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Sat Jul 6th, 2013 at 02:38:43 AM EST
Minister of Ecology of Ayrault's government until she was fired on Tuesday 2nd July, Delphine Batho held a press conference yesterday to give some background on the affair.
She explains that powerful interests are blocking France's energy transition, which was Hollande's electoral policy and which she was working to implement, and that these interests got her fired. I find it sufficiently explosive to merit a diary, though I don't have time to develop the subject.
Here's an extract from Le Monde :
front-paged by afew
Fri Jul 5th, 2013 at 01:23:31 AM EST
The above is from this Economist article, also previously discussed in Jerome's latest wind diary.
While the discussion in the diary revolved around the electricity spot price, there were several other aspects left unexplored. For example, I didn't find an explanation for the increase on the European industrial electricity prices compared to the USA. Specifically, The Economist hints (though nowhere says outright) that the doubling of German industrial electricity prices is a result of rising surcharges due to the expansion of renewables, yet the graph also displays a comparable rise in the European price of industrial consumers - so how does that work out?
Furthermore, the Economist writes about a 25 percent increase in German household bills in the past three years, but doesn't display a graph to compare with industrial electricity, nor with European households. In all, not very satisfying, and after I began digging, it was difficult to stop. But the topic is exhaustive and this diary is thus far from conclusive. Rather, it represents a first overview of the tinkering so far.
Mon Jul 1st, 2013 at 06:27:39 AM EST
Our Dear Leaders are apparently outraged that the US has been spying on us with the cheerful assistance of the UK and assorted other EU secret services. This is apparently a shocking revelation.
Did I miss a memo? Did the men in black come around and wipe everyone's memories and miss mine? Surely we've known for years that the point of the NSA and GCHQ and the whole UK/USA surveillance panolopy has been to suck up everything they possibly could? The European parliament did a report on it, remember? I've long assumed that they would have extended the same sort of dragnet into IP based services - which is a lot of phone traffic these days. How could the leaders of EU countries not already know about this?
There are three possibilities I can think of:
- they're lying through their teeth about what they knew - and it will become obvious pretty quickly that that's what they're doing as other leakers laugh in their faces.
- Their secret services failed to brief them on the situation or didn't know about it. My personal working assumption is that everything I do is sucked up into the UK/USA monster. I'm just not that interesting and I don't do anything that's much good for blackmail anyway, but if I did I'd be taking very careful precautions to make sure that it wasn't on any device that was connected to the Internet. I seriously doubt that the European spooks are less paranoid than I am. There are thousands and thousands of people involved in running these programmes, and it's unimaginable that the European secret services aren't aware of them.
- They disregarded their briefings: they didn't believe that the nice Americans would be listening in on everything. This is probably the most worrying possibility I can think of.
They're probably just lying to us. Fake outrage until it all blows over and we can pretend it's all gone away.
Sun Jun 30th, 2013 at 11:54:57 AM EST
The themes are: privatisation, international/intermodal freight, low-cost innovation in urban rail, and new high-speed infrastructure.
Earlier this year, Romania wanted to privatise CFR Marfă, the freight branch of its state railway, but on 15 May, the transport ministry rejected all three bids. I commented that "They still think this doesn't have to be a fire-sale." Indeed two weeks later, they resumed the process with the same bidders. Why? Because sale by June was a promise to the IMF and the IMF stuck to the deadline.
Things continued like a comedy: in the week before the IMF deadline, the two bidders with foreign capital withdrew for various reasons, and the sole bidder left standing was named winner – pending EU approval due to the winner's then 70% market share...
Here is a CFR Marfă loco and train far from home, on the way from Budapest to Slovakia:
Fri Jun 28th, 2013 at 01:31:10 AM EST
Greg Mankiw came up with a defense of the top 1% (note: I provide the link because that's the done thing. I don't actually recommend that you follow it...). Many people, such as Dean Baker, Harold Pollack, Paul Krugman and even The Economist (and this time I do recommend you follow the links), take this apart.
And yet, they are being much too kind.
Greg Mankiw has written an Economics textbook that is very well regarded, and is still the leader in the undergraduate universities market in the US (although Paul Krugman's seemed to be catching up fast). Because of that, a lot of people will like him or, at any rate, not want to appear to have too bad a word for him. Yet there is a point where this becomes enforced blindness.
front-paged by afew
Tue Jun 25th, 2013 at 05:46:40 AM EST
Daniel Schneidermann at Arrêt sur images wonders what on earth is going on when French politicians as diverse as Hollande, Juppé, and Montebourg, and pro-European pundits Bernard Guetta and Jean Quatremer, are taking up the cudgels against Commission President Barroso -- and even Angela Merkel seems to be leaking doubts about the wisdom of renewing Barroso's mandate for a third term.
|Barroso, profession épouvantail - Arrêt sur images|| Barroso, profession: scarecrow - Arrêt sur images |
|Que se passe-t-il ? Juppé, Guetta et Quatremer ont-ils découvert dans la nuit que la commission était dominée par la droite libérale ? Ont-ils été convertis dans la nuit à la nécessité de l'exception culturelle française, que Barroso qualifiait l'autre semaine "d'archaïque" dans une interview au New York Times ? Ont-ils soudain réalisé que le futur traité transatlantique était "une grenade dégoupillée par Barroso en fin de mandat" (Quatremer) ? Et ce soudain dessillement est-il en train de franchir les frontières ? Même Angela Merkel aurait déclaré (en off), que pour l'élection du prochain président de la Commission, il ne faudrait "pas se tromper".|| What's going on? Did Juppé, Guetta and Quatremer find out overnight that the Commission was dominated by the economic-liberal right? Were they converted overnight to the need for French cultural exception that Barroso described the other week as "archaic" in a NYT interview? Have they suddenly realized that the future transatlantic treaty was "a grenade thrown by Barroso at the end of his mandate" (Quatremer)? And is this sudden eye-opening crossing borders? Even Angela Merkel reportedly said (off the record), that for the election of the next President of the Commission, there should be "no mistake" .|
| Que se passe-t-il ? Il se passe, Madame Monsieur, que des élections européennes devraient se dérouler l'an prochain. Et que si l'on souhaite tenter d'éviter l'irruption massive, au Parlement, de mélenchoniens et de lepénistes de toutes nationalités, il faut à toute allure refaire un lifting à l'Europe, et rebadigeonner le "professeur dur et méchant" (comme dit Delors) en Europe solidaire, et compatissante à la souffrance des peuples. Pour reprendre la formule à la mode, il va falloir organiser les choses pour que tout change, afin que rien ne change. Barroso peut se préparer, dans l'année qui vient, à une belle carrière d'épouvantail.|| What's going on? What is happening, ladies and gentlemen, is that European elections are to be held next year. And if you want to try to avoid the massive invasion of Parliament by Mélenchonians and LePen-ists of all nationalities, you have to run a full-speed facelift of Europe, and repaint the "churlish and harsh schoolteacher" (as Delors said) as a Europe of solidarity and compassion for the suffering of the people. To use the currently fashionable formula, you have to arrange things so everything changes, so that nothing changes. Barroso can get ready, for the coming year, for a great career as a scarecrow.|
Thu Jun 20th, 2013 at 11:26:38 AM EST
There's quite a buzz around the state of Chinese banking at the moment. This is from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:
FITCH: China's Credit Bubble Is A Record - Business Insider
China's shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned.
The agency said the scale of credit was so extreme that the country would find it very hard to grow its way out of the excesses as in past episodes, implying tougher times ahead.
"The credit-driven growth model is clearly falling apart. This could feed into a massive over-capacity problem, and potentially into a Japanese-style deflation," said Charlene Chu, the agency's senior director in Beijing.
"There is no transparency in the shadow banking system, and systemic risk is rising. We have no idea who the borrowers are, who the lenders are, and what the quality of assets is, and this undermines signaling," she told The Daily Telegraph.
by Frank Schnittger
Mon Jun 17th, 2013 at 07:15:04 AM EST
In Abortion in Ireland I gave a brief account of the background to various attempts to make abortion illegal in Ireland in all circumstances by introducing a constitutional right to life for the unborn. These attempts failed when the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was lawful where there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother which could be alleviated by an abortion. Controversially, the Supreme Court included a threat of suicide in the definition of what could constitute a substantial threat to the life of the mother and this position was endorsed by two constitutional referendums (plebiscites) in 1992 and 2002.
front-paged by afew
Wed Jun 12th, 2013 at 04:51:24 AM EST
Daniel Cohn-Bendit is very much attacked for some quotes on "erotic encounters" with children. This triggered off a discussion in today's newsroom. These encounters must have taken place in Frankfurt in the late 1960s or 70s, around the time of a huge reform of the German penal code regarding sexual offences.
To a contemporary reader it is inconceivable how anyone could express such an attitude. It is as if there wasn't a consensus that children's sexual behaviour is incompatible with that of adults, and that adults must not seek or permit "erotic encounters" (fascinating expression, found it in Wikipedia) with children. How could DCB fail to know that? Simple: the consensus wasn't there then.
A travel in time to 1974, to find out who or what was to be to protected by the laws.
front-paged by afew
Tue Jun 11th, 2013 at 05:03:18 AM EST
Here on ET, it's generally acknowledged that infrastructure is something that is best done by the government, and preferably during recessions via deficit spending. Infrastructure is commonly thought of as things that provide for the public good, and that are most useful when provided to all.
Lots of things count as infrastructure. Roads and bridges are the obvious examples, but power generation and distribution, mail and package delivery, rail and air transport, phone and data networks, medical services, security and disaster relief, and a whole variety of other things could also be considered infrastructure.
How about software?
front-paged by afew
Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 05:02:51 AM EST
After sustained rains throughout May, rivers are flooding across Central Europe, reaching record levels. On the Danube near me, the maximum is expected for Sunday morning, about 35 centimetres above the previous all-time record (set in spring 2006), beating the Saturday prediction by ten centimetres.
Most of my city is on relatively high ground, so I could watch the rising waters safely. Here are some photos I made between Wednesday and Saturday (the water level already passed the record by the time of my Saturday photo tour). On the first photo, below a passing storm cloud and with the background of a flooded supermarket (left) and a cemetery (right), the statue-adorned old bridge across a creek. The shore of this creek, along which floodwaters pushed back, is the one part of town in danger.
Below the fold, the photos will be organised in short time series. Warning: altogether 33 photos!
Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 05:57:54 PM EST
Project Syndicate: Turkey’s Class Struggle (Ian Buruma, June 6, 2013)
So, rather than dwell on the problems of contemporary political Islam, which are certainly considerable, it might be more fruitful to look at Turkey’s conflicts from another, now distinctly unfashionable, perspective: class. The protesters, whether they are liberal or leftist, tend to be from the urban elite – Westernized, sophisticated, and secular. Erdoğan, on the other hand, is still very popular in rural and provincial Turkey, among people who are less educated, poorer, more conservative, and more religious.
It is easy to sympathize with the rebels against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria, for example. But the upper classes of Damascus, the secular men and women who enjoy Western music and films, some of them members of the Christian and Alawite religious minorities, will have a hard time surviving once Assad is gone. Baathism was dictatorial and oppressive – often brutally so – but it protected minorities and the secular elites.
Higher visibility for Islam is the inevitable result of more democracy in Muslim-majority countries. How to stop this from killing liberalism is the most important question facing people in the Middle East. Turkey is still a democracy. It is to be hoped that the protests against Erdoğan will make it more liberal, too.
Use this as an open thread for news and analysis on the ongoing Turkish protests.
Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 04:12:34 AM EST
Desertec started ten years ago as a Club of Rome initiative to involve major energy companies in a project to build solar thermal power plants in North Africa to supply Europe with electricity. With the establishment of the Desertec Industry Intitiative (Dii) in 2009, it seemed closer to reality. At first glance, as a project relying on capital-strong companies to construct where the resource (sunlight) is the most plentiful, this seems to be a great contribution to the de-carbonisation of the EU electricity supply, while also providing development aid. I have long argued, however, that it can be none of that, more a distraction.
Clouds did begin to gather over the project in the past 12 months, with the exit of major technology project partners Siemens and Bosch, scaled-back export prospects due to grid issues, and increasing local opposition. And now Dii gave up on exports to Europe:
In a telephone interview with EurActiv, Dii CEO Paul van Son admitted that the project's initial export-focus represented "one-dimensional thinking".
Although the industrial alliance was set up to develop renewable energy supplies in the Maghreb to feed up to 20% of European electricity demand by 2050, Dii now concedes that Europe can provide for most of its needs indigenously.
Tue Jun 4th, 2013 at 09:43:09 AM EST
For inhabitants of most major cities of the developed world, metros are familiar legacy systems which expand slowly at great cost. The resurgence of light rail is more visible and popular. Metros and light rail also have an unholy link: in the second half of the previous century, a new subway line was often an excuse to create more lanes for cars by tearing up the tracks of a tram on the road above; and more recently, a lot of politicians treated light rail as a cheaper alternative for metros, ignoring that they aren't for the same use (metros have much higher capacity).
In the rest of the world, however, largely ignored by Western observers, there has been a metro-building frenzy in the last few years, with capital spending that outstrips high-speed rail. This boom can be partly understood as a natural consequence of industrialisation and urbanisation, but positive examples and trends play a role, too. The systems being built are changing the commuting habits of tens if not hundreds of millions of people.
Sun Jun 2nd, 2013 at 03:53:56 AM EST
I have a feeling the protests taking place in Turkey are going to have broader significance, but I also feel I don't understand why they are happening. The story I was getting about Turkey before was that the country was increasingly self-assured, and its economy was doing well. So I didn't expect Turkish youth to have the feelings of lack of opportunity or betrayal of expectations that appears to be behind the Arab Spring, the European anti-austerity protesters such as que se lixe a Troika, the indignados, the movimento 5 stelle, the greek Syntagma protests, the American Occupy, or even in Germany Blockupy. Now in Turkey it's #OccupyGezi (others talk of a Turkish Spring).
However, an apparently small protest has led to what sounds like disproportionate use of force to repress it, and a media blackout with reports of an internet blackout (incuding rumours that Turkish ISPs were blocking facebook and twitter, as well as warnings that Turkish police would use facebook to identify activists and crack down on them).
Some simmering political tension has definitely boiled over with these events. These are some of the issues:
Use this as an open thread to bring in information and analysis on the Turkish protests.
Sat Jun 1st, 2013 at 04:26:58 PM EST
Last October, John Dalli was forced to resign as European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, over a bribery allegation: the EU's anti-corruption unit OLAF concluded that he was involved in an offer to modify the Tobacco Directive for the benefit of a company. Dalli faced corruption allegations earlier as Malta's finance minister from the conservative Nationalist Party and as Commissioner he was responsible for new rules for the introduction of genetically modified crops, thus he wasn't beyond suspicion.
However, the tobacco company bribe case soon unravelled. First Dalli made a lot of noise contesting the circumstances of his dismissal and demanding that the evidence against him be made public. Then as the evidence was slowly revealed, it became clear that the key witness was a liar and herself a culprit, the rest proves nothing, and several rules were broken during the investigation. Finally, from leaks over the past week, it appears that a group of high-level bureaucrats who all knew about the investigation against Dalli agreed to change the draft of the revised Tobacco Directive – behind Dalli's back.
It's unclear who everyone was involved in the affair and how, but with several people caught lying or bending the truth, it increasingly looks like Dalli was trapped, and this could reach up to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. It all sounds like a bad crime novel. I attempt a summary of Dalligate below the fold.
by A swedish kind of death
Fri May 31st, 2013 at 05:42:51 AM EST
Prompted by an exchange with DoDo in the 28 May 2013 thread, I will collect some bits about how the so called riots in Stockholm got started.
front-paged by afew
Wed May 29th, 2013 at 08:30:12 AM EST
In their paper Fiscal Systems, Organizational Capacity, and Crisis: A Political Balance of Payments Approach Nathaniel Cline and Nathan Cedric Tankus illustrate the power of carefully looking at economic history while illuminating some of the limitations of economic and monetary theory, in this case that of MMT, and clarifying factors that affect the abilities of different societies to create a truly sovereign state.
(Warren) Mosler argues that in the mid 1990s he thought, "the theory of the monetary circuit was correct to the point of being entirely beyond dispute". However, he also argues that the theory "could be further enhanced by starting from the beginning". This beginning for Mosler was of course why the workers accepted the units of a currency as payment for their labor services. His answer (which is quite well known among heterodox economists by now) was that imposed debts denominated in that unit of account, give it's units value; in other words taxes. This is an important part of the story, but we would argue it is in fact not the beginning. The true beginning to the circuit is the question of where people and organizations gain the ability to tax.
Mon May 27th, 2013 at 05:23:57 AM EST
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will bring a proposal to Cabinet shortly to develop a stringent new economic plan to replace the troika bailout programme.
The State’s anticipated exit from the bailout this year will not mean a relaxing of austerity targets as Mr Noonan hopes Government will approve a fresh regime with firm timelines similar to the EU-IMF-ECB programme. (Irish Times)
Sun May 26th, 2013 at 11:30:53 AM EST
The main focus of this diary is on measures for the better integration of various parts of rail systems: gauge enhancement in Switzerland, temporary broad gauge in Spain, the semi-abolition of unbundling in Britain, and reliability improvements to the RER in Paris. Further themes will be scandals and lawsuits, progress in trans-Asian projects, and a new Euro-American locomotive.
Let's start in Switzerland. The centrepiece of the Alpine country's ambitions to move transit freight from road to rail, the 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel, will open in 2016, and the 15.4 km Ceneri Base Tunnel will follow three years later. Unlike legacy lines in Switzerland with their relatively narrow loading gauge (cross section), these will be suited for standard piggyback wagons carrying trucks with an also standard 4.0 m corner height. (For a solution with non-standard wagons see InnoTrans 2012.)
Rail companies have complained, however, that the large loading gauge of the new tunnels will be of no use if connecting lines won't be adapted, too. Now the Swiss Federal Council finally moved and approved a gauge enhancement programme that will run until 2020 with a budget of CHF940 million (755 million). The single largest project is the doubling of the 2,526 m Bözbergtunnel (on the crossing of the Jura mountains between Basel and Zurich). Some experts are rather critical of this, however, arguing that this will bring neither a capacity nor a speed increase, unlike a shelved project for a new tunnel a bit further to the east.
by gmoke - Dec 8
by melo - Dec 10
by Oui - Dec 16
by melo - Dec 10
by gmoke - Dec 8
by Oui - Dec 6
by marco - Nov 30
by afew - Nov 28
by Oui - Nov 23