M’s very own locusts.

After starting off this year’s early election campaign with a debate about the dangers of the sometimes problematic short term investment horizons of private equity firms, it was the SPD’s very own loony left’s locusts in the party’s board that forced their chairman, Franz Müntefering, to declare that he would not seek re-election at the party conference next month and that he was no longer certain whether he could then serve as the minister in a grand coalition. Certainly, given that surprises seem to have become the rule in German politics by now, things might look different by then.
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A palace coup

This just in: Andrea Nahles has defeated Kajo Wasserhövel for the job of general secretary of Germany’s Social Democratic Party. Nahles got in with the votes of the party’s left wing. Wasserhövel, who had managed the SPD campaign in the recent elections, was the protegé of party chairman Franz Müntefering. ‘Former chairman’, I ought to have said; for Müntefering has resigned in response to this lunger contemptuously hocked in his face. It’s not even clear now whether he will take up his expected ministerial post in the grand coalition.

And speaking of that grand coalition… apparently it wants to place further limits on food retailers’ ability to compete on price. Those who find it hard to believe there’s not a Groschen‘s worth of difference between black and red are invited to consider this example of how awful the two parties can be when they really put their minds to cooperating. (Admittedly, the Union’s man in all this is Horst Seehofer, an advanced economic illiberal even by CSU standards.) Someday, maybe, my bizarre dream will come true and Germany will be governed by an FDP/Green coalition* and we will see the end of this sort of thing. I may be waiting a long time, not least because the Greens and the liberals hate each other so.

* It’d have to be rather different FDP, mind. I couldn’t abide the thought of Guido the Boy Party Chairman playing any role in government.

Serbia: A glimmer of light

Things are looking up a bit for Serbia’s economy.

The 1990s were a lost decade for Serbia. GDP declined sharply in the first half of the decade. A modest recovery in 1995-8 was wiped out by the NATO bombing. Per capita income in 2000 was just about where it had been in 1989… but the average person was much worse off, because income distribution had changed drastically, with a small caste of the rich and well connected now owning most of the country’s wealth.

The fall of Milosevic in October 2000 brought in a new government, but the economy was very slow to respond. GDP grew by only about 3.5% per year between 2001 and 2004, foreign investment was slow to show interest, and the income distribution stayed as bad as ever. I lived in Serbia during those years, and the general impression was one of dashed hopes. The assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic in March 2003 didn’t help matters.
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Does relative size matter?

Over on almost a diary, I’ve recently mentionend a survey of German blogging called “Weblogs 2005 – Bloggen im deutschsprachigen Raum”, conducted by Jan Schmidt at the University of Bamberg. While the German blogger himself is a relatively unknown species to date, the relatively small size of the German blogosphere as a whole has been observed with some interest for a while now, particularly when compared to the French blogosphere, and the amount of attention blogs have suddenly gained in the so called German mainstream media. It’s one of the eternal questions of humanity asked a new variant: Does size matter?
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Where All Roads Lead

So we’re all following the US news, and we know that Bush’s senior aides may be indicted this week for exposing a US spy, right? And the reason the people in the White House deliberately exposed one of America’s own intelligence agents is that they were mad at her husband. And they were mad at her husband because he went to Africa and discovered that what the Bush administration wanted to say about Iraq buying uranium from Niger was not true.

Well. The documents that the Bush administration wanted to hang their claims on were forgeries. And the source of the forgeries, it is becoming increasingly clear, is Italy. La Repubblica is naming names and providing dates. It’s starting to echo in the US press, at the L.A. Times for example, and in the blogs. Questions still abound. Who was behind the forging? Why? Was Iran involved? Did the Berlusconi government know what SISMI was up to? Why were intelligence contacts being run through the Pentagon instead of the CIA? And more…

Josh Marshall has been on this story for a long time, and is all over it this week. At one time, he took a lot of ribbing because he had said in public that it would “shake the tectonic plates” in Washington. Then parts were published or broadcast, and not much seemed to happen. But tectonic plates and their fault lines can be deceiving. It may just take time for the pressure to build up.

Petrol, Petrom, and the President

So, President Basescu is unhappy.

This is not unusual. President Basescu is often unhappy. You’d think that, having won the election last December against Prime Minister Nastase, he’d be at least content. But Basescu is a scrapper, and he’s always looking for a fight, and in recent weeks he’s found one. It’s about petrol, and Petrom.

Perhaps I should explain.
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