The Republican National Convention’s “Big Tent”

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

Get ready: next week is RNC week! (“Republican National Convention,” in NYC, naturally.) You can be sure that most of the the European publications that I cover here will be taking a look, and, just as on the occasion of the DNC about a month ago, I’ll be passing along to you some of the most interesting coverage and opinions. (As for the official EuroSavant position, I was lucky enough recently to find it summed up neatly elsewhere on the Net: “If I can FAKE it here . . . “ – see August 26.)

Belgium’s excellent De Standaard has already gotten a jump today on what that paper promises will be its own extensive coverage of the convention throughout next week, with a preview-article by Evita Neefs that I found quite impressively enlightening (A Miss, a Democrat, and Some Blacks in Madison Square Garden). (more…)

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Cardinal Ratzinger Says “No” to Turkish EU Membership

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

Today’s foreign-press reference comes courtesy of the New York Times Sunday editorial page, which cites a recent interview I missed in France’s Le Figaro of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Vatican prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Times editors condemn Cardinal Ratzinger – who can accurately be termed the Vatican’s ideologue-in-chief, and so is certainly close to Pope John Paul II – as a “meddlesome cleric” for offering his view that Turkey is “in permanent contrast to Europe” and so does not belong as a member-state of the European Union. Perhaps mid-August is a slow period to find things to comment on, or perhaps those Times editors really are so enthusiastic about seeing Turkey join the EU, but it’s at least curious that they want to offer comment on a piece which the vast majority of their own readers cannot read themselves – readable, in fact, only by ipso facto traitorous John F. Kerry-types who know French! – and so who are dependent on the quotes and extracts that those editors are willing to reproduce for them in English. A prime case, one could think, for EuroSavant to go take a look. (more…)

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Germans at the DNC Push Beyond Mere “Translation”

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

John Kerry delivered his acceptance speech last Thursday night to bring the Democratic National Convention to its culmination, and the German press was certainly paying attention. But this should have been no surprise to readers of the Economist (subscription required), which this week reminds us how Germans massively dislike George W. Bush, and so are presumably very interested in the personality and prospects of the alternative candidate who can send him packing to Crawford, Texas. (That Economist article, unfortunately, also dwells on Germans’ current dislike for the US generally – but, like the country or not, they surely cannot be under the delusion that the result of November’s presidential election has no impact on them.)

Unfortunately, most of the articles I surveyed in the German press covering Kerry’s acceptance speech were happy to limit themselves to a mere “translation function,” i.e. explaining to their readers what Kerry said. Most disappointing was such a “translator” article in Die Zeit (Kerry Wants to Restore the USA’s Prestige), from which we ordinarily can expect better – and that article itself was borrowed from the German business newspaper Handelsblatt. EuroSavant readers presumably had plenty of opportunity to read in English what Kerry said, if they didn’t already see the speech on TV live, so such articles are not so useful.

Handelsblatt wisely chose to keep its higher value-added materials for itself, though, as we can see from its editorial on Kerry’s speech (Bridge-Builder Kerry) from correspondent Michael Backfisch. (more…)

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Football as Nationalism, as Religion

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

For those of you who live outside the “Old World” and so who may fail to grasp the fact: Yes, the currently on-going “Euro2004” European football championship is a big deal over here, routinely re-directing daily life with its schedule of football broadcasts and calling forth floods of uniformly-colored crowds in central cities throughout the continent. So it should be no surprise when press coverage takes a step back from the “trees” of the action and results of individual games to contemplate the wider “forest” of what it all means. Often this stepping-back goes no further than attempts to find a secret formula to unlock football-championship success, which are interesting enough in themselves. But lately some analysts have gone even further than that. (more…)

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Accept No Imitation Gipper!

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

I’m way over here on the other side of the Big Water, so could someone enlighten me? People are not really falling – are they? – for the current president’s attempt to shore up the sagging belief in his elementary competence by invoking the mantel of the recently-deceased Ronald Reagan? Such as by giving his campaign website such a thorough-going makeover that it could make you think that it was Reagan who was campaigning for the presidency? It looks like at least some editorial cartoonists have this covered (a more-elaborate production here), as does the US’ “newspaper of record” (registration required). Or at least that latter is available to those who page/click through to the “Arts” section. But I fear such enlightenment is likely limited to the usual East Coast, wine-and-brie set, as well as to whoever else regularly surfs over to read flaming liberal web-zines like Salon.

Rest assured that the intelligent classes over here are not fooled. (But they’re pretty good about these things. They saw right through the Bush administration’s attempt to equate Iraq with the D-Day landings, too.) (more…)

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Poles in Iraq VIII: “A Difficult Week”

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

It’s time to resuscitate the long-dormant “Poles in Iraq” series, dealing as it does with coverage in the Polish press of what’s happening with that contingent of Polish soldiers sent to perform occupation duty – indeed, to command a sector – in support of Coalition forces. And you probably can figure out why now is a good time to bring “Poles in Iraq” back to life: the country is in an uproar, or at least the central “Sunni triangle” is (which has already been in at least a state of simmering rebellion since the war) as well as the heretofore quiet Shiite-dominated south, which is exactly where the Poles command their very multi-national occupation force, because it was considered a safe part of the country back when the occupations were drawn up.

Now that is no longer true, what with the uprising lead by the young Shiite cleric as-Sadr and his “Mahdi Army,” which is still in control of parts of a number of southern cities. I was looking for a good account of all of this in the Polish press, one that didn’t just repeat the general news reports about what was currently happening but that also included some Polish angle for the local readers. There was coverage, of course, but coverage that didn’t really meet this criterion, in Gazeta Wyborcza (generally) and in Dziennik Polski (Calm Before the Storm?), but the series of articles on one webpage published by Rzeczpospolita (starting at the top with Every Day a Kidnapping) was better. (more…)

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Lukashenko Watch: “Opposition Threatens Public Safety”

Friday, April 2nd, 2004

Wild-man Alyaksandr Lukashenko, who happens also to be “President” of Belarus, is at his antics again according to this recent report from the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline:

President Alyaksandr Lukashenko said on 31 March that his recent directive “On Measures to Enhance Public Safety and Discipline” met with support from most Belarusians, aside from drunkards, crooks, undisciplined workers, and the opposition, Belapan reported [that’s the “Belarusian information company”], quoting the presidential press service. Lukashenko reportedly said the opposition is guided by the principle, “The worse for the people and the government, the better for the opposition.” The president charged that the opposition seeks sociopolitical destabilization in the country and poses a threat to public safety.

(more…)

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What’s A Gold Medal Worth?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004

Great commentary today from NYT sports-writer George Vecsey: Athletes Who Use Drugs Are Cheating the Fans. Go ahead, check it out and read about one Johann Muehlegg, who had all three cross-country skiing gold medals he won at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games taken away from him for “use of a banned substance.” German name, huh? (actually, more Austrian) – except that he was competing at Salt Lake City for Spain, a country he found it more convenient to pledge his allegiance to – for whatever reason: tax? – notwithstanding that he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish and probably wouldn’t know a tapa from a tortilla. (Of course not! The latter is Mexican, anyway.)

What if I submit the assertion that this Johann Muehlegg in Utah in February, 2002 (and whenever else) prostituted his body – not to mention his nationality – far more seriously and disgracefully than, say, any of the women sitting behind the rose-colored windows around three kilometers or so away from where I now sit in Amsterdam? At least he looks (properly) like a fully-credentialed idiot, holding up two of his bogus gold medals in the Associated Press photograph that heads Vecsey’s commentary. Check it out. And then stop wondering why many people, myself included, have stopped being willing to take the Olympic Games seriously.

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Guantanamo in Hamburg? The Mzoudi Terrorism Case

Friday, February 6th, 2004

Yesterday a court in Hamburg, Germany, found a 31-year-old native Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, innocent of charges that he had been involved in the Hamburg-based terrorist cell behind the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington. Naturally, American officials are hardly pleased by this verdict. Turning first to the account you’ve all probably already seen in the New York Times establishes the basic facts here: presiding judge Klaus Rühle ordered Mzoudi acquitted not because he thought him innocent, but because not enough evidence had been presented to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And that was partly due to the refusal by American authorities to make intelligence information available to the German prosecutors working for Mzoudi’s conviction.

What does the German press say? (more…)

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WMD Rogues Back into the Fold?

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

As 2003 has turned into 2004, there has been a lot of movement world-wide in the area of – brace yourself for this all-too-familiar, overused bureaucratic term – “weapons of mass destruction” (call ’em WMD) and the “rogue states” that, to various degrees, have pursued their acquisition in the past. Most prominent was Libya’s renunciation of such weapons and agreement to adhere to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards, even before actually signing any written accord to do so. But North Korea also recently allowed a team of US observers visit its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. For its part, back in October Iran signed agreements granting the IAEA more scope for inspection of its nuclear facilities, and even Syria started to speak publicly last week about its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Zbynek Petracek, in the most-recent issue of the Czech commentary weekly Respekt, surveys these developments in an article he entitles So That You Don’t End Up Like Saddam. But is all this breaking of the nuclear ice attributable to the downfall of the Iraqi dictator?

If it were, Petracek notes, that would be somewhat ironic, given that the WMD justification for the invasion of Iraq hasn’t panned out at all; last week also marked what was attempted as the “quiet” pull-out from Iraq of the main American team of 400 WMD-searchers (but the media are always watching, especially these guys). But actually there’s precious little connection; indeed, and unfortunately, there has been less progress in fighting the spread of WMD even after the fall of Saddam, even after he was caught in his spider-hole, than you would hope. (more…)

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Poles Upset at US Visa Regime

Sunday, January 11th, 2004

For many people around the world, mainly either those actively wanting to or at least thinking about traveling to the United States, the big event marking this past first-business-week of the New Year was the introduction last Monday at America’s seaports and airports of mandatory procedures involving the photographing and fingerprinting of most foreign entrants. In one sense, this was just the sequel to the “air marshal” flap happening just before, as yet one more unilateral demand placed by the Bush administration on travel to the US, placed out there for other involved countries to “take it or leave it,” although resistance to this so far has been less than to the demand for air marshalls.

However, see this NYT article for the great Brazilian exception, where authorities – spurred by a judge’s ruling – have in turn instituted the requirement that all Americans entering Brazil be photographed and fingerprinted. And that’s all Americans – the article makes mention that even American diplomats, plus visiting US Senator Pat Roberts, were required to deliver up mugshots and prints – and a better solution is hard to imagine for the obvious problem here that the high-and-mighty setting such US policy normally get to remain blissfully unaware of the impact their decisions have on the everyday lives of ordinarily mortals. There just remains the task of getting George W. Bush to pose in an airport somewhere, which would have the collateral benefit of greatly assisting those many hundreds of thousands of anti-US-policy protesters in Western Europe whose own attempts at fashioning a Bush mugshot on the posters and placards they march with in the streets have too often been hopelessly amateurish.

Another reason resistance is less to the new mugshot-and-prints regime is that citizens from a core of 27 countries (mostly Western European) seen as low-risk and/or particularly friendly to US policy (plus Canada) are exempt. Unfortunately, it’s questionable whether the friendliness of the country and the degree of terrorist risk posed by its citizens are very much correlated; you can grasp this by recalling that that gentleman (now locked up in perpetuity) who two years ago tried to blow up a US-bound flight with explosives hidden in his tennis-shoes was a French national, as well as by reading this excellent opinion-piece on the whole issue in today’s Washington Post’s “Outlook” section. (Then there are those of you asking aloud now “What, France? A ‘friendly country’?” Sillies, for all the Franco-American policy differences of recent years, clearly from geopolitical and immigration perspectives France belongs in that camp of 27.)

But back to the new requirements for folks from what you could call the “great unwashed” parts of the world who would like to visit America, and in particular Poland. Yep, the Poles also belong to those “great unwashed,” notwithstanding things like the prompt and firm support the Polish government provided the Bush administration when it came to Iraq. The Poles are not happy with the new requirements, naturally. Surprisingly, though, a review of Polish press coverage of the matter has convinced me that this development itself barely rates “man-bites-dog” newsworthy status. Rather, the new requirements are merely the latest riff on what Poles perceive to be an ongoing insult – namely that they are required to obtain visas to visit the US at all. What’s more, George W. Bush’s announcement of this past week of proposed changes to US immigration law to grant amnesty in certain cases to illegals in the US turned out 1) To be directly relevant to the mugshot-and-photo issue, and 2) To be of much more interest to Poles. Intrigued? Just click on “More…”

Once again, on this issue Gazeta Wyborcza wins the prize for the extensiveness of its coverage; it builds a handy collection of links to its various articles on a page entitled Should We Introduce Visas for the USA? (more…)

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Spare Us the “Dreams and Glory”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

It’s a bully pulpit, this weblog, here at my disposal on those occasions when I want to react publicly to something I’ve read on the Net. By the nature of things, though, that inevitably means a bias against excellent articles that I might otherwise want to recommend to you, if they’re not European and in a foreign language – it’s not worth going “off-Eurosavant-topic,” you see – and towards pointing you to terrible articles that I just have to argue against. And so it would be with regret that I would let you know of the column Dreams and Glory by David Brooks, were it not for the audience of millions that its posting yesterday on the New York Time’s Op-Ed pages inevitably assured it. (However, in a couple of days it disappears behind the Times’ “paid content” wall, so I’ll try to include many representative quotes for those who are reading this late.) (more…)

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Achtung, Baby! No Contracts!

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

A collective Aber was ist denn los?! issued from the German government last Wednesday, the day after the Pentagon’s new policy excluding as primary bidders on Iraqi reconstruction contracts companies from “peace camp” countries was disclosed – not by any formal notification to the countries thus excluded, mind you, but simply by a posting on the Internet, to the “Rebuilding-Iraq.net” site, of the “Determination and Findings” text, signed by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. That’s why government spokesman Béla Anda (a very Hungarian name, by the way) qualified his qualification of the American action as “not acceptable” with the proviso that what he had been hearing from the press would turn out in fact to be true. We can make our first plunge into the facts of this case with the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Wednesday article, Berlin Criticizes Washington: Decision Unacceptable. That’s also why German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was only willing to say that he had heard the news “with amazement” (“mit Erstaunen zur Kenntnis genommen“), and that he was going to get with his American contacts to find out what the hell was going on. (more…)

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The Netherlands Reconsiders

Friday, November 14th, 2003

A young Italian soldier on guard duty in the night, standing before the pile of rubble that used to be the headquarters of the carabinieri in Nasariya, Iraq, before the suicide truck-bombing early Wednesday that killed eighteen of his comrades, despairingly grips his head. That picture dominated the front pages of most Italian newspapers yesterday (at least according to the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad). The Dutch have soldiers on duty in southern Iraq too, not very far at all from where the Italians were stationed and operating under the same British command. It’s understandable that they are starting to think again about what they have let themselves get into.

The lower house of the Dutch parliament (the Tweede Kamer) certainly is, as we will see. And as for newspapers, at least the NRC is also pondering the question. So far things still seem safe for the Dutch soldiers there, it reports in an article entitled Bullet-Proof Vest and Helmet Back On. (But it’s actually unlikely that those vests are bullet-proof, or even the helmets for that matter; I deal with this question, in the context of my own experiences in the American army, in this article.) (more…)

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Blog Sleuth Hipper

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

We interrupt our blogging for this announcement: You just can’t miss this fantastic bit of blogging detective work on the “HipperCritical” blog. Some lawyer was allowed onto the New York Time’s Op-Ed pages yesterday with an editorial arguing that Iraq should be required to pay its international debt in full. Turns out (but the NYT didn’t bother to provide any clue about this) that he’s a lawyer whose clients are those companies and kingdoms to whom Iraq owes that money. Our sleuth “Hipper” took to the Google trail and found that out, plus a whole lot of other juicy information – such as that the lawyer is on record in the past as urging the forgiving of Russia’s foreign debt. (But Russia was the one paying his fees then, you see. That was then; this is now.)

It’s a textbook case of the power of weblogs-as-(media)-watchdogs. I’ve already e-mailed that page to editorial@nytimes.com, with a suggestion that perhaps a (belated) indication of that lawyer’s paid position to its readers might be appropriate.

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A Hungarian Look at the Mess in Iraq

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

What’s the hot story these days? Clearly, the coordinated, so-called “Ramadan bombings” which took place in Baghdad yesterday. From my wanderings among the on-line European press today, I know that there’s been plenty of reporting of those (and even actual commentary, here and there) all over the place, in every and any nation’s press you like.

You can get a good selection of reporting and commentary from English-language sources from around the globe here, if you subscribe to Salon. Non-English-language sources, you say? For that, you know you’ve come to the right place. But if I have to review reporting about the Ramadan bombings myself, then I think I’ll take the opportunity to return, after a long absence, to the Hungarian press. The leading Hungarian daily Népszabadság has an interesting article entitled “Why Are We in Vietnam Again?”, and sub-titled “Saddam Has Returned: He Profits from the Occupiers’ Damaging/Harmful Behavior.” (more…)

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Editor? We Don’t Need No Steenking Editor!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

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…)

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The Franco-American Summit in New York

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

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 TimesAn Audience Unmoved; the Washington PostA 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…)

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The Summit of Three in Berlin

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

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…)

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The German and French Posture on Iraq

Friday, September 19th, 2003

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…)

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September 11 Special – “We Are Not All Americans”

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

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…)

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Dutch Are Unimpressed by Bush Speech

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

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…)

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The French Press Responds to Bush

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

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…)

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Poles in Iraq V: The Poles Get a Break

Wednesday, August 27th, 2003

I’ve always envied Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry‘s seemingly endless supply of “alert readers,” ready to send word to him whenever they catch sight of any phenomenon out there having to do with the subject at hand – in Dave Barry’s case, namely the bizarre. But now even I am starting to attract “alert readers,” one of whom pointed my attention to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent about how the Americans are not ready yet to give up to Polish-controlled forces quite all of the vital sector that is supposed to be entrusted to them as of 1 September, not in light of recent troubles within that sector.

Of course, the “€S way” is to take any such English-language reporting as merely an initial guide, and then to go seek confirmation and possible amplification in the relevant foreign press. Sure enough, Gazeta Wyborcza also recently had an article telling about, and analyzing, this new development. (more…)

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German Reactions to the Baghdad Bombing

Tuesday, August 26th, 2003

That bomb-blast in Baghdad that killed UN special envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello also tolled an early end to this summer’s “silly season,” i.e. the period when nothing much of note happens. (Not that we had much of a “silly season” anyway, what with the thousands of abandoned elderly in France – and elsewhere – dying of the extreme heat at the beginning of August, an occurrence covered in EuroSavant here.) That blast brought into sharp relief the question: What to do about Iraq? Riding this theme in the typical €S way, yesterday I presented some reporting and commentary on that question from out of the Dutch press, and today I turn to the German. (more…)

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Maybe the Governing Council Can Tame Baghdad

Friday, August 15th, 2003

I do go look at the on-line Polish press from time to time – I promise! “Poles in Iraq” still lives! – but lately there’s been little that I’ve found about the ongoing deployment of Polish peace-keepers to Kuwait, for eventual transfer to the assigned Polish occupation zone in Iraq. They’re simply deploying these days – that’s all.

But Polish news organizations nonetheless can still come up with stories out of Iraq that are largely overlooked by the English-language press. For example, as Gazeta Wyborcza reports today (from the Polish Press Agency, but also from Agence France-Press), Rada Zarzadzajaca chce przejac bezpieczenstwo w Bagdadzie – “The Governing Council wants to take over security for Baghdad.” (more…)

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Some Anti-Cynicism from Die Zeit

Monday, August 11th, 2003

A welcome antidote to the half-hearted support for Coalition (and particularly American) efforts in Iraq of Frenchman Georges Suffert, discussed in my last €S posting, comes from Germany, and specifically from Richard Herzinger writing in Die Zeit: Der Moralismus des Zynikers, or “The Morality of the Cynic.” The key fact so often overlooked by Germans watching from the sidelines, Herzinger claims, is that, slowly but surely, real progress is being made in Iraq. Rather than view events through “the eyeglasses of an anti-imperialistic resistance-romanticism,” as he accuses many of his compatriots of doing – or worse, actively hoping for failure there, so that German resistance to the war against Saddam Hussein can in the end be proved “right” – Germans (and all Europeans) have a duty to support the occupation authorities to ensure that Iraq is ultimately rebuilt as prosperous and democratic, a goal which lies no less in the interest of the Old Continent as it does of America. (more…)

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Another Uproar over Mis-Spoken Words

Sunday, July 6th, 2003

More now about the verbal misstep committed by that right-wing politician last week in Strasbourg . . .

“Oh no – Berlusconi again?” you might moan. No, no: this time I’m talking about French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. It seems that at a meeting of the Council of Europe there Raffarin let loose with the following bon mot: La France n’en est encore sur le chemin de son paradis qu’au purgatoire, puisqu’il reste des socialistes. “France is not yet on the road to paradise but rather in purgatory, since there are still Socialists around.” (The Socialists are the main party in opposition in France; the Council of Europe has nothing to do directly with the European Union – in fact, it pre-dates it – but instead acts as a general, non-executive European political forum; see its website here.)

I found out about this incident in today’s New York Times (registration required), and, sure enough, from the way the Times described what was going on, it looked once again like a case of a joke – or people’s reaction to a joke – being taken too far. For example, according to Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the Socialist faction in the French National Assembly, “Mr. Raffarin no longer deserves the title of prime minister of the Republic.” So I decided to apply the EuroSavant treatment to it – let’s look at what the French on-line papers have made of it. (more…)

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A Breakthrough for Germany at the SPD Congress?

Monday, June 2nd, 2003

Sorry, today I’m not going to cover the G8 summit on Lake Geneva, at Evian. From the press coverage you indeed get the impression, as Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times (registration required) puts it, of “a messy family reunion,” where the main thing people are interested in is who avoids whom, who smiles at whom, who shakes whose hand and how enthusiastically, etc. This even in the German press, as in Die Welt’s Versöhnlicher Handschlag (“handshake of forgiveness”), or the FT Deutschland’s Bush schenkt Schröder drei Minuten (“Bush grants three minutes to Schröder”). Then, on the other side of the police barricades, you just have whatever credibility the arguments of the “anti-globalists” retain being trashed along with the cars and shop-windows that are the target of that minority of demonstrators who see the occasion as another chance to have some violent fun and quite likely get away with it, since the police can’t bash or arrest them all.

Apparently the summit continues on into today, so the press coverage will likely merit a better look later on. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder didn’t even make it out to the lake until late last night, but he had a good excuse: He was busy at a special congress of his Social Democratic Party (SPD), gaining party approval for an ambitious program of retrenchment of Germany’s welfare state that he calls “Agenda 2010.” That, as even the Guardian points out in today’s leader, is the sort of major development that merits attention. (more…)

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Germany on the Lifting of Iraqi Sanctions

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

Today we treat the German view of the recent 14-0 vote of the UN Security Council (on which Germany now serves as a non-permanent member) to lift most sanctions against Iraq. (more…)

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