Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reform Treaty 2

It is with some bemusement, and horror, that I have followed the campaign in Britain to have a national referendum over the EU Reform Treaty. Bemused because the campaigners are essentially trying to save Parliament from itself, by defending the supremacy of Parliament with a demand that it submit to a referendum.

What is less amusing is the xenophobia exhibited by the conservative press in connection with the referendum campaign. Britain's largest selling newspaper, the Rupert Murdoch owned Sun, is (as expected) leading the xenophobic charge. Yesterdays front page had this manipulated picture of Gordon Brown displaying what is a very offensive hand gesture in Britain, and called the Reform Treaty the "Greatest threat since WW2." The Brown picture is, arguably, not as offensive as some of the Sun's past headlines, such as 'Up Yours, Delors'(1) and 'Gotcha',(2) but the World War II references are very disturbing.

Maybe I should just ignore what the Sun writes as the usual conservative rhetoric and campaigning. It is, however, hard to ignore the Suns views on the EU, and its general hated of everything European, as it is very much representative of mainstream opinion. While more serious media outlets, such as Sky News,(3) The Times,(3) The Daily Telegraph and, yes, the BBC, may not express their views as crassly as the Sun, their anti-European prejudice is, in my opinion, just as strong.

As a foreigner living in Britain It all makes me feel very uncomfortable.


1) Jacque Dolors was EU Commission President from 1985 to 1995, and the headline related to the Maastrict Treaty negotiaions.
2) Celebrating the sinking of the Argentine Cruiser the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands war.
3) Sky News and the The Times are also owned by Murdoch's News Corp.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reform Treaty

I am not certain that I support the idea of referendums to ratify the EU Reform Treaty. Constitutional treaties, and the Reform Treaty is constitutional treaty as it amends the EC and EU treaties that make up the EU Constitution, should principally be approved by the electorate. However, former French President and Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, is absolutely correct when he argues that in referendums people vote on other issues instead of on the actual referendum question (see here).

I am supportive of the Reform Treaty, as I was of the Constitutional treaty, for three reasons:

1) Double majority voting in the Council.
2) Increased power of the European Parliament, through the increased use of the Joint Decision Procedure.
3) Incorporation of the European Charter for Human Rights as legally binding.

These measures are essential in correcting the so called 'democratic deficit' of the EU. First, by ensuring that there is a better balance between the Council and the directly elected Parliament, and secondly, by ensuring a democratic balance of power within the Council.

Other steps are needed to increase the democratic legitimacy of the EU, such as making the Commission democratically accountable through either direct election or parliamentarianism. However, these reforms are what is on offer now and the national parliaments and European electorate should embrace them. The problem is that national debates, in connection referemdums, concentrate on such things as pints and banana's, federalism and corrupt bureaucrats, and not democratic reform.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

MoveOn and Awe of the Military.

I have, rather belatedly, discovered that there has been a political "brouhaha" in the US this last week over an add by the left wing MoveOn organisation. The add is critical of General Petreus and plays, rather crassly, on General Petreus' name. In response, the White House called it "a boorish, childish, unworthy attack," while Senator Lieberman labeled it "an outrageous and despicable act of slander."(1)

Counter-criticism is of course good politics. Attack your opponents style, even attack the media that they use, and you are more likely to prevail in political arguments. That the counter-criticism worked became evident when Elizabeth Edwards (2) made a public statement denouncing the add, saying: "Someone who's spent their life in the military doesn't deserve 'General Betray Us'".

Elizabeth Edwards statement interestingly sums up the essence of the MoveOn furore. In the US the military is generally beyond reproach. The armed forces are constantly lifted up, by mainstream politicians and media, as the essence of service and sacrifice. Support of 'the troops' is therefore required of all Americans and is distinguished from supporting the war in which they are engaged.(3) MoveOn failed to recognise this distinction and laid themselves open to counter-criticism.

Why anyone is more or less deserving of being the subject of jingoist adds or criticism, depending on whether or not he or she is military member, is beyond me. Every individual engaged in public discourse, whether politician, lobbyist, voter or general, deserves to be treated respectfully and to have criticism limited to their opinions, arguments and actions. The MoveOn add was disrespectful and crass. The counter-critics, however, are not really concerned with maintaining decency in the political debate. Rather they are exploiting (or simply a slave to) the awe and reverence Americans have towards their military.

1) ABC, Political Radar Blog, September 15: http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2007/09/lieberman-blast.html

2) The wife of a presidential candidate John Edwards.

3) The imperative of 'supporting the troops" is illustrated by the response to the MoveOn add. Hilary Clinton, for example, made this statement concerning General Petreous: " I think both he and I share a strong commitment to the young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States", while Rudolf Giuliani criticised Clinton for failure to denounce MoveOn and accused her of "turning her back" on US troops. (see: http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2007/09/clinton-respect.html)
While you can argue that US politicians should be supportive of the US military, it is nevertheless peculiar that the response to a critique of a general is framed as a question of 'supporting the troops".

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Going to Wembley.

The National Football League (NFL) received 1/2 million ticket requests within 72 hours when it announced that one regular season game was to be played in London in 2007. I also registered my interest on the NFL homepage, though not quite within 3 days.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail notifying that I had been selected, by lottery, and was now entitled to purchase tickets in the second round of sales, beginning September 12 at 10.00 AM. The e-mail also stated that there where more applicants than seats available.

So this morning I sat ready in front of my computer and logged in at precisely 10.00 AM. I got through and for the ridiculous price of £45 ($90, €66) I am now the "proud" owner of one ticket to see the Miami Dolphins vs. New York Giants at Wembley stadium the 28th of October.

Turns out I was one of the lucky ones. The 10.000 tickets set on sale today were sold within 5 minutes.

p.s. special message to Karlund: I tried to buy two tickets so you could come with me, but they only offered me one. Sorry ;-(

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All is Emptiness.

Here's two good indicators that your life is empty:

1) You go shopping at 11 PM at Tesco's just so you can get out of the house and see other human beings.
(Purchases made: 1 bag of crisps, 4 Banana's, 1 deodorant and Paracetamol tablets).

2) You write about it on your blog.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Angels Sign Danish Player.

Exiting news today for a baseball fan from Denmark like me.

Danish newspaper Politiken writes that the Los Angeles Angels have signed a Danish player, Frederik Brask Terkelsen, to a minor league contract.

Terkelsen is one of seven Europeans who have signed contracts with MLB clubs after attending the MLB European Baseball Academy, held from August 9 - 30 in Italy, according to this MLB press release.

While it is unlikely that Terkelsen will ever make it to 'The Show', it is nonetheless exiting that the game is gaining some ground in Europe.

Friday, September 07, 2007

List Mentality.

In the 'Eppur Si Muove' episode of the TV series West Wing (Season 5, Episode 16), the fictional White House Press Secretary CJ Gregg says: "Haven't lists gone out with Joe McCarthy and Hula Hoops?"

Well I thought so too. Lists are, however, not consigned to history. On a recent Internet search for this article, written by Oren Ben-Dor for the biweekly political newsletter CounterPunch, I stumbled across this website with its "JEWISH S.H.I.'I.T.E. LIST". The list consists of Jewish individuals considered by the authors to be "Self-Hating and/or Intentionally Israel-Threatening Ediots".

Ben-Dor, a lecturer in political and legal philosophy at my Law School, is a very strong critic of Israel and is included on the list with, inter alia, this comment: "... as his Arab Nazi comrades bordering Israel slowly bleed Israel, Oren Ben-Dor sucks Israel dry."

In his latest CounterPunch article Ben-Dor criticizes, in my opinion rightly, the ideology of creating a state in which Jews have a preferential legal status.

Whether Ben-Dor is right or not, it is disturbing that anyone would take the time to compile and publish such a list. In ideology and methodology the list is very similar to the infamous Campus Watch project. The most disturbing aspects of such lists is, however, the mentality behind them, a mentality that consideres intimidation and the forcefull silencing of opponents to be good politics.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Terror Arrests and Political Popularism.

Political popularism is not new. It is nonetheless disturbing, especially when events such as uncovering of terrorist plots is used to introduce tougher anti-terrorist laws and increased surveillance. This week is a good week for this kind of popularism.

In Germany the Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is, according to this BBC article, proposing stricter anti-terrorist laws in the wake of the arrest of three men suspected of planning a "massive" terrorist attack. Schaeuble's statement that "[m]ore security cameras should be used where it is sensible" is particular appropriate in its meaninglessness.

On Tuesday in Denmark, the far right Danish People's Party called for tougher anti-terror laws after the Danish police similarly arrested two individuals suspected of planning a bomb attack. The party's justice spokesperson, Peter Skaarup, proposed that individuals who have made statements deemed to be anti-democratic should be denied entry visas, and called for more video surveillance. (For more see this Politiken article).

Luckily, the Danish government was not impressed by the proposal. The Liberal Party's(1) Birthe Rønn Hornbech made this sensible statement to the Politiken newspaper: "I simply don't understand the logic of tightening the law when someone is arrested. This shows, on the contrary, that the police has good opportunities to work within the existing law."(2)

Finally, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini is using the two sets of arrests to push for a EU-wide airline passenger data recording system similar to that of the US (For more see this Politiken article and this Forbes article).

(1) The Liberal Party is a right wing conservative party. In Europe "liberal" generally means to be for free markets and small government.

(2) My translation. The original quote is:
"Jeg forstår simpelthen ikke logikken i, at reglerne skal strammes, når der pågribes nogen. Det her viser tværtimod, at politiet har gode muligheder for at arbejde inden for den eksisterende lovgivning«

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Today's Post!

Today the postman unexpectedly delivered a package from some friends who live thousands of miles away.

The package was full of nice things, cookies, jam, chocolates, books, drawings and small messages. The home made cookies, which amaziningly made the journey intact, are extremely nice!

What really makes the package special, however, is the thought that somewhere far away is someone packing their love into a box and paying way to much in postage to send it to us.