The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

The Aardvark Speaks : news of the world

This page contains the last 50 stories posted to this category, sorted in chronological order (earliest first). For earlier stories, you need to check out the monthly archives.


All Hail Xena Warrior Princess!

So Xena warrior princessTerry Wogan) won the Eurovision Song Contest. So why am I not excited, even though she may be the sexiest winner in quite a while? And will her song (requires RealPlayer), catchy as it is, ever make it to something like the Cartoonist's/IT&W's/SWR's MP3 competition in, say, 20 years? In fact, how many of the past 48 winners have not disappeared in the Great Void of history? (Surprisingly, I actually seem to be able to remember ten of the winning songs.)

And finally, my first entry in Ye Olde Phart MP3 competition: The 1970 Eurovision winner (MP3, 4.2 MB) — an incredibly sweet tune from a time when "sweet" still meant "sickly sweet", and when the whips were discreetly hidden under the bed rather than brought onto the stage.

Posted by Horst on May 15, 2004 | # | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

The mystery continues

More people start wondering if there wasn't anything fishy about the killing of Nick Berg [via Heli].

Posted by Richard Ellenson on May 19, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Exempt from responsibility

Amid global outrage over the abuse by U.S. soldiers of Iraqi detainees, the Bush administration has asked the United Nations Security Council to exempt its troops serving in UN-approved peace-keeping operations from prosecution for war crimes before the new International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands for another year. ...

"Given the recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison," said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch (HRW), "the U.S. government has picked a hell of a moment to ask for special treatment on war crimes."

HRW, Amnesty International, as well as hundreds of other national and international human rights groups that belong to the International NGO Coalition for the ICC, are urging governments to speak out against the extension of UN Security Council Resolution 1487, which was first approved, after the U.S. threatened to veto all UN peacekeeping missions if it did not get its way, in 2002 and subsequently renewed in 2003. [Source: Antiwar.com]

More: Reuters, BBC, Amnesty International, Associated Press

The Bush administration argues that the International Criminal Court ... could be used for frivolous or politically-motivated prosecutions of American troops. [Source: The Scotsman]

Like, for this?

Posted by Horst on May 22, 2004 | #

Solution

What do you do if your troops take pictures of physical and sexual abuse in American-run prisons in Iraq? — Why, Ban cameras, of course. [vowe.net]

Posted by Richard Ellenson on May 24, 2004 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Who?

Georg has a good summary of the Austrian parties' positions in the upcoming EU elections. However, it's so true to life that it's absolutely unhelpful in helping me decide who to vote for.

Posted by Horst on June 09, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Politics are interesting

If nothing else, yesterday's EU elections showed a few interesting things:

  • Only about 40% of the people bothered to vote. Seems that the more our election campaigns are copying the American model, the more our voter turnout also matches that of the US. Just one or two more of the ridiculous smear campaigns we had this time, and we'll make the 35% next time.

  • Speaking of which: Jörg Haider's campaign to denounce Social Democrat candidate Swoboda and Conservative EU commissioner Fischler as unpatriotic, or even traitors, resulted in huge losses — for Haider's own party. Haider's FPÖ was reduced to 6%, down from 23% in 1999 (although their miserable performance in the national government may have had more to do with this than their smear campaign).

  • On the other hand, the election proved the fact that Austrian voters will vote for just about anybody: Hans Peter Martin, a candidate without a programme and without a political message, who's not member of any party, who had no election campaign to speak of, — no posters, no events, no anything — and who was almost totally ignored by national television, still won 14% of the votes. All he did was spy on other MEPs and criticise their expense accounts, whereupon Austria's largest newspaper stylised him into some kind of Robin Hood.

  • In the district where I live, the Greens won almost 41% of the votes, which is hugely more than they ever won anywhere. In all of Vienna, they won 22%, which is a new record, too. In all of Austria, they won 12.8%, which makes them the strongest Green party in all of Europe.

See the Austrian results of the EU elections here (requires Flash).

Update: TH has a map of how the 23 Viennese districts voted. That one might also be interesting for non-Viennese readers, because it's a nice demographic breakdown of sorts.

Posted by Horst on June 14, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

New York disaster, thousand lives lost, 100 years ago

100 years ago today, the excursion ferry General Slocum caught fire on the East River. The ferry had been booked by members of the German community on the Lower East Side. Of the 1,358 passengers, all from the Kleindeutschland community, 1,021 died in the disaster. As the few remaining survivors soon left the area, this led to the total disappearance of the community.

The disaster is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, which is set only one day later:

[Chapter 8:]

All those women and children excursion beanfeast burned and drowned in New York. Holocaust. Karma they call that transmigration for sins you did in a past life the reincarnation met him pike hoses. Dear, dear, dear. Pity, of course: but somehow you can't cotton on to them someway.

[Chapter 10:]

Father Conmee [...] passed Grogan's the Tobacconist against which newsboards leaned and told of a dreadful catastrophe in New York. In America those things were continually happening. Unfortunate people to die like that, unprepared. Still, an act of perfect contrition.
[...]
Yes, sir. Terrible affair that General Slocum explosion. Terrible, terrible! A thousand casualties. And heartrending scenes. Men trampling down women and children. Most brutal thing. What do they say was the cause? Spontaneous combustion. Most scandalous revelation. Not a single lifeboat would float and the firehose all burst. What I can't understand is how the inspectors ever allowed a boat like that ... Now, you're talking straight, Mr Crimmins. You know why? Palm oil. Is that a fact? Without a doubt. Well now, look at that. And America they say is the land of the free. I thought we were bad here.

[Chapter 16:]

New York disaster. Thousand lives lost. Foot and Mouth. Funeral of the late Mr Patrick Dignam.
Posted by Horst on June 15, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Rehhagel vs Zidane 1-0

Otto Rehhagel

Greece wins 1-0 against France, [2] eliminating the current European champions from the tournament. It's first and foremost the victory of Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel, one of the most charismatic and also most controversial soccer coaches in the business. Outspoken and strong-willed, Rehhagel has become known for his ability to turn second-rate teams into champions, but also to generate conflict with players who aren't willing to subject themselves to his "democratic dictatorship" (with emphasis on "dictatorship") — a clash of egos leading to his sacking as coach of Bayern Munich in 1996, despite the fact that he was leading them towards victory in the UEFA cup.

Rehhagel's tactics and his power of motivation worked today. In a stunning display of will to victory rather than technical prowess, the Greek had the weak French team under control most of the time. Clearly at their wits' end, the French acted increasingly confused and had only a handful of chances. Zidane barely ever touched the ball, and Henry missed the goal several times. It seems they had severely underestimated the Greek and their coach.

Greece will play in the semi-finals against the winner of Czech Republic vs Denmark.

Posted by Horst on June 25, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What is wrong here?

An alarming article in The Independent reports on what they call an "epidemic of self-harm": in the UK, over 170,000 people a year — mostly teenagers and young adults — seek hospital treatment after deliberately hurting themselves.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "This really has become an epidemic [...]. The problem is spreading. We are not just talking about young girls cutting themselves any more: we have heard of young men gauging their flesh, drinking acid, removing genitalia."

Coming from a country with one of the highest suicide rates of the EU-15 (Austria ranks third after Finland and Hungary — there is even an Austrian suicide weblog), I have always seen Austria as an example of a country where many people suppress their aggression and turn it against themselves (often in conjunction with alcohol). The UK, with its infinitely higher number of acts of vandalism, hooliganism and violence in general, but a much lower suicide rate, seemed to be the opposite example of a country where aggressions are directed towards others rather than towards oneself.

It seems my theory needs a major revision. Either aggression towards oneself does not mean a lower level of aggression towards others (and vice versa), or the aggression, frustration, emptiness and/or mental problems of young people in the UK are reaching new and dangerous heights. What it is I don't know, but it sure sounds frightening. Definitely a sign that something is very wrong.

Posted by Horst on July 28, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

World wants Bush out

The world wants United States President George W Bush out of the White House, according to a poll (PDF, 112K) that shows in 30 of 35 countries people preferred Democrat candidate John Kerry—especially in traditionally strong US allies. The only countries where President Bush was preferred were the Philippines, Nigeria, and Poland.

Only one in five want Bush re-elected. [...] Asked how the foreign policy of President Bush has affected their feelings toward the US, in 30 countries a majority or plurality said it made them feel "worse" about America. [...]

GlobeScan President Doug Miller says, "Perhaps most sobering for Americans is the strength of the view that US foreign policy is on the wrong track." [...] Among countries that have contributed troops to the operation in Iraq, most favored Kerry and said that their view of the US has gotten worse with Bush's foreign policy. [...]

Kerry was strongly preferred among all of America's traditional allies. These included Norway (74% for Kerry to 7% for Bush), Germany (74% to 10%), France (64% to 5%), the Netherlands (63% to 6%), Italy (58% to 14%), and Spain (45% to 7%). [...]

The poll of 34,330 people was conducted mainly during July and August 2004 by GlobeScan and its worldwide network of research institutes, in conjunction with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland.

The only problem is that while the world wants Bush out, the people of the US, or at least about half of them, want Bush in. That, the amount of money at Bush's disposal and the voting machines that can easily be manipulated (see also here — what the hell is wrong with paper voting sheets anyway?) would make me very surprised if Kerry were elected president.

And that's despite Bush's problem with numbers.

Posted by Horst on September 09, 2004 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Presidential Links

Posted by Horst on October 05, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sudden realisation

I suddenly realised this morning that Austria hasn't had a Foreign Minister for — how long? One month? Two months? Three months? Does anybody know? Has anybody else noticed?

There was a bit of a debate about who would become Benita Ferrero-Waldner's successor when it was announced that she would become an EU commissioner in Brussels, but this seems like a long time ago. She's been in Brussels for a while now and still no successor has been named, nor does it seem likely to happen anytime soon. Who has been in charge of Austrian foreign policy since then? Has there been any foreign policy at all? Does anyone even care?

Posted by Horst on October 12, 2004 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

You know that it's the end of the world as we know it...

...when Hungary bans paprika. [2] [3] [4]

Posted by Horst on October 28, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I've had so enough of all this

It's a true shame that the USA is as large as it is, and has as much economic power and nuclear bombs as it has, because otherwise I wouldn't care about today's US presidential elections any more than about elections in some banana republic, where rigging the elections doesn't have an impact on the entire world.

Quiz 1: What do the following countries have in common: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Russia, Georgia, USA?

My guess for the result, by the way, is that George W. Bush will win with something like a comfortable 55% majority, simply because after I've read a few articles on US voters' attitudes, it seems to me that Americans would rather vote for somebody they know but don't like, than for somebody they like but don't know. Either these articles I read are just nonsense, and I hope they are, or the American mind works in strange ways.

Quiz 2: What do the following countries have in common: USA, Somalia, Iran, Congo?

For those who understand German, the (conservative) Austrian journalist Hans Rauscher has recently written two very sharp comments on how the Bush regime changed America: "It's not the America we knew" and "America, the prisoner of a radical sect" chronicle the USA's swing towards political and religious fundamentalism over the past few years. A brief quote translated into English:

Emissaries of the Bush government, who travel through Europe on a regular basis and seek contact with opinion leaders ... [start] fiery sermons that all follow a similar pattern: "old Europe" is dead and gone, Asia is the future, we take care of it, and why aren't you Europeans more like us, for example, why don't people in a christian country like Austria pray more often? — This would have been unthinkable four years ago.

For a more sober, meticulously researched, yet infinitely more depressing look at why today's elections are so important and at the same time also terribly irrelevant, read this and weep.

In related news:
You speak through me, God, not the other way round! Is that clear?

Posted by Horst on November 02, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Legitimate beyond doubt

Eric Frey in Der Standard (my translation):

For the next four years, America will be governed by a man whose legitimacy is beyond doubt. They also cannot claim that they have been misled by Bush. Four years ago, Bush ran for the office as a "compassionate conservative" who promised to unite the nation through moderate politics. This time, there was no doubt about his extremist conservative intentions.

This is a reason for concern. The Americans have accepted Bush's message that the country is at war after the 9/11 attacks and have confirmed their self-proclaimed "war president" in office. Thus they are supporting the policy of paranoia that has alienated the rest of the world. They have re-elected a president who wants to fight the complex problem of Muslim terrorism solely with military means, who has strained relationships with allies to the limit, and who has turned the United States into the face of the enemy for a large part of mankind. America will continue on its unilateral course and possibly spread the diffuse, but risky "war against terrorism" to other countries. Bush was not punished for the obvious fiasco of the Iraq war, into which he dragged the country by telling untruths. One can now safely assume that this political and psychological state of war will continue for a very long time.

anonyarena (an American) on The Fall message board:

Mark E. Smith predicted a 2nd Dark Age back in the 1970s and here it is. ... This truly is THE FALL.

It's THE FALL of all civilization of every kind. Optimism is a worthless, useless, emotion now. If we do not come to grips with our depression, we will lack the insight required to survive the impending doom that is, at last, unavoidable now. We can't go groping in the muddled darkness, saying things like "Now the Republicans can fix their own mess." Have we been blind for the last 4 years. The Republicans have no intention of "fixing" their mess! The deliberately and intentionally plan to inflate the mess, to deepen the deficit, to expand the war, obliterate dissent, allow, permit, and encourage terrorist actions to kill us, and utterly destroy the economy by creating and enshrining two classes. One of the multi-billionaire super-elite ultra rich, and one of desperate poverty stricken whose lives will be so dismal, no word will be able to describe their ruin.

Also check out the reactions over at Craig's BookNotes, which show that not all America is Bush.

Voices from the British press:

And from the Daily Mirror, arguably not Britain's highest-quality newspaper, comes this question.

Posted by Horst on November 04, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Jesusland

Megan sent me this via e-mail (no idea where it's from):

Jesusland vs. Canada

Or, if you don't believe in red and blue and prefer shades of purple, maybe it's more like this:

Purple America

Update: Check out this site for even more election maps.

Posted by Horst on November 05, 2004 | # | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

John Higgins then

Breaking the usual Sunday silence to report the result of the Snooker British Open: John Higgins won in what was a true high class match. I've seen John Higgins score high or even maximum breaks a couple of times before, but apparently he hasn't won a ranking tournament in three years. It seemed only fair that he should win, even though Stephen Maguire was pretty much his equal for much of the match.

Click here for coverage of one of the high points (QuickTime, 16MB).

Posted by Horst on November 14, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"They're not doing combat operations any more."

Of course not. Fighting in Fallujah has been over for several days now. And Iraq has been at peace since W. Bush declared the war over on May 1st, 2003.

In the meantime, Reuters reports that so far, 38 US soldiers and 1000 insurgents have been killed in Fallujah. They don't report anything about non-insurgents though, nor anything about how those who pull the trigger decide whether the person is an insurgent rather than a non-insurgent.

Posted by Horst on November 16, 2004 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Not listening

I tried to find out what the non-rightwing US weblogs have to say about the shooting of Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari by US troops in Iraq, but all I could find was things like "most likely the soldiers behaved appropriately" and "it's a war zone, so he should expect to be shot".

I seem to remember them being more outspoken than that. But perhaps they are thinking of this as a minor incident that is not worth digging into.

I think they are seriously underestimating just how much of a public outrage the whole thing has created in Italy. They are probably also underestimating just what it means if a substantial amount of people in Italy think that the US soldiers fired deliberately on the car (no matter if that is true or not).

By the way, the rightwing weblogs aren't writing anything about it either, but I kind of expected that.

Posted by Horst on March 07, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Everything is possible

Austria's right-wing Freedom Party, well-known abroad through its former party leader and political enfant terrible Jörg Haider, seems to be on the verge of falling apart. After disastrous losses in recent communal elections, the party's current leaders, which are of the more moderate wing (and include Haider's sister, who is the current party leader), and surprisingly Haider himself tried to get rid of some of the more outspoken rightwingers, which led to some serious infighting. Now some of the rightwingers are refusing to back down, some party members want Jörg Haider back as party leader, and some want him gone forever. There has been talk that the party was to be dissolved and re-founded, but then Haider changed his mind again. There is also talk that the party might split into up to three new parties. It is a truly strange spectacle.

One of the party's politicians who backed down when the right wing was disempowered was the leader of the party's Vienna branch, Heinz Christian Strache, formerly seen as one of the party's up-and-coming talents, who has also been called "the new Haider". Interestingly, within only two days after backing down, Strache appeared on posters all over the city, on which he proclaimed that "Wien darf nicht Istanbul werden" (Vienna must not become Istanbul) — a fairly explicit message against Turkish immigrants and a continuation of the party's strong anti-foreigner stance.

How I am becoming taboo

More interestingly, even though the poster campaign has been met with fierce criticism by both the liberal media and the liberal public (on the picture above you see a poster on which someone has changed the slogan to "How I am becoming taboo"), Strache is now suddenly back in the race for Freedom Party leadership.

It's impossible to see where the party that changed the Austrian political landscape since 1986 more than any other is heading — it could be descending into chaos, become even more like its coalition partner, the Conservative People's Party, or it could switch back into a strong right-wing course. It will also be interesting how the voters will respond to this in the parliamentary elections next year. As the slogan for the Austrian national lottery says: "Alles ist möglich" (everything is possible).

Posted by Horst on March 21, 2005 | # | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Josefine Hawelka R.I.P.

And you'd have thought she'd be immortal. Vienna's most famous coffeehouse co-proprietor dies aged 92. Thousands of Vienna travel guides will have to be rewritten. Even though I was not a regular, my sincere condolences go to husband Leopold (93) and family.

Posted by Horst on March 23, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Life or death

To me, the cases of both Terri Schiavo and the Pope are examples of how totally helpless we are when it comes to dealing with death. Modern medicine and technology have given us the means to extend life much longer than we used to, but the question that seems impossible to answer is in which cases we are extending someone's life, and in which cases we're merely extending their death. Everyone seems to have a different view on this one.

Posted by Horst on April 01, 2005 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Pope

In case you want to know what I, as a Catholic, think about the new Pope, formerly known as Cardinal Ratzinger, now a.k.a. Benedict XVI., I'm not entirely sure.

For one, I would have been surprised if he had not become the new pope, as it has been fairly obvious that he had been working towards this for quite a while now. He is perhaps also one of the most intelligent men in the conclave, which is good for him, not bad for the Vatican, but also not necessarily good for the rest of us.

I find him a bit spooky. He reminds me of Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. I'm not saying he's with the Dark Forces, it's just that I have something of an uncomfortable feeling. I particularly didn't like his first speech in which he described himself as a "simple working man". In some situations, when certain offices are concerned, certain displays of humility just don't ring true. I mean, he's elected into this office where he is second only to God, and he's seriously saying stuff like this? If he's really trying to be humble, he'd better simply shut up. History teaches us that those who display the biggest show of humility will be those who abuse their power the most.

So I guess it's a good thing that the Pope doesn't really have a lot of power these days. But then maybe I'm simply wrong. I mean I kind of knew it would be Ratzinger and I predicted in front of several witnesses that he'd call himself Benedict, but I may be totally wrong about this strange feeling. It's just a hunch.

Posted by Horst on April 20, 2005 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Sobering

Kaufkraft

The good news this weekend was that holidays abroad are becoming cheaper for Austrians. Apparently if you go to Slovakia, €1 will buy you the equivalent of more than €2, and the accompanying diagram displaying the equivalent of €100 in other European countries (pictured above, ©APA) showed favourable rates almost everywhere.

Somehow I fail to share the general enthusiasm, because seen the other way round, this means that Austria is one of the most expensive countries in Europe. In fact, only in Switzerland, Denmark and the UK are prices higher than in Austria.

Transforming this fairly sobering fact into good news is high art, I suppose.

Posted by Horst on May 17, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Explanation

This might explain why I feel like I'm living in the wrong country every morning: Austrians rank 6th in a world-wide survey of early risers. Which is why off-peak travelcards start at 9:30am in London, but already at 8am in Vienna. My brain, by the way, starts around 10am, which is probably why everybody looks somewhat spooked if they talk to me before that time. This is just a guess though, because I can't remember a word of what I'm saying to them.

Posted by Horst on May 20, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Oh fuck

Bastards.

Posted by Horst on July 07, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Picture this

You're living in the UK, but your visa has expired. As you enter your underground station, a few guys yell at you. Policemen? You cannot afford to be sent back to your home country now, so you decide to run. They yell at you to stop. You run faster. What can happen? Policemen in the UK aren't armed anyway. You're on the platform, and you're lucky, there's a train waiting there. As you jump in, you suddenly feel a sharp pain in the back. You may or you may not realize that you've just been shot in the back. You fall to the floor, the three guys yell at you and pin you to the floor, one of them has his pistol in his hand and moves it dangerously close to your head. What do you think in the split second before he blows your brain out with seven bullets?

According to the news, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot on 22 July because his visa had expired and there was no way that he could have known that the three men who were after him were armed plain clothes policemen who thought he was a terrorist and who had orders to shoot to kill.

I am not criticizing these orders here. I am just pointing out that in response to terrorism, the western democracies are radically changing.

George Bush said that Al-Quaeda is attacking the western democracies because they hate our democratic system, our civil liberties and our values and want to destroy them.

I say: if that is indeed the case, then Osama bin-Laden (or whoever is behind these attacks) has been pretty successful: in the USA, the Patriot Act has done away with many very basic civil liberties, human rights even. Several EU countries have passed laws that allow for the unlimited detainment of people on the basis of the mere assumption that they might know someone who could be involced in some terrorist activity. Laws that allow the recording and archiving of all our telephone and internet communications are on the way.

And in London, you can be shot for having an expired visa. Whither democracy? Whither civil liberties? They are washed down the drain, and it's not really Osama bin-Laden who's to blame for this.

Posted by Horst on July 27, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

Bush supports teaching of "Intelligent Design" theory in schools

So, Maki, it seems you are going to meet God...? Yes. But which God? That of the Asbourhas? of the Minetons? of the Ficharrots? Bah... it's more or less the same for all, isn't it? What?! Not at all! You fool, you must not talk such blasphemy! The Asbourha God wears shorts, the Mineton God rides a bike, and the Ficharrot God sings in the shower.

cartoon by Lewis Trondheim
from: Lewis Trondheim, Le pays des trois sourires (L'Association, 1997).
(Move the mouse over the speech bubbles to view the English translation.)

Posted by Horst on August 04, 2005 | # | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Shoot to kill

Apparently, the whole affair is even worse than it appeared at first.

Posted by Horst on August 17, 2005 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

As simple as that

Ultimately, the really important point is not whether Governor Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger stops or does not stop the execution of killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams tomorrow. It's not what he does in this case, which has become more of a media event than anything else, it's more what he believes in generally, and I'm not sure if he believes in anything other than his social status and poll results. And even that's okay; it doesn't really matter because more than anything else, Schwarzenegger is a representative of a society, and as such it's not so much himself that counts, but the society that elected him and that he represents, that he is supposed to represent even.

And so it's really all about whether that society condemns or accepts the killing of people. If the society condemns it, then this will be reflected in the state's politics, which will aim at protecting the lives of all citizens at all costs, with no exceptions, not even Tookie Williams. However, if this society accepts that killing people is okay, then this is just what will happen, with or without the death penalty. It's as simple as that.

Posted by Horst on December 12, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Schwarzenegger again

Considering the way some Austrian politicians are behaving right now, claiming that a mob of Communists and leftist revolutionaries (huh?) drove Arnold Schwarzenegger to sever his ties with his former home town, you'd think there would really be more substantial things to talk about.

Like the death penalty, which is apparently okay for them as long as there's a law that says it's okay. Or at least a couple of Austrian politicians said something to that effect the other day. The Nazis passed a law that made the extermination of the Jews legal. I wonder if those politicians think if that was okay, too. After all, the existence of the law made killing the Jews perfectly legal, didn't it?

Who cares about Schwarzenegger anyway? I mean, good riddance and everything.

Posted by Horst on December 20, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Happy New Year Everyone

Welcome to 2006. Let's all hope for the best.

Posted by Horst on January 01, 2006 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Ian Hamilton Finlay, 1925-2006

The World Has Been Empty Since the Romans

Another great artist gone. What is wrong with this year?

Obituary in The Guardian

The Sea's leaves, the Strawberry's Waves

It is doubtful that flags will ever become obsolete

Posted by Horst on March 29, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Announcement

Sunday 4 June
DJs dd & h-prill @ Rhiz
1080 Wien, Gürtelbogen 37-38 (U6 Josefstädter Strasse)
Starts 9pm - ends late.
Come. If you can't come, listen to the live stream.

(Note: this entry will remain at the top of this page for a while. Scroll down for new entries.)

Posted by Horst on June 04, 2006 | # | Comments (6)

Warning

Apparently an Austrian nutrition scientist has calculated that if you drink one bottle of beer and eat one packet of potato crisps per soccer half, you will have gained 12 kilos by the end of the FIFA World Cup.

Posted by Horst on June 11, 2006 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

PR

Well, contrary to the US government's PR, this PR move actually seems to be working, but that may be because the detainees in Guantanamo are insidious enough to trick the rest of the world into believing that they actually have a point.

Posted by Horst on June 12, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Closed

They're beginning to shut down the city in preparation for the arrival of George W. Bush in Vienna next week. The government has issued no fewer than seven information brochures about the no-go zones on 20 and 21 June. A substantial part of the inner city will be totally inaccessible. Tourists had better avoid the area around the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) and the Hotel Intercontinental, or they might be shot by these nice people.

And while the Austrian government is preparing to welcome the president, some Viennese are expressing their sentiments about the upcoming visit:

Viennese welcome for George W. Bush, June 2006

In the meantime, the initiative BushGoHome.at is preparing a big demonstration against the American president. The meeting point is on 21 June, 5pm at Westbahnhof station.

Posted by Horst on June 18, 2006 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Clicking

This morning I got a phone call from a colleague whose office is located in the Imperial Palace, and our conversation was constantly interrupted by clicking noises every ten to twenty seconds, which was pretty annoying.

It somehow reminded me when I briefly had a post in a section of the Austrian Army with a rather high security/secrecy level. During the entire time when I was posted there, the telephone line at home in my flat seemed to suffer from severe technical problems with periods of rather intense clicking, which only stopped a month or so after I had been transferred to a different unit.

My guess is that, even though the Theatre Studies Library sounds like an unlikely place for acts of terrorism (especially as it's closed and inaccessible on Wednesday anyway), the US Secret Service is already busy tapping phone lines in preparation for president Bush's visit to the Palace on Wednesday.

Posted by Horst on June 19, 2006 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Importance

At least the Americans didn't demand that the sewers be welded shut, like they did during Mr. Bush's last visit in Germany. It's a small victory I guess. Still, the Austrian police are currently patrolling the Vienna sewers, and will continue to do so for the next 48 hours.

Sealing off the entire Stephansplatz area for five hours tomorrow just so that Mrs. Bush can go visit St. Stephen's Cathedral says a lot about the perceived self-importance of the American president and his wife. Since not even the Pope demanded that the inner city be emptied of people during his visit and the Pope supposedly ranks directly below God, this must mean that the American president and his wife rank somewhere in the supernatural sphere above God. Or that that at least they think they do. Or, if we all didn't know that the president of the United States is a fearless pillar of courage, someone might suggest that they are simply very, very, very afraid.

Not that Mr Bush matters all that much any longer. He cannot be re-elected, and it has become quite obvious that, apparently for this very reason, he doesn't seem to care much about anything any longer. In fact, I think he makes a very poor target. If terrorists didn't primarily think about the symbolic value of their targets and would instead go for long-term effects, they'd instantly forget about Mr. Bush and choose somebody else instead.

The Austrian chief of police has said that the estimated cost of Mr. Bush's visit for the police force alone is about €1 million. No estimate has been published about the expected losses due to closed shops and museums in the city. Still, if you think about the number of heads of state who visit Vienna every year, and the security measures applied in those cases, I can think of quite a few who are more likely to be killed by assassins and still enjoy not even a fraction of the attention that Mr. Bush receives.

Information about public transport disruptions in Vienna today and tomorrow can be found on the Vienna Transport website (summary here).

Where the tens of thousands of tourists will be heading when the two most popular tourist spots in Vienna -- Stephansplatz and the Imperial Palace -- are totally sealed off, remains to be seen.

Adalbert has some pictures of the preparations to shut down Vienna on his website, by the way.

Posted by Horst on June 20, 2006 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Joke (old)

This joke has been posted all around the internet in numerous variations for the past year or so, so please forgive me if you know it already.

One day in the future, George W. Bush has a heart attack and dies. Obviously, he goes straight to hell, where the devil is already waiting for him. The devil tells him, "Unfortunately hell is so crowded that we have no room for you at the moment. However, as you definitely have to stay here, I'm going to have to let someone else go. I've got three folks here who weren't quite as bad as you. I'll let one of them go, but you have to take their place. I'll even let you decide who leaves."

George thought that sounded pretty good, so he agreed.

The devil opened the first room. In it were Richard Nixon and a large pool of hot water. He kept diving in and climbing out, over and over. Such was his fate in hell.

"No," George said. "I don't think so. I'm not a good swimmer and don't think I could stay in hot water all day."

The devil led him to the next room. In it was Ronald Reagan with a sledge hammer and a room full of rocks. All he did was swing the hammer, time after time.

"No. I've got this problem with my shoulder. I would be in constant agony if all I could do was break rocks all day," commented George.

The devil opened a third door. In it, George saw Bill Clinton lying on the floor with his arms staked over his head and his legs staked in a spread-eagle pose. Bent over him was Monica Lewinsky, doing what she does best.

George Bush looked at this in disbelief for a while and finally said, "Yeah, I can handle this."

The devil smiled and said, "Very well. Monica, you're free to go."

In the meantime, Adalbert is disappointed, Richard is filling some gaps, and Ingmar concludes that closing down the city was actually not entirely legal.

Posted by Horst on June 21, 2006 | # | Comments (0)

Thing

President Bush has left Austria. He was not attacked by the Thing From The Sewer at any time during his visit.

Posted by Horst on June 21, 2006 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Difference

My final comment (promise) on the Bush visit is a quotation from the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

In May, the authorities in Vienna showed how discreet high security can be when they protected 60 heads of state and government during the summit between the EU and the Latin American states.

Of course, the single visitor from the northern part of the American continent demands a different degree of attention.

I'm pretty convinced that this is not about security at all. It's about showing authority, about bullying others into submission.

Update: In other news, Betablogger has some dialogues (in German) that illustrate the Viennese position on authority in the face of George W. Bush and the Austrian police. [via novala]

Update: In some American online media I found references to "hundreds" or "350" people protesting against President Bush in Vienna on Wednesday. However, the Austrian police, whose counts are usually very conservative, announced that there had been some 15,000 protesters, and the committee organising the demonstration spoke of at least 20,000 participants.

Posted by Horst on June 22, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Announcement

Sunday 23 July
DJs dd & h-prill @ Rhiz
1080 Wien, Gürtelbogen 37-38 (U6 Josefstädter Strasse)
Starts 9pm - ends late.
Come. If you can't come, listen to the live stream.

(Note: this entry will remain at the top of this page for a while. Scroll down for new entries.)

Posted by Horst on July 23, 2006 | # | Comments (3)

Peace

and everything.

Posted by Horst on December 24, 2006 | # | Comments (5)

Synchronicity

On October 2, 2007, the fire brigade was called to a house in Vienna's 5th district after what seemed to be a tear gas attack. The residents of the house had to be evacuated. It was eventually discovered that the "tear gas" originated from the kitchen of one of the residents. He had tried to dry about two pounds of chilies in his microwave oven. The fire brigade told him to "refrain from similar actions in the future."

On October 3, 2007, the fire brigade was called to the Soho district in London after what people feared to be a chemical attack. Three streets were closed and people evacuated from the area as the search was carried out. At around 7pm, the fire brigade discovered that the source of the "gas" was the kitchen of a local Thai restaurant. The chef had been preparing a spicy dip with extra hot chillies that are deliberately burned. The restaurant is considering putting up warning signs during the next chili cooking session.

Posted by Horst on October 04, 2007 | # | Comments (2)

DJ h-prill presents: French Connection 4

French Connection 4, Sat 24 Nov 2007

You are cordially invited to French Connection 4, DJ h-prill's eclectic mix of French chanson, pop & yé-yé and some classic jazz from the 1950s-70s. As usual at Café Frame, Jägerstrasse 28 on Wallensteinplatz (tram 5 or subway U6 Jägerstrasse). Free admission.

Posted by Horst on November 19, 2007 | # | Comments (3)

Tramway reform

Vienna Transport has recently announced a substantial change in the tramway network around the Ringstrasse, which should bring a significant service improvement, with journey times being reduced by up to 10 minutes for some customers. This will essentially be accomplished by consolidating the routes of lines J, N, 1, 2 and 65 into just two lines, which will be referred to as "new" lines 1 and 2.

However, the changes will also render all travel guide books for Vienna obsolete, as most of them are advocating using tram lines 1 and 2 for cheap round trips of Ringstrasse and all the historic sights. With the announced changes in place, trams 1 and 2 will no longer follow their current circular route. Instead, tram #1 will run along most of the northern part of Ringstrasse from the opera to Julius-Raab-Platz, whereas tram #2 will run along the southern part between Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring and Schwedenplatz. For a trip around Ringstrasse, you will have to change trams at least once. On the other hand, you can go from the opera around most of Ringstrasse to the Hundertwasserhaus without having to change.

I have updated my Vienna tramway map to reflect the changes, which will be in effect as of 26 October 2008.

Posted by Horst on July 16, 2008 | # | Comments (3)

Event: Weblogs and Democracy

I will be appearing on a panel on Weblogs -- Politische Tagbücher als Instrumente direkter Demokratie? next Monday, 17 November at 5pm at the Sociology and Political Sciences Library, 1090 Vienna, Rooseveltplatz 2, along with fellow bloggers Harald Otto, Laura Rudas and Hans Christian Voigt, and we'll be talking about the impact of blogs on politics and democracy in general.

As this is part of the Tagebuchtag (diary day) series of events, the panelists will also read excerpts from their blogs, meaning that apart from saying clever things about blogs, I'll also be reading brief sections from my books Cursed and Messages from the Lost Continent.

Click here for more information.

Posted by Horst on November 05, 2008 | # | Comments (2)

Changes?

Much as I appreciate the power change following the US election, I can't help the feeling that the expectations that many Europeans seem to have of Barack Obama seem to be slightly out of proportion. Sure, he's a smart and smart-looking guy with an oratorial gift that is impressive, and the comparisons between Obama's public appearances and those of JFK certainly do have a point, but the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats aren't ideological, at least not in a way the differences between European Conservatives and Social Democrats are.

I think that some of the European "Obamania" that led thousands of people to Obama's appearances in Berlin or Paris is based on a misunderstanding of how fundamental the political changes that he can bring about in the US are going to be. I daresay that it's highly unlikely that he is in a position to change many of the things that most Europeans do not understand about the US -- the death penalty, the attitude towards weapons, the readiness to use military intervention, to name only a few.

First and foremost, Obama is an American male. At least he's not a white American male, but the cultural divide between the US and Europe is significant, and Europeans should not fall victim to the illusion that Obama can fully transcend his cultural roots. He may not represent George W. Bush's America, but he still represents America.

Posted by Horst on November 06, 2008 | # | Comments (8)

Dare to compare

1. Is American politics like Star Trek? Interestingly, after a couple of white males, they had an African American male as the commanding officer before they had a (white) woman. Does that say something about women's position in society, or is it entirely Hillary's fault?

2. Please, everybody stop comparing Obama to JFK. Not that I think that he doesn't have a similar kind of charisma, but let's not forget how JFK's career ended after his initial triumph. The notion that Obama could be killed by a white supremacist/racist/psychopath is likely enough to make me feel very uncomfortable.

Posted by Horst on November 10, 2008 | #


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