Refugee

The Wolf who cried “Boy”

IMG_0810

North Korea’s threat to fire a nuclear missile at Guam should the US try anything to jeopardize the hermit kingdom’s nuclear programme is more the domain of an hysteric media for now. He is the wolf crying boy – “I will eat your sheep when I wish, what are you going to do about it?” Of course, no sane government can dismiss his threats. The 33-year old leader has assassinated subjects and relatives who he feared might pose a challenge to him. He taunts his enemies in full knowledge the collateral damage the West may suffer would likely be factor fold higher than he stands to lose. North Korea’s GDP is estimated to be around $12 billion annually. Tokyo’s GDP is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion, 125x larger. Seoul’s GDP is around $780 billion (65x North Korea) but is located in shelling distance. From a purely militaristic standpoint, North Korea doesn’t stand a chance. The US has spy satellites parked permanently over North Korea surveilling troop movements, missile test sites and US submarines will have constant watch over Pyongyang’s naval activity. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is not a bargaining chip in this case. While it does raise the ‘risk’ factor, it is not enough to exclude war on the peninsula.

The problem is that all the while no action is taken, PyongYang’s arsenal grows more sophisticated. Kim has no plans to halt his development. In 1994 then President Bill Clinton came closest to taking action against its nuclear capability but in the end chose diplomacy. We are 23 years on and the capabilities are such that this game has increasingly limited life span. Trump made his thoughts clear in a 1995 interview. Try to talk him out and if all else fails take the military option

The more advanced his arsenal becomes, the more weight his demands carry. Kim is in his 30s. Assuming the West does nothing, there is another three decades of threats and bellicose to consider. Over time its weapons programme will be sufficiently credible to hit Washington DC. Just like Russian missiles in Cuba, America will not allow a condition which could threaten it to exist.

North Korea has 3 main nuclear missile launch sites (Musudan-Ri,  Punggye-Ri and Tongchang-Ri) among the fourteen nuclear facilities ranging from R&D, power generation,  mining and refined fissile material production. A surgical strike would be difficult to achieve without North Korea getting away a few missiles itself.

Why Guam? Of course one can view his threat in several ways. One, Guam is the current realistic technical capability of his nuclear weapons, two; Kim hasn’t said he’ll strike Washington DC which should be interpreted as evidence that he is not completely deranged and bragging about capabilities he does not yet have, three; he could theoretically bomb the US military installations in Okinawa which is closer than Guam and more likely to score a relative hit but he has been careful not to drag Japan into this contest (yet) and finally; his nuclear programme is his only bargaining chip. Were Kim to cease his atomic aspirations, he would literally be a sitting duck. He knows – as did his father and grandfather before him – the regime survives on the will of the Rest of the World to appease it. If he has no trump card, the RoW can ignore it.

On April 10th this year, China’s special envoy on the North Korean nuclear programme, Wu Dawei, visited Seoul with the idea of pushing a harder UN resolution in case of another nuclear test. In the short term China is hoping a short term halt to coal imports will bring Kim Jong-Un to heel they have not ruled out removing him entirely. It is the least preferred option but Trump’s moves will only mean China is being forced to up the ante. However China has been lamenting that it can’t force Kim to come to heel. Once again this is partly China testing the will of Trump versus his predecessor. Do not think for one second that China hasn’t been channeling Sun Tzu as to how it can pull off a geopolitical masterstroke by bringing Kim to heel and the US to back down. This is becoming harder to achieve, even more so with an unpredictable president.

Let us not forget the strategic benefits of North Korea to China. It provides a buffer to the US friendly South Korea and keeps furthering China’s status as a dominant force (economically and militarily) in the region. One of the last things China wants is the equivalent population of Australia (24 million) as refugees on its northern border. Best it remains contained inside a regime presiding over a tiny economy. Even less desirable is a US invasion/strike which puts a US protectorate on China’s doorstep.

Global markets are not reacting too erratically to this crisis. They are collectively taking the path of most common scenario vis-a-vis history to date. Minor risk on. Even Korean CDS spreads, at 14 year highs (61) remain well down on GFC and the death of Kim Jong-Il. However a president who wants to reassert US foreign policy after 8 years of willful abuse under his predecessor may be more than willing to take decisive action and put an end to the North Korean problem. He won’t risk it unless his generals can give a very high level of assurance the collateral damage will be minimal

While some media want to believe that Trump is itching for a war in North Korea or Iran to resurrect his sliding poll numbers, that is an obtuse way of thinking. North Korea is a growing threat. Pure and simple. If North Korea gets a capability to potentially hit the US mainland then that is untenable. Any country that threatens to attack another puts itself on a geopolitical chess board of its own making. This is dragging China into a game it would rather not play but inevitably Beijing realizes that it has to take control before Trump takes it from them leaving them in the worst of all worlds.

Cooler heads to prevail? Maybe but something suggests that North Korea is brewing beyond what markets are currently pricing.

IMG_0809

 

Pauline Hanson TV special in Japan tomorrow

IMG_0371.JPG

TV Tokyo will broadcast a Pauline Hanson special tomorrow. Interesting to see how they portray her. The blurb is as follows:

いまオーストラリアでホームレスが増加しているという。シドニーでは1年で25%も急増、200人に1人がホームレスなのだ。その原因が移民だという。そんな移民を排斥しようという極右政党まで現れた。ポーリン・ハンソン率いるワンネーションだ。ポーリンはその過激な発言から「オーストラリアのトランプ」の異名を持つ。反移民・反イスラムを訴え、2016年の選挙で60万票を獲得した。

“Australia is witnessing an acceleration in homeless. Sydney has seen a 25% increase over the last year with 1 person in 200 now homeless. The reason is said to be immigration. There is now a extreme right wing party which seeks to boycott immigrants. It is the One Nation Party led by Pauline Hanson.  Due to her strong rhetoric she is being named the “Aussie Trump”. Her anti-immigrant anti-Islam stance won her 600,000 votes in the 2016 election.”

It will be interesting to see how she is portrayed by the Japanese media. It is quite rare to see Aussie politics make it to Japanese TV but it is telling to see that her views are making waves enough for it to be broadcast. If only Turnbull had such impact – well to tell the truth the only impact he had was sinking the Japanese subs deal which brought widespread negative press. This is how he was pilloried.

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.

Believe 1,000 people in a poll or 1.4mn followers?

FFBF.png

Just like during the US presidential election campaign the polling firms gave results which tended to favour the flavour of the audience. Want to put Hillary in front then go ask more Democrats than GOP and vice versa. The French presidential election run up shows similar kinds of trends with regards to the polls but the social media following as I’ve explained shows the same sort of trends as in the US and Brexit run-offs. Take a look at the Facebook follower share among the 5 leading candidates (above) and then look at the growth since the Paris shooting two days ago (below). The polls showed Le Pen dropping in popularity but she topped Facebook follower growth with 34% of net adds vs 31% for Melenchon. Macron was a paltry 18%. Fillon only 10%.

FFFG.png

On Twitter it was a slightly different story. Looking at the Twitter followers in total it is almost identical to Facebook.

FPET

However the follower growth after the shooting had Macron in 1st spot, followed by Le Pen (+1 spot) and Melenchon (-2 spots).

FFFTC

Reports say 40% of French are undecided in those polls of 1,000 people. Social media polling suggests otherwise. Why would Le Pen be way ahead in both forums if she didn’t stand a chance. Trump won with a Twitter/FB following which continued to outstrip Clinton. Is Marine Le Pen a more effective blogger or is it just that the French see her as someone who speaks her mind.

 

Is it any wonder the natives are restless? Part time employment is growing too fast

IMG_9679

The alarm bells keep jangling. I remember reporting on why I thought Trump would win the presidency more than12 months before the fact. The employment situation defied the stats which the Democrats continually congratulated themselves over. Yet beneath that poverty was at all time highs, people on food stamps had grown 12mn since 2008 (to 46mn) and the number of people working more than one job was a record 8mn. The gap between the haves and have nots just kept getting bigger.

Stratfor wrote in the similar outcome in Europe today,

About six in ten jobs in the European Union today are full-time permanent positions. But jobs offered under part-time and temporary contracts account for an increasing share of total employment. In 2003, well before Europe’s economic crisis, 15 percent of workers in the European Union were employed under part-time contracts. By 2015, that had risen to 19 percent. During the same period, temporary contracts rose from 9 percent of total employment to 11 percent. Temporary jobs offer less security than even part-time permanent ones. They often come with lower salaries and fewer training and career advancement opportunities, making it harder for workers to access credit, plan their consumption decisions or qualify for unemployment benefits.”

One other glaring stat that sent shockwaves was the sharp increase in public sector employment. Even Germany saw public service jobs expand from 9% in 2001 to over 16% in 2013. Every EU country with the exception of France (ironically) exhibits the same state built employment market which masks the disastrous economic stewardship since GFC. Please refer to page 13 of this report for graphic.

Stratfor goes on to say,

“Job security is also tied to workers’ overall satisfaction. Since the start of the 2008 crisis, many Europeans have been forced to accept temporary contracts or permanent part-time jobs when they would rather work on a full-time, permanent basis. In many cases, the part-time or temporary contracts do not offer a path to full-time work. In some countries, low salaries also put the working poor at risk of falling into poverty. Jobs that do not offer much security can be found almost everywhere in the European Union, but they are particularly prevalent in the south, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, where the unemployment crisis was more severe and the economic recovery more fragile. In addition, the structure of the economy in Southern Europe is more conducive to the creation of such precarious jobs.”

Whether one likes it or not the appeal of Le Pen in France is not a mere lurch to xenophobia. If you rationally listen to her platform outside her stance against Islam she makes salient points on policy that will make citizens feel safer about their economic future. The UK Labour Party totally misread Brexit and now face total wipeout on June 8. Like we know from many recent polls they are prone to enormous swings. The Twitter correlations of Trump, Brexit, Trudeau picked the winner. Le Pen is way in front although growth in followers since yesterday puts Melenchon top with Fillon second. Le Pen’s growth came in 3rd. However Facebook following puts Le Pen over 400,000 clear of her nearest rival, Melenchon.

The weird trend in global politics is that traditional party lines are fraying. The Aussie Liberal Party which I’ve supported religiously since I could vote no longer represents me. People are growing tired of empty promises or politicians that swing toward a stance to capture a wave when it contradicts previous policy. Le Pen, like Pauline Hanson speaks a consistent language. Whether one thinks certain policies are bigoted, racist or un-PC is irrelevant to a growing number. They want results not platitudes. These voters are prepared to sacrifice some unpalatable views in return for someone they feel they can trust in matters most important to them – put simply financial security.

If the world economy was ticking along so nicely we wouldn’t see the likes of Le Pen, Hanson or Trump. The reality is simple, when they draw the curtains each morning they see approaching storm clouds get closer and closer not the blue sky they crave.

Germans celebrating the Dutch election result are kidding themselves

IMG_0421

Fact. Geert Wilders’ PVV did worse than polls (then again how much faith can you put in their accuracy these days) suggested but still won far more seats (19, but below the peak of 24) than the previous election (15) amidst the highest voter turnout in over 30 years. Somehow this was a rout? The media naturally went into group think mode lambasting the platinum haired demagogue. The German Foreign Ministry followed up tweeting “The Dutch have rejected the anti-European populist. Good for that. We need you for a strong Europe in 2017.”  In what way have the people rejected Wilders? Rutte’s party lost a quarter of the seats they held. The Labour Party imploded. The Green-Left Trudeau wannabe was a large winner. Which part of selective journalism did I miss? If anything the German Foreign Ministry just exposed how afraid it is of the instability (which it is indeed a major factor) within Europe. Moreover, the Dutch are speaking for the Dutch not the Deutsche. In fact the Dutch have experienced the foreign policies of the Deutsche in the past and they would play absolutely zero part in their decision making process.

Here is the full breakdown of the 13 parties that will comprise the new Dutch parliament:

VVD (Liberal Party, Prime Minister Mark Rutte) 31 seats vs 41 seats in 2012 elections (24% DOWN)

PvdA (Labor Party, Lodewijk Asscher)  9 seats vs 38 seats in 2012 elections. The party is current government partner with Liberal Party (75% DOWN)

PVV (Freedom Party, Geert Wilders) 19 seats vs 15 seats in 2012 elections (27% UP)

SP (Socialist Party, Emile Roemer)  14 seats vs 15 seats in 2012 elections (7% DOWN)

CDA (Christian Democrats, Sybrand Buma) 19 seats, vs 13 seats in 2012 elections (46% UP)

D66 (Democrats 66, Alexander Pechtold) 19 seats vs 12 seats in 2012 elections (58% UP)

CU (Christian Union, Gert-Jan Segers) 6 seats vs 5 seats in 2012 elections (20% UP)

GL (Green Party, Jesse Klaver) 16 seats vs 4 seats in 2012 elections (400% UP)

SGP (Reformed Party, Kees van der Staaij) recieves 3 seats (NEW)

PvdD (Party for the Animals, Marianne Thieme) recieves 5 seats (NEW)

50+ (50 Plus Party, Henk Krol) recieves 4 seats (NEW)

Denk recieves 3 seats (NEW)

Forum for Democracy gets 2 seats (NEW)

5 parties that had no seats in the 2012 parliament took 17 this time. The average time to form a government in Holland is 75 days. Now that the combinations to form a government become even more complex because Rutte and Asscher suffered huge blows means that may take longer. A minimum of 4 parties is required.

So here is Germany celebrating more political gridlock and compromise, the last thing that any voter wants. As written prior to the election, the PVV was never likely to form a government because most of the other parties vowed to spurn it. Wilders had to win at least 70 seats on his own and hope on a few other’s to take the PM’s role. An unlikely feat.

The extrapolations are that this is likely to dent Marine Le Pen’s chances in the French Presidential elections. The parallels are farcical. Brexit showed that the Brits wanted nothing more to do with the EU, the Italians turned a referendum into a choice to boot out PM Renzi to usher change in favour of Italexit and we don’t even have to mention the Greeks. Yet the Germans and EU officialdom think that this is a precious victory and vote of confidence in the EU.

The idea that PVV was a party for racists and bigoted whites, note that 14% of Dutch-Surinamese voted for Wilders. The majority of them like PvDA but still it puts paid the notion that Wilders was running on the campaign outlined by the biased media. Most Hindus in The Hague voted PVV ostensibly because of its anti-Islam ticket, DENK garnered a lion’s share of Turkish and Moroccan immigrant votes because it opposed PVV.

The most important sign from the Dutch elections is that people stepped up to vote in greater numbers. What we got was even more fragmented politics when some of the silent majority that has stayed on the sidelines stepped up. German politicians should think far more deeply about what might happen if angry Germans who have seen their leaders turn their country turned into a doormat decide to show up at the polling booths.

The Dutch have not had the type of terrorist incidents that have afflicted France and Germany. It is on another level. Having said that, even if Le Pen is defeated there can be no doubt that her success has to date been nothing short of stellar. So much so that the EU, responding to a request from the French judiciary, caused EU MEPs in the legal affairs committee to vote to lift her immunity. How stupid do they take the citizens of the members states for? That she NOW risks being prosecuted for posting pictures of ISIS beheadings in 2015, something that provides proof as to why she pushes the platform she does. If it was such a terrible crime why did they choose to do nothing at the time (i.e. 2015) ? Could it be they finally see her taking the French presidency and with that her anti-EU stance.

In summary there is an irony with regards to the EU and Germany celebrating this way about the Dutch election. It shows they have learnt nothing. Even worse is they fail to see that Europe’s history has always been fractured by cultural, language and nationalist lines.  No different over 100s of years. The idea of one Europe is an impossibility. The attitudes of those who believe in the pipe dream like the German Foreign Ministry are exactly the reason the EU will fail – the Dutch result is signal that the supranational body has to rapidly reform to prevent its implosion. Yet they continue to be a ship of fools. The Dutch are with themselves.

To even propose handing out voting rights like confetti suggests how little politicians respect their citizens

IMG_0336.JPG

Honestly how much longer can German politicians take their citizens for mugs? To have certain parties (SPD, Greens) suggest that non-citizens be given the right to vote is ridiculous. Is this all part of the bigger welcoming society they claim or a ploy to add to the ranks of dependents on government hand outs to build a voter base for life? Social Democrat (SPD) voters are 63.7% in favour and Greens voters 64.8% in favour of letting refugees vote. The voters for Alternative for Germany (AfD) showed 96.9% against the idea.

In total 57% rejected the proposal with 42.9% voting “absolutely no way”. 16.2% were definitely in favour. 55.6% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 support the proposal. However, at least one third (32.8%) in this age group also says “Absolutely no way”. The greatest rejection is among participants between the ages of 50 and 64 years. 68.1% of respondents to this age group reject the idea for the proposed right to vote.

Potential voters need not be an EU citizen nor do they need to pay taxes. The mere right to vote depends on being there at the time. Although Martin Schulz’s SPD is leading the polls the idea that voting rights are no more valuable confetti will give rise to further (current) voter discontent. Once again where is a nation’s pride and respect when long term law abiding taxpayers are told that one doesn’t even have to contribute to a society before given rights to determine the course of its destiny.

I’ve lived in Japan for 20 years and I’ve paid more tax than I care to remember the entire period yet I have no voting rights. They are for citizens. I am a permanent resident not a citizen. I accept it. We’re the Japanese to offer voting rights to me of course I would take them if legally offered but I can choose to leave Japan if I don’t like the fact I can’t vote. What Germany is doing is selling out citizens. No amount of ‘assimilation and integration’ rhetoric could convince me that this is a sensible strategy. Why not let Canadians and Mexicans vote in American elections and vice versa. Why not go a step further and have a global vote and dispense with countries. Sounds like the precursors to global government. That Schulz left his cozy presidency in the EU was not as a snub to Brussels but a plan to push EU federalism beyond that of what Merkel has been prepared to.

If Germans vote in Merkel or Schulz to power they have themselves to blame for self inflicted schadenfreude.