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Portuguese obesity advertisement Manolo Barroso tweeted this morning that he was “signing autographs” on his arrival in Vienna. I’m generally in favour of Austrians, although one must remember that Adolf Hitler emerged from their ranks. I’m thus mystified that anyone Austrian would want Barroso’s autograph.

Perhaps he was signing loan agreements without realising it, rather as the Germans have been doing for the last few years. But enthusiasm for the practice is waning fast in the Reich, Germany having followed the US into the Bad News Cage with Christmas sales for November and December down some 0.7% from the previous Mammontide. December in particular was a wipeout, with retail sales plunging 1.7% from November. The expected number was -0.1%; so – only seventeen times underestimated. A bloody nose for Berlin bullishness…or bullsh*t, depending on the level of your cynicism.

I think we could probably all just about cope with things going more and more obviously tits-up if there was the slightest sign that our politicians’ endeavour out there was an honest one. Sadly, evidence to the diametric contrary roars forth in a rampaging flood of corruption news on the hour every hour here at Slogger’s Roost. Hard on the heels of the Italian MPS bank scandal comes a Spanish one going right to the very top: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former IMF managing director Rodrigo Rato are among dozens of MPs fingered by El Pais this morning, in an exposé demonstrating that corporate political donations went to them in cash…and stayed there.

Just to be sure that both the private and public sectors were ripped off, most of the slush recipients then under-declared how much they’d received. Rajoy himself has been trousering €25,200 a year via this scam since 1997; so doing some quick maths, around a cool €400,000 has gone directly to the task of affording the lifestyle he must (I would’ve thought) enjoy very much. Either that or he has a serious crack habit.

And as trailed here under the Pester Hester banner, the Daily Telegraph has today confirmed that more than 90pc of the complex interest rate derivatives sold by UK banks to small businesses were probably mis-sold, according to the findings of a review by the Financial Services Authority. Here we have the guys supposed to be the engine of creative capitalism firing renegade scuds at the creators. You might think they’d need a safe house somewhere in northern Pakistan after pulling that kind of sh*t, but nope: Stephen Hester remains Number One Top Back-Slapping Bloke at the British Treasury.

But the triumph of inefficient greed and generalised bollocks over sane fiscal management and sovereign investment is everywhere to be seen. Since June 5th 2012, the Athens Stock Exchange General Index has more than doubled….the best performance of any bourse in Europe. Greece’s 10-year bond yields are at 10% or thereabouts….down from 30.55% over the same period. And just a few days ago, Hellenic Finance Minister Stournaras predicted a turnaround recovery by the autumn. Yet the entire political class stands accused of tax evasion and embezzlement, the economic figures are absolutely dire, and you’d be hard pushed to find an accountant anywhere in the eurozone who doesn’t think Greece will need another bailout within the next six months at the very latest. (Short of a miracle involving loaves, fishes, and debt forgiveness, it’s a mathematical certainty).

There is a game going on here, and it works like this:

“Most people think it’s about us and them, but it isn’t: it’s about us, them and you.

“We know that you know that we and they are just playing out a charades game in which they pretend to be convinced by our assertions, and we hope that you will get directionalised by them so that they can profit and keep all the signals looking good which gives us a better than 150-1 chance of survival, which as you know is not much better than no chance at all, but the one thing we all know is that anything is better than nothing. So as ever, we expect you to do your duty and fall for every scam they try, to pull us out of the mire: because in the end we’re all in this thing together.”

Earlier at The Slog: The enriching experience of negotiating with Iran