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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – Brexit Edition, October 19, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Kettle Pond, Groton VT – October 2019 photo by tommmmmm

Most Americans haven’t followed closely the Brexit odyssey in the UK. Even if you know only a little, you are probably aware that the UK voted 52% to 48% in a referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016. UK Prime Minister Theresa May then negotiated a divorce agreement with the EU, but that agreement was rejected three times by Parliament.

Then Boris Johnson, also of the Tory Party, became Prime Minister. He’s said the UK would leave the EU with or without an agreement on Brexit. Over the past few days, Johnson seems to have made a new deal with the EU. Here’s a capsule summary of the state of play in England from Market Watch: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Boris Johnson has signed a deal [with the EU] he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control.”

While Johnson is calling this a “new” agreement, 95% of the 293-page agreement is the same as May’s. The changes mostly only apply to the controversial “Irish backstop.” In order to prevent a hard border with customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the original withdrawal agreement stated that the UK as a whole would remain in the EU customs union.

That was a non-starter for the British Brexiteers, who turned it down under May. Under the Johnson deal, the UK will leave the customs union. This will allow the UK to negotiate its own trade agreements outside of the EU.

The catch is that while Northern Ireland will technically be out of the customs union, it will continue to operate under the EU’s customs rules. In practice, this means that goods being sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will have to be checked at points of entry. If there’s a chance those goods could be sent on to the Republic of Ireland, or to the EU, duty will have to be paid on them. This concession was necessary to get the Republic of Ireland to agree to the deal. Goods from the EU will pay a duty in Northern Ireland unless they are headed to the Republic.

All this might sound technical, but the deal effectively creates an economic border somewhere in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, something both May and Johnson had vowed never to do. It’s a big concession.

In UK slang, this whole thing might be called a “dog’s breakfast”. In any event, Parliament will convene at 9.30am on Saturday (4:30am EDT) to consider Johnson’s Brexit deal. This is the first time Parliament will have met on a Saturday since the Falklands War.

The session will start with questions of the Prime Minister, followed by a motion to vote on the deal, followed by possible amendments to the deal. It might take all day to actually get to an up or down vote on Brexit. Here’s a helpful diagram:

The reality is probably way more complicated than the chart. By striking this deal, Johnson has basically sold out a key ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP, which controls 10 seats in Parliament, represents Northern Ireland. It strongly opposes any political or economic separation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. That probably makes the new backstop deal a nonstarter for them.

The vote will be close. Whether it passes won’t be known until the actual vote on Saturday.

The only soothing thing Wrongo sees today is that the US isn’t the only dysfunctional Western democracy. You may or may not be interested in following the Brexit happenings in real time, so Wrongo will do that for you.

So today, we’ve gotta get up early to see Members of Parliament yell at Boris Johnson, and that will take some strong coffee. Let’s brew up a mug of Kenyan Rukira coffee ($15/250g.) from the people at Portland, OR’s Coava Coffee.  The brewer says it has notes of molasses, currant, pineapple, and kumquat followed by refreshing hints of kiwi and honey. Sounds juicy!

Today we salute Elijah Cummings. He served as a Maryland Congressman since 1996, and was active until he died. He signed subpoenas from his hospital bed, and as recently as last Friday, helped to lead a Democratic caucus conference call. His death is a huge loss for his district, his state, and our country.

Here’s a quote from Cummings:

“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

To acknowledge him, here’s Judy Collins singing “Amazing Grace”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – May 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Baltimore Oriole

Trump returns from his international visits having moved the US into siding with the Sunnis in the Middle East. In this, he has also sided with his generals. This also puts him on the side of al Qaeda, a Sunni terror organization that did you-know-what.

Significantly, it is clear that the entire Trump foreign policy is anti-terrorism. That is one approach, but Trump’s take is mystifying: He calls Iran an enemy because they are a sponsor of terror, which is true. But he embraces Saudi Arabia, the largest sponsor of terrorism by far in the ME, and has attempted to make them his ally in the War on Terror.

The Saudis will now expect that the US will accept that their $110 billion in defense purchases and $40 billion in contributions from the Saudi state’s sovereign wealth fund will buy them enhanced power in Washington and that their demands will be greeted with great receptivity in the future.

That will probably be a difficult pill for Israel to swallow.

Siding with the Sunnis means that the “Shia Crescent” (Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria) will be difficult for the US to maintain as friends, partners, or allies. In fact, it was reported this week that Russia, Syria and Iran have been proclaimed as allies by the Iraqi Interior Minister. For all the money and blood that we spent, for all of the domestic programs that we sacrificed, the US now has little to show for its last 15 years in Iraq except a huge, and under Donald Trump, a growing national debt.

We are obviously and irredeemably ignorant, and apparently determined to remain so. The Shia Crescent will be an Iranian/Shia alliance extending through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the sea, with Russian and Chinese backing to boot.

Whomever heads ME strategy for Trump needs to hear: “You’re fired!

Trump also met with NATO and the EU, and both relationships look less confident than at any time in recent history. In fact, European Council President Donald Tusk has said that Trump and senior European Union officials failed to find common ground on the main issues at their meeting in Brussels.

Consider this: Trump emerges from this trip as closer to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel than he is with the democracies of Western Europe. We can now start preparing for US War on Terror Part B; followed by Sunni insurgency 3.0: now with even better weapons and funding.

Do these thoughts make you feel that you need something to help you calm down? Wrongo’s advice is stop watching or reading the news for a few days, as he did while traveling in Europe. Talk to locals in your area. Ask them about why they think as they do.

Then grab a vente cuppa chamomile tea and listen to Janine Jansen play French composer Jules Massenet’s “Meditation from Thaïs”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Wrongo’s Useless 2017 Predictions

It’s tough to make predictions. Especially about the future.”Yogi Berra

Since you have already plunged a stake into the heart of 2016, it is time for some predictions about 2017, which most likely, won’t happen. We can expect the following:

  1. There will be more global political and social turmoil:
    1. The EU could collapse. France is a Marine LePen government away from pursuing an exit from the EU, so there would be a Frexit to go along with Brexit.
    2. China’s economy is wobbling, and China’s president Xi has leaned into a populist message:

On this New Year, I am most concerned about the difficulties of the masses: how they eat, how they live, whether they can have a good New Year…

  1. The US will continue to lose influence globally despite “Mr. Unpredictable” becoming our Orange Overlord: Trump brags about winning when he negotiates. That has been undeniably true in his real estate and name brand licensing. He will find that when the other side doesn’t need access to his brand in order to succeed, he will have to resort to instilling fear. That may work once, but it will not work consistently.
  2. A corollary: Trump arrives in the Oval Office as an overconfident leader, the man with no plan but with a short attention span, and within six months, he will have his first major policy failure. Getting his hand burned will make him more subdued, more conservative and less populist thereafter.
  3. A second corollary: The triumvirate of Russia/Turkey/Iran will elbow the US firmly out of the Fertile Crescent, and secure friendly regimes in Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran. This will push American influence in the Middle East back to just the Gulf States, a weakened Saudi Arabia, and an increasingly isolated Israel.
  4. Domestically, drug abuse, suicide, and general self-destructive behavior will continue to climb and become impossible to ignore.
  5. The Trump stock market rally has already turned into the Santa Selloff. The Dow peaked on December 20 at 19,975, 25 points away from party-hat time. But since then, Dow 20,000 slipped through our fingers like sand. It closed the year at 19,719, down 281 points from 20k.
  6. Regarding the stock market, many people who want to sell stocks waited until 2017 in order to pay lower capital gains tax. Selling in January could lower prices further.
  7. The growing antibiotic resistance to main stream drugs will impact health in the US.

Meta Prediction: It is certain that few Trump voters will get the results they voted for. Some people who voted for Trump have incompatible outcomes in mind, so it’s a virtual guarantee that a sizable minority are going to feel cheated when they fail to get what they were promised.

OTOH, when Trump fails, most of his base will blame anyone but the Donald. The question is, when disillusionment sets in, will the reaction be a turning away, or a doubling down on the anger?

Wrongo thinks anger will win out.

The coming Trump administration will seem like a fractious family outing: Just under half of the family (the “landslide” segment) wanted to go out, but now, the whole family has to go. Those who wanted to stay home will sulk in the back seat while Daddy tells them to stop bitching.

Meanwhile, once we are out of the driveway, it dawns on everyone that Daddy hasn’t decided yet where to go. Everyone pipes up with suggestions, but Daddy again tells everyone to shut up, because it’s his decision alone. There will be the usual “are we there yet?” complaining, some motion sickness and incessant fighting over who is touching whom.

Daddy won’t reveal the destination, but insists everyone will love it once they get there, even those who wanted to stay home, those who wanted to go the beach, and those who wanted to head over the cliff like Thelma and Louise.

Time for our Monday Wake Up Call, “Wake Up Everybody”, originally by Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy left the group for his solo career after this album.

But, today we will hear and watch John Legend’s cover of the tune, backed by the Roots Band along with Melanie Fiona, and Common. The song is as strong as it was 42 years ago when it was released:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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China’s Grand Strategy

In December 2015, Wrongo linked to a year-end prediction in the LA Times:

“One Belt, One Road”, also known as “OBOR,” is a new development strategy initiated by China in 2015 to promote its economic connectivity and cooperative relationship with nations in Eurasia by helping them develop infrastructure. These initiatives should also help Chinese exports.

OBOR is called the new Silk Road by the Chinese. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe in the seventh century.

Now, China’s president, Xi Jinping, wants his country to revisit the time when the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion, and when Chinese silk was sent across the globe.

OBOR has drawn remarkably little attention and comment in the US, especially by our politicians and pundits, who prefer to focus on old white men in red ball caps.

This is surprising, considering OBOR’s economic implications and its geostrategic significance.

OBOR seeks to convert the Eurasian land mass into a single economy by interconnecting a network of roads, railroads, pipelines, ports, airports, and telecommunications links, and, based on these, to create a series of logistics corridors (One Belt). Supplementing this will be a maritime component (One Road), aimed at linking Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. China would develop deep water ports and then build the infrastructure to link them to interior markets. Here is a graphic that shows the “One Belt, One Road” project:

OBORSource: The Economist

China plans to commit $4 trillion to build out the OBOR project. That may sound like a lot, but China currently has $3.5 trillion in reserves, mostly in US$. The Chinese say that they have 900 deals in 60 countries in place, or in negotiation, or planned. Most would be designed, built and managed by Chinese enterprises, along with local partners. The Chinese government will directly or through several newly established funds they control, provide the financing for both the Chinese companies and their local partners, with low-interest loans or grants.

OBOR will enable China to employ the large project development capacity that it has built up during its industrialization and infrastructure development drive, much of which China now sees as surplus to current needs.

By seeking to use OBOR to create a Eurasian bloc, China resurrects Mackinder’s World Island Theory, described as: Whoever controls the Heartland of Europe and Asia will rule the world. The corollary is: Who controls the Land Power will unavoidably compete with who controls the Sea Power. Today, the US is the Sea Power, while control of the Land Power is up for grabs, and China is betting that OBOR can help it become the Land Power.

This is China’s Grand Strategy.

Russia is in an interesting position. On the one hand, China is its ally, particularly in oil and gas, with Russia as supplier, and China as the buyer. China will need Russia’s military strength along with its own to offset the military power of the US once the real competition begins. Also, Russia cannot ignore the positive significance that a strong OBOR could provide in its relations with the US and the EU.

China’s bet is that the US is losing its grip in Europe. And that the EU will not be a long-term player politically even if it is economically. The EU is challenged from within by stagnant economies, and challenged from the East by Russia, who sees the EU’s expansion to former Soviet bloc nations as both military and political threats. Possibly, Germany can be spilt off from the rest of Europe.

This is China’s plan for global economic and political primacy in the 21st century. The US response has been to continue playing geopolitics with breathtaking ineptitude: When you are number one, you ally with number three (Russia), against number two (China). Or better yet, get them to fight each other.

But when the US tries to contain both simultaneously, it pushes them together.

Most significant, an autonomous Asian nation is promulgating a global economic and political expansion through bilateral deals. It is presenting a positive and credible vision of future commercial and political success for many countries who no longer trust the West, if indeed, they ever did.

This is very much against the multilateral trade model that the US and the EU have stood for in the past 70 years. Sadly, the West has not demonstrated any positive vision for the future since the end of the cold war.

But trust Trump. He’ll make a great deal, and those Chinese will certainly stay at home.

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Taking a Break From Domestic Politics

(The next column will appear on Monday 3/14. Starting tomorrow, the Wrongologist and Ms. Oh So Right are attending a wedding in Vermont)

Our preoccupation with the primaries, and dick-measuring has obscured several things that are happening around the world. Let’s take a quick look at three things we have talked about in the past.

US Russia/Middle East policy. Sec. Def. Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and the wacky NATO Commander, Gen. Phillip Breedlove, all seem to be intent precipitating a war with Russia. Last week at a Congressional hearing, Breedlove called Russia “America’s greatest strategic threat.” He went on to accuse Vladimir Putin of “Weaponizing” the flood of ME refugees into Europe as a plan “to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.”

We have our disagreements with Russia, we certainly hate what they did in Crimea and what they are doing in Ukraine. The jury is out on whether they are saving or frying our bacon in Syria, but it seems that we are (almost) on the same page there, except for our insistence that Assad must go.

It pays to remember that Russia is armed with several thousand nuclear weapons. Is it really wise for the head of NATO to pick a fight with a country that he knows feels deeply threatened by NATO expansion?

Our policy with Israel. Netanyahu has once again shown his contempt for Obama by spurning an invitation to meet in the Oval Office. When the Iran deal went down over Israel’s strong disagreement, the US agreed to send Israel more equipment and money to shore up their defenses against Iran. But, Netanyahu wants even more money and equipment than Obama is willing to give him, and he thinks that he will get a better “deal” from the next US president. Tom Friedman observed on PBS that Obama has quietly given up on the two-state solution, that it is up to Israel to implement a “one-state” solution: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The idea that they need John Kerry…to come over…It’s got to start with them. I think the most constructive thing President Obama could do [is]…say, we tried. It’s over. There’s going to be a one-state solution.

Friedman says all the Israelis do is pick apart new peace plans, making it more about the US, not about the warring factions in Israel: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The Americans [should say]…nobody’s coming. It’s over. It’s yours. You own it. Now you live with it.

And fix it if you can. But can we expect that from ANY of the current presidential candidates? No, they all say that they are Bibi’s greatest supporters. So we can expect the policy of “whatever Bibi wants, Bibi gets” to continue.

Finally, Turkey: Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey wants to become a member of the EU. But, President Tayyip Erdogan is moving quickly to make Turkey an illiberal democracy. Turkish elections are democratic and mostly fair, but the government that they elect imprisons journalists, reassigns police in the middle of inconvenient investigations, and most recently, closed the country’s largest newspaper. In fact, 2000 people have been arrested just for insulting President Erdogan.

The EU is considering accelerating Turkey’s negotiations for EU membership. That process, which has been stalled for years, normally requires a candidate country to meet basic standards on pesky items from the independence of its judiciary, to press freedoms, two things missing in today’s Turkey.

The EU is crafting a devil’s bargain. They want Turkey to open up new refugee resettlement camps to hold the Syrians who cross from Turkey to Greece, and on to the rest of Europe. But shopping in the Turkish bazaar is never wise for the novice. The EU learned that lesson this week, when it discovered the refugee deal it believed it had previously sold to Turkish leaders turned out to be just the beginning of the negotiation on Monday. Turkey’s counter offer would have prompted EU negotiators to get up and walk out six months ago. Ankara’s proposal:

• €3 billion in refugee aid in addition to the €3 billion already pledged.
• Liberalized visas for Turkish citizens to visit the EU.
• A pledge by the EU to resettle the same number of Syrian refugees already in Turkish refugee camps, as Turkey takes in when the EU sends them back.
• Accelerated consideration of Turkish EU membership.

Turkey’s message to Europe is: You need us more than we need you. Their message back should be: we’ll give you the money. That’s it.

In closing, Wrongo just can’t resist a brief return (excuse the pun on briefs) to the US general election. Hillary’s likely reaction to Trump’s exhibitionism: “Somewhat like a penis, only MUCH smaller”.

COW Trump Package

 

 

 

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Corporations Want Europe to Add Refugees

According to The Guardian, the European Union ministers forced through a plan to relocate Middle Eastern asylum-seekers throughout the EU. The plan would distribute 120,000 souls across all EU countries.

The headline yesterday was that Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic voted against the proposal, but could be forced to take immigrants anyway. These Eastern European governments have been among the most vocal opponents of plans to relocate refugees across the EU. But, according to The Economist, this position ignores economic logic:

A survey by Manpower Group, a consultancy, found that two out of five firms in Poland struggle to fill vacancies. In Hungary, almost half could not get the staff they need. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia fewer employers report difficulties (18% and 28%) but the share has been climbing steadily over the past few years.

Here is their chart showing the difficulty in filling jobs in the EU:

Where immigrants are needed

The argument in the countries that need to fill jobs but do not want migrants is that they can fill skill gaps by drawing in labor from neighboring countries with more similar cultures. This may fill some positions, but wages are much lower in the countries needing labor. The Economist reports that wages in Germany are 150% higher than in Hungary. And Germany’s social safety net is superior.

These statistics point to serious problems in the EU’s local economies. But the real issue isn’t under population in the EU. We have been told for years that the unemployment rate among young Europeans is very high. Trading Economics reports that the overall jobless rate in the Eurozone fell to 10.9% in July, from 11.1% in the previous three months. That means 17.4 million EU citizens are unemployed. But, youth unemployment averages 21.9%. Here are some depressing Youth Unemployment statistics from summer, 2015: (Source: Statista.com)

  • Greece:     53.7%
  • Spain:       49.2%
  • Italy:          44.2%
  • France:     23.6%
  • Germany:   7.1%

So, even if people in certain EU countries understand that there might be an economic upside to allowing immigrants into their country, their opening position is: “why aren’t we hiring our own kids?”

Then there is the anti-immigrant issue that transcends economic concerns, the ethnic makeup of one’s own country, and what migrants may do to impact these old European cultures. No argument about the economic merits of increased immigration will likely sway voters if they believe their way of life will be compromised. The fear of a “mob at the gates” drives anti-immigrant feeling throughout the world.

So, who says Europe needs all of this migrant labor? Much like in the US, it is the corporations who say they can’t fill jobs with the requisite talent. What they really mean is, talent at a price.

Why can’t German firms import Italian or Spanish kids to do the work?

This sounds remarkably similar to tech firms in the US saying that they cannot find STEM workers, and so ask the government to add more H-1B visas so that migrants from India can fill jobs in Silicon Valley.

The global picture is clear: Many jobs now done by humans are being taken over by machines. Computers will ease our transition to declining populations. Even many low-skilled jobs in manufacturing and agriculture can be handled by robots, requiring a large jump in the skills humans need to learn in order to get the fewer, better paying jobs that remain.

A partial solution may be to import some migrants to fill a few low skilled jobs, but adoption of new technologies rather than population growth, is a better way to go about raising the living standards in Europe.

And we must shut off global population growth sometime soon. The Wrongologist has reported before on “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton, in which Clifton says that globally, some 3 billion people are looking for work right now, and nearly all of them are willing to work for less than the average American or European.

Every society will be more secure economically if they can promote a high resource-to-population ratio. Those countries who can become close to self-sufficient in food, water, energy, and renewable resources will be the only ones with middle-class living conditions.

Middle Eastern migrants understand this. Some may be fleeing for their lives, but the vast majority are simply economic migrants. The EU is being led by the nose to focus on asylum-seekers, when even they are economic migrants.

Although the poorer parts of the world experience very high population growth, and the developed world does not, it is a safe guess that not a single country today has a population that is low enough to guarantee success in the future world economic order.

Think about what Agent Smith said in The Matrix:

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

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The Middle East Migrant Crisis

Thousands of migrants–some refugees, some not–are making their way from Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia to Turkey, then to Greece, Macedonia, Austria and finally, for many, Germany. The largest number come from Syria, but other Islamic countries are represented from as far away as Afghanistan.

The Atlantic reported on the numbers: The number of migrants who have crossed the EU’s borders this year: 340,000. The European Union’s population: 508.2 million. Thus, currently, incoming migrants are 0.067% of the total population. Syria—which is in the midst of a civil war—is the largest source for these migrants. That conflict has created 4 million refugees.

• Of these, 1.9 million are in Turkey (population 75 million),
• 1.1 million are in Lebanon (population 4.4 million),
• 629,245 in Jordan (population 6.459 million).

The US has about 1,500—though that number could increase. There are zero in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.

Today’s Afghans and Pakistani refugees are economic refugees. But the Syrians are not economic refugees, they are refugees from war and chaos. They are seeking refuge from a civil war which has been exacerbated by ISIS. That the US, Turkey and the Gulf Countries are actively waging war on Syrian soil vs. ISIS adds to the plight of the Syrians.

And it is about to get worse for the Syrians. From the NYT:

Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and is taking other steps the United States fears may signal that President Vladimir V. Putin is planning to vastly expand his military support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, administration officials said Friday.

The Russian moves include transport of prefabricated housing units to Latakia, Syria’s principal port city, and the delivery of a portable air traffic control station there.

All this occurs on top of the US, Turkey and Arab forces implementing new plans to enter Syria in order to fight ISIS, primarily using more air attacks. That may explain Russia’s actions, since, from the start of the civil war in Syria, Russia has made it clear that they would not tolerate a “no fly zone” over Syria. In 2013, Russian officials, including a strongly worded statement by Putin,  formally objected to a Syrian “no fly zone”, which may now be precisely a goal of the US.

So, Syrians should expect more instability in the name of creating stability. More will leave town.

This means that the situation is utterly intractable. An intractable situation is not a “problem” that can be “solved”: It is a fact which must be reckoned with.

Over time, it is likely that there will be a huge internal backlash against European politicians, like Germany’s Ms. Merkel, if more migrants are allowed into the EU. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support.

Why are Ms. Merkel and other leaders in the EU willing to pay this price? Theories abound regarding what to do about this tsunami of refugees/migrants. Here is Jim Kunstler: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, the idea that the nations currently [believing] themselves “rich” can take in, shelter, and employ the masses fleeing MENA (and elsewhere) is absurd. Somehow the people in charge, plus the intellectual classes who shape opinion and consensus, are going to have to arrive at some clear notion of limits and boundaries.

There have been irresistible human migrations throughout time, and Western nations are witnessing the beginning of another one. But in this case, the current migratory problem is a self-inflicted wound brought about by the Assad regime, and America’s and its allies’ policies of regime change.

The desire to help is human, and universal. Many global organizations embrace the concept of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), which says states forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocities or human rights violations. In that case, it falls on all countries to enforce the R2P. Yet, in this situation, the R2P concept has already failed the Syrian people.

And it shows no sign of improving.

The only solution is to end the perpetual ME war. Western intervention in the region has been a disaster, as far back as the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s. That started this mess with the drawing of arbitrary borders in the ME.

It is now time for locals to take up the R2P.

This means Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt − all ME economic powerhouses with huge armies, have to ally to stamp out the ME hostilities. And to create enforceable ME borders, so that eventually, it will be possible to return today’s refugees to safe areas within their homelands.

Otherwise, the big ME powers will be the ultimate losers in the current ME debacle.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 13, 2015

Today’s wake-up call is for the Eurozone. Despite Wrongo’s generally pessimistic worldview, it was hard to imagine that we’d arrive at the insane juncture we have now reached, that of a Grexit (Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone), but it is all but certain. As this column is written, the Guardian is reporting that a four-page proposal is now circulating in Brussels that indicates that Greece could be offered a ‘temporary’ exit from the Eurozone if it doesn’t agree to a deal with its creditors.

If a Grexit comes to pass, it would be catastrophic, most of all for the Greek 99%. But it should blacken the names of everyone involved, most of all German Prime Minister Merkel. This sorry trajectory is occurring despite the Greek government prostrating itself, offering to meet much more stringent conditions than its voters overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum less than a week ago. Krugman writes that Greek PM Tsipras allowed himself to be convinced, some time ago, that euro exit was impossible. It appears that Syriza (the leading Greek political party) didn’t do any contingency planning for a parallel currency. This has left PM Tsipras in a hopeless bargaining position.

But surrender isn’t enough. There’s a substantial faction of the other Eurozone leaders that want to push Greece out. Germany seems willing to welcome them as the most Southern province of the new German Empire. They are asking for control of $50 billion of pledged Greek assets. This really means control of Greece.

It gives the Eurozone leaders a failed state as an object lesson for the rest of Europe’s near-deadbeats.

Since there are only terrible alternatives at this point, here is a wake up tune for the Eurozone leaders. Perhaps it will help Merkel find a way to offer a less destructive plan to Greece. Perhaps she can remember the debt relief and credit support given to post-Nazi Germany by the Allies, who wrote off 93% of the Nazi era debt in the early 1950s and stretched out the pre-Nazi debt incurred during World War I and the Weimar period well into the 21st century.

Here is our 2nd song of summer, Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can see the video here.

Sample Lyrics:
My friend the communist
Holds meetings in his RV
I can’t afford his gas
So I’m stuck here watching TV
I don’t have digital
I don’t have diddly squat…

Your Monday Hot Links:

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took the first detailed photos of Pluto. The image below was taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles away, with a resolution of 17 miles per pixel. It took nine and a half years to get this close, but at this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features:

COW Pluto

 

London has become the money-laundering center of the world’s drug trade. According to an internationally acclaimed crime expert, UK banks and financial services have ignored so-called “know your customer” rules designed to curb criminals’ abilities to launder the proceeds of crime. The National Crime Agency (NCA) states:

We assess that hundreds of billions of US dollars of criminal money almost certainly continue to be laundered through UK banks, including their subsidiaries, each year.

Google’s algorithm shows prestigious job ads to men, but not to women. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University built an app that found that when Google presumed users to be male job seekers, they were much more likely to be shown ads for high-paying executive jobs. Google showed the ads 1,852 times to the male group, but just 318 times to the female group. Well, you know Google’s use of its corporate motto “Don’t Be Evil”, ended in 2012 so this is probably OK.

Utah Valley University creates a ‘texting lane’ for busy staircase:

COW Texting Lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good idea? You be the judge.

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