About Tobias Schwarz

German, turned 30 a while ago, balding slowly, hopefully with grace. A carnival junkie, who, after studies in business and politics in Mannheim, Paris, and London, is currently living in his hometown of Mainz, Germany, again. Became New Labourite during a research job at the House of Commons, but difficult to place in German party-political terms. Liberal in the true sense of the term.

His political writing is mostly on A Fistful of Euros and on facebook these days. Occasional Twitter user and songwriter. His personal blog is almost a diary. Even more links at about.me.

Re:Publica 2009

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take a train to Berlin where I’ll attend this year’s Re:Publica 2009 conference. This year’s umbrella theme is “shift happens”, which isn’t too inappropriate, even for the conference itself: What was – in 2006 – started as a small gathering of a couple of Germany’s better known and activist bloggers, has grown into an international web conference with a specific focus on the political aspects of the social web.

From April 1-3 more than 100 speakers will give keynotes and hold workshops – among others Germany’s federal privacy commissioner Peter Schaar, Martin Schallbruch, director of IT at the German Interior Ministery, Stanford’s Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow of boingboing.net, and Mary C. Joyce, the New Media Operations Manager of the Obama campaign. I’ll be blogging from the conference, but will probably do it on A Few Euros More, in order to not clutter the front page of afoe with smaller updates.

If anyone of you, gentle readers, will also be at the conference, and would be interested in a chat or coffee, please feel free to contact me via my fistful email tobias.schwarz _ fistfulofeuros.net. Hope to see you in Berlin.

A Friday night out in Europe.

It’s Friday afternoon, and if you, gentle readers, should want to leave the gloomy reality of a world in economic crisis behind you for a night out in Europe, you may be interested in having a look at a new web service called Happenr for hopefully useful suggestions about what to do.

According to a techcrunch review by Erick Schonfeld, Happenr is a new search engine, operated by a Belgian company, that currently collects information about events in Germany, Ireland, Belgium and the continent’s most important cities by scouring tourism, town, and cultural websites. While the review author sceptically remarks that “event databases are a dime a dozen,” he also mentions that “Happenr thinks there is still room for a comprehensive events search engine in Europe, and it believes it has a better way of indexing events automatically.”

Well, see for yourself. I for one actually found something I might do later on.

afoe now running on WordPress 2.5

Gentle readers, afoe’s backend has been updated to the latest wordpress. So far, the transition seems to have worked well. Over the next couple of days, the frontend will also receive a little facelift – and make the site a little faster. So, in case you’ve got the feeling that something doesn’t work as it did before, that’s probably why.

Satin Pajama 2007 Banners

Just link to the images or save the HTML below to your server, or, if you prefer, grab a copy of the file and save it on your server.

Banner 1, 137x60px

Banner 2, 137x60px

Banner 3, 88x31px

Banner 4, 200x26px

…David adds: I just noticed Tobias prepared a bunch of banners before he went on holiday. It’s a bit late now, but maybe someone will find some use for them.

Président ou Présidente?

The French are still making up their mind [Update – they have made up their mind: Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected President – more soon]. Once again in record numbers – the only official figures released so far estimate the voter turnout at noon at 34,11%, the highest number since 1974, apparently. One winner of the Presidential race is therefore clearly institutional democracy – although burning cars is probably considered a way of political expression by some, not least, Ségolène Royal, who, earlier this week, warned that a Sarkozy victory could lead to violent protests in some Banlieues. While that is certainly not entirely out of the realm of the possible, and Sarkozy’s reaction was appropriately forceful, accusing her of fanning the (possible) flames, I doubt it was a particularly clever move on Royal’s behalf, to end her campaign by scaring voters. Apart from that, she’s probably also lost all votes of those about 3000 policemen who are now spending the evening in the suburbs to preempt any possible social unrest.
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French Presidential Debate Notes

Style is clearly more important than substance in Presidential debates. Unfortunately, after 45 minutes of speaking time for each candidate, I was, quite frankly, very disappointed on both accounts. Neither Ségolène Royal nor Nicolas Sarkozy were able to present coherent arguments of their respective programmes. Instead, they kept constantly interrupting each other, Royal more so than Sarkozy, kept losing discourse threads (sometimes even without being interrupted) in pointless debates about specific figures or jumped from one point to another. Sarkozy may have been a little more concise on the economic parts (taxes, pensions, labour market regulation, welfare) of the debate, but he certainly did not “win” that debate by any stretch of imagination.
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French Presidential debate broadcast online

If the weather in France is even remotely as warm and sunny as it is here in South-West Germany today, I have doubts tonight’s televised debate between Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy will be able to get 86% turnout yet again. Still, if you would like to tune in to the debate, but you don’t receive French tv (or even speak French) there are a couple of options available.

ARTE.tv broadcasts the event live in both French and German, while France 24 will offer interactive coverage as well as tv-streams (wmv9, 400 kpbs) in English, French, and Arabic (links via wwitv.com).

Indigo – pan-European proto-print magazine

The first issue of a new pan European magazine – Indigo – is available online in English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Polish, and Italian. According to the German VISDP magazine, Indigo’s publishers want to put the magazine’s content on paper eventually. Collaborating with CafeBabel, the magazine is apparently primarily targeting the twenty/thirty-somethings of “Generation RyanAir”. The first edition features a lot of interesting content, not least, in May, a guide to flirting from the Baltic to the Bosporus written by Irene Sacchi (p. 42). Have a look.

Afghanistan, seen from Berlin

The Globalist’s Stephan Richter weighs the pros and cons, difficulties and opportunities of an increased German military involvement in Southern Aghanistan and comes to the – in my opinion correct – conclusion that increased combat participation is much less a domestic policy problem than it is usually thought to be.

It’s a tricky question because the American example of nation-building as exercised in Afghanistan is not a particularly convincing one … The Germans truly believe in a different concept. It basically says that, in the long run, you cannot quell violence unless there is a bright future on the horizon. … But since Germans rightfully believe that there is good reason not to let Afghanistan slip back into a state of lawlessness and anarchy, they have to embrace an enlarged role — which implies more sacrifices. However, this must be part of a well thought – out strategy and not only another quick fix.

Solidarity with allies in the common fight is of utmost importance, but what do you do if you’re responsible for the lives of the soldiers you send, believe the common strategy to be seriously flawed, endanger the results achieved in the North, but you don’t really have the clout to change it? Exactly. You send some planes.