“The suicide rate in America is up by 18% since 2000. This is not merely a tragedy; it matters politically, too. The rise is largely among white, middle-aged, poorly educated men in areas that were left behind by booms and crushed by busts. Their deaths are a symptom of troubles to which some see President Trump as the answer. Those troubles should not be ignored.” (“Staying alive,” The Economist,11/24)
Suicide is declining pretty much all over the world, thanks to greater freedom and some helpful policies.” (“Defeating despair,” The Economist, 11/24).
“Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994.”
LIFE EXPECTANCY DOWN IN US
“Suicide and drug overdose rates continued to rise in 2017, helping drive the number of U.S. deaths to the highest level in more than 100 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a series of reports on mortality released Thursday.
“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”
“Life expectancy in 2017 fell to an average of 78.6 years for the total population, down from 78.7 years in 2016.
“Overall, more than 2.8 million Americans died in 2017, about 70,000 more than in 2016.”
(“Suicides, overdoses rise in US,” John Bacon, USA Today, 11/30)
CONTINUING BREXIT CRISIS
“The only rule of British politics for the coming weeks is that nobody knows anything. The prime minister doesn’t know who will resign next. The factions don’t know their relative strengths. Nobody knows what is bluff and what is in deadly earnest.
“But one thing that is increasingly clear in the fog of Brexit is that this is the most serious domestic crisis Britain has faced in the modern democratic era. In the statement that accompanied his resignation as transport minister earlier this month, Jo Johnson accused his own government of “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.” Others have compared the current debacle to the IMF’s bail-out of Britain in 1976 or the gold-standard crisis of 1931. In fact it is worse than anything else Britain has endured in peacetime. The political system is all but paralysed, the country is divided into warring ideological tribes, the civil service in overwhelmed and, in the event of no deal, Britain would be staring into the abyss.” (“Crisis? What crisis?” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/24).
The Economist has a new layout, that prompted an anti-Brexit reader to suggest they move the British news section to the end of the magazine, after the Obituary column!
IS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TAKING A DOWNTURN?
The stock market has been rather jumpy lately. At the same time, gas has been going down (except in France, where an increase in fuel taxes has resulted in three consecutive weekends of riots); of course, a fall in gas prices may not be such a good thing, as it’s often the harbinger of a slowing economy.
Here’s some other indicators the economy may be headed south:
- The Federal Reserve has been ratcheting up interest rates.
- Corporations have loaded up on debt.
- Unemployment is so low that employers are finally raising wages.
- The housing market shows signs of softening.
. . . But there are plenty of upbeat signs today, too.
Auto sales are still running strong, if not quite at the peak levels of a couple of years ago. Then, too, the labor markets still have some slack . . .” (“Warning signs of recession abound,” John Gallagher, Lansing State Journal, 11/26).
“NEW YORK 30% OFF”
“Some homeowners are selling at bargain-basement prices from what they paid, as the city faces an end to a decade-long boom. Oversupply, rising interest rates and tax-code changes are only partly to blame.” (WSJ, Mansion, 11/30).
“Real estate, oil and employment figures are sending similar messages, and that is that economic activity is starting to slow significantly, just like in 2007 before the Great Recession wiped out trillions of dollars from the markets.
And, according to a blog on The Economic Collapse, those in charge don’t want to admit the reality of what is happening, just like in 2008.” (“Money and markets,” JT Crowe, 11/30)
GM ANNOUNCES 15,000 JOB CUTS (Monday)
‘In the wake of massive layoffs announced by U.S. carmaker General Motors, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at President Donald Trump’s recent steel and aluminum tariffs.
At Friday’s ceremony to sign a new version of NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, Trudeau urged Trump to reassess levies imposed on Canadian imports in June.
“Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries,” Trudeau said Friday, The Hill reported. According to a tweet from Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale, the prime minister was referring to the GM cuts, which Trudeau called a “heavy blow.”
(Justin Trudeau blasts Donald Trump’s trade tariffs to his face after General Motors announced huge lay-offs,” Katherine Hignett, Newsweek, 11/30)
AN ARMY OF THE EUROPEANS
Military Union in the Making
“At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans.” According to von der Leyen, “the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy” of the EU with its own armed forces. “The European defense union is in the making. “ Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing “independent command capabilities,” alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed. Brussels could establish a “committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defense,” which could rapidly prepare decisions – in questions of war and peace. In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. “European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible.” This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against their interests.
The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the “army of the Europeans.” To actually achieve “strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security – perhaps even completely,” according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States . This would mean that, not only conventional, but “nuclear deterrence,” as well, must be “independently organized in Europe.”  This, in turn, must be accompanied “by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity.” Furthermore, with the “shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence,” the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe … is not among the world leaders,” concluded Techau. In the future, “the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now.” The “scope of the task” also demands that in the future “strategy be taught at German universities . . . and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards.” And ultimately, “a federal security council” should “be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions” so that “the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice.” “German foreign policy, 11/29
‘THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR IS OVER!”
Those were the words of President George H.W. Bush, who has now died, aged 94. They were spoken at a time of great optimism, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the US intervention against President Noriega of Panama. Almost thirty years later, democracy isn’t doing so good. A report last week showed that, in Africa, nations are becoming more dictatorial as leaders refuse to hold elections, amending their constitutions to enable them to stay in power indefinitely.
TWO CHUMMY MURDERERS
Without any sense of shame or embarrassment, President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, greeted each other warmly at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both men think nothing of ordering the murders of people who disagree with them. Unfortunately, western nations still have to do business with them!
HERALDING THE SOCIALIST PARADISE
“Senator Bernie Sanders knows what he wants. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, the democratic socialist from Vermont laid out a legislative agenda for the 116th Congress’s first 100 days. Among the dizzying array of proposals Mr. Sanders pushed were his “Medicare for All” bill, tuition-free college, student-debt relief, tax increases requiring “wealthy people and large corporations to begin paying their fair share” and a $15 minimum wage indexed to “median wage growth,” not inflation.
“Others in the Democratic Party’s increasingly influential democratic-socialist wing are pressing for their own major legislation to pass the House, even if it will get nowhere in the Republican Senate. Rep.-elect Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, for example, wants a “Green New Deal.” Sounding too much like a Maoist functionary, she describes it as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to make America carbon neutral.” (“Stopping the Socialist Resurgence,” Karl Rove, WSJ, November 29th)