Europhrenia – Israel, not altogether pleasant

May 31, 2010 § 1 Comment

So far we know that at least 10 activists have been killed (others reports are saying 19) and scores injured during the Israeli army storming of the Gaza aid flotilla this morning. Understatement of the day must go to Israel’s Minister of Trade and Industry Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. “The images are certainly not pleasant”, he owed, after viewing the clips. A bummer that, to have no pleasant images.

The attack is all the more unusual given that on May 28, Israeli officials admitted that they were in a losing battle with the flotilla focussing attention on the humanitarian fallout of Israel’s three-year blockade on Gaza rather than on Hamas. Said Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry – “It doesn’t matter what we do, if we let them into Gaza, they will speak against Israel. If we stop them it will also be a bad picture.”

Blogs and tweets are all pointing out the “illegality” of the intervention, taking place in international not Israeli waters. Outcries over the “legality” of a massacre strike me as worse than useless but it’s hoped we will soon discover just how the IDF went from resigned about bad pictures to gun-happy in three days, with even commentators sympathetic to the Israeli point of view noting how this isolates Israel politically.

Whatever the case, the smear campaign of the dead has begun. In the IDF video of the event, we are told that activists tried to “kidnap” one of the soldiers. How with helicopter and navy to back him up is one supposed to kidnap a soldier who has boarded your boat? To where? Never fear, the Spectator probably has the answer. The “real purpose of this ‘armada of hate’ was not merely the further delegitimisation of Israel but something far worse.” This being “to incite a violent uprising in the Middle East and across the Islamic world.” “As I write”, the blogger writes in a fever of a posteriori deduction, pun on posterior completely intended, “reports are coming in of Arab rioting in Jerusalem.” In the midst of the spin, keep a cool head, folks.

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Europhrenia – Ryanair, masters of actually existing capitalism

May 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Irish Times has just reported that ex-Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has been appointed to the board of Ryanair. For a while the European Commission wrestled with its conscience as to whether this might be a conflict of interest, and won. McCreevy, with his oodles of insider knowledge of labyrinthine EU processes must surely not be without his uses to the low-cost airline much of whose profits are derived from EU regional funds. McCreevy is joining just as the Commish reopens seven inquiries into some of Ryanair’s allegedly dodgy contracts with European airports. His work, though, as a director is restricted “to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.” All above board then, perceptions wise. To my utopian minded Central and Eastern European colleagues who are all devotees of the free market, I’m often compelled to draw their attention to such glowing examples of Actually Existing Capitalism.

Still on the subject of planes, over forty days after his death in the Katyn air disaster, French daily Libération reports that Kaczynski mère has been finally informed of her son Lech’s demise. This comes a week after Russian investigators confirmed that there were non-crew members in the cockpit at the time of the disaster. “The question of whether the crew were pressured to land remains unanswered,” an official said. Ouf, as they say in Paris. It’s still quite plausible, isn’t it, that the non-crew members were in the cockpit wondering whether it was a good idea to land. All that fog. The Libération headline for the above story runs “Goodbye Lenin with the Kaczynskis”. Ouf again.

Europhrenia – Predicting the future, rewriting the present

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Irish Independent led this morning with news from the OECD that Ireland’s economy “is close to a turning point and could rebound to 3 per cent growth next year.” According to the “influential” body’s twice-yearly global report, “export-led growth would be almost twice the expected level in the 16-nation euro area,” the Dublin daily beams, “and more than twice the predicted 1.3 per cent growth in Britain.”

To be twice as good as the Brits always make an Irishman’s heart leap. And what with The Indo being a major exponent of the infamous budget “pain” the country endures, such news must be welcome. Over the Irish sea, however, the Lex column in the FT advises taking the OECD report with “a truckload of salt.” While forgiving it for having “missed the initial meltdown”, Lex reminds us that in 2008 the OECD forecast that “the US economy would expand by 1.1 per cent (it contracted 2.4 per cent) and the eurozone and Japan would grow about 1.5 per cent (the former shrank a whopping 4.1 per cent, the latter by even more).”

Looking into the seeds of time, wondering like Macbeth’s future stab-victim Banquo “which grain will grow and which will not” is one of the functions of influential bodies. However, in recent times, you’d be a lot better off talking to Shakespearean witches. Shakespearean witches, although they’re not good on letting you in on when the bloodbath starts, are reliable concerning the seeds of time. They would probably have been a bit cagier than in influential Moody’s which, two years before it opened hunting season on Greece, foresaw all kinds of growth for future zombie Lehman Brothers.

Joe Strummer once said that the future is unwritten. When the present is obscene, these are important words to remember. Right now, 300,000 homes lie empty in Ireland and yet town councils and banks are continuing to evict people who default on their loans and rents. The Irish government, so eager to save its banks, has ruled out saving such irresponsible people. Like the Irish Independent, it is no doubt waving around the OECD’s empty prophecies. When there is no future to offer, then you must rewrite the present, you write reality out.

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Europhrenia – Leave Naomi Campbell alone

May 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

The BBC reports that Naomi Campbell might be subpoenaed to testify at the trial of Liberia’s ex-President Charles Taylor. Let’s remember that Mr Taylor, among other things, is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels, who, among other things, used to hack off people’s hands and legs during the 1991-2001 civil war. He was also quite a nasty piece of work in his home country too.

Did the supermodel between turns on the catwalk fly down to West Africa to get stuck into a spot of war crime? Apparently not. Prosecutors at The Hague say she was given rough diamonds by Taylor back in 1997 at Nelson Mandela’s house in South Africa. Says the prosecution motion filed with Special Court for Sierra Leone “Ms Campbell’s testimony is necessary as there is evidence that Ms Campbell was given rough diamonds by the accused (Taylor) in September 1997.”

It’s hard to know where to begin here. But firstly, let’s take a look at the notion of international war crimes tribunals. Trials are being held for Sierra Leone, and also for the ex-Yugoslavia, that is to say, for, failed, weak, easily overrun-able states. On the other hand, crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the British, American, French, German armies do not fall into the same category. Attempts to have Tony Blair prosecuted as a “war-criminal” enjoyed a vogue a couple of months back, but from those who consider Blair guilty of murder in Iraq, we have heard little about Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan. This is apparently because the West’s involvement there is a just cause. As long as we feel morally superior, the mission to civilise Afghan civilians with bombs and drone missiles might lead to hand-wringing but little else.

Aside from the obvious publicity an eventual subpoena on Ms Campbell might generate, you’ve got to wonder why her evidence is “necessary”. No questions have been raised, as far as I can see, as to why Nelson Mandela would have been dining with Taylor, or for that matter what insights Naomi Campbell could have brought to such an unusual repast. The only thing obvious here is that complex, dirty wars are now being reduced to the problem of the individual consumer. There is a weird hint here that Ms Campbell is complicit in a horrific war for having been the beneficiary of a product that funded it. In which case, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to declare my complicity in the Iraq war. I am completely addicted to HobNob biscuits from England. I buy at least two or three packets of the things a week. Almost every day, my shirt is covered in crumbs of guilt. After all, part of Hobnobs’ revenues must have gone in taxes to the UK’s 32.6 billion pound defence budget. Subpoena Blood HobNobs eaters now.

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Europhrenia – Let’s drink to water scarcity

May 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Brussels has warned that Europe is facing water scarcity and droughts, and not just in the drier Mediterranean countries,” writes the EUobserver. A report from the Commission states that even the Czech Republic and Belgium are at risk, with “water scarcity” reported even in these reputedly dribbly places. What might be the solution to the problem? As the EUobserver notes, the word from the Commish is that increasing the price of water might be a good start. Said one spokesman “We consider water to be a commodity like anything else”.

Researchers now warn of “water poverty” i.e. those who can’t afford to pay for their water consumption. What happens in that case? Will bailiffs charge into your home and padlock the mains? Will WCs be exempt or will the flush not work either? One measure the executive is urging on people is “to use less water while showering”. By extension, you could just shower less. As a male of the species, I put in one per day as a gesture to my wife, the colleagues I share an office with, the strangers I sit on the metro beside. But perhaps this needs revising. What is sure, however, is that “water poverty” cannot be of a genteel kind, since it will come with its own distinctive waft.

Some other solutions spring to mind. Drinking more alcohol during meals or on breaks or just cooking everything in alcohol. After reading Goethe’s Conversations with Eckermann a few years back, it struck me that Germany’s genius was putting back at least three bottles of claret a day and could still make his way to the desk and find a pen to knock out Faust. On a nineteenth century note, if you do a wine bottle count for the opening lunch in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, it must be about seven pints between pals Levin and Oblonsky. I have also noticed as a football fan that water tends to collect around the goal area in early spring, so practising dives and flying headers as a means to attain personal hygiene might be useful. There is also bumming “showers” off friends who work at the Commish, or any EU body, since these appear to be only places of secure employ for the considerable future. They could always create a mechanism to claim tax credits off “water gifts”. But I’ve forgotten, they do not pay tax either.

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Europhrenia – Escape the future, become a luvvie

May 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not without a soupçon of relish is The Daily Telegraph grinding out stats in its series on “Rebuilding Broken Britain”. Public debt exceeds £777 billion and will metastise to £1.4 trillion by 2014-15 etc, etc. It’s impossible to grasp what such figures represent, so right now, being confused as to what money itself is supposed to represent, I’ll pass.

On the other hand, the budget rigour, the financial redemption through “pain” that chancellor George Osborne is preparing in order to propitiate the black light all this anti-money emits, is another matter. To me, at least, it looks like nothing less than a final onslaught on the welfare state. This means a massive change to our culture. Welfare, after all, has legitimised the British state, and others, for nearly seventy years. So what next?

Perhaps there are some pointers at the bottom of above-quoted article with the list of those occupations on the rise in Britain? From spring 2008 to summer 2009, 69% more hotel porters, nearly 70% more pharmacists, and a staggering 90% more actors were observed walking the land. If you have ever known the giddy, chirruping, ultimately tradge world of actors, then it’s quite possible that they are same ones lugging open the doors to the Ritz, the Hilton, the Savoy, the same ones making queues at all the new chemists to get over the humiliation of lugging open doors at the, and so on. The moral of this being that in the Britain to come, there will be actors everywhere. Now that is truly pain.

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Europhrenia – If Ireland is sovereign, then this duck will ride bicycles again

May 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s a long time since we last heard from Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Ireland’s equivalent of Gordon Brown, but whose political career is unlikely to survive beyond the opening minutes of the next general election, let alone a week like Brown’s. Cowen is quoted today in Cork’s Examiner addressing the Dail, Ireland’s parliament, telling it that – “The strategy that the Government has been pursuing since July 2008 has been vindicated”. By recent events in Greece. At least, he offered, Ireland is “credible” on international markets and “we have not lost our economic sovereignty”.

It’s become a sport in Ireland these last few months to be uppity with the Greeks. Comparison is odious, n’est ce pas? But let’s look at Ireland’s credibility and its assumed sovereignty. Its banks are in hock to the banks of Italy, France and Germany to a post-modern aphonic tune of €12billion, €41.8billion, and a blood-freezing €127.4 billion respectively. According to the obscurantist genius of the times we live in, Ireland’s zombie banks have been bailed out a so far disclosed sum of €100billion, which “assets” are then shifted to the risk and the indulgence of the Irish nation and its institutions. In the midst of such gigantic cascades of money, it might just be simpler to conceive of what for an individual a massive burden of debt is, and then argue your way through to a glittering vision of his or her alleged sovereignity, autonomy, freedom. Let alone thinking that all risks traditionally assumed by banks confided to Paddy, PJ and Aishling, but think of how your own mood is affected as a new month begins by the number at the bottom right-hand corner of the bank statement that is now coming through your letter box? Free,  or magret of duck?

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