Tag Archives: Syriza

NEW GERMAN COALITION TO INCREASE MILITARY STRENGTH

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz

Europe remains in a continual state of flux.   The UK is leaving the EU and facing an uncertain future.  The EU must punish Britain. It cannot afford to let the UK succeed outside of the Union, or others may follow her through the “exit” door.   Greece is finally coming out of years of serious economic troubles.   Eastern European nations are at variance with Germany over immigration.   Austria has a new conservative government that includes the right-wing Freedom Party.   Always remember, when looking at Europe, that the turmoil the continent is now going through will lead to the fulfillment of the following prophecy.

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” (Revelation 17:12-13)

GERMAN COALITION

It looks as if Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (supposedly a conservative party) is going to be able to form a coalition with the left-of-center Social Democrats, led by Martin Schulz.   This combination is referred to as a Grand Coalition, bringing two opposing parties together again.

“One downside to the grand coalition is that it leaves the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which made a surprisingly strong showing in September’s polls, as the largest opposition party, giving it a number of advantages including public funding and leadership roles in some parliamentary committees.  The AfD, the closest thing to Nazis to win seats in the Bundestag since the actual Nazis, ran a racially inflected populist campaign that capitalized on widespread anxieties about the influx of refugees and migrants from the Muslim Middle East, which the AfD said were threatening both Germany’s national security and its national identity.”  (“Germany’s political turmoil is bad news for Europe,” Jonah Shepp, New York magazine, 1/16/18).

Looking to the future, Mr. Shepp wrote:

“Part of Merkel’s problem is that she represents a waning generation of political leadership whose preference for moderation and incremental progress is being rejected in favor of bold new ideas on both the right and the left.   German voters flocked to smaller parties in September, particularly the AfD and FDP, while the Greens and the Left made gains among younger voters.

“Younger members of Merkel’s own conservative party have been urging her step aside, while a rising generation of leaders is waiting in the wings to succeed her.   The most talked-about potential successor is 37-year-old Jens Spahn, an openly gay man who has criticized Merkel from the right on immigration issues.   Another name that comes up is Ursula von der Leyen, the current defense minister, whose positions are more liberal.

“The other mainstream parties are also looking at generational transitions:   CSU chairman Horst Seehofer is handing the Bavarian premiership over to Markus Söder, 18 years his junior, while many Social Democrats are looking to oust their leader Martin Schulz after their disappointing performance in September.”

The composition of the new coalition means there will be fireworks ahead as each party wants different things.   It’s not likely the government can stay together very long.   That also means Mrs. Merkel’s future is uncertain and will be short-lived.   She has been Chancellor for over twelve years.

Change is likely not far off.

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GERMAN REARMAMENT

Meanwhile, the German World Socialist website is warning that the new German government plans a massive expansion of its military. (This is exactly what President Trump has been demanding, that Germany spend at least 2% of its GNP on defense.)

Incoming German government plans massive military rearmament   By Johannes Stern                                                                                                           3 January 2018 * World Socialist Web Site

Extracts:

“At the beginning of December, in a keynote address to the Körber Foundation in Berlin, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel demanded that after seven decades of relative foreign policy restraint, Germany return to an independent foreign and military policy – supported by a militarized European Union under German leadership.   “Now we realize that even with great economic prosperity in our country there is no comfortable place on the side-lines of international politics for us anymore.   Neither for us Germans nor for us Europeans,” he declared provocatively.

“Significantly, the SWP, which is close to the government, has once again submitted a paper titled “Dissolution or Replacement?   The International Order in Transition,” which openly makes the case for the establishment of a new world order under German-European leadership.   Above all, it considers China and the US, with or without Trump, as international rivals.

“ . . . The entire paper makes clear that the ruling classes in Germany and Europe are again preparing for a new major war. “

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BREXIT

The Brits are on their way out and leaving the EU with an almighty headache about money.   Rows over the common pot of cash in the EU27 will be about €13bn a year more painful after the UK blows a hole in the budget after 2020.   (FT Brussels Briefing, 1/9)

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GREECE’S 8 YEARS OF AUSTERITY UNDER GERMAN DIRECTION IS ALMOST OVER

It’s a Grexit with a difference. 2018 should be the year Greece ends eight years of economic tutelage, closing a chapter on an extraordinary period in the EU’s financial crisis fight.

August is the planned exit date and Greece’s Syriza government has been quietly crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on its €86bn bailout ahead of the summer. In a familiar ritual, the Greek parliament this week passed its last mountain of sweeping reforms – touching everything from energy markets to trade unions – to unlock its latest dose of rescue money.   Eurozone finance ministers should sign off on the penultimate bailout review on Monday.

In one last act of defiance, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Greek parliament to vent their rage against labour laws that make it harder for trade unions to call strikes. “The law is totally undemocratic, a form of modern slavery” the head of Greece’s public sector union told The Guardian‘s Helena Smith.  (FT Brussels Briefing, 1/17)

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STRATFOR’S PREDICTION FOR NEW YEAR

2018 Annual Forecast – North Korea’s likely achievement of a viable nuclear deterrent next year will give rise to a new and more unstable era of containment.   As the specter of war looms in the Asia-Pacific, China and Russia will band together while the United States cracks down even harder on Iran — as well as its own trade partners.  (Stratfor 1/17)

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ISRAEL EXPELLING 10,000 AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS

Israel launches plan to expel thousands of African migrants                4 Jan 2018

Jerusalem – Israel on Wednesday began implementing a plan to force tens of thousands of African migrants out of the country by April, threatening to arrest those who stay.  “This plan will get under way today,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.  Under the programme, some 38,000 migrants who entered Israel illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, will have until the end of March to leave.  Each will receive a plane ticket and $3,500 to do so.   After the deadline, this amount will decrease and those who continue to refuse to go will face arrest.  Holot, an open facility in Israel’s desert south that can host 1,200 migrants who are allowed to leave to work during the day, is also set to be closed. Netanyahu pledged to “return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel”, adding that the Africans were “not refugees but illegal infiltrators.”

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BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN

Our youngest grandson, not even two yet, already knows a lot more than most politicians, judges and liberal intellectuals in the western world.

Hayden has it down pat.  He knows to go to either Mom or Grandma when he wants food or needs his diaper changed; he’s also learned, when he wants fun, that Dad or Grandpa are the go-to people.

If a 20-month-old toddler can clearly distinguish gender roles, why can’t judges, politicians and lawyers?

They would do well to ponder the following words of Jesus Christ:

… Jesus called a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you, He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 18:2-4)

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FOUR LETTER WORDS

I took my wife and daughter to see a movie today.   On the way there, our daughter was doing a crossword on her phone.   She suddenly said:   “I need a four lettered word.”   I suggested she call the White House!

It’s ironic that the bad word President Trump allegedly used to describe African countries and Haiti has some truth to it.   We lived in Africa for over ten years.  During that time, we hosted many western visitors, both black and white.   The one thing everybody complained about was the toilet facilities – or, rather, the lack of them.

This does not mean that there is nothing positive to say about Africa. As I often remarked to visitors:   “we can teach them a lot about plumbing, but we can’t teach them anything about relationships. That’s where they can teach us.”

Back to Trump’s expletive.   Both Richard Nixon and his predecessor LBJ used a lot of bad language.  I suspect every president has since, to one degree or another.

 

Whenever I hear certain words, I am reminded of what my old English teacher said over fifty years ago.   “People who use bad language have a limited vocabulary with which to express themselves!”   There’s a lot of truth in that.

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MORE IGNORANCE

Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona Republican) has compared President Trump to Josef Stalin.

This kind of ignorance is appalling and dangerous.

Trump has his problems, but he cannot be equated with Stalin, a dictator who killed millions of people in his own country.   Millions more were sent to their deaths in the gulags.

Additionally, ordering the murders of five of his top nine generals prior to World War II meant the country was almost defeated by the German army.   The death toll from this alone was twenty million.

Senator Flake should not be allowed back into Congress until he has read all three volumes of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago.”   This would give him a much better idea of Russia’s reality under Uncle Joe.

Others who have compared Trump to Hitler should be assigned William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

Unfortunately, ignorance does not preclude entry into Congress!  If anything, it helps.

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Israeli Mayors Rail Against Law Limiting Commerce on Shabbat   11 Jan 2018 * JNS.org 

Dozens of mayors across Israel vowed on Tuesday to fight the country’s new law limiting commerce on Shabbat, saying they will not enforce it.   The controversial “supermarkets bill” passed in the Knesset with a razor-thin majority of 58-57 on Tuesday morning. The law, an amendment to the Local Authorities Law’s provisions on the operation of local businesses on days of rest, gives the interior minister the power to shutter businesses that choose to remain open on Shabbat.   During the past few weeks, Israeli municipalities have raced to bypass the looming supermarkets law, passing and bolstering bylaws allowing businesses to remain open on Shabbat.

“The supermarkets bill is meaningless.  It is up to the mayors to enforce it and I say in no uncertain terms that I have no intention of sending inspectors to enforce it,”  Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger said Tuesday.   “We are a liberal city, and we believe in allowing people to live their lives according to their own beliefs.  This is what creates the fabric of life in the city,” he said.   Prior to the vote on the bill, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson pledged “to do everything within my power to preserve the status quo in the city, as part of which some businesses will be open on Shabbat for the benefit of the residents.” Givatayim Mayor Ran Kunik also announced he would not enforce the new law, telling reporters he is determined to preserve the status quo in his city.   “Givatayim knows what’s best for its residents better than any minister,” he said.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNCERTAIN DEALS

Map for deals

Two current international “deals” may yet amount to nothing.

The European Union’s latest deal with Greece, the third bailout of the country in the last five years, may yet fail.

The Greek government may not be able to get the agreement through parliament as it is only going to make austerity harder for the Greek people.

Four bills need to be passed in the next twenty-four hours.   Pensions must be cut; taxes increased; the defense budget slashed and steps taken toward privatizing ports and other government owned enterprises, which it is hoped will cut corruption and make things more efficient.   As the ruling party, Syriza, is very left-wing, there’s a good possibility the parliament will not approve everything.   The Greek population voted against further austerity less than a month ago.

There is concern, too, beyond Greece’s borders.   European creditor countries are fully aware that, even if the Greek parliament approves the agreement, they may not keep their word.   It’s happened before.   This would mean that, in a few months, Greece will be back, asking for a further bailout.

A further set-back occurred this morning when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Greece’s debt was “unsustainable” and that the country needs a much greater infusion of cash from the EU.   The EU bailout deal has, at least, united all concerned in the conviction that it won’t work!    The Greek problem is not about to go away.

Then there’s the deal between six western powers and Iran.

The British Guardian Weekly wasn’t sure which deal to put on its front page, Greece or Iran.   Right up to the last minute, Greece was going to be the leader, but then the deal with Iran came through.  The paper decided that the Iranian deal was the more important one, with far reaching implications.   But both deals could have both short-term and long-term negative consequences.

On Iran, the headline on the Fox News website was: “Win for Putin?” Putin has been supportive of Iran, Syria’s Assad and Shi’ites in general.

It’s certainly a win for Iran, which can look forward to the lifting of international sanctions.

The best the West can hope for is that this will buy time, that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons for at least the next ten years, by which time, democracies being as they are, none of those signing the agreement today, will still be in power.   They can, as with so many things, kick the can down the road.

However, even if this presupposes Iran will keep its side of the deal.   That’s no more likely than Greece abiding by the terms of the EU bailout deal.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what the West thinks about the Iranian deal.

Israel’s prime minister has described the deal as “a mistake of historic proportions,” that it endangers his country.   He added:  “the more you read it, the worse it gets.”   Iran has been screaming “Death to Israel.  Death to America,” for over 35 years.   A recent demonstration in Tehran showed mobs screaming the same again. Perhaps nobody in Washington has been watching!

But, even Israel is not the country most concerned about the agreement.   The Sunni Arab states are.   Almost certainly, they will see through this agreement and their fears of Shia Iran acquiring nuclear weapons will lead them to acquire the same.   It may take a few years, but they will be driven by a great sense of urgency.   Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are the three countries most likely to pursue their own bomb, with immediate help from Pakistan, which already has the bomb.   Saudi Arabia certainly has the money for this.

The greatest threat to world peace remains the Sunni-Shia conflict, a struggle that has continued for over thirteen centuries.   Although an Obama Administration spokesman expressed the hope that the Iran deal would help bring a resolution to the ancient conflict, this is at best naïve.   Nothing will end the conflict until the Messiah comes and sorts out the religious mess that is today’s world. Meanwhile, the US will be seen as siding with the Shi’ites against the Sunnis.   Tehran and Damascus must be celebrating at this development.

The Iranian deal brings to mind I Thessalonians 5:3 :  “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail Upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (KJV).

Thankfully, Jesus Christ is returning to end the spiritual confusion. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”  (Matthew 24:22).

SYRIZA WINS GREEK ELECTION

Alexis Tsipras

In the last few weeks we’ve developed a taste for Kerrygold butter, which comes from Ireland.   Diane did the research – Kerrygold and Anchor (from New Zealand) are the two healthiest butters you can buy.   The milk comes from “happy” cows!

Unfortunately, Kerrygold costs more than regular butter.

In theory, the price should have come down recently as the euro has fallen in value against the US dollar.   It now takes only $1.11 to buy a euro; it was twenty-five cents higher fairly recently.   Ireland uses the euro, so the price of everything they produce should have come down with the lower value of the euro.   But the price of Kerrygold has not fallen – in fact, it’s gone up by 50 cents for half a pound.   (We can’t buy Anchor in Lansing but it, too, should have fallen in price as the US dollar has risen.)   Not only has the euro decreased in value, transportation costs have also fallen with the drop in the price of oil.

My favorite beer also comes from Ireland.   I don’t buy it as often as butter (you will be pleased to know) but I’m hoping that the price has not similarly risen.

Sometimes, there’s no logic when it comes to money and exchange rates.   All money today is built simply on confidence.   The value of the dollar and the British pound usually rise when there is great turmoil in the world – people around the world have more confidence in the two older democracies, which have a longer record of stability.   When the euro was launched in January 1999, its’ value was $1.1743. It reached its highest rate against the dollar in July, 2008, when it took $1.6038 to buy a euro.   This was at a time when confidence in the US currency was low.   It’s now almost a third less against the greenback.

Monday will likely see a further fall in the value of the euro, so perhaps I should expect Kerrygold to go up in price again, when it should, in fact, come down.

The reason that the euro will likely drop further in value is the Greek election held today, Sunday.   The “very left-wing” party, Syriza, has been voted into power.   The party campaigned on a promise to end austerity, imposed on the country for its extreme profligacy.

The party leader, Alexis Tsipras, rather naively hopes that he can cut Greece’s debts by 50% in a new deal with the troika (the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund).   If that fails, withdrawal from the eurozone is a definite possibility.   Other members may even encourage Greece to leave before they do greater harm to the single currency.   Withdrawal would enable Greece to have its own currency.   They could then print money and print more money and then even more money . . . you get the picture.   This would not, of course, solve their problems but it might give them a temporary high.

Spain is watching developments in Greece closely.   The Spanish economy is a lot bigger than Greece’s.   It has also been going through a long period of austerity for the same reasons as Greece.   The Podemos (“We can”) party is Spain’s equivalent of Syriza.   It, too, could win the next election, due later this year.

Germany is unlikely to approve any deal for Greece that absolves them of debts owed to German taxpayers lest Spain make the same demand.

The eurozone is not really in danger, though Greece and Spain could certainly withdraw from the currency union.   Other profligate countries could follow – Italy and Portugal, for example.   Corruption is a big problem in all four countries.   Mr. Tsipras has promised to do something about it, as have other earlier prime ministers.

Nineteen countries are now members of the eurozone.   Six other European countries also use the currency.   Outside of Europe, remaining overseas territories of European countries also use it. Additionally, 210 million people worldwide use currencies pegged to the euro, including 182 million Africans.   This makes the euro the most used hard (convertible) currency in the world.

Expect further turmoil in world financial markets as well as possible changes in the composition of the EU, though few on the continent of Europe seem to want that, at this point in time.   The EU and the euro have brought many advantages and have a great deal of support.   Even Mr. Tsipras is calling first for changes that will simply end the long period of austerity that has devastated his country.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS DESK

syriza

Syriza was described on the BBC World Service this morning as a “very left-wing party.”   It looks as if it will come to power in Greece this Sunday, January 25th.

The big issue, as is common in western democracies, is the economy.   In the case of Greece, this means austerity, which, in turn, means the euro.

In May, 2010, faced with imminent national bankruptcy, the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (the so called troika) bailed out the small Mediterranean country, while imposing strict austerity on the Greeks.   Austerity measures were increased in 2011 resulting in very high unemployment, especially amongst the young.   The measures were extremely unpopular.   Much of the blame was given to the euro, Germany and Angela Merkel.

Today, Syriza is threatening to unilaterally halve the debt, to end Greece’s national “humiliation” and if necessary, to leave the euro. Angela Merkel has indicated she is ok with a Grexit, the term being used for a Greek exit.

One concern is that, if one country withdraws, others will follow.   The eurozone could unravel.   Although not a member of the eurozone, Great Britain could pull out of the EU, which, again, might influence others.

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died yesterday, automatically succeeded by his half-brother King Salman.   Little change is likely in the kingdom in the immediate future.   The two kings come from a total of 45 brothers and half-brothers.   However, King Salman, aged 79, is likely the last of the present generation.

King Abdullah’s passing is ill-timed.   He has been king since 2005 and before that was de facto monarch for ten years as the previous king had suffered a serious stroke.   So, for twenty years, he has been the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia and a major figure in the Middle East.   His knowledge and experience will be sorely missed.

This is a challenging time for the Arabian peninsula, home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), perpetrators of the Paris terror attack.   Yemen’s pro-American government resigned this week as rebels seized the capital.   At the same time, another neighbor, Oman, will soon lose its leader, the pro-western Sultan Qaboos, who is now 74 and has been suffering from an undisclosed medical condition, which has resulted in him being rarely seen in public.

King Abdullah has been involved in bringing down the price of oil.   If the king had wanted to, he could have reversed the falling price simply by cutting Saudi production, but he didn’t.

He has also played a major role in supporting western efforts at fighting IS (Islamic State) and supporting Sunni rebels against Syria’s leader, who is allied to Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Shia Iran.   It should be noted here that Iran’s leader will attend a memorial for King Abdullah tomorrow.   Under Islamic custom, the king was buried today.

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Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. He died on 24th January 1965.

His official biographer is Sir Martin Gilbert.   Sir Martin spends two months every year at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he lectures on Churchill.   He has willed his extensive Churchill library to the college.

A few years ago, a student invited me to go with him to one of the lectures.

I asked Sir Martin to sign my copy of his one volume book on Churchill, which he gladly did.   I also took the opportunity to ask him a question:   “If Churchill had never lived, what would have happened in World War Two?”   His response was:   “We wouldn’t have gotten very far.”   His lecture that evening illustrated his point.

That evening’s talk was on the sinking of the French fleet after the fall of France.

Churchill ordered that the fleet should be sunk so that it would not fall into the hands of the Germans.   Hundreds of French naval personnel died in the British attack on the fleet.   The incident remains controversial to this day.   Not only did it deny the Germans the use of the fleet, it had the added side benefit of convincing US President Franklin Roosevelt to back Churchill.    He was now convinced that the British war-time leader would stop at nothing to win the war.

The western world desperately needs a Churchill now.