An unholy marriage

People would think that people learn from mistakes. People are mistaken.

About an hour ago, the Socialist Party’s head Gusenbauer announced the finalization of coalition talks with the People’s Party. Even though the SPÖ had the majority after last year’s elections, they have now handed over all the key resorts to the election losers headed by legendary mute chancellor Schüssel.

Key issues like free access to Austrian higher education and the anullement of the Eurofighter contract, as demanded by the SPÖ, have been either watered down to just about no change at all or have now miraculously disappeared from the coalition papers.

Oh well, goes to show that it’s really quite useless to vote for anything else than the Greens.


Since I’ve done my share of ORF bashing on here (for the uninitiated, ORF is Austrian’s national broadcaster), I’m glad to announce that I’ve had the opportunity to sign an online petition that demands better and less politically motivated programming.

The great thing is that the people behind the petition are actually members of the ORF. One of their main targets is their boss, Monika Lindner, who’s been the General Director of the ORF for the last four years, and is quite probably going to be re-elected for another five years soon. She’s already publicly declared her love for the ÖVP, our very own, very conservative, so-called people’s party.

While I’m not convinced that the awful programing techniques of the ORF are due to too much political intervention, I do feel that signing the petition SOS-ORF is a good step to protest whatever I feel is wrong with their service. If you feel so too, go and sign it here.

Austrian Institute of Idiocy

The current Austrian government has been extremely negligent regarding education in general, and the universities in particular. Various cutbacks and the treatment of universities as privately operated entities have left everything in shambles.

Now, I don’t know what people in the rest of the world do, but in Austria, when things are tumbling down and getting worse and worse, politicians simply move on. They don’t care about the fact that the majority of university workers and students oppose their ideas, and the fact that they’ve pushed through their reforms solely with the help of their stooges positioned high up in the universities’ management. So the Austrian government decided to create something they themselves dubbed a “University of Excellence”.

What is all that about? Doesn’t Austria have quite a few universities already? So why create another one? Why not invest the money into already existing infrastructure? Maybe because they let the whole infrastructure bleed to death by continuously cutting funding? Or because they feel they need more hubris in order to compete? Whatever it may be, they decided to create the “Austrian Institute for Science and Technology” (Only hard science of course. There’s no real value in, say, excellence in history, right?).

Fortunately enough, the current federal minster responsible for education, Elisabeth Gehrer (the text is in German, because the ministry of education is unable to translate their website any farther down than one level from the main page), is so incompetent, she manages to trip over her own feet. After choosing the site of an old mental institute, infamous for instances of NS euthanasia [pdf], as the site for the institute, Physicist Anton Zeilinger decided to quit his function as chief academic adviser for the project (followed by the other two major advisers). Now Gehrer is stuck with this crazy idea, and doesn’t know whether to move back or forth. Recent idiocy includes the ministry’s inability to find a suitable name. Christening the whole thing “Wittgenstein Institute of Technology” (a cheap move, considering that that would have spelled WIT, evoking associations with the MIT) turned out to be a bad idea, because Wittgenstein relatives soon complained that nobody had asked them about it and demanded from the ministry to remove their name from the institute (the ministry had also not considered that Wittgenstein wasn’t even involved in hard science or technology).

And finally, Austrian scientists working abroad have now urged the government to rethink the whole thing.

Well, another project our government will soon be presenting as yet another great success!

Porno Viennese

Well, Austria’s made international headlines again. In the course of a government sponsored art project which lasted all year, posters were put up all over Vienna depicting the lower torso of a woman, wearing nothing but panties displaying the logo of the EU. Adding to this lewd image fit to send each and every law-abiding, righteous Austrian into a screaming seizure of indignation, another poster was put up which depicted three people wearing the masks of The Queen, Bush and Chirac engaging in what seems to be a sexual act.

Today these posters were pulled from the streets. There is of course all sorts of screaming and finger pointing going on as well. The opposition and various officials of the Catholic church (who know their way around pornography scandals) want to see blood and a few heads rolling; the most prominent right-wing newspaper is in a constant state of hysteria over public funding for “so-called art” and everyone’s screaming murder anyways.

I won’t add much more to this self-explanatory development, but I’d like to point you to the Wikipedia entry of “L’Origine du monde”, a painting by 19th century artist Gustave Courbet, which served as the original for the EU logo poster. Now, considering that Austria’s billboards are covered by almost nude and sometimes even nude models trying to sell you everything from shower-gel to yogurt, I think the artist couldn’t have proved her point much better than by having the posters taken down. History’s repeating itself, and hypocrisy uncovered is still as much fun today as I’m sure it was back in the 19th century.