Tag Archives: science

Scandinavian Countries Global Leader In Social Justice/Cohesion

English-speaking countries rank above average; immigration levels statistically insignificant

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have the highest levels of social cohesion, followed by Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, according to the Social Cohesion Radar, a study released July 16 by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank, and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. The study examines 34 countries in the EU and the OECD: the 27 EU member states and seven OECD countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the US.

While many conservatives continue to bash the liberal social program paradigm as an unwieldy welfare state of dependency…

differentracesScandinavian countries have the most equitable societies in Europe, according to research by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank — finding the strongest social cohesion in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

In these Nordic countries, which consistently rank at the top, a universal welfare state actively redistributes wealth and promotes equality of opportunity — the heart of Faustian urGe “Economic Morality: EQUALITY of advancement opportunity and treatment under the law and social memes — EQUITABILITY of rewards and outcomes [economic and social].” The quality of these countries’ institutions is also unusually high. These appear to be the factors behind the strong social cohesion in the Nordic pattern.

Most of Western Europe—Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain—feature above-average to average social cohesion. Lithuania, Latvia and the southeast European countries of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania suffer from low social cohesion.

SOCIAL COHESION?

Social cohesion is defined as how well members of a community live and work together. A cohesive society is characterized by:

  • resilient social relationships,
  • a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community and
  • a pronounced focus on the common good.

“Social cohesion is crucial for any society’s future and has a profound impact on a person’s perceived well-being. More cohesion equals more life satisfaction”, said Liz Mohn, vice chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s executive board.

Thusly, an increasing amount of academic research indicates — what one might logically expect — that “socially cohesive” countries are more likely to have lower levels of crime, substance and alcohol addiction, and higher levels of social mobility.

The report attempted to identify levels of cohesion in society by assessing people’s social networks, levels of public trust in others, confidence in social and political institutions, willingness to help others, and participation in public activities.

• High living standards • Low levels of income inequality and • Technological process toward achieving a knowledge society stand apart as the three most important socio-economic factors to promoting a cohesive society.

The report, therefore, compared metrics such as • national wealth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) • a country’s income gap as measured by the Gini coefficient, and its • level of development towards a modern information society as measured by the Knowledge Index:

  • First, greater national wealth has a correlation to greater social cohesion.
  • Second, a country’s income gap has a moderately strong and inverse correlation to social cohesion, indicating that less equal societies tend to be less cohesive. Few countries with a large income gap (e.g., the UK or Ireland) manage to avoid below-average scores on the social-cohesion index.
  • Third, a country’s level of development towards a modern information society has a more profound effect on social cohesion than national wealth. The higher a country’s ranking on the Knowledge Index, which measures the diffusion of modern communication technology, the more likely that country is to show high social cohesion.

SOLIDARITY FROM DIVERSITY & IMMIGRATION

Moreover, the study dispels the popular belief/misnomer that immigration is intrinsically harmful to social cohesion. The share of immigrants in a country’s population shows no statistically significant effect on social cohesion. Why?

Modern societies are based not on solidarity rooted in similarity, but on solidarity rooted in diversity and mutual interdependence“, said Stephan Vopel, Bertelsmann Stiftung program director. “Therefore they need an inclusive form of social cohesion that… accepts a multitude of lifestyles and identities and views them as a strength.”

This understanding sheds light upon a particular pattern found in the English-speaking countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, as well as Ireland… all of which generally rank right behind the Scandinavian countries. They are equal to the Nordic countries in terms of perception of fairness, and outperform them on solidarity and helpfulness.

It is interesting to note that conditions in these countries are quite different from conditions in the Nordic countries; for example, their welfare systems are less active in redistributing wealth, and their societies are characterized by a larger gap between rich and poor. But… as immigrant societies, the non-European countries are ethnically and religiously diverse; multicultural policies are in place to manage that heterogeneity.

In this group, also, are two relatively religious countries: Ireland and the United States. These countries appear to be able to achieve a level of social cohesion similar to that found in the relatively non-religious Nordic countries, under very different circumstances. Despite conservative political rants, respect for varied religious views ultimately prevails and tolerance — perhaps at times uneasy — holds sway, especially within the United States.

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Faustian urGe Manifesto

Ensuring That Serving “Capital” Interests Must Also Serve To Broadly Improve The Lives Of “We The People”

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CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST often bemoans ethical failures while he also attempts to mitigate, in some minuscule way, the social damages he and too many other citizens suffer from “Traditional” American Values (social and business). Inappropriate personal agendas and indifference toward obligation and ethics are significant annoyances that he addresses by trying to learn more — what wags the world and why.

Given the circus of extremes on display in society and within the political realm since President Obama’s re-election, CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST is currently working through the conundrum of how so many intelligent, educated people manage to place their feet in their mouths while their heads are so firmly up their arses.

He’s frustrated, and believes the nation is threatened, by libertarianism — knowing the objectivist/libertarian belief system is inappropriate to a fruitful, functional society. Libertarians disregard a profound reality: We are responsible for the decisions we make, yes, but we’re not responsible for the options we’re given. Thus, CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST believes that we should create that “society we would want if we didn’t know in advance who we’d be.”

He sees that another libertarian delusion is establishment of the fanciful “self-made” individual. The laughable concept discounts external influence or inspiration and exhibits a blatant disregard for the interconnectedness that is the human condition.

He remains convinced that we humans do not have to destroy each other to survive (as in two wars extinguishing 100,000+ lives as revenge for the prior killing of 3000) but that we choose to do so… not the nonsense propounded that genetics or patriotism demands it. CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST knows we have the ability to reason and that too many simply choose the easier way of reactive non-thought.

Though imbued with a simmering cauldron of rage just below his deceptively pleasant (and not altogether unpleasant looking) exterior, he’s always willing to self-examine and learn — yearning for family, friends, community members to take the same ride.

The hope… the desire… the craving… for forward movement and betterment on cultural, political, and individual levels are woven into his personal fabric, with key objectives toward equality/equitability*, liberty, fraternity, justice-for-all, empathy, self-awareness, growth, momentum, compassion, and humor.

(*EQUALITY of advancement opportunity and treatment under the law and social memes — EQUITABILITY of rewards and outcomes [economic and social])

On EQUALITY:

It appears that a large number of citizens seeking minimalist government from the Right are for strong government, though, when it favors their perceived social interests, such as interfering with the reproductive rights of women, the marriage rights of non-heterosexuals, and the civil rights of non-whites.

CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST relishes challenging the authority of political, religious, and societal priests, as he liberally supports marriage for everyone, equal rights for everyone, less poison for the environment, progressive taxation, removal of corporate personhood, financial regulation enforcement up to and including criminal incarceration, the elimination of all “consensual crimes,” and many other positions that lead conservatives to squirm uncomfortably in their seats.

On EQUITABILITY:

The Right will argue that allowing the free market to function will fix our problems. But, the free market doesn’t guarantee social outcomes, merely economic ones. Yes, it may provide more efficiency on the whole and grow the economy faster as a whole, but by itself doesn’t guarantee how wealth is distributed. The Right cannot be indifferent to the consequences of a middle-class life undermined, nor can it be indifferent to half the population’s inability to buy the products and services that businesses sell.

The Left would argue that the solution is for laws to transfer wealth from the rich to the middle class. But, while that would increase consumption, depending on the scope, it could threaten the amount of capital available to investment by the transfer itself and by eliminating incentives to invest. The Left cannot be indifferent to the fact that one can’t invest what they don’t have, and that no one will accept the risk of investment if the payoff is transferred completely away.

CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST understands the take away to be that “reasonableness” must prevail as to the extent, but transfers of some wealth should ensue as a part of the solution. So, let’s avoid extreme redistribution and focus on finding the correct amount that ameliorates the problems at hand (which will improve sales and garner more aggregate profit for firms, shareholders, and stakeholders… alike) while retaining enough incentives to invest and risk take.

As a Social-Capitalist/Social-Democrat**, CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST favors smart government — a government as big or as small as needed to achieve progressive social and capital ends, ensuring that serving “capital” interests must also serve to improve the lives of “We the people” broadly (hence, “Social”).

“Our” government’s job is best done when it benefits all of the people, and not just capital interests — as he interpretes the right favors.

(**Social Democracy is exhibited as an economic precept of Social Capitalism. The contemporary social democratic movement seeks to reform capitalism to align it with the ethical ideals of social justice while maintaining the efficient and wealth-building capitalist mode of production, as opposed to creating an alternative socialist economic system. Practical modern social democratic policies include the promotion of the commonweal, and the creation of economic democracy as a means to secure stakeholders’ rights.)

“This vast number of worlds, the enormous scale of the universe, in my view, has been taken into account, even superficially, in virtually no religion, and especially no Western religions.” – Carl Sagan

Taking exception with the very concept of “American Exceptionalism,” CORONARE MODESTUS FAUST feels compelled to explore these issues in rambling-though-coherent thoughts and an adventurous assortment of arbitrary amusements.

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Liberalism is “Life.”

It is an unrelenting pursuit of freedom from physical dangers that can kill or disable us.

  • The Liberal believes it is a nation’s job to protect its citizens from physical harm, whether from external sources, such as hostile nations, or internal ones, like crime, disease, or hunger. Without the solid ground of physical wellbeing, our nation and its citizens cannot enjoy the benefits of being free.
  • Liberals believe in a strong military, well suited to defend the nation.
  • Liberals believe in good laws, hard-working police, and a just legal system to protect its citizens from crime.
  • Liberals believe in affordable health care for everyone, to keep our people strong.
  • And Liberals believe in the availability of food and shelter for its needy, not as a hand out but as a reasonable step in moving all Americans toward self-reliance and the freedom that comes with it.

Liberalism is “Liberty.”

It is the freedom to do as your conscience dictates without impeding another’s rights. Liberalism established a nation where personal belief and self-determination are protected, not persecuted; where hard work is rewarded, not demanded; and where each person is bestowed with the ability to better his or her life because of citizenship, not class.

  • Liberals believe in freedom of speech to protect us from political oppression.
  • Liberals believe in sound regulations to protect us from economic oppression.
  • Liberals believe in just laws to protect us from social oppression.
  • And Liberals believe in quality education to protect us from the oppression of ignorance.

Liberalism is “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

It is the freedom to create an environment where the individual can excel. What is freedom if it cannot be used to better our lives? A truly free society must be one where its members can rise above their limitations and expand their futures — it is “The American Dream,” and it’s alive and well in the heart of the Liberal.

  • Liberals believe in equal opportunities for all to rise above our means.
  • Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our education levels.
  • Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our social status.
  • And Liberals believe each and every family should have an equal opportunity to make this world better for their children.

Based on these tenets, Liberalism is not the monster it’s made out to be by the opposition.

  • It is pro individual and pro family.
  • It is pro community and pro country.
  • Liberalism is, by its very definition, the heart and soul of what it means to be an American.
  • It stands against tyranny of any kind, whether international or domestic.
  • It works to remove abuse and fight crime.
  • And it strives to eliminate the idea of a wasted life by not wasting resources and opportunities.

China Opens Longest High-Speed Rail Line — Republicans Keep U.S. Stuck At The Depot In Last Century’s Trains

China began service Wednesday morning on the world’s longest high-speed rail line…

…covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Fla., or from London across Europe to Belgrade, Serbia.

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Trains traveling 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours.

Completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou route — roughly 1,200 miles — is the latest sign that China has resumed rapid construction on one of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country.

Significant spending on the project has helped jump-start the Chinese economy twice: in 2009, during the global financial crisis, and again this autumn, after a brief but sharp economic slowdown over the summer.

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Due to Republicans, the United States has yet to embrace the future of transportation…

…while high-speed trains have been zooming commuters across the continents of Europe and Asia for decades.

President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union speech, called for a high-speed rail system over the next 25 years. However, Mr. Obama’s proposal to spend $53 billion on high-speed rail over the next six years hit a roadblock when Congressional Republicans eliminated money for that plan for the year.

The year before, newly elected Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin turned down federal money their Democratic predecessors had won for new rail routes, lest their states have to cover most of the costs for trains that would draw few riders.

The cuts will not halt the rail program since unspent money remains that can be used on new projects. But they leave the future of high-speed rail in the United States unclear. So far roughly $10 billion has been approved for high-speed rail, but it has been spread to dozens of projects around the country.

China builds its future while American Republicans hold back United States abilities.

China builds its future while American Republicans hold back United States abilities.


PROUD: Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law!

Finally, U.S. Begins Movement Toward Universal Health Care Access – A Right Of Citizenship In Every Other Civilized Nation

In a dramatic victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 health care law, preserving Obama’s landmark legislative achievement!

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who held that the law was a valid exercise of Congress’s power to tax.

The decision came as sharp repudiation to congressional Republicans, many of whom had expected the court to strike down at least some parts of the law.


Gas Prices: It’s Obama’s Fault!…Or, Is It? — Part 2: Refining Bottleneck

As a follow up to my October 11th post outlining the factors “not Obama” that are increasing gasoline prices, I was challenged by the same anti-Obama businessman I mentioned to explain this “supposed” refining capacity bottleneck.

Ok… here ’tis:

Here’s the bottleneck in a graph. No matter how much crude oil is brought out of the ground or imported, the bottleneck is that US refining capacity has not increased in over a decade (actually you’ll see later, it’s about two decades). That folks is what’s called a “bottleneck.” Very simple. The gap between demand and what we have the capacity to refine is imported at substantially higher costs.

“Yeah, well, you know dude, the free market will fix that!”

Really? ‘Cause here’s the federal EIA outlook up until 2030. Um…barely any capacity improvement. And the gap between demand and what the US can refine: goes from a shortfall of a little more than 3 million barrels of oil per day to a gap of almost 8 million barrels of oil per day. The gap is made up by importing expensive refined product from abroad.

Ooops! Looks like a lack of energy industry progress.

Now, let’s look at what the energy industry and the feds have to say about our refining capacity and the coming urgent problems:

From U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Refining: Petroleum & Other Liquids”

U.S. refining capacity, as measured by daily processing capacity of crude oil distillation units alone, has appeared relatively stable in recent decades, at about 16 million barrels per day of operable capacity—the level is a reduction from the capacity of twenty years ago. …the first refineries were shut down as demand fell in the early 1980’s. …additional refineries were shut down in the late 1980’s and during the 1990’s, always, of course, those at the least profitable end of a company’s asset portfolio.”

The report notes a mediating factor: “At the same time, refiners improved the efficiency of the crude oil distillation units that remained in service by “debottlenecking” [internally] to improve the flow and to match capacity among different units and by turning more and more to computer control of the processing.”

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Nonetheless two contravening facts deny the relief of improved capacity utilization efficiencies so that refineries continue to function as “the bottleneck:” 1) Continued shut down of refinery facilities reducing total potential capacity levels and 2) A turn to exporting American refined oil products to industrializing, higher profit margin international markets.

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From ”Rising Gasoline Prices 2012,” Congressional Research Service (R42382), March 1, 2012

Two large oil refiners in the Northeast, Sunoco and ConocoPhillips, have decided to close refining assets.  Sunoco announced the closure of its Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania refinery on December 1, 2011, followed by ConocoPhillip’s closure of its Trainer, Pennsylvania refinery later that month.  Sunoco also plans to close, its Philadelphia refinery. Together, these three refineries comprise over 50% of refining capacity in the Northeast.  Higher wholesale price margins would be required in the Northeast to draw supplies from other areas to make up for the loss in refining capacity.”

Separately, the Hovensa Refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands is also closing. Most U.S. refined product imports from Europe and the Virgin Islands go the East Coast.”

Europe, a major source of U.S. gasoline imports, has also experienced a reduction in refining capacity recently. It has been reported that Petroplus, the largest European independent refiner, has begun shutting down three of its five refineries.  (As a result of these closures, Europe may also seek to draw greater supplies of diesel fuel from U.S. refineries.)”

From EIA February 2012 Executive Summary of Report. “Potential Impacts of Reductions in Refinery Activity on Northeast Petroleum Product Markets”

“…price impacts are highly uncertain. …in the short term, prices can spike. In the longer run, higher prices and possibly higher price volatility can result…loss of the Sunoco Philadelphia refinery presents a complex supply challenge, and no single solution has been identified by industry participants… The industry will have a financial incentive to serve all markets in the Northeast, and companies are currently investigating options. However, companies are not [soon] likely to make significant investments in new logistical arrangements…”

From The White House, March 11, 2012, “A Secure Energy Future: A Progress Report.”

The U.S. refiners export gasoline, and that shrinks national supply. Though placing a positive spin by extolling the virtues of a “world-class refining sector,” the report revealed a “refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in sixty years.”

Report by Ron Scherer at the Christian Science Monitor, ““As Gas Prices Rise, Should US Oil Industry Stop Exporting?”

The oil industry maintains it must export to stabilize profits and avoid layoffs. Observers contend the new status of refiners as “net exporter[s] for the first time in sixty years” keeps domestic supply low and gas prices high.

“The oil industry maintains the exports are necessary because domestic demand is weak. The industry says if refiners could not send American-made gasoline to China, India, Europe, and South America, the refineries would have to close as several have already done on the East Coast. Yet, other energy observers say exporting gasoline at a time of rising prices is sort of like throwing flammable liquid on a fire.”

TADA! US Refining Bottleneck!

Not the fault of Obama… the fault of industry.