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Tue Apr 22nd, 2014 at 07:38:51 PM EST
Last Sunday, the weekly American radio program This American Life did an episode about stories of people being threatened and punished with public shame. The first segment in that episode was about the pernicious power of malicious online gossip in small towns. While that segment was very good, the second segment stunned me:
There's one group of people that is universally tarred and feathered in the United States and most of the world. We never hear from them, because they can't identify themselves without putting their livelihoods and reputations at risk. That group is pedophiles. It turns out lots of them desperately want help, but because it's so hard to talk about their situation it's almost impossible for them to find it. Reporter Luke Malone spent a year and a half talking to people in this situation, and he has this story about one of them. More of Luke Malone's reporting on this topic will appear next month on Medium.com. (27 minutes)
Mon Apr 21st, 2014 at 02:27:19 AM EST
A week before the parliamentary elections in Hungary, Budapest opened its fourth metro line (M4 or Green Line), a 7.4 km, 10-station all-subway connection between two railway main stations. The construction project has a 42-year history, which is explained by the fact that it has been a political pinball for most of the time and has been mismanaged spectacularly.
Station Kálvin tér (junction station with line M3)
Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 09:06:07 PM EST
James Hansen visited MIT on April 15 and April 16 and gave two public talks. One was for Fossil Free MIT (http://www.fossilfreemit.org), a new student group concerned with divestment, on the politics of climate change, "Combatting the Climate Crisis: the Path from Science to Action," and the other was for the climate science community on "Ice Sheet Melt, Sea Level and Storms," the subject of a paper he is now working on.
The good news is that, according to Hansen, we do not have to worry about catastrophic methane releases from the tundra or ocean clathrates as the paleoclimate record shows there were no such releases in higher temperature periods.
The bad news is that, according to a paper Hansen is now working on, we do have to worry about the effects of ice sheet melt on ocean currents and thermoclines as well as the possibility of dramatic wind intensity increases in storms. Again, based upon the paleoclimate and geologic record.
Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 12:28:43 PM EST
I published a first set of notes on the book a little while ago. I still have not finished it, but am now much further. It's still an excellent read that I would recommend to anyone.
Some of the slightly odd trends are maintained, but also the further developments answer several of the questions that came out of the first chapters.
Fri Apr 18th, 2014 at 10:39:38 AM EST
Ukraine: Is Obama Channeling Cheney? Yves Smith
In this Real News Network report, Michael Hudson discusses the news blackout in the US as far as critical developments in the Ukraine are concerned, and how the distortions and gaps in reporting exceed those in the runup to the Iraq War. From the top of the interview:
Late last week, the German television program ARD Monitor, which is sort of their version of 60 Minutes here, had an investigative report of the shootings in Maidan, and what they found out is that contrary to what President Obama is saying, contrary to what the U.S. authorities are saying, that the shooting was done by the U.S.-backed Svoboda Party and the protesters themselves, the snipers and the bullets all came from the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the center of where the protests were going, and the snipers on the hotel were shooting not only at the demonstrators, but also were shooting at their own-at the police and the demonstrators to try to create chaos. They've spoken to the doctors, who said that all of the bullets and all of the wounded people came from the same set of guns. They've talked to reporters who were embedded with the demonstrators, the anti-Russian forces, and they all say yes. All the witnesses are in agreement: the shots came from the Hotel Ukrayina. The hotel was completely under the control of the protesters, and it was the government that did it.
So what happened was that after the coup d'état, what they call the new provisional government put a member of the Svoboda Party, the right-wing terrorist party, in charge of the investigation. And the relatives of the victims who were shot are saying that the government is refusing to show them the autopsies, they're refusing to share the information with their doctors, they're cold-shouldering them, and that what is happening is a coverup. It's very much like the film Z about the Greek colonels trying to blame the murder of the leader on the protesters, rather than on themselves.
Now, the real question that the German data has is: why, if all of this is front-page news in Germany, front-page news in Russia-the Russian TV have been showing their footage, showing the sniping-why would President Obama directly lie to the American people? This is the equivalent of Bush's weapons of mass destruction. Why would Obama say the Russians are doing the shooting in the Ukraine that's justified all of this anti-Russian furor? And why wouldn't he say the people that we have been backing with $5 billion for the last five or ten years, our own people, are doing the shooting, we are telling them to doing the shooting, we are behind them, and we're the ones who are the separatists?
I strongly suggest you watch the interview in full, or read the transcript here.
Fri Apr 18th, 2014 at 10:02:00 AM EST
Paul Krugman has recently published a blogpost and a chronicle talking about the evolution of the economics of fighting climate change. In it he states that people of both the left and the right are guilty of fallacies -to be fair he also says that the fallacies of the right are much more serious and damaging.
But we have come to expect that. So let's see what are the fallacies of the left:
"there are some people on the left who keep insisting that economic growth is incompatible with reduced emissions, and that therefore we have to turn our backs on growth." is from the blog post.
Strictly understood, and in a theoretical economics framework, this is of course a fallacy, as you could have plummeting emission intensity (ie, emission per unit of GDP).
Now, let's look at what it means in practice, and when you are not just in an economics framework:
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.
by marco - Apr 22
by DoDo - Apr 21
by DoDo - Apr 6