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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 7 June

by Fran Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 04:01:57 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1899 – Elizabeth Bowen, an Irish novelist and short story writer, was born.(d. 1973)

More here and here

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The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:43:50 AM EST
Nick Clegg vows no return to savage cuts of the Thatcher years | Politics | The Observer

Nick Clegg has staked his political reputation on a pledge that under the coalition government there will be no return to the savage cuts of the 1980s.

In an interview with the Observer, he launched a withering attack on the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher and promised instead to look to the examples of Sweden, Canada and the US to deliver "progressive" cuts.

"It is important that people understand that fiscal retrenchment does not mean a repeat of the 1980s. We're going to do this differently," said Clegg, in a move that risks angering MPs on the Conservative right, many of whom admire their former leader. The deputy prime minister said he would use his authority "ruthlessly" to make sure coalition commitments were met.

He argued there was an assumption on the centre-left that austerity measures were, by definition, regressive and rightwing: "I think principally the reason is because our collective memory of difficult budget decisions harks back to the 1980s, the harshness of the 1980s, north-south divide, sink-or-swim economics. That is our folk memory."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He can vow, he can promise. But Cameron decides.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 05:41:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
German government looks for new money-saving schemes | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2010
The German government is discussing ways to bring down the country's yawning budget deficit. The savings plan may include cuts to social welfare benefits or tax hikes. Deutsche Welle looks at the options. 

This Sunday and Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will expect proposals from all her ministers for shoring up the country's public finances. Merkel has convened the German government in her chancellery this weekend in order to come up with a way to meet its self-imposed austerity plan - to save ten billion euros ($12.2 billion) in the state budget every year from 2011 to 2016.

The target is determined by the so-called Schuldenbremse [debt-brake], a constitutional regulation the German parliament imposed last year which forces the government to limit its debts to a maximum of 0.35 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The federal budget deficit currently stands at 120 billion euros, and Germany is also on track to exceed the European Union's budget deficit limit of three percent of GDP in 2010. Money-saving ideas have been emanating from government ministers and other employer's associations for weeks leading up to this weekend's summit, but each suggestion has caused bitter objections. These have mainly come from left-of-center opposition parties, but conflict has also arisen within the governing coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU and Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scottish-German politician set to head Lower Saxony | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2010
David McAllister, a German with Scottish roots, has been nominated to take over as state premier of Lower Saxony. Known as Mac, the 39-year-old would be the country's youngest ever state premier. 

With Christian Wulff, the premier of Lower Saxony, likely to become Germany's next president, the state is in need of a new leader.

It didn't take long for his replacement to step into the spotlight. On Friday, Christian Democrat (CDU) officials said David McAllister, a conservative politician with Scottish family roots, had been unanimously nominated to take Wulff's seat once the current premier makes the expected move to the presidential palace in Berlin. Wulff was nominated by Chancellor Angela Merkel as the government's candidate for president on Thursday.

"I have confidence in myself for the office of state premier, otherwise I wouldn't put myself forward for election," McAllister said after the nomination. He said he planned to build on Wulff's successful work in the state, adding that Wulff's election as president would be "the culmination of a great political career."

McAllister has long been seen as a premier-in-waiting in Lower Saxony, one of Germany's most populous states. The 39-year-old, who has a Scottish father and a German mother, would be the country's youngest ever state premier.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:24:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland, Slovakia and Hungary hit by fresh floods | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 05.06.2010
Fresh flooding in Poland has forced thousands of people to flee their homes after a river burst its banks. Slovakia and Hungary have also been badly affected. 

Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and villages in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary on Saturday as floodwaters continued to rise.

In southern Poland, the Vistula River breached an embankment, putting several villages at risk. The situation in the south of the country was described as "dangerous" by Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Last month, at least 22 people died as the country experienced its worst floods in decades.

In the southern town of Zakopane, the body of a 34-year old man was found after he drowned in a stream, while the body of an 87-year-old was recovered from a ditch.

One man died of heart failure during an evacuation of the town of Muszyna, while two people were reported missing. Many other parts of the country are also bracing for floods after rainstorms in recent days.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:26:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkish PM accuses opposition of supporting Tel Aviv - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the main opposition leader Sunday of "advocating on behalf of Tel Aviv."

Although Erdoğan did not give any names, arguing that he did not want to "promote them," his remarks in the northwestern province of Bursa were clearly directed at Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

"Some people speak in the name of Tel Aviv, advocate for Tel Aviv," Erdoğan said. "They question our way of diplomacy. The way you did things put us in this dire situation. As I said earlier, we do not work as the `mon cher' diplomats do."

Erdoğan said Turkey could not step aside since it has historical ties with the region and Jerusalem is a holy city for all three of the world's largest monotheistic religions.

Kılıçdaroğlu had said Turkey should have made more diplomatic efforts for the Gaza aid flotilla, which was the target of a deadly attack by Israeli soldiers last week.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Academies bill is anti-democratic, lawyers warn
Teachers, lawyers and parents warn today that Michael Gove's first bill - to create thousands more academies - is "anti-democratic" and concentrates the fate of the country's schools into too few hands.

The education secretary's new bill paves the way for a big expansion in the number of the publicly funded independent schools and allows top schools to fast-track the process and potentially leave local council control as early as September.

But the draft legislation, which will have its second reading in the Lords today, also dispenses with parents' and teachers' legal right to oppose such plans and removes local authorities' powers to veto a school's attempt to switch status.

by IdiotSavant on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 07:07:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Michael Gove, of the party of privileged elitism, seeks to entrench privilege and elitism into the education system. Ensuring that class mobility is kept as low as possible.

this is not a surprise, this is what people who vote tory (and LibDem) apparently want.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 05:43:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:44:15 AM EST
Which Banks Hold Europe's Troubled Loans? - NYTimes.com

IT'S a $2.6 trillion mystery.

That's the amount that foreign banks and other financial companies have lent to public and private institutions in Greece, Spain and Portugal, three countries so mired in economic troubles that analysts and investors assume that a significant portion of that mountain of debt may never be repaid.

The problem is, alas, that no one -- not investors, not regulators, not even bankers themselves -- knows exactly which banks are sitting on the biggest stockpiles of rotting loans within that pile. And doubt, as it always does during economic crises, has made Europe's already vulnerable financial system occasionally appear to seize up. Early last month, in an indication of just how dangerous the situation had become, European banks -- which appear to hold more than half of that $2.6 trillion in debt -- nearly stopped lending money to one another.

Now, with government resources strained and confidence in European economies eroding, some analysts say the Continent's banks have to come clean with a transparent and rigorous accounting of their woes. Until then, they say, nobody will be able to wrestle effectively with Europe's mounting problems.

"The marketplace knows very little about where the real risks are parked," says Nicolas Véron, an economist at Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels. "That is exactly the problem. As long as there is no semblance of clarity, trust will not return to the banking system."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Europe - Hungary denies fiscal crisis

Hungary on Saturday attempted to distance itself from claims that it was facing a Greek-style fiscal crisis, as the government indicated it was not in danger of default and would strive to meet this year's deficit target.

Mihaly Varga, state secretary, described as "exaggerated" comments by fellow Fidesz party officials that the economy was in a "grave" situation and could experience a fate similar to Athens.

"Any comparison with countries with much higher CDSs (credit default swaps) is unfortunate. These do not give a credible picture of the state of Hungary," he said at a hastily arranged press conference.

The forint tumbled to a one-year low on Friday and equities fell across central Europe amid fears that Hungary - a recipient in 2008 of a €20bn standby agreement from the International Monetary Fund and European Union - faced a fresh bout of financing woes.

Analysts pushed back against Fidesz's initial remarks, however, claiming they were misguided and designed to prepare Hungarians for further austerity measures. They noted also that Hungary's IMF standby credit has not been fully drawn down.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:54:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Private equity: Money can't buy love | The Economist

"PRETTY much everybody hates us," admits one private-equity executive. The industry once wore its unpopularity as a badge of honour. Now it is a liability as Congress considers removing some of the tax perks that helped inflate the private-equity bubble. "There's no senator or congressman who represents the interest of private equity," says the executive. Not even the charms of the industry's big hitters seemed to have worked. Stephen Schwarzman (pictured), the boss of Blackstone, one of the largest buy-out firms, travelled to Washington, DC, to lobby against the proposals. To no avail, it seems. The House of Representatives has already passed them and the Senate is due to consider them this month.

The legislation in question is the "American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010". This would change the tax treatment of "carried interest", or the profits that private-equity firms and other investment partnerships make when the funds they run perform well. Currently, carried interest is taxed at the lower rate of capital gains (15%), as opposed to income (35%). The bill suggests changing this and taxing 75% of carried interest as income and 25% as capital gains, starting in 2013. That might sound fiddly, but the sums involved are big. The tax change would help raise around $18 billion over ten years and affect mostly buy-out shops, venture-capital firms, real-estate partnerships and some hedge funds.

Opponents of the bill say that carried interest deserves capital-gains treatment because it is a long-term investment and carries risk. Buy-out shops don't get any of the profit unless the fund performs well for investors, and they get their cut of profits only after investors are paid back. But the idea that a benefit received can be classified as a capital gain simply because it is risky seems specious. After all, payments from bankers' bonuses to authors' royalties fluctuate, yet are still classified as income. Furthermore, the bulk of the original cash in private-equity funds, from which all profits are ultimately made, is not supplied by managers but by clients. They actually stump up the capital, and will continue to be taxed at the lower rate.

Support is growing for the idea that carried interest is actually compensation for services rendered (for example, choosing which companies to buy and then helping to monitor them), and should be taxed as income. Victor Fleischer, a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says carried interest is a "quirk" in America's tax code that allows some of the richest workers in the country to pay lower taxes than others do on their bonuses.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Off the Shelf - A War for Hearts and Minds, Economically Speaking - Review - NYTimes.com
A YEAR ago, Ian Bremmer was invited to the Chinese Consulate in New York, along with a group of economists and scholars, to discuss the financial crisis. Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Bremmer, a political risk consultant who has been widely published, was surprised to hear a Chinese diplomat ask them, "Now that the free market has failed, what do you think is the proper role for the state in the economy?"

Mr. Bremmer recounts this tale in the introduction of "The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?" ...

The way he sees it, China and Russia are using what he calls "state capitalism" to advance the interests of their companies at the expense of their American rivals. But that is not the only battle he describes in his book. The other is the struggle for the hearts and minds of emerging-market giants like Brazil and India that are leaning toward the free market, but still haven't fully embraced it.

... he argues that the United States needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with its capitalist allies in Europe against the threat he sees. He doesn't deny that there are differences between American capitalism and the Scandinavian variety, to say nothing of the French, which the American right never tires of bashing. Yet he argues that the United States and Europe share a core assumption that the private sector, not government, should be a primary engine of growth.

The same cannot be said of the practitioners of state capitalism. ...

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 12:43:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The backdoor corporate comeback

It is hard to argue with Ian Bremmer's starting assumption that proponents of free market capitalism have a problem, after the financial crisis and recession, in making their case to sceptics in the developing world. Yet it is a very big jump from there to his suggestion that state capitalism in the developing world threatens free markets and the future of the global economy.

As for the title of his book, which announces the end of the free market and posits open warfare between states and corporations, one can only say it is wildly over the top. Equally questionable is whether state capitalism, defined as "a system in which the state plays the role of leading economic actor and uses markets primarily for political gain", is as novel as Bremmer claims. Mussolini's brand of statist economic management would fit perfectly with that description.

(...) this remains very much in the genre of the scare story book. The risk in such books is that, like Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's Le D éfi Americain, they choose the wrong target. Or they over-hype the scare in the interests of making a bigger splash. The End Of The Free Market falls clearly into the latter camp.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 04:37:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beyond Stimulus | NYTimes.com - Pier Carlo Padoan (I.H.T. Op-Ed Contributor)

In his column "The pain caucus" ( IHTJune 1), Paul Krugman raises questions about the economic outlook of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He writes that the O.E.C.D. is effectively saying that "policymakers should stop promoting economic recovery and instead begin raising interest rates and slashing spending."

... This is therefore an unusually difficult time for policymakers. The nascent recovery, though due in part to continued strong growth in emerging economies, also reflects the success of monetary and fiscal stimulus in most O.E.C.D. economies.

As the recovery progresses, this extraordinary stimulus will have to be withdrawn. Otherwise, it will only feed another bubble. But withdrawing the stimulus too abruptly could cut the recovery short. For some time, therefore, policymaking will involve trading off these risks. To a large extent, the issue is one of timing: when and how quickly should policy stimulus be withdrawn? <...>

On monetary policy, the issue is not whether inflation is a risk today -- it is not -- but whether it will be a problem in two years' time. The need to be forward-looking means beginning to ease up gradually on monetary stimulus by the end of this year. Effectively, zero interest rates in the euro area, Japan, Britain and the United States are creating distortions in capital markets. Monetary conditions need to be back to normal by the time economic slack disappears and inflationary pressures begin to reassert themselves.

Raising real interest rates above zero would signal a commitment to contain inflation, helping to check inflationary expectations and hold down market interest rates two and three years into the future. If there is more fiscal tightening, on the other hand, interest rates can remain lower for longer. The crucial point is that policy needs to be forward-looking if governments are going to seize the initiative back from financial markets. ...

Pier Carlo Padoan is deputy secretary-general and chief economist of the O.E.C.D.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 12:51:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah... so wait... we seize the initiative from the financial markets by obeying their every whim?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:52:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Out with Keynes, in with Hoover?

This is why all you hear in Finnish research circles is China, China, China.

Cutting deficits at a time when the European economy is struggling out from under the dead weight of near-zero growth will, he believes, condemn economies such as Greece, Portugal and Spain to years of grinding poverty.

The brief rekindling of the love affair with Keynes appears to be over.

Corporate health

Northern Europeans need not be too glum - so long as they are not disturbed by the news of protests, riots and armies of unemployed among their southern neighbours.

The impoverished south should keep the euro weak, and the northern exporters should benefit accordingly.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 05:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian | David Cameron: cuts 'will change British life'

David Cameron will warn tomorrow that Britain's "whole way of life" will be disrupted for years by the most drastic public spending cuts in a generation. The cuts, he will say, will have an impact on Britain's entire population.

In his most gloomy remarks since taking office, the prime minister will declare that Britain's public finances are worse than expected and are forcing him to take "momentous decisions".

Cameron will say: "How we deal with these things will affect our economy, our society - indeed our whole way of life. The decisions we make will affect every single person in our country. And the effects of those decisions will stay with us for years, perhaps decades to come."

On Tuesday George Osborne, the chancellor, will set out the first steps towards what Nick Clegg described last year as "savage" spending cuts when he outlines a framework for an autumn spending review that will introduce department-by-department cost savings.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:21:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This was written a year ago:

FT.com: Darling is doing his best to clean up Brown's mess (Willem Buiter's Maverecon, April 22, 2009)

Under the best possible scenario, taxes will have to be raised and/or public spending cut on a permanent basis by between 5 and 6 per cent of GDP to regain fiscal sustainability. The necessary permanent fiscal tightening could easily be larger. The pain will be widely felt. The ambition to bring British infrastructure back up to the level it achieved at the end of the 19th century has been postponed by another quarter-century. Education and health will suffer.

The long-term pain of higher taxes and lower public spending is not the result of public debt and deficits incurred because of a war fought by a united nation against a hated external enemy. It is the result of an economic civil war, a massive systemic peacetime economic failure, with a large domestic component. It is therefore not clear that the necessary social and political cohesion - readiness to accept joint fiscal burden-sharing - will be present. If the necessary fiscal tightening is not forthcoming because different groups and vested interests are engaged in a war of attrition aimed at shifting the fiscal burden to the other guy, markets could easily panic and Britain could face an emerging market-style "sudden stop", with the rest of the world withholding financing from its public and private sectors.

To forestall the occurrence of a triple crisis (banking, sterling and sovereign debt), it would behove the UK to apply for an IMF Flexible Credit Line (FCL). Unfortunately, the criteria for qualifying for an FCL arrangement include " . . . (iv) a reserve position that is relatively comfortable . . . ; (v) sound public finances, including a sustainable public debt position; . . . (vii) the absence of bank solvency problems that pose an immediate threat of a systemic banking crisis; (viii) effective financial sector supervision." It is questionable whether criteria (iv) and (v) are met. Criteria (vii) and (viii) are obviously not met. In addition, with a £175bn annual borrowing requirement for the next couple of years, the measly $240bn or so the IMF currently has at its disposal is unlikely to make much of a difference.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:27:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
David Cameron: cuts 'will change British life' | Politics | The Guardian
Canadian-style star chamber to enforce savage spending decisions
Uh, what?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
these cuts will not affect the top 1%, heck they probably won't affect the top 10%; all of whom can be presumed to be reliable tory voters.

Everyone else can be dispensed with.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:47:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mike Whitney: Europe is Heading for a Mini-Depression

German and French banks have vast exposure to public and private debt in Club Med countries; Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. When those countries finances begin to teeter, it's harder for the banks to exchange assets in the repo market where they get the bulk of their funding. They are forced to take a "haircut" on the value of their collateral which erodes their capital cushion and pushes them closer to default. This is what happened in the US  when the French Bank Paribas started listing in late 2007.   PIMCO's Paul McCulley explains the origins of the financial crisis in a speech he gave at the Fed's annual symposium in Jackson Hole. Here's an excerpt:

"If you have to pick a day for the Minsky Moment [the economist Hyman Minsky wrote extensively about the modalities of economic crisis], it was August 9. And, actually, it didn't happen here in the United States. It happened in France, when Paribas Bank (BNP) said that it could not value the toxic mortgage assets in three of its off-balance sheet vehicles, and that, therefore, the liability holders, who thought they could get out at any time, were frozen. I remember the day like my son's birthday. And that happens every year. Because the unraveling started on that day. In fact, it was later that month that I actually coined the term "Shadow Banking System".... 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 08:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[Banks] are forced to take a "haircut" on the value of their collateral which erodes their capital cushion and pushes them closer to default.

Only because of non-reality based and obsolete  accounting and regulatory practices.  Banks haven't run their business off "assets" for decades; they profit by accumulating and then directing and re-directing Flow of Funds.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 11:49:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:44:33 AM EST
Israel deports activists challenging Gaza blockade | World | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2010
Israel has begun expelling the latest group of activists detained for trying to break the Gaza blockade. Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to the US has rejected a probe into an earlier deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla. 

The group of 19 activists was detained on Saturday after trying to sail to Gaza in defiance of Israel's three-year blockade. Seven of the 19 activists were reportedly released and deported early Sunday, while the rest are to be released later Sunday.


Israel said its troops boarded the Irish-owned aid ship earlier on Saturday without meeting any resistance, forcing the ship to change course for the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

The passengers of the Rachel Corrie included Irish and Malaysian activists, four Indonesian crew members and a Scottish captain. The ship was carrying hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.


The incident came five days after Israeli forces killed nine activists in clashes after commandos stormed a Turkish-owned ship trying to break the blockade.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:30:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel rejects UN call for international inquiry into flotilla raids | World news | guardian.co.uk

The UN secretary general called today for a multinational investigation of Israel's raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine deadbut the proposal was swiftly rejected by the Israelis.

Ban Ki-moon proposed that the inquiry be headed by the former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey - under whose flag many of the ships in the aid convoy sailed - Israel and the US, an official from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said.

But Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, told Fox News: "We are rejecting an international commission. We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place."

Netanyahu discussed the proposal for a multinational panel with Ban in a telephone call yesterday but told cabinet ministers from his rightwing Likud party today that Israel was exploring other options, political sources said.

Ban's proposal came after Israel risked a fresh wave of international condemnation yesterday by detaining a boat carrying humanitarian aid attempting to break the blockade of Gaza and forcibly diverting it to the port of Ashdod. Israel has said that most of those aboard the MV Rachel Corrie will be deported today.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israeli PM blames 'hostile group' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

srael's prime minister has claimed that a group of activists intent on violence secretly boarded the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, avoiding security checks, and attacked Israeli troops during last week's deadly raid.

Binyamin Netanyahu's comments are the latest in an Israeli campaign to defend its attack on a flotilla of ships headed for the blockaded Gaza Strip with hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian cargo.

He said on Sunday that "dozens of thugs'' from "an extremist, terrorism-supporting'' organisation had prepared for the arrival of the naval commandos.


However, he did not provide any evidence to support his allegation.

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said all cargo and passengers were required to pass through customs and port security whether they boarded in Greece, Ireland or Turkey.

"Israel has yet to provide evidence that any attack on its soldiers was in fact pre-planned - something denied by all those travelling on board the ship," he said.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:41:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'We need to reconsider Gaza embargo'
The Gaza embargo consensus among Israel's leadership seemed to be cracking on Sunday as the government considered its response to the fallout from the flotilla interception incident.

"Israel needs to consider alternatives to the embargo on Gaza in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident," Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) said at the opening of Sunday's cabinet meeting. We need to prevent arms entering Gaza, but the embargo which has been in place since 2007 needs to be reconsidered.

"We need to ease the population's conditions and find security-sensitive, worthy alternatives to the embargo," Herzog said.

The Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit responded to the possibility of lifting the blockade by demanding that a decision on that question should not be taken without a concomitant decision by the government to agree to the terms for a prisoner exchange demanded by Hamas for the release of Gilad Schalit, Army Radio reported.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Gaza blockade: Iran offers escort to next aid convoy
Iran has warned that it could send Revolutionary Guard naval units to escort humanitarian aid convoys seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza - a move that would certainly be challenged by Israel.

Any such Iranian involvement, raised today by an aide to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would constitute a serious escalation of already high tensions with Israel, which accuses Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon and of backing Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza.

"Iran's Revolutionary Guard naval forces are prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys that carry humanitarian assistance for the defenceless and oppressed people of Gaza with all their strength," pledged Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's personal representative to the guards corps.

by IdiotSavant on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 06:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not my first choice...

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 03:03:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
..or Israel finally freed the foreign nationals it illegally detained whilst they were in neutral water.

depends on your frame, doesn't it.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 05:47:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lesotho's people plead with South Africa to annex their troubled country | World news | The Observer

Thousands of people in the impoverished Commonwealth kingdom of Lesotho have asked South Africa in effect to annex their state because it has been bankrupted by the HIV pandemic.

The move comes as South Africa, in a move to secure its borders ahead of the World Cup, which starts on Friday, has barred thousands of people from Lesotho from crossing its borders.

"Aids has killed us,'' said charity director Ntate Manyanye. "Lesotho is fighting for survival. We have a population of about 1.9 million but there may be as many as 400,000 Aids orphans among us. Life expectancy has fallen to 34. We are desperate."

Ten days ago, several hundred people marched through the capital Maseru and delivered a petition to parliament and the South African High Commission requesting that their country be integrated into its giant neighbour, which completely surrounds it. "We have 30,000 signatures. Lesotho is not just landlocked - it is South Africa-locked. We were a labour reserve for apartheid South Africa. There is no reason for us to exist any longer as a nation with its own currency and army,'' said Vuyani Tyhali, a trade unionist and initiator of the Lesotho People's Charter Movement.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Afghan officials resign over attack - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Al Jazeera English

Afghanistan's interior minister and the head of the intelligence service have resigned over Wednesday's  attack on a peace conference.

Hamid Karzai, the president, accepted the resignations on Sunday.

"President Karzai accepted the resignation letters of the minister of interior Hanif Atmar and of the chief of the NDS [Afghan secret service] Amrullah Saleh," the president's office said in a statement.

The statement said the explanation they gave for last Wednesday's attack was "not satisfactory".

Despite tight security, fighters managed to fire at least five rockets at the tent where the conference, locally called jirga, was held in the capital, Kabul.

None of the 1,500 delegates were injured.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:35:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Taliban fighters reject peace offer - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Al Jazeera English

Taliban fighters in the remote eastern Afghan province of Nuristan have rejected calls to hold peace talks with the government.

Delegates at the recently concluded peace conference in Kabul - locally called a jirga - asked the government to hold talks with the Taliban.

Shortly after the conference ended, Hamid Karzai, the country's president, made an overture to the Taliban, ordering the release of fighters held on questionable evidence in Afghan jails.

But it is unclear whether Taliban fighters will respond to his call for reconciliation.

Members of the Taliban in Nuristan told Al Jazeera they are winning the war, and do not see a need to enter into negotiations.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:37:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rule of the Gun - With U.S. Aid, Warlord Builds Afghan Empire - NYTimes.com

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan -- The most powerful man in this arid stretch of southern Afghanistan is not the provincial governor, nor the police chief, nor even the commander of the Afghan Army.

It is Matiullah Khan, the head of a private army that earns millions of dollars guarding NATO supply convoys and fights Taliban insurgents alongside American Special Forces.

In little more than two years, Mr. Matiullah, an illiterate former highway patrol commander, has grown stronger than the government of Oruzgan Province, not only supplanting its role in providing security but usurping its other functions, his rivals say, like appointing public employees and doling out government largess. His fighters run missions with American Special Forces officers, and when Afghan officials have confronted him, he has either rebuffed them or had them removed.

"Oruzgan used to be the worst place in Afghanistan, and now it's the safest," Mr. Matiullah said in an interview in his compound here, where supplicants gather each day to pay homage and seek money and help. "What should we do? The officials are cowards and thieves."

Mr. Matiullah is one of several semiofficial warlords who have emerged across Afghanistan in recent months, as American and NATO officers try to bolster -- and sometimes even supplant -- ineffective regular Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban insurgency.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:47:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RNZI: Fiji leader claims support to put off 2014 election
The leader of the Fiji military regime claims the people of Fiji are urging him to delay his plans for elections by 2014.


He told Auckland-based Radio Tarana that he doesn't understand why Pacific Islands Forum ministers say things are getting worse in Fiji.

"Everybody supports what the government is doing and in fact, they want an extension of the time. In fact, they don't want an election. So I really don't know what these people mean by saying he situation is worsening."

Of course, anyone who doesn't say they support the regime is dragged away by the military to be beaten or raped...

by IdiotSavant on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 07:01:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:45:07 AM EST
Cap Reported to Recover 10,000 Barrels of Oil a Day - NYTimes.com

HOUSTON -- A cap placed over a ruptured well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico is capturing about 10,000 barrels a day, indicating engineers are making some progress in stanching the flow, Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the disaster, said Sunday. Enlarge This Image BP PLC, via Associated Press

The oil leak continued to pour out of the well head around the capping device in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

"We're slowly raising production," he said in an interview on the ABC television news program "This Week."

But he also cautioned in a separate appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" that even if the ultimate strategy -- two relief wells -- finally succeed in plugging the leak one mile below the surface of the gulf, it would take "well into the fall" to clean up the beaches and marshes sullied by the oil and to address other environmental harm. "This is a very, very, very tough problem," he said, when asked if the disaster would end soon.

Early Saturday, engineers were able to divert only 6,000 barrels in a 24-hour period to a ship on the surface as they worked to close two of four vents on the containment cap. But by midnight, according to Admiral Allen, the amount of oil diverted to the ship had reached 10,000 barrels.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:44:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scientists Will Monitor Deepwater Horizon Methane Plumes for Gulf Oil Spill Answers: Scientific American
Much of the focus at the Deepwater Horizon disaster site has been on the oil pouring out of the damaged well, but some researchers are beginning to turn their attention to the methane, or natural, gas escaping along with the gushing crude. Careful study of this methane, which comprises about 40 percent of the riser pipe output, is expected to provide scientists with a wealth of information, including a more accurate calculation of the spill's magnitude and thereby a better understanding of its impact on ocean life.

The size of the spill has been cause for much speculation, with estimates ranging anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 barrels per day, although 12,000 to 19,000 barrels appears to be emerging as the consensus. Yet visual observations and spot measurements of oil, water and gas mix are unreliable due in part to the water's turbulent flow, David Valentine, a University of California, Santa Barbara, assistant professor of marine sediment geochemistry, biogeochemistry and geomicrobiology, wrote last week in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Valentine instead proposed that quantifying the amount of leaked methane gas dissolved into the waters holds the key to calculating the spill's actual size.

"Unlike oil, methane dissolves uniformly in seawater," Valentine wrote. "And the tools are available to measure it accurately and sensitively." Adding up all the methane should yield a reasonable estimate on the oil spilled, he added. Methane is also thought to be the main culprit in the blowout that started the leak, and ice crystals formed by the gas sabotaged efforts to put a containment dome over the leak a few weeks ago.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:34:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How Will the Oil Spill Impact the Gulf's Dead Zone?: Scientific American
Each spring and summer fertilizer from the fields of the U.S. Midwest runs off into the Mississippi River. Old Muddy carries the nutrients down the length of the continent before dumping them into the Gulf of Mexico. Once introduced, the nitrogen and phosphorus prompts a bloom in algae, phytoplankton and other microscopic plants. After the plants die they drift to the bottom and their decomposition sucks the oxygen out of the seawater. The result is a vast dead zone, lethal to sea life that cannot swim out of the way, in inhabitable waters near the Gulf Coast that is sometimes as large as New Jersey--and the as much as 3.8 million liters of oil now spilling into the Gulf per day may make it worse.

"The oil is in the area of the annual low-oxygen zone that develops off the Mississippi River," says biological oceanographer Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), who has measured an early start to the annual dead zone this year in March. "There will be localized low-oxygen areas under the surface of the slick."

The oil spill may exacerbate the shallow-water dead zone through a variety of physical and biological processes. But it could also help minimize the dead zone through similar means. Overall, the response of the Gulf dead zone to the oil spill is quite uncertain, with oxygen levels being tugged up and down by numerous factors, leaving the future of this habitat in question.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:38:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's really going on out there:

Probably the scariest well I've been on in the GOM DW was about 6 years ago. They had set csg and were drilling ahead at 22,000'. And then they started to loss circ. They weren't sure where but it might have been at the previous csg shoe. They lost 60,000 bbls of OBM while drilling. No mud ever returned to the surface. So no mud log telling them if they had drilled oil/NG, no LWD to estimate pore pressure, no mud parameters to tell if the MW was being cut by oil, NG or water. And most importantly, no way to tell if the well was kicking. They put very heavy drill mud on the outside of the drill pipe but that would have not stopped a blow out coming up the inside of the DP. Took me 6 days to log that 2,500' of open hole. I ran pressure logs in the wet reservoir they cut: 19,000 psi bottom hole pressure. They were probably very lucky they didn't find oil/NG in that sand: a blow out could have easily happened. How scary was it? Some of the hands were sleeping in the escape capsules when they were off tower. And this insane risk was taken by a well known and very experience operator. Needless to say someone very high up in the company was willing to risk the 130 souls onboard that drillship to get this well down. Equally needless to point out: that person never set foot on that rig. We just finished the job, went home, cashed our pay checks and then tried to forget about it.


by asdf on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 06:41:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
GM lobby helped draw up crucial report on Britain's food supplies | Environment | The Observer

A powerful lobbying organisation representing agribusiness interests helped draft a key government report that has been attacked by environmentalists for heavily favouring the arguments of the genetically modified food industry.

The revelation comes after the resignation of two government advisers who have criticised the close relationship between the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the body that oversees the UK's food industry, and the GM lobby.

Emails between the FSA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) show the council inserted key sentences strengthening the case for GM food that ended up in the final report.

The report, "Food Standards Agency work on changes in the market and the GM regulatory system", examines how GM products are entering the UK, where the growing of GM products is banned, through the animal feed system. It acknowledges food prices could go up if GM products continue to be excluded.

Emails from the council - which represents leading GM food companies such as Monsanto and Bayer - to Dr Clair Baynton, the then head of novel foods at the FSA, show a close dialogue between both sides between 2008 and August 2009, when the report was published.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:58:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Water Spirit: Rover Findings Hint of a Warmer, Wetter Era on Mars: Scientific American
For NASA's Spirit rover, the days of roaming the Red Planet may now be in the past, but the observations the wheeled bot made in its travels are still paying scientific dividends. A new analysis of geologic data gathered by the rover nearly five years ago finds that a rock outcrop on Mars is rich in carbonates, which are minerals that form readily in watery, carbon-rich environments. According to the study, the finding lends more credence to the hypothesis that Mars may have once had a wetter, warmer climate thanks to a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere. What is more, the aqueous processes implicated in the carbonate formation point to a neutral environment more hospitable to life than the acidic waters thought to have existed elsewhere on Mars.

Multiple lines of evidence point to past flows of water across the Martian surface, but conditions on the planet now preclude the existence of liquid water. In the past Mars's surface could have been much warmer, particularly if a robust atmosphere had provided a significant greenhouse effect on the planet. The dense carbon dioxide atmosphere often invoked to explain the warm era should have left its mark on the planet's geology, as carbon and oxygen sequestered in carbonate minerals. But prior to the new study, carbonates had only been found in small amounts on Mars, creating an evidentiary problem for the carbon dioxide hypothesis.

In January NASA declared Spirit a stationary science platform after months of efforts to free the rover from a patch of soft soil came up short. But in late 2005, when the rover was still mobile, it had investigated a group of rock outcrops in a region of Gusev Crater known as the Columbia Hills. Equipped with a rock-abrasion tool and a suite of spectrometers, the robotic geologist poked around the formation known as the Comanche outcrops, but its findings were not conclusive at the time. Now, however, evidence from Spirit's three spectrometers points to a large carbonate component in Comanche, according to the study published online June 3 by Science.

Part of the delay between data acquisition and analysis, says Arizona State University in Tempe geologist Steven Ruff, a study co-author, is that the instrument he works on, the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES), had been dusted by a windstorm prior to arrival at the Comanche outcrops. That storm cleaned the rover's solar panels and boosted its energy but threw a confounding contaminant in the spectrometer's optical path. "Something that was good for the rover was bad for our instrument," Ruff says.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 01:45:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

IEA counts $550bn energy aid bill

The world economy spends more than $550bn in energy subsidies a year, about 75 per cent more than previously thought, according to the first exhaustive study of the financial assistance devoted to oil, natural gas and coal consumption.

The study by the International Energy Agency, the western countries' oil watchdog, says phasing out subsidies over the medium term, as agreed last year by the G20, would trigger vast savings in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

Past efforts have foundered as many countries have vested interests in providing lower-cost fuel to their citizens and industries, and in propping up sectors such as coal mining.

The IEA estimates that in 2008 - the latest year for which data are available - 37 large developing countries spent about $557bn in energy subsidies, according to a draft seen by the Financial Times. Previous estimates put it at about $300bn. Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and China top the ranking, according to the report.

Of course, these are only direct subsidies, not indirect ones (road building, military spending, etc...) and thus focus the blame on third world countries and especially producing countries - the message is: stop using all that cheap energy to subsidize your population, which wastes it, make them pay for it, they'll use less and the energy will be available to us for cheaper...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 05:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Third worlders would like to have climate like in Western Europe, US, most of Canada and secondly the same living standards.

Same old, same old song from IEA.

by FarEasterner on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 06:21:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IEA better to undertake study what kind of fuel prices would be viable for particular states. Some like China and India have huge masses of extremely poor, Russia may break up because of high fuel prices.

Russian fuel prices actaully were rising rapidly to the world level, and it led to escalation of discontent in Siberia and Far East. For example Russia till late was closed society and visas for foreign countries even in Asia were possible to get only in Moscow, read Eastern Europe in 10000 km away. With high prices for airticket people had to fly from Far East to Moscow paying about 1000 doll one way, spend a fortune on stay in Moscow to apply for visa, then fly back somewhere in Asia again spending at least 1000 doll or more. I am currently in Kathmandu Nepal, and the distance from here to my home is less than from Moscow. So Putin had to intervene and I heard that airtickets for all people in Far East are heavily subsidized, upto 60-70%. And on visas there was some progress, according to Wikipedia Russians can now visit around 90 countries without visas or with visas-on-arrival, but it's still not enough of course.

by FarEasterner on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 06:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just now I learned that Russians got 90 days visa free visits to Brazil from this Monday 7 June which makes only Chile left on the continent (visa free agreement was signed but not yet ratified). Which countries there do you think worthy to visit? I thought about Peru and Bolivia but nothing else come to my mind. And if anybody was there is English enough for independent travel in South America or better to learn some Portuguese and Spanish?
by FarEasterner on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 07:26:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A Gulf Full Of Oil Can't Beat A Tank Full Of Gas - Brian Mann | Weekend Edition Sunday: NPR

... I stop at a convenience store in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and the first thing I find is that people are following this disaster really closely. ... People are also really, really angry. Dwayne Carpenter, a guy with a yellow biker beard and tattoos, grumbles as he fills up his truck.

"I don't see anything happening fast enough," he says. "We've seen too much kill the wildlife, and I want my kids to grow up and have the same things I had." ...

Gas is something we all want -- and want cheap. Most of the people I talked to were driving what you'd have to call gas-guzzlers, so I asked whether they feel any personal culpability.

"Uh, no," Carpenter says. When I ask the question, he looks sort of angry.

"You know, we have to survive up here," he says. "The truck is my livelihood. Without it, I wouldn't have my business. So if those gas prices go up, we have to pay it."

I hear this a lot. People are disgusted by the oil spill, but what really has them worried is the idea that gas prices will spike. ...

I should say that while I was at the convenience store, I filled up my gas tank, too.

What I heard there was that people are angry, but they also don't see a real connection between the spill in the Gulf and the decisions they're making about the cars and trucks they drive, and the number of times they fill up the tank in the week.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 01:10:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[People] don't see a real connection between the spill in the Gulf and the decisions they're making ...

Of course not.  The propaganda machine hasn't told them what to think and it's too much of an effort for Americans to go out and do the research.

And if that sounds a bit bitter ... it is bitter.  I've been trying to get people to understand the who, what, when, and problems with the US oil addiction for a long, long time.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 12:00:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've just been reading a fascinating series of posts on this blog:

Scroll to the bottom and work your way up through the links.  I'm not promoting his economics or conspiracy pages, but I think he's got a very good idea about urbanity.

by njh on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 08:46:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fascinating and captivating.

Thank you!

The author is so right about Narrow Streets.  But common courtyards, open market shopping areas, and even - gasp - "green spaces" have their place; Central Park is a godsend for New Yorkers and worthy of study.  (IMHO)

Put in some boulevards for cross-city transportation and - viola! - you have the Traditional City of the FUTURE!

(aka, Paris)


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 09:35:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I ended up diarying it.  perhaps you could copy your post there for others to read?  Then I'll respond to your criticisms there.
by njh on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 10:52:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've posted this before, but it is still spot on.

Chapter 3: The war - chicagotribune.com

What are the hidden costs of America's imported oil? The answer is complex. It may ultimately be unknowable. But this hasn't daunted the likes of Milton Copulos.

A tenacious economist with the National Defense Council Foundation--a right-of-center Washington think tank--Copulos spent 18 solid months poring over hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents, toiling to fix a price tag on America's addiction to global crude. He parsed oil-related defense spending in the Middle East. He calculated U.S. jobs and investments lost to steep crude prices. He even factored in the lifelong medical bills of some 18,000 U.S. troops wounded in Iraq as of March. (About $1.5 million each.)

Copulos is a highly respected analyst in Washington. And his exhaustive findings flabbergasted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this spring.

The actual cost of gasoline refined from imported oil, according to Copulos?

Eight dollars a gallon.

When he isolated the hidden costs of Middle Eastern crude in particular, the price jumped to $11. This included a war premium that swelled the Pentagon's spending to protect all Persian Gulf oil to $137 billion a year. In a truly transparent economy, by Copulos' math, filling up Rodriguez's Jeep would run about $230.

Consumers don't dodge the bill for all these masked expenditures. Instead, they pay for them indirectly, through higher taxes, or by saddling their children and grandchildren with a ballooning national debt--one that's increasingly financed by foreigners. The result: Unaware of the true costs of their oil habit, U.S. motorists see no obvious reason to curb their energy gluttony.

"Gas isn't too expensive," said Copulos. "It's way, way too cheap."

That was written in 2006.  It would be a lot more than $8 now.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 04:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Society, Culture, History, Information 

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:45:48 AM EST
Study finds young, devout Muslims in Germany more prone to violence | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2010
A study conducted by the German authorities has found that the more devout young Muslims become, the more prone to violence they get. The study says the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught. 

The willingness to commit violent crimes grows among young Muslim immigrants in Germany the more religious they become, according to a joint survey by the German interior ministry and the Institute for Criminology Research of Lower Saxony (KFN).

By comparison, the study found that just the opposite was true for Christian immigrants. The willingness to commit violent crimes, such as armed robbery or assault and battery, among young Catholics and Protestants decreases with religious fervor, the KFN study revealed.

The study said the reason for this difference had to do with the very different image of masculinity. Muslim devotion promotes the acceptance of macho behavior, said Christian Pfeiffer, the director of the Lower Saxony research institute and one of the authors of the study.

Pfeiffer said that in their religion, and in the family at home, young Muslim immigrants are frequently exposed to a more conservative world view and lay claim to a variety of male privileges.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bangladesh restores Facebook access - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Al Jazeera English

Authorities in Bangladesh have lifted the ban on Facebook, the social networking website.

The website had been blocked a week earlier over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and "obnoxious" images  of Bangladeshi leaders.

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) ordered the country's international Internet gateway providers to unblock the site on Sunday after the US-based company agreed to remove the controversial images and content.

"The Facebook is now open," BTRC vice-chairman Hasan Mahmud Delwar told the AFP news agency.

The move came after Pakistan lifted a similar ban on Facebook last week following a court order.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:45:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Variable valuations and voluntarism under group selection: An evolutionary public goods game - Philip H. Crowley and Kyung Hwan Baik | ScienceDirect - Journal of Theoretical Biology


In biological systems, as in human society, competing social groups may depend heavily on a small number of volunteers to advance the group's prospects. This phenomenon can be understood as the solution to an evolutionary public goods game, in which a beneficent individual or a small number of individuals may place the highest value on group success and contribute the most to achieving it while profiting very little. Here we demonstrate that this type of solution, recently recognized in the social sciences, is evolutionarily stable and evolves in evolutionary simulations sensitive to alternative ways of gaining fitness beyond the present social group. The public goods mechanism may help explain biological voluntarism in cases like predator inspection and foraging on behalf of non-relatives and may determine the extent of commitment to group welfare at different intensities of group selection.

Keywords: ESS; Game theory; Nash equilibria; Pleiometrosis; Predator inspection

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 01:05:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
lol. First, the article is for sale, demonstrably not a public good, which one might construe is consistent with the authors' socialization. Second, the hypothesis is patently anachronistic, possibly atavistic: "The public goods mechanism may help explain biological voluntarism." Rather than,  How does "biological voluntarism" explain "the public goods mechanism?" For the man makes the tool; the tool does not make the man.

Third, I'll never know, if the author cites William Hamilton, because I will never pay to read this material. NB. Hamilton's rule is not a "keyword" although Nash equilibrium is; neoconservative economic theory strikes again at the true "nature" of human behavior.

Possibly related references:

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As we know from Neo-Classical Economics people are fundamentally selfish, seeking only their own benefit and/or advantage; it is pro-social behavior that needs 'splaining.  

The NCE mob have never gotten beyond Spencer and his misreading of Darwin.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:41:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So pleased you mentioned Darwin rather than Eliot. Scandalous story, that one.

Women as Breeding Machines

Spencer's validation of the status quo had far broader popular and political appeal than Darwin's more nihilistic perspective ever could. This is one reason why social Darwinism would become so influential. The second, related, reason was that Spencer's theory of the physiological division of lavor by sex provided a scientific-sounding rationale for assuming male intellectual and social superiority. Spencer's "scientific" theories were an urgently needed antidote to the rising tide of feminist sentiment --especially in the United States-- at a time when women were making real headway in their efforts to obtain the rights to vote and to own property in their own name.

Even before Freud declared that sex is destiny, Spencer and other evolutionists were constructing a complex theoretical edifice based on the assumption. They took for granted that being female forestalled women from evolving "the power of abstract reasoning and that most abstract of emotions, the sentiment of justice." ...

Equating a complex organism with a single defining "essence," such as giving birth, is known as essentialism. In 1949, the French writer Simone de Beauvoir sarcastically articulated the essentialist view in The Second Sex: "Woman? Very simple, say the fanciers of simple formulas: she is a womb, and ovary; she is a female --this word is sufficient to define her."
[Hrdy, p 15-16]

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:59:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I assume you mean George and not T. S.

Sad story.  She was his intellectual equal but he wanted a bimbo to endlessly knock-up so his precious genes would honor the English Nation for centuries yet to be.

An asshole, in other words.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 03:08:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM: it is pro-social behavior that needs 'splaining.

Is your position that altruistic/pro-social behavior is the rule while selfish behavior is the exception that needs to be explained?

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 07:45:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My position is altruistic/pro-social behavior and selfish behavior are both observable and "common."  Whether such are neurologically determined and to whatever extent are questions I answer with, "Not Proven."  I would be surprised if there isn't some neurological basis and even a evolutionary biological basis; there's no proof I can accept at this time to justify making that statement.

What is certain is socialization and other group enculture methods and processes does have an affect.  There is a study, which I can't find at the moment, showing Economics students are more selfish than their peers.  The only explanation I find reasonable is their 'indoctrination' or education in the precepts of Neo-Classical Economics.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 08:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that much of the conventional wisdom about hunter-gatherer / "primitive" societies is that sharing is the rule, and the concept of "personal property" does not exist, or is inchoate at best.

And I know of the study you describe indicating that economics students are more selfish than other students, and I agree that is appears to be evidence that education/acculturation/indoctrination is the critical factor in explaining these results.

Unfortunately, my understanding of natural selection is about high school level, but doesn't the theory rely on a supposition that individuals behave in order to maximize the propagation of their own genes or those who share their genes?  This premise suggests that a certain amount of selfishness, on behalf of the individual and/or the individual's close relatives, is a crucial factor in natural selection.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Tue Jun 8th, 2010 at 12:05:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that you usually can't survive with only your closest relatives. And as soon as you need the whole group to survive altruism makes sense even from a primitive survival of the fittest point of view.
by generic on Tue Jun 8th, 2010 at 07:49:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference of being human: Morality - Francisco J. Ayala | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • Francisco J. Ayala, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697

In The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, published in 1871, Charles Darwin wrote: "I fully ... subscribe to the judgment of those writers who maintain that of all the differences between man and the lower animals the moral sense or conscience is by far the most important." I raise the question of whether morality is biologically or culturally determined. The question of whether the moral sense is biologically determined may refer either to the capacity for ethics (i.e., the proclivity to judge human actions as either right or wrong), or to the moral norms accepted by human beings for guiding their actions. I propose that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature, whereas moral codes are products of cultural evolution. Humans have a moral sense because their biological makeup determines the presence of three necessary conditions for ethical behavior: (i) the ability to anticipate the consequences of one's own actions; (ii) the ability to make value judgments; and (iii) the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Ethical behavior came about in evolution not because it is adaptive in itself but as a necessary consequence of man's eminent intellectual abilities, which are an attribute directly promoted by natural selection. That is, morality evolved as an exaptation, not as an adaptation. Moral codes, however, are outcomes of cultural evolution, which accounts for the diversity of cultural norms among populations and for their evolution through time.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 01:27:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
mmm, I can hardly believe a month has passed since I read this, "The Moral Life of Babies." The premises of the research question are extraordinarily ignorant, not a helpful foundation for the author's survey of purported clinical studies and pop fiction that follows. I afraid that this person is lecturing on developmental psyche instead of political science or comparative religion. One example:

Some recent studies have explored the existence of behavior in toddlers that is "altruistic" in an even stronger sense -- like when they give up their time and energy to help a stranger accomplish a difficult task. The psychologists Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello have put toddlers in situations in which an adult is struggling to get something done, like opening a cabinet door with his hands full or trying to get to an object out of reach. The toddlers tend to spontaneously help, even without any prompting, encouragement or reward....

[ascribing cognitive sophistication to infants aged 11 - 48 mo.]

Is any of the above behavior recognizable as moral conduct? Not obviously so. Moral ideas seem to involve much more than mere compassion. Morality, for instance, is closely related to notions of praise and blame: we want to reward what we see as good and punish what we see as bad. Morality is also closely connected to the ideal of impartiality -- if it's immoral for you to do something to me, then, all else being equal, it is immoral for me to do the same thing to you. In addition, moral principles are different from other types of rules or laws: they cannot, for instance, be overruled solely by virtue of authority. (Even a 4-year-old knows not only that unprovoked hitting is wrong but also that it would continue to be wrong even if a teacher said that it was O.K.) [emphasis added]

If you would, I'd like to know your reaction to the story.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Baby and Toddler studies are too rife with experimenter bias to be reliable.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:45:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Piaget addresses methodology specifically in the introduction to The Moral Judgement of the Child and other of his studies of cognitive development.

This dude, on the other hand, easily leads a reader such as myself to conclude he's dressing his own political agenda (infant persons) with pseudo-scientific "impartiality."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 03:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have to dig out and read my Piaget books in order to remember exactly why I take his work with extreme caution and how to support my conclusion.  Time, I'm afraid, I have no time for.  I can say it was studying Piaget that convinced me "Classical" or pre-biology inclusive Psychology wasn't a complete pile of worthless intellectual goo.

Without digging into the studies Bloom uses it's very hard to say one way or the other.  I do note his "Babies Do Math" example can be easily explained by they look longer because there is more to look at.  

But I'm a skeptic.

As to "evolutionary psychology" ... It would be nice if we knew what and how behavior arises from neurology(brain,) how neurology arises from behavior (mind,) and the Union of the two works (Brain/Mind Unity) before trying to figure out how all of that sprang from evolutionary processes.  If it did.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 09:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read that article when it came out and found it fascinating.  I am not sure what you find objectionable:  the "premises" of the research itself, or the way it was presented by the journalist in the article.  Nor do I quite understand what specifically you find ignorant.

As with non-human animals, there is always the risk of "anthropomorphizing" infants with our interpretations of our observations of their behavior.  Nevertheless, I found the discussion in the article to be fairly well-balanced, and the infants' behavior quite striking.

Psychological research of that cluster of behaviors, attitudes, feelings and so on that we label "morality" is still very young, but the subject is a valid one.  In fact, I would say that it this line of research is overdue.  Hopefully it begin to rationalize our folk notions about morality, bringing it from the world of superstition and mythology to the world of science -- demystifying it and more than likely humbling us even further with regards to the "special place" that humans putatively occupy in the universe.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 07:40:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're too ignorant to make the sweeping conclusions Prof. Ayala writes.  Example, the mechanisms of hormonal (blood carried) neurotransmitters is imperfectly understood and it may be decades before hormone induced results are manifested.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:55:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:46:15 AM EST
Table soccer aims to be taken seriously as a sport | Culture & Lifestyle | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2010
Table football or 'kicker' as it's often known as in Germany, is not just a pub game, but a serious sport. So competitive, that one professor has even made a robot that can challenge the best players. 

The German soccer team seeking victory in South Africa this June could do worse than take some tips for success from their table soccer counterparts. Currently, Germany is the number one country in the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) rankings.

An always popular pub game, table football, also known as 'foosball' and here in Germany, 'kicker,' has also grown in status as a professional sport, with countries like Germany boasting hundreds of kicker clubs and teams. These passionate players highlight the world of difference between the game played in bars, and the tournaments that attract thousands of spectators to watch the top players in action.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 12:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you've seen people do keepy-up on table football and seen them get their goalie to do overhead kicks you realise it's tremendously skillful.

But it's really just a pub game.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 05:54:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The best table I've seen was redesigned by a young Finnish artist, Jiri Geller. It pits christs against beelzebubs - with the Earth as the ball.

I tried to persuade him to call it 'Gottleib' - to no avail.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 06:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Answer yes to three or more of these and you are considered common

Do your toddlers have pierced ears?

Are any of the doors of your car a different colour?

Have you ever purchased an item using the television?

Would you know how to cash a giro?

Do you own a snake or a lizard ?

Do you have tattoos over more than 25% of your arms ?

Do you shop at Iceland?

When you go out for a family meal does it come in a bucket?

Do you watch ITV 2 ?

Do most of your relatives live within walking distance?

Have you ever been involved in a paternity test

Do you enjoy dog racing?

Do you shop at Sport and Soccer?

Do you have an account with Kays?

Have you ever been on holiday to a caravan park?

Did you name your children after celebrities?

Do you take off your top when you go shopping?

Do you own a 50" television?

Do you have an England flag hanging from a bedroom window ?

Do you watch Jeremy Kyle?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 08:39:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For a serious take see Common ground (The Guardian, 4 October 2006)
Having lived for years on a council estate, middle-class academic Gillian Evans set out to discover what it means to be be white and working class - with surprising results.
Making fun of "common" people must be the British equivalent of American liberals having "white trash parties".

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 08:51:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Canada's inhumane prison plan | National Post

Lord Black of Crossharbour becomes an abolitionist.

In the past two years, as regular readers in this space would know, thanks to my gracious hosts in the U.S. government, I have had what could be called extensive hands-on experience of the American correctional system.

I also believe that everyone has rights, including the unborn, demented, incurably ill, military adversaries and the criminal, and that the rights of those whose entitlements are for any reason circumscribed, are not inferior for being narrower, and should be as great as they practically can be, without violating the rights of others.

The Roadmap does not mention prisoners' rights, beyond basic food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and assumes that they are probably not recoverable for society and that the longer they are imprisoned, the better it is for society. Almost no distinction is made between violent and non-violent offenders.

The Roadmap is the self-serving work of reactionary, authoritarian palookas, what we might have expected 40 years ago from a committee of southern U.S. police chiefs. It is counter-intuitive and contra-historical: The crime rate has been declining for years, and there is no evidence cited to support any of the repression that is requested. It appears to defy a number of Supreme Court decisions, and is an affront, at least to the spirit of the Charter of Rights.

The Canada I remember and look forward to returning to should do exactly the opposite. Prison is an antiquarian and absurd treatment of nonviolent law-breakers. It only continues because it has.

The whole concept of prison should be terminated, except for violent criminals and chronic non-violent recidivists...

Wow! Knock me over with a feather. I still wish you'd take your peerage and go away to Britain.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:35:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ht http://darrylraymaker.blogspot.com/

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Mon Jun 7th, 2010 at 02:40:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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