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Silver screen science

by DoDo Mon Oct 5th, 2015 at 03:38:44 PM EST

After Gravity two years ago and Interstellar last year, the recently released The Martian is the third big-budget hard sci-fi movie with an ambition to show more than escapist fantasy. The more so as this story of a Martian Robinsonade and an interplanetary rescue mission was based on a hard sci-fi novel in which the calm application of the scientific method is the key to survival. So I watched with even higher expectations on scientific realism. But, while the film is spectacular and relatively well-acted, and there was plenty of applied science – from growing plants to establishing communication with Earth –, unfortunately, director Ridley Scott played more fast and loose than the creators of the previous two films.

Read more... (10 comments, 789 words in story)

Onwards and upwards: Rugby World Cup 2015 Part II

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 5th, 2015 at 07:32:37 AM EST

England, despite home advantage, have crashed out of the World Cup beaten by their own expectations and two very good Wales and Australia performances.  Some crunch matches remain - notably Australia vs. Wales and France vs. Ireland to see who wins their respective pools and thus how, exactly, the quarter-finalists will match up. But the likelihood of an upset is now very small and only Japan, of the Tier 2 nations, have a realistic chance of progressing if they beat the USA and Scotland fail to beat Samoa.

The Quarter-finalists will thus likely be very much as I predicted in Rugby World Cup with Wales replacing England.  Hardly a shock result as results between them have tended to be 50:50.  What is remarkable is that Wales have achieved this despite losing 6 of their best backs to injury. Good team management, spirit, cohesion and tactical nous still counts for a lot in rugby.  However after Australia's convincing win against England, it is hard to bet against them beating Wales and winning the pool.  Both France and Ireland have been under-whelming to date, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on Sunday 11th. October.

Read more... (2 comments, 660 words in story)

Zero Emissions Economy to Reversing Global Warming

by gmoke Thu Oct 1st, 2015 at 03:32:17 PM EST

Meteor Blades recently (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/28/1425368/-Open-thread-for-night-owls-Mobilizing-for-the-clim ate-crisis) wrote about The Climate Mobilization (http://www.theclimatemobilization.org) which is asking people to sign a pledge to

Reduce our country's [USA's] net greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2025 and implement far-reaching measures to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere...

Establish the following imperatives as our nation's top foreign policy priorities: A 100 percent reduction of global net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, and the deployment of comprehensive measures that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is a necessary mental step to take and it is good to see that people are beginning to organize around it.  I've been writing about a zero emissions economy for at least 20 years and that means EVERYTHING not just greenhouse gases.  Zero emissions as an approachable goal as zero defects on a production line in Total Quality Management is an approachable goal.  Zero emissions for all materials and resources within an ecological design framework like Bill McDonough's simple ecological design principles:
waste equals food
use only available solar income
respect diversity
love all the children

We should be doing this as at least a thought experiment now and, I believe, that thought experiment would have enormous benefits as we transition to a new ecological economy where the throw away society begins to realize there is no such place as away.

Recently, I had the opportunity to raise these ideas with the Dr Lynn Orr, DOE Undersecretary for Science and Technology, at MIT as both a public question and in private conversation.  Perhaps I planted a seed.

I'm also glad to see that The Climate Mobilization is taking on another part of the climate question which is not often addressed.  Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is good but it addresses only the source side of the issue.  There are sinks as well.  As systems dynamics teaches, a working system contains both sources and sinks.  John Wick is a CA rancher who has measured for the last 5 years a ton of carbon per hectare per year sequestered on his grazing land and computer models estimate that he can do this for 30-100 years.  See http://www.marincarbonproject.org He says there are 35 soil carbon sequestration methods now recognized by USDA.  Soil scientist Rattan Lal believes that increasing soil carbon on agricultural lands globally could reverse climate change within a decade or two.

I also mentioned this to Undersecretary Orr.

On October 16-18, 2015 there will be a conference at Tufts University on Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming (http://bio4climate.org/conferences/conferences-2015/tufts-2015-restoring-water-cycles/).  Last year, the same group held a conference on soil carbon cycles (http://bio4climate.org/conferences/conference-2014/).  You can watch the proceedings on their webpages.  You can also participate in Soil Saturday on October 10 (https:/www.facebook.com/events/559598744189515) to help raise awareness about these issues and practical solutions to reverse climate change now while improving the soil and rebuilding our agricultural systems.

Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is a radical idea in the present context.  A zero emissions economy and reversing climate change through natural soil and water carbon cycles are even more radical and far-reaching.  They are also very much within our grasp if we want to reach for them.

Comments >> (6 comments)

Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 28th, 2015 at 06:37:09 AM EST

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

Promoted by DoDo

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LQD: Precariat and UBI

by ATinNM Thu Sep 24th, 2015 at 01:37:00 PM EST

The Growing Precariat: Why We Need a Universal Basic Income:

Globalisation, technological change, and government policies have produced a class structure with a tiny plutocracy of billionaires coexisting with a dwindling salariat, with employment security, pensions and paid vacations, and a rapidly growing precariat, living bits-and-pieces lives, without occupational careers and experiencing declining real wages. Telling the precariat that they must obtain more schooling and training is disingenuous. Millions are currently over-qualified for the labor and work they can expect to be doing.

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Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 24th, 2015 at 01:28:21 PM EST

OK, so I know that Eurotrib.com isn't exactly a hotbed of sports fans, never mind professional rugby fans.  But who amongst us is perfect? I've long been an armchair rugby supporter even though my own experience of the game is decidedly limited and mixed. So for the very afew readers here with a passing interest in rugby, what follows is my take on the Rugby World Cup which has just gotten under way.

  1. Although World Rugby Limited (the Governing Body) like to claim the Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event that ever takes place on this planet, rugby still has relatively limited appeal.  Only four countries (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England) have ever won the quadrennial World Cup in its 28 year history, and there are, at most, 7 or 8 countries with any realistic prospect of winning the Cup, and anything other than a New Zealand win this time around would be an upset.

  2. The fact that a "second tier" nation (Japan) has actually beaten one of the major powers (South Africa) in this years tournament is, already, one of the greatest shocks of World Cup history. Of course the playing schedule, designed to suit the "tier 1 nations", then immediately pitted the Japanese against an improving Scottish team with only  three rest days in between.  Not surprisingly, Japan then lost to a team much less accomplished than South Africa. Rugby is a much more physical game than soccer, and it simply isn't possible to peak for two games in a row within 5 days. Professional boxers, by way of comparison, often only have 2 or 3 fights in a year.

  3. If you want to predict the relative standard of each rugby playing nation, the following table is instructive:

New Zealand outperforms based on its player numbers because it is the no. 1 sport in New Zealand, and practically defines New Zealand's identity, whereas, say, in Ireland, Rugby is only the no. 3 or 4 sport, behind Gaelic football, Soccer, and Hurling.

4. The other key determinant of playing standard is whether a country can support or participate in a professional club league.  New Zealand, South Africa, France and England have their own fully professional indigenous leagues whereas the Celtic Nations, Italy and Australia have a share in multi-national professional leagues.

5. Overall, however, there are only a few hundred fully professional players in even the leading nations, with the vast bulk of the players being amateurs.  And even the top professional players only earn in a year what a top soccer player can earn in a week. Players in many nations like the Pacific islands or eastern Europe have to migrate to New Zealand, Australia, France or England to earn a living, and often end up playing international rugby for their adopted country. The advent of professionalism in the 1990's has therefore only served to accentuate the divide between the leading and second tier nations.

So who is going to win this year's tournament?  If you can't contain your excitement, please follow me below the divide...

Read more... (19 comments, 1142 words in story)

City Agriculture Links List

by gmoke Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 at 11:40:47 PM EST

I've been doing an occasional email on City Agriculture links that I come across navigating the online infosphere for a couple of years now.  Every few weeks there are enough links to warrant an email to the City Ag mailing list.  This one is a little larger than usual.  

If you're interested, contact me and I'll add you to the mailing list.

Atlanta homeless shelter rooftop farm
http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/2015/05/17/task-force-shelter-producing-pounds-of-veggies-on-rooft op-garden/

City trees and health mapping app from Portland State University, funded by the U.S. Forest Service

Urban Permablitz

2nd Annual Food+City Challenge Prize (formerly known as the Food Lab at The University of Texas) open to anyone, anywhere with a great idea that will improve how our food system operates.  Submissions open Tues, 9/1 and run through 10/15. Go to

SF's Neighborhood Vineyard Project
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/27/can-san-francisco-establish-its-first-urban-vineyard- since-the-19th-century

The Cannery in Davis, CA - a farm to table community development

Sustainable restaurant on a rooftop farm in Copenhagen

Re-Nuble - urban metabollism and local food

Pop-up urban farm in Norway

Plant This Movie - urban farming around the world, from the incredible story of Havana, Cuba to communities of urban farmers in cities as diverse as Shanghai, Calcutta, Addis Ababa, London, and Lima.  In the US, the story focuses on New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.  The film is narrated by Daryl Hannah.

The last decade of urban agriculture in Detroit

Cook County Jail flower garden
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cook-county-jail-flower-garden_55c917cbe4b0f73b20ba69c4?kvcommre f=mostpopular

Can cities feed themselves?  Estimates are that 15 percent of all food in the United States is produced in a metropolitan area
www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/7023/Cleveland-Other-Cities-Could-Produce-Most-of-Their-Food-Ohio-S tate-Study.htm - study by OHIO AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER shows that "by using just 80 percent of the vacant land in Cleveland, producers could grow 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables, 25 percent of the poultry and eggs, and 100 percent of the honey that the city consumes..."

GrowOnUs floating garden for food and phytoremediation on Gowanus Canal
http://inhabitat.com/nyc/floating-water-filtering-garden-pops-up-on-the-gowanus-canal/diane-balmori- with-growonus

Research study on Chicago gardens and gentrification
http://community.bowdoin.edu/news/2015/08/in-chicago-michelle-kruk-16-researches-gardening-gentrific ation-link/

Short history of Detroit urban agriculture system

Urban farmers around the world
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/18/urban-farmers-around -the-world-in-pictures

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Peak CRH

by DoDo Sat Sep 12th, 2015 at 06:43:57 PM EST

Let's interrupt our witnessing of Europe's self-destruction with austerity and xenophobia (well unless Corbyn, Podemos & co can turn the tide), with another update on a case study of what would be possible if our leaders would have real visions: China's rapid expansion of rail infrastructure.

I have no narrowly defined occasion to post this now, just that 2015 looks like the year the construction of high-speed lines peaks, and the finances of the operational network consolidate.

A CRH380CL (front) and a CRH380BL (back), which represent two successive stages in the domestic further development on the basis of Siemens's Velaro platform, meet at Beijing South in January 2014. Photo from Wimimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Orbán's Next Plan

by DoDo Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 02:59:37 PM EST

If you think the Orbán regime's handling of refugees bottomed out morally with the situation at Röszke, wait until next week, when Hungary's recently passed tough anti-migration laws come into effect.

Until the late summer, Viktor Orbán's government had no migration policy: they only had a premature election campaign, a xenophobic drive aimed at the domestic population. But when reality struck back and not managing the situation resulted in a crisis (eventually shutting down the most important transport route of the country), the regime had to consider actual policy – and their policy of choice is deterrence. Some say the refusal of UN and EU help or the apparent total incompetence of authorities at the refugee gathering site at Röszke is a first conscious part of this. True or not, the real deal is the plan set in motion with a legal package adopted last week and coming into force on Tuesday next week. One that is both vile and impractical.

Stuff like the reinforcing of the border fence, sending down the army, and criminalising illegal immigration and any aid given to migrants reached the international media. But there is more: the practical negation of the right for asylum. To achieve the goal of turning away just about everyone, refugee processing camps are to be set up directly at the Serbian border, in front of (not behind) the border fence. There, Kafkaesque courts housed in containers are to go through the legal motions to arrive at a guaranteed rejection, on the basis that people can take refuge in Serbia which is a safe country.

This plan can easily turn deadly: if, like at Röszke, the government does little to feed and protect the heath of the waiting crowds, or if there is a crowd crush. Furthermore, the plan is way too optimistic about managing crossings of the fence and smuggling (not to speak of people running along the tracks when the gates are opened for a train). Finally, it guarantees even less cooperation from Serbia than before. IMHO the only way it can avoid becoming a total disaster is if the onset of cold weather throttles the refugee wave.

Comments >> (23 comments)

A mini Eurotrib funding drive for UNHCR

by epochepoque Tue Sep 8th, 2015 at 02:37:12 PM EST

UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis - Guardian

Click on the link to see the complete graph. The first bar is the current unfilled request of the UNHCR for $2.89 billion for the Syria regional response plan. Only $0.9 billion of the total $3.8 billion have been funded. If some European governments had had the foresight (yeah I know), they would've just funded the rest long ago which would've been that much cheaper. Bygones, but it's not too late to make a difference.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

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The 2nd Migrant Wave to Germany

by DoDo Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 08:12:27 AM EST

Back in 1989, around the time school started for me at the start of September, Budapest was full of East Germans hoping to leave for West Germany (for a mix of political and economic reasons), hopeful because Hungary started to dismantle the Iron Curtain a few months earlier. A large group camped out at the West German embassy, but there were makeshift camps around the city. The government finally opened the borders for them on 11 September, launching a mostly car-riding emigration wave (at least 70,000 people in three months). A few weeks later, East Germans camping out in Warshaw and Prague were taken to West Germany in sealed trains.

Yesterday, something similar happened, only this time the refugees are dark-skinned and faced much worse treatment. In line with both the government's xenophobic campaign and the EU's Dublin Agreement (whose main aim was to keep refugees from moving to the richer EU members), Hungarian authorities prevented the mostly Syrian refugees without EU visa from boarding trains bound for the west. Most of the stranded refugees who refused to be taken to Hungarian camps stayed in the underpass at main station Budapest Keleti (up to two thousand), in a makeshift "transit zone" lacking basic hygiene and only cared for by an NGO.

I don't know whether it was concern about image (to have such misery as the first sight of arriving Western tourists), or anger at the German foreign minister's denouncement of the anti-refugee wall built at the Serbian border, or anger at general Western hypocrisy; but yesterday, the government decided to withdraw police and let refugees board the trains. Without any plans about how to manage the thousands of extra passengers (all transit countries refused to send extra trains), entirely predictably, the result was utter chaos, from Budapest to Munich: ticket counters were (actually, still are) clogged, some trains left with an hour delay due to over-loading, the first train was stopped in the last city before Munich but local police didn't have the capacity to process more than half of the refugees on-board; other trains were stopped at the Hungarian–Austrian border station, but after the filtering-out of refugees who already filed for asylum in Hungary the trains still travelled on over capacity; on the parallel highway, Austrian police started checks of all trucks, causing a 50 km traffic jam.

For the hectic events since, especially today, check the comments.

Read more... (265 comments, 705 words in story)

The UK Left and Brexit

by car05 Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 02:37:04 PM EST

Many on the UK left seem caught in the middle between escaping from an EU that, after the treatment of the Greeks, looks like an instrument of torture, and the gloomy prospects for the politics of an unreformed UK state...

The long-awaited in-out referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union (EU) is coming soon, in 2016 or 2017. But it isn't clear what, if any, clear options exist within a morass of unpredictable consequences and a rapidly growing uncertainty at the heart of a European project increasingly dominated by a single, politically rootless German state.
EU reform and the left.

Those of us on the left, seeking more genuinely internationalist outcomes, might place faith in the prospect of a reformed EU. Perhaps this would entail a wholly improved and empowered European parliament, which would either involve a diminution of national sovereignty or a decrease in inter-governmental decision-making. It might involve a newly remoulded European commission, dedicated to developing new forms of actual co-operation across Europe, rather than simply pushing for liberalisation and strange policy minutia which barely flirts with regulating a fairly destructive consumer economy.

It should be noted that realistic chances of such reforms to parliament or commission happening appear to be exceptionally remote, and that the commission appears to lack both the drive and resources to engineer a form of internationalist social enterprise as many of us would perhaps like to see. Despite the presence of some fairly underdeveloped countries and regions on Europe's south-eastern borders, we are unlikely to see pan-international development strategies along the lines of a Marshall Plan.

Instead, given that fundamental institutional reform is such a remote and unpopular prospect, a pro-reform stance would perhaps require a more explicit political union of Eurozone countries in order to engineer pan-European Keynesian economics in the core EU federation. It holds out the prospect of Eurobonds, and increasing fiscal union, with political structures which would increasingly cement the Eurozone states into an inseparable federation.

Of course, with the UK unlikely to adopt the Euro in any case, this would not be an option which the UK could seriously engage with or promote, even if it were to continue its reluctant and grudging acceptance of EU membership. If the Eurozone were to allow a Keynesian approach to deficit spending, it would require the amendment of treaties extending back, at least, to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. Once again, one is forced to conclude that such a development appears unlikely.

More here...

What I think is uniquely frustrating in 2015, is that there are these huge transfers going on from the richer to poorer countries in the EU; but with hugely inequitable results... And if it all falls apart at some stage, the opportunity for any kind of solidarity might be even harder.

Comments >> (10 comments)

The Global Savings Glut that will not die

by marco Mon Aug 24th, 2015 at 08:32:42 AM EST

Also sprach Krugman:

... More than a decade ago, Ben Bernanke famously argued that a ballooning U.S. trade deficit was the result, not of domestic factors, but of a "global saving glut": a huge excess of savings over investment in China and other developing nations, driven in part by policy reactions to the Asian crisis of the 1990s, which was flowing to the United States in search of returns. He worried a bit about the fact that the inflow of capital was being channeled, not into business investment, but into housing; obviously he should have worried much more. (Some of us did.) But his suggestion that the U.S. housing boom was in part caused by weakness in foreign economies still looks valid.

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Brutish, Nasty, Prolonged

by john_evans Tue Aug 18th, 2015 at 02:11:09 AM EST

Wolfgang Streeck, in the Guardian's Comment Is Free, has a summary of recent events in the Eurozone and future developments (if that's the word).

Brutish, nasty - and not even short: the ominous future of the eurozone | Wolfgang Streeck | Comment is free | The Guardian

Politics can make strange bedfellows, but sometimes just for a one-night stand. In the end Varoufakis was overruled by Alexis Tsipras and Schäuble was overruled by Angela Merkel. The latter, displaying truly breathtaking political skills, managed within a day or two to redefine the resounding no of the Greek people to their creditors' demands into a yes to "the European idea", defined as a common currency - allowing him to sign on to even harsher conditions than had been rejected in the referendum (called, it seems, at the suggestion of Varoufakis, who was sacked on the very evening the results were in). Afraid of the unimaginable economic disaster publicly imagined by fear-mongering euro supporters, and perhaps encouraged by informal promises by Brussels functionaries of future injections of other peoples' money, Tsipras was ready to split his party and govern with those who had for decades let Greece rot in clientelism and corruption, offering the parties of Samaras and Papandreou an opportunity to regain legitimacy as pro-European supporters of "reform".

Merkel, for her part, used Schäuble's exit plan as a bargaining tool, certain that Tsipras would eventually cave in and get rid of Varoufakis. The new three-year rescue programme will carry her beyond her next election; it also avoids, or at least postpones, conflict with France, which wants Greece in for the same reasons that Schäuble wanted it out (Merkel expects less of France than Schäuble does, which makes it easier for her to live with François Hollande). It also spares her having to eat her famous motto from 2011: "If the euro fails, Europe fails" - as well as, for the time being, from having to let German voters in on the fact, commonplace among the cognoscenti but still mercifully hidden from the public, that the Greek rescue money will never be repaid. Moreover, after Schäuble had in earlier rounds talked the other EMU countries into sharing the Greek public debt, Merkel could count on their support for her refusal to consider debt restructuring. Most importantly, with Greece staying in common currency, she can now reassure her core constituency, the German export industry, that none of the captive members of eurozone will ever be released, not even on probation - something much appreciated also by the German trade unions, the Social Democrats, and her geostrategically-minded American friends.

Of course none of this means the euro mess won't continue. On the contrary, with a historic window for a fundamental recalibration of the euro system missed we are in for more of the same, and the next act of the drama is already beginning.

I think the whole article is a must-read. Another teaser below the fold:

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The Current Cost of Carbon

by gmoke Mon Aug 17th, 2015 at 10:55:56 PM EST

In April of 2015 at a forum on the British Columbia carbon tax at MIT, I heard Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada (http://cleanenergycanada.org) say if you add up the GDP of all the individual countries which have some kind of price on carbon, either an emission trading scheme (ETS) or a direct tax, it adds up to 42% of global GDP now and, by the end of 2016 when another five provinces in China come on board, it will be over 50%. (You can hear and see Merran Smith say this at 28:20 into this video of the MIT event at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWQRi8bmbrw ).

Having heard expert after expert say, "We need a price on carbon" in order to address climate change, this struck me.  Was Merran Smith correct?  Have we already begun to put a price on carbon?  Looking a little further, I found a variety of carbon pricing structures - carbon taxes, emissions trading schemes, and even internal prices on carbon from individual businesses.

The World Bank 2015 carbon report advance brief (http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2015/05/24528977/carbon-pricing-watch-2015-advance-brief-s tate-trends-carbon-pricing-2015-report-released-late-2015) puts it a little differently than Clean Energy Canada:
"In 2015, about 40 national and over 20 subnational jurisdictions, representing almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), are putting a price on carbon...

"The total value of the emissions trading schemes (ETSs) reported in the State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2014 report was about US$30 billion (US$32 billion to be precise). Despite the repeal of Australia's Carbon Pricing Mechanism in July 2014, and mainly due to the launch of the Korean ETS and the expansion of GHG emissions coverage in the California and Quebec ETSs, the value of global ETSs as of April 1, 2015 increased slightly to about US$34 billion. In addition, carbon taxes around the world, valued for the first time in this report, are about US$14 billion. Combined, the value of the carbon pricing mechanisms globally in 2015 is estimated to be just under US$50 billion...

"In addition, the adoption of an internal carbon price in business strategies is spreading, even in regions where carbon pricing has not been legislated. Currently, at least 150 companies are using an internal price on carbon. These companies represent diverse sectors, including consumer goods, energy, finance, industry, manufacturing, and utilities."

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Periphery, migration & decline

by Metatone Fri Aug 14th, 2015 at 01:33:38 PM EST

So old-timers will recall that I've spent countless electrons worrying about the lack of thinking about how centralising forces in our modern economies creates regional wastelands.

At least in the context of the Euro, it seems Krugman has noticed the issue:

Read more... (24 comments, 343 words in story)

1930s in social media

by DoDo Tue Aug 11th, 2015 at 03:30:08 AM EST

After the surrender of the Syriza government in the Eurozone vs. Greek democracy battle, the focus of European public opinion shifted to the new wave of refugees. And it gets even uglier than in the case of Greece. Especially in Germany, where xenophobia in public speech is fast on its way to catch up with and surpass Britain or the Netherlands, now going into terrorism territory. Last week, the outspoken commentary of a German TV journalist triggered a debate on on-line racism:

German TV presenter sparks debate and hatred with her support for refugees | World news | The Guardian

Anja Reschke used a commentary slot on Tagesthemen, the nationwide news bulletin of German public broadcaster ARD,to lambast hate-filled commentators whose language she said had helped incite arson attacks on refugee homes.

She said she was shocked at how socially acceptable it had become to publish racist rants under real names.

"Until recently, such commentators were hidden behind pseudonyms, but now these things are being aired under real names," she said.

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It's "Whose Economy, Stupid?"

by Helen Mon Aug 3rd, 2015 at 03:58:51 PM EST

Owen Jones has had a good go at trying to describe why the zombie-followers of Blair are being rejected: Guardian - Owen Jones - Jeremy Corbyn's supporters aren't mad - they're fleeing a bankrupt New Labour

How have the Labour left, from arguably its lowest ebb in the party's history, apparently ended up on the brink of taking the leadership on a wave of support? If you listen to many self-described "centre-left" voices, it's because the Labour party has gone quite, quite mad. Cod psychology now abounds to describe the rise of Corbynism: narcissism, people wanting to show off how right-on they are on Facebook, mass delusion, an emotional spasm, and so on. Corbyn supporters are having a temper tantrum against the electorate, so this patronising narrative goes, they think voters have "false consciousness" on a grand scale. Some sort of mass psychological disorder has gripped one of the great parties of the left in the western world, and the only real debate is how it must be cured or eradicated. And the tragedy is this: the great "centre-left" condescenders are able to identify any factor for Corbyn's spectacular rise other than the culprit: their own political cause, or rather its implosion.

Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement. And that's the problem: this snarkiness is all some seem to have left. Much of the self-described "centre-left" - I'd say Blairism, but some embrace the label more than others - now lack a clear vision, or a set of policies, or even a coherent distinct set of values. They increasingly define themselves against what they regard as a deluded, childish left. They have created a vacuum and it has now been filled by the Corbyn left.

Their plight is quite straightforward....

However I want to make a stab at a slightly larger question : Why Corbyn, like Bernie Sanders in the US, is managing to attract such enthusiasm from all quarters of political opinion except the gate keepers and agenda setters of the professional commentariat.

Clinton famously had a sign on his desk that read "It's the economy, stupid!!". And he was right, but the follow-on question that always needs to be asked is "what economy?" or, more precisely, "whose economy?"

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What is Microsoft good for now?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 22nd, 2015 at 12:46:29 PM EST

Microsoft is one of the most successful corporations in the world, having blazed the trail for personal computing and making its founder, Bill Gates the World's richest man. Windows has become almost ubiquitous on PCs and laptops and MS Office is the office productivity tool of choice for most business and personal users. But what has Microsoft accomplished in the last 20 years beyond leveraging its early mover advantage and dominant position in PC computing?  I would argue very little, and I would like to invite you to argue otherwise. But first a little personal personal computing history...

Back around 1990 I was given responsibility for end-user computing in part of the business I was working in, although nobody quite knew what that meant at the time. WordPerfect had just replaced Multimate as the corporate standard word processor, and Lotus 123 was replacing earlier micromodelling programmes used by accountants and other business analysts. The truly adventurous management consultant types started giving management presentations using Lotus Freelance and some had even used DBaseIII for rudimentary database applications.

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OMG! Podemos is crashing and burning! (Not)

by rz Mon Jul 20th, 2015 at 10:50:03 AM EST

In recent days I have seen an uptick in comments in how the whole Greek thing is going to bring down Podemos. I think the fact that Syriza was unsuccessful will indeed be a drag on the performance of Podemos and right now it seems unlikely that they will take power in the next election.

Yet, confronted with the truly ugly side of Eurozone government, will people in the crisis countries simply back down?

Maybe, and people have been citing evidence for this on Twitter

So you see, Podemos is going down! Schäuble plan is working!

I found that somewhat difficult to believe.

And here we go: Opinion polling for the Spanish general election, 2015

The newest polls put Podemos at 19%. Which seems consistent with its previous results which indicate that Podemos has a ceiling at about 20%.

The Wikipedia page is actually pretty fantastic. They even provide a nice fit through all the data point which give you a feeling where things are heading.

So again: These are not earth shattering results and most likely some type of Great Coalition will govern Spain very soon, but Podemos will most likely have a decent showing in the Election.  

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