Saturday, 7 December 2013

Philosopher Alain Finkelkraut's devastating analysis of the multicultural society in France

German Der Spiegel's interview with the French philosopher Alain Finkelkraut is worth reading. Finkelkrauts analysis of the French multicultural society is devastating - and true:

Finkielkraut: I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good.
SPIEGEL: Why is that? Post-national and multicultural sounds rather promising.
Finkielkraut: It is presented to us as the model for the future. But multiculturalism does not mean that cultures blend. Mistrust prevails, communitarianism is rampant -- parallel societies are forming that continuously distance themselves from each other.
SPIEGEL: Aren't you giving in here to the right-wingers' fears of demise?
Finkielkraut: The lower middle classes -- the French that one no longer dares to call Français de souche (ethnic French) -- are already moving out of the Parisian suburbs and farther into the countryside. They have experienced that in some neighborhoods they are the minority in their own country. They are not afraid of the others, but rather of becoming the others themselves.
SPIEGEL: But France has always been a country of immigrants.
Finkielkraut: We are constantly told that immigration is a constitutive element of the French identity. But that's not true. Labor migration began in the 19th century. It was not until after the bloodletting of World War I that the borders were largely opened.
SPIEGEL: Immigration has had more of a formative influence on France than on Germany.
Finkielkraut: Immigration used to go hand-in-hand with integration into French culture. That was the rule of the game. Many of the new arrivals no longer want to play by that rule. If the immigrants are in the majority in their neighborhoods, how can we integrate them? There used to be mixed marriages, which is crucial to miscegenation. But their numbers are declining. Many Muslims in Europe are re-Islamizing themselves. A woman who wears the veil effectively announces that a relationship with a non-Muslim is out of the question for her.
SPIEGEL: Aren't many immigrants excluded from mainstream society primarily for economic reasons?
Finkielkraut: The left wanted to resolve the problem of immigration as a social issue, and proclaimed that the riots in the suburbs were a kind of class struggle. We were told that these youths were protesting against unemployment, inequality and the impossibility of social advancement. In reality we saw an eruption of hostility toward French society. Social inequality does not explain the anti-Semitism, nor the misogyny in the suburbs, nor the insult "filthy French." The left does not want to accept that there is a clash of civilizations.
SPIEGEL: The anger of these young people is also stirred up by high unemployment. They are turning their backs on society because they feel excluded.
Finkielkraut: If unemployment is so high, then immigration has to be more effectively controlled. Apparently there is not enough work for everyone. But just ask the teachers in these troubled neighborhoods -- they have major difficulties teaching anything at all. Compared to the rappers and the dealers, the teachers earn so ridiculously little that they are viewed with contempt. Why should the students make an effort to follow in their footsteps? There are a large number of young people who don't want to learn anything about French culture. This refusal makes it harder for them to find work.
SPIEGEL: These neighborhoods that you speak of, have you even seen them firsthand?
Finkielkraut: I watch the news; I read books and studies. I have never relied on my intuition.
SPIEGEL: In the US the coexistence of communities works better. The Americans don't have this European adherence to a national uniform culture.
Finkielkraut: The US sees itself as a country of immigration, and what is impressive about this truly multicultural society is the strength of its patriotism. This was particularly evident after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In France, however, the opposite could be seen after the attacks on French soldiers and Jewish children in Toulouse and Montauban last year: Some schoolchildren saw Mohamed Merah, the assailant, as a hero. Something like that would be unthinkable in the US. American society is a homeland for everyone. I don't think that many children of immigrants here see it that way.
SPIEGEL: America makes it easy for new arrivals to feel like Americans. Does France place the hurdles too high?
Finkielkraut: France prohibits students from wearing headscarves at school. This is also for the benefit of all Muslims who don't want a religious cage for themselves, for their daughters and wives. France is a civilization, and the question is what it means to participate in it. Does this mean the natives have to make themselves extremely small so the others can easily spread themselves out? Or does it mean passing on the culture that one possesses?

Amazon, Deutsche Post and UPS planning to use drones for deliveries

Interesting postal delivery news:

Online retail giant Amazon sparked a marketing frenzy Monday in announcing a project to use flying objects more associated with warfare to deliver packages, maintaining it could be up and running within five years.
But Deutsche Post said on Thursday it too has a project that predates Amazon's, though the scheme is in its early stages.
"This is only a beginning," a Deutsche Post spokeswoman said, with the focus for now on using drones for home delivery of medicine.
Amazon on Sunday posted a video on its website showing a prototype. The body of the device is about the size of a flat-screen TV with eight small helicopter rotors lifting it in the air.
"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told US broadcaster CBS when revealing the project.
US media reported that delivery giant UPS is also researching drone home delivery.
The technology has been tested and proven to work, so it is not surprising that the likes of Amazon, Deutsche Post and UPS are planning to use it:
The head of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a US drone strike on Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials told Reuters anonymously. Senior sources within the militant group confirmed the death.
There might of course be slight a problem in the receiving end for certain customers: How to know whether it is your latest Amazon order arriving or a delivery from quite another type of US "company"?
This postman never rings twice.

Global warming?: "Worst (winter storm) to hit the United States in years"

This must be another serious consequence of global warming:

A deadly winter storm some forecasters say is the worst to hit the United States in years slammed the nation's midsection Friday, snarling travel and knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of customers.
The line of ice, snow and freezing temperatures stretched from the Texas-Mexico border northeast to the Ohio Valley, with the most severe conditions near Dallas, then punching through Arkansas and western Kentucky, according to forecasters at
Residents of large cities and small towns hunkered down against the storm. Many were without power as broad outages were reported through Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, according to local utilities.
At the height of the storm, some 267,000 outages were reported in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, according to utility provider Oncor, but that number was down to about 208,000 by Friday afternoon.
More than 1,900 flights were canceled on Friday, according to online flight trackers.--

The National Weather Service said it expected the harsh conditions to continue into the weekend, with temperatures about 30 degrees lower than average in some areas.

And it's not better in Europe:

Icy winter storms with hurricane-force winds Friday lashed northern Europe, where the death toll rose to 10 while hundreds of thousands suffered power blackouts and road, rail and air transport chaos.

Friday, 6 December 2013

UNICEF UK blog: Minus-50 degrees Celsius in Mongolia due to global warming

"Please join our campaign to create A Climate Fit for Children"

Here is how a UNICEF UK blogger describers climate change/global warming in Mongolia:

In the last couple of weeks my winter coat has become necessary and I’m contemplating gloves. Yet any complaints I might have are put into perspective when I consider that for millions of children, winter is a time of threat.
When we think of climate change we often think of rising temperatures, but children are also affected in colder climates, experiencing harsher winters and declining water resources. In Mongolia some children can spend 3 to 4 hours every day collecting water, braving frozen rivers and wells, and hauling water containers over extremely long distances.
In western Mongolia in 2010, heavy snow, strong winds and extreme cold created crisis conditions in over half the country’s provinces. Temperatures fell to minus-50 degrees Celsius, and snow meant access to food, fuel, sanitation and basic medical care was even tougher.

Wouldn't it be better for UNICEF to concentrate on helping children in need instead of "creating climates"?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Integration of migrants in Europe: A Finnish example

There is a growing number of migrants in most European countries. Politicians and local officials are trying to integrate them, although it does not always seem to be easy. Here is one example which shows how "integration" should not be done:

Patrons of the Rantakylä swimming hall in Joensuu, northeast Finland are perplexed by the rules pertaining to special ladies-only swimming sessions. A local mother recently tried to take her three-year old son to the session but they were turned away and told that only women were allowed.

"It's related to migrant integration and has received a positive reception. About 50 – 70 customers attend the sessions every week, and that's about half of our total visitor numbers," explained Pentti Ryhänen, Joensuu city facility manager.

However the popular swimming session has also caused some bewilderment. Some believe that the city should not segregate swimming times based on gender. One local mother was taken aback by the strict enforcement of the segregation rule when she tried to take her toddler son to the swimming class.
"I thought it would not be a problem because he's such a small boy. However when we got to the ticket kiosk they asked whether the child was a boy or a girl and they turned us away. Naturally I was upset," the mother said.

Facility manager Pentti Ryhänen said however that there has been little negative feedback over the single-sex swimming session. He noted that that it should be clear that boys are not allowed, even if they are very young.
"Parents are free to attend other sessions with their sons," he pointed out.
Ryhänen said that immigrants have offered positive feedback about the ladies-only sessions to city authorities. They have also made proposals for developing the service.
"One proposal was that we should cover the windows of the swimming hall during these sessions so that no one can see inside. But we won't be doing that," he added.

Let's hope the windows in the Joensuu swimming hall will stay uncovered!

Australian warmist scaremongering: "Alice Springs would resemble the Sudan, Darwin will resemble like no place on earth"

"The world added roughly 100 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750."
"Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth's surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar" 
The Economist

No matter what happens in the real world, global warming alarmists are desperately trying to sell their scare stories. Here is an Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Melbourne University peddling his message of doom and gloom:

" a book published today paints a terrifying picture of a world that's four degrees warmer and recommends a dramatic increase in Australia's carbon reduction target.*

The book's editor is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Melbourne University, Dr Peter Christoff.*

ELEANOR HALL: What is the most frightening aspect for you of a four degree warmer world?

PETER CHRISTOFF: Oh look, that's a terrible question to which one only has to give a terrible answer. There are a set of compounding problems that emerge when you start moving towards four degrees. You start to see a world in which there are substantial extinctions.

The oceans have become warmer, are becoming more acidic. So there's a very significant chance of the collapse of significant marine ecosystems like coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef, for example, is probably doomed when you get to four degrees. There are very substantial problems with food availability planet-wide and in a country like Australia which used to be capable of producing a surplus of food, by four degrees, would probably be facing food security problems with a larger population, but also a hungrier population.

And then you have the issues of extreme weather events, floods, more intense storms, bushfires, all these things particularly in the Australian context, I think leave us with a shatteringly different sense of what Australian can and would be like.

ELEANOR HALL: The physical effects are one part of this. What could the changes in the resource availability then mean for security? Will it inevitably mean more wars?

PETER CHRISTOFF: The projections are at four degrees that you would have significant displacement of population. If you have mass hunger occurring, populations will move to try and find food. Most of those movements, and the projections go from 65 to 250 million people by the end of this century. Most of those movements are likely to occur with countries, but there would be also the prospect of people moving over their borders and looking for resources elsewhere.

And how the world begins to handle a problem of that magnitude I think is something that we can only begin to contemplate. One doesn't know whether it would lead to more conflict. It certainly would lead to problems. I don't think we can understand what a world that looks like the one that's being projected looks like or how we're going to react to it. It's beyond human experience.

ELEANOR HALL: This sounds like a doomsday scenario. Could humans adapt to a four degree warming of the planet?

PETER CHRISTOFF: Well, humans are an extraordinarily adaptable species but if you're looking at a population of seven billion people trying to adapt to a world in which there's less water and less food, one would have to say that the prospects for an adaptation that would leave life looking roughly like it does for many people at this point in time is virtually impossible.

So there are already billions of people living in poverty or in water-stressed and food-stressed circumstances. In a four degree world, their situation would only get extremely worse. And even in extremely wealthy countries like Australia, adaptation I think would be very, very difficult to countenance.

There would clearly be some form of adaptation, but it wouldn't be life as we understand it at this point in time.

ELEANOR HALL: You say that Australia could be one of the most vulnerable continents. Where do you expect to see the worst effects in Australia of a four degree warmer world?

PETER CHRISTOFF: There will be the extinctions of species. There'll be a very substantial impact on agricultural productivity. So the issues of food availability will change. We probably have the wealth and the resources to begin to deal with some of the issues of water availability and desalinisation plants and so on. Everyday life will be very substantially different. There are projections for example of what would happen to just average temperatures over time. So in Melbourne for example, we have something like nine or ten days over 35 degrees at the moment. By the time you get to 2070, that's about 26 days.

When you're looking at Alice Springs, the temperatures are 90 days over 35 degrees now, 180 by 2070. And then you get to places like Darwin, which would move from 11 days to 308. You end up with parts of Australia which are virtually unliveable. And the projections are for example, that while Alice Springs would resemble the Sudan, Darwin will resemble like no place on earth."

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Britain's climate change policies are a costly affair

The Cameron government's useless global warming/climate change policy is a costly affair:

Climate-change policies are expected to cost Britain more than £80 billion by the end of the decade, as critics warn that the global-warming industry is spiralling out of control.
Vast sums are being spent on initiatives ranging from climate-change officers in local councils to the funding of “low carbon” agriculture in Colombia at a cost of £15 million alone. Billions of pounds are also being added to fuel bills to pay for green policies.
The full cost is contained in a study published on Monday by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank founded by Lord Lawson, the former chancellor.
Its analysis puts the cost to the British public of climate- change policies at £85 billion in the 10 years to 2021. More than half — about £47.6 billion — will have gone on funding green levies, such as subsidies for wind farms, added to consumer fuel bills.
A further £17 billion will have been spent by government departments and quangos, according to the study.

The rest — about £20 billion — will have gone to the European Union for global-warming initiatives.
Last month, the EU’s commissioner for climate action said that a fifth of the EU’s £805 billion budget from 2014 to 2020 would go on “climate-related spending”. Britain contributes about an eighth of the total EU budget.
Benny Peiser, the foundation’s director, who compiled the report, said: “The public has absolutely no idea how staggeringly costly and excessive the Government’s climate initiatives are. Even we were shocked when we discovered the astronomical funding streams and added them up.
“Britain’s climate policies combine to a mind-boggling amount of subsidies and departmental spending, which will drastically increase in the next few years.”

Unfortunately the UK is not the only country where the taxpayers have to pay for this madness. Time for voters to support parties/candidates who oppose it.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Norway Report

The next time you meet a Norwegian in a pub, ask him to pay for the beer. He should be able to afford it:

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, also known as the National Oil Fund has now reached the value of NOK 5000 billion, or USD 818 billion. This was announced Monday, 17 years after the Finance Department deposited the first NOK two billion in the Fund in 1996.

But don't wait for too long - even the owners of  the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund have their problems:

In only 12 years, the oil production in Norway will slow down, and so will the growth of the oil fund. Today's youth will have to pick up the bill.

"When the oil age is over we may have to cut down on our benefits. That could be painful, but it will most likely have to be done sooner or later. The rest of Europe, including our neighboring countries, are already cutting their spending, whereas we simply continue to expand systems that are not sustainable in the long run," says Chief Economist in Handelsbanken Knut Anton Mork.

The Economist has more on why wealth has its problems also in the land of the Arctic Arabs:

The oil boom led to a boom in public spending: since the 1970s the number of people employed in education has doubled and that in health and social services has quadrupled. The public sector continues to account for 52% of Norway’s GDP.
Oil wealth is bringing its own problems. The oil sector is monopolising the nation’s technical talent, with more than 50,000 engineers currently being employed offshore. Property prices are rising by nearly 7% a year. McDonalds charges $7.69 for a Big Mac, against $4.37 in America.

The fund is not without its problems, such as its size (it now accounts for 1% of all the world’s stocks), its leisurely approach (it was slow to exploit the opportunities offered by the 2007-08 financial crisis) and its penchant for blacklisting offending companies. But it is nevertheless one of the best-run in the world. The Norwegians have established a clear division between the finance ministry as owner and the central bank as manager. They are now trying to improve returns and diversify risks.

Norway's new conservative PM Erna Solberg is trying to manage the riches, but it's not easy:

ERNA SOLBERG, Norway’s conservative prime minister, is nothing if not ambitious. After defeating her popular Social Democratic rival, Jens Stoltenberg, in a general election in September, she beat the odds to cobble together a minority coalition at the end of that month. On November 15th she successfully negotiated an agreement on the budget for 2014.
Now she says she wants to wean Norway off its dependence on oil revenue and ease it towards a more balanced economy in which budget shortfalls are not plugged by the wealth flowing from the North Sea. It will be no easy task. The gap between Ms Solberg’s ambitions and actions was highlighted in the budget deal, which saw her depend a bit more on the country’s oil coffers than originally proposed—an extra 3.9 billion kroner ($640m). --

 It got a temporary fillip this week when new data showed the economy had grown by 0.5% in the third quarter instead of an expected 0.4%, but the currency has still dropped by about 10% against the dollar this year. Long gone seem the days during the financial crisis when the krone was regarded as a safe-haven currency.

The country’s weak economic fundamentals are the main reason for the krone’s fall, but there is growing concern that Norway could soon experience a big property crash. Property prices, particularly in Oslo and chichi ski resorts such as Hemsedal, have risen rapidly in the last decade. Peter Hermanrud, chief strategist at Swedbank First Securities, told a conference in Oslo recently that the property bubble could soon burst and that the government’s most likely response would be to cut interest rates and increase its spending from the oil fund—exactly the opposite of Ms Solberg’s stated ambition.

The dark clouds on the horizon do not seem to worry the locals too much, at least not this time of the year:

For the first time since the 1980s, the Norwegian Christmas shopping declined last year. This year, the trend has turned. Talking to TV2, trade organization Virke’s CEO Vibeke Hammer Madsen said that their forecasts for this year indicate an increase of 2.5% to 50.5 billion.
Virke also mapped the areas where most money is spent on holiday shopping. The shops in the Oslo area will sell for 10.900 NOK per capita, providing the highest average in the country. On the other end of the scale, one person in Østfold will spend 8350 NOK on average.

Merry Christmas (shopping) to you all up there in Norway! Enjoy your wealth as long as it lasts, but prepare for a time when you are not able to afford a Swedish butler anymore!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

EU citizens and development aid - Why you should not believe in polls commissioned by the EU Commission

Investment in development aid is largely a waste of money

Louise Fresco
Professor (specialises in the foundations of sustainable development)
University of Amsterdam

It is a well known fact that public opinion polls are often commissioned and used by institutions and organizations who want to promote their agenda. The European Commission is one of the institutions which most frequently use this technique of manipulation.
The EU Commission press release from November 26 is a case in point:
Tackling poverty in developing countries should be one of the main priorities of the European Union, according to 66% of EU citizens. Seven out of ten people (69%) believe that helping these countries is also good for the EU, benefiting its citizens. These are some key results from a Eurobarometer survey to be published today at the European Development Days in Brussels (26-27 November).
Despite the economic crisis, more EU citizens are now willing to pay more for groceries and products that support developing countries (48% of respondents, which represents an increase of 4 percentage points since 2012). 83% of respondents, meanwhile, think that it is important to help people in developing countries and 61% are of the opinion that aid should be increased.

Already this text on the cover of the actual Eurobarometer survey should be a warning sign:
This survey has been requested by the European Commission, Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid and co-ordinated by Directorate-General for Communication.
The survey as such was certainly done in a professional way by TNS Opinion & Social, but the results should be taken with a huge pinch of salt. By formulating the questions in a certain way - and by totally omitting critical questions - you get what the Commission wanted - a useful propaganda tool.
When Ipsos-Mori last December asked what UK citizens think about development aid, they got a totally different (and of course much more true) picture:
Just one in four people support Britain spending  billions of pounds on ­foreign aid every year.
And more than 60 per cent believe the cash is wasted, according to a poll.

The finding is a major blow to David Cameron, who is committed to protecting international development from budget cuts.
It follows a spate of stories linking Britain's aid spending to corruption or waste.
Spending on development by the Coalition is set to rise to £11.3billion next year.
Only 6 per cent of people in the Ipsos-Mori poll strongly disagreed with the idea that foreign aid is wasted. A further 20 per cent tended to disagree with the statement.
Together the total of 26 per cent is little more than a quarter of the public. But 61 per cent said that development money is being wasted.
Despite the lack of support, Mr Cameron made a passionate defence of his target of spending 0.7 per cent of the UK's income on foreign aid.
The decision will require an increase of 30 per cent in 2013 from £8.65billion this year.
Mr Cameron acknowledged it was 'difficult' to persuade the public that increasing aid was the right thing to do at a time of cutbacks at home.
For people who still believe in the effectiveness of development aid (outside of the aid agencies), Jonathan Foreman's recent article in The Spectator should be good reading:

Our rulers must know that development aid doesn’t work. So why do they throw money at it?

One of the more bizarre mysteries of contemporary British politics is the ironclad, almost fanatical intensity of the government’s commitment to foreign aid spending and the activities of DFID, the Department for International Development.
It is bizarre because the Prime Minister talks about foreign aid as if it’s all about famine relief and saving children’s lives. But he and his Cabinet are intelligent, worldly people and they know that the real world of aid rarely resembles the one celebrated in DFID pamphlets and Oxfam ads. They know that most aid is ‘development aid’ intended not to help in emergencies, but to foster prosperity.
They also know that this development aid is at best useless and at worst counterproductive. A quarter of Britain’s foreign aid goes as ‘budget support’ into the treasuries of some of the world’s least competent, honest or responsible governments. Even more goes to multilateral institutions, like the World Bank or the EU aid body that Clare Short described as ‘an outrage’, ‘a disgrace’ and ‘the worst development agency in the world’.
After 60 years and $3 trillion of development aid, with one big push following another and wave after wave of theories and jargon, there is depressingly little evidence that official development aid has any significant benign effect on third-world poverty. The Tories know this. They’ve read William Easterly and Robert Calderisi, who argue that the cash we dole out has enriched privileged Westerners and kleptocratic third-world rulers more than its intended beneficiaries. Moreover, they’ve seen how South Korea and Taiwan have risen from poverty to prosperity and they know how small a role foreign aid played. So why do they still insist on this enormous, ‘ring-fenced’ aid budget?
Some suggest it’s about being nice (however ineffectually) to our less fortunate neighbours; showing them we’re not racist. But being admirably attuned to matters of race and prejudice, Cameron and his crew must have noticed that the fiercest defenders of aid are invariably white, and the most trenchant critics tend to be African intellectuals like Ghana’s George Ayittey and Uganda’s Andrew Mwenda. Some of them who have been in the field will have seen for themselves how aid activity of both kinds — development and emergency — all too often replicates much that was bad about 19th-century missionary activity and imperialism, and even with the best intentions tends to patronise its beneficiaries and undermine good government.
Like so many things in Britain, the new Tory obsession with aid may come down to class and religion.
It is a matter of religion partly because so much aid is faith-based, by which I mean that those who fund it and carry it out have little or no real evidence that it works, but they take a leap of faith that it does. It is also faith-based in the sense that foreign aid has become one of those substitute religions so often adopted by middle-class, educated people who look down on organised religion of all kinds. Like other pseudo-religions, aid has its owns myths, iconography, priesthoods; its state and private elements; its conflicts between fundamentalists and moderates; its guardians of purity, its true believers and cynical hucksters, its genuine saints and its ruthless bureaucrats. And it offers believers an almost spiritual sense of their own goodness — which goes some way towards explaining their extreme reluctance to listen to the evidence against it.