Corporate Influence in EU Governments

It is that feeling that never really goes away. No matter how often you might look around at how things work in Europe and admire things, there is the ever present feeling that politics, business, and everything in between is heading in the same direction as the United States.

Yet another piece of evidence to that effect appeared in the Financial Times recently, in an article about the intricate role of business executives within the German government.  In a story that sounds identical to what has been going on in the US for decades, one German executive from a hedge fund was said to be working in the ministry of justice in the area of hedge fund policy. Another classic example, reminiscant of the Reagan years, executives from BASF (the chemical company) are working in the ministry of environmental protection, also in the area of policies – of course.

But the infiltration of government by business experts from large corporations goes beyond the national level. As the article points out in its conclusion, within the European Commission there is also a strong presence of corporate experts working in the area of policy and regulation.

Just as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for all the reasons we might admire Europe, there are plenty of reasons to worry about a continent whose governments are allowed to repeat the kind of dysfunctional corporatist capitulation that we saw in the United States over the last 30 years or more.

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HAcker Congress 07 Almost Done

Greetings once again from Berlin, where I am attending the 24C3, the conference hosted by Germany’s Chaos Computer Club one of the finest groups of hackers and humans on the planet. This year the topics revolve around Global Warming and how Nerds will survive the apocalypse. In many ways it is a humorous theme, but in between all the joking around, I do believe we should take it more seriously in terms of solutions to fight global warming and the forces behind it.

Somehow I’ve ended up at the more comedic, the world is over, enjoy yourself and wear good shoes type sessions, that have left me laughing but also longing for some new ideas. Of course, outside of the sessions, in the hallways and various dark corners of the congress, that is where I see the true geniuses creating – as always- something out of nothing. Among the things I’ve seen: the revival of old technology for modern day uses, namely the telex machine. I watched as someone telexed *interesting* images from somewhere else in the conference center to the machine next to me. Of course I’ve also seen the drones, 4 propeller flying machines with some improvements since the camp over the summer. Also this year there are at least 8 to 12 OLPC’s also known as the green machine/100 dollar laptop, being played with. I may do a followup on it, although clearly lots of people are getting their hands on them now (including madame l)

What else? A puppet show about steam power. Rebellious knitting. Infectious diseases in virtual worlds. Yes there are plenty of insanely interesting topics that occasionally have some social relevance as well. No podcasts recorded yet, but once I give my talk on the Arctic Cold War in a few hours… I’ll get on the podcasting.

For a live stream of it, click here (12h45 CET, 6:45am EST)

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Arrived in Berlin

A few days in Berlin, among other reasons, to spend time with my dear friends, and to attend BarCamp Berlin.. which is neither a bar nor a camp.. just a nerd convention. Naturally there will be several podcasts and vlogs coming up related to issues here in Germany and beyond… I’m especially curious to discuss the experience of a new parent in Germany, what support the government gives you and that sort of thing.

For now, I require sleep.

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Greetings from VlogEurope2007

Yes it is that time again.. here I sit as Gabe and Gabe are speaking in the final talk-session of VlogEurope 2007. This year we’re here in Heidelberg, Germany, an extremely picturesque city south of Frankfurt. The group this year is the smallest its ever been since the first conference back in Amsterdam 2005. At the same time, we still manage to have lots of old friends meeting here to talk about this tool, this art, the vehicle that we believe so strongly in — video blogging.

If you wish to watch the live feed, it is probably too late, but the archived conference can be seen here. If you do watch you’ll see me speaking here and there, including a segment where I introduce and break down Euronews’s NO COMMENT video podcast. (pause as the panel discussion asks me a question)

Beyond the conference, the one thing I notice over and over again in Heidelberg is the presence of the American military. As I strolled through the old section of town, an amazingly beautiful oldfashioned city scape, I heard loud shouting.. at many points.. the familiar sounds of two booming American voices threatening each other. As I turned the corner there before me are two amazingly huge and muscular men, drunkenly yelling at each other while a barefoot girl lay half passed out on the ground. I kept walking due to my fear of muscular drunk people, only to pass the entrances of various flashy bars and night clubs.. again the familiar accents.

My wonderful hostess (thanks hospitality club) whom I’ve never met before but we’ve become fast friends, told me that there are various US military bases in the region.. including an important hospital nearby. For them its a completely normal thing and I found it fascinating as I strolled in the daytime, to see how they are in fact regular fixtures in the backdrop of daily life here. Come to think of it, I’m typing this from the great JoelArt’s house, he too has told me tons about the world of US military employees in Germany.

I bring it up because it is a fascinating world. It is also one that I’m not sure I like. To put it another way, it makes me uncomfortable as an American and as a European that US troops have a permanent prescence anywhere.. that is unless they’re there to actually help people and improve the quality of life.

Anyway, fireworks are starting here at the VLogEurope07 party, yes, it is a special night here in Heidelberg. (explosion… off I go to look out over the river)

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