Certainty of decline, probability of catastrophe 0

Read only a few pages of HR3200,The Affordable Health Care Choices Act 2009, and once you’ve got the gist of what they’re saying let your eye wander over a hundred or so more, and you’ll know beyond all doubt that you are now owned by the government. The link:

http://thomas.loc.gov/

To put it bluntly, this act has changed the USA into the USSA – the United Socialist States of America:

Here is part of Mark Steyn’s must-read article on the immediate and future costs of it:

On the day President Barack Obama signed Obamacare into law, Verizon sent an e-mail to all its employees, warning that the company’s costs “will increase in the short term.” And in the medium term? Well, U.S. corporations that are able to do so will get out of their prescription drugs plans and toss their retirees onto the Medicare pile. So far just three companies – Deere, Caterpillar and Valero Energy – have calculated that the loss of the deduction will add a combined $265 million to their costs. There are an additional 3,500 businesses presently claiming the break. The cost to taxpayers of that 28 percent benefit is about $665 per person. The cost to taxpayers of equivalent Medicare coverage is about $1,200 per person.

So we’re roughly doubling the cost of covering an estimated 5 million retirees.

Now admittedly the above scenario has not been, as they say, officially “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office, by comparison with whom Little Orphan Annie singing “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” sounds like Morrisey covering “Gloomy Sunday.” Incidentally, has the CBO ever run the numbers for projected savings if the entire CBO were laid off and replaced by a children’s magician with an assistant in spangled tights from whose cleavage he plucked entirely random numbers? Just a thought.

This single component of “health” “care” “reform” neatly encompasses all the broader trends about where we’re headed – not just in terms of increased costs (both to businesses and individual taxpayers) and worse care (for those retirees bounced from company plans into Medicare), but also in the remorseless governmentalization of American life and the disincentivization of the private sector. As we see, even the very modest attempts made by Congress to constrain the 2003 prescription drug plan prove unable to prevent its expansion and metastasization. The one thing that can be said for certain is that, whatever claims are made for Obamacare, it will lead to more people depending on government for their health arrangements. Those 5 million retirees are only the advance guard. And, if you’re one of those optimistic souls whose confidence in the CBO is unbounded, let’s meet up in three years’ time and see who was correct – the bureaucrats passing out the federal happy juice, or the real businesses already making real business decisions about Obamacare.

Can we afford this? No. Even on the official numbers, we’re projected to add to the existing $8 trillion in debt another $12 trillion over the next decade. What could we do? Tax those big bad corporations a bit more? Medtronic has just announced that the new Obamacare taxes on its products could force it to lay off 1,000 workers. What do those guys do? Well, they develop products such as the recently approved pacemaker that’s safe for MRI scans or the InterStim bladder control device. So that’s a thousand fewer people who’ll be working on new stuff. Well, so what? The public won’t miss what they never knew they had. So, again, the effect is one of disincentivization – in this case, of innovation.

If existing tax structures can’t cover the costs, what can we do? Start a new tax! The VATman cometh. VAT is Euro-speak for “value added tax.” … This is yet another imposition on businesses, taking time away from wealth creation and reallocating it to government paperwork. If the Democrats hold Congress this fall, I would figure on VAT sooner rather than later.

All of the above is pretty much a safe bet. What about the imponderables? Even Obama hasn’t yet asked the CBO to cost out, say, what happens to the price of oil when the Straits of Hormuz are under a de facto Iranian nuclear umbrella – as they will be soon, because the former global hyperpower, which now gets mad over a few hundred housing units in Jerusalem, is blasé and insouciant about the wilder shores of the mullahs’ dreams. Or suppose, as seems to be happening, the Sino-Iranian alliance were to result in a reorientation of global oil relationships, or the Russo-Iranian friendship bloomed to such a degree that, between Moscow’s control of Europe’s gas supply and Tehran’s new role as Middle Eastern superpower, the economy of the entire developed world becomes dependent on an alliance profoundly hostile to it.

Which is to say that right now the future lies somewhere between the certainty of decline and the probability of catastrophe. What can stop it? Not a lot. But now that your “pro-life” Democratic congressman has sold out, you might want to quit calling Washington and try your state capital. If the Commerce Clause can legitimize the “individual mandate,” then there is no republic, not in any meaningful sense. If you don’t like the sound of that, maybe it’s time for a constitutional convention.

Ghana, stuck with the wind 6

The American Dictator (yes, he’s the one we mean) is doing his utmost to keep Africa in poverty and despair.

Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, writes today at Townhall:

I see Africa as a … partner with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children,” President Obama declared in Ghana last July.

However, three months later, the President signed an executive order requiring that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other federal agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their projects by 30% over the next ten years. The order undermines the ability of Sub-Saharan African nations to achieve energy, economic and human rights progress. 

Ghana is trying to build a 130-MW gas-fired power plant, to bring electricity’s blessings to more of its people, schools, hospitals and businesses. Today, almost half of Ghanaians never have access to electricity, or get it only a few hours a week, leaving their futures bleak.

Most people in Ghana are forced to cook and heat with wood, crop wastes or dung, says Franklin Cudjoe, director of the Imani (Hope) Center for Policy and Education, in Accra. The indoor air pollution from these fires causes blindness, asthma and severe lung infections that kill a million women and young children every year. Countless more Africans die from intestinal diseases caused by eating unrefrigerated, spoiled food.

But when Ghana turned to its United States “partner” and asked OPIC to support the $185-million project, OPIC refused to finance even part of it – thus adding as much as 20% to its financing cost. Repeated across Africa, these extra costs for meeting “climate change prevention” policies will threaten numerous projects, and prolong poverty and disease for millions.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 800 million people, 80% of whom live on less than $2.50 per day. Over 700 million people – twice the population of the USA and Canada combined – rarely or never have access to the lifesaving, prosperity-creating benefits of electricity …

Even in South Africa, the most advanced nation in this region, 25% of the populace still has no electricity. Pervasively insufficient electrical power has meant frequent brownouts that have hampered factory output and forced gold and diamond mines to shut down, because of risks that miners would suffocate in darkness deep underground. The country also suffers from maternal mortality rates 36 times higher than in the US, and tuberculosis rates 237 times higher.

And yet President Obama told his Ghanaian audience last July that Africa is gravely “threatened” by global warming, which he argues “will spread disease, shrink water resources and deplete crops,” leading to more famine and conflict. Africa, he says, can “increase access to power, while skipping – leapfrogging – the dirtier phase of development,” by using its “bountiful” wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels energy.

The President made these remarks before the scandalous “Climategate” emails were made public, and headline-grabbing claims about melting glaciers, burning Amazon rainforests and disappearing African agriculture were shown to be mere speculation and exaggeration from climate activists

Literally thousands of scientists disagree with claims that we face an imminent manmade global warming disaster, or that warming is connected to disease or harvests. Africa has faced drought, famine and disease since before Biblical times, and armed conflict is far more likely where a lack of electricity perpetuates poverty, scarcity and dashed hopes.

Wind and solar power are too costly, intermittent and land-intensive to meet the needs of emerging economies

That is why rapidly-developing nations like China and India are building power plants at the rate of one per week… Nearly all this electricity must be based on coal.

Wind power is constrained by high cost and limited reliability. Nuclear energy faces major cost and political obstacles. To electrify India in the absence of coal, the country would have to find 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, build 250 nuclear power plants, or construct the equivalent of 450 Hoover Dams, Penn State University professor Frank Clemente calculates. Those alternatives are unrealistic.

Blessed with abundant supplies of coal, South Africa has applied for a World Bank loan to continue building its 4,800-megawatt Medupi power plant. The Medupi plant would be equipped with the latest in “supercritical clean coal,” pollution control and “carbon capture” technologies. However, the project and loan have run into a buzz saw of opposition, led by the Center for American Progress, Africa Action, Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club. These radical groups claim to champion justice and better health for Africa, but oppose the very technologies that would make that possible…

The proposed Ghana and South Africa power plants already leapfrog dirtier development phases, by providing state-of-the-art pollution control technology. The energy alternatives President Obama envisions would do little to address the desperate crises that threaten Africans’ health, welfare and lives.

China and India are showing Africa the way forward. Those of us in already developed countries should support Africa’s aspirations – and help it address real health and environmental problems, by using affordable, dependable energy that truly is the lifeblood of modern societies, and the key to a better future for children everywhere.

China rising 1

Lending weight to the depressing forecasts examined in our post Is America in decline? (March 1, 2010), here is news of China’s ambition and intention to become militarily mightier than America:

As America unilaterally disarms, a Chinese officer in a new book touts a new reality — that China is prepared to rule the roost, and the U.S. better keep off the grass.

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Obama gave a speech in which he pledged America would work toward a “world without nuclear weapons.” Almost a year later, it seems we are moving toward a world without American nuclear weapons.

“To put an end to Cold War thinking,” the president said, “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.” The others, such as China, seem to have other plans.

“China’s big goal in the 21st century is to become world number one, the top power,” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Col. Liu Migfu writes in a newly published book, “The China Dream.” This dream could rapidly become America’s nightmare.

These are heady days for China, flush with American cash and holding large chunks of our debt.

China today has nearly $2.4 trillion in foreign exchange holdings, with roughly $1.6 trillion of that in dollar-based assets. It’s the No. 1 holder of U.S. debt in the world.

The Chinese military, infuriated by America’s sale of $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, recently wanted to dump some of China’s vast holdings of U.S. Treasury and corporate bonds on the market, hoping to punish us economically. China has too much at stake to do it, perhaps, but the threat is real. And in an actual crisis over Taiwan, who knows?

It would be easy to dismiss all of this as bluster, but we’d do so at our peril. China’s economic advancement and military buildup are real, as is the threat in both areas. The leadership in Beijing does not let its military speak so publicly and bluntly unless it wants to send a message that is clear and unmistakable.

Col. Liu argues that China should use its growing revenues to become the world’s biggest military power, to the point where the U.S. “would not dare and would not be able to intervene in military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.”

That possibility is increasingly real. As Defense Secretary Roberts Gates said in a recent speech to the Air Force Association: “Investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare (by China), anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, and ballistic missiles could threaten America’s primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific — in particular our forward air bases and carrier strike groups.”

Of specific concern is a new Chinese missile, the land-based DF-21. It’s the world’s first ballistic missile capable of hitting a moving target at sea and is designed to attack and sink U.S. carrier battle groups. The conventionally armed missile has maneuverable warheads and a range in excess of 1,000 miles.

Against this backdrop we see the U.S. almost unilaterally disarming. The administration ended financing for a new nuclear warhead to replace our aging inventory …

The new strategy will also seek to abandon Bush administration plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons known as bunker busters to penetrate hardened underground targets like the nuclear facilities in North Korea and Iran.

We have abandoned long-range, ground-based missile defense in Europe and cut planned deployment in Alaska and California. We have stopped production of the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor and have no plans for a follow-on strategic bomber or to replace our aging strategic missiles in their silos.

“I’m very pessimistic about the future,” writes another PLA officer, Col. Dai Xu, in another recently published book. “I believe that China cannot escape the calamity of war, and this calamity may come in the not-too-distant future, at most in 10 to 20 years.”

Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010

The mystery deepens 1

Roger L. Simon, who has written detective fiction, raises some puzzling points about the murder mystery in Dubai (see our post below Murder mystery in Dubai, February 19, 2010). He assumes that Israel is behind whatever happened.

The first notable clue is those “eleven” agents. Why send eleven for an assassination when two or three would do? Why not just knock the Hamas man off with a bombing or cell phone some place? It would be far less risky. And the Israelis clearly had remarkably precise advanced knowledge of al-Mabhouh’s itinerary. The Hamas leader had only left Damascus that morning, supposedly, according to some reports, en route to China via Dubai. And yet the Mossad had a minimum of eleven people in place, waiting for him. No wonder Hamas was so shocked that, when they learned of his “murder” on January 19, they immediately announced terminal cancer had over taken their leader. Hamas itself must have had something closer to a heart attack. To have this much warning of al-Mabhouh’s itinerary, the Israelis must have permeated them pretty thoroughly. The embarrassment alone, not to mention the internal finger-pointing and suspicion, must have been extreme. (From the Gulf News of Feb 19: An additional suspect arrested in Syria is believed to be a senior Hamas fighter.)

Meanwhile, there are false-flags on false-flags. The once revered Mossad chief Meir Dagan is under attack in Israel. How could he have been so sloppy as to allow his agents to be videoed by hotel security cameras or to have used the passports of “normal” Israelis as cover? But perhaps all that was deliberate and the agents videoed were disguised and the “normal” Israelis part of the plot themselves. Then what? Not even John le Carré in his prime could have designed a plot so intricate. Dagan is George Smiley in the flesh.

Nevertheless, the Israelis still must have had some motive for employing so many agents for a hit. After checking into a blacked out room at the Al Bustan Rotana hotel that day, al-Mabhouh went missing for four hours – and this may provide some clues. A meeting with an Iranian official has been reported and denied, also some Palestinian group. In any case, he was doing something and there was information to be gleaned from this man, most probably key information regarding Hamas and its allies (Iran, Syria, etc.) that certainly accounts in part for the elaborate assassination. In a world rapidly becoming nuclear one can only speculate what that information is, but we can be sure it’s not particularly appetizing. It’s also worth considering what al -Mabhouh wanted to obtain from the Chinese. The Mossad was out for al-Mabhouh’s knowledge even more than the revenge that is commonly reported. (al-Mabhouh was responsible for the killing of two Israeli soldiers, but that was years ago and the Hamas leader has been in Israeli custody since and released.)

The information grabbing intent also accounts for the multiple agents with varied expertise – from photography to “exotic” drugs. It may also account for the differing initial reports of the cause of death, which range from electrocution to suffocation. The time of death, always difficult to ascertain, is also in question. How long were the agents with al-Mabhouh and did they get what they wanted? Was his death untimely or – and here’s a wild speculation – is he dead at all? Do we have DNA of the body? Nothing so far from the Dubai police. All we know is this, again from Gulf News:

“Dubai police has [sic] denied that it had intended to bury the body of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, a Hamas leader in Dubai. The police also added in a press release that they held the body of the deceased for one week to finish the investigation procedures, and then handed it over to Al Mabhouh’s son who came to the UAE after the death of his father.”

Habeas corpus anyone?

As of Feb 19, no photos of al-Mahbouh’s corpse in any form turn up on Google images. Perhaps there are videos, but none that identify the body in anything near a definitive way. Yes, I know this is strange, but it is remotely possible that al-Mahbouh was kidnapped. Dubai is, after all, a port, providing a means for escape. The Dubai police are promising that we will know all soon, but they have been promising that for a while now.

A powerful lunch 0

Here’s Hillary Clinton’s cunning plan for saving the world from a nuclear-armed Iran:

First, convince the Saudis that the Revolutionary Guards are effectively taking over the government of Iran and so turning the country into a military dictatorship.

Next, persuade the duly frightened Saudis, who’ll want urgently to stop this development, to threaten China over oil supplies.

Then, a thoroughly cowed China will agree to support sanctions against Iran.

Finally, sanctions supported by China will stop Iran becoming a nuclear-armed power.

Yeah, sure, that will do it. No ordinary diplomacy this; this is smart power.

Yet the Saudis, it seems, are not keen to play their part in the brilliant scheme.

The Washington Post reports:

Iran is increasingly acquiring the attributes of a “military dictatorship,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted repeatedly Monday, pointing to how the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has grabbed ever-larger chunks of the country’s economic, military and political life.

Clinton’s statements … were clearly a calculated effort to stir the waters in the administration’s stalled effort to win support for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Clinton appeared to be trying both to sound the alarm within Iran about the Guard’s increased influence — perhaps hoping to drive a wedge between the Guard and the rest of the political elite — and to sow doubts about the nature of Iran in nations that are wary of additional sanctions, such as China and Brazil. …

U.S. officials have said they plan to target the sanctions at the Guard, which is heavily involved in Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs, because such tactics would damage the nation’s power structure while in theory not affecting many ordinary Iranians. Clinton suggested that the sanctions being contemplated are also designed to thwart the growth of the Guard’s role in Iran’s internal political dynamics.

“That is how we see it,” Clinton [said]. “We see that the government of Iran, the Supreme leader, the president, the parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship.” …

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly said it does not seek to meddle in Iranian politics, Clinton suggested that Iran’s elected leaders — long at odds with the United States — needed to take action. She said the current political climate is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

At a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, she said she hoped “that this is not a permanent change but that the religious and political leaders of Iran act to take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Similarly, she told reporters that “the civilian leadership is either preoccupied with its internal political situation or is ceding ground to the Revolutionary Guard” as it tries to contend with opposition protests. She said that whether the country changes course “depends on whether the clerical and political leadership begin to reassert themselves.”

And if they did, everything would be different? They’d give up the nuclear program? Stop threatening the destruction of Israel? Become firm allies of the United States? They’ve given clear evidence, have they, that this is how they’re thinking, these clerical and political leaders, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad? They’ve shown themselves to be trustworthy authorities exercising power ‘on behalf of the people’?

Anyway, King Abdullah gave Hillary a jolly good lunch.

Clinton spent 5 1/2 hours at Abdullah’s desert compound, about 60 miles northeast of the capital, Riyadh. After an opulent lunch, they spoke for nearly four hours on a range of issues, including Afghanistan, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Iran dominated the discussion.

A key roadblock to robust sanctions is China, which has deep economic and energy ties to Iran. The Obama administration has pressed Saudi Arabia, China’s top oil supplier, to put pressure on Beijing. Iran is China’s No. 3 supplier of oil.

After the talks, Saud [al-Faisal] appeared lukewarm about the effectiveness of sanctions. “They may work” in the long term, but the Saudis are anxious in the short term because they “are closer to threat,” he said…. [H]e was sure that China took its role as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council “very seriously” and that “they need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do.”

So perhaps the plan won’t work after all.

To sum up, Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration are achieving nothing, getting nowhere with Iran.

In fact, so feeble are the efforts they’re making, observers might wonder if Obama really wants to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power.

A climate change in politics 0

The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, has decided not to let her state become impoverished in order to save the earth from getting a mite warmer. Or cooler. Or  whatever it is the environmentalists are currently panicking about.

The Grand Canyon State avoids a big economic hole by suspending its participation in a multistate initiative to fight climate change. As climate fraud is exposed, economic reality sets in. Will California follow?

Not since King Canute have government officials engaged in an exercise as futile as in 2007, when seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces got together to form something called the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2012.

Leading the charge for the pact was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who insisted, “We cannot wait for the United States government to get its act together on the environment.” At the time he said the regional agreement “sets the stage for a regional cap-and-trade program which will provide a powerful framework for developing a national cap-and-trade program.”

Since then, the nation has slid into a recession, and the only thing man-made about climate change has been the manipulated and manufactured claims that we are doomed if we don’t act to fight it.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, seeing which way the snow is blowing, has issued an executive order saying her state will suspend its participation in the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for businesses and consumers.

Arizona joined the climate initiative under its previous governor, Janet Napolitano, now secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration.

All 50 states agreed to the cap-and-trade pact, but left implementation up to each state. Only California is ready to start its program in 2012.

Brewer also ordered Arizona’s Environmental Quality Department to take another look at stricter vehicle emission rules, based on California’s standards, set to take effect in 2012, fearing they would significantly raise new car costs. Slowly but surely, economic reality is trumping climate fantasy.

Rumblings of discontent are also being heard in California. Assemblyman Dan Logue is sponsoring an initiative for the November ballot that would halt implementation of the state’s global-warming law, Assembly Bill 32, until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5% from the current 12.4%.

“The state’s greenhouse reduction program is not a freebie,” Gino DiCaro, a spokesman for the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, said last month. “Large costs foisted on an unemployment-riddled state economy and increased electricity rates … are not affordable at this time, if ever.”

A 2009 study by economists at California State University, Sacramento, and commissioned by the California Small Business Roundtable found implementation costs … “could easily exceed $100 billion” and that by 2020 the program would raise the cost of living by $7,857 per household per year.

Even the most optimistic assessments of global pacts such as Copenhagen and Kyoto would have moderated at great cost the earth’s temperature by an amount too small to measure. The impact of a regional pact by a handful of states would be futile, especially when they are downwind from the world’s biggest polluter, the “developing” nation of China, which is exempt from such global pacts. … The pact also envisions strict emission limits on American cars at a time China has passed the U.S. as the world’s largest auto market. …  But the political climate is about to change.

– So says Investor’s Business Daily, who published this report. We think and hope it’s right. Economic necessity is a fairly reliable antidote to irrational belief.

Come marvel at this nothing-much 0

Trying to justify Obama’s foreign policy towards North Korea and Iran, the Secretary of State salvages small successes out of a morass of failure. The unimpressive exhibits she holds up for admiration only serve to prove how poor a catch she has netted, how very little she has achieved.

From Commentary’s ‘Contentions’, by Jennifer Rubin:

In a rather devastating interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Hillary Clinton reveals the misguided premise at the heart of [Obama’s] Iran engagement policy and the disastrous results that have flowed from it. This sequence sums up the failure of engagement:

CROWLEY: I want to bring your attention to something that President Obama said in his inaugural a little more than a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Has Iran unclenched its fist?

CLINTON: No. But…

CROWLEY: How about North Korea?

CLINTON: No. Not to the extent we would like to see them. But I think that’s — that is not all — all to the story. Engagement has brought us a lot in the last year. Let’s take North Korea first, and then we’ll go to Iran. In North Korea when we said that we were willing to work with North Korea if they were serious about returning to the six party talks, and about denuclearizing in an irreversible way, they basically did not respond in the first instance. But because we were willing to engage, we ended up getting a very strong sanctions regime against North Korea that China signed on to and Russia signed on to. And right now is being enforced around the world.

The effectiveness, however, of the sanctions remains to be seen.

CROWLEY: Did the extended hand of the U.S. help in any way that you point to?

CLINTON: It did, because — because we extended it a neighbor like China knew we were going the extra mile. And all of a sudden said, “You know, you’re not just standing there hurling insults at them. You’ve said, ‘All right. Fine. We’re — we’re willing to work with them.’ They haven’t responded. So we’re going to sign on to these very tough measures.Similarly in Iran — I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.

So China awarded full marks to the US for effort. Or was it for humility? Anyway, Hillary Clinton gives the impression that the US is on trial for good conduct, and China is the judge. The merits of sanctions against North Korea, the desirability of the ends they are intended to achieve, are not by her account what concerns, or ought to concern, China and Russia. What matters to them is, did America go about it in a manner they approved of? It did, and its Secretary of State is proud to have earned their approval.

CLINTON: But the fact is because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it. When we started last year talking about the threats that Iran’s nuclear programs posed, Russia and other countries said, “Well we don’t see it that way.” But through very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two track process. Yes we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn’t respond on the engagement front.

So let’s unpack that. For starters, even Clinton admits that the policy has failed. No unclenched hands in North Korea and Iran. And her justification — that our Iran policy was justified because “the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it” — is simply preposterous. She would have us believe the world would not have seen the nature of the regime by its own actions (constructing the Qom enrichment site in violation of international agreements, stealing an election, and brutalizing its own people), but only now has begun to understand the nature of the regime because we have engaged in a futile Kabuki dance with the mullahs? It boggles the mind. And where is the evidence that Russia and China see it our way? When last we heard from them, the Russians were supplying missiles to Tehran, and the Chinese were rejecting sanctions.

There is no flicker of recognition that the president might have used his vaunted charisma and eloquence to get the world to “see Iran the way we see it” — that is, as an illegitimate and tyrannical regime. Indeed, she doesn’t even mention the democracy protestors other than to observe that she doesn’t know ”what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.” Not even a rhetorical bouquet to throw their way. Perhaps we are not even “bearing witness” these days. She seems oblivious to the notion that world opinion might be rallied to the cause of displacing, rather than soliciting the attention of, the despotic regime. And she gives no indication that the engagement policy has bestowed legitimacy upon the regime at the very time its citizens are seeking to overthrow it.

She also makes the bizarre claim that Iran really is not the greatest threat we face:

CLINTON: But I think that most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks. Primarily the extremists — the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Al Qaeda in — in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Al Qaida in the Maghreb. I mean the — the kind of connectivity that exists. And they continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity. The attacks that they’re going to make. And the, you know, the biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. So that’s really the — the most threatening prospect we see.

Where to begin? She seems to suggest that we shouldn’t be so concerned about an Iranian regime with a full-blown nuclear-weapons program because there are also non-state terrorists (some of whom are supported by none other than Iran) who pose a similar threat. But wait. Isn’t this further reason to do what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons? After all, they might be supplying those very same groups with nuclear materials.

In one short interview, Clinton has pulled back the curtain on the intellectual and moral hollowness and abject confusion at he heart of Obama’s engagement policy.

To remind, expose, condemn, accuse, and praise 0

In this article, at Pajamas Media, Jamie Glazov does five things that we applaud:

He reminds all of us who are free – and trying to remain free under a government that prefers collectivism to libertyhow terrible it is to live under collectivist totalitarian oppression. Specifically he writes about how it was in the Soviet Union.

He exposes the feminists for what they are – indulged, self-absorbed, ignorant, silly, and petty.

He condemns the leftists, who are blind to the value of the freedom they have and strive to destroy it.

He accuses Islam of threatening us with totalitarianism now.

He praises Glenn Beck and his outstandingly excellent film The Revolutionary Holocaust, that conveys, entirely adequately in a very shot space of time, an enormously important lesson to an American generation who are not taught it in their schools, their universities, or by the mass media.

The tortures included laying a man naked on a freezing cement floor, forcing his legs apart, and then an interrogator stepping on his testicles, applying increasing pressure until the confession surfaced. Imagine the consequences of no surfacing confession. Indeed, many people refused to confess to a crime they did not commit. Daughters and sons were raped in front of their fathers and mothers — for the sake of extracting “confessions.”

These are just some of the delicacies that the Stalinist machinery inflicted on its citizenry in the hope of bringing socialism into earthly incarnation. …

Both of my grandfathers were exterminated by Stalinist terror. Both of my parents, Yuri and Marina Glazov, were dissidents in the former Soviet Union. They risked their lives for freedom; they stood up against Soviet totalitarianism. They barely escaped the gulag, a fortune many of our friends and relatives did not share. I come from a system where a myriad of the closest people to my family simply disappeared, where relatives and family friends died under interrogation and torture for their beliefs — or for simply nothing at all.

Now try to imagine me sitting in the company of left-wing “intellectuals” in the West who think they are oppressed. This is my lifelong experience. I remember one radical feminist, whom I sat next to in a graduate student lounge, lecturing me sternly about how women in the West are oppressed because they wear bikinis on beaches; with a reprimanding tone, she explained to me that this represented the way capitalism objectifies women, marginalizes them from spheres of power, and metaphorically decapitates them as human beings. I remember asking her what she thought of female genital mutilation and honor killings in the Muslim world. To this I received a stone-cold silence and a frightening hateful stare, a stare with which I have become accustomed: I would be confined to a gulag or a psychiatric hospital if this particular individual had the power to place me there. This would be done for the good of society of course. My question was heresy: she could not, naturally, admit that evil adversarial cultures and ideologies existed — under which women truly suffer real oppression — for if she did, then she would have to sacrifice her entire worldview and personal identity.

My family’s nightmarish experience in the Soviet Union was followed by a providential escape from totalitarian hell. We were among the lucky ones, the ones who got away. The United States gave us a safe and protected home — a home of unbelievable material well-being (in comparison to Soviet starvation) and human liberty. I will never forget the awe I felt experiencing my first taste of freedom, even as a young five-year-old boy who wasn’t completely sure what it was. My parents could now, for the first time, speak out without fear of brutal repercussions in defense of Soviet citizens who were being persecuted for their political and/or religious beliefs. For the first time, we lived without the dread to which I had been accustomed throughout my young life.

I remember while we were cherishing our newfound freedom, we encountered a strange species: intellectuals in the universities who reviled my parents for the story they had to tell. For the first time in their lives, my father and mother confronted an intelligentsia that was hostile to them. Back in Russia, dissident intellectuals risked their lives when they pronounced one word of truth about the horrible history (and reality) of their country under communist rule. In America, most of the intellectuals who surrounded us scoffed at the importance of real intellectual freedom and dismissed my parents’ experience; they demonized their own society, wished for its defeat, and supported the communist enemy that muzzled free speech and tortured millions of human beings.

As a very young boy, I learned that these intellectuals were “leftists.”… While my family agonized about the relatives and friends we had left behind, and as we kept the memory of their suffering alive in our hearts, our leftist acquaintances reprimanded us for our views, instructing us to see America — our personal liberator — as the most evil entity not only in the Cold War, but in all of human history. They wanted us to dedicate our lives — as they had done — to the victory of the West’s totalitarian adversaries.

But … today we have a best friend in the West … We aren’t orphans anymore. There is a certain individual in this land, by the name of Glenn Beck, who has a television show on the Fox News Channel with a mass following; he is masterfully exposing this phenomenon that we experienced — and are still experiencing. He is telling the truth about the Soviet regime and about communism and he is beaming a light on leftists and liberals for their long romance, which continues till this day, with communist systems and the ideologies that brought them into place. Just recently, Beck’s program featured his profound documentary, The Revolutionary Holocaust, which powerfully illustrates the evil of communism and the leftist ideals that brought its horrors into existence. Beck’s documentary exposes the crimes against humanity perpetrated by mass murderers such as Che Guevara and Mao Zedong, who, till this day, enjoy great idolization in leftist milieus and, as we know, in the Obama White House itself. …

Mr. Beck, thank you for having the courage and integrity to tell the truth about communism, despite the price you have had to pay for doing so. …

Because of people like you, the millions of victims of communism will not be pushed into the invisible sphere of historical amnesia — where the liberal left has perpetually tried to confine them. Mr. Beck, by producing documentaries like your recent The Revolutionary Holocaust, you are bringing personal affirmation to myriads of families like my own — and to all victims and survivors of communism — by validating our experiences and by telling the whole world that, despite the left’s attempt to impose gulag denial on our culture, we did live what we lived, we did endure what we endured, and we did see what we saw. And you are crystallizing the pernicious socialist idea that comes in the form of humanitarianism, but culminates in mass terror.

Glenn Beck, you are leading the crucial fight of the 21st century. In battling on the front lines for moral clarity on the issue of communism, you are setting a firm terrain on which free men and women will be able to fight the new jihadi totalitarians who seek to destroy our freedom and lives… Thank you.

Sacred custodians of the earth 0

Successive British governments have squandered huge sums of tax-payers’ money on nebulous schemes purporting to save the earth from climate change.

That the earth could or should be saved from its climate change is a spiritual, religious, and philosophical view’ of a ‘belief system’, to quote from the following report.

America too has ‘invested’ enormous sums in this thing of spit and cobwebs (see our post of that title, February 3, 2010). For the Western world as a whole the expense is astronomical.

Has there ever been a waste as vast as this?

From the Telegraph, by Christopher Booker:

In all the coverage lately given to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its embattled chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri [see our post The most powerful magician the world has ever known, December 21, 2009], one rather important part of the story has largely been missed. This is the way in which, in its obsession with climate change, different branches of the UK Government have in recent years been pouring hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into a bewildering array of “climate-related” projects, often throwing a veil of mystery over how much is being paid, to whom and why…

To begin with a small example. Everyone has now heard of “Glaciergate”, the inclusion in the IPCC’s 2007 report of a wild claim it was recently forced to disown, that by 2035 all Himalayan glaciers will have melted. In 2001 the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £315,277 commissioning a team of British scientists to investigate this prediction. After co-opting its Indian originator, Dr Syed Hasnain, they reported in 2004 that his claim was just a scare story

Three years later, however, when the IPCC produced its 2007 report, it endorsed Dr Hasnain’s claim without any mention of the careful UK-funded study which had shown it to be false. What made this particularly shocking was that in 2008 another British ministry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it had paid £1,436,000 to fund all the support needed to run the same IPCC working group which, as we now know from a senior IPCC author, had included the bogus claim in its report. …

In 2008 that Dr Hasnain was recruited by Dr Pachauri to work in his Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), where his spurious claim was used to win Teri a share in two lucrative studies of the effects of the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers. …

Why was UK taxpayers’ money being used to fund these projects?

Why in 2005, for instance, did Defra pay Teri for a study designed to help the Indian insurance industry make money out of the risks of global warming? Why was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) sponsoring a study into how Indian industry could make billions out of “carbon credits“, paid by Western firms under the bizarre UN scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism?

Typical of this curiously opaque world was a payment by Defra to fund the work of an unnamed “head of unit” on something called the IPCC Synthesis Report, of which Dr Pachauri was co-editor. This money was paid to Cambridge University (department unnamed), to be forwarded to Teri Europe, then sent on to the anonymous recipient in Delhi, whose email address was Teri India… (The IPCC itself meanwhile paid Teri a further £400,000 for its work on the Synthesis Report, although it was only 52 pages.)…

Why  have UK taxpayers shelled out £239,538 to unnamed recipients for a study of “Climate change impacts on Chinese agriculture”? Or £230,895 for a “research programme on climate change impacts in India”? Or £57,500 on the “Brazilian proposal support group”?

The largest single payment on Defra’s list, and almost the only recipient identified, was £13,315,168 given to the Hadley Centre itself for its [fraudulent, as the Climategate emails have shown] Climate Predictions Programme. This is just a tiny part of the money UK taxpayers have been contributing for years to assist the work of the IPCC: the Hadley Centre alone has been handed £179 million. …

Why should DfID have paid £30 million to assist “climate change adaptation in Africa“; or £2.5 million for the same in China?

Why in 2002 should UK taxpayers have given £200,000 to pay for delegates from developing nations to attend a “Rio Earth Summit” conference in Johannesburg, and another £120,000 for green activists to attend the same shindig – let alone £10,000 for a “WORKSHOP ON WOMEN AS SACRED CUSTODIANS OF THE EARTH”, to “explore the spiritual, religious and philosophical views concerning women and ecology and the policy implications of these belief systems”?

Only rarely do the government departments funding all these shadowy activities shout pubicly about how they are spending our money – as when last September DfID’s Douglas Alexander was happy to get publicity for flying to Delhi to give Dr Pachauri £10 million to pay for his institute to examine how India’s poverty could be reduced by “sustainable development”.

Similarly, in 2008, our then energy minister Malcolm Wicks flew to Japan to boast that the UK was “the world’s largest donor” to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, pledging another £2.5 million of taxpayers’ money, on top of £9 million Britain had already paid into this scheme since its launch in 2003. More than one ministry is responsible for funding this programme, as when DfID pays for a “research agenda on climate change and development”, while the FCO sponsors yet another study into “clean development mechanisms”.

Contemplating the impenetrable maze of payments made by various ministries to the UN, the EU, banks, research institutes, teams of academics, NGOs, environmental and industrial lobby groups and “charitable foundations” – often through chains of “funding vehicles” which may give only the most nebulous idea of their purpose – we can get little idea what is the total amount of taxpayers’ money flooding out from all our different branches of officialdom. The ministries involved have not seemed exactly keen to help sort out all these mysteries and confusions. What does seem clear is that our Government doesn’t really want us to know all the sums involved, who many of the recipients are or why most of these payments are being made in the first place.

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