Do You Have A Plan B? “This Is Not A Consequence-Free Environment”

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Courtesy of Simon Black @ Sovereign Man:

In August 1939, just days before Hitler’s invasion into southern Poland, General Wilhelm List walked the lines of his German 14th Army making final checks and inspections.

He must have thought it strange– between Army Group North and Army Group South, there were over one million German troops hovered on the Polish border. And they weren’t exactly hiding under rocks.

Everyone knew that the invasion was coming. Especially civilians in Poland.

They were surrounded by German forces on three sides. And on 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact, effectively acquiescing the fourth side.

It was obvious that the entire country was about to be turned into a war zone.

Yet seemingly unfazed by this prospect, well-to-do locals were on holiday at the seaside, or keeping cool up in the Carpathian mountains.

Sixty miles to the north of List’s 14th Army, people in Krakow were a enjoying warm summer days in Blonia Park and on the banks of the Vistula River near Wawel Castle.

It was as if they were completely oblivious to the enormity of the consequences about to befall them.

After all, the government and local papers were telling them to not worry. Poland had prepared some basic defenses, and their military commander Edward Rydz-?mig?y was supposed to be a strong general.

They had been told to be confident. So they were confident.

On the first of September, 1939, Hitler’s armies invaded. And despite suffering massive military losses, the Polish government spread all sorts of misinformation on the radio, telling its people about phony victories against the invading German hordes. Continue reading

What it is to be Human

Courtesy of Sandeep Jaitly @ NASOE:

The body is socially constructed; and in this paper we explore the various and ever-changing constructions of the body, and thus of the embodied self……The one word, body, may therefore signify very different realities and perceptions of reality…..(Synnot 1992, 43)

It has been said that in order to understand life and society, we as people must first understand ourselves. Who are we as a people? Who are we as individuals? Who are we as humans? These questions all present themselves when discussing a topic such as this. I believe that it is indeed important to ask questions such as these, and also as important to answer them. All of this assuming of course, that there is one specific answer. My problem begins here, in that I do not believe that there is one defined answer to these questions. As you will see, many “great philosophic minds” have different views and beliefs relating to these questions, and it is my job to sort through these different beliefs and discover…… What it is to be human

It seems that for ages the human body has been studied and inspected. However, literal “inspection” only takes us so far. As humans, we all know that there are parts of our “being” that are intangible. Take thoughts, dreams, and things of the like. We know they exist, yet they are unable to be inspected scientifically (to any valuable degree at least). The distinction between beliefs begins here. How one views this intangible side of life with respect to the tangible, is the factor that defines one’s beliefs.

There are several ways in which one may view the body. A dualist is one who views the body and mind, or tangible and intangible, as two separate intities existing together to form one being. The principle of “Cogito, ergo sum,” or in english, “I think, therefore I am.” The “I” meaning the mind, and “I am” meaning the body. (Synnott 1992, 92) The tangible side of the person being bound of course, by the laws of biomechanics and gravity, and theintangible being bound by nothing but the laws of reasoning. “…..the body, from its nature, is always divisible and the mind is completely indivisible.” (Descartes 1995, 70) Continue reading

Sarajevo Is The Fulcrum Of Modern History: The Great War And Its Terrible Aftermath

Courtesy of David Stockman @ Contra Corner Blog:

One hundred years ago today the world was shook loose of its moorings. Every school boy knows that the assassination of the archduke of Austria at Sarajevo was the trigger that incited the bloody, destructive conflagration of the world’s nations known as the Great War. But this senseless eruption of unprecedented industrial state violence did not end with the armistice four years later.

In fact, 1914 is the fulcrum of modern history. It is the year the Fed opened-up for business just as the carnage in northern France closed-down the prior magnificent half-century era of liberal internationalism and honest gold-backed money. So it was the Great War’s terrible aftermath—–a century of drift toward statism, militarism and fiat money—-that was actually triggered by the events at Sarajevo.

Unfortunately, modern historiography wants to keep the Great War sequestered in a four-year span of archival curiosities about battles, mustard gas and monuments to the fallen. But the opposite historiography is more nearly the truth. The assassins at Sarajevo triggered the very warp and woof of the hundred years which followed.

The Great War was self-evidently an epochal calamity, especially for the 20 million combatants and civilians who perished for no reason that is discernible in any fair reading of history, or even unfair one. Yet the far greater calamity is that Europe’s senseless fratricide of 1914-1918 gave birth to all the great evils of the 20th century— the Great Depression, totalitarian genocides, Keynesian economics, permanent warfare states, rampaging central banks and the exceptionalist-rooted follies of America’s global imperialism.

Indeed, in Old Testament fashion, one begat the next and the next and still the next. This chain of calamity originated in the Great War’s destruction of sound money, that is, in the post-war demise of the pound sterling which previously had not experienced a peacetime change in its gold content for nearly two hundred years.

Not unreasonably, the world’s financial system had become anchored on the London money markets where the other currencies traded at fixed exchange rates to the rock steady pound sterling—which, in turn, meant that prices and wages throughout Europe were expressed in common money and tended toward transparency and equilibrium.

Continue reading

UK and Germany Break Solar Power Records

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Lines of solar panels near Truro, England. Sunny weather has helped solar power set new records in the UK. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A step in the right direction and courtesy of John Vedal @ The Guardian:

Britain and Germany have broken records for generating solar electricity in the last few weeks, according to new industry figures.

Germany generated over half its electricity demand from solar for the first time ever on 9 June, and the UK, basking in the sunniest weather of summer during the longest days of the year, nearly doubled its 2013 peak solar power output at the solstice weekend.

France, Italy, Denmark and other countries are also believed to have generated record amounts in June.

According to UK trade body the Solar Trade association (STA), the total UK installed solar capacity generated from homes, buildings and solar farms is now about 4.7 gigawatts compared to 2.7GW in July last year.

It is not possible to tell exactly how much solar power was generated in Britain because electricity from small-scale household units is not centrally measured, but the STA estimated on Monday that 3.9% of the UK’s electricity demand was met by solar photovoltaic systems (PV) over the 24 hours of Saturday.

This means solar’s contribution peaked at a record 7.8% of daytime electricity, on 21 June, said the association.

“Britain has virtually doubled its capacity in the last year, with 80,000 more installations, including several thousand larger scale commercial ones,” said Ray Noble, a consultant at the UK National Solar Centre.

“There are now 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small scale ones. Last weekend we estimate they generated about 8% of daytime electricity in total,” said Noble.

“We think that this is likely to double again within a year. There is nothing to stop it getting to 30-40% of UK electricity at this time of year,” he said.

The figures were welcomed by UK energy minister Greg Barker, who was criticised in May for removing subsidies for large-scale solar farms. “We have put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this ambitious strategy will place us right at the cutting edge. Continue reading

Pesticides Threaten Birds and Bees Alike, Study Says

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Courtesy of Phys.org:

Neurotoxic pesticides blamed for the world’s bee collapse are also harming butterflies, worms, fish and birds, said a scientific review that called Tuesday for tighter regulation to curb their use.

Analysing two decades of reports on the topic, an international panel of 29 scientists found there was “clear evidence of harm” from use of two pesticide types, neonicotinoids and fipronil.

And the evidence was “sufficient to trigger regulatory action”.

“We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, co-author of the report entitled the Worldwide Integrated Assessment.

Far from protecting food production, these nerve-targeting insecticides known as neonics were “imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”

The four-year assessment was carried out by The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which advises the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s watchdog on species loss.

Neonics are widely used insecticides whose effects can be instant and lethal, or chronic. Exposure can impair smell and memory in some species, curb procreation, reduce foraging, cause flight difficulties and increase disease susceptibility.

Used for insect pest management in farming, but also in pet flea control, they have been fingered in the recent decline in bees—crucial pollinators of human food crops—in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

The latest study says these pesticides, absorbed by plants, are also harming other insect pollinators, fish and birds as they leach into soil and water.

The most affected species were terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms, which are crucial soil-enrichers, said a press statement. Continue reading

Cronyism In The 21st Century

Courtesy of Mark E Jeftovic @ The Dollar Vigilante

Ghandi was once asked, “What do you think about Western Civilization?” to which he famously replied “I think it’s a good idea.” He may as well have been talking about free market capitalism.

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Capital in the 21st Century has hit the world like a new teen idol sensation. Everybody is drinking the Kool-Aid and it’s being held up as the most important book ever written on the subject of how runaway capitalism leads to wealth inequality. Paul Krugman of course, loves it. As does every head of state and political hack in the (formerly) free world. A text-book sized brick that can be condensed down to a couple bullet points:

  • that unchecked capitalism leads to increasing wealth inequality, and
  • this can be fixed through government management, most notably more taxes and higher minimum wages.

What’s not to love?

There are many other refutations of Capital circulating, most of which address the numerous factual errors and flawed research methodologies in the book, and countering the income equality assertions with observations around how the standard of living generally increases across the board during periods of free(er) market capitalism (such as England during the industrial revolution under the classical gold standard or wider Europe during the High Middle Ages).

The age we live in today is not an example of this. I submit that the modern run of standard of living increases, say from end of WWII to present is not an example of “free markets given room to run”, but rather a crack-up boom fuelled by credit expansion (cheap money) and cheap energy. This era is now drawing to a close, as the cost of energy inexorably rises and the global debt super-cycle finally hits a wall. After decades of government targeted inflation, after the better part of a decade of ZIRP, after increased regulations in every aspect of our lives, after civil liberties being for the most part abolished (after all, the government is allowed to assassinate any one of us and we are all under continuous pervasive surveillance) what is difficult to fathom is that political economists can still make hay in the world by blaming its problems on capitalism gone wild and runaway free markets. Put simply, true capitalism requires free markets, free markets require a free society and we do not live in a free society. Continue reading

Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means

Courtesy of Sahil Kapur @ Talking Points Memo:

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A new political science study that’s gone viral finds that majority-rule democracy exists only in theory in the United States — not so much in practice. The government caters to the affluent few and organized interest groups, the researchers find, while the average citizen’s influence on policy is “near zero.”

“[T]he preferences of economic elites,” conclude Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin I. Page, who work with the nonprofit Scholars Strategy Network, “have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.”

TPM spoke to Gilens about the study, its main findings and its lessons.

You published an advance copy of your study on April 9th, and in just the last few days there’s been an explosion of coverage and interest. Are you pleased, shocked, overwhelmed, all of the above?

I’m delighted to be able to contribute to a terribly important public discussion. And I’m thrilled that there’s so much interest and concern about the issues. It takes on a life of its own. I’m sure you’ve noticed, this notion of America being an oligarchy seems to be a dominant meme in the discussion of our work. It’s not a term that we used in the paper. It’s just a dramatic sort of overstatement of our findings. So it’s been interesting for me. Typically my work is read by a few dozen political scientists and I don’t get this kind of response.

Let’s talk about the study. If you had 30 seconds to sum up the main conclusion of your study for the average person, how would you do so?

I’d say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups — of economic elites and of organized interests.

You say the United States is more like a system of “Economic Elite Domination” and “Biased Pluralism” as opposed to a majoritarian democracy. What do those terms mean? Is that not just a scholarly way of saying it’s closer to oligarchy than democracy if not literally an oligarchy?

Continue reading

Wind Turbine Makes 1,000 Liters of Clean Water a Day in the Desert

Courtesy of the amusingly named Treehugger.com:

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A cool new concept being tested in the Abu Dhabi desert uses a wind turbine to condense water from the air and pump it into storage tanks for filtration and purification. The technology was created by Eole Water after its founder, Marc Parent, was inspired by the water he could collect from his air conditioner unit while living in the Caribbean. He began thinking of ways that water could be condensed from air in areas without access to grid power and the wind turbine concept was born.

The 30-kW wind turbine houses and powers the whole system. Air is taken in through vents in the nose cone of the turbine and then heated by a generator to make steam. The steam goes through a cooling compressor that creates moisture which is then condensed and collected. The water produced is sent through pipes down to stainless steel storage tanks where it’s filtered and purified.

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