Month: December 2017

Regime overthrow in Iran? Don’t get too excited (yet)

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The US State Department seems to be openly welcoming the outbreak of spontaneous demonstrations in Iran selling it as the early steps of regime change. In fact it is more likely to help President Rouhani force economic changes he has been prevented from making due to deep seated corruption within the regime itself. Rouhani has tried to make economic changes for years to boost the economy but the regime has kept monopoly power over multiple industries which has impeded his ability to do it.

The Iranian banking system holds 10s of billions of dollars in non-performing loans which is weighing down the economy and undermining the potential for private-sector-led recovery. Given the increasing vulnerability of Iran’s financial system, the government urgently needs to restructure and recapitalize the banks. Iranian banks were weakened by a sluggish economy caused by the sanctions, state interference in lending decisions and lax regulations causing excessive competition with unlicensed financial institutions.

The country’s recovery could well slow since Trump has raised the possibility that sanctions could be reimposed or new sanctions introduced. It should come as no surprise that this has deterred many banks and other foreign companies from operating in Iran.

The Iranian government directly owns and operates hundreds of state-owned enterprises (SoE) and indirectly controls many companies in the private sector. Inflation (9%), price controls (e.g. milk, energy) designed to tame it and rising unemployment (12.4%) are really behind the protests than a direct call to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Still don’t rule out the US State Department rubbing its hands with glee to try to throw a spanner in the works. Easier done by crushing its economy by redeploying sanctions given the financial system is in such a precarious position.

We shouldn’t ignore the timing of the assasination of former Yemeni President Saleh in the last month. His death now gives Saudi Arabia more will to take heavier action against the Iran backed Houthi in Yemen. Now that Saudi Arabia has recently cleaned house with the arrests of royal family members to tighten the inner circle, it almost seems the stars are aligning for the ante to be upped on Iran.

While much has escaped the mainstream media, at the narrow Bab al-Mandeb Strait separating Yemen and Djibouti/Eritrea, multiple US, Saudi and Emirati warships have been attacked by Houthi rebel forces. In January 2017 a Saudi al-Madinah frigate was sunk in the strait. An Emirati HSV-2 swift naval craft was also put out of action in late 2015. Cargo ships (10% of global trade) make their way up the Red Sea via the Bab al-Mandeb Strait to the Suez Canal, could suffer if tensions rise here.

While many are distracted by the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem as an unnecessary ‘in-the-face’ action, most Gulf States want Israel on their side to help them defend against and ultimately defeat Iran. It is only 7 months ago that the Saudis pushed to expel Qatar from the GCC for keeping cosy relations with Iran and supporting Hamas and the Houthi in Yemen. The South Pars/North Dome Gas Condensate field – the world’s largest natural gas field –  is jointly owned by Iran and Qatar which means divided loyalties between the GCC and Tehran.

Get ready for lots of fake news. Something tells CM that there is something more sinister at play.

Japan healthcare ain’t so great as Occupy Dummycrats would have you believe

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Japan’s healthcare system may seem great optically but it is heading for a crisis. Looking through the MHLW’s White Paper it is plain that the economic burden with an aging population is surging. Someone aged 65yo+ costs 12x what a 20yo costs in medical bills. By 2035 40% of Japan’s population will be aged over 65. Current medical costs total 41 trillion yen. Japan raises 97 trillion in revenue. 58% of that is tax. 40 trillion is raised in debt markets to fill the hole. EVERY YEAR.

80% of hospitals and clinics are private so it’s ridiculous to say 95% are not for profit. The current billing system encourages hospitals to keep patients in because they can charge for it. Hospitals don’t want it changed. Hospital clinics serve as gathering places for old people causing needless cost on a shrinking pool of taxpayers.

The MHLW admitted that around 40% of costs are labour related (doctors, nurses) around 25% on building maintenance, 15% on equipment and 10% on utilities. The only place they can conceivably cut is drugs where the push to genetics has been a factor.

Yes Japan’s healthcare system works for now but it can’t be sustained as it is without wholesale change. With a shrinking tax pool and aging population the dam will burst. Note the Ministry of Justice has had to ask for 6bn in extra funding for increased medical costs for an aging population inside its prisons where 65yo+ are the highest demographic.

Liberals are rarely good with numbers.

Canada’s last cold snap before snow is never seen again

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Canada has had a cold snap. The coldest temperatures in 57 years. Jo Nova writes,

In freak conditions, Canadians (and many people in the US too) are getting a chance to enjoy record cold for the last time before climate change makes winters unbearably mild.”

Temperatures observed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport bottomed out at -22 C [-7.7F] this morning. The previous record for this date was set in 1960, when it hit -18.9 C. [-2F]”

New York is likely to have the coldest New Year’s since 1960.

Where are the scientific models that predicted this? All of the billions and trillions we must spend to prevent a catastrophe based on these models that are 98% wrong?

World government – why it would never work and why you shouldn’t want it to

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World government. Some criticise the US move to hobble the UN via funding cuts as justification for it. Some argue that international laws cramp the style of just about every government under the sun so those with power go out of their way to prevent it. The same people argue that the UN should be democratized and nation states should submit to international law and independent institutions set up to enforce it.

Presumably within this Marxist manifesto there should be no borders and total freedom of movement. However within this socialist dogma not one has put forward how it might work economically which is probably the best signal that it would fail to be a sustainable form of government. We’ve had multiple attempts at socialism and in every case it has failed. Oh how the left championed Chavez as a model of successful socialism. How quiet they are now. Still it doesn’t prevent them extolling the virtues of ‘equality’ even if some pigs are more equal than others.

Still suppose we entertain the prospect of a world government. We have to start somewhere. Regardless of whether we like it or not, a world government would need to address economic status to sign up willing participants. The US economy is 24% of world GDP with less than 5% of the world’s population. In order for the US to agree to join a world government they would rightly demand that they get 24% of the seats in a world parliament? Why would they join at 5%? What is the incentive? Virtue? Australia has a disproportionately large raw materials base relative to the population. Should the Aussies have just one vote if it ends up benefitting others more than itself?

We have a living working example of how fusing completely different economic systems doesn’t work, even when the population speaks the same language – German reunification. From Der SPIEGEL,

Today, the eastern German economy is still in a sorry state, and there are no indications that the situation will change. An estimated €1.3 trillion ($1.6 trillion) have flowed from the former West Germany to the former East Germany over the last 20 years. But what has that money achieved? Historic neighborhoods have been restored, new autobahns built and the telephone network brought up to date, but most of the money was spent on social benefits such as welfare payments. The anticipated economic upswing failed to materialize…Most of eastern Germany has turned into an economically depressed region that lags behind the west in all respects:

The per capita economic output in the east is only at 71 percent of the western level, with a disproportionately high share of economic output attributable to the public sector. The economic output generated by the private economy is only at 66 percent of the western level.

To close the gap, the eastern German economy would have to grow more rapidly than in western Germany, but precisely the opposite is the case. Germany’s leading economic research institutes expect the economy in eastern Germany to grow by 1.1 percent this year, compared with 1.5 percent in the west.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the population of eastern Germany has declined by almost 2 million people, a trend that is continuing unabated.

The proportion of household income derived from welfare payments is 20 percent higher in the east than in the west.

Of Germany’s 100 largest industrial companies and 100 largest service providers, not one has its headquarters in eastern Germany.

The lesson is clear. When given a choice, the citizens of the former socialist state stampeded to the capitalist state because they knew ‘opportunities’ were far more abundant and desirable. The power of the free market. What better indication of a repudiation of socialism than those that have actually lived under it. Many ‘socialists’ today (who ironically have never experienced it) are envious. Indeed former PM Baroness Margaret Thatcher put it best, “the Labour Party would prefer the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich” Instead of enterprise and looking for ways to get ahead, many sit back and complain why it isn’t handed to them on a platter.

So in the case of world government without borders, it would make complete sense for people from say Africa or the Middle East to move to NY, London or Berlin. As they left their homes in the millions, sheer logistical issues would come into play – housing, food, healthcare and sanitation. The only way to ration scarce resources would be to let the free market decide it. World government wouldn’t allow it. Shouldn’t a Congolese family have a claim to live in a penthouse on 5th Avenue or Mayfair in the interests of equality? Maybe the owners of the 5th Avenue apartment should have the property repossessed to promote equality. Surely a noble gesture for the other 99%.

What about filling the world parliament? How do we look to address balance? The Indians and Chinese represent 35% of the global population. Should they not occupy 35% of the seats? Is there a global vote? As an Australian do I get a say on the Chinese candidates? Do they mine? Assuming we had global votes, language barriers would be a problem. How would an English speaker be able to work out the depth in abilities of a Chinese candidate from Harbin who only speaks Mandarin? Even if we could translate his every word, what hope would we have of delving deep into his or her history or the subtleties of cultural ‘meanings’ hidden within language to be able to cast a ballot on as fully informed a basis as possible?

Or should we cut the pie of global government candidates based on religious grounds? Muslims represent 24% of the population. Should all countries submit to having 24% of the laws made by a global government Sharia compliant? Christians represent 31% of the globe. Should they have the right to enforce the world to take Christmas as a public holiday? If the international parliament votes to repeal Ramadan should it stand? Afterall that is the result of a properly functioning global democracy!

Some in favour of the UN being the ‘social democracy’ that binds us honestly believe that it would not fall foul of greed, corruption or poor governance. Do we seriously wish to put power in the hands of the UN as our global government if one of its groups thought the murderous dictator Robert Mugabe was a worthy ambassador for WHO? Do we think the UN to date has shown exemplary governance and ethics to provide a comfort level for we minions to hand over our regulatory frameworks? Take the former UNIPCC chair who directed UN procured funds toward his own ‘scientific research body’. Conflicts of interest anyone? The UN argues it is independent but how could it be if it is so self serving? To think there was a strong suggestion that the UN deploy blue helmets in Chicago to help quell gun violence. The question one should ask is why wasn’t such action taken when Obama was president? So much for a guarantee of independence if the UN so blatantly takes sides because they want to retaliate against Trump.

We already have a preview of world government policy looks like. Many Western governments are already pandering to political correctness in ways which are causing growing backlash among constituents.

Some on the left believe that nationalism is a “backward, regressive, half-baked ideology which is used by ruling elites to control their populations” Wasn’t the open minded Labour heartland in the Midlands one that leaned to Brexit? Wasn’t it in France where Marine Le Pen’s Front National doubled the number of voters ever seen for her party? Was it not Hungary that voted 99.4% in favour of a referendum to reject forced migration quotas? The surge in the AfD in Germany to 14%. The huge landslide in Austria where the young PM has given his immigration portfolio to the FPO? The surge in the eurosceptic 5 Star Movement in Italy…the list goes on. Even Switzerland handed back its free pass to join the EU (which is about as close as one gets to a world government) because it puts sovereignty and the wish to preserve culture and customs ahead of ‘socialist’ ideals. Isn’t that patriotism rather than nationalism? Lukas Reimann of the Swiss People’s Party, said:

It is hardly surprising that the EU looks like an ever less attractive club to join. What, after all, is the appeal of joining a club into which the entire world can apparently move?”

So what would a world government do to combat nationalism? Regulate against it! Restrict freedom of speech. Incarcerate those that protest against what they perceive as injustice. Of course it would be easy to simplify these people as racists or bigots for not conforming. The price of progressivism is to muzzle dissent. Identity politics and the victimhood it breeds are so pervasive that it creates the exact division it seeks to stop. For  those pushing for world government make no mistake that the elites among the commissars will still be more equal than others.

What is wrong with celebrating differences?  Isn’t visiting a foreign country to immerse oneself in a different culture half the fun of an overseas vacation? Learning about how civilization developed over millennia. Experiencing foreign cuisine, learning a foreign language or respecting local customs (e.g. wearing long sleeves and pants into a Buddhist temple) are not things to be frowned upon. They are exactly the reason why all of the tribes of the world can’t be homogenized into the one box. Yet the world government wouldn’t tolerate such thinking.

$285mn less in the UN Christmas stocking

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The US announced the UN was getting $285mn less in the Christmas stocking for next year. Good. The UN is long overdue much needed restructuring. If there was ever an organization that epitomizes waste, most would struggle to top the UN. It is an inefficient bloated and elitist theocracy. It is a group with a dreadful track record, fly-by-night ethics and dubious governance.

It is a group that has openly been outed on promoting ‘diversity and gender’ as more important than ‘qualification.’ Is it any wonder that this body is in dire need of inner reflection and restructuring? If the UN was held to the scrutiny of the open market it’s shareprice would trade at such a deep discount that it’s ability to raise capital would be prohibitively expensive. That’s the checks and balances only the free market provides.

While much wailing will be heard at the callous nature of the US, shouldn’t every nation have the right to vote with their wallet? Sadly Australia seems only too willing to put more in the collection pot in the hope it can “buy” influence.

Yet isn’t that the problem? Why should the UN be given any money to manage if people within its own ranks believe that Robert Mugabe could pass a sniff test as a WHO ambassador? Or Pachauri whom directed climate funds into his own ‘think tank’ when head of the IPCC?

Still if you are in the UN of course you want it to continue. The pay scales are incredible, On top of generous income tax free pay you can get housing support, kid’s schooling assistance, health insurance and other cost of living allowances that would make most people loyal slaves to the cause. Salaries consume 74% of the $5.15bn budget. The average salary of the 41,000 that work there is c.US$100,000. In Japan a D1-D2 level would be looking at $320,000 peer annum. No wonder they need members to keep chipping in more and more into the UN coffers to keep the circus going, Is it any wonder that pay for play is how you buy influence on councils.

The Heritage Foundation did an interesting study on the UN’s budget which shows how much it has exploded in the last 40 years. The UN’s budget has grown 10-fold in that time.

“The latest U.N. regular budget, while superficially smaller than the previous budget, made no fundamental programmatic or structural adjustments—e.g., reducing permanent staff, freezing or reducing salaries and other benefits, and permanently eliminating a significant number of mandates, programs, or other activities—that would lower the baseline for future U.N. budget negotiations. Despite the Secretary-General’s proposal to eliminate 44 permanent posts, the 2012–2013 budget actually increased the number of permanent posts by more than a score compared with the previous budget. The failure to arrest growth in U.N. employment, salaries, and benefits is especially problematic because personnel costs account for 74 percent of U.N. spending according to the U.N.’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Without a significant reduction in the number of permanent U.N. posts or a significant reduction in staff compensation and related costs, real and lasting reductions in the U.N. regular budget will remain out of reach.”

Note the peacekeeping budget is on top of the administrative side of the UN. The US currently contributes 27.1% of the total peacekeeping budget which is around $9bn.

In short, it is a welcome sign. The only way for the UN to wake up is by making it look inside as to how it needs to manage costs on a smaller revenue base. That to espouse righteousness and responsibility to the world should also mean that it practices what it preaches.

Return to the nanny state – perhaps the ASB should consider envy not safety

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Coming back to Australia often reminds me  that even when it is not a nanny state it is full of wowsers. This snippet is from Motor magazine. As one can see it highlights how some are compelled to whine over trivial things. Lexus, of all companies, is being bashed for encouraging speeding and the Advertising Standards Board has caved in (although I’m guessing it didn’t  take much to pressure them into the move) . Lexus was then bashed again even after removing the speedy bits.  I’m sure prospective Lexus buyers are waiting for footage of being stuck in a traffic jam

One would be pretty hard pressed to find a car company that doesn’t promote “performance” in its sportier range because by definition it’s kind of the point. Even Tesla for all of its supposed green credentials will brag incessantly about how it’s faster than any other road car to 100km/h, including exotica.

To say advertising “encourages speeding” just takes people for idiots. The moaners are surely aware that speed limit enforcement here is stricter than most. Speed cameras, highway patrols and red light cameras. Drivers here are constantly in fear of their lives. Autonomously driven cars will be a godsend as owners will not have to live in fear of being fined!

On top of that in order be able to buy a Lexus sports car like the LC500 probably requires $200,000. To afford such wheels presumably means that’s someone has half a brain. In traffic congested Tokyo Lamborghini and Ferrari are commonplace . The most impractical vehicle one can imagine but they still sell a tonne of them.

Perhaps we should look at the bright side that only the car company was only criticized for promoting speed rather than being hauled over the coals for not promoting the car in Saudi Arabia with a newly liberated female driver. We shouldn’t hold our breath. When Lexus advertise the LC500 again the next complaint will probably be that it focuses too  much on white males rather than diversity.

Lies, more lies and statistics

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So the global trends in motorcycles apply in Australia too. Older riders make up a larger proportion of motorcycle license holders. 50% are aged over 50 according to the NSW Centre for Road Safety. Having said that the total number of licensed riders in NSW rose 44% to 600,633 in the last decade. Motorcycle registrations have jumped from 108,656 to 218,055 in the last decade.

As is often the case, the government in its infinite wisdom hasn’t a clue about statistics. The NSW Roads Ministry has said fatal accidents are up 54% and 80% for those over 50yo. However registrations are up 100%.

According to its own stats in 2016 there were 375 fatalities on NSW roads. Bikers were 63, down from 67 the previous year. So if we back calculate to a decade ago to the 54% jump they claim there were 40 deaths on bikes. Not great but for 110,000 extra registrations there was a fall in the ratio of deaths per 100,000 riders. 54% gives them the right to call for more speed cameras and regulations which don’t help

In 2004 as part of a statistics course for a masters degree our team investigated speeding and the inaccuracy of government reporting. When the double demerits scheme was introduced fatalities went up. When 40km/h school zones were introduced fatalities went up. Speed doesn’t kill  living in fear of your speedo which causes you to look ahead less often does

While not suggesting trying to cut road fatalities is a bad thing the government should be more honest with the stats. The biggest issue for motorcycle crashes is the speed limit itself. Given the police hand out fines for minor speed infractions bikers are forced to ride in car blind spots massively ramping their risks of being hit by a mobile phone gazing driver. All the arguments for too much horsepower etc is also rubbish given the amazing advancements in safety aids on bikes.