“political crap – well Cook-ed”

Scandals and no end … – still, there are some that deserve special attention. The Apple-tax avoidance policy is one of peculiar interest – for different reasons:
Think about the following:
I pleaded on different occasions –  not least in connection with the data abuse by Facebook – for their socialisation: there seems to be little point in regulating monopolies – while at first glance tempering – it is a  no-go policy to break up monopolies that actually depend in their very functioning on being monopolies. Socialisation, e.g. state control, does not solve the problem but at least it puts it into a different regulatory perspective:
regulating private entities that are too big or securing democratic control over relevant political bodies, that is the question.
Public control, then, is of course an issue that deserves …, not just special attention but a conceptualisation of the public itself that is serious about …, well , its public character. On this topic we read for instance:
public (adj.)
late 14c., “open to general observation,” from Old French public (c. 1300) and directly from Latin publicus “of the people; of the state; done for the state,” also “common, general, public; ordinary, vulgar,” and as a noun, “a commonwealth; public property,” altered (probably by influence of Latin pubes “adult population, adult”) from Old Latin poplicus “pertaining to the people,” from populus “people” (see people (n.)).
In any case, this is quite different from what we learn about the tax system in Europe and Ireland, reading in the mentioned article (my translation);
Instead, first Lienemeyer has to investigate and understand the Irish tax model as it is applied by Apple, that means first and foremost detective work.
Thus, adding value or or piracy-policies, that is another crucial question.
There is the common saying about milking the cow to limits and it is commonly said that the pitcher goes often to the well, but is broken at last.
There is, in economics, so much talk about value chains – suggesting that the enterprise and country in which the enterprise is located gets a “fair share” – said in another way: as many products today – computers, phones, cars, fridges etc. – are produced in various places, with parts from different countries, the overall value of the product will be distributed between the countries, the contribution of each “valued proportionally”. One point to be considered here is that these value chains are, as Benjamin Selwyn points out, in actual fact poverty chains, the Apple-case clearly gives another good reason to question such concept.
Two passages from the said article in the SZ clearly show the contradiction:
At the time, Ireland replied in a letter to Brussels that Apple’s advanced technology, design and the intellectual property are exclusively rooted, developed and managed in the USA, thus making it impossible to attribute it to the Irish enterprises [enterprises  set up by Apple as mediators, solely dealing with sales]
However, a little later we read the following:
In the view of the head of the department at the EU-Commission it is fact that the Irish Apple-branches run their offices solely in Ireland, have their employees only there and are, thus, ordinary Irish companies. “Then the question is: who is generating the profit? A virtual headquarter or an industrial premise with real people working?” says Lienemeyer. As Apple maintains offices in the city of Cork. this is his conclusion, Apples global business is Irish. Consequently all profit has to be taxed in Ireland.
Ireland and Apple react by being shocked. In their understanding the global Apple-tree with its mature fruits always had its roots in California.
Both, Ireland and Apple see this a affront. At the end, the question is here:
eating the apples and rejecting the tree – is that a feasible option?
To be or not to be, that question needs urgently to be replaced: Who is allowed to define what being is – and who is allowed to determine the conditions of existence of others, of majorities?
Cook, Apple’s CEO, once spoke of ‘political crap’ coming from Brussels. Actually he may be not entirely wrong after all. Leaving the tax scandal aside, there are two fundamental issues that remain without consideration:
First, regulating sick and decaying systems, that are not only undermining like cancer the entire body but already replaced completely the entire body, is hardly enough as cure against the body snatchers.
Second, this requires not least to fundamentally overcome methodological nationalism: as long as we still think in competition between regions and nation states, global capitalism will unfold exponentially – paradoxically in niches of arrogant and sexist plutocracies.



Today – an Era?

Contemporariness-Society, it seems that this may a useful term characterising part of today’s Zeitgeist: a society that is exists in the presence, fades out its emergence from history, and fades out its developing character into the future, with this strangely enough counteracting its real self: presence is only happening in the one location, and with this the factual globality is apparently getting lost: only the we/I and the now/here counts.

(https: //irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/2f1f8bea/dms3rep/multi/tablet/ES-JCR1-1814×1208.jpg)

Not claiming to be based on a systematic study, it is interesting to see that soccer and the EUropean migration question had been heading the weekend journals while the elections in Turkey, a truly historical and existential issue, had been sidelined. As if the Turkish history – past, presence and future – is happening without us and we could happen …, sorry: act without Turkish history. Yesterday democracy faced a major challenge and failed to master it – a victory on paper, qualified by a high price. Today democracy faces new challenges which we have to master

and this challenge does not exist since yesterday – it is about Saviour and sultan, ally and foe – west in a bind over Erdoğan

It is far from being paradise …

– some thoughts on what is called populist success story.

Yes, it is far from being paradise …

… even if 可欣 wrote the other day

In my impression, Cuba is the place of beautiful scene and people. It’s a good choice … . Although my impression is only come from the movies. But I believe the beautiful sea and sunshine will be very helpful for good mood.

And indeed


…, yes, I enjoyed my stays there. And the small and large things: mainly people, chatting with them about their life – the ordinary and extraordinary. Language …, well a challenge as I do not speak Spanish, they do not speak … – well, they speak Spanish. Trying, Italianising the Spanish, Spanishising the Italian … The small and the large: the view across the ocean, walking along the Malecón, early in the morning, remembering the history of resting the USA – which in one way or another was a bit my personal history, and the monumental waves, sometimes reaching high, pushing the water across the dual-carriage way of the promenade. …

But on the occasion of my visits I did not only enjoy the scenery, the most exciting, vivid culture, the openness of the French ambassador, opening with the artists a mural on the walls of the embassy and … well, I experienced the difficulties, some but by no means all caused by the embargo, saw the poverty but also the pride, the commitment and hope of so many people whom I joined for the celebrations of the first of May – yes, some had not been too excited about getting up at three or four in the morning, and still they turned up, most if them committed.

Not paradise – this was also the topic of the very open, and very … confrontative debates for which I had been invited at the Centro de Investigaciones de Política International, and also the other year at the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales “Raúl Roa García”

Anyway, there is something we may think about, ca. one week after the elections in one of my ex-home countries which got the criminal B, back onto the main stage, and one day after the elections in Cuba. Admittedly there had been some banal hitches before the elections, not denied by the Cuba’s National Electoral Commission (NEC).

But there is another thing: the elections, the electoral process can well be taken as an anti-populist warrantor. Again, no paradise … but have a look, here in comparison of the system in Cuba and the USA.

The decisive aspect – as the little study states – is that

Cuba has different mechanisms to ensure popular participation both as electors and candidates.

Important is not only the high level of representation in Cuba, and the fact that it is truly a bottom-up process but also that it is very much about a discursive process not parties standing against each other but candidates developing on the local level together with the people their common programme. Well, there may be a bit of Jesuit-Franciscan element: elections understood as part of the camminare insieme, part of the work-walking together. Doesn’t such approach take much of the soil on which populism grows away: the soil of competing for power to govern the people, allowing to establish a solid ground, on which the people stand together?

– In this light many of the evaluations that had been published last week – looking at

Fear, Loathing And Poverty: Italy After The 2018 Elections

or asking the EU

When Will They Ever Learn?

and observing

Italy’s Ides of March

– have highlighted some relevant socio-economic issues, however they failed to acknowledge that democracy is not about serving the people but about the people saying and doing.

See in this context as well earlier, general reflections on populism and as well here.

And here more recent news on Cuba.


Small Print on Freedom of Opinion and Speech

It had been again and again an issue over the last two years or so, I spent in China: does it exist? How is it oppressed? and not least: But ‘we/they in the west’ can say what we want’.


though there is some small print we should not forget – an example may show what this is about.

Ho Paura


Weird-alternative analysis of the results of the German elections

Yes, it is five minutes before midnight …

… here in Germany had been elections [without me, I temporarily lost voting rights as I lived too long outside of the country – actually I think it is justified]. Anyway ‘I took part’, not least seeing the various posters – it least those by Aldi, highlighting that there is no Aldi-native

Consumo ergo sum – I wrote this slogan many, many years ago –a ctually in the last century. With such posters it reaches a new stage: the political citizen now even closer to the consumer … . Wolfgang Streeck also speaking since some time of the market citizen.

Well, I am admittedly more or less good in losing ground – leaving my thoughts to seemingly abstract levels …, but perhaps it is not so abstract at all: all the independence and populism …, isn’t that very much about this: having lost ground – transparency being closed behind the door, the only ground on which we can stand and move is consuming and individually struggling to survive = to manage life as the space for real living is limited.

There is a paradox I cannot solve for myself – it is in some way linked to the experience I made while being in China: the experience of living there, and also the experience of looking from there back: to Italy, Ireland etc. We struggle for life, to survive and apparently the only way and place of and for living is very much the wee space we have with other individuals. Initially nothing wrong with it, of course: we are individuals and being together with other individuals – camminare insieme, perhaps also in honest disputes with those near to us, is indeed also some kind of satisfaction of the social instincts – or less profane: the social being that is reflected upon by Aristotle and the many who followed him. But coming back to the sentence ‘Initially nothing wrong with it …’ suggests that there may be something wrong with it: isn’t it also potentially the futile ground for small seedbeds of hedonism and communitarian ideologies of seclusion, NIBY-ideas? Isn’t it in this way the ground on which populism finds its roots? If so, it is not so much abbot charismatics leaders but about the search for the private being political and the political being a matter in which every individual needs to have a say. The alienation of Aldi-nativlos, the alienation of a society that offers identity only by consumption shouting for a solution – offered by communitarian self-love and the loving those who are next to you. It is about the age-old recommendation as we know it from Mark, 12:30-31

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;’ this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Admittedly there may be other interpretations of this, but at least it allows a populist version’: it is only the one who is above you and those who are immediately around you. This is of further relevance, of course, at times where identity-building via consumption faces the limits – increasing inequality and increasing poverty are much more than they seem to be at first glance: it is not ‘only’ about loosing control over life [basic socio-economic security], but even more the loss of control over living beyond the    immediate  neighbours: the [fear of the] loss of social inclusion, social cohesion and social empowerment, the loss of personal (human) security; social recognition; social responsiveness; personal (human) capacity as elaborated in Social Quality Thinking. It is the economy, but on the surface it appears to be the community.

…, and in this weird constellation of competitive, hedonist consumers we loose the control not just over our individual behaviour [well fortunately not everybody turns to Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam and its political-populist variations … though too many do]. But we have these difficulties of ‘emphatically socialising’: call it controlled, rational empathy if something like it can exist. Many [not all for sure] my of the students throughout the years – really young people or youngish as myself – wanted to escape this individualism. And seemingly they could not – that was my impression: they did not want this consumerism, this ‘success’, this ‘ranked education’ – they were modest, curious, open but always faced those walls of our times. One of the walls: not being taken serious, pushed into the world of ranked competition …, and even young lecturers, just having entered that world, still verbally remembering their lovings from ten years or so ago, pushing and pulling those who are young now, into that direction. I tried to get closer to some, tried to organise a jour fixe to get known to each other, went for class trips to other countries, yes admittedly to incite them a bit: YOU HAVE RIGHTS – YOU AS STUDENTS [mind the plural], MAKE THEM KNOWN, CHALLENGE US … very limited success. There are many small and large case-studies to it, I should have written the third volume of my bio … , following up on the Briefe zwischen Welten and the Diary from a Journey into another World

Anyway, there is a wider perspective on it I will later engage with this and you can read it in a bloge-entry under the title

where legal scholars and economist (should) sit at the same table

[Pianificato il: 25 Ott, 2017 @ 17:40] It is about the changes I see – and that brings me closer to my take on the results of the elections but also on the independence question in Catalonia and the like: really looking from outside, though knowing a bit from inside: having been active in political struggles and canvassing in Germany, being member of a party in one of the neighbouring countries [where we have had elections to the senate], also looking back at ‘my Irish years’, but also looking at the time I spent in Australia [there the question of aborigines and PNG played a major role], there is something that goes for me MUCH beyond the current issues: populism, independence, the helplessness of being ‘voll muttiviert’[1] as one of the celebratory banners of the CDU suggests…; the … can one even say dictatorial behaviour of Madrid, the mal-functionings in Catalonia … the aggressiveness and ignorance of Trumpism, shown another time and also shown as part-defeat  … all these are serious issues but when we look at this as an attack against democratic institutions, I am wondering: did they ever really exist? Do we really have anywhere REALLY democratic institutions? The problem I see more and more is: how can we bring together the Rechtstaat, equality and direct peoples’ saying and rule. This trinagle may be a bit of an extension of Rodrik’s ‘inescapable trilemma of the world economy’ …

And it is a triangular tension that we easily put aside, simplifying things, finding answers before we really think about what the questions are.

Yes, a better government for Germany – one that is not a minority government with a highly problematic turnout, independence for Catalonia and others. But how can we guarantee that such democracies – small and large – are respecting the rights of others AND how can we ensure that such democratic entities respect ‘equality within it’s the borders’. Looking at independent and democratic Germany speaks volumes, if not libraries.

– Well, but for me: more philosopher than politician, more economist than lawyer: the crucial questions are the following two: how to overcome inequality on the different levels, i.e. from the local to the global, and how can we guarantee that by tackling the core = production, not the distribution — that the latter does not work had been shown often enough: e.g. by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pope’s appeals of the camminare insieme. Walking together is fine – if it is on the same layer; if it is about sitting in one and the same boat, the one giving the orders and the others still pulling the oared, there is something wrong.

Well, whatever happens in the near future – in Catalonia, Bavaria, Germany, Europe – I am afraid here remains much to be done to reach at real change.

And this is also something I brought with me from China: name it deep respect for the students and distaste of this system that keeps us in its fetters …; it makes me a bit sad, jaundiced, hurt …. somewhat feeling ashamed and afraid: with so many moves, the tiny moves against accepting these fetters and the fear of just forcing fetters on others, not being able to fully respect and support the students’ modesty, curiosity, openness … All the walls that surround them, while being forced to walk like cattle to the trough of competitive success may be for a tiny number pointers on the way success, for many it may well be the harness of the live that makes real living difficult and for another and increasingly large number it may well be wall they duplicate as wall against a fortress Europe, closure towards Mexico and the like …

Well, much could be added – also about ‘The enjoyable lightness of being’ that we can still find – a phrase linking to the title of a book, a Chinese friend made me aware of: Kundera’s ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’ – an amazing book we still did not digest. A book that still employs our mind. Actually reading it, and talking about it brought many things back to me: all the stuff that moved me and my generation so many years ago: existentialism, Marxism, communism, anarchism – there was for me much of that ‘in the air’ during the more than two years; and the air here, being back in Europe now, is soaked by it too.


[1]            A pun: merging Mutti Merkel and motivation.