Europe

Poland would happily trade in its EU membership to save its culture

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An IBRiS poll conducted for the liberal and pro-EU weekly Polityka was published on July 5. The two questions posed to 1,000 people polled was essentially to gauge loyalty to the EU or Poland. Poland would seemingly be happy to trade in EU membership than sell out their culture. This is not a debate about the rights and wrongs of taking in asylum seekers rather to point out what is happening on the ground.

Q1: “Should Poland refuse to accept refugees from Muslim countries even if this should lead to the loss of European funds?”
– YES: 56.5%
– NO: 40.4%

Q2: “Should Poland refuse to take in refugees from Muslim countries even if this should lead to the obligation to leave the European Union?”
– YES: 51.2%
– NO: 37.6%

This opposition to the relocation of asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy is reflected in the popularity of the Polish conservative PiS party. The PiS hit 41% in a June IPSOS poll for the first time (against Donald Tusk’s Liberal party PO at 26%). The poll was conducted at the same time the European Commission had announced the launch of sanctions against Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary for their refusal to accept immigrant relocation quotas.

It was only last week that Italy threatened to issue 200,000 refugees with EU travel documents that would legalize their movement around Europe (i.e. encourage their departures from Italy to the desired destination of Germany).

In response to Italy’s threat, Austria is now looking to shut its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass. Bild newspaper has said that Vienna was ready to close the Brenner Pass within a day if migrant arrivals increased. Tensions are already high. Austria has threatened to send armoured vehicles and 750 soldiers to stop migrants crossing.

Whether we like it or not, for all of the altruism in the world, it seems that a growing number of citizens want their governments to prioritize them first. Failure to do so is being typified by what is happening in Greece.

According to the annual survey by the firm Adecco titled “Employability in Greece,” the brain drain phenomenon has been increasing over the last three years. In 2005 only about 11% of unemployed respondents said that they were actively looking for a job abroad. This figure increased to 28% in 2016 and reached 33% so far this year.

The responses show that the unemployed have different reasons to seek work abroad. Whereas in 2005, the main reason was the prospect of a better wage, in 2016 and 2017 the main reason given were better career opportunities abroad. Greeks are giving up on Greece. EU fiscal thuggery is leaving a public system (especially health) under so much strain that it is buckling. 36% of Greeks live below the poverty line. That means many can’t access affordable healthcare because it is generally provided by corporates and when you lose a job you lose the healthcare. This means many are forced to use A&E of major hospitals which are now overcrowded and understaffed as more doctors are leaving to seek better fortune for their services.

If that wasn’t enough, mothers who had given birth were being restricted from taking their new-borns home if they couldn’t pay the fees. While the government has banned this practice they have introduced new laws to allow the seizure of assets (e.g. homes) if debts are not settled.

Forced refugee quotas on countries that plainly don’t want them is a bad strategy. Economic conditions are clearly not in the EU’s favour with poverty and youth unemployment at record high levels. For refugees, most do not want resettlement in either economically weak zones or those that are openly hostile toward them. That is completely understandable. For the citizens of member states to be threatened with sanction or penalty for failing to comply is the wrong way to go. By the EU’s own statistics bureau, 80% of asylum seekers are ‘economic’, not fleeing war zones. It is understandable that citizens become concerned when public services that are already under strain become overburdened.

Some can scream at these people for being bigoted, racist or intolerant till the cows come home but ignoring their views, much less ridiculing them has the opposite effect of winning hearts and minds. As a grandchild of refugees, helping those in dire need is basic human decency. One can be sure that many in real ‘need’ will give back to those that have given them a second chance. Those who have come to help themselves at the expense of others who have worked hard to attain it should hardly be surprised when they are not given the same level of sympathy.

What we are seeing in Poland, Italy, Greece and Austria is ‘actions’ over ‘words’. Unless concerns are addressed by political leaders, altruistic lip service will be ignored and sadly people will increasingly take the law into their own hands.

Europe’s childless leaders – without progeny ruling on posterity

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Here is a picture of Angela Merkel as a child. Sadly this is as close as she got to having her own. It isn’t just her. The majority of European political leaders have no kids. France’s Macron – no kids. UK PM Theresa May – no kids. The Netherlands PM Mark Rutte – no kids. Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni – no kids. Swedish PM Kjell Stefan Löfven- no biological kids. Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel – no kids. Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon – no kids. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker – no kids. Incidentally Japan’s PM Abe also has no children.

As Europe’s population growth rate declines are these people best positioned to impart advice on how to stop it? Seems that surrender to mass migration is all too easy a policy to replace dwindling stocks of local inhabitants.

From the Washington Examiner

“The Boomers first grabbed the reins of political power in the West in the 1990s, as Communism collapsed and Francis Fukuyama declared “The End of History.” The Boomers live like they believe it. If history is over, if all that is left is consumer capitalism in a liberal democracy, if the stream has stopped flowing, why not climb out?

The late Benjamin Barber wrote a response to Fukuyama called Jihad vs McWorld. Barber argued that the death of the old conflicts—between nations—would go hand in hand with a new conflict: the clash between the McWorld of global consumer capitalism and the “jihad” of local, traditional, and “conservative” cultures.

It’s clear which side has political power now. But the demographics point to a different future. In 2009 Phillip Longman noted that in France (for example) a tiny minority of women are giving birth to over 50% of the children every year. These women are either practicing Catholics or immigrant Muslims.

One of the benefits of parenthood is the daily confrontation with free will—a human nature. Parents may have their child’s life, career, and happiness planned out, but a child has other ideas -constantly. Love, patience, teaching, negotiating, scolding—nurture—can help direct the child, but the overwhelming otherness of the child is undeniable. They are not blank slates upon whom the parent exercises his will.

Political leaders without this experience of parenthood may be susceptible to the idea that people are blank-slates, interchangeable units of human capital. As a parent and a teacher, I have seen many brilliant and well-meaning parents and colleagues crash their will and intellect against the rock of a child’s independent nature. Now, scale such a hubristic paternalism to a nation. Or a continent.

Contemporary childless leaders, however ascendant they feel today, may be the last gasp of secularism. The future is won by those who show up, and only the religiously orthodox are having children.

Those still swimming in the ancient streams of Faith and Culture in France will have the observant offspring of two rival religions living within the borders of one nation. The second Battle of Tours, (or Vienna, or Lepanto) might be extra bloody due to the policies of today, but the authors of those policies will not be around because they will be dead, and their offspring will not be around, because they do not exist.

The Founding Fathers of the United States established the Constitution to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”, posterity being their offspring. Looking out for one’s posterity, having a long-term vision, is necessary for the good of society, according to Harvard Political Scientist James Wilson. Do childless political leaders have skin in the game long-term?

In Europe today, those without progeny are enacting policies that impact the posterity of others.

Surely Macron, Merkel, Juncker, and the rest would argue that they can do their crucial jobs better because they don’t have children to distract them. C.S. Lewis provides the rebuttal: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

Whichever way you cut it, Europe’s childless leaders speak volumes of a continent in long term (terminal) decline.

Throw these dill pickles out of Hamburg

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What is it with protestors these days? Hate the outcome of the US presidential election all you wish but ask yourself does trashing innocent businesses in Hamburg which have zero relationship to Trump achieve anything other than show your utter contempt for democracy? Tiger Copenhagen is a peace loving Danish purveyor of colourful homewares. Anyone would struggle to find a Tiger connection with US foreign or domestic policy. I’ve actually met the management (owners) when they set up in Japan and you’d struggle to find nicer people. Still such behaviour shouldn’t surprise. After all, post Trump’s victory on Nov 8, similar buffoons were trashing Starbucks, perhaps the most virtue signaling corporate and supporter of their causes on the planet.

One of the worst things about these protestors is that none of them are prepared to own it. Masked in the hope they don’t get caught carrying out willful destruction of private property and violence on others. Hopefully many that are arrested have the book thrown at them. Sadly in Merkel’s Germany I would wager it will be buried like most other activity of the sort. The stats are telling of the rise in left and right wing violence.

In Berlin, radical left anarchists are burning cars and smashing bank buildings in retaliation for what they claim is police brutality. Far-left activists in Berlin warned that they would exact €1m in revenge for any police raids on their squats and other ‘projects’ in the capital Dozens of cars were burned.

The police have reported a significant increase in far-left violence nationwide in 2015, with politically motivated left-wing crimes jumping 18 percent to 9,600. The refugee influx is a root cause with far-right groups have reacting violently and far-left groups attacking them in response. In January this year 211 far-right extremists were arrested for hosting an anti-refugee rally in Leipzig complaining Chancellor Merkel is ruining their homeland after the cover up after the new year sexual assaults in Cologne.

The Interior Ministry revealed that 39,000 (+19%YoY) politically motivated crimes were committed in 2015, with 23,000 having a far right motive. Crimes against refugees have soared from 199 in 2014 to over 1,000 in 2015.

Expect the 2017 figures to be even worse.

Poles apart

Once again how the social media feeds lit up with the supposed snubbing of President Trump by the Polish First Lady. If people took five seconds to come out of the sandpit and  objectively analyze her actions they’d see without deliberate video editing she clearly shook his hand immediately after she shook FLOTUS’s hand. It is pretty easy to work out why so many click bait media organizations are floundering. There is no intelligence or effort to be objective. Sadly one is forced to doubt almost every meme of this kind. It makes tabloids look like professorial theses by comparison. Even the Polish PM came out tweeting it was “FAKE NEWS”

Earlier in the week media were trying to claim he got lost on the way to his limousine when he alighted Air Force 1 as if to claim he was suffering from a mental disease. No doubt trying to add some credibility to the Democrats trying to seek his removal for a lack of mental faculty.

He is without doubt unconventional, often unstatesmanlike, at times shows a lack grace/eloquence and narcissistic (his round table where cabinet members professed their love for him was pretty nauseating) but reading his speech (even if composed by his speech writer – which president doesn’t?) in Warsaw, Trump spoke of what many of today’s apologist leaders refuse to. He believes in the idea that it is totally acceptable to defend your own values and culture. That people shouldn’t be pilloried for feeling patriotic. This week we’ve seen Trudeau offer a state apology and $10.5mn compo payment to a convicted terrorist.  Several months ago Canadian Bill M-103 was passed in such a way that free speech is gagged toward a specific minority. Australia tinkers at the edges of the draconian 18C and still bothers to invest in the AHRC which has shown itself to be an absolute waste of time, resources and worst of all a wrecker of the reputations of innocents. Germany arrested a good samaratin that released a video showing migrant violence toward an innocent victim on grounds of breaching privacy laws and the women of Cologne were advised to wear less revealing clothing to avoid being pestered. We could go on for ages. Is this defending culture? Thinking we gain acceptance by denying our own identity? I applaud Trump for making valid points about pride in one’s nation, something the gritty Poles know all too well.

There are many things not to like superficially about POTUS but when it comes to asking harsh questions about a fair share of funding for NATO or the UN, citing legitimate reasons for ditching the Paris Climate Accord or poking China to start dealing with its geopolitical chess piece in North Korea, he is speaking truths his predecessor would never broach. Sure he has much work to do at home but the world can’t help but notice the new sheriff in town on the global stage and boy do we need strength in this department after eight hollow years where countries like China and Russia ran amuck.

Yet when all is said and told, the mainstream media remains too busy trying to create stories/scandals with concocted outcomes by editing out the facts to create ‘ gotcha’ scoops which achieves their goals of personal hatred. Fake news? That term is getting overused. The fake part may be right but the news part isn’t.

Italy proves the ECB Thinks some banks more equal than others

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The ECB proves it is powerless to push member states into banking solutions. It is in fact nothing more than an accomplice. No sooner had the ECB turned a blind eye to a bailout of two banks last week, this week saw the world’s oldest bank likely to get the same treatment.  The state-backed rescue of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA may be approved by the European Commission as soon as today.

EU approval would pave the way for the third recapitalization of an Italian bank by the state this week. Last month, European authorities and Italian officials reached an agreement in principle on a rescue plan that may include a capital increase of about 8.3 billion euros ($9.4 billion) and the sale of about 26 billion euros of bad loans through securitization. Monte Paschi was forced to seek state aid after it failed to raise capital from investors in December.

All it shows is that for all the rhetoric of bail-ins and tough talk, the ECB has no choice but to let member states handle their own affairs. Italy has a banking sector with 20% NPLs with up to 50% in southern parts of the country.

In reality it shows up the ECB to be powerless to control its members. While the US can openly state it is paring back its balance sheet, the ECB has to be content with rolling over and playing dead. At the same time Italy sets precedents that become the benchmark for others to follow. Must be food for thought for all the banks that have been forced to bail-in…-all banks are equal…some more equal than others!

Yellen’s Fedtime stories

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US Fed Chair Janet Yellen uttered perhaps some of the most bizarre words to come out of a central banker. So much so that Alan Greenspan’s “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” seems almost comprehensible by comparison. Yellen told an audience that she believes we won’t see another severe financial crisis in our lifetimes. Either Ms Yellen is not long for the world or denial is running deep within her veins. One of her own FOMC board members (James Bullard) wrote a piece on why the Fed needs to trim its balance sheet from $4.47tn to around $2.5 trillion) so they can prepare for the next horror that awaits.  Even Minnesota Fed Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said the likelihood of another financial crisis is 2/3rds. We have a world with debt up to its eyeballs and global interest rate policies that have only led to the slowest post slowdown growth in history. The signs of a global slowdown are becoming ever more obvious even in the US. Slowing auto sales and rising delinquencies are but one signal. The imminent collapse of so many public pension funds another.

Had she not seen the European Commission’s decision to let Italy spend up to 17 billion euros to clean up the mess left by two failed banks? The news is not only another whack for Italian taxpayers but a setback for the euro zone’s banking union, and a backflip for the EU’s stance on non-standard bailouts. The Italian government wound down Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, two regional lenders struggling under the weight of non-performing loans which averages 20% across the nation and up to 50% in the south. Intesa Sanpaolo bought the banks’ good assets for one euro, and was promised another 4.8 billion euros in state aid to deal with restructuring costs and bolster its capital ratio. Italy’s taxpayers get to keep the bad loans, which could end up costing them another 12 billion euros. Even the Single Resolution Board — whose purpose is to take the politically difficult decision of whether to close a bank out of the hands of governments — chose not to intervene.

Last year four Italian banks were rescued and it seems that since Lehman collapsed in 2008 non performing loans (NPLs) have soared from 6% to almost 20%. Monte Dei Paschi De Siena, a bank steeped in 540 years of history has 31% NPLs and its shares are 99.9% below the peak in 2007. Even Portugal and Spain have lower levels of NPLs. The IMF suggested that in southern parts of Italy NPLs for corporates is closer to 50%!

Italy is the 3rd largest economy in Europe and 30% of corporate debt is held by SMEs who can’t even make enough money to repay the interest. The banks have been slow to write off loans on the basis it will eat up the banks’ dwindling capital. It feels so zombie lending a la Japan in the early 1990s but on an even worse scale.

Not to worry, the Italian Treasury tells us the ECB will buy this toxic stuff! But wait, the ECB is not allowed to buy ‘at risk’ stuff. So it will bundle all this near as makes no difference defaulted garbage (think CDO) in a bag and stamp it with a bogus credit rating such that the ECB can buy it. In full knowledge that most of the debt will never be repaid, the ECB still violates its own rules which state clearly that any debt they buy ‘cannot be in dispute’.

The Bank of Japan has no plans to cut back on the world’s largest central bank balance sheet. It continues to Hoover up 60% of new ETF issues at such an alarming pace it is the largest shareholder of over 100 corporates. Then there is the suggestion of buying all $10 trillion of outstanding JGBs and convert them into zero-rate (+miniscule annual service fee) perpetuals.

Australia’s banks are now the most loaded with mortgage debt globally at 60% of the total loan book.  Second is daylight and third Norway at 40%. Private sector debt to GDP is 185%. We have a government who can’t tighten its belt basing its budget on rosy scenarios that will be improbable. Aussie banks have been slapped with a new tax and with the backdrop of a rising US rate environment, the 40% wholesale funded Aussie banks will be forced to accept higher cost of funds. That will be passed straight onto consumers that are already being crushed under the weight of mortgages. One bank survey by ME Bank in Australia said that 1/3rd would struggle to pay a month’s mortgage if they lost their jobs.

Had Ms Yellen forgot to read the St Louis Fed’s survey which revealed that 45% of Americans can’t raise $400 in an emergency without selling something? USA Today reported that 7 out of 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings to their name.

“Last year, GoBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 Americans only to uncover that 62% of them had less than $1,000 in savings. Last month GoBankingRates again posed the question to Americans of how much they had in their savings account, only this time it asked 7,052 people. The result? Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) had less than $1,000 in their savings account…Breaking the survey data down a bit further, we find that 34% of Americans don’t have a dime in their savings account, while another 35% have less than $1,000. Of the remaining survey-takers, 11% have between $1,000 and $4,999, 4% have between $5,000 and $9,999, and 15% have more than $10,000.”

So Chair Yellen, we are not sure what dreamland you are living but to suggest that we won’t see another financial crisis in our lifetime almost guarantees it will happen. The Titanic was thought unsinkable until history proved otherwise. Money velocity is not rising and every dollar printed is having less and less impact. I thought it nigh on impossible to surpass the stupidity of Greenspan but alas you have managed it.

Is Tommy Robinson in the minority with a #2 rank book on Amazon?

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There is no moral equivalence to be drawn here with this latest attack outside Finsbury mosque in London. Innocent people were mown down by a van driven by someone filled with rage and hate. Social media is already screaming “bigot, racist, terrorist, anti-Muslim, radical” but there is a much bigger point not being addressed. The social boiling point is being reached much more rapidly than the media will admit.  Tommy Robinson was accused across social media for inspiring anti-Muslim rhetoric and fueling this person to commit the crime. His tweets matched his long standing convictions and predictions. Perhaps everyone who has bought Tommy’s book “Enemy of the State”  (ranked #2 book on Amazon UK, #131 in Canada and #2375 in America & now $350 on paperback) could be a risk of commiting such acts if that is the generalization. Of course it is nonsense. By the measure of the sales success perhaps his views maybe more mainstream than the negative ‘extreme’ moniker that is often hurled at him.

Could it be argued that a growing number of people are growing sick and tired of random jihadi attacks and see this book as a guide on how the government isn’t  handling the problem? That was not a intended to be a fact checking laced comment rather pointing out that many people potentially share his supposed ‘patriotic’ view as demonstrated by the commerciality of his writing. This is no longer a pure jihadi problem but one that is now likely to become tit-for-tat terrorism which carries far more negative connotations.

Think beyond the all too common propensity to push prejudices by lashing out on social media with little thought to trying to understand the full arguments of alternative views. Do we take a book review from apologists as fact when most of those have probably never read his book cover to cover? I am reading it because I want to form my own judgement rather than rely on others’ bias. He has strong views but no better way than self vetting. I’ve read Mein Kampf in what must be the most appalling book ever written – grammatically and content-wise. For one whose family escaped the deaths camps of Poland, trying to understand the ravings of Hitler brought added perspective to the horror although some might conclude reading it is an endorsement. It is not.

Innocents are dead or injured in this attack on Fisnbury Park Mosque. If indeed Tommy has a minority view, most people wouldn’t buy his book. Are all the people that buy it racist? Even if one thinks they are then even more reason to say that the government’s current pandering to political correctness won’t solve these hate fueled events whether radical jihadis or right (left?) wing nutters. Do violent video games incite massacres? Are all ‘Brexiters’ a carbon copy of the man who murdered Labour politician Jo Cox days before the referendum?  Do we need to bring in Islamophobic legislation like Canada (Bill M-103) to shut down people expressing concern? No, No and No. Current policy approaches are having the opposite effect as this attack proves.

At the time of the Manchester bombing I warned that vigilantism would be an ugly side effect of endless political correctness. Coincidentally Robinson suggested similar views about the rise of vigilantes after that post in a vlog. Wasting a lot of time on what  motivated the driver to commit such a terrible crime is not necessary. It is obvious. It is a revenge attack. This is highly likely to be a person screaming out for something to be done about a problem he obviously doesn’t think is being handled properly by elected officials. He probably viewed himself as a vigilante even if that title might be an overreach in this instance.  This in no way defends his despicable actions. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter was often used by IRA sympathisers. Still it doesn’t in anyway condone killing or maiming innocents, no matter what ideology, faith, race or background they come from. It is plain awful. The majority of people would agree with that view.

Revenge attacks and reprisals only exacerbate a rapidly deteriorating relationship. However trying to say the perpetrator proves that not all such attacks are driven by radical Islam doesn’t address the core of the problem. The majority of good people (note a deliberate statement not to go down the identity politics line) want an end to innocent deaths at the hands of extremists but if free speech and the ability to tackle radicalism (wherever it lies) aren’t openly addressed these events will sadly continue. It should be totally in the interests of the majority of ‘good’ Muslims (I detest that phraseology) to want to stop radicals from collectivising their faith with what they perceive is the wrong interpretation. Common sense would say they are the most important link in the chain to weed out those who want to kill in the name of Allah. They need to be front and centre of the debate.

What the UK government (and other governments) have created is a monster of their own making. Candles, flowers, lit monuments, avatars, expressions of sympathy and ‘love conquers hate’ posts dodge the need to have a serious debate on the problem. Now we have seen first hand a real openly targeted revenge attack in the UK, people need less sanctimonious posturing on social media and focus their energies on truly understanding what is at stake. That is to ditch the liberal hand-wringing and have an open debate on the problem. Robinson’s book isn’t selling in the volumes it is by chance. Politicians should pay attention to this trend. It is not about arguing about whether he is right or wrong but noting the simmering underbelly of a growing number of people fed up with inaction. This is the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end.