No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘EU

The Reading List: Time To Wake Up

Pierre Manent is an interesting man. One of the French elites who graduated from École Normale Supérieure, he now teaches political philosophy in France and the USA.

Back in April an interview with him was published in the magazine, First Things, and I was intrigued by a number of points that he made about nation-states in general, the EU, and the nations within it.

..[the nation] has been abandoned, discredited, and delegitimized for two generations… We have renounced the very idea of national independence. Oh, to be nothing more than a soft and pliant node of specialized expertise in the great network of global trade! And above all, the flux must never slow down! Are we discovering that we are dependent on China for almost everything we need? But we have organized ourselves in order to be dependent! We have willed it!

And he seems to doubt that there will be even a slight reversal of this, even as there seem to be many voices rising to demand less inter-dependence that what has developed. He especially makes the argument that “there has never been a liberal regime without a national framework“, but that national societies have been corrupted in key ways: high-finance and rent-seeking, technostructures that actually disdain the nation-state (Google and Facebook are not mentioned), and social spending that traps low-income people.

The European Union is just as weak as the nations that make it up. The Union is in its last stage. Either it will limp along in its present form, or it will fall apart……. This is the end of the European fantasy. There is no marvelous adventure awaiting us on the European side of the road. Every nation has discovered the unchangeable character of its collective being.

But he cautions against exactly what has been discovered by each nation-state:

… we note the return of the least likeable features of our State. In the name of a health emergency, a state of emergency has in fact been established. In the name of this emergency, the most primitive and brutal of measures has been taken: general confinement under police surveillance.

Being the rather worldly professor he is, there is no condemnation of “elites” or “leaders”. In fact he describes them as “honorable people who are doing their best to overcome a serious crisis.” Nevertheless he warns of the following:

[Globalisation] exploited certain liberal themes, but the liberalism we must preserve is something different.

Expertise provides no immunity against the desire for power.

We now see in the State only the protector of our rights; now, since life is the first of our rights, a broad path is opened up to the State’s inquisitorial power. That said, we gave ourselves over to the State long ago, according it sovereignty over our lives. 

Which has always sounded great to the Left, but which increasingly means we are subject to the problems of technocracy vs democracy and civil liberties, especially with the rise of this feature:

Our world is full of victims who, in a voice that is at once whining and threatening, claim to be wounded by all this talk. …. How can we now oppose the State as guardian of rights while we beg it to intrude into our ever-wounded personal lives?

I’ll finish with a quote that I very much appreciated, as he talks of the difficulties of political decision making:

Aristotle was right: Politics is the queen of the sciences!

Read the whole thing here. There’s much in it to ponder.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 1, 2020 at 11:00 am

Trump was right about China

My Photo
Over a month ago, when criticism of China began to rise over how it has handled the Wuhan Flu as a global citizen, there were two immediate responses.
First the Chinese Communist Party went on a global propaganda tear, firing off all sorts of accusations, particularly at the USA.
Second, the usual suspects began to jump up and down about how this was all just the Trump administration trying to deflect attention from American dead and dying. I note that the Chinese propaganda apparat is cleverer than the clunking old Soviets and they have eagerly taken up this angle as well so that the one side reinforces the other.
But in fact Trump has been hammering the idea that the USA is too dependent upon China since the start of his campaign in 2015. I admit I rolled my eyes at this because he was saying the same thing about Japan back in the late 1980’s, and we know how that turned out. What most people have missed however is that Japan never had the sort of global geopolitical goals that the Chinese Communist Party has, nor did it ever appear to turn its economic links into international political leverage as the CCP has, with its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative being the most obvious.
China’s IP (intellectual property) theft, according to an investigation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, is costing the U.S. “between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.” As far back as November 2015 The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that China’s hacking was costing U.S. companies $360 billion per year.
But the Bush and Obama administrations decided to overlook China’s duplicity in this area and others for the sake of appeasing both the Chinese government and U.S. business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, whose members didn’t want to lose access to China’s “fast-growing consumer market or to the country’s cheap labor.
But with the Wuhan Flu and their propaganda campaign around it, plus the threats they’ve made, they appear to have pushed it too far and the US blowback is bipartisan:

A Harris poll released on April 6 found that 77 percent of the US population believes China is to blame for the pandemic.

Threats? Well try this on. On March 4 an article titled “Be Bold: The World Owes China a Thank You”, was published in China’s state-run Xinhua news service and amidst all the usual propaganda tropes it noted that China has leverage over the U.S. and Europe because it can restrict the supply of medicines that have been outsourced to China. Specifically the USA could be “plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”
Frankly I thought this was just the usual boasting bullshit one expects from Communists, but it turns out to be true:

Eighty percent of America’s “active pharmaceutical ingredients” comes from abroad, primarily from China (and India); 45% of the penicillin used in the country is Chinese-made; as is nearly 100% of the ibuprofen. Rosemary Gibson, author of “China Rx,” testified last year to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission about this critical dependence . 

“We can’t make penicillin anymore,” said Gibson. “The last penicillin plant in the United States closed in 2004.”

Other generic drugs whose key ingredients are manufactured in China include medicines for blood pressure medicine, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression.

“And they have a plan”

Basically we’ve outsourced our entire industry to China,” retired Brig. Gen. John Adams told NBC News. “That is a strategic vulnerability.”  

Adams, who during a 30-year career served as a military intelligence officer, a military attache in South Korea and deputy U.S. military representative to NATO, added that he believes China understood the implications as it was building a drug ingredients industry. 

“I think they know exactly what they’re doing and they’re incredibly good strategists. They’re doing this, they select their industries for the future and they’ve got a plan.”

I doubt many people in the USA had any idea that China had such control.
So as a result of all these revelations, there has been some serious re-thinking about China going on. Here’s NeverTrumper, Andrew Sullivan, with this article, It’s Time for Conscious Uncoupling With China:

I’m not excusing Trump for his delusions, denial, and dithering — he is very much at fault — but the core source of the destruction was and is Beijing.

For both Europe and America, the delusions that sustained the 21st-century engagement with China have begun to crack. We still don’t know how this virus emerged — and China hasn’t given any serious explanation of its origins. What we do know is that the regime punished and silenced those who wanted to sound the alarm as early as last December, and hid the true extent of the crisis from the rest of the world.

The Chinese dictatorship is, in fact, through recklessness and cover-up, responsible for a global plague and tipping the entire world into a deep depression. It has also corrupted the World Health Organization, which was so desperate for China’s cooperation it swallowed Xi’s coronavirus lies and regurgitated them.

Sullivan gets to the heart of what a great many people, including me, have believed over the last twenty years. There were reservations, but to paraphrase Leo McGarry from The West Wing, was not engagement with China better than Cold War II?

I remember the old debate from the 1990s about how to engage China, and the persuasiveness of those who believed that economic prosperity would lead to greater democracy. COVID-19 is the final reminder of how wrong they actually were.

Bringing a totalitarian country, which is herding its Muslim inhabitants into concentration camps, into the heart of the Western world was, in retrospect, a gamble that has not paid off.

Integrating a communist dictatorship into a democratic world economy is a mug’s game. From now on, conscious decoupling is the order of the day
.

From the moderate right is Michael Auslin, a fellow at the Hoover Institution:

Xi and the Communist Party care about dominating the propaganda war because the Wuhan virus has stood their nation on a razor’s edge. Xi’s own legitimacy is not merely at stake. His government is ferociously fighting to divert blame and attention, fearing that the world rightfully may utterly reassess modern China, from its technocratic prowess to its safety. Decades of a carefully curated global image may crumble if nations around the globe start paying attention to China’s lax public health care, incompetent and intrusive government, and generally less developed domestic conditions. 

Xi’s fears are well founded, as a global reconsideration of China is long overdue. Legitimate criticisms and doubts about China’s governance and growth model were long suppressed by Chinese pressure and the willingness of many to buy into the Communist Party’s public line. Public shaming of foreign corporations, global influence operations, and “elite capture” — all are policies Beijing has deployed to maintain China’s public image. That carefully tended image is now cracked.

Elite capture? Sounds like New Zealand.

The idea that free trade would lead to a free society in China turned out to be wrong. Their Chinese Communist leadership simply used the wealth to build a 21st century military and security state the East German Stasi could only dream of.

The growing opposition to China is not just coming from the USA and Trump.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be furious with China as he recovers from the coronavirus that nearly killed him. Not only is his government moving to permanently shut out China’s state-controlled electronic firm, Huawei, from the UK’s 5G networks, he has promised that there will be other consequences for China’s failure to share accurate and timely data on the deadly virus.

Meanwhile Japan’s government got the ball rolling in early April, announcing that it will start paying its companies to relocate out of China. If that surprises you then you probably haven’t paid much attention to the anti-Japanese propaganda campaign the CCP has whipped up over the last decade inside China, plus the power-play it pulled back in 2010, when it blocked the export of rare-earth minerals to Japan over territorial disputes in the East China Sea, although that’s just one of many.

Even Iran was not happy with China, with a Health spokesman saying that China’s statistics were “a bitter joke“, adding that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].” although Iranian leaders did their best to paper over the cracks.

Then there was Italy, one of the hardest hit nations in the EU, with the Northern regions of Lombardy and Tuscany showing the worst infection rates and death tolls. To the outside world this was a bit of a mystery at first, until it turned out that they were the two regions that had the most intimate contact with China. Tens of thousands of Chinese citizens worked in the areas and constantly flew between the two nations. It enabled things like Italy’s traditional shoe industry to survive the decline in the number of skilled Italian workers, control costs, and retain the precious “Made In Italy” stamp.

No wonder all the shoes and boots I looked at during our 2019 trip looked the same.

Italy had been warned about this by other EU members when it signed up to OBOR in 2019, the only G7 nation to do so. They probably felt they had no choice:

Italy’s economy has been struggling for two decades. It has seen three recessions in 10 years. Its unemployment rate stood at 10.3 percent, and its youth unemployment rate was 33 percent as of 2018. According to Marco Annunziata of Forbes, the living standards in Italy today are roughly the same as they were 20 years ago because very little growth has occurred.

As part of the deal, Italy opened an array of sectors to Chinese investment, from infrastructure to transportation, including letting Chinese state-owned companies hold a stake in four major Italian ports. The deal gave communist China a foothold in the heart of Europe, but [Prime Minister] Conte downplayed it as “no big deal at all.

And how happy to do you think the governments of Spain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands are after they recalled Chinese masks and testing kits when large batches were found to be defective? French President Emmanuel Macron has said the West’s acquiescence to China’s approach is “naïve” and in a visit to Beijing earlier this year said the new Silk Road China is anxious to rebuild “cannot be one-way.” France is also one of the EU nations hardest hit by the Wuhan Flu.

Not that the EU will be much use on this. A couple of weeks ago they were all set to release a report on the coronavirus pandemic.

An early draft of the report cited several key actions by communist China, including its slow initial cover-up and response, and its ongoing disinformation campaign to create confusion over its role and try blaming others including the United States.

It cited Beijing’s efforts to curtail mentions of the virus’s origins in China, in part by blaming the United States for spreading the disease internationally. It noted that Beijing had criticized France as slow to respond to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the World Health Organization. The report also highlighted Russian efforts to promote false health information and sow distrust in Western institutions. 

Russia eh? Something tells me we won’t be hearing much about that from the Russia Collusion screamers.

“The Chinese are already threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” Lutz Güllner, a European Union diplomat, wrote to colleagues on Tuesday in an email seen by The Times.

The NYT reports that once China found out about the report, it made a few calls to see if Europe would delay and airbrush on Beijing’s behalf or not. This was a test of the EU’s resolve, as one European official noted. Would Europe stick to the facts, or would it wilt in the face of harsh words from foreign dictatorship?

I’ll take “fetal position” for €10, Alex. And so it came to be:

Worried about the repercussions, European officials first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.

The sentence about China’s “global disinformation” campaign was removed, as was any mention of the dispute between China and France. Other language was toned down. And other facts got dropped into footnotes and appendices.

Turns out that one Ester Osorio, a senior aide to the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, was the person who ordered the report delayed and altered. According to the report, Osorio also tried to cover her own tracks and although some EU officials are unhappy with the move…

“Such appeasement will set a terrible precedent and encourage similar coercion in the future,” an analyst, Monika Richter, wrote to her colleagues and supervisors in an email seen by The Times. She said that European Union diplomats were “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.” She also wrote that it was a lie to claim that the document had not been scheduled for release.

… the fact is that the report is out there now, ready for use in China’s propaganda efforts.

European appeasement. This is my shocked face.

The trouble is that actually uncoupling from China in any way at all is going to be tough. It’s going to mean nations sucking up increased costs for re-establishing strategic industries – such as the production of  basic pharmaceuticals: ordinary little things never thought of as strategic before. And we’re not talking about the same challenge as facing the clapped-out Soviets:

Soviet Communists told their most talented scientists, “Invent something new, and we’ll give you a medal, and maybe a dacha.” China says, “Invent something new, launch an Initial Public Offering, and become a billionaire.” By the end of 2019 there were 285 billionaires in China—including Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who, like many of his fellow billionaires, is a Communist Party member. 

There are more Marxists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, than in all of China. I met a professed Marxist over dinner in Beijing a couple of years ago—a pleasant fellow who taught Marxist-Leninist doctrine at the Communist Party’s cadre school. His daughter had just graduated from a top American university; he asked if I could help her get a job on Wall Street.

I love that story. But still, as I have often pointed out, Marxism is merely used as a rationale for maintaining exactly the same type of centralised, bureaucratic, technocratic empire that has arisen in China repeatedly over the last 5000 years, with its “Mandate From Heaven“.

We aren’t facing drunken, corrupt Soviet bureaucrats, but a Mandarin elite cherry-picked from the brightest university graduates of the world’s largest country. America confronts something far more daunting than moth-eaten Marxism: a 5,000-year-old empire that is pragmatic, curious, adaptive, ruthless—and hungry. China’s current regime is cruel, but no crueler than the Qin dynasty that buried a million conscript laborers in the Great Wall. China was, and remains, utterly ruthless.

But the rest of the world still has considerable leverage since the links go both ways. On April 17, Chinese officials said their country’s economy shrank by 6.8 percent from January to March 2020, compared with one year ago. The business problems were already obvious, as outlined in this article last year.

This is the first economic contraction since Mao’s death in 1976 and a double blow for a nation that expects and needs 6%+ per annum growth. Things are likely to have got worse since then. There are numerous business reports detailing that even as businesses have re-started in China their order books are down drastically. How long that can go on before unemployment and general social unrest follow? China may think it can simply follow history and crush internal dissent, and it may well be able to, but that’s short-term; it has to have economic growth, so it may be more amenable to various Western demands now than before the virus.

And there is now no doubt that those demands are going to be made and those supply chain uncouplings are going to happen. The USA and EU nations are not going to allow themselves to be exposed like this again.

Where this leaves New Zealand is a tough question. Thanks to the FTA signed with China twenty years ago we are well plugged-in to that nation for both exports and imports. And we can expect no support from aging Lefties still stuck on their anti-US grudges. Although it has been pointed out that our export exposure to them is not so great that we can’t push back on them.

Still, China has already issued threats to Australia that it would stop importing things like beef and wine from them if they continue to push for an inquiry into the origin of the global coronavirus outbreak. We can expect the same treatment, although I doubt we’ll be pushing China for anything at all as both Labour and National seem to be part of that “elite capture” mentioned earlier, which is always the key to control of a colony. For all our bold talk of standing tall in the 1980’s and breaking free of Britain and the USA the fact is that we still have a colonial mindset, and China is the new empire.

Come On Hollywood. Put Taiwan & Japan back
on Maverick’s Jacket for Top Gun II 

One suggestion: join with Australia in pushing for Taiwan’s entry into international bodies like the WHO, the UN and so forth. They’re a good democracy in a greater sense than just voting; having proved that they have institutions, including law and order, that are solidly based on democracy.

And they were more help to other nations in this crisis than China. China will explode with fury but nobody should believe their one country, two systems bullshit any longer, having seen what happened to Hong Kong, and I don’t see why the 1949 split should mean that China still has a claim on Taiwan.

Sadly, I don’t think New Zealand has the guts to do that, but if Adern decides to do so, she’ll have my vote.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 6, 2020 at 12:01 pm

The Greek Shield

The Greek-Turkish Border

 

“I thank Greece for being our European shield in these times.”
E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Wait! What?

The EU Commission President said that? Did she check with her old boss, Mama Merkel, first? Because that certainly does not sound like the sort of thinking we heard a few years ago when the German Chancellor defended her open-door policy that resulted in more than a million refugees settling in Germany.

Now, they’re worried about a few tens of thousands of refugees from Turkey getting across the border with Greece?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the increasingly tense and violent situation on the Turkish-Syrian border, but this story did not seem to get much attention in the Western media (or this blog for that matter – zero comments on it). As usual the West did not seem to give a damn about news of 700,000 Syrian refugees trying to get across that border into Turkey to escape the wrath of Syrian President Assad and his merry band of Iranian and Russian-backed troops. The Turks are defending that border with the Syrian Idlib province

But they’re doing the opposite a few hundred miles to the North-West, where they’ve opened their border with Greece to allow Syrian refugees to escape into Europe.

I expect that more media attention will now be paid, even though the two problems are connected. What journalist can resist photo ops like this one – and with no danger of being shelled!

The result is that the EU have hit the panic button. They already bribed Turkey several years ago with a deal that included $US 6.6 billion and enhanced EU-Turkey ties, including visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. In return Turkey agreed to stop the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it has, from crossing into Europe.

Ursula von der LeyenAnd now the EU is having to bribe Greece, with von der Leyen announcing a support package of $800 million in funding for Greece to use in maintaining infrastructure on the borders. For “infrastructure” read riot police. The photo above is from last Friday when refugees clashed with Greek riot-control police, who fired tear gas and water cannons at them and made thousands of arrests. And of course Greece is still in a financial and political crisis of its own, as it has been for almost a decade now. It can’t handle the influx.

But how long can the EU spend like this, given their own financial problems with the departure of Britain? Sooner or later they’re going to run out of other people’s money.

Erdogan of course is more than happy about all this. His border police and troops actually stopped the refugees from returning across the border from Greece after their clashes with the Greek border patrols.

While he may not have been able to get NATO to help him out militarily with Syria he knows he’s got the EU over a barrel. They either pay him more billions to keep the Syrian refugees in-country – or he simply allows them to start walking into the EU. The spirit of 2015 has long vanished in the EU: their leaders know there will be a social explosion if they allow that to happen again.


Still, the reference to a “Greek shield” took me by surprise. Perhaps Ms von der Leyen is less a Eurocrat and more of a populist than I thought? She has seven children, which already marks her out as very unusual in the Euro elite. And perhaps she knows ancient European history.

Certainly Greece’s nearer European neighbours such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland appear to. They were acting to help Greece even before the EU announcement, and they’re not just sending money but physical support such as logistics.

Can their troops be far behind?

Written by Tom Hunter

March 8, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Other things to worry about?

Not NZ specifically since we’re so far away, but it seems the whole Turkey-Syria fight has flared up a little more than before:

Airstrikes and artillery attacks by Syria killed 33 Turkish troops on Thursday as Ankara edged closer to all-out war with the Syrian regime. Turkey hit back, targeting Syrian positions up and down the line, bringing the two sides closer to a major escalation that’s bound to involve Russia.

Worse is that there is some motion afoot in the Turkish parliament to make an actual declaration of war against Syria, which would be novel in our modern world where wars are fought without such traditions, but which would not be a smart move, given that Russia is backing Syria and has troops in-country. Iran is now reportedly also threatening Turkey, saying its troops must leave Syria or face a missile barrage.

And of course Turkey is still part of NATO.

Barely, it’s true, given the increased tensions between Europe and Turkey over the last twenty years as Erdogan has strengthened his control of Turkey. Similarly with the USA being part of NATO: after several years when Bush and Obama tried being friendly with Erdogan the Trump administration finally saw the light and has stopped the sale of the F-35 fighters to Turkey after it purchased advanced S-400 AA missile systems from Russia. Still, that’s has not stopped Erdogan from trying it on:

“We call on NATO to (start) consultations. This is not (an attack) on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” one of Erdogan’s spokesmen told media outlets.

It’s hard to see the rest of NATO being willing to exercise their commitments to come to the defence of a member when that member has effectively declared war of Russia as well as Syria. Erdogan is not so stupid as to think the request will be honoured, but it has to be made formally, and then some stick added by giving his fellow NATO nations a heads-up as to what may happen if he doesn’t feel their love:

A Turkish official declared that the borders would be opened, allowing tens of thousands of refugees access to central Europe. While not official, Greece and Bulgaria are reinforcing their borders, determined to keep the newcomers out.

Turkey is home to about 3.6 million Syrian refugees already! The thought of even a good portion of them heading for Europe must be keeping the EU leaders awake at night. Germany would probably keep its borders open, but others would likely follow the path of Greece.

And there are likely more on the way into Turkey itself. Between 700-800,000 are on the move in the Syrian province of Idlib on Turkey’s border. It’s this area where most of the fighting is now as Iranian, Russian and Assad’s Syrian forces try to take back control. They’re doing it via the tactic that has proved successful elsewhere: bomb the crap out of the area until all the civilians have left and the rebel and terrorist groups are the only ones remaining or leave with the civilians.

The new Turkish offensive in Syria and the aggressive moves by the pro-Assad coalition which is trying to re-conquer the last major rebel hub in Idlib have created an unprecedented humanitarian disaster even by Syrian standards.

Basically a scorched earth campaign straight out the pages of history books. Erdogan could not give a damn about the Syrian lives lost, but he does not want any more refugees:

Erdogan’s nationalist ally, Devlet Bahceli, on February 11, said Turkey should prepare to march on Damascus to stop the Syrian offensive in Idlib that is threatening to send hundreds of thousands of refugees into Turkey,

While the Turkish concerns over massive refugee inflows is a legtimate, rational concern, the fact is that Erdogan is cut from the same cloth as Assad, Ayatollah Khamenei and Putin. While a Syria-Turkey scrap would once have been considered part of the Cold War those days are long past. Erdogan has imperial dreams and desires that Turkey to be the one with power, influence and control in the region. That contest between Russia, Iran and Turkey is really what’s at the heart of this latest increase in fighting and tensions. Syria is merely a puppet.

“The fight for freedom of the Syrian people is a fight for survival for Turkey’s 82 million people,” Erdogan said. 

Uh Huh. Here’s an example of his idea of “freedom”, as I pointed out last year:

Erdogan is not someone that the West should be eager to assist. While the burdern of responsibilty falls on Syria, Russia and Iran, Turkey has not helped itself here, and they’ve certainly got themselves off-side with their Western allies. It’s questionable whether the US, and Europe in particular even wants to help Erdogan out of this jam: they might prefer him to be weakened by it.

Even before the rise of Erdogan, NATO spent decades dealing with the internal strains of members Turkey and Greece going at eachother, sometimes with shots fired, so it might be interesting to see how Putin deals with balancing Syria, Iran and Turkey.

However, for similar reasons to that of NATO, Putin is probably content to let Syria, Iran and Turkey bleed themsleves for a while longer. He’s threatened some minor sanctions on Turkey but there are those missile sales to think about, possibly to be followed by more Russian military equipment and the prospect of prying Turkey away from NATO as part of his long-term plan to weaken the alliance and Europe further.

The question that Europe and the US must ask itself is whether they care about losing Turkey. Aside from the threat of those three million Syrian refugees I can’t think why they would.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 2, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Bad News for People Who Like Bad News (UPDATE)

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report is out and it seems that the worst AGW Denier nation in the world has been doing pretty well in reducing Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions:

The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.

For those who have been watching the steady replacement of coal-fired power stations in the USA with gas-fired ones over the last fifteen years, this comes as no surprise:

A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019. Coal-fired power plants faced even stronger competition from natural gas-fired generation, with benchmark gas prices an average of 45% lower than 2018 levels. As a result, gas increased its share in electricity generation to a record high of 37%. 

Again, the latest drop in natural gas prices is simply the continuation of a trend that has been going on since the mid 2000’s:

US Natural Gas Daily Prices: $US per million British thermal units (MMBtu).

And that trend in greatly reduced prices has been due to the massive increase in the amount of natural gas being recovered and more importantly the even vaster amounts available to be recovered – all due to fracking technology finally reaching technological “critical mass” in the early-2000’s in the USA.

Thanks fracking!

To be fair, all the advanced economies have been doing pretty well on the GHG reduction front. Unfortunately the reductions in 2018/19 by the Developed World – what the IEA calls “Advanced Economies” – were more than matched by the emissions increases of the Developing World, so people who love bad news still have that.

The Japanese example is interesting:

Japan saw energy-related CO2 emissions fall 4.3% to 1 030 Mt in 2019, the fastest pace of decline since 2009. The power sector experienced the largest drop in emissions as reactors that had recently returned to operation contributed to a 40% increase in nuclear power output. This allowed Japan to reduce electricity generation from coal-, gas- and oil-fired power plants.

After the initial post-Fukushima panic the Japanese realised they simply do not have a choice but to switch the reactors back on.

Meanwhile the rest of the world just keeps cranking along on GHG emissions.

Emissions outside advanced economies grew by close to 400 Mt in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from Asia. In this region, coal demand continued to expand, accounting for over 50% of energy use, and is responsible for around 10 Gt of emissions.

UPDATE:
Thanks to our wonderful readers some new information and a debating point has emerged in the thread:

“EAsy for the US to do when it excludes from measurement one of its biggest polluters – its military.”

As I pointed out, that talking point is from the fights over the Paris Climate Accord, following on from military emissions being excluded from the earlier Kyoto Treaty. The IEA’s stats are not affected by that argument as they simply gather up energy prodution/consumption data from multiple sources, both private and public.

Evidence? And IF you are correct then the US reduction will be all down to fewer US warlike acts.

While I cannot speak to the details of the IEA’s work itself, the data on fuel usage by the US military is part of the public record, since the US government has to pay for it in its annual budget. And aside from that there are reports from the Pentagon, such as this one from: Fiscal Year 2015 Operational Energy Annual Report. And remember that these records don’t care where in the world that stuff is burned so the arguments about foreign bases are irrelevant, and of course any CO2 emitted by the nation supporting a US base will be captured by its own national data.
Anyway, looking at that report it seems that the US military consumed some 88 million barrels of fuel in 2015, which translates into 3.7 Billion US gallons. Standard conversion is 9.57 kilograms of CO2 per gallon so roughly 35.4 Million tonnes. Since the ships, tanks, planes and so forth are all kept moving in peacetime or wartime a war – with more sorties per plane, more travel by Army vehicles and so forth – would make little difference to that total fuel consumption figure. The only real impact would be a reduction in the total numbers of machines, and that’s exactly what has happened to all the US military services since the end of the Cold War, with many decommissioned units in the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines. You could add on GHG emissions from all the buildings they own, plus other supplemental support objects, which is where I assume the Statista number of 59Mt came from in 2017.
And of course it should be noted that even 59Mt of CO2 emissions amounts to 1.09% of the US’s 5.4 billion tonnes of GHG emissions (2018). So war or not, the US military does not amount to much in the US scheme of GHG emission reductions.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 16, 2020 at 7:21 pm

Prescient and Non-Prescient

First, the Prescient: Margaret Thatcher’s famous late 1990, “No, No, No” speech on the EU institutions.

 

And then the Non-Prescient with some author called Ian Leslie at The New Statesmen in 2016 with:

Ian Leslie is the author of a book so you know he’s just super-smart and well-informed. And of course he uses some themes that continue to be repeated to this day in spite of all the losing against Trump:

Trump is essentially trapped inside his own invective. The more violently he attacks Clinton, the more unstable and unlikeable he seems. He does not have a plan B. He is not thinking coolly or strategically. He is a dyspeptic gorilla in a cage, 

It will soon become apparent that the big mistake of this whole electoral cycle was not, “We had no idea how popular Trump could be.” It was, “We had no idea how removed a large segment of the core GOP electorate has become from the rest of the nation.” 

Trump is an almost spookily perfect opponent for Hillary Clinton, throwing her strengths into relief and compensating for her weaknesses by being such an enthusiasm-generator for Democrats.

And Brexit:

Once you see that this is really all about the economy, and that most voters use their vote to minimise risk and hassle, then you’ll see why I’m confident about a win for Remain.

The thing is that his “analysis” of each situation would have been improved if it was not delivered with such an air of disdainful superiority, the truest marker of all these plonkers.
 
And finally this again – for a well-justified laugh at such people – 17 Million Fuck-Offs.
 
 

Written by Tom Hunter

February 2, 2020 at 12:35 am

All Political Lives End In Failure?

But is that really true? I don’t think it was for John Key, who bowed out on top. Nor was it for President Ronald Reagan, who not only saw his Vice President succeed him – a very rare, third-time Presidential election win – but also saw his greatest enemy, the Soviet Empire, that he had worked against for years, start to collapse within months of him finishing his two terms of office.


And it certainly is not true for this guy, Nigel Farage, shown on the left in one of the greatest Twitter shit-posts of all time.

But you can also seem him in the clip below giving his last speech in the EU “parliament”, a farewell that caps his twenty five year long effort to extract Britain from the EU.

That was a seemingly quixotic task in the beginning, but it saw Farage transformed from being a figure of fun and mockery to a fugure despised and hated by millions as he triumphed. And it included returning from a well-earned retirement in 2016 to lead a final charge with a party he created in a matter of months that finally nailed down the people’s vote when it seemed the EU bureaucrats might win after all with their tactics of delay and deflect.

And now, like Cincinnatus with the wars won, he will retire to the countryside, a path that was held by the American Founders to be the desired model of a political leader.

There are certainly few politicians in history who can reflect on a political triumph as great and as sweet as this one.

You really should watch the entire 5 minute clip as he reflects on the EU stunts that have led to this point, particularly the repeated votes on an EU constitution after it was rejected by French, Dutch and Irish voters. No wonder they and their British allies pushed so hard for a second BREXIT referendum: it had worked before.

And take special note from the 4 minute mark on as perfect example of how the EU still does not understand what has happened here.

In that last minute the school-marm chairing the session actually cuts off Farage’s microphone because he and his group took out little British flags to wave as they left:

If you disobey the rules you get cut off!

Really? And the additional punishment is….??? To stand in the naughty corner? On the naughty step? To be thrown out?

FFS. They’re leaving and telling you to stuff it, in a polite but firm British manner!

And then she gives them a little lecture about it all, like using the word “hate“. Yes, Farage said the following:

We love Europe. We just hate the European Union.

My, how triggering.

But that statement is a perfect summation of the basic reason for leaving. As Farage said, his parents voted in 1975 to join a European Common Market – not to join a political union with flags, anthems, Presidents, a Court of Justice, and even an Army, and all with constant dismissive rejections of the votes of the European peoples.

And of course the full quote is from a person who had his own ideas about where Britain should go:

All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.

BREXIT will happen at 12 noon New Zealand time today. You can watch it live here.

The following article is also worth reading, The great Brexit wound has almost healed.

I especially noted these quotes, after the article lists a few of the most hard-line Remainers still having a temper tantrum:

And yet these people are a tiny, if voluble, minority. The remarkable thing is that since December 13 the great national divide over Brexit seems to have mended almost completely.

The vast majority of those who voted Remain have long since accustomed themselves to us leaving — a point never really reflected in the mainstream media, which of course prefers dissent to accord and still thought the whole thing was up for debate.

As it happened, that cleft did not take a generation to heal — it took about two weeks. Since Boris Johnson’s remarkable victory, the fugue of complaint has been effectively silenced — except for on that lunatic wing.

It makes the point that by this stage a lot of the Remainers had simply decided to get on with things, even as they continued to disagree with their Brexit opponents, aided no doubt by the fact that…

Not a single one of those egregious Project Fear predictions has come true, not one.

Inward investment stock in the UK was more in 2018 than in France and Germany combined, at almost £1.5 trillion ($1.95 million) — no. 1 in Europe. The UK’s economic growth is predicted to outperform the entire eurozone, with Germany — only recently sidestepping an official recession — heading towards stagnation. Unemployment is the lowest it has been for 45 years and the unemployment rate just a little more than half of that for the eurozone as a whole. Wages are at last rising. The pound is comparatively buoyant.

Then there is this. Will Brexit render your home worthless, as the then-chancellor George Osborne kindly advised in 2016? Nope, quite the reverse. Since Brexit was assured by that general election victory in December, British house prices have risen at their fastest rate since 2002, according to the property website Rightmove.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 31, 2020 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Britain

Tagged with , , ,

Where to From Here for Britain?

Right. Last post on Britain from me for a while. Must get back to that whole Impeachment farce across the Atlantic.

PROS.

1) Brexit will now happen. 

There can be no more argument. I suspect Boris will pull the plug on a Hard Brexit by setting a date but with room to move on pressing the EU to soften the lines around exactly what happens on that date. The EU has played tough but they must now know the game is up and will want to limit the damage, and those discussions will then simply merge into the usual trade negotiations that occur between any nation state or trading bloc.

Despite his prominence in the Brexit campaign Boris would have been quite happy to Remain, and his deal will not be what the likes of Farrage wanted. But like his promises of new hospitals and huge infusions of money into the NHS, and having won traditional Labour seats, Boris knows he has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to break old rules – and he loves winning. It’s not altruistic of course, but by the same token all the claims about a new era of Thatcherism are just crap. Boris now owes former Labour voters on the things they care about aside from Brexit: if he fails they’ll go back to a non-Corbyn Labour Party in five years time.

2) There will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. 
The “soft” border wasn’t created until 1993, but whether the border was hard or soft seemed to make no difference to the Troubles. In any case Britain, the EU and Ireland have all said they will not set up a hard border. Notably it played no part during the Leave faction’s great “Fear” campaign of 2015/16; it was an empty threat created later by the EU, intended only for negotiating leverage.

A few months ago I was in a Lake Como supermarket-mall and my mate pointed out the dozens of cars with Swiss stickers, loaded to the hilt with food and other EU consumer items. Obviously running the terrible risk of getting caught at the border: rigid adherence to WTO rules my ass.

3) Northern Ireland will slowly unify with Ireland and the EU. 

It will take twenty years but time passes quickly when you consider that the GFA is more than twenty years old. The traditional Northern Irish voices for sticking with England grow fainter every day and the bad hits on the DUP show that. No leverage on Boris there now either.

4) Scotland will go independent.

Again it might take twenty years. The referendum of 2014 is now null and void, since that was when it meant Scotland would be part of the EU. The votes for the SNP show that ordinary Scots want nothing to do with either British Labour, British Conservatives or British Lib Dems: they want out of Great Britain.

Boris has of course already rejected another Scottish independence referendum, but large numbers of his modern Right-Wing voters support the Brexit-related concept of letting peoples have their independence, and also increasingly not giving a fuck about a “United Kingdom”. There have been gleeful arguments about how this would also permanently cripple Labour, but that’s probably a moot point now since they’re dead in Scotland anyway.

Now don’t misunderstand me: being of proud Scottish inheritance I’ve always wanted Scotland to tell the Sassenachs to shove it. But while I’ve no doubt that most Scots have the same desire, when they got their chance in 2014 they showed their true colours in being too gutless to cut the welfare strings. I’ll let young Renton explain the problem:

It’s shite being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fuckin’ Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some people hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonised by. We’re ruled by effete assholes. It’s a shite state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and all the fresh air in the world won’t make any fuckin’ difference!

Of course now they have a new potential sugar daddy whose largess will exceed whatever bribes Britain can offer.  Whether the EU will accept Scotland is another matter. Do they really want another future Greece, Spain and Italy on their hands? Conversely how soon will Britain tire of the SNP gouging more welfare out of them by threatening to leave before finally taking them at their word?

5) Wales will stay in the Union.

They’re more locked in physically and mentally than either NI or Scotland.
6) Corbyn is goneburger.
As well as some of his elderly, scummy Marxist mates.

 
7) A permanent shift in thinking for the Working Classes of Britain.
Although glimpses were seen when Thatcher enabled the great Middle Class home purchase thirty years ago, this latest shift has been more dramatic and has taken some time to occur, starting with Labour PM Gordon Brown’s comment a decade ago:

“That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? Ridiculous….. she was just a bigoted woman.”

That instinctive contempt has become the mainstream thinking of the British Labour Party. No Victorian snob ever expressed it better.  Labour sneered at their own voters support for Brexit, their cultural values and became more open than Gordo about calling them racist xenophobes over their concerns about the EU and mass immigration. This was often done by implication – as if anybody missed that “clever” snideness. Labour’s muddled thinking over a second referendum grew out of this basic contempt and trying to straddle its new and old friends.

Defeat has made no impact, as angry Corbynista Paul Mason explains: “…a victory of the old over the young, racists over people of colour, selfishness over the planet“.

I can’t see “Vote For Us, You Bigots” working any better for Labour in 2024.

CONS.
1) Boris could still stuff up Brexit.
There has already been criticism of his BRINO deal (BRexit In Name Only) so pressure may come early to toughen it up by dumping compromises that were made to the EU and to Tory Remainers back when Boris had no leverage over them. The real question is whether Boris wants to do the same or whether he just wants to get this behind him and say that Brexit is done? If the latter then Britain will find itself in a situation where its sovereignty amounts to little more than continuing to agree with EU regulations for reasons of trade, and that naturally leads to the following…

2) The Conservatives will embrace Big Government more than ever.
In pledging to throw huge amounts of cash at the NHS and “infrastructure” and god knows what else, Boris was cunningly pushing into the centre-ground of Labour leader Gordon Brown a decade ago, who made the same promises for the post-Blair age. But the flip-side will be the usual expansion of government that Right Wing parties around the world rail against but hardly ever do anything to even restrain.

And that’s just the spending. Is there any prospect that Boris’s government will roll back the incredible tide of regulations, only a portion of which can be blamed on the EU? Will there be a rollback of actions on “hate speech” and the increasingly creepy Orwellian approach of the British Police to such things. “Wokeness” is bullshit, many on the Left hate it as much as the Right do, and they especially hate it when it starts to involve police “interviews”, arrests and fines.

The Tories will do little to reverse any of this, mainly because much of it has happened on their ten year fucking watch in government.

3) Corbyn is dead. Long Live Corbynism.
The following Marxists will still be around at the top of the Labour Party: Seumas Milne, John McDonnell, Andrew Murray, Katy Clark, Anneliese Midgley, and Andrew Fisher. They and others like them are a very dedicated core of True Believers that now have control over a lot of the wheels and cogs of Labour and can use them to screw the moderates and keep control. It’s classic Leninist stuff on how to take over an existing body.

They also know this is the best chance they’ve had in decades, perhaps ever, to enact their dingbat policies and all it might take would be a recession to drop the Conservative vote, so they’re going to fight down to the last unbroken bone to keep control of Labour. Unlike Militant Tendency of the early 80’s Labour party these guys won’t be dislodged by a mere election defeat.

And backing them in the rest of the party are the thousands of activists of many Far Left stripes who joined for ₤3 and who think like this…

And nowadays they have the vote for any new leader. Unless that changes we’re just going to see Corbyn 2.0, but perhaps one who can better downplay all the hard stuff in public until they get their hands on power.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 16, 2019 at 11:30 pm

The Mentality of Modern Rich People – three takes

TAKE ONE
Rich people who don’t know they’re rich and have all sorts of ideas about how to make you poorer.

TAKE TWO
Rich people with a sense of immunity from the real world affects of what they advocate for – affects that will hurt you worse than them.

And in this example, there’s a dose of entitleism also, as a bunch of Harvard/Yale students take to the football field as part of the Extinction Rebellion rallies currently circling the Western world.

In this case it was only the Harvard-Yale football game that was interrupted, rather than something really important like Ohio State vs. Georgia Bulldogs, but even so.

The sense of immunity and entitleism? When police officers tried to persuade them off the field, some of these students shouted “My father is a lawyer!”

Oh yes, little ones, I’ll bet he is, and a high 6-figure lawyer too if you’re at Harvard. Mummsy is probably a lawyer also. Ironically they’ve apparently never taught their kids how to argue, although that hardly matters since it’s not a skill demanded by Harvard or Yale nowadays.

TAKE THREE
Rich people who don’t know what it’s like to be poor – and have all sorts of ideas of how to make you poorer.

“Some people say, well, taxes are regressive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money.

And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves.

So, I listen to people saying ‘oh we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do.”

That’s Michael Bloomberg talking about taxes on the little pleasures of life like booze, tobacco and sugary drinks. He’s a 77 year old man who is currently worth around $58 billion and is running for the nomination of the Democrat Party to be the next President of the United States.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 5, 2019 at 1:45 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , ,

Usman, why do you need me to die?

MORE FARCE

The 2012 Bombing and Stabbing Team

The Daily Mail now reports that of the nine original terrorist plotters of 2012, only two are still in prison.

The remaining six were released, like Khan, well before their terms had been served.

Their whereabouts are unknown.

Jesus – look at them! You want to run into any of them down a dark alley? What are the odds that they’re all still of the mindset of Mr Usman (pictured middle, bottom-row)?

And it really puts into perspective the idiots who write sarcastic comments like:

No Parole. No Rehabilitation. Make them serve their sentence. 

As if the current “justice” situation in Britain is like that, when the reality is the exact opposite.

History repeats itself, first as farce, second as tragedy.
…..

Usman Khan, 28, had been free a year after serving just half of a 16-year sentence for plotting with eight others in 2010 to bomb such London landmarks as the stock exchange, American embassy, and Westminster Abbey.

He was still wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet when he went berserk with two long knives after speaking about his own “rehabilitation” during a Cambridge University-sponsored criminal justice conference in London, killing two and injuring three.

Just to add a further touch of farce to the tragedy, that rehab program was called Learning Together.
A specter is once again haunting Europe, but this time all the powers of old Europe are not trying to exorcise it at all. The place is filled with Nikolai Bukharin’s, who will learn nothing from this and change their minds not one iota – even as those ideas send them into their own graves.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 1, 2019 at 8:30 pm