01 December 2008

No more blog posts

Hey guys,

I haven't posted anything for well over a year, without ever writing a proper farewell-to-blogging note. That is mainly because I never actually assumed a blogger identity. In other words, I was never immersed in the blogosphere and blogged furiously just for the sake of it. So one day I stopped posting and that was it.

The reason I am writing this post is that people have been contacting me because of the personal information they find in my posts, mainly regarding my involvement in various political groups.

While I am going to leave all the posts and links up, at least for now, I would like to say that at the moment I am taking a mini-retirement from the political circus.

Therefore, I cannot help you with any queries regarding the groups I worked for. Importantly, I do not deal with any internship applications. Please contact relevant organisations directly.

Thank you.


07 July 2007

Top 3 politicians' songs on YouTube

1) Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy

2) Gerhard Schröder

3) Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

FIFA: Bulgarian capital is just east of Kraków

First of all, let me warn you: this time it's going to get personal. Unlikely as it may sound, I used to be quite a footballer when I was younger. I played for Slovan Liberec, the only Czech team to claim the league title twice after 1990 except of Sparta Prague. Our famous post-2000 moments include trashing AC Milan 2:1 or wiping out the floor with Olympique Lyon 4:0.

Because I was lucky enough to play for this very elite club and be in a team with older boys, I happened to be in the wider nomination of the Czech U-14 national squad. I got to play at two tournaments, I believe. Anyway, my not-so-promising football career had to come to an abrupt end when I got a scholarship in England aged 15.

So it is with great nostalgia that I follow the fortunes of the mighty Czech team at the U-20 World Cup in Canada these days. Most of the players I remember from our encounters in the junior leagues or from the national team. Tonight is the last match in the group for Czechia; after a lucky draw with the Argentines and an unlucky draw with Asia's reigning champions, North Korea, we are bound to beat Panama and advance to last 16.

Today I was struck by an article about Polish supporters on FIFA's championship-devoted news site. The 800 000-strong Polish Canadian community rallied behind the Polish side, emboldened by the initial 1:0 victory over Brazil though somewhat disappointed after the crashing 5:1 loss to the USA. Bet FIFA coverage would disappoint them too: "Die-hard footie fan Krzysztof was born in a small village east of Krakow, close to Gdansk and Sofia." Next time ask Krzysztof's two-year old daughter, please!

Meanwhile Slovan Liberec are getting ready for their tomorrow's cup match against the opposition from Kazakshtan. Uff. The Russian airline which was supposed to organise the transfer to Kostanay brought a plane which is not up to EU standards and isn't allowed to take off. No suitable plane available. Classic. Now our team will only make it to the steppes 12 hours before the kick-off; lot of time to adjust to the time diffence. Such a pity we have to play European cup games against Asian teams...

05 July 2007

Serbia owed justice in Kosovo

The article "Serbia owed justice in Kosovo" appeared in The Japan Times on Monday. I could not possibly agree more with the writer: Serbs are no villains and Kosovo should remain Serbian.

Here are some good points made by Gregory Clark, the author; but if you can, try to read the whole thing.

1) 1 million of Serbs were killed by the Croats and Bosnian Muslims, who sided with the Nazis, in WWII.

2) There was no backlash against the Croats and the Muslims after WWII; instead, Yugoslavia was created.

3) British and US intelligence services sent the jihadists, hardened by the 1980s Afganistan experience, to help the Muslims in Bosnia. The same support was received by the terrorists from the "Kosovo Liberation Army".

4) There was no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo orchestrated by the Serbs.
"Even more extraordinary was the way Serbian attempts to prevent or retaliate against those KLA attacks were denounced as the "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo's Albanians (ironically it was the KLA that invented the term, to describe its plan to drive out the Serbian minority). The U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization move to bomb Serbia into submission followed soon after, even though it was the KLA, not Belgrade, that violated a 1998 ceasefire organized by the U.S."
5) Not 500 000, but 10 000 Albanians were killed during the "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo.

6) Hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews had to flee from Kosovo after 1999; just like it was the case when Franjo Tudjman's Croatian regime, flying the old WWII Croatian fascist flag, expelled Serbs from Krajina.

What they didn't say at Kennebunkport
Another Asian paper, The Asian Times, has a very amusing feature on the Bush-Putin summit. The imagined dialogue between the two presidents is pretty close to what they would have said had they been absolutely honest with each other. Great read.

Jihad Mickey killed off by Hamas TV

On Friday the Hamas al-Aqsa TV aired the last episode of its controversial children's show, "The Pioneers of Tomorrow". The star of the programme is Farfour, a Mickey Mouse lookalike who talks like Osama bin Laden. I already wrote about the earlier episode in which Farfour was reprimanded for using the English language.

In the scene above, Farfour's grandfather hands him a key and what is presumably a deed to the family's former land in Israel. Farfour is then caught and interrogated by Jews. When Farfour refuses to give up the documents, his interrogator beats him to death.

Europe sexed up
On a lighter note, the European Commission is now set not to oversleep the new media age; it launched its own channel on YouTube recently. One of the clips has already been viewed by two and a half million people; I am sure you will love it too.

26 June 2007

Choose your Brown's Cabinet

Though Brown's Cabinet will have to do without some "talents", the new prime minister has a lot to choose from on his own benches.

Don't think so? Try to put together your own Cabinet; the comments from the experts from the Fisburn Hedges consultancy are rather spot on!

I bet Iain Dale is pretty close with his predictions.

25 June 2007

Support Sir Salman - now is the time!

The petition to back Tony Blair's decision to honour Salman Rushdie with a knighthood is finally on the 10 Downing Street website. It was submitted by Daniel Finkelstein, The Times chief comment editor; I wrote about it few days ago.

Here is the wording of the petition again:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to accept our congratulations for recommending to the Queen that Salman Rushdie receive a knighthood."
I was very proud to become the 13th signatory today; I urge you to sign too (if you are a UK citizen/resident). Otherwise register your support for Sir Salman in the comments!

It is more important than ever that we do use this tool of direct democracy to express our support for Rushdie and free speech. Why? Because Minhal Master, a communications secretary of the World Federation of Khoja Shi'a Ithna-asheri Muslim Communities, has started a counter-petition to revoke Rushdie's knighthood. Bad enough that we are losing to the Islamists in southern Afghanistan. But we can never let them win in our own backyard. We are all Salmans now!

23 June 2007

Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States

Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States is a new cartoon on the US Comedy Central channel. Essential viewing for anyone who cannot kick back without politics.

Wikipedia provides a good review of the programme:
"Lil' Bush takes place in an alternate reality version of modern times, where George H.W. Bush is president and George W. Bush ("Lil' Bush" on the show) as well as other major modern politicians (many of them members of real-life George W. Bush's staff) are all children attending Beltway Elementary School. Issues the current Bush Administration is involved in---for example, the Iraq War---are transferred to the elder Bush, but feature the younger Bush interacting with them in various ways. Also, just as George Bush's father is president, the parents of the other kids (Lil' Condi's mother, Lil' Rummy's father and Lil' Cheney's father, who is represented by Darth Vader) are members of the elder Bush's cabinet."
Are you tempted? Then check out the rest of the episodes and extras in here.

The inconvenient truth about Václav Klaus

The Economist's Edward Lucas complains about the dullness of political leaders in the post-communist space (again). The Czech president Václav Klaus is anything but dull, though admittedly he does not make a good listener:

"Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, by contrast, is exactly the same whether you have known him for ten minutes or 20 years: abrasive, forceful,well-informed and magnificently dismissive of views other than his own. If you have a Nobel prize for economics, he may give your views a marginally more polite hearing. Otherwise, thicken your skin."

To be fair, only a week before Lucas's article came out, Klaus, who is often called "Professor" by his supporters (he holds a Professorhip in Economics at the Prague University of Economics and is a prolific writer), conducted what would qualify as a "listening excercise": he answered to the reactions on his article from the Financial Times, "Global warming: truth or propaganda?" The centrepiece of Klaus's argument is that any imposed action designed to slow down global warming is restricting one's freedom and is therefore undemocratic:

"As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning."

Klaus has certainly a lot to say on the subject: his new book called "Blue, not Green, Planet: What is Endagered - Climate or Freedom" has just been published. He makes some interesting points - for example that it is hard to put a cost on the damage the climate change will have caused, as the Stern Report did, because the changing economic parametres will make the today's number illusory in just a couple of years. A good review of his book is in Reflex magazine, unfortunately in Czech. I will restrain from making any further comments myself, because I am not an expert on the climate change (even less of an expert than Klaus, who called himself an "informed layman").

But climate change is just one of the Klaus's crusades: he is a prominent critic of the European integration stretching beyond inter-governmental cooperation. He also coined the term "NGOism": unhealthy meddling of the civil society groups in politics. All three issues - climate change, Europe and proliferation of pressure groups - have a common denominator: they are undemocratic in Klaus's opinion.

Strangely, these excesses haven't hurt his public approval ratings too much. They remain consistenly high (around 75%), largely as a result of his populist stunts. Recently he headed the opposition against the modernist design of the new National Library building. The President, who resides at the Prague Castle, also cashed in on the court dispute between the state and the Catholic Church over St Vitus Cathedral, the Prague Castle's landmark.

Perhaps it would be better if our president was dull. No embarrassing news would come out, because there wouldn't be any. Then again, it is the government headed by the prime minister, not the president, who determines the actual policy. So the president is a mere prominent participant in the public debate. Moreover, with the Kaczyńskis in the neighbouring Poland on roll, one doesn't even have to feel embarrassed anymore.

But who knows, Klaus may win the climate change debate in the end. All he has to do is to change his strategy: stop blaming the socialists, blame the Martians! Expose what a menace Al Gore is. Frank Luntz, the GOP pollster, spotted that Gore was born exactly nine months after the alleged UFO landings in Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. Is this the ultimate Inconvenient Truth?

22 June 2007

Whatever happened to the single market?

The French delegation apparently managed to had changed the Reform Treaty's draft without anyone noticing, even though the document was circulated by the German Presidency on Tuesday. The clause "The Union shall establish an internal market where competition is free and undistorted", which was in the original Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (Article I-3 (2)), was replaced by "The Union shall establish an internal market".

That could be interpreted as a sop to the French voters, who are believed to have rejected the Constitution mainly on the grounds that it was paving a way for a liberal, "Anglo-Saxon" Europe. However, it could also be that Sarkozy wants to change the EU law so the Commission couldn't take the French government to the European Court of Justice over its pursuit of subsidising national industrial champions and protecting them from "hostile" mergers.

While the French amendment remains in place, the British are keen to explain that it will have no effect. If it will have no effect, why not change it back?

The EU desperately needs a much clearer commitment to creating a real common market. The "four freedoms"- free movement of goods, free movement of labour, free movement of services and free movement of capital - are not being upheld at the moment.

Not only there is restricted access to labour markets for the citizens from the new member states, but there are also plentiful barriers to an effective common market in services. The watered-down services directive is a good example of politicians' unwillingness to live up to the promise made by signing the Single European Act in the Hague 20 years ago: to create a single market.

Who is Javier Solano?

Number 10 Downing Street refers to the "EU Commission President Javier Solano" in a news item on its website. Just how did that happen?

(For those who don't happen to be EU geeks: Javier Solana is the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Commission President is José Manuel Durão Barroso.)

There is some excellent reporting on the ongoing European Council summit by Ben Brogan on his blog. Mind you, what he writes needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as The Daily Mail, his employer, is staunchly Europhobic. Mark Mardell, the BBC's EU correspondent, is equally brilliant.

The issue surrounded by most controversy so far (except of the Kaczyński's faux pas) is Sarkozy's half-spoilt attempt to change the EU's competetion law. I will write a post on it later.

21 June 2007

Support Sir Salman

Salman Rushdie was awarded a knighthood on Saturday. Britain's decision to honour Rushdie enraged the Islamic world; the harshest disapproval came from Pakistan and Iran.

The Muslim protests reminded the world of the storm which followed after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran pronounced a fatwa (death sentence) on Rushdie over alleged blasphemies against Islam in his iconic 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie has had to live under police protection ever since.

Pakistan's religious affairs minister Ejaz ul-Haq endorsed retaliatory measures on the offenders (Queen?, Britain?, all Westerners?) yesterday: "If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified."

Daniel Finkelstein, the chief comments editor of The Times newspaper, submitted a petition for the Number 10 Downing Street website that reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to accept our congratulations for recommending to the Queen that Salman Rushdie receive a knighthood.
The e-petition will appear here as soon as it is approved by Number 10. I will sign. It is important that we all show our solidarity with Sir Salman, who is not only an excellent writer but also a symbol of free speech. We must show the Islamists that the West will not surrender to blackmail and compromise its values.

Failed States Index 2007

Foreign Policy has published its annual Failed States Index. Sudan tops the list, closely followed by Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Chad.

There are three European countries in top 60: Moldova (48th place), Belarus (51st) and Bosnia (54th). The aspiring NATO member Georgia is on 58th place.

By the way, my friend Ecaterina Sanalatii has just started blogging for Transitions Online on Moldova, check it out.

18 June 2007

Labour Party deputy leadership candidates' views on Europe

The British Labour Party (now with its own channel on YouTube) is in the process of choosing the new party leadership. Gordon Brown is to become the new party leader unchallenged, as the Blairites did not manage to persuade David Miliband to run.

Brown is now touring the country with his "Gordon Brown for Britain" campaign, trying to build up a momentum before the start of his premiership. Interestingly, his campaign blog is written by Oona King. King used to be a Labour MP for Bethnal Green, an East London constituency predominantly inhabited by Bangladeshi Muslims. At the last general election in 2005, she got ousted from her seat by George Galloway, a former Labour MP and a founder of the Respect party. The whole affair was seen as particularly nasty because King, who is black and Jewish, had a little chance to shield herself from Galloway's attacks pandering to radical Islam. Nevertheless, George Galloway MP now works as a presenter for Channel 4's Big Brother, having previously been one of the contestants on the celebrity version of the show.

Paradoxically, Brown seems to have a clearer vision for Africa then for Britain. It was rather amusing to watch his last speech, where he got all worked up about providing free education for children in developing countries. Yet the banner "Gordon Brown for Britain" rather begged for outlining Brown's reforms of the British malfunctioning state education system. His policies on Europe are also a subject of much speculation among the commentators. A good analysis of Brown's probable strategy for the upcoming European Council summit is on Benedict Brogan's blog, but noone can effectively read the Chancellor's mind.

Thanks to a pamphlet produced by the resurgent Labour Movement for Europe, the deputy leadership candidates' positions on the European Union are somewhat less mysterious. The electoral process is rather complicated, with three different colleges (members, MPs and MEPs, trade unions) selecting the deputy leader and voters required to rank all the candidates according to preference.

The front runner Alan Johnson calls for a "social Europe"; so does the backbench surprise Hilary Benn (no, he is not a woman) who acknowledges that "only by working across Europe we can tackle international crime". Does that mean he supports the controversial data-sharing deal which would enable the national police forces to search the DNA databases of other EU states? Harriet Harman believes "we need improvements to internal decision making procedures to agree better priorities quicker" and Peter Hain, the former Europe Minister, welcomes the institutional reform. Hazel Blears, condemned to damnation for her consistent support of Tony Blair, reiterates her support for Turkey's membership bid and demands a more efficient common foreign policy.

Harman is happy to see the EU rebranded as an Environmental Union, a term first used by the Environment Secretary David Miliband; all other candidates also play up the EU's environmental credentials. The chief purpose of that is to bash the Conservatives, still not at ease with Europe.

Alan Johnson picks up on William Hague's efforts to create an alternative to the European People's Party-European Democrats in the European Parliament. He accuses Cameron's Conservatives of allying with "a rag bag of deranged right wingers from Eastern Europe". A rather unfair accusation if you ask me. (The Conservatives' newly launched Movement for European Reform consists of the British Conservatives, the Czech ruling Civic Democratic Party and the Bulgarian Union of Democratic Forces, which failed to get a single MEP in the last month's European elections in Bulgaria).

However, it is unlikely that Europe will play a big role in the deputy leadership election. The hottest topic seems to be re-connecting with the disenchanted and demoralised party base.