Tag Archives: Europe

I’m puzzled…

… by the behaviour of Madame Tracy over the BREXIT negotiations. First there was Florence, which was essentially seen as a climbdown, now in this morning’s FT I read of yet another backpedal where Juncker et al are demanding more and more to leave their exclusive little club. Whose cookie is beginning to crumble further around the edges in Austria, Poland, Catalonia and Hungary.

My own suspicion is that this is a bargaining ploy, a delaying tactic to keep the markets stable and see how far the Eurocrats will go to try and up the Ante before telling them to get lost and open the doors to other nations, who if they’ve got any sense already have their own low level negotiating teams in setting up trading deals for when UK Plc drops off the edge of Europe. However, I may be completely wrong and this may only be a ploy to feed to the Brexiteers that “Oh my God dwawleengs it’s too, too difficult to get out so we’ll have to stay in. Sorry, just not poss…etc.” But that would bury the Tories for a generation and leave the poor old UK to drop headlong into the hands of the weird and definitely not wonderful Corbynista’s and subsequent economic free fall. So what is going on?

The Catalan situation seems to be bubbling under, with two separatist leaders under arrest for ‘sedition’, also two Police Officers for getting in the way of the Guardia Civil riot Police. See the France24 video below for the situation as of 17th October. Can’t say I like the smug look of the Spanish deputy PM as she stepped up to the podium. There’s a cat that’s got first lick of the cream and no mistake.

Then there’s the Austrian election results. Which has the Eurocrats rattled. We’re told that the results are a victory for the ‘extreme right’ but how ‘extreme’ is not wanting to import unspecified numbers of welfare dependents for which the Austrian taxpayer will have to foot the bill?

As for ‘rising extremism’, how extreme is doing what the Americans call “Voting your cheque book”? Which is what electorates around the world are beginning to do. For example there’s a widespread view that the EU is a monster which has grown too large and needs to go on a serious diet. Same for the US Government. Too big, too much power, too intrusive and rapacious.

In Canada we’re still on the upslope of that statist bell curve with the Federal Government changing the tax regs to prevent ‘Income salting’ (Sharing tax allowances between family members) which will hit working families with stay at home mums the worst. Not the ‘rich’ like that idiot fop Trudeau in Ottawa says. Even Mrs S and I have been forced to formalise our business relationship so that everything I buy or do for her business is logged and subject to detailed internal invoice. Which is a pain, but these are the toothpaste tubes big government forces everyone into. Should they try and throw my invoices out, I will simply stop the forty or so hours a month I put in on my wife’s business’ behalf and close my ears to all the cries for help from the next door office because I don’t work for nothing.

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I know those streets


…the streets of Barcelona. It’s one of the jewels of continental Europe and now the ground zero of the Catalan secession movement. I’ve sat and drunk coffee in front of the main cathedral, listened to the chatter around me, navigated the nearby flagstoned alleyways and peoplewatched the other tourists being startled by the dozen or so living statue mime artists that make a living at the foot of the Cathedral steps. It is one of my favourite European cities, one with a cultural identity you could bend rebar around. Like Seville, but not so much Madrid.

Now the Catelonians have voted for independence in a referendum the Madrid government and probably the EU, didn’t want them to have. The actions of the National Police riot squad have become global news which the Madrid government has totally mishandled. See this report from CGTN Africa below.

Regardless of whether the referendum itself was illegal, riot police beating up old ladies people for no better reason than they wanted to vote is like pointing a loaded gun at your foot, pulling the trigger and wondering why it hurts so bloody much. There is no way that is protecting anyone’s rights, or any form of justice, as claimed by the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, save that of wielding naked power for it’s own sake. Reporters on the ground say even the local city cops or ‘Mossos’, got in the way of the cruise shipped in riot police when ‘unofficial’ polling stations were raided. See the France24 video below and the linked story on RT.

And you thought that BREXIT was a big issue. Think of it this way, the Catalans are getting a dose of what the Spanish authorities have been doling out to the Basque since before 1876. This time however, the ‘rebels’ have tried to do things the right way, the peaceful and democratic way, yet the heavy hand of the Spanish authoritarian state has fallen upon them. As many libertarians and those who have fallen foul of any government department would say; “The State is not your friend.”

Update: After reading around and doing a little historical background I note that this is not the first ‘illegal’ referendum on Catalan independence.  The last was 2014 and before that smaller versions throughout 2009 to 2011.

Here’s a post referendum interview from Vlogger Tim Pool of expat journalist Simon Harris who is based in Barcelona.  Very enlightening insider perspective on Spanish political attitudes.

 

1971 Redux etc.

I see the current situation with student unrest somehow reminiscent of the early 1970’s. I don’t know if it’s just me, but seen through the Hollywood mirror there are a lot of similarities. The banners, the language, the shouts of ‘Fascist’ at every less that extreme left wing view. Which were forgotten when the instigators ran out of other people’s money and had to get real jobs. As happened in the early 1980’s and into the 90’s, when stuff settled down and people stopped shouting about all the ism’s and we all just got on with things. Regardless of skin colour or sexual orientation. We learned to joke about ourselves again and not worry too much.

Until of course the next generation forgot the lessons of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Or at least some people forgot, or more like never learned that it is wrong do what the hell they like to hurt others, regardless of political views, just because they think they have some nebulous moral ‘right’. To them, the slavery that stained the 16th-18th century West is still real, but instead of moving on, go full retrograde and act as though slavery of the African descended importees to America were a real modern issue. All the time ignoring the real slavery of non-Western states like India (14.3 million), China (3.2 million) and Pakistan (2.1 million) to name the three biggest offenders. Map here. All the bleating is a cheap ‘give us your money’ con trick because the people who really need help will never see a penny piece while their ‘leaders’ will have pockets so full they’ll need weight training to hold their trousers up. Twas ever thus.

In the 90’s most people got over all the fuss and worked as part of a team with whatever colour skin your workmates had. No-one even asked about religion, because the question never arose. Of course there were minor frictions, but if you were good at your job and paid attention, who the hell cared? Tolerance was more widespread and opinion was less polarised than at present. Sometimes I feel that if everyone nowadays wound their collective necks in and went back to a more relaxed live and let live attitude we’d all be miles better off.

The rot seemed to set in in the late 00’s on the run up to the US Presidential elections. The Messiah was to become the US President and all the people dispossessed by the financial crash, ironically caused by an attempt to legislate ‘fairness’ by the Clinton Administration, coupled with the financial sectors solution to all the dodgy debt it created, thought that their chosen one would magic up money and make all their problems vanish. Only their problems didn’t. They got worse. Then we got all the divisive rhetoric to go with it. Here in the late 2010’s race relations are dropping through the floor because no one seems to understand that the solution to all Bear problems (Racism) is to stop prodding the fucking Bear! (and in the process giving the real racists ammunition). The answer is, as Morgan Freeman said so succinctly; “Stop talking about it.” But no-one seems to be interested. They just want a fight.

Speaking of which, looks like there’s going to be a scrap over the forthcoming Catalan referendum. If you thought there was a fuss over BREXIT, the powers that be are gearing up for some serious fun. A whole cruise ship full of armed riot Police have been brought in, just in case the election rigging doesn’t go the right way. While the EU bureaucrats look like they’re relying on Tessie May to cock things up so Britain comes back to the EU fold with tail tucked tween it’s legs, they must reckon those rebellious Spaniards will only be cowed by a sound public whipping. After all, they’ve stepped up raids against those angling for independence. Tomorrow’s vote in Germany will probably keep Merkel in power by the look of things. But polls have been wrong before. As have bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, back on the topic of BREXIT I have a hunch that May’s Florence speech was a bluff, or at least a form of damage limitation. The UK’s credit rating has been marked down, which she probably knew was coming, so her seeming to give way might just take the pressure off the city despite the fast recovering value of Sterling (Up seven cents against CAD since last Friday by my reckoning). A lot is going to happen politically and economically over the next month or so and I’m going to hunker down, financially speaking, and see what happens. This could get real interesting real fast. For a given value of ‘interesting’. P.S. I’ve sold all my Euro’s.

Update: Re the two ships reputedly full of riot Police currently docked in Barcelona. Each has a passenger complement of around 1,760. So that’s a possible 3,520 riot Police, a small army in anyone’s books. Could of course be more, as I recall tales from drinking mates who went on a little ‘Pussers holiday‘ back in 1982, and how tightly they were crammed onto every berth they could find. So the total capacity of these two ships could be over half as much again. More, if they’ve taken over all the crew cabins.

Another thought occurs; are all these riot Police actually members of the Spanish Guardia Civil or CNP, or are a few on loan from other parts of the EU? Enquiring minds etc. My, this is getting interesting.

Another Update: Merkel has held onto Germany for a fourth term, but her pro-open door immigration policies have given the extreme right a doorway into power with 13% of the vote. This is also very interesting. We’ll see what the markets say on Monday morning.

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.

BREXIT Day

Well, well, well. It’s finally here. Official negotiations begin to get the UK out of the EU finally get underway. For my part, I’ve decided to ‘go long’ on my UK investments, keeping funds in Sterling as I have a ‘seeming’ that the value of the Pound Sterling is going to go up significantly, having been artificially depressed a la Marvin the Paranoid Android for far too long. The currency markets don’t like uncertainty, and will punish any currency where the political will of a country is judged as weak. A case in point being the Euro, which isn’t doing so wonderfully, what with the uncertainty of the Anti-EU groundswell in the Netherlands and France, to name but two.

Frankly, I think the EU has had it. Indeed, the old Warsaw pact collapsed because it was being artificially glued together by the old Soviet Union. But there were too many differing cultures and languages for such a beast to work without a rule of iron from the top down. So it will be with the European Union.

It’s a shame for Europe. Had the EU stayed as the European Economic Community free trade zone to standardise weights and measures I think it could have survived. However, the bureaucrats wanted a big federal state with all the trimmings, and economically sane people don,t. Because big bureaucracies are unwieldy and uneconomic. Too much is taken from the productive to provide millionaire lifestyles for a self-selecting and unaccountable political ‘elite’ which strangles everything else. Canada and the USA function because they are (mostly) held together by the grass roots of common interest. There is some form of democratic control. The EU doesn’t really have any.

Now the trigger has been pulled on BREXIT I’m quite sanguine. Indeed, this is a form of ‘triggering’ which along with several other factors directly affecting the Sticker household, are giving cause for celebration. BREXIT, like the Daffodils and Cherry blossom may be late, but all three are welcome, and presage better years ahead.

Told you so

Back last year, when the Brexit vote was first mooted all the prophets of doom were running around screaming about the economic damage leaving the EU would do the dear old UK, I cautiously espoused an opposing view here and here and here.

eutanic-rock-and-a-hard-placeNow Mark Carney, Chairman of the Bank of England has seen the light. Seven months late, but that’s why I put not my trust in Princes and watch the truth of real numbers. The City of London, like any other financial market, floats on a sea rich and royally reeking of bullshit, but, and it’s a massive curvaceous booty to boot, the numbers say that the EU is overstretched financially, and with the exit of the UK beginning in March 2017 will likely lurch into a deeper crisis than the one it is in already.

In the UK however, all the future indicators are positive. Countries are queuing up to do deals with one of the major trading hubs of the western world. For too long the UK was trapped as a satellite, bound into a fairly restrictive single market without all the global links it needed to really catch fire, financially speaking. Now those markets look set to burst wide open, and for a few years there should be an expansion as old and new relationships are exploited. More jobs, an expanding economy, and maybe even a loosening of the bondage ties of EU mandated directives. Of course there will be winners and losers, but for the guy who is quick off the mark, the rewards will be out there.

These are exciting times. At least for an investor with their eyes wide open. With a pro-UK man in the White House for a change, a deal maker at that, and with a possible new and more positive relationship with Russia in the offing I’m feeling quite sanguine. For too long the world has been fighting itself like a dog in a sack, now the sack can be opened, and the dog can go chase all the juicy bones out there. Sure, it won’t be all plain sailing, but this is the beginning of a new era, and with luck the morbidly obese bureaucracy of the EU will be a distant fading memory in a couple of decades time.

Wonder what they’ll do with all those grandiose insults to architecture the Eurocrats were so fond of?

Ciao Italia

Well that was a busy Monday morning. A business deal was concluded before 8am and we had the movers in to take our first tranche of kit into storage. So I’ve been busier than a metaphor with two adjectives moving very quickly indeed.

Did I mention we had a little snow this morning in Victoria? Nothing much, hardly enough to wet the ground, but it’s still colder than usual for December, but fits in with the local cycles of warm and cold Winters we’ve experienced so far. All weather tyres on the car, check. The only thing I might need is a replacement battery for the old Satnag. Well, the car is hitting its sixth birthday, but still goes up hill and down dale without missing a beat.

Over the weekend I’ve been watching with amusement the next crack on the shins for the bureaucracy that should have been just a free trade zone, the EU. You know, with all the snappy terms for leaving the EU bouncing around like Brexit and Frexit, no one gave thought to the Italians, whose referendum on ‘reform’ came up with a big fat NO, with huge political gains made by the anti-EU faction. The obvious next contender for media neologism is “Ixit”, or even “Italexit”, which somehow lacks the big ‘E’, but as the Italians aren’t net contributors to the EU budget, any “Ixit” would not be as much of a blow to the EU as when Britain finally leaves or possibly even when France bails out.

Any vecchia strada su, we have our travel plans for Italy 2017 firmly in place and it doesn’t matter which way the votes go because we’re planning to insure ourselves up the wazoo so that no matter what happens, we go five star.

That’s all for now. Cleaners are arriving for the first stage of wrapping up this apartment this afternoon and there is more packing to organise. TTFN.

Update: It’s not ‘Ixit’ or ‘Italexit’, but the far more elegant ‘Uscitalia’.  Thank you Peter.

Triumph-ant

Road trip planning again. This time I’ve been reviewing my choice of machine for the trip, a brand new Triumph Trophy SE 1215 (The 2017 version). Now I’ve had an on again and off again love affair with Triumph Motorcycles for some considerable time. From the first time helping a mate rebuild his Triumph Tiger Cub clutch when I was just out of school, to my later trans-European adventures and high mileage high jinks on my old 900ST. In between there’s been a few Hondas and Suzukis, and I’ve test ridden a whole heap of other machines, but in the end my preference all comes down to long distance comfort.

My problem with most new motorcycles is that I’m a big guy. Long in both leg and body. Broad shouldered and heavy built, which is a legacy of hard physical work and extensive weight training regimen which began during my early teens removing tree stumps with axe, pick, shovel and brute force. I’m physically more carthorse than thoroughbred or Shetland pony so most motorcycles aren’t built for people of my size. There’s also the classic North American foot forward riding position and footboards which I don’t much care for. My riding heritage is Northern European where you fit around the very bones of your machine, not just sit in it like it’s a Lay-Z-Boy.

Harley Davidsons and the like were immediately off my buying list because despite their physical size and the reportedly fixed problems with electrics (especially in the wet). The positioning for feet and hands is more for those with short legs. Which came as a bit of a surprise. When I first sat astride one, I got the immediate impression that I would have to ride with my knees around chest level no matter how the seat was adjusted. Then I don’t much care for those heavy V-twins, they’re so agricultural and leave me with the feeling that I’d be better off buying Massey Ferguson or John Deere. Besides, there’s that whole ‘weekend warrior’ vibe which just isn’t me. So, crossed off the list.

Ducati and Moto Guzzi. Same issue. Lovely to look at, great performance, but the short legged peg position and problems with the electrics during wet weather tended to put me off.

Next to be examined were BMW’s. BMW’s, although the footpeg position was good for me, have a tendency to cut the handlebars a little narrower than is comfortable for long journeys. Love the long term reliability of the Boxer engine and the shaft drive…. But. And this is a big ‘but’, unlike mine, which Mrs S likes because of my still ‘high and tight’ buns. Apart from the 1150RT which they don’t make any more, none of the other models in BMW’s range had the feel that I was looking for. So bye-bye BMW.

Suzuki, Kawasaki and KLT? Close but no cigar. There’s a happy place in my heart for the 1200N Bandit and the V-Strom is okay, but Suzuki have long had an issue with finish that degrades a little too quickly for my liking, and Kawasaki tend to build for the smaller rider. KLT aren’t bad, but there’s something not quite right with the machines I’ve tried out. There’s an instinctive knowledge that after a couple of thousand miles my back would start to complain because of that tiny kink in the riding position that is almost, but not quite, right for me.

Honda? Mmm. Sooo close. Wish they still made the ST1100 Pan-European, which is a splendid touring machine, creme de la creme. Love that smooth V-four. After test riding, the ST1300 and Gold Wings are a little too big and heavy to be the kind of fun I look for as a rider. The Bagger ain’t bad, but my pillion has needs too, and she reports that the rear seats get a little uncomfortable after the first fifty miles. Which, if you’re going down the full helmet comms route, would result in a rides enjoyment being curtailed from the whining sound in my helmet earphones.

Now Triumphs. Again, there are a few which immediately get crossed off the list of potential purchases. The Supersports are built for the slighter built rider and relatively short distances. The Tigers are super trailies, but although they’re okay for rider, taking a pillion long distances is likely to cause a high pitched whining in my headsets headphones after a relatively short distance. The Bonneville and similar? Tried one while I was commuting to Bristol and back on a job. Quick and nimble, but the saddle was for shorter distances. Great for a pose down to the pub, but for serious travelling? No. So, this leaves the new Triumph Trophy with that lovely responsive in line triple powerplant and intuitive feeling riding position, comfortable saddle and leisurely pillion position. When you’re after something you can ride all day without a care. then for me, that’s it.

Still debating what we want to do about Southern France, whether we cut across the lower Central Massif and as far south as Carcasonne or stop in Nimes for a week and do day trips North, South East and West. It depends what accommodation is available on AirBnb or VRBO. Italy we’re pretty sure about our destinations, but we’ve yet to examine the options of Austria, the Czech Republic and Western Poland. The discussions continue. When decisions are made, we’ll book.

New Kit

New riding gearRoad trip planning for Europe 2017 continues apace and a deposit has been put on a shiny new motorcycle for delivery March / April 2017. Also purchased are two new Olympia Dakar touring jackets. We still both have our old heavy leather jackets from other trips, but have decided that the lighter and more weather versatile mesh style will be of greater utility. Yes I know we’ll both look like traffic cops, what with the three stripes on the sleeve (Wotcher Sarge) and everything, but my rough and ready ride-all-day-and-all-night days are long past, and I’m growing soft in my not so frail dotage. Two new HJC IS-Max II helmets have also been bought. Could have gone for Shoei or some other make, but the reviews and safety ratings for HJC are good and the ventilation is comfortable. Which in European Summer heat will be an essential. I know they’re expensive, but I don’t plan on ‘spoiling the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar’. A trip like this can be done on the cheap if you’re young and willing to rough it a bit, but when you are, shall we (Cough) say over the big Five-oh, you get to like your comfort. Hence the upmarket clothing and brand new top of the line motorcycle.

Then there’s languages. My French is adequate. My German mm, Ich spreche nicht Deutsch gut and my Italian sounds more like Spanish. However, I can get by, but want to be able to do more. So language freshen ups are required. Current route plan takes us via ferry from Foggia, Italy to Split in Croatia and via Slovenia to Venice, thence northbound. At the very least we need to be able to read road signs, count to a hundred, say “Yes”, “No”, “Please”, “I don’t understand”, “Thank you”, “How much?” and “You must be joking me old china” in Czech, Slovene, Polish, Dutch, Danish and Swedish rather than expecting everyone to speak much English. I think of it this way; it’s good manners to at least try.