Tag Archives: Europe

Oh NOES! (part II)

Erlier today, BBC reported that the Polish president Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash in Russia (link). Besides the president, 80 or so other senior politicians died, leaving Poland in a sort of political and constitutional vacuum. It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Polish people.

Politically, Kaczynski was on the centre-right side of the political spectrum: surprisingly, Poland has been ruled by the right since it got rid of the communist party. Of course, the only reason I bring up the death of the Polish president is because he was featured in an older posting (“Oh NOES!”): a couple of years, Poland was the first country that had an identical twin take the highest offices (that of President and Prime-Minister). I don’t think that we’ll see that again for a long while.


I read an interview with Mitt Romney, who says that now that Obama has won the presidency, he should:

…forget entirely about reelection and focus solely on helping the nation at a critical time. He should dismiss the people who helped him win the election and bring in people who are above politics and above party. He should surround himself with statesmen and economists, businesspeople and leaders.

I’m not sure why Romney still matters in some circles: I thought his ‘I cancel my campaign because otherwise he Democrats will win and if the Democrats win the Terrorists win!’-speech was one of the lows in the US primaries, particularly when he started his rant about Europe. If I had to pick one Republican candidate who wasn’t ready for the presidency, Romney would be high on my list.

Germany marked the 70th anniversary of ‘Kristalnacht’, in which Merkel urged fellow Germans to do something about anti-semitism. Or something like that.

I also noticed that the Dutch government has decided to scrap a controversial blasphemy law. Generally, the law raised concerns about who was protected and who wasn’t, as pointed out by a member of the (Dutch) Socialist party (Aren’t these guys supposed to be evil?)

“The law was already a dead letter, but it is was principally wrong that believers should have more protection than non-believers. Thank goodness this has now come to an end. And anyway, who decides if God feels offended or not?”

The Radio Netherlands article also brings up the ‘Reve affair’, which tested this blasphemy law: In 1968 the (in)famous Dutch author Reve found himself in court after he wrote an essay (or was that a novel?) about God coming back to Earth as a donkey and describing in detail the main character having sex with this donkey (or God, if you say so). OK, you’ve got that? Anyway, Christian parties urged the Justice department to prosecute Reve: it did so, but found the author not quilty of blasphemy, mainly (if I remember correctly) because it couldn’t convict the author for his fictional characters and their actions. The decision to not convict the author was hailed as a landmark decision and has rendered the specific blasphemy law useless since then.

The economy. Stupid.

This week, the global economy crisis dominated the headlines. The most shocking headline was the ‘Iceland meltdown': you’ve probably seen the images of the downward spiral of the currency of Iceland, the Krona. There was, of course, also the spat between the UK and Iceland, and it had all to do with British savers and a collapsing Iceland bank. The situation in Iceland is grim, as illustrated in the following quote:

Inflation is around 14%; on Friday the central bank announced that one of Oddsson’s two fellow governors, Ingimundur Fridriksson, was taking a “short medical leave of absence” on the advice of his doctors. Earlier last week Iceland’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, was treated in hospital for heart problems

There’s an interesting anecdote in that article about how (right-wing) Icelandic politicians determined the fate of the Krona by implementing free-market policies and steering away from the Eurozone integration. The answer to solving all your country’s economical problems? Re-nationalize!

I also read that the uh, the president is going to take care of the economical issues, after addressing the G-7, G-8, G-10 or G-20 (Pick your lucky Bingo number!). Anyway: from the sidelines, it looks like the US officials were not really well-received or lets say it this way, un-enthusiastically received. I’m not sure why that is, but I wouldn’t be surprised that many European countries still bear a grudge against the US administration’s lack-lustre monetary policies (read: “the policy to intentionally keep the dollar low”), which (of course) worked against the European economies. On the Dutch news site nu.nl, I read that the Dutch economic minister wasn’t all too impressed with the US officials Bernanke and Paulson: Apparently they were both already gone when the most important discussions took place (rough translation from Dutch):

The Americans see the financial markets problems as a ‘company accident’ and don’t treat it as an important economical problem which needs to solved right now.

I could end up with a diatribe about the Bush administration, but the only words I can come up with right now is ‘failure of global proportions’. For the last eight-years the Americans had no long-term economical plans nor did they actually lead on a global level. Well, OK, I’m slightly wrong here. There was a plan: So once in a while Bernanke just had to push that ‘Lower the Rates’ button. To his credit, this is not what he did all the time, but, I think many people agree that he was ‘too sunny’ about the US economy since he took over Greenspan’s job in 2006.

Anyway: this is a long weekend in Canada. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Update 1: The Economics published a survey asking US economists their views of the presidential candidates economical plans. The full report (in PDF format) is here.

Update 2: Related: Paul Krugman wins the Nobel prize for economics.

Update 3 @ (10/20/08): “Iceland could quickly become an EU member”.

Around the news

According Hey, I like Int64s!to the Dutch online news site Nu.NL, Flemish kids (as in “Dutch-speaking Belgians”1) are the worst bullies in Europe (Dutch language-alert). The original article (at the Belgian paper ‘De Morgen’) quotes a survey done by the British Council. Unfortunately, I’m unable to find the actual (English) survey on that site, so you have to believe my amazing Dutch translation skills:

Fifty-five percent of (Flemish) teenagers between the age of 12 and 18, say that physical appearance, like height, weight and clothing are the main reasons for bullying other kids.

Via the BBC, I read that a research suggests that vitamin E can increase the risk of lung cancer: unsurprisingly, the results of the research suggest that the risk increases with smoking (original article).

If you’ve followed the (technology) news the last couple of days, you’ve probably read that Microsoft unveiled Windows Server 2008, which now comes with a minimalist installation (Windows Core Server) for admins who wish to assign specific roles to their Windows server: no GUI, just the plain command-line [Slashdot thread]. There’s also an interesting article at (Microsoft infamous Open source portal) Port 25, titled ‘How Open Source has influenced Windows Server 2008′. More XML settings files, more modularization and well, more Unix-like stuff. Personally, I can’t wait for Microsoft to adopt and embrace the best-ever editor, vi (or rather Vim).

1 The term “Dutch-speaking Belgians” refers to an extraterrestrial race called the ‘Flemish’ who in and or around 1800 landed close to the city borders of Brussels and started their own country which we now know as ‘Belgium’.

You failed

Via FailistanCrooks and Liars, I saw The Daily Show’s coverage of Romney’s CPAC speech: the speech contained so many platitudes, cliches and stereotypes that it had me laughing.

Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality.

So, there you have it, Europe: take that and eat some more of that ‘pain de francais and freedom fries with that’.

Update 1: Slightly related, “‘Euros accepted’ signs pop up in NYC” (via Reuters).
Update 2: RawStory has a longer clip of that Daily Show segment.
Update 3 (02/13/07): This also reminds me of Romney’s other gaffe when he was asked about on his sons support for the military and nation (video). The question was asked by Nancy Griffith and the clip circulated for a while in the media.
Update 4 (02/21/07): Jon Stewart (at Larry King’s) discusses Romney’s comment (YouTube video: approximately at 4:00).

Heathrow, sucks and then

You know that you went too far giving instructions about ‘Heathrow’, ‘flying by plane’ or ‘entering no-mans-land called Customs’, when you become aware that the instructee is a actually a regular flyer too. OK. Then. No worries. Safe flight.

That said, it brought up those good and bad memories about flying via Heathrow, an experience I have complained a-many times about (With! Pictures!). But I don’t want this item to be all about Heathrow: There’s one good thing about traveling to Europe and that is, that it invites improvisation. I was reminded of this after reading Peter Rukavina’s posting about ‘First time Europe’ a couple of weeks ago. He says:

Book a room for your first and last night. And then leave the rest to chance. Of course this is more difficult if you’re traveling in the heart of the season to a popular place. But if you’re in the off-season you’ll almost never have a problem finding a room, even if you show up in a new city at 4:00 p.m.

I dare to add to that, don’t let your local travel agent book for you, just do it yourself: Most hotels in Europe do have a web presence and can be reached by phone (and fax). Hotel personnel in Western European countries speak perfect English1 and are willing to hold your room without even asking for your credit card, as long as you check-in before 5 PM. This is even true for 5 star hotels.

For your flight, consider flying to a different location and travel by train to your original destination. In most cases, flying directly to (say Amsterdam) can be more expensive than flying to Frankfurt first and taking the train from there to Amsterdam. In Europe, traveling by train (and even by bus) is always a great experience. However, always (as Peter suggests and I agree with that) travel light.

1Talking about perfect English: When sleeping over in an Amsterdam hotel for my flight back home to Canada this year, I had a Dutch hotel employee give me a wake-up call in English. This was so funny, that I had to laugh after answering the call.