Riyadh to Brussels: A Tale of Two Womanising Kings

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King Fahd (photo: U.S. DoD)
King Fahd (b. 1923), Saudi Arabia’s ruler since 1982, died early this morning. “He had a reputation as a playboy in his youth, with allegations of womanising, drinking and gambling to excess,” the BBC writes in an obituary.

 

Belgium’s King Albert II has offered his condolences. Albert and Fahd crossed each other’s paths when they were both crown princes, but the Belgian will probably not like to be reminded of it. The new Saudi king, Abdullah, Fahd’s halfbrother, is also a friend of Albert’s, from the same period in Albert’s womanising past.

Shrewd Eurocrats Screwed Europeans

Wim Duisenberg, the 70-year old Dutch founding chairman of the European Central Bank, died today at a moment when his creation, the euro, is under threat. According to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “everybody” has been “screwed” by the euro.  Berlusconi’s statement is generally perceived as marking the beginning of the campaign for the Italian general elections of May 2006. A shrewd politician, the Prime Minister is expressing the gut feeling of many Italians.

IRA versus Jihad?

According to this week’s Economist the Sinn Féin statement announcing the end of the IRA’s armed activities was delayed so that it would not “be overshadowed by the new, more violent terror campaign being waged by jihadis on the British mainland.” Were the IRA bombs that killed civilians in pubs and shopping streets less violent than al-Qaeda’s? The only difference, as far as I can see, is that the IRA members did not believe in blowing up themselves in the process. Does that make them less violent than suicide bombers?

Guarding the Guardian

In the late 1970s, when I was living in England, The Guardian was the most Soviet friendly of all British broadsheet newspapers, constantly trying to find excuses for Soviet behaviour by implying that the West was morally at least as evil as its adversaries. Apparently The Guardian has learned no lessons from the fall of Communism in 1989.

Brussels Seems Confident That It Will Not Be Attacked

Brussels, the capital of Belgium but also of the European Union and of NATO, is not prepared for a terrorist attack. After a warning by the chief of the Brussels fire brigade that his men would never be able to cope with an attack on more than one underground station, Véronique Paulus de Châtelet, the Governor of Brussels, confirmed on Tuesday that Brussels does not have an emergency plan in case of an attack by al-Qaeda or other likeminded criminal organisations.

From Tocqueville to Sarkozy

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Alexis de Tocqueville
Nicolas Sarkozy,  the French minister of the Interior, is an atypical Frenchman. Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian father who fled Communism at the end of the Second World War, and a mother who was herself the daughter of a Greek immigrant. “I like the frame of mind of those who need to build everything because nothing was given to them,” he says when asked about his upbringing.  The experiences of his youth have made Sarkozy a pro-American Frenchman. Pro-American Frenchmen are rare although one of the greatest admirers of America of all times, Alexis de Tocqueville, was a Frenchman.

Tocqueville (1805-1859) was born 200 years ago, on 29 July 1805. He became known through his books “Democracy in America” (published in 1835 and 1840 in two volumes after a visit to the United States) and “The Old Regime and the Revolution” (a history of the French Revolution of 1789, published in 1856).

Van Gogh Murderer Retains Voting Rights

Mohammed Bouyeri, the 27-year old Dutchman of Moroccan origin who ritually slaughtered Dutch moviemaker Theo van Gogh on 2 November last year, has been sentenced to life-long imprisonment by an Amsterdam court today. The public prosecutor had also asked that the terrorist be deprived of his active and passive voting rights: the right to be elected in Parliament as well as the right to vote. The court, however, decided that this was not necessary because, considering Bouyeri’s opinions, it is unlikely that he will use these rights.

If You Love Something, Set It Free

“The European Union [...] has ceased to be completely reliable.” So says Robert Cottrell,  formerly of The Economist, a couple of days ago in The Financial Times, arguing that one has to “set the euro loose from the EU.”  According to Cottrell the strict links between the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) and thus the Eurozone should be broken. This would allow the currency to float freely and would allow countries such as Ukraine or Turkey, or even Paraguay to join the Eurozone, without joining the EU. However, there would be one strict rule governing this new free floating currency zone. No bail outs for basket cases. This all seems eminently sensible, but I did notice one small flaw in the argument. If anybody can join the ‘zone,’ then surely anybody can leave as well?

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