#Obama

What happens when you poke a Russian bear?

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As written earlier in the week, regardless of one’s views on the righteousness of any attack on Syria, Putin is being faced for the first time in a long time, a leader of a foreign nation (nations as it turns out) prepared to stand up to him. Obama fled the Syria battlefield after being given a two hour window when Russia first went to the aid of Assad. If that wasn’t the ultimate sign of a bully in the Kremlin it is hard to think of what is. While sanctions may have bitten to a degree post Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight, Syria is essentially a testing ground for Putin to weigh up Western (specifically Trump’s) resolve. If we look at Russia’s response post the Syrian strike,

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard…A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences…All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris…Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Kind of says it all really – Russia hasn’t been insulted. Putin has. He must have a glass jaw  like Trump! Two bullies flexing muscle. In a show down Should Putin wish to pick a direct conventional fight against 3 nuclear powers (explicitly mentioned), he knows that ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very last option in the drawer and next to no chance of being selected despite all of the media beat up. On a conventional basis, Putin wins more battles by stirring up the hornet’s nests in other regions. Lending more support to Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Destabilize Saudi Arabia and antagonize Israel.

CM wrote,

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

Some arguments have been made about the risks of the American, French or UK strikes killing Russian troops or civilians on the ground in Syria handing Russia free will to attack its enemies. Scroll back to November 2015 when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter it claimed entered its airspace. Two Russian pilots were killed in the shooting and subsequent rescue. The Russians were incensed but President Erdogan is still in power and Ankara isn’t flailing after seeing its capitol turned into smoldering rubble.

This argument that the Russians weren’t given advance warnings of the attack is ridiculous. Had the Russian defence forces been on proper alert (they most definitely weren’t passed out behind their radar screens after a vodka binge) they would have detected the missile launches. Wind back to the 59 missile launch earlier last year against Syrian chemical facilities. We didn’t hear a peep from Putin. Why now? Of course he is incensed over the booting of diplomats on the nerve agent scandal but this is a showdown of ego.

Think of the long geopolitical chess board here. Should Trump have backed down on Putin’s threats, wouldn’t China’s Xi feel equally empowered to annex Taiwan by telling POTUS that he risks ‘grave reprisals if he meddles with Chinese sovereign territory’?

For all the initial snubbing of Trump by Macron on his historic election win in France, there is no way he would have gone in alone to attack a chemical facility without the guarantee of the military might of America. It is unlikely Theresa May would have done it either. So for all of the ‘unhinged’ lunatic rhetoric bandied about by the media, foreign nations don’t gamble their own sovereignty lightly, especially over something like Syria.

General Mattis has said they plan no further strikes at this stage. Does Putin order his forces to sink a US destroyer in the Mediterranean which launched those missiles? Highly unlikely. He does have the best weapon available to do that (the ‘Sunburn’) but sending US naval vessels to the bottom of the sea on a strategic strike would seem a big response to a targeted hit.

Let there be no mistake. There is a new sheriff in town. Russia has a bloody nose it didn’t think it would find itself. Putin miscalculated that Trump isn’t all Twitter-fueled bluster. Uncertainty in foreign leaders is always a risk for enemies. Trump has shown Putin he won’t be bullied like his predecessor.

Putin doesn’t want a hot war with America. The best way to strike at the US is like the last 6 decades. Undermine her at every opportunity. Supply her enemies. As mentioned before, if the Russians didn’t think it worth hitting back at Turkey for deliberately targeting its fighters, it is unlikely that Putin, no matter how ‘insulted’ he might feel will take a strike not aimed at Russians as a pretext to pick a fight with Trump. Putin has worked out the US president’s measure. He miscalculated. He won’t make that mistake twice.

For the media, running all the scare campaign stories is not only highly irresponsible (as it did over Yemen’s attacks on Saudi Arabia) but proving the lack of depth of analysis. They can beat Trump over the head all they wish but should note the actions of Macron and May following him into the region as a tacit approval of the US leader. Was he the madman they portrayed him as in the first place they would have stayed well out of it.

Watch for Putin’s response (unlikely but will threaten it will come when the evil Americans least expect) and think deeply about why it is important that the real despots (Putin, Xi, KJ-U, Erdogan) around the world no longer have the ability to exercise free will in knowledge that the worst they face is a slap on the wrist from the UN.

Sounds more like grounds for congratulation than censure. 

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing trends in the US surging

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The Chapter 11 bankruptcy trends in the US have been picking up in the last 4 years. While well off the highs of the months and years of the GFC and years following it, the absolute numbers of filings has exceeded the levels leading up to the crisis in 2007/8.

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Here we put 2006/7/8 alongside 2016/17/18. The average monthly bankruptcy filings were around 355 in 2006 moving to 429 in 2007 and then 718 in 2008. If we looked at the data in the 12 months prior to the quarter leading into Lehman’s collapse, bankruptcies averaged 463/month. The ultimate carnage peaked out at 1,049 in 2009 (1,377 in Apr 2009). For 2016, 2017 and 2018 (annualized) we get 454, 480 and 521 respectively.

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Bankruptcy filings tend to be seasonal and often show peaks in April when tax season coincides with businesses.

However the %-age spike in bankruptcies in 2008 ahead of Lehman’s downfall was 46%. In the latest recorded month from the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) was 81%. This March 2018 spike is the second highest since the GFC hit. April figures will be interesting if we get another lift on that figure. Not even seasonality can explain away the differences. The trends seem clear.

Thinking logically, we are at the end of the generous credit cycle. Interest rates are heading north thanks to a less accommodating Fed. Naturally ‘weaker’ companies will have more trouble in refinancing under such environments. The lowering of corporate taxes would seem to be a boon, but with loss making businesses it becomes harder to exercise tax loss carry forwards.

We’ve already started to see GFC levels of credit card delinquency at the sub-prime end of town. Sub-prime auto loan makers seeking bankruptcy protection have surged too.

Fitch, which rates auto-loan ABS said the 60+ day delinquency rate of subprime auto loans has now risen to 5.8%, up from 5.2% a year ago, and up from 3.8% in February 2014 to the highest rate since Oct 1996, exceeding even GFC levels.

growing number of car loans in the US are being pushed further down the repayment line as much as 84 months. In the new car market the percentage of 73-84-month loans is 33.8%, triple the level of 2009. Even 10% of 2010 model year bangers are being bought on 84 month term loans. The US ended 2016 with c.$1.2 trillion in outstanding auto loan debt, up 9%YoY and 13% above the pre-crisis peak in 2005.

The irony here is that sub-prime auto loan makers expanded lending because new technology allowed these companies to to remotely shut down and repossess vehicles of owners who were late on payments. That game only lasts so long before it forms its own Ponzi scheme.

Throw skittish financial markets, geopolitical instability and the mother of all refinancings coming the US Treasury’s way it is not to hard to see bankruptcies pick up from here.

$8.4 trillion of the $21 trillion in US debt matures in 4 years. What could possibly go wrong?

E0F20948-4A5A-48F1-B8AF-06FA92EBAC7AWith a US Fed openly stating it is looking to prune its bloated balance sheet by around $2 trillion, it seems that $8.4 trillion of that debt held by the public matures within the next 4 years according to the US Treasury. To that end, debt maturing in the next 10 years totals $12.233 trillion. It needs to be ‘rolled over’. The national debt pile has jumped $1 trillion in the last 6 months. After the GFC and an overly accommodative central bank, the Treasury took advantage of this free money. Under President Obama, the debt doubled. That’s right, debt in his 8 years equaled that of the previous 43 administrations combined. Most of it was short term meaning the mop up operation starts earlier.

While there is little doubt this $8.4 trillion will be recycled, the question is at what price. With rising rates and a Fed back-pedaling one would expect the interest bill can only lift. At the moment the US federal government pays around $457 billion p.a. in interest alone. Average interest rates rose for the first time since 2006. Were average rates to climb back to 2007 levels then the interest bill alone would surpass $1 trillion.

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This global aversion to tightening belts continues. Many US corporations have taken the same approach to their balance sheets as the government as pointed out in the previous example on GE. Lever up and be damned with the credit rating as the spreads have been almost irrelevant to higher rated paper. It has been a financially credible decision to lower WACC and increase ROE provided one didn’t lose control and overdose on free money. However the relatively short duration on corporate debt is facing a similar refinancing cliff as the US government.

All this cumulative debt needing refinancing while credit ratings are on average the worst they’ve ever been in a rising interest rate environment coupled with a bubble in bonds while a growing number of these levered consumer and industrial stocks have negative equity. What could possibly go wrong?

Do we see the Fed reverse its decision and embark on more QE? Indeed to do such a thing would tank the dollar and send the yen back towards the 70s to the US$. Interesting times ahead. Throw on the $7 trillion shortfall in state public pension liabilities and watch the fire from the other side of the river. Finally some university think tank has come out saying that wiping out the $1.5 trillion in student debt would be ‘stimulatory’ to the economy adding 1.5 million jobs. What a world we live in when we get to walk away from responsibility and accountability.

Should we trust ratings agencies on US state credit?

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in 2011 that “the global financial crisis could not have happened without the ‘Big Three’ agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch which allowed the ongoing trading of bad debt which they gave their highest ratings to despite over three trillion dollars of mortgage loans to homebuyers with bad credit and undocumented incomes.” The table above tabulates the deterioration in US corporate credit ratings since 2006. The ratings agencies have applied their trade far more diligently.

As written earlier in the week, US state public pensions are running into horrific headwinds. Unfunded pension liabilities are running at over double the level of 2008. With asset bubbles in stocks, bonds and property it is hard to see how plugging the gap (running at over 2x (California is 6x) the total tax take of individual states) in the event of a market correction is remotely realistic. However taking a look at the progression of US states’ credit ratings one would think that there is nothing to worry about. Even during GFC, very few states took a hit. See below.

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Looking at the trends of many states since 2000, many have run surpluses so the credit ratings do not appear extreme. It is interesting to flip through the charts of each state and see the trajectory of revenue collection. A mixed bag is putting it lightly. Whether the rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, since 2008 revenue collection in Louisiana has drifted.

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Looking through S&P’s own research at the end of last year it included an obvious reference.

U.S. state and local governments can use pension obligation bonds (POBs) to address the unfunded portion of their pension liabilities. In certain cases, POBs can be an affordable tool to lower unfunded pension liabilities. But along with the issuance of POBs comes risk. The circumstances that surround an issuance of POBs, as well as the new debt itself, could have implications for the issuer’s creditworthiness. S&P Global Ratings views POB issuance in environments of fiscal distress or as a mechanism for short-term budget relief as a negative credit factor.”

Perhaps the agencies have learnt a painful lesson and trying to stay as close to being behind the curve as possible. It doesn’t seem like public pensions are being factored at levels other than their actuarial values. Marked-to-market values would undoubtedly impact these credit ratings.

As mentioned in the previous piece on public pensions, a state like Alaska has public pension unfunded liabilities equal to $145,000 per household, treble the 2008 figure. It is 3.5x annual tax collections. The state’s per capita operating budget of $13,728 per person is way above the national average of $6,826 per person. Alaska relies on oil taxes to finance most of its operating budget, so a sudden drop in oil prices caused tax revenues to sharply decline. The EIA’s outlook doesn’t look promising in restoring those fortunes in any scenario. So S&P may have cut Alaska two places from AAA in 2015 to AA in 2017.

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While pension liabilities aren’t all due at once, the last 8 years have shown how quickly they can fester. It wasn’t so long ago that several Rhode Island public pension funds reluctantly agreed to a 40% haircut, later retirement ages and higher contributions with a larger component shifted from defined benefits to defined contributions raising the risk of market forces exerting negative outcomes on the pension fund.

In 2017, despite a ‘robust’ economy, 22 states faced revenue shortfalls. More states faced mid-year revenue shortfalls in the last fiscal year than in any year since 2010, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

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Pew Charitable Trust (PCT) notes in FY2015 federal dollars as a share of state revenue increased in a majority of states (29). Health care grants have been the main driver of this. FY2015 was the 3rd highest percentage of federal grants to states since 1961.

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By state we can see which states got the heftiest federal grants. Most states with higher federal shares expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare (ACA) and got their first full year of grants under the expanded program in FY2015.

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PCT also wrote “At the close of fiscal year 2017, total balances in states’ general fund budgets—including rainy day funds—could run government operations for a median of 29.3 days, still less than the median of 41.3 days in fiscal 2007…North Dakota recorded the largest drop in the number of days’ worth of expenses held in reserves after drawing down almost its entire savings to cover a budget gap caused by low oil prices. It held just 5.4 days’ worth of expenditures in its rainy day fund at the end of fiscal 2017 compared with 69.4 days in the preceding year… 11 states anticipate withdrawing from rainy day funds under budget plans enacted for fiscal 2018

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Looking at the revenue trends of certain states, the level of collection has been either flat or on the wane since 2010 for around 26 states. As an aside, 23 of them voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The three that didn’t were Maine, NJ and Illinois.

Optically US states seem to be able to justify the credit ratings above. Debt levels aren’t high for most. Average state debt is around 4% of annual income. Deficits do not seem out of control. However marking-to-market the extent of public pension unfunded liabilities makes current debt levels look mere rounding errors.

Considering stock, bond and property bubbles are cruising at unsustainably high levels, any market routs will only make the current state of unfunded liabilities blow out to even worse levels. The knock on effects for pensioners such as those taking a 40% haircut in Rhode Island at this stage in the cycle can only feasibly brace themselves for further declines. This is a ticking time bomb. More states will need to address the public pension crisis.

A national government shelling out c.$500bn in interest payments on its own debt in a rising rate environment coupled with a central bank paring back its balance sheet limits the options on the table. Moral hazard is back on the table folks. Is it any wonder that Blackstone has increased its short positions to $22 billion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbidden fruit(cake) in the Fordbidden City

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Sun Tzu once said, “All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”

Let us not mistake China for one second. China is the master of the long game. It knows Trump has a maximum of 8 years in power. Letting him dine in the Forbidden City, the first ever foreign head of state to do so, speaks volumes of respecting an unpredictable foe. Xi Jinping knows his adversary is not all about bark. Better to cater to his huge ego and make him feel he has their attention (which he does) and get him to work solutions in their favour now it is clear they do not have carte blanche to use the USA as a door mat as they did with the previous administration.

Recall Obama’s final state visit to China. Air Force One was met with no senior officials, no red carpet and no stairs. Obama had to climb down Air Force One’s emergency exit . No more telling display of complete lack of respect to the leader of the most powerful nation.

China built man made islands in contested regional waters and did so knowing it had a maximum of 8 years to extend its future power base. Even Australia was dim witted enough to lease a port to the Chinese. Yet it was done with military precision when it knew it could.

Now China realises that Trump is not kidding over North Korea and is doing his darnedest to get China to commit to removing the snake head or otherwise America will do it for China. China, as CM has written many times before does not want to lose the strategic buffer North Korea provides from pro-US countries. China knows it could turn the lights out (China is responsible for 80%+ of imports & exports to the hermit kingdom) on Pyongyang in a heartbeat. Yet as a priority it has not been toward the top of the list.

The flip side to China taking care of the North Korean solution could mean that the US gives it certain concessions elsewhere. Foreign policy is very often about ‘optics’. China taking care of North Korea would be seen as preferable to the world than an attack by the US. China wins only if China takes care of it by itself. America wins in either scenario. China knows it is vastly militarily inferior to this US so the idea that China rushes to defend North Korea is more bark than promise to bite.

So view the idea of allowing the forbidden fruitcake (a sop to the liberal media) to dine in the most treasured of places in China as none other than the ultimate display of respect that Trump has the upper hand (which he does) but at the same time allow China to extend the ‘timing’ of any action on dealing with the ‘Rocket Man’ to give maximum optic effect for Xi. Yes, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump must have been summoning The Untouchables – “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer” (Xi) vs “in my neighborhood they said you can get much further with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word!” (Trump).

The press might want to critique the President’s skill with chopsticks but they should focus on the fact that China put its most expensive national crockery on display to bring Trump over to their side in negotiations over regional problems. To that end call him a fruitcake all you like but this is a win-win for both supposed tyrants.

Knee-ncompoops – the only beneficiary has been BBQ lighter fluid makers

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Alright, I think we’ve all seen enough kneeling to last a lifetime. In fact the original message of kneeling during the national anthem pushed to the fore by Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness for ‘BLM’ has now been diluted to complete irrelevance. Now it is being done as a fashion. So the idea of raising awareness has now been switched as a protest against the President. So was BLM such small potatoes that it got switched so readily for this?  To be honest, NFL players are employees. Better paid than most but employees. If we went to our places of work and told our bosses that we’d take a knee if told we had to start at 6am to service particular clients who needed our services, we could understand if our jobs would be in jeopardy. In the same light, if our customers (fans) aren’t served they’ll go somewhere else. It is simple. The end user of any product ultimately has the last word. Recent NFL ratings and certain sponsors reflect this.

Equally the number of videos of NFL fans burning jerseys, championship pennants and other memorabilia will undoubtedly boost sales of BBQ fire starter fluid. Of course fans are infuriated. Many work exceptionally hard to be able to afford the tickets that are supposed to take them away from financial, work and other stresses.

The number of videos from people of all races, colours and socio-economic bases have also made it very clear – they view this as political garbage and that these highly paid athletes reflect the way that America provides them with the oppportunity to take home millions of dollars, earning more in a game than many fans make in a year only incenses paying fans. Where are their activities within the communities they claim they support?

Perhaps even more telling is these so called moral crusaders in many cases do not speak from very high ground. The USA Today published a list of all of the arrests and charges laid on NFL heroes – from assault, battery, DUI, rape, guns, drugs and resisting arrest. Yet here they are telling normal Americans how they need to ‘reflect’ on this ‘racial’ divide which somehow has sprung up from the woodwork.

Now when Alejandro Villaneuva, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, makes a personal choice to show his pride i his nation he is summarily pilloried by his coach and then turns around and makes a forced apology when there was no need to except under the guise of this politically correct hand-wringing. I actually felt sorry that Villaneuva had to apologize for expressing his true feelings. His apology even displayed his own surprise he was even making it.

So every time I see yet another team kneeling I look at them as the least original protestors around. Nothing but lemmings who can’t see that every single new protest just alienates those they should be embracing to sustain their lavish lifestyles. No one is saying they can’t exercise their free speech but they might find their fans far more sympathetic if they didn’t throw it in their face every game.

Still we live in a world where yelping injustices (which in many cases aren’t affecting those kneeling) begets this so called ‘division’. Whether it is POTUS’s place to slap these slice sportspeople is one thing – many say he is the key behind this disunity. I disagree – he has merely woken many of us who don’t live in America to what a divided nation he inherited. So if you look beyond the headlines and look at his actions his real aim is to ‘unite’ people – because the US can’t heal if everyone is moaning only about one’s own issues.

This video of BLM protestors being invited to speak at a Trump rally shows more about what can happen when both sides listen. More powerful than any knees. Although I wonder if liberals would ever allow Trump supporters to talk on their platform? Watch the initial resistance until one of the conveners at the rally says to the crowd to shut up and listen in the interest of ‘free speech’ – now that would not have come about from a community that is as divided as the MSM makes out. That is the essence of MAGA.