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An excellent article in the Wall Street Journal (and how often do I say that?) about the way irrational emotionalism has taken over swathes of political and, more importantly, supposedly intellectual and academic life in the West. It is about the United States so many of our readers might not be interested but I strongly recommend it not least because it applies to a wide spectrum, politically speaking, in Britain.

COMMENT THREAD

Amazingly, it is The Independent which is giving the elephant in the room its outing, telling us that the British strikers "protesting against the use of foreign workers" are up against one of the basic principles enshrined in European Union law. The piece, however, is a cut-and-paste from the Press Association's Geoff Meade.

He tells us that when the UK joined the then Common Market in 1973, "the country" (which does not, I hasten to add, include me) accepted the right of nationals of any other member state automatically to live and work in Britain. However, at that time "there were only eight other member states, all of them prosperous and unlikely to trigger mass migration to the UK to look for jobs."

And so it goes on, all Janet and John stuff but it's good to have the Europhile luvvies of The Independent given the facts of life every now and again. The very fact that the paper allows an EU dimension to be recognised is at least a start.

The Daily Telegraph is on the case as well, top of the list currently on Google News, reporting that nuclear power workers are poised to join the "growing wave of industrial unrest". Yesterday, more than 3,000 oil and gas workers walked out in protest at against construction jobs going to foreign workers.

As well as Lindsey, which started it all off, at least 12 other sites including refineries, power plants, gas terminals and chemical plants staged demonstrations on yesterday. More than 1,500 workers staged unofficial walkouts at six sites in Scotland in support of the dispute. There were also demonstrations at the Wilton refinery on Teeside, the Milford Haven natural gas terminal, Pembrokeshire, and the South Wales Kilroot Power station in County Antrim.

In the Guardian we see the walkout described as a protest against the "victimisation of the British worker", although it seems there were a lot of British workers there, gainfully employed. Most of them had blue uniforms and these ghastly yellow hi-viz jackets on, though. I guess they will be finding a lot of work to do as this recession develops and people finally realise quite how badly they have been betrayed.

Nevertheless, union organiser Bernard McAuley doesn't seem to have got the point when he addressed workers in Lindey, clambering on to a flatbed truck to tell them that it was "wrong to ship in workers from the continent when north Lincolnshire had plenty of unemployed builders who could do the job." That is what the EU is all about, chuck. You ain't got any rights any more, at least no more rights than the itinerant Latvian who is wants to drop in for a job.

That, actually, is the issue. If a nation is to mean anything, it means being able to control access, and our government (accountable to us) to decide who can come in and work, and who cannot. It is not the principle of whether foreign workers should come in and take jobs. It is that our now provincial government has no control over the matter.

A leader in The Times has a go at this, castigating Brown for his facile "British jobs for British workers" slogan coined in 2007, telling us that, "the UK is bound through membership of the European Union to welcome workers from other EU states."

It then goes on to tell us that "it is economically illiterate to suppose that domestic living standards and employment are damaged by the free movement of labour." Yea, right! Tell that to the guys at Lindsey who are looking at foreign workers taking up "their" jobs.

Whatever the economic arguments, they are going to be hard put to accept that the advantages for the employer in hiring labour at the lowest price possible are going to spill over into the broader economy and benefit them.

And, if there are no controls at all, what happens when the whole British labour force is on the dole, while the jobs are done for foreigners - except for those chaps in yellow jackets? Who buys then buys products and pays the taxes?

In this context, the Daily Mail quotes Derek Brassington, 54, a steel erector from Chesterfield. He has worked refinery industry for 30 years and was near the front of the crowd at the Lindsey refinery.

"We're here because we're fighting for our livelihoods," he says. "Everybody is worried about the future and about how they're going to support their families. How am I going to support my wife in these circumstances? We're all skilled workers and the fact that we have a company that has decided to pass over us British workers and bring in workers from Italy - in the current dire economic climate - just beggars belief. Something has to be done."

Somebody should give Mr Brassington a copy of The Times and tell him to his face that he is "economically illiterate". That should make some work for the chaps in the hi-viz yellow jackets. But it is quite obviously to the greater good that Italian workers, who clearly have cheaper wives, should come first. Mr Brassington should stop being so selfish.

The only thing is, I wonder what sort of piece The Times leader writer would go for if Mr Murdoch decided to fire all the newspaper's staff and hire in some cheaper foreign labour. Come to think of it, what would he say if we outsourced our government to a foreign country, like er … Belgium.

Woops, we've already done that. But the difference is we still pay the displaced workers. Now there's an idea for Mr Brassington. We get the foreigners to do the real work, pay ourselves inflation adjusted salaries and pensions and pretend we are still gainfully employed.

Or would that be "economically illiterate"?

COMMENT THREAD

A couple of days age Der Spiegel had an article, which began with the words:
Everyone is talking about Guantánamo these days. Almost every country in the world reacted with relief, if not outright euphoria, to one of the very first announcements by the new President Barack Obama: The US military prison for terror suspects on Cuba would be closed. Torture and CIA secret prisons were finally to be a thing of the past.
The rest of the article is about the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, which also holds terror suspects (shock, horror) and what is President Obama going to do about that. Surely, he will shut that down, as well.

I fear that the rejoicing is premature. It is not just the point that the cases of torture are under dispute and are, in any case, few and far between. I do not need to be told that our side should not use the methods of the other side but there is a problem of defining torture. That intensive interrogation of captured Nazis and ordinary soldiers and officers that the British conducted at the end of World War Two, which is so frequently brought up as an exemplar of what ought to be done with the enemy, would be described as torture by the people who shout about it in the American and European media about it now.

The story of Guantánamo is not over, by a long chalk. It is to be closed within a year (and some doubt is being expressed about that) but, in the meantime, all legal action has been suspended (and here we were thinking that it was the lack of legal cases that was most bothersome but clearly that was true only in the Bush Administration) and some thought is being given to the legal aspect of the situation and to what is to be done with the inmates.

One judge is rejecting the government's arguments that legal action should be suspended, finding them "unpersuasive".

That's right, those terror suspects need to be accommodated somewhere and, given the speed with which many of the released ones go back to the fight, made safe. It seems, according to recent Obama statements, that many of these people are dangerous. No kidding! I thought they were just innocent tourists, going about their business of toting guns, ammunition and explosives, when wicked neo-cons disguised as US marines pounce on them and drag them off to Cuba. Well, not to the part of Cuba where Castro holds political prisoners because we never hear about that. Actually, that might be the solution: hand Guantánamo back to Castro and let the Cuban secret police deal with the inmates.

We are about to hit another snag as Powerline reminds us.
The question of what to do with those prisoners at Guantanamo Bay came up again this morning. The Obama administration has asked our European allies to take some of them.
Fair enough. One does not have to be an admirer of the man (and I am not) to see the logic of that request. The trouble is that the European allies, who may be rejoicing at the thought of Guantánamo closing, do not, for understandable reasons, the responsibility of deciding what to do with the inmates who will no longer have an "in".

The EU's anti-terrorism supremo, Gilles de Kerchove, is not happy. He thinks the EU should have more time to discuss this matter (whereas, of course, Obama should shut Gitmo down immediately). It is a very complicated issue.
"President Obama said he will need a year to close Guantanamo, it shows how difficult it is," EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told reporters.

"So we should not ask the EU to answer in 15 days, that would not be serious ... the ministers will discuss it again," he said after the bloc's foreign minister were split on this issue when they first discussed it at a meeting on Monday.

A day after being sworn in last week, Obama ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where prisoners have been detained for years without charge, some subjected to interrogation that human rights groups say amounted to torture.

Analysts say helping shut Guantanamo would be a good way for the EU to mend transatlantic ties, damaged over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"We are not at a point where we can say this country takes in three (inmates) and that one five, we are not there yet ... it is a very complex issue, it is not yes or no, black or white," de Kerchove said, pointing to complex legal and security implications.
Who on earth writes this stuff? Don't they even see how illogical the sequence of paragraphs is? And I am tired of repeating that more European countries supported and continue to support American in Iraq than opposed it. There are NO transatlantic ties to mend except, maybe, with France and Germany and they are all in a tizz about Obama.

Back to the question of those inmates whose fate the EU has not had a chance to discuss properly.
He recalled that under the Bush administration, Washington tried in vain, for years, to persuade its allies in the 27-nation EU to take in detainees who cannot go back to their home country and whom the United States does not want either.
We have written about these problems before.

M de Kerchove thinks it will be different now because President Obama is promising to shut the prison down. Which, if logic serves, would mean that the EU countries will really have to make a decision to take some of the inmates or run screaming for cover. So far, they seem to be choosing the second option.

What, I assume, M de Kerchove and the rest of the colleagues are hoping for is that even with the new Administration, the United States will continue to keep these rather dangerous individuals and if that means hypocritical attacks on that country, so much the better. At least, the EU and its members will not have to make any decisions.

COMMENT THREAD


The elephant in the room is hard at work today – being invisible. From the BBC website and elsewhere, we learn that around 800 people took part in the demonstration outside the giant Lindsey Oil Refinery at North Killingholme, Lincs yesterday.

The workers walked out in protest to 250 jobs being given to foreign workers instead of unemployed locals following the awarding of a specialist contract to an Italian firm.

They have been supported by Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, who has called for urgent meetings with the Government and employers to discuss the "exclusion" of UK workers from some of Britain's major engineering and construction projects. "We have a growing problem in the engineering and construction industry," he says, "where UK workers are being excluded from important projects."

Some protesters at the refinery carried placards repeating Gordon Brown's slogan "British jobs for British workers". The union is calling for the government to take "urgent action to deal with this situation as tensions are reaching boiling point." Says Derek Simpson, "The contractors working on large projects like the 2012 Olympics and the construction of new power stations, must give UK-based labour a fair chance to work on the projects."

However, there is nothing at all that the government can do. Readers may dimly recall in 2007, two separate actions in the ECJ, one concerning the Rosella ferry and the other, about Laval un Partneri.

In the first case, a Finnish ferry company, Viking, had replaced the crew on one of its ships with Estonian workers, in order to cut costs. In the second, a Latvian construction firm Laval un Partneri Ltd had won a contract to refurbish a school at Vaxholm, Sweden, but the company sought to use cheaper Latvian workers rather than indigenous Swedish workers (or Latvians at Swedish rates).

In both cases, the court upheld the employers' rights to employ cheaper, foreign workers. Also, in both cases, the court upheld the right of displaced workers (or those under threat of displacement) to take "collective action", although it also ruled that any such action would be illegal if it restricted the EU's rules on freedom of establishment.

As it stands, it looks like the Humberside workers are on a loser. Their strike cannot be allowed to succeed, otherwise it would be illegal under EU law and, in any case, the refinery and the contractors are entirely within their rights, again under EU law, to hire foreign workers.

One wonders if the workers out on strike know that they have been shafted, and whether they realise that they are enjoying the benefits of membership of the EU. And, if they do not know, shouldn't someone tell them?

COMMENT THREAD

France has broken the EU's state aid rules by paying more than €330 million to its fruit and vegetable sector over 10 years, helping various producer organisations to rig market prices and increase farmers' income.

The EU commission has been investigating this since 2005 and has now concluded that the aid in question "cannot benefit from an exemption ... and that they are incompatible with the common market." France, therefore, should "proceed to recover the money."

France paid the cash between 1992 and 2002 to ease a glut of fruit and vegetables on the domestic market by supporting prices, paying for temporary stocking, funding product destruction and giving aid for processing.

It may also have subsidised sales of fruit and vegetables outside the EU at times of crisis. All of this had favoured France's fruit and vegetable production to the detriment of that of other EU countries, effectively creating a national market policy superimposed over the EU's own market policy - and also interfering with it.

And, when France, as always, tells the EU commission to go and play with its marrows, what then?

COMMENT THREAD

Though I have no intention of seeing “Valkyrie” the latest film about the Second World War, there is the odd thought in my mind that it would be entertaining to find out how Tom Cruise manages to play the ultra-aristocratic German Graf von Stauffenberg, the leader of the July plot to assassinate Hitler.

Anyway, everybody knows about that Graf von Stauffenberg. I was, however, delighted to see that his son, Franz Ludwig Schenk von Stauffenberg, former member of the Bundestag and of the European Parliament, is one of the signatories of a new appeal lodged with the German Federal Constitutional Court that will, at the very least, postpone the signing of the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty by President Horst Köhler.
Four people with neoliberal tendencies – lawyer Markus Kerber, former chairman of the Board of Directors of Thyssen Dieter Spethmann, former EPP-ED MEP Franz Ludwig Graf Stauffenberg and economist Joachim Starbatty - are behind the appeal. Their petition is linked to the judgement delivered by the court in the early 1990s when it concluded that the Maastricht Treaty was in conformity with the country’s basic law and that it would not damage national sovereignty. In a declaration published in the German press, the plaintiffs regard this judgement as erroneous because European integration has led to infringements of the stability pact, to the European Commission going beyond its powers and to a dissolution of the separation of powers. In their view, the Lisbon Treaty will be even worse and will further reinforce this tendency such that the court cannot consider it as constitutionally valid.
Neo-liberal? Hmmm. Not sure his father would have approved of that. But he would surely have approved of his son demanding that Communists should not be represented at the fiftieth anniversary of the July Plot commemoration because of their own totalitarian state.

He got a great deal of support for his stance in Germany in 1994. I suspect that President Kaczynski would have agreed with him if he could be induced to say something nice about any German, particularly an aristocratic one.

But the remaining Kaczynski twin on the international scene is still refusing to sign that treaty, though he is being urged to do so by the the Sejm [link for subscribers only].

COMMENT THREAD


Did you notice that what started as an inside page story in The Times on 5 December and picked up this blog on the same day, and was then fed into the Booker column on 11 January, has now become the front page lead in the print edition of The Daily Telegraph?

It is rather ironic, really, that the story is about recycling.

The broader point though, is that the case made for using waste to produce energy makes such good sense – and the downside of the current system of recycling is so obvious – that it is a wonder that our benign masters didn't think of this before.

What that points to, of course, is the ad hoc nature of government. Policy is made on the hoof, with no thought given to the consequences. There is no intelligent appraisal of the bigger picture and no rational consideration of various options, with a careful choice made, based on the evidence available.

In that sense, the mess that is our waste policy mirrors the rest of the achievements of our government. Nevertheless, it is no good looking elsewhere. This mess has cross-party support.

Looking at it in the round though, if the government can't even manage the nation's dustbins, is it really fit to manage the economy? But then the same test might also apply to the opposition. Are we in a mess, or what?

COMMENT THREAD

I really had not intended to do another "climate change" story but, with this flashing round the internet – with about six copies sitting in my inbox - and covered by Watts up with that, it is unmissable.

First published by the Senate EPW blog prop. Jame Inhofe, this has it that James Hansen's former NASA supervisor has declared himself a sceptic. Hansen, he says, has "embarrassed NASA" and "was never muzzled", although he should have been.

Our current hero is retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist, Dr John S Theon. As Hansen's former supervisor, he joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of man-made global warming fears. "I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man made," Theon wrote to the Minority Office at the Environment and Public Works Committee on 15 January 2009. "I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results."

"Hansen," he says, "was never muzzled even though he violated NASA's official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind's effect on it)." He thus embarrassed NASA "by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress."

Theon is also declaring "climate models are useless." His own belief concerning AGW is that "the models do not realistically simulate the climate system." There are many very important "sub-grid scale processes" that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit.

"Furthermore," he says, "some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it." Theon also charges that these scientists "have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists."

This, he adds, "is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy."

With Jim Hansen being al-Gore's closest ally and the source of the data on which he relies, if there was any justice in this world, Gore would be well and truly stuffed. The "global warming" gravy train, however, has gained such a head of steam that it is going to take some stopping. But the writing is on the wall.

The pic, by the way – courtesy of Powerline blog - shows a whiter than white White House in a snowy Washington, all lined up for al-Gore's visit today. It is known as the "Gore effect".

COMMENT THREAD

... that Barack Obama is not the first highly placed member of the American Executive to be of mixed racial ancestry? Well, no, we have not had any Presidents before but there was a Vice-President, Charles Curtis (1860 - 1936), whose maternal ancestry was almost entirely Native American. His mother, Ellen Pappan, was one-fourth Kaw, one-fourth Osage, one-fourth Pottawatomie and one-fourth French. (So Mr Curtis was one-eighth French. Hmmm, not sure about that.)

And whose Vice-President was he? Well, dear me, that of the much derided Republican Herbert Hoover. I do think this should be better known.

COMMENT THREAD

It would appear that support for Geert Wilders in the Netherlands is growing and even his political rivals are speaking up for him. Michael van der Galien explains the political background and traces the developments.

COMMENT THREAD

There is a madness abroad which is both unwholesome and disturbing, pointing to a society in decay, that has gone beyond the point of no return.

No other explanation can be found for the torrent of glib, technically illiterate outpourings from the serried ranks of media "environmental" reporters, gushing and gooing about the prospect of the Severn barrage lurching forwards into another realm of unreality.

At the forefront is Lewis Smith, "Environment Reporter" for The Times who uncritically prattles about "a £22 billion tidal energy project that would provide almost 5 percent of Britain's electricity".

The point, of course, if Mr Smith had stooped so low as to do any research – as Booker has done - he would easily have discovered that, at best, the barrage will deliver only 22 percent of capacity. His "5 percent of Britain's electricity" drops to about one percent … at a cost of £22 billion!

Unsurprisingly, so colossal are costs – and so meagre the returns - that no self-respecting investor will touch it with a barge pole. Thus does Smith of The Times twitter: "Tidal energy project will be funded by taxpayer."

This also has the brain-dead Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph rushing to the ramparts, to report that plans for thousands of wind turbines and tidal barrage "may never be realised due to environmental concerns and spiralling costs." Forget the "environmental concerns" and look at the costs. And Louise Gray is surprised?

But it is also she who imbibes the mindless propaganda that the Servern barrage "would provide five per cent of the UK's energy needs," although she does at least quote Prof David Elliott, co-Director of the Energy and Environment Research Unit at the Open University. He says that, "Quite apart from its environmental problems, the single big barrage idea is pretty hopeless in energy terms."

As regards the insane idea of littering out seas with wind turbines, we also get John Constable, policy director at the Renewable Energy Foundation. He says that international competition for engineers and materials "would make it very difficult to build the offshore wind farms and the grid could not take an extra 25 gigawatts of energy from wind."

He then adds: "There is not the money to build them, there is not the time to build them and even if you did build them you could not operate the grid with that much wind."

Thus, in the absence of any commercial or technical justification, we the taxpayers are to be forced to pay the bill, all to satisfy this mad compulsion of the greenies, and our masters in Brussels. Thus says Mr Ed Miliband, Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, "it [the barrage] could make a significant contribution to reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy." Despite the cost, "it highlights their [the government's] commitment to tackling climate change."

That is what I mean about madness. When we have a government that is planning to spend billions of our money on an insane scheme, just to highlight a "commitment", there is no better word for it.

COMMENT THREAD


In a bleak reminder of the peril which faces the planet, a stranded female polar bear and her baby cub were seen on one of this winter's icebergs as it floated on the Thames past the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

Faced with this reminder of the disaster of global cooling encroaching on the planet, one worried Londoner, according to The Sun remarked "Surely it’s not that cold!?"

This was precisely what concerned Parliamentarians were asking themselves last October as they sat in the chamber of the Commons to pass the Climate Change Bill, gazing at their Blackberrys which brought them the news that it was snowing outside.

Mr al-Gore too is about to confront this shocking evidence of "climate change". He is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on Wednesday morning. A "Winter storm watch" has been posted for the nation's capital, with three inches of snow forecast for Tuesday night. Legislators are now anxious to hear al-Gore's plans to combat this dangerous climate change … if they can get there through the ice and snow.

Even more evidence of this dangerous phenomenon comes with the appointment by Obama of ice-queen Hillary Clinton as "special envoy for climate change".

Her frigid demeanour will indeed send "an unequivocal message that the United States will be energetic, focused, strategic and serious about addressing global climate change," as her former hunting ground, New York, braces itself for five inches of snow.

Fortunately for Londoners, the iceberg floating up the Thames was artificial - a stunt to advertise a satirical television channel called Eden - a new digital TV enterprise, part-owned by the BBC - which last night broadcast a spoof claiming that the ice caps are melting.

Broadcaster and eminent wildlife conservationist, Sir David Attenborough, entered into the spirit of the joke, saying: "The melting of the polar bears' sea ice habitat is one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our time. I commend Eden for highlighting the issue; we need to do what we can to protect the world's largest land carnivores from extinction."

Next week, the team are to float their "iceberg" in Hampstead Heath pond - a well-known habitat of polar bears - where the local pond life can visualise the damage done as the ice sheets creep further southwards.

We are so lucky that so many people are devoting their time and energies to warning us of this impending disaster, and preparing for it.

COMMENT THREAD

Returned home after listening to Jonah Goldberg who was talking about his book "Liberal Fascism", which is being published in Britain this week and chatting to various co-members of the not very vast right-wing conspiracy (we are recruiting suitable candidates). Found the usual police activity on the street and was about to go to bed when I checked Instapundit for news and found this story.

Louis Michel, the EU's commissar for development and international aid, has actually blamed Hamas for the situation in Gaza. Somebody, get me my smelling salts.
Even though he was "shocked" by what he saw in Gaza, he had uncharacteristically harsh words for Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since it staged a violent coup there in June 2007.

"At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," said Michel, according to AFP. "I intentionally say this here: Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such."

Reuters quoted Michel as criticizing Hamas for its use of civilians as "human shields" and for fighting in populated areas.
So, does this mean he will not be sending our money in the form of aid to this terrorist organization to build more terrorist weaponry?
Last week, when EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero Waldner visited Israel, she said that the EU would not pay to rebuild Gaza until a government that it found acceptable was in power there.

On Monday, Michel was more frank, saying the EU was tired of paying for the same infrastructure only to have it repeatedly destroyed.
Hurrah! But it seems that I was cheering too soon.
Still, he announced that the EU was prepared to spend $74 million in aid to Palestinian civilians, including $41 million earmarked to "respond to the dramatic humanitarian situation in Gaza" following Israel's offensive.

Michel insisted none of the funds would be channeled to Hamas.
Of course not. Just like the previous funds were not channelled to Hamas. Somehow they get hold of the money, though.

UPDATE: For those who have not yet read them, Andrew Roberts's arguments as to why the BBC should not be broadcasting an appeal for Gaza are here. Interestingly enough, most of the comments are supportive of his stance.

COMMENT THREAD

A few days ago we wrote about a political disease called "futuritis" – the affliction which causes politicians to ignore to problems of today, while they focus on the sunlit uplands of some mythical future, when everything comes right.

Today, in the persona of our Revered Leader, Mr Gordon Brown, we see evidence of another, equally debilitating disease which we shall call "Tranzitis". This is manifest as a compulsion to ignore domestic issues – and home-grown solutions to problems which affect the nation. Instead, politicians look for international or preferably global solutions which they can apply to their own domains.

So it is that we see Mr Brown, wrapping himself in the Union Jack, pronouncing to all and sundry that he has been "warning for ten years" that the international financial markets needed to be more strongly regulated.

He tells us that it was a decade ago in Harvard that he first called for an international early warning system to alert countries to developing crises in any part of the world. This was needed "because the huge global growth and reach of financial systems meant that all markets, all economies and all banks were now interdependent."

This is a man who, at the same time, has presided over the collapse of the domestic financial market, admitting that he "did not see it coming". Not least of the problems was that British systems of regulation had been weakened in favour of untried and largely ineffective international systems – thus making them "interdependent", the creed of the tranzie.

Thus, while the man glibly talks about needing an "early warning system so that international financial flows are properly monitored," he fails to acknowledge that one of the things most lacking was an effective system for monitoring national financial flows and, for that matter, insulating our system from international shocks and bad debt.

In that sense, creating an "interdependent" system is setting up a domino chain – knock one down and they all go. We need independence, not interdependence, in core systems, in the same way that an airliner has multiple independent control systems in case one fails.

How far the disease has spread is demonstrated by Brown's pathetic jibbering about creating "a framework for the international governance that we currently lack." We must, he says, "consider at a global level the regulatory deficit," complaining that "the current patchwork arrangement is inadequate."

Mr Brown should, of course, forget about "international governance" and concentrate on national governance, getting that right first. There, however, so many powers have been outsourced to international agencies – not least the EU - that there is very little he can do. Hence, it is much easier for his diseased brain to take refuge in his "tranzitis", in which delusional state, he can – in his own mind – ignore the train wreck that is the British economy.

However, the diseased mind cannot cure itself. We need an antibiotic – it is called "nationalism".

COMMENT THREAD

Amid the gathering economic crisis, with the continuing sense that no one seems really to understand what is going on – and no one is in control, this might seem small beer. But it isn't. It tells of EU action which is going to add immeasurably to the sum of human misery, from which none of us will be insulated.

The subject is one we have visited before, most notably here - the EU's new pesticide directive. This particular piece exactly echoes our fears when it declares: "EU's false insecticide fears pose real threat to Africa".

The EU, it says, "banned scores of pesticides this month under the pretence of protecting human health and the environment." You might assume, it continues:

…that the EU could demonstrate some threat to humans or the environment, that it had found viable alternatives to the banned pesticides and that it had assessed the consequences of this ban to farming, to food prices and to the poor whose only defence against disease is pesticides. But you would be wrong on all counts. The new regulations not only damage food production in the EU but also threaten public health in distant countries — mainly poor countries in Africa.
The writer of the piece is Jasson Urbach, an economist in the Health Policy Unit of South Africa's Free Market Foundation think-tank, based in Durban, South Africa. He is also a director of "Africa Fighting Malaria". He goes on to write at some length of the specific problems faced by Africa from this EU move, stating baldly: "The new EU regulations compound the woes of the poor who suffer most."

When it comes to our own affairs, enlightened self-interest should come to the fore. Many times we have discussed the effects of poverty in the developing world as the driver for migration. This dire piece of legislation can only add to the pressures. Many of those migrants will end up in the EU and, either directly or indirectly, on our shores.

Then, as global trade collapses, an important part of our salvation package is, as it has always been, measures to increase the wealth of the global community – so that they can afford to buy our goods and services, the real wealth that drives what is left of our economy. In this way too, the this dire law will affect us all.

The trouble is that the linkage is not obvious. The effects are secondary and it is the effects which will be reported, not their cause. And there are many more such effects, many of them stemming from misguided legislation which emanates from Brussels. Jasson Urbach does us a service, pointing out one area of linkage. Tragically, he will be ignored.

He writes with a sense of optimism, noting that, although EU decision-making is opaque and usually unaccountable, "public pressure has brought this into the open, giving African governments, NGOs and charities a chance to speak up for the poor in all the capitals of EU member states."

Furthermore, he notes that UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has said: "The UK does not support these proposals". Thus, what is usually a simple rubber-stamp could meet late resistance from the UK and other governments, whose farmers and consumers have forced them to face the threat.

But there is also the killer line: Benn "did not clarify what he could do." The answer, Mr Urbach, is that he will do nothing. The UK will do nothing. The EU is not "usually unaccountable". It is always unaccountable. It will get its way. People will die. We will all suffer. The EU does not give a damn – it will not even accept that it is part of the problem.

We are truly stacking up trouble and, in the welter of bad news from other sources, the biggest trouble of all is that we have neither the means nor the political will to tackle his problem head-on. However, it is not going to go away. Trouble never does.

COMMENT THREAD


The warmists are getting desperate. As their edifice of "global warming" crumbles like ice sheets calving in the summer, they have gathered their forces and summoned up the remaining tatters of their credibility, assaulting what they feel an insult to their creed – the obstinate refusal of the Antarctic to warm up.

As recorded by Booker today, they have secreted a "paper" into their propaganda sheet, the Nature magazine, claiming that, contrary to all previous evidence, Antarctica is indeed warming up,

In a carefully planned coup, they then spread their tidings of joy to the believers through their media groupies in the BBC and elsewhere. The news had Newsweek's Sharon Begley, whooping with joy, crowing that this would really be one in the eye for the "deniers" and "contrarians".

The study, however, from a team led by Professor Eric Steig, immediately began to attract a good deal of attention from real experts. They quickly found that the conclusions had been produced by yet another a computer model. This one relied on combining the satellite evidence since 1979 with temperature readings from surface weather stations.

The problem the Steigists were confronting was the irritating shortage of weather stations in Antarctica. But, with their magic computer, using an equally mysterious formula, they have conjured up "estimates" to fill in the blanks left by the missing stations. By this magical, mystery process they have managed to show that, if there had been ground stations present, they would have shown that the continent was warming and not cooling – thereby completely contradicting the real data produced by satellite.

Even then, they are struggling, their alchemy stopping short of producing huge leaps. All they have managed to do is come up with a 50-years increase of just one degree Fahrenheit, smaller than the margin of error which they allocate to their own work.

But, while they have been able to rely on their media groupies to lap it up, they have not been able to convince their own. One of the first to express astonishment was Dr Kenneth Trenberth, a senior scientist with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a convinced believer. He wryly observed "it is hard to make data where none exists".

Actually, it isn't – not when one of your team is Michael Mann, author of the infamous "hockey stick", someone who has made a career out of inventing and then manipulating data. He is the "scientist" who, at the behest of the IPCC, managed to lose the Mediaeval Warm Period.

Another disbelieving scientist is Ross Hayes, an atmospheric scientist who has often visited the Antarctic for Nasa. He sent Professor Steig a caustic email ending: "with statistics you can make numbers go to any conclusion you want. It saddens me to see members of the scientific community do this for media coverage."

The fact, though – says Booker, that Dr Mann is again behind the new study on Antarctica is, alas, all part of an ongoing pattern. But this will not prevent the paper being cited ad nauseam by everyone from the BBC to Al Gore, when he shortly addresses the US Senate and carries on advising President Obama behind the scenes on how to roll back that "spectre of a warming planet".

Therein lies the problem. Idiot politicians unthinkingly imbibe a creed, the scientific credentials of which wouldn't even pass muster amid a gang of Druids praying to their sun god, or whatever it is they do. Until these politicians finally wake up to how they have been duped, what threatens to become the most costly flight from reality in history will continue to roll remorselessly on its way.

If they do not, of course, the tumbrels will roll. That, on the face of it, might even be preferable.

COMMENT THREAD

Opinion on the other side of the Pond seems to differ. The Wall Street Journal appears to think that it is, indeed, just that and it will not be long before what they call Reykjavik on the Thames (that would be London, one of the largest financial centres in the world until the EU's financial directives and the determined vandalism of this government destroy it) will see the usefulness of being inside that big tent.

The article disposes of the argument that the present financial crisis and the various governments' twisting and turning may lead to various members of the euro dropping out of the club or, according to some, freeing themselves from a straitjacket.
The thinking of those who believe Greece or Italy may drop the euro goes something like this: Freed of the shackles of a one-size-fits-all monetary policy and back in charge of their own currencies, these countries could devalue themselves out of the crisis, giving their industry a competitive advantage.

But this makes little economic sense. Any benefit from a devalued currency would be short-lived; it would surely lead to wage inflation, thereby neutralizing the advantage for exporters. The pitfalls of leaving the euro, though, would be enormous.
Through various tortuous arguments the article proves to its own satisfaction that countries are safer and more secure inside the eurozone. Not only would they be foolish to abandon it but those outside should really start thinking of joining it as soon as possible. Of course, that argument should apply to countries outside Europe as well. If the eurozone is such a good idea, why don't they all join it?
The euro is an anchor of stability, particularly for small members that otherwise would be much more exposed. Denmark may hold a referendum on joining the euro next year and in Iceland, which hitherto has declined to join even the European Union, a clear majority now favors adopting the single currency.

Perhaps the euro skeptics in the other Reykjavik, the one on the Thames, may soon rethink their position as well.
The trouble with all those majorities that they often disappear when the referendum actually comes round and people are faced with the reality of joining the EU (in Iceland's case and fish is not mentioned in the article at all) or the euro in Denmark's case.

I suspect this may be another effort by Alistair Macdonald, the egregious UK politics, economics and European financial regulation correspondent.

Landon Thomas in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune thinks otherwise.
In Europe, after a brief lull, the financial crisis is back with a vengeance. Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries, though stronger, if also ailing, are mounting stimulus programs and building fences around their banks. The peripheral European economies are being left to twist in the market winds.

For many years, countries like Greece, Spain and Italy took advantage of the easy money that came their way. Trade deficits remained wide and governments borrowed up to their treaty-set limits - sometimes beyond.

Now, with the need for stimulus to deal with the severe downturn, these countries find themselves caught in an awful policy bind: credit is available, but only at punitive short-term rates; and further borrowing not only breaks with European Commission dictates but raises broader questions of solvency.
The situation is not exactly rosy in Britain with another bank bail-out, which, presumably, though Mr Thomas does not put it quite so bluntly, will be as efficacious as the last one.

For Mr Thomas the weakest of all links is Greece, something that will not surprise any of our readers as that country managed to scrape into the euro only by a great deal of fudging. There is the additional problem, not mentioned by Mr Thomas: most of those weaker, peripheral countries have had a great deal of money transferred into their economies from the other, somewhat stronger ones. That, too, may come to an end now.

COMMENT THREAD

An example of the unreal world in which our politicians live comes with an announcement yesterday that four potential sites for new nuclear power stations have been proposed, "as the government's process for choosing suitable locations starts in earnest."

But all that has happened is the government has announced that the "criteria on which sites will be judged" will be published this coming Tuesday. A decision on which sites might actually be selected may then – or may not – be made later this year.

Needless to say, this has been "spun", with ministers claiming that "up to 9,000 jobs" could be created in building each plant, with as many as 1,000 full-time jobs once (if) the plants are commissioned. However, there are huge hurdles to surmount before this tentative "wish" becomes reality. What could be is by no means certain, and even if it happens, we are talking many years down the road.

Nevertheless, with one of the potential sites nominated as potentially suitable being Wylfa in Anglesey – with the existing plant there due to close down in 2010 – the North Wales regional paper has leapt in with the breathless announcement that "prime minister Gordon Brown has backed Anglesey to get a new nuclear power station – moving the island a step closer to a 10,000 jobs boom."

Frankly, this is moonshine but, needless to say, the BBC piles in, reporting that this "move" has been "applauded by some politicians as a positive step." It thus quotes County Council leader Phil Fowlie saying: "Today's announcement is fantastic news for Anglesey, especially given the current economic downturn facing us."

So let's see. With 500 jobs – real jobs – due to go this year, with more to go when the existing Wylfa plant closes next year, the prospect of a new nuclear power station, some time in the distant, unspecified future is "fantastic news"?

This, in many ways typifies the disease afflicting our politicians, a disease known as "futuritis". It is also epidemic in the European Union. Unable to deal with the problems of the present – other than by making them worse – they fix their eyes on some point in the future, when everything will come right. They thus ignore completely the disasters of today and tomorrow, painting their vision of distant sunlit uplands.

In the meantime, however, what are we supposed to do – go into suspended animation, to be woken once that future has arrived?

COMMENT THREAD

On Thursday, German economy minister Michael Glos was expressing "serious
misgivings" about the EU's emissions trading scheme, complaining that it could cost jobs if it went ahead in its current form. His own scientific advisory board is urging the repeal of strict limits for CO2 emissions, and an easing of the system in order to stabilise the price of permits.

This may or may not be connected with an announcement yesterday that the German energy giant RWE has decided to build no more new power plants in western Europe, as the EU's emissions trading scheme has rendered new projects "unprofitable".

"We will go ahead with power-plants which we are already planning or which are already under construction," said Johannes Lambertz, chief executive of RWE's power unit. "Further projects are on hold until they become economical."

Lambertz adds that, "The current framework leads to a situation where it can be more economical to continue operating old power plants than to build new ones and then having to bear the costs for the construction and the emission certificates."

Connection or not, it looks like the Germans are set for a confrontation with the EU over "climate change", a dust-up which is potentially even more attractive than the one pictured.

I tell you, its obsession with "climate change" is going to be the undoing of the EU. The electricity riots of 2015 are going to make this look like a Sunday school outing.

COMMENT THREAD

Ho hum! The dead tree media is exulting in the admission from Gordon Brown on the Today programme that he never saw the recession coming. "We believed," he said, "there was a possibility of institutional failure in the banking and financial system so we did all sorts of exercises, simulation exercises. But what we didn't see, and nobody saw, was the possibility of complete market failure, that markets seized up across the world."

This is against the background of official recognition that the economy shrank 1.5 percent in the last three months of 2008. That "plunge", says The Daily Mail, cited as "the largest since April to June of 1980," has "outstripped experts' forecasts by 0.3 percent and fuelled fears the recession will be long, deep and very painful."

When this is added to a 0.6 percent slump in the previous quarter, it puts Britain in a technical recession for the first time since the 90s and its eighth since 1945. A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Alistair Darling has also joined the ranks of the "new blind", admitting the downturn had been "sharper" than expected. In his Pre-Budget report in November, he predicted the economy would grow in the second half of 2009 and between 1.5 to two percent in 2010. The official forecast is now for a decline of 0.75 percent to 1.25 per cent in 2009.

Meanwhile Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority has piled in, accusing Brown of failing to spot that that the credit and housing boom had left the economy "fraught with systemic risk". He suggests Brown has to take his share of the blame. But Turner also says that "finance ministers" across the world are to blame for failing to identify the dangers of sub-prime mortgages and soaring debt.

And now "experts" fear growth could slide two per cent of even three this year in what would be the biggest economic decline since World War II.

However, all is not lost. According to The Telegraph, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, is blaming bankers and previous Tory governments for the economic mess. "This recession," he says, "is not bad luck or an inevitable swing of the pendulum. Its cause is irresponsible behaviour by banks and financial institutions taking advantage of the deregulation started by Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan, and continued to a greater or lesser extent ever since."

Somehow, it was always going to be that. Tory "deregulation" is always the source of all ills, and pinning the blame will, of course, herald and legitimise calls for more regulation. But, it appears, when our masters are totally blind, they might have a little difficulty reading any new rules, much less understanding them.

What was that about the land of the blind?

COMMENT THREAD

Strictly speaking, civil disorder in member states is none of the business of our supreme government in Brussels. Maintaining law and order on the streets is a matter for provincial governments.

However, the ever-watchful Bruno Waterfield tells us that the euroweenies have called for "emergency talks" to discuss the groundswell of social unrest and violent street protests that have spread across Europe.

So far, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece and Iceland (is that Europe?) have all faced social unrest and rioting as unemployment soars and – so Bruno says - as many European countries have been forced to impose severe cuts to government spending. Thus, the March European Council is to examine the increasing unrest, regarding it as one of the "major challenges" for the Spring Council.

Sarkozy has already raised the spectre of "May 1968" protests spreading across Europe, although it is hard to take that seriously. There is nothing like the undercurrent of "revolution" that prevailed then. There is no ideology that is driving the crowds. They are just pissed off with their rulers. Which gives the demonstrations a nihilistic tinge.

Anyhow, what the euroweenies are considering is "intensive sharing of information", which include "regular updates" on the situation in various European countries. What they can get from that, which cannot be got from open source, is hard to imagine. Usually, in these sorts of situations, the official channels are the last to know what is happening.

However, there is some sense in what one EU official is saying. "People," he observes. "obviously are seeing what is happening in other countries in the rest of Europe, such as Greece, and they thought 'Why are we so calm?'" They are particularly worried about developments in Bulgaria where hundreds of Bulgarian protesters have clashed with police, smashed windows and damaged cars in Sofia when a rally against corruption and the economic crisis turned into a riot last week.

There is a point there. Considering how badly our rulers have managed our national affairs – here not least – we should all be out in the streets ripping throats out and racing tumbrels to the nearest public guillotine.

Perhaps it is too early yet, as most people – especially the bloated public sector – are not really hurting yet. It needs more time. Possibly, that is what is really worrying the euroweenies. They suspect its coming, but they can't work out when.

COMMENT THREAD

An interesting link sent to me by Anglican Friends of Israel together with a translation of the article. Perhaps, some of our readers who know Hebrew can attest that it is accurate.
Yossi Bar (Maariv-Hebrew) The Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra Thursday quoted adoctorat Shifa Hospital in Gaza City saying that, despite Hamas and UN claims, most of those killed in Gaza were young men who were members of terror groups.

"The number of deaths was between 500-600...most were young men between 17 and 23 who were recruited into the ranks of Hamas, which sent them to be slaughtered," he said.

Journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi confirmed that only 600 people were killed, and not 1,300 as was widely reported, based on hospital visits and discussions with families of the victims.

"It was strange that the non-governmental organizations, including Western ones, repeated the number without checking, but the truth will come to light in the end," said the doctor.

"It's like what happened in Jenin in 2002," he said. "At the beginning they spoke of 500 dead; afterwards it was clear there wereonly 54 dead, at least 45 of them fighters."
The UN and NGOs less than honest about Gaza and casualties there? Well, colour me surprised.

Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Social Welfare has accused Hamas of stealing trucks with humanitarian aid that was meant for the people of Gaza. Curiously enough, UNWRA who were supposed to take charge of the aid and distribute it, have not made any comments on the subject. The accusations add that some Hamas members have been selling the aid off.

Mr Habbash has also accused Hamas of murdering and torturing Fatah activists. Hamas has admitted this, explaining that they were rounding up and doing nasty things to people who were openly collaborating with Israel.

This is confirmed by Reuters who, not unexpectedly, cite the figure of 1,300 Palestinians killed without bothering to check. It may be true but is unlikely and minimal checking might be a good idea. Of course, Hamas reasserting its control over Gaza is what all those demonstrators wanted so they ought to be pleased. Then again, they were bemoaning the killing of Palestinians. So, I take it, there will be more demonstrations against Hamas because of it killing and maiming other Palestinians? Probably accompanied by large squadrons of flying pigs.

Richard Landes writes about the Gaza figures on The Augean Stables. He also has a fascinating posting on the coverage by the MSM of wartime casualties. Oddly enough, it seems completely distorted and inaccurate. But the best one is this: the terrible poisoned gift, which European anti-semitism has given the Palestinians - the inability to escape their own problems and to be ruled by Hamas murderers.

COMMENT THREAD

Just as it is reality that is going to bring down the Brown government, it is going to be reality which eventually destroys the European Union, brought down by the very member state governments which currently support it.

A clue to this dynamic lies in a piece in the current edition of The Guardian which laments that the British government is attempting "to undermine European emissions law" – despite, one might add, its "green" and "pro-Europe" credentials.

What we have here is an example of the tension arising between the demands of the EU's Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD), about which we have written before, and the need for the British provincial government to secure affordable supplies of electricity … for its voters - the things the EU doesn't have to worry about.

The cockpit for dissent is the EU's plans to "recast" the Industrial Emissions (IPPC) Directives provisions concerning large combustion plants, which puts the directive up for grabs. While the EU is intending to keep the LCPD intact in its new legislation, it affords the British government an opportunity to get it changed, "watering it down", in a last ditch attempt to keep seven major coal plants open and producing.

An indication of how seriously our provincial government is taking this issue comes in a 4-page "leaked Whitehall paper" which says the LCPD directive "raises potentially serious issues about security of electricity supply" and could even damage "moves to low-carbon electricity generation".

The chances are that the provincial government's moves to reduce the impact of the LCPD will fail, but it points to battles to come. With the current plants already under restricted hours, there is a distinct possibility that we will see power cuts while, at the same time, major generating plants are standing idle for no other reason than EU rules prevent them from generating electricity.

The unfortunate prime minister of the day will then have the unenviable task of standing at the despatch box and explaining to his voters why obeying EU rules is more important than providing heat and light to the British nation. At that juncture, "euroscepticism" will become a reality, simply on the basis that there are no europhiles when the lights go out.

As the financial crisis deepens, more and more we are seeing conflicts between national and EU agendas, and the energy question is going to provoke yet another confrontation. In each case – as we are seeing now – the EU is going to have to back off and, each time it does, its grip will be weakened. Soon enough, someone is going to ask, in the manner of the innocent child, "what is that thing for?" And when answer there is none, euroscepticism will be back in fashion.

COMMENT THREAD

Reuters has been busy on the carbon emissions front, retailing another delightful story which should bring tears – of laughter – as it confronts the total ineptitude of the EU's grandiose plans to save the planet.

European factories, the agency tells us, "are cashing in on an unexpected benefit from wilting output, selling surplus carbon emissions permits worth about €1 billion to raise funds on the carbon market."

What has happened is that the recession in Europe has dragged down industrial output so fast that it has dropped well below the EU’s calculated level of activity – and therefore CO2 production, leaving many firms with a massive surplus of permits. Particularly flush are steel and cement makers.

Thus, in a canny but entirely unpredicted (by the EU) wheeze, these firms are selling off their surplus credits, and making a tidy euro into the bargain. In so doing, they are depressing the price of “carbon” and completely defeating the whole object of the EU's scheme.

"This was not designed as a scheme to give corporates cheap short-term funding options in the face of a credit crunch meltdown where banks are not lending," said Mark Lewis, Deutsche Bank carbon analyst. "But that appears to be what's happening."

You don't say.

What was supposed to happen what the number of credits issues was supposed to be less than actually needed, driving up the price and thus forcing companies to look for alternative technologies and strategies, in order to reduce the burden of paying for "carbon". The carbon prices now, says Reuters, could collapse, dropping as low as €5 per ton, from a peak of €31 last summer.

Like everything else the EU touches in the real world, this has thus turned out to be disaster. Nothing the EU ever does actually works, and the sooner this is realised, the better. But, at least the low price should stuff Brown nicely, and save us all a load of money.

The other joy is that those who have invested in carbon credits have been well and truly burned. The credits are one of the worst investments so far in 2009, falling more than almost any other energy commodity or index of global stocks.

There is a God in heaven.

COMMENT THREAD

I have to ask this: are there any normal people working for the UN? And if there are, do they ever get beyond the tea-making status? Another cute little scandal brewing up or about to be hushed up, depending on how cynical you are.

The police source seems to be quite cynical: "Yeah sure. It's always research." Definitely above tea-making status, methinks.

COMMENT THREAD

Well, to be quite precise, Netherlands has a problem but as we are all one big happy family these days, what affects them, affects us. Maybe. I hope not.

Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian and general troublemaker, of whom we have written before, is to be prosecuted for anti-Islamic statements in his film "Fitna" (here is what we wrote about that) and articles in the newspaper De Volkskrant. It seems that he linked Islamism with terror and violence and there were more than 40 complaints. Not, I assume, from the victims of that terror and violence, most of whom are Muslims.

Last July we wrote that the Dutch prosecutors sensibly took the decision not to prosecute him. Now the Court of Appeals has overthrown that decision.
The Court of Appeal said it "considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers" after Wilders compared parts of their faith with Nazism. The ruling, posted on the court's Web site today, overturns a decision by the prosecutor last year not to charge Wilders.
I am looking forward to the prosecution of all those who compare Israel to Nazi Germany, the fighting in Gaza to the Holocaust and all Jews to members of the SS, as well as the prosecution of all those who scream that Hitler's work must be finished and all Jews should be sent back to the gas ovens. But I will not hold my breath.

Michelle Malkin wants to know where President Obama stands on this. I am more interested to know where Prime Minister Brown stands, since he is here. Come to think of it, where do other European leaders who are endlessly extolling "European values" stand?

COMMENT THREAD

Whenever the media is concentrating its resources on a few topics, to the exclusion of all else, it is always a good idea to scout round and have a look at what else is happening. Jo Moore lives!

Taking our own advice, we find Reuters reporting that our provincial government is to hold its second auction of EU carbon emissions permits (EUAs) on 24 March.

The number of permits to be sold has not been announced, but the government has already committed to selling 25 million EUAs this year. Last year, it sold four million at €16.15 a ton, raising €64.6 million. With the recession galloping away, the carbon price has dropped to an all-time low of €10.81 – a story in itself – but that still means the government stands to make more than €250 million, which will be recovered through our electricity bills.

Last time the government top-sliced our electricity bills this way, there was complete silence from the opposition, clearly unwilling to out an EU-facilitated "stealth tax". Thus, Gordon can suck this money out of our accounts, without even whimper of protest from the champions of free speech. The lesson is obvious – you can get away with daylight robbery, as long as you do it in the name of "climate change".

All the same, I wonder if Mr Clarke might now complain about this new "stealth tax".

COMMENT THREAD

It was always a mystery to me why the owners of the London Evening Standard, the sole remaining evening paper in the capital, the Daily Mail and General Trust, should have thought it was a good idea to launch two freebie newspapers to compete with its own title. Let's just say that the presence of the Metro and LondonLite did not help the Standard's sales.

Then again, those freebies (there is at least one more) do not really help anybody except me, because I no longer have to buy newspapers in order to line the cat litter trays. But I digress.

The Standard's fortunes looked up a bit a few years ago when its business section poached several of the Telegraph's financial writers. In the end, the low quality of the rest of the newspaper (just how many stories can one read about celeb one has never heard of?) with even Londoner's Diary becoming less and less sparky has completed the downfall.

Recently, you could get free umbrellas and coffee jugs with copies of the newspaper - always a bad sign. Then there were rumours and stories that it was going to be sold by the ex-KGB agent, now media tycoon, Alexander Lebedev.

Those rumours have now been confirmed.
DMGT said its national newspaper division, Associated Newspapers, had sold 75.1 percent in its loss-making 50p evening newspaper for a "nominal sum" – widely thought to be £1 – to Evening Press Ltd, a company formed by Lebedev and his son Evgeny. Greig is a shareholder in Evening Press Ltd along with Justin Byam Shaw, a telecoms entrepreneur and adviser to Lebedev Holdings.

Evening Press will own 75.1 percent of a new company, Evening Standard Ltd. Associated will be a minority shareholder with 24.9 percent, but will not have a seat on its board or direct involvement in editorial policy. The Russian tycoon has said he wants to have an editorial board comprised of luminaries such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Lebedev's personal friend, and Tony Blair.

Alexander Lebedev, who has interests in Russia's National Reserve Bank and Aeroflot, will be the chairman of Evening Standard Ltd. Shaw will be deputy chairman and Evgeny Lebedev will be senior executive director.
To be fair, to Alexander Lebedev (the son seems to be little more than a playboy who squires female celebs), he is also the co-owner of Novaya Gazeta, the only more or less independent large newspaper in Russia. Its journalists have a very high mortality rate. The last one to be shot was Anastasiya Baburova on Monday together with the prominent human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov.

COMMENT THREAD

... that President Obama will turn out to be as dishonest as he showed himself in his campaign and as unprincipled as his political background (hint: Chicago machine) would indicate. That would be much better than a Marxist ideologue, which is what some people were afraid of when they looked at his early friends and mentors. If Obama used the likes of Bill Ayers to rise in politics, my tears will remain unshed.

My high hopes are vindicated by the numerous references to "humility" made by the most arrogant, self-obsessed politician ever to be elected to the Presidency, in front of a crowd that, unnervingly, was chanting his name, instead of being awed by the office and the event. I think dishonesty covers that quite well.

Meanwhile, it looks like the actual inauguration ceremony was something of a mess. The booing of the outgoing President was disgraceful, whether you agree with the man or not. But, as I keep telling my American friends, it reminds me of 1997 here. These things do not last and the Obamabots will soon shrivel into discontent. Many conservatives are happier than they had expected to be. They obviously share my high hopes.

The inaugural poem seems to have been utterly terrible. Aretha Franklin, I am sure, was a joy to listen to. She always is.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery's Benediction degenerated into a racist rant, the exact opposite of what this election actually proved about America. Would Obama have really won if all white Americans were racists? Here is the video on Hot Air.

What of the birthday boy himself? The one I have such high hopes for? Well, he started by flubbing his oath, which is unfortunate in the circumstances. He then proceeded by making a completely uninteresting and cliche-ridden speech, seriously marred by gratuitous attacks on the outgoing Administration and suggestions that history and American leadership begins with him. The Anchoress has a good round-up. She is quite generous about the speech herself.

As a number of commentators have noted, Obama spoke as if he were still running a campaign and his supporters in the audience behaved like that, too. (Incidentally, the numbers were nearer to 1 million than the originally predicted 5 million.) I am not sure about the word "still". As I said before, he may well be planning on being inaugurated until the next presidential election. In fact, he may well have started the 2012 campaign in his inaugural speech. That would be a first in American history.

Back to real life, methinks. Michelle reminds us of what is being called the Generation Theft Act; more details here.

As for me, I shall go on having high hopes. I need to. If we are actually to believe Obama's various comments on foreign policy, the world is in dire trouble.

COMMENT THREAD

If you discard the economy and Obama, it is very hard to find anything significant in the news, these two issues having driven out virtually every other topic of significance.

In time, the "normal" agenda will re-assert itself, if there is such a thing as normal, and if we have not gone so far down the slippery slope that the abnormal becomes the normal. That itself raises an interesting question – when does the abnormal cease to be so, and become the new norm? I guess we might soon find that out.

Anyhow, my "normality" is that I broke the 80,000-word barrier" on the book in the very small hours of this morning, and am now on the home straight. I reckon two more chapters to go and I've cracked it.

Utterly exhausted and inclined to write about neither hystèrie du jour, I will leave you with this on which to ponder. Long after the dust of Obama's inauguration has settled, and the "credit crunch" has become a brand name for a new range of confectionery, this – if it ever goes ahead – will come back to haunt us all.

"Mad" doesn't even get near.

COMMENT THREAD

You would have to live on another planet not to be aware that the global – and especially the British – economy was in meltdown. While some other newspapers indulge in Obamania, The Daily Telegraph, at least, devotes the bulk of today's edition to the accelerating crisis.

But, despite the acres of newsprint, it seems that the learned – and not so learned – commentators have not even begun to understand the nature of the crisis and its root causes, the one begetting the other.

This is seen in the Telegraph leader (print edition only) which attributes the UK banking problem, with its "toxic debts" and excess credit to a "regulatory regime that allowed it to happen". But this, the paper asserts, was "designed and constructed" by Mr Brown, which makes him "complicit" in the collapse of the country's most important industry.

Viewed as always through the prism of national politics, what this fails to recognise is that, while the financial system was globalising, so was the regulatory system – with the Basel committee and other international bodies taking the helm.

The net effect was that we were saddled with an inflexible, slow moving and wholly inadequate system of regulation and, as importantly, it was one over which no single – or any – nation had control. As was the global financial system out of control, so was the regulatory system.

It is instructive, therefore, to see that the response of the British government has been to nationalise the banking system. The effect of that is to reassert national control. But there is no recognition that the other half of the equation – the regulatory system – also needs to be nationalised.

Thus, in effect, we are getting the worst of all possible worlds. While private companies are being bought up by the government with public (i.e., our) funds, the very system which allowed them to go to the brink of destruction – and even beyond – is being left almost completely untouched, its role wholly unrecognised.

To that extent, Brown is dealing with the symptoms of the crisis and not the cause, which any doctor will tell you is not the optimal way of dealing with a problem. But when we have the serried ranks of the establishment – which includes the government, the opposition and the media – refusing even to do a proper diagnosis, there is very little chance of the correct remedies being applied.

That, unfortunately, leaves the rest of us as spectators, able only to watch the developing train crash, without in any way being able to influence the outcome. Our only role, in due course, will be to pay for the mess but, this time, we have no assurance whatsoever that it will not be repeated. As long as the idea of returning to national control over our own assets and businesses is rejected so roundly by our ruling classes, nothing will get better.

And that idea, sadly, has yet to re-establish itself. We have a long way yet before we reach bottom and it becomes fashionable again.

Update: Ambrose offers his latest "take" on the slide in sterling. "For the first time since this crisis began eighteen months ago," he writes, "I am seriously worried that British government is losing control."

Surely the point is – and it is one I have made many times – is that the British government lost control a long time ago. Interestingly, in December 2007, I wrote a piece headed "powerless", picking up on a Telegraph leader headed: "Gordon Brown is in control of very little". That was true then and it is true now.

In many ways, Brown is as much a passenger of events as are we all. That is the really terrifying thing – nobody is really in control. The mighty machine of global finance is falling apart and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. No wonder Obama is taking several days out for his inauguration celebrations. Perhaps he is hoping that, by the time he gets to his desk in the Oval Office, it will all be over, with just the jobs of clearing up the wreckage and rebuilding to do.

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