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Photo diary

by melo
Sun Sep 16th, 2012 at 10:18:30 AM EST

It's been a while since I posted any pics at ET, and got me an urge to do so, so without further ado, come on down and post yours too.

Apologies to those who have already seen some of these, I hope there will be enough new ones to make it worth the visit!


               Lone Sandpiper, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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Don't know much about history

by melo
Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 06:19:05 AM EST

Rhymes, without reason.

"If the American people ever allow the banks to control the issuance of their currency (instead of Congress), first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. The issuing power of money should be taken from the banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to then Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, 1802

 "The eyes of our citizens are not sufficiently open to the true cause of our distress. They ascribe them to everything but their true cause, the banking system"
- Thomas Jefferson

 "All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in our Constitution; not from want of honour or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation."
- President John Adams, 2nd U.S. President

 "The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or so dependent on its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of the people mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system will bear its burdens without complaint and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests."

 John Sherman letter sent to New York bankers, Morton, and Gould, in support of the then proposed National Banking Act, 1863"

How can the present tragedy be written so our descendants avoid falling in the same trap?

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LQD Marco Travaglio writes regarding TAV

by melo
Tue Jul 5th, 2011 at 09:18:47 PM EST

  There have been some comments in various salons about the TAV, by our notably well-informed ET train buffs, that I found enlightening, (Thanks DoDo!), but tonight I read this by Marco Travaglio, which goes quite deeply into the cons regarding this inflammatory social division rending the harmony of the Val di Susa, with tens of thousands including local mayors protesting the top-down, undemocratic way this decision to go ahead with the project was made.

  I understand too little to say anything original on this apparently very thorny subject, yet being struck by how violently local and state force has been used to subdue resistance, and even allowing for a somewhat hyped tone adopted by all sides in the matter, (a fault Italian media has in spades), there seems little middle ground between the two factions, the local peoples' will to be governed in ways they approve of and feel included in, and the heavy handed approach taken by the authorities.

  Therefor I decided to diary it, to see if others who may have not seen the references in the Salons, might have more links, information, or opinions/experiences to share regarding this project, or indeed the wider context of rail rollout and freight transport in Europe, and why this project may or may not be worthy, in terms of EROI, in terms of social upheaval, and the democratic rights of local citizens to determine their NIMBY-ness in the face of State-level decisions.

  Quotes from Marco Travaglio's essay below the fold...

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Two-Track Euro? LQD

by melo
Sat Feb 20th, 2010 at 11:42:50 AM EST

Beppe Grillo's Blog
Yesterday, Francesco Giavazzi was talking about the crisis in Greece and debating the possibility of the crisis spreading to Italy. He soon found just the right knight on a white steed that will rush to this Country's aid. That's right, none other than the man himself, Berlusconi, the economist "who immediately understands such things" and who has plunged this Country into debt. "But if what makes the level of debt unsustainable is the lack of growth, I cannot see where Italy's strength lies: we are not growing either and our debt to GDP ratio is still the highest in the Euro zone. At last week's European summit, Silvio Berlusconi -- who immediately understands such things and has a healthy scepticism for the vanity of Brussels -- asked that the management of the crisis in southern Europe be delegated to the International Monetary Fund...Berlusconi must insist at all costs, because his intervention could be crucial in terms of saving the Euro." Can a two-track Europe (or even three-track) continue to support a one-track Euro? Or to have a single currency for that matter? I have some very serious reservations. Now over to Eugenio Benetazzo.

excerpt below...

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Liberals, lefties, and libertarians.

by melo
Thu Jan 28th, 2010 at 07:13:03 AM EST

This is what set off the chain of thoughts,


they can't seem to get that belonging to the cult of radical individualism that rejects any idea of social rules and order means that you aren't part of the Left.

 that started this off as a comment, then got too long...

interesting. 'radical individualism' is a bit of a dogwhistle here, i mean just think of its opposite!

the majority of politically active activists were born between 60 and 20 years ago, making them all postmodern, post ww2. the 'giant leap forward' that started post war and made america so industrious, prosperous, and social-geographically mobile came with the price of its uprooting from the land, with the demise of the family farm, and the formation of a strong middle class, at the same time fragmenting families and wiping many small communities off the map.

more heathen gibberish below

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Frank's New World

by melo
Fri Aug 28th, 2009 at 05:01:34 AM EST

 Frank awoke slowly in his biobed, protected against nuclear fallout and chemical attacks by my Shield-of-JesusTM heavenly protection mantle ($899.99 money back if not delighted). The soothing hum of the machinery brought him gently into the day, as it scanned his body for programming snafus, adjusted his blood chemistry, and showed him his astrological day, week and month predictions, projected colourfully and conveniently on the ceiling for his perusal.

   Hmmm, nothing too dramatic, a Mars sextile his natal Saturn square Pluto to keep on radar for a day or two, but otherwise the coast was clear.

  Meds kicking in, Frank stretched luxuriously, then leapt from under the mantle and sauntered to the kitchen, snapping off a chunk of energy bar extruded overnight from the  dispenser, wondering what new combinations of recycled protein the government scientists had dreamed up since yesterday.

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LQD William Engdahl on the world economy

by melo
Sun May 24th, 2009 at 04:45:11 AM EST

"Not even Jesus could reverse the decline in the US" | Politics from 2009-05-04 | RT

RT: So how long do you think it is going to take before we see the end of this recession?

W.E.: The point is we are at an epochal change. This is something that happens perhaps every four or five hundred years. This is not a once a decade recession we are living through. And I call it in my new book the `Decline of the American century'. This is a terminal decline as you had with the British Empire after WWI. It would not matter if Jesus Christ was the President of the US today. There would be nothing he could do to reverse that decline process. We would almost have to reorganize and start from scratch, because the cancer of this financial system has embedded so deeply that they've destroyed the industrial technology in the US.

They outsourced manufacturing over the past 25-30 years to Asia, to Eastern Europe, all over the world. The American elite have rotted itself from the inside out over the past 30-40 years since the early 1970s.

So Europe, very much including Russia or let's say Eurasia... Eurasia is a vast continent which has every resource man could imagine for everything we would want to build economically. It has the brainpower, it has the scientific talents, and we have not totally destroyed that as in the case of the US. And that is all we need. It has the raw materials, Russia has unlimited resources of natural gas and oil. The Russian geology is likely years ahead of American and Western geology, geophysics let's say, because it is based on real physics science and not on hocus-pocus to hide the fact of how much oil the world has. There is nothing that is lacking.

The decision in the Western Europe, the EU is, for many European elites, I know this from discussions here in Germany in the recent years - they have to make a choice, and they're schizophrenic about that choice right now: either strengthen the Atlantic alliance with Washington and go down with the sinking Titanic called the American century, or carefully try to reorient the supertanker called the EU and build bridges of cooperation with Russia above all, with China above all for economic markets and whatnot.

Interesting analysis, non? Nothing new we haven't already discussed here (possibly ad nauseam!), but tidily summarised and punchily put.

(more fire in the basement)

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Conscious Capitalism

by melo
Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 07:21:42 PM EST

"I don't see Tom's as a company, I see it as a movement." Blake Mycoskie

  So spake the entrepreneur, as I started this diary, inspired by the story on the teevee,  as it shows a documentary on this visionary businessman. TOMS Shoes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

More recently, Mycoskie was featured along with the owner of Frontera Foods, Rick Bayless in a CNBC segment titled "The Entrepreneurs".

(more downunder)

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Obama's tightrope

by melo
Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 07:14:18 PM EST

 Obama's redefining centrism, walking a tightrope between the plangent wails (free health care for all, yesterday!) and brassy challenges (legalise weed!) of the extreme left, and the immense forces invested in the status quo, brittly unwilling to give up their perks under the old, dying system.
  So he throws bones to both sides so they quit yapping and snapping. No more missile defence, but bases, no more Iraq, (eventually), and more Afghanistan. Yes on FISA, yes on greening the grid. Close Gitmo, expand Baghram, etc.

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Photoblogging Costa Rica, pt 2. (image heavy)

by melo
Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 09:19:05 AM EST


  Welcome to part 2, gentle readers, may your hearts be de-winterised by these tales and images from Costa Rica, a country that has become dear to my heart in a very short length of time.

More in the basement...

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Costa Rica Christmas

by melo
Thu Dec 25th, 2008 at 10:46:11 PM EST


What fun to check in with you all from so far away!

It's 24 hours since we arrived here now, and I thought I'd put up some pix, and share some first impressions.

Baby, won't you follow me down

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BioGas as Carbon Dioxide reducer

by melo
Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 05:40:14 AM EST

Here's a multiply-able, low-cost piece in the CO2 reduction jigsaw puzzle.

Excerpts from The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. Part 4 - By Rose George - Slate Magazine

Biogas, as this energy is known, can be produced from the fermentation of any organic material, from wood to vegetables to human excreta. In an oxygen-free digester, which acts somewhat like a human stomach, micro-organisms break down the material into sugar and acids, which then become gas. Mostly methane, with carbon dioxide and a little hydrogen sulfide, biogas can be used as fuel for cooking hobs, lights, and, sometimes, showers. It can also be converted into electricity. The slurry that remains from the digestion process is good fertilizer and considerably safer than raw excrement.

more below

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The Eye sees back

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

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

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

(More below the fold)

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LQD Velvet Fascism, Italian Style

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

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

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

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

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

Promoted by Colman

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LQD Michael Hudson interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more below

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

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

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

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

more below...


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LQD Punctuated Equilibrium (aka Catastrophism)

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

What will the ET economic superbrains parse out of this?

Calling Chris Cook!

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

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

Punctuated Equilibrium (aka Catastrophism)

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

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

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

more below...

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Throwaway food: what can be done about it?

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

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

Supermarket waste hits new high

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

By Susie Mesure
Sunday, 10 February 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more below...

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LQD Gini Coefficient Explanation?

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

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

Grand Theft: Economy IV | The Agonist

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

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

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

more below

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LQD Italy: Between Anarchy and Servility

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

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

First the writer, Gaither Stewart, some background:

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

Gaither Stewart's blog | The Daily Scare

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

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

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