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Nicholas Stern on The New Climate Economy

by gmoke Sun May 15th, 2016 at 11:15:58 AM EST

On May 2, 2016, Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics spoke at Harvard:

The Logic, Urgency and Promise of Tackling Climate Change
Monday, May 2
4:15 pm
Harvard, CGIS-S020, Belfer Case Study Room, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge

The Energy History Project hosts Nicholas Stern, London School of Economics, who will discuss "The Logic, Urgency and Promise of Tackling Climate Change."

These are some of the numbers for the greenhouse gas context he laid out:

We are at 450 CO2 equivalent [CO2e] now [400 ppm CO2 and another 50ppm equivalent in warming potential in other greenhouse gases like methane]

The rate of increase is increasing.  It was
.5 ppm per year from 1930-1950
1 ppm per year from 1950-1970
2 ppm per year from 1970-1990
and is 2.5 ppm per year increase now.

We are at the edge of the temperature range in our present geologic era, the Holocene, with about 1º C of heat cooked into the atmosphere from our industrial greenhouse gas emissions already.  The 2015 Paris agreement is designed to keep the globe below 2º C, and 1.5 º if possible.  Paris anticipates and tries to avert a looming catastrophe.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (18 comments, 723 words in story)

Can Trump really win the White House?

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 11th, 2016 at 05:20:43 AM EST

People who know I am interested in politics often ask me things like "Can Trump really win the Presidency?" while at the same time shaking their heads in disbelief that such a thing might be possible. To those accustomed to European sensibilities, he seems more like a cross between Berlusconi and Le Pen, with none of the "charisma" or political experience of either. Are things really that bad in the USA that wanton ignorance, rampant misogyny, crass narcissism, racist demagoguery and an authoritarian complex are what turns people on?

Trump keeps breaking through the ceilings that the political commentariat seek to place over his head. His appeal was said to be limited to 30% of the most committed Republican Primary voters. Then that became 40%, then 50%+. It was said that the Republican establishment would never allow his nomination at their convention in Cleveland. Except that now they have effectively thrown in the towel and conceded he will be their nominee. Most have made their peace with him and now seek influence within his inner circle. House Speaker Ryan and the Bush family are some of the few remaining hold-outs.

Read more... (269 comments, 1438 words in story)

The Confidence Fairy Strikes Again

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 9th, 2016 at 06:09:48 AM EST

David Folkerts-Landau, Chief Economist at the Deutsche Bank, has a screed in the Financial Times which is wrong on just about every level that can be imagined. Arguing that the ECB's policy of negative interest rates is undermining public and business confidence, Folkerts-Landau asks:

What should be done? The priority is breaking the negative spiral of lower confidence engendered by ever-looser money. The ECB needs to begin reversing its policy of negative interest rates. Moving back into the black would raise confidence across the eurozone.

Apparently lower interest rates cause people to save more and invest less. Recovery will only come when governments implement "reforms" which involve reducing investment and spending  (and employment) still further. The ECB is causing further stagnation and deflation in the Eurozone by reducing interest rates and buying Sovereign and Corporate debt, not responding to it with the main tools at its disposal.  The problem is that there are rising debt levels - not the excess savings identified by Draghi as a cause of the crisis.

Has it not occurred to Folkerts-Landau that excessive savings and debt might in fact be two sides of the same coin?

Read more... (12 comments, 379 words in story)

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 7th, 2016 at 08:38:08 AM EST

On the surface the Northern Ireland assembly elections have resulted in a return of the status quo with the larger parties winning broadly the same number of seats. However there has been a generational change in many of the personnel involved, and in some ways the election marks a further milestone on the road towards the normalisation of Northern Ireland politics post the Good Friday Agreement.

Read more... (6 comments, 375 words in story)

New Irish Government formed

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 6th, 2016 at 02:41:36 PM EST

After 70 days of Political paralysis in Ireland, Enda Kenny has become the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be re-elected to that role, and also the first leader of a country that underwent a Troika bail-out programme to be re-elected to government.  However his election today, by 59 votes to 49 with 50 abstentions, underlines the weakness of his political position.  His government will be made up of 50 Fine Gael TDs (Members of Parliament) and a rag bag of independents who can rarely agree on anything and it is anyone's guess how long his new Government can survive.

Read more... (1 comment, 407 words in story)

Edging closer to a new Government in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 4th, 2016 at 01:30:38 PM EST

The two major parties in Ireland, Fine Gael (25% support at last election) and Fianna Fail (24%) have finally, after over two months, come to an agreement which will allow Fine Gael to form a minority government with the support of a handful of independent or small party members of parliament. The agreement stipulates that Fianna Fail will abstain on major confidence and financial votes in the Dail (Irish Parliament) for roughly the next three years but retains the right to vote down or introduce legislation on other matters. Such an arrangement became unavoidable when Sinn Fein, Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before profit parties all refused to coalesce with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.

Read more... (934 words in story)

Restorative Justice in Ireland - an effective way of dealing with crime

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 4th, 2016 at 06:59:26 AM EST

NB This post does not seek to represent the official views of RJS Limited.

One of my few remaining active responsibilities post retirement is to act as a voluntary director and community representative on the Board of Restorative Justice Services Ltd., a charity funded by the Probation Service of Department of Justice.  As such, I am somewhat constrained in what I can say on the subject, and in particular, must avoid using confidential or privileged information. However one of our roles is to act as an advocacy group for restorative justice in Ireland, and it is in that spirit that I offer the following summary (based largely on internal documents) of what is being done in the area of restorative justice in Ireland, and particularly in the greater Dublin area.

Restorative justice is defined in National Commission on Restorative Justice Final Report (2009) (PDF) "as a victim-sensitive response to criminal offending, which, through engagement with those affected by a crime, aims to make amends for the harm that has been caused to victims and communities and which facilitates offender rehabilitation and integration into society".

We see restorative justice as complementary to the punitive or retributive criminal justice system and we manage the process entirely under the supervision of the Courts service and the Department of justice. There is in Ireland, at present, no statutory basis for our service and as such participation is entirely at the discretion of the relevant Judge, the offender and the victim. The service generally intervenes pre-sentencing and is focused on offender rehabilitation and harm reduction with a view to reducing re-offending and the impact of crime on victims and the wider community.

Diary rescue - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (6 comments, 1717 words in story)

Mafia methods

by DoDo Sun May 1st, 2016 at 07:46:55 AM EST

Last year, Viktor Orbán, Hungary's right-populist prime minister, decided to regain voters lost due to endemic corruption by starting an anti-refugee hate campaign. With success. But that success made his minions only more brazen.

I recount two recent tales with comical elements: the rise and fall of shopping-free Sunday (or: the mystery of the baldies), and the secrets of the central bank.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (21 comments, 1147 words in story)

LTE: The witterings of old farts

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 30th, 2016 at 12:46:07 PM EST

Dear Sir,
Your correspondent, Donald Clarke, (My 10 cents on newspaper comments sections, Fri. 22nd. April) takes advantage of a suspension of readers comments on Irishtimes.com to have a whinge at, yes, you guessed it, reader comments on newspapers.

He has discovered, apparently to his shock and horror, that many reader comments are rude, abusive, or ill-informed.  He wants to read the views of expert  columnists, under the supervision of wise editors, and not the drivellings of the great unwashed.

Fair enough, but no one is forcing him to scroll down the page to the comments section.

Strangely enough, my experience has been almost the exact opposite. Formal newspaper columnists tend to dish out the same ideas, again and again, in a number of different guises on different topics.

You can generally predict what the writer is going to say on any given topic if you are familiar with his or her previous work. Sometimes their articles amount to little more than the witterings of old farts...

Readers comments, on the other hand, are often a joy to behold: witty, informed, controversial, outspoken - without the "both siderism" , equivocation, and faux objectivity  so often characteristic of their supposed betters on staff.

Of course there are also those comments which cross the line into unacceptable personal abuse, but most commenting systems have functionality to report those comments and exclude them from the discourse.

Some commenting systems even become largely self-regulating by enabling fellow readers to downrate and exclude a comment where a number of readers have found it to be offensive.

Other commenting systems allow readers to promote other readers' comments they have found to particularly incisive or informative to a more prominent position at the top of the comments section.

The Guardian recently did a study which found that of their ten most abused authors, 8 were women,  6 were non-white, three were gay and two were of a non Christian religion.  (Note to arithmetic nitpickers:  an author can belong to several categories!)

Of course this is unacceptable. In total, 2% of their 140 million comments to date were deemed to violate their community standards and were eliminated from the discourse.

Adding commenting and blogging functionality to irishtimes.com has, in my view, been one of the great enhancements of your digital offering. I often find the comments more enlightening than the lead article.  Frequently they correct errors that the lead author has made, hopefully, before the article has made it to print.

The Irishtimes.com thus gets free content, free fact checking, free marketing feedback on what its readers like, read, and think, and more readers as a wider community engages with the Irish Times and with each other.

What's not to "like"?

Comments >> (4 comments)

Alinsky's Tactical: Rules for Radicals

by gmoke Thu Apr 28th, 2016 at 10:57:32 PM EST

I read Saul Alinsky's  Rules for Radicals (published 1971) in the 1990s and wanted to remind myself of what my thought was then of what Alinsky wrote long before his name became a conservative slur.  

Alinsky was a successful organizer and a seasoned tactician.  Alinsky, however, was not a strategist.  The difference between strategy and tactics is often confused:  Tactics are the means used to gain an objective and strategy is the general campaign plan or goal.

Here are some of the tactically radical rules of Saul Alinsky that I noted then and now note again:

Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
Never go outside the experience of your people.
Whenever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.
Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
Keep the pressure on.
The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.  
The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.  
Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
The real action is in the enemy's reaction.
The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction is your major strength.
Tactics, like organization, like life, require that you move with the action.

For a different take on community organizing, my notes on Grace Lee Bogg's The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century​ are at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-next-american-revolution.html

Comments >> (7 comments)

Ireland to get a Government at last?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:54:50 AM EST

In Political Paralysis in Ireland? I wrote about the inconclusive outcome to the Irish general election of February 2016 and predicted that we were in for a prolonged period of Kabuki theatre where the major parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, would be dancing around each other without holding hands and with everyone else trying to force the unwilling couple to mate.

It is now over two months since that election, and I have revisited that diary on occasion to see if an update was required and concluded that no, nothing much new was really happening. Fianna Fail have been anxious to avoid the fate of minority partners in previous Irish coalition Governments which traditionally get hammered at the next election. So a straightforward coalition which would have provided a large working majority was out of the question.

Read more... (13 comments, 1670 words in story)

To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:50:23 AM EST

Given that it is the great Bard's 400th. Anniversary, a Shakespearean soliloquy seems apposite. What are the arguments for and against a British exit from the EU, and what are the views of European Tribune contributors on the subject?

President Obama has just swung by on his way back from being snubbed in Saudi Arabia, before giving Merkel some much needed succour on the refugee problem. His emphatic endorsement of Britain staying within the EU inspired Brexit lead campaigner Boris Johnson to the heights of Trumpian abuse.

Basically Obama said Britain should stay in the EU to maximise its global influence, and suggested that the UK would have to go to the back of the queue if it wanted bi-lateral trade deals post Brexit. And in case anyone should think that Obama is on the way out and therefor cannot speak for the USA on this issue, it should be noted that Eight former Republican and Democratic Treasury Secretaries have just written a letter endorsing his point of view.

This struck at the heart of the Brexit case - which has always maintained that Britain could have all the benefits of EU market access, without the costs of EU membership.  Britain, the argument goes, is so important in its own right, that other countries including the rump EU Block would be falling over themselves to cut bilateral trade deals with a newly independent UK.

Read more... (29 comments, 1472 words in story)

Frank's Story Index

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 01:33:43 PM EST

The 337 articles I have posted on the European Tribune since Wed Nov 28th. 2007 are grouped somewhat arbitrarily under the 12 headings below with the latest listed first.

1. Human Rights (29)
2. Energy, Climate Change, Transport and the Environment (14)
3. Irish Economy (30)
4. Irish Politics (55)
5. Irish European Referenda and Elections (43)
6. The EU and the Eurozone (45)
7. US Politics (58)
8. Global economics, politics, foreign policy and war. (15)
9. Sport (11)
10. Personal Topics (19)
11. The European Tribune, Blogging and the Internet (13)
12. Just having a laugh (5)

Stories are listed only once even though many could have been listed under several headings. For direct access to a story please click on the titles in blue below.

Read more... (14 comments, 4692 words in story)

ECB Independence, Then and Now

by Bernard Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 04:28:46 PM EST

This was then.

Spring 2012: the financial crisis that struck four years ago has thrown more people into unemployment and the economy has still not recovered. The ECB is running a tight money policy and the official priority of the Eurozone is to reduce state debt and budget deficits. Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to austerity policies, with the understanding that Italy and maybe France may be further down the line.

In France, outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for re-election. It's an uphill battle: unemployment has increased during his term and for those who still have a job, their wages have stagnated or even receded. The economy hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels. Many are calling for the ECB to do more to "support economic growth" in addition to its main mandate to keep inflation in check; Sarkozy eventually joined this choir:

Sarkozy puts role of ECB back on French election agenda -- EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics (17 April 2012)

Sarkozy launched the last week of his difficult re-election campaign with a veiled swipe at the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB).

"On the role of the Central Bank in supporting growth, we are also going to open a debate and we will push Europe forward," he told an election rally on Sunday.

"If the Central Bank does not support growth, then we will not have enough growth."

Despite the so-called "Merkozy" alliance, reaction from Berlin was swift:

Germany stresses ECB independence after Sarkozy comments | Reuters  (17 April 2012)

Germany on Monday rebuffed calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to extend the mandate of the European Central Bank (ECB) to include supporting economic growth, citing the central bank's independence.

"The German position on the ECB and its independent role is known and is also known in Paris and has been unchanged for a long time," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

[Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger]

Read more... (27 comments, 1727 words in story)

City Agriculture - April 2016

by gmoke Mon Apr 11th, 2016 at 06:39:36 PM EST

Stockholm's new City Districts Environmental and Planning Offices will be a greenhouse
http://inhabitat.com/could-stockholms-new-greenhouse-building-end-boring-municipal-design/
http://media.wix.com/ugd/7d0599_10f53d9ef61a46ad842cbad7c40fd708.pdf - full proposal (in Swedish but the pictures tell a story)

Plug-in ecology urban farm pod
https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO3p4CJS-6E
http://inhabitat.com/urban-farm-pods-brilliant-plug-in-ecology-could-revolutionize-urban-farming/

Nursery Fields Forever - farming for preschoolers
http://www.awrcompetitions.com/competition/31/london-nursery-school
http://inhabitat.com/farming-preschool-would-teach-kids-how-to-grow-their-own-food/

Hong Kong food growing arcology towers
http://www.dezeen.com/2016/03/07/weston-williamson-arcology-skyscraper-kissing-towers-hong-kong-vict oria-harbour

http://inhabitat.com/self-sustaining-arcology-tower-would-bring-urban-agriculture-to-the-heart-of-ho ng-kong/

OxyGen green roofed garden building for Paris business district
http://www.stephanemalka.com/en/2016/02/ogyxen/

Floating Fields - a factory recycled into a multi-ecology growing system
http://www.archdaily.com/783314/floating-fields-wins-shenzhen-uabb-award-and-is-set-to-continue-thro ugh-2016

Infarm - modular vertical grow spaces for supermarkets and homes
https:/infarm.de

Farm Follows Function - a comic book on transforming NYC's MetLife Building into a vertical farm
http://inhabitat.com/nyc/nycs-iconic-metlife-building-becomes-a-vertical-farm-in-quirky-architecture -comic

Ikea indoor garden
https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv9wD2HNSnA  

Ecoqube desktop aquaponics device
http://getecoqube.com

Energaia - growing spirulina algae on a Bangkok rooftop
https:
/www.youtube.com/watch?v=03FodbygCwU

LQD: The Economist worried by "abnormal profits"

by Bernard Wed Apr 6th, 2016 at 04:02:44 PM EST

Something you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in The Economist: a piece worrying about... too much profits.

Too much profits, by US companies mostly and on their domestic market: an effect of undergoing "consolidation".

Too much of a good thing | The Economist

What is true of the airline industry is increasingly true of America's economy as a whole. Profits have risen in most rich countries over the past ten years but the increase has been biggest for American firms. Coupled with an increasing concentration of ownership, this means the fruits of economic growth are being hoarded. This is probably part of the reason that two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, have come to believe that the economy "unfairly favours powerful interests", according to polling by Pew, a research outfit. It means that when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic contenders for president, say that the economy is "rigged", they have a point.

You say "rigged"?
Too much of a good thing | The Economist

Profits are an essential part of capitalism. They give investors a return, encourage innovation and signal where resources should be invested. Their accumulation allows investment in bold new ventures. Countries where profits are too low--Japan, for instance--can slip into morbid torpor. Firms that ignore profits, such as China's state-run enterprises, lurch around like aimless zombies, as likely to destroy value as to create it.

But high profits across a whole economy can be a sign of sickness. They can signal the existence of firms more adept at siphoning wealth off than creating it afresh, such as those that exploit monopolies. If companies capture more profits than they can spend, it can lead to a shortfall of demand. This has been a pressing problem in America. It is not that firms are underinvesting by historical standards. Relative to assets, sales and GDP, the level of investment is pretty normal. But domestic cash flows are so high that they still have pots of cash left over after investment: about $800 billion a year.

Read more... (5 comments, 496 words in story)

LQD: Charlie Hebdo is 'troubled by her veil'

by marco Mon Apr 4th, 2016 at 02:47:37 AM EST

Surprising op-ed by Charlie Hebdo in English was published last week.

It is being reviled on social media for being islamophobic.

Although I found the op-ed hard to understand, I would have to agree.  In particular, this clause from the concluding paragraph jumped out at me:

the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil

Charlie Hebdo is troubled by the veil?  Sounds to me like the very definition of islamophobia (or is it religiophobia).

HOW DID WE END UP HERE? | 2016-03-30 Charlie Hebdo

... the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. ...

Read more... (30 comments, 389 words in story)

IMF discusses when to crash Greece

by fjallstrom Sat Apr 2nd, 2016 at 07:54:24 PM EST

Wikileaks has released transcripts of an IMF discussion of how to get Germany to accept IMFs proposal for austerity and debt relief for Greece. The method seems to be to create a crisis in April by threatening to pull out.

WikiLeaks - IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek 'Disaster', Threatens to Leave Troika

Thomsen said internally that the threat of an imminent financial catstrophe is needed to force the other players into a "decision point". For Germany, on debt relief, and In the case of Greece, to accept the IMF's austerity "measures," -- including raising taxes and cutting Greek pensions and working conditions. However the UK "Brexit" referendum in late June will paralyse European decision making at the critical moment.

Wikileak has the transcripts as PDF or HTML Greece government is not amused according to Greece demands IMF explanation over leaked debt transcript | Reuters

Greece demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund on Saturday after an apparent leaked transcript suggested the IMF may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout as a tactic to force European lenders to more offer debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks in Athens on Greece's fiscal and reform progress next week aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring.

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

frontpaged - Bjinse

Read more... (57 comments, 504 words in story)

Augury of Two Towers

by gmoke Tue Mar 29th, 2016 at 01:40:59 PM EST

Found this while going through my archives and thought that it stood the test of time and, unfortunately, might be useful again after Paris and Brussels and Baghdad and Lahore, especially evil with its targeting of children and women, and on and on and on and....

Augury of Two Towers

Now I know what we must do.

We must be as united in our humanity
as we were when we watched
our brothers and sisters falling, dying, burning,
recognizing our own mortality and the Hell
at the heart of those who would do such a thing.

We must be as stern and courageous as the firemen were
in those first moments, running up the stairs
to get the people out before the towers fell.

We must be as gentle with each other
as we were in our first grief and unbelief,
strangers sharing sorrow and tears
until we were strangers no longer.

We must not forget
We must not forget
We must not forget that we are all together.

Now we are united in horror at the terror
a few have wreaked upon us.
They used their own deaths as the fuse
to our destruction.

We must be at least as smart as they were.
We must be at least as determined as they were.
We must never be what they were,
                                                   in love with
hate and death.

September 26, 2001

ECB, wtf ?

by eurogreen Sat Mar 12th, 2016 at 11:08:44 AM EST

Two days after the latest round of ECB tinkering with the Eurozone's monetary parameters, I find nothing but a bored silence at the European Tribune.

This is distressing, as it exposes me to the risk of having to think for myself.

So I will expose my naive and shallow thoughts, in hope of provoking some enlightenment...

So, Super Mario the plumber has apparently thrown the kitchen sink at the Eurozone economy. This is the big bazooka, we are told. He has hit the lower bound on interest rates, he admits.

But what has the ECB ever done for us anyway?

Read more... (39 comments, 527 words in story)
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News and Views

 18 - 24 July 2016

by Bjinse - Jul 18, 57 comments

Your take on today's news media

 11 - 17 July 2016

by Bjinse - Jul 11, 51 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 18 - 24 July

by Bjinse - Jul 18, 22 comments

Thread, for lack of a better word, is good

 Open Thread 11 - 17 July

by Bjinse - Jul 11, 41 comments

I'll thread what she's threading

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