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Is Ukraine a Failed State?

by ManfromMiddletown Wed Apr 30th, 2014 at 01:15:25 PM EST

Weber defined the State as:

human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the 'right' to use violence.

More detailed definitions exist, but all, at their core, fall back upon this basic definition.  For better or worse, only states have a "license to kill."  The moment that other groups attempt to take up this power for their own, the state is failing.  The moment that they have, it seems far to say that the state has failed.

Read more... (56 comments, 626 words in story)

Can US Fracked Gas Save Europe?

by ManfromMiddletown Thu Mar 20th, 2014 at 03:56:16 AM EST

There is a low, but rising, rumble.  Last week, GOP House Speaker John Boehner let loose the argument that all the US needs to do to free Europe from dependence on Russian gas imports is to export fracked gas.

Russia has been playing a much more intricate game than the United States in recent years. The resulting imbalance has created a growing threat to global stability, as evidenced last week by Vladimir Putin's invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy.

Cue the talking heads parroting the meme that the Obama administration is aiding and abetting our once, and again, Soviet Russian nemesis by keeping all that sweet fracked gas trapped in North America.  Just one problem.  Even a cursory examination of the facts reveals that the scenario envisioned by Boehner et al, the US replacing EU imports of Russian gas, isn't even a remote possibility.  Let's lay out the facts of the case.

front-paged by afew

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Should Germany Be Forced Out of the European Union?

by ManfromMiddletown Tue Apr 10th, 2012 at 04:14:11 AM EST

Inside the European Union, there are neither exports nor imports.   If we are to believe the language of the European Commission, there are only dispatches and arrivals. Yet, this terminology obscures an important point. Intra-EU trade statistics show that Germans benefit from a persistent balance of trade surplus. (pgs. 184-187)

If you plot the data out on a map, a clear pattern emerges.  German trade is most balanced with those countries closest to it in the European core, while the further into the periphery one goes the greater the trade deficit these countries have with Germany. (See below.)

So, should Germany stay, or should it go? In the end, I think that there is a case for Germany in Europe, but there are serious, recurring, issues that need to be addressed before this option is viable.

front-paged by afew

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Support Striking Dutch Cleaners

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Feb 17th, 2012 at 09:03:59 AM EST

Sign the petition here.

Thousands of Dutch cleaners, members of trade union FNV Bondenoten, are standing up to fight their invisibility in society. They have been on strike for more than 30 days to demand respect and fair pay on the job. The cleaners' work is important: it provides a healthy and clean atmosphere to executives, doctors, bankers and ministers.

The cleaners aren't asking for millions or great riches. They just want ordinary things, such as sick pay, enough time to do the job, security for timeworkers and a fair wage to take care of their families. Big, wealthy clients like Philips, ING, Ahold, Dutch government ministries, the tax authorities and universities expect miracles for impossibly cheap cleaning deals. FNV Bondgenoten members need your help.

Please support the cleaners and send a message to their bosses and the most important clients: Hans Simons the chairman of the empoyers' group, Anton Witte is the main negotiator for the employers and Norma van den Berg represents cleaning giant ISS in the negotiations. Hans Schelbergen is responsible for the cleaning contract at Philips, which cut 1.3 million euros from its cleaning budget while paying out 3 million euros to six executives. Peter Specker is responsible for the government cleaning contracting. The cleaners ask their friends around the globe to support their Uprising of the Invisible.

Let us never be silent or invisible anymore. The price of outsourcing is the same around the globe: it has negative effects on quality, health and prosperity. The cleaners of the Netherlands, who have roots in all the countries of the world, are standing up and speaking loud and clear: SCHOONGENOEG (Clean enough!)

yeah, this too! frontpaged by afew

Comments >> (2 comments)

No One Expects the Spanish Revolution?

by ManfromMiddletown Fri May 20th, 2011 at 05:41:26 AM EST

As many of you now know, Spain is currently experiencing a people's movement similar to what happened in Egypt.  People have occupied plazas in Madrid and other cities, demanding change. With regional elections coming on Sunday, the push has already began to have the police break the thing up.  But I don't think this is the end.  As a Spanish writer put it the "Tahrir" virus has come to Europe.

Where freedom doesn't exist it's neccesary to lose fear, it succeeded in Tunisia and Egypt, it's succeeding in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. It will succeed in more countries, Arab or not. Where there is freedom it's necessary to break the malaise, a conformity which has transformed (terrorized) citizens into consumers, some 100%.  

Madrid isn't Tahrir, but the "virus" is the same: an abundance of youth without hope, doomed to a declining market modernized by cutting social rights and jobs, with the only prospect long-term trash contracts. There are thousands of stories of men and women who can't find a position, who suffer. No one speaks of them. The party line prevails, that of the others, of bureaucratese, of press conferences without questions, of the untouchables.

These forgotten tales, neglected, find resonance in social networks(Twitter: #15M; #nonosvamos, #spanishrevolution). As in Egypt: young, and not so young, mobilize themselves without organizations, without flags, without a sponsored-by, only because it is a right.

frontpaged - Nomad

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From the Basque Country to Bangladesh: A Climate Change Solution?

by ManfromMiddletown Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 05:08:57 PM EST

In the green north of Spain, the Basque region has emerged as a renewable energy powerhouse over the last decade. Although high population density, mountainous terrain, and a lack of appropriate building sites have limited renewable energy production in the region, a number of Spain's most dynamic green energy firms have set up a dynamic manufacturing base there.  With the wind energy market growing saturated, these firms have turned to solar and wave power.  In the latter market, there is an interesting project going on in the coastal city of Mutriku which incorporates wave energy into breakwaters.

As the diagram below explains, the constant splash of small waves is captured through the inclusion of air chambers within the breakwater.  As the waves enter and exit the chamber they drive air in and out, and these changes in air pressure are utilized to drive Wells turbines.

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Here Comes the Sun? Solar Bubbles and Sustainable FITs in Spain

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Apr 30th, 2010 at 01:49:08 PM EST

Last week, news came out at the Spanish government was considering cuts in feed in tariffs (FITs) for renewable electricity.  As I speculated then, it looks like solar is the problem.  However it's not new solar thermal plants coming on line that look to be the problem.  It's the myriad, tiny solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities across the country.  The situation is to say the least a mess.

Yesterday, the minister for Industry, Miguel Sebastian, came out blaming FITs for increases in electric rates.  The mess of it is that there's probably some truth to this because of the outsized portion of subsidies going to tiny PV facilities, however, as Jerome has reminded us, we know that FITs done right for commercial scale wind tend to lower rates.

The question is whether the solar bubble is going to kill FITs for new wind facilities, but there is hope.

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Spain: War of the Renewables

by ManfromMiddletown Tue Apr 27th, 2010 at 06:40:48 AM EST

Something of a spat is emerging in Spain over the issue of feed in tariffs for renewable electricity. Much of the concern centers around the idea that the current system is unsustainable, because projections show subsidies rising 32.5% between now and 2013.  This rise is largely the product of a massive expansion in Spanish thermic solar capacity from 931 MW in 2010, to 2,470 MW in 2013.

The pictures help, but the different technologies are (from left to right) cogeneration, photovoltaic, thermic solar, wind, mini-hydro, and biomass.  The blue line is subsidies in millions of euros, and the black numbers capacity in MWs. We can get the average feed in tariff from the numbers here.

Cogeneration €0.13/w
Photovoltaic €0.63/w
Thermic Solar €0.61/w
Wind €0.06/w
Mini-hydro €0.08/w
Biomass €0.25/w

from the diaries - Nomad

Read more... (36 comments, 285 words in story)

So Where Does the EU Get Its Electricity From?

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Apr 9th, 2010 at 07:52:27 AM EST

I've been spending a lot of time lately looking at the sources of electricity production lately. I'm going to be finishing a dissertation on the political economy of wind energy development in Spain.  And I've been wondering how the different countries of the EU stack up when it comes to electricity production.  First things first, 55% of the electricity produced in the EU comes from fossil fuels, with coal(31%) and natural gas (22%) making up the lion's share of that.

While the share of coal should come as no surprise, because it is so prevalent in the region, the size natural gas-fired production should be.  Given the amount of complaining about the Russian "energy weapon" that goes on, you would think that the least that could be done would be an effort to move away from this, not toward it.

front-paged by afew

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LQD: "The speculators have to be burned."

by ManfromMiddletown Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 12:18:08 PM EST

Yesterday, the FT picked up comments by the Spanish development minister, Jose Blanco.

Blanco denounces plot against Spain and the euro

While the economic vice, Elena Salgado, has traveled to London today to appease the spirits of investors, Development Minister, Jose Blanco, accused the "financial speculators" of orchestrating a plot against the euro and the Spanish market. "Nothing is happening in the world, including foreign newspaper publishers, is casual or innocent," said Blanco. The deputy general secretary of the PSOE denounced an "attack against the euro and the existence of" somewhat murky maneuvers "to avoid scrutiny of financial markets.

"Everything serves a purpose. The apocalyptic comments on the economic situation of Spain do not benefit our country. There are an attack on the euro and should be given an answer," Blanco said.

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The Economics of the Anglo Disease

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 06:44:22 PM EST

Jerome has suggested that I post this as a diary of its own.  So here we go.

One of the great strengths I see in the concept of the Anglo Disease is that it allows for the Left to critique Neo-liberalism on its own terms.  It attacks the contradictions supporting the system, so that having been demystified, the system can be remedied from within.

Although the Anglo Disease is an imminent critique of neo-liberal capitalism, what it reveals is that the market that neo-liberals take to be omnipotent and the root of all social phenomena is not once, but twice embedded.  First, the market is embedded in social structure.  So that when it pressed to far, society strikes back.  Second, society and market alike are embedded in a natural context.  So that, for example, the market does not make petroleum. We as a species are capable of altering social structure, even if it is with great difficulty.  The natural context, however, is largely fixed.  The market can't make oil. But, what I want to do here is lay out the Anglo Disease in the language of economics.

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LQD: How the GOP Won the Working Class

by ManfromMiddletown Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 02:30:37 PM EST

Earlier this week David Sirota wrote what I think is the best column I've ever seen on an important topic in American politics: the role of class in American politics and how the GOP has been able to capture the votes of working class whites.  Let's be clear, it wasn't grand strategy by the Republicans that resulted in the white working class exiting the New Deal Coalition.  It was the utter arrogance of the gang of liberal elitists that have seized the mainstream part of the American Left from the working class.

Movies may be fiction, but they represent the attitudes of the media and Hollywood elite who shape pop culture. In the difference between how Ed Sadlowski and Will Hunting were treated for their beliefs, we see one of the least examined shifts in how work is presented in popular discourse -- from both blue-collar and white-collar jobs being depicted as respectable ends, to blue-collar work portrayed as respectable inasmuch as it helps the laborer reach the venerated professional class.

This is the profound but subtle message of the last scene of another movie, Office Space, in which Peter Gibbons quits his suit-and-tie cubicle job and realizes his dream is to work construction. That we are trained to see this decision as rare only shows how deep the elitists' rabbit hole goes.

Read more... (47 comments, 1201 words in story)

Another World IS Possible.

by ManfromMiddletown Sat Oct 11th, 2008 at 05:46:02 PM EST

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters - one represents danger and one represents opportunity.
JFK-Remarks at the Convocation of the United Negro College Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana, April 12, 1959

Introduction

We live in interesting times. Times of crisis.  Yet within that crisis lies opportunity.  

In his book, Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century, Mark Blyth explains to readers that times of economic crisis are in fact times of opportunity.  

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Did the Irish just end Globalization?

by ManfromMiddletown Thu Oct 2nd, 2008 at 02:30:43 PM EST

Bailout legislation protecting domestic deposits in Irish national banks was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at 3:30 PM (Irish time).

President Mary McAleese has this evening signed legislation giving effect to the Government's €420 billion bank guarantee scheme.

A single-line statement from Áras an Uachtaráin just after 3.30pm said Mrs McAleese had signed the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Bill 2008 into law.

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Blackwater in Georgia? Now We Can Call Them Mercs.

by ManfromMiddletown Mon Aug 11th, 2008 at 02:57:02 AM EST

The South Ossetian government is claiming that the Georgian government employed mercenaries in their attack on the city of Tskhinvali.

Authorities in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia claim that dark-skinned mercenaries took part in the attack on Tskhinvali, reports RIA Novosti, citing representative of the South Ossetian president in Russia Dmitry Medoev. He said there were bodies of many Georgian soldiers on the streets on Tskhinvali. "There were blacks among the dead, who were probably either mercenaries or instructors in the Georgian armed forces," Medoev said.

Wait, it gets better.

Read more... (21 comments, 1494 words in story)

US Transporting Georgian Troops Out of Iraq to Fight Russia

by ManfromMiddletown Sun Aug 10th, 2008 at 08:06:46 AM EST

Crossposted from Daily Kos.

We should all be very worried.  The small former Soviet Republic of Georgia has been something of apt pupil of our dear President, and has been very willing to embrace our government as a means to grow closer to the "West."  Chief among the actions taken by Georgia to curry American favor was the decision to provide troops for the Iraq war.  There are 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq, and now they are urgently needed in their home country.  And the US has agreed to take them there.

First of all we need to remove 1,000 guys from here within 96 hours, after that the rest of the guys," Colonel Bondo Maisuradze told The Times this morning.

"The US will provide us with the transportation," he added.

Georgia had said initially that it planned to withdraw just half of its contingent in Iraq.

The US military said that all transportation options were being explored, without confirming that it would provide the aircraft.

Wait, it gets better.

More on what's happening - afew

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America:Cars, Suburbia, and Conspicuous Consumption

by ManfromMiddletown Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 05:27:25 AM EST

Crossposted at Economic Populist

My basic argument is that America's oil addiction has less to do with inefficient engines, than with an economic system that promotes conspicous consumption as a means to indicate social status.

America is dangerously dependent on foreign oil.  

In 2007, the United States imported around 13.44 mbd (million barrels daily) from other countries.  This represents an almost 2% reduction over the preceding year.  Nonetheless, oil represents a huge economic Achilles Heel for the US.

At the current $145.29/barrel
price for crude on the spot market, a year's worth of oil imports would cost the US $713 billion.  Or 5.2% of 2007 US nominal GDP.  Or almost three times our trade deficit with the People's Republic of China. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is bound to impact the US economy.

I'm going to be lazy today, and err to the use of graphics to make my point. Much of the current energy debate in the US centers on how inefficient our motor vehicles are compared to the rest of the planet. Look they say at the following graph that shows just how inefficient our vehicles are.  This is the average fuel economy for various national fleets.

Promoted with edit to put more content above the fold - afew

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Solidarity

by ManfromMiddletown Sun Dec 16th, 2007 at 12:26:12 PM EST

This is going to be short, because I'm going to have to get on the road for my trip before things turn really bad.

Solidarity is a something that isn't nearly as in style as it was some time ago.  There was a time in the US and Europe when workers had songs that told them that together they were strong.  In Europe it was the Internationale.  In the United States, the song that said it all was Solidarity Forever by Pete Seeger.

Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For the union makes us strong

When the union's inspiration
through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater
anywhere beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker
than the feeble strength of one?
But the union makes us strong.

.....

In our hands is placed a power
greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies,
magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world
from the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us strong.

Read more... (10 comments, 629 words in story)

Status Matters: Material Economy vs. Positional Economy

by ManfromMiddletown Mon Oct 29th, 2007 at 04:46:18 PM EST

This is going to be a short diary.  One of the things I appreciate about being a graduate student is those rare moments when my efforts to follow a footnote in an academic article leads me to an an epiphany.

During this past summmer, I ran across a reference to Social Limits to Growth and the concept of positional goods.

Positional goods are products and services whose value is mostly, if not exclusively, a function of their ranking in desirability in comparison to substitutes. The extent to which a good's value depends on such a ranking is referred to as its positionality.

Like land, positional goods often earn economic rents or quasi-rents. Examples of positional goods include high social status, exclusive real estate, a spot in the freshman class of a prestigious university, a reservation at the "hottest" new restaurant, and fame. The measure of satisfaction derived from a positional good depends on how much one has in relation to everyone else. A society that devotes more resources to positional goods is arguably wasting effort, since a gain for one must come at a loss for another.

Competitions for positional goods are zero-sum games because such goods are inherently scarce, at least in the short run. Attempts to acquire them can only benefit one player at the expense of others. By definition, not everyone can be the most popular, cool, or elite, and in the same sense not everyone can be a star athlete because all those terms imply a separation or superiority over other people.

Diary Rescue by Migeru

Read more... (37 comments, 1255 words in story)

Free like we want 2 be? (Pt. 1)

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 04:43:19 PM EST

Tell me are we free like we want to be?

Free Like We Want 2 B

Free like we want to be
Some time you want to get off
Leave the work and take off
But the boss man say you gonna lose you pay
No chain on your feet now
9 to 5 got you beat now
You working hard to save
Inflation like a tidal wave

Are we free like we want to be
Tell me are we free like we want to be
Are we free like we want to be
Tell me are we free like we want to be


Read more... (7 comments, 892 words in story)
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Why did we ever come so far?

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