The Blog

The European Union – History and Today

Introduction

The European Union (EU) was founded in 1958 as the European Economic Community (ECC). In 1968 it changed name to the European Community (EC) and later to the European Union in 1993.

Background

After the Second World War Western Europe faced two political and one economic threat;

  • the fear of a German retaliation and uprising (mostly a French concern),
  • the fear of the Communists and Russia (mostly an Anglosaxian concern),
  • and the fear of poverty and starvation mostly in Germany and France.

The political answer to these threats was two organizations;

  • NATO (North Atlantic Trade Organization) was formed to keep Russia out of Europe, to keep Germany’s economy down and to keep America inside European affairs,
  • and the EEC (European Economic Community), to somewhat co-operate with Germany but also to hinder her from an all too great economy.

Objective

The overall objective was peace through proper handling of Germany and Russia, disabling Germany from rebuilding an army and keeping Russia out of Europe. Also, a key part of success was prosperity through economic co-operation and cultural exchange within member countries.

Controversy

Generally speaking, there are two camps in the EU – the federalists and the confederalists, being somewhat opposites

Federalists

  • More power to Brussels through EMU (European Monetary Union with its currency – the €uro), foreign policies and other co-operation.
  • The EU should be a supranational organization, i.e. an organization which stands above national governments.

Examples of federalist countries are the Benelux, Germany, France and others.

Confederalists

  • Less power to Brussels, as economic co-operation suffices.
  • The EU should be an international organization, thus more power will remain on a national level.

Examples of confederalist countries are Sweden, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

Steps of Integration

In 1947, the Council of Europe was founded. Due to controversy, the unity became powerless. In 1948 the OEEC (the Organizations of European Economic Co-operation) was formed, mainly as a result of the Marshal Plan in the USA. Both these unions failed due to controversy between federalists and confederalists (see above).

In 1949, NATO (the North American Trade Organization) was formed. It brought European politicians together for the first time.

In 1951 the Paris Treaty (the European Coal & Steel Community, ECSC) was signed to solve issues with the struggle of federalists versus confederalists. The ECSC was a common market in coal and steel, designed to aid member countries to control production, prevent wars and increase efficiency in trade and production.

In 1958 the Treaty of Rome (and essentially the EEC) was signed and put into action. The treaty is a consitution – it describes the objectives of the EEC and regulates how it is to be governed. The Treaty of Rome merged three organizations into one – the ECSC, EEC and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom).

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was founded in 1959 as a confederalist response to the EEC. In 1962, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) was signed. It granted subsidies to farmers and is still in place today. In the year 1968, the Customs Union was completed, abolishing tariffs within Europe.

Between 1973 and 1985 the integration project did not evolve in a satisfactory way due to a recession and an oil crisis. This resulted in unemployment problems and lead to increased protectionism, which eventually lead to non-tariff barriers to trade. During these years however, there was a territorial expansion. Six new members entered the union – Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The Single Market (1985-1992)

Definition

The general “single market” term refers to a customs union combined with the four freedoms – free movement of goods, services, labor and capital. To achieve free trade you must not only remove tariffs but also remove non-tariff barriers to trade. Decisions in the Council of Ministers (see below) at the time required unanimity to pass, thus hindering the removal of the said barriers.

Background

In 1985 however a movement to introduce a Single Market began. The background to this was the high unemployment rates, remaining at 10-15%, and the threat from the Pacific economy (USA and its trade partners).
A single market would lead to free trade which would lead to more competition – therefore lowering prices. The economic objective was that the lowered prices would lead to welfare and a more competitive Europe – the political objective was to increase integration inside Europe (again, a part of the Steps of Integration). This all made the introduction of a Single Market very important.
Thanks to the Single European Act in 1987 and its ammendation of the treaties, decisions concerning trade and the economy now only required 2/3 percentual majority. An action-plan – the White Paper – was in 1985 established to remove all non-tariff barriers to trade. The “Cassis de Dijon”-principle set and example of how future cases were to be handled; if a good or service is allowed to be sold in one country, it cannot be prohibited in another EU country.

Institutions of the EU

The Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers is the lawmaking (legislative) body of the European Union. The decision about new laws are made in conjunction with the EU parliament. The laws (also called directives or regulations) passed in the Council are “above” the national laws passed by national parliaments. National ministers are sent from the capitols to discuss and come to agreements. Thus, this institution is the voice of the member countries.
Since the said ministers are not elected by the people, there is a democratic deficit. The said deficit is also present due to the lack of openness (transparency) in the Council, hindering the media from getting instant access to protocols and other documents.

The European Commission

The European Commission is the executive body, the government if you will, of the European Union. As it initiates proposals in the law-making process, the Commission gains a lot of power when laws are to be made. It also ensures that member countries implement the EU regulations into their own, national legislations. Loyalty costs a lot – European Commissioners are generally very well paid.

The European Parliament

The European Parliament makes new laws (regulations) together with the Council of Ministers, although it’s not as powerful as the Council itself due to the limited areas in which the Parliament makes laws.

The Court of Justice

The Court of Justice settles economic disputes between not only companies but also countries. The Court also interprets the common European Union legislation.

The European Council

The European Council hosts summit meetings with presidents and prime ministers. During these meetings main policies of the European Union are discussed as well as main issues for the future.

How to Change Mouse Polling Rate in Vista

This guide is, in its entirety, taken from Jim’s thread over at OverClock3d.

These files will increase your USB polling frequency from the Windows Vista default of 125hz to 500hz or 1000hz making your mouse much more responsive in gaming. This file will only work on the RTM/Final version of Vista 32-Bit and 64-bit. If you want the same hack under Windows XP just search google for “XP usbport.sys 500hz”.

  1. Restart Vista and repeatedly press F8 to bring up the boot menu. Select Safe Mode.
  2. Press Start > Run… and enter this into the box: bcdedit -set loadoptions DISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS . This disabled the constant integrity checks that will disable you from overwriting system files. After the restart, it is set back to default.
  3. Open the same window and this time enter this: takeown /f "C:WindowsSystem32Driversusbport.sys" . This commands lets you take full ownership of the usbport.sys file, enabling you to rename it.
  4. Again, in the Run… box enter this: cacls "C:WindowsSystem32Driversusbport.sys" /G username:F . Replace username with the account you’re using on Windows. This further makes sure you are allowed to edit and rename the file.
  5. Open C:WindowsSystem32Drivers and locate the existing usbport.sys, and rename it to usbport.old
  6. Download this file, unzip it and copy the usbport.sys from the appropriate folder over to C:WindowsSystem32Drivers.
  7. Restart your computer, and use mouserate.exe to check whether the settings have had effect.

Hope this helped you!

How to Share a Hard Drive on a Vista Network

Background

This is how an article at Microsoft’s TechNet describes the changes in Vista’s sharing.

  • The default workgroup name in Windows Vista has been changed to WORKGROUP. In Windows® XP Home Edition, the default workgroup name is MSHOME. If you upgrade a computer running Windows XP Home Edition to Windows Vista, it will keep its existing workgroup name. However, new computers with Windows Vista can have a different workgroup name than the other computers on your network. With different workgroups, it takes more time and effort to view all of the computers on the network.
  • Windows Vista uses the Public folder, rather than the Shared Documents folder in Windows XP, to simplify file sharing. With Public folder sharing enabled, the public folders and all of the folders within the Public folder are automatically shared with the name Public. You do not have to configure file sharing on separate folders. You only have to either move or copy the file or folder you want to share on the network to the Public folder.
  • Windows Vista by default does not allow simple file sharing. Access to shared folders, including the public folder (if shared), requires a user name and password. Simple file sharing is enabled by default in Windows XP Home Edition.

Sharing hard drives was perhaps not easy in Windows XP, but it sure is harder on Vista. It took me a while to figure out what to do, but after a bit of messing around with security settings I finally achieved what I had intended. This guide consists of five steps, and I take no responsibility for what happens with your computer!

Steps

#1
Properties
Right-click on the harddrive you intend to share. Click Properties to open a window with most changeable settings on your harddrive.

#2
Security
Select the Security tab. In front of you is a list of the different users that have access to your hard drive. Select Everyone and click Edit….

#3
Security edit
At this prompt you have the ability to change how much you want everyone to have access to. Customize this yourself, or use my settings, then apply the settings by OK-ing this window and the previous one.

#4
Share
Now, right-click the hard drive again but this time select Share…. In the prompt (which is the sharing tab in the properties-prompt) click Advanced Sharing… and authenticate yourself if needed.

#5
Advanced sharing
In the window in front of you, check the Share this folder checkbox and enter a name for the share. If you need to specifcy the amount of simultaneous users, do so, but for most home networks this is not needed. To enable everyone to access the share, click Premissions and use either my settings or your own.

Conclusion

There are of course security implications associated with sharing an entire hard drive. You should avoid sharing the drive you’re booting from and/or using Windows on, also you should also generally be careful of how much you’re letting people do with the drive.

How to Install uTorrent Skins

This is something that should be so easy as downloading the skins themselves is easy as pie. I have found a very simple method of completing this.

First of all you need the skin itself. It can be found on several places, but most notably on the uTorrent site itself. Go there and find yourself a nice looking skin, and make sure it’s called toolbar.bmp when downloaded!

Open up an Explorer window (or simply open up My Documents or any other folder) and type %AppData%uTorrent in the adress bar. Paste the toolbar.bmp file here!
The only thing you need to do is restart (or open) uTorrent and voila! Your new skin is there!

Have fun, and comment if you find any good skins out there!

New Design, Finally

After weeks and weeks of editing localhost copies, troubleshooting CSS and other rendering problems, accidently removing a database (which I had a backup of, but anyway), pure coding, browser testing (and not so much frustration over IE-rendering) and a lot of researching and inspiration… I finally present to you a design which I for once am happy with – my new blog design.

Features

What does this new release bring to you?

  • A brand new and refurbished front-end design with focus on usability and simplicity – new fonts add to the Web2.0 impression.
  • A print- and handheld stylesheet designed for simplicity and readability – clear fonts, less graphics and a more fluid design.
  • Nintendo Wii-inspired buttons put in place for usability and simplicity.
  • A little more intelligent backend with less load-times and better compression.
  • jQuery integration for simple effects and the main content-slider at the front-page.
  • Google-powered search.
  • Clean code, clean CSS and clean RSS-feeds – one feed for every category adds simplicity and readability.

Conclusion

This has all been a lot of work for me, but I feel this is the first time I have actually had an idea all the way through. One idea being applied all through the process of the design. I’ve read e-books and gathered inspiration from interesting sources. And all this has resulted in something which I am very proud of showing you today.

I hope you like it almost as much as I do!

What’s Going On?

I’ve wanted to let you know about what I’m doing for a long time, but I just haven’t come around to doing it.
Currently I am developing the new design for the site which really will include everything you’d ever dream of.
I will introduce every kind of link rel=”” available to suit as many browsers and engines as possible. I will launch a mobile version of the site with less graphics but the same content.
I have plans for various small features such as change font-size, print this article and a cleaner and all more useful commenting system.

A sketch or two are available at the new page, go have a look!
I will hopefully bring you more news as time goes by, stay tuned!

The Rise of Adolf Hitler

The Beerhall Putsch of 1923, Hitler’s first attempt to take power, had failed, and Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison. While in prison he wrote “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) which was to become the Bible of the Nazi movement.
It is symptomatic that Hitler had been allowed to make a grand speed at the trial. This shows the sympathetic attitude of the court system towards his ideas. The personnel of the courts were no strong supporters of the new Weimar Republic.
The speech was published all over Germany and made Hitler known as a strong nationalist leader. He only served nine months at the Landsberg prison whereafter he was released on probation.
When released, Hitler found a Nazi party (NSDAP) in disarray. The groups of Berlin, lead by the Strasser brothers, were pulling in one direction whilst the Munich Nazis were more anti-semitic and nationalistic in their ideas. Furthermore, Streseman had solved the crisis of 1923 and Germany had experienced progress. Therefore, the Nazi had very little support in the Reichstag.

The NSDAP after Hitler’s freeing

Hitler did not mind that the Nazi party was weak and split when he was release. Now he could take control and shape the party. At the 1926 Party Congress in Bamberg, Hitler did just this.
The Strasser group had on its side a strong PR expert, Dr. Joseph Göbbels, who intended to “defeat” Hitler at the said meeting. Instead however, Göbbels was impressed by Hitler and actually joined his camp.
Furthermore, Hitler managed to introduce some key principles into the party ground rules; the “Führer Prinzip” (i.e. Hitler would from now on be the leader and he alone would make important decisions to be obeyed) and he also decided that power was now to be reached not through violent coup d’état but rather by working within the democratic system and winning elections for the Reichstag.
After Bamberg in 1926 the main problem for Hitler remained the lack of Nazi support in the Reichstag. During the booming German economy a party of the discontented like the NSDAP had hard times winning popular support.

The NSDAP gains votes (1929->)

By 1927 the situation of German farmers was deteriorating. The Nazis reacted on this and started to go out in the countryside offering help and support to the peasants. In the elections from 1930 and onwards it became apparent that a large majority of Germany’s farmers voted Nazi.
In 1930, the last SPD Chancellor, Müller, resigned. The economic crisis was causing a massive growth of unemployment and the government couldn’t find majority support in the Reichstag for its policies.
In May 1930, Heinrich Brüning (Catholic Centre Party) was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg. Brüning was reluctant to increase government spending on subsidies for companies and support for the unemployed – as he had the 1923 hyperinflation in fresh memory.
At no cost did he want to risk the occurrence of a new inflation. For this, Brüning earned the nickname “The Hunger Chancellor”. He was Chancellor until 1932, running a minority coalition.
Therefore, the government was completely dependent upon the presidential emergency decree (Article 48), which was used at an increasing rate.

The Backstairs Intrigue

Brüning tried to create support for his government in 1930 by asking for new elections. However, the situation in the Reichstag just deteriorated.
The extremist parties won more seats (the NSDAP won 107 seats, the KPD 77 seats) which was quite the opposite of what he had hoped. Now he became even more dependent on the presidential decree.
The Nazi paramilitary organization, Sturmabteilung (SA), became very active, creating violence in the streets and picking fights with the communist bands.
The SA had by the early 1930’s grown into an organization of 2.5 million men, lead by Ernst Röhm. In order to try to restore calm in the cities, Brüning imposed a ban on the SA in 1930.
They were no longer allowed to parade the streets in uniform. With the dysfunctional situation in the Reichstag, influence over President Hindenburg instead became the key factor for political power.
He was during 1930-1933 very much listening to the advice of General Kurt von Schleicher.

The Intrigue evolves

von Schleicher had suggested the choice of Brüning as Chancellor. By 1932 however, von Schleicher had begun to disagree with Bru¨ning’s anti-Nazi attitude.
In May 1932, at von Schleicher’s advice, Hindenburg withdrew his support for Brüning and dismissed him. Franz von Paper was appointed and formed a government which was named the “Government of Barons” due to all of it’s ministers being noble.
Hoping for support in the Reichstag, von Papen asked for new elections. The result was more than 50% of the seats in favor of the extremists, and the Nazis had now the biggest party with 37% of the seats.
In order to please Hitler, von Papen lifted the ban on the SA. Furthermore, Hitler is offered a port in Papen’s new government, but he refuses to accept anything but the Chancellorship.
Thus, von Papen’s new government is left completely dependent upon Article 48. By November, the economic depression and political violence had plunged German society even deeper into chaos.
Now, von Schleicher asked the President to dismiss Papen. He had a plan.

Skype: Display Bandwidth Info during Calls


Skype, the modern free Voice Over IP calling software, is a great way of calling your friends and family and staying in touch. But for us who’d like something a little more advanced and technical, Skype lacks a lot of settings and options.
However, if you’re on the lookout for some pretty advanced statistics such as what codec and quality is being used, what pings you are getting and how much bandwidth you are using, there is a way!

Steps

Click Tools in the top menu then Options to open the Option-menu. In the left-hand part of the window, click Advanced and then Connection in the options that pop down under Advanced.
Check the box that says Display technical info during calls and call someone! Hover your mouse on the same part of the window where the Call and End Call buttons are and you should see a windows popping up telling you about what’s going on behind the scenes!

Back from Holiday in Zermatt

After a wonderful week, both regarding the weather and the happenings, in Zermatt I am finally back home.
Zermatt is a well-known skiing area in the southern parts of Switzerland, just close to the Italian border. The ski-system consists of 313km snow-covered pistes including a snow-park, a beginners area and pistes on a glacier (the Theodul Glacier).
Amongst other things I brought my camera, a Kodak Z812 IS, which resulted in a lot of imagery (and a lot of thought about whether to buy a new camera or not), most of it being fairly dull photos of the scenery.
Nonetheless I have had time to edit and perfect a dozen or so images (not only from Zermatt) which I have uploaded to the Gallery.

On the return from Zermatt I paid a visit to the Caf̩ de Paris in Geneva. As you may know they only serve one dish, the Entrec̫te Caf̩ de Paris with the famous Caf̩ de Paris sauce and the French Fries. Let me just say this Рit tasted amazing. Nothing short of amazing.

I do hope you enjoy watching the newly uploaded photos as well as further reading my blog!

Dalai Lama is on Twitter!

Just stumbled upon His Holiness Dalai Lama’s Twitter account. Apparently he has joined the ranks of worldwide leaders, such as Barack Obama, posting their daily happenings on the Web.
Looking forward to reading about his daily life, not that I care much but HEY it’s Dalai Lama!