Investment

Australia can learn from Ontario’s Doug Ford on energy policy

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford Jr’s Progressive Conservatives are pulling the plug on 758 renewables projects costing $790mn. The plan is to cut hydro rates by 12% which had been inflated by Wynne’s Liberals for 15 years to subsidize these green projects. Energy Minister Greg Rickford announced that none of the cancelled projects have reached “development milestones,” so believes it should be cheaper to scrap them now.

Three things stand out:

A senior Liberal spokesperson said, “Why would firms do business in Ontario if they see this kind of government meddling?

Well 12% lower electricity prices could be a start. The Liberals should look at how higher electricity prices in South Australia are driving businesses out of the state. The Independent Electricity System Operator said yesterday that “there are other means of meeting future energy supply and capacity needs at materially lower costs than long-term contracts that lock in the prices paid for these resources.

The German contractor needs better lawyers if this is a problem:

The CEO of wind turbine contractor WPD in Germany said in an open letter that it stands to lose up to $100mn on the cancellation of the White Pines project (which residents strongly opposed) for 9 wind turbines which commenced in 2009 yet is still not completed. A turbine a year? That’s a jobs creation scheme…stretch it out for as long as possible to fudge the employment numbers (at taxpayers expense). Did WPD just expect that Wynne would win another term hence not needing to lock down contract terms that covered risk of this sort. Where is the “based on clause 7, section 3 we will seek full compensation for your action.”? Why not mention that in the letter?

Fears of renewable job losses:

All this nonsense about green jobs creation is farcical. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) renewable employment figures which showed all states seeing declines. By state, South Australia has seen a 65% fall in green jobs since the peak in 2011/12. Victoria down 46%, Queensland down 49%, NSW down 32% & WA down 55%. The problem with green jobs is they are not sustainable.

Premier Doug Ford sacked Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt (whom he promised to fire at the June 7 election), a man he dubbed “the $6 million dollar man”without the expected $10.7 million severance payment (reduced to $400,000) and is replacing the company’s board of directors.

Let’s not forget Ford annihilated Liberal Kathy Wynne so badly her party can’t even serve in parliament. While liberals were complaining Ford won it for being a white heterosexual male they overlooked that most constituents which gave Liberals 15 years to show something were sick of being taken for mugs. High electricity prices were a major campaign issue.

An IPSOS poll taken before the poll showed that the Liberals polled “zero” for leading on any issues with respect to economy, energy costs, healthcare, taxes, education, minorities or any other issue…The Ontario Progressive Conservatives were polled as having the best policies for economy, energy and taxes. Just goes to show when you listen to the electorate and actually enact on promises they amazingly like it and can win office.

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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.

Why discontinue?

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This is a chart of the change in the US Fed balance sheet, a series that has just been discontinued. Is this because the Fed is about to step up its activity and offering wider disclosure on tapering activity might spook markets? Given that 72% of the growth in S&P earnings has been driven by buybacks since 2012, it stands to reason the market is not exactly providing the type of confidence inducing organic lift the index reflects. Bank of America revealed that “net buying of Tech sector in the 1H was entirely buyback-driven.” 

Kind of reminds CM of the day Bernanke’s Fed announced it would no longer report M3 money supply a year before the financial markets headed into the GFC. CM estimated on p.4 of a report several years ago that M3 money supply by 2018 on constant long-term growth rates would turn into around $35 trillion from the $10 trillion at the time it was discontinued.

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Nothing to see here? Throw a deteriorating fixed income market with fewer buyers and corporates that have binged on cheap credit to fuel buybacks, it doesn’t look like the stuff dreams are made of. The chart below shows that quarterly pre-tax US profitability is struggling since 2011. Earnings (E) are not doing so well. It is by the grace of falling number of traded shares (S) that makes the EPS look flattering.

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We took the liberty of comparing corporate profitability since 1980 and correlating it to what Moody’s Baa rated corporate bond effective 10yr yields. An R-squared of almost 90% was returned.

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Why not use the Aaa spread instead? Well we could do that but looking over the last decade the average corporate debt rating profile looks like this. We have seen a massive deterioration in credit ratings. If we look at the corporate profitability with Baa interest rates over the past decade, correlation climbs even higher.

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We shouldn’t forget that the US Government is also drunk on debt, much of it arriving at a store near you. $1.5 trillion in US Treasuries needs refinancing this year and $8.4tn over the next 3.5 years. Couple that with a Japan & China pulling back on UST purchases and the Fed itself promising to taper (but now hide the results of) its balance sheet. So as an investor, would you prefer the relative safety of government debt or take a punt on paper next to junk heading into a tightening cycle?

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Discontinuation of series always carries a sense of deep cynicism for its true intention. It is not an onerous data set to cull. Sure we can fossick around and try to find it hidden in the archives of the Fed website but the idea is that they probably don’t want to publicise how much more they intend to flog.

Staring at the dictator – redux

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In Feb 2017, CM wrote a piece titled ‘Staring at the Dictator’ which highlighted that winning hearts and minds comes from sensible and reasonable dialogue. Not from widespread activism where the sole purpose is to shut down debate. Hasn’t the left learnt that physically and verbally bullying people senseless and mocking them for their supposed ignorance doesn’t work? Yet they still keep screaming the same hypo-ventilated bile, as Robert Reich has below. Nothing would make CM happier if democracy does its job in any country. If we believe he speaks for the majority, he has absolutely nothing to fear. No need for protests of any kind. Yet he shouldn’t blame the constituents for overthrowing bad governments who believe in divine incumbency. Blame bad policy.

If Democrats hadn’t treated the last election as a coronation then perhaps Hillary Clinton may have got her wish. Things had obviously become so bad at the grass roots level that the establishment was rejected. Even after all of the p*ssy grabbing allegations had been brought to light, Trump still won. His vulgarity was on the ballot. His “no one respects women more than I do” lie after this revelation in the 2nd debate was broadcast to 100s of millions. It was also on the ticket. Despite his supposed racist demagoguery, he got a higher proportion of black and Hispanic voters than either McCain or Romney. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. These are facts, as much as we may not like what they portend.

The #whitelash arguments don’t rub either because the same people voted a black man in twice. Clinton didn’t lose because she was a woman. She lost in part because she ran on the basis she was a woman. Surveys may show that Republican voters don’t want a female president however should Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley run in 2024 she would win their support on the basis of her strength, not her gender or her Native American/Sikh heritage. Ability should be all that matters. Clinton’s constant griping 18 months after her loss shows just how poor a president she would have made. It is so bad even Rasmussen reports that a majority of Democrats don’t think she would have been any better than Trump. Take that!

If Trump loses legitimately (assuming he runs) in 2020 then so be it. In the last 1.5 years in office, American citizens have had plenty of time to weigh him in their own minds, regardless of the media’s relentless onslaught of over-the-top sensationalist click-baiting. If citizens feel he has delivered in areas that affected them on a personal level, they’re probably on balance willing to vote for the same again unless the alternative offers something better. At the same time they have had plenty of time to weigh the Democrats. They’ve seen first hand the bitterness at the State of the Union plastered on the faces of Pelosi et al. They’ve heard Maxine Waters call to her supporters to gang up on the staff in the current administration. They’ve seen countless Hollywood celebrities chant vile hate from celebrating the decapitation of the President, calling Ivanka a “feckless c*nt” to hoping 12yo Barron is ripped from Melania’s arms and caged with pedophiles. Democrat supporters have gone so far as to shoot GOP politicians. CM is quite sure that however horrid the President may be, these are hardly the types of antics that will sway opinion of the swing voters to join the self-appointed ‘righteous’ like Reich. And no, not all Democrats think like this much like many Republicans don’t endorse stupidity from their own. It lets down both sides.

Republicans or swing voters do not respond well to being called intolerant, cruel, racist, misogynist, xenophobic or climate sceptics without fact or basis. Since when does one consciously vote for others over their own needs? It isn’t selfish. If one is buried under onerous tax legislation, red tape or financial destitution do they vote to put the interests of others above their own? No. As a long term Liberal Party (aka conservatives) voter in Australia, the current party has ‘left’ me. I didn’t leave them. They did not win my vote last election. It must be earned. They don’t represent my values. It didn’t take tribal beltings to force me to a conclusion. Nor negative media to discover it. Yet somehow the activists believe that constant bleating will cause me to change my mind.

What would be nice is to see properly supported factual (not subjective rhetorical) evidence that 63mn Trump supporters are as one when it comes to all the claims they make. I would love to see the arguments in all their gore should they exist. Not a one off event. Happy to see where my own arguments hold deep flaws.  Many Trump voters detest him on a moralistic level yet are happy to champion his achievements if they feel they get a direct benefit from them. So often claims are made to undermine his followers. Every time (and often) these assertions prove to be baseless, the journey to sway the other side to see reason gets thwarted even further. Time magazine issuing a confession over the photo-shopped cover of last week ended up at the bottom of a long article. It just shows just how unapologetic they are. Kathy Griffin was sorry until she wasn’t again. Talk about self serving.

To the comments made by Robert Reich today:

“My friends, this is a dark hour. Intolerance, cruelty, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and environmental destruction have been let loose across the land.

Trump controls the Republican Party, the Republican Party controls the House and Senate, and the Senate and Trump will soon control the Supreme Court.

Republicans also control both chambers in 32 states (33 if you count Nebraska) and 33 governorships. And in many of these states they are entrenching their power by gerrymandering and arranging to suppress votes.

Yet only 27 percent of Americans are Republican, and the vast majority of Americans disapprove of Trump. The GOP itself is now little more than Trump, Fox News, a handful of billionaire funders, and evangelicals who oppose a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, and the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

So what are we – the majority — to do?

First and most importantly, do not give up. That’s what they want us to do. Then they’d have no opposition at all.

Second, in the short term, if you are represented by a Republican senator, do whatever you can to get him or her to reject Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, or, at the least, postpone consideration until after the midterm elections. Urge others to join with you. 202-224-3121

Third, make a ruckus. Demonstrate. Engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Fight lies with truth. Join the resistance. Participate in http://www.indivisible.org and https://swingleft.org.

Fourth, vote this November 6 for people who will stand up to all this outrage. Mobilize and organize others to do so. Contact friends and relations in “red” states, and urge them to do the same.

Fifth, help lay the groundwork for the 2020 presidential election, so that even if Trump survives Mueller and impeachment he will not be reelected.

Finally, know that this fight will be long and hard. It will require our patience, our courage, and our resolve. The stakes could not be higher.”

Perhaps what Reich fails to get is that he is almost backhanding his own supporters in his rant. It is more than likely that a majority of Republican (and no doubt many centrist Democrat) voters want the liberal left to give up because it has become nothing but white noise. The more they protest the more tuned out they become. Control of the Supreme Court? I encourage you to read the cake shop transcript where Associate Justice Sotomayor shows without a doubt she is a political activist, not a judge. It is embarrassingly obvious. The Supreme Court is only supposed to apply impartiality around current laws (or those at the time of the legal action), not make a song and dance about wish lists and try to piece a verdict around how nice it would be if things were different. She was trying to argue 2018 laws around a 2012 issue. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to work that one out.

To the assertion that a handful of billionaire funders lean the GOPs way, he should reflect that most of the billionaires in America reside in blue states. In today’s world, the big corporations win more by backing Democrats because more onerous regulation benefits their ability to squeeze out the smaller competition thanks to red tape. Laissez faire? You’ve got to be kidding.

Perhaps in closing, the most compelling argument Reich makes is the one which stands out above all others – “we, the majority.” If he wants to stop Trump, he just needs the majority to vote on the shared basis of his beliefs – case closed. No need for protests. After all he says that Trump’s base is so small. If almost 3 years of negative spin on the sitting POTUS has failed to convince the majority, nothing will. Screaming in public may seem therapeutic to the masses but should the GOP win the mid-terms then Reich will prove just as out of touch as he was prior to the election.

Silence is golden. Let democracy take its course. Let us see whether the Russians consolidate their pick in the mid-terms…Putin has even more reason to ensure America sees more “red.”

Populism isn’t just for rednecks

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It is hard not to think of NY Democrat voters following in the path of what got Jeremy Corbyn cemented as UK Labour leader. Those tired of the Blairite Tory-lite Labour Party of old swooped in on a hardline socialist agenda. Tory’s pretending to be liberals. No thanks, they cried. Democrat-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AO-C) romped home in NY booting 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley out. While NY has long been a deep blue state, clearly Crowley wasn’t seen as progressive enough. As a disciple of Bernie Sanders, AO-C embodies the idea that the only way the Dems stand a chance is to offer a proper “hard” alternative. Free education, healthcare, open borders and rattling cages in Texas tickled voters pink. Right out of the Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Full credit to her for nailing the mood of the electorate. No one can blame her for that. She even hammered progressive NY Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for not backing her prior to the primary, tweeting,

Unsurprising, but disappointing that @SenGillibrand didn’t even bother to talk to nor consider me before endorsing…You‘d think a progressive leader would at least be interested in how a no-corporate money Bronx Latina triggered the 1st NY-14 primary in 14 years on prog issues.

She has a point. It isn’t that Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters aren’t left. It is just that they, like Gillibrand, appear to be frauds of the faith the party proclaims it instills. Pretending to have a socialist progressive agenda while living it large behind huge gated mansions and in the pockets of the lobbyists funded by the major corporates. AO-C appears the real deal. Better to be an authentic socialist. Democracy ironically delivered her win. No doubt she’ll trounce her GOP opponent.

While AO-C is at this stage a one-off, her success could well pave the way for a blue-print for winning the true heart of the Democrat voters. Apart from self-professing that she ticks a lot of the diversity boxes there is something refreshing about what she represents. That populism is not just reserved for bigoted and racist angry white male supremacists. However this has unintended consequences for further polarizing a country. We only need look at Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant and chased across the street. Then to have Maxine Waters encourage people to hound Trump administration officials out of restaurants or gas stations. Is this the America Americans want? Surely most are appalled by such behaviours.

We might laugh at such a notion as fringe but Rasmussen Reports noted yesterday, “Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters say it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years…59% of all voters are concerned that those opposed to President Trump’s policies will resort to violence, with 33% who are Very Concerned. This compares to 53% and 28% respectively in the spring of Obama’s second year in office.”

Miriam Webster Dictionary tweeted that “‘Socialism’ has been our top search (+1500%) since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win last night.” There is a touch of irony in a recent CIS survey of millennials which showed that 63% of university graduates were in favour of socialism despite more than half (51%) hadn’t heard of Chinese communist revolutionary Mao,  responsible for as many as 45 million deaths during the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Similarly, 42% didn’t know of Lenin, the father of modern communism, or World War II Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, responsible for the deaths of up to 43 million people.

Of interest, such a wave of socialism delivered by AO-C will only serve to feed the mentality of the sharks that elected Trump. AO-C has exposed just how policy-lite the likes of Waters, Pelosi and Schumer are. They realise Trump will romp home in 2020 unless there is a real alternative. Whether we like to admit it or not, Trump still has the highest approval rating of any Western leader – Trudeau, May, Macron, Turnbull and Merkel included. Incumbent Democrats have only shown their jealousy. The previous State of the Union speech spoke volumes of the inane levels of bitterness.

Americans are sick and tired of self-serving politicians. They want policy not public shaming and grandstanding. They want to see action not the use of children for political purposes. Whatever the stance of Americans on illegal immigrants at the border, decades of inaction has led to the sorry state it is in.

Of course it is easy to point fingers at POTUS for his insensitivity yet how soon it is they forget he has issued an executive order to ban separation from parents. How they overlook that countless numbers of innocent children used by smugglers that have died as they were abandoned in the desert across the border by their ‘supposed’ parents once ‘compassion’ was granted. All this prior to Trump taking office. That 80% of illegal immigrant girls and women are sexually assaulted before reaching the border, according to HuffPo. Hardly the type of humanity anyone with a pulse wants to see.

The viral Time Magazine photo-shopped cover of a little girl crying was used with great effect by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) to raise $20mn via crowdfunding! $20 million!! Even after it was revealed that the child – stolen from her father – was never separated from the mother (who left her other 3 kids behind) and paid a smuggler to get to the border, RAICES still shamelessly uses the picture to boost its funding target to $25mn. That shows the power of just how willing Trump haters will go to support organizers with questionable ethics. Oh the irony of Democrat Chuck Schumer rejecting the very changes to the immigration laws they themselves put forward. At least AO-C seems to be walking the talk, however misguided her altruism may be.

Michael Moore correctly said before the 2016 election that “Trump is the Molotov cocktail in the system”. Despite his often vulgar methods, he has merely publicized long festering wounds created by decades of indifference. One can shout from the  roof tops at record low unemployment, record financial markets and economic growth but beneath the surface poverty remains above that seen before the GFC and income disparity has never been wider. AO-C should be sending shivers down the spine of the DNC. The incumbents though the cost of derailing Bernie Sanders was a one off. Now AO-C has exposed just how shallow the status quo is. Maybe Nancy Pelosi summed her fears best herself,

They made a choice in one district. So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that. Within the caucus or outside the caucus, we are — again, we have an array of genders, generations, geography, and there is opinion in our caucus, and we’re proud of that. The fact that in a very progressive district in New York, it went more progressive than — Joe Crowley is a progressive, but she’s more left than Joe Crowley, is about that district...”

Not even Pelosi’s record breaking 8-hr speeches talking about the pride felt in her grandson wanting to be Hispanic will ever trump someone like AO-C whom seems to carry the liberal cause with the type of fervor that matches their social virtues. Populism indeed works both ways.

CM always said at the time of Trump’s election that the best outcome of his victory will be that it causes more people to deeply rethink about how much their vote truly counts. Democracy delivers. From the richest to the poorest, everyone has equal say. More politicians are slowly waking up from the slumber that incumbency in politics is no longer a given. That is a good thing, even if CM is not a fan of what AO-C supports. Then again that is a matter for American citizens alone to make, not CM’s.

One man’s path to cut the rate of veteran suicides

This video is a wonderful testament to the selfless sacrifice and idea of one man, Jason Zaideman, in order to help US military veterans avoid an all too common fate of suicide due to PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Jason has set up a charitable centre called Operation Combat Bikesaver (OCB) in Indiana (which has one of the highest veteran suicide rates among 50 states). OCB proclaims,

We believe that breathing new life into tarnished motorcycles by honing in on learned skill sets will relinquish the deafening grasp PTSD / TBI / Depression has on Veterans and First Responders. By creating distinctive works of art, those candidates can give back to others suffering in a brotherhood of unity, targeting relief to the chaos of one’s own mind…They will be introduced to building, fabricating, welding and painting to resurrect something that was once damaged and forgotten into something new and truly unique while rebuilding themselves at the same time…We have lost way too many to PTSD / TBI and Depression. All of us here at Operation Combat Bikesaver have lost someone to the after effects of defending their country and community. We would love nothing more than to help our Heroes return to feeling normal again.

Before we get into the sad details of veteran suicides in the US, OCB has raised a paltry $20,000 through crowd funding.  To put that in context we have all seen the viral photo-shopped Time magazine picture of a little girl crying at a defiant Trump. It was used with great effect by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) to raise $20mn via crowdfunding! $20 million!!

Even after it was revealed that the child – stolen from her father – was never separated from the mother (who left her other 3 kids behind) and paid a smuggler to get to the border, RAICES still shamelessly uses the picture to boost its funding target to $25mn. Despite poor veterans committing suicide at a rate of 20/day some citizens seemingly attain higher virtue by pouring 1,000x more into an organisation with highly questionable ethics. So much for thanking those that served one’s country.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) writes it “has worked tirelessly to develop suicide prevention resources for every Veteran who is experiencing a mental health crisis, whether or not that Veteran is enrolled in the VA Health Care System. In fact, of about 21.6 million Veterans across the country —including almost 2 million women — just over 8.5 million are enrolled for care from a VA provider.  VA is committed to identifying and reaching all Veterans who may be at risk for suicide and continues to enhance programs designed to reduce risk among those who receive services from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). As highlighted in a recent VA-led Call to Action to Prevent Veteran Suicide, eliminating the burden of suicide among Veterans will require participation from a broad group of federal government and community partners.”

Key findings from this year’s report include:

▪ In 2014, an average of 20 Veterans died by suicide each day. Six of the 20 were recent users of VHA services in 2013 or 2014.
▪ In 2014, Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and constituted 8.5% of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and older).
▪ The burden of suicide resulting from firearm injuries remains high. In 2014, about 67% of all Veteran deaths by suicide were the result of firearm injuries.
▪ There is continued evidence of a high burden of suicide among middle-aged and older Veterans. In 2014, about 65% of all Veterans who died by suicide were ages 50 and older.
▪ After adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 22% higher among Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adults. (2014)
▪ After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 19% higher among male Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult men. (2014)
▪ After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 2.5 times higher among female Veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult women. (2014)
▪ In 2014, rates of suicide were highest among younger Veterans (ages 18–29) and lowest among older Veterans (ages 60 and older).

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Since 2001, the proportion of VHA users with mental health conditions or substance use disorders (SUD) has increased from 27% in 2001 to 41% in 2014.

Risk for suicide following separation from active duty service remains a concern among Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). 18-24yo suicides in those three categories has surged from 27/100,000 in 2003 to 124 per 100,000 in 2014.

OCB is a truly worthy cause. Sadly in today’s world, too many seek to signal their virtue on social media rather than get their hands dirty and properly do something productive like Zaideman to fix causes. Truly inspirational. $20 million to support a cause based on a fake photo or $20 million to support people who have lost limbs, buddies and in many cases hope? After reading about the gore of war from my own grandfather’s letters from WW2 it is not hard to see what a gross misallocation of money and morals this is.