Showing posts from March 10, 2015

Complex Societies Evolved without Belief in All-Powerful Deity

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[The debate centres on whether the emergence of politically sophisticated societies may be assisted by faith in supernatural spirits but does not require "big god" religion. I think this is a non-issue; what matters is reaching consensus on a reason for state authority, which could take many/any forms. Certainly, though, monotheism is not a prerequisite.  Look for example, at how badly Akhnaton flopped in the already-established, polytheistic Egyptian empire when he tried to switch them to monotheism. *RON*]
By Philip Ball and Nature magazine / Scientific American, 6 March 2015
All human societies have been shaped by religion, leading psychologists to wonder how it arose, and whether particular forms of belief have affected other aspects of evolved social structure. According to one recent view, for example, belief in a "big God"—an all-powerful, punitive deity who sits in moral judgement on our actions—has been instrumental i…

The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

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[IMO, 90% of our current social problems boil down to the growing power of the corporatocracy. *RON*]

Robert Riech Blog, 8 March 2015

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues — and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, American lawmakers respond to the demands of wealthy individuals (typically corporate executives and Wall Street m…

Jean-Claude Juncker calls for creation of EU army

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[This will be for debt collection, presumably? Just don't call it the Wehrmacht! ;-) *RON*]

Duncan Robinson & James Shotter, Financial Times, 8 March 2015
The president of the European Commission has called for the creation of an EU army in order to show Russia “that we are serious about defending European values”.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the EU’s executive arm, said an EU army would let the continent “react credibly to threats to peace in a member state or a neighbour of the EU”.

The EU is divided on how to deal with an increasingly forthright Russia, which has been accused by Nato and the US of supplying rebel fighters in eastern Ukraine with military equipment and intelligence in the conflict against government-backed forces.

Some member states, including the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are calling for the bloc to take a much stricter line on its eastern neighbo…

Five minutes with Philippe Legrain: “The Eurozone has become a glorified debtors’ prison”

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[For more on the Grexit crisis, see also Eurozone not viable, says top fund boss Neil Woodford (BBC), No good Plan Bs (Ekathimerini), and Syriza will have to 'sacrifice their own' to reform Greece (France24). *RON*]
Stuart Brown & Philippe Legrain, London School of Economics Blogs, 9 March 2015

With no lasting solution yet found for dealing with Greek debt, and economies in the Eurozone continuing to suffer from weak growth, how can Europe finally solve the problems brought on by the financial crisis? In an interview with EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown, Philippe Legrain discusses the policy failures at the root of the crisis, the need to stimulate demand in Eurozone economies, and why the German focus on cutting wages to improve competitiveness is simply exacerbating existing problems.

Have the right lessons been learned from the crisis in the Eurozone?

The short answer is No. Catastrophic mistakes by Eurozone policymakers – primarily Ange…

U.S. declares Venezuela a national security threat, sanctions top officials

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[Yowser. Who's warming up the drones? *RON*]

By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, Reuters, 10 March 2015

RELATED VIDEO U.S. declares Venezuela a security threat
(Reuters) - The United States declared Venezuela a national security threat on Monday and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country in the worst bilateral diplomatic dispute since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed and issued the executive order, which senior administration officials said did not target Venezuela's energy sector or broader economy. But the move stokes tensions between Washington and Caracas just as U.S. relations with Cuba, a longtime U.S. foe in Latin America and key ally to Venezuela, are set to be normalized.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the sanctions as an attempt to topple his government. At the end of a thundering two-hour speech, Maduro said he would seek decree pow…

CSIS Watchdog Wary About Future Funding, 'Diminishing' Oversight

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[Unaccountable surveillance. Even SIRC does not believe it has the ability to provide appropriate oversight of CSIS. *RON*]
By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 9 March 2015

OTTAWA - The executive director of the watchdog that keeps an eye on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is questioning whether the review body will have enough resources to do its job in the future.

Michael Doucet, executive director of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, says the watchdog will see a smaller slice of CSIS's activities in coming years.

Two bills before Parliament would reinforce the spy agency's long-standing ability to operate abroad and give it extensive new powers to disrupt security threats, rather than just gather information.

Doucet told the Senate national security committee that his agency's annual budget has essentially been flat over the last number of years at about $3 million.

Joe Oliver slams groups blocking pipelines

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[Democracy under Stephen Harper. Federal finance minister accuses those opposing projects after federal approval of abusing concept of 'social licence,' and damaging Canada’s national interest. Since everyone knows it is the divine right of King Harper to define the national interest personally. There's nothing new here, at one level - Flaherty started the grand Conservative tradition of audits of environmental groups, citing 'terrorism' as the reason. But now we see the real reason for Bill C-51's beefed up legalization of gestapo tactics for CSIS and the RCMP. See also Bill C-51 Could Be Used To Target Activists: Amnesty International. *RON*]

By: Les Whittington, Toronto Star, 6 March 2015

OTTAWA—Finance Minister Joe Oliver suggested Friday that environmentalists and others opposed to pipelines or similar natural resource projects shouldn’t be using the concept of “social licence” to block major projects approved by fed…