Europe

Mulligan Brexit again

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Rebel Tory MP Justine Greening is calling for a second referendum on Brexit to end a parliamentary deadlock. There was never any doubt that ‘leavers’ wanted OUT of the EU. It was pretty clear cut. “Leave the European Union ✅ or ❌” Not half in or any other form of compromise. At what point will politicians get it through their thick skulls that constituents do not want mulligan politics? If some don’t like the outcome, just keep swinging until can deliver the minority the result they wanted? Best of three? Why not conduct parliamentary elections this way? Swing and a miss!

UK PM Theresa May has shown utter incompetence in executing Brexit. She stupidly called an election which cost her a majority forcing her to side with the DUP just to hold onto power. She couldn’t read that the electorate was sick of voting as CM pointed out at the time. She was punished for it, despite the massive lead in the polls she had. One might almost think it was deliberate given the soft stance she has taken on Brexit and the total disregard for the referendum.

Despite jawboning last week there would be no negotiation post the resignations of David Davis & Boris Johnson she has had to cave in to hard line Brexiters (305 vs 302) on the Customs Bill. A narrow 303-300 vote to exit the EU’s VAT scheme post-Brexit was also reached. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd said, “it took two years for the Prime Minister to reach her Chequers deal, but only two days for it to fall apart.” He is not wrong. May has bungled it so poorly one wonders if it isn’t deliberate.

What should be seen here is that politicians (from any party) voting against what their constituents put forward will be political suicide over this.  There is a genuine sense in the House of Commons that all of this will somehow wash over like politics has for decades.  While many might see the ructions inside the Tories as a godsend for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (to an extent it is), even he has to realise that almost 40% of his party’s voters wanted to leave, meaning the members from those areas that expressed their intent leaves mixed messaging for the party as a whole. Watch for a resurgence in UKIP.

In any event May needs to go. She should resign. It is unlikely that she will. She is even thinking of bringing summer recess forwards to reduce the chances of a no confidence motion although both Labour & Tory members have quashed the idea of this. 48 members must write letters to the 1922 backbench committee to call a no confidence motion and Theresa May would need to win over half the 316 seats held.

Yet we only need to look at drunkard EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and ask why any UK politician thinks there is merit in negotiating with an unelected mob that can’t walk in a straight line even when sober? Keep calm and Brexit hard.

Presidential behaviours

While the glass jawed POTUS has many shortcomings, surely the unelected EC President Jean-Claude Juncker does the EU absolutely no favours by being sozzled to the gills at a NATO summit. One has to ask PM Theresa May how she thinks the EU is a credible opponent to negotiate Brexit? No deal seems a no brainer.

NATO – 19 nations may hit 2% promise 18 years after committing to do so

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It is a farce. In 2006, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defence spending. This guideline, according to NATO,  “principally serves as an indicator of a country’s political will to contribute to the Alliance’s common defence efforts.” In 2017, only 5 of the 28 members outside the US have met the 2% threshold – Greece, Estonia, UK, Romania & Poland in that order. Despite Greece’s economic problems elsewhere, it manages to honour the deal. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “the majority [not all] of allies now have plans to do so by 2024.” 3 more are expected to hit the target in 2018. So for all the good will in the world, is POTUS wrong to call the other 19 members slackers that ride off the US taxpayer when so many of them are only likely to hit the target 18 years after ‘committing’ to it?

NATO commitment in 2017 can be seen as follows.

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Although all credit to the Europeans and Canadians for getting away with it for so long. Previous US presidents have obviously not concerned themselves with getting a fair deal on mutually agreed commitments. Although in what world would American taxpayers be upset to see the rest of the team pick up the slack?

Naturally the media are getting mileage out of the insensitive bully attacking his supposed allies. In fact Stoltenberg said last month on record that, “burden sharing will be a key theme of our summit next month, and I expect all allies to continue their efforts.” He reiterated that to Trump yesterday.

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To be brutally honest, how effective can a NATO force truly be if words aren’t put into action? What good is a promise if it is to be honored 18 years later. Imagine if that is the mindset should NATO be forced to act militarily. Would those meeting their obligations feel within their rights to have a bigger say in how NATO should work?

The problem with such a lack of commitment is that over the 12 years where 23 nations have not come close to meeting their obligations, the sum total of the actual defence capabilities suffers for the duration. The US is 67% of total NATO spend and the UK, France  & Germany make up half of the remainder. Yet building a sustainable capability in defence does not come through half measures or poorly thought out procurement. What is missed on many is that over 70% of defence budgets are allocated to soldier pay, housing, healthcare, training and so forth. Procurement and RDT&E get funded out of the balance. Have a skirmish somewhere and yet more money is chewed out of buying new equipment for the sake of logistics (feeding 10,000 troops and servicing hardware in a foreign land). Then there is the subject of terribly managed procurement programs.

Take the French disaster that is the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. Despite delays because of problems with a retrofit for radiation shields, the naval brass had to add 14 feet of deck because it realized that the E2-C Hawkeye surveillance planes it purchased couldn’t take off and land in its original build spec. Even now the flight deck is not long enough to conduct simultaneous launch and recovery operations. Even worse the blueprints for the CdG‘s propellers had been lost in a fire, which meant that the ship had to be refitted with hand-me down screws from carriers Foch and Clemenceau which meant her speed was cut from 27 knots to about 24 knots—which was unfortunate since her predecessors steamed at 32 knots. Speed to war zones is kind of important to gain a decisive edge. All of the spend to fix poorly thought out designs cuts from being able to procure other equipment and materiel. Scary to think Australia is buying 12 subs from the French! The problems are already revealing themselves despite not one boat having hit the dry dock.

History tells us many things of how NATO type organisations have failed in the past.The Peloponnesian Wars (431BC – 404BC) highlighted how things can change when allies do not keep up commitments and capabilities aren’t maintained.

Athens required her Delian League member states (consisting of city states mainly along the Ionian Sea) to pay tributes (phoros) to the treasury which was used to build and maintain the naval fleet led by Athens. Yet over time the member states relied too much on the wealth of Athens and over the course of the draining war and the costly campaign to Sicily, failed to honour the ever increasing demands to fund the league with the appropriate level of tributes which drove Athens into massive debt. Defence spending by the Athenians had been cut to around 30-60% of the average over the previous decade. The Delian League’s capabilities dwindled as a result and the Spartans, funded by Persia, took advantage of this and crushed it for good, in the very art of war that Athens was renowned for – the navy.

It is not hard to think of Trump feeling like a modern day Pericles. NATO is the Delian League and its projected enemies chip away all the while members dither over commitments, forcing the US to sustain the limited capability. Like the Athenians, the US has the most powerful navy in the world with a fleet bigger than the next 11 countries combined but even it has pared back the number of ships to less than 10% of what it had in WW2. Enhanced capability is one factor in cutting the surface fleet but even the US DoD realised that the conventionally powered US Kitty Hawk consumed 2% of the entire US military fuel bill annually so it was taken out of service to save money.

One can argue the $750 billion annual defence budget is plentiful but the US realises that power projection is an expensive business. Even Japan understands it can’t stay nestled in the bosom of US stationed forces forever without taking a proactive stance to defend itself. That is the same message to the 19 members NATO failing to pull their weight.

EU – 1.3m abortions, 5m births p.a.

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Eurostat statistics on abortion reveal that Germany, France, UK, Spain and Italy alone terminate a combined 760,000 fetuses per annum. Across the EU-28 there are 1.25mn terminations. Without getting into a debate on abortion rights, the pure statistical number points to 20.4% of fetuses never make it out of the womb alive. Every. Single. Year. At that rate over 10 years that is 12.5 mn children that could have added to EU population sustainability do not occur but the EU seems to think embarking on mass migration is the only solution to plug the gap. Is it? Ironically child support is one area the EU is happy to cede control to individual Member States.

The fertility rate across the EU-28 is now 1.58 children per woman, flat for the last decade and down from 2.9 in 1964. Demographers suggest that a fertility rate of 2.1 is required in developed world economies to maintain a constant population (in the absence of any migration). The number of live births in the EU-28 peaked in 1964 at 7.8 million. In 2017 this had fallen to 5 million. There was a brief period (2003-2008) when live births in the EU-28 started to rise again, returning to 5.5 million by 2008 but the GFC sent it down again – as economic hardship tends to cause a decrease in births. So are economic incentives too low to cause a rebound?

France has the best incentives for children and the highest birth rate inside the EU at 2.0 up from 1.7 in the 1990s. Germany is around 1.4 drifting from 1.6 in the 1990s. The lives for child rearing French are eased by cheap health care, inexpensive preschools – for infants as young as 6 months old – subsidized at-home care and generous maternity leave. Mothers with three children can take a year off of work – and receive a monthly paycheck of up to €1,000 from the government to stay home. Families get subsidized public transportation and rail travel and holiday vouchers.

In order to stop the declining working population over time, imagine if Europe hypothetically put the onus back on consenting couples to take responsibility for their actions and makes abortions harder to access without compulsory consultation over options? Why not graphically show the entire process to get some sense of reality for both parties? You can gross yourself on this link.

Perhaps, in today’s electronic world, automatically deducting child support from fathers that run from responsibility might make sense? Why should the state pay for others’ lack of accountability? Even if the child is placed in foster care, why not wire child support to foster parents indirectly via the Ministry in charge of its administration? The population crisis is not going away in Europe. Why not provide more incentives to married/same-household couples?

Mathematically speaking the numbers are huge. Imagine if the million-plus fetuses every year had a vote to be raised with foster parents as opposed to being terminated, what they would choose? Consider the €23bn Merkel has spent on mainly economic migrants in the last 2 years being put toward preventing 200,000 abortions in Germany over that period? €115,000 to avert each one might have been better spent. That is a huge sum of money period.

CM is not advocating control over the womb but surely transparency in policy over individual responsibility is not a bad thing with respect to many issues, not just abortion. What level of economic incentives are required to prevent some couples/women choosing to terminate? Surely that plays a part in deciding to terminate. Consultation services with respect to the subject don’t seem too commonplace or at least structured in such a way as to prevent them.

According to Eurostat, since 1964 the divorce rate in EU-28 equivalents has doubled and the marriage rate has halved. For every eight marriages in 1964 there was one divorce, now there is one divorce for every two marriages.

The proportion of births outside of marriage now stands at 40%, from 27% in 2000 to less than 7% in 1964. 8.8 % of the EU-28 population aged 20+ lived in a consensual union (de-facto). In Japan the number of births out of wedlock is 25% according to the MHLW. The dynamics of the traditional nuclear family are fading.

51% of the Swedish population is now single household. 51%! While some is attributed to an aging population, 19 of the EU-28 members has a single household ratio of over 30%. 12 over 35%. By way of comparison, Japan’s single household ratio stands at 34.6% from 27.6% in 2000.

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To further analyse the new ways of living together and to complement the legal aspect, statistics on consensual unions, which take into account those with a ‘marriage-like’ relationship with each other, and are not married to or in a registered partnership with each other, can also be analysed.  Sweden (18.3 %) has the highest rate followed by Estonia (16.4 %), France (14.3 %) and the lowest in Greece (1.7 %), Poland (2.1 %), Malta (2.5 %) and Croatia (2.9 %).

Is employment a factor?  It is mixed. Eurostat reported in Germany, the fertility of non-employed women has increased and that of employed women decreased, while in Spain, the opposite occurred; in Greece, the total fertility rate (TFR) of non employed women fell below that of employed women, changing from a positive differential of about 0.2 average live births.

Is education a factor? Apart from Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland and Norway), Portugal and Malta, in general, women with lower education had higher TFR between 2007 and 2011. Eurostat state the fertility of women across the EU over the same period with a medium level of education dropped by about 9%, while the decrease for women with high or low education was less significant.

Eurostat argues that economic recessions have correlation to falling child birth rates. Apart from the direct impact of economic crises at an individual level, the economic uncertainty that spreads during periods of hardship seem to influence fertility. From this point of view Eurostat believes the duration of a crisis may play an important role and, the duration and the depth of the current recession are unprecedented in some countries. The agency states,

The expected relationship is that negative changes in GDP correspond to negative changes in the TFR, possibly with some delay, thus showing a high positive correlation at particular lags. The correlation with the TFR is relevant in Spain and Latvia without any lag; in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania with one year of lag; and in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Croatia with two years of lag. Taking the overall average across countries, a change in GDP is mostly positively correlated with a change in the TFR within about 19 months.”

Do we cynically argue that stagnant child birth rates aren’t just a factor of societal changes? Perhaps a truer reflection on the higher levels of poverty in the EU since GFC and the harsh realities for a growing number of people behind the growing levels of populism who are suffering greater economic hardship than statisticians are presenting to the political class? Hard decisions must be made before they are made by external factors.

Eurostat already prepared for post-Brexit world

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CM was looking at some other stats about the EU and it seems that whatever the shenanigans with respect to what Brexit will look like, the official Eurostat is prepared for the UK saying “cheerio chaps” to Bruxelles. Perhaps a more apt reflection of the status of the EU’s reality outside of the grandstanding we see in the Brussels. CM wonders at what stage Eurostat begins to prepare aggregates without Austria, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Holland…..

Child Abuse – the shocking stats

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Child abuse is reaching shocking proportions globally. The stats you are about to read show just how widespread the problem has become.The National Institute of Health reports that approximately 80 % of those who attempted suicide had a history of child abuse. About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own childrencontinuing the horrible negative spiral.

We examine the US, UK, Australia and an outlier Japan, where child abuse cases have soared 111-fold in the last 30 years. Over 4,000,000 child abuse cases were reported in the US in 2015. Abused children show much higher tendencies for risky behaviours in later life. CM wrote about the shocking outcome of the independent report on child grooming gangs in Rotherham showing that the police and government were complicit for decades. We also wrote about abuse affecting safety at US schools, including mass shootings.

Warning – the data make for quite heavy reading. 

JAPAN

In 2016, CM wrote a piece on the breakdown in the nuclear family in Japan. The Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare (MHLW) denoted that cases handled for child abuse in 2016 hit a record 122,578 cases, 111x the level of 1989. Part of the problem here would be due to a lack of reporting back then. However the growth in the last decade is still extreme. The MHLW denote over the last decade:

  • Physical related violence fell from 41.2% to 26% (despite doubling in absolute terms).
  • Neglect fell 38.5% to 21.1% (despite an 80% increase in absolute terms)
  • Sexual abuse fell from 3.2% to 1.3% (despite a 50% increase in absolute terms)
  • Psychological abuse jumped from 17.2% to 51.5% (a 10-fold absolute increase)

In the last decade filings of child abuse with the police have surged from 7% of all cases to 45%. Reporting to family or relatives has declined but neighbours remain the second largest factor in reporting abuse.

By prefecture, child abuse per 1000 children looks as follows as at 2016. The national average stands at 7.3 children per 1,000.

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AUSTRALIA

While the rate of growth is high, Australia’s Institute of Family Studies has reported in its June 2017 statistics that in 2015/16 a total of 355,935 notifications of child abuse were made vs 252,962 made in 2011/12. Total substantiations grew from 48,420 to 60,989 respectively.

The rate of notifications has risen from 33.8 per 1,000 children in 2011-12 to 42.0 per 1,000 in 2015-16 (AIHW, 2011, 2017).

  • Physical abuse accounted for 18.3%
  • Neglect  accounted for 24.9%
  • Sexual abuse accounted for 12.2%
  • Psychological abuse accounted for 44.5%
  • 51% of victims were female.

In Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory neglect was the most common type of substantiated maltreatment. Victoria had the largest proportion of emotional abuse substantiations (64.5%) compared to other states and territories, whereas South Australia had the smallest proportion of emotional abuse cases (25.2%).

While there were some gender differences for all abuse and neglect types, girls were significantly more likely to be the subject of substantiation cases of sexual abuse (15.8%) compared to boys (8.5%). The proportion of substantiated cases of harm/risk of harm from child maltreatment related to sexual abuse ranged from 3.4% in the Northern Territory to 16.6% in New South Wales and Western Australia.

Infants (children aged less than 1 year) were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation (16.1 per 1,000 infants), followed by children aged 1-4 years (9.0 per 1,000 children aged 1-4). Children aged 15-17 years were the least likely to be the subjects of a substantiation (3.9 per 1,000 children aged 15-17).

Australian children from remote and very remote areas were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation (16.2 per 1000 and 23.5 per 1000 respectively) compared with children in major cities (6.2 per 1000). Children in lower socio-economic areas were more likely to be the subject of a substantiation than children in higher socio-economic areas, with 6.9% of substantiations occurring in the highest socio-economic areas compared with 35.7% in the lowest socio-economic areas. 

This contradicts the trend in Japan were relatively poorer (tend to be remote) areas seem less prone to incidents of child abuse.

Perhaps the disturbing sign in Australia is the incidence of out of home care (OOHC) which continues to swell in numbers. Between the years 2014-15 and 2015-16 there was a 10.8% increase in children (from 11,581 to 12,829 children) admitted to OOHC. In 2015-16 there were 3,035 more children admitted to OOHC than were discharged.  In 2015-16, the median age of admission to OOHC was 6 years, with 46% of children admitted to OOHC aged under 5. In comparison, the median age of discharge from OOHC was 9 years and 32% were aged 15-17, compared with 8% admitted to OOHC.

Most children who were in OOHC on 30 June 2016 were residing in home-based care (94%). Of these children, 39% were in foster care, 49% were in relative/kinship care, 5% in third-party parental care and 1% were in some other type of home-based care.

USA

The US is a whole other category. While the media screams about the mistreatment of children at the Mexican border how many of them know the extent of child abuse within their own country? The American Society of Positive Care of Children notes,

  • 4 million child mistreatment referral reports received in 2015 vs 3.6mn in 2014.
  • Child abuse reports involved 7.2 million children vs 6.2mn in 2014.
  • 207,000 children received foster care services.
  • The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the US is estimated at $585 billion (equivalent to the GDP of Sweden or Taiwan)
  • 75.3% of victims are neglected.
  • 17.2% of victims are physically abused.
  • 8.4% of victims are sexually abused.
  • 6.9% of victims are psychologically mistreated.
  • Highest rate of child abuse in children under one (24.2% per 1,000).
  • Over one-quarter (27%) of victims are younger than 3 years.
  • Almost five children die every day from child abuse.
  • 80% of child fatalities involve at least one parent.
  • 74.8% of child fatalities are under the age of 3.
  • 72.9% of the child abuse victims die from neglect.
  • 43.9% of the child abuse victims die from physical abuse.
  • 49.4% of children who die from child abuse are under one year.
  • Almost 60,000 children are sexually abused.
  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.
  • 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in US prisons were abused as children, twice the frequency seen in the general population.
  • In 2016, more than 2,300 children were reported as victims to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
  • Average age of entry by a child prostitute is 13 yo. Life expectancy after becoming a prostitute is only 7 years57% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children.

UK

Government figures show that 3,171 offences have been recorded in England and Wales across 80 platforms in England and Wales since a new anti-grooming law was introduced in 2017 which criminalizes sexual communication with a child. This amounts to almost 9 grooming offences on average per day. The police noted that

  • girls aged 12-15 were recorded in 62% of cases of grooming
  • under-11s were recorded in nearly 25% of cases.

Child abuse figures in the UK according to the NSPCC reveal

  • 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused
  • Over 8,000 contacts to the NSPCC’s helpline last year were concerns about sexual abuse
  • There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales
  • 1 in 14 children have experienced emotional abuse by a parent or guardian.
  • Over 19,000 children were identified as needing protection from emotional abuse in 2017.
  • 6.9% of children said they had experienced physical violence at the hands of a parent or guardian (3.7% said severe physical violence).
  • The NSPCC’s helpline responded to over 11,000 contacts about physical abuse in 2016/17
  • Over 6,000 children were identified as needing protection from physical abuse last year

The message is clear. The incidence of child abuse continues to rise to sickening levels. Perhaps the EU sums up its problem to an even more shocking degree:

“Few studies have been done on neglect, but analyses of worldwide research shows that prevalence is also high − 16.3% for physical neglect and 18.4% for emotional…They show a prevalence rate of 9.6% for sexual abuse (13.4% in girls and 5.7% in boys), 22.9% for physical and 29.1% for mental. Applying these figures to the population of children in Europe suggests that 18 million children suffer from sexual abuse, 44 million from physical abuse and 55 million from mental abuse.”

Maybe part of preventing neglect starts with the very basics:

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So when we see media reports wailing about injustices which are relatively tiny in the grand scheme of things, perhaps we can reflect on the real problems that are right in front of our noses. #LetsEndChildAbuse

EU tariffs the least of Harley’s worries

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Two weeks ago CM wrote, “Harley-Davidson (HOG) is the classic case of a divine franchise. While still the world’s largest maker of cruiser motorcycles, it is being swamped by new competition. HOG’s EBIT performance has slid for the last 4 years and is even below the level of 2012…Sadly for HOG, 1Q 2018 has revealed even worse numbers. Global unit sales were 7.2% down on the previous year and 12% down at home.  Japan and Australia were soft. Looking at the strategy it looks like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping it sticks.

There is a touch of irony in that Harley was starting to do better in EMEA markets in Q1 2018 (+6.8%). Now EU tariffs are likely to sting the maker some $2,200 a unit average on motorcycles sold there. The company is seeking to bypass this in the short term by sucking up the cost of the tariff to help dealers before arranging (one imagines) for final knock down kit assembly outside the USA. A downturn in EMEA is a nightmare that exacerbates the weakness elsewhere around the globe. H-D Japan shifted 16,000 units at the peak. It will be lucky to do 9,500 this year. The business has lost its compass.

At the moment it seems the brand is stuck in an echo chamber. Harley announced at the start of the year it was closing a Kansas City plant for a net loss of 350 jobs. The rot has been in since before the tariffs. Trump lambasted Harley Davidson on Twitter for waving the white flag too soon but it is probably more evidence of the scatterbrain negative spiral approach to dealing with the predicament it finds itself in. Harley may want half of sales to come from overseas markets but it may not come through growth outside of America, rather a decline from within.

In closing Harley’s are a cult. There aren’t many brands where customers are prepared tattoo it to their bodies. Sadly this mentality means that Harley is still committed to conduct $700mn in buybacks which smacks of denial for a company seeing EBIT dwindle at 40% below peak. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised when buybacks have made up 72% of all S&P500 earnings growth since 2012!! A recent survey that showed 75% of asset managers have not experienced the tech bubble collapse in 2000. Sure it is nothing to be worried about! Experience is a hard teacher. You get the test first and the lesson afterwards!