Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Mitt Romney in France

by DowneastDem Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 07:32:57 AM EST

I don't know how many of you read the New York Times' front-page profile of Mitt Romney the other day, but it does provide some good insight into the man who has an excellent shot at becoming the Republican nominee for president. The article is about Romney's period as a Mormon missionary in France in 1968. That experience had a profound impact on Romney. According to his son Tagg Romney he constantly speaks about this period, and it""helped him become who he is now."

Of course, the Vietnam War was raging at the time, and Romney and his fellow Mormons were not exactly welcome with open arms.

The missionaries had often met with hostility over the Vietnam War. "Are you an American?" was a common greeting, Mr. Romney recalled, followed by, "`Get out of Vietnam! Bang!' The door would slam." But such opposition only hardened their hawkish views. "We felt the French were pretty weak-kneed," Mr. Hansen said.
Those "hawkish views" of Romney and his fellow Mormons did not compell them to actually volunteer for combat duty in Vietnam. Romney later turned against the Vietnam War after his father told him it was "bad".

But what Romney really gained from his time in France was a deep appreciation for AMerican-style "free enterprise" and "liberty":

His experiences "gave me a great appreciation of the value of liberty and the value of the free-enterprise system," he added. "It brings home that these things are not ubiquitous, that what we enjoy here is actually quite unique and therefore is fragile."
The implication, then, is that liberty and free-enterprise were not to be found in France.

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German Intel and the US Iraq Invasion

by DowneastDem Mon Feb 27th, 2006 at 09:51:41 AM EST

Foreign minister Steinmeier now has some 'splainin' to do. Today's NYTimes had this bombshell on its front page:

Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.

In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

Just last week the government had issued a declassified report (pdf) which more or less seemed to exonerate the BND from an substantive contribution to the US invasion. All along, Steinmeier, who after all was responsible for the BND under the former Red-Green government in Berlin, has consistently denied any German intel support of the US military. Joschka Fischer also has professed to be "shocked" by the revelations. Were the Greens out of the loop all along? They are now calling for an independent investigation; looks like the other opposition parties will now go along with this now.

Promoted by Colman

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Benedict XVI on Social Justice

by DowneastDem Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:10:08 PM EST

There is a great deal of substance to Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas est but for this diary I just want to focus on his discussion of social justice, which can be in the second part of the encyclical. (Full disclosure: I am not a Roman Catholic, so my interest is that of an outside observer).

Benedict acknowledges the criticism of Christian charitable work as reinforcing the status quo and not addressing the underlying causes of economic inequality, but he rejects the notion that the Church has a direct role in changing the social order.

(More after the jump)

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WSJ (Op-Ed): Those Ignorant Germans

by DowneastDem Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 03:58:52 PM EST

from the front page. Title edited and some content moved below the fold. --Jérôme

You would think that the US neoconservative establishment would be thrilled with Angela Merkel's performance in Washington on Friday. She was tactful; she did not bring up unpleasant matters like torture, rendition, the disaster in Iraq. She almost reminded us of Helmut Kohl's well-behaved Mädchen. But the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal is still angry at Chancellor Merkel's muted criticism of the US gulag at Guantanamo:

It would be nice to think that all is now well between Germany and the U.S. Not yet. Take Mrs. Merkel's decision publicly to broach the subject of Guantanamo, which, she told the German newsweekly Der Spiegel earlier in the week, "can and should not exist in the longer term." This was putting the matter with great tact. Yet the fact that it was put at all suggests how much remains unwell in this relationship.

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Testing Muslims in Germany

by DowneastDem Thu Jan 5th, 2006 at 06:32:48 PM EST

Muslims seeking German citizenship in Baden-Wuerttemberg will henceforth be required to take a 30-question "Citizenship test". This "innovation" is being implemented by officials in this (Christian Democrat-governed) state after survey results seemed to indicate that many Muslims believe the German constitution conflicts with the teachings of the Koran. More on this in Expatica:

Only Muslims from the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are required to answer the questions as part of the process to become German citizens. All other nationalities and religions are not subject to any of the sometimes deeply personal questions which include the following:
- "Imagine that your adult son comes to you and says he is homosexual and plans to live with another man. How do you react?"

I wonder how conservative evangelical Protestants or devout Catholics would respond to many of these questions.

Meanwhile, the US-based "expert" on Islamic affairs - Daniel Pipes - has endorsed this test, and believes it should be implemented in every Western country. But Pipes goes much further and has latched on to another proposal in Saxony that would "tag" radical Muslim clerics with electronic foot bracelets:

If hate preachers are tagged, why not the many other non-violent Islamists who also help create an environment promoting terrorism? Their ranks would include activists, artists, computer gamers, couriers, funders, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists, organizers, researchers, shopkeepers, and teachers. In short, Schünemann's initiative could lead ultimately to the electronic tagging of all Islamists.

Why not just have them stitch yellow crescents on their clothing and require that this be displayed in public?

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US Middle Class on the Edge

by DowneastDem Mon Jan 2nd, 2006 at 09:45:15 AM EST

There has been some great discussion on this blog about different economic models - especially as they pertain to European politics. The US provides a good view of "neo-liberal" (sometimes called here "Anglo-Saxon") economic policy when carried out to its logical conclusion.

Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has a disturbing piece in the most recent issue of Harvard Magazine on the declining fortunes of the American middle class. Prof. Warren points out that two-income families have become the norm - and an absolute necessity - for the middle class family, yet two earners today have less discretionary income than one earner a generation ago. Today, 75% of family income goes to pay fixed monthly expenses: mortgage, car payments, insurance, childcare. The loss or disruption of one of these incomes would have disasterous consequences for most families.

In other words, today's family has no margin for error. There is no leeway to cut back if one earner's hours are cut or if the other gets sick. There is no room in the budget if someone needs to take off work to care for a sick child or an elderly parent. Their basic situation is far riskier than that of their parents a generation earlier. The modern American family is walking a high wire without a net.

Then there is this tidbit from a New York Times editorial this morning:
The same report, by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning research center, and United for a Fair Economy, a group seeking to narrow the gap between rich and poor, found that in 2004 the ratio of C.E.O. pay to worker pay at large companies had ballooned to 431 to 1. If the minimum wage had advanced at the same rate as chief executive compensation since 1990, America's bottom-of-the-barrel working poor would be enjoying salad days, with legal wages at $23.03 an hour instead of $5.15.
So what are the political consequences of an American middle class on the decline coupled with growing income disparity?  Professor Warren doesn't speculate, but I cannot help but feel that it does not bode well for the future of Democracy in the US.

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European Economic Policy and Social Justice

by DowneastDem Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 12:08:20 PM EST

The Berlin-based think tank berlinpolis recently released a study on European economic models and social justice.  You can download the study in either German or English HERE.

The authors identified three dominant economic models in Europe: the continental model, the Anglo-Saxon/liberal model, and the Scandinavian model.

They then sifted through statistics pertaining to key social and economic categories: poverty, access to education, employment and family policy.

The Scandinavian model turns out to be the most just and the most successful. The Scandinavian countries provide high-quality universal services for all families and needy individuals, and scored higher in all fields than the EU average.

Question to this group: How transferable is the Scandinavian model to other EU countries?  Why is the Anglo-Saxon liberal model always held up to be the most competetive and sustainable model?

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Susanne Osthoff Released in Iraq

by DowneastDem Sun Dec 18th, 2005 at 02:29:25 PM EST

A bit of good news out of Iraq this afternoon: Der Spiegel is reporting that the German archeologist Osthoff was released from captivity along with her driver. The German foreign minister Steinmeier has not released any additional information on how her release was secured. The New York Times today has a nice portrait of this fearless woman who has been saving artifacts in Iraq for years. Sorry for the short diary, but I thought we could all use a bit of cheer today.

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Judt: US a Third World Country

by DowneastDem Fri Dec 16th, 2005 at 10:04:28 AM EST

I'm in the middle of Tony Judt's excellent Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. The folks at Atlantic Review mention this provocative interview with Prof. Judt in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that I had missed from last week. Here Prof. Judt calls the US a "Third World Country" because of the growing gap between the intellectual (and economic) elite and the great mass of citizens:

Natürlich sind die amerikanischen Forschungsuniversitäten phantastisch, darum bin ich ja auch hier und nicht in England. Im Vergleich mit Oxford haben die 50 besten amerikanischen Universitäten viel bessere Mittel, bessere Einrichtungen, bessere Bibliotheken. Aber unterhalb dieses Levels ist es eine Katastrophe, und da könnten die Europäer mit ihrem Bildungsstand locker konkurrieren.

Europa könnte eine Bildungsschicht schaffen, die Ideen, Wissen und Fertigkeiten in einem Maße generiert, das Amerika in eine prekäre Lage bringen würde. Amerika ist das wahre Drittweltland - mit einer unfassbar reichen, gebildeten und mächtigen Elite und einer zunehmend verzweifelten, verarmten, medizinisch unterversorgten, ignoranten und schlecht ausgebildeten arbeitenden Bevölkerung.


This is Europe's opportunity - according to Judt - to surpass the US with a educationally superior workforce, supported with a broad social saftey net.

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Torture and the Weimar Republic

by DowneastDem Sun Dec 11th, 2005 at 04:10:41 PM EST

Last week Roger Köppel - the editor-in-chief of the conservative daily Die Welt - joined Charles Krauthammer and the op/ed page of The Wall Street Journal in defending torture. His piece is entitled Die Macht setzt das Recht - "Power Determines the Law".  But unlike Krauthammer, Köppel does not use the "ticking bomb" scenario to justify torture. Rather, he looks back on German history and sees the collapse of the Weimar Republic as a reason why "bending the rules" - in this case practicing torture - must be used. Here is the key section of his editorial:

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