Direct EU taxation

Who’s for it, and who’s against it.

Spain, Poland, Austria, and Belgium are backing the concept, France, UK, Germany and the Netherlands are against.

It seems that the more up-and-coming, politically and economically unstable ones are looking to the the EU for more centralized (and with luck, fair) power partitioning. Poland is still waiting on the doorsteps of the inner circle Europe, so you take good will where you can get it?  Austria’s still awaiting the verdict on its eastern European investments, Spain struggling with higher unemployment and general economic ruin, Belgium barely able to keep the country together.

Bigger states like France and Germany want to retain more sovereignty, and it would look both politically untenable and silly to hand over more power when both believe they control the institution anyway.  In the UK and Netherlands, the shift to the right has a distinct and not at all unsurprising anti-EU slant to it.

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The right to vacation

Before the whole Greek fiasco, euro crisis, and the news that European banks were on the verge of collapse (which is not happening according to this), some EU commissioner had the audacity to declare the travel some kind of human right.  Actually, the idea was to convince more foreigners to come to Europe and spend their hard-earned money on a continent where tourism is the 3rd largest business and accounts for 12% of its jobs.

But of course the financial shit storms hit and this initiative is now probably buried deep inside Euro castles somewhere in Brussels or Strasbourg.

This is my first summer here with no off-continent travels, and I’ve seen first-hand the kind of exodus that happens on the road when July and August hit.

People schedule their vacations to coincide with their children’s schooling. The construction sector is closed for an entire month between July and August for vacation, and some government agencies also close for August.  Half of the small/independent shops in my neighbourhood are closed, so if you want pizza or beef from the butcher, or dry-cleaning services, then tough luck.

There are several so-called Black Saturdays, where people literally pack up as much personal belongings and household apparatus as possible in their cars, endure hours of congested traffic, in order to drive to their neighbouring countries to camp.

Camping is huge.  I haven’t tried it yet, but hearsay tells me camp grounds are generally more compact, well-serviced and in some cases, cheaper than across the pond.

Stay-cations are also almost unheard of here. Recession or not, the majority of people surveyed (at least in the Netherlands, although I can’t quite find the link) said they intend to go on vacation.

For most, that means packing up your house, drive 5 to 10 hours, and set up camp in a neighbouring country.  I have seen everything from cars loaded up with camping and cooking wares, to more luxurious foldable tent set-ups hooked to the back of a car, to plastic picnic table strung on the top of a car, all to keep the vacation cost as low as possible, and to make those foreign destination feel as homely as possible.

With this kind of set-up in: price (low, camping), convenience (high, drive anywhere in a few hours), and availability (of holidays and destinations, also high), I can see why most Europeans exercise their rights to vacations.

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On Luxemburg

Over the weekend, I met a couple of guys that actually lived (and one still living) in the city-state of Luxemburg.  There’s around half a million of people residing in all of the 999 square miles of the country. But in the word of the young French banker-type, “the real Luxemburgish are all in hiding.”

Over the years, the country has literally been taken over by the neighbouring Italians, Germans and French, not to count the influx of Eastern Europeans once the EU borders opened.  Most work in banking and related service industries.  Taxes are lower (both consumption and income), wages are higher, so many make the 1-2 hour cross-border commutes everyday back to their home countries.

Both of these guys described the country as an incredibly dull place, with little to do except making money and going out to bars, and with no redeeming qualities of other well-known banking countries (and tax havens) like Switzerland and Monaco.  Nor were they kind about the locals – red-neck farmers driving Ferraris – since selling their land to the banking businesses, and I’m guessing from some of the rich mineral deposits in the south of the country too.

I look forward to visiting someday.

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Shifting palates and other Tuesday morning links

Germany’s massive workforce bail-out.

EU regulations limiting doctors’ working hours “failing spectacularly”.

Working on a startup doesn’t suck, it’s just really, really hard.  Especially if you are the one taking on most of the risks.

China sees Africa the same way the West sees China: A land of a billion customers.

The Wintel monopoly is dissolving.

Intuit wants to fight the free Californian tax filing offerings.

Our palate becoming spicier with shifting demographics.

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The Great American stagnation and other Monday links

Apologies for the irregular postings from last week, back to regular programming this week.

Outsourcing doesn’t have to be all bad.

Life imitating art, accidents in China’s mine shaft.

Maureen Dowd goes to Saudi Arabia.

On Yo-Yo Ma and his art: If a performance is not extraordinary, then it’s not worth doing.

Marriage between friends to get citizenship.

Is there an alternative to western democracy?  Will Confucius philosophy play a part?

The Great American stagnation, and the future of the American dream.

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Launch day and some mid-week morning links

PeerIndex is launching later today, so heavy on tech and start-up, short on number of links this morning.  See you over at the site!

On the plethora of things to do before a launch.

Technology facilitating our increasingly addictive culture.

A thought experiment on what a start-up country would look like.

New search engines looking to block content farms.

Another reason why I don’t really buy the whole “creative class” concept.  You get posers like these.

Ways to fight creative block, although most cannot really be recommended nowadays since they involve drug abuse or aspirations that drive you to depression.

Have cheap air flight tickets ruined air travel?

Italy’s permanent debt crisis, quite of like Japan’s permanent growth crisis.

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Twitter craze in Japan, and other Tuesday morning links

One more powerful piece on the lack of foresight and sensitivities exhibited by the current healthcare professionals and patients when it come to dying. The practice of needlessly and fruitlessly pre-longing terminal patients’ lives with no regard for the quality of lives was also covered here.

The UK is more than capable of making good drama series. Although some self-reflection is never a bad thing.

What the Kosovo recognition means for other restive regions in the world.

Moving in the opposite direction as its Atlantic cousin: Britain looks to decentralize health care.

Milestone for Russia indeed. A town looks past his skin colour and elects a black mayor.

All those knowledge, skills and war stories, what happens once people retire? Not everyone can nor want to go into teaching, how do we capture and aggregate the knowledge?

Japan does love a craze.

Applying the type-A vigilance and zeal to parenting has created a whole industry that’s come up with the kind of ingenious products that warms up baby wipes.

UAE basically declares BlackBerry enemy of the state.

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Democratization of luxury, and other Monday morning links

Language and how it influences the way our respective cultures view the world.

Bringing your own camper with your own food when traveling is a well-renowned Dutch sport.  Apparently Germans dabble in it as well, much to Norwegians’ chagrin.

A piece on the changing state of the British middle-class.  The word “class” comes up a lot, both explicitly and implicitly.

How our state of mind and our awareness of social norms and perceptions have on morality.

One scenario on US-China relations in 2020. This one is not optimistic.

How Kaiser Wilhelm II tried to harness the power of Caliphate to further German imperial interests, and failed.

Is the development of America’s materialistic culture in the 20th century merely the result of its democratized luxury?

A brief history on the decline of cosmopolitanism.

Everyone’s got something to say about Zynga. Here’s the latest.

Why media outlets need to consider making money through commerce versus the tired choice between advertising and pay-wall.

How to change norms and public behaviours.

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Fast reproductive strategies in the ghetto?

Academic fraudulent behaviour in China hurt all.

How both Europe and America are dealing with the rise of Asia, and the amusing hypothesis that growth is almost moving westwards.

More reasons why publishers should charge for news. (h/t @ampique via @kristinelowe)

A point in the world where you are surrounded by 4 countries. (tks to @justinspratt)

Outpatient care cost might be one of the biggest component of extra health care costs in the US.

Is sexual identity in women more fluid than that in men?

Tony Barber departing Brussels, and asks the EU to address the democratic deficit between institutions and its citizens.

Evolutionary strategy predicts that living in a harsh and unpredictable environment leads to a “fast” reproductive strategy? So this should justify all the early teen pregnancies in low income communities then, nothing to worry about.

Vulnerability in entrepreneurs as a valued trait.

Picture: The Christmas fish. No, actually it’s an anglerfish. The lights around the fish are generated by living bacteria.

image

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Starting over in a digital age

We are happier taking a longer walk to the carousel to pick up our luggage, but much more agitated when forced to wait.  Yet, when given the choice directly, we’d probably wait.

Petty bickering over at the UN.

Some optimism injected into the idea that we are really more alike than apart.

Somewhat surprising data on the effect of home computers on children’s academic performances: lower academic achievements while improved computer skills and cognitive ability.

China’s coal consumption is everyone’s own power consumption, offshored.

Einstein and Berlin.

User generated content is still king, but user-edited content is of increasing importance

An alien landed on earth and goes into a bar, would it be able to tell a good conversation from a bad one?

Fine-tuning the German economy for better countercyclical policy.

Top US foreign aid recipients.

The idea of forgetting the past and starting over might not be possible in this digital age.

Information shadows and the promised golden age of mobile app development.

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