Author Archives: richardbrenneman

Heavens above. . .and the lightning below


Two videos from a heavenly perspective.

First up, a remarkable ultra-high definition video of the Sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — and you can watch in full 2160p resolution if your screen is capable, simply by selecting the resolution by clicking on the little gear wheel [lesser resolutions are also available, including the 1080p we watched.

From NASA Goddard:

NASA | Thermonuclear Art – The Sun In Ultra-HD [4K]

Program notes:

It’s always shining, always ablaze with light and energy that drive weather, biology and more. In addition to keeping life alive on Earth, the sun also sends out a constant flow of particles called the solar wind, and it occasionally erupts with giant clouds of solar material, called coronal mass ejections, or explosions of X-rays called solar flares. These events can rattle our space environment out to the very edges of our solar system. In space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video, we experience SDO images of the sun in unprecedented detail. Presented in ultra-high definition, the video presents the dance of the ultra-hot material on our life-giving star in extraordinary detail, offering an intimate view of the grand forces of the solar system.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Music tracks in the order they appear from the album Deep Venture

7-Northern Stargazer
9-Negative Thermal Expansion
13-Photophore
6-Osedax
12-Retroreflector

All tracks are written and produced by Lars Leonhard

And from the fireworks of our nearest we go to a look at the Earth below, albeit from a heavenly perspective.

From Britain’s ODN comes a look at some spectacular though more down-to-earth pyrotechnics with resolutions up to 720p:

Tim Peake shares amazing time lapse of lightning striking Earth from space

Program notes:

British astronaut Tim Peake shared a time lapse from the International Space Station showing lightning striking Earth. . Report by Lydia Batham.

More disorders in Greece, this time farmers


And bankster-imposed austerity as again the catalyst.

We begin with a video from Agence France Presse:

Greek farmers clash in mass protest over pension reform

Program notes:

Greek farmers bring their tractors and trucks to Syntagma Square for a mass demonstration over impeding pension reforms demanded by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

More from eKathimerini:

After being blindsided by both the size and ferocity of Friday’s protest in central Athens by farmers who oppose social security reforms, the government has renewed its appeal to the protesters to come to the negotiating table.

>snip<

Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos issued a fresh appeal to the farmers to sit down and talk about their objections to increases in their social security contributions and taxes. He said that each side had to “look each other in the eyes.”

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is under pressure to finalize an agreement with Greece’s lenders over pension reforms that have to deliver a total of 1.8 billion euros in savings. He is expected to travel to Paris on Wednesday and then on to Brussels for a European Union leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday.

From RT, close-up video as the protest turned violent:

RAW: Greek farmer protesters brutally attack police, storm Agriculture Ministry

Program notes:

Police in Athens have used tear gas to disperse a rally of farmers protesting pension austerity measures as they pelted the Agriculture Ministry with stones. A larger protest demonstration is due to start later Friday.

More from RT:

Police in Athens have used tear gas to disperse a rally of farmers protesting pension austerity measures as they pelted the Agriculture Ministry with stones. A larger protest demonstration is due to start later Friday.

>snip<

About 800 farmers from Crete “attempted to push the police in front of the [Agriculture] Ministry’s entrance. The police used tear gas to stop them,” a law enforcement official said.

They smashed windows with stones before the police pushed them away.

And still more from Deutsche Welle:

The government has banned the farmers from using tractors in the demonstration, but a deal was reached to allow a symbolic procession of 17 of the vehicles in the capital. Since mid-January, farmers have used their tractors to block dozens of highways.

Earlier this month the farmers began blockading border crossings to Bulgaria and Turkey. But, following an appeal from Bulgaria on Tuesday, they allowed trucks to pass for several hours a day at one crossing. The farmers threatened to further escalate the protest by blocking air- and seaports at the weekend.

“They fooled us,” Manolis Paterakis, head of one of Crete’s farmer blockades, said about the government. “They were telling us that they support us, that they are fighting for the survival of the farmers … that young people need to return to their villages and work their land.” Now, “the same people come and confirm the exact opposite: Whoever farms today, the only thing they will achieve is to have debts to the tax office,” he said.

More context, via teleSUR English:

Farmers face a tripling of their social security contributions and higher income tax should the new bills be passed by the Greek parliament.

Pension reforms are a key part of Greece’s bailout review after Tsipras was forced to accept a third bailout in July

Greece’s economy shows little sign of recovery. It entered a recession again after its economy shrunk in two consecutive quarters. In the third quarter of 2015 it fell by 1.4 percent while it decreased by 0.6 percent in last year’s fourth quarter.

And from ANA-MPA, protests continue:

Thousands of protesting farmers arrived in Syntagma Square late on Friday evening, ranging from the 20-odd tractors that led the march opposite Parliament, and bracing for a rally intended to last over the weekend.

There were more than 10,000 farmers and other protesters gathered in the square, according to initial police estimates, and more demonstrators were continuing to arrive as other groups lit bonfires in front of the monument to the Unknown Soldier.

A police presence at the rally was discreet.

Thousands of farmers had descended on Athens from numerous regions around Greece to protest against the government’s proposed pension and tax reforms. They staged a massive march to Parliament and set up tents to camp out in Syntagma Square. The march was headed by 20 tractors brought down from the Nikea roadblock in Larissa, central Greece

Launch of a new radical European political party


Yanis Varoufakis, the radical economist the banksters demanded be ousted as finance minister of the Greek Syriza-led government as a condition of further aid, and Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat have launched a new European political party.

Rather than offer our own explanation, here’s the video of the formal announcement, issued this week, via From acTVism Munich:

Press Conference: Yanis Varoufakis & Democracy in Europe Movement 25

Program note:

On the 9th of February, 2016, Yanis Varoufakis & Srecko Horvat launched a movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 25 (DiEM25) in Berlin at Volksbühne.

And for more details, here’s the party’s manifesto.

From the Democracy In Europe Movement — DiEM25:

A MANIFESTO FOR DEMOCRATISING EUROPE

For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.

For rule by Europe’s peoples, government by the demos, is the shared nightmare of:

  • The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
  • Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
  • The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
  • Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
  • Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
  • Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
  • Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
  • Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.

The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity. The European Union could have been the proverbial Beacon on the Hill, showing the world how peace and solidarity may be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict and bigotry.

Alas, today, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite our different languages and cultures. A confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naïve officials and financially incompetent ‘experts’ submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash. Proud peoples are being turned against each other. Nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened.

At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, finance, working conditions and environment. The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also poor economic policies:

  • The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
  • EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters where they are most likely to be greeted with opaque, coercive free trade deals that undermine their sovereignty.
  • Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe

Two dreadful options dominate:

  • Retreat into the cocoon of our nation-states
  • Or surrender to the Brussels democracy-free zone

There must be another course. And there is!

It is the one official ‘Europe’ resists with every sinew of its authoritarian mind-set:

A surge of democracy!

Our movement, DiEM25, seeks to call forth just such a surge.

One simple, radical idea is the motivating force behind DiEM25:

Democratise Europe! For the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!

Our goal to democratise Europe is realistic. It is no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union was. Indeed, it is less utopian than the attempt to keep alive the current, anti-democratic, fragmenting European Union.

Our goal to democratise Europe is terribly urgent, for without a swift start it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time, before Europe goes past the point of no return. We give it a decade, by 2025.

There’s lots more after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Quote of the day II: Intolerant ghost in the machine


From German journalist Sara Weber, writing in Süddeutsche Zeitung:

Algorithms decide who Facebook suggests you should befriend and when future self-driving cars will apply the brakes. They are a sequence of orders that can solve a problem, if applied correctly. They are supposed to be systematic, logical and produce the same result even after the umpteenth application.

But every algorithm is programmed by humans who are part of various social strata and whose work is influenced, consciously or not, by their preferences and prejudices. And the more the world is driven by technology, the more this is a problem.

“We assume that technology is neutral, but there are no neutral algorithms,” says Corinna Bath, a computer specialist who researches technology development and gender issues. She says technology is always influenced by social standing, though very few people realize that.

Algorithms can be downright dangerous if they have been programmed to make racist or sexist decisions. Mind you, this probably doesn’t happen on purpose. Most programmers probably aren’t aware of the fact that their prejudices are influencing the code they develop.

Headline of the day II: It should come as no surprise


From Grist:

Guess who’s funding the Bundys’ crazy land-grab movement? The Koch brothers

As reporters pack up and locals try to get back to normal, questions remain. Is this just be beginning of a larger rebellion against the federal government? And would such a rebellion have any powerful backers? To that last question, we may have an answer: the Koch brothers.

UPDATE: More Kochquettishness from Rolling Stone:

The Koch Brothers’ Dirty War on Solar Power

All over the country, the Kochs and utilities have been blocking solar initiatives — but nowhere more so than in Florida

Eric J. Garcia: Courting Latinos


From his Tumblr, El Machete Illustrated:

BLOG El Machete

And now for something very different. . .


And very NSFW, unless your colleagues swear a lot.

An awful lot. . .

Movie theaters have become prime plums for greedy developers.

Here in Berkeley, a former city planner is spearheading a plan that will destroy one of Berkeley’s few remaining theaters, the Landmark Cinemas, replacing them with a much smaller venue based on the false representation that the theaters were losing money [the Landmark chain says not so]. But when you stand to make a fortune from a massive high-rise luxury housing project, why let fact get in the way, right?

In London another movie theater is set for the chop to make way for a train station, this time in Soho, in the heart of London’s entertainment district.

But in Old Blighty, the Curzon Cinema‘s fans are mobilized. They’re pissed, and they don’t mind telling you.

From Curzon Cinemas:

Save Curzon Soho: Curse for Curzon

Program notes:

Curzon Soho is under threat! Developers want to demolish it to make way for a train station. Time to get angry! We want to see your best film-inspired swearing. Join the campaign and send us your video response using #CurseforCurzon #SaveCurzonSoho.
Sign the official petition here http://bit.ly/savecurzonsoho