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 Liรฉbana’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

verkehrsverhรคltnis

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.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

eurotrashing or the columbian union

Although the most recent rhetoric against the general deportment of the body eurotique has been toned down somewhat—or at least, transmuted into a pseudo-intellectual soapbox about the urgent need for urgency and action, it is still very much cachet in Anglo-Saxon political debate and attacks to summon up the Continental, European leanings of one’s opponent—thereby ending all possible discussion.
The spectre of socialist regimes and bloated bureaucracies and welfare states are yet ammunition enough for a moment’s deflection at the expense of a distant and abstract punching-bag. One, I’m sure, can expect the criticism of the European club to become harsher and more pointed as the election season in America approaches. Meanwhile, the dissonant coda to all these judgments from critics, skeptics and sophists is that the EU government and member states ought to be converging towards a so-called United States of Europe, with common policies and standards.
I cannot imagine, however, a more disjointed and decodified union than America. The EU is not demanding that Alibamo impose the same sin-taxes as Nieuw Amsterdam does—or that Tejas or ร˜klahomรฅ adopt their standards for vehicle registration plates or levy duties on income, retail sales or property uniformly either. Hopefully, once all the shouting is done with, people will realize that there are aspects, both traditional and experimental, about Europe and its organization worthy of emulation.

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, 5 July 2012

adi, adieu, arrivederci, adios acta

After months of protests over intransparency and secret diplomacy, back room dealings and public outcry, the outcome of 4 July’s parliamentary vote in Strasbourg was somewhat of a foregone conclusion. The vote, however, was a decisive stance and declaration of independence from American dictates, coming in the form of rejection of the ACTA treaty and choosing freedom over copyfight. A clear majority of parliamentarians from all political persuasions did come together to deflect this proposal, ostensibly to combat international counterfeiting of real and virtual commodities and enshrine intellectual rights, but there was a minority of proponents and many abstainers.
I am sure that the watchdog group, European Corporate Observatory, could let you know how your representative voted and if there might be industry connections influencing that decision. In the last minutes before the ballot, there were some desperate, sophistical arguments that tried to defend the opaqueness of the negotiations, saying that the deal was about keeping fabulous-fakes out of the market and not about codifying the ability of government censorship, though China and Indian were not signatories. (That argument is a bit taxing, I think, because those countries are not dens of piracy and inequity and do export some counterfeit goods because they also generate the majority of the world’s non-counterfeit goods as well.) One supporter of ACTA compared an agreement without China and Indian to the good done with the imperfect and not universal Kyoto Protocols, which is without Chinese, Indian and American support, and that we still ought to try something. The comment was weak, but it did make me think that before even entertaining furthering American hegemony and legal frameworks, the EU and others ought to be able to demand that the US abide by the environmental treaty, recognize the permanent tribunal in the Hague, pay its membership dues to the United Nations, etc. Such a quid pro quo seems fair and might convince the US to introduce compacts not overly swayed by the telecommunications and entertainment industries—especially as the move by Europe is inviting the spectre of retribution in trade and tariffs on the part of American businesses. Those threats, however, must have rung empty for the rejection to be so resolute.

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.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

ex ante or porto portugal you are permanently punished

This week’s vote in Ireland whether to accept or reject the conditions of the European Union Fiscal Compact, a treaty meant to promote financial stability and responsibility through punitive measures and supranational controls, was a stirring of an issue that goes dormant as member states shuttle in queue and declare what they expect their prerogatives to be.

All countries, with the exception of the UK and the Czech Republic, have now assented and one can expect the process to lurch quietly towards enforcement next year. Ireland, uniquely contrary and potentially ruinous, had a pivotal decision, not so much for deigning to participate, but for letting the voters of Ireland make that mandate—being the only EU member to put the Fiscal Compact up to a plebiscite. Public engagement results in education and a better understanding of the expectations and consequences. The Irish constitution has to now be amended in order to conform to the terms of the compact, which demands that signatories stay just under budget or face fines and surrender trade and tariff matters to the EU government. States still retain control over tax regimes and public projects but it is a legitimate question how meaningful that exercise of prerogative and priorities are still when tethered within the latitude of treaty rules and whether the conditions of this pact are going beyond the reserved rights of individual sovereignty as put out in the language of the Lisbon Treaty (Vertrag von Lissabon). Rejection would mean that Ireland or any other dissenter would be ineligible to receive emergency aid and rescue funds. The EU has the bully pulpit, along with the deportment of its top performers, but also has a sloshing budget of billions with only nominal and ethereal accountability and negatively reinforced, and it seems to me that this poses more of a danger than a deterrent, like keeping a standing army in times of peace.

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

kฮฑฯ„ฮฑฮฝฮฑฮปฯ‰ฯ„ฮนฯƒฮผฯŒฯ‚ 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

kopfgeld

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.

Monday, 5 March 2012

matryoshka or flying circus

In his work about the experimental Republic, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville made the initial observation that the country was too big, diverse both in terms of territory and population, for the democratic exercise and would most probably end with monarchy.

I wonder what the political scientist would make of the royal family of brokers and bankers, and though Russia has elected no czar or despot, I wonder if de Tocqueville would have made the same prediction of the much vaster land in the east. No novice candidate in his or her mid-twenties—someone with no direct and living-memory of the old order—would be called to run, nor would anyone want that sort break with the past, and the opposition presented a paucity of choice, that’s very much a part of the democratic process. Acrobatics and a little braggadocio are essential for straddling those points of departure, schisms that are mostly attributed from the outside of the continuum of Russia. To a large extent, freedom from want has been transmogrified and restructured in an orderly fashion. With a clear mandate and no reasonable chance of losing, why would Putin have risked the side-show of ballot-stuffing and vote-fraud? The cries of foul were not just the sour-grapes of the competition nor administrative irregularities but perhaps something more orchestrated. A monopolar world is always slipping, and perhaps the guardians of democracy, croupiers and ring-masters touting the freedom to want, would rather not see individuals outside of their vetting and credentialing process retain power. Maybe the financial dynasties, the ruling elite, would like to discredit and destabilize the regimes that they cannot buy.

blue laws

Generally, I am only keenly aware of the restrictions against smoking when corralled through security after a trans-Atlantic flight. The labyrinthine shepherding through the airport, hermetically sealed and no chance of escape is maddening. Already the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants is over four years old, and though it is no hardship and actually more pleasant all around—although I have not really just gone out for a drink or stayed for more than one, since the rules went into effect, it does strike me as strange that the whole of Europe could screw its collective nerve and resolve to a comprehensive ban that was not universally favoured. One still sees a lot of smoking in thresholds and out-of-doors during nice weather, but it is hard to dispel images of soupy smoke in cafes and pubs, and even as some businesses contemplate the unthinkable, relaxing the ban, there is a certain stale smell of revision—not that some establishments might be allowed to go back to the way things were before, but rather that smoking indoors was never permitted, except in the movies. Bavaria instituted some of the most stringent restrictions, to later back away from a few that were over-reaching, and there’s yet this funny legal steering to get around the letter of the law, with smoking “clubs” that are not open to the general public and only to dues-paying members, or the elaborate (and rather kosher-sounding) work-around of having a tent erected inside a community centre, since one could smoke in a tent. The powerful tobacco lobby in the Netherlands is making it possible for bars that are tended and staffed only by one person who owns the establishment to permit smoking. This sort of conditional dispensation is even more strange.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

the hunting of the snark or the barrister’s dream and the banker’s fate

Perhaps the embattled EU and currency alliance needs the rare and elusive Eurocorn for a mascot, a symbolic protagonist to rally against the kingmaker creditors and the formless monsters of debt and want.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

retracta and rokovania

I wonder sometimes whether journalism is investigative, self-promoting or merely stumbled upon. I suspect that it is usually the later, rather than the first, and sometimes more notice is made of the breach, the pass rather than keeping to the ceremony of record-keeping and minutes-taking. The nearly universal ascension to the ACTA (EN/DE) treaty happened without notice nor a blip on the RADAR of main-stream journalism and only the rage and defiance of a few brave and informed souls in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. Now, a bit wiser but still without the leave of the news, protests are being staged in London and other capitals against some of the provisions of the treaty, including in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
The Slovenian signatory, the ambassador to Japan, has released a public apology (in English), first to her children and then to her fellow-citizens for having committed their futures to such a far-reaching atrocity in one of the most articulate, heart-felt and honest statements from a politician that I have had the pleasure of reading in some time. All statecrafters ought to take note. It is the public's duty to snoop around what makes the headlines and is writ large and one cannot rely on go-to journalism to reveal every back-room deal that is coming out of Davos, the EU Parliament or the US Congress, which have all been scuttled in the media as something dull and irrelevant by design, but some of the terms of ACTA would make such snooping harder, and hopefully these rallies can draw the needed attention to what national leaders are consigning their people to.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

plagerize, bowdlerize

It was not as if the activistas and the internet community was too busy running a premature victory-lap on putting off the votes on SOPA and PIPA not to notice, the matter was simply not being covered by the media and could not compete for anyone's attention it until it signatures were already penned, and without much debate, protest or bother twenty-two EU member states along with Mexico and Japan chose, in authoritarian style, to join America's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a treaty which contains many of the same entertainment-industry engineered provisions and much of the same language as SOPA and PIPA. The spirit of the law, at least as it is being portrayed to signatories that needed little convincing, has merit for commerce but endangers freedoms, and at odds with existing and enforced national policies, raises the spectre of censorship. Those few who were aware of this unilateral decision did voice their concerns: there were rallies on the streets of Poland and some representatives in Poland’s national donned Anonymous, Guy Fawkes masks in protests.
That the people had no voice but will be the ones enforcing and working within the framework of the law is nearly as big of an affront as any of the bad policies it contains. The treaty will not come into effect until it is passed by the EU Parliament in June, and the parliamentarian formerly negotiating the treaty resigned his post in protest over the character of the treaty, the secretive lobby and that no regular citizens had any input. In related developments, another social-networking service has agreed, in order to continue operations internationally, to comply with redacting notices at government request. This is tragic news, especially for one of the facilitators and moderators of the revolutions of the Arab Spring to bow to oppression, but they had little choice. Perhaps, however, as bad as it is, all is not lost: approaching threats of censorship more systematically than has been done by others forced to comply, the blacked-out content will not just be elided but obviously censored and only within country, not to the world, and all redacted items and the take-down requests will be archived in a clearing-house that fights for freedom of expression. Faced with the unsavory task of unpublishing uprisings, no other service has gone so far to ensure the censors will be held to account.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

lethe

Just recently, European Union courts have ruled that individuals have the right to be forgotten (DE), to truly have their auto-biographies expunged from the internet--at least, what people have contributed themselves to social-networking sites. It would not be feasible to have one's record totally cleared, but hosts of the bigger gatherings are obliged to remove, retaining no copy, remove material at the user's request, for instance, old images from parties that might prove embarrassing or incriminating, regrettable and untoward announcements or opining or one's entire profile, although there is a definite persistence of memory given all the connections that one forms with automatic gestures, fast and deep. Lethe was one of the legendary rivers of the Underworld of Greek myth, and to drink of its waters helped the recently arrived to forget and lose some of the sting associated with no longer being among the living, and according to some traditions, the forgetting waters that ensured reincarnated souls could not recall their past lives. Ownership of one's personal and private memories is an essential part of one's selfhood, but there are times when one does need to dull and filter recollections (verbatim memory of the wonderful, banal and the debilitatingly mortifying) with some selectivity in order to function, and it would be equally torturous to know that our imperfect memories would always be bailed out by such a permanent and unwavering record.

Monday, 23 January 2012

marco polo or year of the water-dragon

Today marks the first day of festivities for the Lunar-Solar Spring Celebration, more popularly rendered as Chinese New Year. Though there is a lot of regional variations and private, family traditions, this time for reunion and renewal is an affair spanning several days to nearly a full two weeks, with different auspices and ritual attached to each day of the festival. There seem to be a lot of birthdays observed in this period, too—the second day, according to some traditions, is the birthday of all dogs, for instance, and the ninth day is the birthday of the Jade Emperor of Heaven. I can't say for certain there are Western analogues and I would like a better cultural understanding the significance and symbolism. Understanding is not only in what's parallel at first glance and sometimes seeking the familiar carries with it the risk for over-simplification. The Chinese calendar, whose years are reckoned from the reign of the legendary Yellow Emperor, cycle through more than just a mythological menagerie and the ruling animal is also paired an element, making for a sixty-year series. Asian astrology is more akin to Western Numerology and the animal year of one's birth only determines one’s outward projection, while inner perceptions are flavoured by months, days--true animals, and even by hours, secret animals. On the most basic level, water dragon is "hidden dragon" and most have an optimistic outlook for the coming months. Another event coinciding with Chinese New Year is Croatia’s plebiscite for European Union membership. The Croatian island of Korฤula, a thalassocracy in its own right, along with the Most Serene Republics of Venice and Genoa, claims Marco Polo among their native sons--sort of like the competing Belgian, German and French claims for Charlemagne. It was through the travels and writing of Marco Polo that Europeans were first exposed to the lands of the Orient, and his reconnaissance and engagement helped inspire the golden age of exploration. Although I guess no one knows when or where Polo was born but I do wonder what the secret animals of his hours said of his character and ambition and what the timing of this decision has in store for Croatia.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

herab heraus or power of the purse

While still caught in either mid-yawn or mid-reel from the repercussions of the downgrade (Herabstufung-- Herabstufung is an upgrade or a promotion) of nine states of the European Union by one member of the creditworthiness brat-pack, the agency then proceeded to cast a pall of doubt on the EU’s financial crisis-management plan, the European Financial Stability Facility (gekรผrtz als EFSF oder bail-out pie), making the mechanisms of recovery potentially more costly, paying a dearer premium on the assurance of their efforts.

 I suppose it is logical that plans and pacts would also be targeted for assessment, but given that the EU was not simply downgraded en mass but rather parsed and excised instead of indirectly attacking their credibility through their good neighbor programme and that I cannot recall the agencies being very vocal (for or against) during the early phases of the US economic recession with trillions from treasury coffers dispersed to salvage over-exposed financial institutions, the gaming of the EFSF seems to me more like the bookmakers’ culture of Briton, wagering on an outcome and any interest-grabbing probability with the intent of skimming a little off the top. Germany and other EU leaders have dismissed the notion, at least not publically addressing or entertaining the idea, that the activity of the rating agencies is vindictive or something of a conspiracy--though there is more money to be made raising the stakes. Banks, in collusion with the rating agencies, are bringing down Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal whose baited lend-lease ventures shoved these countries over the ledge by obscuring their real levels of indebtedness and still foisting more easy credit on them, past the EU statutory limits. It is simply false to attribute the whole crisis to bad governance, greed, or laziness without factoring in the temptation and terrorism visited by this conspiracy. Once the crisis was forced, the same predatory gang called in their debts and are now profiting off the chaos and desperation as well.  Hopefully, national responses to this sort of gamble are measured and in proportion.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

truth in advertising

At the other end of the spectrum (in several respects) from the efforts in the US legislature to bring SOPA and PIPA in force, the EU Commissar and national consumer advocacy ministries are teaming up to combat predatory lending practices through offers of on-line credit that are usually too good to be true. In contrast to the industry lobby in the States, this mission actually aims to protect the consumer and has the teeth to close down websites, possibly engaged in shady, dishonest business, if they fail to come into compliance--not steamrolled or blacklisted but not suffered purely for the sake of commerce either. Though I think the Banking Offices of Mister Goodluck Smith-Jones of National Bank Ltd GmbH of Nairobi, who has some incredible news for you, are safe, the commission has looked at hundreds of websites and scoured thousands of offers that purport to compare competitive interest rates for moving ones savings or find the best terms for a loan and found that more than two-thirds of these sites, with an air of legitimacy since they rate real financial institutions that people have heard of, the conditions did not pan out as favourably as promised. Caveat emptor is a sound doctrine to follow and a little homework is always to one's advantage, while the sieve of government cannot and would not attempt to filter and field all such spam, this kind of initiative is a proportional way to balance out the glossy inducements that people sometimes seek out.