Sunday, August 31, 2008

Low grade misrepresentation

click here to go to the blogOne of the many things which makes commenting on defence policy so very difficult these days is the absence of any balanced – or sensible – commentary in the media. Defence, as an issue, has become just another "stick" with which to beat an unpopular Labour government, fuel for the ongoing soap opera which now dominates political discourse.

A classic example of that dynamic comes today in a short piece in The Sunday Times, accusing the government of having "squandered" almost £500m by leasing RAF C-17 transport aircraft that could have bought outright for less money.

Posted on Defence of the Realm

When is science no longer science?

When it is used for political ends. John Lawrence writes in The Conservative Voice.


The joy of Palin

While the selection of a huntin' shootin' fishin' Alaskan mom is a "good thing" in its own right, McCain's choice of running mate is even more welcome when you consider what could have been.

According to IHT, and doubtless many other journals, right until the last minute, McCain wanted to appoint his good friend Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent.

What blew Lieberman out of the water, apparently, was outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that the independent Senator was a supporter of abortion rights. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is a convinced anti-abortionist and is beloved by the party's religious base. Add to that the virtue that she does not come off as shrill, and this cemented the deal.

However, while abortion plays big on the US electoral scene – as opposed to the UK where the issue is treated as non-party political, reserved for free votes in the House – equally important is the attitude of the respective players to AGW.

On the one hand, Palin is an avowed sceptic while, on the other, Lieberman is co-author of the failed – but potentially disastrous – Leiberman-Warner Bill which sought to impose "cap and trade" on the US economy. According to the think-tank Heritage, this could have triggered cumulative losses to the US gross domestic product (GDP) of at least $1.7 trillion, a sum that could have reached $4.8 trillion by 2030 (in inflation-adjusted 2006 dollars).

With McCain already far too close to the greenie agenda, having shown an unwarranted enthusiasm for subsidy wind farms, Palin thus comes as a welcome corrective.

Although the Vice President is considered essentially powerless, the fact that Palin is likely to carry her own support within the country – and perhaps prove decisive in trouncing Obama – this could put her in an unusually powerful position. It may be enough – we hope – to see off the greenies and bring some rationality to US policy on "climate change".

And how the greenies will hate her. That, is the joy of Palin, the mom who, one feels, would be quite happy adding the pelt of a polar bear to her office, to match that of the grizzly which already adorns her office sofa.


A huge diversion of resources

Booker goes to town today on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), charting the intellectual and political corruption behind what must the biggest (and most expensive) scam in the history of the planet.

What is doubly interesting is the way the politicians have bought into the scam, distancing themselves from the bulk of the population. To judge from the comments on the Telegraph website – which are almost entirely supportive - people are growing increasingly sceptic and weary of the preaching of our rulers, as they come up with even madder ideas to "save the planet".

Perhaps though the greatest evil perpetrated by the IPCC is the way it has distorted public policy, elevating "climate change" to the top of the political agenda and thus skewing expenditure priorities and the focus of public administration.

No more so is this apparent than in the energy field where, instead of addressing the complex but technically solvable problems of providing cheap electricity for the masses, policy is totally bogged down by the fantasy of providing for a "carbon-free" future.

Worse still, if we are entering a period of global cooling – which even the "warmists" admit is on the cards, the policy responses required are entirely different from those needed to deal with the warming scenario postulated by the IPCC.

In that sense, the IPCC is directly responsible for a huge diversion of resources, on a global scale, sanctioning policies which have no foundation in reality while diverting attention from the nuts and bolts of good public administration that are needed to keep society functional.

That this group of self-serving politicians and politico-scientists have been able to get away with it, though, is one of those latter-day marvels which defies explanation. As Booker demonstrates, so transparent is their fraud that it is almost inexplicable that the perpetrators have not been run out of town.

Instead, they preen and posture as they collect their Nobel prizes, while the media laud them and perpetuate their propaganda. There is something very wrong with this world, and it ain't global warming.


Cutting their own throats

The EU's obsession with the contents of our waste bins continues to cast its dark shadow over UK policy, the Sunday Express telling us that plans are now afoot to tax disposable items such as nappies and razor blades as luxury goods in order to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.

This, according to the newspaper, is one of the options set out in a 200-page report commissioned by Defra, aimed at halving the amount of waste produced by each person from 800 to 400lbs a year. Another possible option is the much rehearsed idea of a new bin tax, based on the amount of waste produced.

It is the "disposables tax", however, which seems to be the government's main new tactic to cajole and increasingly unwilling population into conformity with EU rules. The idea is to impose punitive taxes similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco on items that cannot be re-used or recycled.

Products targeted include what the report calls "the usual suspects", such as disposable nappies and plastic carrier bags. However, it also suggests taxes could be applied to other disposable goods, such as paper plates, plastic cutlery, disposable barbecues and even disposable razors, increasing their costs five-fold.

The idea of a nation of shavers weaned on disposable razors reverting to cutthroat razors is an amusing one, but the idea of another tax most certainly is not. Already, there is considerable resentment at the government's enthusiasm for so-called "green" taxes and additional imposts on a wide range of essential purchases is not going to be popular.

In this, the government might have something in common with the men they seek to force into using non-disposable blades for shaving – they will all be cutting their own throats. Better still, we encourage inexpert EU commissioners to try their hands, and make sure there are plenty of distractions.


Saturday, August 30, 2008


Suckered by what very much appears to be a "plant" by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), two British newspapers have visited the "drowning polar bears" story today. In so doing they exhibit a gullibility that, in more serious times, would render them laughing stocks.

First out of the traps is The Daily Telegraph, with an online story headed, "Nine polar bears at risk of drowning in global warming meltdown" accompanied by the picture shown (above left).

Although the story in the print edition is heavily truncated, both it and the online version tells us that, "Nine polar bears are at risk of drowning after the ice floe where they lived melted because of global warming, scientists have said."

The bears, we are then told in the online version, were spotted in open ocean off the northwest coast of Alaska, miles from their normal hunting area by US government oil survey scientists flying over the Chukchi sea.

Continuing the drama, we then get: "Although land was initially only 60 miles away from the bears' former home, they were driven north by their homing instinct towards the edge of the Arctic ice shelf. Polar bears are renowned as strong swimmers but the 'lost' bears now face an epic 400-mile swim back to shore."

In The Daily Mail, of course, we get an even more lurid account, the paper relying on the same photograph to paint a picture of utter desperation. "Struggling against the waves, this polar bear faces almost certain death after becoming lost at sea in the Arctic," intones the paper, adding:

It is one of a group of nine to have plunged into the ocean after the ice float they lived on melted. The bears were spotted miles from their normal hunting ground by U.S. government oil survey scientists flying over Alaska's Chukchi Sea. They said the creatures' homing instinct has sent them north towards the edge of the polar cap instead of 60 miles south towards the nearest land.
And, to the picture it appends the caption: "Scientists found this polar bear swimming in Alaska's Chukchi Sea and fear it and eight others will drown in an impossible 400 mile swim back to shore."

What immediately comes over is the present tense: "Nine polar bears are at risk …" with thus no clue to the reader that the incidents on which this story is loosely based actually happened on 16 August – two weeks ago. If the bears had been at serious risk of drowning, they by now they would be dead – it would all be over.

The second remarkable point is the reference to the melting ice flow on which these polar bears reputedly lived. This is pure, unadulterated fiction. As readers will recall – borne out from the original report -observers spotted the bears already in the water. Furthermore, there are no indications that the nine (or ten) bears was one specific group. Not least, the count was made over two separate flights.

What settles the issue though is the word of the project director Janet Clark – absent from the Mail and Telegraph reports. Many were swimming north and ranged from 15 to 65 miles off shore, she reports, but the animals' origin and destination could not be known without radio collar monitoring. "To go out there and say they were going from this point to this point would be complete speculation," she confirms.

We can also recall Susanne Miller - the biologist in charge of the polar bear project for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service – saying that eight of the ten bears spotted had been within 15 miles of shore. One had been 35 miles from shore and another one 50, but neither was more than 20 miles from the nearest arctic ice.

In other words, the account offered, with lurid visions of drowning polar bears is complete and utter tosh – based on two chance sightings which have then been embellished far beyond anything that can be supported by the original information.

What gives the game away though are the multiple references in both newspapers to the WWF, with the Mail even attributing the polar bear photograph to Geoff York, the "polar bear coordinator for WWF's Arctic Programme". We also get Margaret Williams, Director of WWF's Alaska office, bleating that, "The Arctic is a vast ocean and to find nine bears swimming in one area is extremely worrying because it means that dozens more are probably in the same predicament."

She adds that animal groups were considering asking the US government to send a Coast Guard ship, like a modern Noah's ark, to rescue some of the bears.

It is no coincidence that the WWF is running a high profile fund-raising campaign to milk public concern over polar bears, asking donors to commit £2.50 a month to "help us (WWF) save the polar bear and its home from the effects of climate change and pollution."

Clearly, this naked "greenspin" has its effect. With 27 comments on The Daily Mail site, almost all express varying degrees of shock and concern, some offering donations to help save these unfortunate creatures. It is not only the papers which are gullible, but the readers as well.

However, the Mail actively censors moderates its comments, so it would not allow a comment from this blogger pointing out that the story was already two weeks old, the claims unsupported by the evidence.

That moves the issue from simple gullibility to active conspiracy to mislead. The story is deeply flawed and The Mail, at least, knows it. But, while the media is always very quick to criticise others, it never shows any enthusiasm for correcting its own errors – especially if in so doing it has to contradict its own narratives.

In the meantime, the treatment of this story demonstrates yet again that the media cannot be trusted to report accurately or objectively, especially on "green" issues. But then we knew that already. What is worrying is the number of people who still do believe what they read.


United in [in]action

Deutsche Welle is telling us that an emergency EU meeting Monday in Brussels on how to respond to Russia's recognition of the Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia "could be instrumental in confirming the EU as a force for peace."

If this is supposed to be an example of serious journalism, one can only stand back and wonder. On the one hand, the EU has no military forces at its disposal and cannot intervene physically in the region. It is thus totally reliant on its "soft power".

On the other hand, though the good offices of France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, we learn that the EU has ruled out sanctions against Russia.

We also know why the EU will not take any firm action in this respect. Whether an inspired leak or not, the threat of Russia withholding gas or oil supplies to Europe (or even both) has the euros paralysed. They cannot risk even the briefest of interruptions.

Thus, one has to ask, what is the purpose of this fabulous "emergency summit"? Well, the clue also comes from Angela Merkel who is saying that she believes it is important for Monday's summit to send "a clear political signal of the European Union's unity" on the crisis.

If that then is the game, Deutsche Welle notes that the "opportunity" is mined with potential pitfalls and risks. The potential for disagreement, it says, is enormous. In one corner are Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the countries most dependent on Russian gas supplies – who will, we are told, be demanding "radical" action.

In the checkerboard of influence and interests, Polish prime minister Donald Tusk can be relied on to toe the EU line, but president Lech Kaczynski has said that the Polish and Baltic stance at the summit "won't be completely radical, but radical enough."

Then there is Czech president Vaclav Klaus will be accompanying Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to Brussels. Both men have widely diverging opinions on the issue and it is not clear which of these leaders will speak for his country.

Where the UK stands is anyone's guess, Italy is expected to side with France and Germany, along with Spain, which does not want to go further than sending a firm message to Russia. With Greece also relying on Russia for 82 percent of its natural gas and 29 percent of its oil, it too does not want to rock the boat

Thus, with no real unity on offer, according to Voice of America, analysts expect that, "for the sake of [a show of] EU unity, summit members will use strong language, but will forego tough measures."

One thing they might do is appoint a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire is observed and, if Moscow does not fully implement the six-point agreement brokered by Sarkozy, a French official has said that European relations with Russia will be "under observation."

If it is action you want, then look to Turkey. Without much fanfare, it is preparing to host the foreign ministers of Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for separate talks on the ongoing crisis in the Caucasus, all with a view to setting up what it describes as "Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform".

By contrast, what we are seeing from the EU is the usual display of institutional impotence, dressed up in fine language but devoid of action. Very soon we will have seriously to consider revising the EU's motto. From "united in diversity", it should become "united in inaction" – the only thing the "colleagues" can agree on.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Jumping the gun?

Looks like we (meaning I, of course) jumped the gun on the ice melt, picking up a flattening of the curve and extrapolating it into my own brand of wishful thinking. With a little more practice, I will make a fully-fledged warmist, ready and willing to attest that the world is about to come to an end – unless you pay me a zillion dollars for a bunch of carbon credits, that is.

Anyhow, the latest Cryosphere Today graph does not, on the face of it, support my earlier claim that the melt has stopped.

The difference between this year and last is helpfully shown by the Christian Science Monitor (see pic above - click to enlarge) and more can be got from NSIDC and, of course, Climate Audit.

The comments here are particularly interesting, especially the discussion about whether we are currently seeing melting or compaction. Then, there is always this, which seems to argue that ice changes cannot necessarily be attributed to global warming.

Needless to say, Richard Black of the BBC is positively drooling over the news that, "Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began," and he is by no means the only one, many being quick to claim that the Arctic is now at a climatic "tipping point".

One antidote is Andrew Bolt, who is always entertaining, and it is time, once again, to revisit this, courtesy of Watts up with that.

Has climate data ever been so exciting?


That budget

Chris Heaton-Harris and his gifted staff have carried out a preliminary analysis of the EU budget, with a report on Conservative Home.

Amongst other things, he laments his inability to change any of the details, which rather underlines the point that, individually - and even as a national caucus - MEPs are essentially powerless. Making that point, however, is entirely valid.

The more people realise that our job is merely to sign the cheques, the better. One day - perhaps - we might get to a situation where people get fed up with feeding the appetite of the "colleagues" for more and more of our cash.


The wind of change

Although the media world-wide are besotted with the Obama drama, more sanguine commentators are pointing out that this is indeed theatre, with very little depth. Before too long, insistent voices are going to be heard, asking, "where's the beef?"

But, while heads are turned, things are happening elsewhere, of much greater importance to the lives of real people. Inevitably, they are unnoticed by the media which is transfixed by the histérie du jour as much as any rabbit caught in the glare of a speeding car's headlights.

In fact, on the back of Hutton's statement yesterday, we are seeing another event unfold which signal, in policy terms, could signal the equivalent of tectonic plates moving.

That "event", retailed by Reuters yesterday was the emergence of a document from the EU parliament industry committee which suggested amendments to alter the flagship Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) so it has less impact on energy-intensive industries such as steel.

Additionally, while the "colleagues" up-front are pushing to go beyond the current plan to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020, planning to increase the cut to 30 percent if countries such as China and the United States can be conned into joining the suicide pact, the industry committee is also considering an amendment that would demand a full impact assessment before any further cuts - effectively blocking the ratchet.

Amazingly, drifting out from the parliament are statements which sound suspiciously like sense, with Swedish liberal MEP Lena Ek saying, "I think we should bring the latest science into any decision," while Welsh socialist MEP Eluned Morgan is saying, "However ambitious we are with climate legislation, we can't make European companies uncompetitive in the global market, particularly high energy users.”

This may only be a straw in the wind but to get this sort of heresy from the EU parliament is not far different, in magnitude, to the Pope suddenly denying the existence of God. And, predictably, it has the greenies squeaking in rage, with WWF campaigner Kirsty Clough declaring that, "This could potentially fatally undermine an automatic move to a 30 percent cut in emissions…".

Other events are also afoot, such as signals from the UK government that it is planning to go full-steam ahead with a nuclear programme, trampling roughshod over the sensibilities of the greenies, with some other indications that the apparent enthusiasm for subsidy wind farms is not quite all it seems (of which more later).

Against the broader noise level of climate change hysteria, these signals are all but swamped, and their meanings may be being afforded an over-optimistic interpretation. But there is definitely a sense that the greenies are getting more and more strident, which may indicate that they at least are seeing the writing on the wall.

However, since optimism is one of the few things which the government has not yet got round to taxing or banning, we can at least speculate that with a bit of luck squashing greenies may become a new spectator sport, one which even our governments start to enjoy.


What do they hope to achieve?

In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal Bret Stephens's column argued something we have been saying on this blog for a long time: Russia’s flaying about and bullying neighbouring smaller and weaker countries are not a sign of strength, no matter what most of the media repeats ad nauseam; it is a sign of weakness.

Putin, supposedly the strong man of Russia and of the whole Eurasian sphere, has demonstrated his and his government's weakness on a number of occasions, in the international and, more importantly, the domestic arena.

Continued on EU Referendum 2.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It takes a crisis

About ten years ago I was privileged (if that is the right expression) to lead a discussion at the Centre for Policy Studies on the subject of British foreign policy – do we have one in the light of the developing EU common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and can we actually define what it ought to be. I have an odd suspicion that it was before the watershed of 1997, that is, under the last Conservative government. Otherwise, the CPS would not have been thinking about developing policies. So, let us say, 1996.

The crisis that the EU could not cope with was the disintegration of Yugoslavia that had been going on since 1989 and had been made worse by the posturing of various West European politicians. (I wasn’t going to mention Douglas Hurd and his letter about level killing fields but find that I cannot resist the temptation.)

Since then both my colleague and I have written many tens of thousands of words on the subject of the EU's common foreign policy as weary readers of this blog know. To sum up, the structures and institutions of the CFSP have been developing, treaty by treaty, Council by Council with cheerleaders like the Centre for European Reform's director Charles Grant telling us that Europe must play a stronger role in the world and can do so only by speaking with one voice. I have never had an answer to the question "what will the Single European Voice say".

This has been the problem all along as we, on this blog, have grown tired of pointing out: there is no common interest among the 27 member states so there can be no common foreign policy. But if the EU is to turn itself into a more or less functioning state, it has to have a foreign policy. Each time we go round this argument we reach an impasse that becomes particularly obvious whenever there is a crisis.

Well, here we are in another crisis that involves Russia, Georgia, other former Soviet colonies and a spectacularly inept performance by the EU. The old structures, NATO, G7 and individual countries are beginning to reassert themselves and Britain has, amazingly enough, made it clear that it is siding against Russia's aggressive intent to reconstruct the Soviet geopolitical sphere. Well, the Foreign Secretary has made it clear as has the Leader of the Opposition. There has been little from the Prime Minister and the Shadow Foreign Secretary but one cannot have everything.

Mirabile dictu, at least one journalist, Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph, to be precise, has noticed an interesting thing. Britain, he has discovered, has no foreign policy beyond becoming more involved with the EU's CFSP and, as a consequence, farming out what is left of that policy. Well, well, well. How long did it take Mr Martin to discover this? And why does he need to dilute his discussion of a very important topic with the inevitable speculation about David Miliband's plans to become Leader of the Labour Party either before or after the next election?

In fact, what is the point of spending quite so much time on lambasting Gordon Brown (a sport that is akin to shooting fish in a barrel) instead of analyzing how the country has reached this particular stage?

Of course, Mr Martin might have to acknowledge that this is not a problem created by the Labour government but one that has been in the background since the beginning of the European project and has been definitely developing since the Maastricht Treaty whose Title J first spoke of a common foreign and security policy, though in very general terms, and an intention would be to formulate a common defence policy.

Since then the idea has been gaining ground steadily and as steadily has the notion of an independent British foreign policy been disappearing from the public debate. Tony Blair would not have had as many problems with the war in Iraq if he had argued the need for it on the basis of British interests and British foreign policy but being a true supporter of European integration and of transnational thinking he could not bring himself to do that.

The world, Iain Martin thinks, is a scary place and the response to that should be a development of where Britain's interests lie, this being an alliance with the United States though not a close subservience to it, rather than a drowning in the European project and an acceptance of Franco-German ideas as being the right ones to follow. Mr Martin has noticed, apparently, that neither France nor Germany have been particularly alert on the subject of Russia and her aggressiveness. But then, neither has our own Foreign Office. Come to think of it, our media has been remarkably quiescent on the subject of British foreign policy and what it should be.

Still, we must cease worrying. Iain Martin is not alone in noting this peculiar development. Daniel Hannan has also written about it on his blog. As I said, it takes a crisis …

Beyond parody

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's big speech tonight will be delivered from an elaborate stage resembling a miniature Greek temple. The stage, similar to structures used for rock concerts, has been set up at the 50-yard-line, the midpoint of Invesco Field, the stadium where the Denver Broncos' National Football League team plays.

Some 80,000 supporters will see Obama rise up appear from between plywood columns painted off-white, reminiscent of a Holy Shrine Washington's Capitol building or even the White House, to accept the party's nomination for God president.

He will stride out to a raised platform to a podium that can be raised from beneath the floor to the singing of a heavenly choir. Courtesy of Cartago Delenda Est, we have a preview of his costume.



Readers may have noticed that we have been "banging on" a little about energy issues. The reasons, however, are obvious. Not only does the national interest in this area put us in direct conflict with the "colleagues" in Brussels, we could also say, "Energy security is fundamental to our existence as an independent, democratic, free state."

In fact, we do not need to say that. It has been said for us by none other than John Hutton, the Business Secretary – responsible for energy – in an interview in The Daily Telegraph this morning.

Needless to say, this paper picks the wrong point for its headline, majoring on Hutton's "admission" that the "era of cheap energy is over" – as if this was something we did not know.

Far, far more important is his recognition of the role of energy in our society. This we have actually said before. Basically, it is the foremost of all issues for, without a reliable energy supply – and in particular electricity – society as we know it simply ceases to be.

Just as profound – and something which should have been the headline - is Hutton's startling assertion that Britain's ability to generate its own energy needs to be above climate change in Government's priorities.

This is absolutely stunning. It is a complete reversal of current government policy and, if it holds, puts Britain at odds with the "colleagues" who hold climate change as the Holy Grail of all policies, to which energy is a very poor second.

This is the sort of thing that we would wish a Tory spokesman had said, recognising that, when the lights go out and we are chipping the ice off the windows – in September – the "saving the planet" message will not play too well with us ignorant peasants.

As it is, we wait to hear what the Tories actually think – if anything. But to have a Secretary of State finally articulate that which had to be said and to start the process of retreating from the greenie agenda – which indeed he appears to have done – can only be considered welcome.

It is, in a sense, a vindication of our stance on this blog. We hold no truck for the greenie agenda – as you might have noticed. And so important is it that its destructive creed is nailed into the ground that, until and unless the Tories follow suit, they are going to have difficulty convincing thinking people that they are fit to govern.

That is also a big story. Hutton has laid down a challenge to the Tories. Now, even if they are found wanting in the leadership stakes, simple followership would be enough. Silence is not an option.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The £6 billion rip-off

In sleepy rural North Shropshire, a battle is being played out which represents the cutting edge of resistance to the growing insanity of this government's energy policy.

As part of the EU's plan to generate 20 percent of the UK's electricity using renewables, seven giant 340 ft, 2MW wind turbines are being planned on a remote corner of the district, known as Lower Farm, Bearstone, attracting objections from 2,333 residents and businesses, six Parish Councils, two MPs and the neighbouring Borough Council.

Yet, despite only five letters in support of the wind turbines, being developed on behalf of Nuon Electricity, the local planning officer has recommended its approval, citing the over-riding need to meet national quotas for renewable energy.

What is particularly shocking about the whole affair, however, is that the local plan permits approval of developments only if they "make a positive contribution to the economic health of the community" yet, through the good offices of local MP Owen Paterson, it has emerged that this is anything but the case.

Not only will the local residents have to pay top dollar for the electricity produced, through the government's incentive scheme to encourage building wind farms – known as the Renewable Obligations Certificate – they will have to pay twice over. The total sum amounts to a colossal £43 million over the life of the project.

This is worked out of the basis of ROCs being paid out at the rate of £53 per MWh of electricity produced, which is added to consumers' electricity bills. The turbines will produce an estimated 32,377 MWh a year, producing a subsidy of £1,715,981 for each of the 25 years the permission to operate lasts, totalling just under the £43 million.

Why this should be a wake-up call for the rest of the nation is that this illustrates the huge scale of the hidden incentives involved. Energy companies are not so much building wind as subsidy farms, such is the bonanza to be grabbed.

By 2020, the government hopes to have 25 GW capacity in offshore wind farms – attracting 1.5 times the standard ROC, on top of 14 GW of onshore capacity. With ROCs paid out at a rate of £53 per MWh, the total annual sum for British electricity consumers will amount to a staggering £6 billion – a total of £155 billion paid to wind subsidy farmers over the expected life-times of the projects (equivalant to the cost of building over 50 nuclear power plants).

Given that the entire electricity market at 2008 prices is somewhat less that £24 billion, the effect of reaching the EU's target on wind energy would be equivalent to adding 25 percent or more to the price of domestic electricity – on top of which consumers will also have to fund the building of power stations to produce electricity when the wind is not blowing, as well as an estimated £10 billion for extensions to the National Grid to enable the turbines to be connected.

Few people at the moment realise quite what is at stake, as the ROC "contribution" is not identified on consumer bills and is currently less than £400 million a year. But, as each mast is erected to disfigure the countryside, the costs will ratchet up until we are all paying this incredible sum of £6 billion a year for the privilege.

And, such is the grip of the greenie monster that is driving this insanity, even when people have expressed a clear rejection of a development, the officials plan to go ahead regardless. And to think we once lived in a democracy.


The propaganda marches on

There was much twittering in the warmist dovecotes yesterday, typified by a piece in the (not) Science Daily which reported breathlessly that an aerial survey by government scientists in Alaska's Chukchi Sea had "recently found at least nine polar bears swimming in open water – with one at least 60 miles from shore". This, inevitably, was cited as "raising concern among wildlife experts about their survival."

Thus we had Geoff York, the "polar bear coordinator for WWF's Arctic Programme," (I wonder if polar bears appreciate being "coordinated") saying that "when polar bears swim so far from land, they could have difficulty making it safely to shore and are at risk of drowning, particularly if a storm arises."

Continuing in doom-laden terms, he adds: "To find so many polar bears at sea at one time is extremely worrisome because it could be an indication that as the sea ice on which they live and hunt continues to melt, many more bears may be out there facing similar risk."

Needless to say, no reference to polar bears would be complete without the statutory reference to "climate change" and York does not disappoint. "As climate change continues to dramatically disrupt the Arctic, polar bears and their cubs are being forced to swim longer distances to find food and habitat," he says.

Then we get the theology:

The bottom line here is that polar bears need sea ice, sea ice is decaying, and the bears are in very serious trouble. For any people who are still non-believers in global warming and the impacts it is having in the Arctic, this should answer their doubts once and for all.
However, a slightly (I do say slightly) more balanced version of the same story appears in the New York Times. This has Susanne Miller - the biologist in charge of the polar bear project for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service – saying that eight of the ten bears spotted had been within 15 miles of shore. One had been 35 miles from shore and another one 50, but neither was more than 20 miles from the nearest arctic ice. The story then records Ms. Miller saying:

It's not unusual for bears to be swimming, but depending on their condition and how much time they're spending in the water, this could be problematic. It's going to cost them more energy to swim through water than travel on land.
In addition, Miller tells us, more bears have been sighted on land in July and August than in the past — a possible result of the retreating of the sea ice. "But it's not a clear-cut situation," she says, noting that most bears captured this spring on the ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas have been in good condition. So have several bears caught on land.

That sort of rather puts a different complexion on the whole story, and especially when one reads an article from August 2005 which announced that scientists had tracked a tagged polar bear swimming "at least 74 kilometres in just one day - and maybe up to 100 kilometres". This, went the story, provided "the first conclusive proof the bears can cover such giant distances in the water."

What comes over from this is how little in fact we know of the behaviour of polar bears and how recent what knowledge we have actually is. Effectively, up until three years ago, we had no evidence that polar bears were accomplished long-distance swimmers.

So startling was the discovery that, at the time, Jon Aars, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said that it showed that polar bears could in many ways be classified as marine mammals - a group including whales and dolphins.

Should they in fact be "marine mammals", it is hardly surprising that, this year, one should be seen 35 miles from shore and another one 50, "but neither … more than 20 miles from the nearest arctic ice."

But what is particularly offensive about this current story comes from the tail end of the NYT piece which reports that the biologists made the new sightings from an aircraft on two flights on 16 August at an altitude of 1,200 feet, telling us that the survey was "looking for bowhead whales in an area of the Chukchi Sea".

In other words, the swimming bears were chance sightings in a remote region of the world, about which there is little information, rather than observations within a strictly controlled, structured survey where results could be fitted into a larger context.

Conclusions from such random sightings are meaningless. The events were mere curiosities which support none of profound, doom-laden analysis offered by Geoff York.

Needless to say, none of the many papers reporting this story – some at great length – bother to note that the ice meltback in the Arctic has stopped, perhaps a month earlier than might have been expected, and that the ice is back on the march. That does not fit the narrative, one that has only a passing acquaintance with news and which has everything to do with greenie propaganda.


There is no hope

In the dim mists of days bygone, one used to read the leaders of the great broadsheets and nod in appreciation of their sagacity and wisdom, confident that, whatever else was wrong with the world, at least here were a group of writers that knew what they were talking about.

And yes, I know, this probably harps back to a time that never existed and I am looking back through rose-tinted mists to an era that fits alongside Bobbies who you could trust, red Routemasters that you could hop on and off, trains that ran on time … er …

All the same, just when you think the standards of our modern leader-writers could not get worse, they get worse – witness the utterly fatuous leader in The Daily Telegraph today (where else?) on Home Information Packs.

Headed, "High time to scrap Hips", the importunate writer intones that Hips have come to symbolise much that is wrong with this Government, going on to tell us that they were originally supposed to include a home-condition report but:

When it became apparent that buyers would not rely upon a survey produced by the vendor, the Government sought to give the scheme a spurious veneer of environmental legitimacy by insisting they contain information about energy-efficiency levels. Inevitably, those opposed to Hips are now denounced for being "anti-green".
As a certain Lady said, though: "No! No! No!"

The information about "energy-efficiency levels" – as everybody seems to know except this leader-writer - comes to us courtesy of Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002 on the energy performance of buildings.

This was noted, amongst others by Christopher Booker, many times, not least in The Daily Mail last August when he wrote:

Last week, yet again, there were front-page headlines over the ongoing farce of Home Improvement Packs. Almost every housing expert in the land wants to see them scrapped.

But how often do ministers honestly admit to us that the reason they cannot abolish HIPs is because we must comply with an EU directive requiring all homes sold to have an "energy performance certificate" (an edict issued by Brussels five years ago to fight "global warming")?
Completely unconscious of the reality of our new government in Brussels, this airhead leader-writer then prattles on about, "A law that cannot be enforced is a bad law," noting that a joint report from the National Association of Estate Agents, the Law Society and the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors has called for fundamental changes to Hips. "Far better in our view," then says our leader-writer, "would be to get rid of them."

Far better, we might add, if we had leader writers who knew what they were talking about, but then that is probably asking too much.


A nightmare comes true?

If there ever was received wisdom after the famous Irish "no" vote, it is that the "colleagues" – if they were to have another referendum – would want it before next year's euro-elections. They would be at pains, it was held, to avoid the contest becoming an unofficial, Europe-wide referendum on the constitutional Lisbon treaty.

Now, it seems – at least according to the Financial Times - that the colleagues' worst nightmare is about to come true.

This paper is reporting that the prospects of Ireland holding a second referendum on the treaty before the elections "are receding as differences emerged on Tuesday between parties supporting a 'yes' vote."

This stems from weekend comments by Dick Roche, Ireland's European affairs minister, who proclaimed that a second vote was "appropriate". But both the Greens, members of the Fianna Fáil-led coalition, and the conservative Fine Gael and Labour, the main opposition parties, ruled out the possibility of putting the question back to the people in the short term.

Until this week, says the FT the expectation was that the Irish would put the question, perhaps with a few political protocols attached to reflect Irish concerns, to a second vote. But Irish officials and some diplomats privately concede that it is more likely any second vote will now take place in late 2009.

This may give Declan Ganley, chairman of the "no" group Libertas, the opening he needs to set up his EU-wide political party to take on the treaty – a prospect trailed last July.

More recently, Ganley has been very quiet. He was due to speak at last weekend's summer school but he pulled out at the last minute, pleading "urgent commitments in the US", leaving Fine Gael Senator Eugene Regan to declaim him as "running scared".

If Ganley is not ready to step up to the plate, the prospect of an unofficial referendum in the UK certainly presents UKIP with an opportunity. It could galvanise the euro-elections, especially if the Tory party tries to fight on domestic issues and is unable or unwilling to clarify its position regarding the constitutional Lisbon treaty when or if it gets into power.

In what could be its saviour, UKIP's only nightmare would be Ganley coming up with some serious money and fielding a full slate in opposition to the UK's premier eurosceptic party.

There is, though, the outside chance that the Tories could get their act together and give UKIP a run for their money. On past performance though, their message will not convince enough voters to make the switch in a contest which is now regarded as UKIP's natural hunting ground.

The chance of registering disapproval of the constitutional Lisbon treaty may be so attractive that the electorate will be prepared to resist Tory invitations to make the contest a two-way joust between Conservatives and Labour, in a rehearsal for the electorally mandated reshuffle general election slated to take place the following year.

Time will tell, of course – it always does.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Great Freeze begins

The summer meltback in the Arctic has ended and the ice is on the march, confounding the alarmists who were predicting in June that the Pole would be ice-free this year. Currently, the ice area is some 600,000 square kilometres greater than it was at its minimum extent last year.

According to Cryosphere Today, the median (1979-present) annual sea ice minimum occurs on September 8, but the dates have ranged by nearly a month from as early as August 26 to as late as September 24.

This current minimum seems to put the end of the meltback into the early end of the range, adding to the anecdotal evidence that we are in for an early (and hard) winter.

Meanwhile, the constant flow of "climate change" stories continue unabated in the media, demonstrating nothing more or less than the inescapable fact that the MSM on this issue – as well as many others – is way behind the curve.

And, of course, the tranzies are in full flow with their UN climate talks in Accra, Ghana aimed at "defining the building blocks of a new UN global warming pact" meant to be agreed in Copenhagen by the end of 2009. This Accra meeting is the third session this year, working towards a plan to agree a broad new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

By the time they have finished, we should be in the throes of a recognisable cooling cycle, the leading edge of which is now becoming apparent. But, with the bulk of legislators looking the other way, aided and abetted by their tranzie fellow travellers, there is no sign at all that they will be prepared for what is about to hit the world.

Central to the problems that will arise is the myth that "global warming" is harmful. In fact, higher temperatures give us longer growing seasons, greater agricultural productivity and reduced energy consumption. We have, in effect, been enjoying for the last few decades a "global warming dividend", which is now going to evaporate as fast as did the "Cold War dividend" – and the politicos are going to be just as unprepared.

That, in fact, is the real nightmare. The human species has an infinite capacity to adapt to climatic changes but when global policies are directed – as they so often are – at addressing the wrong problem, the consequences are very difficult to deal with.

As always, therefore, Mother Nature is not the real problem. It is the more prosaic and infinitely more dangerous problem of bad governance which has its own infinite capacity – to make a bad situation worse.


A dose of reality?

click here to go to the blogConsidering the speed and severity with which he took Gordon Brown to task on his blog last June for the heinous "crime" of referring to the "Second Parachute Regiment", you would think that Sean Rayment would take special care to ensure the accuracy of his own work. However, in a largely sympathetic piece ...

Posted on Defence of the Realm

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beyond the capability of mere mortals

The capacity for the great and the good of the tranzie world to get together and blather – usually at our expense – seems unending.

One of their latest gab-fests is "World Water Week", celebrated by the egregious Euractiv. It publishes an article which has scientists and experts from around the world warning that "global food wastage must be halved by 2025 to meet the challenges of feeding the rapidly-growing population and preserving global water supplies."

The event was also reported by AFP two days ago, not that I noticed, and it seems to have been ignored completely by the MSM. However, that report did usefully remind us that "as much as half the water used to grow food world-wide is lost due to waste," since "roughly fifty percent of the food that farmers grow is lost or wasted."

The outcome of the deliberations was that, "Weak policy, poor management, increasing waste and exploding water demands are pushing the planet towards the tipping point of global water crisis," with the meeting calling on governments "to place an effective water-saving strategy, requiring that food wastage be minimised, firmly on the political agenda."

All good stuff, of course, but what is missing entirely is a recognition that current policy initiatives, such as the EU's pesticide directive are set to make the situation immeasurably worse.

Despite this, the emphasis on waste is no bad thing. Far too often, the bulk of effort is directed at increasing production, heedless of the fact that, globally, half of that which is produced is then lost. Without devoting any more acreage to food production, the amount of produce that could be brought to market could be doubled if more attention was paid to disease and pest control, better storage and better distribution.

As much attention, though, needs to be given to perverse policy initiatives - for which the EU is justly famous - which actually create more problems than they solve. But then resolving these would require forcing the EU to act rationally, which is probably beyond the capability of mere mortals. Solving the world food crisis – or any other crisis for that matter – is child's play by comparison.


A perfect storm

One of the (many) stories sitting on my files to do was an article picked up from the front page of The Yorkshire Post on Saturday, developing our own report last Thursday on the dire state of the UK wheat harvest.

Coincidentally, the story was picked up yesterday by the Mail on Sunday and thence by Watts up with that.

This invaluable blog, quite rightly, got excited by the headline to the Mail which proclaimed, "Awful August has delayed this year's harvest but global warming is not to blame" – a distinct contrast to The Daily Telegraph piece in early July which did indeed seek to pin the wet weather on global warming.

But, while we can rejoice in sense returning to at least one newspaper, behind both the stories of a bad harvest lies a disturbing picture that could have serious consequences for British arable farming – and thus the rest of us – amounting almost to a perfect storm.

The particular problem, as we pointed out in our last piece, is not so much quantity but quality, especially with the wheat crop which has deteriorated severely as a result of the bad weather.

As The Yorkshire Post reports, this means that much of the crop will be fit only for animal feed. Yorkshire farmers alone could take a "hit" of £10 million as their produce is downgraded.

If that gives temporary relief to hard-pressed livestock farmers, who have seen feed prices escalate to record levels, it is bad news for consumers as high protein wheat for bread-making will have to be imported in some quantity, at a premium of £20 per metric ton.

However, the problem for farmers may be even worse than the headlines suggest, as events elsewhere in the world take shape. Here, the situation in the Ukraine is of special interest. The region, on the one hand has enjoyed a record harvest, up to 43 million tons from 29.3 million last year, with expectations of exporting a surplus of 17.5 million tons during the coming year. On the other hand, the crop has suffered what is described as "insect-related" problems, which is forcing about 70 percent of it to be used for animal feed.

This surplus on the world market is expected to drive down prices of feed wheat, creating an abysmal situation for British farmers. At a time when input costs – from diesel and fertiliser to labour – are all rising, they are now reconciled to prices which are unlikely to cover the costs of producing the harvest.

Small wonder, the YP is retailing sentiment from farmers that many of them will drop out of wheat next season. Some experts are saying this could lead to a shortage next year.

It is here, of course, that an agricultural support system could make the difference. Where prices have been driven below the cost of production, there is a classic role for farming subsidies, if for no other reason than to ensure the availability of supplies in the following season and to take the edge of shortage-induced price increases.

However, now that the EU – which has sole competence over our agriculture policy – has opted out of production support and is looking to cut subsidies over the next budgetary period, farmers are on their own. They are looking at reduced prices, increased costs and less state support.

Perversely, the cut in support will not filter back into reduced EU contributions or lower taxes as the EU has siphoned off some of the subsidies to pay for its vanity project, the Galileo satellite navigation system, while it is also proposing to hand upwards of $1 billion to developing countries to promote farming there – reducing, incidentally, export opportunities for British farmers.

The net result of all this is that British consumers will still be paying huge sums for an agricultural support system, but one that no longer functions, while also paying inflated costs for their bread and other wheat-containing foods, costs which are set to go up even further next year.

Somehow, this is not quite what either farmers or consumers expected when we first joined the EEC but, as the implications of yet another failed policy sink in, one wonders whether the farmers will finally see the light and round against the EU, which is now doing nothing but add to their woes.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Not only coal

As the celebrations over the success of "team GB" intensify, Michael Sheriden of The Sunday Times gives us another insight into the dark side of the Chinese Olympic "experience".

Thousands of farmers, he writes, face ruin because their water has been cut off to guarantee supplies to the Olympics in Beijing, and officials are now trying to cover up a grotesque scandal of blunders, lies and repression.

Thus, while in the capital, foreign dignitaries have gushed over the millions of flowers in bloom and lush, well-watered greens around its famous sights, just 90 minutes south by train, peasants are hacking at the dry earth as their crops wilt, their money runs out and the work of generations gives way to despair, debt and, in a few cases, suicide.

This entirely man-made (or Chinese government-made) disaster is affecting about 31,000 people around Baoding, a city to the south of the capital. Many are said to have lost their homes or land.

In fact, Sheriden is late to the story. We reported in May that areas were being deprived of water to feed the Olympics. But the news agency Reuters was even further ahead of the game, running the story in January. It can still be found archived on The Daily Star (Kuwait edition) website.

Then the agency reported that "dusty villages far from China's capital are paying their own price for the government's plan to stage a postcardـperfect Olympic Games, enduring shrunken crops, drained wells and contention over lost land and homes."

China, at that time, was rushing to finish canals to pump 300 million cubic metres of "emergency" water to Beijing for its "green" Games, ensuring a lush, sparkling host city would greet the world in August. Works included 300 miles of channels (pictured) and pipes cut into Hebei province, to take water from farming country already beset by drought and environmental strains.

Thus, as we noted earlier, Chinese provinces are not only going short of coal and electricity - to say nothing of food – to feed the Olympics (something picked up by American Thinker after Obama's facile comments) but water as well.

Therefore, for those who believe that China has put on such a wonderful display, there are probably at least 30,000 Chinese who think otherwise – not that they matter when it comes to the huge ambitions of the IOC and its fellow travellers.

But for those who also believe that China is a great and growing economic power, the fact that it decided to deprive its own hinterland of water in order to stage the Games says something about its fragility. A nation that cannot even keep both its farmers and its swimming pools supplied with water is not one in which there can be any great long-term confidence.


Joining up the dots …

Of all the terrible things happening in this world, it would be easy to forgive the view that the slow-motion disaster of our waste policy was one of the least important.

However, in the grown up world, there are connections between different policies, not least in terms of the expenditure implications. And where – as is the case – the massive cost of this disaster is draining wealth from the productive economy and adding to the burden of taxation, that has all sorts of implications for expenditure elsewhere.

To put it bluntly – and at its most simplistic – if we are spending billions unnecessarily on waste disposal, which indeed we are, then that money cannot be used to buy more armoured vehicles for our troops in Afghanistan, more day care for elderly people or drugs to treat cancer patients. The money can only be spent once.

So it is that what is happening to Britain's waste is important, something we pointed up in our piece in January 2006 and many times since in the forlorn but continued hope that somewhere, grown-up politicians might take up the issue and actually do something about it.

Traditionally, those grown-up politicians are mostly found in the House of Lords, in theory a repository of wisdom and common sense, where issues of the day are dissected and examined, from which sensible solutions are proposed. But no more.

If there was ever a good example of the decay in the fabric of our body politic, it is, as Booker points out today in his column, last week's report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on Waste Reduction.

There was a time, writes Booker, when, if a Lords committee had been asked to investigate a massive policy failure, a scandal which continues to make daily headlines in the press, it might have made some effort to ask why things had gone so horrendously wrong. But, he says, when twelve peers last week reported on the shambles engulfing the way that Britain disposes of its rubbish, the result was 127 pages of such anodyne verbiage that no one ploughing through it would have any idea that we have a national crisis on our hands.

However, in the comments to his piece on the Telegraph website, Booker is taken to task for making such a broad-brush criticisms when the report ostensibly confines itself to one aspect of the waste policy, namely "waste reduction". But that the inquiry and report have been so tightly framed itself tells a story.

The point, of course, is that their Lordships themselves decide the scope of their own inquiries and, in this event, have focused on one small part of the issue without dealing with the larger problem.

But, from any reading of their report, what immediately becomes apparent is that many of the problems they isolate derive from the framing of the waste policy as a whole. They are a consequence of the broader policy and cannot be addressed without reviewing that policy. In that context, their Lordships are fiddling while Rome burns.

Specifically in terms of their inquiry, industry witnesses constantly refer to the tightness of the definition of waste within the meaning of the EU's waste framework directive. This means that millions of tons of materials which industry could rightly consider as by-products or raw materials becomes defined as waste. By this means – effectively by bureaucratic diktat these materials enter the waste stream, when any more rational policy would have excluded them.

A classic example it the treatment of pulverised fuel ash – the residue from coal burning in our power stations. Some 8 million tons of this is produced each year and it is widely used as a partial cement substitute in the manufacture of breeze blocks, with many other applications in the construction industry.

Yet, despite such uses – a fine example of one industry's waste becoming the raw material for another – it is caught in the EU's definition of waste, with its incumbent costs and bureaucracy.

As a result, contracts for producing grouting material, involving at least 500,000 tons, have been lost as manufacturers have turned to virgin material, the use of which avoids the mind-numbing paperwork and additional costs in dealing with the waste legislation.

Another example was cited by Booker in his column in March 2004. This involved Ross Donovan, the engineer who had developed a heating system fuelled by the used cardboard packaging that businesses generate in such quantities. More than £300,000 was put into proving its effectiveness, and at every step Mr Donovan consulted the Environment Agency to ensure that it complied fully with EU rules on waste and incineration.

Then at the last minute the agency took another look at the legislation and ruled that Mr Donovan's cardboard was not an "energy source" after all, but "waste", and he would have to fit his furnaces with costly monitoring equipment which would make them unviable. Yet the same fuel obtained directly from a packaging manufacturer would not be "waste", and the rules would not apply.

Once again, solely by bureaucratic diktat, material which would otherwise have had an economic use had been defined as "waste", thereby needlessly entering the waste stream.

Yet another example we gave recently, where the burden of bureaucratic controls had rendered the widespread use of anaerobic digesters uneconomic, thereby again causing - by now – millions on tons of material to enter the waste stream when it could have been used to generate heat or electricity, and produce high volumes of peat substitute for use by gardeners.

This is but one aspect which is glossed over by the Lords, a single facet of the waste policy which, if addressed, would have more impact than the whole of the recommendations they actually made.

Dealing with a report of 127 pages, however, we cannot in the space of one post, even begin to do justice to its fatuity – and, if we did, no one would read it. Nor indeed did the media read the report when it was published last week, relying instead – as usual – on the pre-digested press release which told them what to think.

Thus did the Lords get away with, as Booker puts it, babbling on about the need for "waste prevention to be integrated into sustainable business models", while they welcomed "the establishment of the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement".

Even their suggestion that the government should lower VAT rates to "promote the development of sustainable products" passed by the media without critical comment. They don't even seem to know, Booker remarks, that VAT rates cannot be lowered without permission from our real government in Brussels - the one which set all this disaster in train in the first place.

Between our legislators and our gifted media, it seems there is no chance of us ever learning of the extent to which the EU has destroyed our systems of governance, nor what its depredations are costing us. And, if they are not prepared to do the job, who will?


Oppression begins at home

Courtesy of the Irish Times, we get some entertaining comments from businessman Ulick McEvaddy.

Chief executive of Omega Air, he is barely known outside his native Ireland but was a "big cheese" in the Irish "no" campaign. And yesterday he was holding forth at the Humbert summer school in Ballina, Co Mayo, where delegates were raking over the fate of the constitutional Lisbon treaty.

At this venue, we are told, he likened the EU commission to a Soviet-era politburo which attempted to enforce its rule over smaller states. "The orders come from Brussels rather than Moscow now. This is the kind of dictatorship we are talking about." He added: "The EU lacks the KGB, thankfully."

As to the treaty itself, McEvaddy called for it to be "slimmed down" to a mere 20 pages, unlike the current 500-page document. "The US constitution is a simple document, it covers 50 states, comes in a passport-size format and every US schoolchild is familiar with it," he said.

He then went on to say that the EU administration model was wrong from the start and successive treaties have tried unsuccessfully to correct it. "In Lisbon," he added, with a fine sense of style, "they were trying to correct it in an unintelligible drivel." Eurocrats, he opined, had "deliberately made the controversial charter unintelligible drivel so us peasants would not be able to understand it".

It was then left to former department of foreign affairs secretary general Noel Dorr, to put the case for the other side, his view being that the "no" result presented a problem for the EU as well as for Ireland. "The EU failed to communicate its message to the citizens in member states, especially in Ireland," Mr Dorr said.

Actually, Dorr is entirely wrong. The EU communicated its message perfectly to the "citizens" and, in Ireland at least, where they had an opportunity to cast a vote, they gave their verdict.

Entertaining though he is, McEvaddy is also wrong. Vile it is, but the EU commission cannot be compared with a Soviet-era politburo. The point about it attempting "to enforce its rule over smaller states" is entirely misplaced.

Time and time again, we have pointed out that the commission rules only through and with the permission of the parliaments of the member states, and with the connivance of their governments. It is not the brooding presence of a Soviet-style politburo but our own governments and MPs who conspire together to foist the rule of the EU upon us.

As for a politburo, the nearest thing is the much-misunderstood European Council, comprising the heads of states and governments of the member states. They are the people who hold this construct together and it is they who manipulate and exploit the system to circumvent our democratic structures and lines of accountability.

That is the message Mr McEvaddy should be broadcasting. Oppression, like charity, begins at home.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

A high water mark?

As Russia replaces its combat troops with "peacekeepers" in Georgia, thereby making a mockery of the international "community" and in particular M. Sarkozy who brokered what passes for the withdrawal deal, the commentators are picking over the bones of what is left of the EU's fabled common foreign policy.

Pre-eminent in this noble task is John O'Sullivan who notes how the conflict in Georgia has brought into focus the stark divisions in the political structure of the world, arguing that it "is really a three-way struggle between authoritarians, national democrats, and global legalists."

And, while one might expected the "global legalists" to have rushed to the barricades to defend the "international norms", the odd thing, writes O'Sullivan, is that when the crisis broke, it was the national democrats from whom the show of solidarity with the Georgians came.

Thus, he avers, the EU argument that pooling sovereignty leads to greater real power proved to be a sham - it led in practice to collective impotence and self-deception. This post-modern war has proved the limits of soft power and the emptiness of global legalism without roots in democratic support.

If the Georgian conflict has proved a blow to the self-esteem and ambitions of the "colleagues", however, already the camp followers are attempting to pick up the pieces.

In the Irish Times this weekend, John Palmer - founding political director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels and previously European editor of The Guardian - makes a case for a new post-conflict relationship between the EU and its eastern neighbours.

Amazingly, he argues for a "United Commonwealth of Europe", which would include Russia and the former Soviet satellites, within the framework of the Council of Europe. This, suggests, would replicate the EU's own arrangement for deciding issues of mutual interest "through both co-operation and a degree of sovereignty sharing."

Acknowledging that Russia under Putin's authoritarian rule "may neither qualify for nor be interested in membership" (how could he do otherwise - when did Russia ever "share" sovereignty?), Palmer still contends that this is a strategy which would attract Russian democrats who have always aspired to be part of "the European family".

But, at the heart of Palmer's piece is a lament that the European Union could play a more constructive role only "if it could overcome its own internal divisions," with that observation that "EU governments seem bereft of ideas for a long-term strategy to overcome a looming new division on the Eurasian continent."

Indeed, that is the reality. As my co-editor so often observes, there is no common interest between the 27 disparate states of the EU and without that, it is difficult to see how they can cobble together a coherent – or any – long-term strategy.

This, though, does not mean it will not continue trying to pull its mad edifice together and, come the autumn political season, we will see many pronouncements from the "colleagues" on the direction to take.

Nevertheless, more and more, it is becoming apparent that the EU is a wounded animal, stranded by its own unrealistic ambitions, compounded by its complete lack of ability to deliver. All the talk in the world will not fix this problem, which can only get worse as that inconvenient reality continues to intrude. In Georgia, therefore, we may just have seen the high-water mark of European ambitions.


The inflow continues

Although – or so we are told – the wave of immigrants from the EU's central and eastern European members to the UK has slowed, there has been no slackening off in the rate of migrants from third world countries into other EU member states.

Reported by AFP, nearly 900 such immigrants have arrived on Italian shores in the last two days. The coastguard rescued some 480 people on Friday after they were spotted near the island of Lampedusa, a speck of land 100 nautical miles from Tunisia and 200 miles from Libya, the embarkation point for most of the boat people.

Another 42 arrived on their own, the day after 355 Eritreans disembarked on the Mediterranean island, the southernmost piece of Italian territory. Nearly 1,600 people are now crowded into Lampedusa's processing centre, built to accommodate 850 people.

Arrivals have topped 15,000 in the first seven months of the year, nearly double the figure for the same period in 2007. Most risk their lives in rickety, overcrowded boats in the hope of finding a better life in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, the Italians have had enough. Berlusconi's government is planning to double the number of reception centres for immigrants across Italy from ten to twenty. But it is also renaming them, calling them "centres for identification and expulsion." The big question though, is to where will they be expelled?

Does our welfare system beckon once more?