Saturday, September 27, 2008

Frank-Walter is not Impressed

While in NY for the opening of the UN General Assembly, German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made a trip to Wall Street, the "epicenter of the world finanical crisis," as an article on the visit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) puts it. "Steinmeier had never before been in the world's most important stock exchange," the FAZ notes, "He is surprised by how small and shabby it is."

This from the chancellor candidate of a party, the SPD, that will undoubtedly make the alleged evils of financial markets a central theme of its election campaign next year.


Friday, September 26, 2008

What is Publicis? The "French Connection" to a Palin Smear

The Jawa Report’s outing of public relations man Ethan Winner as the poster of a professionally-produced anti-Sarah Palin smear video to youtube has brought the company Publicis to the American public’s attention. As Rusty Shackleford and his colleagues have shown, Winner and several other members of the Los Angeles-based Winner & Associates public relations firm – including company CEO Chuck Winner – appear to have been involved in a concerted effort to make the anti-Palin video “go viral” on the internet. Winner & Associates is a 100% owned subsidiary of Publicis.

And what is Publicis?...

Continue reading my new article on Pajamas Media here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The "BND Affair" Redux

What were two BND agents doing in Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003? "Helping" the American army? Following the testimony of the two agents before the intelligence committee of the German Bundestag last week, we know in any case that they were in regular contact with the secret service of Saddam Hussein. See my post on World Politics Review here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The First “Anti-Globalization” Protester?

In my turbulent youth, nothing bothered me so much as having been born in a time that clearly would only erect its halls of fame for shopkeepers and civil servants. The waves of historical events appeared to have calmed, such that the future appeared really to belong only to “the peaceful competition among nations” – which is to say, a placid mutual swindling – with all violent methods of self-defense being excluded. Individual states began more and more to resemble commercial enterprises [Unternehmen], which sought to undercut one another and to snatch away clients and contracts from one another…. This development seemed not only to continue unabated, but (according to the universal recommendation) was even supposed to transform the whole world into one big department store….

-- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, volume I, chapter 5
(translated from the German edition of 1943, Verlag Franz Eher Nachf., p. 172)

It would have been entirely in the spirit of Hitler’s observations to have translated the last sentence: “This development seemed not only to continue unabated but (according to the universal recommendation) was even supposed to transform the whole world into one big shopping center.” But in order to avoid anachronism, I’ve translated Warenhaus literally as “department store.”

“Left-wing” German opponents of “globalization” profess shock and indignation when they find themselves joined in their protests by neo-Nazis. (See here, for instance, on last year’s anti-G8 protests in Germany.) Perhaps this is because the “left-wing” protesters do not in fact know anything about original Nazism. (It is worth considering that the de facto ban on the re-printing of Mein Kampf in Germany may have something to do with this.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Animal Imagery: The SPD Grows Wings (and Fangs)

The former chair of Germany's Social Democratic party (SPD), Kurt Beck, was forced out of his post a week ago in an internal party putsch that saw Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier designated the SPD candidate for the chancellorship and Franz Müntefering designated to return to the post of party chair. As reported in yesterday's edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) , Beck had this to say about the circumstances of his departure: "I do not want to and will not let myself be convinced that it is a good thing in politics when people adopt the behavior of a wolf pack toward one another."

As quoted in the same FAZ article, Beck's replacement Müntefering likewise resorted to animal imagery -- bizarrely mixed with a bad pun -- in calling for the quarrelsome "wings" [Flügel] of the party to come together. "One needs wings if one wants to move forward fast," Müntefering said, "But the wings have to know that there is a head in between them. Wings by themselves don't make any sense."

Müntefering, as so happens, has something of a history with dubious animal metaphors. It was the same Franz Müntefering who during his first stint as SPD party chair famously described financial investment groups as "locusts."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Schröder on Steinmeier: My Closest Collaborator

Newly designated SPD candidate for the German chancellorship, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's chief of staff during most of the latter's time in office, as well as the coordinator of the German intelligence services. He is widely reputed to have been the éminence grise responsible for some of the Schröder government's most famous policies: including, notably, its highly orchestrated campaign against the Iraq War.

An article written by the former Chancellor for the next issue of the SPD party organ "Vörwarts" [Forward] was widely quoted in the German press last week (see here, for instance). In it, Schröder had this to say about his colleague: "In my entire life, there is no one with whom I have worked so closely and in such confidence." Schröder added that he is "proud" of his party for having chosen Steinmeier and that Steinmeier "has what it takes to be [hat das Zeug zum] Chancellor."

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is BHL a Fabulist?

When war broke out between Russia and Georgia last month, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy -- or "BHL" as he is commonly known in France -- packed his bags and set off to Tbilisi. His ultimate aim was to get to the Georgian city of Gori, which had been the target of Russian aerial attacks and which was rumored to have been ravaged by Russian-affiliated paramilitaries. One week later, Lévy's account of his trip appeared in Le Monde in French and on the American website the Huffington Post in English. "It is a Georgian town," Lévy wrote about Gori, "And [the Russians] have burned it down, pillaged it, reduced it to a ghost town."

The problem, however, is that Lévy never in fact made it to Gori. See my new article "Reporting the Georgian War: Is Bernard-Henri Lévy a Fabulist?" on World Politics Review here.

Backup Site

The new Trans-Int site has encountered technical problems and is presently undergoing repairs. In order to keep readers informed, I will be using this "old" Trans-Int blog in the meantime as backup site and posting links and whatnot here.