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.
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)
[Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger]
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.
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.
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. ...
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
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
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
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?
by Frank Schnittger
Thu Mar 10th, 2016 at 07:36:13 PM EST
The recent Irish general election resulted in an outcome that is unlikely to lead to the formation of a stable government. Ireland thus joins a number of countries such as Spain and Slovakia which have had inconclusive elections in response to the austerity policies of recent times. Governments have not been re-elected, but neither have coherent alternative governments been formed. Fine Gael, the main Government party, got 25% of the first preference vote (-11% compared to 2011), and won just 50 seats (-26 since 2011). They are still the largest party but fell far short of the 79 seats required for an overall majority. Their erstwhile coalition partners, Labour, were close to being annihilated gaining just 7% of the vote (- 13%) and 7 seats (- 30).
Fianna Fail, the previous ruling party unceremoniously booted out of power at the 2011 general election for presiding over the bank bail-out and economic collapse made something of a comback, gaining 24% of the first preference vote (+7%) and 44 seats (+20). However they have ruled out forming a grand coalition with Fine Gael, the only combination of parties capable of forming a stable government with an overall majority in parliament. Part of the problem is that minority partners in Irish Governments have tended to be severely punished by the electorate at the next election - witness the permanent demise of the the Progressive Democrats in 2009, the temporary demise of the Greens at the last election, and Labour's latest implosion this time around.
The other big winners in the election were Sinn Fein with 14% of the vote (+4%) and 23 seats (+9) and a wide variety of smaller parties - People before Profit/Anti-Austerity Alliance (6 seats, +4), Social Democrats (3, +0), Greens (2, +2) and independents from both the left and right of the political spectrum (23, +9). Most are protest or local candidates with no interest in helping to form a national Government. Collectively most share the traditional wet dream of the left - forcing the two (1922) civil war parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail into a grand coalition in order to expose the lack of ideological distinction between them in anticipation of seeing them decimated at the next general election. The expectation is that this would lead to a more "European" left right divide in Irish politics and the prospect of the left attaining majority power at some stage in the not too distant future.
Wed Mar 9th, 2016 at 01:10:46 PM EST
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
538 has been had the best record and, often, the most insightful commentary on politics with regard to public opinion in the USA. Yet today it posted the following:
What The Stunning Bernie Sanders Win In Michigan Means By Harry Enten 538
Bernie Sanders made folks like me eat a stack of humble pie on Tuesday night. He won the Michigan primary over Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 48 percent, when not a single poll taken over the last month had Clinton leading by less than 5 percentage points. In fact, many had her lead at 20 percentage points or higher. Sanders's win in Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in modern political history. (My bold)
I believed Sanders was going to do better than the polsters were predicting, but then I AM a Sanders partisan and make no bones about it. I could be the proverbial stopped clock and it was just that time of day for once. But what happened with them? And even I had been beaten down and was surprised at the outcome. I expected it to be close, but for Hillary to win, if only by a point.
Fri Feb 26th, 2016 at 01:35:08 PM EST
The Sustainable Design Lab at MIT has built a model which estimates the gas and electricity demand of every building in Boston for every hour of every day of the year, nearly 100,000 buildings in total.
Next the MIT team will be validating the model against actual energy consumption data. "We'll do this using any building-level energy dataset that we can get our hands on, so the models become more and more accurate," Professor Christoph Reinhart explained. "Ultimately, our goal is for every city in the world to rely on a citywide energy model to meaningfully manage its future energy supply and carbon emissions." As Boston has an energy reporting and disclosure ordinance, Prof Reinhart and his team should have a lot of data to work with.
More at http://news.mit.edu/2016/mit-researchers-create-citywide-building-energy-model-boston-0222
The Boston city government will also be using the energy model in its energy planning process and MIT's Sustainable Design Lab is now working on energy models for Lisbon, Portugal and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Christoph Reinhart and his team had previously built a solar map which shows the solar electric potential of every roof in the city: http://web.mit.edu/SustainableDesignLab/projects/CambridgeSolarMap/
Disclaimer: I know Christoph and like him. He is doing some great work.
by Luis de Sousa
Mon Feb 15th, 2016 at 04:33:45 PM EST
To whomever likes politics, the Presidential election in the United States is always an interesting, and sometimes exciting, event. Not only because it is the largest economy in the world, but most especially for the unique political setting, that in essence forces the squeeze of a vast swath of candidates into just two parties. The indirect election system (with great electors per state), coupled with the party primary system produces a rather intricate process, divided in two phases that drag on for well over an year.
The election this year is no exception and is clearly falling into the exciting category. It can actually become an even more exciting race than that that gave the Presidency to Barack Obama in 2008. With the first primaries already in, most candidates already in firm ground and plenty of polling, one can already speculate on the outcome and its implications.
Wed Feb 10th, 2016 at 11:23:28 PM EST
What could the USA do if there is another, more serious global financial collapse? This has been a subject of discussion on several economic, financial and political blogs. The question also applies to any country. But the answer below will be restricted to countires with their own currency.
Sun Feb 7th, 2016 at 12:58:21 PM EST
Cooling towers into green communities
Aker - snap together kits for urban ag
One of the POC [Proof of Concept] ideas from COP 21
Agritecture: "Your source for vertical farming and urban agriculture news, business, and design."
Local Roots Farms - local produce anywhere
Bell Book and Candle - NYC farm to table restaurant, rated as one of the best in the country. "SOME ITEMS WE PRODUCE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR FROM OUR AEROPONIC ROOFTOP GARDEN LISTED BELOW: Sage, Chive, Chervil, Cilantro, Dill, Genovese Basil, Opal Basil, Italian and Flat Leaf Parsley, Spearmint, Rosemary, 4 varieties of Nasturtium, Cheddar Cauliflower, Purple Tomatillo, Tomatillo, Japanese and Kermit Eggplant, 2 varieties of Arugula, 4 varieties of Cherry Tomato, Great White Tomato, Bibb Lettuce, Red Oak Leaf, Red Romaine, Green Romaine, Lola Rosa, Frisee, Green Crisp, Poblano Pepper, and Fennel."
SPREAD, a Japanese company, will open the world's first robot-controlled farm in Fall 2017, producing 11 million heads of lettuce each year
Pilgrim's Market to grow its own produce in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho
Risk of lead poisoning from urban gardening is low, new study finds
Bright Agrotech - Zip Farms, Farm Walls, and more/brightagrotech.com
Urban Agriculture? Only 1 Percent Of Seattle Residents Could Eat Locally Even With All Viable Space In Use
Year round growing in Alaska
Southeast Asia's largest green development with extensive green roofs and terraces
Tue Feb 2nd, 2016 at 01:05:00 AM EST
Iowa Caucus: Cruz Victory Deals Setback to Donald Trump
Clinton and Sanders Locked in Tight Race
NYT 98% reporting Last updated 11:59 PM ET
Republicans . . . . . . . . . . . Democrats . . . . . . .
Ted Cruz 27.7% Hillary Clinton 49.9%
Donald J. Trump 24.3 Bernie Sanders 49.6
Marco Rubio 23.1 Martin O'Malley 0.6
Wed Jan 27th, 2016 at 02:18:48 PM EST
Well, that's a relief...
French minister Christiane Taubira resigns after fallout over terror policy | World news | The Guardian
Taubira's ultimate showdown with Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, was over the president's controversial plans to strip convicted French-born terrorists of their citizenship if they have a second dual nationality. The measure - known as the "loss of nationality" plan - was to be written into the constitution next month.
The move, which the government had admitted was purely symbolic, was seen by critics on the left, such as Taubira, as having the dangerous side-effect of sending a message that French citizens could be divided into two categories - with those who were "pure" French worth more than those with mixed backgrounds.
As Justice Minister, it would have been her job to defend the amendments to the Constitution, and the ensuing legislation, creating two-tier citizenship.
This may seem a minor thing to nationals of countries which were founded along ethnic lines. But for the French Republic, it's a definitional issue, and in practice, a clear-cut left/right divider.
frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Jan 20th, 2016 at 08:00:53 PM EST
I've long held the somewhat controversial view that political analysis is only as good as its ability to make verifiable or falsifiable predictions about the future course of events and thus have tended to be impatient with those sorts of "on the one hand, and on the other" analyses which can allow the analyst to claim vindication regardless of the outcome. If nothing else, clear predictions can allow a better understanding of underlying assumptions and a gauging of ones own ignorance.
So here goes, my predictions for 2016, which I am happy to see disputed, and ultimately proved wrong if only to improve my understanding of underlying trends.
- Fine Gael will score a resounding victory in the Irish general election compared to current polls which will nevertheless see them some way short of an overall majority and thus requiring Labour or perhaps some independent/small party support to form the next Government. Labour will do badly, Sinn Fein will fail to make a decisive breakthrough, and Fianna Fail will tread water.
- David Cameron will succeed in avoiding Brexit despite the increasing unpopularity of the EU and a failure, on his part, to secure dramatic concessions from the EU as part of his renegotiation strategy. However the result will be close and test his marketing skills to the limit. Paradoxically, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn will come out of the campaign with his reputation and standing in the polls enhanced.
- A combination of low oil prices, low interest rates, and low Euro valuations will allow the EU economy to slowly recover despite quite a few external shocks in the shape of the refugee crisis, terrorist atrocities, and a slowdown in China and emerging markets. Even peripheral countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal will recover somewhat off a low base, and Ireland will experience another year of near Celtic Tiger like growth.
- Donald Trump will win a resounding victory in the Republican Primary elections and probably nominate someone like Ohio Governor John Kasich as his VP pick in order to re-unify the party ahead of the General Election. Somewhat ironically, given the much lower media profile of the Democratic primary elections, Hillary Clinton will struggle to shake off the Vermont Socialist, Bernie Sanders, in the Democratic primary and struggle, initially, to ignite her campaign against Trump. She will end up winning the Presidency resoundingly, however, with an increasingly popular President Obama's support, and probably lead the Democrats to victory in the Senate (and currently implausibly) in the Congressional elections as well.
- Climate change will continue to wreck havoc with extreme weather events causing ever greater economic and social dislocation. Oil and commodity dependent economies in the middle east, Africa and Russia will struggle and political instability will increase world wide with some regional conflicts re-igniting as elites seek to distract their polities from economic hardships. Netanyahu might do something seriously stupid to try and preempt Iran' rise as a regional power and Syria will continue to be an unresolved humanitarian disaster.
Discuss. Perhaps you can add your own predictions.
Wed Jan 20th, 2016 at 03:46:09 PM EST
"Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviors that will avoid extinction." R Buckminster Fuller
MOOC [Massive Open Online Course]: Power Agriculture: Sustainable Energy for Food
Feb 1st - March 27, 2016
"Details: Around one third of the energy used worldwide goes into the production and processing of food from field to table. Given the current energy system mix, the agrifood industry sector is however heavily dependent on fossil fuel inputs for production, transport, processing and distribution, and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. With a continuously growing world population the need for food and for energy to produce it is increasing. At the same time millions of farmers and processors in developing countries and emerging economies lack access to clean energy technologies for irrigation, drying, cooling, storage and other processes. Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) seeks to identify and support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for increasing agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries."
There is now technology to show this and other MOOCs' proceedings on, among other things, a dynamic spherical screen like the iGlobe (www.iglobeinc.com/...). Currently, MIT's Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences is hosting a two foot diameter iGlobe.
"If you have data or interactive models you'd like to see visualized on the sphere... learn how it can be done and to figure out better ways and how to present information using the iGlobe. Or try to make a compelling environmental movie using the sphere, an auxiliary screen, and sound. Or come if you'd just like to experiment with the way things look projected on a spherical surface."
There are open sessions with the IGlobe display every Thursday in January 2016 from 11am to 12pm at MIT, Building 54-1827, 21 Ames Street, Cambridge, the Green Building, the tallest building on campus. Glenn Flierl, Professor of Oceanography, is the host.
NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] also has a program called Science on a Sphere http://sos.noaa.gov/ ...,
"a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages."
These ongoing activities approach R Buckminster Fuller's idea of a World Game:
The goal of the World Game is to "make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone." It's usually played on a large map of the Earth and was designed by R Buckminster Fuller.
Today, we have the technology to play the World Game online in real time with interactive maps and satellite images updated frequently. Imagine World of Peacecraft or the Final Fantasy of a sustainable, restorative economy and ecology for everybody, all 100% of the human population with a significant number of that 100% participating as co-designers, for the benefit of all who will allow the benefit of all.
Mon Jan 11th, 2016 at 10:35:52 AM EST
The shock created by the mass sexual assaults in Köln is spreading like rings on the water. It has now reached Stockholm - and uncovered an alleged police/media cover-up of mass sexual assaults here as well.
Swedish police face allegations of covering up mass sex assault
Sweden is facing its own version of Germany's Cologne scandal with police in Stockholm pledging to investigate allegations of covering up mass sexual assault at a festival two years ago.
Swedish police promised urgently to investigate the claims reported first by liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter that a gang of youths -- reportedly mostly from Afghanistan -- groped and molested girls as young as 11 or 12.
The allegations, which date back to the 2014 youth festival We Are Sthlm, are yet to be confirmed. But they are still likely to cause a political scandal perhaps even greater than the reaction in Germany because of the success in the Nordic country of an anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, that has in recent months periodically topped opinion polls.
This is what has happened.
front-paged, discussion about events in Cologne in the comments - Bjinse
Sat Jan 9th, 2016 at 10:35:03 PM EST
Greenbuild Unity Home - prefab, affordable net-zero home can be built in less than three days to LEED v4 Platinum and net zero-energy standards and with the largest collection of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified building products ever used in a residential project.
zHome: the first net zero energy townhome complex in the United States (built in 2011 in Issaquah, WA) with benchmarks of net zero energy use, a 70% reduction in water use, a 90% construction recycling rate and the use of only low- and non-toxic materials among other specifications
Net Zero Energy Buildings Technical Reports
DOE's A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings
Presentations from Building Carbon Zero California 2015
Net zero 1910 school to lofts conversion in Amsterdam
Architecture at Zero 2015 winners
Zero Net Energy Roadmap for local governments (California)
Zero net energy building controls report/docs.google.com/forms/d/1crmcXoJe0MI4J8E4KLp1lLURr2Ms9F4odN0KJn_-rzU/viewform?c=0&w=1
Market Data: Zero Net Energy Homes (paid access only it seems)
Zero net energy laboratories
Seattle region near net zero community (including one HERS -1 rated, net positive house)
From energy efficiency lighting expert Fred Davis:
http://www.netpositiveconference.org/ - February 18-19, 2016 in San Diego, CA
Sidmore Owings and Merrill build a net zero energy school in Staten Island, NYC's first