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French elections: First Round Open Thread

by Bernard Sun Apr 23rd, 2017 at 08:58:25 AM EST

Polling stations are open since 8:00 this morning in mainland France. Polls are also open in overseas territories like Réunion island, New Caledonia and various French consulates throughout Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe: pretty much all places west of the International Date Line up to the eastern shores of the Atlantic (including UK, Ireland, Portugal, Morocco and western Africa). For instance, there are 54 polling stations in the UK (42 in London - source).

For the Americas, Caribbean and Pacific islands east of the International Date Line, the polls were held yesterday, due to the time difference. At the French consulate in Washington DC, voter registration was up 30%. In Montréal, only a single polling place was open and the line stretched for more than 1 km; same in Toronto where the voters had to wait in line for more than 2 hours.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Opinion polling and the French Elections

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 22nd, 2017 at 11:27:54 AM EST

Wikipedia provides an excellent summary graphic (above) of opinion polling in the 2017 French Presidential election (first round). It is illegal, in France, to publish any more opinion polls after midnight last night, so this is the final picture we have of the state of the race prior to the election. Of course, as with any polling analysis, one has to issue a number of caveats:

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City Agriculture - April 21, 2017

by gmoke Sat Apr 22nd, 2017 at 02:52:05 AM EST

An apartment filled with plants

Daytonian in Manhattan - "The stories behind the buildings, statues and other points of interest that make Manhattan fascinating."
Can't have a viable city agriculture without an understanding of the buildings on the land and their histories.

MyFood smart solar backyard greenhouse with aquaponics

Ecoqube Frame - tabletop or vertical garden for micro greens

Purdue University Biowall to clean air and save energy

Starchitect Daniel Libeskind designs shyscraper with vertical garden for Toulouse, France

Buildings like trees:  Oas1s

BBC on vertical farming

100 hectare urban farming district in Shanghai
http://www.archdaily.com/868129/sasaki-unveils-design-for-sunqiao-a-100-hectare-urban-farming-distri ct-in-shanghai

Vietnamese house which provides food for three generations of residents in Ho Chi Minh City

Hanoi house with plants to clean polluted air

First vertical farm in the Netherlands
cleantechnica.com/2017/04/19/vertical-farming-taking-off-europes-first-commercial-vertical-f arm-construction-netherlands

A Historic Re-alignment?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 18th, 2017 at 10:37:45 PM EST

On the 3rd. January, in A Brexit doomsday scenario, I wrote that:

In an ideal world, she [Theresa May] might actually like to engineer a parliamentary defeat so that she could go to the country in a general election. This could potentially give her a personal mandate as Prime Minister, weed out any parliamentarians in her own party whose loyalty is suspect, add at least another 2 years to her Government's period in office, and provide her with a more precise mandate as to what to seek in the Brexit negotiations. She could put her Brexit wish list to the people and then fetch up in Brussels saying that these are the democratically declared wishes of the British people, and that it would be undemocratic for Brussels to reject them.


A General election would have the added benefits of exploiting the divisions in the Labour Party under Corbyn and a UKIP party riven by internal shenanigans. Only the Lib Dems represent an option for disillusioned Remain voters, but they are more likely to eat into the Labour vote. Indeed the Lib Dems could replace Labour as the main opposition party if they manage to gain a majority of the 48% of voters who voted Remain. Oh the joys, from a Tory perspective!

In any case, given the peculiarities of the British first past the post voting system, May could win an overall majority with as little as 35% of the vote, provided the remaining 65% is scattered between Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP, the Scots Nationalists and the Welsh and N. Ireland parties which generally don't matter in the Westminster arithmetic. Easily enough done, especially if voting Tory can be painted as a patriotic imperative to strengthen the British hand in the Brexit negotiations. Cue Land of Hope and Glory!

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Brexit by the numbers

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 11th, 2017 at 09:21:40 PM EST

The Economist has produced an index which lists all EU member states by their stances on what the Economist claims are the four key issues surrounding the negotiations (h/t Bernard):

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides that any Brexit agreement has to be passed by qualified majority vote on the European Council as well as by simple majority in the European Parliament. This raises the interesting question as to which EU member state leaders Theresa May must win over if she is to get any agreement. I do the maths below.

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French presidential elections 2017: First Round

by Bernard Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 08:09:56 PM EST

With two weeks to go until the first round, the Presidential contest has entered the official phase: since this Monday, the media are obliged by law to give equal time to each and every candidate, regardless of notoriety, or big party backing her or him. Each candidate will also have the opportunity to air their own 15 minutes segments for free on public TV.

For instance, Philipe Poutou, a factory car worker at a Ford Motor Company plant near Bordeaux,  running for the Trotskyst "New Antcapitalist Party", will get the same air time on national television than the other candidates like Macron, Fillon or Le Pen.

Since my first diary, the race for the coveted second round runoff on May 7 has been led by Le Pen and Macron in the polls. The recent developments seem to be Macron's support tapering off, but still keeping in the same range as Le Pen, with Mélenchon clearly rising over Hamon, the official PS candidate that many PS officials are openly betraying.

The scandal ridden Fillon is still polling several points behind the two front runners and about level with Mélenchon. But no matter what, even though this looks like "a four horse race" (to quote eurogreen), there's only room for two in the second round. So who will they be?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The Brexit negotiating environment

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:06:22 PM EST

Colman has initiated an interesting debate on the likely outcomes to the Brexit negotiations, but I am far more interested in the negotiating process which I have already discussed here. The possible outcomes, both short and long term, seem pretty variable to me, effected by all sorts of difficult to predict external and internal factors. Speculation as to outcomes is fun, but based on all sorts of assumptions which require elucidation if circumstances change. So what are the factors which are likely to impact on the outcome of the negotiations? I discuss some below, but would welcome the input of those closer to the evolving political dynamics in other member states of the EU.

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The Council's Brexit negotiating guidelines

by Migeru Sun Apr 2nd, 2017 at 07:54:22 AM EST

We've had two front-page stories on Theresa Msy's Article 50 letter, so here is one about the EU Council's negotiating position (from Bloomberg, or did you think the Council would publish them on its website rather than leak them?).

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Biochemist Goes to War: 9

by THE Twank Sun Apr 2nd, 2017 at 06:22:37 AM EST

A Biochemist Goes To War  Part IX

Welcome to California.

Scene 1: Sacramento. Rory: "Isn't this weather great?  A foot of snow in Schenectady and Barrington and here ... people jogging in their shorts.  Love this place. Conrad ... we'll need some real estate ... think Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 but larger ... we'll need lab and living space for at least 50 people ... more likely 100.  Be expansive ... any property can be confiscated on behalf of this project.  Find the property, then turn the info over to me ... I'll do the rest.  Amy ... when's the meeting with the Mars people ... time to find out where the  mission stands." Conrad: "You going to need any of my bugs for your meeting?" "Pack me up a box of three and three.  Plus ... the Senator has assigned me an assistant if I need help ... some guy ... Sam ... used to play linebacker for the Bears ... apparently football wasn't violent enough for his taste, whatever that means."

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Theresa May's A50 letter

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 04:55:12 PM EST

The full text of Theresa May's A50 notification letter is available here, and is well worth a read in full. It is a largely unobjectionable 2200 word document, and takes into account some of the previous criticisms that the UK should not be allowed to "cherry pick" those aspects of the EU it likes, to the exclusion of those it does not like.

Overall it paints a positive picture of the EU it wants to do business with as an economic and security partner. So much so, that one wonders why the UK wants to leave in the first place! Membership already provides the benefits the UK says it wants to achieve in its future partnership with the UK.

One is left with the feeling that what the UK really wants is not to be just one member amongst 28: It wants to be in some kind of equal Partnership with the EU27 as a whole.

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Biochemist Goes to War: 8

by THE Twank Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 05:15:03 AM EST

A Biochemist Goes To War  Part VIII


Scene 1: The Pot Shop.  Rory and Conrad listening to the replay of Rory's interview with Buttfuck. " But I digress ... where was I?  Oh yeah, why I asked you to come see me. Rumor has it you got this big brain ... you solve problems ... all sorts of problems.  Well, I've got a problem for you ... one word ... MARS!" Conrad pauses the playback. "When I heard Mars ... I thought it was a setup.  You get hauled there right after the KKK bloodbath and he wants to talk about MARS?!  My bullshit alarm hit eleven.  And that shit about Hoover and Tolson ... glad that was before my time." "Can we get on with the playback?" "Sorry ... like Buttfuck said, I digress." "That's right ... I said Mars." "You mean the planet ... or the candy bar?" "Of course the planet, you ninny.  Haven't you heard?  The White House is all gung-ho on going to Mars ... setting up colonies ..." "Let me guess ... hotels with his name on them."

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LTE: Pay and Policing in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 28th, 2017 at 04:09:50 PM EST

Irish Independent: Garda bosses don't deserve respect (Scroll down to second letter)

A report by the Irish stockbroker Davy has found that average public sector wages amounted to €47,400 in Ireland, 40pc more than the average wage in the private sector.

In addition, Davy's calculations indicated that a private sector worker would need to save €590,000 to buy an annuity on retirement that matched public sector career-average salary pensions of €23,000 a year.

It also noted that public servants in Ireland were better paid on average than their counterparts in many other European countries. In the UK, average public sector wages are £26,200 (€30,800), which is on a par with what their counterparts in the private sector earn.

Members of An Garda Síochána had the highest average pay in 2016 at €64,700, or almost twice the average private sector wage. Surely one could expect extraordinary efficiency and competence for such generous remuneration?

Not a bit of it. Garda management is now known to have inflated its breath test statistics by almost 100pc and caused the wrongful conviction of thousands of motorists.

Even more worryingly, it is claimed that senior officers have no idea how this happened, and it seems they have no interest in investigating further. Those in private sector management would be sacked for allowing such conduct on their watch.

It seems clear that Garda management is incapable of running an efficient or truthful operation.

How is the public supposed to respect the law and the law-enforcers when the law enforcers themselves have shown such contempt for their responsibilities to the public?

I have no difficulty with gardaí and public sector workers in general being well paid, but they should have to earn it through the quality and integrity of the services they provide.

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow

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European Elections 2017, next stop: France

by Bernard Mon Mar 27th, 2017 at 08:14:30 PM EST

After the Netherlands, France is next in line in the EU 2017 elections cycle. It'll start in about four weeks from now with the first round of presidential elections on Sunday 23 April.

There are 11 contenders for this first round and only the first two will face each other in a run off two weeks later, on Sunday 7 May.
But French voters won't be done with visiting their polling stations this spring yet: Sunday 11 June will be the first round of "legislative" elections to renew the 577 members of the National Assembly, with a second round scheduled the following Sunday, on 18 June.

To some extent, the parliamentary elections may be even more important to determine the direction of French policies, as I argued in my diary, five years ago.
But let's start with the Presidential contest.

Front-paged Frank Schnittger

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Biochemist Goes to War: 7

by THE Twank Sat Mar 25th, 2017 at 06:05:48 AM EST

A Biochemist Goes To War  Part VII

Welcome to Washington D.C.

Scene 1: The Pot Shop, post bloodbath.  Rory; "Jeff, I told you last time, I don't work human based problems ... I'm a scientist ... I do sets of controlled experiments. I don't see how I can help you." "When I got back to D.C., I talked to my boss, Lenny. I told him about you ... you being a generalized problem solver ... and we agreed we had a problem.  That golf course thing has us spooked ... never saw anything like it. Guys' dicks turning black and needing to be amputated ... gnarly." "So that's what was up when you were here last ... you never said." "Yeah, anyway ... I told Lenny we could use a fresh pair of eyes around this place and you would be just the person.  He said he'd talk to his boss but he didn't hold out much hope ... budget cutbacks and all.  Lenny's son-in-law knew one of the guys from the golf course ... you know what it's like to visit a friend who just had his dick cut off?  Pretty scary scene ... now they're looking for a dick donor ... the guy wants to scale up to something big and black ... like in the pornos.  That'll be freaky looking ... pink body ... big black dick." "Well, Christmas is coming ... look at it from the wife's point of view ... something to fill up her ... stocking." "Yeah, real funny ... didn't know you did stand-up.  And now this mass killing with hundreds dead ... what the hell is it with Illinois ... what they puttin'  in the water?  This has Lenny's boss freaking ... he thinks there's some terrorist group out to get ... US." "OK, you just said the magic word ... terrorist.  Since 9-11, that word opens up the piggy bank ... big time.  This is what you do, Jeff.  Tell your boss ... Lenny is it? ... that for my services I want one hundred MILLION dollars ... all in cash, hundreds.  Fifty mil up front ... the balance when I complete the job. Got that?" "A fucking hundred million ... Lenny will crap his pants ... God knows what his boss will say." "Remind them both they may have a terrorist group out to get them ... you only need to die once ... it tends to be permanent." "I'll get back to you." "Yeah, you do that ... (click) ... nimrod." Turns to Conrad who was listening to the conversation; "Can you believe that joker ... that should scare him away." "Why so ... the hundred million?  That's nothing to those clowns. That's taxpayers money ... they don't care.  Terrorists threatening their lives ... especially after that Rep. Krupt incident.  Don't think they don't have that in the back of their mind ... it could've been them." "That's OK, we won't be hearing from them again." Rory's phone buzzes; shit, him again; "Yeah Jeff, what now?" "How's this ... we pay you one million in cash for one day of your time?" "Fine.  Write this down ... this is how it's going to go.  Do everything I say ... we'll be fine.  Screw up one thing ... I'm out.  Ready to write?"

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An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:49:00 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a "special status" within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

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An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:40:53 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a “special status” within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

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Biochemist Goes to War: 6

by THE Twank Tue Mar 21st, 2017 at 04:57:37 AM EST

A Biochemist Goes To War  Part VI

White Nationalists

Scene 1: Rory in Amy's kitchen.  More pie.  Rory: "The house in Sacramento looks great ... quiet, residential neighborhood ... near a university ... get the hell out of Illinois while you still can. All the Red states are turning into hellholes ... The Enemy is destroying everything decent it can.  These are scorched-earth policies they're performing ... if you're weak or vulnerable, some accountant will find a way to capitalize on you.  The homeless will be targeted  ... probably as test subjects for immortality drugs for the uberwealthy. Time to head to the high ground ... I've had a 2nd home in Sacramento for years.  Now that your mom has passed on, it's time you moved to Sac too." "Rory, I was born in Illinois ... it's easy for you ... you came from upstate New York so uprooting to California isn't that big a deal.  My whole life is here." "Yep, and I'm trying to make sure your horrible death isn't here ... and that's what's flowing out of D.C. right now."

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LQD: Kulturkampf Of The Left?

by ARGeezer Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 02:37:16 PM EST

Kulturkampf Of The Left? Extremes, Be Gone!  Ľuboš Blaha  Social Europe
If only!

A culture war has erupted in Europe, and it's happening even amongst left-wingers. On the one hand, we have the liberal cosmopolitans who "welcome" refugees, advocate supra-national identities, consider borders obsolete, and have an inclination to label working-class people with some conservative prejudices as pure fascists. On the other hand, there are the traditional socialists who distrust globalisation, supra-national projects and individualistic liberal values. They consider the post-material "New Left" ridiculous and they blame it for the fact that working-class voters are leaving the Left and beginning to vote for the far-right. In their extreme, both these attitudes are dangerous - one leads to neoliberalism, the other to nationalism.

The ultra-liberal part of the Left is gradually changing to a more social version of liberal globalism, and it fights hand-in-hand with right-wing neoliberals for a world without borders. In this kind of world, transnational capital can exploit people all over the planet without any constraints from the nation states, but the social globalists add to this grim neoliberal picture a promise of a brighter tomorrow in the form of a global welfare state and transnational regulatory bodies.

The problem is that, in reality, even the strongest one of these transnational bodies - the European Union - sometimes behaves like a neoliberal tank that crushes the social achievements of the post-war era. Look at the neoliberal rape of Tsipras´s Greece or the Americanization threat of TTIP. And there is nothing else besides the EU that would even begin to look like a more progressive and cosmopolitan order. Whether we like it or not, the cosmopolitan "brighter tomorrow" is nowhere in sight. In the meantime, we live in a cruel neoliberal reality, in which the cosmopolitan Left loses out, and transnational capital takes all. That is why liberal cosmopolitanism is not just a utopian concept, but also a dangerous one. It is useful for transnational capital, which wants to get rid of the socially protective measures of nation states.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 12:34:48 PM EST

St. Patrick's day has never been a particularly big deal for me: more an excuse for a lie-in or a long week-end away after a long winter. Although almost every Irish town or city has a St. Patrick's day parade which attracts almost every group you can throw a uniform or costume at as well as large crowds of onlookers, it has never seemed to me to be much more than an excuse for a monumental piss-up afterwards. Shure it's no harm to have a bit of craic, might be a typical response.  We seem to be in the process of patenting craic as a uniquely Irish contribution to world civilisation.

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Biochemist Goes to War: 5

by THE Twank Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 04:35:59 AM EST

A Biochemist Goes To War  Part V

Meet the Enemy

Scene 1: The Douchbag Country Club.  Very little activity ... no one golfing.  A few employees scattered around.  Jeff of the EIS is addressing six temporary EIS employees ... all have jackets with the EIS logo in huge letters ... all with official looking faux CSI kits.  Jeff: "OK, listen up people.  This is a training exercise." Jeff pauses to shoo away one of Conrad's flies which lands upon his shoulder and attaches.  "In a little while a small group of real reporters will be allowed on the premises.  They're here to add realism to this exercise.  You have mock cameras ... take pictures of anything that looks reasonable.  No screwing around ... the whole exercise is being filmed." A lie but who cares.  "Remember ... you do not speak to the media.  If anyone asks you a question, say that all information on this case is classified and direct them to me, Agent Piccard.  If any  reporter gets pushy, call over one of the police ... they will warn the reporter not to bother you or they will be led off the premises."  One of the faux agents: "Are there any phrases that sound really scienterrific that we could use with each other to sound impressive?"  "The following phrase can be used if you ... say ... collect a soil sample ... or take a closeup photo of anything ... or even do a dust for fingerprints bit ...  just say to your fellow agent, "Do you think this is amenable to the fragistan carcoblans?" ... and you both peer into each other's eyes like you said something meaningful.  The reporter will be so busy trying to write down  fragistan carcoblans and google it that that person will be out of action for ten minutes.  It's fun to watch.   One final thing.  You have your list of red tape items.  For example, all unopened alcoholic beverages and all materials from the kitchen walkin cooler will be red-tagged and moved into the red-tag van or the refrigerated red-tag truck.  All other items will be loaded into the other vehicles for transport to the central office.  That's it ... get to work ... try to enjoy yourself and always ... always ... look official."  The faux agents scatter ... some taking pictures ... other putting soil samples in test tubes and adding phony reagents.  Two agents head for the storage areas to box up red-tag items for transport to Lenny's estate.  Three reporters enter ... they've already been instructed to take all the pictures they wish but under no circumstances should they disturb the agents in any way ... treat this like a murder scene ... your cooperation is appreciated ... there will be a Q&A session with Head Agent Piccard at the end of the day.

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News and Views

 17 - 23 April 2017

by Bjinse - Apr 17, 23 comments

Your take on this week's news

 10 - 16 April 2017

by Bjinse - Apr 10, 23 comments

Your take on this week's news

 Open Thread 10-23 April

by Bjinse - Apr 10, 38 comments

If you don’t thread, nothing ever happens at all

 Open Thread 3-9 April

by Bjinse - Apr 3, 22 comments

Every thread desires to live long, but no thread wishes to be old

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