Nevermind the Economics, Here’s Eurovision

It’s that time of year again, and this time all of Europe — except plucky Georgia! — turns to the Third Rome Moscow, home of Eurovision 2009.

In years past, we’ve amused ourselves to no end with the song contest. Here are posts at least as good as some years’ winning songs:

Can’t Resist
Who’s European?
Eurovision: The Quickening
Zombies Finnish First (As a bonus, this post links to an article containing the clause “naked people running through streets of Helsinki, according to magenta-haired Finnish journalist.”)
Andorre, null point (Also? Follow the links to the shoeblog, and then search that site for Eurovision. Captions such as “The Norwegians and their golden camel toe” or “Georgian sword yodelling” only begin to describe the fun.)
Europe Unites in Song

Just in case we’re too drunk stunned busy to liveblog the event itself, consider this an open Eurovision thread.

Michael O’Hare on Executives

And what to do with them.

But what about the talent part? On the whole, this indispensable leadership and insight has made a smoking ruin of every company they were allowed to play with! Let’s take Bob Lutz, the vice-Chairman of General Motors. In the Jan. 31 Economist, we find him saying GM held on to SAAB for nineteen unprofitable years out of twenty, for a $5 billion loss, selling car after car at a loss of $5K each because … wait for it … “it loved the marque and the cars.”

I had to read it again: they flushed five billion dollars of their shareholders’ money down the toilet for the personal amusement of the executives, and went on doing it for two decades. More amazing still, Lutz is dumb enough, or arrogant enough, or both to tell exactly that story to a reporter. Most amazing, he seems to still be vice-Chairman!

Read the rest, it’s pitchfork-ready.

Aid Worker Shashlik

From Geert Mak’s visit to Sarajevo in 1999:

Batinic leans over and looks me straight in the eye. ‘Tell me, Geert, honestly: what kind of people are you sending us anyway? The ones at the top are usually fine. But otherwise, with only a few exceptions, the people I have to deal with are third-class adventurers who would probably have trouble finding a job in their own country.’ It makes him furious. ‘To them, we’re some kind of aboriginals. They think they have to explain what a toilet it, what a television is, and how we should organise a school. The arrogance! They say Bosnians are lazy people, but it takes them a week to do a day’s work. And you should hear them chattering away about it! At the same time, everyone sees how much money they spend on themselves and their position. They put three quarters of all their energy into that.’

Not a new complaint, but pungently put. The classic retort, of course, is that if the local people hadn’t made such a terrible mess of their own country, they wouldn’t need the international aid. Mak’s companion does not spare his fellow Bosnians either.

We order another drink, and Batinic starts complaining about the corruption in Bosnia, the rise of religious leaders in the city, the enthusiastic discussions at the university about ‘the Iranian model’. ‘Sarajevo isn’t Sarajevo any more. The city has filled with runaway farmers…’
Batinic’s pessimism has had the upper hand again for some time now.

In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak, p. 806

More bits from the book here and here.

Hit and Run

North and south of the Caucasus mountains:

Azerbaijan’s air force commander was shot and killed as he left his home on the morning of February 11 … Lt-Gen. Rail Rzayev, the head of Azerbaijan’s Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defense Force, was shot in the head as he was sitting in a Mercedes in front of his Baku apartment building. Doctors at a military hospital could not save 64-year-old Rzayev’s life, the Interior Ministry announced. … Rzayev had served as Azerbaijan’s air force commander since 1992, after previously heading Baku’s anti-aircraft defenses. …

Most recently, in December 2008, Rzayev attracted media attention after reports surfaced that Azerbaijani military planes had forced a helicopter carrying Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov to land. No official explanations were issued for the incident. Azerbaijani mainstream media outlets, however, reported that Heydarov, arguably the government’s most influential minister, had failed to inform the Anti-Aircraft Defense Forces about his flight, allegedly to his villa in the central Gabala region. …

Lt. Gen. Rzayev was among those Azerbaijani generals who strongly opposed any compromise resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia, noted Rauf Mirgadirov, political columnist for the Russian-language daily Zerkalo (The Mirror).

Azerbaijani military politics are murky, to say the least, but this bears watching.

Speaking of murky, the murder of a Chechen in Austria may have some interesting fingerprints on it:

A Chechen refugee killed in Vienna last month was the key witness in an Austrian criminal investigation into Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov that could have led to Kadyrov’s arrest last year, prosecutors and lawyers said Wednesday.

The revelation fuels speculation that the killing of Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard of Kadyrov, was aimed at silencing a vocal critic of the Chechen leadership. Israilov was gunned down on Jan. 13, just four days after The New York Times informed the Russian government that it was planning to publish a report based on interviews with him implicating Kadyrov of murder and torture. …
Israilov last year offered information implicating Kadyrov of torture and murder to a team of lawyers in Austria and Germany, who in turn asked Vienna prosecutors to arrest Kadyrov during an expected visit to Austria for the European football championship, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights said Wednesday. …
Around the same time as the request for the arrest, Austrian police arrested a Chechen man who claimed that he had been sent by Kadyrov to kill Israilov, Der Falter reported Wednesday, citing police records.
Jarosch said the case of the Chechen man was not pursued because Austrian prosecutors believed and still believe that they lack jurisdiction.

Oops. Now that Israilov is dead, Austria may have jurisdiction. At least for one crime.

Prosecutors have arrested seven suspects in Israilov’s death, all ethnic Chechens, and five remain in prison, Jarosch said. He said it was not clear whether the killer was among them.

A Little Housekeeping

The administration here isn’t changing, but we are doing a little cleaning up. At the moment, it’s confined to the blogroll. First, I’ll be pruning the blogs that have gone on hiatus. Then, probably some time next week, we will add new ones. We always want to hear about good blogs writing about Europe, but now is a particularly good time to let us know. Comment here, or drop me a note at the address under “Contact” to the right.

Orange to Blue?

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has officially dissolved the parliament, and new elections are set for December 7. He made no secret of why he thought the coalition broke up:

The democratic coalition – I am convinced, deeply convinced – was destroyed with only one thing – personal ambition. The personal ambition of one individual which was propelled by the thirst for power, and by a preference for personal interests over those of the country.

The coalition’s understanding and the coalition’s agreements are destroyed; the economic reform is not implemented; the fulfillment of electoral promises has grown into a total social populism, which has caused the largest inflation in Europe and the lowering of social standards of living, as reflected in the salary, pension, and many other social programs.

This really looks like the end of the Orange coalition. In the end, there could be only one. Now the question is whether all three parties will continue in rough parity, or whether one Orange party will decisively displace the other, or go into coalition with the Blues (Party of Regions, Yanukovych).

It’s up to the voters now, but it’s still sad to see so much time and opportunity squandered.

A Moment of Blatant Self-Regard

Five years, one month and one day ago, A Fistful of Euros went live with its first posts.

Thanks to David, for getting the ball rolling and keeping it rolling; thanks to Tobias for keeping the back end running and the front end looking good; thanks to all of the writers; thanks to the commenters, for keeping us on our toes; thanks to the advertisers for keeping this little venture self-financing; thanks to the politicians and other public types for giving us such rich material to work with; and thanks to the readers, hope that you keep coming back for more.