Sunday, 22 November 2020

bundeskanzlerin

First entering politics in the Revolutions of 1989 as deputy spokesperson for the first and only (independent) democratically elected East German government of Lothar de Maiziรจre, then elected following reunification as a Bundestag representative for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with several ministerial appointments under Helmut Kohl, Angela Merkel was elevated to General Secretary of her political party, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) in 1998, succeeding Gerhard Schrรถder in 2005 after the outcome of federal elections installed a collation among the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as Chancellor of Germany on this day. Elected to an unprecedented four terms in high office—considered by many the de facto leader of the European Union and since America’s dereliction in 2016 of the free world, Merkel announced she would stand down in October 2018 and not seek a fifth term in 2021.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

g20

Held on this weekend in 2008 in host capital Washington, DC at the urging of EU and Australian leadership to expand the coordinated response and recovery for the 2008 financial crisis, the summit, inviting for the first time the twenty most powerful world economies to meet again a month after the G7 had convened at the same venue, achieved its stated goal to reform global financial institutions and articulate areas of contention as well as cooperation.
Framed as a Bretton Woods II—the system of monetary management created in the aftermath of World War II but seen as increasingly ineffective as signatories withdrew, it seemed like a hopeful and promising development with all parties agreeing on the causes and appointing a diverse troika of economies as a steering committee (South Korea, Brazil and the UK), it remains to be seen if world markets are more robust and adaptable for the measures instituted.

Friday, 6 November 2020

8x8

photos veritables: antique pre-prepared vacation picture albums  

necessitous men are not free men: FDR’s 1944 second, more equitable Bill of Rights 

conformal cyclic cosmology: Nobel winning astrophysicist Roger Penrose shares his Universe origin hypothesis 

la sape: Tariq Zaida documents the fashion of the sapeurs and sapeuses of Brazzaville and Kinshasa—reminding me of this other subculture  

author, poet, composer: the amazing virtuosity of Gordon Parks 

das neue europa mit dem dauernden frieden: revisiting an early proposal for the European Union, divided into Kantons converging on Vienna (previously

dss43: Deep Space Communication Complex re-establishes link with Voyager 2 

scarfolk & environs: a road & leisure map for uninvited tourist

Saturday, 31 October 2020

nos sumus una familia

Declaring its independence on this day in 1977, residents of a triangle of streets in Notting Dale, West London formed the Free Independent Republic of Frestonia, inspired by Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen and the comedy Passport to Pimlico—putting the matter to a referendum with an overwhelming majority in favour of secession and many of those further advocating joining the European Economic Community.
Learning that the city council had designs on redeveloping the neighbourhood, the community of artists and squatters originally tried as a whole adopting the same surname (we are all one family, like the motto above)—Bramley, one of the roads forming the border of the micronation (see previously), so the city would be compelled to re-house them collectively, though that ploy failed. Lasting until 1982, the fully-functional state dissolved once an acceptable deal was reached with the developers—though not to everyone’s satisfaction. Architecturally, the art gallery The People’s Hall is all that remains from the days of independence—which also served as recording, rehearsal studios for The Clash and Motรถrhead. More to explore from Weird Universe at the link above.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

8x8

cheese tetrahedrons and synergetic stew: a celebrity cookbook presented to author and futurist Buckminster Fuller (previously) reissued for the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of his birth  

lรผften: tried and true ventilation and fresh air may be the most effective way to stave off more infections  

heart of sharkness: winning images and honourable mentions from a drone photography contest  

fรถrรคldrapenning: a South Korean man living in Sweden documents his daily routine 

adobe flash: an appreciation of the platform that shaped the internet and the implications of suspending support for the multimedia plug-in and player—via Kottke  

disaster constitutionalism: EU taking the UK to court, despite only breaking international law in a “specific and limited way”  

can our government be competent: celebrating Jimmy Carter’s ninety-sixth birthday (previously) in campaign buttons

eat fresh: with tax implications for the franchise, Irish high court rules that one fast food chain’s bread cannot be called bread or a dietary staple due to its high sugar content—via Boing Boing

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

spacepower

Foregoing the space bar, the United States of America’s newest military branch has outlined its vision and mission couched in very jingoistic and war-like language how it will establish and maintain dominance in the firmament. Unlike the Space Race that ran parallel to the nuclear build-up that was marked by achievements and milestones of one-upmanship that the Soviets indisputably won—with the exception of the crowning technical success of landing a crew on the lunar surface and bringing them back safely repeated over several iterations—there’s not so much a spirit of competition and exploration, with shining moments of cooperation, but rather sabotage and denial of access for those aspiring to join.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

status non gratis

As cases of COVID-19 again surge in the US after the rush to reopen, the European Union mulls adding America to its no-fly list—along with Brazil and Russia, all countries which have not only spectacularly failed in containing the pandemic within their borders, have through their neglect and mismanagement been net exporters of virus and its deleterious effects.
According to twenty-seven-member block’s epidemiological threshold for designating a country safe zone, all three still exhibit dangerous levels of new infections which threaten to overwhelm the healthcare infrastructure should more be imported. In mid-March, the Trump administration imposed a foreshadowingly reciprocal travel ban (since lifted) covering all of Europe, excepting the UK and Ireland, though that carve-out might get Britain similarly blocked. Talks are ongoing but failure to reach consensus could result in more internal border controls and restrictions on regional travel.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

oligopoly

With the rather spectacular collapse in negotiations and the US unilaterally threatening to suspend talks moderated by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, the EU and the UK—despite, perhaps because of being put in the disadvantaging position of working out a trade deal with America in anticipation of the day when it is outside the European single market, are vowing to enact a regime of digital service taxes levied on the internet titans of industry and aggregation (see previously), infamously remanding little to the polities that enrich them.
Though Brussels would like to implement the regimen with the input of the US-based companies that dominate the data, demographics and social media market in order to avoid unwelcome countermeasures, Washington choose to suspend the discussion, characterising the talks as at an unhelpful impasse and are trying to intimidate the EU into backing down with more retaliatory tariffs and sanctions and possibly the next flashpoint in a sustained and inopportune trade war.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

149 us 304 or clearing the docket

Via our faithful chronicler we learn that this day along with many other events of pith and moment marks the 1893 anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision in the case of Nix v. Hedden that ruled that the tomato be classified as a vegetable and not a fruit for the purposes of customs and tariffs. Whilst seemingly frivolous—and harmless and even comparatively wholesome—and not a matter for the high court, it is a nuanced case with repercussions in terms of future US trade policy decisions (see also) and of course the US resolution six years later to annex Hawaiสปi at the urging of a pineapple magnate (previously here and here).
In the 1840s, a Mister John Nix founded a fruit shipping company in New York City that was the first operation to bring in produce from Bermuda and after four decades of nearly frictionless business, the administration of Chester Arthur imposed heavy protectionist barriers on the importation of food, with fruit but not vegetables being exempt. Lobbyists and tomato dealers persuaded regulators that the botanical definition should prevail with domestic growers crying foul and filed suit against Nix’ business and others,  championed by Port of New York customs assessor Edward L. Hedden, progressing through the justice system and calling on dictionaries as expert witnesses. The technical definition having no bearing on commerce or trade (tomatoes are ‘fruit of the vine’ because they bear seeds), once it made it to the Supreme Court, vacating the rulings of lower courts, ruled unanimously that custom, cuisine and popular meaning. The legal outcome also ruled that beans—though botanically a seed—were to be treated as vegetables, though less fraught and no known knock-on effects. Also uncontroversially, in the European Union regulatory regime a carrot is classified as a fruit but only when used in jams and preserves. Going against precedent, the US Food and Drug Administration under Reagan infamously deemed ketchup to be a vegetable for nutrition purposes for school lunch programmes.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

schengen area

Coming into full effect on this day in 1995 nearly a decade after the treaty, letter of intent was signed on board the riverboat Princess Marie-Astrid cruising the Moselle near the dock of the Luxembourg town at the point where the borders of the grand duchy, France and Germany meet, the Schengen Agreement gradually led to the harmonisation of visa rules, freedom of movement and the abolishment  of border controls. Following the arrangement that one signatory had already established with its neighbours, the treaty developed from June 1985 independently of the European Union—despite of it—due to gridlock among the member states, eventually becoming itself enshrined in inalienable EU law with allowances for opting out and the ability to reconstitute national divides in emergency situations.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

notruf

Despite being introduced as a universal, Europe-wide emergency number in 1991 with support for mobile phones and geographic messaging services fully integrated in 2008, subsequent public polls still consistently show a paucity of knowledge in how to ring the police or fire department in a panic, so since 2009, the European Union has commemorated this number on its corresponding calendar date to increase awareness and promote its appropriate use.
Local legacy conventions in many cases still summon a first-responder or redirect—like 999 for Anglophone areas (introduced in 1937 in response to a calamitous house fire at a London boarding house), 911 (1968, which I suppose just slightly faster to dial if one were using a fiddly rotary phone) for those regions historically connected to the United States (Panama, the Philippines, Liberia among others) and 101, 102, or 103—depending on the nature of one’s emergency—in Russia and former Soviet satellites. It’s interesting how one’s sphere of influence—independence and aspirations—are reflected here as well.

thronfolgerin und kingmaker

Fallout from state elections in Thรผringen over the weekend which saw the unseating of the left-leaning incumbent Budo Ramelow and replaced him a business-friendly (FDP, Free Democrats’ Party) minister president, who carried the election through a coalition vote that saw the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), centre-right, voting with the extreme-right Alternativ fรผr Deutschland (AfD) party with the newly elected FDP official—something akin to a state governor in America, nearly immediately resigning and calling for a new election—has prompted Angela Merkel’s designated successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, nom de guerre AKK (see also), to announce that she would not stand for chancellorship in 2021 and would step down as chair of the CDU. Finding what AfD stands for to be antithetical to everything that the CDU has worked towards, Kramp-Karrenbauer had the presence of mind to doubt whether she could fulfill both roles and acknowledged that separating party leadership from the chancellery would severely weaken the CDU’s position. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was also tasked as Defence Minister once Ursula von der Leyen departed to assume presidency of the European Commission, will continue in that role and focus her efforts on reforming and rehabilitating the German military.

Monday, 3 February 2020

benelux

Since 1944, the governments in exile of the Kingdom of the Belgium and the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had agreed to a customs union until superseded on this day in 1958 when the three nations ratified the Treaty of Brussels that integrated further the signatories both economically and politically.
This bolstering of cooperation and transparency ran parallel to the European Communities (all of whom were also founding members—the so called Inner Six along with West Germany, France and Italy) created by the Treaty of Paris of 1952 that established the pooling of industrial resources and would eventually serve as the model for the successor European Union. The tight group considered opening membership in 1960 to the Outer Seven—Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal (Spain still under dictatorship) Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom—the latter being particularly keen on joining as the Suez Crisis of 1956 (see previously here, here and here) with its intervention efforts undercut by the USA had shown Britain that it was no longer all-powerful and could not thrive without allies. Fearing that UK membership would become a Trojan Horse for American interests, France vetoed Britain joining for seven years until Georges Pompidou succeeded Charles de Gaulle as French president—with reassurances—accepted their application and began negotiations, the community finally expanding in 1972.

Friday, 31 January 2020

gmt+1

In accordance with the provisions of Article 50, after forty-seven years of membership and a contentious three-and-half years of vigorous and at times unseemly and embarrassing debate, the UK will leave the European Union at 11:00 pm local time. The UK quits the EU with a standing invitation to rejoin, as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concluded her speech to assembled MEPs during the last plenary session before Brexit Day with a quote from British poet George Eliot: “‘Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.’ We will always love you and we will never be far. Long live Europe!”

Sunday, 19 January 2020

megxit

Though still the duke and duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will no longer be styled his and her royal highness and remit the public funding that had gone into renovating their chosen residence and forego future tax-payer support in light of their decision to step back from their public duties and spend part of the year in North America.
This month—with quite a few days on balance remaining—has already been quite a year already so there was precious little bandwidth available for these developments on top of everything else. It is difficult to forecast what this semi-abdication means for the couple and for their family—seeming untenable that one could partially recuse oneself and equally fought to be a gainfully employed private person without commercialising one’s name. It is also quite incredulous that this news and the intrusive and racist way it unfolded is taking sufficient oxygen out of the room so that there’s far more acute fatigue over Brexit and the Johnson cabinet’s commitment to withdraw from the European Union at the end of the month.

Friday, 20 December 2019

backstop, full-stop

Retaining a comfortable majority of votes in favour on the bill’s second reading, the newly constituted Parliament of Boris Johnson (previously) has passed a Brexit arrangement, essentially the same framework (albeit with a few key adjustments) as the one rejected numerous times proposed by Teresa May, just with the comfort of couching this disaster with mansplaining, which looks to guarantee that the UK will leave the EU by 31 January 2020.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

general election


Thursday, 21 November 2019

as I testified previously, with regard to the requested white house call and white house meeting, the answer is yes

Per my previous post indeed, we’re wondering if that minor (comparatively) diplomatic gaff that involved first diminishing and dissing the European Union at the beginning of the year before quietly re-credentialing the supra-national organization was not some sort of premonition, previsioning of how the testimony of his own ambassador to the EU (the slightly amnesic and fellow billionaire hotelier appointed by Trump himself) might lead to downfall of the whole regime, pulling all his creatures of the court under with him. The undeniable implication that all were party and privy to the motivations behind Trump’s conditional and transactional foreign policy, driven on self-interest alone, leaves the administrative completely exposed and defenceless. Just as superior orders (Befehl ist Befehl) is not an exculpatory argument, placing wrong-doing out in public does not make it right or more palatable.

Monday, 18 November 2019

rabbit redux

Reminiscent of those murderous bunnies found in the marginalia of medieval manuscripts and ever successive cottontale congress thereafter, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Lewis Carrol’s White Rabbit and the Killer Bunny guarding the Grail, artist YiMiao Shih plumbs UK politics with a tapestry in the tradition of Bayeux reimagining pivotal moments as Rabbrexit.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

do or die

On what was guaranteed to be Brexit eve on All Hallows Eve (that date pushed back to the end of January 2020), after being rejected three times by the House of Commons, the Prime Minister secured a snap poll for a general election in mid-December, now under debate in the House of Lords.
Members had roundly rejected calls to move beyond gridlock through holding another vote given the way that particular stratagem had backfired for his predecessor and netted a hung parliament until Labour leadership (previously) conceded that they would support this “once-in-a-generation” event. The last election held that late in the year and close to the holiday season was on 6 December 1923, causing the fall of the Conservatives and allowed Labour to form a government for the first time.