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Testing Huntington in Ukraine

by marco Mon Mar 3rd, 2014 at 04:33:55 AM EST

In summer 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote in an (in)famous essay:

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. ...

The most significant dividing line in Europe, as William Wallace has suggested, may well be the eastern boundary of Western Christianity in the year 1500. This line runs along what are now the boundaries between Finland and Russia and between the Baltic states and Russia, cuts through Belarus and Ukraine separating the more Catholic western Ukraine from Orthodox eastern Ukraine, swings westward separating Transylvania from the rest of Romania, and then goes through Yugoslavia almost exactly along the line now separating Croatia and Slovenia from the rest of Yugoslavia. ...

... The Velvet Curtain of culture has replaced the Iron Curtain of ideology as the most significant dividing line in Europe. As the events in Yugoslavia show, it is not only a line of difference; it is also at times a line of bloody conflict.

Huntington emphasized the hypothetical nature of his idea with that ? at the end of the essay's title.  Two decades later, what can events currently unfolding in Ukraine say anything about this hypothesis?

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Metatone Jumps the Shark II - The Economist on capital, labour and productivity

by Metatone Fri Feb 28th, 2014 at 07:08:19 AM EST

Here's how the author sums up their piece - which is well worth reading in full:

Labour markets: A theory of troubles | The Economist

Since this post is long and not exactly bursting with colour, I'll go ahead and share the gist of the story in hopes of enticing you to read on: because we rely on market wages to allocate purchasing power we have resisted technology-driven reductions in employment, and because we have resisted that decline in work we have trapped ourselves in a world of self-limiting productivity growth. Enticed? Good.

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A Sketch of the Venezuelan Crisis

by maracatu Tue Feb 25th, 2014 at 02:31:36 AM EST

As reported by Venezuela's Education and Human Rights Action Program (PROVEA), on February 12, student organizations and opposition parties called for marches in various parts of Venezuela to demand the release of students that had been detained in different cities. At much the same time the country's National Executive called on pro-government students to march "For Peace and Life" in observance of the country's Youth Day. The result was at least 16 opposition marches in cities like Caracas, San Antonio de los Altos, Acarigua, Porlamar, Maracay, Valencia, Maracaibo, Merida, San Cristobal, El Vigia, Puerto La Cruz, Puerto Ordaz, Barquisimeto Cabimas, while government supporters were mobilized in at least 3 cities: Caracas, Merida and Maracay. PROVEA reports that up until 2 pm the marches had developed peacefully.

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Toward a Finite-Planet Journalism

by Eric Zencey Wed Feb 19th, 2014 at 06:01:51 AM EST

What happens when an infinite-growth society smacks into environmental limits?  For one thing, it loses some of the ground on which democratic decision making can be exercised, as the effort to fit an increasingly problematic ecological footprint onto a finite planet means that more and more policy decisions have to be made by technocrats.  

On a finite planet, only an ecologically knowledgeable  electorate can reconcile democracy with non-negotiable ecological limits.  If the majority of voters remain ecologically illiterate, they must give up either civilization or democracy.  It's  impossible to retain both.

That sad truth emerges from a careful look at a political protest in Missouri over the future of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway.  Some citizens of that state are worried about the National Park Service's plans to limit access and exercise greater regulatory control; they see it as just another instance of rampant bureaucracy, of the sort that Frederick Hayek and corporate-backed Tea Partiers have warned us against.  Unfortunately, the science says that more regulation is needed if park ecosystems are to be kept from  irreparable damage by overuse.

And another truth emerges from a careful look at the story:  the media have a role and responsibility in educating voting publics about ecological limits.  At the very least, if they want to have any claim to be offering a "fair and balanced" look at the news, they need to give up their infinite-planet bias.  

What's that kind of bias look like, you might ask?  Read on to see how it cropped up in one U.S. newspaper.

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LQD from Rocky Mountain Institute

by paul spencer Wed Feb 12th, 2014 at 01:44:48 AM EST

Most of my experience with these folks finds them to be quite sane and often just enough ahead of conventional wisdom to help to shape it. This article is eurocentric, so I'm very curious as to y'all's critiques.

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Propaganda works

by Cyrille Sun Feb 9th, 2014 at 04:59:31 AM EST

As I recently wrote about, we are once again hearing calls for selling, well,everything public. And a French nominally (yes, already only nominally) socialist president is announcing a major turn rightwards -economically, that is- despite being at the helm of a country that has been performing markedly better than tenants of Aust(e)rian orthodoxy, such as the Netherlands or Finland.

And, you know what: he's getting praise for it.

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Autumn on the Arlberg railway

by DoDo Wed Feb 5th, 2014 at 02:54:56 AM EST

The westernmost state of Vorarlberg is separated from the rest of Austria by the water divide between the Rhine and the Inn (and thus Danube) rivers. Since 1884, a single railway provides connection across the mountains, with steep approaches to a summit tunnel over 10 km in length under the Arlberg Pass. On my two holidays in Switzerland in the summer and autumn of last year, I also stopped here. Beyond steep climbs with spectacular bridges in spectacular landscape and an eventful history, the line is notable for an arrested development: a modern double-track mainline in some parts and a single-track line with sharp curves in other parts.

The end of an eastbound (descending) railjet atop the Trisanna viaduct below castle Wiesberg (the tip is visible on the left) and above a 110-year-old hydroelectric power plant restored after massive floods damaged it in 2005

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The Morality Of Taxation

by afew Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 at 09:28:34 AM EST

From Frances Coppola on Pieria:

Laffer and the Yeti

we need a serious discussion about the morality of taxation. While the rich believe they are morally entitled to low tax rates, they will continue to avoid higher rates by taking advantage of the global mobility of capital and the fact that tax arbitrage is a survival strategy for small countries. For higher tax rates to be economically effective, therefore, the moral case for them must be so clearly made that the rich themselves buy into it because they cannot in conscience do otherwise.

Can this be done? How?

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Old and new in Austria

by DoDo Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 05:15:09 AM EST

On my way to and from the Gotthard railway last summer, I went through Austria. I got to see a lot of recent developments up-close: new lines with semi-high-speed traffic, open-access competition, the fruits of stimulus spending, and a recently refurbished narrow-gauge mountain railway.

100-year-old narrow-gauge electric locomotive 1099.14 with its train of heritage cars stands ready in Mariazell for the return journey to St. Pölten

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Lincoln's team of rivals

by DoDo Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 at 03:23:48 AM EST

Ever since I read a glowing review of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (which I still haven't seen), I longed to read its main basis: Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. This biography used the novel approach to put the personal histories of the main contestants in the 1860 Republican Party presidential nomination race side by side, to show how and why Lincoln rose above all of his rivals.

I finally got to read the book during the holidays. It is a difficult read, with over 750 pages even without footnotes (it takes 250 pages just to get to Lincoln's nomination on the Republican ticket), and the author's style is at times annoying (frequent reproductions of insubstantial praise for personal qualities, descriptions of the vanity festival that was Washington social life, the first-person plural focus on an American-only audience and the need to 'excuse' Lincoln's weak religiosity), but I highly recommend it for the broad and detailed view of the age and its issues. There is also some modern relevance in relation to centrist politics. I thought I share some of the insights I came away with.

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When a refutation is anything but

by Cyrille Mon Jan 20th, 2014 at 12:19:58 PM EST

For decades, many academics and pundits have pronounced that the 70s conclusively proved that Keynes had been completely wrong, and that it proved that Friedman had been completely right.

You see, there was a recession, and it should have created deflation, except if inflation was actually determined by expectations based on previous experience, in which case it would not be brought down by depression. Friedman went on to state that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" which, if you think twice about it, is the most laughable statement.
And to this day, I keep reading articles, even by professors of economics in the UK, saying that the episode of inflation over 2% in the UK in the early years of the current Government is a clear indication that any stimulus would have had little to no effect, being swallowed by inflation.

That's what happens when you start believing that your model matters more than reality.

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Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

by A swedish kind of death Thu Jan 16th, 2014 at 01:27:47 AM EST

The EU informs us that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is presently being negotiated under much secrecy will have positive results.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - Trade - European Commission

Independent research shows that TTIP could boost:
  • the EU's economy by €120 billion;
  • the US economy by €90 billion;
  • the rest of the world by €100 billion

That should be, according to Dean Baker:

Research by a pro-deal think tank shows that TTIP could in the best case scenario boost:

  • the EU's economy by €120 billion;
  • the US economy by €90 billion;
  • the rest of the world by €100 billion
in the year 2027, in 2027 euros. However it also shows that the more likely scenario is about 50 USD per person and year.


The US-EU trade deal: don't buy the hype | Dean Baker | Comment is free | theguardian.com

As growth policy, this trade deal doesn't pass the laugh test, but that doesn't mean that it may not be very important to a number of special interests and, for this reason, bad news for most of the public. Since conventional barriers to trade between the US and EU are already very low, the focus of the deal will be on non-conventional barriers, meaning various regulatory practices.

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A two-speed model country …

by Colman Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 07:07:06 AM EST

Fintan O'Toole lays out the Irish situation for Americans and other aliens:

For conservatives, in particular, Ireland is the Tyra Banks of nations: a model country. The only problem is that they can’t quite decide what Ireland is a model of.

For a long time, when Ireland was booming, it was the perfect face of light regulation and low taxes. (With impeccably bad timing, Senator John McCain cited Ireland’s low corporate taxes as a model for the United States in his presidential election debates with Senator Barack Obama in 2008 - just as Ireland was sliding into crisis.) Now, with Ireland tentatively emerging from its long slump, it is being cited as the great exemplar of the virtues of austerity.

As the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, a fiscal hawk, put it in October: “Ireland did what Ireland had to do. And now everything is fine.” Ireland was a success story when it was partying wildly and it is a success story when it is the Grim Reaper of international economics. Binge or purge, we can do no wrong.

We Irish are eternal optimists, but Mr Schäuble’s belief that everything is fine is a rare example of a German outdoing us in irrational exuberance. It is certainly true that, if you were to walk around the rebuilt Dublin docklands, with their shiny European headquarter offices for Google, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo, and their slick cafes and hotels, you might conclude that if this is what an Irish crisis looks like, an Irish boom must be quite something to behold.(Irish Times)

It's sort of fun that the commentariat are picking up on the diverging economies with Ireland that I've been muttering about for a while: the economy that's linked to the outside world is doing just nicely. The domestic economy is screwed. Shocking, isn't it? Who could have expected that?

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Hungary and the perils of 'upward mobility'

by car05 Tue Jan 7th, 2014 at 09:51:05 AM EST

Some time in the middle of last year, political theorist József Böröcz wrote a blog post regarding the direction of Hungarian society, and it was pretty powerful stuff.


 Arguably, Hungary is showing some powerful symptoms of a fascist transformation. Special thanks for that to the elites--both the right wing and the middle (there is of course no "left" visible in politics in Hungary)--that managed the transformation from a somewhat bureaucratic and perhaps a bit boring, upwardly mobile state socialist society, producing, at its peak, food for twice its population, with better-than-expected scores on the quality of life, culture, health, etc., engaged, at the time of the collapse of state socialism, in bold and extremely creative experimentation in many areas of social and economic life to a small, insignificant, desperate, self-hating, xenophobic, classist, racist, sexist, ageist snake pit with widening social inequalities.

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The horse race is on! (with poll)

by Migeru Thu Jan 2nd, 2014 at 10:42:13 AM EST

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LQD: French Intellectual Melancholia

by das monde Mon Dec 30th, 2013 at 05:16:35 AM EST

The Economist has a provoking article in the Christmas issue on French noir moods. It should stir some discussion here.

ONE of the most perplexing questions of the early 21st century is this: how can the French, who invented joie de vivre, the three-tier cheese trolley and Dior's jaunty New Look, be so resolutely miserable? [...] polls suggest that the French are more depressed than Ugandans or Uzbekistanis, and more pessimistic about their country's future than Albanians or Iraqis ....

[...] Le Monde ran three pages under the title "Liberté, Égalité, Morosité", in a bid to decode its fellow countrymen's "persistent melancholy". France, it turns out, has the highest suicide rate in western Europe after Belgium and Switzerland. An American psychiatric study showed that, among ten rich countries, the French were the most likely to have a "major depressive episode" at some point in their life. Even the French language seems to be particularly well stocked -- morosité, tristesse, malheur, chagrin, malaise, ennui, mélancolie, anomie, désespoir -- with negativity.

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Transformation of an economy

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 27th, 2013 at 03:09:50 AM EST

Since 2007 the number of people employed in the Irish economy who do not have a secondary education qualification has reduced by 50%. The numbers of people employed who do have only a secondary educational qualification has reduced by 20%.  But the numbers of people employed with a tertiary educational qualification has increased by 12%.

Many will view this as confirmation that Ireland is being transformed into a knowledge based economy. Another way of looking at it is that the working class in Ireland has been devastated by the recession, whereas the middle class has (relatively speaking) prospered.

There are many factors at play here: The devastation of the Irish construction sector since 2007; the rise in participation rates in tertiary education; and the growth of the mostly foreign owned multinational companies in the ICT, pharmaceutical and services sectors.

Many employees who did not have a third level qualification in 2007 will have retired from the workforce or have achieved a third level qualification since. Most of the new entrants into the workforce since 2007 will have had a much higher level of education than previous cohorts, and some of these will have come from a working class background.

However the educational system is still overwhelmingly the mechanism by which the middle class can propagate itself:

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Citizen ET in Lithuania - EYCA Conference (1)

by Bjinse Fri Dec 20th, 2013 at 04:14:52 AM EST

So let's unpack this step by step.

The EYCA Policy Recommendations for improving EU citizenship form the end product of the European Year of Citizens Alliance (EYCA). They were presented to the European Commission last Friday, December 13. The EYCA was formed, as previously explored, in 2011 through the bundling of 'civil society organisations' and the liaison of the European Economic and Social Committee, a consulting body for the EU. The over 60 members of the EYCA represent numerous national and internationally active organisations. The initiative itself was started, and funded, by the European Commission with the aim to "foster citizens' participation in the democratic life of the European Union".

Thus, an exercise initiated by the European Commission, through an alliance funded by the European Commission, resulting in a report predominantly written by NGOs under the auspices of the EU-funded umbrella organisation.

The word missing in this summary is, of course, citizens.

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Happy Bailoutmas

by Colman Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 09:56:23 AM EST

Ireland officially leaves the EU/IMF bailout today, heralding a new era of irish sovereignty and so on and forth … (The Irish Timeshave a mini-site if you really want a flavour of the bullshit being spewed here.)

So far, the highlight is Noonan saying "We can't go mad again", followed by talk about tax cuts (for the sake of jobs and growth, naturally), the sale of the semi-State gas company and only 2 billion in cuts in the next budget. I'm feeling saner already.

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LQD: A Way Out of Austerity

by ARGeezer Mon Dec 9th, 2013 at 11:16:36 AM EST

How to Exit Austerity, Without Exiting the Euro  Rob Parenteau  New Economic Perspecitves

First of all, if a government stops having its own currency, it doesn't just give up `control over monetary policy'...If a government does not have its own central bank on which it can draw cheques freely, its expenditures can be financed only by borrowing in the open market, in competition with businesses, and this may prove excessively expensive or even impossible, particularly under `conditions of extreme urgency'...The danger then is that the budgetary restraint to which governments are individually committed will impart a disinflationary bias that locks Europe as a whole into a depression it is powerless to lift.

So wrote the late Wynne Godley in his August 1997 Observer article, "Curried Emu". The design flaws in the euro were, in fact, that evident even before the launch - at least to those economists willing to take the career risk of employing heterodox economic analysis. Wynne's early and prescient diagnosis may have come closest to identifying the ultimate flaw in the design of the eurozone - a near theological conviction that relative price adjustments in unfettered markets are a sufficiently strong force to drive economies back onto full employment growth paths.

Rob Parenteau notes that countries caught in the deflationary vise brought about by the EMU and the associated policies would face a high cost for exiting the Euro and proposes an alternative.
(Corrected name for Syriza leader)

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News and Views

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by In Wales - Aug 21, 44 comments

Your take on today's news media

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by dvx - Aug 20, 57 comments

Your take on today's news media

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Rode the six hundred

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