Monday, 18 December 2006

Lessons not learned

One of the most commonly heard defenses heard from people who voted for the Iraq war resolution is that they with the “widely-held” belief at the time suggesting that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al Qaeda, and with the American media swallowing this excuse unquestioningly, I think it’s time for a reality check.

Despite David Kay's insistence that we were “all wrong” in Iraq, the evidence says otherwise. Many of the assertions that Bush and Blair made in the run-up to the war were highly dubious and viewed with a high degree of skepticism around the world, particularly in Britain. In the UK the media reported on these doubts in the run-up to the war. This is partly why the war was and has remained so unpopular there, prompting the largest public demonstration in London’s history right before the invasion.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Counting down...

I really can't believe there's just a little over two weeks till I move. I'd say at this point I'm experiencing about 50 percent excitement and 50 percent apprehension. It's kind of coming in waves. At times I'll start thinking about all the things I want to do once I'm there, where I'll travel, etc, and I get really excited. But then other times I start thinking about the stability I'm leaving behind, and I start wondering whether I really have the ca-hones to do this.

I mean it is a pretty major move. I'm going to be thousands of miles away from my family and friends, plopping myself into a city where I know just one person. I try to reassure myself by remembering how well my move to Chicago went, another time when I was coming into a city not knowing anyone. But in that case I did have a grad program, so I had kind of a ready-made group of friends and support system immediately at my disposal. Same goes for DC. In London I won't have that.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

London Bridge wanna go down

Ouch. Some devastating comments by a state department official Tuesday night regarding the Atlantic Alliance and the UK's traditional role as a bridge between America and Europe. Namely, that it has been irreparably harmed by the Iraq War, and will probably never recover.

Kendall Myers, a senior State Department analyst, told an academic forum that for all Britain’s attempts to influence US policy in recent years, “we typically ignore them and take no notice."

The comments left government officials on both sides of the Atlantic scrambling. Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham and a former Foreign Office minister, who supported the Iraq war, said: “After the Republican defeat in the midterm election, every little rat who feasted during the Bush years is now leaving the ship. I would respect this gentleman, who I have never heard of, if he had had the guts to make any of these points two or five years ago.”

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Should Europe cross the Bosporus?

As Pope Benedict XVI continues his 'contrition tour' in Turkey, the world has been attentively scrutinizing the visit. Will the pope’s visit help smooth over the anger created by his recent Islam-bashing? Will he be able to convince Orthodox leaders to unite with him in a holy alliance against European secularism? Will the pope change his stance on Turkey’s entry to the EU?

On this last question we already have an answer. Yesterday the pope told the Turkish prime minister that he gives his blessing to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. This is a complete about-face from his previous assertion that the EU should not admit an Islamic state. It's possible that without the PR nightmare created for the church by his recent comments, he would not have changed his tune.

It remains a difficult question. But first, a bit of history.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

"Arrogant self-delusion"

Wow. Did anyone else see Jordan's King Abdullah on This Week this morning? His observation that the middle east could see three simultaneous civil wars in 2007 was really scary. He painted a scenario in which the Palestinians, Iraq and Lebanon all descend into civil war and chaos. This would be an earth-shattering catastrophe that could easily spread even further to neighboring countries.

And as long as we're talking about all things shocking GOP Senator Chuck Hagel's editorial in today's Washington Post literally made my jaw drop to the floor. It was probably the most sobering, brutal and realistic assessment of what has happened and what needs to happen in Iraq to ever come from a Republican. And it's dead on.

Monday, 20 November 2006

The pitfalls of market regulation

Here's some interesting news this morning from London. The NASDAQ has made a proposal to buy the London Stock Exchange. The LSE has rejected the first offer, but analysts are saying they expect this deal to eventually go through.

This is interesting for a variety of reasons. This will now mean that two of the major stock exchanges in Europe will be owned by American exchanges. The New York Stock Exchange has just about completed its acquisition of the Euronext, a Paris-based Europe-wide exchange.

So at first glance this would look like bad news for Europe and good news for the US right? In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s important to point out that the reason these acquisitions are happening is not because the US is riding in on a white horse to prop up the European exchanges and help them grow. They’re grabbing them because the European exchanges have been so wildly successful in the past few years, outperforming their American counterparts.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Muslims in European parliaments

On Tuesday CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck did an interview with newly-elected congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim ever elected to the US Congress. A lot of people have reacted with outrage to the first part of this segment, where Beck demands that Ellison “prove” that he’s not working with terrorists. It was truly a ludicrous, outrageous thing to say, assuming that Ellison could be in league with terrorists simply because he’s Muslim.

But it was the second part of this clip that interested me, the part where Beck is seemingly beaming with pride that a Muslim can be elected to office in America. Here’s the transcript:
BECK: With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There's no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don't need to -- need to prove my patriotic stripes.

BECK: I understand that. And I'm not asking you to. I'm wondering if you see that. You come from a district that is heavily immigrant with Somalians. And I think it's wonderful, honestly, I think it is really a good sign that you are a -- you could be an icon to show Europe, this is the way you integrate into a country. I think the Somalians coming out and voting is a very good thing.
This last part is probably the least offensive, but to me it is the most idiotic. Nearly every country in Western Europe has Muslim members of parliament. For Beck to hold out the first election of a Muslim to congress in the United States as some sort of example for Europe, which has had Muslim members in its parliaments for over a decade, is just silly.

A European approach to Middle East peace

News came today that Spain is leading the charge for a new Europe-focused middle east peace plan. Prime Minister Zapatero has announced that Spain, France and Italy are going to launch a new Middle East peace initiative without the United States.

The three countries are going to put the plan to the European Council summit in December. The idea could go hand-in-hand with Tony Blair’s emphasis on solving the Palestinian crisis. So what would a European approach to solving the crisis that leaves out the US mean for the crisis? Well for one thing such an approach is certain to be significantly less sympathetic to Israel. As long as Israel thinks it can act with impunity, it will be hard to resolve the situation. Israel will continue to react disproportionately to the violence, escalating the situation further.

Considering how preoccupied the Bush Administration is with Iraq and how little interest it has shown in Palestine, perhaps they would even welcome the help. Perhaps this is the best time for Europe to step in and take charge.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

London

Hello from sunny London, England. It's been fun so far, but I haven't been working so it's been pretty laid back. I shouldn't have done an overnight flight Thursday, I really need to stop booking those. I can't sleep on planes so I feel like I've spent the last three days just trying to catch up on sleep, sneaking naps in wherever I can.

I went to watch my brother's rugby game on Saturday morning, that is some weird shit. I had no idea what was going on! They do all this crazy stuff like lifting each other up and locking arms and charging into one another. And when a player gets tackled, everyone just comes over and starts kicking him in the face, while he covers his head and braces himself. And all without any gear or protection. It's downright barbaric.

I haven't really done any touristy stuff, I feel like I've already done most of it, and since I just got back from Switzerland I'm kind of touristed-out. Tomorrow I start at the London office. I'm curious to see what it's like. I've heard some not-so-glowing reviews from people in the New York office.

I stayed with my friend Josh, who moved here a year ago, last night. He's doing well, finishing school soon and thinks he will stay here.

Right now I'm exhausted, I'm just staying in my hotel on Hoxton Square and watching some Sky TV. I'm a little nervous about going to the office tomorrow, I hate meeting lots of new people all at once. Ah well, I can suck it up. But I think I'm going to sleep now. Cheers!

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

London calling

So my boss pulls me aside yesterday to tell me I should go to London next week for a conference and to meet with some IP folks. I'm certainly not complaining, but it's really short notice! I'm scrambling to make reservations and schedule some meetings. I'm actually going to fly over there this Thursday because my brother is actually going to be in London this weekend for a rugby game, so that way I'll be able to see his game on Friday. Should be fun. I'm staying with Aaron over the weekend and then staying in a business hotel in the city during the week next week. I figured it would be bad form to stay in a hotel over the weekend and expect my company to pay for it when I'm obviously not working. So I figure I'll pay everything till Sunday myself and then get comped for everything after that.

This will be a good opportunity to see if I really want to go ahead with this move. The last time I was in London was over a year ago so it will be helpful to have some fresh experience there. It will also be helpful to see what it's like to be in the London office (I'll have a desk and everything while I'm there) and see how I like the people there. I know I've heard that the London office has a very different vibe from the New York office. This office is very laid back and everyone's fairly pleasant. We'll see how the other one is.

So by the time I get back I should have a definite idea of whether I'm going ahead with this or not. Right now my biggest concern is over money.

Europe's Left Falling?

It's interesting that there seem to be simultaneous blows to Europe's left happening right now. Sunday's election in Sweden saw that country's conservative coalition claim an unbelievably narrow victory over the social democrats. The coalition has been running on a platform of tax cuts and drastic alterations to Sweden's cherished social model. This historically hasn't been a popular platform, as Swedes enjoy the highest quality of life in the world due to their generous social policies. Poverty is virtually non-existent, everyone has quality healthcare.

It was only by softening his party's stance that Fredrik Reinfeldt, the 41-year-old leader of the Moderate Party, who will become prime minister, was able to win Sunday. He ran on a platform of tax cuts and other pro-business incentives, but pledged to tweak, not uproot, the Swedish welfare system. His premise is that high taxes in Sweden discourage entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation. To fund the tax cuts, Reinfeldt is going to send Sweden on the most massive sell-off in its history, privatizing a host of now government-controlled companies including Nordea, a major bank; TeliaSonera, the largest phone company; OMX, the stock exchange operator; and SAS, a Swedish airline.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Ratzinger ratchets up the rhetoric

I'm very interested in the election results in Sweden, but I'm going to write about it later this week because the furor over the Pope's comments about Islam is getting more and more interesting and might at any moment explode into something similar to what was seen around the world in reaction to the Danish Mohamed cartoons.

To recap, at a speech last Tuesday in Regensburg, Germany, which was devoted to denouncing science and insisting on a central role for religion in all academic and secular life, the pope formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made some pretty incendiary remarks about Islam. In making a point about the danger of fundamentalist Islam, the pope cited a quote by a Byzantine Emperor saying that the Prophet Mohammed brought "only evil and inhuman things" to the world. The full quote is below:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new," Benedict said, quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, "and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Back in the US

Well I am now back in the US, back at my desk at work IMing with Alison, who sits directly across from me, and delaying writing feature articles I should have started weeks ago. Ah, back to the status quo. Actually today is a little unusual because I got up at 4 in the morning after having slept for 14 hours. I must say, sleeping 14 hours is very nice, I feel great!

I was pretty exhausted from the flight yesterday. I cant sleep on planes (too anxious, they make me nervous) so a nine hour plane trip is not exactly a pleasurable experience. I flew American Airlines, which I can safely say I will avoid taking on a transatlantic trip from now on except under the most dire of circumstances. The seats are uncomfortable, the monitors are terrible, and the service is very poor (one meal for a nine hour flight! One meal!!).

Getting back into this country was a nightmare. All those new security regulations you've heard about? They apply only to international flights coming into the US, not going out. So getting out was a breeze. Went through security with liquids and gels in my bag, and once I got to Switzerland I breezed through the border check in about 2 minutes. Like everything else in Switzerland and Germany, the process was smooth and logical.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Lessons from an Alpine water park

On our last day in Switzerland Pierce and I decided to do the most relaxing thing we could think of, visit Europe's largest water park, Alpemare, on an Alpine ridge outside of Zurich. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was definitly impressive. Tons of water slides cascading down the mountain, thermal iodine baths, a wave pool, a lazy river, everything a water park should have. And all on the edge of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. It was very cool.

One of the more interesting things I observed during the visit was yet another example of the completely different environment Europeans operate in in terms of legal liability. We were shocked to find at the water park that there were pretty much no attendants, anywhere. When you got on the slides, the only thing that kept you from going down whenever you felt like it and plunging into the person in front of you was a little traffic light. You could in theory go down whenever and in any way you wanted. And the slides were crazy! I came out with literal bruises! Same thing with the wave pool. With our wave pools in the states, there are lifeguards literally every five feet, and they're constantly blowing their whistles telling people not to do things. At this one, there was only one for the whole pool, and he was barely paying attention. He didn't even have a whistle.

Thursday, 31 August 2006

Armed neutrality

Greetings from Berlin. I'm at an internet cafe with a European keyboard right now so forgive any typos (the z and the y are switched!). I freakin love this city. I want to live here so bad. It's incredibly cheap and so much fun. I'm having a great time.

My friend Pierce arrived in Zurich Monday and we've been doing various activities. One of the more amusing things we did the past couple days was explore the bomb shelter in my dad's building. By law, every building in Switzerland must have a bomb shelter. Seems kind of counter-intuitive for a neutral country. The bomb shelter in my dad's building has cots for people to sleep and food rations, and also an escape tunnel for if the building is destroyed. It's pretty weird.

Last night we hung out with a friend I've made in Zurich, Gianmatteo. He had just come back from a day of military service (all men in Switzerland are obligated to be in the military reserves, with three weeks of training every year, until the age of 40) and we were quite surprised to see him walk into the bar with a machine gun strapped to his back. No joke! Apparently you keep your own gun at home and bring it with yuou when you go to training. I had seen someone on the train holding a big machine gun, so he must have been coming back from training as well.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

Alps road trip

I just got back from our road trip through the Alps. The plan was I was going to go to Labor Bar tonight, which is supposed to be really happening, but I'm way too exhausted. We did a lot this weekend!

Saturday morning, our first stop on our road trip was Bern, pictured above. It's the capital of Switzerland, and its city centered is a perfectly preserved renaissance thoroughfare. It was beautiful. We had lunch there and then continued on through the mountains. We had a naviagtion system in the car so that made things much easier, although I'm confident I could have guided us without it.

Next stop was Geneva. I was surprised by how different Geneva was from Zurich. It's in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, so everyone speaks French there. In addition to this, culturally the look and feel of the city is very different from Zurich. The buildings have metal railings on the balconies, just like in France. It's just generally a much more French-looking city. And much more diverse than Zurich, owing to the fact that so many international organizations are headquartered there.

I was a little underwhelmed by Geneva to be honest. I knew coming into it that it's much smaller than one would think, given its international reputation. But, it was really small. The highlight was definitly the Jet d'Eau, this giant fountain shooting water 460 feet into the air. Here on the left I caught a moment when it formed a rainbow.

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Switzerland

I gotta say it is really amazing to be here. I just got in from swimming in Lake Zurich, my dad has a little beach area out there with a table and some chairs. The water is incredibly clean, you can see right to the bottom, it's like swimming in the Caribbean. There's virtually no pollution here. I was just swimming in the water and a swan literally came right up to me. It was a little freaky! I got a picture of it though...

I've been keeping busy. Yesterday I went to the art museum, which was pretty cool. There was this amazing exhibit that I just sat and watched for 20 minutes. Can't even describe it to do it justice.

Today I met with a guy at the IP office at a Zurich university, mixing a little business with pleasure. I figured it would look good to my bosses if I made the effort to meet with some IP people here to prepare for covering European IP from London. It was a good talk actually, I learned a lot and the guy was very helpful.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Photos from Zurich

So far, Zurich has not been disappointing. I'm sitting here out on my dad's balcony overlooking Lake Zurich, watching the boats go by. Kind of like Roosevelt Island, except...so not. What a gorgeous city, if a little small.

I haven't slept since Monday night, so I should probably get to bed soon but I wanted to post some pictures of my trip so far. Up above is a picture I took today from the steeple of the Grossmunster cathedral, which affords a great aerial view of the city. I spent the day just walking around and exploring the city, trying to get my bearings. It actually reminds me a lot of Prague, especially the narrow, winding pedestrian streets. Very picturesque.

Monday, 21 August 2006

Leaving the country

Well tomorrow’s the big day, I fly out to Zurich late tomorrow afternoon to visit my family, who just moved there two weeks ago. I haven’t even begun to think about packing, although I tend to usually do that at the last minute. Still, I should probably get on that seeing as I’ll be there for a few weeks. I’ve set up a few business meetings there too so I have to bring a suit.

I’m not bringing my laptop because there would be no way to charge it there, but my family already has their computer set up at the house so I’ll be online pretty frequently I imagine, aside from when I’m traveling. I’ll write updates in here regularly and regale you with my tales of Swiss life. There will be pictures, anecdotes, witty banter, you name it. I’m looking forward to it, it will be great to see the house and my brother’s school, etc. And I can help them with the things they’ve been having trouble with. Next weekend we’re driving through the Swiss Alps to Bern, Lausanne and Geneva. Should be amazing.

All in all this trip couldn’t be coming at a better time. I recently realized I’ve been at this job for 7 months and have not yet taken a vacation. Funny, I’ve now been at this job longer than I was at Medialink, the company I worked for the year after I graduated college. It doesn’t seem like that at all, but there it is.

When I get back, it will be time to make a decision about whether or not I’m going to move to London. I think this trip should help me decide. So much of the reason I want to move to London is because I just want to move to Europe, as I have this powerful obsession with the continent. Spending a few weeks there again (I haven’t been to Europe except a few trips to the UK since I left Prague) should help me decide if it’s really what I want to do.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

Family in Zurich

So my dad and brother moved to Switzerland on Wednesday. They're off to a bit of a rocky start. Obviously it's a bit overwhelming for them, they're having a lot of trouble setting up basic things like phone service, internet and cable. All of the instructions are in German, and they don't speak a word. They'd like to get this stuff set up as soon as possible to set up some semblance of normalcy. My brother starts school tomorrow, hopefully being with some English-speaking kids will help him feel more comfortable. He sounded pretty unhappy when I talked to him on the phone today.

I've had an incredibly difficult time getting ahold of them since they moved over there. I actually wasn't able to reach them until today, which has made it really dawn on my how weird this is going to be. It's a six hour time difference, so it's going to be hard to find convenient times to talk to them even when they do get all the phone stuff sorted out. I'm pretty worried about them, I know this has to be really hard. So it's been driving me crazy that I haven't been able to get ahold of them.

I know there's going to be inevitable difficulties adjusting to this new situation at first, both for them and for the rest of my family too. I think going out there next week and staying with them will help the situation. I can help them out with the things they still have to figure out, and it'll be comforting to actually be able to picture where they are when I talk to them.

Friday, 28 July 2006

Another human rights condemnation? yawn

During my sometimes tedious days at work I frequently check Google news to get up-to-the-minute breaking news on everything that’s going on. The great thing about the site is it goes through publications all over the world and shows you what has been statistically written about the most in various categories. In that way, there’s no editorial filter and you get to see the raw news, with no one deciding what is important and what is not except the pure law of numbers, which thankfully also tends to show what is most important. Fortunately the pool only includes reputable news organizations (aside from the entertainment section) so you’re not getting literally what is most popular but rather what is most published.

One of the most interesting aspects of the site is that you can monitor how different areas of the world are covering the same news event. And one of the more frequent occurrences is that a story will get high-level play everywhere in the world except in the US.

Such was the case today when the UN human rights committee issued its most scathing critique yet on the human rights violations of the United States After a two-day hearing in Geneva last week into US compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the committee concluded that the United States is in serious violation of the treaty through its extensive secret interrogation and detention program for terror suspects. The document is probably the most critical and serious human rights report ever concluded by the UN about a Western nation.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

US continues support of Lebanon war

The Rome summit on the future of the Middle East has wrapped up, and it was a bit of a fiasco. Condoleezza Rice is trying to sell Arab nations on her theory of “creative chaos,” in which the blood being shed in the middle east is somehow for the greater good. This is a preposterous claim and everyone knows it, including Rice. But it is the only way to buy more time for Israel to achieve it’s objective.

One problem: its objective is impossible.

Israel has set it’s goal as the eradication of Hezbollah. Even in the best circumstances this goal is impossible to meet, and these have not been the best circumstances. Israel has been caught off guard by the ferocity of Hezbollah’s defense, and especially by their ability to fire rockets deep into Israeli territory. Their “surgical strikes” have seemed to be anything but. So far Israel has killed more than 400 Lebanese, of which only 12 are known to have been members of Hezbollah. All the while the group continues to fire rockets into Israel, showing it has barely been scratched.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Turkey invading Iraq?

As if things in the Middle East weren't bad enough, today it was revealed that Turkey may take a page from the Israeli playbook and invade Northern Iraq, one of the disaster scenarios that was posited before the war began.

The North of Iraq, which is predominantly Kurdish and controlled as an autonomous zone, has been the most stable and nonviolent part of the country since the occupation. This has mainly been because Kurds are sitting back and watching Sunni and Shia Arabs kill each other, hoping that if they wait it out eventually the country will break apart and an independent Kurdestan will be formed.

It would not be in their interest right now to attack American or Iraqi troops (neither of which can be found in great number in the North anyway). But it is in their interest to antagonize Turkey, because many Kurds hope that an independent Kurdestan will also include the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Feeling up the German chancellor

Well as the world waits anxiously to see if the Lebanon crisis will lead to World War III, our president is busy feeling up the German chancellor.

This has got to be the funniest thing I’ve seen in awhile. Meeting with leaders of the eight industrialized nations at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Bush strides into the room, make a bee-line for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and proceeds to massage her neck!

Watch the video, it’s hysterical. Merkel looks so creeped out, she at first recoils and makes this uncomfortable face, then she throws her hands back and pushes him off.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

So many hijackings

Last night my coworkers and I had a little office outing to Bryant Park for one of the HBO movie nights. They were showing Bullitt, made in 1968, apparently some kind of milestone in the action movie genre for its groundbreaking car chase. I found myself staring at the screen in bewilderment, wondering why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to this movie, but that’s just me. Action movies, not really my thing.

Anyway at one point in the movie the detective, played by Steve McQueen, has to arrest this guy on an airplane which is about to take off. The control tower tells the plane to return to the loading dock and have the passengers disembark. As they’re leaving the plane McQueen boards and heads toward the criminal. The criminal proceeds to stand up, run to the back of the plane, open the back door, jump out and run out onto the tarmac. McQueen gives pursuit, and the criminal pulls a gun out of his pocket and starts shooting at him. For some reason McQueen seems to have forgotten he has a gun, or chooses not to use it. He proceeds to chase the main through the airport, which seems to be operating normally even though there’s a gun-wielding maniac running around the tarmac.

Now by this point in the movie I was willing to suspend my disbelief. After all the whole thing made absolutely no sense. But this seemed ludicrous. How did he get on the plane with a gun? How was he able to open the back hatch? Why isn’t the airport being evacuated? Why are planes still taking off??

Thursday, 22 June 2006

A City for the Very Rich and the Very Poor

Right before I moved to New York in 2000, someone told me an interesting observation on New York City: it’s a city for the very rich and the very poor.

When I got here I began to grasp what she meant. It seems everyone you meet here is either a struggling student/artist/actor/writer or they’re an established an successful adult with a fabulous apartment on fifth avenue. The outrageous cost of living in this city makes it hard for a middle class person with an average salary to survive, and it seems that in this city you’re either living in squalor or you’re living it up.

With this in mind it wasn’t surprising when the Brookings Institute published a study today on the decline of middle-income neighborhoods in metropolitan America. The study showed that New York has a smaller share of middle-income families than any other major metropolitan area in the country.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Fiesty Exchange in Vienna

There's an interesting article in today’s Financial Times about the emerging European assertiveness toward the US. It is clear that the wounds of the Iraq war are not going to heal any time soon, and a change in Washington’s tone toward Brussels isn’t going to bring Old Europe back into the “lapdog camp.”

Nowhere was this more evident than in today’s fiesty exchange between Bush and European reporters during Bush's visit to Vienna to meet with EU leaders. Although he opened his statements with an emphasis on how far he had come from the days in which his administration had shown disdain for Europe and its diplomacy, pointed questions from reporters soon drove him into a defensive posture, the following being two of the more nasty retorts:

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Europe Caught

The big story today is the Council of Europe report implicating 14 European countries – including Britain, Germany and even Sweden – of aiding or being complicit in the illegal kidnapping and transfer of suspects by the US. Swiss Senator Dick Marty, in a press release accompanying the report, said despite their protestations after the Washington Post revealed the existence of secret detention centers in Eastern Europe, certain individual European governments knew of the plan.

What the report doesn’t include is hard evidence of the existence of these detention centers or the transfers, but concludes it is nearly certain they exist in Poland and Romania. The reaction by those two governments has been laughable, with some representatives claiming to be incredulous that such an outrageous accusation has been made, and others candidly admitting that the findings are true.

One thing is for certain: this entire debacle will cause lasting damage to US-Europe relations, and European countries will be extremely hesitant to cooperate with the US when it requests assistance in the future. In fact, I suspect some countries, like Germany, may question whether the US base presence in the country can still be justified, and may insist that these bases be put under NATO control.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Moving to Switzerland?

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written. The reason is I’ve been incredibly busy at work, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. It tends to be feast or famine here, the feast (of work, or famine of free time, depending on how you look at it) comes around deadline time, and then after deadline passes it relaxes again. That sounded remarkably gastrointestinal.

Interesting side note, my friend Alison just got hired as a new reporter here. I’m officially recruiting people for my publication. Go me.

In other interesting news, my family is moving to Switzerland. Strange eh? Not my entire family to be precise. My father and 16-year-old brother are moving there. My parents are divorced and my mom lives in Connecticut with her husband.

The city they're moving to is Zurich, Switzerland's largest city in the Northwest of the country near the border with Germany. I actually just wrote an article last month about how the city was just named the best in the world for quality of life (Geneva was second). My dad was going to have to move to Zurich eventually, he works for a Swiss company in an executive position and has moved up over the years to the point where he should really be operating out of the company’s headquarters in Zurich. But, he had convinced them to allow him to work out of his Connecticut office until my brother, who lives with my dad, graduated high school. About a month ago they changed their mind, and said he had to come to Zurich. So they’re going to do it.

Saturday, 6 May 2006

Cheney's Russia Rant

At the “Common Vision for a Common Neighborhood” (sounds very common) conference in Lithuania yesterday,Vice President Dick Cheney essentially told a gathering of former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries that Russia is an anti-democratic menace to Democracy and has a decision to make very soon: to be either an ally or an enemy to the West.

"From religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and political parties, the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of the people," Cheney bellowed. He talked of the problems facing a country that, “has compromised the rule of law” and has “little official respect for human rights, a corrupt beaurocracy, and an intimidated press corps.”

Cheney knows that Russia-bashing is a popular sport in the former Eastern Bloc countries. For the last 15 years the former Eastern Bloc countries have been worshipfully devoted to the United States in a misconception that America single-handedly ended Soviet domination over them. But as they join the EU, neo-cons are increasingly concerned that they will fall into the European camp of geopolitical thought and develop interests contrary to those of the United States over the long term. These eastern bloc and ex-soviet countries were some of the most vocal and demonstrative supporters of the Iraq war, for instance. But of late that support has been slipping.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Best Gas Price Medicine? Build Public Transportation

Americans need to get something through their heads. The price of gas is not going to go down to $2 a gallon again. Ever. Period.

The emergence of China as a global power has and will fundamentally change our world, and we need to adjust to it. And part of that adjustment will be paying real prices for oil.

Congress is getting all in a tizzy about these gas prices, pointing their fingers this way and that. But Republicans seem to be forgetting about the enormous gift they gave the oil industry last year, an energy bill that gave huge subsidies and tax breaks to big oil. Last year the five largest oil companies, Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips took home more than $111 billion in profits. As CNN’s John Roberts noted recently, that's greater than the GDP of 174 of the world's countries

To a large degree the US has brought this upon itself by not investing in an even rudimentary public transporation system. We are a nation obsessed with the car. So much so that in all the recent news reports asking how high gas would have to go before Americans stopped driving, noone’s thought to point out the obvious: They can’t stop driving no matter how much you charge for gas, because they have no other way to get around. Gas could go up to $20 and they’d still have to pay it.

Monday, 24 April 2006

There is No Such Thing as Techno!

Ok so this has been a pet peeve of mine for awhile (one among many, admittedly) so I thought I’d devote an entry to it.

I’ve followed electronic music since I was 16. I’m a big fan, and have moved through the years from going to raves in high school early on in college, rocking out to disco house, trance, anthems etc, to today moving into emerging genres like electroclash.

Never, in all my years of being an electronic music fan, have I ever heard the word “techno” used except when preceded by the words, “I don’t like.”

In fact I’ve never heard the word used in a non-negative sense. I hear it a lot from people who don’t like such-and-such a club because they play “techno,” and they want to listed to hip-hop and pop music.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Prodi's Won

After a nerve-wracking 24 hours, the votes are finally all counted and there is a definitive result. Silvio Berlusconi is out. The center-left coalition under Romano Prodi has scored a slim victory over the conservative leader Berlusconi, thanks to the new expatriate voting blocks Berlusconi himself created.

Berlusconi is one of the most controversial leaders in Europe. His time at the helm of the EU presidency (they have a rotating presidency where each country assumes it for a period of time) was colossally embarrassing for the continent, and his hard-line tactics and cult of personality have failed to solve Italy’s economic woes while inching the country further and further to the right. Berlusconi has been Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since World War II and many Italians only support him because they’re afraid that dumping him would plunge Italy back into the political chaos that has dogged the country for 50 years.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Dueling Speeches Across the Atlantic

Some interesting language used in today’s simultaneous speeches/press conferences by George W. and Tony Blair.

The US Media seems to have picked up mainly on the answer W gave to a reporter about how long troops will be in Iraq, saying, “"That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq." This of course, led to today’s headlines of, “Bush: Troops to stay in Iraq through '08” in the US media. I’m pretty sure this headline will shock a lot of people across the country.

Bush’s statement, of course, is a fairly obvious conclusion. There’s no reason to presume troops will have left by 2008. In fact it’s hard to see how the US could possibly withdraw before then without leaving the country in ruin and chaos.