Friday 27 September 2013

aca, ada, abracabra

It is the Anti-Deficiency Act of 1882, as amended, that puts the American government in the precarious situation of dismissing some one-third, deemed non-essential—which has the interesting ring of the imagination of Douglas Adams (not a statesman)—of its workforce without compensation. The government will still discharge its duty to protect, duty to warn with a skeleton crew, who themselves will not see their salary until such time as Congress has set a budget, being legally bound against the incursion of further debts that it cannot vouch for. The last time a full government shut-down happened, notwithstanding many intermediate close-calls and political staring-contests, was in the winter of 1995 and 1996 and I remember being quite frustrated that the National Galleries were closed to visitors and I came expressly to see a special Rembrandt exhibit.
I was content, however, at the time with making snow-angels on the Capitol. There were dread inconveniences (a weak word) to public services and those employees embargoed, and this time we can only project the impact of disrupting the paper-push of bureaucracy the hardship of individuals just now starting to recover from the last rounds of an administrative-, as opposed to an emergency-, furlough, though the predictions of doom and despair did not come to fruition at-large and the output of the federal government is largely invisible and looks expendable until one is personally affected by the loss of a cog or two. Though the causes reach back much further and the US government has expanded into something unwieldy and self-serving—surely to be redressed by follow-on show-downs like the looming matter of America's debt burden that will make this intransigence seem like theatre, the major bone of contention that is keeping the legislative branch staunchly divided is over another Act, the Affordable Care Act (a new idea only to America, though, with most of the rest of the world having put universal health-coverage in place long ago), and not in costs, immediate nor long-term, but rather in perception and principle. The devil's advocate seems to keep company with a business-lobby not renowned for its fair labour-practices to begin with, and considering that all of the really awful and onerous laws that the US has implemented and unleashed upon the rest of the world (lately, at least, if not always) have been done so at the beck-and-call of this same cartel, perhaps it would be wise to consider careful what these groups through inflexible fear-mongering might be trying to un-write.

Sunday 15 September 2013

laissez-faire is everywhere

There were several stories in circulation this week, echoing from many corners of the world and many times without deference to this being the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the too-big-to-fail financial house whose downfall placed economics internationally in chaos, that proclaimed real and shadow markets to be fully recovered and no longer in danger of relapse.

Maybe some early optimists took the occasion to express a brighter outlook and the mimics missed the crux of the context and rather not let ancient history complicate an apparent slow-news day or revive unpleasant memories and fueled with the hopes of returning to simpler and more trusting times—an economic nostalgia when the labour situation in Greece had nothing to do with the price of eggs and banks were an insulating factor true to their word that tomorrow could only be bigger and better. Indeed, some the language was reminiscent of the patriotic overtures to just go shopping in the aftermath of the September 11 Attacks to restore the world economy. Never mind about confidences shaken and disintegrated, the disclosure of inflationary and unethical practices, the stark shift away from social good and board and bed lost and increasingly aggressive circling-of-wagons by the banking aristocracy and their court, their sophists—journalism being a big part of that estate, to keep the game going. Dwelling on the negative and preaching doom and gloom is only helpful as a reminder and urging precaution—not that pathological adventurers need inspiration, but I do wonder sometimes who sponsors such spin and de-programming.

Friday 13 September 2013

austausch, b-gosh

Long had European Union Commissioner for Internal Affairs Malmstrรถm held her tongue over the on-going revelations of the breadth and depth of indiscriminate intelligence gathering on the part of the US—not, I think, out of a lack of concern or zeal but rather to not bait controversy prematurely, but digesting the reported reach of the spying, suggested that the lack of transparency could lead to the EU's withdrawal from the SWIFTBanking Treaty with the United States.

The agreement provides that the signatories hand over certain financial transactions to America, in the name of combating tax-evasion and money-laundering and rooting out all imaginable evils. Malmstrรถm, after learning how the SWIFT clearing-house for international bank transfers is apparently already subject to eavesdropping, she questions why they are now asking permission. Her statements have galvanised the parliament in Strasbourg and several factions have agreed to join together with demands that all cards be laid on the table, including back-door practices. Quitting the treaty would be a significant affront US-EU relations and mark the first time that a bilateral data-sharing (Austausch) arrangement was challenged—a few of which the Swedish commissioner herself helped orchestrate.

Friday 9 August 2013

speakeasy or mayor mac cheese

Via Slate Magazine, we find out that the kids' menu is not merely an extension of the atavism of adult palettes—to the same level of maturity for refinement, or an attempt to inculcate young and impressionable adherents but rather come from a strange mix in America of medicine, morality and marketing.

Prohibition really opened the doors to the younger crowd and created the concept of the family restaurant. Prior to America's ban on alcohol consumption, restaurants not embedded in a hotel generally did not serve children—a phrase from whence similar punchlines stem, because they tended to be in the way and interfered with the imbibing of adult-beverages, still today any restaurant's biggest profit-maker. In order to make up for lost revenues, restauranteurs looked to catering to family-units. Unaccustomed to making dining out an experience for the youngsters too, parents needed to be presented with a certain level of reassurance, a fare for children that seemed safe and balanced, given all sorts of fretful ideas swirling with nutritional and age-appropriate foods. Compared to the gourmet dishes adults were served, kids got basically bland and safe concoctions—nothing to inspire returning when they reached dining majority, the meals were dictated by the prevailing pedagogical thoughts of the times—nothing too challenging or threatening for immature tastes nor anything indulgent. I wonder how the consequent moon-shining affected the public psyche.  The industry trend has shifted these days to a denominator of guilty-pleasures, it seems.

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 naรฏve 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.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

percentile or blue-screen

The press seemingly have an obligation to announce their special-coverage with an infographic or a dramatic-photo montage and an orchestral strike. For continuing development concerning the government budget sequestration and mitigating measures, like furloughing defense department employees—with the caveat that contracted, conscripted or otherwise exempt personnel should not be utilised to make up for lost work, one publication went with, I think, a very unfortunate symbol to illustrate a cut in 20% in pay for affected workers—evocative of a time when the Pentagon was really and truly lamed. Perhaps in some ways, it is good to trim back the rhetoric with such stoppage and temporary estoppel but from the perspective of personal hardships and future knock-on effects, it quickly reveals itself as unacceptable and counterproductive.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

oh weal, oh woe or ttip—ta ta for now

Watchdog CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory) delves into the details of the US-EU trade agreement that was ratified at the G9 summit and shows how, without much imagination of an embarrassment of gullibility, public welfare is becoming a nuisance easily steamrolled by business interests, constituted in such a way as to give industry carte-blanche to flagrantly ignore established national laws and policies and give pause to governments thinking of championing the common weal.  Of course this development is vying for attention (or rather, seeking cover) with the Conference itself and the effective-date for FATCA in Germany, plus whatever distracting scandal of the day. 

When regulatory climates are seen as damaging to investor profits or acting toward the detriment of health, labour-rights, safety or the environment—depending on one's perspective, both parties are bound to submit their cases before a kangaroo court of arbitrated settlement, the commission for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), headed by a group of lawyers with an established reputation. Lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic are responsible for crafting these conditions, and thankful activists the world around are keenly aware of the dangers of disincentivizing de-soverigning, too. Unfortunately public service has its price, as well, demonstrated by the precursors to this treaty.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

pyrrhic victory or the hundred years’ war

Though characterized and distilled mostly as the proprietary authority for businesses to demand applicants, supplicants and current employees surrender their social-network profile upon request, which while good for garnering glancing concern and attentions, is sadly short-lived and is not engaging public dialogue in CISPA is again positioned for passage in the US Congress, despite conflating opposition. 
Just as there are champions for keeping us over-safe, we have our tireless advocates, but the issue and the real, long-term stakes remain something that is easily placated or dismissed.
eroding privacy. Victorious skirmishes, sometimes ceded over inflated (at least, in the here-and-now) fears, overshadow—by design, I think, the larger struggle, since these assaults are becoming perennial continuing-resolutions politically.

Saturday 2 March 2013

ab in beurlaubt

The US executive and legislative branches were unable to reach or fake a compromise, which triggers a count-down, sort of like a Rube Goldberg contraption, towards budgetary sequestration across most of America’s federal programmes, mandatorily paring funding and raising the spectre of furloughs (unpaid absences) for hundreds of thousands of government workers world-wide.

It is wholly excusable, I think, for most of the international public to be aghast at the dysfunction while thinking that a temporary curtailment of the sticky wickets of bureaucracy won’t cause any significant damage. It’s an embarrassing situation and a disservice to populace, to be sure, but I think blame and hyperbolic overtures to the boogeymen of security and the already prevalent attitude (in perception and in fact) regarding faded glory do really overlook the cascading effects of the situation. Though the expected cost-cutting measures, immediately and projected out over the next decade, represent only a tiny, tiny fraction of the larger deficiency, some 85 billion dollars out of an either four, eleven, 15 (or exponentially higher) trillion dollar debt, cutting back work on the proposed scales could mean a twenty percent drop in the purchasing power of the federal work force and those associated with it, not to mention those indirectly affected by delay and errors, all of whom will probably never be fully redressed.
This fifth does is not a chuck out of the whole of the abstract US economy, mostly conjuring money out of the movement of money and pushing paper, but—and perhaps even more urgently, this reduction is a double-decimation, not just in terms of income and employment and delivery, but a realignment, like annexing twenty percent of the America’s smaller communities, absorbing them into larger neighbours with an even more massive yet over-burdened civil institutions. It is like the pettiness and gridlock of the Congress leaking out of the Beltway and set loose on all aspects of the American public.  The wheels of government will continue to turn with skeleton-crews, more work pressed out of staff remaining, rotating singly through the work week with less continuity and more matters overcome in the transition because it will have to. Authorities, in spite or because of the knock-on effects, may realize that adjustments (austerity American-style) can be accommodated and can make do with a scaled back government—or, and probably heralded by flagging spending and all around timidity, essential and uniting services both will become untenable under a reorganization that excised too much stability, functional determination and assuredness, whether or not misplaced, out of communities too quickly.

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.

Saturday 12 January 2013

underpass or suburban legend

Though second- and third-hand tales abounded, until recently there was no undisputed evidence of cow tunnels boring under the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. Although far less incredulous than giant crocodiles, sprung from unwanted pets flushed down toilets, lurking in sewers, urban spelunkers are beginning to map out this forgotten underground network, meant to reduce the traffic of livestock brought into 1870s Gotham disrupting human transportation.

Atlas Obscura’s intrepid team of explorers reintroduces this lost bit of infrastructure with a bit of history and discovery. Of course the detour avoiding the most crowded parts of the city was not a radically new idea, what with established gazing commons and cattle trails crossed by railroads and highways. Underpasses were dug in order to keep them doggies rolling. New York’s grid, however, seemed by all accounts a complex and unseen labyrinth. I wonder how many other cities and towns (London, Paris or Berlin, perhaps?) created similar networks (mazes of alleyways, canals or elevated catwalks) for market days and have long since forgot the original use of these passageways and re-purposed them for other uses.

Thursday 10 January 2013

cosign and spirograph

Current White House chief of staff and former budget wonk Jack Lew is the new pick for Cabinet posting of Secretary of the Treasury. Though a seasoned veteran of Washington, Lew’s appointment’s is garnering the most attention over his loopy, hoovesie signature that will eventually appear on legal tender.
My simple signature—honed and hewn down to next to nothing due to having to sign a lot of paperwork, sometimes causes people to balk and occasionally I am prompted for something a little more legible or identifiable—especially by the postal authorities. I am sure Mr. Lew’s John Hancock would not pass muster either, and it looks like an awkward scrawl of acknowledgement on one of those electronic signature pads at the checkout—the kind that you can draw anything on and the screen brightly informs you that signature is accepted and verified. I wonder where in the aether those x’s are sorted and if they’re ever brought back up.

Friday 28 December 2012

down on cripple creek or stockholm syndrome

By engaging in the politics of terror, I think the United States is poised to play a very risky game that risks it becoming a caricature, mockery of the democratic process. It is unfair to lay blame squarely and solely on one party faction, since there is more than ample blame to go around—including the voting-public and the abstentious, but I think it is a safe assertion to point to one cadet wing of the Republican Party, trenchantly conservative and angry, as blocking compromise and negotiation.

This one faction is hijacking, ransoming  US policy, and as a result, is not only holding captive its close associates but also the broader Republican Party, the entire legislative branch and the executive besides, not to mention the ameliorating US economy, only just shooed away from the precipice and it’s not going to be something fun or exciting like a roller-coaster or going over the edge of a waterfall in a barrel—that has already been done. On some levels and in some ways, too I fear, the hostages are starting to identify, relate to their captors, though most are roundly alienated and marginalized. By all measures, the US economy is driven by consumer spending and consumer sentiment and not the ripples and tides of investment and abstract enterprise, but sacrificing the former at the bidding of the latter proves that authentic finance is just more and more relegated to show and pretense.

Sunday 23 December 2012


Loggerheads, not develop- ments or discourse regardless of tone, concerning the state of the budget and forward-policy regarding taxation and funding for prosecuting wars of all ilk in the US is diabolical in the detail and shortfalls, and despite whether trailing or leading discussion and coverage of the issue, I suppose that these particulars do not matter overmuch nor ever survive the next cycle of austerity American-style.
A polarized, frightful and fear-mongering legislature, with an array of cadet tentacles and inventive pseudopodia (ฯˆฮตฯ…ฮดฮฟฯ€ฯŒฮดฮนฮฑ, false feet), is projecting away from any language of compromise, familiarly and characteristically stalling, a move taken from a playbook that could be transposed anywhere and for any episode, showdown that has passed recently and for the foreseeable future. Such inflexibility and laming division allows government to conveniently ignore the mandate of the people who they are supposed to represent and stoke other external pressures, like business and the markets, which always trump congressional indolence and force many hands. It is a vicious cycle of dismantling and up-building inverted, where the conventions razed or raised are the opposite of what’s in anyone’s long-term interest and more and more dulling with each passing deadline and limit.

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.

Friday 9 November 2012


Those who criticized and ridiculed the Occupy Movement as something disorganized, unfocused and undisciplined are already getting a good dose of evidence to make them want to retract that statement through their help for the displaced by Super Storm Sandy and other charitable works. The cynics, however, might learn soon not to underestimate the power of the people through their latest venture. It goes without saying, I think, that there’s no revenge or getting back at the powers that be motive behind such projects—getting even is hardly hopeful or affirming and I think such objectives pull down the whole enterprise to the same sort of thinking, characterized by greed and insecurity, that got all of us in this mess to begin with.

Next week, beginning with a gala, old-fashioned fundraising telethon, the Occupiers will launch Project Rolling Jubilee. Taking a cue from the business plans of the worst loan sharks, bounty-hunters, repo-men and usurers—the practice of selling or unloading loans and mortgages that have the potential of becoming risky or going into arrears amongst each other at a discount, the organizers plan to buy up distressed debts from the lien holders for pennies on the dollar and forgive the car loans, medical bills, student loan debt and underwater house payments. Occupy owns the loans and liability and can discharge with them however it sees fit.  An outlay of $25 translates to about $600 worth of debt loans, and cumulatively that can add up quickly and rescue a lot people from a burden that they could not hope to dig themselves out of otherwise and do things more productive with their time and resources than worry and work to enrich a system that has avalanched so far afield from fair commerce as to be alienating. This cause sounds like an unbeatable and most sustainable return on investment.

Wednesday 7 November 2012


I heartily congratulate the American people and Barack Obama on his re-election. After debate, treatment, retouching and legislative gridlock, there would be more than a sliver of daylight’s difference in the outcomes for social programmes and diplomacy between him and his challenger. 
I believe, moreover, the opposition’s biggest hurdle (that they set up themselves as a stumbling block) was the inability—in fact and in argument, to convince voters that they were interested in being any more than the president of the 1%, the 99%, the 47% or the 53%, no matter how one cuts it, a whole swath of dissenters and people with different priorities and approaches would be disenfranchised. Sympathy and reform are not divisive, and while first terms are not dress-rehearsals, time, patience and experimentation are necessary to see innovation through, especially in the annals of government. Maybe not every hope and help was able to roll out after that carwash of debate, treatment, brinksmanship and infighting perfectly and true to the original vision and intent, and many decried the frustration and impositions of State as execution settled, but I think that at bottom inclusiveness proved to be an invitation to join in those aspirations and willingness to brave new directions, with open eyes and full knowledge that the roadblock of one person can become the safeguard of another. There is unfinished business to attend to.

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.

Monday 5 November 2012

syncretism or give me that old time religion

Though my vote would be for the “black Muslim,” it’s remarkable, I think, that politeness and discretion and tolerance flag in such an asymmetrical fashion. One’s personal beliefs and convictions are important indicators of official deportment and ought to be afforded with respect, regardless of pedigree. Such a big schism erupted over the Kennedy presidency, the one and only Catholic office-holder (though there is an unlikely union between the challengers, and we will see what happens with that), and there’s this strange cauldron of questions and assumptions about the incumbent that’s bewitching to a large part of the voting-public—and though maybe assumptions and prejudice are already cemented in regards to the challenger candidate’s affiliation and confession, that there’s little talk of it is still rather incredulous.

Without baiting the same kind of shallow and flippant stereotypes about any community of faith (teetotalling, narrow-minded harem-mongers could be code for many things), it does seem that one’s background ought to be a matter of discussion—not derision, and an invitation to learn more. Of course, the loser will be forgotten as a wildly inaccurate representative (real or attributed) of his religion but the politics and climate that made this match will still be there, though with different champions and seconds and despite the rumoured separation of Church and State. There is a tendency to reject tenets that are not seeped in and mystified by traditions that did not come from an unattainable past as something too new and too human, but rather than forestalling one’s own established confession, it seems that the aversion comes from not the evangelizing, the otherness or conflicting values, but in the way that it forces one to examine native-held convictions and how one represents them or is represented by them in an unrarefied and maybe unflattering light.

Friday 26 October 2012


Campaigning sets off a dissonance that I think goes hidden, unexamined too quickly for both the presenter and for the audience. It is not the art of oration, in my opinion, to suggest and convince segments of the public that what they want to hear untangles half-truths and heated promises, nor does anything more than mask the compromise and confusion. Though we’d like to look away and turn inwards, sometimes it is necessary to try to reconcile what does not quite correspond with reality.