Saturday, 9 April 2011

The euro crisis: "How low can you go?"

EU Commissioner Olli Rehn on April 8 2011 (after previous Irish and Greek bailouts):

Flashback March 2010:

These clips are "produced by the European Commission's Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs and made available to broadcasters":

"The Euro as a Limbo dancer: How low can you go?" (DG ECFIN animation)

"Euro keeps Greek rates stable" (DG ECFIN animation)

"The Euro rocks on the world stage"  (DG ECFIN animation)

"The Euro: a solid foundation for growth" (DG ECFIN animation)


Yes, "How low can you go?" - the only thing Mr. Rehn and his DG ECFIN got right!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Libya: The problem with humanitarian war

                                             Too little, too late?

As things stand now in Libya, a stalemate with madman Gaddafi remaining in power appears more and more likely:

The chief of U.S. military operations in Africa says the situation in Libya is moving toward a stalemate that would leave Moammar Gadhafi in power for an unknown period of time.  General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke Thursday to the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

General Ham faced tough questioning from some members of the committee, particularly Republicans, who disagree with President Barack Obama’s decision not to use the military to directly oust Gadhafi.

The committee’s senior Republican, Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to President Obama, was particularly tough.  He said the United States lost an opportunity to remove the Libyan leader when it sought an international coalition and took three weeks to put it together. 

Senator McCain is right; the delay caused by the creation of the international coalition made the removal of Gaddafi extremely difficult. The coalition was put together in accordance with the principles of an "immaculate" humanitarian intervention, as described by Stratfor´s George Friedman:

I call humanitarian wars immaculate intervention, because most advocates want to see the outcome limited to preventing war crimes, not extended to include regime change or the imposition of alien values. They want a war of immaculate intentions surgically limited to a singular end without other consequences. And this is where the doctrine of humanitarian war unravels.

My unease with humanitarian intervention is not that I don’t think the intent is good and the end moral. It is that the intent frequently gets lost and the moral end is not achieved. Ideology, like passion, fades. But interest has a certain enduring quality. A doctrine of humanitarian warfare that demands an immaculate intervention will fail because the desire to do good is an insufficient basis for war. It does not provide a rigorous military strategy to what is, after all, a war. Neither does it bind a nation’s public to the burdens of the intervention. In the end, the ultimate dishonesties of humanitarian war are the claims that “this won’t hurt much” and “it will be over fast.” In my view, their outcome is usually either a withdrawal without having done much good or a long occupation in which the occupied people are singularly ungrateful.

North Africa is no place for casual war plans and good intentions. It is an old, tough place. If you must go in, go in heavy, go in hard and get out fast. Humanitarian warfare says that you go in light, you go in soft and you stay there long. I have no quarrel with humanitarianism. It is the way the doctrine wages war that concerns me. Getting rid of Gadhafi is something we can all feel good about and which Europe and America can afford. It is the aftermath — the place beyond the immaculate intervention — that concerns me.

Read the entire interesting article by George Friedman here.

Regrettably Obama did not have the guts to "go in heavy, go in hard", which will make it extremely difficult to "get out fast".

Its too late now to Save the Earth: Christie´s Green Auction closed yeasterday!

It is too late now to Save the Earth together with Harrison Ford and other celebrities. The Charitybuzz and Christie´s Green net auction "Bid to Save the Earth" closed last night. One of the top items - estimated value $100,000.00 - was this "adventure" with the famous Hollywood "conservationist" Ford:

"This adventure begins when you and a guest fly Delta BusinessElite to Los Angeles to meet legendary actor and conservationist, Harrison Ford. Fly with him out of Santa Monica Municipal Airport to lunch in one of his amazing aircrafts after enjoying a rare photo opportunity."

Congratulations to the lucky winner! You will have a unique chance to meet this famous activist, who works so hard to promote a sustainable, climate friendly lifestyle (which in his own case includes cheesburger shopping by private airplane):

 " I’m so passionate about flying I often fly up the coast for a cheeseburger. Flying is like good music; it elevates the spirit and it’s an exhilarating freedom.”

Ford owns six airplanes and a helicopter, which allows him to use separate means of aerial transportation for cheesburger shopping each day of the week.

And congratulations also to the lucky person who contributed to Save the Earth by giving the highest bid for this item - estimated value $204,200.00:

"You and up to eleven guests can enjoy a luxury yacht charter valued at US$200,000 along the French Riviera during or after the Cannes Film Festival 2011 aboard the magnificent 190ft superyacht LADY SHERIDAN. Includes two round trip tickets courtesy of Delta Air Lines!
Approximate daily fuel costs for 24 hours of electricity is $1,000 USD and estimated fuel cost for cruising is a $600 USD per hour. The daily costs approximate is $3,400/day based on the average of 4 hours of cruising, which totals an approximate $10,200 for the 3 day trip. Suggested gratuity is 10-20% of the full value of the charter."

Just a couple of simple suggestions to the winner:
Why not enhance the green credentials of your forthcoming cruise with Lady Sheridan: Request your guests to wear climate-friendly, "responsible, ethical and sustainable fashion" while on board. And, of course, the ship bar will serve only Green cocktails and climate-friendly champagne during the trip. To add to the green, climate-chic ambiance, you might also consider asking the crew to turn off the air condition in their cabins.

Fortunately, all items on offer were not as expensive as the ones mentioned above. This chance to Save the Earth was really cheap:

"Four Reserved Seats to a Taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" 
Estimated Value:$0.00

Congratulations to the lucky winner anyway! But remember "Travel and accommodation not included". Maybe you could ask Harrison Ford to fly you to Burbank, California?

New US report: The global shale gas reserves are huge

Earlier today, we reported about the new increased estimates for shale gas in Poland. The same report by the US Energy Information Administration also includes some good energy news for many other parts of the world:

The North American shale-gas bonanza could be the tip of a gigantic natural-gas iceberg, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The report, which contains an overview of natural-gas-bearing shale-rock formations in 32 countries, estimates that these contain about 5,760 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas. That is nearly seven times the amount present in the U.S, according to the report, which was released late Tuesday.
The biggest overseas natural-gas shale reserves lie in China, with 1,275 Tcf. Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Canada are also endowed with massive reserves, the report, written by consultancy Advanced Resources International Inc., said. Other countries with large amounts of gas-rich shale include Libya, Algeria, France and Poland. Each of these countries has hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of shale natural gas that can be exploited using existing technology.
Independent U.S. oil companies learned to unlock the gas trapped in tight shale rock formations in the 1980s and 1990s, and the technique spread during the last decade, triggering an unexpected supply boost in North American natural gas. The EIA report's findings underscore how the propagation of those techniques--based on drilling horizontally in the rock formation, and cracking it with water to release the gas--could unleash a similar natural-gas supply boom around the globe.
Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Africa weren't part of the study.

Read the entire piece here

Good news for Europe: Poland has shale gas for 300 years

A new report published by the US Energy Information Administration is good news for Poland - and Europe in general (except Russia):

Poland has 5.3 trillion cubic meters of shale natural gas, equal to more than 300 years of the country’s annual gas consumption, the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy said in a report.

It’s the largest amount of shale gas for any European state in a study of 32 countries, the agency said.
This is more than the most optimistic estimates available so far. Experts predicted earlier Poland had deposits of between 150 billion and 3 trillion cubic meters

Read the entire WSJ article here.

Polish PM Donald Tusk recently said that his country is determined to produce shale gas to reduce its dependence on gas imported from Russia:

“I will be engaging myself personally, as the head of the Polish government, in the optimization of conditions for the exploration, research, logistics and the business related to the production of shale gas,” he said. “It may happen that one of the fruits of this debate will be what’s priceless: a feeling of security and a hope for the future for millions of people….Poles are waiting for this gas.”

Major US energy companies drilling in Poland have said the the initial findings give reason for optimism. predicts "dramatic changes" in the European energy market:

“Shale gas is the most important energy development since the discovery of oil“ 

As already pointed out in our previous special reports, we believe that shale gas is on one hand one of the most important factors of our future energy supply and on the other hand one of the most attractive investment opportunities. Geologists believe unconventional gas to exceed the conventional reserves by a factor of 10. We believe that whatever is deemed “unconventional” gas today will soon be “conventional” gas due to technological progress . We are also convinced that the European energy and gas market will undergo dramatic changes in the coming years, and that the dependence on Russian gas will be a thing of the past. Currently we seem to see the beginning of this transformation process.

If shale gas can really gain a foothold in (Eastern) Europe on a sustainable basis, this would come with extensive effects for Europe. On the one hand the frequent threats by Russia to suspend deliveries would become obsolete, and on the other hand the prices should take their cues from the market prices in the future. At the moment the gas prices in Central Europe are about 100% higher than in America.

According to there is still a lot of scepticism in Europe towards shale gas:

The scepticism vis-à-vis shale gas is still enormous in Europe. But the sentiment was similar in the USA at the beginning of the 90s. After the USA had gone beyond a “tipping point”, i.e. a critical mass, substantial growth ensued. Production per drilling rig in the USA has almost risen exponentially as a result of improved technologies in production and higher expertise with regard to the geological specificities of shale gas deposits. Improving expertise also results in falling costs. While the costs of the Barnett Shale eight years ago amounted to USD 5/mmBTU , they have meanwhile fallen to USD 3/mmBTU. In 2004 average drilling time was 110 days, today it is 18 days. In addition, many studies substantiate the notion that costs as low as USD 2.5/mmBTU are possible, which means that the production of shale gas would partially be cheaper than the production of conventional gas. Currently we can see the transfer of technology from the USA to Europe. Therefore we assume that the development of shale gas in Europe should progress much more swiftly.

The big danger for Europe is that the ever louder green movement could seriously slow down the exploration and extraction of European shale gas. The growing popularity of the German greens, who seem to think that wind and solar are the answer, is particularly worrisome. Hopefully more sane political forces in Germany and elsewhere do not allow the greenies to dictate energy policy.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

"Murder on the EU express" - Who killed Europe?

The eminent historian (Harvard and LSE) and columnist Niall Ferguson,writing in Newsweek, has confirmed what this blog said on the last day of 2010:
"The end of the euro co-operation will be the beginning of the end of the EU in its present form."
Ferguson´s description of the case is, of course, more elegant and very British:
You remember Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit Murder on the Orient Express? The problem for the great Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot was that there were far too many suspects. The strange death of the European Union may prove to be a rather similar case.

So used are we to hearing the process of European integration likened to an unstoppable train that we discount the idea it could ever stop in its tracks. Yet the reality is that Europe has been quietly disintegrating for some time.
Outwardly, it’s true, Europe’s leaders still appear to be inching toward their long-cherished goal of “ever closer union.” Last month they agreed to set up a new European Stability Mechanism to deal with future financial crises. It’s still a long way from being the United States of Europe, but most Americans assume that’s the ultimate destination: a truly federal system like their own. Think again. Not only has the economic crisis blown holes in the finances of nearly all EU states, it has also revealed a deep reluctance on the part of those least affected to bail out the hardest hit.

Read the entire article here.

Turkey and Indonesia: "Shining examples of Islamic democracies"?

Turkish president Abdullah Gul, honoured with a doctorate at the University of Indonesia, has praised his own country and Indonesia in a speech in Jakarta:

Turkey and Indonesia are shining examples of Islamic democracies, and offer hope to nations in the Middle East and North Africa seeking to follow the same path.

“It is not only possible, but also desirable, to achieve a functioning democracy,” Gul said on Wednesday at the University of Indonesia, which conferred him with an honorary doctorate in political science.

“By just being us, we serve as a catalyst for reform,” he told cabinet ministers, professors and students in Depok.

Gul said the world’s two leading moderate Muslim-majority nations had a unique role to play in ushering in change as unrest swept the Middle East and Libya.

Read the entire article here.

Turkey and Indonesia may have made some progress towards democracy, but are they "shining examples" of democracy?:

Human Rights Watch
World Report 2011: Indonesia

Over the past 12 years Indonesia has made great strides in becoming a stable, democratic country with a strong civil society and independent media. However, serious human rights concerns remain. While senior officials pay lip service to protecting human rights, they seem unwilling to take the steps necessary to ensure compliance by the security forces with international human rights and punishment for those responsible for abuses.

New allegations of security force involvement in torture emerged in 2010. But the military consistently shields its officers from investigations and the government makes little effort to hold them accountable. The government has also done too little to curb discrimination against and attacks on religious, sexual, and ethnic minorities.

While Indonesia today has a vibrant media, authorities continue to invoke harsh laws criminalizing those who raise controversial issues, chilling peaceful expression. Indonesia has imprisoned more than 100 activists from the Moluccas and Papua for "rebellion" for peacefully voicing political views, holding demonstrations, and raising separatist flags.
In August Indonesian police arrested 21 individuals for planning to float pro-independence flags attached to balloons during a visit to the Moluccas by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Police subjected them to severe beatings that lasted for days including with wooden sticks and bars and forced them to hold painful stress positions. In September Papuan activist Yusuf Sapakoly, convicted of "rebellion" in 2007 for assisting activists who displayed a pro-independence flag, died of kidney failure after prison authorities denied him medical treatment. In July, after 10 months of delay, prison authorities in Papua permitted political prisoner Filep Karma to travel to Jakarta for necessary surgery.
Indonesia's criminal libel, slander, and "insult" laws prohibit deliberately "insulting" a public official and intentionally publicizing statements that harm another person's reputation, often even if those statements are true. In early 2010 Tukijo, a farmer from Yogyakarta, was sentenced to six months' probation and a three-month suspended prison sentence for criminal defamation after he asked a local official to disclose the results of a land assessment.

Read the entire piece here.

Human Rights Watch
World Report 2011: Turkey

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government's constitutional amendments open the way for further reforms to strengthen human rights, Human Rights Watch said. But the government has failed to address serious ongoing concerns. These include unjustified prosecutions for alleged speech crimes, the arbitrary use of terrorism laws, unnecessarily prolonged pretrial detention, a clampdown on the legal pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and police violence against demonstrators.
The government's partial revision of the constitution, approved by national referendum in September 2010, paves the way for creating an ombudsperson, limits the role of military courts, and gives individuals the right to petition the constitutional court to challenge the constitutionality of laws. It also ends immunity from prosecution for the leaders of the September 12, 1980 military coup and public officials who committed human rights abuses in its wake, among other reforms.
Despite a climate of increasingly open debate, the government prosecuted and convicted people during 2010 for nonviolent speeches, writings, and participating in demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said.  Journalists and editors are frequent targets for prosecution, with some facing scores of ongoing legal proceedings in 2010.
"The authorities in Turkey see some speech as a threat to be countered rather than a right to be upheld," Ward said. "A confident Turkey has nothing to fear from free expression."
Another problem during 2010 was ill-treatment by the police, particularly during street stops, demonstrations, and arrests.  The use of firearms by the police and the gendarmerie, particularly against unarmed suspects, was also a matter of concern, Human Rights Watch said. There was no progress on tightening rules governing use of force.

Read the entire article here.

Another recent report from Turkey:

The arrest of nine journalists and writers on March 3, 2011, in the absence of clear reasonable cause, will have a chilling effect on free speech, Human Rights Watch said. The nine were accused of links to the alleged "Ergenekon" coup plots against the Turkish government.

Those arrested include Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, two prominent journalists known for critical reporting on the Turkish criminal justice system and police. Şık is co-author of a book about the investigations and trials in the Ergenekon case - after the alleged name given to their organization by the conspirators. He had been working on a book about the police. Şener had written a book on the murder of Hrant Dink, a renowned journalist and human rights defender, and its investigation.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

All-time record harvest in India - and a flashback to 2010

                                       Harvest Festival in India

The Tribune in Chandigarh brings us this excellent news:

India expects to reap record harvest

New Delhi, April 6
India is estimated to harvest an all-time record output of 235.88 million tonne (MT) of foodgrains in the 2010-11 crop year (ending June), courtesy the highest-ever production of wheat and pulses.

Addressing the Kharif Conference here, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the third advance estimate figures available with him showed an all-time record production of foodgrains of 235.88 MT. “Wheat at 84.27 MT and pulses at 17.29 MT are also the highest recorded production ever,” said Pawar. He indicated that record grain output during the period might prompt the government to lift the ban on the overseas sale of wheat by the world’s second-largest producer to ease pressure on limited storage capacity in its godowns.
Experts say higher grain output forecast will make the decision on wheat export a lot easier for the government.
More foodgrains, however, mean added storage issue, a fact conceded by Pawar who said that the government had to take a serious thought on storage and allocation to states. India’s foodgrain output comprises wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals.

Read the entire piece here

Almost exactly a year ago Bloomberg Business Week brough us this, not quite as good news:

Global Warming Reduces Grain Output in Inflation-Ridden India

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Rising temperatures and inadequate rainfall in India is stagnating grain output, threatening food security in the world’s second-most populous country, according to a weather scientist.
In the past decade, average temperatures have increased by 0.25 degree Celsius when the monsoon crops are sown in June, and by 0.6 degree Celsius when winter crops are planted in October, said Krishna Kumar, a senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, a state-owned researcher.

“Warmer nights affect rice output while day temperatures hurt wheat production,” Kumar said in an interview on April 16 in the western city of Pune. “Night temperatures are increasing more rapidly than day temperatures since the late 1980s” due to rising human greenhouse-gas emissions, he said.

“The projected warming over the water-limited tropics is likely to further depress yields and exacerbate water scarcity, constraining attempts to increase grain production,” Cristina Milesi, a scientist at the California State University and at NASA Ames Research Center, said in a report last month.
‘Leading Example’
India’s population and the largest water-limited tropics croplands, makes it a “leading example of the observed declines in food grain production,” she said.

Read the entire article here

Don´t expect  Kumar or Milesi to retract. On the contrary, their "scientific" explanation will almost certainly be that the record harvest is just a temporary aberration because of climate change - but soon the harvests are really heading for a catastrophic decline, also due to global warming!

Russia starts cyberwar on critical bloggers

One way of finding out, whether a country is ruled by an an authoritarian regime, is to check whether it is suppressing and censuring the internet and the social media. China is a recognized leader of this infamous group, but Vladimir Putin´s Russia appears to be doing its best in order to challenge the Chinese number one position:

MOSCOW — The LiveJournal blogging site, hugely popular in Russia, on Wednesday fell victim to a major cyber attack that bloggers said appeared an attempt to to silence political discussion ahead of elections.
The attack, which began earlier this week, was a so-called distributed denial of service (DDoS), which overloads a website's bandwidth by making thousands of computers access it repeatedly, its owner said.
SUP, the company that now owns LiveJournal, has said the recent series of attacks are the worst in the service's history and have started to target the entire service rather than specific blogs.
"Somebody really wants LiveJournal to cease to exist" and its popular users to switch to standalone platforms that are easier to destroy, wrote SUP's development manager Ilya Dronov on his blog after the site was offline for several hours on Monday.
The site was inaccessible again on Wednesday morning.
The problem started with DDoS attacks on Alexei Navalny, who has used his blog to talk about corruption in the government and the ruling United Russia party, said Maria Garnayeva, an expert at Internet security company Kaspersky Lab, who posted information about the attack on her blog.
Navalny started targeting United Russia earlier this year calling them "the party of swindlers and thieves" which turned into an Internet meme. Shortly after, spammers started inundating all of his posts with derogatory comments.

Read the entire article here.

Russia desperately needs Western investment in order to be able to difersify its economy which is almost totally dependent on the export of oil, gas and other raw materials. The Russian leaders must know that this kind of cyber war against critical voices is seriously hurting efforts to allure investors. Medvedev often speaks about reforms and freedom, but so far it has not lead - and will not lead - to any real improvement. The truth is that he was chosen by Putin, and is totally dependent on the will of his master.

Judge Goldstone retracts his findings: Israel did not intentionally target civilians

International media were quick to condemn Israel after the publication of the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission, headed by the South African judge Richard Goldstone presented its report in September 2009.  Judge Goldstone has now retracted the critical findings against Israel:

 Israel was accused of deliberately targeting civilians during its brutal 2008-09 war with Hamas. That accusation was contained in a report to the United Nations by Richard Goldstone, an eminent South African judge who had been used by the international community previously to investigate war crimes. That Goldstone was also a Jew and a Zionist made the charge all the more powerful -- no one could accuse him of being an Israel hater or an anti-Semite. Israel's culture was clearly not what it was stated to be.

Now, though, Goldstone has retracted his findings. He no longer believes that Israel intentionally targeted civilians during the Gaza war (although he still believes Hamas did) and says that any deaths were inadvertent -- the usual fog of war, the usual panicked decision, the usual mistakes. For Israel, it's like the governor has called the warden -- it's been reprieved and off death row. Open the gates.
As Goldstone acknowledges, Israel has looked into every charge of war crimes -- incident by incident. Some soldiers have indeed been punished because some awful things happened. But overall Israel adheres to a morality we all recognize and admire -- and which its enemies, Hamas in particular, do not. Those who gleefully embraced the Goldstone report have to ask themselves why. They may hate the answer.

Read the entire article by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen here.

One wonders why judge Goldstone´s retraction has received so scarce publicity in the media that were so quick to condemn Israel in 2009 after the publication of the original, erraneous report? It cannot be, that there is a bias against Israel?

China´s crackdown on critics continues - Artist Ai Weiwei detained

China´s communist rulers are continuing their crackdown on critics. One of China´s most famous artists and human right activists, Ai Weiwei was detained on Sunday at the Beijing airport:

Reuters has more on the detention of Weiwei:

China's detention of internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei has sparked a petition urging his release, exposing alarm among the nation's liberal intellectuals who see his case as a test of how far a crackdown to stifle dissent could reach.
Chinese officials have not commented on the whereabouts of Ai, who was stopped on Sunday from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and taken away by border police. There is little doubt he has joined a lengthening list of dissidents and activists in detention or informal custody.
Ai has been out of contact; his mobile phone is off.
His wife, Lu Qing, told Reuters that police officers would not give her any information, and this detention appeared more serious than his recent run-ins with the government.
"This time it's extremely serious," she said, adding that she was considering retaining a lawyer.
"They searched his studio and took discs and hard drives and all kinds of stuff, but the police haven't told us where he is or what they're after. There's no information about him."
The disappearance of Ai, a burly, bearded 53-year-old avant-garde artist and designer who had a hand in designing the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has drawn condemnation from Western governments.
The United States, Britain and Germany denounced China's growing use of extra-judicial detentions against dissidents who the ruling Communist Party fears could spread calls for protests inspired by Middle Eastern uprisings.
On Tuesday, the United States embassy and European Union delegation in Beijing repeated those denunciations, illustrating how Ai's case could escalate into a diplomatic row.
Chinese activists are also increasingly alarmed about Ai's detention, and supporters in China and abroad promoted an online drive urging authorities to free him.


The reaction from the US, Britain and Germany is welcome but not at all enough. More and much tougher action against China´s communist rulers is needed.

The Telegraph´s Nile Gardiner: "General Van Rompuy 'saves' Benghazi from Gaddafi "

NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen and EU "General" van Rompuy

The Telegraph´s columnist Nile Gardiner has an good piece on the EU´s futile efforts to convince the public that the it has played a pivotal role in the Allied operations againsta Libya:

The European Union will try to claim credit for almost anything these days, even going so far as recently declaring the Oscar success of The King’s Speech to be an EU victory. But its latest foray in the world of make-believe surely takes the biscuit. The apparatchiks in Brussels are currently in overdrive trying to demonstrate that the European Union has played a pivotal role in the Allied campaign in Libya. This, despite the fact that Brussels did all it could to appease Gaddafi’s monstrous regime for decades. Witness EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy’s speech of staggering audacity to the European Parliament in Brussels earlier today where he declared:
Two weeks previously, in an extraordinary European Council on 11 March, we had adopted a clear line on Libya. Without that clear European position, the subsequent actions would not have been possible. We decided that, to safeguard the safety of the civilian population, Member States could: “examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region”.
… A massive bloodbath has been avoided, thousands of lives have been saved. This is the most important result and deserves the highest attention, more so than the decision-making process. The wood is more important than the trees!
Of course, we all know that the decision to take military action was not easy. There are, quite naturally, questions and hesitations. That is perfectly normal in issues of war and peace. But any difficulties that we have experienced over that aspect of the Libyan crisis should not mask for one moment the full track record of the European Union. From the beginning of the crisis, the European Union was at the forefront.

Needless to say, there was no mention in President Van Rompuy’s victory address of the role played by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in mobilising the international coalition that intervened to halt Colonel Gaddafi’s advance on Benghazi, or the fact that it was US, British and French airpower that saved large numbers of lives. The European Union has been a massive irrelevance throughout the whole Libya crisis, with its key representatives Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton overwhelmingly sidelined.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The EUSSR (also known as the EU) will soon get its own KGB

The Czech President Vaclav Klaus and a number of other sensible people have compared the European Union to the former Soviet Union. And right they are - there are striking similarities between the two, as the British tory MEP Daniel Hannan pointed out in his speech for the European Parliament:

The EUSSR already has a massive army of almost 40.000 apparachiks in Brussels. Recently it has began the build-up of a vast External Action Service with embassies in over 130 countries. In the first phase the EEAS network will consist of approximately 5500 diplomats, but there are plans to increase the number to up to 8000 people. Even in the tiny Pacific island state of Vanuatu (population 200.000) the EU has an "embassy" consisting of seven diplomats!

But this is just a beginning. Comparing with the Soviet Empire, one major institution is still missing in the EUSSR arsenal of institutions - its own KGB. But don´t despair, it is on its way:

EU counter-terrorism director Olivier Luyckx envisions the new organisation working alongside the EU's new diplomatic corps, headed by Foreign Affairs High Commissioner Baroness Cathy Ashton.
Luyckx had called for a series of existing EU security agencies including Europol, Eurojust, Cosi, Frontex and Cepol to be pulled together in one body with sweeping powers in the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this week.
"There is new room for action at EU level. This is how I see the change: To set up a system that would mirror the one that is being set up for monitoring external crises, a one-stop shop for information-sharing," the Daily Express quoted him, as saying.

Read the entire article here.

The size future European KGB is still not publicly known, but we are here talking about an agency consisting of several thousand people. As to the practicalities, there is one seasoned specialist, who probably would be more than willing to share his expertise; the ruler of Russia - EU´s "strategic partner" - former KGB spy Vladimir Vladimirovitj Putin. Putin could e.g. be invited to give a keynote lecture at the next EU politburo meeting (also known as the European Council) on the subject "Remembering the KGB - recollections of a former field officer". 

The new EU consultant?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Russians continue drinking and smoking themselves to extinction

Russia´s population declined by nearly 3.4 million over the past decade, according to new census figures published last week. An aging and decreasing population will sap much needed economic growth . The populated had 2010 fallen to 142.9 million, from 145.2 million in 2002, when the previous census was taken, and from 146.3 million in 2001, according to Russia’s Federal Statistics Service. Russia is expected to lose an estimated one million workers every year until 2017.

Heavy drinking and smoking are the main reasons for the population decline in Russia.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has called alcoholism a "national disaster". He and other Russian leaders have tried to tried to get Russians to drink less, but so far their success has been less than impressive.

Public Radio International reports:

At a popular Italian restaurant near Pushkin Square in Moscow, men and women talk business over margarita pizzas, fettuccine and minestrone soup. It could be a typical business lunch in most any city, except for the beverage that sits chilled on most tables -- a bottle of vodka.

Hard alcohol at lunch is de rigueur in Russia, according to Oxana Egorova, a businesswoman. She said vodka gets your blood flowing better.

In fact, the country is one of the world's largest consumers of alcohol per capita. The average Russian drinks more than twice the maximum amount considered healthy by the World Health Organization. So why do Russians drink so much? Experts say it's a number of factors, including the lack of adequate social services, employment opportunities and depression, among other things. Oxana Egorova said life is difficult in Russia. "That's why they're drinking. It's definitely seen everywhere, everyday."

And Russians do drink -- in public -- at any time of the day. Men and women, young and old, buy tiny bottles of hard alcohol at kiosks on their way to work; women push baby carriages with one hand while holding a liter can of beer in the other, and teenagers sit in parks during the middle of the day, drinking vodka straight out of the bottle.

Nothing has changed since this report was broadcast in 2008:

Unlike drinking patterns prevalent in, say, Mediterranean regions—where wine is regarded as an elixir for enhancing conversation over meals and other social gatherings, and where public drunkenness carries an embarrassing stigma—mind-numbing, stupefying binge drinking of hard spirits is an accepted norm in Russia and greatly increases the danger of fatal injury through falls, traffic accidents, violent confrontations, homicide, suicide, and so on. Further, extreme binge drinking (especially of hard spirits) is associated with stress on the cardiovascular system and heightened risk of CVD mortality.

How many Russians are actually drinkers, and how heavily do they actually drink? Officially, Russia classifies some 7 million out of roughly 120 million persons over 15 years of age, or roughly 6 percent of its adult population, as heavy drinkers. But the numbers are surely higher than this. According to data compiled by the World Health Organization,
as of 2003 Russia was Europe’s heaviest per capita spirits consumer; its reported hard liquor consumption was over four times as high as Portugal’s, three times that of Germany or Spain, and over two and a half times higher than that of France.

Yet even these numbers may substantially understate hard spirit use in Russia, since the WHO figures follow only the retail sale of hard liquor. But samogon—home-brew, or “moonshine”—is, according to some Russian researchers, a huge component of the country’s overall intake. Professor Alexander Nemstov, perhaps Russia’s leading specialist in this area, argues that Russia’s adult population—women as well as men—puts down the equivalent of a bottle of vodka per week.
From the epidemiological standpoint, local-level studies have offered fairly chilling proof that alcohol is a direct factor in premature mortality. One forensic investigation of blood alcohol content by a medical examiner’s office in a city in the Urals, for example, indicated that over 40 percent of the younger male decedents evaluated had probably been alcohol-impaired or severely intoxicated at the time of death—including one quarter of the deaths from heart disease and over half of those from accidents or injuries. But medical and epidemiological studies have also demonstrated that, in addition to its many deaths from consumption of ordinary alcohol, Russia also suffers a grisly toll from alcohol poisoning, as the country’s drinkers, in their desperate quest for intoxication, down not only sometimes severely impure samogon, but also perfumes, alcohol-based medicines, cleaning solutions, and other deadly liquids. Death rates from such alcohol poisoning appear to be at least one hundred times higher in Russia than the United States—this despite the fact that the retail price in Russia today is lower for a liter of vodka than a liter of milk.
Read the entire World Affairs Journal article here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The wonderful world of EU climate change aid

          This is the glossy side of the EU´s climate change assistance

As we all remember, the European Union likes to describe itself as the "global leader" in  combatting (imaginary) human induced climate change. Wast sums of European taxpayers´ money are annually distributed to a multitude of projects worldwide in the name of  fighting "climate change". In order to show how this money actually is spent, we decided to take a look at just a few of the projects.

The EuropeAid Development and Cooperation Directorate–General (with a staff of over 1250 people) has on its webpage an excellent interactive world map, which allows you to locate a number of different climate change related aid programmes and projects.

Below is a small selection of the projects that EuropeAid, the Directorate General for Development has wanted to highlight in its map, presumably because they are thought to be representative and important:

  • "Poverty Alleviation Through Capacities Building of Rural Populations" (China)

 "This multifaceted poverty alleviation project aims to address rural poverty by building capacity and providing material and technologies to resolve local problems. At its core is the aim to foster awareness of sustainable practices".

Here are some of the results of the €300.000 project:

- "Awareness raising of environmental issues for 8328 people" (excellent counting - showing the magnitude of the project in relation to the population of about 1,4 billion people!)
- "27 schools with energy-efficient improvements to school buildings" (Did they put EU-made solar panels on the roofs of the schools?)

Comment: This program is certainly not expensive, but still one has to ask, why on earth should the European Union waste  €300.000 on a bogus climate change "poverty alleviation" project in China - a country that in reality is more or less bailing out some almost bankrupt eurozone countries! The sheer stupidness of the undertaking must have caused at least a couple of small smiles in the otherwise so stern faces of the Chinese communist leaders.

  • "CO2 Managers for the Industry in the People´s Republic of China"

 "The project aims at preparing the ground for the multiplication of the CO2 management approach in China. To this end it will provide capacity building through the development of expert skills in the field of CO2 management in the private sector".

Here are the main results:

"25 Chinese experts achieved the qualification as a ´CO2 Manager & Trainer´. The managers were organized in a CO2 alumni network".

Comment: European tax payers could have been spared from having to pay the costs, €213.000 (+ a contribution from the Austrian Development Agency ). It is almost certain that nobody will ever check, what this "alumni network" actually will do, if anything, in the future.However, there is another possibility:  
Could the be a covert EU operation with the aim to create a secret network of dissidents in China? In that case the money is well spent, indeed!

  • "Carbon footprint & Labelling (Thailand) 
"A better understanding of the Carbon Fooprint Method and management as well as carbon footprint labelling systems for Thai academics, food industries and their associated stakeholders"

Comment: €198.559 of tax payers´ money wasted. The only footprint from this project should be the one in the rear of  the EU bureaucrat who authorized the money to this senseless project.

  • "Across the River: A Trans-boundary Peace Park for Sierra Leone and Liberia"
"Establishment of an environment for cross-border conservation at local, national and regional level and a trans-boundary Peace Park."

Comment: One wonders whether the €2,45 million could have been invested in something more relevant than a Peace Park? No wonder, that Czech President Klaus and others often compare the EU with the former Soviet Union.

  • "Understanding the Findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report"

 "2,5 day climate change policy dialogue for parliamentarians, government officials, national scientific community, members of civil society and the media" 

"100 people attended the dialogues on the first day and more than 50 on the subsequent days"

Comment:No wonder that half of the participants disappeared after lunch on the first day, because not even the lecturing EU propagandists could have claimed to "understand" the "Findings" of the IPCC 4h Assessment Report! The real aim of this project seems to have been to convert Ghana´s elite to believe in the inofficial EU global warming religion. The indoctrination project was a total waste of European tax payers´ money (€1 million). The EU auditors should have a look at who was responsible for this!

These are just a couple of random examples showing what the 3000 or so EU aid diplomats are busy doing worldwide. The interactive map also gives us totals for EU climate change aid for some larger areas. Here are a couple of examples to show you that the alarmist bureaucrats have rather nice sums of  (our) money to throw around:

EU climate change aid (2002 - 2009):
  • Oceania & South Pacific: €82 520 000 (Recently Commissioner Piebalgs announced quite a few new millions)
  • Asia: €309 139 000
  • South America: €105 330 000
  • West Africa: €90 400 000
Expect the annual aid sums to increase during the next few years!

Hopefully voters in the member countries will soon wake up and demand some action against this kind of massive waste of money. Regrettably most Brussels correspondents are not interested in serious investigative journalism into the workings and doings of the almost 40.000 EU bureaucrats or the actions of their supposed masters, the political leaders of the member countries. The corrrespondents seem to be satisfied with reporting minor squabbles and enjoying the niceties on offer in the Belgian capital.

The shale gas revolution and Europe

In Europe, particularly, the shale gas revolution that has been happening in the US during the last few years still seems to be a relatively unknown phenomenon. This article in the Wall Street Journal, written by Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, therefore should be compulsory reading for European decision makers:

In the early 1980s, George P. Mitchell, a Houston-based independent energy producer, could see that his company was going to run out of natural gas. Almost three decades later, the results of his effort to do something about the problem are transforming America's energy prospects and the calculations of analysts around the world.
Back in those years, Mr. Mitchell's company was contracted to deliver a substantial amount of natural gas from Texas to feed a pipeline serving Chicago. But the reserves on which he depended were running down, and it was not at all clear where he could find more gas to replace the depleting supply. Mr. Mitchell had a strong hunch, however, piqued by a geology report that he had read recently.

Perhaps the natural gas that was locked into shale—a dense sedimentary rock—could be freed and made to flow. He was prepared to back up his hunch with investment. The laboratory for his experiment was a sprawling geologic formation called the Barnett Shale around Dallas and Fort Worth. Almost everyone with whom he worked was skeptical, including his own geologists and engineers. "You're wasting your money," they told him over the years. But Mr. Mitchell kept at it.
The payoff came a decade and a half later, at the end of the 1990s. Using a specialized version of a technique called hydraulic fracturing (now widely known as "fracking" or "fracing"), his team found an economical way to create or expand fractures in the rock and to get the trapped gas to flow.
Today, in an age that craves innovation in energy, George Mitchell's breakthrough in the Barnett Shale has opened the door to a potentially profound change in the global energy equation.
As late as 2000, shale gas was just 1% of American natural-gas supplies. Today, it is about 25% and could rise to 50% within two decades. Estimates of the entire natural-gas resource base, taking shale gas into account, are now as high as 2,500 trillion cubic feet, with a further 500 trillion cubic feet in Canada. That amounts to a more than 100-year supply of natural gas, which is used for everything from home heating and cooking to electric generation, industrial processes and petrochemical feedstocks.

The effects of the "shale gale" are also being felt in the rest of the world, changing the economics of the liquefied-natural-gas business. Its impact on international energy relations could be significant. Some proponents believe that the U.S., once thought to be short of natural gas, could even become a natural-gas exporter.
It was not until the fall of 2009, however, that leaders in the nation's capital woke up to the fact that something was changing in the U.S. energy mix. It's now well-recognized. In his energy speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, "Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves—perhaps a century's worth—in the shale under our feet. The potential here is enormous."
Outside the U.S., potential reserves of shale gas have been identified in countries from Mexico and Argentina to Algeria. Chinese interest is rising swiftly, both for shale gas and for another form of unconventional natural gas, coal-bed methane. It is now thought that Europe's unconventional-gas potential may be as great as North America's.

In his article Yergin also discusses the possible environmental questions related to shale gas extraction, without loosing sight of the larger picture:

But we should not lose sight of the larger picture: the potential for a century's worth of inexpensive, environmentally attractive energy. At a time of increased energy anxiety, the shale gas revolution is both a major innovation and a formidable new addition to our energy supply.

George Mitchell was certainly on to something.

Read the entire article here.


One simple way of finding hout how much - or how little - the European Union has been concentrating its wast resources on the coming shale gas revolution is by searching the EU official website archive using the search phrase "shale gas". The result: of all the tens of thousands of documents only 187 in some way were connected with the word shale - not necessarily shale gas. (Most of the documents, appeared to deal with problems related to the "oldfashioned" shale oil extraction in Estonia.) I doubt whether you can find even one proper, up-to-date EU analysis of how the coming shale gas revolution will change the entire energy map of Europe.

No, the EU bureaucrats have been - and still seem to be - busy promoting the politically correct, unrealistic dream of filling the future energy gap with unprofitable wind and solar energy. To prove this, one only needs to perform two other searches using the search words "wind energy" (3343 documents) and "solar energy (2996 documents).

The EU has also used millions of euros of taxpayers´ money for the production of global warming propaganda, such as the video here below, but there is not the smallest leaflet telling people about the future benefits of shale gas for Europe.

Fortunately, the goverments in some member countries, like in Poland, have a better understanding of the vast possibilities in sight. In the end, maybe it is even a good thing that the bureaucrats in Brussels are not involved. But knowing the damage they can cause - particularly when working in tandem with the greenies - it would be important to work out a strategy to marginalize radical anti-energy environmentalists.