Tag: Greece (page 1 of 5)

Russians & Chinese Are More Worried About ‘Fake’ Content Than Americans

The Germans are the people least worried about fake content on the internet.

According to a survey by the BBC, only 14 percent are very perturbed by content possibly being fake. Another 33 percent are somewhat worried. So, while 47 percent overall are worried to some degree, this is a low figure compared to how worried people in other countries are.

However, as Statista’s Dyfed Loesche notes, in Brazil, most people are concerned: 92 percent are worried about what’s real and what’s fake.

Perhaps most notably however, while American politicians (on the left) continue to push the narrative of ‘fake’ content, fewer Americans “worry about what is real and fake in the web” than in Russia, China, Spain, France, or Greece (though notably the percentage who ‘strongly agree’ is dramatically high relative to other nations).

Infographic: Who's Most Worried About Fake Content on the Web? | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

The study also finds that more people in 2017 than in 2010 say that the internet should never be regulated by government (58 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2010).

But slightly less people than in 2010 think the internet is a safe place to express their opinions (46 to 48 percent).

16,542 adults in 18 countries took part in the survey, of which 11.799 used the internet, conducted by GlobeScan.


Patriots, Flags, & Referenda – “We’re All Screwed”

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

‘Tis the jolly time of elections, referendums, flags and other democracy-related issues. They are all linked in some way or another, even if that’s not always obvious. Elections, in New Zealand and Germany this weekend, referendums in Catalonia and Kurdistan the coming week, a looming Party Congress in China, quarrels about a flag in the US and then there’s always Brexit.

About China: the Congress is only in October, Xi Jinping looks sure to broaden his powers even more, and it ain’t all that democratic, but we should still follow it, if only because party officials will be either demoted or promoted, and some of them govern more people than most kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers. They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but in China everything really is. Including debt.

New Zealand: the election very early this morning didn’t bring a much hoped for win for Labour, or any clear winner at all, so don’t expect any grand changes in policy. New Zealand won’t wake up till its economy dives and the housing bubble pops.

Germany: Angela Merkel has set up today’s election so that she has no competition. Though she will see the ultra-right AfD enter parliament. Still, her main ‘rival’, alleged left wing Martin Schulz, is a carbon copy of Merkel when it comes to the main issues, i.e. immigration and the EU. An election that is as dull as Angela herself, even though she’ll lose 10% or so. The next one won’t be, guaranteed.

As for the US, no elections there, but another round of big words about nationalism, patriotism and the flag. Donald Trump is well aware that 75% or so of Americans say the flag must be respected, so criticizing people for kneeling instead of standing when the anthem gets played is an easy win for him. No amount of famous athletes is going to change that.

It all doesn’t seem very smart or sophisticated. But then, the US is the only western country I know of that plays the anthem at domestic sports games and has children vow a Pledge of Allegiance to it every single day. Other countries can’t even imagine doing that. They keep their anthems for special occasions. And even then only a few people stand up when it’s played. For most, it’s much ado about nothing but a strip of cotton.

What is perhaps interesting is that a whole list of NFL team owners donated a million dollars to Trump, and now speak out against him and ‘side with their players’, even though not one of them has offered Colin Kaepernick a job since he got fired for going down on one knee. Should I add ‘allegedly’? The only right way to handle the issue would seem to be to talk about why Kaepernick and others do what they do, not that they do it. There’s more than enough division in the country to warrant such talks.

Let Trump invite Kaepernick and Stephen Curry, maybe even Lebron and Stevie Wonder, to the White House with the very intention to talk about that. In the current hostile climate that is not going to happen though, even if Da Donald might want to. There’s a group of people who after 30 years of a deteriorating economy said ‘this is not my country anymore’, and voted for the only -apparent- alternative available, Trump, and another group who then said ‘this is not my president’.

And never the twain shall have a conversation. Somebody better find a way to get them to talk about it, or worse is to come. Far too many Americans identify themselves solely as not being someone else. Yeah, Trump too, but he’s been under constant siege from all sides, and of course he’ll fight back. No, that does not make me a Trump cheerleader, as some have suggested, but what’s happening today threatens to blow up the entire nation, after first having eroded the whole political system. This is a serious risk.

Now spymaster James Clapper is saying again that the whole Russia thing, for which there still is zero proof, could make the election invalid. Well, not without proof, Jimbo. And until you do have that proof, shut up, it’s poisonous (he knows). Instead, go help the 3.5 million literally powerless Americans in Puerto Rico. There are plenty issues to deal with that don’t involve bashing your president. Keep that for later.

(Proposed) referendums (referenda?) in Catalunya and ‘Kurdistan’ raise interesting questions about sovereignty and self determination. We’ll see a lot more of that going forward. I’ve repeatedly mentioned the issue of sovereignty when it comes to Greece, which cannot really be called sovereign anymore because others, foreigners, make all main decisions about its economy.

There may be plenty different definitions of sovereignty, but there can be no doubt it means that a domestic authority has control over a country. That also means that possible changes to that authority can only be made domestically. To come back to Greece briefly, I’m surprised that no constitutional lawyers or scholars have questioned respective governments handing de facto control to ‘outsiders’.

But that can be both deepened and broadened to the decision to join both first the EU, and later the euro. Have all 27 EU countries run these decisions by their constitutional lawyers and highest courts? I’ve never seen an opinion like that from any country. Does a country’s ruling authority have the power to sign away its sovereignty? I would bet in most cases it does not, or the constitution involved was/is either shoddily written or not worth much to begin with.

That any elected US president -or Congress, Senate- would have the power to sell the country to the highest bidder -or any part of it- sounds preposterous, even if I’m no constitutional lawyer or scholar. What countries CAN do, of course, is sign treaties and other agreements concerning defence or trade, among others. But any possible sovereignty violations would always need to be scrutinized at the highest domestically available level of judicial power.

Moreover, I would argue that sovereignty is not something that can be divided, split up or broken into separate parts. You’re either sovereign or you’re not. One country, indivisible, as the US Pledge of Allegiance states (but that doesn’t mean a group of people inside a country can’t seek its own sovereignty).

The ‘composition’ of the EU raises a lot of questions. Many countries have given up their rights to control over their currencies, and therefore their entire economic policies, and though the euro is undoubtedly beneficial in some areas, it has turned out to be a straight-jacket in others, when less sunny economic times arrived.

So what happens if those less sunny times are here to stay? Will countries like Greece continue to bend over for Germany, and for the ECB it controls, or will some of these countries (re-)examine their rights to sovereignty? How is this defined in the EU charter anyway? It has to be there, or many constitutions were violated to begin with when countries signed up. Sovereignty that is not properly defined is meaningless.

Another, non-economic, example concerns the Visegrad countries, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. It’s wonderfully ironic that Wikipedia says the Visegrad alliance (est. in 1991) was formed “for the purposes of furthering their European integration”, ironic because one might be tempted to think it does the opposite. The Visegrad countries refuse to be part of the EU’s scheme to resettle refugees.

And Brussels tries to force them to comply with that scheme, with threat after threat. But that too, no matter how one views the issue or where one’s sympathies lie, is in the end a sovereignty issue. And what use is it to force refugees upon a country that doesn’t want them? The bigger question is of course: why were they ever invited into the EU when they think that way, and that way is fundamentally different from that prevalent in Brussels and other member countries?

Or perhaps the even bigger question should be: how do you combine a country’s sovereignty with a political and economic union of nations that must sign away parts of their sovereignty -and therefore all of it, as argued before-. If you ask me, it’s not nearly as easy -let alone legal- as they try to make it look.

Catalunya and ‘Kurdistan’ are good examples – albeit from a different angle- of that same conundrum. A topic closely linked to sovereignty is self-determination. Wikipedia:

The right of people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law (commonly regarded as a jus cogens rule), binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the {UN] Charter’s norms. It states that a people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.


[..] on 11 February 1918 US President Woodrow Wilson stated: “National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent.


‘Self determination’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.

The Kurds have been denied that right for a very long time. For reasons related to divide and rule policies in a whole slew of different global powers both in the region and outside of it, and reasons related to oil. After being a major force in the fight against ISIS, and after seeing Turkey get ever more agressive against them -again-, the Kurds have -not for the first time- planned a referendum for a sovereign state. As the UN charter unequivocally says is their right.

The problem is, they want to establish their state on land that other countries claim is theirs. Even if the Kurds have lived there for a long time. And that’s a common theme in most of these ‘events’. Catalunya, Palestina, ‘Kurdistan’, they’re told they can perhaps have independence and sovereignty, but not on land where their people have lived for 1000s of years, because that land ‘belongs to us’.

And holding a referendum is therefore unconstitutional, says Spain, or whatever legal term is thrown out. But if the UN charter makes the international community’s position as clear as it does, how can it contradict a member nation’s constitution? Was that member not paying attention when it signed up to the Charter, or did the UN itself let that one slip?

Catalunya (Catalonia) is the northeast tip of Spain. Its people have long wanted independence and never gotten it. When present day Spain was formed, it was made part of Spain. And now the people want their own nation. It is not hard. But then again it is. We are now one week before October 1, the date the referendum was planned, and the Spanish government has done everything it could and then some to frustrate the referendum, and therefore the will of the people of Catalunya.

As the politicians who inhabit the EU and UN sit by idly, scared silly of burning their fingers. After arresting Catalan politicians and confiscating anything that could be used to hold the referendum, Spain has sent cruise ships full of police to Catalan harbors, and tried to take over control of the Catalan police force. But Catalan politicians and harbor crew have refused to let the ships dock, and Catalan police won’t obey Spanish orders.

It’s starting to look like Spain PM Rajoy wants to provoke a violent Catalan reaction, so he can send in his army and blame Barcelona and environs. What he doesn’t want to understand is that this will be the end of his government, his career, and of any chance Catalunya will remain part of Spain other than in the short term. It feels like Franco’s military, who, don’t forget, only relinquished control some 40 years ago, are still there in spirit if not physically.

For everybody’s sake, we can only hope someone does something to stop Rajoy and whoever’s behind his decisions, because if anyone ever wondered why the Catalans wanted to be independent, after those decisions there can be no question anymore. If he sends in the army, Spain as a whole will be something of the past. But first the referendum result, which was very doubtful all along, has now been settled: nearly all Catalans stand united against Rajoy today.

And Catalans are a mixed people. Many do not have their roots there, or even speak the language. But they will not turn on their friends and neighbors.

Kurdistan’s situation is even a lot more convoluted than Catalunya’s. Borders in the Middle East were drawn more or less at random by the French and British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire nearly 100 years ago. And the Kurds never got their independence, or their country. But now they want it. However, they live spread over 4 different countries, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. And some of the land they live on has oil. Lots of it. And the cradle of civilization, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Just about everyone, including the US, all countries in the region, and the old colonial powers, have declared their resistance to the Kurdish referendum. Getting back to the UN charter et al, isn’t that a curious position? Politicians sign lofty declarations, but when their successors are called upon to uphold them, nobody’s home. And it’s not as if self-determination is such a difficult topic to understand.

The referendum will be held on September 25 in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, so not in other Kurdish regions. Therefore only 900,000 people, out of some 35 million Kurds, get to vote. But the question on the ballot will be:

“Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?”

And that of course means something much more, and much bigger. There’s a ‘Kurdistan’ in Iran, Syria and Turkey as well. Kurds there don’t get to vote, though.

Quoting Bloomberg: “The vote will be held in the three governorates officially ruled by the KRG, as well as in disputed areas currently controlled by Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga. The Kurds expanded their domain in 2014 when, faced with Islamic State attacks, the Iraqi army deserted the oil-rich city Kirkuk.”

Here’s where the Kurds were living according to the 2014 CIA World Factbook:

As is the case in Catalunya, Iraq’s parliament and top court have declared the vote unconstitutional. That again raises the question: how can a vote violate a country’s constitution if and when that country has signed the UN charter which explicitly defines every people’s right to self-determination? Who’s been asleep when both documents were signed?

How could the UN let countries sign its charter whose constitutions violated that same charter? Have we all just been playing fast and loose all along? Or, more interestingly, what are we all going to do now that we know about this? Are we going to take self-determination away from people, and sign that into a whole new UN charter? Or are we going to make sure the charter is upheld and make countries change their constitutions to comply with it?

There is a third option (very much in favor): to not do anything. But that gets more dangerous all the time. The days that people could just be ignored are gone. Social media have probably played a large role in that. And so have changing power relationships.

The EU is blowing itself up through increasing calls for more Europe just as people want less. I’ve said it often before: centralization stops when and where economic growth does. And despite all the creative accounting we see, economic growth is definitely gone in Europe. Just ask Greece, Spain. Ask the people, not the politicians. People will only accept their decisions being made by far away ‘leaders’ if they perceive them as beneficial to their lives, the lives of their children.

Those days are gone, no matter the propaganda. That’s true all over Europe, and it’s true all across the US. The refusal by incumbent powers to recognize this, admit to it, is what gives us the likes of Trump and Brexit and countless other challengers. That Marine Le Pen and others have failed to date doesn’t mean the status quo wins; others will follow. In that vein I was surprised to see Yanis Varoufakis, whom I hold in very great esteem, declare in name of his DiEM 25 movement that:

“I am not taking sides on whether Catalonia should be independent or not” and “What we’re promoting in DiEM25 would solve the problem. We want a real European Union that becomes a single jurisdiction, a country if you want to call it that. In that scenario, it doesn’t matter if Catalonia is part of Spain!”

Europe will not be one country. Nor should it want to be. Europe has 1000 different ways to work together, and the EU has been an utter failure at that. While it has done a ton of good, it is being -predictably- destroyed by the power politics at its top levels. Nobody ever told Europeans that they would wind up living as German provinces. But that is what they are.

As Varoufakis himself makes abundantly clear is his book Adults in the Room. That’s why Germans have no real choice in today’s election: they have such utter control of the EU they would be crazy to vote against it. But at the same time, the rest of the ‘Union’ would be crazy to let them hold that power.

And I know that DiEM25 wants to change and reform the EU, but how will they do that knowing they need Germany, more than all other countries, to accomplish it, as Germany is sitting so pretty? Calls for a one-country Europe seem at the very least irresponsibly premature. That’s very far from reality. First things first. No cheating. You can’t say it doesn’t matter what happen to the Catalans today because ‘we’ have bigger plans for tomorrow. That means abandoning them. That’s not a new Europe: that’s what they already have today.

As for ‘Kurdistan’, what can we do but hope and pray? Hope that the old European colonial powers, as well as Turkey, Iraq and Iran, plus Russia and China, live up to the UN Charter they signed, and let the Kurds show they can be a force for peace in the region, which needs one so badly?! They have shown in no uncertain terms they can defend themselves, and their land, against anyone who threatens them. The Kurdish women army, YPJ, is all you need to know when it comes to that. They are the bravest amongst us.

If they had their own country, they would continue to do just that, and better. Which just goes to show that nationalism and patriotism are not of necessity negative emotions. It gives people an identity. Which is exactly why brighter heads than the present ones put the right to self-determination in the UN Charter, at a time, 1945, when the world had seen indescribable destruction.

There’s a lesson there. That we seem to have forgotten already. And now have to learn all over again. Through Colin Kaepernick, through the unbelievable Kurdish women’s YPG army, though the streets of Barcelona. Our world is screwed up, and we need to unscrew it.


The EU Needs A Three-Child Policy – And China Should Pay For It!

Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,

The EU’s policy of “replacement migration” is an economic failure and threatens to undermine China’s New Silk Road strategy for Europe by diminishing the continent’s much-needed consumer market potential, which should thereby serve as an impetus for Beijing to consider investing in social programs there as a means of encouraging replacement fertility for the EU’s citizens.

The Roots Of “Replacement Migration”

The EU’s liberal-progressive ruling elite aided and abetted the Migrant Crisis as a means of encouraging “replacement migration” to compensate for their falling populations, naively believing in the dogma of their bloc’s de-facto “Cultural Marxist” ideology that civilizationally dissimilar migrants will seamlessly adapt to their new host societies and quickly become productive citizens. They expected that the relatively impoverished and in many cases largely uneducated “New Europeans” from Africa, the Mideast, and South Asia who have uncontrollably flooded into Europe would have no problem climbing the ladder of socio-economic success in one day replacing their dying European counterparts in all professional spheres.

It should also be reminded in this vein that these “New Europeans” didn’t just appear out of nowhere, but are the product of the unipolar wars that created them in the first place and the NGO-assisted human trafficking networks that then imported these “Weapons of Mass Migration” to Europe, both activities of which the EU elite have been complicit in. As could have been anticipated by any objective observer not under the influence of “Cultural Marxism”, this irresponsible multi-layered policy has totally failed in its presumed economic intentions, though it’s cynically succeeded in planting the seeds for a massive socio-cultural reengineering of some leading European countries’ demographics.

China’s Strategic Stake In The EU

While one might be led to immediately think that the consequences of this epic disaster would be limited solely to the bloc’s borders, few people realize that it will also affect China’s grand strategy by eventually depriving Beijing of the robust consumer-driven marketplace that it needs from the EU in order to make its large-scale infrastructure investments there worthwhile. China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity is driven by Beijing’s desire to develop and secure new consumer markets to which it could offload its overproduction, as the failure to do so would with time lead to socio-economic consequences in the People’s Republic as state-sponsored firms are forced to lay off countless workers if they dramatically downscale production or can’t make ends meet anymore.

The New Eurasia Land Bridge Economic Corridor

The New Eurasia Land Bridge Economic Corridor

The Eurasian Land Bridge, the Silk Road connectivity project through Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as the Balkan Silk Road through Greece all the way up to Central Europe, are intended to connect China’s East Asian producers with Western European consumers, but if Europe is no longer the consumption powerhouse that it once was after a decade of “replacement migration”, then the whole strategy is nullified with potentially disastrous consequences for Beijing. Although it’s “politically incorrect” to admit as much in the West, the “New Europeans” from the Global South consume more in government subsidies than they do in actual products, and when – or in many cases, if – they enter the labor force, it’s usually in low-end and low-paying sectors which aren’t in any way capable of replacing the ever-aging consumers that are steadily dying out.

In addition, many of the “New Europeans” self-segregate themselves by refusing to assimilate and integrate into their host countries, which in and of itself increases domestic tensions even without considering the crime wave that some of them have helped contribute to. When the newly imported “replacement population” does acquire a little bit of extra money to spend on the economy, they’re more prone to patronize local neighborhood stores run by their fellow ethnic or religious compatriots (usually migrants themselves) inside of their anchor communities. Altogether, these socio-economic habits undermine the whole Silk Road spirit of inclusivity and are extremely problematic for China because of the country’s future dependency on EU consumption trends remaining as traditionally strong as they used to be.

Migrants in Europe

Looming Problems

Left unchecked, “replacement migration” in the EU will inevitably lead to a decrease in the bloc’s economic prowess, which in turn will jeopardize China’s grand strategy of using its New Silk Roads – and especially the EU-Chinese vectors of the Eurasian Land Bridge and Balkan Silk Road – as a vehicle for realigning global trade patterns and therefore building the sustainable framework for the emerging Multipolar World Order. In what could be seen as both a blessing and a curse, however, the rise of populist sentiment in the EU could divert the bloc’s present globalist trajectory towards a more “nationalist” course in both of its interlinked socio-cultural and economic manifestations. On the one hand, the masses might succeed in pressuring the elite to downscale or outright suspend their “replacement migration” policies, but on the other, they might also naturally advocate for semi-protectionist trade measures such as the “investment screening framework” that European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker recently proposed.

This initiative aims to give EU governments the power to selectively prevent the sale of strategic economic assets to foreign state-controlled or state-funded companies and is generally thought to be directed against China. Although grounded in plausible national security concerns and already implemented to varying extents in some EU and non-EU countries, the timing and nature of Junker’s proposal suggests that he’s more interested in capturing European markets for the bloc’s leading German, French, and Italian companies by crafting legislation which could deny their Chinese competitors equal access to them. Even though it’s being spearheaded by one of the EU’s most reviled bureaucrats and outspoken enemies of populism, this motion is expected to enjoy a surprising level of grassroots support because of its superficial channeling of populist energy, particularly as it relates to the perception of non-European foreigners taking over the continent.

China is therefore presented with a dilemma because it arguably stands to lose in the long-term if the “Cultural Marxist” policy of “replacement migration” is allowed to mature and begin systematically degrading the EU’s consumer market capabilities, but it also gains from the associated globalist policy of allowing unregulated investment from Chinese state-affiliated companies into strategic EU industries. From the reverse perspective in respect to populism, China’s Silk Road strategy would be safeguarded if “replacement migration” was done away with and replaced with populist initiatives encouraging the increased fertility of a nation’s population, though Beijing needs to be wary of the “economic nationalism” manifestation of populism which could see severe restrictions placed on its plans to invest in more of the EU’s strategic industries and maintain access to their national markets.

First Chinese cargo trains arrives in Hamburg

A Populist Solution For The Silk Road

The best approach that China could follow in encouraging higher birthrates in its top Silk Road target market while simultaneously pioneering creative ways for its state-linked companies to ingratiate themselves with their host states is to replicate the West’s new economic model in the “Third World” but apply it to European “First World” conditions. What’s meant by this is that China should “sweeten its deals” with the promise of investing in, or dispersing grant money to, soft infrastructure projects such as schools, healthcare facilities, and job-training programs in order to improve the quality of life of its partner state’s citizens. Western companies rarely implement this strategy like they’re supposed to because they’re more concerned about using it as a public relations ploy for boosting their attractiveness in other markets, and the host governments generally don’t hold them accountable because the ruling party/elite are often bribed through this plausibly deniable money-transferring channel to keep quiet about it.

China, however, doesn’t have to fall into this short-term trap and could order its state-linked companies to adhere to this model like it was originally intended in improving the living conditions of the recipient state and “winning hearts and minds” because of it. In the context of contemporary populism and with an eye on Beijing’s long-term New Silk Road interests in protecting the EU’s future consumer market potential, China could even subsidize (whether openly or discretely) the financial incentives that populist governments hand out to their citizens in encouraging higher fertility. After all, China knows that replacement birthrates produce better consumers than “replacement migration” does, and Beijing’s Silk Road strategy hinges on the EU retaining its impressive consumer market potential. Likewise, populists are against “replacement migration” and in favor of improving their citizens’ fertility, so this theoretically represents a win-win solution for both sides.

EU China trade

Concluding Thoughts

To reiterate the main point being expressed in this proposal, China needs to find a way to confront the dual challenges of the expected drop in the EU’s consumer market potential following the “successful” implementation of its “replacement migration” policy and also devise a creative strategy for preventing its state-affiliated companies from being denied access to the bloc’s strategic industries due to superficially populist initiatives such as Juncker’s “investment screening framework”. This necessitates that China craft a comprehensive policy which highlights its value-added differentiators in appealing to the rising populist zeitgeist in Europe, one which has already seen the Central European countries of Poland and Hungary promote higher birthrates through state subsidies and could probably become the continental standard in the next decade if the failed policy of “replacement migration” is eventually replaced. That said, this could only happen if the EU countries experience a surge in births across the coming decades, but many of them might not be able to afford the social costs that that this entails and would therefore have to look abroad for financial support if want to have any chance at sustainably implementing this proposal.

Therefore, the ideal win-win solution that China and the populists (whether in each individual EU country or the bloc as a whole) could forge with one another would be if Beijing agrees to an arrangement to bankroll an ambitious fertility-increasing policy and its attendant social requirements (schools, healthcare facilities, job-training programs, etc.) in exchange for continued and preferential access to their strategic industries and markets. Considering how far behind the EU’s population replacement rate is, then China and its partners should set the bar high by aiming for a three-child policy that the People’s Republic would help pay for by channeling its “communist spirit” to redistribute some of its state-supported companies’ wealth to the host country’s citizenry so as to ensure Beijing’s long-term interests with respect to the Silk Road. So long as China can succeed in preserving the EU’s consumer market strength and even enhancing its capacity, then Beijing won’t have much to worry about regarding its long-term strategy for Western Eurasia, but if the “Cultural Marxists” win by having “replacement migration” ruin all of this, then China will face a major threat which could jeopardize its future global leadership plans.


“Go Out & Vote!” – Catalan Separatists Defy Spain, Distribute 1 Million Ballots Ahead Of Referendum

Following the confiscation of millions of ballots in recent days, and the Spanish governments' pressure on local mayors to deter the October 1st independence referendum, AP reports that the grassroots groups driving Catalonia’s separatist movement defied Spanish authorities on Sunday by distributing one million ballots for the vote that  Madrid has called illegal and vowed to halt.

Jordi Cuixart, president of the separatist group Omnium Cultural, announced the ballots were being distributed during a rally in Barcelona.

“Here are the packs of ballots that we ask you to hand out across Catalonia,” Cuixart said.

Catalonia’s separatists have pledged to hold the vote regardless of the central government’s wishes and rallied Sunday in public squares in Barcelona and other towns in the region.

Many carried pro-independence flags and signs calling for the independence vote and urging the “Yes” side to victory.

The crowds were asked by secessionist politicians and grassroots groups to also print and distribute posters supporting the vote.

“I ask you to go out and vote! Vote for the future of Catalonia!” Carme Forcadell, the speaker of Catalonia’s regional parliament, told a Barcelona crowd.

Polls show the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia are roughly split on breaking with the rest of Spain, but as WolfStreet.com's Don Quijones points out Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options.

If it spirals out of control, the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid could have ugly repercussions far beyond Spanish borders, as we warned in a 2015 article. Yet the European Union steadfastly refuses to mediate in the crisis, arguing that it must respect Spain’s constitution.

Given Brussels’ long-standing habit of meddling in others’ affairs, including toppling the elected leaders of Greece and Italy at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, it’s a poor excuse. And most of Europe’s governments (with the possible exception of the UK, which is already engaged in a gargantuan struggle with Brussels) refuse to support Catalonia’s separatist movement out of the fear — largely justifiable — that it could fuel separatist tensions closer to home.

But the crisis in Catalonia is not going to go away just by ignoring it.

In the last few weeks alone three major international newspapers — Le Monde, The New York Times and The Times — have called for Madrid to allow a referendum. And with Rajoy and his government seemingly determined to pummel Catalonia into submission, at just about any cost, the chances are that their ranks will grow.

And this is where Madrid is making arguably its biggest mistake. For a new country to be born, it must first be recognized. Thanks to years of sustained, non-violent protest and the often overblown reaction of the Rajoy government, Catalonia has already massively increased the positioning of its brand internationally. Ten years ago, most people in the world didn’t even know what or where Catalonia was. Now, it’s hogging the headlines of the front pages of the biggest newspapers.

“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”


Putting America’s Record-Breaking $20 Trillion Debt In Global Context

The U.S. federal government just passed a record $20 trillion in publicly held debt. That’s bigger than the entire economy of every country in the European Union, combined.

As HowMuch.net notes, the debt will only grow higher unless President Trump and the U.S. Congress can agree to unprecedented spending cuts combined with tax increases. 

Don’t count on that happening anytime soon. Most people think that an eye-popping $20+ trillion debt is insurmountable, and in fact, it is the largest in the world by far.

But when you look at another fiscal measure – the ratio of debt-to-GDP – the U.S. is not in the worst situation…

Source: HowMuch.net

HowMuch.net's visualization allows you to quickly see how the U.S. government’s debt compares to other countries around the world. The size of the country correlates to the size of the debt. The U.S. and Japan stand out because they have the highest debts in the world ($20.17T and $11.59T, respectively). Other countries, like Germany and Brazil, appear much smaller because their debts are comparatively tiny ($2.45T and $1.45T, respectively). We then color-coded each country according to its debt-to-GDP ratio. Green countries have a healthy margin, but dark red and fuchsia countries have debts that are even bigger than their entire economies.

Top 10 countries with the Worst Debt-to-GDP Ratios 

  1. Japan (245% at $11.59B)
  2. Greece (173% at $338B)
  3. Italy (138% at $138B
  4. Portugal (133% at $274B)
  5. Belgium (111% at $111B)
  6. Spain (106% at $106B)
  7. Canada (106% at $106B)
  8. Ireland (105% at $105B)
  9. France (98% at $98B)
  10. Brazil (82% at $82B)

The debt-to-GDP ratio is a critical metric for evaluating a country’s fiscal health. It makes a lot of sense for the American government to have a higher debt than a much smaller country, like Germany. Think about it like this: Bill Gates is worth $86 billion, so he can afford a much higher credit card bill than me or you.

That’s why it’s important to consider the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country, a number which represents the sum of all transactions occurring in the economy.

Once you understand the public debt as a percentage of GDP, you get a level playing field for countries on different economic scales. When you think about it like this, the U.S. isn’t even among the ten worst sovereign debts in the world.


Why The German Elections Matter, And Not Just For Germany

With just hours to go before the German election, Angela Merkel looks set to remain Chancellor for a record fourth term. This suggests largely unchanged economic policies, focusing on fiscal prudence and conditional steps towards European integration. However, with new political winds clouding the outlook for globalization, trade relationships and security in Europe, and with lingering questions on the sustainability of the EMU, Germany can ill afford to rest on its laurels, according to SocGen. The CDU’s choice of coalition partner(s) will be crucial, with the SDP, FDP and the Greens in a good position to exert concessions. The new government will need to show leadership on domestic reform, thereby maintaining pressure on other euro area countries, while supporting structurally stronger wage growth, not least to support the ECB’s QE exit. To strengthen euro area resilience, there is also a need for progress on the Banking Union and fiscal integration in the coming years, all pieces of a possible future political integration. With Brexit, Germany will also face the task of ensuring a smooth transition and defining the direction of the EU. Merkel’s choices over the coming four years may thus define her legacy more than any previous terms.

Courtesy of WorldView, here is a preview of what to expect this Sunday, and why the German elections matter, and not just for Germany.


  • Germany's Sept. 24 election will likely result in one of the most fragmented parliaments the country has seen in decades.
  • The country's two largest parties will try to avoid renewing their current coalition partnership, meaning smaller parties will play a big role in the formation of the next government.
  • The ideological composition of the new administration will affect negotiations to reform the European Union, and when it comes to Southern Europe's proposals for reform, a center-right coalition would be more skeptical than a center-left coalition.

Germany is heading into the final weeks of a fairly uneventful campaign season. There is little chance of a major nationalist or Euroskeptic victory, and opinion polls have remained steady. Although the runup to the Sept. 24 election has been relatively quiet, major repercussions, both domestic and international, could follow in its wake. The big question — both for Germans and fellow members of the European Union — is what form the final distribution of seats in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, will take. The answer will determine not only the possible combination of parties that will form a German government coalition, but also shape the direction that much-needed reforms to the European bloc will take.

Chaotic Coalitions

For the past four years, Germany has been governed by a ruling coalition made up of the country's two largest parties: the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the progressive Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by former EU Parliament President Martin Schulz. Though the two parties have been able to work together, their policies and outlook differ, and neither is eager to find itself in the same coalition after the dust of the national election settles. The CDU and SPD will both be looking to form agreements with the country's smaller political parties — four of which are in close competition to be the third-most-powerful party in Germany: the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP); the environmentalist The Greens; the left-wing The Left; and the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD). If the most recent opinion polls true and all four earn enough votes to enter the legislature, Germany would face its most fragmented parliament in decades.

Based on previous postelection negotiations, which lasted a month in 2009 and three months in 2013, German policymakers could again take months to settle on a new government. In the meantime, the country would operate under a caretaker government as the parties hammer out functional alliances. And though the CDU and SPD are angling to avoid a repeat of their current coalition paring, it remains a possibility. Another option, if the newly elected parliament struggles to coalesce, would be the formation of a minority government, in which one party governs alone, supported by other parties on a case-by-case basis. Given Germany's consensus-driven political environment, this would be an unusual step, but it is not out the question.

What's at Stake for Europe

In Germany, unlike in recent French and Dutch elections, there is little risk that the government will include nationalist or Euroskeptic forces. The AfD likely will win a handful of seats in the Bundestag, but other parties for the most part will refuse to cooperate with it. Meanwhile, The Left will also struggle to find partners, though it could possibly become a member of a broad center-left alliance. But while the German election doesn't pose the same threat to the stability of the eurozone as did the French or Dutch elections, the next German government's composition will play an important role in determining the future of the European Union.

Over the past decade, a combination of economic crises and strong nationalist sentiments made institutional reform in the European Union impossible. Now that most member states are growing again, and as the 2017 electoral season is reaching its end, the political environment for reform has become more favorable. Furthermore, last year's Brexit referendum convinced most EU members and institutions that reforms are necessary to revitalize the bloc after years of shocks.

As the biggest economy in Europe, Germany will play a significant role in EU reform negotiations. Thus, the ideological composition of its government will be a crucial piece of the reform puzzle. In recent weeks, France, Italy and Spain each have made reform proposals, including plans to increase blocwide investment and introduce risk-sharing measures in the eurozone. Italy and Spain have even proposed issuing debt that is jointly backed by all the members of the eurozone. Meanwhile, France said that it will hold off on additional proposals for the eurozone until after the German election, so that Paris and Berlin can discuss the plans together.

Whoever has control in Germany's parliament will influence the negotiations and eventual compromises made between the northern and southern blocs of the eurozone. If the election results in a center-right coalition led by the CDU, the government would probably take a skeptical view of plans presented by Southern Europe. A center-left coalition led by the SDP, meanwhile, would be more open to them. But regardless of who is in charge, Germany and other Northern European countries will be reluctant to share risk with their Southern European counterparts. Even though Berlin is not entirely opposed to Southern Europe's proposals, it will almost certainly request tighter control of fiscal policies in the eurozone — a concession that Southern European countries will resist.

The makeup of the next coalition in Berlin will also influence debates on a variety of other EU issues. For example, Germany falls well short of NATO's goal that its members spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, and the CDU is more willing to increase military spending than the SPD. When it comes to Brexit, most German parties align on a few things: they are in favor of reaching a deal with the United Kingdom, and they agree that the bloc's future relationship with London should include fewer benefits than EU membership would have granted. However, London would prefer a CDU-led government to one led by the SPD, given Schulz's background as former EU Parliament president and his strong defense of the bloc and its institutions.

And it's not just the two big parties that will affect continental affairs. Depending on the Cabinet positions they are given, junior coalition partners could also shape some of Berlin's decisions. The FDP, for example, would probably resist the kinds of protectionist moves that France is proposing, while The Left would push for strong government spending and higher taxes for corporations. These parties' abilities to shape policy will of course be limited, but they should not be completely disregarded.

Germany Tackles a Challenging Future

Beyond the larger concerns of the European Union, Germany is also facing a number of long-term domestic challenges. And while discussion of those issues has been largely absent in the electoral campaign so far, the country will eventually to have reckon with them.

The German economy has grown at a decent pace in recent years, and unemployment is at record lows. However, as a member of the eurozone, Germany could still be harmed by developments in other countries. For example, the bailout program that helped Greece stabilize its economy is set to expire in mid-2018, and Athens likely will request help to reduce the burden of its sovereign debt. This idea is controversial in Germany, and the FDP has even suggested that Greece leave the eurozone in exchange for debt relief. The Italian general election in early 2018 offers further challenges. There is a real chance that Italian votes will put a euroskeptic government in power, which would create a major roadblock to eurozone reforms.

Germany's stability could take also hits for reasons more within its control, as the country's export-driven economy faces pressure from its main trade partners. Southern European countries want Berlin to increase domestic spending to boost imports, and the United States has repeatedly criticized Germany's massive trade surplus. A more protectionist stance by the United States, Germany's main trade partner outside the eurozone, could damage German exports. Moreover, Germany's flagship industry — its automotive sector — may need to readapt its business model as it faces competition from new technologies and foreign vehicle manufacturers as well as the aftermath of the "dieselgate" emissions test-rigging scandal.

Finally, Germany faces two complex demographic challenges. The first is that its society is becoming more diverse, due to migration from other EU countries and specifically the recent influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East. This surge in immigration has in turn led to the emergence of nationalist and anti-immigration groups, and though they aren't as strong as those in other countries like France, they are a growing concern. The second challenge is the country's low fertility rates and high life expectancy. The German population will become older and potentially smaller in the coming decades, putting extra pressure on Germany's health care and pension systems and also possibly causing a labor shortage.

The pressing issues surrounding the Sept. 24 elections will be primarily related to the makeup of the ruling coalition and how that coalition will handle the impending reforms to the European Union. But slippery economic and demographic issues will not disappear, and no matter which party leads the country for the next four years, it will eventually have to face these challenges.


Unintended Consequences & Ugly Repercussions: It’s Getting Worse In Catalonia

As NakedCapitalism's Jerri-Lynn writes, the Catalonia crisis is accelerating, with Madrid’s crackdown increasing support for independence even among those previously not so disposed. This does not look like it will end well.

Spain will deploy police reinforcements to the northeastern region of Catalonia to maintain order and take action if a referendum on independence pledged by the Catalan government but deemed illegal by Spain should take place, officials said Friday.

AP reports that an Interior Ministry statement said the extra agents would provide backing for the Catalan regional police who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

But protests continue to grow and Rajoy's actions only seem to solidify opposition

"I feel the way people used to feel during Franco regime. Nothing less. Because Francoism is still alive," said protester Josep Selva, referring to Gen. Francisco Franco's military regime that ruled Spain between 1939 and 1978, three years after his death.


"The political reform of 1978 only legalized Francoism and disguised it as democracy," he said.

But, as WolfStreet.com's Don Quijones points out Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options.

A case in point: At last night’s demonstration, spread across multiple locations in Barcelona, were two friends of mine, one who is fanatically apolitical and the other who is a strong Catalan nationalist but who believes that independence would be a political and financial disaster for the region. It was their first ever political demonstration. If there is a vote on Oct-1, they will probably vote to secede.

The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan officials in dawn raids. Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,000.

The Civil Guard also staged raids on key administrative buildings in Barcelona. The sight of balaclava-clad officers of the Civil Guard, one of the most potent symbols of the not-yet forgotten Franco dictatorship, crossing the threshold of the seats of Catalonia’s (very limited) power and arresting local officials, was too much for the local population to bear.

Within minutes almost all of the buildings were surrounded by crowds of flag-draped pro-independence protesters. The focal point of the day’s demonstrations was the Economic Council of Catalonia, whose second-in-command and technical coordinator of the referendum, Josep Maria Jové, was among those detained. He has now been charged with sedition and could face between 10-15 years in prison. Before that, he faces fines of €12,000 a day.

The confiscation of ballots and other vital voting paraphernalia and the detention of key members of the referendum’s organizing committee, together with today’s decision by the Spanish Finance Ministry to completely block the regional government’s accounts — a move that would not be possible without full cooperation of both Spanish and Catalan banks — could be a major setback for Catalonia’s dreams of independence.

Without ballots, voter databases and ballot boxes, organizing a referendum is going to be a tough task, especially if Catalonia’s government no longer has access to public funds. But it will still try. It’s already launched a new website informing the public of the location of voting colleges on October 1. The site replaces dozens of other URLs that have been shut down at the behest of Spanish authorities.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s police operation significantly — perhaps even irreversibly — weakens Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum on October 1, as even the region’s vice-president Oriol Junqueras concedes. But that doesn’t mean Spain has won. As the editor of El Diario, Ignacio Escolar, presciently notes, yesterday’s raids may have been a resounding success for law enforcement, but they were an unmitigated political disaster that has merely intensified the divisions between Spain and Catalonia and between Catalans themselves.

Each time Prime Minister Rajoy or one of his ministers speak of the importance of defending democracy while the Civil Guard seizes posters and banners related to the October 1 vote and judges rule public debates on the Catalan question illegal and then fine their participants, a fresh clutch of Catalan separatists is born.

In the days to come they will be swarming the streets, waving their flags, clutching their red carnations and singing their songs. For the moment, the mood is still one of hopeful, resolute indignation. But the mood of masses is prone to change quickly, and it’s not going to take much to ignite the anger.

Madrid is sending three ships with a total of 6,000 non-Catalan police reinforcements to Barcelona in the coming week. In reaction, the stevedores at Barcelona Port have voted not to provide any services to the ships, which they consider to be “ships of repression.”

If it spirals out of control, the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid could have ugly repercussions far beyond Spanish borders, as we warned in a 2015 article. Yet the European Union steadfastly refuses to mediate in the crisis, arguing that it must respect Spain’s constitution.

Given Brussels’ long-standing habit of meddling in others’ affairs, including toppling the elected leaders of Greece and Italy at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, it’s a poor excuse. And most of Europe’s governments (with the possible exception of the UK, which is already engaged in a gargantuan struggle with Brussels) refuse to support Catalonia’s separatist movement out of the fear — largely justifiable — that it could fuel separatist tensions closer to home.

But the crisis in Catalonia is not going to go away just by ignoring it.

In the last few weeks alone three major international newspapers — Le Monde, The New York Times and The Times — have called for Madrid to allow a referendum. And with Rajoy and his government seemingly determined to pummel Catalonia into submission, at just about any cost, the chances are that their ranks will grow.

And this is where Madrid is making arguably its biggest mistake. For a new country to be born, it must first be recognized. Thanks to years of sustained, non-violent protest and the often overblown reaction of the Rajoy government, Catalonia has already massively increased the positioning of its brand internationally. Ten years ago, most people in the world didn’t even know what or where Catalonia was. Now, it’s hogging the headlines of the front pages of the biggest newspapers.

“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”

Read…  Catalonia’s Defiance of Spanish Authority Turns into Rebellion

*  *  *

Finally, as NakedCapitalism's Yves discussed earlier this week, Catalonia could exercise the nuclear option of defaulting on its debt– which would have serious consequences for itself and for the government in Madrid. Although this still looks to be a remote possibility, Madrid’s latest aggressive measures have made no headway in defusing that potential bomb.


Bill Blain: “We’ve Heard JPM Traders Bragging In The Pub How Much They’ve Made From Bitcoin”

Submitted by Bill Blain of Mint Partners

Blain’s Morning Porridge – September 20th 2017

     “New Car, caviar, four star daydream, think I’ll buy me a football team….”

Will they? Won’t they?  I’m not talking about Donald’s playground bluster about nuking North Korea back to the 1950s. Shocking and intemperate. Yes. But, plays to his audience.

Of more import are Central banks and how they wriggle out of their current chains. Will the Fed put another nail into QE this afternoon? We think they will announce the end of coupon reinvestment: de-facto normalisation/tightening. Get on with it! US markets are resilient enough to cope – but we really need to see serious spread decompression between the fixed income asset classes.

As we’ve written before, it’s more a problem for the ECB. They are caught in a horrible decision matrix: the imperative to continue QE infinity to maintain the illusion nothing is wrong, the Germans sticking to their guns about normalisation and no debt mutualisation, and electorates who aren’t anywhere near ready to surrender that kind of economic sovereignty to Brussels.

I suspect the stories about the ECB being split as it sounds off on setting a firm date in October for scaling back their bond buying is a bit of Kite Flying. If they asked me, I’d say bite the bullet and say it’s going to happen. It make Angela Merkel’s job constructing a new German coalition next week much easier, but will just fuel electoral tensions across the various Italies.. (Yes.. I wrote Italies..)

Personally, I suspect Draghi is praying for a crisis.

It would allow him to play his “Kick-the-Can-Card.” Remember he said: “Unless a risk that is not seen today materialises, we should be ready to take the bulk of these decisions in October.” A nice little bond crisis, stock market collapse, or renewed Global Financial Crisis (maybe even some unpleasantness in Asia or Middle East), would allow him to put the back the decisions, massage some votes and keep the QE illusion in place till after next year’s Italian vote. It’s all about timing.

As they used to say on Stringray: “Anything can happen in the next 20 minutes. (I guess there may still be a few of us who remember Troy Tempest and Aquamarina.. if you are one of them, I’ll see you in the bond traders’ retirement home shortly)

Regular readers will know I’m worried about the unintended consequences of QE – and just how distorted markets have become as a result. I’m not alone in that view – I’ve read many reports of other market watchers saying similar.

For instance, one bloke says: “Evaluating the effects of monetary policy is difficult, even in the case of conventional interest rate policy.. with respect to QE, there are good reasons to be sceptical that it works as advertised, and some economists have made a good case that QE is actually detrimental”. Same chap says asset prices have climbed but inflation remains elusive.

But this wasn’t some jumped up teenage scribbler like myself – this was a senior Federal Reserve economist – Stephen D Williamson – reported on CNBC! A “No Sh*t Sherlock” award on his way to him then.

On the other hand, Bloomberg report European economists saying that monetary policy is now working across Europe, and the key moment was when TLTROs went negative rate, allowing peripheral banks to really start lending across the European periphery states. I’d always assumed the main effect of free ECB money to banks was for them to buy Government bonds (safe in the knowledge the ECB would be the buyer of last resort) – but apparently I’m wrong: the reason we’re seeing 3% growth in Spain and close to it in Portugal is due to renewed lending.

That would be lending by the same European banks that have experienced massive Non-performing loans and enforced capital rises then? I must look into this.. I hae ma doots.

And thanks to all the readers who commented on yesterday’s porridge and my note on Greece. As expected I got pillioried by European chums (you know who you are!) for my lack of faith in the European dream and got well put in my place about the failure of the UK to exploit the weak currency.

But I also had some Europeans agree with me. A very senior banker told me he doubts the EU will survive much beyond the end of ECB QE – and he’s French!

A bigger worry was my blithe assumption the Global economy is on the road to recovery. More than one reader pointed out their fears the last 18 months of sluggish growth will shortly run out of steam and we’re heading into a new recession, which could be exacerbated by the negative sentiment from a market slowdown. This morning I’ve just been sent articles hinting of a China slowdown next year hitting commodity markets..

Gosh.. this global economic thingymaboab is complex stuff.. 

Meanwhile… I’ve been asked a number of times to comment on cryptocurrencies.

I try not to – on the basis I don’t really understand the underlying logic. But a blog I read this morning struck a chord. I can’t grasp why they have taken off – except to make things like Silk Road the modern equivalent of smuggling as it hides transactions from financial scrutiny raising questions of illegality and tax. That is legally and morally wrong. Their valuations are bubbletastic, and there are now over 1200 of the things looking ripe for legislative sideswipes.

Neither can I figure how Bitcoin can possibly work – apparently the Blockchain underlying it can only handle 6 transactions per second, unlike your average credit card which can handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous deals. In other words, you could never run a global economy off it!  More to the point, I’m not quite sure why we need it when we have well established offshore currency markets and accepted “stores-of-value” like the gold brick.

And then there is the story Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan will sack any of his bankers who own them. (Hah.. we’ve heard them bragging in the pub about how much they’ve made from holding Bitcoin.)

Step back and the kinds of gains Crypto-currencies have made scream “bubble”! – fuelled by the sillies now pilling into them looking for big bucks, lured in by unverifiable stories about the riches to be made.

When a London taxi driver tells you he’s long Bitcoin… Sell! And all the folk who say they look like a Ponzi scheme – they might well be right.

But, for all their faults, the dodgy trading arenas, and the desperation of buyers, the bottom line is Bitcoin and others have made money for early investors. Why? It’s gone through successive waves of enticing reasonings: first it was the smart technological solution to a perceived crisis of confidence in currencies, before morphing into the “insider” financial trade, and now it’s a sure fire route for “Lovely Linda from Liverpool” to turn her £20k retail wages into million.

There will be tears.

Maybe Bitcoin was a well intentioned attempt to practically demonstrate the monetary theories of the Japanese bloke who is said to have invented the concept.. but today? They are a scam designed to tap the spigot of idiocy. Caveat Emptor. 

Like I say.. I don’t really understand cryptocurrencies..

In a world where the biggest real definable threat may be cyber attacks on banking systems, perhaps they might be a secure store of value. But I also suspect the first place cyber crims will ransack accounts will be the cryptocurrencies themselves.

I really don’t like this digital world..


Turkey Faces Threats For Inking Landmark Arms Deal With Russia

Authored by Alex Gorka via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The long awaited deal has taken place. A deposit has already been paid. Turkey has finally signed the $2.5bn (£1.9bn) contract with Russia to buy S-400 advanced missile defense system. With a range of 400 kilometers (248 miles), the system can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously, aiming two missiles at each one, at an altitude of up to 30 km.

The system is not operationally compatible with the systems used by NATO countries, which gives Turkey a military capacity independent of the alliance. NATO commanders will not have control over it. The identification friend or foe (IFF) equipment won’t prevent Turkey from using it against NATO aircraft and missiles. Reaching full operational capability will require Russian personnel to be stationed in Turkey on advice, assistance and training missions.

The technology transfer component of the S-400 deal is especially important as it would allow Turkey to rapidly expand domestic defense industry with Russia’s help. Russia would supply two batteries and help Ankara build two more such systems. A few years ago, the US refused to let Turkey produce Patriot air defense systems on its soil and the deal was off.

Ankara does not have industrial infrastructure to produce air defense systems. Russian specialists will have to come and build it from scratch. As a result, Russia will get access to the defense infrastructure of a NATO member state. The agreement to build the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey, which is to be launched by 2023, is another example of fruitful economic cooperation.

NATO insists members of the alliance are obligated to use military hardware that is interoperable with each other's systems. But the S-400 deal is not the first time the principle of interoperability is not observed. Greece purchased Russia's S-300 missile system several years ago.

The move – a further sign of Ankara's gradual estrangement from its Western allies – meets the strategic goal to acquire the nationally controlled defense capability. Turkey has also criticized the US and its allies for their reticence about selling it military arms and technology.

As had been expected, the deal triggered the anger of the United States and other NATO members. The US had long been warning Turkey against the deal. "We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region," Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the US administration to assess how the deal might affect Turkey’s NATO membership and US security assistance to Ankara, which includes weapons sales. He issued the warning on September 14 in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. According to him, the deal violated a bill signed into law in August that imposes sanctions "on any person that conducts a significant transaction with the Russian Federation’s defense or intelligence sectors."

The idea of introducing sanctions against Turkey has been on the EU’s agenda for quite some time. The announcement of the deal with Russia came after German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said his country was suspending all major arms exports to Turkey because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the increasingly strained ties. Gabriel added he believed that Turkey had also abandoned NATO’s common values. The idea of economic sanctions against Turkey is quite popular in Germany.

So, the three big powers, Russia, Turkey and Iran, united by the desire to end the bloodshed in Syria and rout terrorists, have become the targets of Western sanctions already imposed or still to be introduced. The pressure makes them get closer to each other. The cooperation between Russia and Turkey is on the rise and offers great prospects. Iran's Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri visited Turkey in mid-August – the first visit by an Iranian chief of staff since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The common threat of terrorism and Western pressure nudge Russia, Turkey and Iran towards one another.

The three states work together within the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where Russia is a full-fledged member, Turkey has the status of dialogue partner and Iran, an observer, is expected to become a member soon. Last November, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could become part of the SCO.

Ankara is also showing increasing interest in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It was invited to join the organization in 2014. This will open new opportunities for developing trade. Furthermore, many of the present and potential members of the EAEU are countries with whom Turkey already has close relations. The Eurasian Economic Union aims to finalize a free-trade deal with Iran by the end of the year. Reaching a deal with Iran on free trade would represent a notable victory for the organization. With Turkey and Iran as members, the EAEU would acquire a global dimension.

Obviously, there is one result the Western sanctions produce – the targeted countries come together to create alternative poles of power. Threats and restrictive measures spur the process. This policy has failed to keep Turkey away from military cooperation with Russia. In the multipolar world there is always an alternative to turn to.


Flags, Symbols, And Statues Resurgent As Globalism Declines

Authored by Wayne Madsen via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

As the forces of globalism retreat after numerous defeats in the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and other nations, there is a resurgent popularity in national, historical, and cultural symbols. These include flags, statues of forbearers, place names, language, and, in fact, anything that distinguishes one national or sub-national group from others. The negative reactions to cultural and religious threats brought about by the manifestations of globalism – mass movement of refugees, dictates from supranational organizations like the European Union and the United Nations, and the loss of financial independence – should have been expected by the globalists. Caught up in their own self-importance and hubris, the globalists are now debasing the forces of national, religious, and cultural identity as threats to the “world order.”

The most egregious examples of globalist pushback against aspirant nationhood and the symbols of national identity are Catalonia and Kurdistan.

Two plebiscites on independence, a September 25, 2017 referendum on the Kurdistan Regional Government declaring independence from Iraq and an October 1 referendum on Catalonia beginning the process of breaking away from the Kingdom of Spain, are expected to achieve “yes” votes. Neither plebiscite is binding, a fact that will result in both votes being ignored by the mother countries.

Iraq, the United States, Turkey, and Iran have warned Kurdish Iraq against holding the independence referendum. The United States is prepared to double-cross its erstwhile Kurdish allies for a fourth time. President Woodrow Wilson, who has been cited as the “first neoconservative or neocon, reneged on Kurdish independence during the post-World War I Versailles peace conference. Henry Kissinger double-crossed Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani in 1975 with the Algiers Accord between Iraq and Iran, a perfidious act that forced 100,000 of Barzani’s Kurdish forces into exile in Iran. George H. W. Bush promised the Kurds help after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 if they revolted against Saddam Hussein’s government. US military aid was not forthcoming and the Kurds were forced into a small sliver of northern Iraq, over which a US “no-fly zone” was imposed. Now, Donald Trump’s administration has warned the Kurds not to even think about independence, even though the Kurdish peshmerga forces helped the US and its allies to drive the Islamic State out of Kirkuk and the rest of northern Iraq.

In Spain, the conservative prime minister is trying to emulate the Spanish fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco in making threats against Catalonia’s independence wishes.

In response to the Catalan Parliament's vote to hold an October 1 referendum on Catalonia's independence from Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his People's Party government have promised to round up the pro-independence members of the Catalan government, as well as pro-independence legislators of the parliament and mayors, and criminally charge them with sedition.

Rajoy's stance should be no surprise since his party, the Popular Party, is the political heir of Franco's Falangist party. Franco's version of the Nazi Gestapo, the Guardia Civil, brutally suppressed Catalan and Basque identity. Particular targets for suppression, according to Falangist doctrine, were "anti-Spanish activists," "Reds," "separatists," "liberals," "Jews," "Freemasons," and "judeomarxistas."

The Falange was eventually replaced by the National Movement, which continued many of Franco's policies, including repression of the Catalan and Basque culture, autonomy, and language.

The Francoist People's Alliance, founded in 1989 by Franco's Interior Minister, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, eventually morphed into the People's Party of Rajoy. The People's Party considers itself "Christian Democratic," but it receives support from Franco's fascist Roman Catholic order, the Opus Dei.

Rajoy is using a decision by Spain's Constitutional Court, suspending the independence referendum in Catalonia, as justification for his threats against the region. Apparently, the neo-fascist government of Spain has been trawling Twitter to collect the names of Catalan mayors who have posted photographs of themselves and messages of support for the “Junts pel Si” (Together for Yes) pro-independence coalition. The mayors, along with members of parliament and the government in Barcelona, are being placed on a Guardia Civil list targeting them with arrest and incarceration if the referendum is carried out.

Rajoy has also warned officials of local municipal councils that their cooperation in holding a referendum vote will be considered an act of sedition and that they, too, face arrest and detention.

Rajoy's channeling of Franco will only solidify anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia, even among those not keen on independence. The iron boot of Rajoy and the People's Party in Catalonia will only boost support for Catalan independence from those mildly opposed to it or neutral. If Catalonia's regional and local government leaders are paraded off to prisons, the peaceful independence movement in the region could easily turn violent. There is also widespread support for Catalan independence in the separatist Basque region, where parades have been held in support of the Catalan cause. In August, 3000 pro-Catalan independence Basques marched in the Basque city of San Sebastian. If Rajoy carries through with his threat against Catalonia, the Basque region will also see it as a threat to them and join in a renewed campaign of violence against the Madrid neo-fascists. The Basque secessionist terrorist group ETA agreed to disarm in 2011 but it has not turned in all its weapons.

The Basque party EH Bildu has already submitted a bill in the regional Basque parliament that is a copy of the Catalan independence referendum bill that passed the parliament in Barcelona.

People around the world are rejecting the notion that states, harboring more than one nation, ethnic group, or tribal entity, should be recognized by globalist institutions like the EU and UN as representing all the constituent parts.

Currently, the Republic of Macedonia is negotiating with Greece, the EU, and NATO on membership under a nation-state name that suits Greece. Greece does not recognize Macedonia by that name because it believes Macedonia harbors irredentist designs on Greek Macedonia. Greece insists the country use the provisional name of FYROM, which stands for the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Macedonian nationalists scoff at such a name, likening it to being forced to use the fictional Klingon language of “Star Trek.”

As a result of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are demanding that London grant them the right to maintain their own economic and other links with the Eurocrats in Brussels. Scotland may hold a second independence referendum with or without the blessing of London. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff is sounding more and more like the Scottish Parliament in demanding a separate deal with the EU for Wales. Even in the heart of the EU bureaucracy – Belgium – Flanders and Wallonia show no signs of abandoning their march toward independence, leaving Brussels as its own independent city-state hosting the headquarters of the EU, NATO, and Godiva Chocolatier. Rather than the Belgian flag, one is more likely to find Flemish flags flying from poles in Antwerp and Walloon flags adorning buildings in Liège.

Around the world, statues of historical figures are being defaced and removed by contrarian groups who bear ethnic or political grudges. They include Confederate General Robert E. Lee throughout the United States, Captain James Cook in Australia, Father Junipero Serra in California, Christopher Columbus in New York, King Kamehameha in Hawaii, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and Marthinus Pretorius and Paul Kruger in South Africa. This all represents the trend toward dissolution of the nation-state.

Nation-state flags, monuments of past political and religious figures, and other nation-state symbols are not only being questioned but, in some cases, ignored or cast aside completely. The world is “going tribal” and there is little the governing globalists and elites can do about it. They brought this situation upon themselves with their aloofness and ignorance. The UN General Assembly will soon welcome 193-member state leaders to its plenary session in New York. The UN may do well to plan for future sessions at which 300 or more member-state leaders, from Åland to Zanzibar and Baltistan to Mthwakazi, converge on New York.