Building Sustainable, Local, Equitable, Economies

Confessions of a post-Impressionist in France

                                           “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”                                                                                                               17th Century French Philosopher, Voltaire In France I acquired impressions. Impressions of Cormeilles, Normandie, France There are three Cormeilles in France. Our Cormeilles— the one where we spent the month of May 2024, is a thousand-year-old town of 1,150 people, that few in or out of France, are aware of.  Some tourists happen on it, while taking a blue...

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Five Questions about the Economy and Politics of Tirana, Albania

"I accepted the story I heard on foreign media: that the [1997] Albanian civil war could be explained not by the collapse of a flawed financial system but by longstanding animosities between ethnic groups... its plan could be disrupted only by outside factors — like the backwardness of our community norms — and never beset by its own contradictions." Lea Ypi Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, p300.  Five Questions about the Economy and Politics of Tirana Albania On our last morning in Tirana, we crossed Skanderbeg Square and turned down a street jammed with cars, scooters, bikes,...

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Mr. Blinken came to Albania

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken came to Tirana, Albania. He did not stay long. Not long enough for a state dinner. He would eat in Munich, his next stop.  The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama chastised him for this diplomatic slight. While Blinken was in Tirana he met with his people at the Pyramid built by Enver Hoxha’s daughter in 1988 to honor him, repurposed after the fall of his regime in 1991, to be a tourist and commercial hub. You can climb to the top for a 360 view of the city. Around the pyramid are cute box-shaped buildings the size of rooms in bright colors, some askew so...

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Tirana, Albania, Minneapolis, Minnesota. If we build it, will they come?

In Albania, time folds, though the marching chronology of the country's last 130 years appears stark with fundamental change: The Ottoman Empire, Nationalist Monarchy, Italian Fascism, Enver Hoxha’s Stalinism, Enver Hoxha’s Maoism, Enver’s Hoxha’s Enverism— a kind of nationalist socialism, with collective enterprises, science and Marixist-based education, fear, distrust, and violent "re-education" camps.  When Enverism fell in 1990, Albania went from frying pan to fire, with political pluralism accompanied by the most corrupt version of neo-liberalism, leading to the “Catastrophe of...

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Shqiperia (Albania). First impressions.

First impressions are precious and dangerous. Precious because you see things that later you gloss over. Dangerous because you make quick assumptions based on slim evidence. Shqiperia at first glance looks to me like an in-between place: part Southern Europe, part Eastern Europe, part Middle East, part new and changing rapidly, part old and not moving, part Global North, part Global South. It seems like a good place to come if you want to understand the world. That is why I am excited to be here. I am also excited to be here because of my ignorance of this land. Everything is new to me....

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Madrid Miracles. Aging on the Run Post #4

Getting off the train in Madrid we followed the crowds into the dark city. Our train companions formed a line for taxis, but we crossed the street and miracle of miracles, got on the right bus with backpacks and naked guitar, off at the right stop, and to the right apartment. Perhaps that does not sound miraculous to you, but Winkler-Moreys are notorious for getting lost. It felt like an awesome miracle to us. The next day we were able to orient ourselves. We entered Eva Duarte Peron Park (yes, that Eva Peron), just as an outdoor aerobics class was beginning. We joined them and it was...

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AI, College Plagiarism and Existential Crises: Reimagine Higher Ed.

I spent thirty years teaching college social science courses, developing strategies for dealing with plagiarism. Receiving a copied paper was always the most painful part of the job. I tried to develop assignments so unique that it would be impossible to find something already written. Now that AI is writing college essays for students, the game is transformed. I suggest abandoning the research and essay enterprise altogether. Forget thinking outside the box: throw away that old rectangle completely. The crises of our 21st century world demand a new higher education.  Here is what I’m...

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Our Existential Crises Are More Fundamental Than AI

What does it mean to have an existential crisis? According to the World Health Organization, half the population of humans on the planet lack water for sanitation, and a third lack safe drinking water.  Surely, we can not exist without water. The World Food Programme tells us 828 million people do not have enough food. The crisis has grown since 2020.  We are moving in the wrong direction. Certianly we do not exist without food. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists tells us the Nuclear War doomsday clock is 90 seconds from midnight, the closest to Armageddon that it has ever been since it was...

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Book Tour Journal: Tornados and Hurricanes, Human and Natural.

We were in Montgomery when tornados devastated downtown Selma, on January 12, hitting urban and rural regions across Georgia and Alabama, and killing at least eight people. In the morning we had considered riding to Selma, stopping to take in the art and public history sites erected by the National Park Service, that commemorate the three 1965 Civil Rights Marches between the two cities, but decided instead to stay out of the car. We were in the Alabama State History museum, a perfect fortress for waiting out a storm, when the tornado hit. We were oblivious to it. The tornado skirted...

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