Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting a "living corpse to walk"

Wilhelm Hankel is sitting on the stage at a meeting of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. He is beaming with joy. The 81-year-old professor has just explained why the euro has always been a monstrosity, and why it will and must fail. Although the current plans to "get a living corpse to walk" are touching, he scoffed, one thing is already clear: The euro bailout package will only save the banks.

I think we all knew this – but what makes this remarkable is that it is Der Spiegel reporting.

Of his fellow countrymen, he asks, rhetorically: "Do you think they're going to take to the streets now and protest?" He is not truly convinced that change will occur. "We Germans are small-minded people, not heroes," he says. But 70 years ago to the day, he would not have said that. If he has said that 66 years ago, he might have been shot.

Have things really changed that much?


Bring on the disposables

Hilarity is the immediate response to this story in The Daily Telegraph as we learn that greenie re-usable shopping bags have been found to be contaminated with all sorts of quite unpleasant microorganisms.

But, oh dear – one does not want to be a pedant or a killjoy, always harping on about the MSM and its falling standards. But here writes Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor, with this:
Tests on shoppers' bags revealed half contained traces of E.coli, a lethal toxin which killed 26 people in Scotland in 1996 in one of the worlds worst food poisoning outbreaks.
Forget the missing apostrophe, and look at: "E.coli, a lethal toxin ... ". For goodness sake, E coli is a bacterium (as Wallop correctly states later in the piece), but the species is generally harmless. In fact, it is in all our guts and necessary for our survival. Only a few toxigenic strains (so-called because they produce toxins) are harmful, in particular O157.

The test which sorts the sheep from the goats is whether they get that right – and Wallop cannot even manage that. He writes 0 (as in zero) 157. Wrong! Alright, it is a small detail – but it's still wrong. And, if I made as many factual mistakes in this piece, my readers would crucify me.

Should we expect anything different from our newspapers? Or should standards, as well as shopping bags, be disposable?


The battle of Amazongate

Before the Monbiot comments thread was shut down, with a "health warning" posted on his blog (pictured), we saw a guest appearance from Daniel Nepstad, who describes himself as: "the lead scientist on the research that underlies the IPCC statements about the sensitivity of the Amazon forest to reductions in rainfall."

In his view, the George Monbiot article and The Sunday Times decision was "an important victory for science and the public good," which is about as tendentious as you can get. Climate advocacy was the victor. Science, as so often, took the back seat.

That said, one might have thought that Nepstad was intervening in an attempt to resolve the core of the "Amazongate" dispute, as to whether the IPCC claim that 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be wiped out with "even a slight reduction in precipitation" was unsubstantiated or not.

He starts with the assertion that "the evidence has only grown stronger in support of this statement" and tells us about the "enormous rainfall exclusion experiment in an Amazon forest" that he ran. And this was an extremely interesting experiment because it, rather than its designers, "identified the rainfall threshold beyond which giant forest trees die quite suddenly".

Notwithstanding that the work was not published in the journal Ecology until 2007 - after the date for inclusion in the IPCC report – we are told elsewhere that the purpose of the experiment was to "simulate the severe droughts the Amazon can experience during El Niño events."

The point about this intervention is that it does not come at the beginning of the debate, but well into a fractious and heated dispute where the issue has been quite narrowly defined in terms of whether the IPCC claim was "unsubstantiated". And, with the best will in the world, it is difficult to see how an experiment to simulate "severe droughts" can assist us.

Oblivious to this, however, Nepstad is intent on telling us about his work on drought thresholds, to which effect he cites the severe drought of 2005 and a paper (Philips et al. 2009 Science) published two years after the IPCC report. Once again, this is not helpful. In fact, it is distinctly unhelpful. On a scale of 1 to 10, where ten is "very helpful", it scores about minus nine zillion.

And it gets worse. The "lead scientist" then moves on to "two papers that seem to contradict our results, both using the same satellite sensor (MODIS)." But the reference is only invoked so that he can tell us that the papers are irrelevant to the IPCC statement and that "18 scientists including many of the world's authorities on tropical forest response to climate change," found the IPCC statement "to be sound".

All we can take away from this, then, is the view that the IPCC statement is "sound" because 18 "scientists" say so – the classic "appeal to authority". Helpfully though, Nepstad offers to explain the science behind the statement.

With that parked on the Monbiot site, the he re-appears in the comment section of Watts up with that? There, we are treated to "more information", based on "a few decades spent trying to figure out the Amazon forest's response to climate change and land use."

This is preceded by the rhetorical question: "Was there a peer-review citation in support of the IPCC statement on the Amazon at the time it was published?" And to that, the answer is:
Yes. In a 1994 paper in the journal "Nature" (Nepstad et al. 1994), we reported that approximately half of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon were exposed to severe seasonal droughts, and that these forest were able to endure these droughts through deep root systems that absorb moisture stored in deep soil layers. These results were refined in Nepstad et al in Global Change Biology (2004), where we found that, in 2001, half of the forests of the Amazon had depleted at least half of the moisture stored in the upper 10 meters of soil.
This is interesting for all sorts of reasons, some of which I address in my response. In citing Nepstad et al 1994, I say, he (Nepstad) knows full well that it does not support the IPCC. He knows that his 1994 paper refers to "severe seasonal droughts", whereas the IPCC claims an effect from a "slight reduction in precipitation".

So there we are, with – as I assert – the man spraying citations like a tomcat marking its territory. Yet we still haven't got to the bottom of this issue. In fact, we have an interesting paradox.

When Nepstad is called upon to identify peer-reviewed support for the IPCC, he goes for Nepstad et al 1994. There, he claims to have estimated "that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when his partner organisation, the WWF, was called upon to identify the support for its report, the one used by the IPCC, it did not cite the 1994 paper but cited Nepstad et al 1999.

This is what the WWF calls Fire in the Amazon, "a 1999 overview of Amazon fire issues from the respected Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM – Amazon Environmental Research Institute)."

The source quotation, we are told, reads "Probably 30 to 40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall." Intriguingly, the WWF then goes on to say: "Our report does NOT say that 40% of the Amazon forest is at risk from climate change."

This is where it gets really interesting. The English-language version of this document is listed on Woods Hole Research Center website. It is claimed to be one of the publications of the center, cited as:
Nepstad, D., A. Moreira, and A. Alencar. 1999. Flames in the Rainforest: Origins, Impacts and Alternatives to Amazon Fire. Pilot Program for the Conservation of the Rainforests of Brazil, World Bank. 140 pp.
The authors are identified as WHRC staff and, as is evident, the title is not Fire in the Amazon but Flames in the Rainforest.

As an IPAM publication, it reappears on the institute's website but in Portuguese only, cited as (translation in brackets underneath):
Floresta em Chamas: Origens, Impactos e Prevenção do Fogo na Amazônia

(Burning Forest: Origins, Impact and Prevention of Fire in the Amazon)

Este livro apresenta uma análise do fogo na Amazônia com a finalidade de identificar os meios pelos quais seus efeitos negativos podem ser reduzidos.

(This book presents an analysis of fire in the Amazon in order to identify the means by which negative effects can be reduced.)
The authors are cited as: ALENCAR, ANE; MOREIRA, ADRIANA; NEPSTAD, DANIEL. Brasília/DF. 1999.

Nowhere have we been able to find, online, a copy of the English version, but the IPAM version is available. A search of the 204-page document, though, does not yield the sentence: "Probably 30 to 40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall," or anything like it - nothing even approximating it. The WWF may claim this document as its source, but there is no support for their claim in the Portuguese version (the only version bearing the IPAM imprimature).

However, in an IPAM/WHRC press release issued the previous year, which refers to the work on which the report is based, the claim is made that "unusually low amounts of rainfall in 1998 have increased the area of fire-vulnerable fire to more than one million square kilometers, or one third of the forests of Amazonia." The release was headed: "Flames in the Amazon forest". That is the closest we can get to a "30 to 40%" claim out of IPAM - and it refers to fire vulnerability, not die-back due to drought.

Nepstad himself never makes a reference to the 1999 IPAM report, even though he is the lead author. The closest he gets is in the WHRC press release issued in February of this year. Then, he talks about the IPAM website where, he claims, the statement that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall was originally made (some time in the year 2000 or a little earlier). This is an unverifiable claim.

By contrast, in 2005, writing in an IPAM pamphlet headed: "Tropical Deforestation and Climate Change", Nepstad and others (including one of his co-authors from the 1999 pamphlet, Ane Alencar) declare:
Although the occurrence of logging or fire are perhaps the major determinants of human-induced forest biomass reduction, other variables influence the magnitude of these effects. The influence of logging on forest biomass and forest flammability, for example, depends on the intensity of the logging – the wood volume harvested per area and the type of damage reduction measures that were employed (Holdsworth and Uhl, 1997; Gerwing, 2002). Rainfall history and natural characteristics of the forest site as soil and vegetation type also influence the occurrence of fire on forests in the Amazon (Cochrane and Schulze, 1999; Cochrane et al., 1999; Barbosa and Fearnside, 1999; Haugaasen et al., 2003).

All these studies demonstrate that fire provokes significant reductions in the total biomass (alive and dead) of Amazon forests – from 15% to 40% of mature forest – and that this reduction is directly related to the intensity of logging, the intensity of drought, and the occurrence of previous fire between an unburned forest (undisturbed) and a logged and burned or just burned forest.
The suggestion by Nepstad in a 2005 IPAM document that up to 40% of mature forest is at risk, is uncanny. But, as previously, fire is the proximate cause.

Which is it to be? Nepstad can't have it both ways. The die-back is either due to a "slight reduction in precipitation" or to fire. His 40% figure points to the latter. As a result, I am willing to assert that, contrary to WWF claims, the 1999 IPAM document does not support the IPCC – a charge I make in the WUWT comments (notwithstanding also that it is not peer reviewed, plus all the other problems). And, responding directly to that assertion on the WUWT comments, Nepstad does not deny it.

Instead, he asserts: "North's comment reveals an important misinterpretation of the IPCC statement. He seems to be saying that IPCC is referring to droughts similar to those that have already taken place in the Amazon region. This is not true. The IPCC statement refers to reductions in precipitation BEYOND the historical pattern."

To that, I respond as follows (with slight corrections):
Nepstad's confident assertion that my comment reveals "an important misinterpretation of the IPCC statement" actually reveals more about what could charitably be called the IPCC's failure to communicate.

This has been compounded by the supporters of the IPCC, including Nepstad, who have been equally lacking in this department. They are in a poor position to lay down ex cathedra assertions on what might or might not be true, especially in offering a novel interpretation of the IPCC statement which cannot be adduced from any facts that it or its supporters have offered.

Nepstad might reflect, therefore, that it is the duty of those who seek to communicate information to make themselves clear – it is no part of ours to puzzle out what they mean to say, in the absence of any coherent elucidation.

In that context, if he wishes to assert an entirely new argument to the effect that that the "current" cycle of drought is one which has been super-imposed on the historical climate pattern, then he should be honest enough to declare that he is introducing a new argument, ex post facto, rather than complain that we have misinterpreted his previously opaque communications.

If then, Nepstad does wish to argue about variations in historical climate patterns, he might identify those patterns. For instance, we see Coe et al 2002 who tell us that there is considerable climatic variability in the Amazon basin", with "short (∼3–4 years) and long (∼28 years) modes of precipitation variability. Others write of different and longer cycles.

Thus, in order to accept Nepstad's assertion, we would need evidence (rather than speculation and the more typical ex cathedra pronouncements) that the drought cycle of 2005 and 2001 and 1998 and 1992 and 1983 differs significantly from climate patterns in the past. That information, so far, seems to have been notably lacking in his published work.

Further, while he refers to droughts in 1983 and 2001 (with a reference to the 1998 episode) he must also be aware of report of "major flooding" in Amazon basin the 1984-2001 period.

And, although as far as his published record goes, history seems to stop in 2005, he will undoubtedly be aware episodes of major flooding in the region for every year since 2005, recorded here and here and currently in the drier northeast.

Some might think that more honest commentators might temper their predictions of "severe drought" with at least a hat-tip to the reality, which at the moment is extremely soggy in parts.
But, confronted with a direct challenge to supply a reference to support the IPPC claim, the "lead scientist on the research that underlies the IPCC statements about the sensitivity of the Amazon forest to reductions in rainfall" fails to deliver. Instead, he moves the goalposts, accusing readers of misinterpreting the IPCC statement, imputing to it meaning that could hardly be inferred from the IPCC report.

In what he characterises as his closing comment, however, Nepstad then demonstrates contentment with his new line, heedless of the intellectual fragility of his position.

With no more evidence than he had to support the original assertion that 40 percent of the forest was at risk from a slight reduction in precipitation, the "lead scientist" has forged a new alibi. It is all a misunderstanding. The IPCC has not got it wrong, dear me no. We the readers have misinterpreted what it has said.

Understandably, Booker and I disagree.

Moonbat thread

Not at all surprised

Bruno Waterfield is reporting in The Daily Telegraph that Call me Dave "will break his promise not to transfer powers to Brussels by yielding to plans for an EU "economic government" and City regulation."

This is a prediction from an unnamed "senior Belgian official" – and that is all. The Tories dismiss it as "wishful thinking" and an exercise of "viewing the world through their own eyes", offering this meaningless soundbite in exchange: "We are pragmatic but we are also robust in defence of the national interest."

However, Bruno would not have put this story up for publication unless there was something in it and, although it shows signs of having been "Londonised", it can safely be filed under the category "no smoke without fire". We all expect the Boy to sell out – the only unknowns are the "when" and the words he uses in his attempt to disguise it.

And please note that, in respect for my readers' finer feelings, I have resisted the temptation to post a picture of him.


One can dream

Sod the Tate - North Junior is tempted by this.


A Euromyth bites the dust

And why do you think I couldn't be bothered to report claims that selling eggs by numbers was to be banned by the EU?

It smelt wrong, right from the start, and it now turns out that it was all "speculation". Time was when I would have tracked it down and done a detailed evaluation – but one learns from experience that you can leave it a few days and the truth will out.

As it happens, one of our commenters (and fellow blogger) on the forum has done the biz. He notes that Annex VIII section 4 states: "Where a pre-packed item consists of two or more individual packages which are not regarded as units of sale, the net quantity shall be given by indicating the total net quantity and the total number of individual packages."

Had journalists read this, they would have realised that there was no story, he says, then observing that, as Phillipa Page would put it, no news is redundancies. So, instead, they rely on press releases from Tory MEPs and other well-informed sources.

Nevertheless, the EU has got quite canny on these Euro-sillies. It has recognised the dangers of adverse PR on them, and usually weeds them out before they get going. Thus, while we (Booker and I) were doing them quite often 20 years ago, there have been thin pickings of late.

They always were a red herring, though – a distraction. The danger of the EU was and is far more grievous than bent bananas and cucumbers.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A heart of stone

"It was hailed as Britain’s first 'green' island and a glimpse of what the future could hold for the rest of the country." And it looks as if it is giving us precisely that - an all-too-accurate glimpse of what will come to be called "the land that Huhne built."

It may be an overused cliché, but your heart would have to be made of the hardest granite not to laugh at this story.


Just what is wrong with us?

My daughter Emma, the real artist – wot paints pictures and takes photos – says these "conceptual art" persons are called the "black-specs-roll-necks" brigade. She is far too generous.

But, doing my GOM impression (Grumpy Old Man - hey, we all have to start somewhere), I can most pompously declare that a modern jet aircraft is the ultimate expression of form defined by function, combining engineering and design in a highly complex machine which, as a single entity, is also an object of grace and beauty and well as power and ingenuity.

If you half close your eyes, you can almost imagine me in a pulpit - or pontificating at the bar of the Pig and Whistle. There, I roundly declare that, as such, the aircraft itself is a worthy object of display, and many find their ways into museums and air parks where they provide entertainment, fascination and education to generations of adults and children.

But not the Tate gallery. It hires some idle tart to mess around with two important aircraft, types which have a long history and which in their own ways represent considerable achievement and pride, and this becomes "art" for the clever-dicks and chatterati to prattle about, to mock and to denigrate.

Now I get serious. This little episode really does seems to typify everything that is wrong with this country. We don't seem to be able to take pride in our own achievements any more, or take uncomplicated enjoyment in what is. It has to be dressed up as "art" and used to send some perverted, distorted, sick message, no doubt at inordinate expense.

Fiona Banner they call this tart, who thinks it is soooooo clever to truss up a Sea Harrier, the type that helped save the Falklands, and much else besides. Now if they would truss her up and hang the stupid, vain bitch upside down from a lamppost, then that might not be art. But it would be a small compensation for the insult, and the offence she has given.

And if you really want art, this is art. Feast your eyes on it!


Credo in unum tipping point

Here they go again, a bevy of the so-called experts, making predictions about the climate which they cannot possibly justify.

It's all going to go belly-up by the year 2200 they tell us – in no less than 190 years, when the global climate "is more than likely to slip into an unpredictable state with unknown consequences for human societies". This is, of course, "if carbon dioxide emissions continue on their present course".

Almost all of the leading researchers who took part in a detailed analysis of their expert opinion believe that high levels of greenhouse gases will cause a fundamental shift in the global climate system – a tipping point – with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Yea, right. And next week's weather is? Er, sorry – I forgot, weather isn't climate, but they can predict neither with any confidence, much less telling us what the climate is going to be in nearly two centuries' time.

Meanwhile, I have been ferreting around on the Monbiot case and just one of the little delights I have stumbled on is a claim by Daniel Nepstad (pictured) in 2005, in a publication called "Tropical Deforestation and Climate Change".

In it, Nepstad and his pals predict a reduction in "mature" Amazon forest of between 15% and 40% - the top level being, it seems, just what the IPCC was asserting. But while the IPCC was putting the decline down to a slight reduction in precipitation, Nepstad does no such thing. All the studies he looks at – he tells us - demonstrate that "fire provokes significant reductions in the total biomass".

The scale of reduction is, he says, "directly related to the intensity of logging, the intensity of drought, and the occurrence of previous fire between an unburned forest (undisturbed) and a logged and burned or just burned forest."

And this is precisely the point – that the threat to the forest is multifactorial, that drought is only one factor and that, for drought to be significant it must be severe and prolonged. Thus, in 2005, Nepstad is not supporting the IPCC thesis.

In 2008, he is then saying that using his "deforestation model," and projected out the year 2030 using current climate patterns, he finds by the year 2030, "55 percent of the forest will be either cleared or damaged" — 31 percent cleared and 24 percent damaged by either logging or drought, with a large portion of that damaged forest catching fire.

Once again, this does not support the IPCC's 40 percent claim – or anything like it. Yet, two years later Nepstad is saying that "the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct", and the WWF claiming that support for the thesis comes from Nepstad – in 1999.

And what does the 1999 work say? Well now, that is where it gets really interesting. I'll post on that later today, when I've put all the bits together – but it knocks Monbiot and The Sunday Times into a cocked hat, or a rather nasty little "tipping point" of our own.

Moonbat thread

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's war!

The Moonbat responds to this - and I don't think he's consulted his lawyers - they would not allow him to be so stupid:

Dear Dr North,

Go ahead, make my day.

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot

It goes quiet for a little bit, while I assemble the case – he really has taken on more than he can chew this time. In the interim, I posted a short reply, telling Mr Monbiot:
I cannot say "with pleasure" ... life is too short and I have better things to do with it. But, if you insist ... and I do hope you remember that you were offered the easy way! Everything you do now, everything you say, will make it harder for yourself.
Having gone through the tedium of having to respond to PCC complaints, and likewise having dealt with more than a few libel cases (from both sides of the fence - some may recall that I was an expert witness in the MacLibel case), I know they are extremely hard work. I would not wish that on anyone, even Monbiot. But, as I have warned him, each stage up the chain that he forces the issue, the harder it gets to deal with and the more work involved. This is not a threat ... it is a simple statement of fact.

Thus, I am still minded to resolve this issue informally and to that effect am preparing a letter to send to the newspaper. This is clear enough from my posting on Monbiot's site, but to my latest post he responds: "Woohoo! I'm quivering with fear." This really needs little comment - it largely speaks for itself. This is the calibre of person we are dealing with.

Nevertheless, the plan remains as stated. I will make a formal complaint in writing to the newspaper (I will post that up when it is ready). If I don't get satisfaction from that, I will go to the PCC and from there I have to option to go to law. I am keeping that open but no one should under-estimate my determination to see this through to the bitter end.

Interestingly, Daniel Nepstad has joined the fray on the Monbiot comments section, once again demonstrating how important the Amazon is to the warmists. Needless to say, his "contribution" confuses rather than clarifies the issues.

And someone should teach him about paragraphs - it is amazing how many "scientists" do not seem to understand their value, or how to use them. Then, presentation is about thinking of the reader, and seeking to communicate ideas as clearly as possible. By their poor use of English and their lazy presentation shall we know them.

Moonbat thread

Economic sabotage - II

"No Sheffield Forgemasters loan, no new nuclear by 2017," says Chris Goodall in The Guardian. Cancelling a government loan to Sheffield Forgemasters could derail UK plans for new nuclear reactors.

That, one suspects, was the intention of the Cleggerons – and especially the ghastly Huhne – when they cancelled the loan. Interestingly, the little Cleggy is a Sheffield MP and his name is mud (or something that looks like mud) in the Parish. Red hot pokers (heated free by Forgemasters) would be very usefully employed.

And this is your answer. Sod the carbon footprint.


A modern-day barbarity

A bomb disposal expert was killed in a gunfight with insurgents yesterday, The Guardian tells us, using the MoD as it source.

The solider from 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD), was attached to the joint force explosive ordnance disposal group, part of the counter improvised explosive device (IED) task force. He was "... part of an EOD team that was extracting from an incident when he was killed by small arms fire," said Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand.

"He died seeking to rid Helmand of IEDs such that local Afghans could move freely throughout the province. He will be greatly missed and his actions will not be forgotten. We will remember him," adds Carr-Smith.

But fine words butter no parsnips, as the saying goes. There are occasions when EODs must work out in the open, and this does put them at risk. However, as long as there is vehicle access to the site of a suspected IED, then there is no need whatsoever for a soldier to expose himself to fire.

In the first instance, there is the Husky set, for detecting IEDs and for detonating pressure-pad initiated devices. Mine rollers and armoured bulldozers also have their place. Then there is the Buffalo armoured vehicle, which can be used to investigate suspect devices. There are also tracked robots which can be used for further investigation – these can be controlled from the safety of a Mastiff protected vehicle.

However, in this man's Army, great value is placed on the ability of the EOD to neutralise and then dismantle IEDs, for the forensic evidence that it yields and thus the assistance it gives in tracking and arresting bomb-makers. For that reason, it is held, EOD must expose themselves to danger – for the greater good.

That argument would stand up if the policy led to a reduction in the number of bomb-makers and the number of IEDs placed. In fact, despite four or maybe five EODs being killed (perhaps more), plus an unknown number of soldiers killed while using hand-held metal detectors, IED incidents are at a record level.

Further, there are different and better ways of gaining intelligence to thwart the bomb makers, such as automatic change detection, or even direct UAV observation, tracing bomb-layers back to their bases – plus more subtle techniques.

Two years ago, we were asking how many more times must men be pitted against bombs, when there are machines which can be used in place of flesh and blood. In fact, we have been pointing this out ever since 2005.

Sending men against bombs is the equivalent of the First World War practice of having men in orderly lines walk into the muzzles of machine guns, instead of using tanks. In this modern age, we find it appalling that the military could even consider such barbarity – so why is it acceptable for the modern-day military to do what amounts to the same thing?

We need to forget the fine words – and bring these people back home alive.


The Guardian

Posted on George Monbiot's blog on 28 Jun 2010, 10:31AM.

Dear Mr Monbiot

Following the publication of your post here, I have written to your newspaper by e-mail, expressing my concerns about the piece, and inviting the newspaper to contact me to discuss it informally, to avoid the need to take expensive and (to you) potentially damaging action in order to protect my professional reputation.

Since your newspaper has not troubled itself to contact me, I am forced to take the step of contacting you and the newspaper more formally, which I am in the process of so doing.

In the meantime, however, I am writing here as the most direct means of contacting you, to ask you to remove from this post all references to myself, as being libellous and highly damaging - the precise details of which will be passed to your newspaper shortly.

You may, of course, leave this message visible or remove it, but you may wish to note that the addition of further comments arising as a result of references to me remaining in your post, and which are also of a libellous or denigratory nature, may form part of any subsequent action which I choose to take.

Commentators who choose to comment on this post may also wish to note that I would be happy to enjoin them in any legal action taken against Mr Monbiot or The Guardian newspaper if they too are of a libellous or denigratory nature. You have been warned.

Yours sincerely,

Richard North (Dr)

This has gone far enough.

Moonbat/Corporate cowardice thread

They do not compute

If one had to rank British media coverage of the Afghan conflict, my winner would almost certainly be The Independent - not that I agree with much of it, but at least they seem to be trying to offer a coherent picture (in so far as that is possible).

A significant contribution to that picture is a report today which tells us that Gen McChrystal had issued a "devastatingly critical assessment" of the war against a "resilient and growing insurgency" just days before being forced out.

I can't quite go with the paper's interpretation of this – it seems to believe that this assessment contributed to Obama's determination to fire the General, hence the strap-line attached to the piece by Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady, which declares: "President Obama lost patience with Runaway General's failed strategy".

Anyhow, the thrust of the story is of some significance, however you decide to interpret it. Using confidential military documents, we are told, McChrystal had briefed NATO defence ministers earlier this month and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. He raised "serious concerns" over levels of security, violence and corruption within the Afghan administration.

His "campaign overview" warned that only a fraction of the areas key to long-term success were "secure", governed with "full authority", or enjoying "sustainable growth". And there was a critical shortage of "essential" military trainers needed to build up Afghan forces – of which only a fraction were classed as "effective".

McChrystal had pointed to an "ineffective or discredited" Afghan government and a failure by Pakistan "to curb insurgent support" as "critical risks" to success. "Waning" political support and a "divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines" were among the key challenges faced. Only five areas out of 116 assessed were classed as "secure" – the rest suffering various degrees of insecurity and more than 40 described as "dangerous" or "unsecure".

Just five areas out of 122 were classed as being under the "full authority" of the government – with governance rated as non-existent, dysfunctional or unproductive in 89 of the areas. Seven areas out of 120 rated for development were showing sustainable growth. In 48 areas, growth was either stalled or the population was at risk. Less than a third of the military and only 12 percent of police forces were rated as "effective".

Afghan people "believe that development is too slow" and many "still generally mistrust Afghan police forces". Security was "unsatisfactory" and efforts to build up the Afghan security forces were "at risk", with "capability hampered by shortages in NCOs and officers, corruption and low literacy levels".

The problem with the briefing, apparently, was its candour. The general was judged to be "off message", creating an "uncompromising obstacle" to an "early, face-saving exit" and Obama's plan "to bring troops home in time to give him a shot at a second term."

A senior Whitehall official thus says that McChrystal's departure is a sign of politicians "taking charge of this war", from which we might adduce that there is to be a structured attempt to deceive the public into believing that a victory is being secured in Afghanistan and that we will shortly be able to withdraw troops from the theatre, with honour.

The problem I have with this analysis is that in the recent past – i.e., in Iraq – the military had been only to keen to representing defeat as victory. The indications are that they would do it again with Afghanistan. In that light, what is being said does not make obvious sense. The politicians should not need to worry. When told to depart, the military will pack up its tent, declare victory and go home with the bands playing.

Perversely, though, it seems that McChrystal – he who had been so confident of military victory - had been urging Washington to "start the political track as soon as possible", a process which would require the politicians to take the lead (and the responsibility) in talking to the Taliban and other parties.

In other words, McChrystal could have come to terms with the probability – if not certainty – that we are losing, and wanted to dump the problem on the politicians, which is exactly the reason why I thought he had engineered his own dismissal.

Petraeus, on the other hand, is supposed to be arguing "that we need to get the upper hand militarily and regain the military initiative, and then negotiate from a position of strength". Sources are saying that it would take time to recover from McChrystal's loss, "particularly if Petraeus just ploughs on with trying to get the upper hand militarily".

This could be reflecting another, as yet unexplored possibility that there is a schism within the military, with genuine differences of opinion as to whether the conflict is winnable – and over what timescale.

Such complexities get even murkier – or even more complex, if you prefer – when you read Patrick Cockburn. A seasoned, if not veteran war reporter, Cockburn got it completely wrong in southern Iraq during the British occupation – he was too focused on the US occupation. But he was worth listening to on American actions (although he wasn't exactly an objective observer).

Cockburn would have it that Petraeus is taking command in Afghanistan "to stage-manage a war that the US has decided it cannot win militarily, but from which it cannot withdraw without damaging loss of face."

Now, human nature being what it is, there is never judged so fine and perceptive a commentator as the one who articulates exactly what you personally believe to be the case. And that is so close to my "take" that it is all I can do not to remark on what a fine, perceptive fellow Cockburn has become.

But, if that is what Petraeus is in position to do, what was the real problem with McChrystal? Did he, unlike Petraeus, see that the public was not going to believe the victory bullshit a second time round and thus decide that, if someone was going to get blamed, it wasn't going to be the military? And if McChrystal had decided he couldn't pull it off, what makes Petraeus think he can?

One way or another, it seems, we are no way near getting to the bottom of this affair, even less so with Call me Dave twittering away about having "achieved results", when McChrystal is saying that things are going down the pan.

Then we have Gen Richards saying (apparently spontaneously – and you can believe that if you like) that we should be talking to the Taliban – one of the things, supposedly, for which McChrystal got dumped, with the Pakistanis also getting in on the act (of which more later).

There are things going on here which do not compute – they really do not compute.

Comment: Afghanistan thread

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My daughter

... the artist. I don't usually do "personal" on this blog - I've a sort of residual Puritanism about airing private affairs in public, but since everybody is watching the football, this essentially amounts to a private post. Anyhow, our Emma is taking an Art degree as a mature student, and part of that is building up a photography portfolio. Some of what she does is absolutely stunning. And even if it's her dad saying it, that doesn't make it untrue ... she dun good.


Where is the evidence?

Booker has taken on board the "Amazongate" developments in this week's column. Interestingly, rather than me, it was Booker who suggested "going big" on the issue this week, his motivation in part being the intervention by George Monbiot, who has been his usual charmless self, parading the ugly face of warmism in all its triumphant ghastliness.

Monbiot, however, is but one of the warmist community who has leapt upon the strange action by The Sunday Times in disowning its own report and wrongly conceeding that there is peer-reviewed science that supports the IPCC claim on the Amazon in the fourth assessment report. Headed by the WWF, which is crowing that Amazongate has "evaporated", the group triumphalism served to emphasise the importance of the issues involved.

Returning to Monbiot, if he is bad (and he is), his warmist commentators are truly awful. They are aggressive and display a sneering attitude and an absolute determination to ignore any argument but their own or to concede any points of substance. Thus, despite the clear evidence, and the absence of evidence, the warmists will allow only a "referencing error" in the WWF report used by the IPCC, as the whole basis of "Amazongate".

Having entertained myself briefly on the Monbiot comment section (username: "spacedout") one finds a predictable pathway where patient exposition is ignored, distorted and mocked, the discourse eventually descending to the ad hominem with nothing whatsoever resolved. It is not possible to engage in a rational discussion with the warmist fraternity and I have withdrawn, simply because it is a complete waste of time. It is worse than that, in fact. One feels soiled by the experience.

With the aggressiveness displayed by the warmists, it would take little imagination to work out that The Sunday Telegraph would be more than a little nervous about entertaining the Booker theme. This is an issue where those who feel slighted are keen litigants, and where they have frequent recourse to the PCC – which has a recent history of favouring the warmists.

Thus, as one might also imagine, the newspaper would be cautious about imputing motives to those who are so keen to challenge "Amazongate", or allowing speculation as to the reasons why they are putting quite so much energy into damage control.

However, the reason for the sharp reaction is also not hard to work out. As we have previously indicated, this is about money. Saving the forests, and in particular the Amazon, is how climate change concern is "monetized", with potentially billions of dollars to be made from generating carbon credits from the rainforests.

This is one of the other things the Monbiot commentators do not seem to be able to deal with – the fact that the key players in the drama, the WWF and Daniel Nepstad of the Woods Hole Research Center, are far from disinterested players. They have strong connections and massive financial interests in talking up climatic Armageddon in the Amazon basin.

But what is disturbing is the narrowness of the arguments offered by the IPCC, which demonstrates how this aspect of climate science has fallen into the grip of a limited, self-interested clique of advocates (dominated by WWF). A broader view of the science - ignored by the IPCC - completely refutes the Armageddon scenario posited by Nepstad and his allies.

With such huge sums of money involved, though, it is unsurprising that the clique are devoting so much energy to trying to ensure that their view prevails. Booker today has recognised the importance of this attempt, and is standing firm. The clique now have a problem. Having bullied The Sunday Times into submission, they have to try the same with The Sunday Telegraph, or duck the challenge and pretend that their writ still holds.

Already, with Monbiot's intemperate views on record, they have made a series of tactical errors. If they now try it on again, they will find sterner stuff than the patsy Sunday Times. Whatever the WWF might say, and however much Monbiot might crow, Amazongate is alive and kicking. It most certainly has not "evaporated".

UPDATE: Willis Eschenbach writes a guest post in Watts up with that? Newsweek has a little crow.

Comment: Moonbat/Corporate cowardice thread

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The wages of stupid?

In the continuing drama of the Afghan military adventure, Guy Adams of The Independent argues that McChrystal's minders blundered by underestimating a title with a history of heavyweight journalism. And that, he says, is how Rolling Stone was able to bring down a general.


Perverse consequences

How to get rich was our subject for discussion last December as we reported how the CFC scam, mainly in China and India, was making entrepreneurs obscenely rich out of selling carbon credits through the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Now, six months later, Le Monde has picked up exactly the same story (translation here), complaining that CFCs have become the main source of the CDM.

Half a billion tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) "saved" through the CDM between 2004-2012 have come from the destruction of HCF 23. As we pointed out in our piece, this is the by-product of HCF 22 production but so lucrative has the CDM business become that the by-product has become the product.

We now have the perverse consequences, says Le Monde, that because the price paid for the destruction of gas is up to 70 times the actual cost of production, it is being produced solely in order to generate carbon credits.

Manufacturers have increased their production, artificially and deliberately maintaining high levels of HCF 23 production which would not exist if there was no financial incentive from carbon credit sales. Furthermore, it is estimated that these abuses have allowed the industry to collect one billion dollars annually.

Thus, concludes Le Monde, we see the absurd situation in which one "device" of the UN – the Kyoto Protocol - encourages the production of a gas, while another "device" of the UN - the Montreal Protocol - seeks its eradication.

Only the greenies could invent such a stupid, malign system – a cash-making machine creating money out of nothing, all in the interests of "saving the planet". And then they keep schtum about it as money pours into the coffers of carbon traders and opportunists. Where is Moonbat when you really need him?


Friday, June 25, 2010

A symbol of "Europe"

The last time I looked seriously at Galileo, the EU's GPS vanity project, was in April 2008 when I was disputing the commission's then latest claim - that €3.4 billion of our money would be enough to get the system up and running.

The figure, like the system, was pure moonshine, I wrote. That €3.4 billion was nowhere near enough to get the full constellation launched and operational - €10 billion was closer the mark, with additional through-life costs to maintain the system.

A few months previously, I had carried a report from Der Spiegel that the project would cost at least €5 billion and perhaps even €10 billion. Spiegel had added that a secret German government study had concluded the overall cost would rise by €1.5 billion even under optimum conditions.

Now, guess what? Bloomberg has reported a claim by Le Monde that Galileo will need another €1.5 billion "on top of the already budgeted €3.4 billion", to become operational in 2013.

Needless to say, the Italian commissioner now in charge of the project, Antonio Tajani, declines to confirm the figure, saying the amount of the extra funding needed will not be finalised until September.

Then, that is hardly a surprise – the project has been built on a foundation of lies and deceit from word one. In November 2007, it was going to cost €2.4 billion. And in order to gain member state approval for the project, in 2001 the commission gave its "solemn guarantee" that "no more public money would be needed after 2007".

Three years later, the EU is still putting its hand out for more money – even after raiding the CAP budget (pictured) - and the cost has doubled (with no end point in sight). If ever there was a project to symbolise the "success" of the European Union, this has to be it.


Muffin the Mule

Delingpole takes up the cudgels. "This ... has given greenies like Monbiot an excuse to prance up and down like Muffin the Mule on angel dust under the insane delusion that this somehow demolishes the entire sceptics' case against AGW."

"Muffin the Mule on angel dust" is such a delicious idea ... and, amazingly, I can't find a pic of it. Josh has done a superb cartoon though.

Comment: Moonbat/Corporate cowardice thread

A Moonbat too far

In rather typical style, it would seem, Moonbat has half-read and then misunderstood the recent statement by The Sunday Times on "Amazongate" (see also my comments), prompted by a Press Complaints Commission judgement which has yet to be published on the official web site.

This controversial issue, of course, is about the provenance of the IPCC claim in the 4th Assessment Report that "up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation", a claim which relies on a non-peer-reviewed paper published by the WWF.

Wrapped up in his own "cleverness" (a kind and overly polite way of putting it), the great warmist has visited this blog to look at this post, on the basis of which he seeks to deride my original claim that there was no reference to 40 percent of the Amazon being affected by even slight reductions in precipitation in the WWF paper.

This is the Rowell & Moore paper, and for want of what I originally thought to be a specific claim in that paper, I asserted that the IPCC claim: "seems to be a complete fabrication".

Employing deep-fried sarcasm to what he fancies is devastating effect, Moonbat triumphantly tells us that he decided to check my claim using "a cunning and recondite technique known only to experienced sleuths": typing "40%" in the search bar at the top of the page.

"This stroke of genius," proclaims Moonbat, "took all of 10 seconds to reveal the following passage: 'Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.'" Preening himself, he then asks (rhetorically, of course): "Who says investigative journalism is dead?", before going on to assert, that "None of North's suckers had bothered to carry out this complex procedure. They hadn't bothered because they didn't want to spoil a good story."

What makes this triumphalism bizarre and totally misplaced is that my original claim was reproduced in Watts Up With That and picked up by one of his commenters (Icarus), who did exactly what Moonbat asserts none had bothered to do.

From this emerged a correction. In that, posted the next day, I record having completely missed the passage which refers to 40%, thus charging wrongly that the IPCC assertion was "a fabrication, unsupported even by the reference it gives."

"With that, though," I then write, "the story gets even more interesting, as the assertion made by Rowell and his co-author Peter Moore is referenced to an article in Nature magazine," which does not support either their or the IPCC claims.

It is this which becomes the substance of "Amazongate" – the undisputed fact that the IPCC makes an assertion about the Amazon rainforest relying on "grey" (WWF) literature. This in turn references a paper which does not support the assertions made. (It is later claimed (by the WWF) that the actual reference on which the WWF authors rely had been accidentally omitted; this turns out to be non-peer-referenced as well).

As I a matter of policy, I do not remove erroneous posts (or very rarely). If I make a mistake, I correct it in a subsequent piece (if it is important enough – and this was) and then link on the original piece, notifying readers of the update. But, it would seem, so full of himself and his clever little discovery, that Moonbat has completely missed (or ignored) the link and the correction – of which he seems to be unaware despite it being at the top of the piece.

Thus fortified by his own ignorance as to the actual case which I make, Moonbat then fast-forwards to the Sunday Times retraction. He claims that the paper "has been obliged to admit that the paper's account – and by inference North's almost identical treatment – was rubbish from top to toe."

Yet, whatever the PCC may or may not think of the Sunday Times article, it has neither examined nor adjudicated on my blog. The case made there is wholly unaffected by the PCC ruling, and indeed the core is not disputed, even in the ST statement. Despite this, Moonbat stridently declares:
Now that the IPCC has been vindicated, its accusers, North first among them, are exposed for peddling inaccuracy, misrepresentation and falsehood. Ashes to ashes, toast to toast.
And while I am very much in favour of open debate, even I tend to draw a line at being accused on the website of a national paper of "peddling inaccuracy, misrepresentation and falsehood."

This is not debate. It is libel. Booker's advice on these things tends to be to avoid getting into a fight with a chimney sweep – for obvious reasons – but this is also a case of Moonbat going too far. And, since he is so keen on the PCC, I thought that this would be a good place to start.

Comment: Moonbat/Corporate cowardice thread

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scientists are dangerous

Or so a very large number of people believe. And, are you surprised when so many lie through their teeth?


A vehicle "incident"

The MoD is reporting the death of four soldiers last night in "a vehicle incident." They were, we are told, part of a team travelling to assist in an incident (another "incident") at a nearby checkpoint in the Nahr-e Saraj area, near Gereshk. This brings the total British military deaths since 2001 to 307.

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that all four men were drowned when their 18 ton Ridgeback plunged into the Nahr-e-Bughra canal.

The "accident" happened at 11pm last night and it is likely, Thomas Harding writes, that the driver was travelling using night vision aids rather than headlights in an area that is under threat of IEDs. The track next to the canal is unmarked and has no crash barriers.

This is the first time soldiers have been killed in the Ridgeback which, as we illustrated recently has proven very resilient against IEDs. However, MRAP "rollovers" have become a significant cause of casualties, coming to a head in July 2008 (pictured) - although other vehicle types, including Pinzgauers, Land Rovers and even Warriors have been involved in this type of accident.

Not least of the problems is the road shoulders rarely meet modern engineering standards and may collapse under the weight of MRAPs, especially when the road is above grade and can fall to lower ground (ditches and canals). Thus, we have long argued that more money should be spent on road construction and improvement, rather than vanity projects such as Ferris Wheels and the like.

We appreciate though that such advanced concepts are difficult for the military, officials and (especially) politicians to take on board, which is why it is much easier to require soldiers to thunder down in the darkness in heavily armoured vehicles, from which escape is difficult, with the occasional risk of death when they tip into canals.

But since the senior ranks of the military, the officials and the politicians are not actually at risk, while platitudes come easy and are dirt cheap, this doesn't really matter. Soldiers, as always, are expendable.

Comment: Afghanistan thread

The zombie returns

Australia's first female Prime Minister sworn in ... and immediately vowed to end division over a controversial mining tax, resurrect a carbon trade scheme and call an election within months.



To the barricades?

As noted by my erstwhile co-editor, the EU has taken on extra 18 MEPs for £7 million. Bruno Waterfield is telling us that this has been achieved by amending "its controversial Lisbon Treaty".

This was done by permanent representatives, known as "EU ambassadors" who met behind closed doors yesterday to sign off the amendment. The amendment must now be ratified in all the Union's 27 countries and will require primary legislation in the UK - "potentially opening up dissent among Conservative MPs who campaigned for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty."

Actually, though, it isn't an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty. According to the EU Council, it is a "protocol amending the protocol on transitional provisions annexed to the treaty on European Union, to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union and to the treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community."

Now, if you can actually work out what that is saying, we are talking about an addendum amending an addendum which sets out changes to transitional provisions. It doesn't even change a treaty. It simply changes the speed at which a previously agreed change to the treaty comes into force.

Although some activists are hyperventilating about this, a Cleggeron spokesman has said: "This is not a new transfer of power from Westminster to the EU and therefore it doesn't meet the criteria for holding a referendum."

He or she (or it? ... one has to be inclusive these days) has got it dead right. We are not going to the barricades over a protocol amending a protocol.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama stuffs the military

In what must rate of a stroke of political genius, Obama has seen off the challenge by the US military over Afghanistan and, by firing McChrystal and appointing his boss Gen David Petraeus, has dumped the problem back in their laps and told them to get on with it.

On the basis that there is nothing new under the sun, there must be a precedent for a field commander being fired and his boss being appointed to replace him, but such incidents are few and far between. However, few can have expected that Obama would take this option and, in the brief period while McChrystal's fate was in the balance, you did not see Petraeus's name in the ring.

What we have been seeing is a huge amount of thrashing about, as commentators struggle and largely fail to make sense of recent events, not realising that this was most likely a deliberate ploy by McChrystal to destabilise Obama and dump the blame for a failing campaign in the lap of the president.

As such, it is most unlikely that McChrystal's quite deliberate and studied coup de main was done without the knowledge and acquiescence (if not approval) of his boss.

By appointing Petraeus to take over from his uppity subordinate – effectively a demotion – Obama demonstrates the skills acquired and honed as a street-fighting Chicago politician. He has reasserted control over – as The Guardian puts it – a politicised military, with the generals out of control.

In so doing, he dumps responsibility for success in Afghanistan in the lap of the supposed architect of the campaign, leaving McChrystal isolated and irrelevant. The Army is still very much in the frame and Obama's message about "civilian control" could not have been clearer.

Hero of the Iraqi "surge" and a Bush appointee, Petraeus must now deliver the goods in Afghanistan or go under. His appointment, to a very great extent, insulates the president from the fray. The new chief is in the hot seat, and with him the military. The game has just changed, and taken on a whole new dimension.

Comment: Afghanistan thread

A whiff of honesty

Flash floods in the Ghanaian capital Accra have left at least 23 dead, with the Army called in to deal with a growing public emergency, reports the BBC.

And, as we all know, if there is a drought, it is global warming and, if there are floods, it is global warming. Except that, for once, we get a local commentator by the name of Emmanuel Dela Coffie, with a superb blog, who says otherwise.

Once again torrential rains have hit the nation's capital, creating floods in various parts that have caused great havoc to lives and property, he writes. The ravages and the ruins of the flood captured and highlighted on our television screens and newspaper pages are quite dreadful.

According to BBC report, 23 people have died and several dozens were swept away on Sunday night by rapidly rising waters whiles others were stranded on the roofs of their houses. Transport links between the capital and other cities were disrupted. Daily Graphic on Tuesday 22 June put the death toll to 35 and we are still counting.

As I write this piece, says Coffie, there are scenes of collapsed buildings and fence walls, damaged roads, falling electricity and telephone poles with mangled wires, choked drains, gutters and ramshackle structures, all staring us in the face. It is deplorable and pathetic situation that is unbecoming of the status of Accra as capital of Ghana.

But, he says, the issue of floods has become an annual ritual and it amazes me that the authorities wait till the worst happened before they start announcing their unexciting solutions. Are we reactive or proactive? Why must we wait for these things to happen before finding lasting solutions to them?

Clearly, the problem of flooding in Accra cannot be attributed to the natural course of excessive downpour of rain. Rather the floods are caused by human activities of indiscipline and negligence as well as lack of adequate and effective drainage structures to care for the flood waters.

Indiscriminate disposal of refuse has led to choking of drains and gutters. Houses are built in waterways blocking the flow of rain water, while bad town planning policies and programmes also contribute to the problem.

Usually in the event of the flood disasters, the authorities go on an inspection to assess the extent of damage and make promises to address the situation but as soon as the water dried up, everybody go to sleep.

It is very disturbing to wake up every day after heavy downpour to hear of lost lives and property as a result of poor structuring of houses in the city. How many deaths do we expect to occur before our leaders would take a critical look at the situation and come out with urgent solutions to mitigate this flooding problem? Are lives of innocent people precious to us?

Inundated nature of Accra after down pour has always been disastrous and the nation spent millions of Ghana cedis to provide shelter, tents and relief items for the victims. Why can't our leaders re-structure the city to avoid the incident from occurring again?

You do not have to be a pilot to understand and appreciate the power of navigational system. These days most new cars are equipped with navigational system to save us time on a trip because it helps us to avoid needless delays by simply telling us where we are in relation to where we are going. This device is capable of showing the best route to take. So why are our leaders refusing to think outside the box?

As a nation, do we know where we're going? The apprehension is that, how long does the nation have to wait to find solution to the flooding problems? How far can we see the problem? And whose job is it to protect us from this annual ritual of flooding?

We are literally in crises situation as a result of persistent flooding yet we're busy building houses on water ways. So how far can we see the future? Who is responsible for the quality of our lives?

To be able to see clearly, we have to think outside the box. The Ghanaian attitude to life is just horrible. It is a tragedy, anytime life is diminished by persistent flooding when they could have been fulfilling their potentials in making instructive contribution to the nation and mankind.

We have a capital city that is constantly swamped under water anytime there is downpour yet despite the fact that this problem has been there for ages, we like the proverbial vulture, would always want to wait till tomorrow to solve our problems. Must we always offer curative measures instead of preventive?

These are not funny things neither are we in funny times so that someone must continuously drum it into the minds of those whose duty it is protect us.

Until we are able to control the problem of plastic in our cities, no drainage will solve the problem. The Korle and Odawna lagoon says it all. Why should we be dumping raw sewage in rivers and streams in this 21st century? Our engineers should study the problem and take holistic measures than pulling down structures which is not the main solution to the flooding.

It appears that our leaders have over the years played so much politics with settlement and unauthorized structures on water courses thereby leading to the very avoidable flood disaster we are experiencing today. It has become a yearly ritual to be talking about flooding with no concrete action taken as we forget as soon as the rains subside.

Let's walk the talk and do a little bit and find solution to this annual ritual of flooding in this country, Coffie concludes.

And rarely do we find such honesty and clarity. Not a mention of global warming – no attempt to dump the problem on whitey. "Our leaders have over the years played so much politics with settlement and unauthorized structures on water courses thereby leading to the very avoidable flood disaster we are experiencing today."

Governance ... poor governance, pure and simple. But hey – I am sure the warmists will have a different diagnosis.


What are we doing there?

A Royal Marine from 40 Commando died today during a fire-fight in Afghanistan - the fourth to be reported killed in four days, bringing the total to 303.

This death comes against the background of the Rolling Stone article, with Gen McChrystal in Washington (pictured) and his fate in the balance.

Reading the article, one finds that McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," he says.

But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the US homeland, the war will do little to shut down al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan.

Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there's nothing for us there."

"Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan.

"A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war.

And the reason we are wasting blood and treasure on this failed enterprise is?

Comment: Afghanistan thread

Quote of the week

From Munguin's Republic: "I didn't want to blog on the budget, I'm already sick of hearing about it."

Labour government – taxes go up and we get screwed. Cleggeron administration – taxes go up and we get screwed. The faces might change, the voices get shriller (squeaky even) and the rhetoric is different(ish). But somehow, the outcome is always the same – we get screwed.

What really tees me off though is this bullshit that "we're all in this together". "Who's this 'we' white man?" as Tonto said to the Lone Ranger (according to the old joke). Hardship to this bunch of creeps is having to let the second butler go.


A quote too far?

In the closing stages of the film, A Bridge Too Far, we saw Generals Urqhart and Browning starting to distance themselves from what was then evident as a military disaster, with Browning uttering the immortal words: "I always felt we tried to go a bridge too far."

There seems to me to be something of this with Gen Stanley McChrystal and his interview with Rolling Stone magazine. With the man admitting that everything said was on the record, and the magazine checking back with the General's aides before using the quotes, we have on the face of it an example of a senior soldier committing professional suicide.

On the other hand, we could be seeing something more subtle – devious even, on the lines of the "bridge too far" excuse. It is very much an open secret that McChrystal's "surge" is going belly-up and, in the fullness of time, is going to fail. As did the British military in Iraq, the US military are going to need an alibi and a "scapegoat" – they need to dump the blame on the politicians.

McChrystal has put Obama in an impossible position. With the president's popularity evaporating, if he fires McChrystal – still a popular General – he takes the blame for when the campaign finally falls apart. If he doesn't fire our Stan, in effect he is endorsing (or not denying) the "contemptuous" comments about the National Security Team, which can then be held responsible for the disasters to come. Obama still gets it.

Basically, it's a win-win for the military, and a sign that the military has lost faith in its own ability to prevail in Afghanistan. The end is nigh and McChrystal may be signalling that all that matters now is who takes the blame.

And, from our own domestic perspective, how utterly bizarre it is that Cameron has bought into the campaign just as everyone else is planning on bailing out. Call it gut instinct, if you like, but something tells me that the Afghan campaign is going to be very significant politically. It has the potential seriously to damage the current administration.

Comment: Afghanistan thread