#venezuela

Ocasio-Cortez’s DC dilemma

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One would hope that newly elected Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be quick on her feet when it comes to dazzling her colleagues. She is complaining she can’t afford a property in DC before her $172,500pa salary kicks in 3-4 months down the line.

She could do three things:

1) ask her multi million dollar gated mansion, rent-a-cop guarded Democratic colleagues to let her stay in one of the spare rooms. Obama has an $8.5mn 8-bedroom mansion in DC. Surely she won’t cramp them too much especially with Malia at college and Sasha likely to move out soon.

2) crowd fund for the 3 months which will likely win her millions  so she can buy a place of her own.

3) or in her own words to justify everything that costs money  – “you just pay for it”

How long will it take to learn from Chuck, Nancy, Maxine, Elizabeth and so on that some pigs are more equal than others? My guess isn’t very long. First world problems for someone with third world policies.

 

GE’s Angolan Kwanza exposure

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Sell-side analysts rarely read through the fine print of an annual report. Hidden away in the prose, one can find some pretty eye-opening paragraphs. From GE’s 2017 Annual Report,

“As of December 31, 2017, we held the U.S. dollar equivalent of $0.6 billion of cash in Angolan kwanza. As there is no liquid derivatives market for this currency, we have used Angolan kwanza to purchase $0.4 billion equivalent bonds issued by the central bank in Angola (Banco Nacional de Angola) with various maturities through 2020 to mitigate the related currency devaluation exposure risk. The bonds are denominated in Angolan kwanza as U.S. dollar equivalents, so that, upon payment of periodic interest and principal upon maturity, payment is made in Angolan kwanza, equivalent to the respective U.S. dollars at the then-current exchange rate.”

On that basis the marked to market figure is actually another $250mn hole in 2017. One wonders what the exchange rate will be in 2020? Furthermore at what level will Travelex or Thomas Cook exchange that for? It would be safe to assume the ‘bid/offer’ spread will be horrendous. GE might find it more useful to run a Nigerian mail scam to hedge the expected losses. For a company as large as GE, potentially losing $850mn should look like a rounding error unless the company is bleeding as the monster is. GE took a pretax charge of $201mn on its Venezuela operations.

We shouldn’t forget that “GE provides implicit and explicit support to GE Capital through commitments, capital contributions and operating support. As previously discussed, GE debt assumed from GE Capital in connection with the merger of GE Capital into GE was $47.1 billion and GE guaranteed $44.0 billion of GE Capital debt at December 31, 2017. See Note 23 to the consolidated financial statements for additional information about the eliminations of intercompany transactions between GE and GE Capital.

As 13D Research noted, “GE spent roughly $45 billion on share buybacks over 2015 & 2016  despite the shares trading well above today’s levels all the while ignoring the $30 billion+ shortfall in its pensions. Management disclosed in a recent analyst meeting that it would have to borrow to fund a $6 billion contribution to its pension plans next year, as well as chopping capex by 26% in 2018.

As mentioned yesterday, there are some who have faith in the sustained turnaround in medical. Indeed it has seen some top line and margin improvement but management seems more concerned with focusing on cutting costs than pushing innovation. Efficiency drives should be part and parcel of all businesses but one must hope CEO John Flannery has far bigger hopes for its market share leading product line (which GE admits facing pricing pressure in some segments) than trimming the staff canteen cookie tin.

GE remains a risky investment. Flannery has it all to prove and to date his performances have been anything but inspiring. GE feels like a business suffering from the divine franchise syndrome synonymous with former CEO Jack Welch. That dog eat dog culture seems to be biting its own tail.

 

 

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.

When Reagan used to stick it to the Soviets

For all the flak that DJT copped today on social media for sticking it to the Rocketman, Venezuela and the United Nations, Reagan was no less tough in the rhetoric toward foes. Reagan’s speech in Berlin where he demanded Gorbachev “tear down that wall” was no less in your face than Trump telling Rocketman to smarten his act or face the music. The central instrument for burying the Soviet Union was Reagan’s massive defense build-up. He forked out $134 billion in 1980 and ramped it to $253 billion in 1989. American defense spending rose to 7% of GDP (c.4.5% now), dramatically increasing the federal deficit. The Soviet Union was compelled to keep up by raising the share of its defense spending from 22% to 27% of GDP, freezing the production of non-defence goods at 1980 levels. Economically it couldn’t keep up and by 1991 the Soviet Union folded. A small price to pay to end the Cold War. America did not wilt under Reagan as it has in recent years,

We should not forget the numerous occasions that former President Reagan openly used to ridicule the Soviets for being so backward. As the old saying goes, ‘never a truer word than that said in jest’. The joke about the curfew is a cracker.

A happy tale(nt) among all the gloomy headlines

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Amid all the gloom and doom in today’s headlines, it is sometimes nice to reflect on what goodness there is in the world especially those who are given an opportunity to shine against all of the self-entitled people that live among us. Gustavo Dudamel is a Venezuelan composer who brought together the undiscovered talents of kids from Venezuela’s least fortunate areas and through the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar made magic. What these kids, who in many cases hadn’t a lick of musical training, transformed into well – judge for yourselves. It is astonishing that in a world of virtue signaling, these kids took an opportunity through benevolent philanthropists and knocked it out of the park because they saw that persistence, hard work and fun can be turned into a talent rather than moaning for someone to feel sorry for them. Bravo. How could you not feel pride? Even if you aren’t a fan of classical music I won’t be the least bit surprised if you end up buying an album.