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The American Century - End of Exceptionalism

by Oui Sun Apr 28th, 2019 at 09:07:43 PM EST

Excellent diaries by Jeff Huber for a timely reread ...

Neocon Bunker Hunker (Continued)

Part I outlined the neocons' "resurgence" strategy.  Part II discusses how Barack Obama may be steering us toward a neo-neoconservativism.

More below the fold ...

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Socialists win Spanish General Election [Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 28th, 2019 at 08:05:23 PM EST

{Updated} The Spanish Socialist government has won the general election with 123 seats (+38) in the Congress of Deputies, and an overall majority of 139 seats out of a total 265 seats in the less powerful Senate.

Congress of Deputies poll results and change since 2016 elections.

The main winners are the outgoing Socialist government (+6%) and the new far right Vox party (+10%). The major losers are the corruption scandal hit Partido Popular [-17%] and Podemos [-5%]. Outgoing Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez is expected to form the next Government probably with Podemos and perhaps some other regional party support. 176 seats are required for an overall majority in the 350 seat chamber.

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Bashir's Savings for his Day In Court (ICC)

by Oui Sat Apr 20th, 2019 at 05:37:07 PM EST

More below the fold ...

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The Heiress

by Oui Sat Apr 27th, 2019 at 07:51:55 AM EST

So wondeful! The American Dream in reverse is still possible ... from the Ritz to Rikers Island. Hopefully the "heiress" has TV in her room so she can watch the Netflix serie in her name ...

Rubbing shoulders with the "greats" walking this planet!  Just like Hollywood ... mostly fake.

More below the fold ...

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Spectating on Ireland and other pet hates

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 25th, 2019 at 10:32:52 PM EST

In my more idle moments, and purely as a service to you, dear readers, I sometimes spend some time perusing the online editions of right-wing UK publications such as the Telegraph and The Spectator. There you will live in an alternative factual universe, where poor Britain is set upon by an evil EU, and worse still, is betrayed by its supposed allies.

Chief culprit, these days, seems to be the Republic of Ireland, which has been set upon an anti-British course by its demonic leader Leo Varadker. "Little Leo" (who stands 1.94 metres tall), stands accused of "do[ing] anything to suck up to the top gang in the EU playground..." and giving a "calculated two fingers to Brexit Britain" by applying for observer status at the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie rather than rejoining the British Commonwealth.

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Sheela na gig

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 22nd, 2019 at 05:04:22 PM EST

The inclusion of often sexually explicit iconography in the architecture of ancient churches, cathedrals, castles and public buildings has often struck me as odd, given the predominance of the puritan paradigm in so much of religion today. The grotesques, chimeras and gargoyles of Notre Dame are variously supposed to have been intended to ward off evil spirits, with gargoyles also fulfilling the practical function of redirecting rainwater away from the stone masonry to reduce the erosion of the mortar from the walls.

However the Sheela na gigs, found over much of Europe, but most frequently in Ireland, were often sexually explicit mostly female figures whose purpose is the subject of some dispute. Various hypotheses have been put forward ranging from that they represent the survival of a pre-Christian pagan goddess, a fertility figure, a warning against lust, or a more general protection against evil.

More recently some feminists have re-interpreted the imagery of Sheela Na Gigs as portraying a more positive, empowering view of female sexuality and adopted it as a symbol of Irish feminism. However it is open to question whether this has more to do with present day cultural and political concerns rather than what they were meant to portray in their own time and culture.

Perhaps there is no unifying theory of what they were meant to represent in a lot of different and often localised historical contexts. Perhaps some artists and stone masons were just having a little fun right under the noses of their clerical and civic overlords: An imaginative rebellion against the stultifying orthodoxy of authoritarian religion. Perhaps they were intended to allow us to project our own fantasies onto them so that they can mean different things to different people at different times.

Your fantasies are welcome...

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Notre Dame de Paris

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 12:49:40 PM EST

There is not much I can say about the fire in Notre Dame that has not already been said better elsewhere. At over 850 years of age it is a testament to the stability and enduring qualities of the society which created and sustained it. It took over 200 years to build and has survived many different regimes, revolutions and world wars.

Encouragingly European leaders have rallied to the cause of its reconstruction saying it is a symbol of not just French but all European culture. It's good to have something positive to unite around, rather than the enduring negativity of Brexit.

For many, of course, it is a symbol more of the past than the future. Few attend religious services there any more, even as 30,000 visitors a day come to admire its architecture and artworks. When I visited it some years back it reminded me more of a past we have been fortunate to leave behind rather than an inspiration for the future.

But it is difficult to conceive of a project now that would still hold a central place in our society in 850 years time. We seem so obsessed with destroying the planet we live on that there may not even be a human society in the year 2869. Everything now is for the short term and we can't plan for 5 never mind 850 years ahead.

But we also don't have any strong uniting ideology, mythology or religion which would encourage us to think so far ahead. Neo-liberalism worships private wealth, and Brexit has sought to reduce the European project to a beggar thy neighbour exercise in greed and short term self-interest. Militarism seeks to industrialise the process of killing others.

Perhaps readers here can contribute towards a vision of what might sustain us as a common humanity for the next 850 years. Saving the planet from a devastating mass extinction event would be a good start...

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Confirmation Bias?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Apr 12th, 2019 at 03:13:08 PM EST

In Off the reservation I wrote I would "make some far out predictions based only on the most tenuous of currently observable facts." At the risk of confirmation bias I will hereunder examine what evidence to support that thesis is gradually becoming available. I will rely heavily on Wikipedia compilations of all available polls as any one poll has to come with so many health warnings.

Even compilations of polls have to come with a health warning that they represent, at best, a snap shot in time, and are subject to becoming out of date very quickly in a rapidly evolving environment. For that reason I will rely as much as possible on polls whose field work was conducted after 29th. March 2019, the date Brexit was supposed to happen. I do so as I believe that date could come to mark a watershed in UK history.

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EU's Nuclear Option for Theresa May .. The End?

by Oui Tue Apr 9th, 2019 at 09:25:41 PM EST

LARGE UPDATE BELOW: EU Agrees extension until Oct. 30

President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, urged EU leaders to offer a much longer extension. Tusk said the UK should be given up to a year to get Brexit sorted, claiming there was little chance of arrangements being made by 30 June. A draft EU Council document suggested such proposals were being drawn up. Labour has said it will back any "reasonable" delay beyond 30 June.

More below the fold ...

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Off the reservation

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 8th, 2019 at 11:23:17 AM EST

OK I'm going to go way off the reservation here and make some far out predictions based only on the most tenuous of currently observable facts. I do so because I can't see the Brexit conundrum being resolved within the available universe of conventional solutions, and because I think the retribution of "the people" on those who authored their misfortune will be terrible.

It's one thing punishing a government for poor performance during an economic downturn which may be little more than a reflection of a global business cycle. But its quite another when your government is almost the sole author of your misfortune, and not only that, has caused you to become the laughing stock of the "civilised" world. People have their pride, too, you know, and hate being made to look foolish.

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Reality Bites

by Frank Schnittger Fri Apr 5th, 2019 at 12:00:28 PM EST

Theresa May has written a long letter to EU Council President, Donald Tusk, requesting a further extension to the A.50 notification period until June 30th., the same date she asked for, but was refused, last time out. It is a well drafted letter, which many of us commenting here could probably have drafted for her.

In it she makes much of her ongoing discussions with Jeremy Corbyn as providing an opportunity to create a consensus for the UK's future relationship with the EU. The EU has been telling her that for some time.

But she also acknowledges some facts the UK has been seeking to deny for some time: Firstly, that the Withdrawal Agreement is finalised and cannot be renegotiated. Any discussion with Corbyn is about the non-binding Political Declaration on the future relationship between the EU and UK, and that alone.

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From School Strike to Teach-in to Global Hackathon for Climate Friday After Friday

by gmoke Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 05:33:00 PM EST

Friday School Strike for Climate to Friday Teach-ins on Climate to Friday Global Hackathons on Climate that is the progression I'd like to see and so I am passing on the idea.  

It came to me when I found that Harvard Divest was going to "Flood Harvard" Yard on Friday, April 26 (https:/www.facebook.com/events/347126895944173).  I suggested to them on their Facebook event page that perhaps part of their activities could include a kindergarten to graduate school teach-in on climate to coincide with the Friday school strikes for climate which are happening around the world every Friday.

Later, listening to the MSNBC town hall with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, I thought that perhaps this idea could be extended from a teach-in to a hackathon using the Internet to connect globally.  Seems like it would be a natural for an organization like MIT's Climate Collaborative (https://www.climatecolab.org).  Already there are tools like the C-ROADS climate simulation (https:www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads)  and the Energy Policy simulator (https:/energypolicy.solutions) available for free online.  Precursors like Buckminster Fuller's World Game (https:www.bfi.org/about-fuller/big-ideas/world-game) ["Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone"]  and John Hunter's World Peace Game (https:worldpeacegame.org) [World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements] could be part of the foundation.

Just a thought.

PS:  Another ongoing climate action could use the next farmers' market season as an opportunity to make practical environmental change from the grassroots on up:  https:www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/24/1766926-Mister-Franklin-s-Folks-How-to-Change-USA-Energy -Policy-in-One-Growing-Season

SHOCK HORROR! May to talk to Corbyn

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 2nd, 2019 at 07:40:56 PM EST

Almost three years after the Brexit referendum  and two years after she lost her overall parliamentary majority, Theresa May has decided she needs to talk to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to forge a consensus on the way forward. Even more shockingly, she is going to abide by "the will of Parliament" if it supports an alternative to her My deal, no deal, or no Brexit approach.

No, this is not a belated April Fools Day story. Apparently, this process is going to be complete by next Wednesday, April 10th., in time for the emergency European Council meeting, where she hopes to get agreement to a further short A.50 notification extension to enable a new deal to be negotiated with the EU, agreed by parliament, and implemented in law.

Apparently this process is to be completed by the 22nd. May so that the UK doesn't have to participate in the European Parliament elections. Good luck with that. For a country which has routinely accused the EU of lacking in democracy, the UK government seems to be absolutely determined to avoid participating in European Parliamentary elections, a second confirmatory public vote, or indeed a general election.

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True Character of Brexit and Its Backers Exposed

by Oui Thu Mar 28th, 2019 at 06:54:01 PM EST

My life's compass is to stay true to your principles of fraternity and equality ... we're all brothers and sisters in a social network to support those in need. Civilization will be destroyed by the selfishness of pure capitalism, wealth and inequality.

A choice in life between peace or war!

What has been exposed within a failed democracy called the House of Commons and its representatives on the conservative Tory side and the kabuki theater on the side of the opposition. The people not well served.

The Guardian offers opinion articles any author of suspense could build an empire on a nr. 1 seller on the list of fiction.


More below the fold ...

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The UK's slide into despair

by tyronen Mon Mar 25th, 2019 at 08:25:06 AM EST

When I was a kid, they used to tell stories of Britain in the seventies, supposedly a union-crazed hellhole of the three-day week, garbage piling up in Leicester Square, going cap in hand to the IMF...

Yet it seems to me that the UK in 2019, not 1979, is the place in crisis. The stench of decay is in the air.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Conspiracy by Democrats Falls Flat

by Oui Sun Mar 24th, 2019 at 10:06:57 PM EST

So after more than two years the Robert Mueller report exonerates president Trump from the primary accusation of collusion with the Russian government.

Tens of thousands of comments were written across the ocean at the pond. Multiple fp stories and diaries with the same conspiracy ... I have taken months of abuse for differing in opinion. Salem 21th century tarfeathered me and chased me off the blog after my contributions as a main diarist on foreign policy since the spring of 2005. Thx guys ... you've just fallen on your own sword.

AG March 24 2019 Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees

More below the fold ...

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Après May

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 22nd, 2019 at 01:00:27 PM EST

The Daily Mail, formerly the chief cheerleader for Brexit and mouthpiece for "ordinary conservatives," and latterly (after a change of editor) chief cheer leader for Theresa May:

Theresa May was humiliated last night after EU leaders took control of Brexit and gave her a fortnight 'flextension' to get MPs to vote for her deal after calling her make-or-break summit display 'evasive' and 'confused'.

Britain will not leave the EU until at least next month after a late-night deal in Brussels where European leaders rejected Mrs May's appeal for an extension until June 30 after her plea for a three-month delay fell flat.

Instead they offered to extend Article 50 until May 22 - only if the Prime Minister gets her deal through Parliament next week.

But they warned her that if the deal was not passed she must make a decision by April 12 - just three weeks' time - amid growing rumours Mrs May could have quit by then.

Today Theresa May texted EU leaders and told them she would miss day two of the Brussels summit to return to London 'to work on getting the withdrawal deal passed'.

But slamming her approach Tory backbencher Michael Fabricant appeared to compared Theresa May to Neville Chamberlain, who signed a disastrous appeasement deal with Hitler, and said: 'At this difficult time we need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain'.

Insiders said EU leaders were visibly bemused during last night's Brexit debate described as '90 minutes of nothing' where Mrs May appeared 'evasive, had no plan and even seemed confused' when asked what she will do if her deal is voted down again.

One prime minister told aides afterwards: 'The only thing that came through with clarity was her lack of a plan' and one EU aide said afterwards: 'She didn't have a plan, so they needed to come up with one for her'.

Mrs May was ejected from the dinner and forced to eat alone as the talks continued to overcome the split and EU leaders then rejected her June 30 extension.

One senior EU official told Politico that after the PM left the room French President Emmanuel Macron said loudly that he believed Mrs May's deal had a 10 per cent chance of getting through the Commons but added: 'After listening to her, I now think five per cent' before Donald Tusk grimaced and chipped in that this 'sounded too optimistic'.

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Brexiteer Big Winner Dutch Upper House Election

by Oui Thu Mar 21st, 2019 at 07:54:28 PM EST

Stupidity cannot just be claimed by Trump voters or the British in support of ideas propagated by ERG extremists in the Brexit campaign ...

Yesterday the Dutch voters gave a majority in the senate to newcomer Thierry Baudet ... where did this shooting star originate from?

Forum for Democracy | Wikipedia |

Forum for Democracy was established as a think tank; its main feat was campaigning for the 2016 Dutch Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement referendum. In September 2016, it converted itself into a political party and announced its intention to take part in the 2017 Dutch general election. In joining the democratic system, they hope to change the system.

Thierry Baudet founder and leader of the party FvD (2016)

In the 2017 general election, the FvD ended up with 1.8% of the vote and 2 seats, entering parliament for the first time.

In January 2019 the FvD had approximately 30,000 members [citation needed] .. The bulk of the Forum's parliamental candidates did not have prior active experience in other political parties. In February 2018 the party suffered from internal issues with a number of prominent members leaving the party, because they felt the party had a lack of internal democracy.

In the 2018 municipal elections, the FvD won 3 seats at the Amsterdam city council.

During the 2019 provincial elections, Forum for Democracy won 86 seats spread across the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. In South Holland, North Holland and Flevoland, FvD became the largest party, winning 11, 9 and 8 seats respectively. In all other provinces, the party captured either the second or third spot in terms of the popular vote.

You British people recognize him?

More below the fold ...

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The gloves are off

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 20th, 2019 at 10:16:12 PM EST

The UK government has requested an extension of the A.50 notification period until June 30th. This creates the awkward situation whereby the UK is still a member of the EU on the 23rd. May, when all members are legally obliged to hold European Parliament elections. It also created problems for EU leaders as the letter requesting the delay came too late for many EU leaders to consult with their parliaments - as they would normally do - before taking a position on it at the EU Council.

Donald Tusk, speaking on behalf of the European Council says "he believes a short extension to A.50 will be possible", but only on condition of the House of Commons voting in favour of the draft Withdrawal Agreement. It is available to enable the required legislation to be passed, but not to engage in further procrastination or discussions on the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Theresa May, for her part, has spoken directly to the UK People in a TV broadcast over the heads of MPs saying it is time for MPs to stop squabbling and engaging in arcane procedural wrangling. MPs have not responded well, branding her talk pointless, insulting, and arrogant. Dominic Grieve, a leading Conservative Remainer and former Attorney General says "he has never been more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative party" and that he will oppose the Prime Minister unless the Withdrawal Agreement is put to the people in a public vote.

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Healing Earth (Through the Waters)

by gmoke Tue Mar 19th, 2019 at 03:29:24 AM EST

John Todd, author of Healing Earth:  An Ecologist's Journey of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship (Berkeley, CA:  North Atlantic Books, 2019  ISBN 9781623172985) (https:/www.northatlanticbooks.com/shop/healing-earth), has spent his professional life building living technologies, eco-machines and eco-restorers, biological systems which "contain representative species from all the kingdoms of life ranging from bacteria and viruses at the lower end of the size scale to fungi, animals, and woody plants at the macro scale.  Working together as a biological team, these assemblages of organisms help us transform polluted water into clean water.  In return, we provide them with extra air and water circulation as well as appropriate substrates to live on or in." He works on the basis of "that which has been damaged can be healed" and "do good things in bad places," showing that the field of applied ecology is practical and can solve problems, exploring the myriad ways that informed stewardship can help heal and transform the Earth.

He started with a greenhouse full of transparent water tanks for the treatment of septage in Harwich, MA in the 1980s and, "more by accident than design," included representative species of all the kingdoms of life in the system. Over years of experimentation, he learned "that a diversity of organisms from a variety of parent ecosystems could produce systems with a meta-intelligence that had a highly specific ability to self-organize, self-design, and self-replicate.  They were capable, in fact, of surviving through long periods of times, possibly centuries, with minimal human support."

His installations are ecologically engineered, "they are designed with the attributes of natural ecosystems like marshes, ponds, and streams," borrowing their designs, life forms, and progressions from natural ecosystems.  For John Todd "natural history is not an old-fashioned form of knowing;  it comprises the narratives of living entities that provide the alphabet of the design vocabulary."

In this book, he provides a pattern language, the human grammar for that design vocabulary, a baker's dozen of design principles for constructing living technologies and eco-machines based upon his decades of experience with projects that treat sewage, septage, petroleum wastes and other toxics, producing improved water quality at both household and community scales.

Todd considers such individual projects as First Order Ecological Design, techniques and technologies applied to the landscape.  Second Order Design is the linking together of processes and practices into new associations and entities, industrial ecologies and agricultural eco-parks for example.  Third Order Ecological Design addresses larger economic and social structures and their evolution over time.  He writes, "It is my belief that durable and sustainable economies, in an age of resource limits and information richness, can replace the extractive and environmentally destructive technologies and infrastructures of today."  For an example of a Third Order Ecological Design see John Todd's ecological plan for Appalachia, the winner of the first Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award at https:/www.bfi.org/ideaindex/projects/2008/challenge-appalachia

In Healing Earth, John Todd has given us practical, working examples of how to think like nature itself, in ever expanding systems which repair the damage we homo sap sap (the sap) have already done.  We must learn to live in our ecological niche or risk extinction.  John Todd's report of his lifetime of observation and experimentation teaches us not only how to live within that niche but expand it.

Projects from Todd Ecological

Providence, RI living machine treating sewage and septage with ecological systems design and without chemicals (1990)

Canal Restorer to River Restorer (2013)

Gaian Design of Ecological Alchemy:  notes from A Safe, Sustainable World (2005)

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News and Views

 6 - 12 May 2019

by Bjinse - May 6, 232 comments

Your take on this week's news

 May Thread

by Bjinse - May 6, 46 comments

In the merry month of May, sitting in a pleasant thread, which a grove of myrtles made

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