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The Atrocity Election: A Ballardian Forecast

by gmoke 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.

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City Agriculture - September 25, 2016

by gmoke Sun Sep 25th, 2016 at 11:44:00 PM EST

NYC Farm condo for the High Line?
http://westonbaker.com/#projects/hybrid-farm-apartment
https:/www.cityrealty.com/nyc/market-insight/features/the-new-skyline/could-this-farm-condo-gallery -hybrid-be-coming-rem-koolhaas-high-line-parcel/5122

NYC World's Fair NY State Pavilion reimagined as greenhouse bubble
http://therealdeal.com/2016/08/05/winning-design-reimagines-worlds-fair-site-in-flushing-as-giant-gr eenhouse-bubble

LEED for vertical farms
https:/www.greenbiz.com/article/leed-vertical-farms-defining-high-tech-sustainable-food

Tulsa, OK's urban farming to reduce food deserts
https:
www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/25/tulsa-oklahoma-community-garden-urban-farming-oasis-f ood-desert

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Planning for Parks and Urban Forests in Los Angeles County
http://losangeles.urbdezine.com/2016/08/23/trees-planning-parks-urban-forests-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
http://www.turas-cities.org/blog/52
http://inhabitat.com/plant-covered-mobile-green-living-room-travels-through-europe/

3 "forests" for London Design Festival
http://inhabitat.com/asif-khan-and-mini-unveil-3-plant-filled-microshelters-for-urbanites/

Fruit walls and urban farming in the 1600s
http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/12/fruit-walls-urban-farming.html#more

Proposal for Brussels Botanic Center renovation as plant-covered and smog fighting building
http://vincent.callebaut.org/page1-img-botaniccenter.html

Spherical Growroom to demonstrate urban farming in Copenhagen
https:
www.space10.io/journal/growing-sphere-exploring-how-cities-can-feed-themselves-through-advan ced-urban-farming

Agro Food Park for the "Silicon Valley of Agriculture" in Aarhus, Denmark
http://www.mcdonoughpartners.com/projects/agro-food-park/

The Hanging Gardens now being built in Copenhagen will allow residents to grow, buy, and sell their own vegetables without leaving the building
http://inhabitat.com/hanging-gardens-tower-will-allow-residents-to-grow-and-sell-their-own-vegetable s-on-site

http://www.tegnestuenlokal.dk/Himmelhaverne-Gronttorvet-1

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.
http://inhabitat.com/nyc/enjoy-sweeping-city-views-from-this-new-public-rooftop-garden-atop-the-will iam-vale-hotel/
http://www.gunnlandscapes.com/in-progress/level-hotel-2/

Local food can go too far
https://the-macroscope.org/local-food-is-great-but-can-it-go-too-far-ba686abe2ab7#.qks5sk1v5

Brexit and free trade

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:


  1. A free trade deal with the European Union will be impossible to agree within two years
  2. That, therefore, an interim deal will need to be agreed to avoid a dangerous and extended period of uncertainty for British companies
  3. 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.

Comments >> (107 comments)

The Politics of PT Barnum

by gmoke 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.
Source:  http://lostmuseum.cuny.edu/archive/p-t-barnums-speech-on-negro-suffrage-may-26-1

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."
Source:  http://www.electricscotland.com/history/barnum/chap36.htm

"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.

Comments >> (2 comments)

Brexit means Brexit. WTF???

by Helen 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

Read more... (66 comments, 710 words in story)

Bending the Continuum in Political Space Travel

by epochepoque 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

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Global tax competition and its reduction

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.

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Ireland to appeal Apple Ruling

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.

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Sarkozy's auto-da-fe

by Migeru 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[7]; 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

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Stiglitz: Reform or Divorce in Europe

by Melanchthon 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:

  • 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

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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Will a Brexit agreement require ratification by 28 Member states?

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.

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Is Brexit without invoking Article 50 possible?

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:

Colman:

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:

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Zero Net Energy - August 5, 2016

by gmoke 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."
http://nzp-eti.com
http://inhabitat.com/largest-net-zero-plus-commercial-retrofit-in-the-us-opens-in-los-angeles/

Eco-Cooler
http://inhabitat.com/this-amazing-bangladeshi-air-cooler-is-made-from-plastic-bottles-and-uses-no-el ectricity/
https:/youtu.be/jPuh8IFbIzQ
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
http://www.treehugger.com/tiny-houses/survival-van-conversion-off-grid-all-terrain-john-mcelhiney.ht ml

New home construction moving towards net zero
http://cleantechnica.com/2016/06/23/new-construction-homes-moving-towards-net-zero-california-leads- way

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)
http://sustainableconnections.org/news/sc-press-releases/100-powered-by-sunshine-first-home-in-whatc om-county-to-receive-net-zero-energy-certification
http://inhabitat.com/retrofitted-net-zero-home-in-washington-produces-double-the-energy-it-needs/

Virginia Beach,VA 10,500-square-foot Brock Environmental Center turns rainwater into drinking water, produces 83% more energy than it uses
http://inhabitat.com/incredible-net-zero-energy-brock-environmental-center-turns-rainwater-into-drin king-water/
http://www.cbf.org/brock

Net Zero Energy Vermont - blog focusing on making Vermont the first zero energy state
http://www.netzeroenergyvt.net/
Net zero energy feasibility study for Vermont buildings (and beyond)
https:/www.efficiencyvermont.com/news-blog/whitepapers/net-zero-energy-feasibility-study
Net zero downtown Montpelier design competition
https:
netzerovt.org/design-competition

Siemens new Munich headquarters, using 90% less electricity and 75% less water than the building it replaced

http://www.henninglarsen.com/news/archive/2016/06/one-of-europe's-most-sustainable-buildings-inaugur ated.aspx
http://inhabitat.com/renovated-siemens-headquarters-in-munich-now-consumes-90-less-energy-and-75-les s-water/

Los Angeles net zero solar powered  20 unit apartment building:  Hanover Olympic
http://www.hanoverolympic.com/eco-green-homes
http://www.hanoverolympic.com/los-angeles/hanover-olympic/photos/
http://inhabitat.com/first-solar-powered-net-zero-apartment-building-in-los-angeles-opens-its-doors/

Nanjing China zero net energy Green Light House
http://www.archdaily.com/792110/nanjing-green-light-house-archiland-international
http://inhabitat.com/zero-carbon-nanjing-green-lighthouse-is-a-beacon-for-sustainable-design-in-chin a/

Net Zero community in Salt Lake City
http://www.buildingsaltlake.com/net-zero-community-coming-salt-lake/

Telus Gardens in Vancouver, LEED Platinum with indoor gardens
http://inhabitat.com/vancouvers-greenest-office-building-envisions-a-new-kind-of-office-space-with-t elus-garden/
http://henriquezpartners.com/archimemo/telus-garden-grand-opening/
http://www.officemb.ca/work/telus-garden/

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."
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2016/07/liarlivingarchitecture/

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.
http://www.ecoflolife.com/floating-house/

FRANCE'S CLIENT & QADDAFI'S GOLD

by ARGeezer 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:
....

 

Comments >> (4 comments)

Ireland's Post Brexit strategy

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 3rd, 2016 at 03:13:21 PM EST

The Brexit vote has already had an effect on consumer confidence and investor sentiment in the UK with the Governor of the Bank of England warning of the likelihood of at least a technical recession in the near term. A prolonged period of uncertainty is unlikely to improve that outlook in the medium term, but at least the UK can use Sterling devaluation, monetary policy easing, and reduced rates of corporate tax to mitigate its worst effects in the short term. That is, however, of no comfort to Irish exporters to the UK who are heavily dependent on the UK market - especially the small and medium sized indigenous sectors of the economy.

Indeed the whole Irish economy is heavily integrated with the UK economy although that dependency has reduced markedly since entry into the EU. Exports to the UK currently amount to c. 14% of total exports  with the USA, Belgium and Germany accounting for 20%, 13% and 8% respectively. An official report for the Irish Government has estimated that Brexit could result in an average 20% reduction in trade flows between Ireland and the UK and the OECD has estimated that Ireland's GDP will be reduced by 1.2% as a result.

That official report is also pessimistic that Ireland can make up the difference by increasing its share of FDI that would otherwise have gone to the UK.  Despite the proclamations of popular economists like David McWilliams that "Brand Britain is ours for the taking", it estimates that the ability of Dublin to attract business from London will be limited by Sterling devaluation, reduced UK corporate tax rates, and a shortage of suitable office space, housing and schools in the greater Dublin area. Nevertheless, the shape of the Irish government and corporate response to the Brexit crisis (or opportunity) is now becoming clear:

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Is the White House an American iconic image built by the hands of slaves?

by Democrats Ramshield Sat Jul 30th, 2016 at 12:23:59 AM EST

(Written by an American expat living in Germany)

Recently Michelle Obama touched off a firestorm when she remarked that in the White House which slave labor helped build was now the playground of her two young daughters, as a statement in her view about how far America had come.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (3 comments, 1822 words in story)

Solar Electric Power to the People

by gmoke Fri Jul 29th, 2016 at 03:20:13 AM EST

I like direct action, positive protest that has immediate, practical, social and economic use.

That's why I say, Solar IS Civil Defense - light, phone, battery can be supplied by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  The solar bike lights on my backpack over the last decade have proven the concept to my satisfaction (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/6/30/352476/-).

Light, phone, battery are also entry level electricity for the 1.4 billion or so of us around the world who don't yet have access to reliable electric power.  Emergency preparedness at home, entry level solar power to the people who've never had it is essentially the same thing.

Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is technically and practically feasible now.

It is rapidly becoming affordable too.  

I know of one company that is reaching the price point of $1 per unit production costs for solar rechargeable lights (http://www.thriveenergy.co.in) and believe that there are others that are doing the same or better.  That's $1.4 in production costs (or less, given economies of scale) to supply everyone among the presently powerless or $200 million if we start with one solar lighting system per family at a global average of 7 people per family.

How much more for delivery and setting up the infrastructure?  The Dominican Light Project (http://www.esencialessrl.com) is beginning to provide solar lights for every family in the Dominican Republic at a proposed cost of $5 each to the customer's door.  They raised some of their money through crowdfunding (https:/www.indiegogo.com/projects/dominican-light-project-by-esenciales-j-s-srl--2#)

Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is not only technically feasible but also affordable and practical now.

in 2015, the world's military forces spent $1,676.0 billion or $4.59 billion per day
Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

2016 USA Presidential election spending to July 22, 2016:
Amount raised by candidates:  $904 million
Amount raised by Super PACS supporting them:  $492
Source:  http://www.opensecrets.org/pres16/

Just for reference.

Conceivably, there could be an ad hoc popular movement for crowd funding the end of electrical energy poverty within the next 3 to 5 years.  A day of what we spend on warfare or a US Presidential campaign could give everybody who needed a light, light.  

This is solar electric power to the people.

Now, add a bicycle or a hand-crank and you have two reliable sources of electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.  
See http://solarray.blogspot.com/2004/12/three-solar-projects.html

Read more... (8 comments, 462 words in story)

The IMF and the Euro: Love's Labours Lost?

by ARGeezer Fri Jul 29th, 2016 at 02:32:17 AM EST

IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro, apologises for the immolation of Greece    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The International Monetary Fund's top staff misled their own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory. This is the lacerating verdict of the IMF's top watchdog on the Fund's tangled political role in the eurozone debt crisis, the most damaging episode in the history of the Bretton Woods institutions.

It describes a "culture of complacency", prone to "superficial and mechanistic" analysis,  and traces a shocking break-down in the governance of the IMF, leaving it unclear who is ultimately in charge of this extremely powerful organisation. The report by the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) goes above the head of the managing director, Christine Lagarde. It answers solely to the board of executive directors, and those from Asia and Latin America are clearly incensed at the way EU insiders used the Fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system.

 

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The Brexit Negotiation Process

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 28th, 2016 at 03:56:41 PM EST

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes (By email):

Is it yet clear what the process for British Exit is and what is to be negotiated?" UK politicians seem to depict a different view of what is involved than the EU Commission. I think the answer is important and is not being given enough attention in the UK.

Cecila Malmstrom (EU Commissioner for Trade) has stated that the process is two stage and sequential. First UK leaves completely to third country status and WTO rules.  Then, UK can begin to negotiate its future relationship, i.e. the terms of access to the single market is what some, but not all, Tory politicians think is necessary.  [UK can either negotiate that break cleanly within two years of A50 or it happens at the end of that unless extended by unanimous agreement.]

Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the official statement following the 29th June meeting of the 27 seems to support this view though the statement is not intended to clarify that Malmstrom view.

  1. Once the [A50] notification has been received, the European Council will adopt guidelines for the negotiations of an agreement with the UK. In the further process the European Commission and the European Parliament will play their full role in accordance with the Treaties.

  2. In the future, we hope to have the UK as a close partner of the EU and we look forward to the UK stating its intentions in this respect. Any agreement, which will be concluded with the UK as a third country, will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations. Access to the Single Market requires acceptance of all four freedoms. [My emphasis]

Again delusion sets in amongst the Tories when they think UK is going to control movement but have full access with all the existing benefits. [I am aware that Switzerland has failed to come up with such a deal and is running out of time to resolve its position following the Feb 2014 Swiss referendum].

Liam Fox [UK International Trade Secretary] has described Malmstrom's view as "bizarre, stupid, preposterous and ridiculous" according to the Guardian.

It would be interesting to find out if Juncker, Tusk and Michel Barnier take the same position as Malmstrom. But I don't think I am in a position to ask them. Perhaps you are or know someone who can?

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Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman

by gmoke Thu Jul 28th, 2016 at 03:22:51 AM EST

Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
NY:  The Library of America, 1990
ISBN 0-940450-65-8

Sherman went to West Point in 1836 and graduated in 1840, 4th in his class academically. He served in Florida, South Carolina, and California, and was at Sutter's Mill as the Gold Rush began. He resigned his commission in 1853 and became a banker in San Francisco and later a lawyer in St Louis before teaching engineering at the Louisiana Seminary of Learning and Military Academy in 1860, from which he resigned in January 1861 to accept a commission in the US Army in May. After his memoirs were first published, he included a long appendix in the second edition consisting of letters from interested parties correcting mistakes and offering different recollections of the events he covered. The first time he was in battle was the first Bull Run and he remembered
"...the whole scene of the affair at Blackburn's Ford, when for the first time in my life I saw cannonballs strike men and crash through the trees and saplings above and around us, and realized the always sickening confusion as one approaches a fight from the rear;  then the night-march from Centreville, on the Warrenton road, standing for hours wondering what was meant;  the deployment along the edge of the field that sloped down to Bull Run, and waiting for Hunter's approach on the other side from the direction of Sudley Springs, away off to our right;  the terrible scare of a poor negro who was caught between our lines;  the crossing of Bull Run, and the fear lest we shoudl be fired on by our own men;  the killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, which occurred in plain sight;  and the first scenes of a field strewed with dead men and horses."
General Sherman knew that "Generally war is destruction and nothing else."

His letter to the mayor of Atlanta is remarkable and may be read at
http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2016/07/memoirs-of-william-tecumseh-sherman.html

Along with all my other notes from the book.

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