Cruising the Net now (at drastically-lessened efficiency, since I’m not at home now, but in Prague) what caught my eye was the recent controversy about that outstanding California recall-campaign weblog California Insider, and the fact that the guy who writes it, Daniel Weintraub, now has to pass all of his entries by an editor at his employer, the Sacramento Bee, before they can be posted. Given this, the New York Times asks, can it really still be considered a weblog? (more…)
Archive for September, 2003
Today we’re again a bit on the parochial side. But not in the Dutch sense – rather, in the Czech sense, since I need to head to Prague again this evening for a few days. So naturally I’ve been heavily into the Czech press lately. What has been going on? On the one hand, the Czech socialist coalition government just (barely) survived a vote of confidence in Parliament, and the main governing party looks like it’s about to throw out a maverick within its ranks whose non-cooperation made the confidence vote so close. On the other hand, the results of the Czech Beer Competition for 2003 have just been announced. Which story would you rather hear more about?
I’m guessing the latter. Both Hospodarske noviny and Právo (registration required – in Czech!) have write-ups on the just-completed Czech Beer Competition, Právo being slightly more-informative. (more…)
I first heard about this on the BBC World Service last Tuesday. And, sure enough, at least the main Danish daily Politiken has a report on it:Copenhagen Accuses McDonalds of Pillage. (Hærværk in Danish = “pillage,” “plunder,” “rapine”? It literally means “army-work.” Any Dane out there who can give me the best translation?) This despite the fact that lately the Danish press has been inundated across-the-board (except for the business paper Børsen, naturally) by coverage of the just-announced engagement of Prince Frederik of Denmark (age 35) to a certain Mary Donaldson (age 31) of Australia – definitely outside of the EuroSavant remit! Call me in when they start to cheat on each other and/or engage in fatal auto accidents.
What, you ask (if you didn’t catch it on the BBC on Tuesday), did McDonalds do to earn accusations of hærværk? (more…)
Here’s a shout-out to SPN, whom history will record (among what will surely be his many other accomplishments) as having been the first to provide a “trackback” to a EuroSavant entry.
. . . coupled with an endorsement of the pMachine weglogging software. Now, I write “sponsor” in my headline, but of course they don’t pay me anything. In fact, so far I haven’t paid them anything either, for the software comes free. (pMachine Professional, which basically lets you add multiple weblogs and adds other useful bells and whistles like a muscular e-mail module, is something you’re called upon to pay for, the amount depending on whether you use it professionally. For more information, go to http://www.pmachine.com. And I have to add that I do pay pMachineHosting (a related company) for my hosting; they do a good job.) It’s just that, once you get it working, the new stuff they’ve added in the latest software version (2.3), like Trackback and Pingback, is pretty neat. And pMachine lets you differentiate the look of your weblog a lot more than, say, Blogger. So you can at least keep this option in mind.
George W. Bush yesterday gave his long-awaited speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations. It hardly went over like gangbusters. I assume that you’ve already consulted the accounts from the mainstream American press: the New York Times – An Audience Unmoved; the Washington Post – A Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement. And that unflattering coverage was from American media, which need to behave themselves vis-à-vis the Administration to ward off John Ashcroft shutting them down as subversive organizations under the Patriot Act. (OK, so it’s not like that, at least not yet. At least not among the newspapers – but I’ve read some interesting analysis about the factor that makes the American broadcast media so nice towards Administration policy, and its initials are F, C, and C.)
How bad is the coverage of the same event (and its appendages – like the Bush-Chirac meeting) likely to be in the French press? Let’s take a look.
The analysis piece in Le Monde, Paris-Washington, Two Opposing Diagnoses on the Situation in Iraq, shows a surprisingly mild tone. (more…)
Open the envelope, and the winner is . . . Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for next Secretary-General of NATO! And so the Netherlands contributes its third Secretary-General in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, the first two (as only NATO trivia-buffs will know) having been Dirk Stikker and Joseph Luns. Me, I’m slightly disappointed since I was looking forward to seeing the Norwegian Defense Minister, Kristin Krohn Devold, named instead as NATO’s first female Secretary-General. The New York Times Magazine, in a hagiographical article about her that it published back on August 24, virtually promised that this would happen. (That article has by now retreated behind the NYT’s paid archives-access gate; if you think you might like to pay to see it, the link is here.)
No, its Jaap de Hoop Scheffer instead – and surely it’s time here for a survey of the Dutch press to find out how the thinking-class in Holland is reacting to one of its own being picked out for such a crucial international position. What sort of a politician is he? What qualities will he bring to NATO? What is Holland losing by having him (temporarily) plucked away from its political scene? After all, he is currently the Dutch Foreign Affairs minister; and he used to be head of the CDA, the right-wing, somewhat Christian-oriented (“Christian lite,” anybody? – as opposed to the more “hard-core” Christian parties EuroSavant has briefly discussed before) political party which is now the Netherlands’ largest and whose current leader, Jan-Peter Balkenende (the man who replaced De Hoop Scheffer), is prime minister. (more…)
Meetings, meetings, meetings! But maybe that’s a foretaste of the soon-to-be EU of twenty-five members. As we noted, Tony Blair met on Saturday (20 Sept.) with Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac in Berlin. Then on Sunday he met back at Chequers (the British Prime Minister’s country residence) with Spanish premier José Maria Aznar. (Those were surely discussions most suited to Blair’s day of rest, as he and Aznar see much more eye-to-eye on international issues these days than do his interlocutors in Berlin.) As for Gerhard Schröder, he met yesterday with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller – just before flying yesterday evening to New York, for that all-important opening of the UN General Assembly and tête-à-tête with President Bush.
The German papers hardly gave front-page coverage to this meeting between Schröder and Miller (which took place at the conference center attached to the Schalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr area – Schalke are a famous German first-division football team, by the way). By and large that treatment was devoted to the overwhelming victory in the Bavarian state elections over the weekend for Edmund Stoiber’s Christian Socialist Union party – something that, unfortunately, EuroSavant isn’t all that interested in, although it has given rise to speculation that Stoiber is now rarin’ to take on Gerhard Schröder again in an electoral fight for the Chancellorship, when the time for that comes ’round again, of course.
That lack of press coverage was unfortunate, because Schröder and Miller had a lot to talk about in Gelsenkirchen. For one, they seem to have some hard-to-bridge differences over the draft EU Constitution, and this just a little over a week before the big EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) opens on October 4. Interestingly, according to an article previewing the Schröder/Miller summit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled No Unbundling of the EU Constitution-Package, it looks like Germany is considering deploying its big financial guns to try to get its way here. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is quoted by the FAZ as saying as early as the beginning of September that, in his view, EU expansion, the adoption of the draft Constitution, and negotiations over EU finances – which have much to do with how much financial help of various kinds Poland gets upon entering the EU – all constitute an interrelated package. Subtext: If you want to get the money you expect, you better show some give on the Constitution. But let’s leave any further discussion of those negotiations to the near future. With the start of the IGC coming up soon, it’s guaranteed that we’ll get back to this subject soon, and in considerably more detail.
At their meeting, the German and Polish heads of government also devoted considerable time to a controversy that arose over the summer – but is still simmering – about a proposal to erect a memorial called the Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen or “Center Against Expulsions,” in Berlin. This has considerably strained relations with Germany’s neighbors to the east, not just Poland; and it’s a dispute that gives me the opportunity to display a neat picture on these pages – a magazine cover, sorta kinky! – for the first time. (But you’ll have to click on “More…” to see it – ha ha!) (more…)
Today’s topic for a press review is of course the summit held yesterday in Berlin between the leaders of the EU’s “Big Three” – Germany’s Schröder, France’s Chirac, and Britain’s Blair. The subject on the table (but, as it turned out, not the only subject) was Iraq – where to go with regard to that country’s rebuilding process, what posture to take going into the crucial meetings around the opening of the UN General Assembly to occur this following week, and how to respond generally to the Americans’ patent need for a bit of assistance there.
You remember from our past discussion, here, that two of those three (Schröder and Chirac) already met last week, also in Berlin. Now, that occasion was supposedly not for the express purpose of meeting one-on-one per se, but rather to mark the first-ever joint session of the combined German and French cabinets in the German capital. That event had been planned in advance, but nonetheless it gave the two heads-of-cabinet a convenient opportunity to confer in advance of their meeting yesterday with Tony Blair, and confer they did.
What’s going on when there’s to be a three-way meeting, but two of the three have their own little meeting ahead of time? In such a case the suspicion has to arise that the thing has really metamorphosed into, in effect, a two-way meeting, between the already-met (in a posture of solidarity forged during their previous get-together) and the third, late arrival. And don’t forget yet another meeting still, that huge meeting later this week at the UN General Assembly, which will be attended by most of the involved heads of state, and which will be marked by meetings between Chirac and Schröder on the one hand and President Bush on the other – separate meetings with each. This three-way meeting in Berlin looks an awful lot like a training-session for those all-the-marbles meetings in New York. A by-now-common preparatory technique among politicians preparing for a big debate is to find a preliminary sparring partner who can best imitate the opponent that politician will face when he is later debating for real – could Tony Blair have unwittingly been fooled into assuming this role for Messrs. Schröder and Chirac, ahead of their one-on-one conversations with George W. Bush in New York?
Among the many English-language dispatches covering the summit, the Washington Post’s report ends by recounting the “embarrassing question” the three leaders encountered at their joint news conference: Was Blair seen by the other two as simply “Bush’s envoy to the talks.” Oh no, no, they hastened to answer – Chirac even magnanimously said “I want to pay tribute to the vivid imagination of the last journalist,” i.e. the poser of the question. The other common elements you’ll be able to read about in most all the coverage were that all three agreed that the UN must be given a “key role” in Iraq, but disagreed on how long it should take to do that, Chirac demanding that this take place “within a few months”; and they all at least agreed that “we all want to see a stable Iraq,” in Blair’s words. Nothing very radical there.
But the English-language press – usually – is not EuroSavant’s happy hunting-ground, nor are the common elements that everybody is reporting the usual grist for its mill. Let’s take a look at reporting and commentary from the host nation – Germany – to see what wrinkles and unique aspects of the summit are presented there. (more…)
Just a brief mention here of something I ran across while trawling the Germany Sunday press: Under the headling Bush muß weg! (or “Bush must go!”), the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is publishing today in its “Feuilleton” section (roughly equivalent to, say, a “Style” section) Michael Moore’s open letter to (ret.) General Wesley Clark of Friday, 12 Sept. In it, he thanks Clark for the support he expressed for Moore at the time of his controversial remarks at the Oscar ceremonies last spring, and urges him to run for president against Bush, whom Moore lambasts with some pretty bitter invective.
Obviously, the letter was originally written in English, not in German, so that link above is only for those more comfortable reading in German, or who want to practice it. The original English version is available at a number of places on-line, but probably the best source is Michael Moore’s own website, here. And, in case you’re in the mood for a rebuttal to that (but not from any Bush partisan, but rather from the leftist lunatic fringe), you could go here, to “An Open Letter to Michael Moore,” of 17 Sept., which warns Moore that he is endorsing a war-criminal, from General Clark’s role in the 1999 Kosovo War. I certainly don’t agree with this; if you’re interested in why, simply click on “More…” (more…)
EuroSavant veterans will recognize the following as the latest manifestation of a tried-and-true formula: commentary out of the German newspaper Die Zeit as reflected in Thomas Friedman’s column for the New York Times. I shouldn’t do too much of this, over and over – I don’t like to fall into predictable formulas – but lately commentary on the French and German reaction to America’s need for help in Iraq has come together in a propitious way, to include in addition a contribution today to that same New York Times Op-Ed page (and so in English, of course) from German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. (more…)
Today is “Holland Day”! (To read why, see my previous post for today, below.) And this time I have a fairly serious subject to treat, namely the seeming determination on the part of highest Dutch government officials that the Stability and Growth Pact (hereafter just “Stability Pact”), which was added to European law in 1997 and whose key provision is that governments are not allowed to run budget deficits of more than 3% of their GDP, be enforced. When governments violate this rule, they’re supposed to be fined millions of euros by the European Commission; Germany and France are about to violate it for the third year in a row (Italy is also apparently a violator), and, as we’ll see, the Dutch together with some of their friends within the EU want to see those fines applied, even if it happens to be the two most influential countries against which that would happen, the very “motor” of EU development. (more…)
Today is Holland Day at EuroSavant! The good reason for that is that yesterday was Prinsjesdag, or the third Tuesday in September, which is when every year the Dutch Queen Beatrix rides an elaborate, old-fashioned coach to the Binnenhof in the Hague, the Dutch house of parliament, to read out a speech which the current government provides her with, which lays out that government’s program for the year. It probably comes as no surprise to you that this year’s government program has already provoked much wailing and gnashing of teeth: €10 billion to be saved this fiscal year, €7 billion the next, and so cut-backs in all sorts of government programs and services held dear by Dutch society.
Given that good reason to make today “Holland Day,” though, I’m going to ignore it – too boring, and too specific to Dutch conditions. If you don’t live here, why would you want to know about that? In fact, you’ve already discovered everything you would want and need to know in my two sentences above.
No, if it’s to be “Holland Day,” let’s devote our attention to something a bit more interesting, to a phenomenon out of Dutch society that does pique the interest even of those who are not native Hollanders: bordellos. Does it come as a surprise to you that, recently, even the municipal authorities of Rotterdam have gotten themselves in to the business of setting up a bawdy house? (more…)
The votes are in, the Swedish people have spoken: 56% of the voters said “No,” and so they prevail, for a while at least.
I had hoped to find something interesting to tell you about the referendum’s result in the national press of Germany: the nation that, after all, was once the guiding power behind the idea of one single currency for all of the EU, yet which now, by its misbehavior in getting its own fiscal house in order and staying under the 3%-of-GDP limit for government budget deficits, is quite possibly driving away those EU members (such as Sweden) who do not use the euro but are/were contemplating that. But the on-line German newspapers that I’ve looked at for today aren’t very on-the-ball: they’ll tell you little else than what you already will have been able to find out from your own newspaper of choice (with one exception, noted below). OK, they quote Bundeskanzler Schröder lamenting the continued absence of Sweden from the ranks of EU countries using the euro. Well, he would lament, wouldn’t he? I’d definitely file that bit of news under “dog-bites-man.” (more…)
Outside reality intruded for a while to hold up my planned survey of commentary in the Danish press over the murder of Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh and the effect of that incident on the upcoming Swedish referendum over whether to adopt the euro. But I did gather the relevant URLs on the subject from the main Danish on-line dailies, and am posting this early enough for there still to be suspense about the referendum’s outcome (for prompt EuroSavant readers, anyway.)
As an apt accompaniment to its coverage of all of today’s “September 11″ ceremonies, remembrances, etc., the New York Times is also publishing a lengthy article by Berlin correspondent Richard Bernstein entitled Foreign Views of U.S. Darken Since Sept. 11 – basically about how the Bush administration within a mere two years has managed to squander all the sympathy and good-will that was being mind-beamed by foreigners in the direction of the US in the wake of the catastrophic attacks in New York and Washington. “Gone are the days,” Bernstein writes (towards the end of the article), “when 200,000 Germans marched in Berlin to show solidarity with their American allies, or when Le Monde, the most prestigious French newspaper, could publish a large headline, ‘We Are All Americans.’”
Things have reached a point, Bernstein notes, where “more recently” the French weekly Nouvel Observateur published an editorial entitled “We Are Not All Americans.”
That sort of mention always makes my antennae pop up and go “zing!”, and my fingers scramble to my keyboard to summon my faithful search engine. (Trusty “Geegor,” if you know what I’m trying to say.) Of course Geegor found this Nouvel Observateur article on-line, and a mighty interesting piece it is, too. Problem is (and, darn it, material in the Nouvel Observateur seems to suffer from this chronically), it’s written in French.
Hey! Hooya gonna call? Why, your friendly neighborhood EuroSavant, of course! Just look under the “Savant” heading in your local Yellow Pages!
Or, if you’re interested in what the French have to say, and you’re blessed with a connection to the Internet, you could instead click on “More…” (more…)
I’d like to follow up Tuesday’s treatment of the French press’ reaction to President Bush’s speech of last Sunday evening on Iraq and Afghanistan with a look at the Dutch press. Remember that the Dutch were rather more supportive of America’s drive for war with Iraq last spring than were the French/Germans/Belgians. Plus, the Dutch are already there on occupation, with a battalion-plus down south in the British sector, and have been since July. So did Bush’s address fall on more sympathetic ears in Holland? Nah – although at least there were fewer adjectives like “infantile” trotted out.
(For those of you who don’t feel like “going below the fold” to “More…”, tomorrow my ambition is to get reactions to the stabbing of the deceased Swedish foreign minister and euro advocate (that is, the common currency) Anna Lindh from my “Sweden-surrogate” – i.e. the Danish press. There might very well be something there to write about, or there might not: latest reports indicate that her attacker was merely your random lunatic, with no particular axe to grind (unfortunate choice of metaphor?) concerning the referendum on adopting the euro that will (or is supposed to) occur in Sweden on Sunday.) (more…)
Memo to US LT General Ricardo Sanchez, occupation ground forces commander in Iraq: Don’t allow the Polish troops to get involved in any air defense, or even any air defense training. He would be wise to draw that lesson from an incident from last month recently uncovered by Zycie Warszawy; today’s update is entitled Su-22 w strefie razenia, or “Su-22 in in the Danger Zone.” (The Su-22 is a Soviet-developed attack aircraft, apparently the export version of what in the Russian Air Force is known as the Su-17. I’ve found a hobby enthusiast’s website about it here, if you’d like to look into this airplane more.) (more…)
Here we go! (Lost the thread? See the beginning of my previous post, i.e. of “Mon Sep 08, 2003,” as the peculiar pMachine software formatting puts it.) Plenty, plenty of commentary on Bush’s Sunday speech in the French press – let me try to cover as much as I can, in the time I’ve allotted myself (and it’s a generous slice, you can be sure, dear reader!) to write this.
Why not start with Le Figaro? My reflexive instinct is rather to start with Le Monde (“France’s New York Times,” and all that), but Tuesday’s print edition of Le Figaro irresistibly draws me with its big front-page, above-the-fold headline above the standard picture of Bush addressing the nation in the Oval Office: Qui veut aider Bush? – “Who Wants to Help Bush?” (more…)
Foreign reactions to President Bush’s speech to the nation of yesterday evening, requesting $87 billion more from Congress for Iraq and Afghanistan, are trickling in. Sure, they all report the speech, and it’s true that the subtle ins and outs of what they report, and how they report it, can be interesting and valuable in deciphering the trans-Atlantic point-of-view, but I prefer the “Analysis” or “Commentary” articles, and those aren’t there yet. I’ll check again tomorrow whether there is enough such material to report and comment on, from a major country (i.e. France or Germany – or the UK, if the commentary there is interesting enough to make it worth ducking the cat-calls and flying objects coming my way for “copping-out” with the English-language press).
Today, though, we prep that issue with some background, namely a recent survey on European attitudes towards the US, reported in L’Express in an article entitled Les Européens jugent l’Amérique (which of course means “(The) Europeans Judge America). (more…)
That’s the title of an interesting commentary piece in the latest Die Zeit by Uwe Jean Heuser – a remarkable mea culpa for Germany from a German writer, which puts into stark relief the striking (if rather unfortunate) ironies attending the birth of the Euro and the current state of finances in Euroland (that is, in those twelve-out-of-fifteen EU countries that have adopted it as their common currency). (more…)
The day has finally come! – and even passed! I mean the day when the Polish occupation sector in Iraq officially came under Polish command, obviously a crucial event for our “Poles in Iraq” series.
Fortunately, I grabbed the relevant URLs while I still was in the US, so that I can still access the articles in the Polish press even if they are a day or two old. And now I am back at home-base in Amsterdam and can check out what they say.
Interestingly, the best account of the hand-over ceremony – and the issues surrounding the start of the Polish command – I find in the Krakow-based Dziennik Polski, in the article which appeared a few days ago entitled W Wiezy Babel, or “In the Tower of Babel.” As we will see, that reference to Babel is not just some headline-writer’s facile trick, taking advantage of the fact that this is all taking place in the area where the original Tower of Babel was said to have been built, but actually has some present-day relevance as well. (more…)
Today we progress towards fulfilling yesterday’s mention of current French points-of-view towards the Coalition troubles in Iraq. The on-line dailies are treating the subject hit-or-miss (see a review of a contribution from Libération at bottom). But what’s that over there on Le Monde diplomatique? That’s the sister-publication to Le Monde – of course – but it comes out monthly, and so with longer, “deeper” articles which are mostly opinion-pieces that take a broader look at current affairs. And on the front page of the latest (Sept. 2003) issue we have L’onde du chaos (“The Wave of Chaos”), an examination of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Bush Administration by writer Alain Gresh.
Le Monde diplomatique can be relied upon to lay out a “French” point-of-view carefully fashioned to be about as opposite to what the American administration would want you to believe as possible, short of setting up your own direct feed to Osama bin-Laden’s propaganda department. But stepping out of the confines of Fox News and the various other US media outlets which often are but thinly-disguised cheerleaders for administration policy, to be confronted with a foreigner’s viewpoint, is what this site is supposed to be all about, right? (Or is it instead about foreigners discovering the various innovations that make America great, such as Hooters Air? Or America discovering the innovations that make Europe great, like medically-prescribed marijuana? Just let me know.) (more…)
Pardon me if I’m slow to re-engage with the more serious subjects currently engaging the world’s attention. For instance, the rest of the world’s attitude at present towards America’s increasing troubles in Iraq, in terms of contributing both finance and manpower to help out, needs to be examined. France having taken its place at the forefront of opposition to America’s warplans back in the spring, the French press would be the logical place to start doing this . . .
But I’m still in the US, and still in a sort of “vacation” frame-of-mind. That means I’m easily sidetracked by serendipitous articles with – shall we say – unconventional appeal. As an example, the prominent French daily Le Monde has finally discovered Hooters Air. It likes what it sees (I’m speaking mainly figuratively here) and is not shy to say so with typical Gallic frankness. (more…)
Hi! I’m back, and I’m enjoying Labor Day (a public holiday) here in the USA. Don’t go accusing me of “holiday arbitrage” – i.e. of heading to the States to celebrate their version of labor’s holiday after having first celebrated Europe’s version. You see, 1 May is not really a holiday in the Netherlands, not because of any less dedication on the part of the Dutch to the working man (indeed, one of the major political parties is the Partij van de Arbeid, or “Party of Work”) but because of the previous day, 30 April, which is a major holiday in Holland, namely the Queen’s birthday.
Still, there’s always time for a homesick glance back to the country of residence even from across the ocean, via the Internet, naturally. And today, 1 September, is itself a date of some note, at least according to the NRC Handelsblad: From today, in the Netherlands marijuana can be legally purchased by prescription for medicinal purposes. (more…)