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New Zealand general election

by eurogreen Fri Nov 25th, 2011 at 04:20:18 PM EST

Here are some personal notes on this weekend's election.

Anyone interested in the mechanics of the thing, and in following results, can check out the Wikipedia entry.
Don't bother with the NZ online press, unless you're extremely enthusiastic, as it is pretty much incomprehensible, even to an expatriate like me, but here it is :
NZ Herald

Just to kill any suspense :

the polls are unequivocal.

Read more... (25 comments, 1142 words in story)

French Socialist primary : Round Two

by eurogreen Thu Oct 13th, 2011 at 07:50:15 AM EST

Tonight, Wednesday 12th October, we have the TV debate between second-round candidates Martine Aubry and François Hollande. The vote is on Sunday, and is impossible to call for the moment. This may well be the decisive moment...

I will attempt to live-blog it, giving a bit of background, and my subjective impressions.

The debate can be followed live here, and it will certainly be available here after the event.

frontpaged - Nomad - bumped by afew

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[UPDATED] Daniel Cohn-Bendit in Lyon

by eurogreen Wed May 25th, 2011 at 03:39:46 AM EST

Political ecology in France has often been a bitter and fractious affair. The Green Party (Les Verts) has always been its leading representative, but rarely the only party vying for the ecologist vote. The party itself is explicitly organized on factional lines, with frequent power struggles, based not on discernible policy differences, but on tactics and personal power-seeking. There is also a Jacobin (or Leninist) culture of centralized decision-making and control, which is in flat contradiction with the roots and formal structure of the party, which is a federation of regional groups.

Les Verts have a reputation, largely deserved, for squabbles and bust-ups, and there is not the slightest doubt that this has cost us considerable electoral support over the years. The flip side of this is that we are undoubtedly the most democratic party in France; but the exercise of this intra-party democracy absorbs all our energy, leaving us exhausted and ineffectual.

Enter Dany Cohn-Bendit.

DCB, having been expelled from France by De Gaulle in 1968, has spent almost all of his adult life, and political career, in Germany, with die Grünen. Since the late 90s, he has been making guest-star appearances in the French party. Over the past couple of years, he has been involved in a determined effort to shift the political culture of Les Verts, and this is what brought him to Lyon [last Thursday].

promoted by Jerome

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The Anthropocene controversy

by eurogreen Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:37:04 AM EST

Climate science is a fascinating and rapidly evolving field. It is now clear to all, except to those who don't want to understand, that human-induced climate change is already a problem, and a rapidly worsening one, that requires political and economic action. Not to save the world (that would be rather arrogant and pretentious), but perhaps to save humanity.

Palaeoclimatology, the study of the history of the world's climate, is a vital vector for understanding where we are now and where we are going : if we can closely model past climate trajectories, we can more closely constrain the possible futures.

The major vector of human influence on the climate has been the huge pulse of gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, starting with coal in the 19th century and worsening with the current orgy of oil and gas. The many gigatonnes of carbon released in only a couple of centuries constitute a cataclysmic climate event, orders of magnitude greater than any previous human influence. So, by convention, pre-industrial human influence was more or less politely ignored. It was easily demonstrated, by running a few computer simulations, that land-use changes due to agriculture might have had a marginal effect, but human population was so small that the climate effect could only have emerged from background noise by about the 18th century, so that it was almost immediately swamped by the fossil fuel effect.

However... what does the climate record actually have to say on the subject? When does the Anthropocene commence - with the industrial age, or ten thousand years earlier?

front-paged by afew

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ECB rate rise : the beginning of a new phase?

by eurogreen Fri Apr 8th, 2011 at 05:28:15 AM EST

This is more of an inquiry than a diary.

With today's rise of the repo rate from 1% to 1.25%, we seem to be exiting "emergency mode" and, according to the ECB's logic, returning to "business as usual". Inflation greater than 2% is anticipated, therefore, automatically, interest rates must rise. It now seems likely that they will continue to rise, tending to 2% before year's end.

Problem : most of Europe is enduring cost inflation, while wages do not follow; only Germany meets the standard criteria for increased interest rates.

Worse : the distressed nations (Greece, Portugal, Ireland) will be further stressed by rate increases. To say nothing of distressed mortgage holders...

The new phase would seem to spell disaster for debtors (individual or governments), for whom inflation would seem their best hope of long-term solvency.

This seems prima facie evidence that the ECB is the Bundesbank by any other name... and smells as sweet.

But perhaps There Was No Alternative?


front-paged by afew

Comments >> (34 comments)

Explaining the world financial meltdown : a novel approach

by eurogreen Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 05:48:13 AM EST

I'm sure we all have moments of despair when we listen to broadcast news, or read mainstream newspapers, explaining sententiously how financially ill-disciplined countries must pay for their prodigal ways, and how we must sacrifice more virgins to appease the angry gods of the Market.

A recurring theme at the European Tribune is how we can help to break through this "pensée unique", the "There Is No Alternative" syndrome, and implant alternative explanations in public consciousness. In order to, one supposes, mobilise civil society to pressure the Wise Heads who govern us into stopping the madness.

Jake's Financial Meltdown card game is a fabulous idea, but with, I would expect, a rather limited audience. ET itself as a think-tank / pressure group / e-zine is an ongoing subject...

But, personally, on a good day I am barely able to understand the economic discussions here, let alone usefully contribute. What could I do to help progress public awareness?

The other day, an idea for a novel popped into my head. (I have had a couple of tries, but never finished one yet. Perhaps this will be the one.) The germ of the idea is shamelessly derivative of a certain ongoing news phenomenon, as you will see.

My future novel goes something like this : one member of a small clique of progressive thinkers becomes depositary of a document dump from a whistleblower. This person, an insider in international finance, has accumulated damning documentation of financial skulduggery, involving

[INSERT HERE : laundry list of everything that's wrong with the international financial system].

frontpaged - Nomad

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Carbon pricing in Australia

by eurogreen Thu Sep 30th, 2010 at 08:11:53 PM EST

A quick note to provoke thought and discussion, about perhaps the biggest challenge facing mankind over the next couple of decades.

There is surprisingly wide concensus among Serious People, all over the world, that putting a price on carbon is both necessary and urgent, in order to mitigate the risks of runaway climate change. (The fact that the US Senate is not part of this concensus, is both unsurprising and a major obstacle.)

This concensus notwithstanding, both major parties in Australia (Labor and the Liberal/National coalition) went into this month's elections with stated policies of no carbon pricing.

This is astonishing, for a number of reasons :

  • Australia is on the bleeding edge of climate change. Its extensive agricultural sector is in decline, partly because of unsustainable land management, but partly from demonstrable effects of global warming. The major cities now all have expensive, energy-hungry desalination plants in operation or in construction, because of the dramatic decline in water resources.
  • Climate change was the major political issue in the previous legislature. Public opinion was (and is) in favour of urgent action, including carbon pricing. Industry lobbied against it, but was expecting and preparing for it.

Kevin Rudd's Labor government prepared legislation on carbon pricing, but could not find a majority to approve it in the Senate. They needed the support of either the Greens or the right-wing opposition. Their proposal was too weak to win Green approval; thus, they counted on the Opposition accepting the inevitability of carbon pricing, and letting it through.

However, climate change was the reason that the leaders of both major parties got rolled, in the year before the election. When Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull staked his leadership on allowing the legislation to pass, he lost to "climate  sceptic" Tony Abbott. Then, after Rudd ignominiously shelved the whole question until after 2012, he was ousted in favour of Julia Gillard, who pledged that she would be introducing no carbon taxes.

At the time, I interpreted this as a heavy defeat for the fight against global warming, not only for Australia but internationally. But democracy is a funny old thing...

In the event, neither party won a legislative victory: after a week of horse-trading, Gillard patched up a majority with three independents and the one Green MP in the Lower House.  In any case, she does not control the Senate : the Greens were the big winners there, and now hold the balance of power. This means that all legislation requires Green approval (or that of the Opposition) to be passed.

 Interestingly, the agreement between Gillard and the Greens is very succinct, and contains very few guarantees : they will vote confidence and supply, and on everything else they will consult. They are holding the whip hand. Let's hope they play their position wisely.

So, why did Labor back away from climate change legislation? Why did the Coalition assume the "skeptic" stance?

It is not out of the question that both were bought off by industry. Australian politics can be extremely raw and crude, and corruption is endemic.
But as far as I can tell, both parties were pandering to supposed popular sentiment against any increase in taxes. If so, they badly underestimated the intelligence of the voters.

The Greens have imposed the creation of a climate change committee, which will prepare pricing options. Clearly, the Greens will be pushing for legislation as quickly as possible, and they have the means to impose it.

This is a complete turn-around with respect to the prospects of international agreement. A decade ago, Australia was Bush's sole ally in opposing climate change action; this was a natural position for them, as an extractive economy, they saw no reason to be on the leading edge of economic sacrifice (this position has since been inherited by Canada). After tasting the reality of global warming, decisive action seemed possible, then impossible, now possible again...

There is a distinct perspective of Australia joining the leading nations (notably Europe and Japan) on climate action. This could have far-reaching consequences on the possibility of moving forward internationally.

So, what's the moral of the story? The stupidity of politicians should never be underestimated. Especially when they are Australian politicians.

Comments >> (4 comments)
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News and Views

 November 2022

by Bernard - Nov 1, 213 comments

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