European Union to put speed limiters on all cars?

Nanny says, no fun for you!

Nanny says “Slow down!”

The world’s biggest nanny-state has decided that too many people are dying on Europe’s highways. Rather than leave that problem up to the member nations, the Euro-mandarins in Brussels have proposed to put speed-limiters, some of them satellite-controlled, on all cars. Go too fast, and Nanny puts on the brakes:

Under the proposals new cars would be fitted with cameras that could read road speed limit signs and automatically apply the brakes when this is exceeded.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, is said to be opposed to the plans, which could also mean existing cars are sent to garages to be fitted with the speed limiters, preventing them from going over 70mph.

The new measures have been announced by the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department as a measure to reduce the 30,000 people who die on the roads in Europe every year.

A Government source told the Mail on Sunday Mr McLoughlin had instructed officials to block the move because they ‘violated’ motorists’ freedom. They said: “This has Big Brother written all over it and is exactly the sort of thing that gets people’s backs up about Brussels.

“The Commission wanted his views ahead of plans to publish the proposals this autumn. He made it very clear what those views were.”

I’d like to think the minister illustrated his point with the traditional English two-finger salute. And this should be really popular in Germany, where the “need for speed” on the autobahns is a well-known national trait. So, what’s next? EU directives on how one shall cut one’s steak, with a minder showing up to measure each piece with calipers to make sure it isn’t too large?

This is another illustration of the control-freak nature of the Left (1): it’s not enough to set speed limits and levy fines for violating them, nor even to suspend driving privileges for repeat violations. Nope, they have to stand over you constantly lest you pass the bounds of what they determine to be proper. Go too fast, and Nanny will make you slow down.

Democrats in Washington and Sacramento must be green with envy.

Afterthought: Speaking of which, driverless cars are on the way. Who needs speed limiters when bureaucrats can control the whole vehicle? (2)

via David Burge

Footnotes:
(1) The whole European Union government is a statist paradise. The small-government, liberty-of-the-individual politician is a rare sight.
(2) Please. It’s only a matter of time before some progressive genius decides driverless vehicles should have Internet-based governors on them. For your own good, of course.

RELATED: Dan Mitchell make this part of his question of the week – “What’s More Worrisome, Big Brother Monitoring Where You Drive or Big Brother Controlling How You Drive?”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

(Video) Canaries in the Coal Mine

**Posted by Phineas

Call this a follow up to my worries that Cyprus is a warning and this morning’s post about America being in danger of becoming Europe.

In this latest “Afterburner,” Bill Whittle warns us that, with the European Union lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, and with the US headed by an administration enamored of many of the same foolish policies as the Europeans, the members of the EU are serving as “canaries in the coal mine:”

Prediction is a fool’s game, so I won’t guess what’s going to happen, but I’d feel much more comfortable if this man were in charge.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

(Video) Is America Becoming Europe?

**Posted by Phineas

A philosophical question for you from Encounter Books and narrated by, I think, Bill Whittle:

My short answer is “No, and I’d  rather not live in Europe, thanks.” (Even though I live in one of the states closest to “might as well just join the EU and get it over with.”) If it means permanent 10% unemployment, economic stagnation, dependency on a cradle-to-grace welfare state, the high taxes meant to support it, and rule by a political class that thinks the people are to be controlled, not consulted… Well, I’ll pass.

Wait. I’ve  just described the modern (Social) Democratic Party, haven’t I?

Seriously, I’m old enough to remember the stagnation, declinism,  and national bad mood of the 70s, particularly under Jimmy Carter. Those times passed, and I’m sure these will too, but only if we work tirelessly to remind people there is a better way.

Complacency really will make us Europe.

PS: I can almost hear someone saying “Yeah, but we had Reagan, back then.” But few if any in the 70s knew that Reagan would become one of the most successful presidents in our history. Many didn’t take him seriously, calling him a fringe politician, a Goldwater throwback, even a nut and an amiable dunce. It wasn’t until several years into his presidency that we realized how right he was and how much good he was doing. We may or may not have a “Reagan” waiting in the wings, now, unnoticed or underestimated, but my point is that we can’t sit back, waiting for that person to save us. We have to work at it and stand against the spread of statism and dependency and for the promotion of liberty day after day, every day.

/soapbox

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Eurozone Chief: Cyprus was just the start

**Posted by Phineas

"Obama loan officer at work."

“EU bureaucrat at work.”

Hoo, boy. I just had a feeling that, once the the EUrocracy learned it could take depositors’ money at will without a total meltdown, the temptation to do it again (and again and again and again…) would be too great to  resist. Thus we read in the Telegraph:

Cyprus bail-out: savers will be raided to save euro in future crises, says eurozone chief

Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe’s single currency by propping up failing banks, a senior eurozone official has announced.

The new policy will alarm hundreds of thousands of British expatriates who live and have transferred their savings, proceeds from house sales and other assets to eurozone bank accounts in countries such as France, Spain and Italy.

The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, told the FT and Reuters that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe.

“If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be ‘Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?’,” he said.

“If the bank can’t do it, then we’ll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we’ll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders.”

Ditching a three-year-old policy of protecting senior bondholders and large depositors, over €100,000, in banks, Mr Dijsselbloem argued that the lack of market contagion surrounding Cyprus showed that private investors could now be hit to pay for bad banking debts.

Don’t you just love how Dijsselbloem puts it? “We’ll ask them to contribute.” As if Manuel the Madrid taxi driver, who’s put his life’s savings into a bank he thought he could trust, will get any chance to say no. If he’s lucky, he’ll wake one morning to discover that his masters in Brussels have left him anything at all.

This is just immoral. Depositors in Cyprus are being robbed to cover for the bad borrowing decisions of governments and the equally stupid lending decisions of bankers, and now Dijsselbloom and his fellow mandarins are casting their gaze across Europe and seeing a smorgasbord filled with tasty accounts waiting to have a bite taken out of them.

Let’s review an old principle of (real) liberalism that’s more and more forgotten these days: your bank account is your property, as it represents the fruits of your labor. Security in your right to property is essential to your liberty; if you do not have the first, then you lack the second. If some bureaucrat can come and take your property via a diktat dressed in legal finery, then you are not a free human being.

Desperate to save their precious Euro at all costs, the Eurocrats and the national governments are all but guaranteeing a future bank run and financial panic as frightened people take their money and try to put it beyond the reach of grasping, blundering officials and quite possibly creating the very crash they’re trying to avoid.

With establishment politicians like these, is it any wonder people turn in frustration and anger to radical politics?

PS: And I wish the EU would stop giving Obama ideas…

via Bryan Preston

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Greek soccer player banned for Nazi salute

**Posted by Phineas

Nah, not Fascist at all...

Nah, not Fascist at all…

His excuse? “I’m too ignorant to know what I’m doing!”

Greek soccer player Giorgos Katidis has been banned from his national team for life after giving a Nazi salute while celebrating a goal in the topflight league.

Greece’s soccer federation said Sunday in a statement that the AEK Athens midfielder’s gesture “is a deep insult to all victims of Nazi brutality.”

The 20-year-old Katidis gave a Nazi salute after scoring the go-ahead goal Saturday in AEK’s 2-1 victory over Veria in the Greek league. He pleaded ignorance of the meaning of his gesture — right arm extended and hand straightened. He claimed on his Twitter account that he detests fascism.

My first reaction is “yeah, right.” The Nazis rampaged over Europe less than 80 years ago, and Greece was one of many nations subjected to conquest and a brutal occupation. Film, television, books, the Internet — all these make clear what that salute stood for. And given the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party, Mr. Katidis’ protests are those either of a liar, or a very, very ignorant person.

That fascism is at all on the rise in Europe (Golden Dawn has spread to Germany, by some reports) is a result of the failure of the European political classes to govern responsibly, instead bribing their publics with ever-more generous social safety nets that are now so frayed thanks to aging populations and reckless public borrowing, that many are turning to far leftist politics (1) out of frustration and anger.

While a suspension for life seems harsh, particularly if Katidis really is just historically illiterate,  it’s a measure of how worried Greek and European officials are by the threat of radical politics rising from the EU’s economic troubles. As more Mediterranean countries fail to deal with crushing debt and high unemployment, all made worse by the one-size-fits-all Euro, we may well see many more Europeans who find fascist gestures, and the politics behind them, increasingly attractive.

Footnote:
(1) Remember, Fascism is a derivative of Socialist politics developed by Mussolini, who added the hyper-nationalist element, among other things. No matter how the Left tries to deny it, totalitarian statism is just their thing.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

European Union or EUSSR? Brussels demands power to regulate press, fire journalists

**Posted by Phineas

"Enemy of the State"

“Enemy of the State”

If anyone had any notion that the European Union was anything but a bureaucratic dictatorship, this should open their eyes:

A European Union report has urged tight press regulation and demanded that Brussels officials are given control of national media supervisors with new powers to enforce fines or the sacking of journalists.

The “high level” recommendations that will be used to draft future EU legislation also attack David Cameron for failing to automatically implement proposals by the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry for a state regulation of British press.

A “high level” EU panel, that includes Latvia’s former president and a former German justice minister, was ordered by Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president, last year to report on “media freedom and pluralism”. It has concluded that it is time to introduce new rules to rein in the press.

“All EU countries should have independent media councils,” the report concluded.

“Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”

As well as setting up state regulators with draconian powers, the panel also recommended that the European Commission be placed in overall control in order to ensure that the new watchdogs do not breach EU laws.

(Emphases added)

I’m sure these new powers, if granted, will be used only for the common good, to ensure fair, sensitive journalism — as determined by a bunch of Eurocrats.

The danger of this is obvious: the power to fine or fire is the power to dictate, and the only reporters to retain their jobs will be those who say things pleasing to the mandarins in Brussels. It would be the death knell of free speech in Europe, for free speech is meaningless if it doesn’t include the right to say things that make the powerful uncomfortable, or even simply to offend. A free, unfettered press is essential to a democratic society, and if the press is fettered, so is the citizen, who becomes a subject. The society is no longer free.

The article points out that these proposed regulations are aimed largely at the British press, which has a large Euro-skeptic element and regularly ticks off the European Union elite. Quite unsurprisingly, then, the Brussels initiative has set up howls of outrage in Britain, from whom we inherited our traditions of free speech and press freedom. With Prime Minister Cameron promising a referendum on a new arrangement, one can only hope the majority of Britons will see the danger of staying a part of this “brave new Euro-world” and vote to get the hell out.

Indeed, they may already ready be headed for the door.

PS: This article reminds me yet again how rare, fragile, and precious our traditions of free speech –the ability to speak one’s mind to the powerful without fear of reprisal– really are. In Europe, where on the Continent the governing tradition is top-down, the natural reaction of the government is to suppress annoying speech. (And in America, we see twitches of that from the Left.) Even in Australia, the people of which are our close political cousins, there is no recognized natural right of free speech. It is a right that we must not only assert and defend, but actively exercise, especially when it itself is under threat.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

California’s high-speed train wreck potentially not a metaphor. Update: about those profitable EU rails

**Posted by Phineas

Boondoggle

Boondoggle

Or, “Science kills another liberal dream.”

California voters were sold a worthless bill of goods when the voted for Prop 1A, authorizing the construction of a high-speed rail to run (eventually) from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The project is already far above projected costs: the initial 65-mile stretch from Madera to Corcoran (1) is estimated to cost $4.15 billion — so far. And there are serious doubts about the ridership projections, meaning the system would face even greater difficulty recovering its costs and paying the debt incurred to build it. Just what a cash-strapped, economically wheezing state needs.

Now, on top of all that comes news that the system may be unsafe at the speeds promised in 1A:

Professor Peter Woodward, one of the world’s leading experts on the geo-engineering of railways, said that high-speed running created “new problems” in track which “may threaten the stability and safety of the train”.

In papers lodged with the Government’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Prof Woodward warned that speeds as high as those proposed by HS2 could trigger “significant amplification of train-track vibrations” causing “rapid deterioration of the track, ballast and sub-ballast, including possible derailment and ground failure”.

High-speed rail in the West has a fairly good safety record, but experts are worried that HS2 plans to run trains faster than any other line in the world. Trains will travel at 225mph, rising to 250mph within a few years.

Most high-speed lines, including Britain’s existing Eurostar, run no faster than 186mph and the world’s current fastest rail-based trains, France’s TGV Est, travel at 200mph.

Some trains on the new Chinese high-speed network used to run at 220mph, but were reduced to 186mph last year on safety grounds.

Now, the professor’s estimate for the danger zone is 225mph, but that’s a not a firm limit. Much depends on the ground over which the track runs: trains in Sweden running as “slow” as 110mph were observe to create a dangerous increase in track vibrations that could amplify suddenly as the train crossed a speed barrier, with an effect similar to a sonic boom.

Of course, the problem can be mitigated by running the trains slower, as the Chinese did, but that then means fewer trains running, which lowers ridership, which lowers revenue, which means more money spent on debt interest and maintenance on a system that can’t pay for itself…

Such is Jerry Brown’s great legacy to California.

Gomez Addams, eat your heart out.

via Cal Watchdog

Footnote:
(1) And from whom do they expect to draw their riders on this route? Prisoners and their guards?

UPDATE: One of the questions surrounding HSR is its economic viability: Can it support itself without subsidies from the taxpayer? Backers claim that, with enough riders and fast enough trains (enabling more trips), HSR can support itself. They often point to Europe, especially France’s TGV, as proof of this.

Not so fast. In 2008, Amtrak’s Inspector General looked into this and found that HSRs in the EU were profitable thanks mainly to creative bookkeeping (PDF).

Overall Conclusions

After examining a representative sample of European Passenger Train 
Operations over a multi-year period, we found that:

a) When all revenues and expenses for the entire passenger train system are 
taken into consideration, European Passenger Train Operations operate at a 
financial loss and consequently require significant Public Subsidies, and

b) The average annual subsidies for European Passenger Train Operations are 
much higher than those for comparable Amtrak services.

Individual Findings

The review of Public Funding for European Passenger Train Operations 
provided the following findings.

1. European Passenger Train Operations are typically organized into two separate 
business entities (operating companies and infrastructure managers) whose financial 
performance and public funding are closely intertwined with each other.

2. In addition to direct funding, some of the Passenger Train Operations receive public 
funding that did not show up on the company’s balance sheet and therefore does not 
show up in the company’s financial statements.

3. Although some Train Operating Companies may report a “profit”, this profit is 
generated through a large amount of public funding provide by the European 
countries.

I suspect similar financial shenanigans will be necessary to make Governor Brown’s High-Speed White Elephant appear profitable, too.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

In the EU, you may not say water fights dehydration

**Posted by Phineas

Caution. May not cure thirst.

Yes, you read that right:

Drinking water does not ease dehydration, the European Union has ruled – and anyone who disagrees faces two years in prison.

The decision – after three years of discussions – results from an attempt by two German academics to test EU advertising rules which set down when companies can claim their products reduce the risk of disease.

The academics asked for a ruling on a convoluted statement which, in short, claimed that water could reduce dehydration.

Dehydration is defined as a shortage of water in the body – but the European Food Standards Authority decided the statement could not be allowed.

The ruling, announced after a conference of 21 EU-appointed scientists in Parma and which means that bottled water companies cannot claim their product stops people’s bodies drying out, was given final approval this week by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Yesterday, Tory MEP Roger Helmer said: ‘This is stupidity writ large. The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are worrying about the obvious qualities of water. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project, then this is it.’

As the trapped-within-the-EU friend who alerted me to this pointed out:

Just wait, in four or five years you have the same stupidity.

Hey, with our EPA and Obamacare now being implemented… less than a year, tops. Obama’s that good. smiley d'oh!

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Guest Post: a view of the election from an Austrian conservative

**Posted by Phineas

(A friend of mine in Vienna is of a rare breed: a limited-government conservative living in the heart of the EU social democracy. Several of us were writing back and forth today about the election, and someone suggested her letter was worth making into a guest-post. I agreed, and she kindly gave her consent. Take it away, Wienerblut! (1) –Phineas.)

I think, what we are seeing is Americas slight transition to a political system like the EU. You might deny it but IMO this is whats happening.

The democrats did the same thing what they are doing here in Europe: they know that they don’t get votes from the working people so they create their own voters. Voters that are dependent on the government. In Europe these are retired people, immigrants, people living from social wellfare and people directly or indirectly employed by the government or pseudo governmental institutions (universities getting tax money etc.). Then you have the media, the artists and the gay groups that usually vote left.

The rest of the people are useless as voters for the leftist politicians as they would not vote for them. They are used to be charged with taxes.

In Vienna we already have more than 20 % muslim immigrants, people who came into the country within the last 20 years. Almost 90 % of them are voting for the ruling socialist party. As more and more original citizens are not using their right to vote, exactly these votes are essential for the leftists to stay in power.

The interesting thing is that most European parties, regardless how they call themselves, are leftist. No matter what they claim to be (christian democrats, conservatives etc.) they have a socialist agenda, some more than others. The parties that do not play by this rules are usually stigmatized as extremists, fascists, nazis or similar.

And now look at the States and what’s happening: IMO Obama won because of people dependent on the government. People love to hear that things will be getting better and they don’t have to do anything for it to get better.

Both the US and the EU have nearly no producing industry anymore. The large corporations are all producing somewhere in Asia. But an economy cannot live alone from the tertiary sector (services industry). In the EU its even worse as we also have a publicly subsidized agricultural sector.

So where will this lead our countries in the future? I have no idea. But sometimes I have the impression that the western world already had its peak and is declining. What do you think.

Phineas, again: I’ll agree that the wellspring of Western Civilization, Europe, is in decline. There the sclerosis of bureaucratic authoritarianism and social democracy is well-advanced, and it’s combined with severely declining birthrates that are putting tremendous pressure on the social safety nets. While America has entered into a difficult period for various reasons, we’re not there… yet. But the danger does exist. It was my hope that voters here would look at Greece, Italy, and Spain, realize we’re on that same road, and do something about it now. They chose not to, and so I fear things will get much worse before they get any better, and the correctives, when they come, will be much more painful.

As for the leftist parties in the EU creating dependent voters, they and the Democrats think alike. May I suggest they move to Europe? I’ll be happy to agree to one last round of “quantitative easing” to pay for the tickets. “Wienerblut” is welcome here, anytime. And opposition being stigmatized as “fascist,” “racist, &c.? Yeah, I hear ya, pal.

Footnote:
(1) Obviously a pseudonym. Honesty can get you in trouble in the Old Country, worse even than here. Oh, and Mr. President? She speaks German, not “Austrian.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

More European Union signs of Doom

**Posted by Phineas

We all know that Greece is a mess… No, wait. Scratch that. We all know that Greece is a hot, steaming, radioactive mess that threatens to mutate into a blob that eats the EU alive.

Everyone knows that.

But it’s even worse than you think when the tax system literally is run by the Mob:

“The basic question is that a German has to increase working from 65 to 67 and that is to pay for Greeks retiring at 50. The 17th of June is the perfect opportunity to say either ‘we’ll behave’ or ‘we’ll carry on cheating,’” he said.

Harsh words, but they are confirmed by many Greeks I know. A Greek member of parliament told me recently that tax reform was “almost impossible” to achieve because “our tax system is run by the Mafia.” I laughed and said that many countries had people who thought of their tax collectors that way. “No, no,” the parliamentarian insisted. “I mean that organized crime really runs the tax agencies for their benefit, taking a cut of the reduction in taxes they give out to citizens. Every person appointed to reform the system has been pushed out. Respect for authority is nil.”

Unless Greeks suddenly show a level of maturity and moral courage they haven’t shown since, well, Salamis, I don’t see how they avoid collapse, which could well take the Euro and the EU itself with them.

PS: Want something even scarier? While it may not sport a Mafia-run tax system, Spain looks like a far worse horror show ready to get underway.

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)