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06/06/2005

Magazine Roundup

Tuesday 7 June, 2005

Gazeta Wyborcza | Plus - Minus | Magyar Narancs| Magyar Hirlap | The Spectator | The Economist | L`Express | The New York Review of Books | Outlook India | L`Espresso | The New Yorker | Ozon | Folio


Gazeta Wyborcza 04.06.2005 (Poland)


What to do with the constitution after the French and Dutch "no"? French Member of the European Parliament Jean-Louis Bourlanges recommends in an interview that it be buried. Asked what connection there is between the rejection of the constitution and the EU's eastward expansion, Bourlanges answers: "It's the French, not the Poles, who are guilty. We can't say after ratifying the contract for expansion that Europe would have been better without the ten new countries. That's a lie... We got scared of the Polish plumber and the low taxes in Slovakia or in the Baltic. But the real reason for fear is competition from China or India."


Plus - Minus, 04.06.2005 (Poland)


Slawomir Popowski prophesies a change in the EU's policy towards Eastern Europe in the magazine of the newspaper Rzeczpospolita: "The eastward expansion pushes Europe's borders to that of the ex-Soviet Union. As a result, and possibly independently of the will of the EU, an alternative model of integration is surfacing on the horizon of the Commonwealth of Independent States: that of Europe rather than Russia. And this model rules in Ukraine. Moldavia was a further link in the chain; Belarus, Armenia and even Azerbaijan could follow. The united Europe has no other choice than to react positively to the European desire of the post-Soviet states." The only alternative would be to build a new wall in the East and consciously hand the new democracies over to the imperial ambitions of Moscow, which would lead to a Brussels Europe and a Moscow Europe.


Magyar Narancs, 06.06.2005 (Hungary)


Balint Szlanko reports from Brussels on the upcoming EU budget debate: "It's a truly strange calculation, which gives the less developed eastern Europeans – for example the Lithuanians – proportionally less than the 'poor' Spanish, Greeks and other peoples of southern Europe, not to mention hopelessly, miserably collapsed South Belgium. Shouldn't our catch-up process be supported as a first priority? This budget will probably cement horrifying, stone age elements – such as the agricultural policy which devours 40 billion Euros annually – for a further seven years, while other, urgently necessary innovations – such as an increase in spending on research and development of a reform of regional policy – will be ignored in order to facilitate the agreement. That is the actual problem of this budget, not the one tenth percent that Hungary, among others, is bitterly fighting for."


Magyar Hirlap, 02.06.2005 (Hungary)

For journalist Andras Sztankoczy, the constitutional debacle in France and the Netherlands represents an opportunity to finally recognise the lack of democracy in the EU: "European integration could only get so far without involving the people. After many years, they were finally asked a question about the EU. Of course they took this as an opportunity to answer all those questions that were not previously asked. These pent-up no's contributed to a negative result. The majority of Europeans would like a greyer Europe with fewer differences in assets and fewer immigrants who, for many Europeans, are seen to prove the hypothesis that by reducing homogeneity, one also reduces solidarity. That may not be nice of them, and it's possible that the old Europe can never be reproduced anyway. But the people have a right to their mistakes and prejudices and they have the right to feel that the tempo that was set in the last years was too fast."


The Spectator, 04.06.2005 (U.K.)

The French model of the EU lies in shambles. Now the time has come for England to show the world the way, proclaims Anthony Browne. A little more restraint is called for, the EU should understand itself primarily as an economic space. "There is a huge appetite among Europeans to ditch the one-size-fits-all philosophy, to swap the pretensions of a United States of Europe for more national democracy, to decentralise rather than harmonise, to enjoy a flexible diversity of countries experimenting with policies to find what works rather than entrenching worst practice."

In the lead article, Editor in Chief Boris Johnson makes a similar point: "When Britain takes on the EU presidency, we should propose a programme of reform: hacking back the CAP, axing the stock-destroying fisheries policy, allowing all countries to opt out of the Social Chapter and pushing on with the accession of Turkey." At some point, "maybe in a few centuries", the free market might give rise to common policy.


The Economist, 03.06.2005 (U.K.)

The Economist asks who we have to thank for the French and Dutch "No". Perfidious Albion! It's hard not to read the failure of the EU constitution as the successful fulfilment of the strategic planning that has been going on in Great Britain in the last 20 years. But what exactly was this strategy? "A key part of the European game is that all sides must always justify their policies by reference to the noblest ideals. That is why the purest statement of Britain's European strategy is to be found not in any official document, but in an old television show, Yes Minister, which was a favourite of Mrs Thatcher's. In an episode from 1980, Sir Humphrey, the feline civil servant, explains to his bewildered minister: 'Britain has had the same foreign-policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe.' Enlargement of the European club, he adds, is the key: 'The more members it has, the more argument it can stir up, and the more futile and impotent it becomes.' Any resemblance between a 25-year-old comedy show and real life is, of course, entirely coincidental."


L'Express, 02.06.2005 (France)

Adam Michnik, former dissident and current publisher of the Gazeta Wyborcza, explains the French 'non' in an interview: "The expansion of the EU was a good thing but I don't want to underestimate the psychological shock. In the eyes of the French, we do not belong to the West. We are barbarians (he laughs). Paradoxically the Poles in France were more popular there before the EU expansion. Today we are the victims of an alliance of right wing nationalists and leftist sovereigntists who think that world revolution is approaching. I regret saying it, but we must slow down the further growth of Europe. If a car breaks down, one must first inspect its motor." Michnik turns against a particular vision of Europe in France: "Jacques Chirac defended the constitution as the best means of opposing the American model. And I thought that Europe had developed as a model to oppose totalitarianism!"

"All religions are hostile to women, without exception," asserts writer Taslima Nasreen in an interview on the occasion of the annual world education week. "They oppose the freedom and the rights of women, who they oppress with the same claims that culture, conventions and patriarchal systems do. I refer to Islam in particular, because it opposes democracy, human rights and the emancipation of women. In Islamic countries, the situation is worse than elsewhere because there is no clear distinction between religion and the state. The law is rooted in the religion and that is the source of all evil for women."


The New York Review of Books, 23.06.2005 (USA)

Elizabeth Drew takes the affair surrounding the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff as an occasion to examine money and politics in Washington. The FBI and two senatorial committees are investigating Abramoff, who has financed expensive trips for Republican Congressman Tom DeLay, worked for cleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, received money in the 80s from the South African secret service for his think tank, and finally fleeced six Indian tribes of 66 million dollars: "Abramoff's behavior is symptomatic of the unprecedented corruption - the intensified buying and selling of influence over legislation and federal policy - that has become endemic in Washington under a Republican Congress and White House. Corruption has always been present in Washington, but in recent years it has become more sophisticated, pervasive, and blatant than ever."

Ian Buruma praises the translation of Yasunari Kawabata's grandiose Asakusa novel, which has now appeared in English with the title "The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa". Asakusa was the Montmartre of Tokyo, where the lifestyle of "ero, guro, nansensu" – eroticism, grotesque, nonsense – flourished until it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1923: "The novel is not so much about developing characters as about expressing a new sensibility, a new way of seeing and describing atmosphere: quick, fragmented, cutting from one scene to another, like editing a film, or assembling a collage, with a mixture of reportage, advertising slogans, lyrics from popular songs, fantasies, and historical anecdotes and legends. There is much ero, guro, nansensu there".


Outlook India, 13.06.2005 (India)

Abhijeet Sen reviews Thomas Friedman's book "The World Is Flat – A Brief History of the Globalised World in the 21st Century". For Sen it is a very readable, if only moderately original essay with a few bright moments – for example when Friedman traces the worldwide production and supply chains that created his Dell computer. Otherwise, a lot of positivism, which does not fail to provoke contradiction. "Also, some of what Friedman glorifies—how computers track employees on trucks to different Wal-Mart stores, for instance—could almost be Orwellian," Sen writes. Flat though the world may be, Friedman's perspective remains American.
See Magazine Roundup of May 31 for Adam Leszczynski's take on the book in Gazeta Wyborcza.

Zoroastrianism is an antique religion, but it hardly plays a role outside the city boundaries of Mumbai, writes Saumya Roy. At least that was how things were for a long time. For some years, however, congregations of Zoroastrians, or Parsis, as they are called, have been forming internationally – in Sweden, Russia, Brazil and the USA. This has caused much resentment among the traditional congregations, however – as the new members are often not considered true Parsis by the Zoroastrian world alliance, and also because a lot of money in the religion's Indian trust funds is at stake.


L'Espresso, 09.06.2005 (Italy)

Author and globalisation critic Naomi Klein sees the torture of prisoners as a means used by the authorities to keep the upper hand in the war on terror. Terror against terror. The winner is the one who eventually manages to instil the greatest amount of fear among his enemies. "As an instrument for information gathering, torture is insignificant. But as a means of gaining control, then there's nothing like it."

In his regular column "Minerva's handbag" Umberto Eco writes a very personal reminiscence of French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. Eco considers the Palestinian Authority's removal of the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion" from its website as a posthumous victory for the tireless ethicist. In the cultural pages, Monica Maggi is delighted at the large Klimt exhibition in the Musee Maillol in Paris, above all because of the more than 120 nude and erotic drawings.


The New Yorker, 13.06.2005 (USA)

The homosexual American author Edmund White writes the delightful tale of how he learned to love women. "When a woman falls in love with me, I feel guilty. I am convinced that it’s pure obstinacy that keeps me from reciprocating her passion. As I explain to her that I’m gay, it sounds, even to me, like a silly excuse; I scarcely believe it myself. In the past, when homosexuality was still considered shameful, I was slow to confess my desires to anyone—which made my reluctance to return women’s affections seem all the more ill-natured: Who was I to reject an honest woman’s love? Was what I was holding out for so much better?"


Ozon, 02.06.2005 (Poland)

Andrzej Stasiuk has been to Hell and back! After travelling around Slovakia, the Polish author describes the Sinti-Roma settlement in Rudnany: "Here nothing is beautiful. That is what Hell looks like, an inhabited Hell. Thousands of Roma live here in a settlement that is a wonder of improvisation. The huts of mud and straw look as if any gust of wind or burst of rain could pull them down. It is inhabited by people who have nothing, a place where nothing is to be had. Never have I seen such a hellish place, and one where life is lived in seeming normality." Stasiuk is shocked that these people are basically superfluous, and mean nothing to anyone outside their settlement. Yet their numbers are so great that soon they will be the majority in Slovakia. Then Poland will have the first Gypsy state as a neighbour, Stasiuk writes.

In an interview, writer Herta Müller speaks about her literary settling of accounts with the provincialism of her homeland of Siebenburgen in Romania, which has never worked through its fascination with National Socialism, and her experience under communism, commenting on how until today these subjects condition her otherness in the land of her forefathers. "I have my theme, or rather: the theme has me. And if it weren't that way, I wouldn't write at all. What do I get from it when people suggest other themes? Writing's like buying shoes. I can try the brown ones on, but in the end I always buy the black ones."


Folio, 06.06.2005 (Switzerland)


California! It stands for Freedom, creativity and chaos. It is colourful, unusual, and above all – very un-Swiss! A dossier on California would be unthinkable without a portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gundolf S. Freyermuth already sees in him the president of the United States. For Freyermuth, Schwarzenegger is a clever, strong-minded strategist who knows what he wants and how to get it. "When visiting the very centre of Republican power in the White House, he felt neglected. He didn't even get a present! On his way through the west wing to the exit, he looked up at a bust of Abraham Lincoln, the President who led our nation through the Civil War into modernity. 'Well, if you don't get a present,' he said to the astonished onlookers, 'you take one.' He pulled old Abe from his pedestal and turned to leave. The secret service agents didn't know what to do. At least that was what the Los Angeles Times reported. Did the 38th governor of California want to force them to wrestle the bust from him? Arnold's Californian entourage, by contrast, was familiar with his sense of humour. Chief of staff Patricia Clarey laughed until the tears ran down her face. Happy with his jest, he turned and put the president back up on his pedestal."

The crowning touch is Duftnote, Luca Turin's column on fragrances. Much to the reader's pleasure, Turin describes in disgust which forms the vulgar can take in perfume (and in music): the medley or the duet. "The fragrances of the love-duet are ultimately based on a mistake. At its inception, the wonderful 'Angel' (by Thierry Mugler) was virginally tempting, with white petals in connection with a broad-chested oriental bass. However 'Angel' was not a duet but a transvestite, a ravishing blond with a five o'clock shadow and depraved laugh. Chanel, inspired by 'Angel', attempted to come up with a less notorious alternative and mixed 'Allure' and 'Héritage pour homme' by Guerlain. The result was 'Coco Mademoiselle', an unexpected success. But the fragrance which is so impressive at first is soon tiresome. As opposed to 'Angel', it smells sweetish and boyish at the same time, like running shoes with high heels, or an all-terrain vehicle on the way to school."
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