Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Website io9 has an interesting book review of a new work by geographer Chris Lavers on the natural history of the unicorn and how this legendary creature has become somewhat of an obsession and a symbol pregnant with associations, connotations of all sorts, employed by many different agencies.

It turns out that the earliest reports of an illusive and ferocious beast in the wilds of distant India, which probably referred to a third-hand sighting of a rhinoceros, propagated by ancient Greek naturalists, is completely unrelated to the unicorn as it appears in the Bible. Early translators were at a loss as to what animal Hebrew word re'em ( רֶאֵם ), often used metaphorically, could refer to. Literally the word stood for the extinct aurochs, the European bison—and other animals like goats and cattle and camels were recognisable, but re'em was used in the text, with license, for any beast of burden and symbol of strength and, alternately, for submission—which makes more sense when read in context. The authorities substituted the Greek and Latin words for unicorn, however, sanctifying and popularizing the pensive creature.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

santo cáliz

Our little neighbourhood is having a little celebration with live music and a beer-tent called after the community's namesake, St. Lawrence—a Laurentiusfest. It falls on the weekend of his Saint Day and matyrdom. Originally hailing from Aragon, Lawrence went on to study theology and liberal arts at the university of Zaragoza where he became acquainted with Sixtus—the future pope. After completing his studies, the two traveled to Rome in the mid third century.  There Lawrence was ordained as a deacon of the Church and given the important office of treasurer, overseeing accounting for the inventory of artefacts (hence his patronage of librarians and accountants, records still exist showing where the diaspora of treasures ended up), donations and charitable disbursement.
All was thrown into disarray, however, when the Roman emperor demanded that the Church offer him all their treasure as tribute. Methodically, Lawrence was able to give away all Church property to the poor and when the legates of the emperor can to demand tribute, Lawrence presented them with the faithful and humble members of the community, announcing that the poor was the Church's greatest treasure and was far richer for them than the Empire will ever be. For this affront, the delegation grilled Lawrence alive on a gridiron (hence his patronage for roasters and comedians, supposedly having asked to be flipped over as he was done on one side). One particular item on the books, a cup hewn out of a piece of agate and regarded by many, including Pope Benedict XVI who used it during a Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Valencia in 2006 and Pope John Paul II in 1982, as the genuine Chalice of Christ used at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail, Lawrence saw fit to entrust to a soldier who was on his way from Rome back to Lawrence's homeland by the Pyrenees. The soldier delivered the relic to Lawrence's parents, and has been since preserved and venerated in various monasteries and churches in Spain, mostly quietly and without the Hollywood treatment or the romance (though with no less reverence) associated with the other contenders for this vessel.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

cri de couer or you can't handle the truth

Although I still declare that anyone truly shocked by learning that the world is the prying, groping place is a measure naïve or even complacent or complicit, public attention and outrage ought not be placated by life intimato Ars, the words of prophets of doom, or by practicality, commonality—offensive aspirations.

As more is revealed, everyone will have transgressions against the public trust to confess and defend. Arguing that tolerance and reciprocation do not justify the ends invite the same kind of arrogance of seeing the Big Picture, omnipresence, as does the intelligence Manifest Destiny of the US and conspirators. The disabusing quality of the former is far from palatable and probably inures one to the successive headlines—not only in bed with the telecommunication utilities, foreign intelligence agencies but also trawling from the series of tubes, upstream, that make up the internet and now there is an apparent mandate for snitching that's a free-pass for going beyond regular nosiness and jumping to conclusions and this mass-deputization is bound to go above and beyond—and may go far, in a social sense, of explaining why there is a poignant absence of rage on the perpetrating and perpetrated public—that and a convenient coalescing of economic conditions and conditional victories that deflect securities as a very—be-not-proud personal choice.

Friday, 17 May 2013

oil rush or fun size

I heard that the European Union parliament issued a rather embarrassing, and I think, patronising decision that effective at the beginning of next year will make those condiment trays, vials, carafes of salad oil and vinegar and similar containers go the way of ashtrays on restaurant tables.

Not citing hygienic concerns, food-safety or any other reason that might sound plausible, the consumer commission ruled that such toppings can only be offered to guests in sealed bottles, because diners have the right to know exactly what their putting on their salads. I am sure these new measures will only result in greater expenses passed along to the customers and the end of anything complimentary in as far as the service and setting, not to mention more trash with the disposable, single-serving containers (not for individual sale but maybe with adverts or fun facts like sugar packets, I’m sure) only a quarter used. I really hope there is no sinister motive behind this, like pressure from the cartel of miniature bottle-makers, but rather just a parliamentarian over-excited by his brilliant idea for keeping us safe and honest or better yet a cryptic way towards economic recovery for some of the EU’s problem-children—Spain, Greece and Italy—all producers of olive oil

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

the rites of spring or where the wild things are

As Winter looks to be coming to an end in earnest, photographer Charles Fréger shares his sociology project of documenting ritual traditions and variations across nineteen countries in Europe, capturing the costumes and customs put on in order to coax in brighter days. These ceremonies date from pre-history and have continued uninterrupted, even in the midst of thoroughly modern Europe.

Monday, 18 February 2013

across the pond

While the media focus on European economic policies and tax accords from the perspective of the States seems more preoccupied with the potential spillage and knock-on effects of the proposed Tobin Tax, a levy on financial transactions and market trades, the burgeoning talk of a trans-Atlantic Free-Trade-Agreement, urged by both the US administration and European commission president seems an idea comfortably, tantalizingly far away.

Though it is probably true, for both optimists and pessimists, that reaching any kind of meaningful and functional compromise, aligning US and EU standards on safety, quality and transparency, can only be achieved in a receding distant future, displaced by politics and protectionism (by those current players who would be excluded, too), the notion and the will for such an arrangement is not a Fata Morgana that one can never meet. Naïvely, perhaps, but not without hope as there have been plenty of examples of Bridges to Nowhere over trade and tariffs, like the bickering over the aerospace giants or the fact that one cannot purchase a Silver Lady in the States but embassies of genetically modified organisms, untested drugs and wage inequity are equally unwelcomed, the mutual benefits have been articulated, of substantial increases for the gross domestic products of European nations through fewer administrative and process barriers and greater job security for American export industries.
Those sound positive on balance, but I fear that consumer protections will suffer through compromise. Instead of meeting half-way or adopting the more stringent standards of one partner, existing safeguards, like employment rights, food labeling requirements, safety standards and protection for the environment and livestock will be relaxed, diluted in order to meet industry imposed milestones. I hope that this is not the case, because risking health and security is no lubricant for trade, and to prevent these attitudes from prevailing, one cannot take the stance that procrastination and off-putting is acceptable, any more than in the here and now surrendering one’s sovereignty and self-determination to creditors is.

Friday, 25 January 2013


Since their inception, there have been standards enshrined in the culture of highways, Autobahnen with the intent of breaking up monotony without sparing on utility. There are mandates for gentle curves in order to keep drivers alert, in contrast to straightaway, required in some places to allow for emergency airplane landings.
Sometimes such subtler persuasions are overshadowed by constant construction works, same-otherwise by a few vistas of spectacular scenery and roads hugging the contours of the landscape. There are still, however, quite a number of long numbing stretches of road, especially for the express route through flat lands. Although not common in America or Germany, there are score of techniques tried in France, Denmark and the Netherlands to with art streaming along the margins, posts a-pace with the traffic that change like flip-book animation, rather abstract and Jungian and light installations. Some really creative things have been done, but now such Dutch civil engineers are applying their artistry to creating smart-roads, beginning with a stretch of highway by Eindhoven.

Though the pavement is yet to be steam-rolled and there is a balance of skeptics, planners are brimming with ideas, like hyper-colour reactive paint, that yields neon blue snow flake patterns on the asphalt when temperatures dip below freezing or luminescent lanes that glow in the dark, roads that monitor traffic conditions and issue reports (displaying warning to drivers of on-coming traffic jams), cull wind power from passing cars to power a lane designated for electric automobiles that they might be charged en route. I imagine that quite a bit of energy could be harnessed in intelligent and passive ways. A lot of ideas to make vehicles more efficient are making some head-way but still fall short of where we should be, but paying heed to the pavement, the other substrate may yield a lot of inventive solutions.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

mountain high, valley low

Two recent articles featured via Neatorama offer up an intriguing triangulation touching ethics, technical feasibility, the capacity for imagination as well as questioning what it means to be human through the lens of speciation. The latter points to a very interesting interview between reporters with Der Spiegel and a Harvard professor who is one of the leading thinkers in the field of synthetic biology, regarding the possibility of resurrecting the Neanderthals, whose genetic map has already been successfully sequenced and cloning this branch of the family of man would be (after all the questions are answered, and the scientist and his team invite public debate as essential) a relatively simple matter of finding a willing surrogate.
Like the Jurassic era (adapted into an early cautionary-tale) is named for a mountain range in the western alps, the sub-species Neanderthal is named after a valley (Tal) near Düsseldorf, frequented by a pastor in the 1800s, called Joachim Neumann (Neander is the Greek-form of new man) for inspiration. The characteristic limestone layer of the age was first discovered in the Jura mountains, and the fossilized skeleton of our cousins was first recognized for what it could be in Neander’s valley. Notwithstanding the harvests of genetically modified crops that have infiltrated our food supplies mostly out of business interest (we have not yet made good on the promise of drought-resistant crops for famine-struck regions but that is not a profit that companies can necessarily take to the bank), vaccines, and pedigrees of dogs and cats, it is not acceptable to create or revive sentient beings purely for the benefit and advancement of human kind—in the style of Planet of the Apes, however, Neanderthal physique was at minimum more robust than ours and may have been smarter than their lither and perhaps crueler competitors.

We already do not know how to procede with the little knowledge we already have about tinkering with DNA and are not able to treat other humans humanely, so perhaps this sort of thinking is a bit premature but it still does not remain unreachably in the realm of fantasy. Neanderthals could conceivably have a different take on intellect and help solve the problems that the surviving Homo sapiens created, make new scientific discoveries and be kinder, more empathetic leaders—maybe the ruling class we need rather than putting our trust in the hands of robotic overlords. Mingling our genetic material would create more diversity, too, and perhaps provide resistance to a host of human diseases. These last two benefits lead to the former article regarding what the Star Trek franchise has taught us about evolutionary biology.
The humans accepted the benevolent tutelage of the more experienced Vulcans before arrogantly taking on the Universe like the Wild West, and characters like Mr. Spock, Mr. Worf (Worf was raised by adoptive human parents), Counselor Troi, and B’elanna Torres were outstanding representatives of both sides of their families. One wonders if alien races could really inter-breed, and perhaps it was just a plot-device to excuse costuming and set-design due to budget-constraints (the teleporter was written into the storyline because it was cheaper than staging a ship landing every episode) but the analysis recalls an episode from the Next Generation that explains the humanoid appearance through panspermia, orchestrated by a dying primogenitor race—as well as the hybrid children, since the concept of specie is marked by the ability to cross-breed naturally. Maybe science fiction does not answer all the ethical and philosophical quandaries when it comes to experimenting with genetics, but it probably does provide a good place to start.

Friday, 28 December 2012


The Swedish language is celebrated as a plastic and living entity and each year dozens of new words are championed by the Språkrådet, the national language council.

While many of these new words are for the nonce, topical, portmanteaux or English adoptions, may not be destined forever and ever in the country’s lexicon, it is laudable that such an institution takes an interest in bon mots. Among my favourites on the list released for 2012 (the story is no longer there but please visit the Swedish daily for similar ones) are Ogooglebar (something or someone who produces no hits in an internet search), Nomofob (anxiety due to being on-line and disconnected—from no mobile phone phobia), and Henifiera (to make a statement gender neutral, in reference to the re-introduction of the neuter pronoun hen to the Swedish language this past year, a grammatically correct way to use the ambiguous and incorrect they instead of committing to he or she). The year before, some of the inventive terms included: Säpojogg (a word to describe the gait of secret agents running in business suits after their wards), Åsiktstaliban (someone who won’t give other opinions consideration) and Flipperförälder (the exact opposite of helicopter-parenting, adventuresome and encouraging pin-ball parents).

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

null set

I first thought it was a gag-headline but soon realized that indeed, with various levels of earnestness and symbolism behind the dissent, all fifty states of the union have filed petitions (via an official submittinator) for peaceful and orderly withdrawal from the United States of America.

A block including Texas and many of the original secessionist states of the Confederacy has garnered more than the threshold of signatures and support to warrant (not deign, mind you, and to the horror I imagine of a silent majority of stake-holders that would rather remain part of the US) an official response from the White House. Maybe the hardliners ought to be allowed to try it on their own, most likely to their own chagrin since many of these maverick lands are the biggest recipients of federal aid and get more in return in national taxes than they pay in, not to mention infrastructure, social support and protection and quite a bit in the way of services hard and costly to recreate on a sub-national level. What’s astounding to me is that each and every state has expressed a desire to divorce itself either from select members or from the whole club. It’s as if one might as well start over—and more than a bit disheartening. Even the most notorious and incorrigible members have been spared being forcibly ejected so far—and even with more uncertain and arguably less venerable unions, I don’t believe there’s been discussion or the will to let it splinter into its constituents.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

ojos bien cerrados or pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

There a perfect cover for the meeting of finance ministers and reserve bank chiefs of the G20 nations going on in Mexico. One wonders about the timing of such things and though the meeting seems kind of formal and anodyne, one still cannot quite shake the feeling that important decisions are being vetted—the kind that governments cannot rely on democracy and openness to choose wisely. There is no rudeness, nor strategic advantage, I think, in not waiting for the outcome of the US elections, even though neither of these events went unplanned or were scheduled in a vacuum.

I fear that the results will be hotly contested and unknown for weeks, but regardless of the conclusion and attendant consequences, the US president will be accedes to the same fiscal situation. Most of the discussion in Mexico seems to be economic-boilerplate, not choking off near-term growth by too great a focus on austerity and discipline, deferring the savings and necessary restructuring for later, all which might seem a rather insignificant message to come out of the gathering of so much talent, power and influence ten-thousand kilometers away (for the EU representatives) but bureaucracy is often like that.
In as much as some events might like to have the spotlight stolen from, maybe this conference also stands for the scales that fell away from one’s eyes in another regard (scales—that phrase has been haunting me throughout the campaign, an obscure and automatic saying like, “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descend into the underworld”): the chaos the whole of the banking and financial system has wrought. Maybe the illusion is dispelled that covered up the cycle of boom and bust that is a dissonance and a disconnect from the real economy and only plays policy into the hands of money-managers. The allure and ease, stoked by private concerns, keep central banks and ministers distracted from the real charges and warrants. The charade crested in 2008 and left many disillusioned but so long as there is money to be made off of money, some will try to keep up this effluvious momentum. Maybe such overshadowed events, spared some attention through timing, are acknowledgments that people are weary of talk without protection, calls for reform and toning down the rhetoric of ascetics, and efforts and assessments to bridge disorder best not receive top-billing so we’re not all heir to this fiscal froth.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

la serenissima

The UK daily the Telegraph is reporting on a secessionist movement and mass rally along the canals of the city of Venice, which may gain more traction at a quicker pace than other parallel calls for independence in Scotland from Great Britain and Catalonia from Spain.

United Italy already hosts the devolved Papal States as the Vatican, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta and the Republic of San Marino (plus a few other aspirants) within its borders, and the maritime and mercantile empire of the doges only became annexed due to the barn-storming of Napoleon’s armies, like many other city-states and pocket-republics across the continent—with some notable allowances. The roots of this protest go back decades but economic instability and having to pay tribute to Rome may be the trigger that carries this popular movement. Reasserting lapsed boundaries, once the first province is freed, I think will cascade quite quickly and I don’t know how the map will look afterwards.

Friday, 7 September 2012

gabriel blow your horn

The Way-Back Machine at the Retronaut featured some illuminated illustrations dating from the 10th century of the Spanish theologian Beatus of Liébana’s Commentary on the Apocalypse.
It was the buggy, Picasso-esque figures that initially cause my attention in this particular rendering from the monastery at El Escoria. Perhaps the Spanish painter was influenced by such artwork on this manuscript. What is more interesting deeper within this study, however, is the de-symbolism, the stripping of allegory, behind the pictures. Contrary to popular historical context that makes fables out the oppressors of the day, reading the characters of Revelations as the Roman Empire, Gnostics, or, contemporaneously with Beatus’ writing, as the Muslims of then Islamic Spain, there is no mention of mistreatment or persecution and no topical interpretation of the biblical text. Rather than targeting heretics or people of another religious background for blame, the treatment instead suggests that the real nightmarish fiends represent elements within the established Christian community, holy-rollers, that profess one thing but really use the Church to advance their own interests. That’s a very modern technique from a classic source as well.

Saturday, 18 August 2012


On roadways throughout Europe and beyond, vacation season cues traffic congestion and traffic jams (Staus). The phenomena of herding over multiple lanes, however, is an interesting one, though the study and wonder while one is in the middle of things unfolding and taking interminably long to reconcile itself does not make the occurrence merely academic. Still trying to understand the causes of such viscosity is part of the journey.
 I was not expecting such stop-and-go traffic conditions in Denmark, but these signs that indicate lanes merging that look like an awareness-ribbon along their highways seemed to signal without fail a bottleneck. It is understandable, I suppose considering this country of just five million is being descended upon by travelers coming and going could spur some relative over-cautiousness, which is probably just an extension of being polite and courteous. The display was more acute and regular there, but most Staus pass without explanation or incident with the hesitation and the snowballing reactions of being put in and taken out of formation. Often times, the only delay visible is from people rubbernecking at a scene in the opposite lane. Everyone should be safe and patient, and of course that goes a long way to minimize a true accident, since the occasion for rushing is almost always before one leave home. Sometimes I think the whole mess could be sorted out in no time with a holographic traffic warden directing cars to stay on course and discouraging second-guessing and hesitation. Driving, however, is a taxing and unnatural activity and one ought to acknowledge the compensation and tactics needed to keep traffic flowing may not always be instinctual.

Monday, 6 August 2012

from russia with love or ladies-in-waiting

Over on the side bar, are you seeing those solicitations for romantic services for those wanting to meet women from Eastern Europe, too—or is that just a glitch in my own marketing algorithm? Those advertisements are prejudicial and tawdry and I think reinforce negative and unwarranted stereotypes, and makes one wonder about the threshold for promotion and sponsorship quality. Still, seeing such ads made we wonder what people might say about the girls from this particular Ukrainian locality.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

teufels kreis

Among the many woes and aspects bemoaned about our very global economy—and a worry not countermanded by some other positive element but unilaterally punishing—is the potential that no matter how carefully planned, sacrifice and contingencies made flexible and more than yielding, the weakness or strength, decisions or sentiment touching any other markets could undo all the hard work, arrangements and negotiations and exacerbate problems by posing even bigger set-backs. Eurocrats and eurozone functionaries are gathered together for another installment of talks to issue a way forward, which is of course not just a dodgy doddering through, and a road map is something, although a path fraught with obstacles. Approaching a meeting with only the aim of maintaining a system at all costs rather that with convictions and principles only results in empty compromise, escalation and the true vicious circle (Teufels Kreis)—throwing money at problems and amounts to same good as not discussing or ignoring a problem as a surrogate solution. The diplomacy of map-making, no matter how the landmarks may be shifted or toppled by macroeconomic factors or caprice, are still indelible features to be navigated.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

pyrrhic victory or yes, we have no bleeding turnips

“Another such victory and I am undone.”

The ethos of the battlefield has, for the most part, been relegated to the invisible and agnostic sphere of finance, which has created an aversion to bloodshed and protracted war-making, since that is not a good climate for business—most business, likely there’s a calculus for acceptable loss and trigger for cutting-off the profits for the infernal machines, but it also tends to overshadow the “retrograde” and black market skirmishes that still go on and the people who take part in these sorties and surprises. The majority of what passes as an economic victory (although industry innovation and what’s now called a come-back or revival, like with Ireland or Iceland and what will happen for the Greek people, is not being entertained with this category of robber-baron success) is little cause for celebration (DE/EN), priced in terms of bankruptcy for the competition, the bleeding dry of stake-holders (shareholders and debtors), loss of jobs and living-standards, and trend-setting easily overturned that’s mere redistribution among the oligarchs. What are deemed key institutions are even sustained after being vanquished at the expense of public treasure. Those who would like to see struggling members of the European currency union quickly dispatched and dismissed unwillingly, rather than risk a sort of economic cold war, are rushing away from triumph. The EU’s proponents and founders could not have anticipated the spread of the economic collapse and that such a crisis would force a sober discussion of policy (how taxation and budgets are drafted) integration and is not using the plight of some members to justify the hegemony of others—rather this experiment in amalgamation, an imperfect union, shows how diminished the whole would be without its constituent parts and that the abridgement of differences is no basis for abandonment or ejection. Though the belligerents of politics and finance are intertwined, there’s principle enough, I hope, within the governments (at the behest of the people and not business or self-interest alone) to make the right decisions and have cause to celebrate.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

golden parachute

Why is it that financial institutions seem to be the last ones to suffer and made to accept the blame in moments of crisis? Of course, numerous banks are being battered by outside appraisers, but that affects the clients that have graciously allowed the banks to hold their money—or not just hold it, in many cases, but rather do something risky and maybe a bit evil, subversive with it too—but restructured or commandeered, the money-managers are not allowed to lose, while credit, savings and mortgages for the public flitter away or are leveraged with insurmountable interest rates to guard against instability.
Of course, these imbalances are compounded in business and government as well, in the forms of lost capital, revenue and social-services. If any other utility—and again that’s all that any bank is, like the electric company or Reading Railroad—business enterprise or government failed as consistently and unapologetically to deliver, they would be rightfully remediated or dismissed.
The same financial institutions that are bringing the euro to the brink, like giant babies in some blameless but willfully destructive playpen, are admitting to nothing, nor being held with any responsibility by their host governments that created the framework for them to raise amazing wealth. I don’t think there is any extraordinary conspiracy behind the governments of the European Union trying to cobble together a fragile fiscal pact four years after certain inevitabilities became apparent (other than the anodyne corruption of politics and wealth). 
Delay and unchecked speculation, however, has only afforded the chance for bankers—not the cleverest or most creative lot—to huddle in their war-rooms and quietly, only eking out panic in controlled doses—prepare to re-tabulate the score, drafting the new financial order while economic ministers obliged with a believable cover, again deflecting blame and becoming the saving champions of the markets.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

kαταναλωτισμός or conspicuous consumption

While it is premature and insulting to suggest that Greece, failing to form a definitive coalition government after its legislative elections that were themselves held in the framework of a caretaker government ingratiated as a condition of the first bailout package, will flagrantly choose to not uphold its obligations—attracting no clear majority though like-mindedness abounds—it does beg the question at what cost default. Greece is already in hock for the better part of a generation just keeping current on payments to service its rescue packages, with acutely less to show for it in the end: the dictates of creditors and angel-investors are superseding public services and the cultivation of a jobs market. Prophets of doom are probably not exaggerating when the say that Greece will suffer an extended period of massive poverty if they are forced to default (there is not much choice left in the matter) and quit the euro, but such consequences are temporary, surely less than the terms of the loan, and the Greeks could begin clawing their way back right away. Such a precedent, though, would be dread to see, dread to hear for other countries on the economic ledge and the minders of the EU—a cue for Spain, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Belgium and Italy, another nation imposed with a caretaker government, to consider doing the same.
I venture that the biggest fear behind the potential for contagion and strict monitoring of Greek conduct lies in not the potential for poverty but rather that it is a renegade category of poverty. Consumption continues at a pace, regardless of financial standing, so long as there is credit and interminable refinancing. Trade partners can still sell their exports and settle payments with a common currency in understood and agreeable terms, but once those conditions disappear and a country is unable to afford imports, established trade routes break down and there’s a turning inward and countries become more self-sufficient, relying on native products and developing local manufacturing (even if not as immediately efficient and technically advanced), perhaps even getting accustomed to getting by with less. Stronger economies would not be sustained without broader markets for the export of their expertise, and their sterling credit.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


The awkward tension between Switzerland and Germany over emerging taxation treaties, banking reforms and German bounty-hunter tactics has resulted in a legal volley between the two countries, including the arrest-warrants for the offending tax-inspectors, a travel-ban for employees at a major Swiss bank for Germany and harsh language that threatens to undermine any progress on transparency and cooperation struck recently (DE/EN). In February 2010, three German tax-inspectors entered into negotiations with an anonymous former bank executive, perhaps disgruntled, to acquire a data CD pilfered on the executive’s way out, which supposedly contained intelligence on international clients who may or may not have been banking in Switzerland for purposes of tax-evasion (the overwhelming countries and banking systems of choice for tax-dodgers are UK and American parking-spots, despite all the flailing and over-reaching of jurisdiction by Britain and the US) .

There was certainly a lot of second-hand absconding and economic sniping by proxy, but the transaction is ultimately criminal in nature. Neither country’s statutory privacy laws would sanction such an exchange, which was paid for with tax-payer funds by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and it will remain unclear who was baited or was the instigator since the only witness who might have known the executive’s identity committed suicide shortly after the sale. This may be a very chivalrous skirmish, but it is having negative effects on further negotiations for a repatriation programme of secreted money and trust between Europe and the Confederation that’s rooted in plunder. Regardless of philosophical questions and whether the greater good is a Kantian moral imperative, this act was still executed illegally (at best—and there are strong indicators that more intrigue is at work) with the German government knowingly buying stolen goods. What was done cannot be easily undone or forgiven and this blunder deserves discussion, regarding how else financial straits are eroding sovereignty and the rights of private citizens. Swiss laws and Swiss neutrality are constituted differently than German or European Union standards, and it is no accident of history that Switzerland, by direct vote, has refused overtures to join the EU and other institutions time after time. Such stanchness for democracy, instead of wholesale commitment of the public without the public’s assent, is a Swiss hallmark and ought to be respected before the escalating situation can ever be put right.