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Comeback of the Hitler Youth haircut worries Jewish and progressive groups fearing intolerance

by Democrats Ramshield Wed Feb 19th, 2014 at 05:54:27 PM EST

(Written by an American expat living in the European Union)

I understand the Daily Kos is a serious online community where important progressive issues of the day are discussed. So why am I writing a diary about (yes you guessed it!) hairstyles! Well, quietly some would say insidiously a Nazi haircut known as the Hitler Youth haircut has made a comeback (with 74,000 hits in Google) according to urban legend from German speaking rural Switzerland to becoming a global presence. This has alarmed Jewish groups around the world to the point where they have began voicing concern at the rise of intolerance and anti-semitism that is coming back to haunt Europe in this 100th anniversary year of world war 1, which is 75 years from the end of world war 2. Now recently just last week these fears were realized by the populist Swiss SVP party in an anti-European immigration referendum passed by a majority of Swiss voters. I wrote a diary on that very issue (not that anyone actually read it) entitled "Switzerland far right party of hate declares war on European immigration".
Link:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/11/1276694/-Switzerland-far-right-party-of-hate-declares-war-o n-European-immigration-UPDATED

When fashion is allowed to favorably reflect on the Nazi period in terms that put that history in a favorable light then something has happened in Europe and around the world that we need to take notice of. As the old saying would have it, all that needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good people to sit by and do nothing. This last century saw not one, but two world wars come and go, with a warning, which is for those of us who aren't prepared to learn from history are therefore doomed to repeat it. Clearly the history of World War one and two is something that America can ill afford not to learn the lessons of.

What is in a haircut any way? It's just a fashion statement isn't it? The Hitler Youth haircut. Well, sure it's just a haircut but more to the point it's an idea that people want to look like that again. It's a look associated with historical intolerance. It's a look that was associated with the Holocaust, the destruction of Europe and the pain and suffering of millions, that now is being celebrated in making a comeback as a fashion statement in our neighborhoods and schools and on the fashion pages and even on the silver screen. The Hitler Youth haircut is back in the limelight and it's coming to a shopping mall near you!

It comes out of a time when the government failed the people, when jobs were lost, too many of them being shipped abroad, people were losing their homes, people were afraid and people were insecure. People were looking for a new look, new ideas, a new day of hope. Some people think the Hitler Youth Aryan look is in and it's cool. Well let's be honest it wasn't just worn by Germany's Hitler Youth, it was worn by Adolf Hitler himself as well as most German front line troops, but too many people think it doesn't mean anything. It's just a hair style after all? There's no political message attached to it? It's just a lot of silliness. That is what they said about the brown shirts in Nazi Germany in the beginning, they said it wasn't a military uniform, it was a political party uniform (manufactured by fashion designer Hugo Boss that is."It was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis.").but then the S.A. got to be 3 million strong. Three times the size of the German army that changed Germany and in turn changed the world. Also please let's remember that at the time this was simply viewed as the fashion business. Ergo by way of a corollary we must conclude that the Nazi fashion business has a dark side and so does the fashion history of the Hitler Youth haircut. Given that history may we simply write the whole thing off as nothing more than a lucrative fashion tread and nothing more in the matter of the Hitler Youth haircut's strong global comeback.

Jewish World By David Lev
"Some Jewish community officials have expressed concern over the
latest style in haircuts - the "Jugend," or "Hitler Youth" hairdo".


(There should be some sort of a movement brought about to disassociate the hair style from the name of Adolf Hitler). A further danger is that anyone, especially young people Googling the name "the Hitler Youth haircut" will be exposed to voluminous Nazi materials, which is an insidious way of this type of (old and new) propaganda material to find readers. As such this is one more reason why an effort should be brought about to change the name of this hair style.  

So when we look back at the 100th year anniversary of World War I and we look back at World War II that ended 75 years ago, perhaps we should also remember the slogan "Never Again". For it is said all that needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Perhaps we should therefore this time all do something. To that end I invite you to post your thoughts below and speak out and you will be heard.

(Crossed posted by author from the Daily Kos)
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/18/1278477/-Comeback-of-the-Hitler-Youth-haircut-worries-Jewis h-and-progressive-groups-fearing-intolerance

Comments >> (1 comment)

Toward a Finite-Planet Journalism

by Eric Zencey Wed Feb 19th, 2014 at 06:01:51 AM EST

What happens when an infinite-growth society smacks into environmental limits?  For one thing, it loses some of the ground on which democratic decision making can be exercised, as the effort to fit an increasingly problematic ecological footprint onto a finite planet means that more and more policy decisions have to be made by technocrats.  

On a finite planet, only an ecologically knowledgeable  electorate can reconcile democracy with non-negotiable ecological limits.  If the majority of voters remain ecologically illiterate, they must give up either civilization or democracy.  It's  impossible to retain both.

That sad truth emerges from a careful look at a political protest in Missouri over the future of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway.  Some citizens of that state are worried about the National Park Service's plans to limit access and exercise greater regulatory control; they see it as just another instance of rampant bureaucracy, of the sort that Frederick Hayek and corporate-backed Tea Partiers have warned us against.  Unfortunately, the science says that more regulation is needed if park ecosystems are to be kept from  irreparable damage by overuse.

And another truth emerges from a careful look at the story:  the media have a role and responsibility in educating voting publics about ecological limits.  At the very least, if they want to have any claim to be offering a "fair and balanced" look at the news, they need to give up their infinite-planet bias.  

What's that kind of bias look like, you might ask?  Read on to see how it cropped up in one U.S. newspaper.

front-paged by afew

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LQD from Rocky Mountain Institute

by paul spencer Wed Feb 12th, 2014 at 01:44:48 AM EST

Most of my experience with these folks finds them to be quite sane and often just enough ahead of conventional wisdom to help to shape it. This article is eurocentric, so I'm very curious as to y'all's critiques.

front-paged by afew

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Propaganda works

by Cyrille Sun Feb 9th, 2014 at 04:59:31 AM EST

As I recently wrote about, we are once again hearing calls for selling, well,everything public. And a French nominally (yes, already only nominally) socialist president is announcing a major turn rightwards -economically, that is- despite being at the helm of a country that has been performing markedly better than tenants of Aust(e)rian orthodoxy, such as the Netherlands or Finland.

And, you know what: he's getting praise for it.

front-paged by afew

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Regime Change In Ukraine – Who Bugged Nuland, An Embarrassment

by Oui Fri Feb 7th, 2014 at 04:37:39 AM EST

[Update] Title change from "Obama Style Regime Change In Ukraine - Nuland: 'Fuck the EU'" due to addition intelligence sourcing in posts below.

Her words won't be broadcast in the USA due to filter of cuss words. Other nations can hear the leaked audio tape from Russian NSA - АНБ or WikeLeaks KBG style or whatever ...

Ukraine leak designed to 'split' EU-US diplomacy

(EU Observer) Feb. 6, 2014 - The publication of what seem to be two sensitive US and EU diplomatic conversations on Ukraine is designed to spoil relations between the allies, EU diplomatic sources say.

The items were uploaded on YouTube by a user called "Re Post" on Tuesday (4 February) and already have several thousand clicks each.

In the alleged US audio clip, which appears to date to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych's offer of top jobs to opposition MPs on 25 January, Victoria Nuland, a senior US state department official, is speaking to Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine.

They bat around ideas on which of the MPs should be Prime Minister in an interim government.

Nuland notes that she wants a UN diplomat to go to Kiev to seal an accord on the US-model cabinet.

"So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU," she says.

"Oh exactly, and I think we've got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it," Pyatt replies.

In the alleged EU clip, a senior EU foreign service official, Helga Schmid, speaks in German to Jan Tombinski, the EU ambassador to Ukraine.

The EU clip appears to date to 31 January, when EU foreign service chief Catherine Ashton put out a statement on tortured Ukrainian activist Dmytro Bulatov. [The Independent: Dmytro Bulatov 'kidnapped, tortured and left to die']

Schmid says: "The Americans are going around telling people we're too weak while they are tougher on sanctions. I talked to Cathy [Ashton] about what we have already discussed and she is on the same page: We have to do it [impose sanctions] but we have to prepare it in a very clever manner. But what you should know is that it really bothers us that the Americans are going around naming and shaming us - this is what several journalists have told us. Maybe you can speak to the US ambassador?"

She adds: "We have just issued a very strong statement on Bulatov and we are going in that direction [sanctions]. We just don't want to advertise it too loudly because we think it's more effective this way. It annoys me when the press is reporting that the EU is not on the side of freedom."

Tombinski replies: "We are not in a race who is the toughest. We have other instruments."

Schmid notes: "I don't want that Cathy is put in a corner - this can hurt, politically. This doesn't work and Cathy will speak to [US secretary of state] Kerry about it."

The US state department declined to comment, while Ashton's spokespeople could not be reached on Thursday.

German government calls Nuland's EU slur 'absolutely unacceptable'

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych meets US envoy Victoria Nuland ... below the fold.

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Minister Plasterk: I Had No Snooping Idea We Did It

by Oui Wed Feb 5th, 2014 at 03:12:57 PM EST

Dutch government, not NSA involved in snooping De Volkskrant | Feb. 5, 2014

Minister of the Interior hasn't got a notion which intelligence agency is collecting 1.8 million metadata of Dutch citizens' phone calls each month. In October on TV news broadcast [video], he got a wire from NSA directly, confirming they had collected this data. Today, Plasterk had to backtrack and made a statement, the Dutch military intelligence MIVD and AIVD were responsible through their unit called National Sigint Organisation (NSO). Defense Minister Hennis seems to concur, stating it was not against Dutch law for this data gathering and sharing it with the US super intelligence agency NSA. Dutch telephone subscribers are not part of this exchange. Similar to role of GCHQ and NSA.

 « click for story
Satellite disks of NSO in Burum, Drenthe

This whole affair stinks and there appears to be a cover-up to avoid possible lawsuits and unsettling relations with the White House. The satellite spy station in Burum seems to be part of Echelon network.

[Update] WikiLeaks founder Rop Gongrijp joins Dutch lawsuit against NSA espionage … [below the fold]

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Autumn on the Arlberg railway

by DoDo Wed Feb 5th, 2014 at 02:54:56 AM EST

The westernmost state of Vorarlberg is separated from the rest of Austria by the water divide between the Rhine and the Inn (and thus Danube) rivers. Since 1884, a single railway provides connection across the mountains, with steep approaches to a summit tunnel over 10 km in length under the Arlberg Pass. On my two holidays in Switzerland in the summer and autumn of last year, I also stopped here. Beyond steep climbs with spectacular bridges in spectacular landscape and an eventful history, the line is notable for an arrested development: a modern double-track mainline in some parts and a single-track line with sharp curves in other parts.

The end of an eastbound (descending) railjet atop the Trisanna viaduct below castle Wiesberg (the tip is visible on the left) and above a 110-year-old hydroelectric power plant restored after massive floods damaged it in 2005

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There Is No Education Plan A

by rifek Tue Feb 4th, 2014 at 10:06:37 PM EST

I was originally going to post this as a comment over on ARGeezer's "Does the US even have a viable Plan A for HS education?", but it got really long, so I figured I'd better do a diary.

No, the US does not have a Plan A.  My parents are retired teachers, and I've taught at all levels, so I have some idea.

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BBC Digital Media Initiative Fails

by Helen Tue Feb 4th, 2014 at 11:46:59 AM EST

Independent - Suspended BBC tech chief who oversaw wasted £100m digital media project will sue his former employer

The BBC technology chief who oversaw a disastrous project that wasted £100m of licence fee money is suing the BBC after it ended his employment.
John Linwood was suspended as the BBC's £287,000-a-year Chief Technology Officer in May when the failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was closed down. His contract was ended in July 2013 and he was not given a pay-off.

The National Audit Office reported today on how BBC bosses failed to react as the fiasco developed: "The BBC executive did not have a sufficient grip of the programme and did not appear to appreciate the extent of the problems until a late stage."

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The Morality Of Taxation

by afew Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 at 09:28:34 AM EST

From Frances Coppola on Pieria:

Laffer and the Yeti

we need a serious discussion about the morality of taxation. While the rich believe they are morally entitled to low tax rates, they will continue to avoid higher rates by taking advantage of the global mobility of capital and the fact that tax arbitrage is a survival strategy for small countries. For higher tax rates to be economically effective, therefore, the moral case for them must be so clearly made that the rich themselves buy into it because they cannot in conscience do otherwise.

Can this be done? How?

Comments >> (70 comments)

On Minority Rights and on Beliefs

by Katrin Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 04:33:31 PM EST

There seems to be some confusion about the term minority rights. It is used for the rights of national or ethnic minorities. In Europe these only exist for recognised minorities, so nation states largely are free to decide on their own if (and to which groups) they want to concede minority rights. Gives a new meaning to the term 'rights'... In the case of national or ethnic minorities there are some collective rights: without some rights to language and culture the group's existence as a group would be at risk. Secondly, the term is used for the protection of persons against discrimination for their race, religion, etc. Important difference: this protection starts with the individual. There is even a third use: the rights of the opposition in a parliamentary system, especially a weak one as currently in Germany, are sometimes formulated in terms of "minority rights". I wonder how much this confusion contributes to the fear minority rights apparently cause. There are widespread fears of a minority having more influence than their size would suggest, and this fantasised influence is damaging society as a whole. It doesn't matter much which minority we are talking about, because enmity of different groups is related anyway.

We tend to think that these fears and prejudices are the playground of the right wing, but this is not true as surveys taken before and after the economic: Islamophobia on the right wing is already high and stagnating, it increases in the middle and in the left.

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Scarlett Johansson's Image As SodaStream Ambassador

by Oui Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 03:31:47 AM EST

Scarlett Johansson's naive SodaStream defense

American actress Scarlett Johansson has become the center of controversy following the announcement that she is the new face of SodaStream, an Israeli company with a large factory in the West Bank.

(+972) - SodaStream produces domestic carbonation machines for making sodas at home, and has a large factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, located inside Ma'ale Adumim, the third largest settlement in the occupied West Bank [Map E1 zone]. (This fact is conspicuously absent from its Wikipedia page). The company has both Palestinian and Israeli employees working in its West Bank factory, branding itself as an environmentally friendly, ethical alternative for soda lovers who want to do away with bottles -  and that is what Scarlett Johansson claims she loves so much about SodaStream and why she is now its first-ever "brand ambassador."

Johansson has been under severe scrutiny and media attention from anti-occupation activists and advocates of the BDS movement. Both the The New Yorker and NY Magazine covered the controversy, the latter with the funny, if forced headline: "Guilt-Free Seltzer or Blood Bubbles?"  Robert Mackey who writes The New York Times' Lede Blog has an excellent, detailed report, if you want to read more details.

I reckon the enormous media attention has partly to do with that fact that she is major eye candy and websites love to put her face on their home pages, no less than SodaStream does. Here is a hilarious meme I saw going around that I cannot resist but share.

 « click for story
"Scarlett Johansson enjoys a refreshment outside the employee lounge at #SodaStream's West Bank factory"

Johansson did not respond to the criticism until Friday, after Oxfam- the international aid and development NGO for which she also happens to be an ambassador since 2007 - came out with a statement challenging her involvement with SodaStream (but stopped short of calling on her to step down). According to their statement:

"Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law."

The argument that settlement companies like SodaStream are OK because they employ Palestinians holds no weight, since the political reality of occupation does not allow Palestinian workers to make a free and informed choice regarding their livelihoods. This argument has already been made many times, and especially poignantly by Who Profits, an Israeli NGO that documents Israel's occupation industry.

Mondoweiss: Deconstructing Scarlett Johansson's statement on SodaStream

More reactions below the fold ...

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Don't Break up Syria: WW I-Style Imperial Divide

by Oui Thu Jan 30th, 2014 at 05:23:54 AM EST

From the headline: "Don't Break up Syria: WW I-Style Imperial Divide & Rule is a Failure."

This implies the force of outside powers in the Levant: Turkey, GCC states, France, UK and USA. Seems to me that has been the problem, at least aggravated the horror of killings and suffering of a great number of refugees. Neither the SNC nor the Assad deputees are legitimate representatives of the Syrian people in the Geneva-2 talks. Similar to Lebanon, a boiling pot of intrigue and outside powers working contrary to the interest of the people. Since the fall of the communist dictatorships in the Soviet Union (SU) and Yugoslavia, people seek independence based on etnic and 'national' culture. See all the satellite states of the former SU. This proces is irreversible and spreads across the globe throughout Europe, Africa and even the USA.

In Europe the 'dictatorship' of Brussels has seen its apogee and will need to leave decisions to national states. Brussels lacks legitimacy of the people and is not an example of democracy. Separatist movements in Scotland, Spain, Ukraine and Belgium. In Africa, tension between ethnic groups, religion and the identity of tribes leads to deadly conflicts. Libya, Mali, CAR, Cameroon and Nigeria. In the United States you have a decades old clash of culture which leads to a stalemate in Congress. Globalization and the power of the digital information age gives rise to an identity crisis where people tend to fall back on their own "tribe." The federal government has failed to divest power and has a natural tendency to centralize power. The distance is too great between citizens and where decisions are made. The political cloud of corporations, business and financial, leads to alienation of members in Congress to the people who voted them into a position of power which they abuse. Democracy is undermined as government should lead in the interest of the people they represent. The growth in inequality of wealth and the economic recession with great numbers of unemployed and the rise of the poor will lead to self-destruction of the nation. Today's revolutions and the Arab uprising was induced by an economic recession, higher food and fuel prices and a lack of democratic principles: freedom and representation.

Fot the Middle East, IMO there is an urgent need to abolish boundaries set by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Under an UN led referendum, people must choose and decide the fate of their nation. Likely solution will be a break-up of Iraq in three separate states of Shiites, Sunni and Kurds. Yes, the Kurds will get their independent state which will cross the border of Iran, Syria and Turkey. The Anbar province will acquire the eastern part of Syria. That leaves a heavily populated western Syria which, as an interim solution, should be offered a government similar to the agreement of parties made in Lebanon. The Alawite region of Turkey should be offered by referendum to be united with the Syrian Alawites in the Latakia province. The State of Palestine must be taken into account with all its refugees across borders in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Should be an interesting Conference of all Nations, redrawing the map of the Middle East. A session on how to cooperate and abandon the urge for supremacy over another people, religion or culture.

Comments >> (1 comment)

ADL Foxman Accuses Obama Admin of Anti-Semitism

by Oui Tue Jan 28th, 2014 at 03:30:00 AM EST

Whose bidding is Abe Foxman doing at Anti-Defamation League (ADL)? What a bunch of crap by this idiot. Israel master spy and handler [Rafi Eitan] of Pollard was quoted as saying he should have put a bullet through his head. Many private persons and organizations in America, in the cause of Liberty and Freedom, call for Edward Snowden to be assassination while self-exiled in Russia. Seems to me Pollard got a fair deal and will be up for parole in 2015. Why this hatred for America Mr. Foxman?

One instance where Israeli lobby leads to no result ... I wonder to whose credit or blame. In a country of political corruption, this condition of treating a citizen accused of treason could not evolve this way.

Responses To Our Call to Free Jonathan Pollard

(The Tablet) - Last week, we published an editorial arguing that Jonathan Pollard's continued imprisonment sends a chilling message to American Jews that they are all potential traitors to their country, evincing a distinct odor of political anti-Semitism. We called on Jewish leaders and organizations to recognize and combat this implicit prejudice. Most of the leaders we reached out to for comment refused to go on the record with any--an indication of the issue's continued untouchability. But a few did.

Below are replies from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and the Rabbinical Council of America.

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League:

    When the Jonathan Pollard affair surfaced 28 years ago, there were claims by some that the sentencing of Pollard, life imprisonment, was tinged with anti-Semitism. We at the Anti-Defamation League took that charge seriously, made our own investigation, and concluded there was no basis for such an accusation.

    I bring that up now because as the years pass and the world has changed many times over, and with more and more prominent Americans, including individuals from the intelligence community, saying "enough already," Pollard remains in prison.

    Pleas for his parole are raised on a regular basis, but go unheeded. The whole thing at this late date makes no sense. There surely is no information that Pollard possesses after all these years that can be harmful to American interests. The fact that Pollard shared information with an ally--Israel--was no reason for him not to be punished. But after this long imprisonment, the fact that it was such a close ally who received his information should have influenced a positive response when the subject of parole arose.

    I am not one to equate what Pollard did, to betray his country, to the recent revelations that the United States has been spying on top Israeli leaders. Here too, however, these revelations add further context to the absurdity of the ongoing vendetta against this one man.

    Yes, I use that word because that's what it seems like at this point. If it were only a vendetta against one individual it would be bad enough. But it has now become one against the American Jewish community.

    In effect, the continuing imprisonment of this person long after he should have been paroled on humanitarian grounds can only be read as an effort to intimidate American Jews. And, it is an intimidation that can only be based on an anti-Semitic stereotype about the Jewish community, one that we have seen confirmed in our public opinion polls over the years, the belief that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country, the United States.

    In other words, the underlying concept which fuels the ongoing Pollard incarceration is the notion that he is only the tip of the iceberg in the community. So Pollard stays in prison as a message to American Jews: don't even think about doing what he did.

    I come to this conclusion with much sorrow and, as noted, as someone who resisted efforts early on to connect the Pollard affair to anti-Semitism. It is harder and harder to do so any longer.

Rabbinical Council of America Calls on President Clinton to Free Jonathan Pollard (1994)  

Avi Sella, an Israeli air force colonel, the Mossad spy that got away ... continued.

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LQD: Economics and Drugs in mainstream media

by Xavier in Paris Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 05:26:43 AM EST

Nicolas Baverez, showing us the danger of a mind on drugsThis morning I made the mistake to turn the radio on while attending to my daughter (milk, nappies, kisses and clothing before bringing her to her gardian for the day) only to find what could only be described as the danger of drug use while attempting to make VSP's predictions.

The radio program usually invites a prominent specialist of some thematics that are discussed during the next hour and a half, with interruptions for news, editorials and so on...

Today's guest was M. Nicolas Baverez, whose talent as a jester is, I believe, quite underrated.

I copied and translated below the pitch of today's broadcast:

We are in 2040. France is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Unesco headquarters left Paris for Berlin. Airbus has even abandoned his siege of Toulouse in favor of Hamburg. After being saved by Europe and Germany in 2025 , the country plunged into bankruptcy. 65% of young people are unemployed , the franc has lost 80 % of its value and the political institutions of the Sixth Republic can do nothing . It is a Beninese, Alassane Bono , the first African to head the IMF , who heads the mission that supposedly will be saving France . This could be the scenario of a hollywodian blockbuster or a fiction film awarded at Cesars. For now, this is the semi- fiction invented by Nicolas Baverez in his latest book , Beninian Letters ( Albin Michel , 2014).

            At a time when the poverty rate in France exceeds 14.3 % ( or 8.7 million people affected ), where distrust of institutions grows, and where anger is expressed every day a little more , let us ask theses questions: what will become of France ? Are we on the brink ? We are in decline, and if so, is it serious? In response, I received this morning Nicolas Baverez . Nicolas Baverez Hello , you 're an economist and historian ...

...and, if I may also add, clearly high on LSD at the time of writing.

Let's remind our casual readers that France has lived, since 1812, through 1830's and 1848's revolutions, the second Empire, loss of 1870'war against Germany and annexion of two departements, the first and the second world war without ever defaulting on its debt.

France's debt ratio to GDP since 1815
in "les échos"

So tell me: what, in the coming 30 years, could be worse than the 1.6 millions deaths of the first world war, the 550 000 more of the second world war, the loss of Algeria and the arrival of around 1 million wealthless refugees after independance in 1962? Nuclear war?

I'm aghast at the idea!

[update]: added debt vs GDP graph since 1815

Comments >> (9 comments)

Old and new in Austria

by DoDo Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 05:15:09 AM EST

On my way to and from the Gotthard railway last summer, I went through Austria. I got to see a lot of recent developments up-close: new lines with semi-high-speed traffic, open-access competition, the fruits of stimulus spending, and a recently refurbished narrow-gauge mountain railway.

100-year-old narrow-gauge electric locomotive 1099.14 with its train of heritage cars stands ready in Mariazell for the return journey to St. Pölten

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NY Mayor Blasio: 'A Lobby Is A Night Flower' [Update]

by Oui Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:29:14 PM EST

[Update] Audio Tape - De Blasio In AIPAC Speech - added below the fold

Secrecy of de Blasio's AIPAC conclave fuels anti-Semitic tropes -- Sullivan

(Mondoweiss) - Andrew Sullivan has a wonderful post up on Bill de Blasio's shocking and private speech to AIPAC two nights ago, titled, "The Selective Secrecy of Bill de Blasio." Two excerpts, first on the secrecy of AIPAC, and the degree to which traditional anti-Semitic tropes are fulfilled by the group's professions and actions.

If you were to describe the Israel lobby as a secretive group that enforces the policies of the Israeli government on American politicians in private gatherings, you would be called an anti-Semite. The idea that the Israel lobby is secretive and underhanded plays into ancient anti-Semitic tropes. If you were to say about AIPAC that "a lobby is a night flower, it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun," you would be regarded as an anti-Semite for the same reasons. If you were to note that an AIPAC official once responded to the idea that the lobby had been weakened by pushing a napkin across a table and said "You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin," you would be called an anti-Semite. If you were to claim that AIPAC was "the most effective general interest group ... across the entire planet," you would be suspected of anti-Semitic tendencies. (The source for these varied quotes is here.)

And if you were to say that AIPAC was so powerful it could get a left-liberal mayor of New York to give a speech so fulsome in its cravenness and excess it adds whole universes of meaning to the word "pander" and also insist that it be kept secret, even to the extent of hauling a reporter out of the hall, then all bets would be off.

The de Blasio speech- along with Peter Beinart's statement that "The new Iran sanctions effort, claims a well-placed congressional aide, is 'totally and completely Jewish-community run'-" confirms everything that Walt and Mearsheimer said about the Israel lobby, including that it fostered the Iraq war.

Obama 'outraged' by Schumer, Gillibrand, & Booker's deference to Netanyahu

Continued below the fold ...

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Does the US even have a viable Plan A for HS education?

by ARGeezer Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:08:36 AM EST

Education has become a political football in the USA. An appalling number of students emerge with high school diplomas that don't really prepare them for anything practical. Conservatives want to hold the teachers accountable. We have had a changing series of standards and criteria that have succeeded in focusing efforts on preparing students for college. But the support available for college education for those whose families cannot afford to support them has been cut in favor of loans, debt from college loans has exceeded $1 trillion and college graduates are having increasing difficulty finding jobs that will enable them to pay their loans. This situation was the subject of a recent report on the PBS Newshour.

Meanwhile manufacturers, who offer living wage jobs with benefits, are frustrated that a high school diploma is no guarantee that an applicant can adequately perform most tasks in entry level positions. What are these skills? Per Bill Hoffer of Hoffer Plastics Corporation: "They need to be able to read blueprints. They need to follow procedures, document what they're doing. And that's all very important." A high school diploma, even with good grades in math, is no guarantee that the candidate has the needed skills for the job. College prep is not job prep it seems.

Per the PBS segment employers in the Illinois-Indiana area are turning to Work Keys, a program developed by ACT, Inc. It was developed specifically to test for skills employers found necessary and consists of three components - job skills assessment, job analysis and skill training - and the assessment covers twelve  areas described in the link above. Why can't high school math teachers teach these skills?

According to teacher Laurie Nehf of Elgin High School in Indianopolis:

"I'm not told to have them job-ready. I'm told to have them college-ready. I'm focusing on linear functions, quadratic functions, polynomial functions, higher-level types of questions from WorkKeys. Is it important that they know that a negative under a square root creates an imaginary number? No, that's not really that important."

But figures from Elgin High and schools throughout the USA indicate that fewer than 25% of our students are graduating proficient in math according to current standards, focused as they are on college preparation. Says Laurie Nehf:
"They just shut down. They get very frustrated. We won't accept meeting kids where they're at and helping them where they're at.

I would love to spend all my time working on percentages, fractions, all that stuff with number sense. That number sense skills is what matters in the real world.(Emphasis added.)

Some have argued that the US should have a Plan B for students not going to college. But with only 25% graduating with math proficiency the USA does not even have a Plan A, just a brutal hazing of teachers and students administered by a failed series of plans for "excellence" and programs for "accountability". It is the politicians who need to be held accountable. It is time to end the pretense that every student should be, or even can be, prepared for college, whether then want it or not.

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Central Banking 101: the EONIA heartbeat returns

by Migeru Thu Jan 23rd, 2014 at 06:21:45 PM EST

Cross-posted from The Court Astrologer

If you google EONIA heartbeat the top three hits are my own European Tribune blogs

and a Nordea research note from 16 July 2013, Liquidity draining & EUR short end which has the following to say:
EONIA heartbeat pattern has returned...

Before December 2011, EONIA tended to spike on the last day of the maintenance period, as a result of fine tuning operations conducted by the ECB. These operations were suspended in the end of 2011 and the pattern wasn't seen any longer. Since the LTRO repayments started however, EONIA has spiked in the end of the month/quarter, and the largest spike in over a year occurred in the end of Q2 this year.

I don't think that the ECB fine-tuning operations were suspended. What happened was indeed that the LTROs flooded the banking sector with so much excess liquidity that banks no longer needed extra liquidity at the end of ECB reserve periods in order to meet their reserve requirements. But the weekly refinancing operations which the fine-tuning operations are part of still took place.

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Lincoln's team of rivals

by DoDo Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 at 03:23:48 AM EST

Ever since I read a glowing review of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (which I still haven't seen), I longed to read its main basis: Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. This biography used the novel approach to put the personal histories of the main contestants in the 1860 Republican Party presidential nomination race side by side, to show how and why Lincoln rose above all of his rivals.

I finally got to read the book during the holidays. It is a difficult read, with over 750 pages even without footnotes (it takes 250 pages just to get to Lincoln's nomination on the Republican ticket), and the author's style is at times annoying (frequent reproductions of insubstantial praise for personal qualities, descriptions of the vanity festival that was Washington social life, the first-person plural focus on an American-only audience and the need to 'excuse' Lincoln's weak religiosity), but I highly recommend it for the broad and detailed view of the age and its issues. There is also some modern relevance in relation to centrist politics. I thought I share some of the insights I came away with.

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