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The Eye sees back

by melo Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 03:31:18 PM EST

How is it in other European countries for open access to local government for public citizen journalists to observe and document?

Here's an interesting initiative from Beppe Grillo, the satirist and activist blogger-

(More below the fold)

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LQD Velvet Fascism, Italian Style

by melo Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 09:48:08 AM EST

It's a slippery road, and someone is afraid of how the Italian people, already squealing at rising food costs, energy prices, deaths in the workplace and worry over globalisation's ambiguous benefits, will react.

The anti-Rom gestures, while repulsive, were merely that, there are too many for such grandstanding sallies to make more than a small dent in, it's a dogwhistle to all thuggish types that their attitudes are in season,  primordial spasms of hatred given a target.

  Below this level of mediated hate-whipping, there is a concern Italian excitability may erupt into social unrest, specifically targeted against 'la Casta', those pampered courtiers to the status quo, whose machinations are being increasingly exposed by citizen journalism, and criticised by law'n'order types like Antonio di Pietro, whose magisterial career ripped the lid off many a shady set-up in the early 90's.

With the fearless French strikers showing the way to confront governments just to the north, it's possible that we may be nearing a flashpoint here, not in the Red Brigade sense, thankfully, but probably millions 'in piazza', bills in their hands, looking for change that will help them deal with the inflation that has held back economic growth predictions to 0% for the coming year.

Promoted by Colman

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LQD Michael Hudson interview

by melo Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:10:01 PM EST

Juicy interview, good long view of the history of capitalism, enjoy!

Michael Whitney: Getting to the Heart of America's Economic Crisis

MW: Wouldn't it be better for the world if there were no "reserve currency" at all and the value of money was simply dependent on economic strength and balanced budgets? As long as there is an "international currency," like the dollar, there will be an Empire, because the paper money of one country (US) dominates all others. Is democracy really possible without greater parity between the world's currencies?

Michael Hudson: Exchange rates are independent of political systems. That being said, oligarchic economies tend to go bust as a result of shifting the tax burden off real estate, monopolized and privatized infrastructure, and onto labor and industry. This makes them uncompetitive. For instance, the military-industrial complex operates on a cost-plus basis rather than a cost-minimizing basis. The question therefore is whether they can extort foreign tribute from other countries by enough to compensate. Spain couldn't do this from the New World after 1492, and Rome earlier simply destroyed Asia Minor and other imperial appendages.

Can the United States succeed better today? Dollar hegemony looks like the only way it can pull it off. By definition, a reserve currency is a loan from one government to another. This ends up becoming taxation without representation. It's inherently inequitable.

There are two reasons for central banks to hold dollars. One is for stabilization purposes to prevent currency raids such as occurred in Asia in 1997. The other is that keeping dollar receipts in the form of dollar-loans back to the United States holds down the price of their own currencies, and hence the price of their exports. This effect also could be achieved by imposing a floating tariff against imports from countries whose currencies are depreciating, with the money provided as a subsidy to exporters. But foreign countries aren't yet ready for this great a quantum political leap out of the American financial empire.

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LQD JEREMY RIFKIN ON ITALY AND ENERGY

by melo Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 09:32:31 AM EST

No need to go as far as africa, just plaster southern Italy, the talented but miserably poor and mafia-ridden mezzogiorno with PV panels...
Beppe Grillo's Blog

The Blog interviewed Jeremy Rifkin, world-known author. Among its books: "The Hydrogen Economy".
The world as we know it is changing fast. Oil is almost up. Energy will have two characteristics: renewable, like Sun and wind, and distributed. Each one of us will be able to create its own energy and share it with other on the grid.

"So, now at the sunset [of the second industrial revolution] we have four major crisis that are very, very critical. First, the price of energy is going up dramatically on world market as we move toward peak oil production in the world. Food prices have doubled last year, because so much of the food production relies on fossil fuels. As we reach peak oil production, prices go up, inflation goes up, the global economy stalls, we have recession and we have people who can't afford to put food on the table. Peak oil is when half the global oil production is used up. And when half the oil is used up and you are on the top of that Bell curve, that is the end of the oil era. Because the prices are simply unaffordable for the second half of the oil curve. So, when do we peak? The optimists, the International Energy Agency and others, say: "Well maybe, we peak somewhere around 2025-2030-2035. On the other hand, in the last half a dozen year, some of the greatest geologists in the world, some of the world-class geologists, the best in the field, had been using more sophisticated computer models and looking at the oil and gas reserve figures, their models now suggests that we will peak with oil production somewhere between 2010 and 2020. One of the world's great energy experts said that we already peaked in 2005. Now, the North Sea peaked three years ago, Mexico, the fourth wide resource producer peaks in 2010, Russia probably peaks around 2010.
Now, in my book, The Hydrogen Economy, I spent a lot of time on this question of peak oil. I don't know who is right: the optimists or the pessimists. But it doesn't make any difference. That's a very small window.

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LQD Punctuated Equilibrium (aka Catastrophism)

by melo Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 08:40:49 AM EST

What will the ET economic superbrains parse out of this?

Calling Chris Cook!

It seems to be along the lines he describes in his philosophy, just explained in a different way.

Don't Be Fooled by Wall Street's Happy Talk | The Agonist

Punctuated Equilibrium (aka Catastrophism)

I thought I'd stick this idea in here again. A few more years and it might start being taken seriously;

I'd like to offer my own version of reverse shock doctrine as something to think about. After all these years of privatizing any and all possible public assets, the pendulum has the momentum to swing back the other way, but it has to do it as an effective step into the future and not just trying to reverse what has already happened. My argument is that money has evolved from its origins as an accounting of private property to a public medium of exchange and this point should be introduced into the public conversation.

Money is a medium of exchange, store of value and accounting device. The first two work at cross purposes because as a medium of exchange, money functions as a public utility, while as a store of value, it is a form of private property. By and large it is as private property that most people think of it, due to its historical origin as an accounting device of valuables, yet the reality is that modern monetary systems are fundamentally a medium of exchange and only as a function of that are they a store of value, as they have no real backing other than faith in the issuing institution and must be invested for the system to function and maintain value. If this understanding of money as a form of public utility, or commons, were to be broadly considered, it would have definite repercussions in the context of the current crisis. The monetary system, with its broad connectivity, is similar to a road system. You own your car, house, business, etc., but not the roads connecting them. Money is in many ways identical to the road system. Money is not private property, since you cannot print what you want, as the government retains copyrights, but effectively loans it out to the private banking system. Its value is based entirely on public faith in the institution issuing it, so the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for guaranteeing its value. The result being private gains and public responsibility.

more below...

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Throwaway food: what can be done about it?

by melo Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 04:38:22 PM EST

Waste is everywhere, but none so obviously reflective of unconsciousness perhaps than this...

Supermarket waste hits new high

1.6m tonnes of food goes to landfill each year, sustainability watchdog reports

By Susie Mesure
Sunday, 10 February 2008

An 18-month study found that "too many supermarket practices are still unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable"<

The Government must get tougher with supermarkets if it is to tackle Britain's growing mountain of food waste, a report on Labour's sustainable food policies will warn this week.

The warning comes amid growing concern at the amount of food that ends up as landfill rather than on people's plates. Retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste each year.

An influential watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), will condemn targets set by the Government's waste-reduction programme as "unambitious and lacking urgency". It will also say multi-buy promotions are helping to fuel waste and obesity in Britain. Speaking to The Independent on Sunday ahead of the report's publication on Saturday, Tim Lang, SDC commissioner, said it was "ludicrous" that the Government had not pressured retailers into setting tougher targets to cut waste.

Three years ago, the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) left it up to supermarkets to find voluntary "solutions to food waste" in an agreement dubbed the Courtauld Commitment. "The Government is frankly not using its leverage adequately. It really should toughen up on Courtauld, which must be enforced because this is ludicrous," said Mr Lang, who is also professor of food policy at City University, London.

The 18-month study, which found that "too many supermarket practices are still unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable", said Wrap should adopt a "more aspirational approach to reducing waste in food retail by setting longer-term targets and [supporting] a culture of zero waste".

Richard Swannell, Wrap's director of retail and organic programmes, defended the Courtauld goals, set in 2005. "We couldn't set a target for reducing food waste because we didn't know what the scale of the problem was," he said. Instead, Wrap focused on reducing packaging waste - though even here the SDC report called its progress too slow. Mr Swannell said Wrap intended to unveil targets on cutting food waste by the summer.

The report comes at a critical time for Wrap, which is facing budget cuts of 25 per cent. Last week the body, which is campaigning to get consumers to throw less food away, issued 31 redundancy notices. Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, attacked the cuts. "It blows a hole in any credibility the Government has on the environment," he said.

A separate study by Imperial College for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, found that supermarkets preferred to throw away food that was approaching its sell-by date rather than mark it down in price. "The cost of staff time is greater than the money made on the reduced items," the research found, citing a supermarket executive who said it cost the chain £11m a year in labour and lost margins to slash prices.

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LQD Gini Coefficient Explanation?

by melo Fri May 2nd, 2008 at 09:04:45 PM EST

Even after great neuronal sacrifice trying to make sense of Bondad, Jerome and the other financial gurus in blogistan, I confess myself still more than a tad mystified when it comes to deciphering the likes o' this:

Grand Theft: Economy IV | The Agonist

This leads to a phrase that you've been hearing more of over the last year, and will start to hear stated in the top down media: the Gini Co-efficient. It is another creeping colonization of mesoëconomic explanations into the macroëconomic environment.

Let's take this a step at a time. In microëconomics, the distribution of income does not matter, because, in theory, those who have deserve, or will lose it soon enough if they don't. In macroëconomics, the distribution of income doesn't matter, because aggregate supply and demand are aggregate supply and demand, and, if their is a maldistribution, it will show up as a drop in aggregate demand, a decrease in aggregate supply, at which point either production will drop, as demand drops, or prices will increase, as supply decreases over demand, or, in the worst case scenario, there will be a deflationary spiral. The net of this is to a classical Keynesian, the rich being to rich is a problem that will show up in aggregate measures and the government sector can correct this by taxing, spending, borrowing, or some combination of the above. Money, in macroëconomics, doesn't matter.

My gut tells me to persevere, Stirling Newberry can ring so true, when I do understand, that is...

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LQD Italy: Between Anarchy and Servility

by melo Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 05:29:08 AM EST

Some interesting commentary on Italy, written just pre-election.

First the writer, Gaither Stewart, some background:

Originally from Asheville, NC, Gaither Stewart has lived most of his life in Europe, chiefly in Germany and Italy. For many years he was the Italian correspondent for the Dutch daily, Algemeen Dagblad, while writing for many publications in various countries. Since leaving journalism he has been writing fiction full time. His work has appeared in a number of literary publications, including The Paumanok Review, Critique, Linnaean Street Literary Review, Crossconnect, East of the Web, The Southern Cross Review, EWGPresents, The Tower of Babel, and Ceteris Paribus. He lives with his wife Milena in the hills of north Rome.

Gaither Stewart's blog | The Daily Scare

A peculiar dualism marks the peoples of the Italian peninsula: the conflict of their enduring desire for order with their destructive attraction to anarchy. The consequence of this unresolved twist of character has been Italy's historical stumbling block: the necessity of some strong-armed authority--whether a homegrown dictator or a powerful foreign occupier--to provide the cement to form a cohesive nation of the diverse Italic peoples. And today ... to make them feel more like other Europeans. 

Similar to Italy's permissive attitude toward Fascism last century, many Italians today perceive of the Right led by Silvio Berlusconi and a nucleus of neo-Fascists as a protective shield against the persistent perverse disorder. In effect, protection from themselves. Promises of security and more security, police and more police, are reassuring to those who see today's enemy in immigrants and crime and above all rules. 

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Dorm poon Kunstler LQD

by melo Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 10:46:44 PM EST

Heartbeat too slow? Imagination needs a nudge?

Join me in a rollicking good time...

 Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler

Black Swans Everywhere

     After a one-day reprieve from total meltdown in the financial markets, news media cheerleaders for the most reckless gang of bankers in world history declared the crisis over on Good Friday (with the markets safely closed). Whew, that's a relief. Problem solved.

More maso frissons below!

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Homo Oeconomicus, modern Neanderthal?

by melo Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 08:55:35 AM EST

This diary is a response to Frank's diary that grew much too long for a comment, so here it in diary form, where folks won't have to scroll through it to read the other comments.

Great diary, great questions.
  Methinks it's a combination of two principal reasons, creating this black hole in the dialogue in the election runup.
  First is the flagrant fetishisation of money as sheer end in itself, with the concomitant reverence for an aura of wealth, extending to a microscopic attention to the tiniest details of celebrities' lives, just because they're rich (Paris Hilton syndrome). The very richest of all aren't celebrities in the media, but they too are surrounded by people who serve the power they ascribe to money, in the person of their boss. This 'glamour' functions as a spell that deprives people of the bigger picture of consequences, as the lust for money blinds them to anything but the possibilities that money promises, (but seems to rarely deliver).

more below...

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LQD Clusterfuck nation

by melo Fri Mar 7th, 2008 at 04:24:04 AM EST

Here's one for the numerologists... oops, i meant economists...

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

     Behind all the blather and bullshit about the Federal Reserve's rescue gambits and the machinations of the ratings agencies, and the wiles of foreign sovereign wealth, and the incomprehensible mysteries of markets, and the various weather forecasts of a gathering "recession" is the simple fact that the USA is a way poorer nation than we imagined ourselves to be six months ago. The American economy has been running on the fumes of "creatively engineered" finance (i.e. new-and-improved swindling) for years, and now these swindles are unraveling. In their aftermath, they leave empty wallets, drained bank accounts, plundered retirements funds, boiled away capital reserves, worthless stocks, bankrupt companies, vandalized housing tracts, ruined families, and Wall Street executives who are still pulling down multimillion-dollar pay packages despite running their companies into the ground.

    More below the fold...

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Neuropsychiatry and religion

by melo Fri Mar 7th, 2008 at 01:49:37 AM EST

I just finished reading a very thought-provoking  piece I immediately wanted to share with ET'ers  given by Professor Robert Sapolsky.

Robert Sapolsky is a professor of neurology at Stanford University. He received an A.B. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1978 and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from Rockefeller University in 1984. He did postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute and was a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya (1985). He is a MacArthur Fellow (1987) and has won many awards for teaching, science investigation and writing. His four books include the bestselling A Primate's Memoir (2001), The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament (1998), and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (1994).

He makes some very funny and fascinating points about biology and schizophrenia.

Here's a taste-

The frontal cortex, the most recently evolved part of our brain, the most distinctly human part of our brain, is not of trivial relevance. It's the last part of our brain to fully develop. Not until around age 30 is our frontal cortex completely online, which may explain a whole lot about what was going on about 20 years ago in your life. [laughter] The frontal cortex is the nearest thing we have to a superego. The frontal cortex keeps the rest of your limbic system, your emotional part of the brain, from going out of control.

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New Europe...LQD

by melo Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 02:06:25 PM EST

 

(Image: "Orthodox Church," cc-licensed photo from Flickr by decafinata.)

Here are some excerpts from two articles from Counterpunch and one from boing-boing that i will excerpt, as they all three come from angles i don't see in the M$M, and there are many bloggers here who have a lot of knowledge to cross-check with.

Andrej Grubacic and Ziga Vodovnik in CounterPunch

European leaders woke up to an unpleasant surprise the other day, a leak of an internal document of Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MZZ). This document, published in the Slovenian daily Dnevnik and the Serbian daily Politika, reveals content of a meeting between representatives of MZZ and representatives of the US State Department and National Security Agency (NSA),that took place on 24 December 2007 in Washington D.C.

more below...

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Arrivederci ET

by melo Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 11:46:14 PM EST

You may be happy to know i have decided for a new year's resolution to stop posting and rating here for a month.

maybe i manifested chris' boxing day thread to make me see something i had feared to see clearly previously.

more below...

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LQD Paul Craig Roberts on outsourcing

by melo Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 06:45:44 AM EST

http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts12042007.html

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Here's an interesting breakdown of how the game works in the USA, who profits, and how they keep it that way.

Loser: The young and gullible

Caveat Emptor

Last June a revealing marketing video from the law firm, Cohen & Grigsby appeared on the Internet. The video demonstrated the law firm's techniques for getting around US law governing work visas in order to enable corporate clients to replace their American employees with foreigners who work for less. The law firm's marketing manager, Lawrence Lebowitz, is upfront with interested clients: "our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested US worker."

more below...

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Bridging the gap, a bolder approach.

by melo Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 10:01:29 AM EST

http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/15-10/mf_burning

Here's a review of a new book, trying to bridge the gap between investment and green technology.

It seems US-centric, but surely we are facing just the same issues here in Europe.

Breakthrough, by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

Above all, they were passionate about the environment. For the better part of a decade, they toiled in the green movement as consultants and political strategists, each hoping to change the world. Instead, the climate crisis changed the rules: It demanded a new way of framing the debate, and the pair became disillusioned when the environmental establishment stubbornly refused to adapt. That led to their fateful essay, with the not-so-subtle title The Death of Environmentalism.

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Britain, the Politics of Relevance, or Relevance of Politics.

by melo Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 04:08:35 AM EST

  I came across an article by Simon Jenkins over in Murdoch's 'The Times' that I found worth excerpting and diarying here, as it may lead to an interesting discussion.

To the sound of dull speeches, the political parties are dying

Here is the most arresting quote:

The collapse of parties in Britain has been spectacular. In the 1950s more than 4m people claimed some affiliation. Today the figure is 0.5m and falling, having dropped 70% in the past 25 years alone. Even those asserting some political activity amount to a mere 2% of adults, the lowest in any comparable democracy.

More below the fold...

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World Energy 2.0

by melo Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:11:02 AM EST

Bob asked me to make a couple of comments in the open thread into a diary, so here are some quotes and pix from these web pages to get the ball rolling...

Matthias Loster

Solar power systems installed in the areas defined by the dark disks could provide a little more than the world's current total primary energy demand (assuming a conversion efficiency of 8 %). That is, all energy currently consumed, including heat, electricity, fossil fuels, etc., would be produced in the form of electricity by solar cells.

From the diaries (with format change) ~ whataboutbob & Jérôme

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An intelligent synthesis

by melo Tue May 15th, 2007 at 07:21:06 PM EST

I love to read Joe Bageant, he's a a bukowskian exile in belize, sharing his wit and wisdom at http://www.joebageant.com/joe/essays/index.html

i like the readers' responses even more, so have bookmarked this site, http://www.joebageant.com/joe/letters_from_readers/index.html

Today I bopped by, and came across this, with an invitation to freely use it.....  http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2007/05/jesus_declares_.html

It's written by someone named 'Case', and i think he has a good one, resting it well, and though it's more funny than probable, it has the priceless virtue of being compellingly simple...

So here is an excerpt, below the waterline:

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Reframing Liberty and Liberalism

by melo Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 08:06:56 AM EST

            I find it interesting how the meaning of such familiar words and concepts as liberty and liberality are being reframed.
    For example, the root of both words is from the Latin word for freedom, yet they have apparently become descriptions of two political poles. I say apparently because perception may as well be reality in today's politics, yet i believe it is vital for us to parse how the message becomes the identity, in the sense of how such a meme can supply a sense of belonging, giving a seemingly stable point of reference to folks who feel at sea without one.

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