Climate Science Must Become More Transparent Say MPs

Today, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its report on the so called ‘Climagate’ scandal, i.e. the accusations that scientists of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia had surpressed and falsified data to make their point of climate change.

The Committee concludes:

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided.

First of all, it is important to take note that the Committees task was not to judge the soundness of the science behind the climate change claims, or in its own words (p.  20): Continue reading

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Argentina to use Central Bank’s Reserves to pay Debt

From La Nacion:

La Justicia habilitó al Poder Ejecutivo a tomar las reservas del Banco Central para pagar deuda.

Tal como lo había anticipado LA NACION el miércoles pasado, las salas I y VI de la Cámara Contencioso Administrativo dejaron sin efecto dos medidas cautelares por las cuales la jueza Claudia Rodríguez Vidal había suspendido la vigencia del decreto 298/10. En principio, desde ayer no hay obstáculos para que el Poder Ejecutivo tome 4300 millones de dólares del BCRA que estaban bajo el amparo de la citada norma.

The Court enabled the executive power to take the Central Bank’s reserves to pay the [country’s] debt.

As was predicted by La Nacion last Wednesday,  I and VI of the Camara Contencioso Administrativa declared without effect the precautionary measures with which judge Claudio Rodriguez Vidal had suspended the validity of the decret 298/10. In principle, as of yesterday there are no obstacles for the Executive to take 4,300 million dollars from the BCRA which fall under  the provisions of cited norm.

This is an interesing development. However, the story probably doesn’t end here:

Los diputados de la oposición convocaron a una sesión para el 7 de abril para derogar esa norma, pero los fallos de ayer asestan un duro golpe a esa estrategia: es probable que para entonces el dinero en juego o parte de él haya sido usado.

The representatives of the opposition will call a session for April 7 to cancel the norm [298/10], however yesterdays rulings strike a hard blow to this strategy: It is likely that by then the money in question or part thereof has already been used.

Apart from the idea to use the reserves of one’s central bank to pay the countries debt, which I think is rather unique, this is an interesting story because it has a somewhat twisted history.

It starts with the firing of the head of the central bank, Martín Redrado, who is a Harvard graduate, because he refused to follow an order of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to free the reserves for said purpose. However, a court sacked the decision and reinstated Mr. Redrado. Not much later Mr. Martín Redrado resigned, though.

Replacing him was Mercedes Marco del Pont, who is a Yale graduate. She is still – as far as I am aware in the process of being confirmed by the Argentine parliament. However, she has already tried to execute the order mentioned above – but it was blocked then by the court also mentioned above.

Note that Argentina needs to re-pay its foreign debt or it will default on them (again) and according to President Kirchner:

“It’s much better to use the reserves than to take loans at 15% interest.”

Of course, most people who insist on central bank ‘independence’ (from government) do not agree with this position.

Nasrallah to make speech tonight

Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah chief

Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah chief

According to the  Fars news network quoting the libanese TV network  “Al-Manar,” Seyed Hassan Nasrallah will speak tonight at 21:30 Beirut time (18:30 GMT) about the latest developments in Lebanon and the Arab world, especially on the issue of the  international tribunal [Rafik Hariri] and on  rumors about several members of Hezbollah summoned to the court.

Based on Al-Manar’s message Nasrallah will also address Hezbollah’s position in relation to Lebanon’s security agreement Lebanon with the U.S., and respond to Israeli threats.

He also will address the performance of the government, municipal councils elections, changes in relations of Lebanon and Syria, Jerusalem and the Zionist project of establishing  Jewish settlements in this holy place.

[Note: Translation is mine and cannot be trusted entirely – I do this to practise translating and learning the language only, not to support Hizbollah, or anything like that. Just saying.]

Source: Farsnews

Private Property in Communism

Karl Marx (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Socialism is often accused of wanting to do away with all private property. That, together with the ‘central planning’ is probably the most contentious point of socialism.
But is it true that socialism, or rather communism wants to do away with all private property?
The short answer is no. But to really understand why, we have to start by looking at what is meant by private property.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party says about property (emphasis mine):

The distinguishing feature of Communism [from other forms of socialism] is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

[…]

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.

Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.

You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out-of-the-way, and made impossible.

Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations.

Does this now mean that in Communism no one owns anything, as is often said? No, it doesn’t mean that at all, as the last sentence makes very clear.
All Communism is concerned about, it to prevent an individual or group of individuals (usually called the ‘bourgeois’ at the time, nowadays you would best call them the ‘corporatist’) from deriving power over others from their property.

This means you can still own a car or a house. This sort of property is not touched at all. However, you can no longer own the factory or the bank that produces or finances the production of these products. This sort of property is meant. According to Communism this sort of property, which it calls bourgeois property, needs to be in ‘public hands’.

Here is how Communism thinks it can achieve that goal:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

You can see, that while one could agree with the previous part, most people disconnect here with this list. I do as well, because certain points, I am completely at odds with.

However, to understand the list, one must first clarify what is meant by ‘the State’.
Most people belong to the proletarian (worker) class and not to the bourgeois (corporatist) class. This means that proletarians make up the vase majority of ‘the people’. For the people to own the means of production, they must first own the State.
This can certainly not be achieved by one party claiming to represent the proletarian class and imposing its will on everyone else. However, this was exactly what happened in history when so-called Communist parties did just that, calling themselves avant-guard.
This has nothing to do with Communism. All this does (or did) is replacing one small group of bourgeois elite with another small group of pseudo-communist elite. However, the latter is still a fundamentally bourgeois arrangement according to Communism’s own definitions. In the end, nothing changed but the names they were giving to it.

That is why I am of the opinion and keep saying that the Chinese Communist Party is and was not a Communist party at all. It is just another manifestation of the bourgeois class or the corporatists. The same was true for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

If the people are to own the State, you must start with a democracy, with votes, elections, referendums and initiatives. Once you have organized your democratic State, you will have to look at the economic organisation. It is true, that some political reform is needed, as for example campaign finance reform, but those reforms depend to a certain extent on the economic organisation, so I won’t discuss it here.

To do that, here is my starter list. It may not be complete and need change over time:

1. Abolition of property in land and natural resources in, above, on or under this land; – you can still own the house on the land, but not the oil beneath it.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax; – to slow wealth accumulation in a few hands;
3. Abolition of rights of inheritance above a certain maximum total amount; – to stop wealth accumulation in a few hands;
4. Creation of a new money system without interest; – interest requires growth, but focus on growth is deadly for the ecosystem and the survival of mankind;
5. Creation of a basic income guarantee for all over 18; – to cater for basic needs like food, housing, clothing, communication, transportation etc and to take competition out of basic things needed for survival;
6. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly;
7. Revision of laws concerning corporate personhood, etc; ownership of and by legal constructs and their position in the legal system must be redefined;
8. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s labour.
9. –
10. –

These points need some explanation and some additional work. Which I will do later on.

UBS not getting out of Headlines

The FSA raid on which I wrote a few days ago now is said to implicate UBS workers as well. As writes Bloomberg:

As many as 11 people may be charged next week over an insider-trading ring that began at the London printers for UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Cazenove unit, four people with direct knowledge of the case said.

The Financial Services Authority is preparing to file criminal charges after a two-year investigation, the people said on condition of anonymity because the defendants haven’t been formally accused of a crime. The FSA says that the north-west London operation, involving accountants and spread-betters, used leaked data from deal prospectuses being printed for the banks, according to the people.

That is not all. In another Bloomberg article we learn:

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and UBS AG were among more than a dozen Wall Street firms involved in a conspiracy to pay below-market interest rates to U.S. state and local governments on investments, according to documents filed in a U.S. Justice Department criminal antitrust case.

A government list of previously unidentified “co- conspirators” contains more than two dozen bankers at firms also including Bank of America Corp., Bear Stearns Cos., Societe Generale, two of General Electric Co.’s financial businesses and Salomon Smith Barney, the former unit of Citigroup Inc., according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24. The papers were filed by attorneys for a former employee of CDR Financial Products Inc., an advisory firm indicted in October. The attorneys, as part of their legal filing, identified the roster as being provided by the government. The document is labeled “list of co-conspirators.”

I guess, nothing to worry about for UBS. They will ‘cooperate fully with authorities’ and obviously have ‘done nothing wrong’ and if something was done it was ‘a rogue employee’. Of course.

Brown’s Bottom: Gordons Gold Sale under Scrutiny

The decision to sell gold comes back to haunt Britisch Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The Telegraph writes:

The decision to sell the gold – taken by Mr Brown when he was Chancellor – is regarded as one of the Treasury’s worst financial mistakes and has cost taxpayers almost £7 billion.

Mr Brown and the Treasury have repeatedly refused to disclose information about the gold sale amid allegations that warnings were ignored.

Following a series of freedom of information requests from The Daily Telegraph over the past four years, the Information Commissioner has ordered the Treasury to release some details. The Treasury must publish the information demanded within 35 calendar days – by the end of April.

The sale is expected to be become a major election issue, casting light on Mr Brown’s decisions while at the Treasury.

Last night, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, demanded that the information was published immediately. “Gordon Brown‘s decision to sell off our gold reserves at the bottom of the market cost the British taxpayer billions of pounds,” he said. “It was one of the worst economic judgements ever made by a chancellor.

This ‘worst economic judgement’ ever made by a chancellor is also know as Brown’s bottom. The issues has been around for some time but is discussed today on Jesse’s Café Américaine and on Zero Hedge. I appreciate both blogs and am an avid reader of their posts, which I think are mostly exceptional. I also do think that this issue needs to be investigated fully.

However, I am concerned about the timing of this bubbling up now. I am not a fan of Gordon Brown’s, but I think their might also a smear campaign be going on here. If you can hit Brown shortly before the general election you will also hit Labour, and you are sure to hand victory to the Tories. It would be sad to see, if it were to turn out that widely read and respected bloggers let themselves be instrumentalised.
Depending on your personal preferences you will either appreciate if Labour  were to lose the election or you will not. I am not British, so I don’t vote there, however my heart is with true (not new) Labour.

Now it’s official: They are after the Social Safety Net

In Europe’s Choice: Growth or Safety Net Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal writes:

Its 16 member nations now face a stark choice. They can spur economic growth across the region by following through on long-overdue pledges to trim benefits and free up labor markets. Or, many economists say, they can face a decade of economic stagnation.

Countries across the zone lost dynamism during the common currency’s first decade, with annualized growth of 1.7% from 2000 to 2008, down from 2% growth in the 1990s. The next decade could be worse: Higher public debts and a surge of retirees will push up taxes and weigh on companies and consumers.

“The real question this crisis poses to all of us is: What will be the capacity of countries to accept true reform?” says former French finance minister Thierry Breton, who is now chairman and chief executive of information-technology services company Atos Origin SA.

Not surprising, but here you have it black on white. The goal is not the euro, or Greece. The goal is to do away with the social safety net. Especially pension obligation are seen as a drain on future ‘economic growth’:

Politicians across Europe say the cause of reform isn’t lost. Xavier Musca, deputy secretary general to Mr. Sarkozy, says that while France started late on the reform path, momentum has picked up again since 2007. “This administration [is] encouraging employees to work more and pushing for competition in the retail sector…We’re also going to speed up the pension reform.”

Ultimately, some governments will have no alternative. Germany recently passed a law guaranteeing the elderly that their pensions would never sink, a costly promise that economists say will haunt future workers and companies unless the pension system is fundamentally revised.

“We will have no choice but to undertake reforms,” says Michael Fuchs, a leading lawmaker in Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

They always say, ‘economic growth’ but what they really mean is ‘profits and bonuses’ for them.