All’s Well That Ends Well or The Art of Talking Much and Saying Little

13 12 2009

A photo essay of a political show.  Photographs: Matthias Wurz

Austria’s Social democratic Chancellor Werner Faymann felt the need to celebrate on Dec 2, 2009 at the imperial Hofburg. Österreich.Gemeinsam (Austria Together) was the title of  Faymann’s speech, the occasion was the first anniversary of the current Austrian government, led by Faymann since December 2008 at the time of economic crisis. The message was simple: all is well at home. Faymann’s skill as public speaker was impressive, evidently inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama in its delivery. But Faymann’s speech – unlike those of the current U.S. President – had only one fault: Staging a political show that demonstrates the art of talking a lot but saying very little.

All’s Well That Ends Well is one of William Shakespeare characteristic plays, first published in 1623; its title refers to a proverb whatever the troubles, as long as the outcome is a good one. It seems that the Austrian Social democrats have adapted the theme of Shakespeare’s comedy, signalling that the international economic and financial crises are well in hand. Business as usual, made in Austria.
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Paying Peanuts for Monkeys

18 10 2009

Bergant_16102009

Photos: Boris Bergant chairing the discussion / Erhard Busek opening the session / Zoe Schneeweiss debating. Credit: Matthias Wurz

“It is most frightening to realize that history has not taught us a lesson ,” Boris Bergant uttered the words softly. The Slovenian radio and television journalist, current Vice President of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), addressed a distinguished audience of media professionals from Central and South-east Europe. His voice seems pressed and slightly nervous, but full of emotions. Before he could continue, however, his remarks were interrupted by enthusiastic applause.


It was Oct. 16, the evening event of the Standards of Evidence symposium, organized by the Commission on Radio and Television Policy for Central, East and South-east Europe alongside with the Forum Alpbach. The scheduled panel discussion on ‘The Media and the Financial Crisis’ with high-profile media professionals held at Vienna’s Haus der Musik, was preceded by a short but not less dignified award ceremony for Boris Bergant. The 61-year-old is recipient of the Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO 2009 Award for Better Understanding. His short acceptance speech was a moving recollection of the Balkan’s troubled, repetitious and bloody 20th century history.

The SEEMO Award 2009 Ceremony

Austria’s former Vice Chancellor and President of the Forum Alpbach as well as Coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), Erhard Busek, was not only but also the benefactor of one of Europe’s most prestigious media awards but also host of tonight’s award ceremony. Just a few introductory words were needed for one of the finest and eloquent journalists the Balkan region has. “You have to earn your award,” Busek amicably addressed the delightful award recipient when he referred to the following debate that Bergant would chair.

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Obama in Prague: The Speech at Hradcany Square – an Analysis

1 05 2009

About 30,000 people gathered at Hradčanské náměstí (Hradcany Square) on Prague Castle of Apr. 5 to hear U.S. President Barack Obama. The whole city seemed to have turned out to hear this most eloquent of politicians, waiting patiently in the chill morning.

Today, 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Obama praised the role the Czechs had played through peaceful protest:

“The Sametová Revoluce – the Velvet Revolution taught us many things,” he said, pausing, to allow the applause to die off. Not only was his pronunciation nearly flawless, said Czechs in the audience, but it touched those who had taken to the streets so long ago.

“It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in the world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming conflicts.” As in 1989, “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.”

Obama’s visit to Prague came at a difficult time for the young democracy, with a deepening political conflict between President Václav Klaus, first post-Communist Prime Minister and architect of the Czech Republic’s economic success of the 1990s, the conservative minority government of Mirek Topolánek and the Social democratic opposition, led by former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek

On Mar. 24, just days before Obama’s arrival and in the midst of the EU presidency, Topolanek’s government lost a no confidence vote in the Czech Parliament over whether to allow some of the controversial U.S. missile defense shield to be installed on Czech territory. Topolanek will step down by May 8 to make way for a transition government of technocrat Jan Fischer, head of the Czech Statistical Office, before interim elections in October. Read the rest of this entry »





Obama in Prague: The Ceremonial Act

30 04 2009

Barack Obama in PraguePhotos: Matthias Wurz

It was Apr. 2, early in the evening when I received the confirmation via email: an accreditation by the Czech Presidents Office for the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama with Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Palm Sunday, Apr. 5.

There was only one catch: I could only go as a photographer for the Welcoming Ceremony at the castle, also a chance for getting closer to the man. For Obama’s long-expected speech on his vision of peace and non-proliferation at Hradcany Square, I had to take a pass.

My train journey from Vienna to Prague on Saturday evening was uneventful, and the city itself did not seem to be ‘under siege,’ as in June 2006 when former U.S. President George W. Bush came to Vienna.

But that changed the next morning, just hours ahead of the presidents’ meeting. Following advice from the hotel staff, I took public transport to the castle. When I boarded the No. 12 tram near my hotel at about 6:00, every American in the city seemed to be going the same way.

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Business Analysis: Rewarding Dishonesty

31 03 2009

This article is co-written by Ing. Werner Krauss – see information below

Toxic Assets Cartoon

Cartoon: © Dave Granlund, www.davegranlund.com

The Problem of ‘Toxic Assets’

“Our job is to fix the problem in the financial sector at the least risk to the taxpayer,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stated the objective on Mar. 23. Supported by President Barack Obama, Geithner unveiled yet another bailout plan for the struggling U.S. financial system.

Rumours had it, that the Obama Administration would revive a plan that the Bush Administration had drafted in September 2008 but put back into the draw: Spending billions of U.S. dollars taxpayers’ money to free the financial system of ‘legacy assets’ – real estate loans as well as securities backed by loan portfolios – colloquially known as ‘toxic assets.’

Those assets cause “uncertainty around the balance sheets of these financial institutions, compromising their ability to raise capital and their willingness to increase lending,” so the Fact Sheet of the Public-Private-Investment Program of the U.S. Treasury, which confirms what has been rumored in early March.

According to the new bailout strategy, the U.S. government will spend yet another staggering U.S. $ 75 – 100 billion in order to help raise $ 1 trillion as to stimulate the economy and ‘flush’ the U.S. financial system of the ‘toxic assets.’

Geithner admitted that this plan fuels public anger as Wall Street seems to benefit at times where average Americans suffer. The financial sector has indeed been a major recipient to previous support: As an example, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) worth more than U.S. $ 700 billion, included $ 25 billion packages each for Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Well Fargo, the largest amounts ever given to any bank, among others.

“The (public) anger and outrage is perfectly understandable,” and he firmly added that “we have to make sure our assistance is not going to award failures.”

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1,000 Readers & a Happy New Year 2008!

19 01 2008

Slideshow: Some Firework shots, New Year celebration in Vienna 2008 . Copyright: Matthias Wurz

What can I say? Today, almost exactly three months after my first entry in my blog here I have reached 1,000 unique hits! This is amazing, because this is not a commercial site, and I have no time at this stage to strategically develop it, or contribute as regularly as I wish. Nevertheless, there were always readers here, even at times when I had not written anything for weeks. I can only say: Thank you very much!

Let us celebrate this day with some fireworks! And let me also wish you and your families my best regards for the New Year 2008! Despite that I was ill during the holiday season, I was able to watch some of the excellent firework displays from my own apartment on New Year’s Eve, and some of the pictures you can see here now.

Please come back regularly, as I shall be contributing almost daily. This blog is, however, different, from most other blogs, as the entries are much longer. This is because I am drafting stories for the newspaper, or analyze and comment political events, rather than quickly reporting them as any other news agency, paper or television station. It takes time to write and consequently to read. This is, after all, a blog for readers – for You!

The coming days are exciting as ever: Tomorrow are the elections in Graz, and the tension of what effect the racist campaign of the far-right FPÖ has on the overall election result is one I shall be commenting tomorrow. Also, the Democratic Caucasus in Nevada takes place today, and its equally unpredictable result shall give me the opportunity to comment on the political phenomenon Barack Obama.

Lots to come and lots to read! Stay on course, comment on what I am writing and, if applicable, disagree with me. That’s what journalism and writing blogs is all about.