Another month down! here’s one final LinkSwarm to finish off July:
Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’
So Turkey has evidently started bombing the Islamic State, but also started bombing the Kurds, our allies against the Islamic State (and Turkey’s restive minority).
But via Jihad Watch comes word that Turkey has secretly been doing deals with the Islamic State on the side as well.
In November, a former ISIS member told Newsweek that the group was essentially given free rein by Turkey’s army.
“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” the fighter said. “ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria.”
But as the alleged arrangements progressed, Turkey allowed the group to establish a major presence within the country — and created a huge problem for itself.
“The longer this has persisted, the more difficult it has become for the Turks to crack down [on ISIS] because there is the risk of a counter strike, of blowback,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former counterterrorism analyst for the US Treasury Department, explained to Business Insider in November.
“You have a lot of people now that are invested in the business of extremism in Turkey,” Schanzer added. “If you start to challenge that, it raises significant questions of whether” the militants, their benefactors, and other war profiteers would tolerate the crackdown.”
“War Nerd” Gary Brecher says not to be fooled by the Islamic State strikes Turkey is actually going after the Kurds, linking to a regional source that claims the overwhelming majority of the airstrikes were against the Kurdish PKK, not the Islamic State.
Nobody much likes the Kurds, especially Erdogan’s AK party. In fact, the AKP hates the Kurds so much that this shared hobby of Kurd-killing has been the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Turkish military and IS. IS fighters have always been able to move easily over the Turkish border, and there are persistent reports that Erdogan’s daughter herself is playing their Florence Nightingale, patching up those rapists’ boo-boos in one of the quasi-secret hospitals along the border.
The AKP’s position is simple: They hate the Kurds, period. Islamic State also hates the Kurds. So Erdogan has to force himself to mouth even the slightest objection to IS, whereas the spittle really flies when he starts ranting against the Kurdish PKK/YPG.
Given what we know of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government (they’re Islamist scumbags) and Turkey historically (they hate and fear the Kurds), Turkey bombing the Kurds while pretending to bomb the Islamic State seems the more likely scenario.
“The past two years have been the most violent and repressive in Egypt’s contemporary history.” True, but by and large the Egyptians themselves don’t seem to mind. Why?
Yet despite this bleak security outlook, Egypt is more politically stable than it’s been in years. Unlike the divided regimes that collapsed in the face of mass protests in January 2011 and June 2013, the Sisi regime is internally unified. And the various state institutions and civil groups that constitute the regime will likely remain tightly aligned for one basic reason: they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a significant threat to their respective interests and thus see the regime’s crackdown on the organization as essential to their own survival.
Lucky for Egypt (and the world) that Morsi and his Muslim Brothers were such idiots. They could have gotten a lot further Islamicising Egypt had they followed Erdogan’s incrementalist model…
Via ZeroHedge comes renewed information of a point I’ve hit home again and again: Thogh Greece is an extreme outlier on unsustainable welfare state spending in Europe, it’s also the canary in the coal mine, as toxic debt continues to rise all across Europe, with several countries exceeding a debt-to-GDP ratios of over 100%, including “Greece (168.8%), Italy (135.1%) and Portugal (129.6%).” Post-bailout (and bail-in) Cyprus is still over 100% as well, as is Ireland, though Eurostat didn’t have Irish DGP numbers, though supposedly the ratio should be trending down. And Spain and France are hovering just under 100%.
To my mind the great mystery is how Belgium’s debt-to-GDP ratio now tops 111% with such a fat cushion of Brussels Eurocrats to sit on.
The problem is not Greece’s only. The problem is that the western liberal welfare state, as currently constituted, is economically and demographically unsustainable.
I’m sure I’ve driven this point home to regular readers of this blog, but I’ll continue driving it home until our leadership class is actually willing to do something about it…
The self-inflicted destruction of Greece has been accomplished, but they’re still going to be picking up the pieces for years, if not decades. And there’s no guarantee the heavy manners Germany and the troika are imposing will actually be enough to rescue it.
So, enjoy a random collection of Greek headlines, since I don’t quite have time to pen a piece on The Greater Meaning Of It All:
Many observers are wondering how the left-populist renegades of Greece’s Syriza party, which rose to power in January on the promise of delivering relief from austerity and renewed its mandate with a massive victory in the July 5 referendum, managed to negotiate a bailout deal on Monday that is substantially worse than what was available to Greece before Syriza took office.
That would be because they were idiots who lied to voters about what they could accomplish.
I came across this comment from a Slashdot thread on programmers leaving Greece (usual online source caveats apply), and thought it was meaty enough to be worth excerpting and highlighting on its own:
Let me tell you what happens when you’re 100% legal and declare everything up to the last penny you get as a software developer. In 2012 I had 100,000 Euros income paid 86,000 Euros spent on taxes (income tax with surprisingly different brackets than last year, “temporary” property tax, “temporary special contribution” 4% on the total turnover, mandatory social security, 55% of your current income tax as downpayment for next year). The year before I made 74,000 Euros and paid “only” 50,000 or thereabouts. In return I got: no schools, no roads, no pension, more taxes, more family members depending on me to live. The more you work the less you make (unless you have an ever-shrinking business). Crazy? That’s the Greek tax brackets for you.
Meanwhile: I have to pay for my own hospital plan because in case I get sick I have to notify the public insurance carrier 15 days in advance of emergency surgery (no kidding!) or 3-4 months before booking an appointment with a doctor. I have to get an additional, expensive pension plan on top of the 350 Euros per month I am currently paying as mandatory social security because there will be no money when I’m 67 years old or have worked 40+ years to get the minimum pension of 700 Euros (nominal; actual payment after taxes and mandatory social security is around 480 Euros). I also need to set aside money to get the kids I’m planning on having to a private school because there are no teachers (not even substitutes) half of the time in the public schools.
If you are wondering why people tax evade you have to first ask the questions: 1. how much does the state take in taxes and 2. what does the state offer for the money it takes from its citizens? If the answers are “most of your money” and “not that much at all” respectively it doesn’t take a genius to see why you get an endemic tax evasion for free.
Anyway. After three years of battling the system I gave up and moved away. My last tax filing in Greece was 2014 for my income in 2013. I am owed a 13,000 Euro tax return since August 10th, 2014. Of course it’s NOT credited. And we’re talking about money I have paid as a tax downpayment to the state since August 2013. They hold my money hostage for 2 years and they won’t give it to me. Also, don’t make the mistake of asking whether there’s an interest rate for those two years. Don’t be silly. There’s not! Adding insult to injury I’m still a Greek tax citizen which means I get to pay taxes for the dividends I’m paid from my company abroad. Don’t be ridiculous, of course they are NOT offset by the money the Greek state owes me! I have so far paid another 40+ thousand Euro taxes in these two years where the Greek state owes me the 13,000 Euro tax return.
I understand all this sounds alien to you. Why so much taxation, why no services in return, why the state isn’t punctual in paying back. Beats me, brothers and sisters. I have concluded that one must be outright insane to try and do business if they’re born in Greece.
And here you have the endpoint of the cradle-to-grave welfare state: benefits are theoretically generous for those on the dole (though good luck navigating the maze of inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy to collect them), while taxes are prohibitively high for those actually work for a living.
This is why implementing fake austerity through higher taxes never works: It drives out the productive, the social compact is irreparably broken, and those living off the state’s largess feel no qualms about wringing every last possible penny from it.
The problem with holding a gun to your own head is, sooner or later, someone is going to call your bluff.
EU leaders have given Greece until Sunday to “Reach a new bailout agreement with its creditors” or “face bankruptcy and expulsion from the euro currency system.”
The European Central Bank also hiked Greek ELA Haircuts. Translation: Hope you enjoy the scent of burning bridges, Greece, because now your banking system is even more screwed than before the referendum. (Note: Zero Hedge is down as of this posting. Maybe China got tired of him exposing their financial house of cards…)
And Greece’s leftist PM Alexis Tsipras is still playing his old tricks. “Screw all of you! You suck! Oh, and here’s a new proposal for a bailout that doesn’t meet any of your conditions! Please give us money! Pretty please! Screw all of you!”
“The Greek people spent part of the weekend in the streets celebrating their status as international deadbeat. They spent the rest of the weekend hoarding food, fuel, and medicine in preparation for the manmade disaster they have inflicted upon themselves.”
Also: “The Greeks may have burned their bridge to Europe, but the Germans are roasting marshmallows over the flames.”
The presence of Greece in the Eurozone is the result of a lie: The Greeks pretended to get their deficits and debt under control, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. That was the first act. In the second act, after the advent of the current crisis, the Greeks pretended to enact fiscal reforms, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. Political logic is, not coincidentally, lawyer logic — which is to say, it substitutes consensus for reality. If enough people (jurors, voters) are convinced that your position is the correct one, then you “win.” Maybe the election turns out your way, as with Tsipras and the referendum. Maybe political consensus prevents your opponents from enacting their favored policies, just as conservatives have for decades been frustrated in their efforts to enact entitlement reform by cheap and dishonest images of grandmothers being pushed over cliffs. Maybe O. J. Simpson walks.
Mark Steyn reiterates the fundamental problem:
Since Obama took office, it’s been fashionable to quote Mrs. Thatcher’s great line: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But we’re way beyond that. That’s a droll quip when you’re on mid-20th-century European fertility rates, but we’ve advanced to the next stage: We’ve run out of other people, period. Hyper-rationalist technocrats introduced at remarkable speed a range of transformative innovations — welfare, feminism, mass college education, abortion — whose cumulative effect a few decades on is that the developed world has developed to breaking point: Not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. In the course of so doing, they have fewer children later. And the few they do have leave childhood ever later — Obamacare’s much heralded “right” for a 26-year old to remain on his parents’ health insurance being merely a belated attempt to catch up with the Europeans, and one sure to be bid up further.
A society of 25-year-old “children” whiling away the years till early middle age in desultory pseudo-education has no desire to fund its prolonged adolescence by any kind of physical labor, so huge numbers of unskilled Third World immigrants from the swollen favelas of Latin America or (in Europe) the shanty megalopolises of the Muslim world are imported to cook, clean, wash, build, do. On the Continent, the shifting rationale for mass immigration may not illuminate much about the immigrants but it certainly tells you something about the natives: Originally, European leaders said, we needed immigrants to work in the mills and factories. But the mills and factories closed. So the new rationale was that we needed young immigrants to keep the welfare state solvent. But in Germany the Turks retire even younger than the Krauts do, and in France 65 percent of imams are on the dole. So the surviving rationale is that a dependence on mass immigration is not a structural flaw but a sign of moral virtue. The evolving justification for post-war immigration policy — from manufacturing to welfare to moral narcissism — is itself a perfect shorthand for Western decay.
So welfare entitlement states create a sense of entitlement. Who knew?
“The European Union is dying before our eyes.” So there is an upside to the Greek crisis…
Greece’s leftwing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants more negotiations. Because, you know, Europe just hasn’t had enough of those over Greek debt.
Mr. Tsipras said Greece was “prepared to accept” a deal set out publicly over the weekend by the creditors, with small modifications to some of the central points of contention: pension cuts and tax increases.
In other words: Groundhog Day on the Aegean. Yet again.
More Greek crisis links:
Greece lost its financial lifelines Tuesday, as the country missed a crucial payment to the International Monetary Fund amid growing questions about whether it would be able to remain in the euro zone.
Greek leaders had made a last-ditch attempt to come up with the necessary cash, asking European countries for a new bailout hours before its last ones were set to expire, but E.U. finance ministers rejected the request as unrealistic. The missed payment, confirmed by the IMF, was a landmark moment in Europe’s five-year battle to preserve its common currency.
A few more Greek tidbits:
The bureaucrats in Brussels and their counterparts in Europe’s national governments are furious with the Greeks for daring to consult their own people. Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European parliament, sarcastically tweeted, “Calling a referendum is, to Eurocrats, the most offensive thing a politician can do.” Stripped of their veneer, Eucrocrats’ arguments against all referendums amount to saying that referendums are a bad idea because they shift power from small cliques of unelected but wise rulers to an unsophisticated, nationalistic mob that might fall prey to populism