Thu Oct 20th, 2016 at 04:32:09 PM EST
Tesla Model 3s
For those of you who have not been tuning into what has been going on in the automotive industry with respect to electric vehicles (EVs) lately, when Tesla introduced the first viable electric vehicle to the market back in 2008 to now there have been over 1.5 million electric vehicles sold world wide, and sales will probably reach over 2 million by the end of this year. Most electric vehicles sold by the major automakers to this point have had the distances that they can travel on a single charge run from 105 to around 160 kilometers. Tesla Motors, on the other hand, has had its vehicle's ranges typically set at 322 kilometers or above.
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Oct 19th, 2016 at 01:30:27 AM EST
Alan Dukes, former Leader of Fine Gael, Leader of the opposition and Minister for Agriculture, Finance and Justice has responded to my letter to the editor criticising his original Irish Times article purporting to advise Theresa May on Brexit:
Preparing for realities of Brexit
Sir, - Frank Schnittger(October 17th) raised some objections to my "tongue-in-cheek" advice to Theresa May about Brexit ("Whitehall's Brexit advice to Theresa May", Opinion & Analysis, October 14th).
He is, of course, right to point out that the EU regards the four freedoms as indivisible. I agree with that, but the EU cannot demand that a state which is no longer a member should continue to take the same view. The EU trades with many states that do not attach the same value to the combination of these freedoms. The purpose of the UK's proposed "Great Repeal Bill" is clearly to lay the groundwork for an agreement with the EU on mutual recognition of standards post-Brexit unless and until the UK makes any specific change. It would be extremely difficult for the EU to argue that standards which it accepted up to the point of Brexit would no longer be recognised on the day after. Such recognition would not require the conclusion of a new trade agreement; all it needs is a bit of common sense.
Mr Schnittger casts doubt on the possibility of the UK simply taking over the terms of existing EU agreements with other trading partners. He does not explain why any other country would decide to treat the UK differently in trade matters simply because it had exited the EU. True, the situation in regard to new trade agreements with the UK would be more complex, but consider the CETA agreement with Canada. Conclusion of that agreement between the EU and Canada has (so far) been stymied as a result of its rejection by the regional parliament in Wallonia - EU ratification requires unanimity among the member states, and Belgium cannot now ratify because of the decision in Wallonia.
My guess is that the UK would signal its agreement to CETA post-Brexit. I hardly think that Canada would not welcome such a decision. Australia has signalled that a UK-Australia trade deal would happen post-Brexit. The UK is leading a group of northern European member states in an attempt to moderate the commission's proposals for tough anti-dumping measures against China. That could facilitate a UK-China understanding post-Brexit.
Mr Schnittger correctly points out that I made no mention of passporting rights in the EU and euro zone for UK financial service providers. I did, however, suggest that the City of London might not be without leverage in a negotiation.
The purpose of my "tongue-in-cheek" piece was to point out that there are viable options for the UK, for which we should be prepared. - Yours, etc,
by Frank Schnittger
Sun Oct 16th, 2016 at 05:25:24 PM EST
Alan Dukes is a former chief of staff to Ireland's EU commissioner who subsequently held the three key cabinet ministries of Agriculture, Finance, and Justice, and then became leader of Fine Gael (the current Irish Governing Party) but who never won a general election to become Taoiseach. As such he is a member of a small band of people in Ireland who are regarded as knowledgeable and authoritative on EU affairs. (Peter Sutherland, former Irish Attorney general, EU Commissioner for Competition Policy, founding Director General of the WTO, Chair of Goldman Sacks International and currently Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for International Migration would be another).
Alan Dukes has just written an article for the Irish Times which I have a hard time taking seriously. In it he purports to articulate the advice Whitehall is or should be giving to Theresa May on Brexit. I can't make up my mind whether he was just taking the piss, but if so, many people may not have seen the joke. So I was moved to write the following letter to the Editor:
by Frank Schnittger
Fri Oct 14th, 2016 at 06:15:35 PM EST
Guest post by Prof. James Wickham. Professor Wickham was my Sociology Professor in Trinity College Dublin and is now Director at TASC (Think-tank for Action on Social Change - Ireland's independent progressive think tank);First posted: 13 Oct 2016 01:57 PM PDT
Two charts that tell very different stories about inequality in Ireland today...
Both charts show the Gini coefficient of income distribution: the lower the Gini coefficient the more equal the society. The first (Figure 1a) shows Ireland as the most unequal society within the EU: the Gini is higher than for any other member state.
Gini: Market incomes 2013
Figure 1a Gini, market incomes 2013
By contrast, in the second (Figure 1b) shows Ireland to be boringly normal: Ireland's Gini is in the middle of the range.
Figure 1b Gini, disposable incomes 2013
[Source for both charts: OECD Income Distribution Database (EU countries for which data available)]
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Oct 5th, 2016 at 09:54:35 PM EST
Theresa May made great play at the Conservative Party conference this week-end of the UK leaving the EU as one unit. Well she would say that, wouldn't she? I suspect that many Scots will have a different take on that, and the situation in Northern Ireland could well become unstable all over again. She also seemed to be hinting that the UK would be opting for a "hard Brexit" with very little in the way of special access to the Single market. Perhaps that is only an opening negotiating gambit - signalling to the EU that the UK won't be held to ransom in the Brexit negotiations.
Brexit politicians seem obsessed with the notion that the EU can't afford to lose its export surplus to the UK and will thus be very anxious to offer the UK a good deal. But the UK receives only 4% of EU exports whilst the EU imports 40% of UK exports. It is easy to see which economy would be harder hit if no free trade deal is negotiated. Perhaps they also underestimate the degree to which the EU is a political project rather than just an economic arrangement. Having more or less declared war on the EU and everything it stands for, they may be surprised at the ferocity with which the EU will fight back.
But that announcement will also have sent shock-waves through the City and leading industrial businesses with complex supply chains and customers spanning many EU countries. You can't run a just-in-time manufacturing operation with vital components stuck in customs awaiting clearance. Even more worryingly, Ministers have started talking about British jobs for British people, and Irish academics in leading British Universities have been asked to furnish their passports as part of a "nationality audit".
Sun Oct 2nd, 2016 at 07:08:50 PM EST
Today, there was a referendum in Hungary against the EU refugee quotas, one instigated by the right-populist government of prime minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party. With an expected turnout of around 45% and an expected high rate of spoiled ballots, it looks like it will fail the validity condition (valid votes cast should be at least 50% of eligible voters) but the Against votes will be well over 90% of valid votes.
Given that, on one hand, the referendum was the government's initiative and thus the result won't change its policy, and on the other hand, it has no bearing on EU-level decisions for or against the quotas, it would appear markedly pointless. Except, the real goal seems to be the creation of a stepping stone for Fidesz to win the next general elections (in 2018). The propaganda campaign before the referendum was unprecedented in its shrillness and underhandedness even by Fidesz standards. Although it failed at getting the turnout necessary for validity, the result is still something that Orbán can use to keep power.
frontpaged - Bjinse
Tue Sep 27th, 2016 at 12:36:49 AM EST
I've always liked JG Ballard. Some know him as the author of the novel about being a British child in an intermit camp in Shanghai during WWII, Empire of the Sun, the source of the Spielberg movie which gave us Christian Bale. Others know his more quintessentially Ballardian books of "dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments."
I took the DVD version of the recent movie of Ballard's novel High-Rise with Tom HIddleston and Sienna Miller out of the library the other day. I had read the book long ago and originally wanted to see the movie in the theater but it came and went too fast. Watching the film, it reminded me of the other novels of Ballard which followed the same theme of the balance between modernity and savagery from high rise apartment blocks like High-Rise to a Spanish resort community (Cocaine Nights) to the all-in-one business park of Eden-Olympia (Super-Cannes) to an environmental conservation project in the South Pacific that goes terribly wrong (Rushing to Paradise) to middle class rebellion in a gated community (MIllennium People).
Kingdom Come (NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2006 ISBN 978-0-87140-403-9), the last novel Ballard published during his lifetime, is about the confluence of consumerism and fascism. Digging into my archives, I came across my notes from when I read the book a few years ago. Looking over the quotes, I found it to be quite an apt commentary on the current political climate, not just in the United States of America but all around the world (see this article on the relationship between Brexit, Trump, and authoritarian movements in Europe and other countries (http://www.vox.com/2016/9/19/12933072/far-right-white-riot-trump-brexit). Don't tell anybody but there's an Asian contingent too with Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, and Shinzo Abe's moves toward the re-militarization of Japan.
The links between consumerism and fascism are becoming commonplace with late stage capitalism in a world ecosystem collapsing under the thoughtless appetites of the human population as we see political violence and 24/7/365 mediated lone wolf and small group criminally insane terrorism. In this book Ballard combines the mall with mob politics. He does not really provide any answers but JG Ballard does have a detailed definition of the problem.
Sun Sep 25th, 2016 at 11:44:00 PM EST
NYC Farm condo for the High Line?
NYC World's Fair NY State Pavilion reimagined as greenhouse bubble
LEED for vertical farms
Tulsa, OK's urban farming to reduce food desertswww.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/25/tulsa-oklahoma-community-garden-urban-farming-oasis-f
Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Planning for Parks and Urban Forests in Los Angeles County
hat tip Gil Friend
Editorial Comment: My observation from years of listening to major journalists talk at Harvard's Shorenstein is that sometimes there are also people who can't see the forest for the leaves.
Mobile green living room touring Europe
3 "forests" for London Design Festival
Fruit walls and urban farming in the 1600s
Proposal for Brussels Botanic Center renovation as plant-covered and smog fighting building
Spherical Growroom to demonstrate urban farming in Copenhagenwww.space10.io/journal/growing-sphere-exploring-how-cities-can-feed-themselves-through-advan
Agro Food Park for the "Silicon Valley of Agriculture" in Aarhus, Denmark
The Hanging Gardens now being built in Copenhagen will allow residents to grow, buy, and sell their own vegetables without leaving the building
Editorial Comment: Do these three links mean an eyewitness report from Denmark is necessary?
Williamsburg Brooklyn's 15,000-square-foot public rooftop park atop the new William Vale Hotel.
Local food can go too far
by Frank Schnittger
Sat Sep 17th, 2016 at 11:59:12 AM EST
For anyone still unsure of what complexities await the UK as it tries to negotiate a good Brexit agreement, Nick Clegg and Peter Sutherland, the founding Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, have produced a good outline. In summary, they find that:
- A free trade deal with the European Union will be impossible to agree within two years
- That, therefore, an interim deal will need to be agreed to avoid a dangerous and extended period of uncertainty for British companies
- And that a new trade deal will result in significantly more red tape for British companies exporting to the EU as British exporters will also have to comply with complex `rules of origin' which require UK exporters to obtain proof of origin certificates from their national customs authorities and are estimated to increase trade cost by four and 15 per cent.
And the above is only achievable with a great deal of good will and cooperation on the part of all 28 current members of the EU. Their 8 page report can be found here and is well worth a read in its own right. Although primarily intended to describe the difficulties of negotiating a good Brexit deal which does as little harm as possible to the UK economy, it is also a systematic and detailed refutation of just about every claim made by the Leave campaign and by the UK Government ministers now leading the UK Brexit negotiating team. In particular it describes the disastrous economic effects of the "hard Brexit" which will result if some sort of interim arrangements can't be agreed by the UK and all 27 remaining members of the EU on the expiration of the post A50 two year negotiating period.
Sun Sep 11th, 2016 at 02:16:12 AM EST
Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum was not only a show business producer and early mass marketeer but also a politician. He was elected to two terms in the Connecticut state legislature (1865 and 1866) representing the town of Fairfield as a member of the Republican Party. A decade later, he was elected by acclamation as mayor of Bridgeport, CT. His political career was very different from the candidate he is being compared to this 2016 Presidential season.
At the end of the Civil War, Barnum ran for the state legislature expressly to ratify the 14th Amendment to the USA Constitution and extend Connecticut state voting rights to African-American men as he stated in his speech to the legislature on May 26, 1865:
Mr. Speaker: I am no politician, I came to this Legislature simply because I wished to have the honor of voting for the two constitutional amendments--one for driving slavery entirely out of the country; the other to allow men of education and good moral character to vote, regardless of the color of their skins. To give my voice for these two philanthropic, just, and Christian measures is all the glory I ask legislativewise. I care nothing whatever for any sect or party under heaven, as such. I have no axes to grind, no logs to roll, no favors to ask. All I desire is to do what is right, and prevent what is wrong. I believe in no "expediency" that is not predicated of justice, for in all things--politics, as well as everything else -- "I know that honesty is the best policy." A retributive Providence will unerringly and speedily search out all wrong doing; hence, right is always the best in the long run. Certainly, in the light of the great American spirit of liberty and equal rights which is sweeping over this country, and making the thrones of tyrants totter in the old world, no party can afford to carry slavery, either of body or of mind. Take down the blinds from his intellect, and let in the light of education and Christian culture. When this is done you have developed a man. Give him the responsibility of a man and the self-respect of a man, by granting him the right of suffrage. Let universal education, and the universal franchise be the motto of free America, and the toiling millions of Europe, who are watching you with such intense interest, will hail us as their saviors. Let us loyally sink "party" on this question, and go for "God and our Country." Let no man attach an eternal stigma to his name by shutting his eyes to the great lesson of the hour, and voting against permitting the people to express their opinion on this important subject. Let us unanimously grant this truly democratic boon. Then, when our laws of franchise are settled on a just basis, let future parties divide where they honestly differ on State or national questions which do not trench upon the claims of manhood or American citizenship.
Barnum was also instrumental during that session in keeping the "railroad ring" from selecting the Speaker of the Connecticut House and appointing the head of the railroad commission, fighting against Commodore Vanderbilt who had raised the price of tickets on the Hudson River and Harlem railroads from 200 - 400% and was about to do the same with the New York and New Haven road in which he was also a major stockholder. The fight lasted all through the legislative session and was so bitter that the railroad interests' main proponent on the commission took to his bed "sick" ten days before the close of session and stayed there until the legislature adjourned.
"Through Barnum's efforts a law was passed that no person in the employ of any railroad in the State, should serve as railroad commissioner."
"In March, 1875, the nomination for Mayor of Bridgeport was offered Barnum, but he refused it, until assured that the nomination was intended as a compliment, and that both parties would sustain it." The city of Bridgeport usually voted Democratic but Barnum ran on the Republican ticket and was easily elected. He campaigned against public intoxication, closed the bars on Sunday, and crusaded to lower utility rates, improve water supplies, and eliminate the city's houses of prostitution.
During 1875, he was also on the lecture circuit with a talk titled "The World and How to Live in It," that he gave 30 times around the eastern United States and traveled to Niagara Falls and Akron, OH to visit his Hippodrome which was on tour as far east as Thomaston, Maine and west to Leavenworth, Kansas that season.
When he was 81, he grew ill. At his request, the New York Evening Sun newspaper published his obituary in advance so he could enjoy it. Two weeks later, April 7, 1891, PT Barnum was dead.
There seems to have been a lot more to Phineas Taylor Barnum than we usually remember.
Tue Sep 6th, 2016 at 12:47:24 PM EST
So, Theresa May has gone to her first G20 summit in China and responded to all questions about the UK's planned leaving of the EU with the appropriately inscrutable statement that "Brexit means Brexit".
Which, as more than one commentator has noted, may be the "what", but isn't an answer to "how". The problem is that the UK Govt doesn't yet know what it wants so can hardly formulate a plan to achieve it. Brexit covers a multitude of positions, some achievable, many closer to fantasy. Until the govt decides where the limits of the possible and desirable overlap, "brexit means brexit" is not repetition for emphasis, it's just a meaningless twice over.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 03:56:09 PM EST
It's been said that the political spectrum does not look like a straight line but resembles a horseshoe. More so in these times where the middle is hollowing out. Today's state election in Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MV) and Berlin (two weeks from now) offer curious examples of left-right crossover.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
by Frank Schnittger
Fri Sep 2nd, 2016 at 12:52:52 PM EST
The Apple case has highlighted the degree to which major global corporates have been able to avoid paying any significant amount of corporate tax at all, never mind just taking advantage of relatively low headline tax rates like Ireland's 12.5% rate. In addition, even headline tax rates have been declining globally, and many countries operate complex systems of exemptions which means that the actual effective rate paid by corporates does not bear any relationship to the headline rate.
This distorts competition in a number of ways: It advantages the bigger multinational players at the expensive of smaller local businesses which cannot claim such exemptions. It encourages a race to the bottom in corporate taxation amongst countries competing for FDI. It reduces the tax take for cash strapped states seeking to maintain social services, and increases the power of wealthy corporates relative to to democratic states. It can be argued that this is the dominant engine driving the increase in global inequality more generally.
by Frank Schnittger
Tue Aug 30th, 2016 at 08:25:39 PM EST
The European Commission has made a ruling charging Ireland with giving illegal state aid to Apple and ordering Ireland to collect 13 Billion in back taxes due - a figure that represents c. 6% of Ireland's total national debt. Apple has a market valuation of $571bn, a cash pile of $230bn, and an expected $53 billion in free cash flow this year, making the ruling material but hardly terminal from a corporate point of view. Apple shares are down less than 1% on the day.
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan is recommending that the Irish government appeal the finding to the European Court. Yes, you read that right. The Irish Finance Minister doesn't want the money. Apparently collecting the money would damage Ireland's ability to attract multi-nationals like Apple to Ireland in the first place. Noonan is also concerned that the ruling might be seen to imply wrong-doing by Irish tax officials and that it represents an encroachment by the Commission of Ireland's sovereign right to determine its own tax policies.
Wed Aug 24th, 2016 at 02:29:58 PM EST
Cross-posted on The Court Astrologer.
In his satire Candide, published in 1759, Voltaire pokes fun at the way the Portuguese Inquisition persecuted jews who had falsely converted to Catholicism:
After the earthquake had destroyed three-fourths of Lisbon, the sages of that country could think of no means more effectual to prevent utter ruin than to give the people a beautiful auto-da-fe; for it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking.
In consequence hereof, they had seized on a Biscayner, convicted of having married his godmother, and on two Portuguese, for rejecting the bacon which larded a chicken they were eating; after dinner, they came and secured Dr. Pangloss, and his disciple Candide, the one for speaking his mind, the other for having listened with an air of approbation.
Fast-forward to 2016, and Sarkozy's extremism is indistinguishable from Voltaire's satire.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Tue Aug 23rd, 2016 at 02:45:51 PM EST
Joseph Stiglitz just published an interesting analysis of Europe's economic and political situation: Reform or Divorce in Europe.
He points to four kinds of explanations for the current dire situation Europe is facing:
Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger
- blame the victim (public debt, welfare state and labour-market protections)
- bad leaders and policies (insufficent economic skills, austerity, structural reforms...)
- blame European bureaucracy and regulations
- an ill-designed euro
by Frank Schnittger
Thu Aug 18th, 2016 at 02:04:41 PM EST
Luis de Sousa raises an important point. Will a Brexit agreement require ratification by 28 Member states, or can it simply be agreed, by majority vote of the EU Council as provided for in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty? He quotes legal opinion to the effect that all 27 remaining member states would have to ratify any trading agreement post Brexit: EU Law Analysis: Article 50 TEU: The uses and abuses of the process of withdrawing from the EU
In this context, it should be noted that (contrary to what is sometimes asserted), there's no legal obligation for the remaining EU to sign a free trade agreement with the UK. The words `future relationship' assume that there would be some treaties between the UK and the EU post-Brexit, but do not specify what their content would be.
This point is politically significant because while the withdrawal arrangement would be negotiated by a qualified majority, most of the EU's free trade agreements are in practice `mixed agreements', i.e. requiring the consent of the EU institutions and ratification by all of the Member States. That's because those agreements usually contain rules going outside the scope of the EU's trade policy. While it seems likely that in practice the remaining EU would be willing to enter into a trade agreement with the UK (see, for instance, the `gaming' exercise conducted by Open Europe), the unanimity requirement would complicate this.
In short, this legal opinion considers a Brexit agreement to consist of mainly transitional measures to facilitate the departure of the UK from the EU, which may or may not include special arrangements for ongoing free trade. I think we are in danger of confusing the process by which an exit agreement between the UK and EU might be reached, and the content of what it might contain.
by Frank Schnittger
Sat Aug 6th, 2016 at 11:49:22 AM EST
In a long an spirited discussion over The Brexit Negotiation Process, Colman made a point which has not been adequately addressed:
Brexit without article 50 is also possible.
So is some sort of face-saving operation for the UK (which would, if it was anti-immigrant, fit nicely into the agenda of a lot of EU leaders).
Is this really the case?
A few preliminary points need to be made:
Fri Aug 5th, 2016 at 09:52:46 PM EST
I'm noticing a cross-over now between zero net energy building and city agriculture, two subjects I follow and publish links lists on. The archive of the city agriculture links list is at cityag.blogspot.com
Net Zero Plus
The NetZero Plus Electric Training Institute (NZP-ETI), opened recently in Los Angeles, and is the largest net-zero plus commercial building retrofit in USA which "will function as a living laboratory, educational facility and demonstration center for advanced and emerging clean energy technologies."
I've built a version of this for myself and it seems to work although mine is just a small test model
All terrain off the grid survival vehicle
New home construction moving towards net zero
Retrofit home in Whatcom County, Washington produces twice the energy it now consumes (in an area with solar insolation of 3.5 - 3.0 kWh/square meter/day)
Virginia Beach,VA 10,500-square-foot Brock Environmental Center turns rainwater into drinking water, produces 83% more energy than it uses
Net Zero Energy Vermont - blog focusing on making Vermont the first zero energy state
Net zero energy feasibility study for Vermont buildings (and beyond)
Net zero downtown Montpelier design competition
Siemens new Munich headquarters, using 90% less electricity and 75% less water than the building it replaced
Los Angeles net zero solar powered 20 unit apartment building: Hanover Olympic
Nanjing China zero net energy Green Light House
Net Zero community in Salt Lake City
Telus Gardens in Vancouver, LEED Platinum with indoor gardens
LIAR Living Architecture
"This project will develop blocks able to extract resources from sunlight, waste water and air. The bricks are able to fit together and create `bioreactor walls' which could then be incorporated in housing, public buildings and office spaces."
Floating House - 100 sqm residential unit, 12 m in diameter and 4 m high, made entirely of recycled laminated timber on a recycled aluminium hull.
Fri Aug 5th, 2016 at 02:53:40 AM EST
It is not often that we get such frank discussions of the practicalities of recent realpolitik diplomacy as in this e-mail that Sidney Blumenthal sent to Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State: (via Wikileaks)
For: Hillary From: Sid
Re: France's client & Qaddafi's gold
1. A high ranking official on the National Libyan Council states that factions have developed within it. In part this reflects the cultivation by France in particular of clients among the rebels. General Abdelfateh Younis is the leading figure closest to the French, who are believed to have made payments of an unknown amount to him. Younis has told others on the NLC that the French have promised they will provide military trainers and arms. So far the men and materiel have not made an appearance. Instead, a few "risk assessment analysts" wielding clipboards have come and gone. Jabril, Jalil and others are impatient. It is understood that France has clear economic interests at stake. Sarkozy's occasional emissary, the intellectual self-promoter Bernard Henri-Levy, is considered by those in the NLC who have dealt with him as a semi-useful, semi joke figure. 2. Rumors swept the NLC upper echelon this week that Qaddafi may be dead or maybe not. 3. Qaddafi has nearly bottomless financial resources to continue indefinitely, according to the latest report we have received: