Tag Archives: Vanity Fair

GLOBAL DEBT AT 317% OF GDP

The world’s debt burden stands at a staggering 317 per cent of global gross domestic product, just shy of its all-time high in 2016, according to the Institute of International Finance.   Years of low and negative interest rates have fed the debt habit:   since the 2008 financial crisis, the world has added an extraordinary $70tn in debt, or 25 per cent of GDP, with sovereign debt accounting for nearly 40 per cent of that increase.

“To be clear: responsibly incurred debt can play an important and constructive role in economic development.   Long-term investments that enhance productivity can foster a more prosperous future. Amid subdued growth in many parts of the world and a critical need for infrastructure, there are arguments to be made in support of using debt to foster growth.

“But too much debt is a risk for lenders and borrowers alike, as history has shown time and again.”

(“We need transparency to keep countries out of a debt spiral,” Axel Weber, Financial Times, 6/18)

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CURRENCY WARS

Europe has been warned. Any use of monetary levers to hold down the euro exchange rate will be deemed a provocation by the Trump administration.

Further cuts in interest rates to minus 0.5pc or beyond will be scrutinized for currency manipulation.   A revival of quantitative easing will be considered a devaluation policy in disguise, as indeed it is, since the money leaks out into global securities and depresses the euro.

The Bank for International Settlements says €300bn of Europe’s QE funding reached London alone between 2014 and 2017.

If the ECB copies the Swiss National Bank and starts to amass foreign assets directly to cap currency strength Europe will face certain retaliation.

(“Currency war is the next phase of global conflict and Europe, the chief parasite, is defenceless,” Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, June 19th)

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BRUSSELS BRIEFING

Donald Trump’s found someone else in Europe he doesn’t like.   The US president launched a Twitter tirade against Mario Draghi after the ECB president said he was ready to inject new stimulus into the eurozone, sending the euro tumbling against the dollar.  (Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 6/1)

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 TRUMP’S WAR

“President Donald Trump cannot want war with Iran.

   Such a war, no matter how long, would be fought in and around the Persian Gulf, through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil travels.   It could trigger a worldwide recession and imperil Trump’s re-election.

   It would widen the “forever war,” which Trump said he would end, to a nation of 80 million people, three times as large as Iraq.   It would become the defining issue of his presidency, as the Iraq War became the defining issue of George W. Bush’s presidency.

 And if war comes now, it would be known as “Trump’s War.”

In conclusion:

“Who wants a U.S. war with Iran?

   Primarily the same people who goaded us into wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and who oppose every effort of Trump’s to extricate us from those wars.

   Should they succeed in Iran, it is hard to see how we will ever be able to extricate our country from this blood-soaked region that holds no vital strategic interest save oil, and America, thanks to fracking, has become independent of that.”    (“War with Iran would become “Trump’s War,” Pat Buchanan, 6/18)

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Iran shoots down US drone aircraft

Oil prices jump after action by Revolutionary Guard escalates tensions between Tehran and Washington (Financial Times, 6/20)

“Iran shoots down US military drone to send “clear message” to Trump”   (Independent, 6/20)

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GERMAN POLITICIAN ASSASSINATED BY NEO-NAZI

Germany’s federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation into the murder of Walter Lübcke, indicating that the killing of the Kassel district president on June 2 is being treated as a politically motivated terrorist act.

If indeed the murder is shown to have been politically motivated, it would be the first such assassination on a sitting German politician since the 1970s.

Trail included death threats, weapons.

A number of German outlets have reported details of the alleged far-right ties of the suspect arrested in the central city of Kassel in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday that the 45-year-old man, named only as Stephan E., had a long criminal record, had already issued death threats via his YouTube channel, and that weapons were found during the search of his home.

According to the paper, Stephan E. had written a comment on YouTube in 2018 under his alias ‘Game Over’ that read, “Either this government abdicates soon or there will be deaths.”  ( “Walter Lubcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism,”   Deutsche Welle news)

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Xenophobia stokes extreme-right activism

Puls has also noticed that neo-Nazis became more and more vocal in the last few years, following the influx of refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 and 2016, which led to more anti-immigrant sentiment in the mainstream political debate and hate speech on social media.

As a supporter of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy, Walter Lübke himself was on the sharp end of much of this.

“One can certainly say that the propensity for violence has certainly risen following the right-wing debates around immigration,” he said. “The case of Lübcke is certainly very revealing here.   Walter Lübcke faced an enormous amount of hatred in 2015.   That does raise the question:   how much does it take before one person says ‘I’ll reach for a weapon?’   In certain circumstances, not much.”

( “Walter Lubcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism,” Deutsche Welle news)

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Stand up to far right, Germany’s Angela Merkel tells Europe

The resignation of Austria’s vice chancellor led German politicians to warn against alliances with populists.   Chancellor Merkel spoke out against right-wing populism as many are now demanding new Austrian elections.   (DW)

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NEO-NAZIS IN AMERICA

The definition of a neo-Nazi is someone who belongs to an organization that is similar to the German Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler.

“Frontline” (PBS) this week showed the growth of neo-Nazis across America.   It showed synagogues that are now doing everything they can to prepare for further mass shootings.

It also interviewed members of neo-Nazi groups and showed a perverse link with the current Administration.    “To make America great again, you would have to make America white again”,  is a direct quote from a leader of the neo-Nazi movement, the Waffen.

“FRONTLINE and ProPublica continue reporting on the resurgence of white supremacist groups in the United States.   “Documenting Hate:   New American Nazis” investigates a violent neo-Nazi group that has actively recruited inside the U.S. military, and examines the group’s terrorist objectives.” (Frontline).

Overlooked here is the major contribution made by liberals, in the growth of Nazism.   The massive influx of immigrants since 1965 has led directly to anti-immigrant feeling.   The 2008 financial crisis contributed greatly to anti-semitism.

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ZUCKERBERG LAUNCHES NEW CURRENCY

“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has [a]the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Rev 13:16-17)

Zuckerberg’s $538 billion social network on Tuesday announced plans to create a new digital currency and financial system that it claims will revolutionize banking. Facebook announced the new currency, called Libra, in a 12-page white paper that promised vast improvements on bitcoin and other volatile digital coins.” (New York Post, 6/18)

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THE DARK SIDE OF ZUCKERBERG’S POWERFUL NEW CRYPTO COIN

“In its quest for world domination, Facebook has already disrupted everything from the media industry to American democracy, drawing scrutiny for things like its pitiful handling of user data, its monopolistic tendencies, and a “digital gangster” mentality along the way.   Now, as regulators in Washington, D.C., bear down on Facebook, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has acquired a new target: the global financial system.

“On Tuesday, Facebook announced plans to debut Libra, a cryptocurrency it has been developing for more than a year. Described by the company as “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that can empower billions of people,” Libra will partner Facebook with Mastercard, Visa, Uber, and an array of other high-profile companies in what the New York Times called “the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies.”

“David Marcus, who is leading Facebook’s blockchain technology research, is stoked.   “It feels like it is time for a better system,” Marcus told The Times. “This is something that could be a profound change for the entire world.”   Even Zuckerberg, who has spent much of the last two years on a sort of apology tour, sounds like he’s regained his change-the-world mojo.   “Being able to use mobile money can have an important positive impact on people’s lives because you don’t have to always carry cash, which can be insecure, or pay extra fees for transfers,”    Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.   “We aspire to make it easy for everyone to send and receive money just like you use our apps to instantly share messages and photos.”   (Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair, 6/18)

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THREAT TO US FOOD SUPPLY

“US beekeepers lost 40% of colonies over past year” – The Guardian 6/19

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON RECENT EVENTS

24-storey apartment building in London on fire

I stayed up late a week ago to watch the British election results, broadcast live on BBC World’s television channel.   It soon became clear that Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives were not doing well. Mrs. May had called an early election to strengthen her position prior to the start of Brexit talks with the European Union.   Her gamble failed – she now finds herself leading a party that does not control over 50% of parliament.   To stay in office, she has had to enter a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the pro-British faction from Northern Ireland.

This is already being misinterpreted by Sinn Fein, the anti-British, pro-republican faction from Northern Ireland; it could easily lead to further violence in the province.

There’s another threat to the coalition. Mrs. May also relies on the Scottish Conservatives, who did extremely well in the election, increasing their parliamentary representation from one to thirteen seats.  Their leader, Ruth Davidson, who is married to her female partner, is a fervent supporter of same-sex marriage; while the Northern Irish conservatives are socially very traditional.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out.

At the very least, it has weakened the government at a crucial time, as negotiations begin on Monday, with the most efficient and uncompromising bureaucracy on the face of the earth – the European Union.

An additional threat comes from the opposition Labour Party.   A prominent voice in the party is calling for one million people to take to the streets to bring down Mrs. May.   Sound familiar?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Mark 3:25.)

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EUROPEAN LEADERS CHILDLESS

Talking of Europe, note the following, sent by a friend in New Zealand:

• Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, has no             children.
•  German chancellor Angela Merkel has no children.
•  British prime minister Theresa May has no children.
•  Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has no children.
•  Holland’s Mark Rutte, has no children.
•  Sweden’s Stefan Löfven, has no children.
•  Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, has no children.
•  Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon has no children.
•  Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has        no children.

So a grossly disproportionate number of the people making decisions about Europe’s future have no direct personal stake in that future.

Additionally, in the last few days, the Irish Republic has a new prime minister.   He also has no children.  The press has been full of the fact that he is the youngest prime minister ever.   He is also half-Indian and gay, neither of which is an issue.   (Serbia’s new prime minister is also gay, as is Luxembourg’s PM.)

At the very least, all the above are thinking short-term, wanting to win the next election.   When Europe was dominated by kings, at the very least the leaders wanted to preserve their thrones for their descendants;  this also meant ensuring the continuation of the nation-state.   Both of these factors no longer apply.

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THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

Talking of kings, King Henry II got a mention in the US Congress a week ago.   Henry died long before the United States ever existed as a nation – even before America was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus.   He reigned from 1154-1189.

Note the following from Vanity Fair:

“The James Comey hearing has officially gone medieval.   A little less than two hours into the former FBI director’s highly watched testimony, Comey dropped a reference to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed at the casual request of King Henry II in the year 1170.   The reference popped up when Senator Angus King was questioning Comey, asking him about Donald Trump’s seemingly casual but firm request to have Comey drop the FBI’s Michael Flynn investigation.  Though Trump did not demand outright that Comey drop the investigation, even his slightest requests come with an air of seriousness, King suggested.

“Do you take that as a directive?” King asked Comey of Trump’s question.

“Yes, yes,” Comey replied.   “It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’”

Henry II was a very significant monarch.   James Comey learned a lesson from his reign.   Today’s British people, who have experienced three terrorist attacks in less than three months, could learn something else.   Note the following:

“Henry II, who is considered the father of the common law, promulgated the Assize of Arms in 1181. This required all (male) British citizens between 15 and 40 to purchase and keep arms.   The type of arms required varied with wealth; the wealthiest had to provide themselves with full armor, sword, dagger, and war horse, while even the poorest citizens, “the whole community of freemen,” must have leather armor, helmet and a lance.   Twice a year all citizens were to be inspected by the king’s officials to insure that they possessed the necessary arms.   Conversely, the English made it quite clear that the king was to be expected to depend exclusively upon his armed freemen.   When rebellious barons forced John I to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, they inserted in its prohibitions a requirement that he “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants, and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.” (Historical Basis of the Right to keep and bear arms, by David P. Hardy, 1982)

During the recent terror attacks in England, on each occasion, one armed citizen could have made a significant difference and saved lives.  Medieval monarchs were very concerned that the people should be able to defend themselves against the French; today, the threat is Islamic extremists, but the principle remains the same.

Also note, in the quote above, that Henry’s second son, John, one of the worst monarchs in English history, was required by the people to “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.”

No prizes for guessing who should be expelled today!

It should be noted that King Henry did not introduce the right to bear arms; he simply restored an ancient right that went back to at least the reign of Alfred the Great, in the 9th century.  The Vikings were one of the problems at that time.  The threat changes, but a threat is always there.

With this in mind, I found the following interesting while studying this morning:   “The story of David and Goliath is helpful since “five smooth stones” and a “sling” are the closest equivalent to a handgun we can find in the Bible.   David seems to have been armed with his sling at all times.   There was no way he could run home to get his sling when a lion or a bear was about to attack his flock.   (1 Sam. 17:31-37, 41-54)

It’s possible that Jesus had the Old Testament case law in mind when He offered this injunction to His disciples:   “But be sure of this, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”   (Matt 24:43) (“Jesus, Guns and Self-defence – what does the Bible say?”)

Christians should, of course, strive to live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)   Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matt 5:9)   He also told us to “turn the other cheek.”  (vs. 38-39)

With terrorism, we are dealing with a totally different mind-set from Jesus Christ, a religious belief system that encourages and celebrates killing en masse.   People have to be able to defend themselves. King Henry understood this.   Today’s leaders in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada need to address the issue, enabling people to defend themselves from acts of barbarism.   In contrast, Australia has just announced an amnesty calling on citizens to hand over illegal weapons.

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THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON, 2017

The tragic apartment block fire in London dominated the news on Wednesday.   30 deaths have been confirmed, but scores of people are still missing.   There were also over sixty injured.   What started the fire is not known at this time, but a material used in construction appears to have helped the fire to quickly spread.   The Daily Express said Thursday that EU environmental directives could be the cause.

Most of the people in the apartment block seemed to have been from other countries in Africa and Asia.   Looking at the high-rise (24-storey) block of flats, as they are called in England, I wondered why people would leave their own countries to live in such an awful place.

My wife and I have spent many happy days in African villages.   I can truthfully say that I would rather live in one of those than in a high-rise apartment block in London, or any other major city.   Isaiah 5:8 warns against living too close to each other.   “Woe unto them that join house to house.”

What attracts people to move to the West varies for each individual. One of the established reasons in the UK is the generous welfare benefits.   Perhaps some of that money could be diverted to African villages to bring water and electricity to communities to improve their quality of life.   Together with the abolition of welfare for new arrivals, this would go some way to help solve the immigration crisis.

On BBC World this morning, interviews with survivors of the fire revealed a lot of understandable anger.   It’s also clear that many have an “entitlement mentality,” demanding that the government re-house them immediately, claiming that hotels are not good enough; they also dismissed Theresa May’s call for an independent inquiry – they want those responsible punished NOW.

Since writing the above, some residents and neighbors have stormed the local town hall, chanting their demands, blaming the fire on the Conservative government.   There was no logic – just a mob mentality. Scary and a sign of things to come. 


 

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS

  • At the moment, the bar for taking extremists out of circulation is set ridiculously high.   People known for their own extremism that reaches pre-terrorist levels should not be walking the streets when they have expressed support for Islamic State (ISIS) or tried to head to Syria or called for the destruction of Britain and other democracies or allied themselves to people already in prison. Their demand for free speech or freedom of belief must never be elevated above the rights of citizens to live safely in their own towns and cities.   It is essential for parliament to lower the bar.
  • Is this to be the political landscape for the future, where groups of people demanding death and destruction are given the freedom of the streets whilst those wishing to hold a peaceful celebration are prevented from doing so?
  • To see extremist Islam as a “perversion” of Islam misses an important point.   The politically correct insistence that radical versions of Islam somehow pervert an essentially peaceful and tolerant faith forces policy-makers and legislators, church leaders, rabbis, interfaith workers and the public at large to leave to one side an important reality.   Flatly, Islam in its original and classic forms has everything to do with today’s radicals and the violence they commit.   The Qur’an is explicit in its hatred for pagans, Jews and Christians.   It calls for the fighting of holy war (jihad) to conquer the non-Muslim world, subdue it, and gradually bring it into the fold of Islam. Islam has been at war with Europe since the seventh century.

(“No tolerance for extremism, “ by Denis McMacEion, Gatestone Institute, 6/16).