Freitag, 23. Oktober 2009

Barcelona ranked 1st, and Madrid 4th! ("and it's not best city to live in")

Everybody should have the right to come first once in their lifetime....the same goes for countries, cities and other non-individuals. The US have the most nobel prize winners. Germany is the world's largest exporter. Some cities are being voted the best to live in. The various lists usually consist of a mix of Canadian, Australian, German and alpine (Swiss/Austrian) cities.

The best olympic games ever have been held, according to IOC-President Juan Antonio Samaranch, in Sydney.

There are so many rankings but now, finally, Barcelona has come first on a list! And not just that: all-time rival, Madrid has come fourth, so Spain has the double honor (together with Italy) to figure twice on the list: It's the list of The 10 Worst Cities for pickpockets.


Cada uno y todos debrian llegar primero una vez en su vida - y las naciones y ciudades también, por supuesto. Algunos como EEUU tienen el mayor numero de premiados con el premio nobel. Alemania es el pais exportador mas grande del mundo. Hay ciudades que son votadas como "las mejores para vivir". Estas listas por lo general son encabezadas por ciudades canadieneses, australianas, alemanas y alpinas (Austria/Suiza).

Los mejores juegos olimpicos hemos visto, segun el presidente del COI, Juan Antonio Samarach, en Sydney.

Hay tantos listados, pero por fin, Barcelona también ha llegado a encabezar un listado. Y no solo eso: con Madrid votado 4º, España tiene el honor (junto con Italia) de tener dos ciudades en los Top 10. Aplauso! Por cierto - se trata del listado de los 10 peores ciudades para ser robado.

Donnerstag, 22. Oktober 2009

Porque el patronal en Alemania NO quiere bajar impuestos

Ultimamente se habia oido bastante hablar desde el PP y el patronal español que hay que "bajar impuestos como en Alemania". Aqui unos hechos para entender mejor de que van las cosas. Primero hay que ver que la carga fiscal total (impuesto mas seguridad social) en Alemania puede llegar hasta un 48% o mas.

Para dar un ejemplo: una persona soltera cobrando 40.000 Euros al año cobra 2.498 Euros mensuales en España - en Alemania son1.914 - o sea mas que 500 Euros MENOS!
Un alto cargo cobrando 100.000 al año tiene 5.415 en España, en Alemania 4.338, o sea ya 1100 Euro menos!

Con ese dinero Alemania invierte - entre otros - en la cohesion social, educación y I+D (para no hablar de la contribucion a la UE...)

O sea, si igual hace falta bajar impuestos en Alemania, lo que hace falta en España no es bajar impuestos, sino SUBIR sueldos. (teniendo en cuenta que un 20% de los españoles vive por debajo del umbral de la pobreza, como comentó TVE 1 ayer)

Pero en cuanto al bajar impuestos..... ( y recuerdo que, como se veía, es una presión fiscal MUY mayor que la española...)

Hoy el jefe del patronal aleman (BDI) Hans-Peter Keitel (en una entrevista concedida a una revista prestigiosa de economia alemana, "Manager Magazin") ha pedido que NO se bajen los impuestos, para poder garantizar la cohesion social. Dice: "En la situacion en que estamos, no seria justo recortar prestaciones sociales. Iria en contra del sentido de la justicia popular." Y mas dice: "Bajar impuestos no es prioritario."
Da para pensar.

Aquí tambien un articulo interesante del periódico español "Publico":

Samstag, 17. Oktober 2009

Why Sweden is a dirty and corrupt country where it either rains or snows

You didn't know that Sweden was a dirty and corrupt country where it either rains or snows? Then you must have been living under a stone for the past 15 years - or have no interest whatsoever in modern popular culture - either of the two, or else you would know what I am talking about.

Now I am writing this with all due hopes that the Swedish tourism board might hear about it and take action, although I may fear this comes a little late.
Because what happened (at least in my case, and I am a reasonably cultured person, with quite a knowledge of Politcs, History and the like) is that this is the image of Sweden which during these last years has crept into my mind. Let me explain: Currently I am reading the second volume of the "Millenium"-Trilogy by Stieg Larsson and there was a sentence that went the likes of: "The trafficing of women is something that is not at all investigated in Sweden, because no-one cares." And I thought, yeah, so what - we all know that! But then it hit me: Is that the Sweden that during my childhood was the home of Pippi Longstockings and ABBA? The land of social democracy come true? The land of Olof Palme, of the Swedish Welfare State - not to forget land of Queen Silvia, German queen of the hearts, before Diana took over? Except for Queen Silvia of course, some concepts of the Swedish Welfare State and the circumstances of the Palme-murder already darkened the image of this clean country, like the controversial background of the Folkhemmet-concept and the mysterious murder of Olof Palme, which has never been solved. With this murder and the speculations around it, the idea of a land far north where everybody is happy and where good people make good politics came to and end. Another mystery shook the foundations of Sweden in the late eighthies: the sinking of the Estonia.

Whether or not these occurences prompted Henning Mankell to create his best-selling Police Investigator Kurt Wallander, fact is that with Wallander a new notion of Sweden came to be known around the world. As Wikipedia says, the underlying idea of the Wallander-series (first published in 1991) was: What went wrong with Swedish society?
And Wallander was extremly succesful. My first readings of his books left me shocked of the portrait he painted of Sweden. And now it's Larsson's turn: As I said my perception of Sweden has changed - and this is more a sub-conscious notion, because I am sufficiently capable of realizing that we talk fiction. What's more we talk fiction that is admirably frank and open on what IS wrong in modern society, because, of course, none of the problems pictured in any of the books are something inherently swedish.

So what is ist that makes Sweden the land of the bad in current popular fiction. (Apart from my very personal notion that this kind of frankness and willingness to badmouth your own country is something rather typical Northern-European/-American - it will be a long way to go until we find equally famous authors willing to describe the short-comings of their own society in such a matter-of-fact and drastic way - and not just the short-comings of others - in a country south of the Alps. But that's a different story for another post. One proof though is the more-than-happy headline the respectable Spanish newspaper "La Vanguardia" gave its article on the Larsson phenomenon: "Sweden is every bit as described by Larsson" Wow, they wouldn't do it for less....How satisfying after all these years having to listen how "developed and progressive" these northern countries are!)

If we look at the history of Swedish products though, it comes as no surprise. Call me stupid, call me ridiculous, there is something that makes Sweden and the Swedes being the best in so many categories of modern life. Whatever they do, they always come first. Need proof?

Ask anybody on the street which would be their trusted home-designer? Well, Ikea would be the obvious choice. Ask them what clothes they wear? H&M is a good guess. What is by far and large the most popular, best-selling band of all time? Well, we all know... Ask a European whose childhood-books were their favourite. It would be Astrid Lindgren's. Even the Volvo cars were something special, as the car of the non-conformist but rather wealthy decision-maker. So if we compare all this with other European nations of equal size, none comes even close. Okay, Finland has Nokia and the Pisa-study, Norway is rich and has the highest quality of life anywhere in the universe. The Danes invented Lego, but what is this against the overwhelming comercial power of Ikea, H & M and of course Abba.
The Swiss invented the secret bank account and neutralism. Luckily enough they also make good chocolate and watches, otherwise the reputation would be worse than it already is. Apart from that there is not much in terms of either popular culture (Heidi apart), famous musicians or extremly succesful (and popular) companies, that are part of modern culture: Nowhere to be seen....
The Austrians invented Mozart, Sissi and Hitler, the first and latter one still being best-sellers, though at least one of them does not really work well in terms of tourism marketing

So, in the end there is no doubt why Sweden is the land of evil, a dirty and corrupt country where it either rains or snows in modern popular fiction: Once swedish authors decided to go for that topic, it was inevitable that they would end up top. Because they are simply good at what they do - whether it's pop music, children's books, accesible furniture or having a sympathetic royal family. Maybe they were just bored with being the land of Ikea, Abba and Pippi Longstocking and, yeah, they did manage to change that image. And that's why I love this country.

Sonntag, 4. Oktober 2009

Who needs the EU anyway?

So Ireland voted yes on the Lisbon treaty, aimed at changing the way the EU works, trying to come to terms with an EU grown to 27 members in the age of globalization. Now it's the turn of Czech President Vaclav Klaus to sign the treaty. While I don't really understand how a president can refuse to sign a treaty voted yes by his parliament, the saying is that he wants to postpone the process until the British Elections next year. Why? Well, if Klaus hasn't signed until then, the treaty obviously won't be ratified, and the British Conservatives, who are likely to win the elections, can just start the whole process again, and we will be back where we started back in 2001.

There is just one thing that makes me wonder: While there are of course differing opinions about the EU, there was - and still exitsts - something called EFTA. The EFTA is the loose economic treaty of these nations that do not want to be part of the EU (namely Norway and Switzerland). Co-foundend by Britain, Ireland and Denmark, these countries later choose to abondon EFTA and become mebers of the EU.

Here's what Wikipedia says about EFTA:
"The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was established as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to, join the then European Economic Community (EEC) (now the European Union (EU)).
The main difference between the early EEC and the EFTA was the absence of a common external customs tariff, and therefore each EFTA member was free to establish individual customs duties against trade with non EFTA countries."

So why - to make it short - did they join the EU, and why don't those that don't want the EU to be what it is, go back to EFTA?
Easy answer? Because some of them could have never been what they are: namely Ireland, who had to vote twice to finally understand what the EU means for them. They went from a poor, backwards country to the second richest country in the EU, always powered by EU subsidaries. These subsidaries helped them to lower their taxes to a legendary 10%. This - and the obvious fact of being an English-speaking country relatively close to the US - helped them to become the European HQ for some of the most prestigious companies around, namely, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and some others - so, yeah - not some - ALL of them! Would they have accomplished that without EU subsidaries, that turned country roads into highways, airstrips into airports and a catholic, conservative, backwards country into a modern, european powerhouse? No.
So, there you go - Ireland owes to the EU, as does Spain, and many other countries. Finally, they realized it (due to the crisis, of course: with high umemployment and even higher state deficit it is not very likely to bite the hand that fed you). For the Czech Republic the obvious advise would be to leave the EU and try to become another Switzerland. We'll see how it goes.

As for the UK, well, it is obvious that their EU-sceptisim is well founded and implies a lot of well-known British common sense. After all, the Tories still worship their farsighted ex-leader Margaret Thatcher who foresaw with all clarity, the coming of the 4th Reich with German Reunification and in her spare time loved to have her good old friend, General Pinochet of Chile, over for tea.


Así que Irlanda al final ha dicho sí al tratado de Lisboa cuyo fin es de mejorar las relaciones institucionales en una Unión Europea de 27 en un mundo nuevo. Ahora toca al presidente de la Republica Checa de ratificar el tratado. Pero prefiere posponerlo hasta que hayan votado en Reino Unido, porque asi les da la oportunidad a los conversadores británicos (si ganan las eleciones) de renegociar todo y volver a dónde empezamos en el 2001.

Pero hay algo que no entiendo. Existia - y todavia existe - la EFTA (o AELC en sus siglos en español). Es un tratado de los estados europeos que no quieren formar parte de la UE (sobre todo, Suiza y Noruega). Fundado por (enter otros) Irlanda, Reino Unido y Dinamarca, esos luego decidieron abandonar EFTA y ingresar en la UE.

Eso es lo que dice la Wikipedia: Fue creado como alternativa a la Comunidad Económica Europea (la entonces UE).
La única diferencia primigenia entra la CEE y la AELC era la tarifa aduanera exterior común, y por tanto cada miembro de esta última quedaba libre de establecer derechos aduaneros frente a terceros paises.

Porque entonces todos los (pocos) paises que no quieren seguir el camino común de la UE, no entran en la EFTA? Facilissima la respuesta: Nunca hubieran sido (y no serían) lo que son. Mejor ejemplo es Irlanda misma. De un pais pobre, retrasado y al margen de Europa ha cambido (en menos de 30 años) a ser el segundo pais mas rico de Europa. Los ayudas economicos europeos han ayudado bajar los impuestos a un - ya legendario - 10%. Esto (y la indiscutible cercania a EEUU y el ser un pais anglófono) les ha ayudado a atraer mucha (que digo - TODO!) de la nueva industria. Tienen - entre otros - sus sedes principales europeos en Irlanda: Microsoft, Apple, Google y Yahoo. Lo hubieran conseguido sin ayudas europeas transformando calles de campo en autopistas, construyendo aeropuertos modernos y transformar una sociedad católica-conservadora en un pais moderno y abierto? No!

Asi que Irlanda debe mucho (si no todo) a la UE, como España y muchos otros paises.
Al final en Irlanda lo han entendido, debido al la crisis, por supuesto: Con el paro y el deficit en alza, ya no es tan fácil morder la mano que te dió a comer. Y en cuanto a la Republica Checa: Que abandonen la UE y intentan sera la nueva Suiza - ya veremos.

Y en cuanto al Reino Unido.....Pues, tanto esceptismo ante la UE - legado de la Gran Dama de los Tories, Margaret Thatcher, esa lider tan clarividente, quien con tanto certeza veía llegar el 4º Reich con la Reunificacion alemana; si, era tan al tanto del dia esa señora que en sus momentos libres le gustaba invitar al té a los viejos amigos de siempre, como el General Pinochet, para mostrar su apoyo público a ese gran hombre....

Gracias a la pagina de Marta Salazar encontré una caricatura (en alemán) de Kostas Koufogiorgos que es muy graciosa sobre la votacion en Irlanda: (hay que ir a la entrada del 3 de octubre) o directamente asi: