I am at Brian Micklethwait’s place for his latest Friday. This argument against leaving the EU was made (I am literally live blogging, this is breaking news!): The good thing about Brussels is that it is impossible to be emotionally attached to it. This weakens the state.
Interesting discussion is now ensuing. And we have not even got to the speaker yet.
Reports reach me that the Czech Republic is thinking of adopting a new name for itself, Czechia. Perhaps lingering, but unarticulated resentment at the Velvet Divorce when, like certain types of yeast, Czechoslovakia split in 1993 has led to the Czech Republic hankering after a new, shorter name for itself* for everyday life, giving it a duality like ‘France’ and ‘The French Republic’.
When Czechoslovakia split, I recall one British comedian, iirc Paul Merton, quipping ‘Who gets the ‘o’?‘ at a time when less happy places were engaged in wars over secession, the lack of it, or issues arising. However the rationale for this is at once banal and quite engaging:
The Czech Republic is poised to change its name to “Czechia” to make it easier for companies and sports teams to use it on products and clothing.
How nice for a State (or perhaps a country) to actually want to make life easier for business. Will they start as they mean to go on?
Not all are happy, it seems:
Some have criticised “Czechia” as ugly, or too similar to “Chechnya”, the semi-autonomous Russian republic.
I doubt that the Chechens would lower themselves to the sort of ‘passing-off’ nonsense that we see from Greece over Macedonia.
Does a country’s name matter? I have no idea how the new name sounds to the locals, but to my ear it sounds distinctly odd and unnatural. Perhaps I should go there to see for myself.
* Yes, I know countries can’t hanker, only people, and dogs outside a butcher’s, can.
The Telegraph reports,
Turkey demands Germany prosecute comedian for Erdogan insult
Angela Merkel is facing a political dilemma after Turkey demanded one of Germany’s most popular comedians face prosecution for insulting its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The row could jeopardise the EU’s controversial migrant deal with Turkey.
The German government confirmed on Monday it had received a “formal request” from Turkey over the weekend indicating it wishes to press charges in the case.
If Mrs Merkel agrees to allow the prosecution, she will face accusations of limiting free speech to placate the authoritarian Mr Erdogan.
But if she refuses it could put the migrant deal with Turkey, which she personally brokered, at risk.
Jan Böhmermann, one of Germany’s most successful young comedians, faces up to five years in prison over a poem in which he referred to Mr Erdogan as a “goat-f*****” and described him as watching child pornography.
Insulting a foreign head of state is illegal under German law, but a prosecution can only take place if a foreign government requests it.
Any prosecution also requires the express authorisation of the German government — leaving Mrs Merkel in a difficult position.
“One could hold pan-European elections, of course, with voters picking multi-national slates of candidates; but, then, one could also ask every person on the planet to vote for a world president. Such initiatives would ape democratic procedures, but would be a sham. They would be Orwellian takedowns of genuine democracy, not extensions of it. There would be no relationship or understanding between ruler and citizen, zero genuine popular control, nil real accountability; coalitions of big countries would impose their will on smaller nations, and elites would run riot. We would be back to imperial politics, albeit in a modernised form.”
– Allister Heath
GERMANY’S secret service spied on the EU’s British foreign policy chief and on the US secretary of state, it emerged yesterday.
The Bundesnachrichten- dienst, or BND, Germany’s equivalent of MI6, placed Baroness Ashton of Upholland under electronic surveillance when she was the EU’s high representative on foreign affairs and security.
It also tried to tap the mobile and office phones of John Kerry, the secretary of state, according to Der Spiegel magazine.
However, the attempt to listen in to Kerry’s mobile conversations failed because a bungling spy used an African country code by mistake. His other phones, including one at the American State Department, were successfully tapped.
The revelations are deeply embarrassing for Angela Merkel, who criticised the US over allegations the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the German chancellor’s phone as part of a mass surveillance programme that included snooping on allies.
Speaking at the time, Merkel told President Barack Obama that “spying on friends is not acceptable”.
Particularly not those friends. To expose your poor spies to hours on end of Baroness Ashton or John Kerry is an unacceptable violation of the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC on Occupational Safety and Health.
Update: Niall Kilmartin adds, “Wow. They lose track of 130,000 immigrants from Isis recruiting areas but they can (almost) bug John Kerry. Is this a dramatic revelation of German government priorities, or does it merely indicate that the standard of electronic security set by Hillary was followed throughout her department and maintained by her successor?”
Joris Luyendijk is actually Dutch but honorary knighthoods can be conferred on foreigners who “have made an important contribution to relations between their country and Britain”. I think he qualifies. He writes,
Yes, we would strangle or crush the English in the post-Brexit negotiations, the way any group of nations comprising 450 million people would to an opponent eight times smaller who has just tried to blackmail them
This is why the best way forward for Europe is to threaten to hit the English as hard as we can. We must stop treating membership of the EU as a favour granted by England, and instead make the English feel their vulnerability and dependence.
A week ago, when 129 people in Paris were massacred as they went joyfully about their Friday nights, there were instant predictions of fury and instability. The cut-off commentariat in particular was worried that ‘ordinary people’ might turn Islamophobic. Hatred will spread ‘thick and fast’, said Scotland’s minister for Europe. Others fretted that there would be displays of jingoism, demands for revenge. Don’t agitate for a ‘clash of civilisations’, observers warned. One expert on international affairs even told us not to get angry, because ‘ISIS counts on anger… to advance its cause’. This elite panic about post-Paris rage spoke volumes about the anti-public mindset of Europe’s opinion-formers, who view us as volatile, easily turned from civilised creatures into warmongers.
In the event, though, in the seven days since the massacres, something even worse than all that happened: nothing. There’s been no fury. No clamour for a fightback, whether of the militaristic or intellectual variety.
– Brendan O’Neill
Reason goes to sleep during election campaigns. Sometimes it is said elections are like the fiesta of democracy, which is true, but electoral campaigns are like bachelor parties which culminate in huge hangovers and sometimes culminate in disasters.
– Marek Belka
If reports are true, the Finnish tax police want the public to report anyone selling a take-away pizza for less than €6.
“Unless a pizza is on temporary sale there is no way a legitimate establishment can offer pizza for less than six euros,” Det Insp Minna Immonen of the Uusimaa police department is quoted as saying.
So they have calculated that it is not possible to remain in business selling pizza for less than that price, and still pay the 12% VAT.
12% VAT? What a pleasantly low rate, here in the UK it is 20% for almost everything. I will not be diverted onto a discussion as to what is standard or zero-rated, except to note that on learning that horse semen is subject to normal VAT but bull semen is zero-rated (effectively exempt) as in most of Europe horses are not ‘food’, I decided that whoever made that ruling in Brussels bloody well deserved that to be their legacy.
However, the intrusion is greater, you should get a receipt for your pizza, so Finland has joined Italy as a place where every transaction (even a 1€ cup of coffee or Sachertorte in Venice) leads to a receipt being printed at the till, for fear of the Tax Police.
Police are trying to crack down on the “grey economy”, which costs the country millions of euros in lost tax revenue each year. They also want people to make sure they get a receipt for their pizzas, regardless of value.
We all surely know that the ‘country’ is in fact ‘the State’, and those millions of Euros of lost revenue go on to lead happy, productive lives in the private sector in the hands of their owners. It is a sorry state of affairs when price signals are used by tax authorities to go looking for suspects, rather than customers for bargains, perhaps the tipping point from a tolerably free society to an unpleasant one. I do recall the Sage of Kettering remarking years ago that someone had calculated that no business could carry on in New York City if it followed all the regulations that apply to it.
Still, this has generated some scorn, so that is a positive sign.
The drowned body of little Aylan Kurdi is on front pages all over the world. His surname and the name of his home town, Kobani, tell the story of why his family were so desperate to leave their homeland.
What can be done to stop this happening, as the Middle East burns? What should be done? In the long term – God only knows.
But we don’t have to know. In the short term there is something we can do which has a proven record of saving lives in a similar situation.
Could Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy solve Europe’s migrant crisis?
When the bodies of asylum seekers en route to Australia washed up on the shores of Christmas Island in 2010 everyone was in agreement that something needed to be done.
Five years later Australia has implemented one of the harshest border policies in the world. It is characterised by three core points: turning or towing back boats of asylum seekers at sea; forcing asylum seekers to live in detention centres across the Pacific in Nauru and Papua New Guinea; and guaranteeing they will never be resettled in Australia.
Dozens of would-be migrants are reported to have drowned between Libya and Sicily, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean this spring. The increasing numbers making the perilous journey on overloaded boats has brought the issue of migration into Europe to a head. But what can be done about it?
Prime minister Tony Abbott is now making a clarion call to Europe, where crisis meetings have taken place following the deaths of over 800 migrants in the Mediterranean this week. The only way to stop deaths at sea, he told reporters this week, “is in fact, to stop the boats”.
They were stopped.
Building a camp – a decent camp – and putting all those attempting illegal entry in it does not satisfy either side of the immigration debate. But at least it could be tolerated by both sides and might stop the bodies floating in on every tide. To use an unhappy metaphor, it would keep the floodgates closed by showing that taking ship with a people smuggler is not a successful strategy to get to the West. To work this policy would require both sides to acknowledge very clearly that doing this for now implies absolutely nothing about what the permanent policy on refugees and/or migrants should be.
Sometimes the Guardian surprises. This piece by David Crouch certainly came as an unwelcome surprise to some of the regular Guardian commentariat. Mr Crouch has written a very fair appraisal of the effects of rent control in Sweden: “Pitfalls of rent restraints: why Stockholm’s model has failed many.” He writes,
The result [of rent controls] is a thriving rental property black market, with bribes of as much as 100,000 kronor per room to obtain a direct contract, McCormac says. Many people sublet space in their rental apartments. When one tenant advertised a tiny closet last year for rent, there were many potential takers.
“It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” McCormac says. Students, young people and immigrants are consequently shut out, and ethnic and social segregation is increasing.
A commenter called “JohannesL” adds his own story:
When I moved to Helsinki in 1982, there was strict rent control in place and the tenant was well-protected, it was very difficult to get rid of even the tenant from hell. Because of this, there were no rental flats available at all, except the council flats, which were definitely not available for healthy non-addicted young men.
There were plenty of people living in tents and cardboard huts in the woods then. (I enrolled in the university just to get a room in a student dormitory).
In the early 90’s they got rid of the rent control which made renting a profitable business, with the result that suddenly there was an active and relatively abundant rental market, and has been ever since.
Sad but true. Rent control does not work. Also, it must be possible to get rid of your tenant in reasonable time. It breaks my bleeding lefty heart, but that’s just how it is.