Items of interest

Aside from the French elections, there are a number of issues bubbling under which as a small time currency trader I find of particular interest. These are as follows; the French Presidential election and how that will impact on Sterling and the Euro, also a mini trade war between the USA and Canada over a particular type (‘Ultrafiltered’ milk used in cheese making) of Dairy produce which the Trudeau government have implemented. Which is odd, because by doing so the Canadian Government are dictating that Canadian cheese makers cannot import and use a product which no-one in Canada makes.

For the curious this article may explain matters. However, it is worth noting that to get into the supply management chain to access Canadian markets, a license to produce is required. The cost of which varies from Province to Province, but effectively means that Canadian Dairy farmers have to pay the Government to produce Dairy products. Which effectively keeps small producers out of the marketplace. Farmers can keep cows, but unless a farmer has a permit, they can’t sell the milk or any product made from that milk (As well as needing a processors licence). So only the big guys or large co-ops really get to be players.

This trade conflict’s issues balance on a two edged sword of supply management (Canada) vs subsidies (USA). Although from my perspective I don’t need to know all the ins and outs, just the effect they are likely to trigger. Canada will lose this fight as the USA is already complaining about those north of the 49th who haven’t been paying their share of their NATO commitment. Which is another bone of contention.

Now which do I think is more important? For me the answer is a no-brainer. It’s the low level trade war over Dairy produce and collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement these issues look like triggering. Which means taking a short position on the Canadian Dollar looks to me like a good idea. Not that I’m not going to go short on the Euro, but if the French popular vote goes the way of Macron and not Le Pen, then the profit I stand to make over the shrinkage of the Euro will be much less. Macron is very much the establishment candidate and unless put under extreme pressure (And perhaps not even then) won’t give the French a referendum on membership of the EU or do anything on French border control. Although I did say that about Cameron and BREXIT. However Macron is being backed by such august personages as Jeremy Corbyn which is probably the kiss of death on anyone’s electoral campaign.

Singing my own praises

Why sing my own praises? Because I’m the only one that will… hold up a moment, did Sister in law just give me a compliment? Can I cook for them again? Hells bells, I think I’m going to faint!

Well not to my face, but the Sticker household has developed a reputation for being pretty damn sharp when it comes to comestibles. Take for example Easter weekend, our dinner guests got treated to my roast pork with crackling recipe. Which for some reason didn’t seem to be on my ‘Cooking for Conspiracy theorists’ list. Even though I’d already posted it elsewhere. Have now remedied this omission. In-laws even asked for my assistance with getting a proper Lamb joint. I said that I would search around and try to source some proper Lamb, not the Mutton which too often gets passed off as Lamb in Canada. Fortunately we’ve found a good local butcher who should be able to help. I’ll get the Mint sauce out for a 2lb shoulder of Lamb this weekend and see what happens.

I know one thing, too few places over here know how to cook Lamb properly. For example, a Lamb Rogan Josh at one of the local curry houses was effectively chunks of lamb cut way too big and not cooked long and slow enough. The meat hadn’t had enough marinading either, which made what should be a very spicy dish that melts in the mouth into something akin to chewing recycled car tyres dipped in curry sauce. Seriously, that was one serious sheep. I bet it had been beating up bears and cougars before dying of old age it was so tough. Guess where I won’t be going again.

A word to the wise; Lamb, beef or chicken for curry should be roughly cut into half inch cubes before marinating at for least two hours. Then given ten minutes in a pressure cooker to tenderise it before adding sauce ingredients. That way the meat cooks properly and the sauce flavours penetrate the meat. As a proof I’ll post my method (Including quick cheat) on the sidebar at a later date. A clue, my good friends Messrs Patak and Sharwoods are often a great help. Providing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lawyers don’t get involved and screw around with what ingredients my culinary friends are allowed to use. In which case, pass the salt cellar.

If it was that easy…

This is one of those dull posts about money and politics. Give it the go-by if you’re looking for something scurrilous and more interesting.

I wrote most of this post last Friday, when I was fretting and fuming over not receiving critical mail. Canada Post over here is a joke. Four weeks plus to deliver priority Air mail letters? And here’s me labouring under the delusion that I live in a first world country. Maybe the politically correct love the ‘third world’ so much they’re trying to drag Canada down to the level of Zimbabwe? I don’t know. However, a quick google indicates my postal gripes are not a new problem.

However, I’m heartened by the news of the stronger pound after Madame Tracey’s snap election announcement, as this vindicates my decision to ‘go long’ on Sterling. I’ll also be watching the French Presidential elections closely, as a victory (or even a close run loss) for Marine Le Pen means the Euro is going to take a hammering. Which from my point of view is no bad thing.

There is a saying that if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. I’m still having issues with shifting money around. Most of these have to do with Canada Post being its usual inefficient self and taking far longer to deliver a simple air mail letter (4 weeks and counting!) from my new offshore bank than a heavily sedated 3-toed Sloth with arthritis. Fortunately there is the Internet and there is the telephone. I know where the money is. It’s going nowhere without my say-so, so nothing really lost apart from opportunity. The exchange rates won’t be doing much until late next week when the fun really starts.

Update: Fun is starting. May is when the SH1T really gets to hit the fan.

Had my previous offshore bank not decided to close because of the new regulatory overhead I would not be having these issues. Monies would be paid, services obtained, and the world of business, at least as far as I’m concerned, would carry on regardless. Nonetheless, when it comes to offshore banking the state has demanded these cumbersome new regulations which have to be facilitated by, guess who? Yet another branch of the state, the postal service. All to stick a finger in the dyke of financial regulation to stop ‘money laundering’ when the metaphorical sea is coming over the top. Because, as any fule know, anyone who needs an offshore account is a tax dodger and a criminal, right? Well, thanks for nothing. Guilty until proven guilty seems to be the way of things nowadays. You’re a criminal if we say so, comrade, eh? Or a ‘thought criminal’ if you hold the wrong opinions.

Anyway, there are provincial elections coming up and there is no way I’m voting NDP or Liberal, as they’re simply two cheeks of the same ‘tax and spend’ arse who both pass laws against free speech and put up taxes. We’ve got a Libertarian candidate running, so that’s where my vote will be going this time around. Not that I’m stupid enough to vote for any NDP or Liberal candidate, that would be like selecting the fattest spoiled toddler to rule the Kindergarten.

The Sound of Music

Oh dear, to find inspiration for this one I had to bowdlerise “How do you solve a problem like Maria” from ‘The Sound of Music’. The depths to which I sink… (Video of the original here)

However, for those of you not familiar with the movie (Thank your lucky stars), let me conjure up a picture. Six Diplomats in black suits, two American, two Chinese and two Japanese are gloomily watching screens in a situation room. On the screens are images of Kim Jong-Un and missiles being made ready.

Cue Sound of Music song intro as the first American Diplomat speaks;
“They launch rockets, play with nukes, and the nation is quite broke
The second American Diplomat says;
They threaten countries all the time and look as if it’s all a joke
The first Japanese Diplomat says;
Yet underneath the bluster there’s the ghost of A-bomb smoke
The first American speaks
Do we bomb or don’t we, there’s the challenge”

The Japanese Diplomat chimes in;
“There’s money for the military, while most North Koreans starve
Even China is hacked off with them, this country that’s a half
I hate to have to say it, but I very firmly feel North Korea’s not an asset to the region”

The first Chinese Diplomat begins to speak;
“I’d like to say a word in their behalf
North Korea makes me laugh”

The Chinese Diplomat sings;
“How do you solve a problem like Korea?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Korea?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!”

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell them
Many a thing they ought to understand
But how do you make them stay and listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?”

The other diplomats join in;
“Oh, how do you solve a problem like Korea?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
When we hear them talk it’s confusing, out of focus and bemusing
And we never know exactly where we are”

The American Diplomat sings;
“Unpredictable as the weather, they’re as flighty as a feather
Kim’s an Eejit! He’s an arsehead! Goes too far!”

“He’d out pester any pest, drive a hornet from its nest
He’s a real live fan of circled firing squads
He’s a nutter! He is wild! He’s a riddle! He’s a child!
He’s a headache! He’s a moron! Thinks he’s God!”

The other Diplomats join in the chorus;
“How do you solve a problem like Korea?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Korea?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!”

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell them
Many a thing they ought to understand
But how do you make them stay and listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?”

“Oh, how do you solve a problem like Korea?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Boom-boom.

I’ll get me coat. Have a good Friday.

Syria

With huge apologies to the great Dean Friedman and his 1978 hit song ‘Lydia’.

Syria keeps nerve agent in their armament and we complain.
Well, hardly never. And then jokingly they say
Boy, it’s been so long since we saw you, we nearly bombed them all to death. We nearly left them all for dead. Nearly left them all for dead.

Syria, Syria, how come we don’t understand?
We can offer them nothing at all. this is more than we had planned.
Syria, Syria we are trying to command, at least until Korea comes,
Then, we must be off again.

Syria, you know we always talk about making conscious decisions, about running all your lives. Well, maybe we’re just fooling ourselves. It’s a role we like to play.
Because more often than not we’re backed into a corner. We’re sorry we bombed you. Do you feel like some company? Refugees need a place to stay.

Syria, Syria, how come we don’t understand?
We can offer them nothing at all. this is more than we had planned.
Syria, Syria we are trying to command, at least until Korea comes,
Then, we must be off again.

We mess with a country who thinks we’re all dumb. well, maybe we are. no, that wouldn’t surprise anyone. we suspect that much is true.
But, Syria, if you only knew how much we love you. did you know that we love you? it’s the best that we can do.

Syria, Syria, how come we don’t understand?
We can offer them nothing at all. this is more than we had planned.
Syria, Syria we are trying to command, at least until Korea comes,
Then, we must be off again.
We must be off again.

Interesting times

My, my. We do live in interesting times. Niall Ferguson argues in his “Five ingredients for a populist backlash” talk about why we are where we are using history, from 1873 onwards;

While he doesn’t give any definitive answers, he does give a broad brushstroke picture of what will result. Which for small time investors and currency speculators like me are useful straws in the wind. I like Niall, he’s not afraid to admit when he gets it wrong, especially over BREXIT. Unlike so many others in academia.

What I’m hearing about is political and economic forces similar to those which resulted in ‘la Belle Epoque’. There will be a few hiccups along the way, but as the EU collapses because that organisation is correctly observed to be little better than a hollow bureaucratic shell to fund lavish lifestyles for European ‘elites’. I foresee a new, more localist optimism driving economic growth, and the fading of many bugaboos like the anti-human notions of man made climate change and similarly pointless divisiveness of identity politics. A new liberalism of less government, greater individualism and wealth awaits over the next decade or two for those who are willing to embrace this nascent trend. Those that do not face obscurity and the scratching pens of scholars trying to work out how ‘progressive’ politics got it so badly wrong. The ‘elites’ amongst them. Word is leaking out that they’re beginning to lose big, and like Soros and his ilk, are doubling down on political interventionism while billions leak out of their back pockets.

There’s a lot going on out in the big wide financial world with talk of Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French Presidency and possible ‘FREXIT’ vote. Not to mention the possible Italian ‘Uscitalia’ (Thanks Peter) I’ll also be keeping a close eye on the proposed Catalonia referendum vote scheduled for late 2017. As well as the Chinese doing a possible deal with the US over Alaskan oil. Which will spell yet more pain for the politically hobbled Alberta oil sands. Which are some of the reasons why I’ll be going short on the Euro and Canadian Dollar but long on the US Dollar and Sterling.

Frying tonight

Ah, the days of youth. Fish and chips collected from the chip shop up the street, wrapped in a large square of grease proof paper and whatever newspaper you brought with you. Sitting on the floor with Ma (during divorce) at four years old in our rather empty front room dipping finger fulls of greasy chips and battered cod into a generous blob of Mr Heinz’ famous tomato ketchup. Ah nostalgia, it’s not like it used to be.

Now a few decades on, half way around the world, the saying ‘frying tonight’ takes on a whole new and sinister meaning. Specifically with regard to the batshit crazy pudding head currently occupying the North Korean dictators hot seat. Now I don’t know what sort of targeting technology the North Koreans have, but I’m guessing it’s pretty rudimentary. Think 1980’s Soviet era Scud with a CEP (Circular Area of Probability) accuracy, where half the missiles will fall within a radius of 6-700 metres at 3-550km range, but that’s with a conventional warhead. Put a nuclear warhead on that and the range drops by half and the accuracy likewise suffers. Let’s be generous and say the maximum range for nuclear Scud-level technology the North Koreans have reverse engineered scales with around about the same accuracy. Starting with a CEP error per thousand kilometres of 0.1 degrees. Which at 7,600 kilometres range between North Korea and the closest US territory of Hawaii is an approximate CEP of around 14 kilometres. Using simple trigonometry, this means that any range capable missile fired by the North Koreans might just about hit the biggest Hawaiian island. Or not. They’ve only just successfully tested an 800km capable missile. So a trans-pacific strike is hardly likely. At least not yet.

However if North Koreas frothing fruitcake regime did manage to make a missile capable of hitting Seattle (The closest major US mainland target) and we apply the same margin of error… Well, we in Victoria or Vancouver are as likely to be on the receiving end of North Korean ‘Bluff’ diplomacy as our cousins across the Juan De Fuca. Which would not please our large (Just under a million) ethnic Chinese population. Not that parts of Vancouver couldn’t do with a little urban renewal but this just isn’t funny.

That said, it’s far more likely that any ballistic missile attack from DPRK will be sent south rather than east, targeting US bases in South Korea rather than risk the embarrassment of hitting the wrong country entirely. What to do, it might muss our Prime Ministers lovely hair. The brutes.

From my perspective I’m hoping that the Chinese President sees his Florida meeting with Trump this week as an opportunity to negotiate an end to a regime that has become as big a thorn in China’s paw as to the USA and South Korea. Perhaps Kim Jong thingy and his top cohorts could meet with an ‘accident’ and in the ensuing confusion the Chinese could allow US aid in to feed North Korean refugees whilst they install a more business friendly regime.

I think I’ve said this before but a joint US / Chinese decapitation strike on Pyongyang is a far a better prospect than the possibility of the US or Canadian (Or maybe even the Mexican) West Coast ‘frying tonight’.

Update: Interesting way of ‘delivering a message’ to North Korea by sending 59 (Why not 60, or was one a dud?) cruise missiles winging into a Syrian air base suspected of dropping nerve agent onto civilians.  Production and stockpiling of that sort of chemical weapon has been illegal since 1993, so an airstrike can (just about) be justified with the backing of international law.  Providing of course that the Intelligence for the attack was solid.  However, knowing that a certain dictator had his older half brother assassinated by Nerve Agent one is temped to ask;  “Still feeling brave, Kimmy old thing?”  I have a feeling that Pyongyang may have to rethink their most recent bout of willy waving missile threats.

The law of unforeseen consequences

The law of unforeseen consequences is one of those universal concepts operating independently of any human intervention. Like Energy (e)=mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared or the Laws of Thermodynamics (Simplified definition here) or Kirchoffs laws. Or Newtons laws of motion.

Now you don’t have to be a genius to understand the above concepts. They’re all soundly researched and tested. Solid High School level science. However, the one that is almost always ignored is the Universal law of unforeseen consequences. A law recognised (although under different names) by such intellects as Adam Smith’s Invisible hand, John Locke when he railed against the perverse unanticipated effects of legislation and Frederick Bastiat’s What is seen and unseen. And of course the modern definition from the work of Robert K Merton.

So it is with the current furore about ‘Fake news’. The key questions are: who defines what is ‘Fake’? The Germans? The UN? Google? What criteria apply? If factually true is answer, then most mainstream offerings will have a big FAIL stamped on them. Especially the Op-eds that masquerade as ‘news’. Particularly ‘news’ items proven to distort and misrepresent events to fit in with a particular world view. Like a dozen protesters made to look like hundreds, crises over-dramatised, innocent people subject to witch hunts, and half truths presented as fact.

The amused thought occurs that perhaps the tactics of censorship could be turned against those who militate for it. Specifically making official complaint about various ‘news’ organisations and using their state-sponsored laws against them. An FOIA here, a little research, a quick Fisk and watch the censorious monster crumble to dust in the light of dawn. Stuff a lot of bloggers have been doing for years. I think a few of Germany’s proposed fifty million Euro fines would soon empty, say CNN’s coffers, right into the hands of lawyers and legislators. Indeed, even official sources might find themselves wrapped up in a Gordian knot of their own legislation. All it will require is a little due diligence on the part of the bloggers. Which means a lot of arse covering, but serious bloggers tend to fact check a lot more than their mainstream counterparts. Indeed, it’s all part of many bloggers raison d’etre. As for the ones who just make shit up like those who claim the Moon landings were a hoax, well, open your wallets boys and say “Help yourself”.

So, let the battle of ‘Fake News’ move into a hotter phase. What larks, eh?

A change for the worse

No, nothing personal, just an unsettling experience in one of my favourite downtown eateries. One of the better Italian places to have lunch. Lavazza coffee, a nice snacky lunch special. Just right for when you’re not up to a full on feed. Well that’s what I thought.

We haven’t been going downtown so much recently, but the other day the opportunity presented itself so we pounced on it. I immediately went for the fresh made tomato bisque and a sandwich. Oh. The sandwich was fine, but the soup was disappointingly vapid, nothing like the superb little number we’d dined on before. So when the waiter came round with their customary “How are the first few bites” routine, instead of my usual thumbs up, I was moved to look up at him and say; “The sandwich is great, but the soup’s a bit disappointing.” And it was. What had on previous occasions been a warming, rich and mildly spicy dish had been turned into a distinctly underwhelming offering. A woefully damp wodge of Parmesan standing duty for the wonderful hit of well seasoned fresh Basil we’d previously come to know and love. I mentioned this salient omission and the waiter told me that ‘Head office’ had dictated the removal of half the salt and most of the Basil.

This baffled me somewhat. The Tomato Bisques previous incarnation had been superb, now it had become simply ‘Meh’, even for my jaded palate. A requested pinch of salt helped, but somehow it just wasn’t the same. What did ‘Head office’ think they were playing at? They’d converted the almost sublime into, well, not quite dross, but certainly a pale shadow of its former glory. A Manager type person approached and apologised for the condition of the soup. I politely told him how I perceived the change, and how I felt the recipe had been diminished. He suggested that I request extra fresh Basil and extra salt as a ‘side’ in future. “Hmm.” I found myself thinking. “If your standards are falling maybe there won’t be another time.”

Which is a shame because this little place had previously been one of my favourite downtown lunch spots. Now an infection by the doctrinaire had diminished what I had long considered their signature dish. Perhaps some dozy item at ‘Head office’ had decided that we schlubs, mere customers, needed our diet regulated by their diktat. Or some city bureaucrat who can’t cook to save their lives had demanded that all the downtown restaurants cut the salt content of their culinary offerings. I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s made me feel less than enthusiastic about returning. Other diners who share my like of the previous recipe may well feel the same. All I know is that eventually yet another downtown eatery will end up closed as diners follow their palates.

Which is a crying shame. There are already far too many empty storefronts in downtown Victoria.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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