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Golden Dawn arrests in Greece: A quick note

by talos Tue Oct 1st, 2013 at 02:19:32 AM EST

After years of toleration of nazi / organized crime activities the Greek government following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, acted at last:

(Reuters) - Greek police arrested the leader and more than a dozen senior members of the far-right Golden Dawn party early on Saturday after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a party supporter triggered outrage and protests across the country.

The arrests, which are the most significant crackdown on a political party in Greece since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974, are the biggest setback to Golden Dawn since it entered parliament on an anti-immigrant agenda last year.

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Does anyone here still believe in the EU?

by Migeru Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 05:22:58 AM EST

Our friend redstar asks:

Does anyone here still believe in the EU?

Keeping in mind the expression "army you have, not army you wish you had". In other words, now that you've seen what Europe is really all about, are you still for it, and why?

Use this as an open thread.

Comments >> (88 comments)

A Two Monetary Union Solution to Problems in the EMU

by ARGeezer Wed Sep 25th, 2013 at 01:30:20 AM EST

There is great suffering in the peripheral countries of the Euro zone and the existing 'austerity' policies are gratuitously inflicting economic damage and destroying lives, especially in Greece and Cyprus, but also in Portugal, Spain and Ireland. At present, Germany has no motive to change anything and is the chief beneficiary of the existing crisis. This seems likely to continue so long as German workers accept their reduced circumstances and blame them on 'lazy southerners'. Germany is adamant about maintaining a hard money Euro and keeping all debts segregated by nationality while refusing to approve any surplus recycling mechanism within the Eurozone. These positions seem unlikely to change any time soon. Splitting the EMU into two monetary unions could provide a path to a resolution.

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German Elections

by DoDo Sun Sep 22nd, 2013 at 12:36:21 PM EST

Germany elected a new parliament today, where the only practical question is: what kind of coalition will Chancellor Angela Merkel lead next. Exit polls indicate a "Grand Coalition" of the Christian Democrats (CDU) – plus their permanent Bavarian allies the Christian Socialists (CSU) – and the Social Democrats (SPD): the CDU/CSU is predicted to miss absolute majority by a few seats, the present neo-liberal coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP) is to drop from the federal parliament, the anti-Euro AfD party is predicted to narrowly miss the 5% limit, and no one should seriously expect the current SPD leadership to risk a three-party coalition with the Greens and the Left Party.

Comments >> (129 comments)

Neuroland: you're on your own

by Migeru Wed Sep 18th, 2013 at 03:44:50 AM EST

A momentous announcement to the European people, from Mark Rutte and Jeroen "Dieselbomb" Dijsselbloem, through the mouth of the Dutch King:

“The classical welfare state is slowly but surely evolving into a ‘participatory society’,” he continued – one, that is, where citizens will be expected to take care of themselves, or create civil-society solutions for problems such as retiree welfare.

(FT.com: King’s speech to parliament heralds end of Dutch welfare state, September 17, 2013)

You have been warned.

Read more... (76 comments, 209 words in story)

Rack railways above the Gotthard tunnels

by DoDo Sat Sep 14th, 2013 at 05:06:17 AM EST

In the middle of the central Alps in Switzerland, high above the Gotthard tunnel and even higher above the Gotthard Base Tunnel, there is an east–west geological fissure which is drained by the upper Rhône, Reuss and Rhine rivers. Along these valleys run the electrified metre-gauge tracks of the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB). During my tour of the Gotthard railway, I also rode MGB trains for a day tour in the high mountains. I wasn't as fortunate with the Sun as along the Gotthard line (clouds repeatedly arrived just minutes before a train), but I shot quite some photos in spectacular landscape.

MGB (ex FO) HGe 4/4II 108 "Channel Tunnel" with an eastbound Glacier Express (to St. Moritz) crosses the Bugnei Viaduct

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The EU Stupid Expands

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 12th, 2013 at 01:10:59 PM EST

Paul Krugman has again been making some apposite comments on the EU economic crisis. First he slams Olli Rehn [European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro] for being an ideological neo-liberal contemptuous of French democracy and with no real interest in furthering economic recovery in the EU:

The Austerian Mask Slips - NYTimes.com

Simon Wren-Lewis looks at France, and finds that it is engaging in a lot of fiscal austerity -- far more than makes sense given the macroeconomic situation. He notes, however, that France has eliminated its structural primary deficit mainly by raising taxes rather than by cutting spending.

And Olli Rehn -- who should be praising the French for their fiscal responsibility, their willingness to defy textbook macroeconomics in favor of the austerity gospel -- is furious, declaring that fiscal restraint must come through spending cuts.

As Wren-Lewis notes, Rehn is very clearly overstepping his bounds here: France is a sovereign nation, with a duly elected government -- and is not, by the way, seeking any kind of special aid from the Commission. So he has no business whatsoever telling the French how big their government should be.

But the larger point here, surely, is that Rehn has let the mask slip. It's not about fiscal responsibility; it never was. It was always about using hyperbole about the dangers of debt to dismantle the welfare state. How dare the French take the alleged worries about the deficit literally, while declining to remake their society along neoliberal lines?

There was a time when France was proud enough to stop such idiotic meddling in its affairs: Is there nothing that Olli Rehn can do or say that might get him sacked?

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Greece and the German elections: Truths unsaid

by talos Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 09:36:13 AM EST

George Stathakis, a professor of Economics at the University of Crete, is a SYRIZA MP and Shadow Minister of Development. Recently he wrote an article titled: "The Greek Issue in the Imaginations of German Politicians", where he points out six obvious truths about the Greek crisis that are being eschewed in German electoral discussions about Greece. Below I have translated these six points as they highlight "Eurotrib common sense", I think, and are interesting by themselves as they pretty much echo the analysis of the SYRIZA leadership, quite possibly Greece's government after the next elections (whenever they might come, and it might not be too long now)...

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The Sunset Empire Shudders and Shakes

by BruceMcF Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 02:03:36 AM EST

crossposted from Voices on the Square

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

Just this week, intervention into Syria was debated on the floor of the House in a robust, spirited debate in which the government of the nation presented its case, its elected opposition presented the contrary argument, and those fighting against intervention won the vote, 285-272.

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The Gotthard railway (2/2)

by DoDo Sat Aug 31st, 2013 at 05:04:20 PM EST

In three years, Switzerland will open the 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT). In this second part of my documentation of the old mountain line while it still carries all traffic, I cover the southern ramp, from the exit of the old Gotthard Tunnel to the exit of the GBT, along the Ticino river in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

After five full minutes, German Railways (DB) 185 107 and a sister (both factory type: Bombardier TRAXX F140AC1) reached the bottom of the double spiral next to Biaschina Gorge with an intermodal freight train, while Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) class 430 No. 355 (old designation: Re 4/4III 11355) follows on the middle level with a ballast train

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Dutch Energy Agreement - No Vision, All Plan

by Bjinse Thu Aug 29th, 2013 at 08:57:32 AM EST

After years of halting and flip-flopping policies, the Dutch government is on the brink of presenting a long-term commitment on the development of renewable energy sources and the reduction of carbon-based energy. As a result of the decades of wavering energy policy, the Netherlands currently hold, unsurprisingly, the semi-last position in the list of EU nations, measured by the percentage of durable energy production: a little over 4 percent (4.4% in 2012) of Dutch energy production is listed as renewable, and even that figure is a result of the increase of biofuels.

The new accord sets out to change the ranking, aiming to reach 14 percent of renewable energy production in 2020. In other words, an increase of 1 percent every year until 2020 - thereby fulfilling, barely, the Dutch commitment to the EU-required minimum of producing 14 percent renewable energy in 2020.

Officially, the plans are still under the hood - but a final draft of the agreement of the sparring partners was leaked to the press yesterday, and can be found here (in Dutch, of course). The accord is an archetypical Dutch result, the product of months of negotiations between over 40 parties and stakeholders. As a result, this is not a visionary document about the future of energy for the Netherlands, but a policy agreement with each line seemingly fought over tooth-and-nail. One wonders what the result would've been without the 14 percent European commitment hanging across the country like a sword of doom.

Below the fold, an overview of the stated main goals - and a first commentary.

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Merkel Does The Devil's Work

by afew Mon Aug 26th, 2013 at 08:20:56 AM EST

Watching Arte news last night, I was stunned by a German person offering a reading of Goethe's Faust. The reading was that Goethe, before Marx, showed capitalism stuck at a dead end produced by its own contradictions. Mephistopheles came along with a solution, paper money, and of course everything collapsed.

Nothing stunning there, you will say. We have already discussed Goethe's paper-money phobia on ET. But there was more. The person claimed that the "German government and the ECB" were currently practising the Devil's policy by "overheating the banknote printing press". "Creating money without creating value leads to a crash".

The notion that the German government was not sufficiently hawkish on monetary policy and was printing banknotes as if Hell did not exist came to me all the same as a surprise.

But here's why I was really knocked back: the German person was vice-chair of Die Linke and "close friend" of Oskar Lafontaine, Sahra Wagenknecht, a highly intelligent and highly-educated woman. Was she flying a kite to see if Merkel could be tarred with the lax monetary policy brush? It didn't seem like that to me: Wagenknecht appeared enthusiastic about Faust and the lessons we should draw from it, and she also looked appallingly sincere. And that kind of kite would call for Bild support rather than Arte news.

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The Gotthard railway (1/2)

by DoDo Sat Aug 24th, 2013 at 07:26:53 AM EST

The transit routes in Switzerland bear a significant part of the massive trans-Alpine traffic between Germany and Italy. In a 1992 referendum, voters approved the multi-billion-franks NEAT plan to redirect that traffic onto railways that provide a near-level route with giant tunnels crossing mountains at their base. The centrepiece of the plan, the 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), is now being fitted with tracks and is scheduled to enter service in three years.

The opening of the GBT will also mean that most traffic will be withdrawn from the spectacular old Gotthard railway. As I did for Austria's Old Westbahn last year, I used my railway employee free tickets for a photo tour to document the line while all the express and freight trains still use it. In this first of two diaries showing a selection of my photos, I cover the northern ramp.

A Swiss State Railways (SBB) class Re 420 (old designation: Re 4/4II) with a late southbound EuroCity (EC) train to Milan (apparent replacement for a defect tilting train) at Wassen. The traffic jam on the parallel highway lasted all day. You can make out traces of the railway at two higher levels: the station building on the right edge and a gallery near the top edge

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Class War

by Zwackus Thu Aug 22nd, 2013 at 09:25:27 AM EST

A familiar idea here on ET is that the 1% crowd is pushing for the creation of a neo-feudal order, waging a class war of the very richest versus everyone else in which they progressively destroy every ounce of economic and social security and independence held by those outside their circle, and neuter the ability of the state to step in and protect individuals from economic exploitation.  This is simply the end result of a push to maximize relative status.

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I fear he might be onto something

by Colman Tue Aug 20th, 2013 at 05:44:06 AM EST

George Monbiot may be right about fracking:

It seems to me that this is not about jobs. It's not about securing energy supplies. It's not even about the money. The government's enthusiasm for fracking arises from something it shares with politicians the world over: a macho fixation with extractive industries.


Extracting resources, like war, is the real deal: what politicians seem to consider a proper, manly pursuit. Conserving energy or using gas from waste or sustaining fish stocks are treated as the concerns of sissies and hippies: even if, in hard economic terms, they make more sense.

So we miss part of the story when we imagine it's just about the money. It's true that industrial lobbying often defeats a rational assessment of our options, especially, perhaps, when Lynton Crosby has the prime minister's ear. But cultural and psychological factors can be just as important. Supporting shale gas rather than the alternatives means strutting around with a stiff back and jutting jaw, meeting real men who do real, dirty things, shaking hands and slapping backs, talking about barrels and therms and rigs and wells and pipelines. It's about these weird, detached, calculating, soft-skinned people becoming, for a while, one of the boys.

Extraction is an ideology, gendered and gendering, pursued independently of economic purpose. As Cameron says, without shale gas "we could lose ground in the tough global race". It doesn't matter whether the race is worth running. It doesn't matter that it's a race towards mutually assured destruction, through manmade climate change. The point is that it's tough and a race. And that's all a politician needs to feel like a man.

Most politics is about status and tribe rather than the narrow economic interests of the players.

Comments >> (17 comments)

Sunday Train: The Myth of Baseload Power

by BruceMcF Sun Aug 18th, 2013 at 03:44:05 AM EST

cross-posted from Voices on the Square
... all US-centric qualifications apply, even if the source study is Ozzie-centric ...

In Baseload power is a myth: even intermittent renewables will work, Mark Diesendorf, Asst. Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales (Australia), writes:

The old myth was based on the incorrect assumption that base-load demand can only be supplied by base-load power stations; for example, coal in Australia and nuclear in France. However, the mix of renewable energy technologies in our computer model, which has no base-load power stations, easily supplies base-load demand. Our optimal mix comprises wind 50-60%; solar PV 15-20%; concentrated solar thermal with 15 hours of thermal storage 15-20%; and the small remainder supplied by existing hydro and gas turbines burning renewable gases or liquids. (Contrary to some claims, concentrated solar with thermal storage does not behave as base-load in winter; however, that doesn't matter.)

Anyone who engages in online discussion on issues involving renewable energy for any length of time will encounter the myth that renewable energy is unreliable in supplying base-load demand. This myth is pushed into the discussion with substantial financial investment, directly and indirectly, by vested interests in continued reliance on the Global Suicide Pact power sources of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Writing from Australia, Mark Diesendorf flags the use of the Murdoch press empire in propagating this myth. Here in the United States, the myth is promoted by both Big Coal and Big Oil funded propaganda mills ~ including those libertarian "think tanks" that argue against the government getting involved in defending our economy from the prospect of collapse in the face of climate chaos ...

... because the "free market", together with billions of dollars of government subsidies for fossil fuel industry and tens or hundreds of billions of unfunded third party costs of fossil fuel consumption, will surely choose best.

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Rainbow Geopolitics?

by dvx Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 05:29:52 PM EST

[Hoisted from the Newsroom]

The upcoming winter Olympics is shaping up to be all about gay rights, and from the Western perspective, the Russians are being assigned the role of the heavies:

Isinbayeva says Green Tregaro's gesture was disrespectful to Russia | Sport | The Guardian

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, the face of the Moscow world championships, has defended her country's controversial laws banning the promotion of homosexuality and criticised international athletes for showing support for gay and lesbian people during the competition.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist, who won her third world championship to roars of approval at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium on Tuesday, told a press conference that Swedish athletes who painted their nails in rainbow colours were being disrespectful to Russians.

But what narrative is the rest of the world going to take away from this?

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Snowden, Greenwald and the Third Man

by Bjinse Wed Aug 14th, 2013 at 10:00:33 AM EST

Or, specifically, a woman: Laura Poitras.

: Olaf Blecker for The New York Times

Every Batman needs a Robin, every Holmes a Watson, and every Watson has a Crick, every Woodward has a Bernstein. Appealing stories of superheroes or heroic super-stories, the formula of timely partnerships seems to apply in both.

This engrossing portrayal of Laura Poitras in the New York Times tells how the news story of this year, and quite possibly of much longer, was not just the work by prolific journalist Glenn Greenwald. But what's more, the portrayal is also underlining the encroachment of the shadow government of the USA. And finally, the story provides a strong testimony of the virtues of advocacy journalism.

Below the fold I lift out a few noteworthy snippets that I found particularly outrageous or revealing.

[Update] 14:20 CET: Minor edits and additions to the original text.

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Today in Newspeak

by Cyrille Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 11:19:30 AM EST

This is cross-posted on my blog.

Reading the New Statesman correspondence section (yes, I know...), I came across a letter referring to a leader that had apparently stated that the UK needed an extra one million houses over the next five years is the level to meet present needs. The letter proceeds to explain via a small calculation that the figure is actually four millions over ten years. So far, so good (or not - I really have no idea about the actual figures, the calculation is worded in a way that might suggest that there is some confusion between yearly need and backlog, and I don't know the source of the numbers used), I don't mean to dispute the need for extra housing in the UK.

But the reader, after apparently making a call for a strong building program (this is about meeting present "needs", not fanciful wishes), then adds:
"A damaged economy cannot afford to allocate such a large share of limited resources to housebuilding."

This left me nonplussed on several levels.

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The Gender Backed Dollar

by Frank Schnittger Sat Aug 3rd, 2013 at 03:34:12 PM EST

I've long been an admirer of Paul Krugman's blogging style never mind his skills as an economist. I suspect it's his writing skills as much as his economic expertise which makes him just about the most influential US political and economic commentator this side of Rush Limbaugh; but he has really excelled himself with his latest piece: The She-Devil of Constitution Avenue

I've spent five years and more watching the inflationphobes, who weren't particularly sensible to begin with, descend into shrill unholy madness. They could have reacted to the failure of their predictions -- the continued absence of the runaway inflation they insisted was just around the corner -- by stepping back and reconsidering both their model and their recommendations. But no. At best, we see a proliferation of new reasons to raise interest rates in a depressed economy, with nary an acknowledgment that previous predictions were dead wrong. At worst, we see conspiracy theories -- we actually have double-digit inflation, but the BLS is spiriting the evidence away in its black helicopters and burying it in Area 51.

So at this point I thought I'd seen everything. But no: the prospect that Janet Yellen, a monetary dove, might become the next Fed chair has driven the right into a frenzy of -- well, words fail me. Jonathan Chait has the goods: the New York Sun ran an editorial titled The Female Dollar, warning about a "gender-backed currency". I kid you not.

And the Wall Street Journal thinks this was such a great analysis that it quotes the phrase, and argues at some length -- or, actually, asserts, since if there's a rational argument there I can't find it -- that the only possible reason people might want Yellen to succeed Bernanke is that she's not just a monetary dove but a woman.

And they have a point. After all, what possible non-gender case is there for Yellen? That is, aside from the fact that she's been a highly successful team player at the Fed, has a distinguished record as a research economist on the very issues she would have to deal with as chair, and, according to a recent assessment, has the best forecasting track record of 14 top Fed policymakers. Whose assessment? Um, the Wall Street Journal's.

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News and Views

 23 April 2014

by ceebs - Apr 22, 53 comments

Your take on today's news media

 22 April 2014

by afew - Apr 21, 51 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Wednesday Open Thread

by Helen - Apr 23, 6 comments

I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind

 Tuesday Open Thread

by In Wales - Apr 22, 6 comments

Any left over chocolate?

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