Voting Rights

How much do Americans care about Russia?

56359DAA-0612-44EA-B680-7D2BC02360A6.jpeg

According to Gallup, in a list of concerns for Americans, Russia ranks less than 1% and has been falling. Regardless of the media noise on collusion, election meddling and treason these polls show how irrelevant the issue appears.  Over 40% see illegal immigration and draining the swamp as key issues. There is no question that Trump’s presser with Putin was a howler but despite the media’s constant negative coverage of the event, the MSM don’t seem to be hitting a nerve with Main Street.

Here is a classic 10 min video released before the election in the poorest county in West Virginia. The folk feel forgotten. Calling them uneducated, stupid, bigoted or any other insult is hardly the stuff of winning them over. They are not living the dream. One even called Trump a blow-hard and a buffoon but he will vote for him as he looks to provide his family a better way out of financial destitution he is in. One person, one vote. Still even if we wanted to think Russian collusion, CM applauds Putin for keeping 10s of millions of registered voters at home on Election Day.

For more details on the Gallup poll please refer to this link.

The financial health of Millennials

Changing Balance Sheet across Generations

The St Louis Fed has published a report on Millennial balance sheets, comparing them to Gen Xers. The average value of total assets was lower among millennials than Gen Xers. Millennials held an average of $162,000 of assets relative to Gen X’s average of $198,000. The report also found that Millennials held a slightly higher level of total debt, at an average of $72,000 compared to Gen X’s average of $67,000. However the composition was markedly different – average student loan levels surged from $4,200 for Gen X to $14,700 for millennials. In short, millennials’ average asset position is lower, while they hold slightly more debt, which leads to an average net worth of $90,000 for millennials and $130,000 for Gen X.

In closing the report notes,

We observe that millennials have been going to school longer and delaying major life events. Thus, it makes sense that they hold lower levels of assets. They have had less time in the labor force, and a smaller share of them have moved out on their own, which contributes to the lower levels of residential assets. However, they have shown a higher propensity to save for retirement and to avoid credit card debt.

Renewable investment dropped by largest margin ever

While watching the MotoGP in Sachsenring over the weekend CM couldn’t help but notice the lack of wind power being generated nearby the circuit. Last week we saw Ontario Premier Doug Ford terminate 758 renewables projects on the basis of their inability to provide sustainable and affordable energy. Last week South Australian consumers were hit with spot prices of $1,200/kWh because of the lack of baseload. Former Premier Jay Weatherill was turfed in the recent election because voters were growing tired of facing the highest electricity prices, slowest growth and highest unemployment rates. Despite all the jaw boning about the big renewable energy job machine, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted, “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 FT noted today that “Investment in renewable power declined last year by its largest amount ever and is likely to keep falling this year, threatening global climate goals…”

Should we be surprised to see the Turnbull Government in Australia look to keep open the very power stations they were seeking to close to meet Paris targets? Isn’t the 7% fall in global renewables investment last year yet more evidence of the waning popularity of saving the planet? IATA forecasts aircraft passenger travel to double by 2030. Gas guzzling SUVs are also toward the top of the sales charts. Consumers expect others to save the planet for them. Consumption patterns reveal one’s true care for climate change i.e. not much.

South Australia has been the biggest red flag when it comes to failed renewable policy in action. The irony is the state dynamited the old coal fired plants as a virtue signaling exercise. We have even seen some corporations look to take power plants over to become self sufficient because they have no faith in the grid.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten might want to censure coal fired power backers for being “knuckle draggers” but with a risk of repeat $1,200/kWh spot prices thanks to overreliance on renewables, many consumers will gladly wear that as a badge of honour if it means they can afford to heat their homes due to the overly cold winter.

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

9C19C079-9669-464A-933D-494ACC779E73

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.

16C94FF3-6769-44D7-9D47-44144C7714C0.jpeg

Presidential behaviours

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

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

maddog.png

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.

NATO.png

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.

NATO2.png

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.

Surely voters can determine if tax returns matter to them

130692B1-30AA-49E9-8068-D7BD26A4E8DF.jpeg

Wow. How to alienate more voters across the country. Come up with new ways to fuel TDS. Hillary Clinton won the state of RI with 55.4% of the vote vs 39.8% for Trump in 2016. So a safe Dem seat. Presumably the idea is to get more states to follow RI’s suit. Surely voters can decide for themselves whether they regard his tax returns as a “must reveal” to the public. If they do think it’s an issue they’ll vote for anyone but him. Many public servants in RI would rather their gov’t focus on righting the 40% cuts to their pensions. CM is surprised WHO hasn’t issued a global epidemic warning for TDS.

No doubt liberal heads will explode at the upcoming SCOTUS pick. Even before anyone has been cast the person is already being painted a bigoted racist white supremacist. CM thinks even if Trump picked a Dem’s dream for the role they’d find a way to disparage that individual. RI is taking voters for mugs. They can decide on what matters to them by themselves. Not be dictated to by a state government being petty based on its own deeply rooted political biases. So much for democracy. Banning a sitting president from being on the ballot. The question is why has it taken 500+ days to come up with this plan?