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Wed Apr 16th, 2014 at 05:00:21 AM EST
@AP reporter sees 6 combat vehicles enter Slovyansk, fly Russian flags. 1 soldier
says they are Ukr 25th airborne brigade, switch to pro-Russian.
« click for story
Armed men drive an armoured personnelcarrierwith aRussian flag
seen on the top in Slaviansk, Ukraine By Thomas Grove (Reuters)
Krise in der Ostukraine: Ukrainische Soldaten wechseln mit Panzern die Seiten
(Der Spiegel Online) - In Kramatorsk haben die ersten ukrainischen Soldaten genug: Sie sind mit sechs Panzern übergelaufen. Mit russischer Flagge und der Fahne der Region Donezk fahren sie durch die Stadt. Aus Slawjansk gibt es ähnliche Berichte.
Die ukrainischen Soldaten sollen in der Ostukraine eigentlich für Ruhe sorgen - doch ihre Unterstützung für die neue Regierung in Kiew schwindet. In Kramatorsk haben am Mittwochmorgen sechs Panzer der ukrainischen Armee die Seiten gewechselt.
Mit russischer Flagge und der Fahne der Region Donezk fuhren sie unter den erstaunten Blicken der Bevölkerung durch die Stadt. Ein paar Menschen jubelten ihnen zu.
'We Will Shoot Back': All Eyes on Russia as Ukraine Begins Offensive in East
Updated below the fold ...
Sat Apr 12th, 2014 at 06:58:17 AM EST
Since being published in English (its original publication, in French, came a year sooner), Thomas Piketty's Capital in the XXIst Century has been heavily discussed - and reviewed.
I would like to comment and start discussions on some of its contents and assumptions. Since there have been questions about it, I will start writing even though I am yet to finish the book. Well, if I were to do it all in one go, it would be far too long a diary in any case. Please note that I am reading it in French, and thus cannot exactly quote the English version. At the point where I am in the book, little has been said of inequalities, which are the subject of part 3.
front-paged by afew
Tue Apr 8th, 2014 at 04:29:41 AM EST
Via Paul Krugman, I read Ezra Klein's opening tribune on his new, independent website venture.
And it purports to show that politics makes us brain dead because, when presented with a political problem that fits our prejudice (or goes against them), we tend to reply according to the prejudice rather than according to our abilities, in this case a simple maths proportions problem (yes, I am surprised that most people failed the problem in the first place, and that it be called "difficult", go take a look).
Sun Apr 6th, 2014 at 03:06:52 PM EST
Today (on 6 April), Hungary is holding the first parliamentary elections since PM Viktor Orbán's right-populist Fidesz took over all levers of power, replaced the Constitution and re-wrote all key laws using its two-thirds parliamentary majority. The modified election system is still an uncompensated mixed unicameral system (with people voting for both single-member election districts and party lists), but the single-member part is now without a second round of run-off votes.
There is nothing positive to report. Fidesz is likely to sweep almost all single-member districts and get nearly half of the list votes, the only question is whether they again gain a two-thirds parliamentary majority (which would allow them to continue their rule without any real checks & balances and implement the part of their reactionary legislative agenda they couldn't in the past four years). An alliance of (mostly unattractive post-reformed-communist or neoliberal) democratic opposition parties is predicted to finish barely ahead of far-right Jobbik, which is to boost its vote above 20%.
Update [2014-4-7 4:1:47 by DoDo]: At 99% counted, turnout is an abysmal 61%, Fidesz barely defended its two-thirds parliamentary majority even though it dropped to 44.5%, the opposition alliance got 26%, the fascists 20.5%, and the LMP (greens) also made it at 5.2%.
Thu Apr 3rd, 2014 at 11:04:17 AM EST
The phone call between Putin and Obama two days ago, and assurances from Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov that "...we have absolutely no intentions of crossing Ukrainian borders", made in yesterday's interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel, likely indicate that all parties involved in this conflict are prepared to make certain concessions, and common ground has started to emerge. Understanding of the simple truth that further escalation of the tensions is a "loss-loss" proposition seems to gradually take hold in European capitals, Kiev, Moscow, and even Washington. Let's take a look what is at stake here.
front-paged by afew
Mon Mar 31st, 2014 at 10:49:45 PM EST
George Soros` INET: An institute to improve the world or a Trojan horse of the financial oligarchy? from Norbert Haering (H/T Edward Fullbrook)
Let's assume that there is a financial oligarchy which exerts strong political influence due to the vast amounts of money it controls. Let's further assume that this financial oligarchy has succeeded in having financial markets deregulated and that this has enabled the financial industry to expand their business massively. Then, in some near or far future, their artfully constructed financial edifice breaks down, because it cannot be hidden any more that the accumulated claims cannot be serviced by the real economy That might be due, for example, to millions of people having bought overly expensive houses on credit without having the income necessary to service this debt. This is the kind of situation we are interested in.
If such a situation occurs, the leading figures of that financial oligarchy might recall that there has been a financial crisis in the 1930s of similar origin, and that during and after this crisis, laws were passed which broke the power of the financial oligarchy and taxed their profits steeply. They might remember that it took their forbearers decades to reestablish the favorable state of the late 1920s, with deregulated finance and very low taxes on incomes and estates, even huge ones. The financial oligarchy might also recollect that economics is their most important ally in shaping public opinion and policies in their favor. To prevent a loss of power as it happened hence, they might want to make sure first that economics will not challenge the notion of leaving financial markets mostly to themselves and will continue to downplay the role of money and the power of the financial oligarchy, and of power in general.
However, the economic mainstream itself will have lost credibility due to its obvious failure to promote the public good and its rather obvious alliance with the interests of the financial oligarchy. Students will not so gullibly trust their professors and their textbooks any more. Young and bright researchers, who have not yet invested too much into the old discredited theories and methods, might turn to the question of the financial industry can be made to serve the public interest. This would contribute to turning public opinion against the interest of the financial oligarchy. Thus, it will be important for the financial oligarchy to identify the brightest and most influential critics and leading figures of reform initiatives and to neutralize them.
Sat Mar 29th, 2014 at 01:47:14 AM EST
An interesting Op-Ed in the LA Times argued for comprehensive water-rights reform, based on the Australian model. It seemed like something the good readers here at ET would find interesting.
The Water Revolution California Needs
This year's drought has thrown California into a sudden tizzy, a crisis of snowpack measurements, fish-versus-people arguments and controversial cuts in water deliveries. But in reality, crisis is the permanent state of water affairs in the Golden State -- by design, because our institutions keep it that way.
Even with the gargantuan re-engineering of nature, there is never enough water. How could there be, when according to the calculations of fishing and environmental advocates, the state has granted more than five times as many water rights claims as there is water in our main rivers, even in a good year? When our Gold Rush-era laws all but compel water-rights holders to use as much water as they can, as fast as possible, lest they lose their entitlements?
Instead, California ought to learn from the experience of Australia, the driest continent on Earth, with a broadly similar economy, climate and, until recently, a similarly balkanized and economically irrational water management system. Faced with a 12-year-long drought, which brought fatal brush fires to its cities and devastation to its agricultural communities, Australia's state and federal governments agreed in 2007 to manage their water "in the national interest rather than on jurisdictional or sectoral based views," in the words of the federal environment minister.
So far, Australia's new water market has performed as economists predicted: Even in the worst year of the drought, with delivery cuts of two-thirds, the value of agricultural production remained 70% of normal, according to Mike Young, professor at the University of Adelaide. Initially, water prices soared, but they have since fallen back as farmers and urban users have learned to do more with less. Australia's cities, already relatively frugal, cut their use by 35% to 50%. Fear of hoarding by outside investors and market manipulation proved overblown, but California ought to take these potential pitfalls into account in designing its own water markets.
Thu Mar 27th, 2014 at 11:43:14 AM EST
In this train blogging diary, I portray three main stations in Switzerland, with photos from my two holidays last year, and my usual side stories and observations. The three are: Zurich main station, which is Europe's busiest by the number of trains; Arth-Goldau, a junction station along the Gotthard railway; and Lucerne, which is my favourite among main stations I visited for its special atmosphere.
Looking along the middle one of the five naves of Lucerne station
by Xavier in Paris
Thu Mar 27th, 2014 at 07:30:52 AM EST
- Sub 26-er: includes young people getting health coverage through their parent's plan
- Medicaid and CHIP: Federal program Medicaid that includes different groups of people depending on the state, and CHIP (children coverage) program
- Medicaid "woodworkers": people who were actually already qualified for Medicaid/CHIP programs before Obamacare but who didn't enrol prior to the law
- SHOP: small business health program, a provision under Obamacare which allows small business to purchase health plans for their employees
- QHP exchanges, Paid/unpaid: plans purchased through the internet exchanges (federal or state) and dully paid for, or not. There have been some billing problems for some insurers so some are still legitimately unpaid for
The graph of enrollees gives a good insight of Obamacare success today, which we could compare to a few news items from October/November 2013 (below). It also explains the tone of news a few months ago: the startup was slow and then began to build up power. Will narratives change over time?
Thu Mar 20th, 2014 at 03:56:16 AM EST
Crossposted at Daily Kos.
There is a low, but rising, rumble from the right. Last week, GOP House Speaker John Boehner let loose the argument that all the US needs to do to free Europe from dependence on Russian gas imports is to export fracked gas.
Russia has been playing a much more intricate game than the United States in recent years. The resulting imbalance has created a growing threat to global stability, as evidenced last week by Vladimir Putin's invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy.
Cue the talking heads parroting the meme that the Obama administration is aiding and abetting our once, and again,
Soviet Russian nemesis by keeping all that sweet fracked gas trapped in North America. Just one problem. Even a cursory examination of the facts reveals that the scenario envisioned by Boehner et al, the US replacing EU imports of Russian gas, isn't even a remote possibility. Let's lay out the facts of the case.
front-paged by afew
Tue Mar 18th, 2014 at 06:17:58 AM EST
For a change, there is a more measured article in Der Spiegel on the situation in southern Ukraine, based on interviews with two pro-Russians and one Svoboda member, with a conclusion including this revelation (for the reporter I assume):
Saving Lenin: There Are Few Heroes Ukrainians Agree On - SPIEGEL ONLINE
This is about more than one bronze statue. People in Illichivsk don't have much money, their houses are gray and their streets full of potholes. But they also have a beach and the Black Sea, they have friendship and love, they have the Russian language and an identity of their own, and until now they also had the certainty that when they woke up each morning, they would be allowed to live the way they chose. That certainty ceased to exist when the old regime did.
When it comes down to it, everyone in Ukraine, east or west, wants the same thing: To be allowed to live the way they see as right. In other words, they want freedom.
Mon Mar 17th, 2014 at 11:58:19 PM EST
Russia, Crimea and the Consequences of NATO Policy by Jeffrey Sommers & Michael Hudson (H/T Yves Smith) Originally published at Counterpunch
Discussing the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union the authors note:
Part of the reason that this went off with such little violence was due to the mutual desire of President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War's threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Gorbachev for his part recognized that the Warsaw Pact nations needed to be let go, in order to free resources to build up a more middle class consumer economy. Demilitarization was to be achieved by disarmament, all the more remarkable in view of the largest human losses suffered in world history from military invasion had occurred just two generations earlier. Germany became the focus, pending its reunification in 1990. It had invaded its neighbors every generation or so since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In World War II it laid waste to the USSR and left 25 million of its people dead. Other East European nations, including Romania (and, along with victims of Stalinist oppression, e.g., the Baltics and Ukrainians, welcomed the Nazis and fought against Russia). The NATO alliance thus remained the main threat that had held the Soviet Union together
So Russia had vital security concerns that could only be met by assurances that NATO would not move into the Warsaw Pact states, where so much Soviet blood had been shed in World War II. President George H. W. Bush (#41) made assurances that if the Soviets were to dissolve the Warsaw Pact, Russia must be assured that the NATO would not fill the vacuum. But his successor, Bill Clinton, broke this promise by quickly taking the
former Warsaw Pact states into NATO, and then moved into territory formerly occupied and incorporated into the USSR with the Baltics.
It should have been foreseen - and probably was inevitable - that these new entrants wanted NATO, given their own experience with Soviet occupation. But the eagerness of a triumphalist United States to surround Russia militarily rather than disarm led Russian leaders to feel betrayed by the US breaking its word.
Jeffrey Sommers seems to be the likely source for the observations about the tacit agreement between G.H.W. Bush and Gorbichev and I would like some sourcing, which may be in some of his publications, but it seems right. And Clinton's Wall Street support came from many of the same people who later were 'advising' the Russians on 'reforms'.
Fri Mar 14th, 2014 at 03:03:55 AM EST
The secession referendum in Crimea on the 16th of March, the outcome of which is easy to predict even if vote rigging doesn't happen, will give President Putin yet another pretext to append the peninsula to the map of Russia. For many Russians on both sides of the Kerch Strait, this will correct the mistake initially made by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, and repeated by Boris Yeltsin 40 years later. Even the Russian intelligentsia seems to largely support Putin on this. The new government in Kiev is going to reject the results of the referendum and accuse Russia of violating international law by using its military might to redraw Europe's borders. The Kremlin insists that these Ukrainian authorities came to power as a result of a coup by pro-Western and anti-Russian extremists, inspired by the US and EU, and that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are now facing discrimination to say the least. NATO will likely to organize military exercises in close proximity to Russia and/or Ukraine, and may even undust the plans to install U.S. missile defense systems in Central Europe, which, by the way, as we were told initially, would protect NATO allies against rogue states like Iran. Then there will be a whole slew of sanctions, including economic, against, and visa restrictions for, Russian officials, which is, perhaps, the most efficient way to get the message through. Russia, of course, threatens to retaliate... Apparently, both sides are currently digging in preparing for return of cold war.
front-paged by afew
by Democrats Ramshield
Wed Mar 12th, 2014 at 10:05:55 AM EST
Cross-posted by author from the Daily Kos.
(This diary is written by an American expat living in the European Union who is a male business librarian who holds a graduate library degree (MLS) and a Master's degree in business administration in marketing).
As an American librarian I am glad to be living in the European Union where library funding isn't under attack to the extent that it is back home in the United States, because readership, literacy and an open based knowledge system that is publicly funded is still valued. In America, library budgets have become low hanging fruit for conservative local and state politicians. Louisiana is the worse case in point where Gov. Bobby Jindal has eliminated state library funding all together. Not only does it beg the question will your state be next but it asks the question what will you do when they come for your library and your kid's summer reading program? Do you really know how many books it's really going to take to make that special child or grandchild in your life a lifelong reader. Do you think you have anywhere near those numbers of books in your private collection?
Please let's remember the voluminous studies that have been done year after year, decade after decade that show us that prison inmates for the most part are functionally illiterate and that teen pregnancy is directly linked to literacy rates.
Christian Science Monitor: November 18, 2013
Louisiana residents choose libraries over jail to receive funds Residents of Lafourche Parish in Louisiana recently voted down a proposal that would have used money currently going to local libraries to build a new prison.
Literacy statistics and juvenile court
85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.
Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
According to UNICEF: "Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them are women."
People who don't grow up as lifelong readers grow up in an America living under a form of de facto censorship and what it means is that the censor, by withholding library funding, limits access to reading materials to children from a young age. So they don't get to see the other side of the coin and wind up developing a one-sided point of view which has been historically associated with sexism, homophobia, racial bigotry and other forms of intolerance and hate. If we don't support libraries, we support going backwards in a type of devolution of the past which is exactly what the Tea Party types mean when they say they want their country back.
My question to you Mr or Mrs Progressive America, just how far back in time will you let the haters take us? Will you let them take us back to a point in time when women didn't have the right to choose, a time before the civil rights movement would let anyone who chose to sit at the lunch counter, or when a time at the back of the bus was reserved, a time when people were hated for who they are or for who they loved or for what God they believed in, that is their America. But it's not our America, it's not the progressive America that we've come to love and aspire to, because that America is supported by your neighborhood library as an open knowledge learning center, where everyone is treated the same. It doesn't matter if it's the mayor or a homeless person, you can expect to receive the same level of service. You can expect to have access to a collective repository of everyone whose ever thought and everyone whose ever written, that's why I became a librarian and a reader and a listener and someone who you can count on to resist censorship in all of its guises. That includes false arguments related to library funding.
Source: From the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy - U.S. Illiteracy Statistics (as of 2013)
Percent of U.S. adults who can't read: 14 %
Number of U.S. adults who can't read: 32 Million
Percent of U.S. adults who read below a 5th grade level: 21 %
Percent of prison inmates who can't read: 63 %
Percent of high school graduates who can't read: 19 %
The library is a public good. It belongs to everyone but only for as long as you're willing to defend it. Public libraries due to budget cuts are cutting their operating hours, their services and yes too many are shutting their doors. Therefore this action diary asks you in support of your local library to write a letter to the editor today and to do it for yourself and do it for the special children in your life. Do it for your community and tell them that you support full community library funding today, tomorrow and forever.
Updated information regarding the functioning of the library as an adult education center, made at the request of a reader.
The library as a children & adult learning center
One of the best parts about being a librarian is the information sharing. So I am pleased to have the opportunity to share with you my experience of working in the library as a children's and adult education center. You always hear these wonderful stories about adults who have come into the library, people of great skill and are essentially completely self educated. Though many librarians hold multiple graduate degrees and often PhDs as well, particularly in academic libraries. I can honestly say some of the most educated people I have encountered were self-educated lawyers. I am from Washington State back when I was living in the U.S. and Washington is one of those states that allows you to be a lawyer without having to go to law school. So I worked with a number of lawyers who were basically self-educated people who served under an apprenticeship under another lawyer who helped them. So they came to the law library with their learning contracts and we worked with them. I have to tell you this was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my working life. So you see libraries really do work. They really are great adult learning centers. They always have been. Let's not lose that, because libraries are an American success story. Please support your community libraries. Thanks.
Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 11:22:02 PM EST
HEET [Home Energy Efficiency Team http://www.heetma.com ], a Cambridge, MA nonprofit which organizes public weatherization parties and barnraisings, is crowd funding a natural gas leak monitoring project in Cambridge and Somerville. Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, who drove the streets of Boston last year with a high-precision methane analyzer to find 3,356 natural gas leaks, will loan HEET his methane analyzer and other equipment to drive the roof Cambridge and Somerville roads mapping every leak. Moving at 15 MPH, covering both sides of every street should take about three weeks. You can learn more about HEET'S Squeaky Leak project and help fund it, if so inclined, at http://www.heetma.com/what-we-do/squeaky-leak/
Professor Phillips will analyze and map the results and HEET will do the driving, following up thusly:
Map of the leaks on the HEET website
Report the leaks to NSTAR to get all Grade 1 leaks fixed
Share the location and amount of leaks with the governments of Somerville and Cambridge so they can work with NSTAR to fix these leaks
Publicize the map to raise awareness about natural gas leaks in order to make sure effective actions are taken on the ground and in our legislature ( https://malegislature.gov/Bills/BillHtml/122690?generalCourtId=11 ) as soon as possible to reduce the leaks not only in Massachusetts, but across the country
Lastly, to compare the amount and number of leaks between Cambridge and Somerville, to see whether Cambridge's decade-long policy of fining NSTAR heavily for opening any roadway that the City is not already working on, while charging it nothing to repair pipes under the roads the City is about to work on succeeded. Since NSTAR has not shared with the city any map or information about the current or past gas leaks, Cambridge does not know whether this policy worked or not. HEET's and Prof Phillips' project would provide that data.
Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 01:13:47 PM EST
The ideological structure of a legitimated scam
by LAWPROF at Inside the Law School Scam (H/T epochepoque)
"Ideology" can mean a number of things. I'm using it here in the sense of the received consciousness of a particular social order, which legitimates that order and helps reproduce it. The lawyer and sociologist David Riesman aptly described how ideological modes of thought produce a kind of "sincere" mental state that allows someone to habitually believe his own propaganda. A dominant ideology generates a set of views that distort social reality in a particular way: in a way which advances the economic interests of the dominant group, without the members of the group becoming conscious of the fact that they believe what they believe because it is in their self-interest to believe it.
A simple example might be how the ideology of free enterprise capitalism in early 21st century America creates a sincere belief in the mind of a hedge fund manager that paying himself a salary of one billion dollars, which is then taxed at a lower rate than the salary of the average American full-time worker, is wealth maximizing for society as a whole, and therefore by definition a good thing.
Indeed! How is our present world anything but competing legitimated scams? (More below the fold.)
Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 06:36:14 AM EST
I haven't done a rail news blog in half a year, now here is a diary focusing on news on investment into rail infrastructure: in Germany (a European comparison), in France (new policy focus), in Belgium (no PPP) and in China (rail & metro network expansion, 4G mobiles).
Sat Mar 8th, 2014 at 11:36:36 AM EST
In a recent conference about data analysis, I highlighted the importance of being well aware of one's model's assumptions. That all models are wrong should not be a reason never to use them, but you must be acutely aware of what their use implies.
I trust that you would agree with such an observation (OK, some will not want to use imperfect model at all, but that is going too far, and would have prevented any progress in human knowledge). But if you do, you should be pretty worried. Because most developed countries (and probably even more so less-developed ones) are now run on the basis of models whose assumptions are wildly violated -to the point where the rules of such models have made their way into their constitutions.
Fri Mar 7th, 2014 at 10:17:10 PM EST
"Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket." - Eric Hoffer
The snowy dreams of the last olympics have faded away and we find ourselves in prime geopolitical confrontations. But not only are the Sochi olympics over, the modern olympics in general have finally lost their allure, and the decline which inevitably leads to death has become visible for all to see.
(This diary grew out of a recent rant).
Fri Mar 7th, 2014 at 05:44:34 AM EST
On Pieria, Frances Coppola posts a clear and cogent denunciation of the single currency and calls for its immediate demise.
After analysing money supply stats and concluding that the ECB is in no position to do anything useful to stave off the tendency to deflation and long-term depression, she lets rip on the euro.
The ECB is irrelevant and the Euro is a failure
The history of Europe is long and blood-spattered. It is nothing like the United States, which is a young country with a common language, clear boundaries and a single political structure. Yes, the USA fought a civil war to achieve its current degree of political unity, and there are no doubt still stresses and strains. But Europe - if you must regard it as one entity, which is problematic in itself - has fought HUNDREDS of civil wars. We do not have a single language, we still cannot agree where our boundaries should fall and national interests always trump "European" politics. You can't overturn tribal and cultural identities that go back thousands of years at the stroke of a few politicians' pens.
My objections to the single currency, therefore, are historical and cultural, rather than economic. I have read Mundell. I understand the benefits of a single currency, where there is economic convergence. I know that the founders of the Euro project expected that the discipline of a single currency would force European countries to implement reforms that would over time create the necessary economic convergence. I know that this is STILL what politicians and Eurocrats are trying to achieve with measures such as the fiscal compact. But call me Cassandra if you like: I do not think any of this will work.
by DoDo - Apr 6