Thank you M.

The is a cashier Bonus in Kringlan who always bags things up for me. Like they do it in America. Also, she goes the extra mile to talk English to foreigners. She always says “Good Morning”, and she always says “Good Bye”, too. I don’t know if she is always happy, but at least she smiles for the customers.

Somehow, this assistant definitely makes an effort to make you feel better. And you really do feel better, when you hand money to someone and get the feeling that your cash is appreciated. I don’t say I always and deliberately choose the queue that this cashier serves at, that would be creepy. But I’m always glad if thing turn out that way.

Maybe no one, here in Iceland work in commerce for long, because they don’t think they are being appreciated. And maybe the owners  do not realize not realize how much a good salesman/saleswoman brings in, at the end of the day. That’s why I want to say: “Happy Commerce Holiday” to all you sales people. An especially to that you lady in Bonus in Kringlan. The one that always bags things up for me.

An Open Letter to Gouda Cheese

Note to international users: I wrote this piece when the main Icelandic cheese maker decided to change the name of their Gouda cheese to Góðostur (Goodcheese).

Dear Gouda cheese.

I see that you are changing your name and yout want to be called be called Góðostur (Goodcheese) from now on. Congratulations on that! Everyone has the right to call themselves what they want. You publish your name-changing application in the papers. In the field “reasons for application” you write:

“It was beginning to be kind of silly to have a foreign name, since I’m actually pure Icelandic.”

Why did you like that, my dear cheese? What made ​you feel silly? Has anyone been making fun of your name? Have you been reading any blogs? Have you been listening to a lot of call-in radio shows?  By all means, I’m not telling you what you are allowed to call yourself, it’s your choice, but I really hope you did not consider yourself to be somewhat worse of cheese, just because you had a foreign name. And if that is really what you think, then please, don’t spread that message.

I must say that I felt uncomfortable when I read your explanation for the name change. Many Icelanders have foreign names and I do not think we should be spreading the view in the press that these names are silly, or that it is silly for that Icelanders to have them. No name is silly unless someone finds it silly. And really, no one should say that someone else’s name is silly. That’s just silly.

Someone designed this ad for you, my dear cheese, and probably they meant no harm. But I want to tell you, just to clean the atmosphere between us, that I felt sad, and slightly uncomfortable, when I read your clarifications on your name change in the papers. But I will not be angry with you, my dear Góðostur. You are, after all, just a cheese. I can’t be known for being angry with a cheese.

“Still whining about the Holocaust”

Professor Stefán Ólafsson professor writes strange article on his website, where he wonders why some people still want to speak communism being bad policy . I mean what is it with these people, it was two whole decades ago !

Stefan says among other things: “One would have thought , that this ghost had been put to rest in our part of the world , with the collapse of Soviet System aronund 1990. Many supporters of communism in the West had in fact abandoned ship long before that. the. The time of communism seemed very much over.” [Translation: PB]

Then follows a failed imagery of a communism ghost that libertarians are supposedly raising from the dead to direct attention away from  how bad capitalism is. Stefán Olafsson adds:

But why are radical libertarians , such as Thor Whitehead and Hannes Hólmstein, writing history and picture books about long dead ideology ? Or holding conferences and Tea Parties to discuss crimes committed to 70 to 100 years ago?

They even got the fair and pleasant Egill Helgason to pour tea at the séances today. ” [Note: Egill Helgason is a popular Icelandic TV talk show host.]

Seventy to one hundred years ago? So what, from 1912 to 1942 ? Is that communism’s evil period ranges according to Stefan Olafsson ? The communism hadn’t even began to spread communism round the world back then . What about all the purges at the end of World War II ? Occupation of the Baltic States ? Coups and electoral frauds in Eastern Europe? Invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 ? What about Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, which cost tens of millions of lives ? Does this not count?

One the people present to these ” séances” was Anna Funder , author of Stasiland. A large part of that book takes place in the long-forgotten 80’s. The decade when Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Radiohead were founded. The decade when Spaugstofan  started . Those who died in the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and those who died in Lithuania in 1991 would be in their forties today. It is truly amazing how people are still making fuss about this.

There is no further then communism to an end in our part of the world I is thirty two years old today managed to learn the geography of their suf the People’s Republic of Poland had these neighbors : the USSR , Czechoslovakia and East Germany . Indeed, had seven children , of course, to learn long names : Union socialist USSR , Tékkóslóvakíska Republic and the Democratic Republic of Germany . Not figured into my mind that this skill would Obsoletes within four years .

And of course, it’s not like communism is all dead and gone . Not in Cuba . Not in North Korea. Not in China. People call themselves communist education without ashamed of it and people are always willing to deny these facts for this policy and its relatives . In August, a series of courses held under the banner of Marxism and the whole four teachers at the school late summer root in Víðsjá Broadcasting. One workshop focused on the need for revolutionary wing political party ( revolution is nothing krúttorð , it means ” violence” , people are hit and people die ) . MPs attended this event. Reading list for some classes consisted of works by Marx and Lenin .

I do not use big words , but I must admit that I find this a bit odd. But maybe I’m just so old. I mean I must be. After all I was born in a communist state . I must be at least seventy .

A Monument of Civil Violence

 Some people find it appropriate to construct a sculpture near the parliament where MPs are told that they will be beaten up if they do not perform. I don’t. Now what?

***

Once, when I was young and stupid, I published a magazine called “The Blue Integral – the voice of right wing math students.” It was a messy little tabloid. One day I held a festival in the student facilities where I put posters of David Oddsson and quotes of Bush and Thatcher on the walls. Many of my fellow students thought this was funny, but some did not. I was pissed off at those who did not find it funny. How did they dare ruining my day by not finding my jokes clever?

***

I’m sorry, I simply do not share their view of those that believe that the times when they smashed the windows of Parliament, when they broked into the Althing’s spectator platforms, and when they harassed MPs on way to work and outside their homes… I do not consider those to be the finest moment in the history of the Republic of Iceland. And I do not want to see these events commemorated. People may disagree with me. But no one can force me to like something I don’t.

***

What is the iconic imagery of this black cone? We have a black color, favorite color anarchists. We have a reference to the French Revolution. Date of installation work was chosen to remind us of the “pots and pans revolution”. All this sends a message. The message: “Dear Members of Parliament, you only sit here just as long as we, the mob, feel like letting you.”

Of course I agree that MPs only sit as long as they have people’s mandate. But MPs are to be substituted by throwing ballot in a box, but not by throwing stones at windows.

***

I have recently been reading some of the essays of the newly deceased former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel. In his essay “The power of the Powerless” from 1978 Havel expresses the opinion that the use of violence is only justified in extreme marginal cases, for example as a response to an extremely violent dictator and if the use of force can in fact stop the violence. As an example he takes the allied war against the axis powers in World War II. Vaclav Havel is, however, against the use of force against the communist totalitarian governments of Central and Eastern Europe. It is his opinion that they neither deserve it, nor would such an armed struggle be fruitful.

I tend to agree with Havel. Maybe at some time we here in Iceland will have such an disgusting government that getting rid of them with violence may be justified. But so far are we, and have always been, from that point, that even mentioning this route to power is a bit like threatening a child who just spilled milk with death sentence.

Repeated reminders that violence and riots are justified as a means of achieving power, are more likely to establish fascism, rahter than impede it.

***

I do not like this piece of art at all. It claims to exalt disobedience, but actually it elevates the idea of violence against people we have chosen to make our society a little bit better. I do not want to see this message in a public space, let alone do I approve of such a raised fist being erected a stone’s throw from Parliament House. If anyone disagrees with me then they can offer their own private premises to host this artwork and open them up to it so that others who are similarly disposed towards it could admire it. But thing like that do not belong in Austuvöllur.

***

I myself realized that if I perform art by pasting Thatcher quotes on the wall in math students facilities I could not require of others that they would share my sense of humor . People can have their opinions, even opinions such as the ones that violence against elected representatives can be justified. But they can not claim public space for permanent glorification of such message. And expect that those who do not accept it will just swallow it.

Track Record of ESA in the EFTA Court

In yesterday‘s post we talked about the track record of the Efta Surveillance Authority against the Republic of Iceland in the EFTA Court. Here‘s a short comparison of how the other EFTA governments are doing using the same comparison.

Track Record of ESA Against Particular States int the EFTA Court

One note must be made. Court cases are not resolved with respect to statistics from other cases, they are resolved based on merits of the particular case. The EFTA Surveillance Authority would not be doing its job if the majority of its cases against the EFTA states would be thrown out.  These statistics do of course provide some indications that the Icelandic government should be mild in its optimism, when it comes down to the upcoming IceSave court case. But this does of course not mean that the case is decided already. Even though many procecutors have decent conviction rates, it does not mean that someone who has just been accused of a crime is definitely guilty. Here‘s a breakdown of the Norwegian and Liechtensteinian cases before the EFTA Court: Norway:

  1. Case E-18/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  2. Case E-10/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  3. Case E-6/08 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  4. Case E-2/07 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway  ESA WINS
  5. Case E-2/06 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  6. Case E-1/06 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway NORWAY WINS
  7. Case E-3/05 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway NORWAY WINS
  8. Case E-1/05 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  9. Joined Cases E-5/04, E-6/04, and E-7/04 – Fesil ASA and Finnfjord Smelteverk AS (E-5/04), Prosessindustriens Landsforening and others (E-6/04) ESA WINS
  10. Case E-4/03 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v Norway ESA WINS
  11. Case E-1/02 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  12. Case E-9/00 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  13. Case E-3/00 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  14. Case E-2/99 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  15. Case E-6/98 – The Kingdom of Norway v EFTA Surveillance Authority 
  16. ESA WINS
  17. Case E-10/97 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS
  18. Case E-7/97 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway ESA WINS

Liechtenstein

  1. Case E-11/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  2. Case E-9/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  3. Joined cases E-4/6/7-10 – The Principality of Liechtenstein, REASSUR Aktiengesellschaft and Swisscom RE Aktiengesellschaft v E ESA WINS
  4. Case E-1/09 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS ON MOST ACCOUNTS
  5. Case E-6/06 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  6. Case E-5/06 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  7. Joined Cases E-5/05, E-6/05, E-7/05, E-8/05, and E-9/05 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  8. Case E-8/04 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v Liechtenstein ESA WINS
  9. Case E-5/01 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Principality of Liechtenstein ESA WINS

Note that these are only the cases between ESA and the particular member states. ESA itself has been brought to the EFTA Court a couple of times by third parties. Those cases are not listed here.

EFTA Surveillance Authority v. Republic of Iceland

The Track Record of ESA against the Republic of Iceland in the EFTA Court. (As of 15th of December 2011).

Iceland has been taken to court by the EFTA Surveillance Authority in connection with the long-running IceSave dispute. This is not the first time. In the years since the establishing of the EEA-treaty the EFTA Surveillance Authority has taken such steps 13 times. The first case was dismissed after request of both parties, since Iceland had changed the disputed law in question had been changed. The other cases have been won by ESA. Here’s a full list of the cases:

  1. Case E-8/11 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  2. Case E-12/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  3. Case E-8/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  4. Case E-3/10 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  5. Case E-8/09 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  6. Case E-5/09 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  7. Case E-2/09 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  8. Case E-3/08 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland (Regulation (EC) No 648/2004)
  9. Case E-2/08 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland (Directive 2004/26/EC)
  10. Case E-3/07 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  11. Case E-2/05 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  12. Case E-1/03 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland
  13. Case E-1/96 – EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland

 

EU – Fiscal Union – Who’s In and Who’s Out?

EU Fiscal Union as proposed in December 2011. PaBaMapa CC-BY-SA 3.0.Base map by maix¿? CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The recent EU-summit produced some news, whether it produced results is not yet clear. The leading pair France and Germany were pushing for a fiscal Union of the EU. In the end, they got something similar to that. See this article by the EUObserver for some brief insight: (What did the EU agree at its ‘make-or-break’ summit?) The current 17 Euro Area members all seem to have agreed to the new rules. Although the fiscal union is considered to be primarily needed due to the common currency, some of the countries outside the Euro area, in particular Poland and other young members in fact pushed for being included as well, fearing that they might otherwise be left out in EU’s “second division”. Thus, the non-euro EU-members, nine in total, may take part as well. Three of those, Czech Republic, Sweden and Hungary specifically stated that their ratification is subject to the approval of their national parliaments. Their are at least two more Poland and Denmark where this ratification might prove problematic if it needs to be done using the tougher constitutional methods (2/3 or 5/6 majorities). The United Kingdom opted to stay out of the treaty, entirely. Some have considered this to be on of the first steps for UK leaving the EU. Time will tell if that’s the case. The Britons have not been to eager to take part in new EU-undertakings in the past decade, they are already opting out of the Euro, the Schengen treaty as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights.