Samstag, Januar 29, 2005

Good vs. Bad

PBS has just released a new Documentary on Islamic Terrrorism, called "Al Qaeda´s New Front" (You can watch the whole thing online).

First, I don´t like it when people use the term "Al Qaeda" for the phenomenon of islamic terrorism. It gives people the idea that the whole problem was just based on one big terror organization, that can be contained using policing methods. This is simply not true. I think instead the term "Jihadism" should be applied more often. We have to understand that our enemy is not just one organization but an ideology. And that this ideology can only be contained by spreading democracy and fighting poverty (which means spreading capitalism and promoting free trade) as fast as possible.

At the same time we have to learn to be more proud of our western values and the things we have achieved here in the west. There must always be room for criticism of ourselves and our societies, but the left has certainly gone to far with this. Today pupils in german schools are regularly taught that our prosperity was built upon exploitation of other nations, namely from africa and the middle east. This is not true. Our wealth is mainly built upon the hard work of our parents and them embracing the idea of free market economy as well as our ability to build and maintain sound political and judicial systems.

The left is providing the terrorists with the arguments they in turn use to argue, that our societies are decadent and not worthy to exist and that their islamic society would be the better model. If we don´t stand behind our ideas and values, we won´t be able to win the war on terror. We should have the heart to stand up and say without any doubt: Yes, in this conflict we are the good. And they are the bad.

Second, I think that such documentaries as the above mentioned should be shown more often here in germany. We have so many documentaries about the "Crimes oft the CIA", "The Bush Dynasty", "How Bush lied on Iraq", etc. etc. But only few about islamic terrorism and the spread of Jihad ideology around the world. This leads to many people underestimating the threat we are facing today. And it is one of the reasons why so many germans don´t understand the policies of the current US administration. In their eyes things like Guantanamo are nothing but an act of arbitrariness conceived by a clique of evil megalomaniacs in the White House.

Donnerstag, Januar 27, 2005

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Being born in germany in the 1970s I feel no guilt at all for the crimes committed by the generations preceding me. At the same time I do not feel that germans should carry more responsibility to prevent further such crimes, that means no level of responsibility that would exceed the responsibility of any other person on this planet.

While building memorial after memorial and giving big speeches about germany´s "special responsibility", people tend to forget that the victims of the past (the Jews) still face many dangers today. Anti-semitism in europe is on the rise. And yet, when it comes to talking about contemporary anti-semitism, one of the main underlying problems (growing muslim extremism) is not discussed because of political correctness. At the same time a new consensus seems to take hold in german public opinion. The consensus that it is ok to criticise Israel. But such crititcism often tends to be extemly one-sided, concentrating on the suffering of the palestinians and making no effort to understand the jewish side.

Holocaust Remebrance Day in germany seems to me more like an event which main aim has become to make germans feel good about themselves. We like the idea of being a bad people finally turned good. And this is exactly the idea that is celebrated on holocaust remebrance day.

I wish that german´s would put less emphasis on their perceived "historic guilt", but more on the question of how to help the jewish people today. A first step would be to openly discuss the dangers of muslim extremism in europe. Furthermore politicians should work against the biased reporting of state-sponsored TV channels on the Israeli-Palestianan conflict.

Update I: "Europe has taken over the Holocaust" by Mark Steyn

Update II: The Economist about anti-semitism in Europe and Russia.

Montag, Januar 17, 2005

The war hungry media

The german media is full of news about American journalist Seymour Hersh claiming in the New Yorker that the US is planning to attack Iran and would therefore be conducting secret special operations in the country. Of course many german journalists are happy about the news, because it seems to prove their standard claim, whereby the current US administration was full of war hungry lunatics and that Iraq was just the beginning of a greater military offensive in the middle east.

But to interpret these reconaissance missions (if they are really being conducted) as some kind of preparation for an impending military strike on Iran probably goes to far. Maybe their main purpose is to gather information in order to be able to verify any possible outcome of the negotiations between Europe and Iran as well as ensuring that Iran puts all its cards on the table during the negotiations.

Also, considering the more than weak denial from US officials, one is almost inclined to believe that the information was deliberateley leaked to the media as a warning to Iran, maybe in order to strenghten the europeans´ bargaining position in their negotiations with the country. So in the end just a continuation of the good cop, bad cop game.

Montag, Januar 10, 2005

An islamist insurgency in europe?

It´s probably not going to happen, but some muslims seem to like the idea according to this article on jihadwatch.org.

Amnesty for mass murderers? Great idea!

In an article for the International Herald Tribune North Korea expert Andrei Lankov argues that the North Korean leaders should be assured that they would not be punished in any way should they lose their power. As he sees it, their fear of punishment is one of the main reasons for them not to loosen their grip on the people and not implementing far reaching reforms of the economic and political system.

There are two main arguments in favour of punishment:
1. Revenge / Avenging their victims
2. Deterrence / Preventing others from commiting the same crimes in the future for fear of
punishment

I think revenge is an archaic idea that shouldn´t be applied by modern, enlightened societies.
And deterrence doesn´t apply here either, because no dictator has in the past refrained from killing his people for fear of a possible future punishment. Dictatorship always goes along with megalomania, so dictators - when coming to power - generally don´t believe that one day their people would want to get rid of them.

So I agree with Lankov. Amnesty for mass murderes can be a good solution if it helps saving people´s lives.

Sonntag, Januar 09, 2005

Germany´s Economy "mostly free"

According to the Heritage Foundation´s "Index of Economic Freedom 2005" Germany achieves a 2,0 on a scale from 1 (free) to 5 (repressed), scoring better than many other countries in the european union. And also scoring better than countries like South Korea or Japan which, in the past years, often showed much higher GDP growthrates than germany. While this is no reason for satisfaction, I was actually quite surprised to find that under our present government the rating dropped from 2,36 (in 1998) to todays 2,0. According to the Heritage Foundation Germany´s main problems still lie in the area of Fiscal Burden (rating 3,5), Banking and Financing (3,0) as well as Regulation (3,0).

Of course, there´s always plenty of problems with such ratings. From the problem of properly operationalizing the respective variables to the problem of finding accurate data. But the "Economic Freedom of the World: 2004 Annual Report" comes to similar conclusions. Germany´s economy ranks 22 out of 123 countries scoring 7,3 on a scale from 1 (repressed) to 10 (free). In this report the US rank third while according the Index of the heritage Foundation they only rank 13th which underlines the fact that based on how "economic freedom" is defined, one can reach quite different results.

Well, according to Johan Norberg the "Economic Freedom of the World" report constitutes the better index of these two.

Update: Can anyone explain to me, why the Heritage Foundation gives France a rating of 5 in the catagory of "government intervention", while China gets a much better 3?

Samstag, Januar 08, 2005

How China sees the world

In an article of China´s main propaganda mouthpiece "People´s Daily" the author compares Europe with the USA. The article can be summed up quite easily:
Europe = good
USA = bad
The main argument is, that europe is expanding by peaceful means using softpower while the US activeley pursued a neo-imperialist agenda.

And of course we get the usual criticism of the Iraq-war:

"[...]which again proves that military might is often futile and inefficient as a means to solve nationalist, cultural and social problems."

Well, anyone who followed Chinese officials comments with regard to the Taiwan issue during the last months will probably hope, that the chinese heed their own propaganda...

Micro credit

I once saw a documentary on television showing how a poor family in a brasilian slum got a small credit from a local bank. Well, actually it was just one person who lended people money. They used it to buy a solar-powered telephone which they let their neighbours use for a small fee. This way a new telephone company was started and one more family lifted out of poverty.

Read more about how supplying poor people with small credits could be a better answer to poverty in the third world at global-growth.org.

Distorted Worldview

This article on honestreporting.com looks at the reasons for Israels bad ranking in a recent public opinion poll conducted in britain, citing a good example for dishonest reporting in the guardian.In the poll Israel ranks #1 as "least beautiful country" as well as "least deserving of international respect".

The first thought that came to my mind was: What kind of distorted view do many british have of the world they are living in?
But then a second thought struck me: Where´s germany??? We´re not even in the Top 5. Are we not considered hateworthy enough anymore by the british? What have we done wrong?

A detailed look at the poll conducted by Yougov gives reasons for relief.At least we´re on the next to last position when asked in which country they would most like to take a holiday. Well, I would agree with them on that.... BTW: Guess the only country that ranked worse? Right! Israel.And we at least rank #2 when it comes to "least friendly people", only beaten by France.

Israel is close behind us ranking third.I predict that, if we don´t start another war soon and the Palestinians don´t get their own state in the near future, Israel will probably overtake us in the next poll.

And something else I found strange: Besides the fact thatDubai isn´t really a country but a part of the United Arab Emirates. What is their problem with Dubai? It´s probably one of the most mdoern, liberal, and friendly parts of the middle east...

BTW: Does anyone know where to find a poll on germans´ public opinion towards other countries? I guess, the results would be simliarly "interesting"...

They´re doing it again

The german Social Democrats of Chancelor Gerhard Schroeder are said to have won the parliamentary elections in 2002 for mainly two reasons:
1. Schroeders public opposition to the Iraq war.
2. The governments´ crisis management during the floods in eastern germany.

Some months ago, when the conservative opposition was ranking high in polls and the social democrats were almost declared dead by some analysts, there were (half-serious) speculations saying that the only chance for Schroeder to be reelected would be if there was a new american-led war in 2006 or another flood.

Now we have a flood crisis that is by far worse than that experienced by germany three years ago. And Schroeder, beeing an experienced tactician, knows exactly how to utilize it for himself and his party. According to this article from the online version of germanys leftwing magazine "Der Spiegel" "Schroeder and Fischer score as crisis managers". The article states for example that "since the beginning of the crisis on december 26th Schroeder and his foreign minister Joschka Fischer did almost everything right" and that "the opposition paled in the face of the Chancelors Tatkraft (energy, drive?)".

Well, what exactly did he do to deserve Spiegels´ praise? He promised to donate €500 million of germanys tax payers money to the countries affected by the flood. Now please don´t get me wrong. While I strongly agree with the need to help those affected by the flood, I hate the thought of Schroeder getting good publicity and (in the end maybe) votes just for donating germanys´ tax payers money. I mean, that´s something even I could do given the necessary constitutional and political powers...

Well, at least the article also states that the money will not be spent immediately, but during a time period of 3 to 5 years and be invested in well-evaluated longer term projects. Supply with drinking water, the healthcare system and education...This is important because I fear that much of the money that is being donated worldwide at the moment could get into the wrong hands or be wasted on unnecessary projects, while there are other parts of the world where this money could be better used or is more needed.After all countries like India or Indonesia, while not exactly being rich for european standards, are not completely helpless themselves.

I really hope that most people donate money to big organizations like the red cross, because one should let the experts judge what the money should be used for and where in the world aid is needed most.

Going back in time

Some weeks ago I made a bus trip to Prague. When we left the city, our busdriver told us we were driving past a hotel that was recently bought by a Lybian Company, which had since forbidden American Tourists from staying there.

Turns out that the bus driver got the story wrong, because the Hotel was bought some years ago and it was the american government that didn´t want their citizens to stay in a lybian hotel because that was obviously considered trade with a country that supported terrorism. (At least that´s what it says in this article form Radio Praha.)

Anyway, the point is the reaction of the people in the bus (most of them germans). Many of them cheered spontaneously at the "good news". These people were actually happy that americans were denied access to this hotel. Obviously it´s socially acceptable again for germans to support discriminating against certain people. Well, at least as long as it´s the "amis".

Asian Refugee Crisis

Outside the public interest a human tragedy is unfolding in Asia these days. But it has nothing to do with the terrible tsunami that has affected countries of the region on christmas. In fact this tragedy is completely man-made. Who is responsible?

On the one hand we have the North Korean Regime. There have always been many reasons for North Koreans to flee their country. But since the inititation of economic reforms in 2002 the number of refugees has risen. This is due to the growing amount of outside information flowing into the country and exposing the Regimes´ lies. At the same time the economic reforms lead to a huge rise in prices accompanied by only a relativly slight rise in wages, thereby worsening the already bad situation of many North Koreans.

On the other hand we have the South Korean government, at the moment controlled by the left-leaning, anti-american, pro-north-korean URI-party under President Roh Moo-hyun. In order to stop the flow of North Korean refugees into neighbouring Russia and China (from where they often try to get to South Korea) the government has recently undertaken a change in policy, trying to block refugees with a "criminal background" from entering the country and cutting back on the money dispersed to refugees from the north.While this policy is officially justified by stating South Korea just wanted to prevent human smuggling, it is actually clearly aimed at appeasing the North. This comes before the background of a growing consensus in the South Korean public that their main enemy is not the regime of Kim Jong-Il but the USA.

Of course one could also argue that economic interests lie behind all this. The higly modernized economy of South Korea is in desperate need for cheap labor and not even China can provide the low labor costs that North-Korea can these days. Adding to this are geographical proximity and a common language. The starting of production in the North Korean Kaesong Special Economic Zone just some weeks ago highlights this fact.This "Special Economic Zone" is in fact nothing more than a South Korean Economic Outpost in the North. The South provides almost everything (even the electrictiy) while the North provides Cheap Labor for the South Korean firms settling there.Considering this, one can clearly see why the South Korean Government is interested in stabilizing the North Korean Regime, preventing a break-up that could result from a mass exodus of the population like we have seen in germany.

While one can actually argue that a sudden break-up of North Korea could have devastating effects for the whole region and should therefore be averted by all means, one should also consider the effects that can result from stabilizing one of the most criminial and disgusting regimes in the world.Because this also means that people who flee their country because they are poor, hungry and deprived of many basic human rights, are sent back into the arms of a murderous regime, that will probably punish them for their attempted escape.More on the personal effect of the new South Korean policy can be derived from this article in the New York Times.