Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Pardoning of Mikhail Khodorkovsky - A Bizarre Twist

Putin's pardoning of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is creating a huge amount of speculation. The fate of Putin's (former?) friend from his time in Leningrad, Igor Sechin, is an interesting "sideshow" in this affair:

In another bizarre twist, just after the prison service statement came out, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling Putin in a meeting that the state-owned oil giant would be willing to give Khodorkovsky a job but that "all top-manager posts are currently filled."
Rosneft acquired most of the assets of Khodorkovsky's oil company Yukos after it was liquidated and sold off in pieces upon Khodorkovsky's arrest in 2003.

This bizarre twist is even more bizarre when we consider Sechin's background as the figurehead of the Siloviki, the network of current and former security service officers who run Russia's intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies and his role in the Yukos affair:

Their figurehead since Putin's arrival in the Kremlin in 2000 has been Igor Sechin, a long-time close Putin ally from St. Petersburg. Sechin managed to transfer a majority of the assets of Khodorkovsky's defunct Yukos oil empire to Rosneft, the government-owned oil company of which he is chairman.
Sechin has always insisted that the Yukos affair was not only "about tax offenses, but also serious capital crimes like murder, torture and blackmail." Such charges were intended to put Khodorkovsky behind bars for many more long years. Now it appears that Sechin's influence is waning.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Single European Battery Charger - A Great Idea?

The EUSSR is alive and kicking:

Mobile phone makers will have to provide a standard battery charger that can fit any device, including smart phones, under a provisional deal on a new EU law reached on Thursday.
Provided the outline agreement gets endorsement from the European Parliament and EU member states, it would be implemented in around 2017, EU officials said.

If you think that is a great idea, think again:

no doubt a case could be made for it being a sensible idea. If we all have the same charger then we can use any charger: we’re not tied to one from the manufacturer of our particular phone.

However, there is a very large and incorrect assumption here. That technology is static. Something that simply isn’t true about technology of course.
For what is being assumed here is that by 2017 we’ll have the finest form of phone charger that we’ll ever have and that we can all standardise on just that one design. But, and here’s the catch, if we all standardise on that one design we’ll not have the market experimentation that provides us with those incremental improvements from innovation. For by standardising on one design we’ve made it impossible for anyone to experiment with that design. We have, in fact, set phone charging technology in stone and ensured that it will never change or advance.
And that’s not actually a very good idea. But then you weren’t expecting good ideas from the EU, were you?

Instead of innovation, the EU will probably end up with The European Centre for Battery Charger Standardisation Affairs (ECBCSA), with a few hundred bureaucrats toiling in a building just a little bit tinier than the new ECB skyscraper. The competition among member countries over who will get the new centre has probably already started.

Germany lost the bid for hosting the UN Green Climate Fund Headquarters. Maybe Angela Merkel will now submit the same design with "rooftop gardens" and a "sunken terrace restaurant" for the ECBCSA? :-)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What makes Vladimir Putin "succeed at everything he does"?

German Der Spiegel has an interesting article about why Vladimir Putin seems to "succeed at everything he does":

In September, he convinced Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. In doing so, he averted an American military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and made Obama look like an impotent global policeman.
In late July, Putin ignored American threats and granted temporary asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, a move that stirred up tensions within the Western camp. The Germans and the French were also outraged over Washington's surveillance practices.
Since then, Putin has scored one coup after the next. In the fall, when meaningful progress was made in talks with Tehran over a curtailment of Iran's nuclear program, Putin once again played a key role.
And now, by exerting massive pressure on Viktor Yanukovych, he has persuaded the Ukrainian president to withdraw from an association agreement with the European Union that took years to prepare, just a few days before the scheduled signing at a summit of EU leaders. In doing so, he brought Ukraine back into Russia's sphere of influence, at least for now. --

"For Putin, all it took was 20 minutes with Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg to avert a bombing of Syria and to lay the groundwork for a solution to the Syrian chemical weapons problem," says a senior Russian diplomat.
According to an unpublished, 44-page report by the Institute for Strategic Studies, the Kremlin's most powerful think tank, to which SPIEGEL has gained access, Putin's authority is now "so extensive that he can even influence a vote on Syria in the US Congress." The report praises Putin as the "new world leader of the conservatives."
The report's authors write that the hour of conservatives has now come worldwide because "the ideological populism of the left" -- a reference to men like Obama and French President François Hollande -- "is dividing society."

Of course the Kremlin's "most powerful think tank" is completely wrong about Putin being a "world leader of the conservatives". Their man is nothing but a corrupted authoritarian in charge of a mafia state.

The fact that the former KGB man now "seems to be succeeding at everything he does" has nothing to do with conservatism. No, it is wholly a result of the fact that the US now has the probably weakest and most incompetent president ever. With a strong leader in charge in the US, Putin would never have been able assert himself. And the weakness of the other western "leaders", Hollande, Cameron and Merkel above all, is making it even easier for Putin to "succeed".

Former DDR communist party youth organization member Angela Merkel today took charge of Germany's new (leftist and environmentalist) government

An FDJ (DDR communist party youth organization) badge.

Former DDR communist party youth organization member Angela Merkel today began her third term as German chancellor. Merkel, who is the leader of the CDU - the largest of the two social democratic parties now working together in the new government - was elected by 462 votes to 150 in Germany's lower house of parliament.

Merkel's CDU has long ago ceased to be a conservative party, although German media for some strange reason still insist on calling her a "conservative leader":

The 59-year-old conservative leader accepted the record result and thanked the country's politicians for their trust in her. No chancellor has ever received as many votes by parliament, even though at least 32 members of her own coalition didn't vote for her.

Merkel's new "grand coalition" government -- which partners her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- now holds 505 of the Bundestag's 631 seats. The alliance came about after Merkel's CDU nearly achieved a parliamentary majority in the Sept. 22 federal election, but saw their coalition partners, the liberal Free Democrats, crash out of parliament by falling short of the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats.

The coalition agreement is a compilation of primarily leftist and radical environmentalist items which are not even remotely connected with anything a conservative government would be working for:

Their coalition agreement includes the SPD-backed introduction of a national minimum wage, the continued pursuit of the Energiewende, the country's transition to renewable energy, and a steady-as-she-goes approach to the euro crisis.

The CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU, which still includes a number of real conservatives, is almost fully marginalized in the new government.

Great news (and hopefully true): Microsoft planning to close Windows 8

One can only hope that this is true:

If you are tired of Windows 8 and 8.1, which pointlessly forced on consumers a touch-screen interface when most PCs lacked touch screens, take heart.
Even Microsoft has figured out that Windows 8 is a flop and plans to replace it by 2015, or, given the pending management change at the company, perhaps earlier. While Microsoft hasn’t announced this yet, it is being reported by tech website based on conversations with unnamed sources inside Microsoft.
It appears that Microsoft is developing new versions of Windows that will return most PCs to the traditional Windows user interface that relies on a mouse and keyboard. The touch-screen Windows 8 and 8.1 interface will be limited to tablet computers and smartphones, which is where it belonged in the first place.
A return to traditional Windows is good news for millions of consumers who have been vexed by Windows 8, and for a PC industry that has watched shipments fall more than 10 percent this year, partly because Windows 8 and 8.1 gave consumers no reason to buy a new computer.

I am one of the unfortunate customers who bought a computer with Windows 8 installed. The sooner Microsoft replaces the garbage called Windows 8, the better. And the people at Microsoft who brought us this totally useless interface should all be fired!

Chairman of BP: "I cannot understand how those who burn carbon get to do that without charge"

The Chairman of BP, Carl Henric Svanberg, has been discussing the future of energy  with the IPCCs Rajendra Pachauri and some other warmists  at the "Nobel week dialog" in Sweden:

There was a definite tension among the panelists at the Nobel Week dialog about what the future of energy might hold and how well we could predict that future based on current trends. For example, Carl Henric Svanberg (of BP and Volvo) noted that, while renewables are the fastest growing portion of the energy market, if you extrapolate out current trends, non-hydro renewables will only cover six percent of the world's energy needs by 2030.
And that's not good enough, Svenberg said: "We need to move fast, because time is not on our side." He was one of a number of speakers who called for a carbon tax to tilt the economic scales. In his case, Svanberg said, "I cannot understand how those who burn carbon get to do that without charge."

Isn't it amazing that a company which makes almost all of its operating income ($19.733 billion in 2012) from fossil fuels has a chairman, who openly promotes a tax "on those who burn carbon"!

Even Pachauri managed to sound less alarmist than Svanberg at the Nobel dialogue:

The IPCC's Rajendra Pachauri pointed out that, as recently as five years ago, some projections were still completely ignoring the impact that shale gas would have on the energy economy.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Quote of the week

 "To put a limit on the use of fossil fuels without adequate economically viable alternatives is to condemn the Third World to perpetual structural poverty."

Deepak Lal 
(in Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The memory of late Nelson Mandela misused by groups of countries promoting dubious cash schemes

It is sad to note that the late Nelson Mandela's name is misused by propagandists of two groups of countries promoting schemes to get almost unlimited free cash from rich industrialized countries:

LDC Chair‏@LDCChairUNFCCC 2h
"It always seems impossible until it's done." World can truly honor by doing what seems impossible--agreeing 2 a bold climate deal.

What the Chair of Least Developed Countries means is that rich countries should pay almost unlimited compensation for "loss and damage" caused by non-existent human-made global warming.

CARICOM, representing 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies, is also misusing the memory of Nelson Mandela in an effort to force a number of "former slave-owning nation of Europe" to pay "reparations":         
The Executive of the CARICOM Reparations Commission met on December 9, 2013 in Jamaica at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies in order to define and set in train its plan of action.
It did so within the context of the global celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela, who, by his sacrifice and teachings, provided the world with a moral and ethical framework within which the diplomatic and political search for truth, justice, and reconciliation can be attained. The Commission affirmed its commitment to the principles inherent in the living legacy of Mr. Mandela.
The Commission affirmed the argument that Caribbean societies have been built upon transatlantic slave trading and chattel slavery, which have been declared by the United Nations as crimes against humanity. These societies are uniquely placed to advance the global cause of truth, justice, and reconciliation, within the context of reparatory justice for the victims and their descendants who continue to suffer harm as a consequence of these crimes.

The Commission called upon the former slave-owning nations of Europe - principally Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark - to engage Caribbean governments in reparatory dialogue to address the living legacies of these crimes.
The Commission noted that Caribbean societies also experienced the genocide of the native population, which was also declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. The victims of these crimes and their descendants were left in a state of social, psychological, economic and cultural deprivation and disenfranchisement that has ensured their suffering and debilitation today, and from which only reparatory action can alleviate their suffering.


The slave trade was of course a very sad and shameful chapter in the history of a number of European countries. However also African rulers profited from it:

When Europeans first came to Africa in search of slaves, the African leaders themselves were eager to contribute. Initially, the slaves were war prisoners, criminals or people in debt. However, as the European demand for slaves grew, African leaders turned to new ways to find slaves. Wars were started for the sole reasons of taking prisoners to sell, and many were simply kidnapped (either by people from their own tribe, or from competing tribes). Some African rulers earned great profits by controlling the regional slave trade.

Will CARICOM also call upon some African countries to "engage in reparatory dialogue"?

I mention this only to show that this type of "loss and damage" and "reparation" demands could lead to similar actions by hundreds - if not thousands - of countries, nations, tribes and other groups in different parts of the world - a completely impossible and uncontrollable situation.

The groups of Least Developed Countries and the Caribbean countries should abstain from this kind of bogus financing schemes, and instead start working on e.g. promoting democracy, better governance and rule of law in their respective countries.