Saturday, 27 April 2013

Latest EU poll: "Euroscepticism is soaring amid bailouts and spending cuts"

The latest European poll should make the pygmy politicians and Brussels eurocrats in charge of the slow motion train wreck known as the European Union scared to death: 

Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the union's worst ever crisis, new data shows.
After financial, currency and debt crises, wrenching budget and spending cuts, rich nations' bailouts of the poor, and surrenders of sovereign powers over policymaking to international technocrats, Euroscepticism is soaring to a degree that is likely to feed populist anti-EU politics and frustrate European leaders' efforts to arrest the collapse in support for their project.
Figures from Eurobarometer, the EU's polling organisation, analysed by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a thinktank, show a vertiginous decline in trust in the EU in countries such as Spain,Germany and Italy that are historically very pro-European.
The six countries surveyed – Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Poland – are the EU's biggest, jointly making up more than two out of three EU citizens or around 350 million of the EU's 500 million population.
The findings, published exclusively in the Guardian in Britain and in collaboration with other leading newspapers in the other five countries, represent a nightmare for Europe's leaders, whether in the wealthy north or in the bailout-battered south, suggesting a much bigger crisis of political and democratic legitimacy. 

"The damage is so deep that it does not matter whether you come from a creditor, debtor country, euro would-be member or the UK: everybody is worse off," said José Ignacio Torreblanca, head of the ECFR's Madrid office. "Citizens now think that their national democracy is being subverted by the way the euro crisis is conducted." --

The most dramatic fall in faith in the EU has occurred in Spain, where the banking and housing market collapse, eurozone bailout and runaway unemployment have combined to produce 72% "tending not to trust" the EU, with only 20% "tending to trust".
The data compares trust and mistrust in the EU at the end of last year with levels in 2007, before the financial crisis, to reveal a precipitate fall in support for the EU of the kind that is common in Britain but is much more rarely seen on the continent.
In Spain, trust in the EU fell from 65% to 20% over the five-year period while mistrust soared to 72% from 23%.
In five of the six countries, including Britain, mistrust prevailed over trust by sizeable margins, whereas in 2007 – with the exception of the UK – the opposite was the case.
Five years ago, 56% of Germans "tended to trust" the EU, whereas 59% now "tend to mistrust". In France, mistrust has risen from 41% to 56%. In Italy, where public confidence in Europe has traditionally been higher than in the national political class, mistrust of the EU has almost doubled from 28% to 53%.
The failure of the present European Union is becoming more apparent day by day. The co-founder of the Danish Saxo BankLars Seier Christensen, has some interesting ideas about what could be done to stop the madness:
The big question raised in the book (by Vaclav Klaus) is really whether the EU is more the problem than the solution in the current crisis.
Both the EU and Denmark are in a difficult situation. The euro has shown its true colours and anyone with a rational view of the world sees the currency collaboration as a historic failure that can lead to even further fatal consequences for Europe and the continent’s competitiveness vis-à-vis the rest of the world. There is one thing, and only one thing, that can rescue the euro. That is a much more far-reaching integration between the euro countries; a common financial policy, joint debt issuing, a willingness to pay enormous transfers from the rich to the poor countries or, more specifically, from Germany to all the other member states.
That is a possible route, but not a desirable one. At least not for the citizens who in this case - like in too many other cases - seem to have fundamentally different interests than politicians. It requires a will to give up national independence to an extent that is not acceptable to the voters and, precisely because of this, can only be accomplished in an undemocratic manner.
A speech by British Prime Minister David Cameron on January 23 was extraordinarily important. It represented a strengthening of the critical debate that many Europeans are striving for. Until this moment, Václav Klaus was the only head of state who contributed to that debate. The fact that the prime minister of one of the EU’s most important countries is stepping forward as the focal point for citizens who want a different EU can turn out to be extremely important, although the initial reactions from the EU elite were as negative as they were predictable. The EU does not take criticism and debate lightly.
But with the UK’s forthcoming attempt to negotiate a less restrictive agreement with the EU, Pandora’s box has now been opened. Cameron’s rational reasoning will contribute to exposing the EU’s rigid insistence on more power despite the poor results. It will become increasingly difficult for both the Brits and other EU citizens to understand a firm rejection of Cameron’s five principles – competitiveness, flexibility, more power to the national states, democratic responsibility and fairness. That the EU will have to argue against such reasonable demands and as strongly as possible try to prevent referendums about them would only create more attention and more criticism not least because the Eurozone will come under further economic pressure as a possible referendum would be approaching in the UK in 2017.
It is a unique chance for the countries outside the Eurozone to create an independent forum chaired by Cameron. The Danish Prime Minister ought to have been on the first flight to London to discuss this. It did not happen, of course, but the hope for a better EU has been strengthened by Cameron’s newfound leadership.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

EU "foreign minister" Ashton in China: Human Rights Watch urges the baroness to raise concerns on human rights violations

The EU "foreign minister", baroness Ashton has arrived in Peking on her first visit with China's new leaders. Human Rights Watch would like the baroness to publicly address China's human rights violations:

European Union (EU) High Representative Catherine Ashton should publicly raise concerns over ongoing and persistent human rights violations in China when she visits Beijing later this week, Human Rights Watch said today. Ashton’s visit to China will take place on April 25 and 26, and is the Head of the EU’s External Action Service’s first official visit since the new Chinese leadership assumed power.
“As EU’s top foreign policy official, Ashton cannot ignore the deteriorating human rights environment in China,” said Lotte Leicht, European Union advocacy director. “She needs to make it a central part of her agenda in Beijing.”
Ashton should also urge top Chinese officials to stop obstructing Security Council action on Syria, including humanitarian access to all civilians in need, and referring  jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court.
However, the people at Human Rights Watch know that their wish is not a very realistic one. They know that EU leaders mostly speak about human rights in festive speeches. When actually meeting the violators - particularly when they represent large and ec0nomically important countries like Russia and China - EU bigwigs mention human rights only in a very formal manner, if at all:
the EU’s engagement on human rights in China has been extremely weak since Ashton was nominated as the EU’s first foreign policy chief.
The more than thirty rounds of the official EU-China dialogue on human rights have had little discernible positive effect for those standing up for human rights in China, and at other levels of political dialogue the EU has failed to give human rights and the rule of law a degree of public attention commensurate with the importance of these issues in China.
There is little evidence to suggest that the EU’s statements in defense of human rights are effectively pursued collectively by EU and EU member states diplomats, making it easy for Chinese officials to ignore individual member states or diplomats who do offer up principled criticism. In spite of EU foreign ministers’ June 2012 pledge to “raise human rights issues vigorously in all appropriate forms of bilateral dialogue, including at the highest level” the EU remains hesitant to ensure that human rights violations are addressed and expectations articulated publicly.
For example, when accepting the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and Council President Hebert van Rompuy chose not to mention by name the 2010 Prize-winner, Liu Xiaobo, presumably for fear of irking the Chinese government. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Greenpeace set on destroying the Australian coal industry

The envirofundamentalist Greenpeace is now set on destroying the Australian coal industry, one of the backbones of the country's economy: 
Greenpeace activists boarded a coal ship heading out of Australian waters in an effort to curb coal exports.
Using inflatable boats from Greenpeace’s ship the Rainbow Warrior, six activists boarded the Korean-owned coal ship MV Meister at dawn on Wednesday and presented a letter to the ship’s captain explaining why they were there. The activists set up camp on the ship’s bow.
“Our leaders are failing us so it’s up to us to take civil disobedience and to slow down and stop these coal ships. We are set to stay here as long as it takes,” she added.
“We are calling on the rest of Australia to take whatever action is possible to ensure that we do not double our coal exports. We cannot deal with the climate change that will result from that,” said a Greenpeace spokesman on the Rainbow Warrior.
What the Greenpeace people are engaged in is nothing but a criminal activity, that should be dealt with accordingly. It goes without saying that people unlawfully boarding a ship and setting up camp on it should be arrested and prosecuted. 
And, as economists Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silva point out in an article in The Australian, the meddling by Greenpeace and people like American anti-coal activist  Bill McKibben in the Australian coal economy could have a massive negative impact in Australia: 
The new Rainbow Warrior is on an Australian tour campaigning against the coal industry and its "reckless" expansion. Writing in these pages Greenpeace activist David Ritter would have us believe that Australia faces a stark choice between coalmining and tourism or agriculture.
Mining creates upstream and downstream economic activity. Mining itself generated about 11.5 per cent of gross value added in 2011-12 and the spillovers created another 6.5 per cent of economic activity. So nearly one-fifth of our economy is reliant on mining. But the Reserve Bank looked only at the supply side of the economy. When you add the demand side, mining makes up nearly a quarter of our economy. We shouldn't give that up lightly.
Using the same method as the Reserve Bank we estimated the size of the coal economy -- coalmining plus the spillovers from coal into the broader economy -- to be about 3.1 per cent of gross value added in 2011-12, about $43 billion. Including the demand side, that increases to 4.2 per cent of gross value added, and nearly $60bn. The coal economy provides 181,000 jobs. For every coalmining job 3.7 jobs are created in the broader economy.
It is highly likely that the benefits and spillovers of those jobs are concentrated in the coal-mining states of NSW, Queensland and Victoria. . The challenge for critics of the coal industry is to articulate alternative economic activity for those engaged in mining and mining-related activity, which can be as diverse as construction services and wholesale trade.
Most important, coal keeps our electricity generators going. Phasing out coalmining means turning off the lights, while phasing out coal exports means turning off other people's lights and economic growth.
That is probably not the message Greenpeace wishes to promote but it highlights the paucity of its argument.
Australian coal doesn't just benefit the Australian economy, it benefits the world economy. Despite that, the Australian coalmining industry recently was labelled a "rogue industry" that must be phased out by American anti-coal activist Bill McKibben from non-governmental organisation who is coming to Australia in June to campaign against coal exports.
The consequences of ill-informed meddling in the coal economy would have a massive negative impact in Australia, especially in the most populous states along the east coast.
Foreigners coming to Australia to campaign against our national economy can do a lot of damage if their claims go unchallenged. So too will "uncivil" disobedience campaigns designed to sabotage local economies and cause property destruction. Coalmining and exports provide benefits to Australia and the world well beyond mining itself.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The economic failure of the European Union: Barroso blames member countries and citizens

"Prejudiced" European citizens do not understand the "problems", according to J.M. Barroso

The facts
  • Over 26 million people are unemployed in the EU countries
  • Eurozone unemployment rate is 12%, a record since the single currency was created in 1999
  • Youth unemployment in Greece is 58%
  • Youth unemployment in Spain is 56%
  • The eurozone economy has contracted for five consecutive quarters in 2011-2012
  • Forecasts for the first quarter of this year, to be released in May, are not expected to show any improvement

How does European Commission president José Manuel Barroso react to these dismal figures (which are a direct result of the EU's failed policies)?

Although faking some self-criticism, Barroso in reality blames the citizens for not understanding the "problems", due to "prejudices and reinforced stereotypes". And the other culprits are member state governments, who according to the former maoist "oversimplify debates":

"A policy to be successful not only has to be properly designed, it has to have the minimum of public support,” Barroso said. “We have not been able collectively to explain the problems.”
Addressing the lack of coherent discourse around the crisis, the EU executive chief slammed member states for over-simplifying debates, which led to prejudices and reinforced stereotypes, backfiring on the countries themselves, giving rise to nationalism and populism.
And how is Barroso going to solve the "problems"?
Surprise, surprise, by MORE integration!:
More integration is simply indispensable for our economy, to shield us from international rough weather to face strong completion and maintain the trust of markets and investors”
A real political leader gave a proper reply to this madness already in 1990:

"No. No. No."

Another European "success story": Eight Italians bought an electric car in February

Europeans give thumbs down to these.

In spite of all the environmental hype and subsidies, European car buyers continue to give the thumbs down to electric cars and hybrids. These are the latest sales figures from February:

  • 8 Italians (out of a population of 60 million) bought an electric car in February.
  • 0 Not one electric car was sold in Greece 
  • 505 electric cars were sold in Germany (population 82 million)
  • 648 electric cars were bought in France (population 65,6 million)

The market share for electric cars and hybrids in western Europe is a whopping 0,25%!

With this kind of sales, the German government's goal of having one million will of course never be reached. German car manufacturers are now crying for more subsidies:

“To support the development of alternative engines, we need positive conditions,” Zetsche, who is also the head of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), told business daily Handelsblatt. “At the same time it’s necessary to build the appropriate infrastructure.”Establishing new technology is unavoidably expensive, a cycle “we can only break if Europe supports the purchase of electric autos for a limited time,” he told the paper, adding that unified rules for the region would be ideal. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Exiled Chechen opposition leader: Boston bombings "gift to the Kremlin and Putin"

The credulity of some U.S. political commentators and analysts is just mind-boggling. In the wake of the Boston bombings, some are already calling for a new thaw in the US relations with Putin's Russia:
'a number of commenters are already arguing that the Obama administration should repair relations with Russia. Writing in The National Interest, Jacob Heilbrunn argues that the bombing is a “vindication” of Putin: “One can only speculate what Russian president Vladimir Putin is thinking as he sees Chechen terrorists wreaking havoc in a major American city.”'
Read the entire article here
"U.S. and Russian counterterrorism agencies already have a history of cooperating in tracking common enemies. If a joint effort plays some role in shining light on the Boston bombers’ motives or wider networks (if there are wider networks), that would strengthen these ties considerably — and possibly enhance the safety of the coming Olympics.
President Barack Obama has been exploring avenues for another “reset” of Russian-American relations. At least when it comes to counterterrorist operations, Putin is too. Depending on how the next few hours or days go, Boston may serve as an opportunity for these two powers to start over." Read the entire article here
But some experts say the Boston tragedy may provide an opportunity for another thawing.

"Certainly, in the past these situations have helped promote reconciliation between the U.S. and Russia," said Jeffrey Mankoff, a Russia analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Potentially that could happen again." Read the entire article here

In the overheated atmosphere created by the bombings, it may be useful to read what the exiled Chechen opposition leader Akhmed Zakayev has to say on this matter: 
"Indeed, the Boston bombings were a “gift to the Kremlin and Putin,” he says with a sigh. After last week’s attacks, Zakayev expects events in Boston to be exploited by the Russian government. “They will say, ‘This is the Chechen.’” When the smoke clears, he says he expects Moscow to politicize the suspects’ ethnic background. “Three years ago Putin said that Western nations granting political asylum to Chechens will have problems with these Chechens.” -
It’s this type of comment that raises Zakayev’s suspicions. Throughout our conversation, he hinted at a darker conspiracy, the cui bono suggestion that if the Putin regime benefited politically from the attack, it could have been, in some way, been involved in facilitating it. “Behind this action, we have to consider the involvement of a state organization or another big organization.”
Seizing on media reports that accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev flew to Moscow in January 2012, returning to the United States six months later, Zakayev called this information “an absolutely new situation.” (It had yet to be revealed that the Russian government had previously warned Washington about Tsarnaev.) What about reports that, during this period, Tsarnaev received military training from Chechen Islamist groups? “Which Chechen military group trained this guy? Nobody trained this guy,” Zakayev says. “I could believe if they come to Moscow that they have some instruction from someone, from Russian special services.” He adds that he “absolutely does not follow any conspiracy theory. We should wait until the Boston police have a full report.”
The finger-pointing at Russia is unsurprising. When I met Zakayev in 2010, he made it clear that he believed Moscow was involved in almost all major terror attacks attributed to Chechen Islamists, in an attempt to inflame Russian public opinion. It is widely believed by Chechens—and Sen. John McCain, slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, former Economist Moscow correspondent Edward Lucas, and many others—that the notorious 1999 Moscow “apartment bombings,” which precipitated the Second Chechen War, were not the work of Chechen radicals, but of Russian intelligence. And it should be pointed out that Chechen exiles are conspiratorial because they been the target of quite a few conspiracies. Last year testimony at a deportation hearing in London revealed that British intelligence foiled a 2009 assassination plot against Zakayev, which MI5 believed was ordered by Kadyrov.Read the entire article here

Gazprom shale gas denial: The case of Alexey Miller

Alexey Miller - a case of denial

Alexey Miller, CEO of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom - "perhaps the most mismanaged and corrupt company of its size in the world" - owes his position, not to his prowess as an energy expert or a business leader, but solely to his close ties with dictator Vladimir Putin
Reading what this man, who would have been sacked already long ago had he been the in charge of a western energy company, has to say about the U.S. shale gas revolution, proves the point: 
The extraction of shale gas in the US is unprofitable and this “soap bubble will burst soon,” believes the CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom Aleksey Miller.
“Currently, there aren’t any projects that we know of where shale gas production would be profitable,” Miller stated, adding that “absolutely all the boreholes” are in the red. --
The US “is not a competitor” for the Russian energy giant, Miller stated.
“We are skeptical about shale gas,” he said, as cited by Interfax. Therefore, Gazprom sees “no risks” for itself in the development of shale gas energy in the US. America still remains a country with a deficit of gas – it is the largest gas market and the largest consumer of this fuel, Miller said.
A psychologist could not find a better example of a person fitting the definition of being in denial:
Denial is probably one of the best known defense mechanisms, used often to describe situations in which people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth (i.e. "He's in denial."). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Drug addicts or alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, while victims of traumatic events may deny that the event ever occurred.
Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with.
Miller, as well as his creator Vladimir Putin, are clearly in denial about e.g. these facts: 
We have seen a 40 percent increase in domestic oil production since 2008, the highest growth in oil output of any country in the world over that time period. As could be expected, net oil imports have plummeted, from more than a 60 percent share of domestic consumption in 2005 to less than 40 percent this year, the lowest dependence on foreign sources of oil in more than 20 years. Domestic oil production is booming, and the United States could even surpass Saudi Arabia to become the world's biggest oil producer by 2020.
The upsurge in U.S. natural gas production has been no less dramatic. The Energy Information Administration, or EIA, estimates that the U.S. has enough gas to last more than 100 years. What has become known as the "shale gale" has turned a shortage into a surplus, and now natural gas accounts for more than a quarter of America's total energy.
The abundance of cheap gas has helped reduce utility bills for consumers through lower electricity costs and lower costs for the millions of Americans who use gas to heat their homes. And the "shale gale" has sparked a revival in domestic manufacturing, mainly in the chemical industry but also in other energy-intensive industries like iron and steel. Because U.S. natural gas prices are now the lowest in the world, industries that once exported manufacturing facilities abroad are suddenly bringing them back home as they pursue new investments. All of this has increased economic growth, created jobs with good wages and produced revenue for governments at all levels.
Read the entire article here
Russia, which earns well over half its government revenue from energy exports, will eventually find itself in an exceptionally tight spot. As Aviezer Tucker noted in a recent article for Foreign Affairs, Gazprom, Russia's gas monopoly, sells 60 percent of its gas at home and at a loss. To earn even a modest profit, it must export to Europe at a price that is now four times higher than the current going rate in the United States. In addition, in 2007, Russia needed an oil price of US$34 per barrel to balance its budget. By 2012, the target surged to $117 per barrel. Easing demand in the United States and in Europe will erode Russia's finances in years to come, putting the current government to a significant test and perhaps forcing some of the reforms that Washington has long urged on Vladimir Putin's government.
Read the entire article here
But now Gazprom is under threat. Over the past five years, the technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked vast amounts of shale gas in the United States, Canada, North Africa and the Middle East. Suddenly gas is in abundance, prices are falling and the possibilities of shipping liquefied natural gas, or LNG, on tankers around the world seem endless.
Five years ago, Gazprom was close to shipping gas from Russia’s Eastern Arctic to the United States. No longer. Thanks to fracking, the United States has so much shale gas it will soon be a gas exporter, and many other countries, including Qatar and Australia, are exploiting their LNG potential as well.
All of which has made Europeans less dependent on Gazprom and they are beginning to flex their muscles, demanding rebates on contracts and even launching an investigation into allegations of anti-competitive conduct by the Russians.
Gazprom’s shipments to Europe have been falling steadily and the company’s share price has dropped 60 per cent since the advent of the fracking revolution. Former Soviet stalwarts such as Romania and Ukraine, among the most dependent on Gazprom, have started looking into exploiting their shale-gas deposits as well, while others, such as Lithuania, are leading the European Union’s competition probe.
Mr. Putin has tried to hit back, deriding fracking as dangerous and warning the EU that its competition probe could result in less gas flowing to the West. There is much at stake for the Russian leader, said Dieter Helm, a professor of energy policy at Oxford University.
“Putin’s government depends on oil and gas, and this weakens his position very considerably,” Prof. Helm said. “Now if their finances fall away, there’s not the money to keep sections of the population happy. I think you are creating the conditions for, in three, four or five years, for considerable resistance to Putin’s authoritarian rule.” 
Read the entire article here
Curiously, in 2011 Gazprom was formally the most profitable company in the world with purported net profits of $46bn, but these profits were hardly real. Investment analysts opined that no less than $40bn disappeared through inefficiency or corruption. Gazprom’s cash flow was barely positive.
In their 2010 booklet Putin and Gazprom , Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, the opposition politicians, detailed how assets were being stripped from Gazprom through large kickbacks on pipeline construction and cheap sales of financial and media subsidiaries to Putin cronies. Since shareholders have realised that only their dividend yield is material, Gazprom’s market value has plummeted by two-thirds from $365bn in May 2008 to $120bn today.
Read the entire article here

A country with such huge natural resources as Russia, should be able to offer its citizens a standard of living on par with the most affluent countries in the world. Sadly, the reality of Vladimir Putin's Russia is a totally different story:

The richest slice of Russian society has doubled its wealth in the past 20 years, while almost two-thirds of the population is no better off and the poor are barely half as wealthy as they were when the Soviet Union fell, according to researchers.--
The huge gap between rich and poor "largely negates the economic and social achievements of recent years," the HSE report said.
Yasin added that the study indicated there were "two Russias". The wealthiest fifth of the population received a pay cheque equivalent to 198% of its value in 1991, while the poorest fifth made only 55% in real terms. In total, 60% of the population has the same real income or less than the average 20 years ago.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Only 19 % of U.S. pastors age 18 - 44 believe in man made global warming

A clear majority (54%) of U.S. protestant pastors doubt the existence of man made global warming, according to a fresh report by LifeWay Research. What is encouraging is that younger pastors are the biggest skeptics. Only 19% of pastors in the age group 18-44 agree with the statement: "I belive global warming is real and man made". 

The LifeWay poll also shows that only seven percent of Republican pastors believe in man man made global warming, while 76% of their Democrat colleagues say said "they strongly agreed that global warming is real and man made". One can only hope that the misled Democrat pastors will soon discard the fake global warming religion and refocus on their original religious task.