Italy is no stranger to financial crises. They came in all forms and shapes which included insolvent states, a chain reaction collapse of the banking system and a liquidity crisis of the then international currency, the golden Florentine florin. Without going too much into details, in 1345 the Kingdom of England and the government of Florence went insolvent; to pay for their respective wars against France and Verona they had borrowed enormous sums from the giants of banking of the time, the Bardi and the Peruzzi. Their inability to pay back resulted in a 1.5-million-florin hole and the subsequent bankruptcy of the two banks, which entailed a chain reaction that dragged down all the others.
Almost seven centuries later, Italy, together with Greece and many others, is again on the verge of insolvency, with the international banking system in dire straits, posed for another catastrophe. As if that was not enough, the euro, an overvalued currency for Italy and the weak economies of Spain, Portugal, France but also Finland, the austerity policy enforced by the European Commission acting under the pressure of the main gainer of the common currency, Germany; and the ECB’s completely ineffectual quantitative easing policy,1)QE in Europe is an embarrassment: 18 QE euros generate a growth of 1 euro, Gefira 2016-09-23. coupled with the regulatory system to top it all are unable to boost the real economy in Southern Europe. Conversely, all these elements prevent any kind of recovery and result in a perpetual state of stagnation.
Wars are preceded by orchestrated incidents. It took the USS Maine to be sunk to allow the United States to enter a war against Spain; then RMS Lusitania had to be sunk to prod the United States to participate in World War One; World War Two required the sinking of a number of US warships at Pearl Harbor; the Gulf of Tonkin incident allowed Americans to intensify their presence in Vietnam; President Bush needed the twin towers of the World Trade Center to tumble down to have the right pretext for the war against Afghanistan; President Bush senior used the hearsay that Baghdad stored weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq; President Clinton needed mass graves and concentration camps to give the poor Serbs a sound thrashing; President Barrack Hussein Obama almost began escalating war in Syria after reports on poison gas use against civilians; based on similar reports, President Donald Trump did not shy away from giving the order to launch missiles against President Assad’s troops. So it goes.
When you need to win support of the people for a war, you have to shock them into action. Hence reports of insidious attacks, heinous atrocities and use of prohibited weapons that the enemy has allegedly resorted to. The most potent of them all is the suffering-children card; it was used during World War One: German soldiers allegedly thrust their bayonets through Belgian children’s bodies’; it was used in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq: Iraqi soldiers allegedly disconnected incubators with new-born babies in Kuwait, thus bringing about their instant death; it was used to make Europeans accept the flood of the Third World masses: the visual media bombarded them with the picture of a drowned boy. Now the same trump card has been used by Trump, the president: he pours his heart out to the sorry plight of – how on earth otherwise – children.
Never mind the prospective detente with Russia; never mind the election promises of pulling America out of policing the world; never mind the gratuitousness of a poison gas attack: someone in Washington saw it fit to take action and action was taken. Qui prodest?
As we watch the so-called migration crisis, we pose to ourselves questions. What’s the sense, what’s the purpose? We are told we need workforce, yet there are millions of unemployed young Europeans; we are told we are paying for the sins of the yesteryear of colonialism, yet drawing people from the Third World, we strip the countries of origin of brains and hands i.e. act as colonialists. We are told these are refugees, yet we must get down to work to integrate them as if refugees by definition were not people who plan on returning to their war-torn countries after the conflict is over. We are told the Third-World immigrants are enriching us, yet we observe street riots, crime rate increase, reinforced police units in our streets and a number of East European countries defending themselves from being blessed with this enrichment.
Vallombrosa is a unique place in Tuscany. Its founder, Saint Giovanni Gualberto, a Benedictine monk, chose this secluded place in the mountains 40 km east of Florence to lead a hermit-like existence, right after the year 1000, and with a restricted group of monks started his own monastic order, the Vallombrosani.
John Milton among many other travellers – found inspiration in Vallombrosa while traveling across Italy in 1638, and a marble inscription reminds tourists that here Milton put into writing his Paradise Lost. Vallombrosa is not a place for crowds; rather a place where to seek meditation and inspiration.
To me Vallombrosa represents memories from my childhood. It could be called a piece of my personal heimat, if you wish. Back in the 60’s, when a car was still a far-flung luxury for many Italian families of the working class, we would take the Sunday morning bus from the train station in Florence with some frugal lunch, and we were back in the city with the same bus in time for dinner. For me, as a child, that was the highlight of the week – or the month – as it was all that we could afford at the time as a holiday.
The People’s Republic has 2,8 million troops at its disposal i.e. the world’s largest army. There are also 3,8 million reservists. For years China has been investing billions in its armed forces: in 2016 it was 216 billion dollars.1)Ranking der 15 Länder mit den weltweit höchsten Militärausgaben im Jahr 2015, de.statista.com.Only the United States can afford to spend more on armaments. The task that China has set itself is to be able to win regional wars, for China is in conflict with many of its neighbours.
A bone of contention in the high mountains
In July 2016 China’s ground forces encroached upon Indian territory,2)China marschiert über die indische Grenze ein – Indien reagiert mit Langmut, Epoch Time 28-07-2016.which was not an isolated event since the 1960 war on the Indian-Chinese border or rather a demarcation line that had been drawn by the withdrawing British Empire. As in 2005, India entered into a nuclear agreement with the United States, China perceived it as a hostile act. On the other hand India did not like the fact that China leased a whole island from the Maldives, where it intended to build a port for nuclear-powered submarines.3)Geheime Basis für Atom-U-Boote entdeckt, Spiegel Online 02-05-2008.The border conflict at the foot of the Karakorum should be seen as a part of a broader picture: Pakistan, India’s ally, has been battling against India in Kashmir for years.
Bulgaria is torn between three forces. A third of the population is leaning towards the European Union, another third would like to have stronger ties with Russia, and some ten percent of the population are Turks, loyal to Erdoğan. All this is reflected in the results of the latest election that was held in this poorest country of the European Union.
On 26 March 2017 long-postponed elections were held in Bulgaria, and the pro-European GERB Party emerged victorious.1)Крайни резултати от парламентарни избори 2017, offnews.bg 2017-03-27.The Bulgarian Socialist Party, a successor to the former Bulgarian Communist Party, hence pro-Russian, came second. The DOST (Turkish for friend) Party, which is the representation of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, won 8,44% of the vote.
China is taking cautious international steps, following its national interests. Much to the Western man’s regret, it did not let itself be dictated to how to respond to the Russian incorporation of Crimea. Still, China kept Ukrainian economy alive in the aftermath, thus strengthening the Ukrainian-Chinese cooperation.
The New Silk Road
As the EU and USA cannot finance all the infrastructural projects in Ukraine, the country is turning to China for help, which in turn is interested in Ukraine as an indispensable part of the New Silk Road. Already in 2013 former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed a number of agreements with China,1)Переломный визит Януковича в Китай: $30 млрд инвестиций и гарантированная квота для украинской продукции, Economics 2013-12-09.among them one that with the aid of China’s $13 billion envisaged turning Crimea into a huge transit hub. The Russian military actions thwarted these plans, which were later shifted to Southern Ukraine.
Earlier this year, in January,1)Why the Italian government can’t resolve the problems of Mediterranean smuggling boats? Because it doesn’t want to, gefira.org 2 January 2017.we analysed how NGOs in collaboration with the Italian government had been shipping migrants from the Libyan shores to Italy and how it later evolved into the exploitation of migrants on the Italian farms and in the prostitution business in collusion with organized crime.
The first data available for the beginning of 2017 show that the business is booming even further: a 57% increase compared to the first months of 2016, which goes up to 81% for the whole winter period,2)Migrant rescues in Med hit three-year high, new data shows, telegraph.co.uk 5 March 2017.while the percentage of those transported by the NGOs ships has gone from 5% to 40% of the total in 2016, which becomes more than half in the last months of the year.3)Ong che salvano i migranti: due procure sospettano complicità con gli scafisti, tgcom24.mediaset.it 23 February 2017.NGOs are de facto replacing smugglers in the Mediterranean.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. (Karl Marx)
The Frankfurt school united Marx and Freud to become the most influential thinkers of the 20th century left. (The Guardian)1)The Frankfurt school, part 1: why did Anders Breivik fear them?The Guardian 2013-03-25.
Marx had a dream. A dream of changing the capitalist society. With this dream he managed to inspire hundreds and thousands of intellectuals. Some of those intellectuals formulated their own proposals of implementing Marxian dream in real life. One of such proposals that turned out to be most attractive at the turn of the century was communism. After WWII, however, it became obvious that Marxism practised in communist countries not only failed to transform societies after the desired Marxist fashion but also suffered an economic defeat, whereas in western countries capitalism seemed to be thriving and the affluence placated the working class. Latter day Marxists came to the realisation that workers no longer made the revolutionary force in modern western societies and began looking for a new proletariat. The dream of creating a brave new world with a new awareness was still waiting to come true.
It was just 2011 when the Finnish government, one of Greece’s many creditors, demanded that Athens put one of its national symbols, the Parthenon, as collateral for the rescue loans package.1)Finland’s demands for collateral could leave Greek bailout in ruins, The Guardian 2011-08-28.
Fast forward to 2015: while the European Union leaders humiliate the Greek democracy by imposing even harsher austerity measures than the ones previously rejected in a referendum, even despite the fact that the IMF admitted having miscalculated the Keynesian multiplier for Greece and thus completely underestimated the catastrophic consequences of austerity,2)Growth Forecast Errors and Fiscal Multipliers, IMF Working Paper 2013.Finland is no longer part of the group of “virtuous countries”: unlike Greece, its public finances are fine, however the sources of its economic strength, tech colossus Nokia is in a deep crisis,3)Finland: The sick man of Europe? BBC 2016-02-29.unable to keep up in innovation with its competitors, Apple and Samsung. The once national pride of the Finns, accounting at its peak for 20% of the Finnish exports,4)As Goes Nokia, So Goes Finland? Bloomberg 2013-09-03.will end up being overtaken by foreigners (Microsoft). To worsen the conditions of the Finish economy, the EU leaders opted for a trade war against one of Finland’s main trade partners, its neighbor Russia, over the Ukraine crisis.
Almost 1000 years ago, Turkish tribes started settling in Anatolia, beginning the formation of the Turkish state. How did it happen? Many jump to quick conclusions and simplify the matter pointing to the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071. The reality is different: in the aftermath of the battle, Emperor Romanos Diogenes reached a peace agreement under which the Turkish Seljuk sultan was handsomely rewarded with money while the Byzantine Empire did not suffer territorial loss. The Byzantine elite in Constantinople, however, decided to unseat Romanos and not to adhere to the agreement. In the subsequent squabble over the throne, one of the competing factions would hire a relative of the Turkish sultan, Suleiman to increase its chances to seize the throne. As the Byzantine elite rushed to Constantinople, Suleiman was left with his troops to control one of the biggest Byzantine cities of Anatolia, Nicaea. The resulting Sultanate of Rum, the first presence of the Turkish people in Anatolia, was born not by conquest, but by the shortsightedness of the Byzantine ruling class.
“There will not be Obama Care repeal and replace. There will be no tax cut. There will be no infrastructure stimulus. There will be just one giant fiscal bloodbath over a debt ceiling.”1)Stockman: “After March 15 Everything Will Grind To A Halt”, Source: Zerohedge 2017-02-27.These are the words of David Stockman, a former Reagan Administration White House Budget Director, who insists that a market bloodbath is imminent as the debt ceiling holiday will have been finished by March 15, 2017.
“We will have a government shutdown,” said Stockman to CNBC. “It is totally unexpected, unpriced in by Wall Street, [and] it will spook everybody.“2)Wall St. is misreading Trump, and a market bloodbath is imminent: Stockman, Source: CNBC 2017-03-05.March 15 is also the day of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting during which a rate hike decision is expected to be taken; the Dutch election is slated for the same day. Will it be the beginning of the great financial turmoil?