alternative. Even Willow’s tentative embrace of her own power and overcoming of her own fears about how she might use her power for evil echoes the European (and especially German) struggle with the past; as in Season Four (Adam) and Season Five (Glory), Buffy can only defeat evil when working closely with a self-confident and allied Willow.

From Abu Aardvark.

Scary Reading.

For all its amazing sensoric and analytical abilities, more often than not the human mind is simply overwhelmed with the world’s complexity, confused by its uncertainty. Philosophers have dreamed of an easy life without the pain inflicted by their insatiable urge to reflect, to question everything, to leave no stone unturned.

Of course, no philosopher is needed to understand that such a tendency is not necessarily helpful when it comes to making decisions. A good decision today is usually preferable to an optimal one at some unspecified time in the future. However, the opposite – confidence to decide appropriately that is not founded on facts – is at least as bad, and probably worse. Balancing reflection and decisiveness based on intuition or ideological determination is above all important for political leadership.

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Visca la difer?ncia

Catalan, Basque, Valencian and Galician as EU official languages? That’s what Spanish foreign minister Moratinos proposes. You’d think the famously proud Catalans would be purring with cultural satisfaction.

You’d be wrong. Last week the Economist observed the astonishing reaction of some Catalans to this suggestion. They’re furious that Valencian might be given status equal with Catalan. One of them, Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, is even willing to cut off Catalunya’s nose to spite Valencia’s face: if Valencian is granted official status, he says, Catalans should refuse it.1 The Economist thought the irate Catalans need to have a nice lie-down, and I agree.

In this week’s issue, though, a letter-writer from Barcelona takes up the cudgels once more. How dare those Valencians imagine they have a language of their own?

Experts unanimously recognise Valencian as a variety of Catalan (as many Valencians call their language).

Well, perhaps; though I daresay there will be some experts in Valencia who disagree.
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Google Does It Again

Google yesterday released free software that lets you simultaneously search the Web and your PC hard drive for information. You can download here. This time it will be Microsoft and Yahoo who will be fuming in the back office.

What all this new Google stuff does seem to be exciting is some controversy about the privacy issues. Any thoughts anyone?

Germany’s Jobs Woes Continue

With unemplyment currently running at a five year high of 10.7%, yesterday’s news that GM/Opel and KarstadtQuelle are to reduce employment further (‘Germany Loses 15,000 Jobs in a Day’ was the Bloomberg headline) could hardly come at a worse time. There is plenty of evidence of the long promised restructuring, but little of jobs growth. ‘Jobs churn’ US style does require the two halves of the equation to at least balance.

The future does not look inviting. The FT puts it as follows: “KarstadtQuelle?s problems have been exacerbated by the extreme reluctance of Germans to increase consumer spending.” Actually I have been arguing that this ‘extreme reluctance’ isn’t simply shyness, and that there are clear structural reasons why this is the case.

At the same time continued downward revisions on the global growth outlook following the oil ‘spike’ mean that export driven economies like the German one can expect little relief on the global demand front (ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet is the latest to warn on this front, changing the banks emphasis earlier in the week to slow growth rather than inflation as the main concern).

Again – in a kind of ‘euro lament’ – Bloomberg sums up a rather bleak week week like this: “At least eight reports in the past week signaled slowing growth in the $9 trillion euro economy. The pace of expansion at manufacturers and service companies cooled, retail sales declined and industrial production in the region’s three biggest economies dropped more than economists forecast”.

To put all this in perspective, I think it is worth remembering that only six months ago most commentators were anticipating that we would now be entering the vigourous upswing of that long awaited recovery. As it is almost all the indicators seem to be pointing towards negative.