Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spanish government freezes EU-funded solar research centre

"In the desert of Tabernas, near where the famous spaghetti western films were shot, is the largest research centre for concentrated solar energy in Europe. 

And it’s dying through the usual blend of bad politics... As early as November 2017, the PSA chiefs resigned and cuts in research staff were announced. 

But how did we get to this point? 

Here’s what has happened: the research groups, partially funded from Brussels, had to deal with the freezing of funds due to [Spanish] government-driven spending restrictions. 

That’s right: they receive funds from the European Commission that they cannot use, even though their use would not affect in any way the Spanish national budget."

The Spanish government is against the solar plant (the traditional oil-based energy producers don't like competition from the solar people - at least until they've bought them out).

Translated by the excellent Business Over Tapas, which calls itself 'a weekly non-commercial newsletter about Spain...without fluff nor filler.'

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Why not Australia?" -- My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today

I spent the first thirty years of my life in Australia and the last twenty trying to stay out of it.

Plenty of local people in this part of the world regularly ask me why we are living so far from Australia. There are a number of reasons but visiting there always reminds me that it is landmass with a population that now badly lacks what I call ‘public intellectuals.’

I grew up in the Canberra suburbs seeing brainy egomaniacs like Richard Neville, Clive James, BA Santamaria (though he was also a genuine bigot) and inspirational Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating on television -- and here I mean free-to-air-TV.
But apart from someone like journalist, author and broadcaster Phillip Adams or a humorist like Andrew Denton there are now precious few deep thinkers in popular media.
The same claim could reasonably be made about the United States today where figures like Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky and perennial US Presidential candidate Ralph Nader have been replaced by a small number of quality satirists such as Jon Stewart.
Even someone like the brilliant (Canadian) writer/activist Naomi Klein has been sidelined from  being heard on a scale that her ideas deserve. The most popular networks and cable TV stations pull in large numbers of viewers who are instead fed a daily diet of polished lies and exaggerated fear-mongering.
Australia is a part of the world where talented, clever people in the creative arts industries have to leave if they genuinely desire to have a wide and mainstream audience.

Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, Clive James, Nicole Kidman, Jason Donovan,Toni Collette, Rod Taylor, Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Tim Minchin, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, Sia, Rebel Wilson and Barry Humphries simply could not have achieved the high quality of what they have done by remaining in Australia.

There, sport is number one and everything else cultural is a distant second.

Self-styled Australian ‘feral futurist’ Richard Neville wrote a rare, honest assessment of Australia for Adbusters not long ago. He explained why “the lucky country” still tends to rely on superpowers such as the USA (and most recently, China) and how it’s leaders prefer being an international sycophant.

“Australians are easily distracted,” he argued. “The focus of mass media [in Australia] is shopping promotions and light entertainment: cooking, sport, gossip, stock shifts, celebrity trials, soft porn and big-ticket ‘must see’ events.”

The question then has to be why has this happened? 

I think it’s partly because there is no developed interest in real politics in Australia, as opposed to the personality/leader-rivals "slugging it out in a boxing match" type-journalism that Australians are served.

The internet should have been a factor in leading to discussion on politics being less mediocre but it does not appear to be in Australia, unlike the USA where Obama then Bernie Sanders were able to break new activist ground. Instead, the news cycle “downunder” is dominated by a merry-go-round of opinion polls about leadership -- both state and federal -- and that passes for proper political analysis.

Australians are generally not only politically apathetic.

As one anonymous (European) online poster who had lived in Australia for 12 years wrote: “Australians as a whole are quite conservative. Just look at the government they elected! I find it increasingly frustrating. It's all about family, building a house, having a garden, a big 4WD and a BBQ on the weekend with the other families talking footy, house prices and gardening/fishing... I think maybe more adventurous Aussies leave.”

Australia is a very isolated country, but not only geographically. It is rich with beautiful landscapes (particularly the underrated desert) and its people have a lot in their favour. I just don’t want to live there because it doesn’t suit me and we wanted our son to grow up in culturally-rich Europe .

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2018.]

Saturday, May 12, 2018

VIDEO: "Rich people don't create jobs" says multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer at his banned TED Talk

"As the war over income inequality wages on, super-rich Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has been raising the hackles of his fellow 1-percenters, espousing the contrarian argument that rich people don't actually create jobs.

The position is controversial — so much so that TED is refusing to post a talk that Hanauer gave on the subject.

National Journal reports today that TED officials decided not to put Hanauer's March 1 speech up online after deeming his remarks "too politically controversial" for the site..." Via Business Insider."

Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Can Yanis Varoufakis Save Europe?"

[Illustration by Joe Ciardiello.]

'...he was one of those left-wing politicians critical of Europe’s economic institutions, though not necessarily of the idea of Europe itself. 

Even as a young man, Yanis Varoufakis had always been struck by the idea of a united Europe as a way to “forge bonds relying not on kin, language, ethnicity, [or] a common enemy, but on common values and humanist principles.” ' 

A well-written article on the leader of Europe's most exciting new political movement, DiEM25 here.