Thursday, 28 June 2007

USA: Oil Prices above USD 70!

Oil prices in the US market rise above $70, the highest in the last 10 months!

German economic and employment modeling

Food for thought: There is job creation in Germany, amid economic growth. But what is the max amount of jobs Germany's economic model can have?

USA: Immigration Policy

The US Senate has blocked an immigration draft law ("bill"), which is/was one of President Bush's key policy initiatives.

12 million illegal immigrants live in the US today.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

EU Treaty: Towards a "Reform" Treaty in July

So the EU Summit of heads of states and governments in the EU has decided that a "Reform Treaty" will be drafted by an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in July.


Elements:


The new Treaty will not replace the previous EU Treaties, in order to keep its volume down (the previous failed draft of the Treaty consolidated all previous EU Treaties thus was too big and that led to misinterpretations of its nature)

No new EU symbols will be introduced (that gave the idea of a Super-State)


Voluntary withdrawal of a member state from the EU will be possible under the new Treaty. Sounds reasonable!


Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) based decisions will need the support of 55% of member states representing 65% of the EU's population but the system will be introduced after 2014 and phazed over 3 years (to 2017), due to Poland's wishes.

QMV will be extended to cover up to 50 new policy areas, primarily related to police and judicial matters. The UK has been given the right to opt out of criminal matters and police co-operation!

Due to the UK's and some other member's insistence, national veto power will be maintained in the areas of:

culture

defence,

foreign affairs

taxation

social security



There will be a president of the European Council, elected by EU leaders for a 2.5 year term. This means no more rotating of the Presidency to all EU states every 6 months!

Instead of an "EU Foreign Minister" there will be a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy", acting as one of the VPs of the European Commission!

As of 2014, only two-thirds of the member states will appoint a Commissioner in the "Commissioners' College" in any 5-year term.



The European Union will have the status of a legal person.

To assuage fears that it is developing into a super-state, the IGC has been tasked to agree on the following declaration: "The conference confirms that the fact that the European Union has a legal personality will not in any way authorise the Union to legislate or to act beyond the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the treaties."


CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
Britain has been allowed to opt out of a 50-article charter containing an exhaustive list of well-established rights - from freedom of speech and religion to the right to shelter, education and fair working conditions.

The UK was concerned at the charter's impact on business and its legal system.

Moreover, the charter will not become part of the treaty - it will just be referred to.


NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS
The period given to national parliaments to examine draft legislative texts and to give a reasoned opinion on subsidiarity will be extended from six to eight weeks.

National parliaments may demand, if a certain threshold is reached, that the European Commission re-examine a draft act they deem to be an encroachment on their national competences.


This was a major concern for the Netherlands.


SOLIDARITY
A reference has been included to EU solidarity in the event of an energy supply problem.


This came at the insistence of Lithuania and Poland, concerned at their own high dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.



Tuesday, 26 June 2007

On the new capitalism

New capitalism is the capitalism of ideas and intellect.

And it is a free market. I do not thus see, as a centrist liberal ("libdem" in Europe in ideology) why my grand father and family are less reliable sources than any other, person or organisational entity, in a truly (rather than nominally) free and non-oligopolistic market (agora) for ideas and knowledge, especially given the subject of Civil War in Greece. As per Corporatism, see Max Weber.

PS. Capitalism is not about winning or losing either. Sports are. And a corporation's mission is not to win but to maximize shareholder value. Many people who criticise capitalism and corporations fail to realise that, IMO. They think in terms of "war" or "sports" and they transfer this thinking, faultily, IMO, in other areas. My way of thinking and analysis is a product of my MIT education.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Social Dynamics: Mellowing Out

"When I mellow, I ripe and then I rot"
(Woody Allen's character in "Annie Hall", 1977, 30 years ago)

That was then, what is now, in 2007? Do people get a chance to "mellow out" in these just-in-time, "fast food, fast everything". To deliberate? Is "mellowing out" or "hyperness" the way to live today?


Saturday, 23 June 2007

EU: Competition the French way and other national "customs"

During the EU Summit which aimed to promote a new Draft Treaty for the EU, a reported French effort to weaken the foundations of the principle of free market competition in the EU (and to thus allow states more room for giving state aid to "national champions") seems to have been averted.

Of course, France is not the only EU member to have its own specific a-la-carte demands or wishes in the EU.

Eg. the UK does not want a common Foreign Policy and more EU competences in taxation issues.

Poland, one of the 6 "large" countries members of the 27 member EU, wants the members' votes in the EU Councils to be determined via a square root of each country's population calculation.

Etc, etc, etc!

The Chinese Capitalism

China: The government is trying to manage the index of the stock exchange, in order to cool the extreme demand of recent months and to manage stock prices to realistic levels. This policy is part of an overall strategy of managed capitalism and an effort to keep the economy from overheating.

1. This time her policy is being implemented by having state-owned companies issue more stocks (shares),

2. Recently, it raised (tripled) the tax on stock transactions.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Management: The name of the game = Access

I have written it before and I think it is as current and key as ever before today:

The key tool in survival and prosperity in the world today, not just in business but in almost everything is not access to capital and other traditional sources of "power".

It is access to markets, agoras in general (economic or other, even .... dating, visiting relatives, social activities, etc, etc).

You can have access to capital (venture or loans), ease to set up a new company in a few minutes, etc, etc, etc, a great product or service to "sell", but without real access to a suitable market for the said product or service, it is no use, IMO (in my opinion).

What are the key elements of "real access"? Technical/physical and regulatory and "bureaucratic" and marketing/business related.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Needs or Wants? Questions


  • How much more volatility can a person nowadays handle?

  • How much "globalization" and of what type?

  • Do national laws, public policies and regulations make the dynamics and systemics of the environment people live their lives in more or less stable, do they reduce volatility or do they increase it even more?

  • How much regulation is enough regulation, when do rules become ineffective towards the need of Society and people? Where is the equilibrium, the right amount of regulation?

  • Are people today tied down by an antiquated approach to "ownership" and "safety nets"?

  • Can and should we separate needs from wants? Individuals, policy makers, thinkers, marketeers, economists, etc?

  • How many people fall under and can have their decisions/choices "simulated" by models which assume basically "rational" thinking and behavior

  • How many people today have the capacity to be "globally minded", and what is more, "globally aware"?

  • Is the Earth too big for people to be "aware of the whole"? Is partial global awareness good or bad?

  • What is the value of ignorance? Can people have enough real control over their lives to satisfy that need or is it merely a matter of "perception" of "awareness" or "control"?

  • Is there a difference between partial global awareness and parochialism (in a traditional or new definition of the term)? What is that difference and what are its effects?

  • Is freedom today just another word for "nothing to lose"?

  • Is traditional middle class - bourgeois thinking suitable for the needs of the times?

  • Do the things we own wind up "owning" us?

  • What are people saving for today (a nest egg for a rainy day)? What are they consuming on/for? Needs or Wants?

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Alien at Home

"Alien at Home" (aka "Homeless At Home")

I don't mind being alone
I don't mind being home

But I hate being
home alone


Dedicated to the memory of the people who died alone in the Paris and the rest of NW Europe in the heatwave of August 2003.

Dynamics: German social policies

There is a very complex system of sectoral, professional, federal and lander-level, sets of wage agreement, mostly negotiated between employers federations and trade unions. If I am not mistaken, until now, Germany does not a federal minimum wage (eg the US has one (recently revised up) and so does the UK (introduced by Blair), both set by government, not the social partners).

In the grand coalition, the Social Democrats wanted a federal one. The CDU preferred the sectoral ones. The relevant debate (national vs sectoral vs professional vs none) is not exclusive to Germany policy circles. I am not sure what the "compromise" agreement Mrs Merkel struck and the media spoke of is. But she did find one!

The same thing applies to a compromise re the social security contributions (a small rise).

Note: The VAT in Germany was raised in the beginning of the year.
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