Archive for category Politics

Viva la Revolucion

“I’m off to Cuba on Saturday” said my old mate Chinny; “I’ll send you back a poster of your hero Che Guevara, since you are too feeble to actually come with me, see Cuba for yourself and get your own poster.”

Harsh words from someone who is supposed to be a mate. Doesn’t he realise I have a golf game on Monday morning? I can’t just take off halfway around the world on a whim. I have responsibilities, I have commitments. Anyway Chinny wanted to know why I wanted a poster of a murdering terrorist. So that started the whole debate between us as to when a murdering terrorist might actually be an heroic freedom fighter removing corruption and greed from the world by whatever means it takes.

The Che Guevara legend came to the fore during the third movie of my favourite ever trilogy, The Godfather. Michael Corleone was in Cuba with all his mafia gangsters, plus a collection of senior USA government and legitimate corporate representatives celebrating the 1959 New Year, as New Year’s Eve party guests of Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban military dictator.

Cuba was full of magnificent art deco hotels and casinos, flashy American cars and all the glam of the USA 1950’s. At least it was glamorous for the gangsters, the big businessmen, corrupt politicians and the American tourists; the peasants lived in poverty. But that was the night that the socialist revolutionary Fidel Castro and his second in command, Che Guevara, took over the government of Cuba. Che Guevara was not a Cuban. His name was not Che. Nor was he just an uneducated, peasant soldier who worked his way up the ranks of Castro’s revolutionary army.

Ernesto Guevara was born into a wealthy Argentinian family (Che is the Hispanic term for an Argentinian) and was of mixed Irish/ Spanish blood; some would say that bloodline made him born to be a revolutionary. He was studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires when he decided (twice) to take time off from his studies to travel on a motor cycle up through northern Argentina, Peru and Chile. It started as an adventure but the abject poverty, disease and corruption he witnessed turned this adventure into a lifetime mission. He went back to Buenos Aires and finished his medical degree and then set off again through Latin America determined to make the world a better place. He was drawn to socialist organisations and soon became involved in assisting President Arbenz of Guatemala to introduce social reforms into that country.

Unfortunately Arbenz was overthrown, with CIA assistance, and the young Guevara went north to Mexico. In 1955 he married Hilda Accosta, an influential economist who introduced him to Cuban revolutionaries visiting Mexico. It was at this time he met Fidel Castro and he had found his great mission in life. From Mexico Guevara sailed to Cuba. While initially he brought his medical skills to the revolution, such was his political intellect and his unwavering military pragmatism, he soon became Castro’s second in charge. One of the twentieth century’s greatest revolutionary partnerships was born.

After the success of the Cuban revolution, Che undertook several important government roles in Cuba including agrarian reforms and establishing a nationwide literacy programme. He trained the military forces that repelled the USA’s disastrous invasion at the Bay of Pigs which internationally embarrassed the Americans. He is also reputed to have treated the 2,000 political prisoners without compassion. The death penalty was mandatory.

Immediately after the revolution Che married fellow Cuban revolutionary Aleida March and they had four children together. He became a global statesman, an honoured guest in Russia, China and Africa. But over the next few years he came to be at irreconcilable odds with Castro over Cuba’s economic policies. As a statesman he had become disillusioned with the Russian socialist model favoured by Castro and far more inclined towards the Chinese model. History would have to say, in retrospect, Guevara was right in his assessment. Cuba’s population/GDP ratio today is almost identical to Greece which is not a great achievement for the Castro rule. Relatively speaking, NZ has under half the population with over twice the GDP. On any social or economic scale, it appears that Cuba is worse off now than it was before Castro took over. Before Castro, Cuba spent 4% of its GDP on education, the same % as USA and higher than anywhere in Europe. Before Castro, Cuba had more doctors per 1,000 population than Great Britain. Ideals are all very well, but if you cant create the wealth, you can’t deliver the social programmes. Castro did change Cuba from being a country with a disproportionate distribution of wealth, but unfortunately converted it to a country of almost universal poverty.

So, disillusioned with Castro’s economic policies, Che Guevara resigned his government posts in 1965. He dropped out of sight for a while but then turned up in the Belgian Congo, supporting the revolution there that eventually renamed that country Zaire. From there he made his way to Bolivia where he took an active role in fighting alongside local revolutionaries. On 8 October 1967 Che and his small band of guerillas, were captured and executed by the Bolivian forces, supported by the USA military. They were buried in secret graves that were not disclosed for 28 years.

In 1997, his remains were repatriated from Bolivia to Cuba where they are housed, along with the 29 revolutionaries who died with him, in a huge mausoleum at Santa Clara. Fifty years after his death he remains a folklore legend.

Nelson Mandella was a contemporary revolutionary of Guevara. Mandela was born to the Thembu royal family in South Africa. Like Guevara he was university educated. As a lawyer he became involved in anti-colonial politics joining the ANC in 1943, committed to the overthrow of apartheid. He was also a Marxist and a member of the South African Communist Party. In 1961, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant group “Umkhonto we Sizwe” and led a sabotage campaign against the government. He was arrested and imprisoned, not an unfamiliar experience, but this time it was for 27 years. He was released in 1990 after years of international protest and sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid policies. Through surviving, Mandella became the poster boy for the victory over apartheid. The first democratic elections in 1994, when black South Africans were given the vote, saw Mandella become President of South Africa. Although a marxist by history, Mandella maintained the established liberal economy in South Africa. The collapse of USSR communism in 1991 and the economic changes in communist China clearly influenced his economic direction. He died peacefully of old age in 2013. Mandella may be said to have been a revolutionary, but in reality he was a protester whose greatest achievement was surviving 27 years in prison until the political landscape changed. The difference between protester and revolutionary is the difference in lives between Mandella and Guevara. One buried in prison for 27 years, the other buried in an unmarked grave for 28 years. Now both have grand memorials to deliver messages to the world.

Bin Laden may have been the closest we have seen of a modern day Che Guevara. Bin Laden, born into a wealthy Saudi family, travelled to Afghanistan to join the guerilla fighters to drive out the Russian invaders. A noble cause. A brave and intelligent fighter. A leader of men. But Bin Laden crossed the line. Bin Laden targeted non-combatant civilians in his war against the West. He may have claimed justification in his actions by citing the indiscriminate drone attacks of the USA on Arab targets, but if he wanted to be respected as is Guevara, he had to hold the high moral ground. He needed to discipline himself and his followers to restrict his fight to the soldiers and the spies; to those who immorally invaded and involved themselves in the affairs of another sovereign nation. He had to let the West be exposed as the side that was indiscriminately murdering civilians, if that is what was happening. Through undertaking revenge of the innocents against other innocents, Bin laden has caused the creation of the new, oppressive global ‘security’ industry. Bin Laden has single handedly given governments in the West the legitimacy to spy on its citizens, to arrest and torture suspects and disrupt our travel movements.

Undoubtedly that was his intent. Creating fear amongst the enemy soldiers is the role of a guerilla freedom fighter. Creating terror amongst the non-combatants is criminal terrorism. Guevara may well have killed his political enemies without mercy, but it was war and they were active participants in that war. And Guevara died in battle, fighting to the end, taking his socialist war to wherever in the world he believed it was needed. Bin Laden died while in hiding in a hovel from the Americans. Now, 50 years after his death, Che Guevara’s legend as a freedom fighter lives strong. What Bin Laden’s personal legacy will be in 44 years remains to be seen. But so far there is no grand memorial built to his memory.

The book writers and screen writers, the poets and the songwriters may disagree whether Che Guevara was executed as a terrorist criminal or martyred as a fighter for justice and humanity. I won’t enter the debate here but if, thirty years after your death, your body is repatriated and honoured with such a massive mausoleum, then history respects you and honours you for doing something important and meaningful with your life. I would love to have gone to Cuba with Chinny on Saturday, specifically to Santa Clara. If only I didn’t have that golf game booked in.

Footnote: True to his word, this poster arrived in the mail from Chinny. 

Footnote #2: 8/8/2018: I got an email from Chinny last night asking if a postcard he had also sent me had arrived. I responded in the negative and, being over four months ago, I wasn’t holding out any hope now. Then today this postcard appeared in my letter box. Unbelievable. After 20 weeks it was arriving in my box at exactly the same time Chinny suddenly remembered  that he had sent it. Probably just a weird coincidence, nothing to do with Che himself sending me a message, naah.

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TrumpLand

I have predicted, of late, that we are watching the decline of the American Empire. I say ’empire’ but, like the British empire, America’s empire is  not a legal entity in the sense of actually having an emperor  like Julius Caesar, Suleiman the magnificent or Napoleon. But in the modern context I refer to empire in the sense of dominating global currencies. By that criteria, America ascended the imperial throne at the end of World War 2. England was poking its military nose around the world back in the 17th century and by the late 18th and 19th centuries their manufacturing technology and their formidable navy led to domination of global trade, through India, Africa, Hong Kong, the South Pacific and the Americas.

All was going well for the Brits during the 19th century but by the early 20th century America was starting to get the better of their balance of trade. The USA now had their own cotton gins. However Britain still remained the centre of world commerce and much of the global trade was conducted in British pounds and all major currencies were pegged to gold bars.

Then came World War 1. It was such an expensive war that many countries, Germany in particular, had to abandon the gold standard to pay military expenses; those currencies devalued rapidly. Three years into the war and even Britain needed to borrow money to keep going and the Yanks were there to help out. Britain was forced to abandon the gold standard and the British international merchants who traded in pounds found their bank accounts severely depleted. The greenback $US was now the leading reserve currency.

When World War 2 broke out the US stayed out of the conflict for a long time but nonetheless profited greatly from the war as the main merchant of weapons, ammunition and supplies to the allied forces. They required payment for most of it in gold and by the end of the war they held most of the gold on earth in Fort Knox.

The Americans only entered the war after they were personally attacked at Pearl Harbour by Japan which was an ally of Germany. Playing a major role in ending the war in Europe gave them the opportunity to claim top of the table seat on the global international stage. In 1944, delegates from forty four Allied countries met in Bretton Wood, New Hampshire, to come up with a system to manage foreign exchange that would not put any country at a disadvantage. It was decided that the world’s currencies couldn’t be linked to gold, but they could be linked to the U.S. dollar, which was linked to gold. The agreement was that the central banks would maintain fixed exchange rates between their currencies and the U.S. dollar. The United States would then guarantee to redeem U.S. dollars for gold on demand.

So now, instead of gold reserves, other countries accumulated reserves of U.S. dollars. Needing a place to store their dollars, countries began buying U.S. Treasury securities, which they considered to be a safe store of money. Now one country’s currency virtually replaced the international currency of gold. How would that work out? Well all went jolly well during the relatively peaceful decade of the 1950’s. America was Camelot. Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy were the three great emperors of America. I say peaceful, but WW2 had actually delivered two contenders for world domination, the USA and the USSR. The allies tried to buy a compromise, splitting both Germany and Korea into Russian/American zones of control. Russia tagged China to support the North Korean communists in their war against the south and USA and that war ground to an unresolved stalemate. And then came Vietnam. Russia had shown no interest in Vietnam until USA decided to throw bags full of money to support the French to suppress communism in North Vietnam. That is when Russia began to get interested and in 1954, the kitchen got too hot and the French pulled out. The start of a very expensive war that, in my opinion, started the collapse of the American empire. Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy launched an ambitious and expensive “Great Society” social programme intended to end poverty and racial discrimination in America. Or effectively to try to prevent what was now becoming a very nervous cultural divide in America. Much of the proposed funding however went into an increasingly expensive war in Vietnam and the late 60’s exploded in violent cultural riots.

The collapse started, as the creation had started, with the greenback. The war had became so expensive, in addition to the “Great Society” domestic programme, that in 1971 Richard Nixon had to abandon the gold standard and flood the banks with paper money. This created the floating exchange rates that we have today. However despite large deficit spending, trillions of dollars in foreign debt and unlimited printing of US Dollars (the last incidence was the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8) the U.S. Treasury remains the world’s reserve currency because the world trusts that the US will always remain solvent. The US gross domestic product is way ahead of anyone else at $US18.5 trillion. That is bigger than the whole BRICS (China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa) trading bloc combined.

But everything balances tentatively on trust and confidence. The trust and confidence that the US is politically stable enough to maintain its economy. What could possibly shake that trust and confidence?

His name is Donald Trump. He did not cause a cultural divide in the USA, but he is the highest profile manifestation of it. There is a cultural chasm in America that the rest of the civilised world did not really understand. Not until the good old boys motivated themselves to get sufficient numbers to the polls to elect Donald Trump and he has shown us all very clearly what a problem it is for them. It appears that the Civil War never ended because although militarily defeated, and laws forced upon them, the hearts and minds of the South were never changed. The cultural difference is as entrenched as any tribal conflict in the middle east. It may have been suppressed by the force of law, but mainly it was suppressed through lack of leadership from the south to stand up and raise the Confederate flag once again. Donald Trump was seen as that man. He talked the Confederate talk. He promised brick walls against the Mexicans, the gates closed to Muslims.

The original English migrants in the early 17th century were the Puritans escaping religious persecution in their home county of East Anglia. They settled in Massachusetts and brought their distinctive East Anglia twang with them which was the basis of the general American accent, albeit modified by other European groups that migrated to America, especially New York.

But it was the Royalists (Cavaliers) who left south and southwest England in the mid seventeenth century to the safety of America when the civil war in England broke out. They left because they opposed the “Parliamentarians” wanting more power over governance. They brought a completely different culture of royalist aristocracy opposing ‘government by the people’ to America and with it they brought the distinctive South England drawl. They settled further south in Virginia and the Carolinas. They bought vast tracts of land and grew tobacco and cotton crops. They imported slaves on British slave boats and exported their cotton and tobacco to England. They established a social hierarchy where even the serfs were happy for their aristocracy to run the politics and businesses and for the slaves to be lower on the social structure than them. And that formed the basis of the southern lifestyle that the Confederates went to civil war to protect. Charlottesville August 2017 demonstrated that the surrender in 1865 was only a cease fire, not a capitulation. The month after Trump was sworn in the Charlottesville Council voted 3-2 to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. In August a riot broke out as white supremacists marched opposing the removal. The confederates had declared war. General Robert E Lee had his army in support once more. The Liberals also turned up ready for the fight. A white supremacist drove a car into a crowd; a woman was killed and 19 people injured. Trump appeared unconcerned. White nationalists and neo-Nazis celebrated US President Donald Trump’s remarks about the protests when, after being pushed persistently to make a stance, he denounced violence “on all sides” rather than explicitly condemning white supremacism. After two days, following massive pressure from his own camp, Trump added “including KKK, neo Nazis and white supremacists.” No one believed him. Racism is alive and strong in the USA, has Trump as a sympathiser and is the basis of the great cultural divide.

Washington DC is making life very difficult for Trump. Even Trump would agree that being president with so many enemies is no fun. He knows who likes him, those good old boys down south and the mid western solid rural folk. Significantly, after Charlottesville, polls showed Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Dakota: North and South, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia  are all in the 50-60% Trump approval rating in Sept 2017. Florida and Georgia are close at 48%. Suddenly the states don’t look quite so united.

 

 

Would Trump be the sort of guy that would see himself as general Robert E Lee reincarnated? Would he like a general’s uniform with medals and would he like to establish a royal, ruling Trump family dynasty?  Yes I do think he might like all thatWould he relitigate the South’s old claims? Would they follow him? Especially the strategically vital and lucrative marginal state of Florida? 

If he declared Florida as the capital of a new country his Mar a Lago home becoming the presidential palace then I think Florida would lap that up with Georgia following like a lamb. Finally has the Mid-West/ South got enough money to fight a war with the Yankees? Did you think they were just chicken farmers and moonshine bootleggers after the civil war?

Donald Trump’s ‘Mar a Lago’

Actually, very wrong. Texas is the second largest economy after California. Apart from the bigger than anywhere farms bringing in huge agricultural revenues and ten billion barrels of oil, they have NASA there and all the spinoff aero-tech businesses that brings. North Dakota is the next largest oil producer with a very respectable 5.7 billion barrels of oil. Mississippi is full of huge hi-tech, high wage factories including the $1,4 billion Russian owned Severstal steel mill producing steel for cars. the Yokohama tyre factory, Nissan factory at Jackson, GE Aviation at Hattiesburg, Hybrid Plastics, one of the top ten nanotechnology producers in the US. They have a Rolls Royce engine building plant, a navy shipbuilding plant and a plant building unmanned helicopters for the navy. Mississippi is a busy little state. Tennessee has GM and Nissan car plants, 142 solar power companies, manufacturing plants for Whirlpool and Electrolux, Eastern Chemical and Delta faucet companies. Tennessee has won economic “State of the Year” award in 2009, 2013 and 2014. And Florida does more than a bit of orange juice too. It has the fourth largest economy in the US behind California, Texas and New York. Florida produces over $100 billion worth of food;  70% of the country’s citrus and in the winter months supplying 80% of the country’s fresh fruit and veg. It’s aerospace and aviation businesses contribute over $140 billion. The Florida tourism industry employs a million people, 10% of the workforce, and earns $US54 billion pa. Allied to tourism is that Florida is also full of wealthy retirees and the flow on bio-tech research and Life Sciences industry is substantial. If the secret to eternal youth is going to be discovered, it will probably happen in Florida. Bundle up the smaller states rural economies with these and you have a combined GDP of $US 6-7 Trillion. It would be the third biggest GDP in the world. It would be bigger than Japan and Germany and bigger than the UK and Russia combined. It would not be an insignificant little country for Trump to preside over.

But this would not be a war with swords and cannons; the weapon of choice would be currency. The first battle would be to destabilise the US dollar, shake the trust and confidence of the world in retaining the $US as the global currency standard. It need not even involve printing confederate banknotes; imagine the effect on the value of, and confidence in, the $US if Trump went to Bitcoin or ZCash or one of the others and said “I want a $US trillion worth of your finest crypto currency my good man.” I am no currency trader but I understand basic supply and demand and so I know the effect of someone selling off a trillion of the USA’s most important asset. Adopting a crypto currency for the Confederate States of America, or Trumpland as he would refer to it in his tweets, might just create the critical mass to allow a crypto currency to takeover from the $US as the international currency standard.

When the American civil war broke out to preserve their “unique culture”, the Union only had this domestic war to concern itself with. If they had a problem with the Southern/Mid Western states today, that has to be balanced with its Homeland Security priorities and its military roles in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea. Trump could just walk away from all that. If the US Dollar gets undermined then: ‘New York, you have a problem’. The east coast wold be completely cut off from the west coast so maybe California will expand its borders to include Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State and Hawaii and declare itself the  independent country of OprahLand? Montana becomes an isolated state so may choose to just get right out and join Canada? Maybe the remaining 19 states of the USA: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, will just then rename itself New York the country or Washington or whatever? Who knows? It happened in the USSR.

 

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Fingers on buzzers everyone

Ok, so just how many people do have a finger on a Nuke buzzer?

Putin and Trump, obviously.

Add to them the Queen of England (just be grateful it’s not the Duke), heads of state of France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. South Africa used to but no longer, and now we can add North Korea to the list.

But is it really Kim Jung Un’s finger on the North Korean button? Because if you thought super yachts are a rich boys game, nukes are in a whole other league. North Korea, with a population of 25 million people, only earns about $US4 billion from exports, mainly coal and woollen suits and spends more than that on basic essentials like oil and Cristal champagne for the top table. That puts them in the economic league of the Congo or Jamaica. That does not make for a guy who can afford to sit at the biggest swinging dicks table and build nukes in addition to a massive and very well armed conventional army, navy and airforce. North Korea has an active military force of just under a million men, with over 5 million in reserve. The USA bill for it’s nuclear programme averages $US20 billion pa.; its total military budget, with 1.3 million active servicemen and women, is $US600 billion pa. They support this with exports over $1.5 trillion. That is well above Kim Jung’s pay grade.

So if you accept the current tension with Kim Jung Un’s nuke tests is, in effect, a “Go home Yank” protest, then who, apart from this ‘poor as a church mouse’ North Korean, would want to be behind that message? Well the Arabs come to mind quickly. George Dubbya and Tony Blair were convinced that Iraq had WOMD, but when they went there, the cupboard was bare. Is it possible Saddam had simply relocated his weapons development programme to North Korea? That programme would have stopped after Saddam was toppled of course but could the programme have been put back on the market in 2015 when Iran was very reluctantly forced to stop their nuclear weapons programme in order to relieve the international economic sanctions that were crippling their country’s economy. Is it possible they just also went to North Korea and picked up Saddam’s tab?

But let’s also start right back with the dividing up of Korea (as with Germany) after WW2. Russia got North Korea and USA got South Korea. Russia later did a deal with China letting them be responsible for introducing communism to their neighbour. USA occupied the South and just five years after WW2 ended, the Korean War started  when Kim il Sung, Jung Un’s granddad, after he got the green light from Mao Tse Tung, and armed with Russian tanks, invaded South Korea. That ended in a stalemate that continues today. Russia and China clearly want USA out of there.

Remember the Americans only entered WW2 when the Japanese, allied with Germany, bombed Pearl Harbour. So why was a resort island thousands of miles offshore such a deal breaker for the USA and what were the Yanks doing owning an island in the South Pacific in the first place? Interesting story, I am glad you asked. Back in the 19th century a number Americans were over in Hawaii organising the sugar business. A chap named Sanford Dole, born in Hawaii of American parents, worked his way up in the Hawaiian legal infrastructure eventually sitting on the Supreme Court. Then he got ambitious and overthrew the Queen of Hawaii and declared Hawaii a Republic. Then in 1898, the USA were discreetly assisting Cuban rebels to get rid of the Spanish when the USS Maine mysteriously sunk in the Havana harbour. That sinking swung the debate in Washington and Uncle Sam then declared war on Spain. Most of the Spanish Pacific fleet was over in the Phillipines which Spain also occupied, so the Yanks had a word to Dole and used Hawaii as the USA naval base from where they sailed into Manilla harbour to take on the Spanish. Short story shorter, the war was all over by Christmas and as a result the Yanks found themselves in charge of the Phillipines and Guam as well as Hawaii after giving Sanford the Governorship job.

Obviously they valued this little collection of Mid-Pacific naval fortresses and after WW2 thought South Korea would add nicely to the USA’s military influence in this Asian region. That is also why they went into Vietnam, because Russia was backing North Vietnam. But just as the USA didn’t like Spain sitting in Cuba on their doorstep with their navy and soldiers, nor do Russia or China like the Yanks sitting on their doorstep with their planes and ships and troops and rockets and guns. Just as Spain had to suck it up at the end of the nineteenth century, and Khruschev had to suck it up over Cuba in ’62, so might America have to suck it up now.

So back to Kim Jung’s little nuke games. There are any number of nations who would not be sorry to see the USA out of the Asian/Pacific region. Observe that Iran and Russia are allies in supporting Syria against its rebels; observe that Turkey, once a strong US ally is now buying missiles from Russia. They could each be playing a role in either arming North Korea or in playing some support role. Consider the persistent rumours that Russia played some interference role in swinging the unimaginable election of Trump into a reality. Trump went into the election very much with a siege mentality: vowing to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Trade Deal; to block immigration, to build the Mexican wall. Just the sort of man who might just pull up the American drawbridge and pull out of the Asia/Pacific with enough pressure. Putin would read Trump like a book.

Trump is just a TV reality-showpony, so when the hard men of the real world say: “fingers on buzzers please gentlemen, this is not a drill”  Trump has nothing in his hand but his dick. He can’t drop a nuke on North Korea. The radiation fallout would decimate populations of USA allies South Korea and Japan, including US personnel based there, to say nothing of their biggest trading partner, China which is just itching for a legitimate opportunity to drive America out of the region.

A conventional invasion of North Korea is possible; a sudden strike to try to neutralise the ten thousand conventional rockets pointing at Seoul before blasting the city of Pyongyang to rubble the way they did in Baghdad. But Trump would need to be assured that North Korea would get no advance warning and that he would achieve total victory within minutes. Because Jung Un has nukes buried deep in bunkers, that could be mobilised in minutes. One nuke on the US Base in Guam, as he has already threatened, then the South Koreans and Japanese will get really nervous about the US military bases in their countries and join the “Go Home Yank” call. Germany, Turkey and anywhere else with US military bases will also get nervy. And Jung Un does also apparently have a nuke that he could send anywhere along their west coast from Seattle to San Francisco or LA which will have the USA calling “come home Yank”.

His generals (still remembering the humiliation of Vietnam) will be carefully explaining that scenario to him in simple language so, before he faces the humiliation of his forces in Guam being nuked and there being nothing he can do about it (with the whole world against him), can’t you just see Trump making that speech:

I did not get elected President of this great country to send our brave boys to fight and die because of someone else’s stoopidity. America has done more for peace in Asia than any other nation has ever done for peace anywhere on the planet, anytime in history.  For more than seventy years we have been there in Korea trying to stop them killing each other.

But, you know, sometimes you have no option. China could have stopped North Korea in a minute; just shut off their oil supply and the problem is over. But oh no they did not want to upset Kim Jung Un. So we said ok, if you won’t do it the easy way then ok I will blow North Korea off the face of the earth; but oh no, no one wants that either. Oh no Mr trump, you cannot use the nuclear weapons that Kim Jung Un is threatening to use. So now they just want America to send in its fine young men to fight their war for them, in a way that gives Kim Jung Un a chance to win with his army of five million. Fighting on the ground with no doubt very high casualties to our forces. But you know what? I am going to walk away from that table because there is nothing in that deal for Americans. Only death to our soldiers, grief to their loved ones. So if they do not to listen to their American friends, and we have been very, very good friends to them. We have tried to bring them all together in peace by building their economy for them and giving them opportunities; yes we built their industries for them, out of friendship; 

But now it is now time for America to do what is best for Americans. We don’t need other people to make our Levis. We invented Levis. We don’t need them to make our cars! We taught them how to make cars! We make the best cars in the whole world! ! We don’t need their technology. We are the most technologically advanced nation on the planet and we will build the most technologically advanced missile defence systems so that no one will ever, ever threaten the USA again. I warn everyone now, if anyone points a missile in the direction of the US, we will obliterate them. No warnings, no questions. And we will control our borders with a technological wall far stronger than any brick wall. When I talked about building a wall, some people assumed I meant a conventional wall. Those people underestimated me and that is a big mistake. A very big mistake. I promised you I would make America great again and I am keeping my promise. Because I always keep my promises.”

Meantime back in the Kremlin, “Well comrades, with help from Mr Trump, we are making Russia great again. He has cancelled the trade agreement with all the Asian-Pacific countries as predicted and that has seriously weakened his support; Britain has weakened the EU and the emerging economic powerhouse of the world is our BRICS consortium with over 3 billion people. Soon we will bring in more members as our friends. Trump has had to withdraw his troops and missiles and ships from across our border in Korea because he kept making stupid statements he could not carry out and  already South Korea has been talking with our friends in China. Japan has lost all confidence in America and we will talk to them soon about BRICS and maybe sort out the Kuril Islands at the same time. Europe doesn’t return his calls anymore and Angela will start to put on pressure to remove their military bases because they will attract more and more terrorists. We will see to that. All the easier to expand our borders in Europe”.

History shows us the future. Global superpowers are as cyclical as the climate. America’s summer is over. Trump heralds the Autumn (which the Americans ironically call the Fall). The Russian bear is emerging from its hibernation.

And in Beijing and Tehran they will be saying: “Bye bye Yankee, you have a nice day ok?” 

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They Brexited!!!

I had to delay it’s Thursday NZ time to Thursday UK time so that I could collect on my bets that the Poms wouldn’t have the bottle to leave the EU when it came to putting an x in a box. But the results have just come hot off the Thursday press, and it is a 52:48 win for the Brexit team. I lose my bet. Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

Keep calm_part 2I read an article in this morning’s paper saying that although the polls were favouring ‘remain’, the journalist noted a strong element of the ‘remain’ supporters were the young 18-24 year olds. Having no confidence that this age group would actually then make the effort to vote, he believed the critical balance of “Bremain” votes would be missing in action, still in bed or too busy on their i-phones and Brexit would win. Maybe he was right.

But maybe I misread the outcome because of my pragmatic Celtic heritage. As it turns out 62% of Scotland and 56% of Northern Ireland voted to remain in, but 53% of England voted to leave. Same with the Welsh, no-one seems too interested in what the taffies think. Of more relevance is that London voted to remain in, as they would, and that now there are calls for London to declare itself an independent city state in order to remain in the EU. What larks. The Republic of Ireland remains in the EU of course and the Celts are politically in tune and in opposite camps to the English. That bodes for an interesting reconsideration by the Scots whether to abandon the UK and rejoin the EU. The ghost of Bonnie Prince Charlie will rise again, Culloden will be avenged. I think that the biggest strategic error of the referendum was in a 50%+ ‘winner take all’ format on a decision with such huge implications for three countries in an already shaky political alliance of their own.

The Brexit people based a lot of their arguments on the immigrant issue. England want to slow down immigrants into their country. “They are takin’ our jobs guvnor”. Be careful what you wish for England. I know a kiwi who has lived in London for quite a few years now who has observed that if London didn’t have Eastern European immigrants, nothing would get done. If you need a builder a plumber or an electrician or if you want service in a shop or an office, then you talk to an immigrant and keep well clear of the Brits. And if the English ‘don’t do service’, there is also the problem that they don’t actually make many things anymore either; nor are they that big into farming. Britain’s most important industries today are not manufacturing or agriculture but Banking, Finance and Tourism. Even two of the remaining iconic British car brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, are owned by an Indian company Tata Motors. “Takin’ your jobs? Are you ‘avin a larf, me old china plate?”.

How ironical that Britain spent three hundred years travelling the world, parking themselves uninvited in any country they wanted, killing or enslaving the locals and pillaging their resources. Now they want the world to leave them alone. They want the rest of the world to stop invading their country and polluting their culture. 

So much of Britain’s economy is based on the wealth of Europe being channeled through the financial institutions of London, “The City”. “The City” has a more of the world’s capital in it’s vaults (or computer banks) than any other in the world, processing 41% of the global foreign exchange transactions, over twice as much as the #2 city, New York. The London Stock Exchange has a value of 6 Trillion USD, twice the size of the European Union Stock Exchange. And a major part of the investment industry is in London property. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people were abler to buy their own homes at exceptionally low prices. A lot of opportunities for new private businesses opened up. Over 200,00o Russians have become millionaires. The impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union went much wider than the 88 Oligarch billionaires that we read about. So tens of thousands of ‘mere millionaire’ Russians were attracted to Britain initially as a tourist destination, then to the schools for their children’s education and ultimately into London as a property investment. This created a stimulated economy of wealthy visiting Russians, Arabs and other nationalities investing in the London property, splashing out a few hundred quid on a night out in a restaurant or spending a few thousand quid in the High Street. But that type of spending that does not automatically build a productive and sustainable base beneath it.

The value of the currency is the barometer of an economy. The announcement of Brexit plunged the value of the Pound to a 30 year low and it is expected to go further. Having conceded most of their manufacturing and agriculture to overseas countries, the necessary imports now escalate dramatically in price. The potential of a falling economy from inevitable rising cost of imports and job insecurity has meant an instant devaluation of property values in London. Those spending up large because they saw their property values increase faster than they could spend it, now have to seriously review their spending priorities. Banks will start to call in loans on over-mortgaged properties. The properties then have to go to an oversupplied and desperate market and the dominoes start falling.

Britain’s tourism is based on Heathrow being the biggest transport hub of Europe. Heathrow has 73 million passengers pa (93% are international). Charles de Gaulle has 64 million and Frankfurt just on 60 million. Just watch the European airports start jockeying with the airlines for a bigger chunk of Heathrow’s business now that Britain is tightening immigration controls and as a contracting economy impacts on service delivery at Heathrow. Air NZ and Qantas may well get made offers they cannot refuse from Charles de Gaulle to use Paris as their European hub; or from Leonardo da Vinci to use Rome? Either of those work for me.

As Britain withdraws from the European Union agreements, those two critical pieces of infrastructure, “The City” financial hub and the Heathrow international transport hub, will come under significant pressure. I hope the Brits know what they are doing. Actually I don’t really mean that; I still remember that they dumped us to join the EU and they partied hard with their Euro friends, so it’s not easy to get upset as they now go through a messy and expensive divorce. And as with any divorce, they will inevitably have to divide their friends as well as their assets. Europe is 700+ million population, Britain 64 million (England alone 53 million). Do the maths.

And as Britain contracts it will be acutely aware that it’s best friend USA is effectively insolvent following the earlier collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. China had been selling huge amounts of goods to the USA for some time and had a mountain of USD in their vaults, a lot of which (10% of their GDP) they had reinvested in Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. So China now owns a lot of the debt over a lot of the properties in the USA. China is their daddy. China could bankrupt the USA if they had the allies to win the inevitable war (hello Mr Putin,…hello Hassan,….hello Kim,…..).

Remember China? You Brits ran the opium trade there not so long ago and addicted at least 10% of their people to your narcotics. You did it because China had built up such a stockpile of British pounds from all the tea, spices and silks that you imported, that you set up this drug cartel growing poppies in India and converting them to opium, then selling it to the Chinese in order to get your pounds back off them. When their government protested you sent the navy in to sort them out and then you stole Hong Kong from them to give you a base to continue trading your opium to them for the tea, spices and silks that they produced. If you Brits think that is old history and forgotten, I bet there are those in dark places in China who have not confined it to ancient history. What goes around comes around.

And if you still think the Brexit decision is the smart one, just remember, Donald Trump and Sara Palin agree with you.

Footnote: The referendum is actually not binding on Parliament. It still requires Westminster to pull the Clause 50 trigger on the EU agreement. If the TV show “Yes Minister” is more documentary than sitcom, then the bureaucrats may yet win the day with delay, delay, delay. Meantime PM Cameron has thrown the mess over to Johnson. His resignation is effectively saying ‘you caused this mess, Boris you clean it up’. (His actual words to his aides were: “Why should I do the hard shit?”.

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To Brexit or not to….

So Britain is about to decide on a divorce from that euro tramp it ran off with.

Back in the 1960’s, a massive 88% of New Zealand’s dairy produce went to the UK. We were a good and faithful provider. But back at the office, Britain had been carrying on a little dalliance with its European mistress and in 1973 good old faithful New Zealand, who could always be relied upon to put meat on the British table when they came home from pub, was unceremoniously dumped as they joined the European Union. Our lamb and butter were no longer wanted. They wanted croissants and olives. The great wars were years ago, it was time to abandon old faithful allies and sleep with the enemy. New Zealand could find our Dairy_Figureown way in the world. And to our credit, we did. By 2012, the UK was down to 0.3 percent of New Zealand’s dairy exports. A token alimony. And meantime, over the past 20 years the value of our dairy exports has grown fourfold. Would we have ever made such great steps on the global market had we stayed in our little world of dependence on Britain? I doubt it. We needed the incentive of a crisis to actually kick into gear. So do we really care whether or not Britain leaves the European Union? Hardly. To be frank my interest in Britain’s position with the EU is purely that of the betrayed spouse quietly and disingenuously sympathising that things did not work out so well when we are doing oh so exceptionally well, thank you for asking. 

Which then leads to the question, will Britain now vote to leave the European Union on June 23rd? Again, who cares? I hear you. It is about the same as whether we really care who wins the Presidential vote in the USA. It’s just a bit of a TV reality show that is getting more stupid than ‘married at first sight’.

Or maybe just another opportunity to put on a bet. We all love a bit of a flutter. So is it worth putting a lazy hundie on the outcome with a British bookie. The latest polls are moving from a 50/50 call to an exit bias as the ‘don’t knows’ start to decide they do know and signal a teasing intent towards a Brexit vote. Latest polls are actually indicating a 52:48 vote in favour of the exit. The bookie odds have always been in strong favour of a conservative result to stay in the EU. Probably following a similar debate with Scotland’s referendum to leave the UK. But I see that the odds of leaving have been dropping from 9/2 down to 5/2 as more money is moving Nigel Faragetowards the Brexit option as the decision date gets closer. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, member of the European Parliament, promoter of the Brexit option and former well-known city trader in London decided to slap a quiet thousand quid at Ladbrokes, his local bookie, on the exit. Obviously nothing but a transparent publicity stunt to try to lower the odds and get people thinking, before they vote, that Brexit is odds on. If that was the case one might say a thousand quid was a pretty cheap stunt, but perhaps that was the showcase and behind the scenes some of his rich mates are manipulating the odds as an investment in publicity.

And that brings up the whole basis of our democracy. We know that all democratic votes are won by the middle ground swinging voter. The hard right and hard left generally cancel each other out, within a margin, and it is the swinging voter who tips the balance.

That might be all good and well if we, as a society, could be assured that the middle voter is the voice of reason who considers both sides on their merits and makes an informed, rational vote. Sounds like the start of another Tui billboard doesn’t it. But at the end of the day, the reality is that the swinging voters are not carefully considering their opinions, they don’t have any opinions that’s why they always answer ‘don’t know.’ They are fence sitters. What they are waiting for are the polls and the subsequent bookie odds to see who they think is going to win so that they can place their bet on the eventual winner.

That’s all they want, to be able to go out and say the day after election day that their vote won. They want to be winners, the politics are just another horse race. Think about it and tell me I am wrong. You know I am right and so democracy is just a total sham. It used to be just a two horse race but that got a bit boring  so, like sports betting and Super Powerball, MMP was created to add more options into the great left vs right tri-annual betting game that is the general election. Politics, it’s all just a game, good for a bet.

But back to the Brits and the EU, what’s the bet they divorce? If you are putting on a bet, I think if the polls move more to a Brexit vote and you can get a good price on a ‘stay’ bet, I would take it.  They complain about the bureaucracy of Brussels, but these poms are all piss and wind (English-born and resident readers of this blog excepted, of course). They thrive in a bureaucratic environment; they need politicians to blame for their misery and they like a luvlie ‘oliday at Benidorm; as long as there are no bombs raining out of the sky, they will stay in the EU and hope to make a few quid with the bookie.

Google it, look at all the News updates about the betting on the result, it’s hard to get much interest in whether or not it is a good decision.

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FORT USA

The US of A rhetoric that is getting all the publicity is coming from Donald Trump with Sarah Palin singing harmony. And while he talks tough, the substance of his proposals is actually very defensive. His proposal is to build Fort USA. Ban all Muslims from entering. Build a wall to keep the Hispanics out, with armed Trump guards all along the watchtower. He is leading Americans into a siege mentality. Waving a sabre from behind a fortress.

TrumpThere is an irony that Trump wants to build a fortress to protect Americans against foreigners who would bring violence upon their people and/or corruption of their culture. For only a couple of hundred years ago these westerners were the invaders who brought terrible violence upon the native Americans as they destroyed their culture. Karma would say they are getting a bit of their own back. They fear the Mexicans pouring across the border into Texas, while overlooking the fact that they stole Texas from Mexico in 1845. And from further afield they fear the Muslims who are counter-attacking decades of the USA intrusions into the Middle Eastern countries and actual invasion of Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan. Trump fears, probably correctly, that Muslim immigrants and refugees are a Trojan horse for Muslim terrorists, but of course one country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter.

Over the past 70 years the USA have often joined in other people’s fights and they have enraged a lot of people in their very short history. Up until the second world war the USA pretty much kept to themselves. They were busy little beavers because they were focused on creating their own new self-indulgent world of home and kitchen appliances to make their wimin’ foke’s life easier and fast food outlets like A&W, the forerunner to KFC and Mickey D’s, to ensure starvation was never going to be a problem. Even today most do not have passports and most of those who have them do so because they are immigrants who needed them to come to America. Traditional America is very insular. They only joined world war 2 in 1942, two years after it started, when the Japanese bombed their Pacific outpost, Hawaii, which sits almost halfway between the Japanese and USA mainlands. The attack on their naval base in Hawaii spooked them and their response was the Manhattan project, the development of weapons of mass destruction. So they went into the European war arena to gather intelligence on Germany’s atomic and rocket building research and ‘recruit’ the German scientists and engineers who led the world in this area. In May 1945 Germany surrendered; four months later the USA dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was soon followed by the Korean War then the Vietnamese War.

USA planeThe USA became obsessed with technology, particularly military technology. In 1958 they put men into space and in 1969 they put men on the moon. While the British were developing computer technology during WW2, so were the Americans and in 1946 they announced the launch of ENIAC, Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, a giant brain. From that point computer technology was dominated by the USA companies of Microsoft and Apple. The technology was funded by the military and its primary purpose was military. They never used atomic bombs again in war, but that was because Russia also developed them and pointed them to mainland USA cities. Strange to think that it was Russia who most likely prevented Atomic warfare being used in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba or the Middle East.

The Crusades against the Persian Empire were supposed to have ended in 1487 but the USA have conducted their own Crusades there since WW2. They supported the Shah of Iran who was then overthrown in the 1979 revolution; then they supported Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war. Then they subsequently invaded Iraq, twice in 1990 and 2003. The United States was getting involved in many conflicts that were simply part of thousands of years of Persian tribal history. A friend of my enemy is my enemy. The USA made enemies. 

North_face_south_tower_after_plane_strike_9-11Until 9/11 no-one took the war to mainland USA. But 9/11 made the Americans realise that decades of poking their M16’s into other peoples’ AK47’s had turned the glare of the Arabs towards them. So what to do about it? They just continually upped the ante in the enemies’ homelands. Boots on the ground. The USA invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to eliminate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda organisers of the 9/11 attack and then in 2003 they invaded Iraq again in search of weapons of mass destruction. The most powerful nation on the planet, using the most advanced military technology imaginable, descending on Middle eastern tribes; and all recorded live on CNN. But if the Iraq and Afghan wars were meant to restore their military pride after Vietnam, they failed miserably. They did kill Bin laden and Saddam Hussein, but did not destroy the tribal conflicts. And there was something a little unsettling about seeing Barrack Obama and his advisors watching the assassination of Bin laden live on Obama_and_Biden_await_updates_on_bin_LadenTV, as though it was a sports match. These Persians are people with an ethic the westerners do not comprehend. It is said if you go into battle with a Persian at your back, at least you know you will not die alone. There are a lot of people around the globe, from Vietnam onwards, who believe this is not the USA ethic in warfare. When the going gets tough, the USA military cuts their losses and leaves their ‘friends’ to die.

I do not really think this is a religious war of Muslim against Christian. Those are just the uniforms  adopted; the belief in afterlife that is necessary to persuade soldiers to face their deaths. This seems to me to be about people who seek revenge when they are hurt. That is what has caused the tribal conflicts in the middle east in the first place tens thousand years. But with the USA and other western nations getting involved for their own commercial reasons, those regional tribal conflicts are now global. 

As an unknown Afghan Taliban prisoner is reported as saying, ‘you have the watches, we have the time.’ And it looks like the USA’s time as the #1 global superpower is nearly over. The tough talking Donald Trump is saying: “Close the gates, build the walls.”

jedi_hutt_by_fan_the_little_demon-d710exzTaliban

And so, if Trump closes the gates and builds the walls another global empire ambition will collapse as finally FORT USA becomes a reality TV show and we watch the season’s finale: The Hutts being driven out by the primitive, but valiant, Earthling cave-dwellers. Then USA will just sit at the United Nations table alongside Spain, Portugal, England and Germany, other nations that once aspired to rule the world. But that may suit Donald Trump personally. He is first and foremost a businessman who is not, as far as I know, dependant on the military arms industry for his business. He invests in bricks and mortar not hi-tech. He possibly thinks that the tax money that goes into military activity could be far better invested in areas that are closer to his wallet. Who knows?

But while Donald Trumpets on about shutting out the Muslims, Persia’s most politically stable nation, Iran, having already agreed major security arrangement with Russia, is signing a major trade deal with China. A friend of my friend is my friend.

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