Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

German election results may mean stronger US-German alliance

Posted by sanityinjection on September 28, 2009

This weekend’s elections in Germany returned conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to power with a major difference: Instead of being stuck in an odd-couple “Grand Coalition” with the rival center-left Social Democrats, a strong showing by the free market Free Democrats will alow Merkel to assemble a more traditional center-right governing coalition.

This could be a positive development as far as the US-German alliance is concerned.  With British Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown widely expected to give way to Conservative David Cameron in the next British election, this sets up a situation where Britain, France and Germany will all have center-right governments.

At first glance, one might think that this might cause difficulties given that US President Obama comes from the center-left. But in fact, one of the hallmarks of the center-right in these three countries is that they tend to be more supportive of US policies generally, especially in the military arena. Gone are the days when Germany under Social Democrat Chancellor Schroeder was a vocal opponent of US policy in Iraq. 

In fact, the Free Democrats – who will inherit the key post of Foreign Minister in Merkel’s new government – are if anything more pro-US even than Merkel’s own party. They look to America as the model for the free market reforms they wish to see implemented in Germany, while also advocating the use of German military power abroad in support of its NATO allies. This could reap benefits for the US in Afghanistan, where the Social Democrats had been decidedly unenthusiastic about increasing the German mission there.

The one area that could become a sticking point is the issue of Turkish entry into the European Union – something the US supports as a way of anchoring Turkey firmly in the pro-Western camp. The outgoing Social Democrats strongly supported this as well, but the new government is more likely to oppose it along with France and Italy. The US fears this that EU rejection could drive Turkey into closer ties with Islamic states such as Iran.

Ironically, improved relations with Germany (not that they have been that bad) come at the same time that countries of Eastern Europe that have been staunch US allies are beginning to question their stance, after the embarrassing  reversal by the Obama Administration on missile defense that left the Czechs and Poles feeling betrayed. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania have been strongly supportive of the US since the end of the Cold War when French and German support was lukewarm. We may now be witnessing a full reversal of that dynamic as Eastern Europe asks the US, “What have you done for us lately?”


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Polanski arrest reveals European sleaze

Posted by sanityinjection on September 28, 2009

One of the biggest news stories in Europe this weekend was the arrest of famed movie director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on a 30-year-old arrest warrant from the United States. More interesting than the arrest itself is the reaction of those on the continent falling all over themselves to come to Polanski’s defense.

Many readers know Polanski as the justly acclaimed director of award-winning films such as “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”, and more recently, “The Pianist”. Some may also recall that Polanski was struck by tragedy in 1969 when his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the followers of Charles manson. However, readers may not be aware that in 1977 Polanski was arrested in California and charged with rape and sodomy of a child, after he drugged and molested 13-year-old model Samantha Gailey. Polanski, knowing his goose was cooked, wisely agreed to a plea deal in which those charges were dismissed in return for Polanski’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor (statutory rape.) However, before he could be sentenced, Polanski fled the country and has been a fugitive from US justice since then, while continuing to be a celebrated movie director in Europe and even in Hollywood.

Polanski is being held in a Swiss prison pending a formal request for his extradition to the US. Amazingly, Europeans including the Foreign Ministers of France (Polanski’s adopted home) and Poland (his native country) are calling for him to be released on bail.  Riiight, because he couldn’t possibly be a flight risk now could he? France’s foreign minister called the arrest a “bit sinister”, and the French Culture Minister said, “there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.” Seriously? Bringing pedophile rapists to justice is “sinister” and “scary”?

Others are spreading the rumor that the arrest was motivated by pressure from the US or that Switzerland is trying to curry favor with the US. This is ridiculous for anyone familiar with Switzerland, which is famous for its rigid application of the letter of the law regardless of who benefits or suffers. You’d be hard pressed to find a country more devoted to law and order this side of Singapore.

Here’s what the French film community had to say:

It seems inadmissible … that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him.

In other words, how dare anyone try to enforce the law when artists are busy telling each other how wonderful they are, which is clearly much more important? European and other celebs are also upset because Polanski was nabbed in the oh-so-posh resort town of Gstaad. They are undoubtedly concerned about what other flagrant crimes (i.e., drug use) they are no longer going to be able to get away with in their Swiss playground.

Finally, we have this statement from the Polish Filmmakers’ Association:

“[Polanski has] atoned for the sins of his young years. He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood.”

While there is some truth to this, if it’s so compellingly obvious, why not face the music and let the courts decide whether Polanski has been punished enough? In fact, Polanski has actually had the nerve to file (in absentia of course) to have his case thrown out of court. As if a fugitive from justice deserves any consideration from the court system!

In fact, Polanski’s stubborn refusal to face justice like a mortal human being -coupled with the European attitude that a great artist (which in fairness he is) should be allowed to rape anybody he wants is exactly why this case has never died. The success of “The Pianist” in 2002 angered the Justice Department which renewed its push for Polanski’s arrest starting in 2005. Had Polanski simply returned to face the music voluntarily years ago, it is likely that his age (he is 76), questions about improper procedure in the original court case, and the testimony of his victim (who just wants the whole thing to be over with after settling with Polanski out of court years ago), would have led to leniency.

But Polanski has never expressed any genuine contrition or acknowledgement that what he did was wrong. So like O.J. Simpson, he has become an example of how the rich and famous manage to avoid justice. As such, there will be calls to make an example of him.

One last thought – How do you think the thousands of registered sex offenders in the US – many of whom are guilty of nothing more than consensual sex with their underage girlfriends – must feel watching Polanski celebrated and fawned over in Europe while they can barely get a job or live within half a mile of a school?

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

European hypocrisy on Guantanamo knows no bounds

Posted by sanityinjection on January 26, 2009

I am sure my readers will recall the drumbeat of voices from our “friends” in Europe urging the US to close our prison complex at Guantanamo Bay. A truly enlightened society, they explained to us, would treat terrorists more humanely. Besides, they reminded us, we probably scooped up some innocent people by mistake who now can’t exonerate themselves because they don’t have access to the US judicial system.

President Bush’s standard answer to our European betters was to point to the giant smoking hole that now sits where the World Trade Center used to be and imply wordlessly that if terrorists had reduced the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben to ashes, there would almost certainly be grim interrogations quietly going on at Diego Garcia and Reunion. (OK, that’s poetic license. I’m sure Dubya doesn’t actually know where Reunion is.)

But now, since last week, we live in a kinder, gentler, Obamiffier America. The new President’s first act was to order that Guantanamo be closed within 1 year’s time, delighting our European allies. And, to be fair, Gitmo has become such a lightning rod for criticism, that he’s probably right to do so.

Of course, closing Gitmo creates a new problem: What do we do with the detainees? Our civilian jails are not secure enough, and our other military prisons not spacious enough to hold them. One solution is to repatriate them to the countries they came from. But some of those countries have pretty sorry human rights records themselves, and the detainees from those countries can legitimately claim that they could face real abuse if we send ’em back.

So the US said to our European “friends”: OK, if you think we are abusing our detainees, why don’t *you* take them in as refugees? At least the ones from 7 countries that can’t be repatriated.

Do you want to guess how Europe reacted? That’s right. They paid lip service to the idea, waited until Obama actually signed the order to close Gitmo, then started saying things like:

“Yes, of course this is risky. So we have to think about each case, and not to accept anything or anyone easily. It will be a long process. [France will take detainees] under extreme, precise conditions only. Legally this is difficult. Each of the 27 nations, they have different positions and different legal frameworks to accept or to refuse such people.” – Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister

“Nobody is hot about it, that’s perfectly true.” – Czech Foreign Minister

Basically, what the European countries are now saying is that they will only take detainees that aren’t terrorists:

Oh good, yeah, ’cause we got so many of those. Thanks a heap. If they weren’t terrorists, we wouldn’t still be keeping them at Guantanamo! See how that works now?

It remains the sad truth that Europe’s habitual nature is to prefer sniping at US solutions to problems over contributing to better solutions. We’re not perfect over here in America, God knows, but at least we don’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that problems will resolve themselves if we just ignore them hard enough.Well, OK, when we listen to what our European friends say, we do. You want to know what happens when the US doesn’t “act unilaterally” and relies on European diplomacy to solve problems? Rwanda. Darfur. Somalia. Congo. Not a track record to be proud of.

I hope that Secretary of State Clinton is having the phrase “Put up or shut up” translated into French.

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Sorry, Europeans: No more lingerie ads for you

Posted by sanityinjection on September 5, 2008

In the latest outbreak of idiocy among our European cousins, the Women’s Rights Committee of the European Union has proposed banning any advertising “deemed to portray women as sex objects or reinforce gender stereotypes.

Speaking in the European parliament in favor of the proposal, Swedish member Eva-Britt Svensson urged European nations to use existing equality, sexism and discrimination laws to control advertising, and to create new regulatory bodies to monitor ads and introduce a “zero-tolerance” policy against “sexist insults or degrading images”.

It’s no wonder so many Europeans think the EU is a waste of space if this is what they spend their time and money on. I mean, is this really the biggest problem facing Europe today? Heck, most Europeans have a far less Puritan attitude toward sexuality than we Americans do anyway. Britain already has something called the Advertising Standards Authority, and even they said “Although the ASA supports the overall objectives of the report… the approach suggested is inflexible and impractical.”

It would be easy enough to dismiss this silliness, if it weren’t for the absolute *certainty* that there are morons in the US who would not hesitate to propose the same idiocy here. Speaking for myself, I often am disgusted by TV and print advertising that I find pointlessly sexualized.  It would be nice if they would hold themselves to a higher standard, just as it would be nice if magazines like Vanity Fair actually considered whether it was appropriate to feature 15-year old Miley Cyrus gratuitously naked, regardless of the artistic pedigree of the photographer. However, the tastelessness of these materials does not even come close to rising to the level of warranting government censorship of the media.

I agree that the over-sexualization of teenage girls is a bad thing, but if those girls’ parents were doing their jobs properly, there would be no problem. If we want to criminalize this behavior, I would suggest the focus should be not on the media but on those parents who, like Billy Ray Cyrus in the case mentioned above, shamelessly pimp out their daughters’ bodies in the media. On the other hand, you can’t reasonably prohibit a lingerie brand like Victoria’s Secret from advertising their product with an image of an adult model actually wearing it, provided the images are not blatantly obscene. There is a difference between being sexy to sell a perfume and being sexy to sell children’s toothpaste.

Posted in Current Events, Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »