Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Putting the 'Au' into 'Austria'

I've just returned from a splendid trip to Vienna, Austria, the highlight of which was discovering a bust of Carl Menger behind a pile of refit scaffolding in a dusty quadrangle corner of Vienna University.

Alas, business calls this week, and then sunnier climes will claim me for my annual retreat into a land filled with windsurf equipment outlets, gins and tonic, and a range of swimming pools with bar service, but for those who wish to visit the spiritual home of all Austrians, I'll be providing a pilgrimage guide to the holy city of Vienna, once the experience has settled into my bones.

Before I sign off though, I must relay a strange incident; I was watching the James Bond film Goldfinger, on the laptop in my hotel room, when I noticed the numberplate on Auric Goldfinger's car, AU1. The symbol AU is, of course, the Periodic Table symbol for gold, the medium of exchange preference of most modern Austrians, as well as being the first two letters of the word Austria.

Spooky, huh?

There's even a town in Austria called Au, which you can read about here. Ah, the excitement of being an Austrian in Austria; it does funny serendipitious things to the brain cells, you know. But when you stand outside the site of Ludwig von Mises' old home, just down the road from Saint Stephen's cathedral, on a warm summer's evening, before a 25 minute walk to an open air café situated between the University and the Burgtheater, where Von Mises and his friends also used to spend the evening? Now that really does set the psyche tingling.

Obviously, a well-seasoned Wienerschnitzel soaked in lemon and washed down with a particularly fine ice-cold Welschriesling helps, but it is an atmosphere which I feel unworthy even to write about until I can summon up the correct words. I even felt so inspired I tried to order the whole thing in German, to a fantastically Hungarian-looking waiter:

Ich mochte bitte, ein Wienerschnitzel, und vielleicht ein glas von Welschriesling, haben, bitte, und denn, das Rechnung?
I wonder if Von Mises would have approved of my schreckliche Deutsche sprache?

But alas, I must away into the evening. The balmy heat of an Oxfordshire evening in England is insisting that the Bombay Sapphire is iced and lemoned instantly. Jawohl, ich bin ein Wiener. Auf wieder hören.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Service Stations on the Road to Serfdom

Readers of AngloAustria are probably aware that Britain is already pounding down the nightmare boulevard of Hayek's Road to Serfdom. However, it became particularly evident this week when Mayor Red Ken of London proposed a £25 pound daily charge for anyone driving a car disapproved of by the majority.

I won't bore you with a rant about this, as it's far too much like preaching to the converted, but what I found far more disturbing than this typical piece of majoritarian tyranny, was the reaction of Daily Torygraph readers. Unless hordes of socialists are primed to respond to any reaction piece in the Torygraph, it would seem the majority of even Daily Telegraph readers agree with Red Ken's hounding of disliked minorities, on the spurious grounds of catastrophic climate change, or whatever bug-bear it is this week that the Left have attached themselves to.

One immediately imagines, of course, a self-righteous Guardian-reading London businessman taking a taxi to Heathrow and then a quick flight to Edinburgh to smooth over a property deal, before flying home again in the same day, getting self-righteously angry about CO2-producing people driving 4x4s around London; planes and taxis, naturally, producing nothing more than flowers and smiles. Yes, there are stupid people everywhere. However, it is now becoming acceptable for majorities to persecute minorities, even to usually freedom-loving Torygraph readers.

"Tax them more," some of the readers were saying. "Ban them completely," said others.

No doubt these readers will be equally pleased when their little pleasures in life are removed. They will call out and nobody will hear them and they will have no-one to blame but themselves.

So another national socialist click tightens in the ratchet...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil

It would seem that England will only win the world cup when they host the competition themselves again, back in England. Why? Here's the conspiracy bit: Because FIFA need to maintain a healthy client list of governments willing to shell out billions of tax dollars on stadia and so the remarkable coincidences of home wins in the World Cup must continue if FIFA is to continue taking home truckloads of gold back to Zurich every four years.

And here's the cock-up bit: Alas, I did predict before the Equador game that England would lose in the quarter-final, but it gave me no great joy to witness my prediction bear full fruit. To see eleven great players minced around by a terrible system and a worse manager, with the simply dreadful Steve McLaren huffing and puffing along the touchline, boded even worse news for the future, unless perhaps Alan Shearer can step up to the plate and persuade Alan Hansen to become his defensive coordinator.

Yes, England losing yesterday was more cock-up than conspiracy, but any half-decent manager would have swapped out Hargreaves, Beckham, and Lampard, and started with Crouch, Lennon, and Carrick, and then played with a 4-4-2 system. However, it would have made no difference. Germany must win the final and Germany would rather face Portugal in the final, so England had to go, just as Argentina had to go.

Seven teams have won the world cup and six of them have done it at home. Whenever a home team wins the world cup the host government gains enormously from patriotism and FIFA gains enormously in the long line of governments begging to spend billions of their coercively collected taxation revenues on stadia, to be given the chance to become winning hosts.

Strangely, the only champions who have failed to win at home are Brazil. Which is remarkable, though not quite as remarkable as South Korea making it to the semi-final in the last world cup. I don't recall the referees who helped South Korea get there, but no doubt their private Zurich bank accounts were a lot healthier after the tournament, than before; you'll also notice that South Korea appear to have done less well this time, in their world cup campaign.

FIFA need to make a lot of cash to help them in their bid to break into the lucrative US market, and so expect the pattern of hosts winning world cups to continue, with occasional forays into North America, until eventually even the USA team can be gifted a world cup champions victory, in around 2030. AngloAustria prediction: Germany will win the world cup, next weekend, because although South Korea or the USA winning the final would be too much for most to believe, at the moment, it is an entirely believable story for Germany despite the shaky start and the last minute goals keeping them in the competition.

But do gain some comfort, if they do win, from the fact that I'm not a betting man and won't be winning any money. If they lose to some bizarre Thierry Henry wonder goal, impossible to rule offside, also feel some comfort for those bent match officials and their nervousness on starting their cars for the next ten years. Personally, although I'm certain Germany will win, with my heart I want France to win. Why? Because I just love Thierry Henry wonder goals, plus the frozen look on Sepp Blatter's face at the end of such a game, with the host's losing, will be a joy to watch. With such a public spectacle, FIFA match fixing can sometimes go a little awry; witness Italy stupidly allowing themselves to play in Naples, in 1990, rather than where FIFA wanted them, Rome, and then losing to the Argentinian team of Naples hero Maradonna. But six out of seven ain't bad, and hopefully Germany can win the tournament for the second time at home, after their 1974 victory in Munich.

Back in 1966 it was really good of the FIFA official to say so, but did that ball really cross the line in England's final game against Germany? I'm starting to place it in the same mental league as the 1969 moon landing; or should I say the 1969 New Mexico landing? I've got to get out more.

Which is good, really, as I'll be in Vienna for most of the week. Hier wir kommen. Österreich über alles.