Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vœux de nouvel an climatiquement incorrects

Le Télégramme de Brest, Le Petit Bleu, Le Pays Malouin, Le Ouest France
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Monsieur le Rédacteur en Chef,
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De retour au pays pour les fêtes de Noël, je constate que notre classe politique toutes tendances confondues analyse Copenhague en termes négatifs. Dans les journaux tout le monde est d'accord et répète le même message comme au temps de la Pravda des Soviets. La charmante capitale danoise, une des villes les plus eco-friendly de la planète, serait en passe de devenir synonyme de fiasco, de honte, de débâcle. En bref de Bérézina. Comme la bataille du même nom (une rivière en Russie) pour la Grande Armée (1812), le souvenir de la conférence restera graver dans les esprits des écologistes comme un traumatisme. Le parallèle me parait intéressant car la défaite des uns est toujours la victoire des autres. En ce début d'année 2010, je me sens profondément russe si l'on peut dire, et me réjouie de la déroute de l'idéologie réchauffiste !
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Parler de “gavage” climatique en période de ripailles est un peu facile. C'est surtout politiquement incorrect. Outre-Manche où je réside comme ici, la vérité qui dérange le plus c'est que la fin du sommet et de sa «surmédiatisation » ont été accueilli avec soulagement par la majorité silencieuse. Le catastrophisme écologique n'a pas marché. Les citoyens restent dubitatifs alors que les politiques continuent de jouer les passionarias du climat. L'eurodéputée Corinne Lepage se lamente de l'échec de l'Europe et fustige dirigeants politiques et économiques (Le Monde, 23 décembre 2009). Comment prendre de tels propos au sérieux lorsque l'intéressée qui critique les “méchants” lobbies commerciaux, se fait la porte-parole du “gentil” lobby écologique de l'économie dirigiste verte que Bruxelles souhaite tant imposer! La solution préconisée (plus de pouvoirs aux institutions européennes) reviendrait à agrandir le trou déjà béant du déficit démocratique européen. Réjouissons nous plutôt que l'UE ait raté son premier test de l’aire de Lisbonne et que les appels à plus de « supranationalité » soient restés lettre morte.
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Les idéologues anticapitalistes camouflés en vert ont raté leur coup d'état dans le bunker gris comme le remarque avec esprit l'essayiste Guy Sorman. La pyramide climatique renversée qui repose en fait sur une poignée de fonctionnaires onusiens et de scientifiques (une cinquantaine) est apparue bien fragile à Copenhague. Il y avait bien quelque chose de pourri dans le Royaume du Danemark - la conférence elle-même avec son bilan carbone record ! En fait, c'est l'ensemble de l'édifice climatique construit par quelques hommes dont les intérêts vont bien au delà de ceux des "générations futures" qui doit être revu. Le réchauffisme n'a pas rapporté que des images au gourou du GIEC, le Dr. Pachauri ainsi qu'à son compère américain Al Gore, "the green millionnaire". Il serait grand temps d'ouvrir la matriochka climatique onusienne. On y trouvera certainement autre chose que de l'altruisme et des bons sentiments. Pour mieux comprendre les enjeux, lire absolument "La servitude climatique : changement climatique, business et politique" de Jean-Michel Belouve.
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Nos hommes politiques et ONGs menés par notre président sauveur-généralissime tous unis sous l'étendard de la "vertitude" étaient donc partis va-t-en-guerre contre le réchauffement de la planète pour assurer la survie de l'humanité. Comme la Grande Armée de Napoléon, ils sont rentrés au pays dans le froid sans gloire. Personne n'a remarqué lors de cette retraite en ordre dispersé que l’étude de l'institut de recherche moscovite, l’Institute of Economic Analysis, révélait que les centres britanniques Hadley et CRU déjà impliqués dans le « climategate » (le scandale des courriels) n'auraient en fait utilisé que 25% des données de température du vaste territoire russe. Tiens un autre bidouillage ? Inutile d'attendre que le GIEC refasse ses calculs. Tout le monde l’a compris maintenant, le brouhaha climatique c'est avant tout une histoire de gros sous et de politique. La grande perdante c'est la science, la vraie, celle qui demande transparence, scepticisme, débat et liberté d'expression.
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Quelle insulte pour l'humanité toute entière qui n'a eu cesse de maîtriser la nature et de s'adapter que de vouloir faire croire qu’une augmentation de température de deux degrés puisse conduire à la fin du monde, l’éco-Armageddon ! Quel gaspillage aussi. Les ressources disponibles devraient être utilisées pour résoudre les problèmes environnementaux existants. Pourtant c'est une bulle financière qui est en train d'être gonflée (celle du carbon trading) et l’Europe prêche le protectionnisme vert mettant en danger le développement des pays pauvres. Tout ceci est absurde et dangereux. A Copenhague on l’a échappé belle. Des mesures contraignantes - un traité - auraient sonné le glas du progrès et de la liberté. Les historiens français ont du se battre contre les lois mémorielles liberticides. Les scientifiques et les citoyens devront eux aussi se défendre contre la clique écolo-politico-climatique qui ne recule devant rien pour imposer sa vérité. La liberté pour la science c'est la liberté pour tous!
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Le vrai danger n’est donc pas le climat qui change depuis 4 milliards d'années sans que les hommes de sciences n'en comprennent encore toutes les causes mais la prise de pouvoir par une minorité au nom d'une idéologie et moralité environnementaliste. Selon notre gourou national Nicolas Hulot, à Copenhague c'est la démocratie qui aurait échouée (Journal du Dimanche, 20 décembre 2009). Sur ce point il est en parfait accord avec le grand "démocrate" Hugo Chavez. Si la fin - la révolution environnementalisme - justifie les moyens, on peut craindre le pire. Méfions-nous donc des tendances totalitaires de notre intelligentsia rouge devenue verte et des journalistes qui n'osent plus la critique. Et la taxe carbone dans tout ça, une autre bérézina? Dans sa grande sagesse, le Conseil constitutionnel l’a annulée et tant pis si cette décision a laissé au vice-président du GIEC, Jean Jouzel, "un arrière goût de déception" (Le Télégramme, 30 décembre 2009). Qu'une majorité de français s'y oppose n'interpelle malheureusement personne dans les hautes sphères politico-climatiques. Cette entente pragmatique entre le gouvernement qui a besoin de remplir les caisses vides de l’Etat et la minorité écologiste qui veut imposer son diktat vert à la majorité est une grande fourberie.
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Mes résolutions pour la nouvelle année sont donc climatiquement incorrectes puisqu'elles sont raisonnables. Soutenir le développement économique moteur de la prospérité et d’un environnement plus propre. Continuer à protéger la nature avec des gestes "verts" dictés par ma conscience. Refuser d'être réduite à une empreinte carbone. Ne pas me soumettre au règne du climatiquement correct. Dire «niet » à l'"oppression climatique" par la peur, au dirigisme écologique et au culte sacrificiel de la déesse Gaia (la terre mère), ce «nouveau» collectivisme mystique. Jamais les paroles de l'écrivain et philosophe russe Ayn Rand n'ont eu autant de pertinence aussi je lui laisse le mot de la fin: “Il va sans dire que lorsqu’on évoque un sacrifice, il y a toujours quelqu’un pour récolter les offrandes sacrificielles… L’homme qui vous parle de sacrifice parle d’esclaves et de maîtres, et il a l’intention d’être le maître”.
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Sur la Côte d’Emeraude en 2010 soyons heureux et libre. Bloavezh Mad!
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Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Rédacteur en Chef, l'expression de ma plus haute considération.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen failed but it is not the end of the world.

University of Portsmouth (UK) students newspaper
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Do we need more “climate summiteering"? If Copenhagen is a barometer of where global governance is at, the answer is obvious. The conference was shambolic. Too much global hubris was bound to lead to nowhere. It did with global-esque proportions and we have now "climate conflict" to add to the long list of climate issues. The "climate bubble" has burst, or at least deflated, leaving the world more disunited than before. As conference garbage is being recycled, polar bears costumes put away for the inevitable next climate pow-wow, it is time to cool it and reflect. It is also time to be positive because it is not the end of the world.
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Pointing fingers at the hosts for poor management is hypocritical. The eco-friendly Nordic nation took upon itself to organise a planetary event with the most fatuous of aim; saving humanity from eco-Armageddon. The bar was set so high that mundane issues of accreditation cards and queuing up in freezing temperatures were bound to heat up excited minds. In fairness to the organisers, theirs was a mammoth task. 192 official delegations, thousands of lawyers, lobbyists, activists, journalists and climate tourists had descended upon the capital. Everybody who was a “climate somebody” - famous or anonymous - was there, eager to be seen, filmed and heard. Handling the “touch-and-go” influx of world leaders on tight schedules, inflated egos and diverging agendas while keeping an eye on climate warriors, hooded trouble-makers, benevolent demonstrators and, the far more sinister potential threat of terrorism, was never going to be easy. The problem is elsewhere.
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Reporting live from Copenhagen, a French radio correspondent was critical of the “Danish government's agenda”. The summit could be best described as a “clash of agendas”. Green millionnaire Al Gore came with his carbon trading agenda while poor countries came with "climate justice". Greenpeace with a lot of "climate banners". Behind the world leaders' "climate zeal" lies the naked truth of national interests. To explain President Sarkozy's newly found “vertitude” (green attitude), one needs to look at his many agendas. Hugging Brazilian trees and President Lula da Silva before the conference was primarily a trade-agenda stunt. In the declared war on fossil fuel-generated power, the state-sponsored nuclear industry stands to win a lot. But until lucrative deals are signed, something needs to be done about the state deficit (€1,500 billion). "Climate taxation" is the government's weapon of choice. Some analysts put his eagerness down to resurgent Gallic anti-Americanism, and an attempt at re-invigorating French clout in Africa now wallowing in Obamania. A lot of the "hyper-climatehood" is meant for home consumption too. With upcoming regional elections, the ruling party (UMP) needs to be in a position to counter the rise of the "climate left" (red gone green).
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Predictably after weeks of "climate overload", most people are experiencing “climate fatigue”. In the absence of CO2 propaganda, one is strangely left with the realization that for two weeks, “Big Climate brother” had been watching and intruding into our lives. Indeed escaping the eco-moralising disseminated from the moral heights of the summit's bunker and relayed by cheerleading media, was simply impossible. Putting the kettle on for a hot brew suddenly felt like a crime. "Thou shall feel guilty" was the message. According to British journalist Christopher Booker, this is precisely the point. Scaring the populace with "climate alarmism" is how a few can impose their diktat on the rest - and naturally profit from it. Hungarian-born education expert Frank Furedi warns that governments are going down the road of turning kids into "Orwellian eco-spies" (http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7830/). The fine line between raising environmental consciousness and indoctrination through fear has been crossed.
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At times, politicians, activists and UN climate luminaries appeared so engulfed in their apocalypse rhetoric that they looked more like the high priests of a cult than the cool-headed deciders we need to address environmental issues in a sensible way. The UN "climate machin" is an unstoppable train, busy justifying its existence, hiding its "climate tricks" and fittingly driven by a railways engineer Dr. K. Pachauri. Unfortunately bad ideas never die and "climate hype" is now big business. While "climate chaos" was making the headlines, the outcome of the big bang summit was eventually decided by a few leaders. What was the background show (conference) all about one might ask? Outside the bunker in the EU, sovereign debt is mounting, economies stagnating and societies are more fragmented than ever. The prospect of social unrest is very real but leaders keep on pledging money they do not have.
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Emerging economies need more development and freer trade, not hand-outs. Europe proposes protectionism of the green kind. "A disastrous idea" says the London-based International Policy Network (IPN) as it will hit poor countries the hardest. Failed international aid is to be revisited into a vague "climate fund". For corrupt recipient governments, this is heart-warming news because the cash will keep coming. For disappointed young activists, a word of comfort. Even with a non-binding agreement, there will be enough jobs for the "climate boys". Why worry then? “Climate crime”, warns Europol, is rising and already costing taxpayers dearly. Soon it will cost lives and those deaths will not be caused by the climate changing - it has been doing so for 4 billion years - but by decisions taken by a handful of people. The list of bad ideas goes on. The British PM with his "meilleur ami" from across the Channel now wants to turn the Union into a global "climate police" (post-conference proposal for a new agency equipped to "snitch" on countries suspected of non-compliance). Soon perhaps UN "climate-enforcing" operations...
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Finally there is the central but clearly inconvenient question of the science upon which decisions are being taken. IPCC truth followers and opportunist politicians accuse “other thinkers” - scientists, economists, ordinary folks who dissent - of endangering the survival of humanity. In short of being heretics. This is profoundly disturbing. Yet hope is not completely lost that reason and science may prevail. The French “Academie des Sciences” quietly announced before the summit that there is no scientific consensus on global warming. More voices of reason continue to rise above the politically correct climate brouhaha. The Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) suggests that the British climate research institutes (HadleyCRUT and CRU) have “cherry-picked” (Again?!) temperature data of the vast Russian territory. Given that 75% of available data was not used, the report calls for the IPCC to recalculate temperature increase. This is not “flat-earthing” or “sceptic rant” but what science should be about; reason, questioning, transparency, free and open debate.
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To end on a note of optimism, the failure of Copenhagen is in fact a blessing. By putting themselves under the spotlight, the proponents of warmism stood with no clothes for the whole world to see. The climate change agenda is all about high politics and (carbon) money dressed in a lofty moral garb. Is it essentially anti-freedom and anti-progress. Predictably the IPCC will blame politicians for the failed talks and hope to pursue its illiberal agenda unchallenged. We have seen it all before. When the UN fails it huffs and puffs. Then nothing. Or rather business as usual. It too must be held to account, and "climate resignations" should be tendered. The world is not short of talent and new thinking is clearly needed. In the meantime, we can now all get on with life on earth and look forward to the new year without eco-Armageddon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Messieurs les Anglais tirez enfin!

Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph,

Messieurs les Anglais tirez enfin! - do something at last. This is not the battle of Fontenoy (1745) with all its romantic talk about which side should fire the first shot. In the opaque “business” of allocating posts in the public-free and undemocratic zone that the EU polity has become, my country is firing away. To be precise, it is calling all the shots (Sarkozy Taunts Britain as Losers in the EU Jobs Battle, 29 Nov. 2009). A first year political science student - but apparently not the Labour leadership - could have concluded that after the appointment of Madame la Baronne as high representative, the UK was heading for a diplomatic “Berezina” as we put it when referring to a major disaster (since the Russian victory over Napoleon's forces in 1812).
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President Sarkozy is the winner because with his man (Barnier) at the helm of the Internal Market and Financial Services, this means more economic dirigisme and over-regulation a la francaise from the new seat of power, Brussels. Thinking otherwise would be naïve and reassurance to the contrary the height of hypocrisy. Unfortunately it gets worse with France having also “won” another important portfolio by proxy with the nomination of Dacian Ciolos (Romania) for Agriculture. In both countries the sector is dependent on state and EU subsidies so forget any serious reforms of the CAP and an end to protectionism. A former leftist radical for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (Greek nominee Maria Damanaki) does not abode well for the future of our fishing communities. The messy failure of 30 years of Common Fisheries Policy will most probably be addressed with more central planning. The road to more berezina of the maritime kind.
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The irony is that our President's push for more Europe (centralisation of decision and policy making) is not in our best interest. The EU needs a re-think, more free trade and more democracy. The French people voted “non” to the Lisbon constitutional treaty. But as former President Giscard infamously said after the democratic slap to the ego of our self-serving elite, the Sovereign People's decision (no) is not France's (..). There is something rotten in the Union and now the UK is the last line of defense. So where is your gallant hero to fight for freedom? Messieurs les Anglais tirez les derniers (be the last to shoot) but for goodness sake, do fire that referendum at the EU knowsbestocracy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The "fois gras" EU way. Stuffed 'em citizens with more nonsense!

Find below letter to the Editor/Bird in reply to an article posted in the "a bird's eye view" column of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. Essentially the very human writer attempted to propose that "good things" could happen with the appointment of "Van Whatsisname" and "Baroness Who" to the highest sphere of the EU nonemklatura. The author furthermore implied that someone who had fought as a young Marxist activist (Greek commissioner nominee) against the colonels' dictatorship (but also for the dictatorship of the proletariat) would be the ideal person to enhance democratic values in the EU! So instead of finishing an essay, I wrote this letter and sent it to the Editor and the damn bird.
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Letter to the Bird,

Birds are flying creatures and could be forgiven for missing the fine points of human activities. I propose to help. The Lisbon Treaty ratification was a scandalous affair. A tale of lies (the political kind), yes-bullying (of electorates who “don't get it”) and self-congratulations (only the leadership who knows best is celebrating its “victory”). “We the Sovereign Peoples” were promised more democracy and transparency. What we got was less of both. The learned Bird may have overlooked the undeniable fact that the appointment of the new EU team was conducted in a public-free zone after much backdoor deals and horsetrading. Such a system cannot possibly lead to more democracy and is reminiscent of Soviet Politburo politics. Even the leftist newspaper The Guardian had nothing positive to say about the process!
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Could the new pair make Europe a better place? Why should they? The system works for them. The President credited for some fine haiku poetry and saving Belgium from political implosion, wants more Europe. The European “Federalist” kind with more powers in the hands of an unaccountable bureaucracy supported by a parliament - the traveling one - short on popular legitimacy (43% turnout rate in the last EU elections). The rise to the post of High Representative (novlangue for foreign minister) of a non-elected British peer with no experience in foreign affairs is baffling. She has obviously emerged from this "process" because she is a women (the Barrosso touch?) and lacks what it takes to impose a vision. Let's call “It” charisma, a sense of accountability to the voters, expertise or something. In fact as a Labour party apparatchik (a quangocrat), she had the perfect CV for the job. So we, human citizens, could be forgiven for indulging in "other thinking", namely doubting that the EU will go anywhere fast with an "accidental" foreign minister! It will be interesting to see how her “charm” - the default word used for lack of anything else to say - will help shape something resembling a common foreign and security policy. I bet the Russian leadership is already under the spell...
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But hey, let us not make a storm in a cup of tea. The “Kissinger phone question” has been answered. A small step for the EU and a big laugh for the rest of the world! Less funny of course is the claim by the Honourable Bird that democracy in Europe could be enhanced with a bunch of people who in their youth fought against democratic capitalism and for the imposition on land of the Marxist utopia. I relate to the point that fighting the colonels' dictatorship was a courageous act (Greek commissioner mominee) but fail to see how freedom could be enhanced with a gradual push for a dictatorship of the proletariat. The collectivist experiment was tried in the Soviet Union with devastating consequences (gulags, show trials, famines, executions, psychiatric internment). Many so called socialist democracies (Cuba springs to mind) continue to enlighten their proletariat with chronic toilet paper shortages, free tutotials in Marxist-Leninist ideology for “other thinkers” in prisons or in youth camps. One can only conclude that winged creatures do not read history books - yet curiously write.
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In truth, the European Union has chosen another road; a new kind of "soft dictatorship” of the elite. To confuse the unsuspecting citizens, they call it some fancy name like a multi-layered polity, a social democracy based on post-modern governance and functionalist spill-overs... Unlike birds, human elites know a lot about public finance. They have also learnt some lessons from the mistakes made by communist elites. You just don't kill the goose (democratic capitalism) that laid the golden egg but slowly stuff it with more nonsense (the fois gras technique). So indeed confused French tax payers may be spared the insult of another record breaking EU hyperpresidency (€ 171 million) but make no mistake, any savings will be heading towards Brussels for more scandalous use of public funds with less accountability. “Our” new President favours direct taxation and he might well get it. The self-amending treaty does not need the pretense of our “say”. But one should not blame a bird for oversights. It cannot possibly grasp the significance of the continued refusal by the Court of Auditors to sign off the Union's accounts.
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A more observant bird passing over Brussels might have spotted that the recession affecting ordinary European humans has had no impact on EU staff expenditures (no freezing of salaries but on the contrary an increase!). The obscenely high salaries of our newly anointed self-serving vanguard (£320,000 a year for the president) know no crisis (cuts). Would it not be a fine thing for a former Marxist activist (the Labour Baroness) to show some solidarity with the toiling masses and propose a serious reduction in her own salary? Birds may be incurable utopians but on land, humans are considering civil disobedience to stop the stuffing!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The truth behind the cult of Che and communism.

Letter to the editor of the University of Porstmouth newspaper "Pugwash". Unpublished but replied to by the students' society flying the flag of socialism (Issue 33, below) with an invitation for a debate.

Dear Editor,
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Judging by the statement made by the Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) that “the enemy is profit” (Issue 32, Politics, Socialist Students London Trip), and the viewing of a film glorifying Che Guevara on campus, it is time for some clarification. To some, the Marxist revolutionary is the ultimate hero who fought for the oppressed against the “evil” system of capitalism. The truth is that he was a stalinist fundamentalist who upheld a murderous ideology. He was a ruthless fanatic who legitimized his killings in the name of a utopian ideology, marxist-leninism. Yet some students are prepared to wave the banner of socialism - or wear his image on T-shirts. Time for some “myth busting” about Che Guevara and the ideology he stood for.
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The image of “el Che” the humane hero is a Cuban state-sponsored myth which unfortunately is also propagated by Western leftist intellectuals. In 1960 when French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was glorifying his “superior” intellect, hundreds of ordinary citizens were being sentenced to death by his revolutionary tribunals and executed by the firing squads he helped indoctrinate and train. Back then, Big Brother Che was watching! In fact, he still is from the giant mural of the secret police force HQ in Havana. Thankfully nowadays the icon is only watching foreign tourists ushered by tourist guides (members of the communist party naturally). In other words, he is doing his bit to bring into the ailing economy the much needed cash, and no longer “executing out of revolutionary conviction” as he once boasted at the UN (1964).
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In 1959 the marxist revolution ousted an undemocratic regime only to replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat. Nowadays unlike the Che idolizers of the free world, Cubans long for democratic capitalism. The egalitarian utopia promised by the Soviet-backed revolutionaries turned into a totalitarian regime whose centrally directed collectivist economy has failed to deliver prosperity (recently people were running out of toilet paper!). Many have left the desperately poor island in search of freedom and a better life. Many perished at sea desperately trying to escape. But that millions across the world fell victims to this lofty ideal should not worry the members of SWSS. They are free to demonstrate. Or "shout" their views in the Student Union bar every wednesday!
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Of course the British National Party and his leader are promoting disgraceful ideas that should be condemned in no uncertain terms. But communism does not have the moral high ground to other extremist ideologies. In the Soviet system (also in China) marxist-leninism killed millions through purges, executions, collectivization of the land, show trials, psychiatric internment and hard labour (gulags). So the question must be asked whether those who wear the T-Shirts know what they are doing. How can anyone be the standard bearer of a murderous ideology and fight against the economic system that gave us individual freedom and prosperity (capitalism)? How can anyone seriously ask for the establishment of a socialist utopia here in Europe?
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Given the popularity of Che T-shirts, the chances are that most are simply ignorant or themselves indoctrinated. Sadly his stylized image will continue to be used in the fight against progress and freedom. But here is another fact. Be it on snowboards, underwear or cigars, the “Che” brand sells rather well. And guess what, these consumer goods have entered the market for a profit! The "comandante" turned capitalist icon? Not quite, though certainly evidence that the marxist ideology the revolutionary so fervently tried to impose has ultimately been defeated by capitalism.
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Reply from the comrade president of the society.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11 novembre 2009. Le devoir de memoire.


Fusiliers marins bretons (Lorient, Breizh) sous le commandement de l'Amiral Ronac'h en route pour le front. Bataille de Dixmude (Belgique, octobre 1914). Envoyes pour tenir 24 heures, les 6000 marins peu habitues au combat terreste, combattirent 34 jours et au prix de pertes enormes barrerent la route de la mer aux forces allemandes.
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May the soul of those who perished on the killing fields of
this insane war rest in peace,
May we never forget.
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Qu'ils reposent en paix.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Is the European Union too big to fail?

Tis the dawn of the “more transparent, more effective, more democratic” Europe, the Lisbon era. Yet curiously, apart from politicians and bureaucrats, no-one is celebrating. In Brussels, no sooner had pen been put to paper in the Czech capital that the pro-Lisbon camp was fêting the capitulation of its most vocal opponent with evident relief. The constitutional treaty will enter into force in December, and a new legal entity endowed with more political, judicial, administrative and legislative powers will come into being. For any rational person, the lofty goal of a better, fairer, greener, more egalitarian Europe can only cause apprehension about the future. Regardless, the EU thinks "big” for us. Like so many giant inefficient corporations and banks, it may have become too big to be allowed to fail.
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Functionalist integration, or the "paradise" found.
Since its cautious first economic steps (ECSC 1951) in the post-war years, the European integration process has gradually become a one-way road, a one-size-fits-all-system in a one-ideology environment; the “ever-closer” economic, social and political union. The ideals of federalist luminaries - Monnet "federalism with instalement" method or Spinelli's constitutional method - have turned into reality. Give it to our democracy-dodging elite, 2009 is a turning point, one only they will celebrate. Soon too, official publications praising Eurocitizens for "their infinite wisdom" for "supporting" the Lisbon treaty will go into print. Who will remember that in 2005 the sovereign people of France rejected the constitutional treaty by a majority (54.67%)? Irreversibly, the EU bloc is caught in its own functionalist momentum - expansion of competences through spillover effect. Even though there is plenty of empirical evidence that the centralisation of policy and decision-making has led to spectacular failures (The Common Fisheries Policy for e.g.), EU institutions are about to become more powerful. While the Treaty provides for more involvement of national parliaments (ToL, protocols) through a consultation procedure on legislative acts prepared in Brussels (75% of national legislation), it is doubtful that this concession to national sensitivities will have much effect in practice on the incremental aggregation of powers at supranational level. There is simply no stopping the tide.
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What this all means translated into “ non Euro-speak” is simple: bigger central government in Brussels in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable elite whose tolerance of open and free debate on European integration is dubious. Indeed questioning the integrationist mantra that more central planning, harmonisation and regulation of society is in Europe's best interest, is not welcome. Paradoxically this behaviour is nowhere more evident than in the Parliament. More generally, those who advocate an alternative find themselves isolated in a sort of “intellectual gulag of political incorrectness" as former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovski puts it. Equally worrying is the fact that the growing gap between European citizens and the elite (and institutions) is not seriously being addressed. The issues of democratic deficit and lack of popular legitimacy are mostly subjects of academic debates. Or talk shows during elections. Frustration, lack of trust of EU institutions and uneasiness about the process is increasing amongst the citizenry.
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Rescuing the “Etat providence” with the super-nanny state.
In France the “malaise” is becoming more acute. The country seems to be teetering on the brink of deeper social and political crisis. President Sarkozy's approval ratings are at their lowest (39%). The silent majority is not fooled by the official rhetoric that the “exception française”- economic dirigisme, high taxation rates, a rigid labour market, high level of welfare benefits - is coping better with the economic downturn. Resentment is seething. The leader elected to unshackle entrepreneurship from its fiscal and regulatory bonds, and to reform the state has gone the populist way. State intervention has increased in both the market and society. The saviour-state is back with a vengeance. Its quest for fiscal revenue to fill the empty coffers now also comes in green (fossil fuel tax for e.g.). A phenomenon aptly described by French economist Jacques Garello as a "green fiscal tsunami". And if over-taxed citizens and enterprises object too strongly, just circumvent the National Assembly. Where there is a political will, the EU backdoor is the way (policy-making in Brussels).
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More debt does not create prosperity, it endangers it. But in Paris, “C'est la fête" (party time). The government awarded itself the EU presidency budget "gold medal" with an all-time record of €171 million (the €1-million-a-day presidency!). The ruling party is unrepentant. Alarm bells are ringing for the social security - €23 billion in the red. The public debt has hit the €1,500 billion mark. Desperate fishermen caught in a vicious circle of aid-dependence are forced to stage port blockades in order to survive. High unemployment continues (peaked at 15% in January 2009) while the inflated public sector (1/5 of the labour force) weathers the crisis with the safeguard of jobs for life. And, if its privileges (social "acquis") need protecting, "c'est la grève" (strike). The heavily-subsidised agriculture sector is in meltdown. Only a few days after the Commission allocated an emergency aid package to milk producers (€280 million), President Sarkozy went on a statist spending spree promising more regulation and naturally more support (€1 billion in low-interests loans, €650 million in direct aid). "Not enough" said the largest syndicate, “what is needed is the state control of retail prices”. In the health sector, it has been argued that the current reforms are best described as a “soviétisation”. Clearly the decision to close the Commissariat général du Plan - a Gosplan à la française - was premature (2006).
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France needs the EU. So our self-serving political class (50% of deputies are civil servants, many holding up to three elective mandates) zealously pursues more of the same at the supranational level. The Jacobin state's tradition - and powers - are thus being transferred to the European “nebulous”, namely to more “opaque and undemocratic” pastures. For some diversion from the real issues at stake, the French Minister for European affairs slams British Eurosceptic Conservatives for being “autistic”. A war of words goes down well with the media. Nothing - least of all the “perfide Albion” - can stand in the way of the new Lisbon order.
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The new Union for ever.
Sadly the positive achievements of the single market – opening of borders, liberalisation of trade, post-war prosperity - are gradually being undermined by the growth of a system the dynamics of which inexorably take it on a path to collective irresponsibility. In these post-democratic statist times, watching the appointment of the new president and foreign minister is starting to look like déjà vu - a politburo election "à la sauce européenne"... The EU has become too big to fail so forward it marches into a brighter future. How ironic that the treaty's fate should be sealed in Prague, the city whose inhabitants stood up to the collectivist ideals of communism (Spring 1968). Once upon a time on the other side of the Iron Curtain, there was a highly centralised union led by an unaccountable elite who over-spent and indulged to sustain a system that was to be for ever. Therein lay its problem.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cold shower times for French taxpayers.

The latest cold shower for French taxpayers: 245,722€. That's the cost for the installation in the Grand Palais on the occasion of the July 2008 Mediterranean Summit of a temporary presidential space (8 offices) with "douche attenante" (a shower equipped with radio, a seat and various "fonctions jet" for the exclusive use of the president). These revelations have made headlines across Europe (see for e.g. article in regional newspaper Le Telegramme and the Guardian).
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In France the controversy of "la douche" - the "shower-gate"- came shortly after the "Défense-gate", namely the candidacy - and very near election - of the president's 23-year-old son to the directorhip of the body responsible for managing the Paris business district. The blatant act of cronyism was prevented at the last hour by a massive public outcry leading the young man to withdraw his candidacy (the famous Arche, right). A photo of the now equally fameuse douche here.

C'est la crise but nothing can possibly get in the way of the grandeur de la France and its rayonnement in its own backyard, the Mediterranean basin. The real scandal of course is not the shower itself but the extravagant cost (€16 million) of a summit which yielded little result. According to the Cour des Comptes report, the dinner held for heads of states had a price tag of €5,000 per person. A hearty menu in times of crisis.... And the kind of state cuisine many families who struggle every day to put food sur la table will find very hard to stomach.

Our nomemklature is unrepentent and trumpets that the French EU presidency was a resounding success. History will be the judge but what's very real for now is that it was the most expensive on record (€171 million). Perhaps we should rejoice about this gold medal in state budget management. The new one-man EU European Council presidency , argued a député, would cost less. Some comfort to the citoyens who were not even given a chance to vote on the Lisbon Treaty! (Someone else here believes that its implementation could rein in EU spending, a federalist...).

In the meantime, the sécurité sociale is in the red - €23 billion - and the deficit de l'Etat has hit the €1500 billion mark. French agriculture is en crise (again). A few days after the Commission allocates an emergency aid package to European milk producers (€280 million), President Sarkozy goes on a populist shopping spree promising more central planning, more regulation and of course more "support" - state aid is naturally forbidden - (€1 billion in low-interests loans and €650 million in direct aid). "Not enough" says the largest syndicate, what's needed is the state regulation of retail prices. Since French agriculture is being "sovietised", closing down the Commissariat général du Plan in 2006 was clearly a mistake. Just like in Soviet times' l'Etat and l'élite continue to over-spend in order to sustain a system "that will be for ever", le modèle français....

La petite histoire will remember that the shower was in fact never used. The mot de la fin must go to Hugo Chavez , a grand admirateur no doubt of France's leadership to make the world a greener place - or was it redder? "We are not in times of Jacuzzi" said he, urging his compatriots to save water (Newsweek, 2 Nov. 2009). Somebody in the Palais de l'Elysée must have heard the call. In France we are in shower times. Mostly cold ones....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Euroscepticism and liberty

Published in French in Un Monde Libre on October 19th.
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.The EU leadership is not amused and is showing signs of impatience. Czech President Vaclav Klaus is not toeing the yes-line and announced that he wanted an opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a move which in turn could unravel re-negotiation requests from other member states. What is wrong with this? The problem is that the EU leadership demands an unconditional ratification even though by granting "guarantees" (July 2009 European Council conclusions) to Ireland, it opened the pandora box of a ratification a "geometrie variable". The problem is that the Union is neither comfortable with democracy nor with dissent.

Yes-democracy.
Citizens are expected to fall in. In France, our political class chose to “consult itself” so to speak (ratification through parliament) rather than risk a public consultation and another rebuke (2005 no-vote on EU Constitution). With the financial crisis and economic downturn of the past year, EU leaders and eurocrats were anxious for good news. After the Irish yes-vote, nothing appears to be dampering their eagerness to have the treaty in force by the end of the year.

“There is no pressure as such” said the president of the EU Parliament Jerky Buzek “all discussions are taking place in a democratic context”. So the yes-camp makes it known that delay from the Czech Republic is not acceptable, diplomatically lambasting its president for pulling an “unfair” rabbit. Apparently the “Lisbon-ned” Union urgently needs to anoint a guide (President) to lead its blighted citizens. If you don’t understand what’s democratic and transparent about that, please try again. The correct answer is “yes” naturally this new phase of supranational governance requires a supreme leader but also new diplomatic staff, more bureaucrats, more budget for more common policies.... When member states are urged to reduce expenditures and downsize their administrations, the EU is preparing to inflate its own.

What kind of a democracy is yes-democracy? A growing number of citizens are no longer amused. Could Lisbon be a “treaty too far” as British academic William Horsley argues? He warns that its implementation will come as a shock to British people. After Westminster's expenses scandal, coping with a new rabbit from the EU hat will prove difficult. Across Europe, disillusionment with EU politics runs high. Politicians - not surprisingly - have failed to prepare electorates for what’s afoot, namely a system of collective decision-making with extensive new powers, and not as they claimed a “mere amendment" to the Nice Treaty currently in force. "Stream-lining" is the buzz word. But what we are talking about is the creation of a Europe-wide government and that means a superstate complete with legal personality.

Yes to British euroscepticism!
President Klaus’ stance for freedom is a beacon of hope, and so is the prospect of the return to power of the Conservative Party in the UK on the other side of the Channel. A healthy dose of British euroscepticism could be the light at the end of this illiberal tunnel... David Cameron’s speech at the party conference last week has hit the nail though his message of “taking on big government and the culture of irresponsibility” has probably not gone down well in the corridors of power in Brussels. Should he stand firm on his principled platform (and the referendum), a Conservative-led UK could act as a counterbalance to a more centralised and powerful EU. Let us see if outbursts of “consequences” by outspoken European leaders will impress or scare the British electorate. In the chess game of Euro-politics, the Lisbon camp is planning its next move, probably the offering of a sweetener. To neuter the rebellious islanders, “Let them have Blair!". Call it a socialist icing on the EU supercake, eurocitizens will need to digest. Citizens are mobilising against him ("Stop Blair" petition campaign) but he has already the support of powerful states.

The wind of liberty coming from Prague.
The fact is that the European project has always been an elite-driven ideal for which democratic legitimacy (direct elections) was never a priority. From its onset, it was influenced by inter alia federalist intellectuals like Jean Monnet - a statist - and Altiero Spinelli - a communist - who believed that peace in Europe would be achieved with the establishment of a superstate. That this ideal would in 2009 turn into reality without public support and legitimacy is fitting. It is no longer possible to question the integration model which in effect has become a dogma.

The plot is thickening but for us the French, the "ever-closer union" dies are cast. As Europe pompously celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is both ironic and fascinating that, in the immediate future, hope for a freer EU should come from the East. Whatever the outcome, President Klaus dares say "no" and in our brave new world of EU political correctness, it takes courage.


Green movement or green ideology?

Letter to the editor of the University of Porstmouth fortnighly newspaper - Pugwash News - in reply to an opinion by environmental officer Chris Spackman. Published on 05 November 2009.



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Greenly incorrect travel log in the Med

19 September 2009: 15h00, motoring into strong headwinds (22-25 knots, NW), sighted an unusually large 3-mast-vessel on a course to enter the Gulf of Hisarönü. N36, 43' 80. E27, 55' 60: came half a mile directly north of it (photo right) and realised it was the flagship of Greenpeace, the Rainbow Warrior II.

Of course, unlike the rest of us leasure sailors, the green warriors were not in the Turkish Aegean to enjoy this sailing paradise and its natural beauty. The organisation was there to save it. This visit was part of its wider Akdeniz/Mediterranean sea campaign (in English) with planned actions against tuna fishing, for a nuclear free region, to fight climate change, etc.... Green is "in" as French economist Guy Sorman remarked with esprit in a recent post (in French, l'ONU, sauce verte). Leaders are now competing to prove their green-ness - or "vertitude". The UN GA in New York was only further evidence of the green political correctness fever gripping the world these days at the detriment of more worthy topics. Lots of talk of "virtuous" green goals but little mention of democracy, economic development, human rights. Was the word "freedom" spoken even once? At least the carbon foot print of the Libyan leader's tent was low...

Funding must be flowing to Greenpeace. Green crusaders have the weather-political gauge (advantage).... Next thing this region will be turned into a marine reserve, anchoring forbidden because every bled of seaweed will be sacred! All hands on deck! Every action counts to counter the ideology of "ecologisme" so expertly described in Vaclav Klaus' new book "Blue Planet in Green Shackles" (published by the CEI and the Press Universitaire d'Aix-IREF). So in order to protest against the pressure Greenpeace is putting on the government of this developping country not to go nuclear for the production of its energy and inter alia to close the coal power plant of Kemirköy (photo above) in the Gulf of Gökova, a spontaneous plan emerged.... :
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A few days later, sailing in 23 knots of wind (NW) on a close haul , shorthanded and outfunded, the freedom warrior headed towards the conspicuous landmark of the tall chimney of the coal power plant on a course to make a point.

A pod of dolphins joined the protest. Below the final sail powered by the wind, the book and ideas Greenpeace must be cursing everyday.

For thousands of years the peoples of the Mediterranean basin have being trading, adapting to changing times and should continue their economic development on their own terms. Not on those dictated by a new religion of environmentalism, its legal norms imposed by the rich and with green warriors to do the preaching.

And if you are wondering, I too care about the sea and do my bit to keep it clean!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "maddening" arrogance of the EU elite.

In the Japan Times (08 September) an enlightening article by Domique Moisi on how my beloved country sees itself as the centre of Europe, and how it ought to lead the way to a bright new EU future with "the return of Franco-German leadership".

"PARIS — Regardless of who wins September's parliamentary election in Germany, the time has come once again for a major Franco-German initiative. Regardless of their economic conditions or their confidence — or lack of it — in each other, France and Germany are more than ever jointly responsible for the future, if not the very survival, of the European project.... More here.

My belated letter to the editor of the Japan Times (25 September) published on 01 October in the Reader in Council section (electronic here).

Dear Editor,

I could not disagree more with Dominique Moisi's conclusion from his Sept. 8 analysis that the European Union needs the return of Franco-German leadership". Europe, in fact, needs less leadership from its intellectual and political class. It needs to pause and take into account the will of its citizens who, when given a democratic chance — Netherlands, France and Ireland — have said "no" to the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty. But only a "yes" was acceptable! Is that democracy or hypocrisy?

Has the European project sunken so low that its nomenclature needs to invoke the magic wand of a good old post-World War II European construction dynamic — and a "spectacular security initiative" with Russia — to extricate itself from the troubled waters of the 21st century?
Frankly it is doubtful that incantations for more Franco-German leadership will do much to reassure Irish voters (on Friday).

My compatriot (Moisi) believes that, without France, the EU cannot survive the current institutional crisis, not to mention the economic one; in other words, that Europe needs more dirigisme from, well, its "center" — read Paris. Furthermore, like most members of our nomenclature of politicians and intellectuals, he discards legitimate concerns from British citizens as "provincial euro-skepticism." When disagreement is eloquently articulated by Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, it is "stubborn ill will."

Where do we go from here when the EU leadership — and its "enlightened" intellectual elite — go down the road of thinly disguised threats of "consequences," to quote French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whenever peoples or elected politicians happen to stray from the "true path"? So much arrogance is maddening and dangerous. So, consider me one of the growing number of voices no longer prepared to stay silent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More EU appeasement in the Caucasus

Last summer brought not only a heat wave to the region, but also a war in Georgia. The French-brokered peace agreement was hailed as a momentous success, but since then, the war of words between Moscow and Tbilisi has continued, and so has the tension......

Published in the Hürriyet Daily News

Freedom Square in Tbilisi

Sunday, August 9, 2009

On the democratic erosion of democracy

In this article "Le detournement democratique" published in UnMondeLibre, Emmanuel Martin and Carlo Lottieri highlight the main problems posed by the transplantation of western democracy as the model for development in "less developped" societies.

A lire absolument. In French only.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Re-setting Europe without “bonapartisme”

Published in Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey.
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It has to be handed to the Swedish Presidency; it’s putting up a brave fight against France’s pressure to set the law.

EU-Turkey relations are just one of those battlefields of influence. During a recent meeting between the presidents of both countries (July 3rd), President Sarkozy reiterated, presumably in case the Swedes “hadn’t got it”, that the opening of new chapters would be allowed so that “Turkey would become an associate member of Europe and not a fully-fledged one". From his outburst to the legitimate comments made by President Obama in support of Turkish EU membership, to boycotting a meeting in Stockholm with Foreign Minister Carl Bilt, or the barely disguised contempt for the “Turkish Season” now starting in France, there appears to be no let up.

Indeed it is plain for those who want to see that this is no longer about making the French government’s views “known” to other member states but rather about imposing its position on enlargement as the “only” way forward. France’s Right is now “united” by a common culture of “turcophobie” with the all-powerful administration “purged” of any pro-Turkey accession advocates. This “obsession” is now being deliberately exported on the European stage with chairmanships “bullied” into abiding to the limits set by Paris. This trend does not abode well for the future under the Lisbon treaty or barely revisited EU Constitution whose chief architect was former President Giscard d’Estaing, a proponent of the “non à la Turquie”, and guardian of the centralizing and “dirigiste” tradition.

It is worrying that this “bonapartisme” is not solely confined to enlargement. It is much in evidence in economics too. Sweden warns against the “over-zealous” regulation of hedge funds. Yet the French centralizing and regulating tradition appears to be winning this battle too against the weakened Labour government of PM Brown with the City standing to lose the most. French officials with the blessing of the “G8+?” - one loses count - have launched an all-out war on so-called tax heavens and low taxation jurisdictions, essentially seeking to end tax competition on French terms - Read higher taxes (Dan Mitchell on tax competition as a liberalising force in world economy). It’s ironic that it took the intervention of communist China at the London Summit to prevent Hong Kong from being blacklisted (ranking first in the Heritage Foundation economic freedom list, France 64th).

The economist Jacques Garello (Institut de Recherches Economiques et Fiscales) talks about the “fiscal tsunami” triggered by the “green” political wave now sweeping across Europe in the aftermaths of the elections. Europe-Ecologie led by “Danny-le-Rouge” Kohn Bendit came third (16%) just behind the socialists. 400€ billion are needed for the “croissance verte” (green growth or révolution) promised by the political class during the campaign. With public finances in the red, money will have to be found somewhere. That means more borrowing (grand emprunt national), a fossil fuel tax (taxe carbone) to be borne by enterprises, and if “zealots” have their way, a European “cap-and-trade” regulation. In other words, less economic freedom and more protectionism in the guise of “virtuous” green goals. Beware the “bonapartisme écologique”!

Decisions taken on the basis of these kinds of political antics make a mockery of the idea that the EU abides to principles of law, that it stands for universal values as opposed to the rules of a “Christians only” club, and finally that it defends free trade. Reasoned discussions and consensual decision-making on sensitive issues have being replaced by the rule of the “stronger”, more dedicated member state. The “weaker” or less interested ones simply fall in, too busy with their own priorities. Unfortunately, Sweden’s voice has no echo. The silence of other member states is deafening, and perhaps a sign of surrender. It’s high time for dissenting views to be heard, or “bonapartisme” will have its way after all, and in its 21st century political expression, will dominate Europe…

In the offing lies the final battle of the Lisbon treaty ratification (German constitutional debate, second Irish referendum on October 2, pending signature into law by the Czech President). It is widely acknowledged that given a democratic chance, Euro-voters would have rejected the construction of a French-inspired highly centralized super-state. In fact they did with 3 no-votes in referenda in France, Holland and Ireland. In the end, the Irish government has obtained its opt-out “deal” (taxation and neutrality notably) so this time round, the balance may just tilt to a yes-vote. That is not good news because Europe needs resetting. Far from being the “doomsday scenario” voters are led to believe, it is a very necessary and healthy step.

For now, finding solace in history will have to do. In October 1805, Napoleon’s military power-grabbing was ended by a British hero at the Battle of Trafalgar off the Spanish city of Cadiz. Admiral Nelson’s victory thus prevented the planned invasion of the British Isles and French rule over most of Europe. French and Spanish sailors fought valiantly but they were not on the side of freedom. In the current economic storm and battle for influence, the EU leadership under French “command” has the weather gauge (advantage) to impose its vision of Europe. Czech President Klaus may be up against a vastly superior fleet of politicians and bureaucrats but he could well turn the tide. And become the European peoples’gallant hero.
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In the olden days, French Embassies used to invite all residing “citoyens” for the traditional celebration of the “fête nationale”. No more. Must be politicians fullfilling their promises to bring public finance under control, or an extraordinary measure in times of deep recession.... Right.

- 2009 budget for the Elysée (présidence de la République): increase of 11.45% from 2008 (more here).
- Cost of the speech in Versailles Palace of the Président before the Parlement (Sénat-Assemblée Nationale) further to the constitutional amendment: 450,000€ (more here)

Last February, Russian President Medvedev announced that in the light of the crisis, state expenditures at all levels should be reviewed, adding that this exercise “should start with oneself ". So if the Kremlin can cut costs, why not the Elysée?

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Allez, champagne quand même! A la santé de notre Liberté chérie....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

EU parliamentary elections: democracy or hypocrisy?

Publié en français sur Un Monde Libre.org

In the wake of Europe-wide parliamentary elections, the Iranian presidential poll with its massive turnout and the eagerness of the voters to cast their ballots was uplifting. Candidates had spoken passionately, and their supporters mobilized in great numbers. The contrast with the lackluster and undisputed elections campaign in the European Union (EU) could not have been more striking. In Iran, the violent post-election crackdown is evidence - if anybody needed reminding - that elections do not necessarily yield more freedom. In Europe, the process was free and fair, peaceful but the question remains if the highly centralized Union is the democratic model it professes to be.

Indeed since the first direct elections (1979), fewer European citizens have bothered to exercise their right to vote. In the 2009, the overall turnout has hit the predicted record-low: 43% in 2009 v 62% in 1979. Slovakia with 19.64% lies at the bottom of the table. In France, one of the founding states, 60% of the electorate abstained. Yet this abyssal result did not damper the festive mood of the political parties that fared better (UMP 27.8%, Europe Ecologie 16.28%). Champagne corks popped with little regard to the fact that the newly elected MEPs (72, total of 736) will represent le peuple with the thinnest of democratic legitimacy. But truth be told, EU institutions and national governments have already moved on with a sigh of relief. It’s back to politics as usual.

By and large politicians have skirted the issue of the ever-deepening democratic deficit. The reason for this is simple. The EU show must go on. Many leaders have regularly and openly stated that “democracy and the complex EU polity are not really compatible”. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has revealed a deep-rooted mindset of mistrust towards voters amongst the élite. Hence a growing sense that democratic consultations are only meant as a “rubberstamping exercise” whilst the “real” EU business carries on in the secretive conclaves of supra-national consensual politics. Disenchanted electorates were left with only two options to express their frustration and disagreement: abstention or a vote for the more extreme parties (right or left). Yet defining this rising tide of negative sentiment as “anti-European” is simplistic, albeit convenient for a political class intent on preserving the status quo. Results can also be interpreted as anti-EU as currently run, and pro-freedom.

EU institutions seized on these elections to promote the notion that the Lisbon Treaty will usher a new dawn: “a more democratic and transparent Europe”. But as Oxford academic Christopher Bickerton points out, attempts to remedy the lack of transparency have been tried before and failed because “the EU is not about transparency. Its function is to provide space for policymaking that substitutes political conflicts of principle for a culture of bureaucratic compromise”. (The Manifesto Club study, “No” to the Politics of fait accompli”). The EU polity has become a “public-free zone”, namely the preserve of unaccountable bureaucrats, politicians and diplomats as Daily Telegraph correspondent Bruno Waterfield puts it. Even with more powers granted to the Parliament, reversing decades of culture of insulated and undemocratic decision and lawmaking could prove mission impossible.

The European project is supposed to enhance our freedom. The essence of liberty is choice. Yet if citizens’ choices – a “no” to the Lisbon Treaty, abstention to express discontent – are dismissed, if the “eur-oligarchy” can think of nothing better to resolve the crisis of legitimacy than to scaremonger voters to push ahead their “enlightened” agenda (“vote Yes or face the consequences of extremism or recession”), then arguably there is little democracy left worth talking about. Rather, what is emerging is a new form of supra-national authoritarianism imposed by a nomemklature who, in ways not dissimilar to the Soviet one, always “knows best”.

The EU is in legitimacy crisis territory. The low participation rate (and no-votes in the referenda) should be interpreted as an electoral equivalent of the 1965 “empty chair crisis” (“Luxembourg compromise”) when French civil servants were withdrawn by Charles de Gaulle due to serious disagreement with the Commission. The responsibility lies squarely on politicians (mainstream or not) who have sadly failed to articulate a vision for the future that a majority of citizens “can believe in” and support.

For results, see here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

L'Hermione, the Liberty Frigate

In June 2012, a replica of the 1780 French frigate Hermione will anchor off the Statue of Liberty, New York after having crossed the Atlantic Ocean (Rochefort, Boston, New-York). The original frigate had sailed to l'Amérique to support and help the American people in their quest for freedom and independence.
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Aboard the Hermione ("Frégate de la Liberté") when she set sails from Rochefort in March 1780, was le Marquis de La Fayette. After a 38 day sail, the 65 metres long man-of-war reached Boston where the French officer landed to re-join George Washington's forces. In 1777, having disobeyed Louis XVI's orders and avoided capture by British spies, young La Fayette had eventually reached American shores to serve in the Continental Army. He had returned to France a hero and played a key role in strengthening the French Monarchy's commitment to the American struggle.

The idea for an absolute king to support another people's struggle for freedom was daring. Of course, the monarch backed the project for the blow it would deal to His Britannic Majesty King GeorgeIII, and not to "defend freedom". For La Fayette the latter was the point for he had been truly inspired by the ideal of individual liberty (right with G. Washington at Mt. Vernon in 1784). During the French Revolution - despite persecution by the Jacobin revolutionaries - and throughout his life, he remained true to this ideal.

Crossing an ocean in the 18th century was adventurous but so is the 20th century project to build a replica and sail her across the Atlantic. If all goes well, the image of the "Frégate de la Liberté" anchored in front of the "Statue de la Liberté" will bear testimony to the will and achievements of a few who inspired so many. It will also honour the spirit of a free man who made a difference, Monsieur de La Fayette.
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This project was initiated by a group of citoyens (Association Hermione-La Fayette founded in 1997), and after difficult beginnings (technical and financial), construction is well under way in 2009 (hull completed and caulked, big capstan installed). Of course, the French Republic keenly backs it (with taxpayers' money). The political objective behind may be to commemorate our common history, the friendship between our two nations and the ideal of liberty but one thing is certain, it is not in support of economic freedom! C'est un peu l'histoire qui se répète....
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Happy 4th of July. Et vive la liberté!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

La vague verte qui nous fera couler à pic!

Caring about protecting the environment does not mean accepting the fiscal onslaught being prepared by "enlightened-greened politicians" guided by "repainted-green ideologues" (Leader of Europe Ecologie, "Danny-le-Rouge" Cohn-Bendit....).

Dr. Garello comments on what he calls the "fiscal tsunami" being triggered by the green political wave. A wave sweeping now across Europe and certainly across France where the Europe Ecologie party came third (16.28%) in the European elections just behind the Socialist Party (16.48%). 400€ billion are needed to launch what the French government has labelled "the green growth" (croissance verte). With the rise of the "green political wave", it's time for reckoning.... And that means new taxation!

La vague verte et tsunami fiscal : 400 milliards pour la croissance verte (Publié le 17 juin 2009, article extrait du site irefeurope.org)
The most immediate and tangible consequence of the green wave will be to trigger a fiscal tsunami. The fosil energies tax and the overtaxation of polluting foreign products are coming. A good deal for the taxman and a disaster for enterprises and consumers. Below a commentary by Jacques Garello, administrator of the Institut de Recherches Economiques et Fiscales.

Dès la conclusion du Grenelle de l’environnement on savait qu’il faudrait trouver quelque part le financement des 400 milliards d’euros que Jean Louis Borloo a promis pour organiser la « croissance verte » (une promesse renouvelée au soir des élections). Les choses se précipitent, et grâce au succès électoral des thèses écologistes, on en vient maintenant à l’heure de vérité avec deux initiatives majeures : la taxe sur les énergies fossiles et la taxe européenne anti-pollution.

Taxe sur les énergies fossiles: Son principe doit être voté par le Parlement au cours de la session actuelle. Elle ne supprimera pas la taxe carbone qui concerne déjà les « grandes sociétés » qui utilisent des énergies fossiles. Elle frappera toutes les entreprises qui utilisent des énergies traditionnelles, non renouvelables : charbon, pétrole, gaz, essence. Le cas de l’électricité est en suspens, car il faudrait savoir si elle est d’origine nucléaire, thermique, ou hydraulique – en attendant l’électricité des éoliennes dont on sait en haut lieu qu’elle se substituera bien vite (au cours du 22ème siècle) à toutes les autres.
Premier avantage de cette innovation : les produits de cet impôt viendront à point nommé combler les pertes subies par le Trésor public du fait de la suppression annoncée de la taxe proportionnelle. Bercy respire : on a trouvé un impôt de substitution. Deuxième avantage : comme les entreprises seront tentées de répercuter la facture énergétique grossie par l’impôt sur la masse des consommateurs, ceux-ci vont voir leur pouvoir d’achat diminuer. Les coûts du transport et du chauffage, mais aussi de tout ce que les diverses entreprises produisent vont en effet augmenter et grever le budget des ménages. Qu’à cela ne tienne : le gouvernement versera une allocation aux ménages à faible revenu, et seuls les riches paieront, ce qui est d’une part très social, d’autre part très logique et très simple : après avoir pris de l’argent aux Français on le leur rend.
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Taxe anti-pollution: Les produits en provenance des pays étrangers qui font du dumping écologique seront taxés pour rétablir une concurrence équitable avec les produits français qui, eux, sont non polluants ou moins polluants, grâce aux efforts incessants menés par notre administration et notre fiscalité. A la différence de la précédente, l’idée n’est pas nouvelle puisqu’elle avait été lancée aux Etats-Unis, pour freiner les importations en provenance du Mexique, pays échappant à la rigoureuse réglementation américaine en matière d’environnement. C’est cependant une taxe que les Français auront du mal à faire passer au niveau européen, surtout avec la nouvelle majorité au Parlement.

Va-t-on s’arrêter en si bon chemin ? Le Grenelle de la Mer peut sans doute apporter quelque nouvelle innovation fiscale. D’autre part, Michel Rocard est nommé à la tête d’un groupe « d’experts » pour étudier les principes et les effets d’une fiscalité verte. Un mauvais présage : l’inventeur de la CSG l’avait à l’époque présentée comme une très faible et très passagère « contribution ». En France on a de moins en moins d’impôts et de plus en plus de contributions. L’impôt est haïssable, mais quel honneur et quel plaisir de contribuer volontairement !
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For an incisive analysis of "the new offensive of the ideologues", read Ivan Rioufol's Bloc-notes in Le Figaro.
On the "inconvenient truth" that a politically driven green economy will do more harm to employment than good, read this article by George F. Will (Washington Post) and the report by Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada Alvarez.

Branle-bas de combat!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Divine intervention to save the Lisbon Treaty?

Who needs votes when the gods are on your side? Well, as if EU policy and decision-making mechanisms weren't already complex and confusing enough, it looks like religious leaders have joined in the EU political debate. Indeed the Lisbon Treaty introduces a "stronger consultative role for European religions in EU policy making" (statement made by the President of the EU Parliament at the inter-faith meeting he chaired in Brussels on 11 May). Co-chair European Commission President Jose Barroso added that this treaty provision would positively advance the freedom of religion or non-religion. Really?

In the Daily Telegraph, Bruno Waterfield questions this latest move by the EU leadership.

Why European institutions should be concerned with the divine when reviewing the fishing policy, discussing safety standards for toys or preparing legislation on the regulation of hedge funds is indeed difficult to fathom. Be it as it may, politics and faith are again being mixed and this time round, backed up by a legally enforceable right under the Lisbon Treaty. The introduction of religion into the EU public sphere is worrying. Historically, conflicts have been fueled on this explosive cocktail. So what is the political elite thinking? Are eurocrats and religious leaders ganging up to try and impose on us, the misguided flock, their revealed wisdoms? After more earthly fear mongering of economic and political doomsday, the message going out to the faithful (Irish in particular) is equally sinistre: "do not question (just ratify) the Lisbon Treaty. Or face eternal damnation".

Let us for a moment venture in the realm of legal fantasy. What if this yet-to-be-ratified-treaty opened a legal loophole for the introduction of a "common spiritual welfare policy" of sort? It is all too easy to imagine what would come next. Bureaucratisation with the establishment of a new Directorat Général (DG-DIVINE), the anointment of euro-priest-ocrats (naturally not answerable to the EU flock but their own gods), blessed subsidies and, of course, enlightened lobbies. Non-compliance with sacred rules would see you sentenced to hell...

On planet earth-EU now, punishment takes the form of ever-expanding EU exclusive competences. And more legislation. What this means at the end of the day, is more intrusion into the "private" sphere, i.e. less liberty for all.

To conclude on a point of public finance, the 2009 campaign has revealed that no expenses would be spared to guide from above. Quite literally. From the International Space Station, the Belgium astronaut propelled into orbit for the European Space Agency on a Russian rocket sent his "personal" - DG-COMM would like us to believe - election message to the EU flock below. Arguably the most expensive 2009 campaign spot... For free here.

Looking at the elections turnout (record low of 43%), the EU flock remained unimpressed (or just not interested) and chose not to flock to the polling stations. It is time for a rethink. Until then (...) and while analysts dissect the results of this electoral fiasco, some comic relief...

Mr. Beans' take on ze EU hell....


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

EU elections: there is always time to scream!


Letter to the editor of the Japan Times sent on 12 May 2009:

Explaining the European Union to its citizens: a way forward.

The article « EU looks outward to create a better world” (May 11, 2009) was informative. I was pleased to read that diplomats from Member States’ embassies spare some time to explain the Union to Japanese school kids ("the EU comes to your school" project). Delightful.

How about starting a similar project targetting European citizens living in Japan? There is certainly a lot of explaining to do in the run-up to the parliamentary elections if turnout rates are to improve on the poor results of 2004 (45.47%). The latest opinion polls are hardly cause for optimism.

In 2009, the EU is unquestionably an economic giant but its standing as a showcase for democracy is more questionable. As more powers are being transferred to the Parliament (EP), less citizens appear to care about voting. A lower turnout would be disastrous for the EP's legitimacy.

The European construction has always been an elite-driven project. A lot of "top down-ocracy" rather than democracy... The referenda for its Constitution/Lisbon Treaty are quite revealing in this regard. Consultation with the citizenry was only meant to yield one result: the yes-vote needed by a leadership “who knows best”. The peoples said “no” (Ireland, Holland and France). Yet politicians didn’t listen.

There is something increasingly unbearable about the “top down-ness” of democracy à la EU. And frankly speaking, the glitzy €18 million elections campaign with one the silliest commercials ever produced (There is always time to vote. And scream!), can’t do much to motivate a generally disillusioned electorate. It did nothing for me.

Actually, I am a euro-enthusiast. But with no enthusiasm for the Europe now being dictated from above. Down here in Japan, will I have time to vote come June? “Niet!”. I say it in Russian because a French "non" will get little attention....

Poking fun at euroskeptics in the 2009 campaign...


Ok. Granted. The integration of European economies in the wake of WWII has brought peace, and it's fair to say that in itself, 50 years of peaceful coexistence is a tremendous achievement. The history of Europe is one of never ending feuds between nations. The question is whether the kind of centralised, bureaucratic Europe being built now is not undermining the ideal of a freer European space where citzens can shape their future, rather than it being shaped from above by "know-best-ocrats"!

On 04th June, other eurocitizens will choose too.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free trade therapy in Hong Kong

Bailouts, regulations, stimulus package, plan de relance économique, subsidies, protectionism, boss snatching, green revolution prophecy, recession, new deals, état sauveur... Feeling depressed? In need a break perhaps? Come to Hong Kong for therapy.

From barren rock to international trade hub, from British colony to PRC's Special Administrative Region.... Hong Kong's history in a nutshell with a skyline bearing testimony to the extraordinary transformative power of free trade.

Walk its bustling avenues. From the heights of Peak, enjoy the view of the city and its busy waters.. The nautical ballet of mighty container ships and splashing sampans. The forest of soaring skyscrapers clad in bamboo scaffolding. Let yourself be swept by the frisson of capitalism....

Selling noodles, buying shares... Up in the International Financial Centre tower, the stock market. Down on the streets, the food and stuff markets. For Western tourists, antics markets well stocked in Chairman Mao memorabilia. On the other side of the border, the motherland joining the market and catching up fast.
Everywhere The Free Market at work doing its magic of wealth creation.

Exalting, therapeutic. And soothing! So visit. Let the extraordinary energy of the city fill you with optimism about the future.... Free trade therapy. Not cheap but effective! Doing something to protect the freedom to trade helps too. Sign up!
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According to the Heritage Foundation economic freedom index, Hong Kong ranks first. Let us hope it stay there.

For more on tax competion as a liberalising force in the world economy, a brief lesson on taxation and why tax havens should be celebrated (more in the WSJ Europe) Cato Scholar Daniel J. Mitchell explains...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let them eat cake. Or dump tea...

I remember very well learning about the 1773 Boston Tea Party in my American history class in high school. It captured my imagination. Freedom fighters boarding a ship disguised as indians to dump tea in Boston harbour. Gripping! What it was too was a protest against unfair taxation by the British Crown. The Tea Act which granted tax free priviledges to the royal chartered British East India Company was the last straw. To show that measures against free trade would no longer be tolerated, 10,000 £ worth of tea ended up floating in the water. Symbolic and momentous... Then came the American revolution. And change.

The 2009 Tea Parties refer to the gathering of thousands of American citizens across the country to protest against the expansion of government under the current administration (on the tea party in Kansas). Symbolically tea bags were dumped in water (buckets, garbage cans.... ). According to journalist Andrew Klavan, US mainstream media has mostly chosen to ridicule the whole affair. But he thinks this could be more than a "joke". In fact the start of something big. In this article, he puts the Tea Parties in their rightful historical and constitutional context:
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"James Madison, in the famous Federalist #10, said it was the “first object of government” to protect those “diverse faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate,” and from which also originate “the possession of different degrees and kinds of property.” He warned that these faculties and these rights were in danger when what the Founders called “a majority faction” took over government. The Constitution, Madison said, was intended to help prevent such majority factions from working for “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.”.....

Commenting on the media and Democrat Party's attitude towards this grassroots movement Klavan says that "It is that voice—Madison’s voice, and the Constitution’s—with which the protestors spoke on Tax Day, and which the Democrats and the mainstream press have dismissed with such contempt." This "let them dump tea" attitude reminded me of the "let them eat cake" attitude exhibited by the royal court in Versailles. An entirely different context but a similar thread... Contempt, something big. And then change.
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"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (eat cake in English) said Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV's consort. I do whenever I can find this délice de la boulangerie française.
"Ich bin ein Overland Park (Kansas) tea party-goer" says Ze Ronin. On the left ze brioche achetée et mangée à Tokyo with a cup of hot water in which a tea bag was dumped...