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2005-08-31

NZZ discloses name of US-lawyer implicated in Viennese call girl ring scandal 

The Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which operates under a different media law than Austrian media, discloses the name [DE] of the famous US-lawyer implicated in the scandal over a call girl ring that sold young women from Eastern Europe below the age of 18 to prominent clients in Vienna (as this blog reported earlier).

According to the NZZ, the US-lawyer whose phone was tapped when he ordered several girls including a 17-year old to his Vienna hotel was Ed Fagan. His Austrian bodyguard was part of the call girl ring and has been sentenced to a prison term. Fagan represented Jewish victims of the Nazi-regime in several campaigns and court actions directed at obtaining compensation for the holocaust from the Austrian state and restitution from various institutions of property confiscated by the Nazis. He became a highly controversial figure in Austria due to his hardball-tactics and international publicity stunts.

As the NZZ reports in its article, Fagan has recently been fined independently by a New Jersey court for acting in breach of professional standards in a case he brought to that court against an Austrian bank over the restitution of property. In response to the verdict, Fagan stated that he would continue to fight "relentlessly in several human rights cases for his clients." He alone was "predestined in a unique way" to pursue these cases. He had "sacrificed family, private life and health" for these issues (quotes according to the NZZ).

Due to public pressure it seems that Austrian state attorneys will now try to bring charges against those prominent clients of the call girl ring who may have perpetrated illegal acts, as DerStandard reports [DE].

2005-08-28

[CORRECTED] Spinning labor migration: Germany vs Slovenia 

[CORRECTION 31/08/05: I liked the comparison I make in this post so much that I posted the link to it in the reader forum of the Standard-article [DE] reporting on the ongoing negotiations. Another reader then responded by saying that the facts about more Austrians working in Slovenia are a myth, and that the opposite is true. Apparently the myth was created in the early nineties by proponents of the campaign for an Austrian entry into the EU, as the painstaking analysis of the 'Slovenia myth' and its use by politicians and the media in this document [DE, pp.131-144] by the Austrian Employees Chamber plausibly documents. Accordingly, the remainder of this post collapses. Sorry.]

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As for homo sapiens austriacus, it's foreigners that make him blind. And here is the kind of blog entry that is entirely unoriginal, but absolutely necessary.

A key recent talking point of Austrian government representatives all the way up to chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel has been that the pronounced rise in Austrian unemployment is due to the influx of jobseekers from Germany. "Schüssel's pretexts" was the title of this commentary [DE] by Eva Linsinger in Der Standard. Although it is true that the number of German nationals in the Austrian labor market has been rising fast, it is still the case that more Austrians work in Germany than vice versa: 57,931 Austrians in Germany compare to 46,410 Germans in Austria, reports Linsinger. Yes, but soon there will be more Germans, says the government. Subtleties like the reminder that transnational labor mobility is a key requirement for a success of the euro have little weight in the heat of this debate, so let's not mention that.

No, for the punch-line we had to wait for Slovenian newspaper Delo's report this Saturday (quoted by DerStandard [DE]) on ongoing negotiations between the Austrian and Slovenian governments over easing the restrictions on labor mobility between the two countries. If you remember, Austria had imposed a seven-years freeze on labor mobility from the 10 new EU member states as a condition for the last EU enlargement round. Naturally, the offended newcomers replied with equal measures against Austrians jobseekers. Thing is, that is not really so good for the Austrians. At least in the case of Slovenia. Since 2001, there have been more Austrians working in Slovenia than vice versa, and more would like to follow. So the Austrians want to renegotiate. But sure there must be more Austrians working in Slovenia, says the Austrian side, after all the Austrian population (8 million) is four times as large as the Slovenian one (2 million)! What was that thing about the 80 million Germans again? So the exceptional mobility freeze against the ten new members will have to be exceptionally eased in the case of Slovenia. Naturally.

2005-08-25

Extremes of cruelty in the under class and in the upper class 

This 'quick news medium' today follows the outputs of the mass media to two current outrages. Judge for yourself whether there is any lesson in them. Be warned before reading on that the material that follows is unpleasant to deal with.

In a Hamburg court, hearings have started in the trial of the parents of seven-year old Jessica who died earlier this year. The FAZ reports [DE]:
The seven-year old girl died in an appartment in a high-rise complex in Hamburg-Jenefeld, apparently after undergoing a horrible ordeal for months. The child was kept like a prisoner. She was not allowed to leave her room, not even to go to the toilet. The windows were covered [with black plastic]. The heating did not work, there were no toys. ... Jessica suffocated on vomit when she could not take in food any longer. In her stomach, hair was found, which apparently she had eaten in desperation. The excrements were so hard that they must have caused severe pains to the girl. Jessica died on the first of March. By then she weighed only 9.6kg - as much as usually a two-year old child. Her skin was like pergament-paper.
Her mother had in earlier years already neglected and abandoned three other children. She is described by psychologists as extremely indifferent and self-righteous, and only ever held a job for three months. Her partner was not the biological father of the child. He seems to have placed a live cable in a light switch in the girl's room with the intention of killing her by electric shock. The lamps in the room were dismounted. When the girl did not enroll for primary school, the welfare office imposed a fine of 60 euros on the mother, which was never paid. Welfare officers visited the address, but there was no response when they rang the doorbell of the flat, and they never inquired further.

Turning to the Viennese upper class, Falter magazine has gained access to phone protocols assembled by the police from -- legal -- surveillance of a call girl ring operating in Vienna with young women recruited and flown into Vienna from rural Eastern Europe. The published excerpts [DE] of the customer orders are full of sadistic requests, specifically mentioning in some cases 15-year olds. According to the usually trustworthy magazine, many of the customers in the surveillance protocols are prominent members of the Austrian and international upper class, whose names must however not be published due to the legal conditions for the phone surveillance. The leading figures of the ring have in the meantime been sentenced to "short prison terms" for their threats of violence to the women and for the involvement of minors. The trafficking of prostitutes from abroad as such is legal, there are even special types of visa granted to the women in a policy designed to combat illegal prostitution. As for the customers, the article mentions famous lawyers, state attorneys, university professors, one call from the directorate of parliament, businessmen, as well as one person who seems to be uniquely identified by the description "prominent US-lawyer. During daytime, complained in front of journalists and politicians about the injustice of the world. In the evening, had several girls delivered to the Intercontinental for himself and his prominent client. ... [among them] Inga, schoolgirl from Lithuania, 17 years old."

2005-08-24

Creative Vienna? 

If you can read German, have a look at the new weblog of Christoph Chorherr, arguably one of the more creative minds in Austrian politics. He is currently campaigning for implementing Richard Florida's proposals on how to attract the Creative Class to urban regions, in this case to Vienna. The undercurrent is the Viennese election campaign, where Chorherr's task is to win over bourgeois-liberal ÖVP-voters for the Greens.

2005-08-19

Strategic parallels for the Greens in Germany and Austria 

Nobody in Germany believes any longer that SPD and Greens together will have an absolute majority in the next Bundestag that will allow them to reestablish their current coalition. Such an absolute majority seems impossible not least due to the sizeable presence that the Left Party will have in the next German parliament. Since a threeway coalition of SPD/Greens plus either the FDP or the Left Party is extremely unlikely, this means that at least the Greens are without a viable coalition option for the short term (the SPD may be hoping for a big coalition with the CDU). This in turn means that siding with one of the two big parties in a left-against-right match has little tactical value for the Greens. The German Greens need to go this campaign alone.

In Austria, the dominant scenario after the elections in 2006 is that only three parties will be serious contenders for a government role - ÖVP, SPÖ, and Greens - with FPÖ/BZÖ too small to guarantee any majority. Apart from a big coalition ÖVP/SPÖ, it is not clear which of the two small coalitions including the Greens will be arithmetically possible. Therefore, the Austrian Greens must hedge their bets and prepare for the 2006 campaign without declaring a coalition preference.

Thus the German and the Austrian Greens are in parallel situations: they both need to learn to stand alone, and prepare against the threat of erosion in a bipolar left-right contest.

For the German Greens, Joachim Raschke analysed the options and pitfalls of this situation in an interesting article [DE] for German daily taz in June (via wahltagebuch.de [DE]).
So the alternatives of campaigning based on coalitions or political camps are unavailable. A campaign on programmatics in the narrow sense, which mainly talks about instruments, is not to be recommended: the Greens are just coming out of government - performance counts before programme. The doubts over the competence of any party lead also to general skepticism towards programmes; generally, voters are more interested in values than in instruments: that is to say, values at the hand of issues, with an eye to solutions.

We live in a society that has a red-green value profile, which rejects Red-Green as a government. The main reason for this is the failure of this coalition in economics. The Greens can win only in a debate over values, which defines across the whole spectrum of values the direction in which society should move. The Greens are well-sorted in the value question (party programme and electoral programme), and they are coherent party-internally. In the field of ecological-libertarian questions, they confront the CDU/CSU and FDP as representatives of a halved modernity. The SPD is without value leadership in any field, and its electorate is torn in almost all value questions. The advantage of demanding a debate on values would consist among others in the avoidance of the coalition topic. Greens define themselves by values. Where the SPD wishes to do so, it can join up.

There will be a lot of virtual polarization in this campaign. In reality, a big alternative is missing, and what will be decisive will be to form connections.
Most of this analysis applies to the Austrian Greens as well as to the German ones, inspite of the fact that the Austrian party is in opposition. What could it mean to campaign for the general elections on values? Obviously such a strategy should not degenerate into mere waffling.

In the case of the Austrian Greens, the party programme lists the six basic values:In my view, the Greens should run the next nationwide campaign by using these values as illustrations of both their distinctness and commonality with the two big parties. The Green versions of the values of solidarity, which could maybe be paraphrased as justice, and of autonomy seem the most powerful in this respect. What exactly is the Green concept of justice, and in what ways does it suggest other priorities in tax law, or in migration policy, than either conservative or socialdemocratic models? In what ways is the Green concept of solidarity different from the traditional socialdemocratic one, and from the caritas professed by christian-democrats? What is autonomy within a modern state, and how does it apply to minorities and fringe groups? It is my believe that these Green values can be spelled out in ways that are visibly more up-to-date than either their conservative and socialdemocrat counterparts.

A clear communication of these values will provide solid foundations for 'instruments' developed in party-internal negotiations that can then either be 'connected' into the government programme of a coalition, or developed in isolation as the oppositional alternative to another round of big ÖVP/SPÖ coalitions.

The German Greens need to define and communicate this strategy - "values at the hand of issues, with an eye to solutions" - in a snap two-months campaign (watch their leaders as bloggers at blog.gruene.de); the Austrian Greens will likely have the chance to learn from the German experiences and prepare for a whole year.

Oh God, I'm a Communist 

And here is the proof, see for yourself. This at least was the result when I filled in the election questionnaire at Wahlkabine.at (via Verflixt and Zugenewst!)for the upcoming regional election in Styria. Yes, it is election season in Austria too: this autumn there will be regional elections in Styria (2.10.), Burgenland (9.10.), and Vienna (23.10.) - Wahlkabine.at has compiled questionnaires for all three regions. While in Vienna and Burgenland the SPÖ has good chances of winning an absolute majority, the outcome in Styria is hotly contested. For the first time in several decades the ÖVP might lose its first place and the post of regional governor Mrs Waltraud Klasnic (who insists on being addressed as "Frau LandeshauptMANN" rather than "Landeshauptfrau") to the SPÖ. The roster of smaller parties with realistic chances of entering the Styrian regional assembly is larger than usual. In addition to the Greens, FPÖ, and BZÖ (the latter with only slim chances), there is also a "Liste Hirschmann" of a popular ÖVP-renegade, and the communist KPÖ. The KPÖ generally contests all elections in Austria and polls somewhere between 0.2% and 0.9%, but in Styria their populist frontman Ernest Kaltenegger (interview in DerFalter [DE]) has established an unideological profile and won over 20% in the last municipal elections in regional capital Graz. Opinion polls see the KPÖ between 4% and 6% in Styria overall.

As I've now been outed as a crypto-communist, I'd like to make the following public declaration for self-purification and repentance:

2005-08-18

Church Youth and 1968 

I have become old, very old. I emphatically enjoy the cultural pessimism of conservative German daily Die Welt, as in this essay by Matthias Kamann [DE] on the occasion of the Catholic Youth Festival in Cologne these days, which features the Pope as its star-performer. Kamann celebrates the few remaining church-oriented teenagers as the last heirs to the moralist rigor of the '68er'-weirdos (no friends of Die Welt for sure):
It was not always like this: Between around 1965 and 1990, intellectually agile and critical boys and girls did not think immediately of Jugendkolping [religious youth organisation] when they were looking for energetic and interesting people of their own age. There were the youth organisations of the political parties, there were flourishing civic action groups, town newspapers, Third World groups, all the associations at the teenage-doorstep of the student and alternative movements. But little has remained of all this, and even where staying power still exists, things are homey as at the Greenpeace-kids, or aerodynamic as in the party-youth. At the same time, youth pop culture is oriented towards entertainment and consumption, and it decays more and more towards the unoriginal and boring, towards the giggling handbag-girls and the rowdy video-boys, by far not only from the underclass. Where is there still space for soul-searching conversations, for serious idealism, and for that world-revolutionary sadness that so often arrests the more thoughtful young and embellishes them?
The whole idyllic intergenerational symmetry is unfortunately ruined by fact, as commenter 'Rose' at Apocalypso [DE] points out: the catholic church youth of today couldn't care less about 68 and its critical concerns.

2005-08-17

Paul Kirchhof & More on The Attack of the German Political Blogs 

Angela Merkel has nominated Paul Kirchhof as the member of her 'competence team' responsible for finances (Stern [de], FAZ [de], TAZ [de]). He is thus her reply to SPD-finance minister Hans Eichel, although there are doubts whether the Heidelberg-academic and ex-constitutional judge Kirchhof has enough of a power base within the CDU to have a chance to become finance minister in the likely event of a Merkel-victory. Anyway, Kirchhof is an interesting man, seen as one of the best heads in German finance law. He also seems to be considered a brilliant commentator and orator, at least by the right. He is known for advocating the promotion of families in tax law, as well as for proposing a flat tax of 25% on all types of income. If you can understand German, I recommend listening to his speech to the last FDP party-congress here [de/mp3].

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As I wrote previously, the upcoming German election on September 18 is proving to be a powerful dynamiser for the German political blogosphere. While me-too-efforts sponsored by the political parties are springing up almost daily (watch the decent semi-professional lautgeben.de for announcements of the latest newcomers), it seems time to establish a subjective shortlist based on quality (all in German language).

Alan Posener, the conservative "Kommentarchef" of Die Welt am Sonntag, turns out to be an excellent blogger who -- which is rare among blogging journalists -- even has understood the concept of linking: Apocalypso

Wahlblog05 thrives on its pluralist and moderately prominent group of authors.

Against the onslaught of the (semi-)professionals, Kuechenkabinett distinguishes itself by being a good old honest grassroots effort.

2005-08-16

Welcome back - on a lighter note 

Too late for an easy break-in in my living quarters, dear English-language Viennese blog-monitoring burglars, I'm back.

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