Saturday 30 October 2021

nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

A prolific and popular salon painter in his own time—though figural portraits of classical subjects fell out of fashion until a revival in the 1980s, William-Adolphe Bourguereau of La Rochelle born this day in 1825 (†1905) counts as his most famous work in his 1879 La Naissance de VรฉnusThis painting does not actually depict the birth of the goddess by her transported to Cyprus as a fully mature figure in a sea shell—first gained attention and notoriety after winning the 1850 grand prize in the Prix de Rome, submitting two entries for that year’s competition, triumphant with a rather pedestrian depiction of the rescue of Zenobia, half-drowned, by a group of shepherds. The more evocative alternate submission was the pictured Dante and his guide Virgil (where have you brought me?) in an encounter from Canto XXX of the Divine Comedy in the Circle of the Imposters (Falsifiers—perjurers, counterfeiters, etc.) with an alchemist called Capocchio forever condemned to be gnashed by a Florentine knight named Gianni Schicchi de’ Cavalcanti who forged the will of a wealthy merchant to leave a horse for him, whose punishment seems a little extreme. Aside from being immortalised in the epic and this painting, Giacomo Puccini produced an eponymous light-hearted opera in 1918.

Monday 11 October 2021

respubliko de la insulo de la rozoj

Sadly short-lived and not tolerated by Italian authorities, regarding it as a ploy for tax avoidance (and perhaps to provide cover to marauding Soviet submarines), after the declaration of Rose Island (so named in Esperanto, its official language) on 1 May 1968, subsequent occupation at the end of June and eventual demolition the following February, engineer Giorgio Rosa, namesake and self-appointed president, we glean from Messy Messy Chic, designed and built the host platform in the Adriatic, off the coast of Rimini and in international waters.
The structure supported by nine pylons (see also) was not only the seat of government, issuing stamps and possibly a currency, the Mill—₥, now an abstraction for economic discussion, once also used in Cyprus, Mandatory Palestine, Hong Kong and Malta but also a bar and nightclub as well as a souvenir shop. A lightly fictionalised version of the story of the founding of the micronation was released in December of 2020 with the blessing of Rosa, whom aged ninety-two, passed away in 2017 during production.

Saturday 31 July 2021


70% cรดte d’ivoire, 66% cyprus, 65% republic of ireland: doodle world flags and let a computer guess—via Web Curios  

peaky finders: a selection of interactive mapping application still functional and chugging along a decade later  

cult of the sun: a look at the Athon, a 1980 Lamborghini concept car  

ss experiment: an unsuccessful ferry, powered by eight horses on a treadmill  

astronomia: a lovely antique deck of playing cards with celestial charts and information on the planets and stars 

flsa: US congressional representation introducing legislation for a four-day work week—see previously here and here  

google doodle: a selection of the best commemorative banners—via Things Magazine

Wednesday 28 October 2020

ฮทฮผฮญฯฮฑ ฯ„ฮฟฯ… ฯŒฯ‡ฮน

Though the response of the Greek prime minister to the Italian ambassador regarding Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow the Axis armies to occupy strategic points in the Hellenic lands delivered on this day in 1940 was a bit more bellicose and francophone—“Alors, c’est la guerre!”—than the popular account that the prime minister answered with a simple and laconic No—ฯŒฯ‡ฮน/ohi, it was the latter that resounded in the streets and shouted first by members of the resistance then by all. The refusal was met by Italian troops stationed at the Albanian border invading Greek territory, beginning the Balkan campaign of World War II. This act of defiance, rejection of fascism is commemorated annually in Greece, Cyprus and the diaspora as the “Anniversary of the No!”

Saturday 3 October 2015

attica or cultural studies

Though best remembered international for stellar performances of roles that were not able to contain her energy and talent, stock-characters in good but less acclaimed films like the happy hooker in Never on a Sunday, the good-time girl-type, naughty nun, or gal Friday in Topkapฤฑ, Greek singer and actress of the stage and screen, Melina Mercouri, had another equally impassioned calling as a politician. Finding herself exiled, stateless—her passport having been revoked for outspoken socialist sentiments against the junta government of a cadre of conservative colonels who overthrew the liberal government in 1967, while away on performing on Broadway, Mercouri—along with other prominent members of the Greek diaspora focused attention and shame on the military coup d’รฉtat.
Despite tepid support in Greece and an overall laughable platform that no one took seriously, the junta lingered on and on for seven unbearable years—not ousted until their adventures with a one-Greece-policy by invading the Cyprus that was so poorly executed and resulted in the partition of the island nation rather than its annexation. Once Mercouri could return to Athens, this “last Greek goddess,” as she was nicknamed, decided to focus her energies on rebuilding her homeland—which had suffered considerably in the intervening years with dismantling of cultural capital and censorship. When questioned on her credentials for entering politics as an actress, Mercouri retorted by questioning what qualified lawyers to represent the people. Mercouri went on to become the Minister of Culture, and lamenting that it was always just the chiefs of finance that met and that money was not certainly everything—a pretty bold truth to speak, especially in the present atmosphere where Greek financial ministers are characters people might actually recognise by name—and called together, for the first time, all the European ministers of culture and the arts. The legacy of this summit survives today in the rotating European Cultural Capital and the open dialogue it invites with a less rarefied form of diplomacy that everyone can appreciate. Mercouri was also the first voice in a growing choir of protests and calls of vandalism to have the so-called Elgin marbles returned to the Acropolis and for the protection, stopping trafficking and the repatriation of other national treasures.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

much coin, much care

Though I would not describe myself as a dedicated and studied numismatist—albeit perhaps somewhat more reasoned the collectors of com- memorative coin sets, which is exactly for whom they’re issued but I do admit to having a cigar box heavy with a small fortune, at face-value at least, of the special national series of the euro-zone members, the Bundeslรคnder, and various defunct currencies. I was never before given in change a Cypriot coin, however, and it did take a moment to register, remembering that only Greece had formerly been accorded with using something aside from Latin script but that was before Cyprus joined the Union, the name of the island displayed in Greek and Turkish. The totem depicted on the obverse, nearly worn away since 2008, the idol of Pomos, is a prehistoric talisman of fertility and the seven thousand year old figure is wearing a charm of herself around her neck—the portable versions being popular in the day. Given the events of that year, I hope Cyprus picked an auspicious time to adopt the euro.

Monday 30 March 2015

cowboys and indians: fifth column or the last crusades

After stalling out at the strategically important but ultimately indefensible port of Damietta, the Crusaders were left with little option but to bid a retreat with no gains to show for their efforts, even with the Ayyubid sultanate of Egypt facing incursions on two fronts, with the previously unseen Mongols on their eastern boundaries. This threat is indeed not for another, separate story-line but folds fundamentally into our present narrative directly. The Crusader States in Cyprus and the Holy Land did not merely evaporate after Frederich II’s failed mission. The doubly-excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor was an Islamophile, having been exposed to the culture and religion early on in his court at Sicily and managed to negotiate a truce with the Egyptian armies that allowed the meagre holdings in the Near East to survive for almost another tumultuous fifty years.
Warrior pilgrims from Europe, however, were not content to be just tolerated under the conditions of standing treaties and came for a fight. The integration and cooperation, even if it was mainly kept up in order to vouchsafe trading-relations, was a bit of a revulsion for the newly-arrived and for leaders back in Europe, fatigued by their own civil-strife and lacking the will to bolster any harmonious middle-ground—as we have seen the Crusaders themselves do rather inexplicably time and time again when settlements of the Holy City of Jerusalem were offered and refused.
Though under continued threat externally and prone to the same problems of succession internally and civil war, the Crusader States had achieved somewhat of a happy equilibrium, similar to the case after the debacle of the Fourth Crusade and long-lull in adventuring. To the East, however, dust was stirred under hoof of the massive, unstoppable Mongol army, grandson of Genghis Khan, a talented and merciless general called Hรผlegรผ dispatched to conquer Persian and the Levant and expand the empire. Shocking, the Mongols sacked and utterly destroyed the ancient city of Baghdad and were making advances at Damascus and Cairo. The only lands that emerged from Hรผlegรผ’s wake unscathed were those that wisely, unhesitatingly surrendered, like the Kingdom of Armenia, without a fight and agreed to pay tribute and join the Mongol thrust. The ruthlessness and totality of destruction to the Muslim cities outdid even the worst of the Crusaders, but in a strange twist of history Hรผlegรผ spared the Christian inhabitants, allowing their churches to stand and for them to retain their property where all others were toppled and quickly relieved of the wealth and lives. The Buddhist khan had strong Christian sympathies due to the influence of his mother and number-one wife, who were both Nestorians, members of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Hรผlegรผ even returned lands that had been recently taken by the Egyptians back to the Principality of Antioch, and later traveled to Rome himself for a papal audience to urge a union of Mongols and Latin Christians to retake Jerusalem. It’s hard to say why this offer was not well received back in Europe—maybe Rome felt that the Nestorian influence was too radical and heretical to invite in.  Had that project been undertaken or had the Mameluke armies, usurpers of the sultanate, not been able to turn the tide of battle at the walls of Cairo at Ayn Jalut (the Springs of Goliath), the Mongols eventually bidden to leave the desert so that their horses could graze, the world we’ve inherited, I think, would have looked very different. Once Egypt was able to recover from that harrowing clash, the Mameluke sultan, Baibars, attacked the Crusader States, chipping away at them over the years until they were no longer sustainable, first as punishment for having sided with the Mongols and then for violence unleashed upon the resident merchant population of the Crusader territories.

Baibars’ diplomatic overtures to the Golden Horde, the rival khanate that had advanced into the southern Rus, the Crimea and across the Balkans, and subsequent allegiance, helped to keep Hรผlegรผ at bay, ensuring the survival of Egypt and Syria. After nearly two dread centuries of presence in the Holy Land, the European Crusaders were expelled, not to return again as occupiers until some seven-hundred years later with the dissolution of the vast Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the Great War.

Thursday 19 March 2015

cowboys and indians: the fourth crusade or the tale of the two sicilies

The Latin Church, going into another apoplectic shock over the failure of the Third Crusade, with the failure to retake Jerusalem back from the forces of Saladin and what was seen as an unacceptable appeasement—bordering on tolerance—of the Muslims wherein the Crusaders only barely managed to cling to the coastline with the cities of Jaffa, Acre, Tripoli and Antioch, decided to once and for all settle matters by again taking the reins, as happened in the First Crusade, a century beforehand. Pope Innocent III dispatched legates and recruiters to all corners of Christendom, determined to carefully control the quality of holy warriors, skilled and pious knights only with no more of those roadies that the Pontiff blamed for past fiascoes or avarice souls only coming along for material gain. Owing to the untimely death of Richard Lionheart by a stray arrow that led to his little brother John taking the throne, whose sympathetic dealings with the French nobility and general lack of restraint incited a revolt among his own barons and a crisis of succession and civil war that ended with John persuaded to check his own power with by signing the Magna Carta in the field of Runnymede. All these events took far longer to play-out that the two year campaign of the Fourth Crusade to come, so enlistment efforts in England were fruitless. So too were they in neighbouring France, with Louis II unwilling to budge or part with his armies until this matter was resolved.
Even though relations with the Holy Roman Empire under the ambitions of Hohenstaufen Emperor Henry VI was strained, Germany was more responsive to the entreaties of the Pope. Henry VI was hoping to undo the embarrassment of the dissolution of the German contribution to the Third Crusade after order fell asunder when his father, Barbarossa, unceremoniously drowned en route, but this putting on a brave face also carried ulterior-motives. Henry was also a match-maker, tutored in building strategic alliances through matrimony by veteran Eleanor of Aquitaine, and secured loyalties at home before incorporating more and more lands into the empire.
Henry conquered the important naval power of Sicily and had many of the Papal States as well as the buffer kingdoms of Armenia and Cyprus in his corner, and hoped to established an universal empire that stretched throughout Europe and across the Mediterranean to rival Byzantium, if not entice it to merge into a single super-power. Perhaps Henry would have succeeded too and the world would be very different, had he not, like his father, died of malaria in transit. Like with the earlier, disastrous German campaign (whose only legacy was the creation of the imitative Order of the Teutonic Knights to protect the pilgrims who did not retreat), the Crusade careered off course shortly afterward, despite Pope Innocent’s efforts to wrest back control. The Church’s original plan would have the armies of Europe travel to Egypt by ship and launch a conquest on Jerusalem. Fatefully, Henry’s own Sicily was at war with Genoa and Pisa, leaving Venice as the only sea-going city state from which to depart—although some of the English and French volunteers left from Flanders and Marseilles.
Venice had been scheming against Byzantium from sometime and despite having been expelled from the capital of Constantinople along with the other Latin Christian population (depriving the merchants of lucrative trade opportunities) recently found themselves charged with naval protection of the empire’s flank along the Adriatic—the admiralty having dissolved and sold the Byzantine fleet for personal gain. It was this and other lapses of leadership that had caused the people of Byzantium to revolt against the Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who was forced to abdicate and blinded in a palace-coup, and surrender the throne to his brother, Alexios III. The defeated man began plotting against his brother and conspired with the Venetians, persuading them it was time to attack Byzantium and restore him to power. Conveniently, the Crusader armies were on their way, and a detour to Constantinople surely would be tolerated. The Germans acquiesced to the stop over, though presciently Pope Innocent admonished the Crusaders that they were entering fellow-Christian lands as visitors and on the pain of excommunication, forbid any one damaging or pilfering Byzantine property. This command was not well circulated and mostly ignored and the armies, beginning a series of atrocities that goes very nearly unmatched in recorded history, first sacked Zadar and Trieste on the Dalmatian coast, despite the cities both confessing the Roman Catholic rite. And spurred on by this conquest and the allure of even greater booty, the Crusader army put the ancient and wealthy city of Constantinople under siege and proceeded with raids once the port was taking, looting immeasurable wealth, defiling churches, taking holy relics as war-trophies, destroying libraries and other storehouses of knowledge and burning a fifth of the city.
The deposed, blind emperor was restored—as were the free-trade zones and consulates of the thalasso- cracies, but the city and the empire would never recover. Jesus wept.  The Great Schism occurred, the Eastern Orthodox Church splitting with the Latin Church over irreconcilable differences and disgust that been sorely sustained for centuries afterwards. The attack and following civil-unrest, the Greeks not at all pleased with being ruled by a puppet-emperor of Western Europe severely crippled their ability to defend themselves from Ottoman invaders and eventually Byzantium fell, with Turkish territory spanning at its apogee from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to the suburbs of Vienna, from Baku to Algeria. Only a fraction of the Crusaders reached the Holy Land, those embarking from France and Belgium, and only helped maintain the status quo in the diminished Crusader holdings. Overcome with grief and guilt for the destruction that resulted from the venture, the Latin Church would never again sanction a crusade to the Holy Land—those to follow are the doing of secular powers, but did, after the fall of Byzantium, launch expeditions to beat back the Ottomans and restore the Eastern Empire.

Sunday 15 March 2015

cowboys and indians: acre and ascalon or mesuline and maid marion

With the True Cross lost to the Muslims and Saladin having recaptured much of the Holy Lands, the mission that became known as the Third Crusade, embellished with a stamp of romance and authority that has grown in the imagination over the years—of course, dependent on the current geopolitical fabulists—might be the adventure that many envision when thinking of Europe’s forays into the Middle East.

Latin Christian communities had been entrenched in a handful of major cities for some three generations at this point, in the late twelve century, several monumental crusader castles had been constructed as anchors, there was a professional fighting-force in the orders of the Templars and Hospitallers, the former regional power of Byzantium was on the wane, and though the same problems with infighting amongst the European leadership, the monarchs—not the princes, mercenaries or other understudies, the Crusaders marched to battle under such luminaries as King Richard Lionheart of England, King Philip II of France and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Though there was an appeal from the papacy to rally the population, though somewhat fatigued already with the idea and none too impressed with the previous performance, dashing Richard Lionheart’s eagerness to volunteer spurred others to follow suite.
There was not only the desire not to look like cowards or non-believers, there was moreover the matter that the European heads of state were rather natural enemies back at home, and it would be disastrous to dislodge any part of this precariously balanced system of oaths and allegiances without upsetting the whole order and making all lands vulnerable to attack. England and France decided to sail to the Holy Land, an expensive but seemingly prudent and expedient decision, with a large armada across the Mediterranean. Eager to arrive first in the Holy Land, the German armies took the overland route through Anatolia. Although the prospect of a huge German army sweeping through the lands of the Seljuk Turks and onto Syria and the Levant was a terrifying thought and the psychological effects far outlasted the campaign itself (much like the later-day Operation Barbarossa), the aging Emperor chose to try to ford the River Saleph (Gรถksu) on the Anatolian Peninsula instead of crossing at a perfectly good but overcrowded bridge and drowned, never reaching the Holy Land and never finding the legendary Prester John. After this untimely accident, the armies of the Holy Roman Empire splintered and many divisions returned home. England and France got off to a much later start and the passage via Sicily dragged on for some three years. Richard Lionheart pushed on ahead of the French forces and took Cyprus en route to the port city of Acre.
The city was firmly under Muslim control, but the dethroned and feckless King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, having been released from prison in Damascus, along with his morganatic wife and children, who were the legitimate heirs to the captured kingdom, and King Guy was only elevated by marriage, had a bold plan to lay siege to the city as a way of solidifying his claim. That claim became even more specious in short order when his wife, Isabella of Jerusalem and their children, died while escaping back into Syria from the lands where Saladin had exiled them to, in exchange for his release. Guy’s apparent lack of leadership ability had of course made him unpopular with his former subjects and their was another pretender, cousin Conrad of Montferrat, whom was favoured by the French contingent. Consequently, the French forces did not really care to put themselves out to help Guy of Lusignan with his prestige project. Owing to the fact that the deposed king was not favoured by the French and that they shared a common-ancestor, a certain water-sprite named Melusine (whom according to popular legend was herself the product of a union between a mortal man and the Lady of the Lake, whose Exalibur Richard had reportedly brought into battle but traded to Sicilian merchants in exchange for more ships an loyalty; a later liaison with King Raymond of Poitou had produced ten children who would come to be the lines of the noble families of Europe, but as mortals can never witness the true form of sprites, taken to becoming a mermaid on Saturdays and Raymond’s curiosity finally got the better of him and spied on her alone-time rituals, Melusine transformed into a winged dragon and left Raymond to raise his royal brood by himself), Richard was willing to champion Guy’s cause.
Taking the port of Acre and building a huge encampment outside the city walls, the Crusading army was eventually, against the odds, to capture the stronghold, due to regular supplies and reinforcements that could be safely brought by sea. Victory in the siege was a huge morale-booster for the Crusaders—even the French, who as a concession to Guy’s plan, agreed that he could live out his days as regent of Jerusalem, never mind that it was yet to be conquered, with the kingdom reverting to their candidate, Conrad of Montferrat upon his death, but was not one of particular strategic importance. In fact, as Richard Lionheart realised, now the troops were forced more or less to keep to the coast and captialise on their naval power, rather than venturing inland—where Jerusalem lie.
Disheartened and overshadowed by Richard’s showmanship, Philip II decided to return to France to tend to his own kingdom, leaving the majority of his armies at Richard’s disposal. This proved to be somewhat of a liability, however, as it was difficult to persuade the armies that forging on to Jerusalem directly would be suicidal. The army captured Jaffa, remaining there for months while abortive negotiations took place between the Crusaders and a representative of Saladin, his brother Al-Adil, as Saladin refused to meet with Richard directly for his brutal slaughter of Muslim prisoners after the fall of Acre, and deciding just where to go next. During this long period of hesitation, Saladin ordered the demolition of the port city of Ascalon, wagering it was Richard’s next goal, reasoning that without control of the coast, no attempt on Jerusalem would be made. Winning support back from the French by conceding the throne to the pretender Conrad of Montferrat—who was incidentally murdered by Assassins before the investment ceremony could take place in the single instance of the sect taking any part in Crusader politics, the Crusader army left Jaffa and re-fortified a line of abandoned outposts between Jaffa and Ascalon and began rebuilding that fortress as well.  The rival contender for the crown, Guy of Lusignan, had already been sent off to the island of Cyprus to rule as a consolation prize.  Battle ensued for Jerusalem, and while the Crusaders retreated at the walls of the Holy City, knowing that even if they could breach them, they could not hope to hold Jerusalem without a leader, the armies of Saladin were routed as they attempted to capture the intervening chain of Crusader bases behind the lines and both sides reached a stalemate.
Negotiations were formalised that preserved Muslim control of Jerusalem, while allowing Christian pilgrims and merchants access to the city. Although the goal was not realised, the Crusader forces held control of the seas in the region. Richard Lionheart returned to Europe to try to sort out the mess his little brother John Lackland (ever spurned for being given no significant dukedom by his father Henry II—Ireland apparently did not count) was making in England with his allegiances with the French king. Upon arrival, Richard was imprisoned under suspicion of contracting the killing of his cousin, Conrad of Montferrat (in Austria by a duke that Richard had offended for not recognising his part in the taking of Acre), beginning the intrigues that are the background of Robin Hood and setting the stage for the Fourth Crusade and a Byzantium Renaissance.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

2013 annual

As the year draws to a close with the convenient bookends of a calendar, it is remarkable to look back and see some of the nascent events—themselves a part of an unbroken chain of consequences and choices, scatter broadly over time and culture. Once plotted and understood in terms of custody and causation, I wonder if anything will go without attribution—though that's, I think, beyond the jurisdiction and competency of PfRC, in the future. I also wonder post-axiomatic logic is such a good thing in itself, since those influences are subject to interpretation and partisanship, which is somewhat easier and self-affirming that research and reasoning. Let's see what surprises remain and what's incubating.

january or alright, mister demille, i'm ready for my re-take: The year began with double-bluffs of the so-called fiscal cliff, culminating in a season of paralysis and donning and doffing blame and responsibilities that led to the furloughing of federal workers and a complete government shutdown for the United States. Looming civil conflicts in Syria are re-polarising politics and set the stage for a redux of colonialism, which really coloured the rest of the year.
february or sede vacante: The newly installed young leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to provoke the international community through ever more aggressive nuclear testing—although Kim Jong-Un, though the help of special emissaries, has back-down somewhat, only to have those aspirations compensated with increased isolation and executing relatives and ex-partners. A meteor exploded over a Russian city and video footage was caught by dozen of dashboard-mounted cameras. Prosthetic limbs are created with three-dimensional printing techniques. German Pope Benedict XVI resigned his post, becoming the first pontiff to do so voluntarily in over eight hundred years.
march or habemus papem: Francis I is elected as Pope, becoming the first Jesuit pope and the first from the New World, and throughout the remainder of the year, calls for reforms in the Church and surprises the whole world with his humility and acts of loving-kindness. The financial ministries of the EU agree on a pact to stave off bankruptcy in Cyprus and Luxembourg, but crises are not avoided altogether.
april or iron lady: A slow-cooker converted into an explosive is detonated during the Boston Marathon. A commercial building in Bangladesh collapses, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Former divisive but influential UK Prime Minister Margret Thatcher passes away.
may or songs that made the hit parade: Human stem-cells are created by cloning. We had to say goodbye to the stage and screen actress, Jean Stapleton. Consumers and national fronts reject corn and other staples exported from the US due to concerns over the safety of genetically modified food-stuffs and the risk of contamination to the food-chain and larger ecology.  A lot of other supranational and corporately unilateral treaties find themselves in jeopardy later on.
june or i-spy: Former NSA contractor flees to Hong Kong, releasing a cache of files on surveillance practises of the US and partner spy agencies. The uproar wells through out the year as the scope unfolds.
july or countermand: Dissatisfied with the countries leadership since the discharge of Mubarak and a crack-down precipitated against more conservative elements, a counter-revolution brings violence to Egypt and results in the closure of foreign missions and a general retreat by Western powers. Prince George is born in London, one day heir to the British crown. After more than a decade of conflict, the United States is forced to rethink the timeline for withdrawal in Afghanistan.
august or from russia, with love: We had to say goodbye to journalist and anchorman, Sir David Frost. America's Central Intelligence Agency admitted it's role in orchestrated the 1953 coup d'รฉtat in Iran. The partner of the chief journalist and confidante of Edward Snowden is detained in transit for what information he might have been privy to. Now holed up in Russia, concepts like airspace and sovereignty and statelessness are matters of discussion—besides from boundaries and trust trounced upon.
september or fabu: Many athletes and activists are calling for boycotting the Winter Games in Sochi due to the host nation's stance on gay rights. No amends were forthcoming although the hosts rescinded early warning that the safety of gay olympians could not be protected. Possibly the exposure and pressure lead to a tumult of unexpected state-pardons later in the year. 2013 was a banner-year for gay-rights internationally, however, with the US Supreme Court refusing to uphold the Defence of Marriage Act and recognition creeping into legislatures around the world.
october or hatee, hatee, hatee-ho: The quirky hit by a Norwegian musical duo quickly went viral. We had to say goodbye to novelist Tom Clancy and to stellar musician Lou Reed. Those responsible for the disruptive suspension of government services in the US escaped revolt and being held to account by technical glitches on the universal health-care sign-up web-site that was the source of all this testing of the wills in the first place.
november or zeitgeist: A powerful typhoon lands on Vietnam and the Philippines, causing grave damage and killing thousands. We also had to say goodbye to author Doris Lessing. A haul of missing art treasures first identified by German customs officials in Mรผnich, not see since before WWII, again came into media attention.
december or madiba: South African president and reformer Nelson Mandela passes away at the age of 95. We also had to say goodbye to actor Peter O'Toole. China lands the first probe on the Moon since 1976.

Friday 22 March 2013

brinksmanship or no quarter

On the surface of things, the evolving situation in Cyprus’ finances does not seem to make complete sense. There was originally a strange sort stoical solidarity as the idea of levying a deposit tax as collateral against the Euro-Group’s line of credit from the island’s government but public outrage and fears of precipitating such seizures ultimately led to the collapse in negotiations. Presently, the Cypriots look poised to renege on the terms of this rescue package, and the EU looks willing to cut its losses, recognizing the grave realities of a marshal-economy. The transformation was quick, from darling of people seeking out a safe berth for the money to anathema, over-exposed—though fundamentally, the shenanigans were no different than what when on in other crisis lands, or for that matter, what is still tolerable, attractive about other safe harbours, like Luxembourg or the Channel Islands.

Further, that stoicism belied a calmness, which was not entirely unheard over the uproar, with the church offering certain securities and pawning pension funds. The Euro-Group rejected these avenues, which seem to be no longer options for the Cypriot administration either, as untenable and just setting up the country for a deferred failure with an unsustainable burden of debt, as well as intervention by the Russians. Though there may be some interest not brought openly to the bargaining-table, Russia seems to be snubbing Cyprus, even with its untapped natural gas reserves, and will let the banking system fail, despite standing to lose a lot of private money and its chief correspondent bank for clearing its transactions with Europe. To be sure, it’s chaotic and the most robust economist probably could not deftly navigate these waters, but things just stopped making sense. It almost seems like warfare-by-proxy, with vested interests in seeing the EU experiment crumble. I suppose too that as the crises initially began to unravel, for example, with the real-estate bubble in Ireland or Spain or the overvaluing of the Swiss franc, could also be shown in the harsh light of conspiracy. Perhaps, hopefully, Cyprus can emerge from this dilemma, bravely and ultimately stronger, like Iceland has done.

Monday 18 March 2013

and that’s a pretty nice hair cut—charge it like a puzzle, hit men wearing muzzles

Oh dear—this is a potentially disturbing development that is making international markets anxious as well as any and every John Q. Public, Max Mustermann, or ฮคฮฌฮดฮต ฮคฮฑฮดฯŒฯ€ฮฟฯ…ฮปฮฟฯ‚ who’ve brooded any nest-egg. In exchange for a ten-billion euro lifeline to save the country from insolvency, banking and finance accounting for a large proportion of the island nation’s economy, European Union finance ministers are demanding a percentage of the savings deposits of Cypriot citizens.

The government of Cyprus supports this hair cut, which would excise a minimum of a three percent from all accounts. Despite insistence that such an arrangement exceptional and not precedent-setting, with Germany trying to distance itself from the conditions of the swap and Britain going so far as pledging to reimburse the losses incurred by her subjects stationed there as a result of the decision, many are growing nervous about their stashes, however it’s kept. Do you think a move like this opens up the possibility for shearing assets from private people, small-holders but share-holders, nonetheless? Or might having savers participate in the bail-out might inspire overall more pragmatism?  It is happening too often lately, but when decisions and support fail to abide by economic sense (I can’t imagine how the reactions and distress in the streets and in the bourses was unexpected), one should always follow the money and see who stands to gain, and perhaps not ultimately, from this deal.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

arguendo or Catchascatchcan

Angela Merkel has been meeting this week with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul and today is being treated to a signt-seeing tour of Istanbul of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia after a summit that has not hurdled many disagreements and points of contention.  Merkel is our scout and cruise director, at least.  Resistant to the notion of assimilation, Turkey is pressing for inclusion of Turkish language primary and secondary school for the diaspora.  On the other side, Merkel has reaffirmed her shared hesitation about EU membership for the state, whose admissions process has been held up on more than one count, like refusal to recognize Cypriot sovereignty.
My current unit for my MBA studies focuses on international business law, and while it is just a smattering of knowledge--I understand what is meant by the various legal and accountable spectres of ltd and plc and even GmBH and KG--I feel I have learned a few things.  Not many matters of diplomacy and politico-economic unions, outside of trade and the aegis of common law, are touched on as such, per se, inter alia but I suspect that when Germany says that it and Turkey have a special relationship already and the two should work within that framework, it refers to an old Roman by the name of Status Quo.