The Country Where I Quite Want to Be

The Washington Post has sent a correspondent and a photographer to Finland for three weeks to “figure the place out.”

“Finland just might be the world’s most interesting country that Americans know least about. It has the best school system in the world, some of the most liberated women (the president is female), more cell phones per capita than anyone else, one of the world’s best high-tech companies (Nokia), remarkable information technology of many kinds, …”

Their report is bloglike and relatively interesting. The photos are great. The whole enterprise is a little odd, but hey, why not Finland?

All together Finnophiles!

The Wolfowitz Bank

Everybody ready for neo-con development politics?

President Bush said today he is nominating Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz to be the next president of the World Bank, tapping one of his administration’s most controversial figures as the U.S. choice to head the 184-nation institution.

Because, y’know, after engineering a military quagmire in Asia, Robert McNamara was such a smashing success at the World Bank…

Or will it be a Koch-Weser moment?

UPDATE: Bloomberg comes through with a bit of the agenda.

Under Wolfowitz, the Bush administration may now try to narrow the focus of the World Bank, returning the international lending institution to its roots of primarily financing large infrastructure projects and limiting the practice of handing out zero-interest loans, analysts such as Alan Meltzer, who led a 2000 congressional inquiry into the World Bank, said.

Tapped also has scuttlebutt from 17th & H; in short, Wolfowitz will be hated by the institution he is slated to run.

On Monday, I was in the audience when a reasonably senior US diplomat speculated on improvements in US-European relations. I thought to myself, well, things will get a hell of a lot better on Jan. 21, 2009.

Paul Johnson: carried away as with a flood

The catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean gave many of us reason to crack open the dictionary and reacquaint ourselves with the term ‘theodicy’. Crooked Timber‘s Brian Weatherson, for example, saw in the catastrophe an opportunity to discuss the ‘problem of evil’ (i.e., given the manifest existence of evil in the world, is it not correct to say that God, if he exist, may be all-good, or all-powerful, but in any event cannot be both?).

Now that is is a very proper thing for a philosopher to discuss. As for me, though, I have never found the problem of evil very interesting, as it seems to presume that God plays a much more direct role in the day-to-day running of the world than I think he does.

But this is not the place to explore my unorthodox religious views. I wish instead to consider the religious views of Paul Johnson, which are presumably much more orthodox than my own and are at any rate, I think, far more offensive. For Johnson regards the tsunami from the perspective of classical theodicy, and concludes that it was a Good Thing.

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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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Havel: Everyone’s Common Ground

It?s interesting that American conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg are touting the idea of making Vaclav Havel the UN Secretary General. I like the idea ? but for what I suspect are completely different reasons than the Instapundit crowd.
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The morning after

Well, it’s been another quiet night in Ukraine, but the demonstrations have continued again today – the live feed shows that Independence Square is full of people again with hundreds of orange flags flying.

There have been a lot of updates on Maidan overnight, mainly of protests and rallies around the world, and still the rumours about Russian troops continue. The main news there, and at the Kyiv Post are of the call for a general strike by Yuschenko.
Louise Ferguson has an email from a Ukrainian academic that’s being forwarded around the world which makes for interesting reading. The key line, when talking about the election fraud is ‘I couldn’t remember such things even during the period of Soviet regime.‘ (the full text is below the fold)
BBC News has a short rundown of the faults with the election process identified by the election observers.
Elsewhere the EU/Russia summit will go on today with Ukraine on the agenda – it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of there, and I suspect much will remain on hold until that is over. However, the EU’s mediators should be in Kiev by now, which means things will be going on behind the scenes that we won’t notice.
On the ground, there are blog updates from Neeka, Obdymok, several from Le Sabot, Foreign Notes and continuing posts from Victor at the Periscope.

I’ll try and update the news as often as I can today, but I’m a lot busier today than I was yesterday, so hopefully some of my Fistful colleagues will take up some of the slack. I think it will be quieter today – though rumours will still fly – mainly because all the action will be taking place behind the scenes either in The Hague or Kiev.

Update: A couple of peope have asked for background information on the ethnic and nationalistic divisions in Ukraine. Well, like many issues of national identity in Europe, the answer is ‘do you want the long story, or the really long story?’ but for an overview there’s good article in today’s Independent and Wikipedia is a good web source – you can start with their Ukraine page and follow links from there.
In my roundup earlier, I also forgot to mention that Harry’s Place has links to articles on attempts by the current Ukrainian administration to get support in Washington. Harry also links to a good Timothy Garton Ash article in The Guardian.
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Ukraine on your doorstep

One thing Victor Katolyk has said in his reports from Kiev that I’ve heard echoed elsewhere is that there have been protests – mainly by the Ukrainian diaspora – at Ukrainian embassies and consulates around the world. So, I wanted to ask the readers of AFOE to participate in a bit of interactive newsgathering. Here’s a list of Ukrainian embassies worldwide and I’d like to ask those of you who live in or near to capital cities to let us and the world know of any protests or demonstrations that have happened or are going on there either today or tomorrow. I’ll do my best to collate the information and link to anyone who has reports, so spread the word and we’ll see what we can achieve!

Update: Before I go to bed, here’s what we have already – and thanks to everyone for their help so far!

Several hundred march in Warsaw (link in Polish), several demonstrations for tomorrow listed on Maidan, including The Hague, Buffalo, NY and several other locations across the US and Canada. Yushchenko’s website reports on protest in Rome and rally in London. Viktor also passes on reports of a demonstration planned in Paris tomorrow.

Wednesday morning update: There are details of protests today in New York and Washington in the comments. Maidan are publicising protests, rallies and demonstrations all over the world. They also report that 5000 people gathered in Toronto and that there are continuing protests in Rome. Brama have pictures of a protest in New York including a rally outside the UN building. This Is London reports on 1500 people protesting outside the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK.

The continuing partition of Berlin

Reparlez-moi des roses de Gottingen
qui m’accompagnent
dans l’autre Allemagne
? l’heure o? colombes et vautours s’?loignent.
De quel c?t? du mur, la fronti?re vous rassure…

Tell me again about the roses in Gottingen
that come with me
into the other Germany
when the doves and vultures part ways.
From whichever side of the wall, the border comforts you…

– Patricia Kaas, D’Allemagne

Today is the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as Tobias notes, political unification has not created the single, new Germany its authors so fervently hoped for.

Fifteen years ago today, I watched the news from my dorm in Strasbourg, having, only the day before, decided to cancel my planned trip to Berlin that weekend. Otherwise, I would have had a valid train ticket to the street party of the century. By the time the wall came down, it was impossible to get train fare or a room anywhere in the city, and going was simply out of the question.

Damn.
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The Morning After in Europe

So it’s done. We have four more years of George W Bush to look forward to. A quick tour of the American blogs shows a few trying to pull some sort of moral victory from this election, but the truth is that they’ve lost everything. Not only has the president finally won the majority denied to him in 2000, but as a reward for his mismanagement and incompetence, Democrats have actually lost seats in both houses of Congress, including losing the Senate Minority Leader. For all that the vote is close, the outcome is a stunning defeat in terms of real access to power. There is no longer a meaningful opposition in the US able to moderate the power of a president who needs no longer worry about reelection.

At best, this means that in 2008 the Republicans will have to run on a deeper quagmire in Iraq, no meaningful victories in the so-called war on terrorism, another huge hike in the American public debt and all the new messes Bush can create. But, let’s be honest. That isn’t going to happen. No one will be called to account. The American electorate, for a number of reasons, simply will not hold this administration to account. They did not do so in 2002, they haven’t this time, and there is no reason to think they will in 2008.

Reaction in the French political scene is muted, but definitely not happy.
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