September 18, 2005

Who won the Cold War? Thoughts on the German Election.

Posted in Germany at 11:13 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
The Left owns political and economic Germany. That’s my opinion, anyway. By saying this, I’m not ignoring the FDP’s suprising success in today’s election. What I’m suggesting is this: Germany is in a very difficult economic situation after seven years of the SPD and Greens, a leftist coalition. Yet no amount of misery seems enough to tilt people towards trying out a more free market economy. And don’t try to convince me that the FDP’s nice 2.6% gain is a sign of that — ok, maybe it is a bit, but let’s look instead at today’s real winners: the communists. Ok, I’ll call the combo of the PDS and Lafontainists “hard-lefties” instead of communists, just to play fair. They garnered 8.7% of the vote today, surpassing the Green party in the number of seats in Parliament. That’s a 4.7% jump for the hard-lefties.

And the Green party — which you might think would be punished a bit for being part of the coalition that has governed for seven years — lost almost nothing, with a measly 0.4% turning away from them. This means that the 4.3% who gave up on Schroeder’s SPD, plus the 0.4% that left the Greens, went in one and only one direction: left. According to the projections I am looking at right now (ZDF circa 22:15, 18. September 2005), the governing coalition parties’ losses (-4.3 + -0.4 = -4.7%) are exactly the far left’s gain (+4.7%).

Think of what this really means: it’s not just the case that nobody — after years of recession — has been convinced of a need to move towards a freer marketplace. It’s much worse: 4.7% of the voting populace fled towards even more socialism.

Still not convinced that The Left owns political and economic Germany? Think, then, about the tenor of the campaign. With such a miserable economy, you would think that the governing parties would be the ones on the defensive. But that was not at all the case. They had absolutely no reason to be on the defensive, because, fundamentally, most people think the same way they do: socialism and americo-skepticism (or blatant anti-americanism).

Speaking of being on the defensive, who the heck won the Cold War? The party that is more likely to let a positive utterance about the United States slip out — the CDU/CSU — had to be on the defensive and make sure they didn’t come across as pro-American. Rephrase: the greatest democratic ally that Germany has ever had was a liability in this campaign. But I also sense that Merkel was on the defensive economically. Instead of Gerhard Schroeder — or those more Socialist than he — being on the defensive and needing to explain what happened over the last several years, the CDU needed to be careful not to offend those people who live off of the state.

Needless to say, I am unhappy with the election results. I’m sorry to say this, because I wish the Germans well, but to me this seems like Germany is even less “dynamic” — and more stagnant — than I previously thought. I might even say it seems like a “fearful” country, where the people shy away from change and are hiding under a thin and shabby security blanket that they are terrified will be yanked off of them.

September 17, 2005

The Elderly: Helpless and Left to Die. Don’t know about it? Well it didn’t happen in the USA.

Posted in France, Katrina at 9:29 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
The outrageous coverage of Hurricane Katrina here in Austria and Germany has included many references to “third world” similarities. See, for example, Ray’s blog posting concerning Stern magazine’s editorial, “Somalia in America’s South.” The sneering arrogance, the gruesome Schadenfreude and the completely over the top moralizing reminded me of something that occurred two years ago in the United States, which also elicited “third world” references.

You will recall that on August 14, 2003, an enormous power failure occurred across a huge chunk of the United States and parts of Canada. On September 5, 2003, I made the following blog entry here:

Third World?

After the blackout that hit the US and Canada, the next issue of Austria’s profil magazine contained a two-page story titled “A Bit of the Third World” and with the following eye-catching pull-quote:

Why would George W. Bush want to fix up Baghdad’s infrastructure, when there is so much to repair at home?

Clever! Whoa, that’s like really puttin’ things in perspective for me!

This “article” is not labeled as an opinion piece or guest column; it’s just an “article” in the International section of this weekly news magazine. But I’ll translate the first paragraph and you tell me if you think this “article” is actually an opinion piece written by someone who is obsessed with … you guessed it:

One thing you can always say about George W. Bush: he makes himself scarce in frightening situations. On [9/11] … he found himself in Florida and last week, as large parts of the northeast fell into darkness, he was fortunate enough to be in San Diego collecting dough for his reelection campaign, though things were looking gloomy on the other side of the american continent.

This is an opinion piece, whether or not they label it as such. It is written by Martin Kilian. I assume this is Martin Kilian, professional America-hater, who writes for Weltwoche (Switzerland).

The blackout occurred 14. August, and this Kilian “article” appeared in the 18. August issue of profil. I tell you that just to give you a bit of an idea of when one might expect an article about a major event to first appear on the newsstands.

On 11. August, Le Figaro first reported that “the heat wave is killing people” in France.

On 14. August, according to the Washington Post, French government officials reported that at least 3,000 people had died from the heat wave.

By the 21st, the Post reported that the French government had acknowledged that up to 10,000 people may have died.

On 29. August, this CNN report indicated that the toll was actually over 11,000.

Wouldn’t you say that 11,000 deaths from heat in a modern and industrialized country such as France could also be compared to the “Third World”? Okay, maybe that’s unfair — we don’t want to be like Kilian, after all. But at least it’s some pretty big news! Or is it?

The 18. August, 25. August and 1. September issues of profil, as far as I can tell, make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the heat deaths in France..

I later followed-up with a few other postings, including:

You know where I’m going with all of this… In light of the press’s treatment of the Katrina situation, it is worth revisiting their absolute silence over a nearby catastrophe — totally preventable in ways that the Katrina catastrophe was not — of almost unbelievable proportions.

When I sat down to write about this today, I realized I had not “checked the facts” since September of 2003. In much the same way that projections about Katrina’s death toll could turn out to have been wildly off, perhaps the original reports about the deaths during France’s 2003 heatwave also ended up being exaggerations.

They were not exaggerations. Eurosurveillance (“Peer-reviewed European information on communicable disease surveillance and control”), an organization that is funded by the European Commission and which, in 2005, “embarked on the process of becoming the regular scientific communication of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)”, recently published a report entitled “Summary of the mortality impact assessment of the 2003 heat wave in France.”

The analysis of death certificates given by the departmental health offices allowed InVS to produce a first estimate on 28 August of 11 435 excess deaths (excess of 55%) between 1 and 15 August 2003 [2]. On 25 September, INSERM estimated the cumulative excess deaths between 1 and 20 August at 14 800 (excess of 60%) [1].The impact was greater for women (70% increase in excess total mortality) than for men (40% increase in excess mortality)(1). This was the case even for same age groups. Excess mortality reached 20% in the 45-74 year age group, 70% in the 75-94 year age group and 20% in people aged 94 years and over [1].
INSERM also showed that during the last third of the month of August and the month of September the mortality had reached the usual level [3]. October and November 2003 showed the usual death rates in every region.


The impact was greater for women (70% increase in excess total mortality) than for men (40% increase in excess mortality)(1). This was the case even for same age groups. Excess mortality reached 20% in the 45-74 year age group, 70% in the 75-94 year age group and 20% in people aged 94 years and over [1]

[see the original for footnote references]

Paris itself experienced a disastrous 142% excess in the mortality rate, meaning more than twice the usual number of people died there between August 1 and August 19, 2003. This occurred even though the temperature delta in Paris (+6.7) was no higher than, say, Toulouse (+6.6), where the mortality rate suffered an excess of “just” 36%.

To put Paris’s numbers in a Katrina perspective: according to today’s New York Times online, the death toll in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — which, I know, will rise — stands at 812. The excess death count in Paris alone between August 1 and August 19, 2003, was more than double the current Katrina figure: 1,854. And these were deaths from heat. I don’t mean to underestimate heat, which I know can be a terrible killer of human beings. But I just don’t believe that the heat wave of 2003 can be compared to a Category 4–5 hurricane putting an entire major city under water.

These numbers from France were and are extremely tragic and sad. Yet let me tell you the following with great certainty:

Athough France is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Austria…

  • These staggering figures are basically unknown to the general Austrian public.
  • While a massive and preventable human catastrophe occurred within 800 miles of Vienna, Austria’s most significant political and news weekly magazine, profil, remained absolutely silent about it. (Note: I did not track other magazines, such as the usual German suspects Stern and Der Spiegel.)
  • Every Austrian Tom, Dick and Harry (Tomas, Richard und Harald) knows with certainty that a) the American South (thousands and thousands of miles away) just experienced a massive hurricane; b) it was George W. Bush’s fault that assistance was not as timely as it should have been; c) a major American city descended into third-world chaos; d) surely nothing similar could ever happen in Austria.

I want to close by noting something that I think is important. I realize the gruesome and somewhat catty nature of a tit-for-tat blog entry that compares and contrasts natural disasters in order to make a political point. It’s embarrassing even to discuss the French tragedy in these terms. But the overwhelming bias and arrogance displayed by the European media towards the United States should not go unanswered. The seering heat in the fever swamps of the European press offices blinds its occupants to nearby tragedies that cannot be blamed on the United States. For the sake of a hopeful, future return to sense and balance, the double-standards and hypocrisies must be exposed whenever they are as glaringly obvious as they are in the case of these two natural disasters.

[If you are interested in seeing some of the things web-accessible articles I have read in connection with Katrina, the U.S. government response, and the French heat wave of 2003, you can visit my bookmarks at]

September 13, 2005

Eye-opening quote of the day

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:36 am by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]


Poland, Holland, and the Ukraine each contributed more soldiers to the Iraq War coalition than the French did to the Korean War.

From Karl Zinsmeister, “Europe Learns the Wrong Lessons”, American Enterprise Online.

[hat tip Power Line]