Thursday, May 27, 2010

An idea whose time has come

Finally, someone with (at least a bit of) power has spoken out with a logical proposal to make irresponsible greed in the finance world more difficult.

The EU internal market commissioner [and politician] Michel Barnier stated this week that to prevent future financial crises, there should be a network of national funds should be introduced so the cost of bank failures are not met by the taxpayer.

But as one commentator argues, the big problem with this (and similar) proposals is that it fails to tackle the problem of 'moral hazard', whereby banks take excessive risks, knowing that they have the protection of a safety-net. Indeed, by reducing the consequences of excessive risk-taking, these bail-out funds could have the opposite effect to that intended.

I believe there must first be a way to ensure that any new levies are not simply passed on to consumers in the form of higher fees or in-built secretive charges.

Similar measures have also been put forward to restrict European hedge funds and this is also a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Article: Spanish musician prosecuted for blasphemy

Click to go to Link to a New Humanist piece on Javier Krahe.

According to Ismael Valladolid Torres (a Madrid-based bloggger at "La media hostia") the left-wing Krahe is to be charged after TV Canal + aired a part of his “funny and admittedly blasphemous clip” called "Cooking Christ".

I watched the video and did not find it funny but could see a degree satirical value in it.

Torres makes the point that “The court now asks Krahe to pay €192,000, and the TV channel to pay €144.000.In the past, many Spanish artists have had to leave their country in order to make use of freedom of expression, from Luis Buñuel to Pablo Picasso and others. It's amazing that more than half a century later, things in this country haven't changed.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

More burqa talk in Catalonia and France

Officials in the Catalan town of Lleida will open a debate at the end of the month over whether to prohibit the use of the burqa in public spaces, reports LLUÍS VISA in El Pais.

The draft of a proposed ordinance was presented by the Catalan (CiU) nationalist party’s bloc in the city hall.

The burqa, which is used by some Muslim women and covers their entire bodies except for their eyes, is not prohibited anywhere in Spain.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed banning the use of the burqa in France, and a similar proposal is being studied by lawmakers in Belgium.

This GlobalPost article describes the views of Muslims heard at a public meeting in France, arranged by the woman’s rights group, Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (Neither Whores, Nor Submissives) whose members wholly support the ban.

My opinion on religous clothing can be found at this previous blog.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Picasso and the Nazi

There is a beautiful story about Picasso. It was during the Nazi occupation in France. The great painter was summoned to Gestapo headquarters. He found a Nazi officer studying one of Picasso’s most famous paintings. The canvas depicted the brutal destruction of the town of Guernica by the Nazis during the Spanish civil war.

The Gestapo man looked with menace at Picasso and pointed to the painting. ‘Did you do this?’ he asked. Picasso looked at the Nazi and said ‘No, you did.’

[Greek actress and politician Melina Mercouri talking about “a moment when the artist and the citizen were one.”]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From "La contra"

Very interesting interview on the back page of La Vanguardia today.

They talked to an old Barcelona lawyer named José Antonio González Casanova who was involved in the drafting of Spain’s constitution in the 1970’s. He describes himself as “a rabid anti-capitalist.”

A seeming mass of contradictions, this highly religious man (who also believes in astrology!) quotes Seneca with apparent approval: “Freedom is to accept your fate.

Vilafranca spring haiku

Through gaps in the trees
I can see the church tower
Reminds me I’m here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The freedom to shop (without the freedom to say the government is wrong)

A reoccurring argument is that under-developed countries [such as China] do not need democracy. According to this argument, an authoritarian regime will promote the economy of a poor country, imposing a discipline …not hampered by the legal niceties of democratic states where there is respect for rights and freedoms.” [CÉSAR ARJONA writing in El Periodico de Catalunya.]

The article actually begins with: “Millions of people have escaped poverty in China – a country where there are no freedoms…

Except of course, the freedom to go shopping…if you have the ‘economic freedom’ to do so.

The question must be asked: “Is it progress when millions have become wealthier, (creating a new middle class) and at the same time countless other millions have been plunged into deep poverty at the same time?

I don’t call that progress.

And it is a false version of progress when it does not come with the right to criticise a dictatorial regime that makes new wealth only for some of its citizens, while the ranks of the unemployed and the exploited grow like tropical bamboo plants.