Category Archives: europe

Politics of Meddling

turkey_euHe came to listen, not to lecture. Yet after yesterday’s push for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU, I wonder if Europeans Obama-glow has worn off. Aside from a few missteps, like his snooze inducing presser with Brown and his ‘French’ town hall, the President and his prompter had them weak-kneed and star-struck. So, they must have been taken aback when Obama continued the ugly American habit of minding other countries’ business.

“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”

But according to a poll released by the German Marshall Fund and the Compagnia di San Paolo in late 2007, only 21 percent of Europeans believe that their culture would be enriched enough to support Turkey’s bid for EU membership. 21 percent. Merkel and Sarkozy strongly oppose EU membership for Turkey.

Imagine the outrage and furor if, during his speech before the United States Congress, French President Sarkozy had made a plea to legalize the more than 20 million illegals currently living in the United States? After all, they would enrich our culture, add to our diversity and benefit our commerce. It would have been a classic ‘mind your own bees wax’ moment.

We should let the EU member nations and their citizens decide Turkey’s fate. Controversial mosque construction, whether to permit ‘burkinis’, and attacks on free speech, are matters for Europeans, not Americans. And if the recent Turkish resistance to the Danish Prime Minister’s nomination to lead NATO is any indication of future battles in Brussels, well, then maybe the concerns of Sarkozy and Merkel have merit.

Maybe Europeans don’t believe that the old continent, “gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith.” The riots in Paris, the cartoon controversy in Denmark and the attacks on their freedom might have them a bit spooked.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, calls the idea “a disaster, and advises Mr. Obama to “remember that while he’s been elected President he’s been elected President of the United States only.” Good luck with that…

Spanish Judge Weighs Guantanamo Trial

gonzalesAccording to El Pais, Spain could be the first country to allow a criminal case targeting U.S. officials for their involvement in the planning and transfer of ‘illegal combatants’ to Guantanamo. The most prominent on the list of possible indictments is Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel during the implementation of the Guantanamo project.

Translated from El Pais:

The judge, has reopened the case, saved since March 2008, and has been transferred to the prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional to inquire about whether to admit the criminal complaint filed against the six lawyers who participated in the preparation, approval and implementation of the legal framework in Guantanamo.

This lawsuit was filed by the Association for the dignity of prisoners, reports the SER for the purpose of investigating a crime against the international community to this group of lawyers working for Undersecretary of Defense for the Attorney General or as advisers to George Bush.

Sorry Newsweek, We Are Not All Socialists

we-are-all-socialists-largeNewsweek has spoken.

The New Deal, FDR and bloated government are all the rage, as liberals, err, progressives, Kumbaya with their socialist idols in Europe. Reagan’s model for economic growth has led to economic failure, and last November, Americans voted for big government, for change. Completely ignored, however, is the ironic position staked out by the Italian and French President who look to cure the crisis by spurring growth.

They understand it, because they’ve lived it. Tax hikes and expansive government will only solve one problem: how to shrink the GDP. Last week, in the face of a couple million screaming communists, err, socialists, President Sarkozy stood strong.

This from Bloomberg:

French President Nicholas Sarkozy defied calls for more aid to consumers, saying his 26 billion- euro ($33 billion) plan to spur investment will cushion a deepening economic slump and increase productivity.

Sarkozy, who last week faced the biggest protests against his policies since his 2007 election, told a nationwide television audience late yesterday that he would cut a business tax by 8 billion euros next year, while he stuck to proposals to trim civil-service jobs and curb spending on hospitals.

Sarkozy’s television appearance last night, where he took questions from four journalists, marked his response to Jan. 29 demonstrations. The police said 1.1 million people protested, while Confederation Generale du Travail, the second-biggest French labor union, put the total at 2.5 million.

“I must listen to protesters,” Sarkozy said. “I also have to listen to all those who didn’t demonstrate, those who are working and who are suffering as well.”

A survey before the protests showed 55 percent wanted Sarkozy to press ahead with reforms, according to TNS Sofres, a Paris-based pollster that asked the question on Jan. 27-28.

In Italy, Berlusconi’s government is focused on providing incentives to consumers who buy anything from cars to furniture.

I’m not familiar with global bond markets, credit default swaps and other crucial factors in the current crisis. What I am familiar with is socialism, and despite the proclamation in this week’s Newsweek, a socialist, I am not. Liberals like Obama remain fixated on the Europolitics of the past, the Veltronis of the old continent. President Obama’s recent note to Veltroni, a ‘reformed’ communist opponent of Berlusconi, promised a continued friendship with the United States. One small problem. Veltroni isn’t the Italian Prime Minister. Conservative Berlusconi is, and he’s waiting to receive his first note…

Aznar on Obama and more…

aznar1Former Prime Minister of Spain gave an interview to  France’s Le Figaro and had some interesting comments on the new President of the United States and the world-wide financial crisis. (translated from French)

LE FIGARO. – With Barack Obama, do you think U.S. policy will change?

Jose Maria Aznar. – I think there will be no radical change, even if the new president has raised many expectations. The threats to the world in general and the United States in particular are the same for Barack Obama as for George W. Bush. The priority for him is to save the U.S. from the economic crisis. There will be a new style but the answers will not be fundamentally different, because the room for maneuver is very limited. In Europe, many believe that Americans have elected an anti-American in the United States. It is a mistake. Barack Obama is an convinced American, committed to the values and history of the United States.

So, Europeans weren’t simply embracing Obama because he was the anti-Bush; they were also attracted to the notion that he might be an anti-patriot. I’m sure that flag lapel pin attached to President Obama’s jacket isn’t comforting to our internationalist friends in socialist circles abroad.

 

 Aznar also gave his opinion on the economic crisis:

We have an obligation to save the banks, because without a sound financial system, there is no economy. But one must make economic reforms. More flexibility and freedom in the economy, lower taxes, less spending, more stabile budget, less government intervention.

LE FIGARO: But Europeans are doing the opposite?
Exactly. And this is why I am convinced that the United States will emerge from the crisis before Europe.

And regarding Europeans pulling their weight in the Afghan conflict?

Europeans need to strengthen their presence in Afghanistan, as called for Barack Obama?

Yes, they should, because it can not be in an Alliance, claim the benefits of security and do not contribute. Yet I do not think the Europeans will respond positively to this request.

Pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel

Judging by the clashes and protests since Israel began it’s most recent war against Hamas, Europeans have chosen sides, and once again, it’s not Israel’s. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has expressed concern about the current wave of anti-Semitic attacks in various parts of the world.

“We have received with great concern and revulsion many reports of physical, moral, verbal and other manifestations of anti-Semitic attacks towards Jews and Israeli citizens in many parts of the world,” Whatever one’s opinion may be of this operation, it should never be used to legitimize hate and anti-Semitic incitement.”

Every day, a new protest occurs, and every day, the press coverage demonstrates an antagonism to Israel.

El Pais highlights an interview with the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Spain who condemned Israel’s operation in Gaza. “The Jews suffered the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and Israel now wants to repeat history against our people.”

Le Monde led with a story about a ‘new type of weapon’ being used in Gaza. Unfortunately, the story relied on well-established Hamas propagandists to make outrageous claims. Israel was using the war to experiment with weapons. One of the doctors happens to be an active Norwegian communist who sympathized with al-Qaeda after 9/11.

Anti-Semitism in Europe might not be a sexy topic for the American press, but it’s something that should be explored. When bands of anti-Semites desecrate graves in France, the story doesn’t seem to make our 6 o’clock news. Maybe, it should.

Global Warming on the March

CLERMONT FERRAND (FRANCIA) - MALTEMPO E TEMPESTA DI NEVE IN FRANI’m anxious to see if we will see a response from warming alarmists on the record cold temperatures and early snowfalls around the world. Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi blogged this holiday forecast for Europe:

The development of a major blocking high pressure system over the north atlantic and its subsequent backing west is about to throw most of Europe into the coldest winter weather pattern in many a year. In fact, Temps over the next month or so are liable to average 6-10 degrees F below normal over the center part of the continent with the northwest coldest last, but still getting into the games. Intuitive with this is the likelihood of more than normal snow and ice. As the upper block backs west, arctic discharges from the north and east are liable to bring shots of severe cold back into England and with it enhanced snowfall.

While it has been “chilly” so far, what is about to come is the worst in many a winter, perhaps the sign that the warm AMO is reaching its maturity. The US winter has been much like those around 1950 which was the benchmark winter in the pac northwest of the US and was the warning shot that the warm cycle of the 30s 40s and 50s was starting its end game. It should be comforting to people worried that we are pushing our planet over the edge that things that happened before are happening again, though the discomfort caused by cold is a big problem.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera wrote of a bitter arctic blast arriving on Christmas day and lasting through the New Year where snow is likely to fall, even in large Italian cities where snow doesn’t usually fall.

I’m sure the global warming crowd, including my husband, won’t let this latest freeze change their minds. They’ll surely argue that the violent fluctuations confirm their contention. After all, their theory began as ‘global cooling’ in the 70’s, evolved into ‘global warming’ and is now known, albeit for the moment, as ‘climate change’, a more all-encompassing and vague label. Who can argue climate change? The mere fact that we have seasons demonstrates climate change’s implication. Our climate does in fact change.

Me, well, I’m getting a kick out of hearing my Italian in-laws phone my husband with their new ‘it’s never been so cold here’ stories.

Global Financial Meltdown

How many more black Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays are in store for the world markets? The quickie summit convened by the EU leadership over the weekend apparently inspired the same sort of confidence garnered by Paulson’s plan passed last Friday.

The U.S mortgage crisis and its resulting effect on European banks, combined with skepticism over Paulson’s plan of recovery, sent European markets tumbling. Russia and Italy were even forced to halt trading. According to Le Figaro, traders worry whether the price tag of Paulson’s plan was big enough.

As for their own plan? Reminding everyone why there hasn’t been meaningful progress in the adoption of a European Constitution, EU leaders failed to agree on a solution to the economic crisis.

From the Telegraph:

France, Germany, Italy and the UK could not agree on a single course of action because – as Mr Sarkozy effectively admitted in a characteristically irritable press conference performance – they all have different economic circumstances and needs. He described this as having “different cultures”, but it adds up to the same thing: France and Germany do not have property-owning traditions that produce house-price booms and busts, the UK population has much greater credit liabilities than the French, etc, etc.

Late Monday, the German government provided an additional 15 billion Euros in liquidity to the 35 billion already pledged to help the German lender Hypo Real Estate.

Elsewhere….

Saudi Arabia’s market, the Gulf’s largest, was off 9 percent. Dubai’s Financial Market fell almost 7 percent, its lowest fall since ’06, and Abu Dhabi’s index lost 5 percent.

The head of Al Dhafra Brokerage Vyas Jayabhanu, via UAE’s Gulf News, argued: “Uncertainty prevails despite the U.S. government passing the package, and there is this lingering fear that the $700 billion may not be enough.”

Israel’s TA-25 down 4.63%

Japan:

The Nikkei stock average tumbled 4.3 percent to a four-and-a-half-year closing low on Monday.

The Korea Exchange in Seoul, South Korea finished the day off 4.3 percent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index was down nearly 4.9 percent in late-day trading and the Shanghai Composite fell about 5.2 percent. The Taiwan Weighted shed 4.1 percent.

The Australian Securities Exchange plunged about 3.4 percent to 4,544.70, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 4.7 percent of its value, falling to 16,853.85.

Russia’s Micex Index plunged 18 percent before trading was halted for a second time today.

Europe:

Germany’s DAX: Down 7.07%

Italy’s MIBTEL: Down 8.58%

France’s CAC: Down 9.04%

Sweden’s OMX: Down 7.24%

UK’s FTSE 100: Down 7.85%

With the crisis infecting global stock markets, it’s baffling why neither American Presidential candidate appears willing to blame government officials who fostered this failure through their social engineering and their belief that home-ownership is one of the inalienable rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Perhaps the shock of looking at the big board and seeing the Dow off some 800 points on Monday will shock the leaders into dialogue, although I suspect one party is a bit more reluctant to discuss their role in the current fiasco.

The Global Scelto: Barack Obama

Like I explain in my book, The Absentee Ballot, recognizing traits unique to the United States and Americans became easier after I had been abroad for a while. I didn’t notice our idiosyncrasies because they bombarded me daily.

One of the most glaring American deficiencies is our obsession with acceptance. We are consumed by wearing the latest trend, living in the most beautiful house and driving the best car. I was reminded yesterday when I parked outside of a golf shop and sat in the car while my husband went inside. I watched a man exit the store and open the car door of a late model black Mercedes, with shiny rims and windows with a gangster tint, sitting in the spot adjacent mine. His hair was perfectly coiffed, his clothes spiffy and a diamond encrusted Rolex sparkled on his wrist. My mind then drifted to a Milanese Rolex dealer who once told me that Rolex only makes the diamond face for the American market; Europeans would never wear them. Sure, they might buy a watch costing five-hundred thousand Euros, but it wouldn’t contain diamonds and no one would ever know.

This story does have a point, apart from materialism. The diamonds we wear, the Guccis we carry, and the BMWs we drive aren’t for our benefit. They are for the benefit of the guy at work and everyone else we come in contact with. Like this psychological need to impress, we have become unhinged in our recent desire to re-curry favor in the international community. It’s like there are three hundred million Sally Fields standing on the world stage demanding “like me, really really like me.”

Barack Obama isn’t just the first black American to receive a major party nomination; apparently he’s the only one who can make the world like us again. A Washington Post article starts out by pointing to our tattered reputation abroad. It goes on to explore the global reaction of Obama’s nomination.

From India: Sunila Patel “A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different.”

It’s nice that Ms Patel is concerned about our racial tolerance, but maybe she should worry about the fissures within her own community. Just how tolerant are the Hindus toward the Muslims and vice-versa. And how evolved is a society based on a caste system and one in which males having more value than females.

From Britain. “Obama is the exciting image of what we always hoped America was,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a British foreign policy institute.

What were you hoping America was? Tolerant? Racially diverse? Multicultural? Compassionate? One question. Who was the last black, or nominee of Indian or Pakistani descent to become Prime Minister of Britain? Maybe I missed him or her in my history books. Perhaps Mr. Niblett is simply excited at the possibility of having a fellow socialist in the Oval Office.

From Germany: Obama also has strong support in Europe, the heartland of anti-Bush sentiment. “Germany is Obama country,” said Karsten Voight, the German government’s coordinator for German-North American cooperation. “He seems to strike a chord with average Germans.”

Which average Germans would those be? Is she referring to “evolved” citizens like herself who work in think tanks and universities, or the ones desecrating Jewish graves and inciting racial violence throughout the Fatherland?

I voted twice for Bush, and he has proven worthy of a spot in a ‘who is the worst President in the last hundred years?’ debate. The dollar is a shadow of its former self, healthcare costs have skyrocketed, gas prices have ballooned, relations with our allies have suffered, wages have stagnated, and our federal budget has expanded to unprecedented levels. And for all of the Bush apologists who point to an increase in security, try traveling internationally. While machine gun toting and profiling Italian police roam Malpensa airport in Milan, our security asks us to take off our shoes. I’ve smuggled cheese each and every trip and until they catch my cheese, I won’t admit that the country is safer.

Bush’s poor performance aside, when did a President become a reason to celebrate or despise a country? Do we hate Venezuelans because of Chavez? Are Iranians evil because of Ahmadinejad?

It is too simplistic to characterize a nation based on the election of its President. It is also unhealthy for Americans to elect a President based on a desire to be liked.

Clooney, Obama and Veltroni-The Communist Cupola

I just read an interview with George Clooney in Italy’s La Repubblica, a leading Italian newspaper, and about fell out of my chair. In it, he discusses his new movie and a commercial he filmed for an Italian politician, Veltroni, a former communist and foreword writer to the Italian version of Obama’s Audacity of Hope. When I read it, I was surprised, not because he filmed a commercial for a communist, but that he actually said something in Italian considering the fact that he still doesn’t speak it, despite calling Italy “casa mia,” or my home. I know. Amazing. He doesn’t speak the language, he spends less than half the year there, and yet he finds time to film a commercial advocating a candidate, a communist one at that. It’s funny, he advocates a “hands-off” approach when it comes to minding other countries’ affairs, yet he wastes no time violating his own rule.

I was relieved when I looked up the YouTube video of the commie ad. It simply showed his photo along with a quote that read in Italian, “I’m with Obama, I hope that after the many errors, my country will heal. And Italy, it’s my home, and Veltroni (the communist, sorry, reformed communist), he is a good friend.”

If only McCarthy were alive…He’d have a field day with Penn and his admiration for FARC backing Chavez. Oliver Stone, Spielberg, Danny Glover and all of the other thespians that I have neglected to mention who trip over themselves to praise Castro would merit special scrutiny as well.

Clooney? I’m not sure he’s as sinister as he is naïve. And I’m not sure what is more disturbing. Is it loony Clooney, or the fact that we might have the only U.S. Presidential nominee in history that has had a communist pen his introduction?

Clooney supports communist=Clooney is a communist.

Communist supports Obama=Obama is a communist.

Clooney supports Obama=Both are communists.

In my new book, The Absentee Ballot, I discuss how Hollywood affects Europeans’ opinions of the United States. It certainly doesn’t help enhance our image abroad when the most visible Americans are filming spots for communist politicians, while simultaneously indulging in a good dose of self-flagellation.

“Poor Americans” Given Discount…Not So Fast

The title of the Reuters article is condescending and inaccurate. “Hemingway haunt offers discounts to ‘poor Americans,”” was one of the most-viewed articles on Yahoo, and while the story itself is accurate, the tone set by the title makes it seem like snooty Europeans are once again wagging their fingers, singing an Italian na, na, na, na, na and looking down from their high Euro-perch at “poor” Americans.

Here’s the gist of the story: The owner of the legendary Venetian eatery—Harry’s Bar—is concerned by the falling dollar and his conspicuously absent contingent of American tourists. To make dining at Harry’s more financially palatable, Arrigo Cipriani has offered to discount their bill by twenty percent.

In the Reuters piece, he is “is offering a discount to “poor” Americans suffering from a weak dollar and subprime blues.” But I looked in Italy’s major newspapers, and Cipriani was quoted extensively, but he never uttered the word “poor.”

Cipriani from la Corriere della Sera:

«Poiché quest’anno la stagione si prospetta, mettiamola così, un po’ tranquilla, e il dollaro Usa sta andando a precipizio, ho pensato bene di favorire temporaneamente quella fascia di persone che ci apprezza e ci segue da tanti anni»

“Because this year, the season looks like it will be a little smoother, and because the U.S. dollar is falling, I thought to help momentarily those group of people who have appreciated and followed us for many years.”

I don’t know, maybe I missed the point of the Reuters article and felt like it was more condescending than it actually was, and perhaps I’m overreacting a bit. Maybe misrepresenting his quotes and adding words to create headlines isn’t all that big of a deal. But far too often, I’ve seen a European event miraculously transformed as it’s translated.

An embellished quote might not be that big of a big deal, but it represents a naughty temptation which is utilized far too often to slant and mischaracterize a story.