The Christmas Truce of World War I

In August 1914, Europe’s major powers threw themselves into war with gleeful abandon. Germany, a rising power with vast aspirations, plowed across Belgium, seeking to checkmate France quickly before Russia could mobilize, thereby averting the prospect of a two-front war. Thousands of young Germans, anticipating a six-week conflict, boarded troop trains singing the optimistic refrain: ‘Ausflug nach Paris. Auf Widersehen auf dem Boulevard.’ (‘Excursion to Paris. See you again on the Boulevard.’)
The French were eager to avenge the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1870. The British government, leery of Germany’s growing power, mobilized hundreds of thousands of young men to ‘teach the Hun a lesson.’ Across the continent, writes British historian Simon Rees, ‘millions of servicemen, reservists and volunteers … rushed enthusiastically to the banners of war…. The atmosphere was one of holiday rather than conflict.’
Each side expected to be victorious by Christmas. But as December dawned, the antagonists found themselves mired along the Western Front – a static line of trenches running for hundreds of miles through France and Belgium. At some points along the Front, combatants were separated by less than 100 feet. Their crude redoubts were little more than large ditches scooped out of miry, whitish-gray soil. Ill-equipped for winter, soldiers slogged through brackish water that was too cold for human comfort, but too warm to freeze.
The unclaimed territory designated No Man’s Land was littered with the awful residue of war – expended ammunition and the lifeless bodies of those on whom the ammunition had been spent. The mortal remains of many slain soldiers could be found grotesquely woven into barbed wire fences. Villages and homes lay in ruins. Abandoned churches had been appropriated for use as military bases.

This post was published at Mises Canada on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

Europe’s Era of Harmony Is Over

No one else I know can muster as much deep experience and insight into the sprawling, incendiary world of geopolitics as my good friend George Friedman, founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures; and in today’s Outside the Box – part 2 of my 8-part SIC Speaker Series – George brings all his powers to bear to issue quite a declamatory statement on the present and future of the European Union.
George’s argument can be summarized as ‘the center cannot hold.’ With Brexiteers on its western front and unruly right-wingers on its eastern wing in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, the EU is sore beset. But as George notes, the center is quietly debating whether that might not be a good thing:
There has been some talk in the central region of either creating a separate union consisting of Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, or creating a bloc within the existing bloc. The point would be for these countries to stop being responsible for countries not ready to operate at the center’s level of performance. It would mean that southern Europe, with its economic problems, and Eastern Europe, with its distinctly different political culture, could go their own way.
That is what I would call a desperate conversation. Far from ever achieving a ‘United States of Europe,’ the EU members will be lucky (or maybe not so much) if they can retain their economic union. George agrees, and he has concluded that dissolution is inevitable:

This post was published at Mauldin Economics on DECEMBER 20, 2017.

Puigdemont Seeks Asylum In Belgium After Spain Files Charges Against Catalan Government For Rebellion

Update: As we warned earlier, La Sexta has just reported that (former) Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will seek asylum in Belgium.
According to eldiario.es, Puigdemont has made the decision to travel to Brussels advised by a legal team that recommends him to remain in that country.
The movement of the former Catalan president intends to internationalize the judicial decisions and to force the Belgian justice to position itself on the possible emission of a euroorder of detention by Spain. In addition, the expresident and the exconsellers that accompany him raise the possibility of requesting political asylum in that country.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 30, 2017.

Finally Belgium Speaks Out Against Spanish Oppression

The Belgium Prime minister Charles Michel has come out against Spain and now other European leaders applaud him for taking a position against the repressive action by Spain’s Civil Guard and National Police despite the fact that those in Brussels remain silent because they care only about their own jobs. Brussels has been silent fearing others will rise up as separatists against their rule. So Brussels has demonstrated to the world that human rights come second to self-interest. This oppression in Spain has done far more damage to the EU than most people realize. Their silence has been taken as proof that they too would resort to violence to protect their jobs as well.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 16, 2017.

Forget Catalonia, Flanders Is The Real Test Case Of EU Separatism!

Catalonia’s separatist campaign has dominated European headlines for the past couple of weeks, but it’s really the northern Belgian region of Flanders which will serve as a barometer over whether large chunks of the EU will fall apart into a collection of identity-centric statelets prior to the bloc’s reconstitution into a ‘federation of regions’.
What’s going on in Catalonia is of paramount importance to the geopolitical future of Europe, since it could very well serve as the catalyst for fracturing the EU if copycat movements elsewhere are emboldened by the Spanish region’s possible separatist success. This was explained in detail in the author’s recent analysis about ‘The Catalan Chain Reaction’, which readers should familiarize themselves with if they’re not already acquainted with the thesis put forth in that work. To concisely summarize, there’s a very distinct possibility that the EU’s liberal-globalist elite have been planning to divide and rule the continent along identity-based lines in order to further their ultimate goal of creating a ‘federation of regions’.
Catalonia is the spark that could set off this entire process, but it could also just be a flash in the pan that might end up being contained no matter what its final result may be. Flanders, however, is much different because of the heightened symbolism that Belgium holds in terms of EU identity, and the dissolution of this somewhat artificially created state would be the clearest sign yet that the EU’s ruling elite intend to take the bloc down the direction of manufactured fragmentation. Bearing this in mind, the spread of the ‘Catalan Chain Reaction’ to Belgium and the inspiration that this could give to Flanders to break off from the rest of the country should be seen as the true barometer over whether or not the EU’s ‘nation-states’ will disintegrate into a constellation of ‘Balkanized’ ones.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.

Austria Makes History With First 100-Year Bond Sale Into Public Euro Markets

Austria, a country which itself is less than 100 years old, made European history today when it launched a 100-year government bond: the first such deal to be sold into eurozone public markets. While Austria is not the first nation to sell 100 year bonds – last year Ireland and Belgium both sold privately-placed century-long bonds – while Austria itself sold a 70 year bond, Austria’s planned 100-year bond is unique in that it would be the first such debt sold directly into public markets in the eurozone according to the WSJ.
It is unclear if the lack of a private sale suggests there was no reverse inquiry for the high duration product among institutions, however the return of this highly convex and duration-laden instrument suggests that European yields are unlikely to shoot higher, at least judging by the anticipated demand. On the other hand, yields are about to spike from the perspective of Austria, which is simply seeking to lock in the longest-possible term financing before the ECB begins tapering/tightening, and yields spike, as Fasanara Capital warned yesterday.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 12, 2017.

Has France Been Bought By A State Sponsor Of Islamic Terrorism?

Authored by Drieu Godefridi via The Gatestone Institute,
It is through these tax breaks that the Qataris are buying the “jewels” of France. The U. S. is not selling its defense companies to Qatar. Thanks to its huge gas and oil reserves, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world and huge reserves of cash to invest everywhere, whereas France, thanks to 40 years of socialism, is in dire need of cash. The state of Qatar has been officially labelled as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, and an active supporter of Islamic terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State — not by Western governments, but by Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islamic faith, and the other Islamic regimes of the region.
Knowing the facts of Qatar — 11000km2, one-third the size of Belgium, population 2.5 million — the question may seem far-fetched: How could France, the great France, possibly be bought by a tiny state such as Qatar?
For the single reason that, thanks to its huge gas and oil reserves, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world and huge reserves of cash to invest everywhere, whereas France, thanks to 40 years of socialism, is in dire need of cash and has a tradition of corruptible officials, to say nothing of a propensity for “collaboration”.
On August 4, the English press — not the French press — revealed that French prosecutors are actively investigating two events: the awarding the 2022 World Cup of football (soccer) to Qatar, and the purchase by “Qatari Diar”, a state-owned investment company, of a stake in the French utility firm Veolia.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 1, 2017.

Why Houston Doesn’t Need Federal Flood Relief – In Four Charts

In his article today, Christopher Westley noted that Texas’s economy – when measured by GDP – is larger than Canada’s. In other words: If Texas were an independent country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy (totaling $1.6 trillion), and its citizens would be more than capable of addressing natural disasters of the magnitude of a major flood. Texas’s economy is also larger than those of Russia and Australia.
By why stop our analysis at the state of Texas? Indeed, if we look at the GDP of the Houston metropolitan area, we find it comes in at $503 billion. This total is similar to the GDPs of Poland, Belgium, and Austria. It’s significantly larger than the GDPs of Norway and Denmark.1

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Aug 31, 2017.

The Secret History Of The Banking Crisis

Accounts of the financial crisis leave out the story of the secretive deals between banks that kept the show on the road. How long can the system be propped up for?
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It is a decade since the first tremors of what would become the Great Financial Crisis began to convulse global markets. Across the world from China and South Korea, to Ukraine, Greece, Brexit Britain and Trump’s America it has shaken our economy, our society and latterly our politics. Indeed, it has thrown into question who ‘we’ are. It has triggered both a remarkable wave of nationalism and a deep questioning of social and economic inequalities. Politicians promise their voters that they will ‘take back control.’ But the basic framework of globalisation remains intact, so far at least. And to keep the show on the road, networks of financial and monetary co-operation have been pulled tighter than ever before.
In Britain the beginning of the crisis was straight out of economic history’s cabinet of horrors. Early in the morning of Monday 14th September 2007, queues of panicked savers gathered outside branches of the mortgage lender Northern Rock on high streets across Britain. It was – or at least so it seemed – a classic bank run. Within the year the crisis had circled the world. Wall Street was shaking, as was the City of London. The banks of South Korea, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Iceland were all in trouble. We had seen nothing like it since 1929. Soon enough Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the US Federal Reserve and an expert on the Great Depression, said that this time it was worse.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 9, 2017.

Belgian Troops Shoot ‘Terrorist’ Suicide Bomber Screaming “Allahu Akbar” In Brussels Station

Update 2: according to a Belgium prosecutor, the incident has been deemed to be a terrorist attack.
#BrusselsCentralStation incident deemed to be act of terrorism, according to prosecutor.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) June 20, 2017

* * *
Update: The suspect in Brussels train station blast shouted “Allahu Akbar,” according to a witness quoted by AFP.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 20, 2017.

It’s Confirmed: Without Government Subsidies, Tesla Sales Implode

According to the latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), sales of Electrically Chargeable Vehicles (which include plug-in hybrids) in Q1 of 2017 were brisk across much of Europe: they rose by 80% Y/Y in eco-friendly Sweden, 78% in Germany, just over 40% in Belgium and grew by roughly 30% across the European Union… but not in Denmark: here sales cratered by over 60% for one simple reason: the government phased out taxpayer subsidies.
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As Bloomberg writes, and as Elon Musk knows all too well, the results confirm that “clean-energy vehicles aren’t attractive enough to compete without some form of taxpayer-backed subsidy.”
The Denmark case study is emblematic of where the tech/cost curve for clean energy vehicles currently stands, and why for “green” pioneers the continued generosity of governments around the globe is of absolutely critical importance, and also why Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Treaty is nothing short of a business model death threat.
To be sure, Denmark’s infatuation with green cars is well-known: the country’s bicycle-loving people bought 5,298 of them in 2015, more than double the amount sold that year in Italy, which has a population more than 10 times the size of Denmark’s. However, those phenomenal sales figures had as much to do with price and convenience as with environmental concerns: electric car dealers were for a long time spared the jaw-dropping import tax of 180 percent that Denmark applies on vehicles fueled by a traditional combustion engine.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 11, 2017.

Bill Blain: “Something Is Happening In Europe And We Don’t Know What It Is…”

We start with the overnight observations by Mint’s Bill Blain who points out something contradictory: on one hand Europe is said to be “fixed” with inflation expectations rising and the ECB preparing to take its foot off the gas pedal. On the other hand, “European Sovereigns will start issuing long bonds again…. A French 30yr is in the works, Italy and Belgium are both looking, while other rumours say the EFSF might be in the frame. … Long dated low yield bonds make great sense when inflationary expectations are low into infinity, and you expect the New Normal of Low Rates in perpetuity to hold for ever.”
As he puts it, ” If the global economy is so rosy, why is the Euro bond market going long? Whatever happened to expectations Europe was going to grow again? Something is happening and we don’t know what it is…”
Perhaps what is going on is that the market is looking beyond the current “reflation” scare, and already preparing for the next deflationary downturn, now that China’s credit impulse has fizzled and the impact is set to hit the world in the coming months…
In any case, read on from Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 11, 2017.

The Market Has Its Head Buried Deep In The Sand

Several ‘black swans’ are looming which could inflict a financial nuclear accident on the U. S. markets and financial system. I say ‘black swans’ in quotes because a limited audience is aware of these issues – potentially catastrophic problems that are curiously ignored by the mainstream financial media and financial markets.
The most immediate problem is the Treasury debt ceiling. The Treasury is now projected to run out of cash by mid-summer. Of course, in the spurious manner in which the markets evaluate the next trade, July may as well be a decade away. My best guess is that the ‘market’ assumes that, after drawn out staging of DC’s version of Kabuki Theatre, Congress will raise the debt ceiling, probably up to $22 trillion. Then the Fed will extend its highly secretive ‘swap’ operations to foreign ‘ally’ Central Banks (hint: Belgium and Switzerland) in order to fund the onslaught of Treasury issuance that will ensue. Problem solved…or is it?
(Note: Plan B would be another one of Trump’s bewildering Executive Orders removing the debt ceiling. Plan B is another form of ‘fiat’ currency issuance)
The second ‘black swan’ seen by some but invisible to most is the ongoing collapse the shopping mall business model, erroneously blamed on the combative growth of online retailing. But when I look at the actual numbers, that argument smells foul.

This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on March 29, 2017.

The Dollar Dump Begins: ‘China, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia Have All Become Big Sellers’

As global financial markets teeter on the edge of collapse, a report published this morning suggests that the run up in the U. S. dollar may be over. As of today, some 80% of post-Trump election gains have been wiped out and as noted in the special video report from Future Money Trends below, it appears that things are only going to get worse.

This post was published at shtfplan on March 27th, 2017.

EU Bans Islamic Headscarf, Sparking Angry Protest From Soros-Funded Group

A ruling by the European Union’s top court on Tuesday, which allows companies to bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols, has set off a storm of complaint from rights groups and religious leaders. With its first ruling on a hot political issue across Europe, the Court of Justice (ECJ) has found that a Belgian firm which had a rule barring employees who dealt with customers from wearing visible religious and political symbols “may not have discriminated” against a receptionist dismissed for wearing a headscarf.
The judgment came on the eve of a Dutch election in which Muslim immigration is a key issue; in several weeks France also votes for a president in a similarly charged campaign. Piggybacking on the ruling, scandal-ridden French candidate, conservative Francois Fillon, hailed the ruling as “an immense relief” that would contribute to “social peace”.
However, the ruling also prompted angry responses: a campaign group backing the women said the ruling could shut many Muslim women out of the workforce. And European rabbis said the Court had added to rising incidences of hate crime to send a message that “faith communities are no longer welcome”. Reactions focused on the conclusion that services firm G4S in Belgium was entitled to dismiss receptionist Samira Achbita in 2006 if, in pursuit of legitimate business interests, it fairly applied a broad dress code for all customer-facing staff to project an image of political and religious neutrality, Reuters reported.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 14, 2017.

Five Reasons for Central Banks: Are They Any Good?

In a time when Federal Reserve reforms are discussed more openly than ever before, it seems appropriate to also think about the more fundamental question of whether central banks are needed in the first place. In 1936, Vera C. Smith (later Lutz) published her doctoral dissertation The Rationale of Central Banking written under Friedrich A. von Hayek at the London School of Economics. Smith reviewed the economic controversies around central banking from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century in France, Belgium, Germany, England, Scotland, and the United States.
Smith made very clear that central banks are not the result of natural developments in the banking sector, but come into existence through government favors.
So what are the justifications for central banks? Smith identified five main arguments for central banks from an economic point of view. Although Smith has written with a gold standard as the underlying monetary system in mind, it is interesting to look at these arguments with the benefit of hindsight more than 80 years later. Has any one of the arguments actually made a strong or even conclusive case for central banking?

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on February 22, 2017.

Policy Makers – Like Generals – Are Busy Fighting The Last War

The Maginot Line formed France’s main line of defense on its German facing border from Belgium in the North to Switzerland in the South. It was constructed during the 1930s, with the trench-based warfare of World War One still firmly in the minds of the French generals. The Maginot Line was an absolute success…as the Germans never seriously attempted to attack it’s interconnected series of underground fortresses. But the days of static warfare were over – in 1940, the Germans simply drove around the line through Holland and then Belgium. Had the Germans replayed WWI and made a direct attack, the Maginot Line likely would have done its job. But Hitler wasn’t interested in a WWI re-do, so the fortifications were quickly rendered moot. France, Europe, and the world would pay the price for generals fighting the last war rather than adjusting to the contemporary risks they faced.
In 2008, the economic generals at the various central banks likewise pulled out the playbook to refight the great depression… not realizing, this time was an entirely different opponent. Federal governments and central bankers presumed doing what they had always done would again win the day. Cut interest rates (this time to zero) to incent both public and private entities to refinance existing debt loads and undertake new, greater leverage. This nearly free money would reduce debt service levels and the new loans would ignite a new wave of economic activity in the form of capital expenditures and small business creation. Economic multipliers and velocity would ensure general prosperity with job and wage growth. Instead, it’s the “Maginot Line” all over again for our economic generals as economic activity grinds to a stall absent the illusory asset bubbles.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 22, 2017.

Turkey’s “Long Arm” In Europe

Submitted by Burak Begdil via The Gatestone Institute,
Turkey has finally won the title of having the world’s first spook-imams. Turkey is exporting its political wars and tensions to Europe. That is not a good sign for the Old Continent. Officially, Turkey’s General Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet in Turkish) has a mission about offering institutional religious services independent of all political ideologies. In practice, Diyanet’s understanding of “offering institutional religious services” can be different from what the term should mean. Recently, the office of Istanbul’s mufti, an official of Diyanet, described the location of a mosque as “… it was [in the past] a filthy Jewish and Christian neighbourhood.” After press coverage, the depiction was removed from the web page.
Diyanet’s “institutional religious services” may sometimes even overlap with what in other countries people call intelligence. In a briefing for a parliamentary commission, Diyanet admitted that it gathered intelligence via imams from 38 countries on the activities of suspected followers of the US-based preacher Fetullah Glen, whom the Turkish government accused of being the mastermind of the attempted coup on July 15. As if it is the most normal thing in the world, Diyanet said its imams gathered intelligence and prepared reports from Abkhazia, Germany, Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 1, 2017.