Words and Deeds

Has it escaped notice that the brunt of the tsunami catastrophe has fallen on the world’s most populous Muslim country? One that has an active branch of al Qaeda?

This is an ideal time for Western governments — especially European ones — to do well by doing good. Conspicuous aid to suffering Muslims can only be to Europe’s benefit in the struggle against Islamic radicalism.

As spokesman in Indonesia for UNICEF said, “It needs to be almost a military campaign. … There need to be airports set up. What we’re looking at is re-establishing a social infrastructure.”

Right now, there’s a vacuum, something abhorred by both nature and politics. If the West does not fill it, bin Laden’s allies will. Sure, that’s a cynical thought among so much suffering, but here’s hoping that someone on Solana’s staff, or in one of the national chancelleries can summon the necessary cynicism to do well while doing good.

Yanukovych appeal fails

Ukraine’s Central Election Commission has rejected Viktor Yanukovych’s appeal against the result of the re-vote in its entirety, reports AP. Yanukovych is now expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.

His campaign manager stated: “We … call on our supporters, which are 15 million, not to split the state, to observe the law and not to recognize Yushchenko as a legitimate president.” He’s right on the first two points.

Turkey and the EU: Poles apart?

Like most numbers of the Spectator, the festive, XL-sized holiday edition is marred by the presence of Mark Steyn. But don’t let that put you off, there’s some good stuff there as well. And one of the better bits is an essay by Prof. Norman Stone on Turkey (Potential EU Accession of) (reg. req.).

For the most part Stone paints a picture of the old Ottoman Empire as something much less uniformly Islamic than some think. You should already be aware, of course, that what would later (in truncated form) become Turkey was a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious state, but if you weren’t, Stone gives you a quick background. (By the time it fell apart, the Ottoman Empire had become the ‘Sick Man of Europe’; but for centuries it was a success.) What you might not have known, though, was that the orthodox Christians of the Ottoman realms were only too happy to be part of a nominally Islamic polity. The orthodox patriarchs and the Muslim sultans saw in the latinate West a common foe. Indeed my own suspicion is that the Greeks felt a keener enmity than the Turks. The sultan, understandably, might well have seen the theological differences between orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as obscure and uninteresting (how many of us in the post-Christian lands of the west are aware of, let alone take much interest in, the distinctions between the theravada and mahayana strains of Buddhism?) To the bishops of the orthodox world, though, the sultan served (whether he cared about this or not) as a bulwark against the centralising domination of their brother-bishop at Rome.

But what set Stone off was a recent article in Die Zeit by Prof. Hans-Ulrich Wehler. The title of Wehler’s article, which formed part of the contra side in a Zeit-sponsored debate on Turkish accession to the EU, has some unfortunate historical echoes: “Das T?rkenproblem“.
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When words are not enough

Like most other bloggers, there’s really not much one can say about the Asian earthquake that’s not already echoing through the heads of our readers. The latest estimate I’ve heard is of at least 57,000 people dead, a number that’s getting too large to contemplate.

It may not feel like much, but we can all do something to help – the UN has already said that it will need the biggest aid operation the world has ever seen, and you can help by donating to one of the organisations that willo be working with the affected, like the Red Cross/Red Crescent. Please feel free to suggest any other ways of helping in the comments.

An Orange President.

While the official results of yesterday’s re-run Presidential election will likely not be announced for a couple of days, opposition candidate Viktor Yushshenko looks certain to win this time – if the country’s Central Election Commission has been doing a better job than in November. The BBC has calculated that he has “an unassailable lead” over his opponent. The numbers currently available on the election commission’s website do not indicate any self-evident fraudulent activities (thanks to Jonathan Edelstein for the link), and some of the 12,000 election observers were quick to assert that – while there may have been some fraud – this election was very likely sufficiently legal.

Despite their limited credibility among Janukovich supporters, the international observers’ verdict will carry an enormous weight with respect to a possible legal challenge of certain results already announced by Mr Yanukovich. It is unclear what his options are. Outgoing President Kutchma, a former ally, now hopes that Mr Yanukovich will concede the election after a reasonably short period of face saving legal efforts, the BBC reports.

If the orange celebrations on Kyiv’s independence square following Mr Yushshenko’s claim of victory last night are any indication, Kyiv’s center might well remain an orange bastion until Mr Yushshenko will have eventually been sworn in as President.

It might be cold, but Kyiv is likely the place to go for great new year’s festivities this year…

Exit polls: Yushchenko wins

KIEV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Exit polls in the re-run of Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday said liberal challenger Viktor Yushchenko had beaten Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich by a wide margin.

Yushchenko, who called crowds of supporters into the streets to denounce cheating in the last poll, scored 56.5 percent to 41.3 percent for Yanukovich, according to a poll by the Kiev International Institute for Sociology and the Razumkov Center.

A second poll, by the Center for Social Monitoring, gave him an even wider lead — putting his share of the vote at 58.1 percent and Yanukovich’s at 38.4 percent.

The World As Optimum Currency Area?

I was a little surprised to read in the Christmas edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (not yet online, subscription wall, in German) that Robert Mundell seems to have changed his mind. In his seminal 1961 paper about monetary integration, he famously stated that “the optimum currency area is not the world”. Now it appears he favors a sort-of worldwide currency union, initially comprising Dollar, Euro, and Yen (apparently, he’s also made that point earlier this year in Lib?ration (subscription wall, in French)).
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More on crime and (lenient) punishment

If you are interested in the issues raised by the case of Wolfgang Daschner (discussed in two earlier posts), you might wish to acquaint yourself with the similar case of Alexander Holmes.

I mentioned this case in comments to the earlier of those two posts. I also mentioned that you really ought to read it. Happily, you can now do so even if you are reading afoe on your PDA and have foolishly left your leather-bound volumes of the Federal Cases at home. You’ll find the report of United States v. Holmes on the website of the State University of New York at Buffalo. The University deserves a hat-tip for making this report easily available to anybody with an internet connection. It is one of the most fascinating court reports ever written, and unlike most is also a cracking read. (And, unlike more modern reports, it records the arguments of counsel as well as the opinion of the court.)

At first blush, Holmes’s story doesn’t seem similar to Daschner’s at all. The crime for which Holmes was tried was far graver than Daschner’s. And, crucially, Holmes was not an agent of the state. Holmes’s story tells us nothing about whether torture may be justified and, if so, under what circumstances. But Holmes illustrates, even more dramatically than does Daschner, the problem faced by the state when a good man is driven to a terrible deed by overwhelming circumstances entirely beyond his control.
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A major media event

Slate announces that its parent, Microsoft, has sold the pioneering online magazine (where afoe‘s own Scott MacMillan’s byline appears from time to time) to the Washington Post. I haven’t seen Slate‘s figures, but it’s just possible that Microsoft might not need to show its financial statements pro forma for the divestiture.

At this juncture it would be as well to remind our readers that the rumours of afoe‘s impending acquisition by Rupert Murdoch are just that, rumours. All the same, we take comfort from Mr Murdoch’s long-standing policy of respecting his journals’ editorial independence and treating his employees decently. Coming soon: ‘The French-Democratic-Islamofascist Conspiracy to Deprive New Europe of Christmas — An afoe Special Report‘.