Saturday, 19 March 2011

"EU-led coalition strikes first Gaddafi target"

The pro-EU EUobserver is trying to give the false impression that the coalition against Gaddafi is "EU-led":

EU-led coalition strikes first Gaddafi target
"A French jet fired on one of Colonel Gaddafi's tanks at 18.45 Libyan time on Saturday (19 March) in the first strike by an EU-US-Arab coalition put together to protect Libyan civilians."

It is true that there are 10 EU countries in the "alliance" - including even Germany, which did not support the UN Security Council resolution! - but in no way is it "EU-led".

Here is some background to the Paris summit on Saturday:

The original invitation from the French and British leaders snubbed Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, after Berlin stunned other Western powers by siding with Russian and China during the UN Security Council vote on Thursday night.
Last week at a summit in Brussels, Germany had refused to heed calls from the Prime Minister and French President for EU backing for a no-fly zone, delaying the measure until the United States swung behind Britain and France on Thursday.
President Sarkozy extended his initial Friday morning invitation to Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Qatar, the Arab League, UN and African Union, only passing the invitation to the EU via Herman Van Rompuy during telephone calls that pointedly neglected Baroness Ashton, Europe's foreign minister.
In desperate bid to avoid being completely pushed out of the new Anglo-French military alliance, Chancellor Merkel was forced to pledge extra German military support in Afghanistan to free up Nato aerial surveillance forces for operations in Libya before inviting herself.

EU "president" Herman Van Rompuy and "foreign minister", Baroness Ashton - both unelected - were allowed to participate in the Paris summit, but it is quite clear that their presence was in essence symbolic - they certainly did not have any common EU position on the no-fly zone operations to convey to the other participants. Maybe the duo was there to project the famous EU "soft power"? Or maybe Van Rompuy, also known as Haiku Herman, read his latest haiku:
Winter fades away
Spring not yet alive
A time in between.

However, Van Rompuy´s PR-department is to be congratulated for the quickness in letting us share his and the Baroness´s arrival - and even the "president´s" departure - on YouTube:

 Video by user HermanVanRompuy

Libya: Germany´s strange bedfellows

                                                  A diminished Merkel

Angel Merkel is now participating in the international Libya no-fly zone meeting in Paris trying to look like a serious international actor. But Der Spiegel gives us the true picture:

When it came down to the crunch, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle decided that Germany should side with China and Russia. Together, the three members of the United Nations Security Council abstained from Thursday's vote on a resolution to impose a no-fly zone on Libya. It is a curious political development, to say the least.

The trio makes for strange bedfellows. There is Germany, a democracy which puts great store in the rule of law and human rights, siding with a communist, one-party dictatorship and a country with a dubious track record on political freedoms. On the other side are Germany's traditional allies -- the United States, France and Britain -- not to mention parts of the Arab and African world. Lebanon had been one of the countries presenting the resolution, which was backed by the Arab League. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have already said they would take part in a military operation, according to UN diplomats.

And despite the Libyan regime's move on Friday afternoon to declare a cease-fire -- at least for now -- and inviting international observers into the country, Berlin's move could have lasting repercussions. Although Berlin has not blocked military action by abstaining, the German government has marginalized itself. It is effectively telling its allies: You will have to deal with this one alone -- we're not going to help you.

Read the entire article here.

(image by

Where are the no-fly zone forces?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces pushed into the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Saturday, defying world demands for an immediate ceasefire and forcing rebels to retreat.Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces pushed into the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Saturday, defying world demands for an immediate ceasefire and forcing rebels to retreat.

Where are the jet fighters that were supposed to prevent madman Gaddafi from doing this? It is extremely disappointing that the international community will have to wait for a meeting in Paris before taking action!

China´s unsustainable boom

                            South China Mall - 99% empty

Vikram Mansharamani, equity investor and Yale lecturer, is convinced that there is a big bubble waiting to burst in China:   

"China is exhibiting all the signs you would expect from an unsustainable boom." He first points to the housing market, where investment hit the inauspicious market of 6% of GDP -- the same mark the U.S. hit in 2006 as the bubble was bursting. What's more, outstanding loans for developers and residential mortgages in China have increased by a factor of FIVE in the last decade. Loan balances have nearly doubled in the last three years alone.

Even worse, Mansharamani says, the Chinese government has spent lavishly to create demand that never materialized. He points to ghost towns like Qungbashi, in Inner Mongolia, a city designed for 1.5 million residents, but drew only 20,000 -- hardly one percent. He points to the New South China Mall, not far from Guangzhou, which was built to handle 1,500 tenants. Instead, it houses a few dozen -- hardly one percent. This sort of one-percent success rate creates ludicrous overcapacity that is eerily reminiscent of the empty homes and strip malls lining recession ghost exurbs in Arizona and Nevada. Mansharamani sees it as the prelude to a dramatic slowdown in government spending on buildings and infrastructure.

If China slows down even to 5% growth a year, that will take a booming commodities market down with it.


In the short term, Mansharamani told me in a follow-up interview, the commodities story could hold together longer thanks to new demand out of Japan to rebuild after the quake and tsunami. If a spending binge in Japan increases real demand for metals, it could justify ongoing speculation in metals prices.

But like a balloon batted in the air one last time, this might serve to only make the fall more dramatic, Mansharamani says. "This will temporarily hide the unsustainability of the Chinese investment boom," he wrote to me in an email. "It will embolden mining companies to expand more rapidly. This will likely make the eventual correction more extreme than if the excesses were revealed today."

Read the entire article here.

Another new "ghost" city in China:

Friday, 18 March 2011

Greenpeace activists sentenced in Belgium - other trials to come

A Belgian court has handed down a one-month suspended jail sentence + fines of €1,100 to ten Greepeace activists who staged a protest during an EU summit in 2009. Eleven activists were charged with using fake IDs, but one of them was cleared, as he held a valid press card. The sentenced activists were able to join an official motorcade and use the VIP entrance before they were seized by security forces.

Another trial is according to EU-Observer soon to begin in Denmark:

Another eleven Greenpeace activists are also facing a similar trial in Denmark for a protest they staged at a banquet hosted by the Danish queen during the Copenhagen climate summit. After dressing up as gala guests and suddenly displaying banners with "Politicians talk. Leaders act", four of them were arrested and held for 20 days.

Earlier this month, the Danish public prosecutor charged them with trespassing, falsification of documents, impersonating a public official and offences committed against the Danish queen.

In another precedent in Belgium, the green NGO faced organised crime charges after a series of protests against the local power giant Electrabel. Of the seven pending criminal investigations, six were dismissed.
Japanese and US courts have also given Greenpeace activists suspended jail sentences on similar grounds.

It is about time that courts start getting tougher on Greenpeace activists. In many countries they have been allowed to break laws without having to face the consequences like other people.  

Russia today: Government-organized crime and state corruption

Ashot Yegiazaryan, who has served as deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party in the State Duma since 1999, describes the absence of rule of law in Russia in an article in the Moscow Times:

Perverting the judicial system to abuse private property rights is, of course, not uncommon in countries with weak rule of law. But in Russia, it has been raised to an art form through a heavily centralized political system and a fusion of business and state interests clouded within an opaque environment. The loss of a distinction between personal interests and state interests at such a high level makes corporate raiding more efficient and devastating.
In a seminal 2008 article, “Criminal Corporate Raiding in Russia,” Thomas Firestone, legal adviser for the U.S. Justice Department at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, writes that Russia’s raiding relies on “criminal methods such as fraud, blackmail, obstruction of justice and actual and threatened physical violence.” He notes that the raiders “rely on court orders, resolutions of shareholders and boards of directors, lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings and other ostensibly ‘legal’ means as a cover for their criminal activity.”
Firestone defines the typical corporate raid in Russia:
  • the acquisition by the raiding company of a substantial portion of the target company’s debts;
  • the corrupt acquisition of control over the target company by falsifying internal corporate documents;
  • the filing of civil suits and “contracted” criminal cases against the target company;
  • the use of siloviki, including the police, private security forces, court bailiffs and hired thugs;
  • the transfer of illegally seized assets to a “good faith purchaser”’ using shell companies;
  • “black PR” involving the distribution of false information about the target through the media.
These tools will be sharpened and applied with greater vigor if the target tries to resist. After I started to fight back against the scheme to steal my assets, the authorities opened a criminal case against me, heightened physical threats against me and my family and initiated a vicious PR campaign branding me as a criminal.
It is a tragedy that Russia has created a business environment that is so open to abuse, one that has ruined the country’s investment climate.
This model of government-organized crimeis doomed, and the efforts to modernize Russia are a sham used to mask the status quo of rampant state corruption. To create a genuine basis for development, Russia urgently needs to separate business from executive power.

It is becoming more and more evident that corruption and the lack of rule of law is keeping international investors away from Russia:

Ikea, the world’s biggest home-furnishings retailer, is just the type of investor Russia needs — and isn’t getting — to overcome the lowest foreign investment rate among leading emerging-market economies. The Swedish company says it won’t build more stores outside the Moscow region until local officials stop withholding permission for two outlets in the central cities of Samara and Ufa. After investing $4bn in Russia over 10 years, Ikea placed a freeze on expansion in June 2009.
The reason the stores aren’t opening is that Ikea is refusing to pay bribes to safety inspectors, said Kirill Kabanov, head of the non-governmental National Anti-Corruption Committee in Moscow. “We have a zero tolerance on corruption and we have a very clear policy, and then things must take the time they take,” Ikea Russia Managing Director Per Wendschlag said in an interview. He said he had no specific complaint on the delay in permits in the two cities.
At stake is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s goal, expressed in a January 26 interview with Bloomberg Television, to match the economic growth rates of other BRIC nations. With barely more than one-tenth the population of China and India, Russia needs to attract non-energy investors to grow and diversify. Corruption has “penetrated all branches of power,” Medvedev said in the interview.
The president’s credibility as a graft-busting former lawyer working to improve the business environment was tarnished in December when a Moscow court handed a new jail sentence to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos Oil billionaire, said James Beadle, a Britain-based consultant for investors in Russia. Lack of progress risks harming Medvedev’s prospects a year ahead of presidential elections.
Foreign companies have repeatedly faced difficulties in Russia. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, in 2006 ceded control to state-run OAO Gazprom of its biggest project in the country, the $22bn Sakhalin-2 oil and gas development, amid threats by regulators to revoke the permits on environmental grounds. Russian health officials last year warned Nestle, the world’s largest food company, that it was violating safety rules at its Russian plants. A spokesman confirmed the warning last month. It was a move to favor local rivals or extort money, according to the anti-corruption committee’s Kabanov.

Read the entire arcticle here.

Kristiina Ojuland, Member of the European Parliament and foreign minister of Estonia from 2002 through 2005., has been very outspoken about the lack of human rights, rule of law and corruption in Russia. However, due to its energy dependence, the European Union has regrettably not been in the forefront in the fight against the rotten Russian system:

Germany: Environmentalism gone mad

(image by Bundesumweltsministerium)

Germany has for many years now been considered a model country when it comes to "saving the environment". But behind the polished facade, not everything is as perfect as people are asked to believe. The German weekly Der Spiegel had a closer look into the reality of environmentalism gone mad:

"Biofuels have led to the clear-cutting of rainforests, plastics are being burned rather than recycled and new generation lightbulbs have led to a resurgence of mercury production."

"As usual, ordinary Germans were to blame. Everything had been prepared for the green revolution: fresh supplies and new signs at the gas stations, and the refinery depots were full to the brim with the new wonderfuel. But then drivers turned their backs on the new era. They didn't want to buy E10, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, even through it cost almost 10 cents less per liter than conventional gas.

"It's annoying but there's no question of stopping the sale of E10," said Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen. E10, Röttgen said with a hint of threat in his voice, was a milestone of German climate control policy.

When it comes to the environment these days, all other interests must take a back seat, including possible engine damage from E10. After all, the United Nations has proclaimed that ensuring environmental sustainability is one of its "millennium goals," and greater importance is assigned to climate negotiations among the big industrial nations than to economic summits these days.
All the serious political parties devote large parts of their policy programs to environmental policy. In the coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats, protecting the climate comes ahead of education and internal security in the list of policy priorities. The government is as committed to promoting the development of electric cars as it is to expanding renewable energies and protecting fish stocks in German rivers.
There is no issue that produces such unanimity among the parties."
"Not everything that looks green serves the environment. The ecological principle of proceeding with care doesn't seem to apply to environmental policy. The more, the better, seems to be the principle. No one is calculating whether all the billions being invested in protecting the environment are actually being spent wisely. Ordinary citizens can't judge it and many experts have no interest in shedding any light on this aspect because their livelihoods are at stake.

A large amount of money flows into studies, risk assessments and providing seals of approval. In many cases, a closer look at environmental measures reveals that they're expensive and don't have much effect. German environmental standards are so high already that it would require an enormous expense to achieve further improvements -- especially in comparison with less developed nations such as China, India or the former Eastern bloc states.
In economics, it's called the law of diminishing marginal utility. The first glass of water you drink will help a lot to quench your thirst. The second will help a little less and so on. By the 10th glass you will be feeling unpleasantly full or even sick. That's the worst aspect: some major environmental policies aren't just ineffective -- they are counterproductive."
In the fight to protect the environment, it may be time to pause and ask oneself: what is really helping, and what isn't? And to admit at times: sorry, we were wrong. But it doesn't work like that. Environmentalism knows no doubt. The idea is never wrong, the problem is always in the implementation.
And so it will continue. Additional rubbish containers will be introduced, for different types of rubbish. The EU will ban the stand-by function on electronic appliances to reduce energy consumption -- even though engineers know this reduces product lifespans.
At some point, only electrical cars will fulfil environmental requirements, but the electricity will have to come from somewhere -- maybe French or Czech nuclear power stations?
Ordinary people will put up with all this patiently, what else can they do? It all serves the environment, and no one can object to that.

Read the entire article here.

German wind power ad done in association with the German Ministry for the Environment:

A related article in Der Spiegel:

Germany's Dream of Offshore Wind Farms Gets Expensive

UN Security Council no-fly zone decision: Not Germany´s finest hour

Germany was against imposing the no-fly zone over Libya, but in the final vote it abstained together with China, Russia, India and Brazil. No wonder madman Gaddafi praised Germany in a recent television interview. Not Germany´s finest hour!

No-fly zone: Hillary Clinton finally prevailed

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally managed to put an end to the dithering of her boss.  But she has lately been rather frustrated:

Fed up with a president “who can’t make his mind up” as Libyan rebels are on the brink of defeat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to the exits.

At the tail end of her mission to bolster the Libyan opposition, which has suffered days of losses to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Clinton announced that she’s done with Obama after 2012 — even if he wins again.

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told The Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

He went on, “If you take a look at what’s on her plate as compared with what’s on the plates of previous Secretaries of State — there’s more going on now at this particular moment, and it’s like playing sports with a bunch of amateurs. And she doesn’t have any power. She’s trying to do what she can to keep things from imploding.”

Clinton is said to be especially peeved with the president’s waffling over how to encourage the kinds of Arab uprisings that have recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and in particular his refusal to back a no-fly zone over Libya.

In the past week, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s former top adviser Anne-Marie Slaughter lashed out at Obama for the same reason.

The tension has even spilled over into her dealings with European diplomats, with whom she met early this week.

When French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged her to press the White House to take more aggressive action in Libya, Clinton repeatedly replied only, “There are difficulties,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

Read the entire article here.

U.N. Security Council approves no-fly zone over Libya

U.N. Security Council approves no-fly zone over Libya and extra measures to protect civilians.

This is excellent news!

The Guardian cites the resolution:

Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council

The phrase "take all necessary measures" means this is more than a no-fly zone: it allows air strikes and any military action short of landing troops ("excluding a foreign occupation force of any form") – such as attacking tanks on the road to Benghazi.

Now, let´s hope that the action (probably by NATO) gets rolling as soon as possible.

EU climate commissioner dreams about 100% renewables

EU chief climate change alarmist Connie Hedegaard continues to live in her cosy eurocrat dream world. Now she has been telling 8500 wind power enthusiasts gathered in Brussels about the coming energy paradise:

“When we talk about the electricity sector, not the total energy consumption, but electricity, than I think by 2050 we’ll have 100% renewables in Europe. I think that is perfectly doable,” said EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard today at the EWEA  (European Wind Energy Association)  2011 Annual Event.

It is always so tempting for EU politicians and bureaucrats to speak about how things will be forty or fifty years from now, because they know that they will not be around to face the facts then. Presumably Ms. Hedegaard has also figured out where the electricity comes from when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. Or maybe there will not be such days in 2050?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The EU climate change madness continues

Next year the European Union will force airlines to join its fraud-ridden Emission Trading System:

“Firm action is needed,” Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. “Emissions from aviation are growing faster than from any other sector, and all forecasts indicate they will continue to do so under business as usual conditions.”

Airlines will be the second-largest sector in the flawed Emission Trading System, after power generators. The already hard pressed EU airlines are - for good reason - very critical to this latest example of  EU climate change madness:

The industry has countered that the rules, adopted in 2008, would reduce profit by billions of euros because operators would have difficulty passing on the costs to travelers. Airlines will add 32 million tons of demand for EU carbon allowances in 2012, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today. That would be valued at 508 million euros at today’s prices.

“Fact is that EU ETS means additional costs for Lufthansa up to 350 million euro a year,” said Peter Schneckenleitner, a spokesman for Cologne-based Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest carrier. “We still see the EU ETS very critically, a lot of legal prerequisites are still open. For us the ETS means a huge distortion of competition; especially non-EU airlines will benefit from it.”

Read the entire article here

The ETS is so flawed and fraud-ridden that even environmentalists are questioning its value: 

The aim is to put a 'cap' on greenhouse gas emissions but evidence mounts against the scheme with many loopholes allowing for a carbon market with no real cap which awards profits to the biggest polluters.

In addition to over-allocation, windfall profits and the more fundamental problems with the EU ETS, other scandals have taken centre stage recently. In 2010, reports of more sophisticated forms of corruption have demonstrated that when 'buying' and 'selling' a sham commodity, the possibilities for fraud are endless.
'Carousel fraud', which was widespread in 2010, involves claiming value-added tax (VAT) refunds from international carbon trades. The traders import the "goods" or allowances tax-free from markets in other countries and sell them on to domestic buyers, charging the VAT which was never passed on to the treasuries. The result is a quick and difficult-to-trace profit. Part of the problem is that trading in the ETS happens over several different registries making transactions and 'authentic' allowances difficult to verify. The European investigation continues, at the time of writing, with a suspected €5 billion carbon trading tax cost, across at least 11 countries.
New EU regulations have tightened up VAT regulation, making this form of fraud more difficult. However, registries are lax and inconsistent across EU states. When the allowances enter the registries, their authenticity is nearly impossible to determine.
More fundamentally, many registries neglect to carry out any checks on the applicants that seek to open a trading account. The Danish registry, for example, failed to administer checks over the course of two years and was found to be filled with fraudulent companies and false names. Over 90% of the account holders in the Danish system were deleted last year.

Nothing seems to stop the European Union´s unelected bureaucrats from continuing to their totally useless climate crusade. The only hope is that voters in coming elections  vote for EU-critical parties, determined to put an end to the madness. Finnish voters will have a good chance to show the way in the April parliamentary elections .... 

Fukushima nuclear plant company caught lying in 2002

This report about Fukushima nuclear plant owner TEPCO´s earlier dishonest practices makes sad reading:

THE Japanese owner of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant falsified safety data and "dishonestly" tried to cover up problems there.

Tokyo Electric Power Co injected air into the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor No 1 to artificially “lower the leak rate”. When caught, the company expressed its “sincere apologies for conducting dishonest practices”.
The misconduct came to light in 2002 after whistleblowers working for General Electric, which designed the reactor, complained to the Japanese government. Another GE employee later confessed that he had falsified records of inspections of reactor No1 in 1989 - at the request of TEPCO officials. He also admitted to falsifying other inspection reports, also on request of the client. After that incident TEPCO was forced to shut down 17 reactors, albeit temporarily.
Dale Bridenbaugh, a GE employee who was not the whistleblower, resigned 35 years ago after becoming convinced that the design of the Mark 1 reactor used at Fukushima was seriously flawed. Five of the six reactors were built to that design.
Mr Bridenbaugh told ABC News: “The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant.”
In a document entitled Lessons Learned from the TEPCO Nuclear Power Scandal, released by the company and seen by The Times, TEPCO blamed its “misconduct” in 2002 on its “engineers' overconfidence of their nuclear knowledge”. Their “conservative mentality” had led them to fail to report problems, the company said, resulting in an “inadequate safety culture”.

Climate change: House republicans did the right thing

Climate Change/Global warming alarmists got what they deserve from the republican members of the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee:

Thirty-one Republicans on the House Energy And Commerce Committee -- the entire Republican contingent on the panel -- declined on Tuesday to vote in support of the very idea that climate change exists.
Democrats on the panel had suggested three amendments that said climate change is a real thing, is caused by humans and has potentially dire consequences for the future. The amendments came on a Republican bill to block the EPA from offering regulations to mitigate the results of global climate shifts.

Read the entire article in the alarmist TPM here.

The fact that not a single republican House member supported the idea of human caused global warming is a good thing, not only for the US, but for other countries as well. When this hoax is removed from the agenda, it is possible to start discussing real environmental problems ....

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Libya: "Where are the Americans?"

The Londons School of Economics´ "progressive" PhD who made a donation of £1.5 to university.

Gaddafi´s "progressive, reformist" son Saif is now openly taunting the West for its failure to impose a no-fly zone over Libya:

Asked about continuing British and French attempts to persuade the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone, he answered: "Military operations are over. Within 48 hours everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi. Whatever the decision, it will be too late."
Britain has tabled a resolution at the UN Security Council along with France and Lebanon. But it is almost certain that the Council will not be able to pass any meaningful resolution. British foreign minister William Hague also has said that Britain could support military action - including a no-fly zone - even without a Security Council resolution.

But with the Obama administration dithering, military action looks very unlikely. The White House is said to explore "other options", such as using sequestered Libyan money to fund the opposition.

No wonder then, that a senior Tory had this to say, according to The Telegraph:

But Bernard Jenkin, a senior Tory MP, said: "Where are the Americans? We are now in a new, entirely new situation. We have premised our defence and foreign policy for the last 60 years on the principle that if there is an international crisis involving our national interest the Americans would see that as involving their national interests.
"That is not the case under President Obama. He has been dithering and vacillating, his administration is divided and there is considerable concern on the other side of the Atlantic about what the United States should be doing."

Read the entire article here.

It is difficult to know what excactly president Obama is thinking, but it certainly appears that he prefers the German line of opposing a no-fly zone. In this case Obama´s  "Ich bin ein Berliner" policy is a sad and tragic mistake that the brave people of Libya, who dared to oppose the mad dictator, will not soon forget.

Russia´s Mistral deal in danger?

Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing French Le Figaro, reports that the agreement to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia seems to be losing support in Paris:

The agreement to sell advanced warships to Russia is losing support in France because of Moscow's wish to get hold of sensitive military technology and concerns among Russia's neighbors, Le Figaro daily said on Wednesday.
Russia and France signed an intergovernmental agreement in January on four Mistral-class helicopter carriers - two to be built at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and two in Russia under a French license.
Paris has agreed to transfer to Russia a highly sophisticated control and communication system, Sinik 9, which builds on the Sinik 8 system that is installed on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the flagship of the French Navy, the paper said.
According to Le Figaro's sources, Russia has pushed through an important change in the intergovernmental agreement, replacing French "assistance" in technology transfer to Russia with a "guarantee" of technology transfer.
A number of Russia's neighbors have expressed concern over the upcoming deal, in particular Georgia, Lithuania, and Japan, especially after a Russian Defense Ministry source said in early February the ships would be inducted with the Pacific Fleet to protect the South Kuril Islands claimed by Japan.
"The negotiations have started to irk even the most loyal supporters of the agreement, who are beginning to think that the price for France is too high," the paper says.

If what Le Figaro has learned is true, that would be welcome news, indeed, for most of Russia´s neighbours, and probably for the US, too. Letting the Putin´s "virtual mafia state" (US embassy cable) share advanced western defense technology would be both dangerous and incredibly stupid. Let´s hope M. Sarkozy realizes this, too, before it´s too late.

How to make friends - the German way

(image by

Praised by Gaddafi

Germany, which again has blocked plans to impose a no-fly zone against madman Gaddafi, has secured at least one loyal friend:

Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi said his "good friend" French president Nicolas Sarkozy has "gone mad", in a defiant interview with German television.
"He is my friend but I think he has gone mad. He is suffering from a psychological illness," Mr Gaddafi told RTL, according to excerpts from the interview due to be broadcast later Tuesday and published in German.
"That is what people say who are close to him. His aides say he is suffering from a psychological illness."
France recently called for air strikes against Mr Gaddafi's forces and moved to recognise the opposition as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Mr Gaddafi described the recent upheavals in his country as a "minor event" that would soon end, putting the number of those killed at "only 150 or 200... and half of them were from the security forces".
"They were killed when police stations were stormed. Show us the thousands of people who are supposed to have died," RTL quoted him as saying.
"There have been no demonstrations in Libya. Al Qaeda don't do protests, they never do them. Osama bin Laden's armed bands and mercenaries in the east will be destroyed and everything will go back to normal.
"In most of the country everything is normal. Everything is calm."
He also said he no longer trusts the West - except Germany

Read the entire article here

The trust in Gemany shown by Gaddafi should be good for future German business interests. The German newspaper Die Welt reports that Germany is the only Western country which according to Gaddafi could be considered as an oil customer. Herr Westerwelle´s Auswärtiges Amt is probably already busy planning the next German trade mission to Libya. Gute Reise!


And this is the result of Western inaction:

Adel Yahya, former rebel fighter, speaking by telephone from Ajdabiya, said the army was in control.
"I went out and told them I had a rifle and gave to them. We gave our guns to them, and they said you should come out and celebrate for Gaddafi. We lost, we lost," he said, breaking into tears.

This is how the government sponsored Deutsche Welle has been trying to spin Westerwelle´s activities:

Shale gas is the future

Already before the events in Japan, the CEO of one of the US top electricity companies spoke in Washington about the virtues of conventional and shale gas:

“Neither new nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, wind nor solar are economic,” said John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, in a speech on March 8 in Washington. One of the biggest U.S. power companies, with 17 nuclear plants and a broad portfolio of hydro, wind and solar facilities, Exelon says gas plants are the future.
“Natural gas is queen. It is domestically abundant and is the bridge to the future,” Mr. Rowe said. He noted that new conventional and shale gas discoveries have increased U.S. gas supplies by about 60 per cent, making the United States the world’s third largest gas producer, after the Middle East and Russia.
Shale gas could alter the European energy mix, too. Shale gas has been found in Poland, Germany, Ukraine and a few other countries. Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron are working on shale exploration projects in southeast Poland.

Read the entire article here.

As we have said before, environmental issues should be dealt with, but it is now crucial that politicians in the US, Europe and elsewhere do not let environmental groups dictate the policy:

Rowe came to Washington this month to discuss the importance of natural gas to the country’s economic and ecological future.  His message to Congress: “do no harm.”  By that he means nature, technology and markets are already conspiring to help American consumers and the environment.  All that’s needed is for Washington to stay out of the way.
Exelon is hardly the only firm at the moment that understands how a natural gas boom will transform the nation’s energy market. ExxonMobil pushed a lot of chips to the center of the table with a bold $41 billion acquisition of XTO. This positions America’s premier oil major to be the country’s premier natural gas provider in the 21st century. Given the company’s strong safety record and conservative management, and its role as a standard-setter for broader industries, that’s good news for the shape of the market.
There’s endless talk in Washington about the need to move toward lower-carbon power. Nature and technology are making it possible, if Washington and state capitols will let it.

Read the entire article here.

More information about natural gas - including shale gas - in Europe here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Libya: US foreign policy experts urge Obama to act

A bipartisan group of US foreign policy experts sent this letter to president Obama:

Dear President Obama:
Regrettably, the international community has yet to take serious action to prevent a moral and humanitarian catastrophe in Libya and the Libyan opposition is now on the defensive.  As forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi push eastward, we are concerned that the brutal and indiscriminate tactics of government forces could lead to additional civilian casualties. 
On Saturday, the Arab League endorsed Libyan opposition calls for a no fly zone.  We call on you to urgently institute a no fly zone over key Libyan cities and towns in conjunction with U.S. allies.  We also call on you to explore the option of targeted strikes against regime assets in an effort to prevent further bloodshed.  The United States should also immediately recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council and take all necessary actions to support their efforts to unseat the Qaddafi regime.
In your inaugural address two years ago, you said this: "And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born:  Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more."
Today the United States and its allies should stand with the men, women and children of Libya who seek a future of peace and dignity.  The situation in Libya in the coming days will not just impact the Libyan people.  As protests continue against repressive regimes around the world, the message currently being conveyed by our inaction is that killing and repression will go unpunished and are the best option for despots seeking to postpone reform. 
For the sake of our security as well as America’s credibility with people who seek freedom everywhere, we ask you to act as quickly as possible to ensure that the people of Libya – and the world – know that we are willing to back up our principles with action.

Stephen E. Biegun
Max Boot
Ellen Bork
Paul Bremer
Scott Carpenter
Elizabeth Cheney
Eliot Cohen
Seth Cropsey
Thomas Donnelly
Michele Dunne
Eric Edelman
Jamie Fly
Reuel Marc Gerecht
William Inboden
Bruce Pitcairn Jackson
Ash Jain
Robert Kagan
David Kramer
Irina Krasovskaya
William Kristol
Tod Lindberg
Ann Marlowe
Cliff May
Joshua Muravchik
Michael O'Hanlon
Martin Peretz
Danielle Pletka
John Podhoretz
Randy Scheunemann
Gary J. Schmitt
Dan Senor
William Taft
Marc Thiessen
Daniel Twining
Ken Weinstein
Leon Wieseltier
Rich Williamson
Damon Wilson

So far no reaction from Obama. His dithering will be remembered as a tragic mistake.
It looks like the manufacturers of these bumper stickers knew what they were doing:

The principles that should guide us

There once was a president who was ready to stand by the principles that have made the US great - and to act  when it was time to act.

This excerpt from a speech that the then future president Ronald Reagan gave already in 1964 should have been shown to the G8 foreign ministers (to Herr Westerwelle, in particular), who met in Paris without being able to agree on a no-fly zone in Libya:

This is the sad reality:

Europe fiddles as Libya burns

On military intervention, there are almost as many opinions as there are EU members, and no one wants to act without the US

Disagreement between European countries over Libya has moved from the merely embarrassing to the wholly humiliating, after Germany again blocked Anglo-French no-fly zone proposals at a G8 meeting in Paris. The EU's Libya debacle is now the foreign policy equivalent of last year's eurozone meltdown, and similarly damaging to its global credibility and influence. Once again, Europe is being forced to confront an unpalatable truth: unless the US takes the lead, nothing gets done.

And president Obama continues his dithering, sending out mixed signals. Maybe somebody should show the video to him, too.

Madman Gaddafi´s mercenaries advancing in Libya

While the international community is unable - or unwilling - to decide on imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, mad dictator Gaddafi ´s mercenaries are fast advancing. While the world´s attention now is focused on the tragic events in Japan, Gaddafi is able to intensify the bloodbath against his own people.    

Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi pressed their offensive into eastern Libya on Sunday, as an unraveling and demoralized rebel force fled the coastal oil town of Brega and began to lose its grip on power in its de facto capital city of Benghazi.
The battlefield developments lent urgency to an Arab League request Saturday to the United Nations Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace that is likely to be taken up this week.
The League's decision was an unprecedented endorsement of military action aimed at an Arab country, but European diplomats said it wouldn't likely suffice to ensure the measure is enacted.
The opposition's armed ragtag volunteer corps continued to lose ground. Rebel officials on Sunday said they have begun rounding up Gadhafi supporters in Benghazi following a string of mysterious explosions, armed robberies and the assassination on Saturday night of a journalist from al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite channel.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.

The volunteer corps are fighting bravely, but they are no match for Gaddafi´s well armed mercenaries:

Japan - solidarity and altruism in adversity

This blog post in The Telegraph has more than 2500 comments:

Why is there no looting in Japan?
The landscape of parts of Japan looks like the aftermath of World War Two; no industrialised country since then has suffered such a death toll. The one tiny, tiny consolation is the extent to which it shows how humanity can rally round in times of adversity, with heroic British rescue teams joining colleagues from the US and elsewhere to fly out.
And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself.
Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.
This is quite unusual among human cultures, and it’s unlikely it would be the case in Britain. During the 2007 floods in the West Country abandoned cars were broken into and free packs of bottled water were stolen. There was looting in Chile after the earthquake last year – so much so that troops were sent in; in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina saw looting on a shocking scale.
Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Renewable energy will not be able to replace nuclear power

News agencies today - not surprisingly - report that the events in Japan are eroding the confidence in nuclear energy in many countries. Also there are reports about increased interest in renewable energy sources - which is not surprising either.

However, it should be understood that wind and solar energy are nowhere close to being able to fill the gap anytime soon - if ever - if the construction of new nuclear power stations is stopped:

There is a reason why less than 2 percent of the world’s energy currently comes from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar--the very sources that are supposedly going to power the new green economy: despite billions of dollars in government subsidies, funding decades of research, they have not proven themselves to be practical sources of energy. Indeed, without government mandates forcing their adoption in most Western countries, their high cost would make them even less prevalent.
Consider that it takes about 1,000 wind turbines, occupying tens of thousands of acres, to produce as much electricity as just one medium-sized, coal-fired power plant. And that’s if the wind is blowing: the intermittency of wind wreaks havoc on electricity grids, which need a stable flow of power, thus requiring expensive, redundant backup capacity or an unbuilt, unproven “smart grid.”
Or consider the “promise” of solar. Two projects in development will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar cells in the hope of generating about 800 megawatts of power (as much as one large coal-fired plant). But that power output will only be achieved when the sun is shining brightly--around noon on sunny days; the actual output will be less than a third that amount. And the electricity will cost more than market price, even with the life-support of federal subsidies that keeps the solar industry going.

Read the entire arcticle here.

The only sensible solution would be to intensify the shale gas revolution that has began in the US and Canada. There is enough shale gas and oil - together with traditional natural gas - in the world to replace nuclear power. Environmental questions should, of course, be dealt with, but governments should not let the greenies (who seem to think that electricity is coming from the the wall socket) dictate the policy.

Guardian poll: only 6% of Europeans trust their government

At least five - but probably almost all - of these smiling leaders are highly unpopular in their own countries

The Guardian has published the results of a poll showing that people in five EU countries are fed up with their present leaders:

Europe´s hope of a better future is faltering, as the financial crisis and spending cuts bite, according to a Guardian/ICM poll of five leading EU countries. It finds trust in government at rock bottom and widespread fear of further economic decline. Few people are convinced that the present signs of recovery can be sustained.
Carried out at the start of a month-long Guardian series examining Europe in the wake of recession, the poll makes it clear that few Europeans believe the worst of the economic crisis is over. A majority are also against immediate cuts in government spending.
The result is a crisis in European democracy. While people are divided on the need for state spending cuts and the speed with which they should take place, very few in the five states surveyed trust their politicians to deal with the problems facing their countries – or even their honesty.
Only 6% of people across Europe say they have a great deal of trust in their government, 46% say they have not very much and 32% none at all. Only 9% of Europeans think their politicians – in opposition or in power – act with honesty and integrity.
The lack of trust in government is greatest in Poland and France, where distrust outweighs trust by a net 82 percentage points. In France, the net negative score is 78 points and in Germany 80 points. Only Britain breaks the consensus somewhat, with a net negative score of 66 points.

Looking at what has been going on in the European Union during the last decade or so, what else could one expect?

What is interesting, however, is the way the pro EU Guardian spins the results of the poll when it comes to people´s views on the Europen Union:

It (the poll) paints a picture of a continent confident in its liberal values and still mostly committed to EU institutions such as the euro and the free movement of people between states, but notably hostile to state spending and political leaders.

It is true that the majority of people in three euro countries in this poll were still positive towards retaining the euro. (However, the latest reliable German poll shows that 68% of the Germans have little or no confidence in the euro).

The only other EU question in the Guardian poll seems to have been this one:

I do NOT approve of people moving from one EU country to another to look for work
I approve of people moving to an EU country from outside

It is preposterous to make the sweeping generalization - "still mostly committed to EU institutions" - based on this kind of questions. And the people at the pro EU Guardian seem to realize this, since they  publish this "disclaimer":

The poll focused on national attitudes rather than those to the EU as a whole.

It would have been honest to leave out the pro EU spin altogether!

Red the entire article here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A great essay by Clive James

 (image by

Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet and memoirist Clive James dares to challenge the global warming/climate change orthodoxy. His new esssay "The drumming of an army" makes great reading. Here is an excerpt:

Before the floods, proponents of the CAGW view had argued that there would never be enough rain again, because of Climate Change. When it became clear that there might be more than enough rain, the view was adapted: the floods, too, were the result of Climate Change. In other words, they were something unprecedented. Those opposing this view — those who believed that in Australia nothing could be less unprecedented than a flood unless it was a drought — took to quoting Dorothea Mackellar's poem "My Country", which until recently every Australian youngster was obliged to hear recited in school. In my day we sometimes had to recite it ourselves, and weren't allowed to go home until we had given evidence that we could remember at least the first four lines of the second stanza, which runs like this. 
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror —
The wide brown land for me.
The first four lines of the stanza are the bit that everybody knows, partly because they are so addictively crafted, and partly because they fit the national experience of what Australia's geography and climate are actually like. In any household, the seniors (known in Australia as "the wrinklies") remember the droughts and the flooding rains of their childhood. I myself remember the Maitland floods of the early 1950s. The whole of the central seaboard of New South Wales was under water. I can remember rain you couldn't see through: right there in my southern suburb of Sydney, the creek flooded the park, and the lake in the park spilled into the bottom of our street, prompting the construction of a galvanised iron canoe in which three of us sailed to what would have been certain death if the contraption had floated for more than a few seconds.  
All three of us are old men now, of differing achievements and views, but none of us would be easily persuaded that the recent floods were a new thing.

Read the entire essay here.

I also liked this comment to the essay by Peter Rhodes:
Climate change may or may not be happening but if it is, it has nothing to do with man.The only man made thing about climate change is the way government has seized on it to tax us all more and making objection to these taxes heresy.

Fukyama: No end of communist rule in China "anytime soon"

Francis Fukyama - of  "end of history" fame - does not think the end of the communist party dictatorship is in view "anytime soon". However, he almost contradicts himself by stating that "If the country's current property bubble bursts and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work, the government's legitimacy, which rests on its management of the economy, would be seriously undermined". 

Fukyama is wrong in believing that the bursting of the bubble will take place in some distant future. There are good reasons to believe that it will happen much sooner. Apart from that Fukyama´s article in the Wall Street Journal is well worth reading:

The bottom line is that China will not catch the Middle Eastern contagion anytime soon. But it could easily face problems down the road. China has not experienced a major recession or economic setback since it set out on its course of economic reform in 1978. If the country's current property bubble bursts and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work, the government's legitimacy, which rests on its management of the economy, would be seriously undermined.
Moreover, Mr. Huntington's scenario of rising but unfulfilled expectations among the middle class may still play out. Though there is a labor shortage among low-skill workers in China today, there is a glut of the college educated. Every year into the future, China will graduate more than seven million people from its universities, up from fewer than a million in 1998, and many of them are struggling to find work suitable to their self-perceived status. Several million unemployed college graduates are far more dangerous to a modernizing regime than hundreds of millions of poor peasants.
There is also what the Chinese themselves call the "bad emperor" problem. China's historical achievement over the centuries has been the creation of high-quality centralized bureaucratic government. When authoritarian rulers are competent and reasonably responsible, things can go very well. Indeed, such decision-making is often more efficient than in a democracy. But there is no guarantee that the system will always produce good rulers, and in the absence of the rule of law and electoral checks on executive power, there is no way to get rid of a bad emperor. The last bad emperor, commonly (if quietly) acknowledged as such, was Mao. We can't know what future tyrant, or corrupt kleptocrat, may be waiting in the wings in China's future.
The truth is that, much as we might theorize about the causes of social revolution, human societies are far too complex, and change too rapidly, for any simple theory to provide a reliable guide. Any number of observers dismissed the power of the "Arab street" to bring about political change, based on their deep knowledge of the Middle East, and they were right every year—up until 2011.
The hardest thing for any political observer to predict is the moral element. All social revolutions are driven by intense anger over injured dignity, an anger that is sometimes crystallized by a single incident or image that mobilizes previously disorganized individuals and binds them into a community. We can quote statistics on education or job growth, or dig into our knowledge of a society's history and culture, and yet completely miss the way that social consciousness is swiftly evolving through a myriad of text messages, shared videos or simple conversations.
The central moral imponderable with regard to China is the middle class, which up to now has seemed content to trade political freedom for rising incomes and stability. But at some point this trade-off is likely to fail; the regime will find itself unable to deliver the goods, or the insult to the dignity of the Chinese people will become too great to tolerate. We shouldn't pretend that we can predict when this tipping point will occur, but its eventual arrival, as Samuel Huntington might have suggested, is bound up with the very logic of modernization itself.

No-fly zone in Libya - Obama should stop dithering

The Daily Telegraph´s Matthew Ancona says that British PM David Cameron knows what to do about Libya, but wonders whether president Obama knows?:


The Prime Minister is laying the groundwork for intervention in Libya - and rightly so, says Matthew d'Ancona. Now Barack Obama needs to follow his lead.

At the special regional Cabinet meeting in Derby on Monday, the Prime Minister told his colleagues that a no-fly zone over Libya would not require a specific UN Security Council resolution. This was as clear a statement of intent as David Cameron has yet made on the fate of Colonel Gaddafi. The PM would like UN backing, naturally, but does not regard the endorsement of the world's biggest focus group as a prerequisite for robust intervention in the Libyan crisis.
There are even those in the Cabinet who believe that Britain could impose a no-fly zone without American support. "Not desirable, but possible," says one. The very fact that such strategic possibilities are being countenanced at this level of government is remarkable indeed.
hope that the president follows Cameron's lead, as Clinton followed Blair's lead in Kosovo, for one principal reason: inaction is not a neutral position. Douglas Hurd's most inglorious decision as foreign secretary was to oppose the lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia on the grounds that it would create a "level killing field". How quickly memories of the Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were slaughtered, have faded. After Rwanda, the West said "never again" – until the next time, of course.
The argument for intervention in Libya is not purely or even primarily humanitarian, however. Even if one sets aside its importance as an oil-producing nation, Libya remains central to Britain's strategic and commercial interests in the region. It is noticeable that as the West (apart from Britain and France) has wavered, Gaddafi has grown in confidence. What signal will it send if the mad colonel is now left to crush the rebels, embark upon bloody reprisals, and embrace pariah status once more?
Remember: his was a regime that once armed the IRA and brought down a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie. Britain can ill afford the Gaddafi of March 2011 – embattled, incensed, bent on revenge – to remain in power. Nor can America. Osama bin Laden once said that "when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse". To an extent that has not yet been fully grasped, the whole world is watching, yet again, to see whether the West is weak or strong. Cameron, to his credit, has overcome his temperamental caution and decided the path he wants to take. So what's it going to be, Mr President? To borrow one of Obama's favourite slogans: the moment is now.

Read the entire column here.

Merkel got her "pact for the euro" - but will it work?

(image by bundeskanzleramt)

The European Union leaders - except for Ireland´s Enda Kenny - have now said yes to German chancellor Angela Merkel´s euro rescue package, the "pact for the euro". A formal decision will be taken at a new summit in two weeks time. But there are serious doubts about whether the watered down pact actually will work:

Whether this works, though, depends will depend on how seriously the governments take their voluntary commitment to make reforms. They cannot be forced to carry out reforms by the other euro-zone states since the pact does not contain any provisions for sanctions.
Past experience does not exactly inspire optimism. When Merkel presented her "pact for competitiveness" to her EU colleagues for the first time in February, there were angry protests from other euro-zone members. Some were reluctant to give up their inflation-adjusted wage increases, while other countries did not want to raise their retirement age or introduce a German-style "debt brake." The pact was typically German, they said, pointing out that there are different social-policy traditions within Europe.
As a result, Merkel's proposals were diluted beyond recognition in week-long consultations until the pact was so noncommittal that all euro-zone leaders could agree to it. What is left is a general appeal for wage restraint and an increase in the retirement age, a commitment to rigorous budget and labor market reforms, and a harmonization of the corporate tax rate.

Read the entire "Der Spiegel" article here.

Arab uprisings, earthquake in Japan - it´s all because of global warming!

A couple of weeks ago we were told that the popular uprisings in the Arab countries were caused by global warming. Now the more lunatic fringe of the alarmist climate change movement is claiming that the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan also were caused by global warming.

It is very sad - and a sign of their desperation -  that global warming fanatics are prepared to use any means, even the suffering of millions of people,  for spreading their alarmist nonsense.

It is also sad to see an academic like professor Nicholas Stern participating in the scaremongering:

"Lord Nicholas Stern, one of the world's most prominent climate economists, believes that failure to address global warming could eventually lead to World War III."

In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, Stern described his current understanding of the stark consequences of inaction, which defy the scope of standard economic language. If no global policy to cut carbon pollution is enacted, there is about a 50 percent risk that global temperatures would rise above levels not seen for 30 million years by 2100, an extraordinary rate of change. The "potentially immense" consequences of this radical transformation of our planet, Stern explained, include the "serious risk of global war"