Looking superficially at the above map, it appears that Germany is the defecating center of Europe. How come? Well, a closer glance reveals a different picture - admittedly, I had not read the legend carefully:
You'll notice that prosperous, dynamic economies like the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa buy a lot of toilet paper, which would tend to correlate with a high number of bathrooms per capita. Countries in the developing world with very young populations, like Mexico and much of Southeast Asia, buy a lot of diapers and nappies (China, in particular, is likely to see a boom in diaper consumption as it relaxes its one-child policy). Interestingly, feminine hygiene products sell best in Muslim countries like Iran and Pakistan. And those with low birth rates facing a wave of retirees, like Japan and much of Western Europe, mostly consume products for taking care of incontinence.
Ralph Raico delivers an excellent lecture on the origins of World War I. Truly illuminating stuff. I have watched only the first hour so far. The remainder covers the Great Depression and World War II.
I was particularly struck by Raico's observation [beginning at time mark 01:04:40] that Kerensky, head of the moderate democratic government that succeeded the tsarist regime in 1917, refused to fulfil the one condition the Russian people demanded of their government: peace - an outcome under which Lenin would never have gained control. Kerensky claimed that he couldn't make peace because this would have meant betrayal of "valued allies". In truth, he was eager for the spoils of war agreed in the secret treatises of 1915: uncontested reign of the Black Sea, Constantinople, the Istanbul Strait, control of the Eastern Mediterranean - in a word: an enhanced imperial position.
For similar reasons, beginning to shop around among the opposing camps in 1915, the Italian government finally settled for the promises of the British and French, sacrificing 900 000 Italians in hopes of imperialist expansion in Trieste, South Tirol, as well as parts of southern Turkey.
World War I happened because the major contestants had embarked upon ambitious imperialist policies that would soon develop a dynamic of their own, sucking them eventually into an inevitable war, whose cause is not so much the villainy of a single party but the evil logic of entangled imperialistic threats and ambitions.
Also consider this thought-provoking piece on 10 WW I myths. Had Keynes got it wrong, once again, claiming the Versailles treaty was inordinately harsh on the Germans?
Freedom bites back. Freedom is reality-based. The brain farts of bad politics peter out at some point when their unintended consequences become overwhelming. The Sisyphean efforts of good politics begin to earn more visible rewards. Civil society is like a supertanker that takes a long time to make a turn. Germany's eco-mania is facing resistance like never before. More and more politicians are succeeding in bringing down the chimera bit by bit.
Reality has overtaken hype in Germany, which has been marketing itself as a world leader in "green energy":
Reports The Australian:
IT'S been a black Christmas for green thinkers as Germany, the world leader in rooftop solar and pride of the renewable energy revolution has confirmed its rapid return to coal. --
Countries such as Germany that have been most outspoken about climate change mitigation are reporting increasing carbon emissions and rising energy costs.
The US - derided by environmental campaigners as too slow to respond to the climate change challenge - has reduced its carbon emissions significantly while simultaneously lowering energy prices, fuelling a much needed resurgence in manufacturing.
The divergence has come about largely because while Europe has pushed headlong into renewables with generous public subsidies, the US has harnessed new technology to unlock vast resources of unconventional oil and gas.
This meant in 2012 the US spent about one-third as much as the EU on renewable energy subsidies, $21 billion against $57bn, according to IEA figures.
It all adds an ironic twist to the campaign mounted against the US by European nations for its refusal to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
While the German wind and solar energy lobbies have been busy peddling the "success" of their subsidized production facilities, the reality on the ground looked somewhat different in early December:
The scale of the "intermittency" problem for renewables - and the problem it presents for policymakers and energy consumers - was outlined in Die Welt, which reported that Germany's wind and solar power production effectively stopped in early December.
"More than 23,000 wind turbines stood still," it said. "One million photovoltaic systems stopped work completely.
"For a whole week, coal, nuclear and gas power plants had to generate an estimated 95 per cent of Germany's electricity supply."
The doldrums are the flip side to the triumphant statements from renewable energy companies when production figures spike in times of favourable weather.
This is a primary reason why political support for renewables is starting to wear thin. Indications are a Europe-wide squeeze is on, with the European Commission reportedly preparing to order an end to price subsidies for wind and solar by the end of the decade.
According to Britain's The Telegraph, the commission, which oversees the European single market, is preparing to argue that the onshore wind and solar power industries are mature and should be allowed to operate without support from taxpayers.
Frustration is also increasing at the costly failure of several multi-billion-dollar offshore wind farm developments which had once been widely touted as the future of renewable power.
Tomorrow (15 minutes left not to be lying), I expect delivery of Richard Epstein's magisterial "The Classical Liberal Constitution" which will be one of the tomes that I shall engross myself in over the next half year to gain a deeper understanding of the nexus of law and liberty.
In his latest book, a wide-ranging tome covering vast areas of our law, Richard Epstein mounts a principled attack on modern Supreme Court jurisprudence and much of the legal scholarship that has grown up around it. The major disarray that infects every area of modern American life, he argues, from deficits and debt to health care, financial services, declining standards of living and more, could not have happened under the original constitutional structure, faithfully interpreted in light of changed circumstances. It arose from a profound progressive break with the classical liberal tradition that guided the drafting and interpretation of the Constitution.
Between November and February, you would expect temperatures mostly below and hardly above °C 0 (°F 32) in our latitudes. This winter season we have been blessed with mild temperatures, rarely below °C 5 (°F 41). The new year commences with even milder temperatures, today we register 11°C (°F 52). I love it.
I understand you are facing an entirely different situation in large parts of America - certainly in Nebraska. You are having it nice and cold, a great chance to build your own ice car - never let a good opportunity go to waste:
The period from 1933 to 1938 in America was dominated by a clash in philosophical ideas to which I felt it was my duty to apply every bit of strength I possessed. I was convinced that a great error had come into liberal thinking, which threatened to destroy the magnificent civilization which intellectual and spiritual freedom had builded and which was its impulse to progress. . . .
The error in ideas came first in the form of Socialism but had made little progress prior to the first World War. The root of the error was that government operation of economic instrumentalities, or government direction of their operation other than establishment of rules of conduct, could short-cut all human ills and produce immediate Utopia. This gigantic poison of liberty received a great impulse from the government agencies created to mobilize the whole energies of peoples in total war. Here the impulses of patriotism to produce and labor and the fear of the enemy were substituted for free will. After the war the inevitable flood of misery, of impoverishment and frustration furnished the hotbed for the growth of this gigantic error. It developed over Europe in various forms—all from the same root. Communism, Fascism, and the milder forms of Statism, were heralded by well-meaning and generous-minded men as to the new road to life. They were joined by demagogs and seekers-for-power. The ultimate end was slavery, whether in Communistic or Fascist form. This philosophic error had spread mildly in American thinking, but attained no dangerous proportions until the world-wide depression struck us with all its violence, misery and exposure of wrong-doing.
It was certain in my mind that the New Deal was but one form of this same error in ideas and that it was my job to fight it. But fighting a philosophic idea among a people who had never thought in these channels was not only a difficult thing in itself, but one must contend with demagogic promises of Utopia to a suffering people and the obvious needs of reform in the system itself.
The American people at large had scarcely heard the word ideology. They had developed and they had lived and breathed a way of life without defining it as an “ideology.”
There is more than enough to complain about politics and politicians, but one must be careful not to become one-sided or paranoid.
Politics deals with fuzzy ends that we cannot wish away. We need to deal with these fuzzy ends. Neither is it true that there are no good and acceptable politicians, nor is it true that politics can never help improve our lot.
True, being a good and competent politician capable of bringing about advantageous policies, and stemming the tide of bad policies, is one of the toughest and often one of the most thankless tasks.
All the more, we are not advancing the likelihood of good politics by summarily condemning politics and the politicians.
If civil courage is the steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk, then most of us have a far lighter burden of consequences of civil courage to carry in supporting Edward Snowden than he does following his momentous revelations.
If Obama were anything like what he pretended to be in his presidential campaigns, especially the first one, he would put his weight behind efforts to exempt Snowden from prosecution - for unearthing enormous governmental abuse and thereby setting an example of civil courage in the service of transparency and freedom.
The New York Times seems to support this position:
Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.