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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 27 May

by Fran Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:37:48 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 


Europeans on this date in history:

1971 – Birth of Kaur Kender, an Estonian author, who entered the Estonian literary scene in 1998 with his debut novel "Independence Day" ("Iseseisvuspäev"). Since then his books have enjoyed unprecedented popularity in Estonia with the old and the young, the literary elite and the popular culture.

More here and here

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by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:20:34 PM EST
EU gives green light to 'Blue Card' worker visa plan | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 25.05.2009
The European Union has approved a new 'blue card' worker visa program as a way to attract highly skilled labor to fill growing job gaps across the 27-nation bloc.  

The plan would offer skilled workers a single multi-year visa to work and move freely throughout the European Union, similar to the American green card permit.

Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday also adopted a set of common standards and sanctions against employers who hire illegal foreign immigrants. These include making it mandatory for businesses to ensure that non-EU workers hold a valid residence permit and that a copy of such permits be kept on record should inspectors demand to see it.

EU-wide penalties would consist of fines, which would increase according to the number of illegally employed foreigners, and the possible exclusion of guilty businesses from accessing public funds or taking part in public tenders.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:24:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second measure is what should be done, IMO: the problem is not 'illegal' immigrants, the problem is demand from employers for an unprotected workforce without rights; and the competitive pressure on fellow employers these exert.

As for the blue card, what do you think about it? To me, pursuing a brain drain on non-EU countries seems an obscene practice.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:55:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am also curious to see how large those fines will be. In order to have the proper effect they should be much greater than the probability of detection times employee expenditure differential compared to a legally employed person in the same position. Anything else is a joke slap on the wrist with a wet noodle.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 05:56:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
German farmers gain fuel tax concession. | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 25.05.2009
German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has agreed to a demand from the German Farmers' Union and says that diesel fuel tax will be reduced in a move expected to save farmers 300 million euros ($420 million) a year. 

The unpopular diesel tax was brought in under former agriculture minister, Renate Kuenast, of the Green Party. It imposed a 10,000 liter capacity on which farmers could claim tax rebate and required farmers to carry the cost of the first 350 euros in full. Both these limitations will, according to Aigner, be lifted by the end of 2009.

Members of the German Farmer's Union drove more than 500 tractors from the border with Denmark in the north and from Bavaria in the south to occupy a 6km stretch ending at Berlin's Victory Column.

Farmers' Union members were demanding higher milk prices, more government subsidies and a leveling of the diesel tax. According to the Union's vice-president Udo Folgert, the differences between diesel levies on EU farmers vary by as much as 36 cents per liter, with German farmers paying the highest amount in the EU at 40 cents, a difference which for German farmers amounts to 900 million euros a year.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:24:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obvious case of the stupidity of fiscal competition between member states. A race to the bottom subsidizes farmers to burn more oil, contrary to stated EU energy policy, (right, Andris?).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:47:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / EU farmers protest against falling milk prices

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Hundreds of European farmers gathered outside the European Commission in Brussels on Monday (25 May) to protest against falling milk prices.

Approximately 1,000 farmers from various EU countries, including France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, gathered in front of the EU headquarters to protest the increasingly low prices at which their milk is bought.

Farmers are calling for a flexible quota system

"We have average production costs of €33 for 100 litres of milk and at the moment we are paid €19 for 100 litres. And the €33 is without counting the labour cost. That means that every time we milk one litre, we lose money," said Eric, a Belgian farmer, who had brought a cow to the protest.

In order to be properly paid, the farmers should get "at least €44" for 100 litres of milk, he added.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In response to world demand for dairy products in 2007, the EC increased milk quotas so farmers were free to produce more. Now there's excess production and prices fall. The EC is going to have to decide if it is there to regulate agricultural markets properly or if it's in favour of a free-for-all. And farmers are going to have to stop wanting free markets when it's to their advantage, and not when it isn't.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:44:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

And farmers are going to have to stop wanting free markets when it's to their advantage, and not when it isn't.

It works for them (at least for the big guys), just like for the banks. Why would they not want to keep it up?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because I say so.

Non, mais...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:52:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The other day, I was about to comment that, after 30+ years in France, you may have become way too French for you own good...  :-)
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:29:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a useful perspective, thanks.

I do think there's a point to be made about subsidizing inappropriate agricultural production in some areas whilst failing to encourage approriate. Dairy should really only be where there is lush grass (and not fed on hay/straw all year round)

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:12:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lawks, if you knew what milk factories fed the milk-producing structures aka cows... (you'd drink beer instead).

But more generally it's an important point. A local example: we're trying to get the local Chamber of Agriculture to face the fact that market gardening has died out in our area, and that barriers to entry for organic market gardeners are too high (esp wrt finding suitable land). This has happened partly by suburban sprawl building up former market garden land, partly by subsidy encouragement of other forms of farming esp cereals, and little or no aid to market gardeners. So the fresh, healthy, locally-grown vegetables the pols say they want to provide for school and old folks' meals don't exist in any considerable quantity. And suddenly they find that a region that could be (and once was) self-sufficient in a wide range of fresh veg, now depends on factory-farmed chemical-sodden stuff from southern Spain.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 05:04:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / EU mulls involvement in Ukrainian gas storage

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU could be prepared to pay Ukraine for use of its gas storage facilities instead of building new ones itself but only if Kiev cleans up its energy sector.

EU member states are to consider the idea in upcoming energy security discussions but implementation would depend on Ukraine's clear separation of storage and distribution companies, EU officials have said.

Ukraine has huge storage facilities for natural gas

In addition, EU governments have no appetite for paying the country's outstanding debt to Russia which could lead to new gas cuts.

The lack of sufficient gas storage facilities in the EU became evident during the January gas crisis, when Russia turned off the gas supply through Ukraine for ten days due to a pricing row.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:26:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Europe really want to get involved in the domestic Ukrainian gas market? And, more to the point, will the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs that control that lucrative business let it happen?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:06:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't the only reason for subsidizing gas storage in Ukraine to make gas wars less practical for Gazprom?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:56:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it would make wars less practical for Ukraine - but, again, it would work by limiting the opportunities for corruption, and I doubt this will happen...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 08:57:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it would make wars less practical for Ukraine

How so? Would gas storage not enable it (resp. its oligarchs who negotiate with their Russian counterparts) to carry on while the pipelines are shut for a longer time?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 09:08:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlusconi: My work is a burden free of gaffes - CNN.com

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has told CNN he has never committed a gaffe and that he doesn't like his job much these days.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says newspapers have invented his supposed gaffes.

In an exclusive interview, Berlusconi laid the blame on newspapers.

"I have never made any gaffes, not even one, every gaffe is invented by the newspapers," he said from his office in Palazzo Grazioli, his official Rome residence.

Speaking for more than an hour and clearly more confident than ever, Berlusconi said he now felt his job was a burden. What do you think of Berlusconi?

"I'm still doing everything that I'm doing with a great sense of sacrifice. I have to tell you I don't like it. Absolutely. I would rather be doing what I was doing before or doing something else now, " Berlusconi said. "I'm here because unfortunately right now Berlusconi is considered the only leader capable of holding the center-right together. Watch Berlusconi's interview with Paula Newton »

"On the opposite side, on the left, there isn't a credible or respectable leader, and so I think this is a cross I must bear and bear it I will with sacrifice for a while until the emergence of people capable of allowing me to go off to be a grandfather, which I would very much love to do," said Berlusconi.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:32:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The CNN does a good job of letting him talk his way into a corner. An interesting side note is that when extracts of the video were broadcasted on the evening news of the two state banner channels, RAI 1 and RAI 2, Berlusconi's party symbol was plainly in view. The video had been retouched.

The interview transcended its institutional role (read, interview with premier) to send a propaganda message (vote this leader).

The question is whether the private company that had the rights to the video retouched it or the state TV retouched it. And if the RAI didn't do it, why did they let it pass on prime time?

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:24:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A comparison of the two different versions of the video may be now seen here.

It's beyond the pale.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:34:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to be a grandfather, which I would very much love to do

He's pretty good as a Papi.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:53:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'No Convictions to Date': Study Finds Ethnic Profiling Useless in Preventing Terror - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

A new study has found that ethnic profiling is worse than useless when it comes to preventing terror attacks and has never led to a terrorism conviction in Europe. The findings could have profound implications for police work at all levels.

Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, racial or ethnic profiling has been a source of controversy worldwide. While it makes intuitive sense to many people that certain groups are more likely to be involved in terrorism than others, courts in the US have tended to rule that the practice of stopping people based on their appearance or religion is illegal.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:35:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Middle East | French President Sarkozy opens UAE base

President Nicolas Sarkozy has formally opened a French military base in the United Arab Emirates, France's first permanent base in the Gulf.

The flags of France and the UAE were raised at a ceremony at the so-called "Peace Camp" in the Abu Dhabi emirate.

France is a leading military supplier to the Gulf state, and signed a nuclear co-operation agreement last year.

Its new base will host up to 500 French troops and include a navy base, air base, and training camp.

The BBC's Stephanie Hancock in Abu Dhabi says the new military base, France's first outside its own territory for many years, comes on the back of strengthening diplomatic and military ties between France and the United Arab Emirates.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:36:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe more "strengthening" the sale of 60 Rafale jet fighters...? It might be the only sell we'll have on those planes!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France 24 | Cut costs! Let employees on sick leave work from home | France 24
As the recession bites in France, members of the ruling UMP party have suggested some controversial ways to save money. The party's spokesman (pictured) has proposed employees should now be able to work from home while on maternity or sick leave.

Only five days after the birth of her daughter, French Justice Minister Rachida Dati was back at work. Her move sparked a national debate in France and many said her example could undermine hard-won and generous maternity rights.

 

But it's an approach Frederic Lefebvre, the spokesman for France's ruling UMP party, would like to see more of. As the French parliament examines new work legislation, Lefebvre backed an amendment allowing employees on sick or maternity leave continue to work from home.

 

"During sick leave you are stuck at home but have lost none of your intellectual capacities, nor your energy [...]. Instead of taking a long time off work, you could continue to work from home," said Lefebvre.

 

Lefebvre says he wants to give workers new rights. But the proposal caused an outcry in France. If employees opt to work from home, their employer would benefit by paying less taxes, and the state would have to pay less sick pay, French trade unions say.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:37:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by making such outrageous statements.... and then people feel relieved because you've "only" decided to reduce pay when sick by 25%... (to give a - so far - imaginary exemple)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:26:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. It's also red meat for the ultra-liberal (economic sense) part of the UMP base, along with the small business owners etc, at a time when the UMP's lead in Euro Election polls is slackening.

However, Lefebvre is saying doctors give time off work to people who are perfectly capable of working. And doctors are part of the UMP's base too...

Maybe only the left-leaning doctors sign the abusive sick leave documents?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 05:10:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"During sick leave you are stuck at home but have lost none of your intellectual capacities, nor your energy

Huh!? Maybe that says something about Lefebvre's practice in taking sick leaves, or about his intellectual capacities and energy even when not on sick leave...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:03:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you think Lefevre is a loose cannon who shot his mouth off a little too fast, you may want to think twice.

He is a senior MP and official spokesman for N.Sarkozy's UMP party and no he hasn't been scolded by the Boss. Of course, his idea was publicly pushed aside by junior minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet yesterday at the National Assembly, in a public good cop bad cop game.

As Jerome explains above, with this small sample of French political kabuki theater, you've been subjected, ladies and gentlemen, to a perfect example of la méthode Sarkozy, a carefully calculated mix of initial provocation, followed by tactical back off, friendly media groundwork, with an opportunistic opinion poll paid for by the government thrown in at the right time. A typical bait and switch.

At the end, people will feel relieved that although they've been raped, their rapist was so kind as to not kill them after that...

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:57:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Commies Are A-Coming
Radical academics will soon be storming Iceland with some serious outside-the-box thinking about politics
By Viðar Thorsteinsson and Magnús Þór Snæbjörnsson, The Reykjavík Grapevine

Iceland's problems are not the result of inefficiency. Nor are they result of unethical behaviour. They cannot be traced back to the instability of the króna, to Davíð Oddsson's erratic behaviour, or to Geir Haarde's mishandling of telephone conversations with Alistair Darling. The Icelandic problems - yes, all of them - are failures that result from the system that governs the world: capitalism.

Bust-and-boom cycles are part and parcel of capitalist development, not some rarely heard of anomaly. This has been well known for almost two centuries, so why is everyone so surprised? This is perhaps because when public opinion turned against Soviet communism in the late 20th century, it accidentally (or intentionally, depending on your viewpoint) also dumped the insightful theories of one of the greatest economists of all times: Karl Marx.

Marxism in the humanities, however, has been a flourishing discipline for decades and regularly breeds innovative ideas. Iceland will now have the chance to benefit from the teachings of four distinguished Marxists: Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Chantal Mouffe, and Peter Hallward...

Academia has sometimes been a breeding ground for progressive, democratic and egalitarian ideas, but for many decades it has hardly brought us anything other than sheepish economists, charlatan gurus of `management', cultural studies cynics. Marxism, with its idea of the unity of theory and praxis, has always been about joining scientific research and social consciousness.

This winter's popular uprising has now entered a hiatus, waiting to see how far the current Left-wing government can take us. But truly revolutionary politics are never the product of politicians; it needs the active participation of ordinary people. In order to continue the revolution, Icelandic revolutionaries are going to need more than political perseverance. We are not "only broke on money". We need revolutionary ideas!


by Magnifico on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 07:18:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Silvio Berlusconi: What has won the Italian elections and who controls the European media? - Wikio

Silvio Berlusconi assures a few weeks before the elections that there is no place in his coalition for persons with a criminal past or with mafia connections (an exception is made for political crimes)

A few days before the elections, Berlusconi remembers one of his previous plans: submit judges at regular times to psychiatric examinations .
Under the previous government of Berlusconi, there were plans to change the juridical system radically and the above suggestion was one of the hot topics.

Silvio Berlusconi says that, in case of a possible victory, the as neutral regarded president Napolitano will have to make place for somebody of his coalition.

Silvio's right hand and co founder of Forza Italia has another plan.
Senator Dell'Utri (involved in numerous scandals and several times convicted in mafia related crimes) thinks that the history books about the role of the resistance in the second world war have to be changed.
He wants a review of who were the real heroes.
Silvio Berlusconi was at 25 April (national feast of the liberation) not present at the festivities like he has never been in the past.

The late Enzo Biagi was a famous and everywhere respected journalist.
Enzo Biagi was one of the journalists that had to leave the RAI after the so-called `Bulgarian diktat' of Silvio Berlusconi.
He was accused to make a criminal use of television.
Silvio Berlusconi claims until now that Enzo left the RAI out of free will
and that he did it for the money.


Senator Dell'Utri comes with another statement.
He defines a `real' hero: Vittorio Mangano , part of the mafia, an impressing curriculum.
Vittorio worked several years for Berlusconi as `horsekeeper' at his villa(although it seems that there were no horses...)



'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:23:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:20:58 PM EST
Germany's Martin Schulz on the EU's Democratic Deficit: 'Europe Has Become an Over-Intellectualized Affair for Specialists' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Martin Schulz, the chairman of the social democratic group in the European Parliament, talks to SPIEGEL about the forthcoming European elections, why the EU needs more democracy and his infamous spat with Silvio Berlusconi.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Schulz, do we need to introduce you to our readers?

Martin Schulz: According to surveys, a quarter of all Germans know who I am. There are some cabinet ministers or prime ministers who would be pleased with a figure like that.

Eurosceptic members of the European Parliament demonstrate after the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

SPIEGEL: Why did you become head of the social democratic group in the European Parliament and not a federal minister in Berlin?

Schulz: It has to do with my background. I grew up in the Aachen area, one of the most Europeanized regions on the continent. My parents were staunch pro-Europeans from the war generation. They were very proud when I went to France in 1971 on a student exchange program. In those days, the concept of Europe was mainly about values. Today, unfortunately, personal benefit has taken center stage. People ask: What can Europe do for me?

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany's Martin Schulz on the EU's Democratic Deficit: 'Europe Has Become an Over-Intellectualized Affair for Specialists' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL: And the models?

Schulz: That has to do with Italy's shady prime minister, not Europe. What Silvio Berlusconi practices is only funny at first glance. This amalgamation of economic, media and political power in a single person is a threat to democracy. It isn't surprising that Italy has fallen behind on the Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

SPIEGEL: Models as a threat to the freedom of the press? Please explain what you mean.

Schulz: Berlusconi is systematically turning Italian domestic policy into tabloid news. To do so, he uses his entire media empire, which hypes issues at his orders. He uses the media to mobilize voters by placing his TV starlets on candidate lists.

by Nomad on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 06:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany's Martin Schulz on the EU's Democratic Deficit: 'Europe Has Become an Over-Intellectualized Affair for Specialists' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL: Let's discuss the power of this chamber. Who would become president of the European Commission if your Social Democrats won the election?

Schulz: I admit that you are addressing a democratic deficit. The election outcome ought to determine the makeup of the Commission, but in actual fact, the heads of state and government determine who the Commission president will be. We should start by resisting the efforts to approve a second term for current Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

SPIEGEL: So your goal is to get rid of Barroso?

Schulz: Unfortunately, at this point we can only try to obstruct Barroso, but we cannot elect our own candidate. For this reason, we should at least dictate political criteria by which we would judge the next president. Together with the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), we have compiled a set of requirements for strengthening employee rights in Europe.

Wow, he at least understands and talks about the issue publicy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Opponents accuse poll-climbing Ukip of expenses hypocrisy

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The major beneficiary of British voter disgust at the ongoing MP expenses scandal, the UK Independence Party, is attracting brickbats from left, right and far right, accusing the eurosceptic party of hypocrisy when it comes to fiddling expenses.

Meanwhile, the threat of a gaggle of hard-right MPs descending upon Strasbourg from Britain appears to have ebbed, as the far-right British National Party (BNP) lowers its expectations to just one seat.

Ukip are being targeted by opponents as they hoover up votes from disgruntled voters (Photo: Ian Dodds)

-->

The knives have come out for Ukip as it has begun to hoover up votes of disaffected voters revolted by a seemingly ever-widening expenses scandal in which dozens of MPs from all the mainline parties are revealed to have been using parliamentary expenses instead on second homes, food bills and, in the case of one deputy, having his moat cleaned.

Two recent polls have put Ukip, which favours a British exit from the European Union, on a level-pegging with the ruling Labour party. In one survey, Labour is pushed into fourth place behind the eurosceptic party.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:26:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | In search of Europe: Latvia

As for the elections, well, don't hold your breath waiting for debate on European issues. The vote in Latvia will be about nothing but domestic issues.

"Politicians don't care about these [European] elections," says Filips Rejevskis, a political analyst.

"People are thinking that this is an election not for representing them in the European Parliament but more we are choosing eight people who will have a good life for the next four years, very good, very well paid, very comfortable life."

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / MEPs' perks under spotlight in EU elections

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The British tabloids have shifted their shrill focus from national politicians' perks to those enjoyed by MEPs, while events in Italy have taken a farcical turn.

After days of frenzied reporting on the expenses excesses employed by British politicians, UK tabloid the Sun reports that during the five-year term of the EU parliament, an MEP can clock-up over €2 million in expenses. The papers says that MEPs can claim five relaxing sessions of mudbaths, hydromassage, hydrotherapy and acupuncture every month with a doctor's note.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The usual faux-populist attacks from the Eurosceptic UK press, pioneered by the Telegraph. But also by EUObserver, especially in its blogs.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:01:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC - Mark Mardell's Euroblog

The socialists have given notice that Jose Manuel Barroso, the current Commission president, will not hold onto Brussels' top job without something of a struggle.

The socialists' president in the European Parliament, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen - himself a likely contender for the job if it was in the gift of the Left - has signalled in a blog that Mr Barroso shouldn't consider it in the bag.

During this election period I find myself repeatedly trying to explain how and if these elections matter. This is but one illustration of how they do have a real impact. Just not a straightforward, simple-to-understand one.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:39:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 ECONOMY & FINANCE 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:21:23 PM EST
EUobserver / ECB staff to strike next week

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Employees of the European Central Bank are planning several hours of protest next Wednesday (3 June) in response to a planned increase in staff pension contributions and a perceived "democratic deficit" at the heart of the euro area's central bank.

The International and European Public Services Organisation (Ipso) that represents roughly one third of the bank's 1500 employees sent a letter to ECB's 22-man executive board last week informing it of the union's intentions.

Many ECB staff are unhappy with plans that would increase their pension contributions

"The strike action is not intended to impair the ECB's operational capability but serve as a public communication device to raise awareness about the democratic deficit at the ECB," the letter says.

"Such action would be in addition to the likely court case," it adds.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:27:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marinaleda Journal - A Job and No Mortgage for All in a Spanish Town - NYTimes.com

MARINALEDA, Spain -- The people of this small Andalusian town have never been shy about their political convictions. Since they occupied the estate of a local aristocrat in the 1980s, they and their fiery mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, have been synonymous in Spain with a dogged struggle for the rural poor. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Laura Leon for The New York Times

Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor for 30 years, says the economic crisis proves the wisdom of his socialist vision.

Now that Spain's real estate bust is fueling rampant unemployment, this Communist enclave, surrounded by sloping olive groves, is thumbing its nose at its countrymen's capitalist folly. Attracted by its municipal housing program and bustling farming cooperative, people from neighboring villages and beyond have come here seeking jobs or homes, villagers and officials say.

Mr. Sánchez, a bearded 53-year-old who this month celebrated three decades as mayor of the town of 2,700, says the economic crisis proves the wisdom of his socialist vision.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:29:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China's Yuan: The Next Reserve Currency? - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Skeptics have dismissed Beijing's talk of de-emphasizing the US dollar, but China is making moves that could soon lead to a convertible yuan.

Are the Chinese finally getting serious about loosening their ties to the dollar -- and even replacing the greenback with the yuan as the global economy's reserve currency? The evidence is mounting that they are.

 Chinese Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan. Uncertainties about the dollar's future strength are leading the Chinese to consider other convertible currencies - including, perhaps, their own. For the last two months, China's leadership has been complaining about the country's dangerous dependence on the dollar.. Beijing holds $2 trillion (€1.43 trillion) in dollar assets, accumulated through years of exports to America and massive purchases of Treasuries by the Chinese government. If Washington can't rein in its mounting budget deficit, both Treasuries and the greenback could weaken considerably -- and the Chinese could be big losers as a result.

The Chinese began generating attention on the issue in March, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he was worried that the country's dollar assets could slide. Ten days later Chinese central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan suggested replacing the dollar as the international reserve currency. One idea, Zhou said, was to replace the dollar with a basket of currencies supervised by the International Monetary Fund.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saudia Arabia: $200 Oil In 2 Years

(alleyinsider.com) -- Saudi Arabia warned oil prices could spike to beyond the near $150 record high of 2008 within two to three years, as energy leaders on Monday decried a blow to investment in expanding capacity due to the financial crisis.

Energy ministers and officials at the Group of Eight energy summit in Rome are meeting as oil prices hover at a six-month high of over $60 a barrel, but below the $75 a barrel level producers say is needed to spur investment in new production.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the world was heading for a fresh spike after the current phase of faltering demand and lower prices, which reflected the global economic downturn rather than an indicator of things to come.

"We are maintaining our long-term focus rather than being swayed by the volatility of short-term conditions," he said in prepared remarks at the summit.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | Profits jump at Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has reported a sharp rise in profits in the year to the end of February, bucking the trend seen by other airlines.

Annual pre-tax profits reached £68.4m ($109m), nearly double the £34.8m seen in the year earlier.

It said the results had been helped by a rise in premium fare passengers.

The results are in contrast to other airlines, including British Airways which reported an annual loss before tax of £401m last week.

BA said the level of premium fare travellers had fallen by 13% in the second half of its financial year and it had seen a rise in fuel costs.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:36:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Virgin 1st to Australia: £6600
BA 1st to Australia: £8800

Strange that people aren't spending an extra £2200 for nothing much.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:37:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HuffPo: Ellen Brown: But Governor, You Can Create Money! Just Form Your Own Bank

"I understand that these cuts are very painful and they affect real lives. This is the harsh reality and the reality that we face. Sacramento is not Washington -- we cannot print our own money. We can only spend what we have."

- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger quoted in Time, May 22, 2009

Christmas comes early, Governor. You can print your own money. Fiscally solvent North Dakota is doing it...and so can California. Now!

In a May 22 article in Time titled "Billions in the Red: Fiscal Reckoning in CA," Juliet Williams reports that since California voters have now vetoed higher taxes and further state government borrowing, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated that he intends to close the budget gap almost entirely through drastic spending cuts. The cutbacks could include laying off thousands of state workers and teachers, ending the state's main welfare program for the poor, eliminating health coverage for about 1.5 million poor children, halting cash grants for about 77,000 college students, slashing money for state parks, and releasing thousands of prisoners before their sentences are finished. Schwarzenegger bemoaned the fact that the state could not print its own money but said it could only spend what it had.

But the state can create its own money. After all, banks do this every day. Certified, card-carrying bankers are allowed to do something nobody else can do: they can create "credit" with accounting entries on their books. As the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas explains on its website:

Banks actually create money when they lend it. Here's how it works: Most of a bank's loans are made to its own customers and are deposited in their checking accounts. Because the loan becomes a new deposit, just like a paycheck does, the bank...holds a small percentage of that new amount in reserve and again lends the remainder to someone else, repeating the money-creation process many times.

President Obama has also acknowledged that banks create money, through what he calls the "multiplier effect." In a speech at Georgetown University on April 14, he said:

[A]lthough there are a lot of Americans who understandably think that government money would be better spent going directly to families and businesses instead of banks -- "where's our bailout?" they ask -- the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses, a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth.

Money in a government-owned bank could give us the best of both worlds. We could have all the credit-generating advantages of private banks, without the baggage cluttering up the books of the Wall Street giants, including bad derivatives bets, unmarketable collateralized debt obligations, mark to market accounting issues, oversized CEO salaries and bonuses, and shareholders expecting a sizeable cut of the profits.



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:28:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or to put it  more succinctly:


What's breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank?
Bertolt Brecht


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the barrier to entry here. Specifically, how much does it cost to erect a structure that will obtain regulatory approval?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:01:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are a director or officer of or significant bond investor in GMAC, you simply need to demonstrate continuing losses in order to receive a national bank charter.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:46:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because the loan becomes a new deposit, just like a paycheck does

No. One of these deposits is a debt which must be repaid with interest by the account holder to the bank. The other is earned income of the account holder, otherwise an unobligated, demand deposit.

Money in a government-owned bank could give us the best of both worlds.

Doesn't the writer's explanation depend on the assumption that a "government-owned" bank(s) will not insure or resell debt-based securities from its lending activities, although neither Obama or Geithner has expressed any interest in foreclosing or restricting these "innovative" financial products? Much less GSE secondary market-making operations. To the contrary.

Further, the writer agrees with Obama that a "credit-generating advantage" is expanding market share of debt denominated assets held by any bank --"result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses".

What is this person actually advocating? It is not actually capital formation among families and businesses. It is popular acceptance of their debt maintenance, financial sharecropping.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 08:22:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Both Sides of Coin | WSJ ("firewall") | 27 May 2009

Banking trade groups are lobbying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for permission to bid on the same assets that the banks would put up for sale as part of the government's Public Private Investment Program [PPIP]...

The lobbying push is aimed at the Legacy Loans Program, which will use about half of the government's overall PPIP infusion to facilitate the sale of whole loans such as residential and commercial mortgages.

Federal officials haven't specified whether banks will be allowed to both buy and sell loans ... [ht Calculated Risk]

Sample of immediate reactions to the news


1 currency now -yogi (profile)  wrote on Tue, 5/26/2009 - 9:43 pm

I called the FDIC during the comment period and got through to some Media guy after pestering the receptionist. I was actually inquiring about a statement attached to their online conference advising the "media" not to quote from it. I wondered if anonymously posting to a public forum made me part of the "media". He asked me, "How do you feel about it?".
Then I asked him how selling something you own to yourself could ever be anything other than fraud. (A JPM analyst had asked about it during the call) He tried some 5th grade explanation. I told him I was a lawyer. The whole conversation was bizarre.

Jackrabbit (profile)  wrote on Tue, 5/26/2009 - 10:18 pm

CR: The purpose of PPIP is to remove the toxic legacy assets from the bank's balance sheet, not to allow the banks to game the program at taxpayer expense. ...
Generally, the stronger banks will participate more (but all will participate to some degree). That's why we [sic] needed the stress test first. Banks can now raise equity that can be used for PPIP investments. It makes little sense for Private Equity to participate in PPIPs (though some may) but it makes a great deal of sense for banks. Once banks have overbid...um...I mean established a market price, then the PPIPs will be sold off to pension funds and other "long term" investors.



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:39:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All these contortions, for what purpose exactly?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:42:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The banks are supposed to sell the shitpile to boost reserves.

But if they sell the shitpile to themselves and each other - it's no longer a shitpile!

It's like discovering a whole new collection of assets you didn't know you had, which are now worth real money, and which you can sell on to other fools investors.

The part I haven't worked out yet is how extra government 'support' will be explained, as and when.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:48:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The answer depends on how one identifies a society-sized problem and the function of government to remedy same, i.e. achieve a desirable society-sized objective.

At the moment, I believe, government representatives agree their problem is the existence of a great number and variety of securities outstanding which do not return income to bearers and therefore are an unacceptable form of collateral required for further credit market expansion (and profit growth) by financial services firms.

The unstated objective is a reliable supply of debt instruments in lieu of broad profit distribution through wage and salary earned from labor.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 09:31:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 WORLD 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:21:47 PM EST
ANALYSIS / Netanyahu bringing Israel closer to war with Iran - Haaretz - Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers the lifting of the Iranian nuclear threat his life's mission. Before coming to power, he had mentioned that such an operation might cost thousands of lives, but the price was justified in view of the threat's severity. His comments yesterday at the meeting of Likud's Knesset faction put to rest Ariel Sharon's doctrine that Iran is not just Israel's problem but the entire world's problem, and Israel must not be at the forefront of the struggle. Israel is now at the forefront.

The leaders of Iran and Israel escalated the verbal confrontation yesterday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said discussions on the nuclear issue are over, which means Iran does not intend to give up enriching uranium. Netanyahu said that if Israel does not lead the defense against the Iranian threat and bring in the United States and other countries, no one else will.

In both cases, in Tehran and Jerusalem, it's possible to justify the leaders' comments by citing domestic political needs. But even if the immediate motive is domestic politics, the strategic implications cannot be ignored.
by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:24:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As the US found; in order to justify the overblown rhetoric of fear and belligerence, the Right need to create tensions and start wars occasionally because they have no other compelling message to sell.

As the US found to its cost; such behaviour may cost the country blood and treasure it cannot afford, but it will definitely steal its soul.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shell on trial - Americas, World - The Independent
Oil giant in the dock over 1995 murder of activist who opposed environmental degradation of Niger Delta

Royal Dutch Shell will revisit one of the darkest periods of its history tomorrow as a potentially groundbreaking court case opens in New York.

The oil giant stands accused of complicity in the 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental activist.

The world's boardrooms are watching the case, which is seen as a test of whether transnational companies owned or operating in the US can be held responsible for human rights abuses committed abroad.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:27:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
whether transnational companies owned or operating in the US can be held responsible for human rights abuses committed abroad.

mammon forbid!

in other words, did ken die for nothing?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 08:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rift between developed and developing countries mars IAEA | NRS-Import | Deutsche Welle | 26.05.2009
After two months and one round of voting it is still unclear who will follow Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The protracted process is a sign of deep divisions, say experts. 

In an election to choose the new director-general of the IAEA at the end of March neither of the two original candidates could muster enough support to win the necessary two-thirds majority among the board of governors representing 35 countries. After the deadlock was reached, three more candidates were added to the roster. On Tuesday, all five contenders are giving presentations on their candidacies to the IAEA board. A date for the next round of elections has not yet been announced.

Along with the two original candidates Yukiya Amano of Japan and Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa, Jean-Pol Poncelet of Belgium, Ernest Petric of Slovenia and Luis Echavarri of Spain have thrown their hats into the ring.

"The major fight is between developed and developing countries", explains Kai-Henrik Barth, a nuclear weapons expert at Georgetown University. Developed nations are primarily concerned about nuclear proliferation and want a competent technocrat to run the agency, says Barth. Developing nations, on the other hand, want someone who plays an active role in delivering nuclear technology around the globe. "This North-South-split tears this election apart at the moment", says Barth.  

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Pakistan risks 'human catastrophe'

Thousands of civilians trapped in Pakistan's Swat valley, where the military is battling Taliban forces, face a "humanitarian catastrophe" unless help reaches them soon, a rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch says the military must lift its curfew of the area, which has been in place for a full week, and airdrop essential food, water and medicine to the 200,000 residents trapped there.

Brad Adams, the Asia director of the US-based group, said on Tuesday: "People trapped in the Swat conflict zone face a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Pakistani military immediately lifts a curfew that has been in place continuously for the last week.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:31:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No Detainees in My Backyard: Obama Under Fire over Guantanamo Closure Plans - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

After a promising start, US President Barack Obama is now in hot water over his plans to close Guantanamo. His fellow Democrats are worried detainees will end up in prisons in their districts, angering voters and pushing down real estate prices.

US President Barack Obama took an hour for his appearance in a windowless room at the National Archives Museum in Washington last Thursday. In his speech, he spoke of his "solemn responsibility" as president, and of the fact that America cannot just proclaim its moral values, but must live in accordance with those values.

It was a speech filled with idealism and passion, the kind of speech that suits Obama. But then, as the president was leaving the National Archives, it became clear that he would not have the last word that day.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spiegel:
detainees will end up in prisons in their districts, angering voters and pushing down real estate prices.

ZOMG! Magic economy-destroying prison-dwelling evil psychic terrorists of alien doom!

One of the symptoms of schizophrenia is literal mindedness. Schizophrenics aren't just certain that some people are being hostile to them - which at least some people will be - but they're sure that these hostile forces are beaming destructive evil thoughts directly into their brains.

If magic terrorists are suspected of being able to disrupt the economy even when they're in prison, through sheer presence and terrorist charisma, everyone in US politics must be officially certifiable.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:46:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can only offer this, via Bruce Schneier    :

WASHINGTON, DC - Seeking to quell fears of terrorists somehow breaking out of America's top-security prisons and wreaking havoc on the defenseless heartland, President Barack Obama moved quickly to announce an Anti-Terrorist Strike Force headed by veteran counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer and mutant superhero Wolverine. Already dubbed a "dream team," their appointment is seen by experts as a crucial step in reducing the mounting incidents of national conservatives and congressional Democrats crapping their pants.

"I believe a fictional threat is best met with decisive fictional force," explained President Obama. "Jack Bauer and Wolverine are among the very best we have when in comes to combating fantasy foes." Mr. Bauer said, "We're quite certain that our prisons are secure. Osama bin Laden and his agents wouldn't dare attempt a break-out, and would fail miserably if they tried. But I love this country. And should Lex Luthor, Magneto or the Loch Ness Monster attack, we'll be there to stop them."

The move has already earned widespread praise, and veteran columnist David Broder hailed the bipartisan nature of the team. But not all were convinced. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) scoffed, "I thought the president was a Spiderman guy. And what a surprise that a Canadian would use knives on his hands versus a good ol' fashioned American Uzi."

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:57:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sharks!  With frickin' laserbeams!

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:10:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How in fucking hell does Darth Cheney get to have equal billing with the sitting President? What is wrong with these people?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:54:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if you've noticed but in the last few years the republicans have been blessed with  extremely sympathetic and fawning media coverage.

To them the Republicans are in charge, if not in office, so what they have to say remains relevant and compelling.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:45:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Democrats are a bunch of gutless pussies with only a few exceptions.

  2. The country is still in "we might be attacked again" mode, considering how unpopular we are in the world and you have the Repubs themselves probably aiding the cause, although they can't be as effective now as they were with 9-11 when they let that happen on purpose.


They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 10:48:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online

Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a "new modern-day sort of communists," a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream. Gates was wrong: Open source zealots are more likely to be libertarians than commie pinkos. Yet there is some truth to his allegation. The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.

Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide. Wikipedia is just one remarkable example of an emerging collectivism--and not just Wikipedia but wikiness at large. Ward Cunningham, who invented the first collaborative Web page in 1994, tracks nearly 150 wiki engines today, each powering myriad sites. Wetpaint, launched just three years ago, hosts more than 1 million communal efforts. Widespread adoption of the share-friendly Creative Commons alternative copyright license and the rise of ubiquitous file-sharing are two more steps in this shift. Mushrooming collaborative sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, the Hype Machine, and Twine have added weight to this great upheaval. Nearly every day another startup proudly heralds a new way to harness community action. These developments suggest a steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.

The notion of a third way is echoed by Yochai Benkler, author of The Wealth of Networks, who has probably thought more than anyone else about the politics of networks. "I see the emergence of social production and peer production as an alternative to both state-based and market-based closed, proprietary systems," he says, noting that these activities "can enhance creativity, productivity, and freedom." The new OS is neither the classic communism of centralized planning without private property nor the undiluted chaos of a free market. Instead, it is an emerging design space in which decentralized public coordination can solve problems and create things that neither pure communism nor pure capitalism can.

Hybrid systems that blend market and nonmarket mechanisms are not new. For decades, researchers have studied the decentralized, socialized production methods of northern Italian and Basque industrial co-ops, in which employees are owners, selecting management and limiting profit distribution, independent of state control. But only since the arrival of low-cost, instantaneous, ubiquitous collaboration has it been possible to migrate the core of those ideas into diverse new realms, like writing enterprise software or reference books.



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great catches both!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:53:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i thought Wired only puts out techno-fairy dust nonsense.

;-)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 10:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wired seems to be drifting back from its edgy, dangerous nostalgia for 1998/9 and re-engaging with reality, at least a little.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
northern Italian and Basque industrial co-ops, in which employees are owners, selecting management and limiting profit distribution, independent of state control

I'm all for cooperative structures, but let's not go overboard. It would be worthwhile looking into the reality of the workings of those huge co-ops, particularly wrt to the position of employees.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 03:09:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no legal structure - to date - that scales without hierarchy.

In my experience charities, not for profits and coops are some of the worst offenders when it comes to being captured by management, and employees are by no means always better treated if an enterprise is nominally owned by its customers.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:37:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may both be right. Do we know anyone who could offer, or have access to, first hand experience?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
although coops have interesting structures to prevent redistributions of resources to some kinds of elites -- market traders and very senior executives -- there is no reason to believe that anything about cooperatives are any less capitalist than any other current form of business organization. The primary structural benefit of cooperatives is to retain capital for use within a given sector, regardless of how capital is valued in other markets, and this is due to policymaking ownership of cooperatives being dominated, usually by law, in a specific sector of the economy or class of people.  Other than that, coops are mostly business as usual. ...

The question in any cooperative is "who are the members?"  In the small scale cooperatives where employees are the members, such as your local grocery co-op, then employees tend to both manage the business, do the work, and reap the benefits in terms of wages and obtaining commodities at below market prices or distributions of profits. But even there, it turns out that labor is but a small amount of the total cost structure, the price benefits to member/employees are very modest, and wages tend to be lower than union wages in conventional enterprises. One would like to believe that this leads to more democratic forms of management and control of the enterprise, but, in reality, there is very little evidence that co-ops are any better at democratic management and sharing of economic benefits than other businesses, once you control for business size, industry, etc.  

Most co-ops, however, are big businesses, ranging from health maintenance organizations in the United States to mega-bank financial entities such as Rabobank in Europe, to the many rural energy distribution utilities in the US and other countries.  In these cases the members are either the customers or the borrowers, not the employees, so the benefits of membership are not in wages and management, which is performed by labor hired from labor markets at going wages, but rather obtaining the commodity at democratically determined prices (which turn out to be not much different, though still lower, from markets, provided there are markets for those commodities, which there often is not) or in obtaining financing rights from the co-op in the case of financial cooperatives.  

However, it turns out that you can't run a coop any differently than you run any other enterprise that is dependent upon markets for its inputs or outputs, but you can run any other enterprise with the same democratic features as cooperatives as well, which is why I say that co-ops are really just business as usual.

Some interesting comments here (at the end of a very interesting thread):

ChrisCook:

JakeS:
Your model would certainly qualify as that. Although I'm not convinced that it's necessarily the optimal model for things like water and railroads (and to some degree electricity) which are by their very nature large, integrated systems that must be micromanaged to a considerable extent by a central hub.

Ummm...good point, but a strong management core need not necessarily mean hierarchy,just a much more significant node on the network.

Modern conservatives engage in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.Galbraith by ChrisCook

Re: Read what I mean, not what I write :-P (none / 0)

More and less significant nodes are a hierarchy. by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com)

Re: Read what I mean, not what I write :-P (none / 1)

I don't think so, any more than more or less significant people connected directly are a hierarchy.

It's about direct routing of information, disintermediation, and flat, rather than multi-level structures.

Modern conservatives engage in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.Galbraith by ChrisCook

In Beyond Public and Private

I used to 'do' co-ops in the late '60s and early '70s, as Chris knows.  We could make them work, as long as there was a core group of true-believers, who would take up the slack when general energy levels were low or when we hit the occasional financial obstacle. (Only one of the various co-ops still exists today - Lexington Food Co-op in Buffalo, NY.)

The missing ingredient for us back then was that we could not find - could not conceive of - a role for investors.  (It took us awhile to even accept the idea of manager - or, as we often called it, coordinator.)  Chris has 'put them in their place' in my opinion.

paul spencer

On a more optimistic note:
DeAnander:

The Basque co-op concept has spread to the US in the form of Arizmendi Bakeries.

It's easy to see why Perez is a tireless proselytizer who has worked to establish three spin-off coops, the Arizmendi bakeries in Oakland, San Francisco and Emeryville. To anyone who has slogged through a wage-slave job or had a domineering boss, a collectively run cooperative sounds like a workers' paradise. It has no hierarchy and no supervisors because everyone is an owner.


Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 08:11:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Prospects For A Multipolar World

A penetrating Iranian analysis of late last year, "Iraq Smoke Screen" by Hamid Golpira, had this to say on the topic:

"According to Brzezinski's theory, control of the Eurasian landmass is the key to global domination and control of Central Asia is the key to control of the Eurasian landmass....Russia and China have been paying attention to Brzezinski's theory, since they formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001, ostensibly to curb extremism in the region and enhance border security, but most probably with the real objective of counterbalancing the activities of the United States and NATO in Central Asia." [7]

Significant article, for its description of the structure of the SCO, which stresses integration and cooperation in contradistinction to Nato's top-down hierarchy.

Not to be missed are the quotes of Putin at the end of the article.

[Putin] "It is that precise variant of myopic and avaricious, ruthless and asocial policy practiced over the past twenty years - when the US and its allies held practically uncontested sway over the world and were free to fashion it just as they chose to - that has led to the people of the West and the world staring into an economic and social abyss. The last mechanisms left available to power-obsessed Western political elites is to rob their own citizens and those of the world to subsidize the institutions and individuals that created the crisis and to maintain war as their ultimate trump card.  

At last October's SCO summit Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi addressed an initiative that has been garnering greater interest and assuming a heightened sense of urgency when he said, "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a good venue for designing a new banking system which is independent from international banking systems"."

by Loefing on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 06:42:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
would you put your money in a Russian or Chinese bank? Didn't think so.

SCO is just an irrelevant talking shop (yes, Russia and China matter, some, but not SCO).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:02:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you read the article?
by Loefing on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 05:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all fluff. Or did you have anything specific in mind?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 09:02:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you put your money in an American bank?

How about a shiny hedge fund?

The bar is not high at the moment. All the SCO has to do is persuade its likely customers that it's serious and able to offer reasonable stable returns.

Those customers do not have to live in the West, or be interested in buying a service from Western banking.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:56:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that in the US, you lose money via poor investments, whereas in China or Russia, via confiscation (which did happen, and could happen again).

A US bank deposits (like in most OECD countries) is as safe as can be - it's even guaranteed by the State.

There is a reason why people use dollars or euros as a store of value, and not yuans or roubles.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 09:00:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
North Korea Issues Heated Warning to South
By Blaine Harden, Washington Post

North Korea announced Wednesday that it is no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War, the latest and most profound diplomatic aftershock from the country's latest nuclear test two days earlier.

North Korea also warned that it would respond "with a powerful military strike" should its ships be stopped by international forces trying to stop the export of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The twin declarations, delivered by the country's state news agency, followed South Korea's announcement Tuesday that it would join the navies that will stop and inspect suspicious ships at sea. North Korea has repeatedly said that such participation would be a "declaration of war."

by Magnifico on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News: N Korea threatens military action

North Korea has warned of a military response after South Korea joined an anti-proliferation exercise which could allow it to search the North's ships.

The North said it is no longer bound by the armistice which ended the Korean War in 1953. A military spokesman quoted by official media said Pyongyang could no longer guarantee the safety of shipping...

South Korea announced on Tuesday that it would not delay any longer in joining the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) - a US-led non-proliferation campaign involving searching ships carrying suspicious cargos and aimed at stopping the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea has repeatedly warned that the South's participation in the PSI would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

by Magnifico on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:34:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
North Korea must be falling appart internally.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 LIVING OFF THE PLANET 
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:22:12 PM EST
President Obama says energy cuts are key to saving the planet - Times Online

A global drive to improve energy efficiency will be the centrepiece of President Obama's strategy for fighting climate change, the US Energy Secretary has said.

An international initiative to cut the amount of energy used by buildings and vehicles is as important to reducing carbon emissions as clean energy generation, and will be more achievable in the short term, Professor Steven Chu says.

Writing exclusively in a supplement in The Times today, Professor Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed to steer US energy and environmental policy, argues that conservation will be critical to that goal.

"The quickest and easiest way to reduce our carbon footprint is through energy efficiency," he writes. "Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground."

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:31:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The lowest hanging fruit, and the largest section of fruit on the ground would be the US military, of course...but I don't think that I have seen much on the table about curbing its excesses.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 08:25:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 LIVING ON THE PLANET 
 Society, Culture, History, Information 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:22:36 PM EST
Tom Cruise and a trial that could drive Scientology out of France - Europe, World - The Independent
Movement accused of 'organised fraud' against two female members persuaded to part with €20,000

The Scientology movement went on trial in Paris yesterday for "organised fraud" in a case which could lead to the cult's organising bodies being outlawed in France.

The French state prosecution service has failed to back the trial but denies that its decision was influenced by the lobbying of French politicians, including Nicolas Sarkozy before he became President, by leading Scientologists, including the actor Tom Cruise. After an 11-year inquiry, following complaints from four French former Scientologists, an independent, investigating magistrate decided that the prosecution should go ahead.

Two female plaintiffs allege that, between 1997 and 1999, the French movement persuaded them to pay the equivalent of €20,000 each on drugs, vitamins, counselling, saunas and equipment to improve their mental and physical health. This included an "electrometer" to measure the state of their "spiritual condition".

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If this case fails, could it have the effect of legitimising Scientology?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
scientology is clearly seen as a dangerous sect in France, and a scam.

They're very legalistic, and it is hard to prevent them from operating (and hard to prevent vulnerable/gullible people from being taken in), but they have very little legitimacy.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:04:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...is clearly seen as a dangerous sect in France, and a scam.

It clearly gets a lot of tabloid level exposure to that effect.

Yet, I am certain that you have clearly seen, perhaps only once or twice, perhaps only in areas that you are intimately familiar, that common wisdom clearly sees many things as being the way it is trumped up to be, not the way it is.

In France, there is officially the Assemblée des Evêques (Catholic), Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (Jewish), Fédération Protestante and recently Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (Muslim), and there is the culte or secte groups.

Whether it is a dangerous sect is what this trial is meant to prove. But it would seem that with decades of high-level attention, and all the laws and parliamentary oversight groups and morsels fed to the hungry press, the anti-cultists are either, a) desperate for straws or, b) giving up, if years later these two seemingly specious cases is all that they have been able to come up with.

I wonder, like ceebs does above, what losing these cases will do. These cases would appear to be a mitzvah to the Church of Scientology.

... They're very legalistic...

You say that as if it is a bad thing in this society at this time. Who wouldn't go legalistic when they are being attacked legalistically? Your employer? Other churches?

... (and hard to prevent vulnerable/gullible people from being taken in)...

That's true about a lot of things. Shall we start a list? BigMilitary, BigPharma, BigAstrology, BigBanking, BigOil, BigAuto, BigTV, BigConstruction...

How many of these are being charged with their frauds under the About:Picard Law, such that they can be closed if their fraud goes beyond 300,000€? or have none of them committed any fraud? none duped anyone into believing in games rigged to their interest with BigGovernment?

I'll not stoop to the question of whether anyone involved in a spiritual activity of their choice is being taken in.

...but they have very little legitimacy.

They certainly get fought as if they had legitimacy.

In the US, of which I am more familiar, they were fought by every group in the corporate/press/government arsenal, and finally it was granted rather substantial legitimacy.

In France, in my little experience as a business person, I know that I wouldn't be a Scientologist if I expected to survive. Not because of who I am, or even due to prejudice as, most people enjoy my presence and services and prejudice is no match for logic. But there are enough cases of Renseignements Generaux and other french ministries going after companies owned by Scientologist for specious reasons that it wouldn't be healthy.

So, while I may get involved with them in the future, I haven't been involved with the Church of Scientology for 10 years. Hopefully that allows me to live in freedom here in France.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 10:34:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Museum for Belgium's cartoon hero

Tintin, the comic book series about a blonde-haired reporter, has been loved by generations and remains one of Belgium's best known exports.

A museum is set to open in Belgium celebrating the comic strip and devoting itself to the life's work of Tintin's creator, Herge.

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:41:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There has long been a significant exhibit about him in the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels, as you can tell from the picture of the entrance on their website (though, from the picture, it looks as though they have finally repaired the broken step...)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:03:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We had an exhibition there in 2000 - an excellent place. I wonder if Charles Dierick is still the director?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 04:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the broken step was in the "Chateau de Moulinsart", owned by Haddock... :-) </Tintinophile joke>

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:50:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Initially I thought it was Jean claude van Damme.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 05:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spy Fired Shot That Changed West Germany
By Nicholas Kulish, The New York Times

It was called "the shot that changed the republic."

The killing in 1967 of an unarmed demonstrator by a police officer in West Berlin set off a left-wing protest movement and put conservative West Germany on course to evolve into the progressive country it has become today.

Now a discovery in the archives of the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, has upended Germany's perception of its postwar history. The killer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, though working for the West Berlin police, was at the time also acting as a Stasi spy for East Germany.

...
In an interview with the Bild, Mr. Kurras, 81, confirmed that he had been in the East German Communist Party. "Should I be ashamed of that or something?" Mr. Kurras was quoted as saying. As for the Stasi, he said, "And what if I did work for them? What does it matter? It doesn't change anything," the paper reported.

Mr. Kurras does not deny that he shot the demonstrator, Benno Ohnesorg, in the back of the head, but has said the shooting was an accident. He denied records showing he had been paid by the security service, and said the agents who had put those details in his file must have been lining their own pockets.

...
According to Marek Dutschke, the son of the student-movement leader Rudi Dutschke, Mr. Ohnesorg's death ignited the modernization of West Germany, leading to greater democracy, gender equality and sexual freedom.

"Germany would not have become this liberal place, not in the same way, if this event hadn't happened," Mr. Dutschke said.

by Magnifico on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 01:41:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 PEOPLE AND KLATSCH 

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:23:01 PM EST
Keith O'Dell Jr, Baby Pool Prodigy, Is A Wizard With A Cue (VIDEO)

JOHNSTOWN, N.Y.(AP) -- A New York toddler still in diapers has a growing reputation as a pool shark with a mean bank shot _ even though he has to stand on a chair to reach the table.

Two-year-old Keith O'Dell Jr. from upstate New York has pool shooting videos posted on YouTube, has his own Web site () and is the youngest member of the American Pool Association. http://www.poolprodigy.com

by Fran on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:28:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nearly 11 pm in southern Finland and there's still enough light (and warmth) to talk on the patio ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 03:48:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2.30 am here, and it's 24°C!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 08:27:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NZ herald: Putin pens first works: How to fire people

In the past year he's been painting pictures, singing songs, and demonstrating his expert judo moves. This week Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will complete a clean sweep of the artistic disciplines after turning his hand to writing. Mr Putin's first ever column for a Russian media outlet will be published on Friday, entitled Why it's hard to fire people.


"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky
by poemless on Tue May 26th, 2009 at 06:21:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: How soup can help you lose weight

Turns out there's a big difference between having a glass of water with your meal, and having the same ingredients in a soup. The latter stays in your stomach much longer and prevents the release into the stomach of something called ghrelin, that goes via the bloodstream to the brain and says "You're hungry".

The pyloric sphincter valve at the bottom of your stomach works like the special pierced plug in your kitchen sink to let the water out and retain solid matter. So water passes straight through and plays no part in 'filling your stomach'. Mix it in a soup and it does.

Very simple. "Dieting's best kept secret"

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 07:21:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apart for the gore details, that's why most of our parents in EU were slim and healthy and reached old age... Real lunch in the morning, snack at work, and mostly rich soup at soupper (Er... Supper :-) )!

I won't get into soup recipes, but most were complete meal, specially when used with big loaves of bread and wine :-)


"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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