Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Great Easter Robbery!


The thief (or thieves) absconded with about half the valuables and the crime scene showed the destructive nature of the raid. This crime, like so many, left in its wake a victim in distress and an Easter day a little less full.

 Whilst no clear evidence identified the thief, members of the local Fox family were under suspicion though others were pointing fingers in the direction of the Pine Martins. The only thing investigators could be sure of was that the evidence of the tin foil rapping and the overturned nest, that had once been an Easter bundle of chocolate eggs, showed the thief had had time for a midnight feast. Further investigations concluded that approximately half the painted hard boiled eggs had been taken during the night and it was noted that no egg shells could be seen indicating that they had been removed from the scene.

The Easter Rabbit was unavailable for comment but local political opinion was split on the affair. The FPO representative tried to blame foreign Pine Martins, whilst the OVP spokesperson said that Foxes need to be integrated into the community and the new 24 year old Minister would address the matter as soon as he’d finished college. The Green spokesperson called for the Easter Rabbit to be prosecuted for littering the countryside and the SPO representative suggested forming a committee to investigate better planning of future Egg Hunts.

An unnamed source close to the incident suggested that putting eggs out overnight in a garden in the countryside might not have been the best policy of the Easter Rabbit. Rumours suggest that next year the Easter Rabbit may be employing local hunters as bodyguards, as well as deploying minefields and CCTV cameras.

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Filed under Festivals, Out and about in Lower Austria, Vienna Life, Wildlife

What future for the Conservatives?


The newly elected People’s Party (ÖVP) leader Michael Spindelegger has swiftly reshuffled the ÖVP ministerial team. Some commentators (and the FPO) are describing the changes in the ÖVP leadership as a shift to the left. The new leader and his team will need to make a rapid impact with the Party’s support now hovering just above 20% in the polls leaving them in third place.

Discussions about the ÖVP remained focused upon whether it can reconnect with urban Austrian or will it become a smaller Party representing its rural core areas. Interestingly some papers have been talking recently about the potential for a new Party to enter the Austrian political landscape as opinion polls suggest that up to 20% of voters could be attracted to a more ‘social liberal’ option. However political scientists are also pointing out that, in smaller numbers, other voters would be attracted to a ‘business Party’ and that another section of the electorate to a more distinctively left learning grouping, in short its sound s as though none of the Parties have a strong appeal beyond their current core support which is generally shrinking – leaving a lot of space for potential political change?

New ÖVP ministerial team summarised in the Austrian Times:

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-04-19/32469/Spindelegger_presents_new_team_of_%D6VP_ministers

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

Forza Viola for the Cup!


Another first this afternoon, I’m off to see my first Austrian Football cup match. Austria Wien is hosting Austria Lustenau in the quarter finals. Austria Lustenau is currently third in the Austrian 1st League table and as it happens I recently saw them beaten 3:0 by First Vienna in a league match.

H is coming with me for the game, also her first cup match and first Austria Wien game in this second half of the season. We will off course be watching the game with C and the rest of our little group of Wien regulars but I’m told that for cup matches, such as this, the crowd is likely to be small.

Given the difference in the quality of the two teams this should be a home win but cup games can throw-up surprises. However, we’ll head for the ground expecting nothing less than a win for Austria Wien.

Last weekend’s league match against Mattersburg was the first occasion since my return to Austria that the team have lost a home match with me in attendance. It was a frustrating game with the opposition creating only two chances (scoring 1 goal) and collecting 7 yellow cards. Once gain watching Mattersburg I was struck by just how big a team they are. Not one of the players was less than 6’2 and they are officially the tallest team in Europe. Their coach, I understand, claims that this was not a deliberate transfer policy strategy. Despite losing Austria Wien remain top of the league.

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A glimpse of Roman life – Carnuntum


Sitting by the Danube River, at about the half way point between Vienna and Bratislava, is the site of the Roman City of Carnuntum. An important location within the Empire, part of the City has been brought back to life with the reconstruction of a small number of Roman buildings on the original site.

Combined with an excellent visitor’s centre, the reconstructed Roman buildings provide a wonderful opportunity for young and old alike to gain a sense of what living in the Roman world would have been like. Testament to this was H and her friends (all eight or under) abandoning the climbing frames to return to the reconstructions to ‘play Romans’. They were the ones who insisted that the adults wait whilst they listened to the video presentations on the history of the settlement and life in the Roman Empire. My adult companions also took a genuine delight in wandering around the site and I found myself drawing on the depths of my knowledge as the walking through the buildings inspired them to more and more probing questions.

The highlight of the day for young and old was oddly enough Roman central heating. The discovery that the under floor fires were actually lit caused a great deal of discussion and excitement. This grew further as we entered the building which was wonderfully warm and everyone in our party knelt down to touch the warm floor. As we moved through the room everyone was fascinated by the two bath rooms, one with a cold bath and the other with warm water. Whilst not quite real life, this ability to touch and feel the past created additional interest in the more traditional sights such a excavated stone walls and historical descriptions of the Roman world.

 As the site is located in wine country we ended our trip with a visit to a Heuriger for a little light food and of course a glass of wine. The consensus in our party was that, all in all, it had been a very enjoyable day for young and old.  

http://www.carnuntum.co.at/?set_language=en

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Filed under Austrian History, Austrian Roman History, Out and about in Lower Austria, Vienna Life

New Leader


The Austrian Peoples Party (Austrian Conservatives) has a new leader:

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-04-14/32323/Spindelegger_takes_over_from_Pr%F6ll

Just heard this morning, on FM4, that he intends to shake up the leadership team but remains committed to the Coalition government.

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Time to join the Liberal Democrats? (If you’re a liberal living in Great Britain that is)


Looking in from the outside these days, British and particularly Liberal politics is clearly going through a period of significant and dynamic change.

The Liberal Democrats have had (and are still trying) to adjust to the realities of going from a party of protest to a party in power. To me, this process has also opened up the question (beyond the late night activist drinking debates and occasion think tank paper) as to the nature of the Party and what is the Liberal tradition.

For some Party members and the wider public this debate is bring to the fore, for the first time, just how much ideologue and principles underpin the Liberal Democrats (despite the odd, highly regrettable, pledge breaking trade off with the Tories for other policy gains). Even at a superficial level the newspapers have been talking about Orange book and Yellow book Liberals. Read the more in depth articles and the Liberal blogs and there you have the social Liberals arguing with the (left) radical Liberals, arguing with the (left) libertarian Liberals, hammering at the (right) libertarian Liberals, getting irritated by the classical Liberals, in turn being frustrated by the centrist Liberal democrats, while they for their part try to make sense of green Liberals. But each of these strands forms part of the ideological traditions which have shaped the Party. They have coexisted, intermingled and been sustained through members support for particular Party policies, Party groupings and approaches such as community politics.

For the Party and individual members committed to a rational and practical approach to politics the switch from opposition to government means having to address some painful realities about the contradictions and challenges within the different strands of Liberalism. But they are strands not separate ideologies and most individuals, as well as the Party, draw their personal programme from a range of these traditions. For instance, I tend to describe myself as a radical, social and green Liberal, but faced with looking at the Party not in opposition but in government I’m discovering how radical compared to social or social compared to green I am in this current economic climate.

The present debate around the Party’s identity has gone through the usual ‘is it or should it be’ on the centre left or in the centre (and occasionally even argued slightly to the ‘centre right’)? The press and opponents (and even Party members) like to simplify this first by phrasing the question as nearer Labour or the Tories. This was particularly the case in the early months of the coalition. Now the debate seems to be returning to the assertion that most Party members eventually make which is that they and the Party are Liberal, progressive (and concerned about poverty, fairness and individual freedom). Oddly, given the loss of distinctiveness in the early days of entering government, the real advantage now of being in government (even a coalition with the Tories) is that for the Party has the potential to be defined by its own core principles for the first time in post war Britain. The problem to overcome is that in many countries it’s the junior partner in a coalition that struggles to gain credit for its influence and can end up taking the blame for unpopular decisions.

The existence of such ideological Liberalism (rational & practical in all its forms) really has been a bit of a surprise to many in the outside world, who had always thought that the Lab/Tory accusation of ‘muddled middle with no roots’ had more than a grain of truth in it. However, unlike the other ‘big’ parties (who in most other political systems would have split into their separate and very different component parts long ago) the Lib Dems are in the main a coalition of Liberal traditions and community activism.

This mix of Liberal thinking is a strength and defining characteristic of the Lib Dems in Britain. This becomes very clear when you sit in a country in which these traditions are split and submerged within Parties across the political spectrum. In or out of government, whether for or against a particular policy, if you believe in progressive rational politics then a vibrant Liberal party encompassing the breadth of the Liberal tradition is something worth having and enriches the body politic.

With elections on the horizon, major policy arguments in the coalition, as well as the Party beginning to look outwards again, there has in recent weeks been a notably increase in discussion about the value of the Lib Dems, why you really should join (rejoin), and the positive impact the Party is having in government. Below is a cross section of such articles:

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/04/liberal-democrats-conservative

http://www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com/

http://richardkemp.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/i%e2%80%99m-proud-to-be-a-%e2%80%98cleggista%e2%80%99/

http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-why-labour-members-should-defect-to-the-liberal-democrats-23752.html

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/julianastle/100083736/reports-of-the-lib-dems’-death-have-been-greatly-exaggerated/

And Simon Hughes view on the coalition reported today:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coalition-is-practical-agreement-2267684.html

And finally an interesting observation on the direction of the Labour Party:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/14/gillian-duffy-labour-mascot

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Filed under Politics, UK Politics

You think AV is complicated? Just round up some 8 year olds…


Ok you really think AV is complicated, don’t worry help is at hand. For your homemade AV crash course you’ll need two or three eight year olds friends (more if you’ve got a lot of energy) with a passionate desire to have fun together. Now add your run of the mill Theme Park and probably a bank loan (if there’s a bank that will to lend you some of the money we’ve given them).

Right now put all the above ingredients together, stand back and observe. For maximum understanding its best to let the kids have a whole day at the Park, this will provide more sufficient empirical evidence but actually is more about fun for the kids – payback for being guinea pigs in your educational experiment.  What you will observe is the kids continuously ordering their ride preferences in that complicated AV away of numbering things 1, 2, 3.  Votes are rapidly accounted and preferences transferred all to achieve the most democratic outcome or as they put it ‘having the best day’ possible. So accomplished is your average 8 year old at this form of voting that they will apply it to other group decision making activities such as choosing drink and food preferences. What’s more in no time at all you’ll find yourself participating in this voting system with no problem at all – until of course dictatorship is reasserted and one grown-up one vote says time for home.

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Filed under Politics, UK Politics, Vienna Life