Archive for February, 2012

5 Star Blogging

A selection of five great posts by independent bloggers recommended to you for being thought provoking, insightful, covering interesting subjects or comprising quality writing…

1. Your Freedom and Ours: Twenty Years Ago…

2. The View From Here: Of Consensus and the Weakness of Plastic Pillars

3. Nourishing Obscurity: Growing Up Politically

4. Raedwald: UK Threat from Left Wing Terrorists

5. Subrosa: Driven by Desperation

And, to mark the return to the blog of the 5 Star Blogging series, a landmark bonus post…

6. No Tricks Zone: Body Blow To German Global Warming Movement!  Major Media Outlets Unload On “CO2 Lies!”

Thought for the day

Following on from my previous post this quote, mentioned by a good friend of mine during a conversation over lunch, sums up the current situation quite nicely.

So little trouble do men take in their search after truth; so readily do they accept whatever comes first to hand.

    – Thucydides

Journalism – the new exclusion zone

The Leveson Inquiry has long since ceased to be something worth watching carefully.  The self righteous bleating of celebrities, whose currency is column inches and photo coverage, about the behaviour of the media; and the weasel words and distortions of the media editors and hacks themselves, is simply too gut churning to put up with.

However, the odd snippet of news worthy material does emerge now and again and one such item has been picked up by the Guardian and covered by FleetStreetBlues and the Press Gazette.  It concerns the evidence yesterday of the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre.

The inquiry was always likely to give an opportunity for the government seize upon the British capacity for unthinking, emotionalised outrage.  What was it Macaulay said?  ‘We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality’.  Leveson is the outcome of one of those spectacles.  Well now we see the consequences, an agenda to impose regulation on the media in a way that would suit the media’s own interests.  But it was always likely to provide the mainstream media with an opporunity to shore up its position and make journalism a closed shop – an exclusion zone.  Dacre’s suggestions are merely the articulation of this self interest.  This sycophantic cloak wrapped around vested interest needs to be seen for what it is.

Editors such as Dacre not only allowed, but encouraged their journalists to behave in an appalling manner to generate column hectares of tittle tattle.  They have all but eliminated investigative, public interest journalism.  That has been sacrificed at the altar of immediacy and servicing the 24 hour news cycle with showbusiness gossip and shallow circus politics that intentionally keeps people in ignorance of matters of governance and state control.  It’s a cosy arrangement that suits the newspapers and the people they should be looking to hold to account.

These days, Dacre and his ilk simply preside over teams dedicated to churnalism – lifting copy from the wires of a small number of press agencies with largely anonymous and unaccountable staff, who provide the MSM with copy to cut and paste wholesale into print or digitial form as a ‘news’ – with no effort devoted to fact checking, looking into the sources and their motivations (which are primarily pubic relations companies working for clients), or providing essential context that shows the story in its true light.

Now, having helped dumb down the nation by flooding it with sub-literate huff and puff, Dacre is turning his eye to shutting the door on anyone who might upset the cosy arrangements that are in place.  Self preservation is the key, keeping out the upstart citizen bloggers and young turks who would upset the apple cart of cosy co-existence with the nation’s political and corporate ‘elite’.  That is the agenda. All that is required is for editors to enforce ethical behaviour among their journalists.  But of course, no crisis must be allowed to pass without taking the opportunity to secure some kind of benefit for the tribe, so the excessive ‘solution’ to a very simple problem just so happens to suit the interests of the fourth estate.

Dacre is proposing to make official what was only custom; putting a protective shield around those who are ‘on message’ through a system of approval and certification, ensuring only the hand-picked and vetted can ever identify themselves as a journalist and – more crucially – access the mainstream channels to sell their stories.  It is the last charge of the dead tree press.

In the United States, where regulation is a dirty word for many, there is less deference to the establishment and (rightly) less trust of official and semi-official sources.  Citizen journalists are much more widely read and rewarded.  It inspires more people to put quality news and analysis into the public domain, which in turn attracts more readers.  However, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, people have become too reliant on the establishment and a kind of fear holds them back from questioning and challenging in the manner many Americans do.  There is a deference to ‘prestige’ that makes people shun the unofficial and unsanctioned.

For reasons passing understanding, too many people in this country have accepted the establishment’s mantra that as it is ‘official’ and has ‘authority’, it alone can and should be trusted.  That is why our citizen journalism is so far behind that in the US and why the media of which Paul Dacre is a part is so craven.  The establishment has thus been afforded the space to build a security wall around itself to keep ordinary people at bay and Dacre is helping to man that wall in return for some titbits from the table that can be used to entertain the readership – and now working actively to ensure the journalist ‘guards’ he employs can be relied upon to do the same.

This will either further entrench the rancid ineffectiveness of the media, or finally wake more people from their slumber and encourage them to look away from the establishment and its lackeys and seek the information the MSM chooses to ignore or omit from its narrative.  One can only hope it is the latter, but that hope is very small indeed.

Taking the wind out of their sails

It’s another cold one in the UK today, with temperatures barely getting above 5 degrees celsius (41F) on mainland Britain.  And as Richard North points out on EU Referendum, coal fired power is providing most of our energy.

But the real story here is that at 11.30am, wind power was providing just 51 megawatts of energy.  That means wind is contributing a derisory 0.1% of the UK’s current energy.  Since Richard posted his piece, it has got even worse as you can see below:

At a measley generation of just 45MW wind power is contributing virtually nothing to the grid.  This is what we get for £400m per annum on top of the money that has been lifted from our pockets to facilitate the installation of the turbines.

While the wind generation companies are getting rich soaking up huge amounts of our money and the politicians are busy supping the kool aid,  the turbines are failing to make energy exactly when we need it.  But this is no surprise to those of us who have long argued against the – there is no other word for it – insanity of increasing our reliance on wind as part of the energy mix, at gigantic cost.  It is the politics of delusion.

It seems to have only recently dawned on some MPs that this fetish for wind energy is not only fundamentally flawed by incredibly damaging.  But as Richard points out elsewhere, even this recently acquired awareness is tempered by a startling lack of knowledge:

But, if these 101 Dalmatians MPs are so concerned about consumers having to pay subsidies, why are they only talking about in-shore turbines, when off-shore windmills get twice the amount, and are set to take the greater proportion of the subsidy pot?

Lavishly paid, well expensed, and deeply immersed in the trappings of imagined power, even when they grandstand to give the impression of heading in a worthy direction they still manage to demonstrate their ignorance of the situation they and their predecessors have dragged us into.

Turbine power has Gone With the Wind

In April 2011, the UK’s total installed wind power capacity was 5,204 MW.

As of 3.30pm this afternoon, with the temperature around the country varying between 2 degrees and 6 degrees celsius and most people at home using power to stay warm, those wind turbines were delivering less than 11% of their stated capacity, contributing a mere 1.3% of the UK’s energy supply.

Is there any more clear a demonstration of the folly of the government’s plans to spend billions of pounds adding more wind capacity, when it cannot come close to replacing the amount of energy generated by coal-fired and nuclear power plant that will be decommissioned?

What compounds this folly is that additional gas-fired power will have to be built just to act as back up for the wind power on days like this.  There is no economic sense to paying twice to install capacity, particularly given the extent of taxpayer subsidy being devoted to wind turbines to make them more ‘affordable’ – code for helping generators make money from them at our expense.

If this doesn’t convince those who favour wind of their nonsensical folly, what will?

Will the UK Government now be prosecuted?

Cast your mind back to the al-Yamamah arms deal signed in the 1980s.  After the first of the two deals was signed, allegations surfaced that payments of around £600m had been made to members of the Saudi royal family and various middle men.

In the years that have followed various investigators have claimed that up to £6bn worth of ‘commission’ payments and entertainment slush fund spending were made as part of the £43bn deal.  The payments were designed to ensure the Saudis purchased (mainly) British Aerospace aircraft and maintenance contracts.  The Serious Fraud Office began an investigation and, only under political pressure, dropped it in 2006 to prevent the loss of yet another Saudi arms deal.

BAE Systems, as the company was later renamed, was also involved in another bribery scandal that saw Tanzania purchase a fast becoming obsolete £30m Watchman military air traffic control system that could only provide limited use for civil air traffic control needs – which is what was required to support more civil air traffic in support of the country’s growing tourism industry.

BAE had paid an ‘agent’ Shailesh Vithlani, BAE’s former marketing adviser in Dar es Salaam, around £7m to grease the wheels of the deal, which was funded by Tanzania through the use of aid money given for school education. The Serious Fraud Office became involved and BAE was fined half a million pounds and promised to pay Tanzania £30m for the benefit of its people.

There are many more cases, but these two give a flavour of the serious criminality of paying bribes to help deals go through.  Now fast forward to this year and the story that India has passed over the ‘Eurofighter’ Typhoon fighter aircraft in favour of Dassault’s Rafale fighter.

In December last year, the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, spoke about UK aid to India – which was coming under fire given that India has rapidly created more wealth than the UK, has a space programme, aircraft carriers and the aircraft to go on them and is actually an international aid donor itself – and was reported by the Independent in the following terms:

Asked about the strategic goals of Britain’s aid programme to India, Mr Mitchell  yesterday referred to the proposed education scheme in Orissa, and added: “It’s about everything I have just mentioned. The focus… is also about seeking to sell Typhoon. The relationship is a relationship you have to take in the round.”

The Minister, after previously pushing the line that Indian defence spending was reducing and its people are in need of our money, had bluntly admitted the reality that the UK Government was sending British taxpayers’ money to India as part of an effort to secure the sale of 126 Typhoon fighter jets.  It is effectively a £1.2bn bribe being paid over four years to sweeten an arms deal.

A significant aggravating factor in this aid-for-fighter jets effort is the news in the Sunday Telegraph that India’s Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and other Indian ministers tried to terminate Britain’s aid to the country last year, but relented after the British begged them to keep taking the money. It goes on to explain that officials at the Department for International Development (DfID) told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi.

BAE Systems, and British Aerospace before it, has been investigated and prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office for paying money to secure arms contracts.  So why is the UK Government able to do exactly the same thing without sanction, pressuring India to take our money dressed up as aid at a time we have more than enough requirement for the cash and are still borrowing heavily?  Surely we should be expecting the SFO to launch a prosecution against the government.  If not then isn’t the government signalling to private companies that this behaviour is acceptable?

It’s Groundhog Day at the Daily Mail… again

From the Daily Mail yesterday came this story, one that will undoubtedly have had patriotic Britons opposed to EU membership and governance up in arms.

However, if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘this sounds rather familiar’ don’t worry, you’re not imagining things.  It must have been a quiet day on Planet Dacre yesterday, because the Daily Mail ran a version of this ‘story’ back in November last year.  It was even written by one of the journalists who produced yesterday’s copy.  Here’s the headline from back then…

To find out just how much of a rehash the story is, we ran it through the Churnalism engine.  Lo and behold, we discover Friday’s article gets over half its content, lifted word for word, from the story in November.  The Churnalism output can be seen below – click to enlarge.

Actually, if you subject yourself to the additional pain of reading the Daily Telegraph, the story will be even less of a surprise to you, given that paper ran its own version of this ‘EU contentious plans’ story back in July last year…

But even then, as now, the story wasn’t news.  The origins of these proposals date back to 1984 (how apt) as part of a wider plan to build the public’s sense of European identity that had been developed by a working party led by a former Italian MEP, Pietro Adonnino.

This was explained on the EU Referendum blog by Richard North in July last year in response to the Telegaph’s sudden realisation of something that was set in train a great many years earlier.  Of course, North could have shared the details of this plan to use sport to further the European identity earlier…  Oh, silly me, he did!

On EU Referendum back in September 2006, he explained in detail how this European plan had already been partly realised by way of golf’s Ryder Cup competition, which had become a Europe v US event, having formerly been a Great Britain v US one.  Adonnino, North informed us, had reported back at the Milan Council in 1985, suggesting a Euro lottery, an EU driving license (agreed in 2005 and again covered by North), the adoption of the blue flag with gold stars… and the creation of European sports teams.  This is just a step change en route to that destination.  It may not happen for decades, but the patient salami slice approach is still in use.

Despite all this information being presented and evidenced for everyone to see and understand, the Daily Mail demonstrates it is still incapable to putting their story into proper context – even when they run it twice in the space of three months.  Perhaps they feel that because the information has been presented on a mere blog it does not possess the required prestige for these grand, highly paid cut and paste merchants to learn from it and refer to it.

When it comes to our media, nothing seems to change.  It truly was Groundhog Day, in more ways than one.

When the North Wind doesn’t blow

It’s a cold morning here in the UK.  The need for energy increases and of course, for those who can afford to, the heating gets turned up.

All too often on frigid days like these the wind tends to drop away.  Driving past a wind farm this morning proved the point as all could see the turbines were barely turning – most likely they were consuming power to turn the blades so as to prevent the mechanisms from freezing up.  So it seems an appropriate time to see just how the energy needs of the UK are being met and what energy generation sources are deliving the required power.

Those who are transfixed with the emission of carbon dioxide helpfully assist us in tracking the power that is being generated, with a smartphone application.  This is a screenshot of it (updated shortly after 09:30).

And it clearly shows the unreliability and intermittent nature of wind power, which a short while ago was contributing less than 1% of the UK’s power needs.  Despite the billions of pounds of ‘investment’ and the determination to bring about a renewables revolution to reduce our reliance of fossil fuels, when power is most needed, the turbines are failing to deliver.  This is not a one-off example of such a failing.  In the US last year, during hot weather when power is sought for cooling systems and fans, wind wasn’t there when it was needed.

This issue comes to the fore against the backdrop of a report apparently from the pressure groups Unlock Democracy (UD) and the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) – which includes the likes of E.On and Scottish Power – that declares the decision to accept new nuclear power stations is corrupt because it was made without all the evidence being presented to Parliament. The report argue that far from the lights going out in the future, enough energy saving measures can be realised to negate the need for new nuclear and that the costs of nuclear power will be far higher than other generation methods.

While the groups claim they are neither for nor against the decision to have new nuclear capacity the report is clearly biased against nuclear, as its authors Ron Bailey and Lotte Blair are both prominent campaigners for the group No Need for Nuclear (NNfN).  Indeed, a look at the NNfN website shows it is actually their report and it has simply been published on their behalf by UD and ACE. Nothing like a bit of transparency, eh?

Unsurprisingly these people ignore the fact that nuclear can provide the most reliable baseload energy – and will be needed to do so as coal fired power stations are closed down without being replaced, increasing population drives up energy demand, and more technology increases the need for electricity – while on far too many days of the year wind power contributes virtually nothing to the grid.

Energy saving measures cannot do nearly enough to prevent an energy gap emerging, and wind power is shown yet again to be an expensive folly that empties our wallets in return for providing a miniscule fraction of our energy needs.

The EU elephant in the Europlastics’ room

Returning from my blogging holiday I was delighted to find another outstanding piece of work emanating from the EU Referendum blog of Dr Richard North. Once again, the media is left watching the birdie by the oh-so-clever politicians and their civil service puppeteers, this time on the much discussed subject of defence equipment procurement.

The upshot is that our ‘instinctively Eurosceptic’ and faux ‘veto-wielding’ Prime Minister and his collective of political pygmies have once again shown their Pro-EU credentials, happily sneaking in Brussels diktat through the back door, while moaning of too much EU power to the media at the front.  Surely that merits some attention?

As North explains in his opening:

You would have thought that, given the huge number of column inches devoted to the diverse and expensive defence procurement failures, the MSM might be interested in this government’s proposals for remedying the system, delivered on Wednesday in the form of a White Paper.

After all, the media fixated on for days and thousands of column inches on the merits or otherwise of paying RBS Chief Executive, Stephen Hester, a bonus of £963,000 worth of shares.  So surely the media would be all over a subject that concerns the spending of many BILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers money. But no. Britain is home to the Kindergarten Press, where playground antics and which kid in the class is most popular today takes the lead in headline selection.

So it is, once again, left to an attentive blogger to do the job the dumbed down media won’t or can’t do, and explain that the government’s White Paper showing the MoD will no longer favour UK companies when procuring defence equipment is not based on getting best value for money, but rather the result of compliance with the instructions of our Supreme unelected, unaccountable Government in Brussels:

These come in the guise of EU Directive 2009/81/EC “on the coordination of procedures for the award of certain works contracts, supply contracts and service contracts by contracting authorities or entities in the fields of defence and security, and amending Directives 2004/17/EC and 2004/18/EC”.

The result is that:

British ministers are implementing EU law, and they are always going to obey their masters. And in this White Paper, they are providing an ex post facto explanation of how the procurement system is to be adapted in order to ensure absolute obedience.

Not that the uninformed masses will know that, because our media – the same one that bleats about democracy erosion and political openness – either doesn’t understand it or doesn’t want to explain it.

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