Thursday, January 28, 2016


Something strange is happening.  The world appears to be suffering from a detachment of the retina.  The vision is blurred, hence the appreciation retained is based on shaky premises.
Despite underlying measurable probabilities, the political/economic turbulence abounds.
Most political aberrations grow. The financial market has become unpredictable. The Davos "reality" looks like a gadget type of game wherein players indulge in virtual reality.  While the Magic Mountain keeps participants enthralled, stocks tumble, markets are spooked and the situation regarding all looming political problems deteriorates.  Janet Yellen's Fed no longer convinces. President Obama's intellectual distance only widens the gates of hell, allowing usurpers to fill the void.  On all sides, political and economic leadership is failing.

America's Ben Bernanke, the ECB's Jean-Claude Trichet and the UK's Mervyn King saved the global financial system in August 2007.  The United States was the "indispensable" actor in trying , successfully, to save the world order from drowning.  Now they contribute in realty to increase the oil glut, contributing to the downfall of trust of the market.  Their low-profile since the Iran deal or the climate agreement in Paris indicates a second-term political fatigue. Unfortunately Syria, Asia, trade, cyber attacks, the Middle East peace process ignore second terms.  Iran's actions speak louder than words. Europe, left to its own devices and refugees, swallows its pride and throws overboard the principles with the goods.

Investors worldwide are looking for guidance. Countries start to get nervous imagining the not- so-imaginable:  a Trump or Cruz presidency!  Some wish for a Bloomberg miracle, but the "mayday" SOS will remain unanswered. The United States is not ready for a philosopher president.

This is a time for self-deception and erratic behavior because people are left clueless. The soundbite has become the message and the panic overcomes the rational.  We all know how a Israeli-Palestinian peace might look like, we have an inkling how to advance against terrorism or in Syria. We can see the underlying strength and transitory problems of the Chinese economy. Europe had better find its way out of the German-made immigration wave on its soil, which needs to be solved together rather than played out on the backs of the victims and mano a mano between member states. The Fed must come clear regarding interest rates. The ECB looks more predictable in this regard.

Unlike oil, there is never enough of American leadership. When it fails--in appearance or for real--it might be seen as dispensable and replaced by very unwelcome interlopers indeed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


The Iranian president started his European tour in Italy.  He is received by the Italian president, the Pope and business, with pomp and style.  He is, after all, considered a "moderate" in the land of the veil.

Here, like in other matters related to Iran, reciprocity is relegated to the closet.  Secretary Kerry specializes in this distortion of evidence, and he has followers.  The denial of the Holocaust or the right of Israel to exist (inter alia) are considered bad table manners talk . Emulating Piketty:  Fiat > morals.

Accordingly, Italy is also protecting the prude glance of the Iranians from its ancient splendor, so that the visitors might be protected from "offense".  The view of genitals or flesh could stand in the way of a deal.  If a European country is willing to apologize for its eminent art and past for the sake of short- term profit, something is basically wrong!  The merchants have invaded the temple!  Europe is already mortgaging its identity.  If it is also willing to bury its history and art, it becomes indeed a Spengler metaphor for terminal decline.  

I wish Montesquieu were alive to add another chapter to his Persian Letters.

Friday, January 22, 2016


" Every self-respecting urban center has its museum of modern art.... " ( The New Yorker, jan. 25, 2016 ) .
Dit geldt natuurlijk weer niet voor Brussel, dixit Minister Elke Sleurs .
De miserie, kenmerk van de musea van Europa's "hoofdstad" is een karikatuur ...zoals de tunnels, het Justitie Paleis , Molenbeek rest.
De excellentie moet beter stage lopen in Amsterdam, Londen of Parijs alvorens wereldvreemde en kunst onvriendelijke taal te spreken.
Brussel heeft nood aan een "face lift", zij ook.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Sarah Palin is back, with a vengeance.  Adding her voice to Donald Trump's mist horn, she brings back memories one would prefer not to be reminded of.  Her histrionics are embarrassing and might well backfire once the primaries leave Iowa.  After all, she torpedoed John McCain's run for the presidency and her unruly baggage and speech are not without risk.
The Republican establishment comes face to face (again) with its worst nightmare.

The Democrats are not doing much better.  Mrs. Clinton is under siege on all fronts while the Clinton brand as a whole appears on life-support.  Bernie Sanders strives on a form of grumpy authenticity. His campaign sounds rustic when compared to Mrs.Clinton's rehearsed, automatic, waxed parquet floor style. Her grasp of affairs is without equal, but voters seem tired of too much varnish and not enough soul.

Trump is a master of torching the earth under the feet of the other contenders. Only Ted Cruz was able to stand his (dark) ground.  Iowa is the perfect allegory for "much ado about nothing" but it can provide an illusion of political longevity for some.  Candidates Santorum and Huckabee did well there before but ended up in ignominious oblivion.  So, not too much should be read in this Iowa "scripture", other than that the caucus formula looks like something out of Salem.  The current religious overdose in what is a political debate is becoming an insult to intelligence.  Sarah's broom is waiting but hers might be a short ride. I doubt that Donald Trump will want to be encumbered by a loose canon when he will have to face the "normal" America.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


The political Kabuki in the United States only gets worse.  The President gave a striking piece of political oratory last week, but the vision was just about the heart of the matter:  a "vision" in dispute. Any sort of connection with the reigning psyche in America was AWOL.  The contenders for the presidential election look equally lost in a race without set rules, which would leave Pierre de Coubertin speechless.

The Republicans--mostly the two front-runners--act as if they are in a contest for the outlaw crown worldwide. The Democrats deal reluctantly with the Obama legacy, not to appear "naked."  The President is right when he tries to argue that the "complex" had better stay ahead of the "noise".  Nevertheless, his reluctance to recognize the importance of raw alienation has created a schism within a public opinion which feels betrayed and alienated. ISIL, Iran, income inequality, Congress are dealt with as "abstractions" or measurable containable challenges, but the Americans do not feel it that way. One does not need to return to McLuhan to understand the interwoven importance of image and message. Now the message is contradicted daily by the image and the consumer is left to overdose on the "negative". Analytical comments are no therapy. 

The conservatives have their heyday for now, all the more so since the first primaries take place in "fly over" states, where evangelicals prevail. Once the score is settled, Iowa returns to silent airplane mode.

More important is the cultural war which continues to be waged since the Southern strategy came into live with Reagan & Co.  When Ted Cruz mentioned "New York values" the other day, everyone understood what he meant.  Donald Trump stands for everything but New York values, but was too happy to appropriate the mantle of sophistication and attitude, which are anathema to the Bible class/barbecue crowd. I hope he didn't fool anybody. New York values don't need adoption, be it by Republicans or Democrats. This being said, the cultural divide is a fact. The President is often too distant to be a bridge builder. When he betrays some emotion in matters of gun control, he only widens the gap.

Frankly there is nobody standing in the line of presidential suspects who is convincing. Oblivious of any worldview, looking like an Arthur Miller salesman, a demented pastor, a sleeper cell or as over-programmed females (there are two), they hardly ignite passion or sophisticated debate. They are boring.

It is hard to believe in a better tomorrow. America is not in retreat, it is just another rebel without a cause. The main problem now is that the great knack to coalesce has been lost. What is needed is Reagan flair combined with Kennedy vision. Any candidates?

Monday, January 11, 2016


This extraordinary personalty lived his life in a rush of permanent self re-invention.  The man who fell to earth was indeed a mix of Narcissus and Icarus.  The often haunting echo of his music stays, while he, himself, chose not to overstay.  He left too soon, but Ziggy Stardust will never go, like Peter Pan.  We can try to decipher his latest:  Lazarus, now... premonition?

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Twenty years ago Samuel Huntington shocked the world with his book The Clash of Civilizations.  He suggested that conflicts between civilizations would dominate the future of world politics.  He described mostly the "fault lines" between civilizations.  By today's standards this thesis looks timid.

The problems "then" were still largely compartmentalized. Today they have come "home" to roost.  The mostly unexacting attitude of the Europeans has turned into fear and anger. The flotillas of refugees from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa have brought to Europe the true victims, but also the profiteers and the nefarious. After Germany almost gave them a free-pass, the floodgates were opened to the dismay of most Europeans who were supposed to acquiesce to a cohabitation with "significant others" who are generally unwilling to enter into a pluralistic, secular mindset.

The American pre-electoral aberrations are abysmal and frankly cantankerous and vulgar.  Nevertheless, they have brought the "politically correct" to its inglorious end, which is a plus. Having lived in an Arab country, I am to a certain extent familiar with the DNA of the Muslims. I found most generous, welcoming, not devoid of sense of humor... as long as religion remained off-limits and any form of dialectic with the "other" remained checked. The West is used to pluralism. The Muslim cannot bear "moral/religious competition".  Even the most agreeable conversation got stuck as soon as Islam, Israel or the USA were mentioned. The lamb became an enemy in a fraction of time.

One deals with a mentality of consumers who keep buying as long as the country of origin remains under cover.  Hence, there are few places where hypocrisy and lies get a free-ride as the Arab countries. They confuse modernity with skyscrapers but will be happy to find a niche for Sharia in the most unexpected absurd places. The Bantoustans for Western tourists are, in fact, pleasure confinement camps where the lepers are allowed some fresh air.

Now they are among us.  Don't we know better?  Once taken care of they will, for the most part, live in anger in a society which they hate and envy because they realize that the sex, the glamour, the creativity and the Nobel Prize are forbidden fruits. They abuse the technology they never were able to invent for their theocratic nihilism. Europe is already besieged by socio-economic woes and it has no need to aggravate a dire situation.

The German Chancellor must have her own reasons for her largesse, taking in one million refugees who will multiply given the birth rate, the family bonds and the racketeering. Her policy must have a link with some deeper psychological reflex.  In the end she was rightly helpful for the innocents among the refugees but she is also responsible for a macro-management with loose ends and disregard for destabilizing consequences.

It is too late to turn the clock back. Hence it is high time to try finding ways to halt a clash of civilizations, no longer confined but creeping its way into the European fabric. The EU was inept (as usual ) and there is little relief in sight if one would attempt to appeal to the Arab states better feelings. They are solely preoccupied with their own medieval rifts, crumbling borders and falling oil prices.

Only some form of European economic recovery might alleviate the pressures and create work places instead of waiting-rooms for Jihadists.  Family planning, Singapore-like measures for habitat gerrymandering have to be considered. The irony in all this is that the ones who deserve our sympathy and support might find themselves hostages again upon arrival to the same evil they were supposed to have left behind.  Homo homini lupus.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


When China catches a cold, the world sneezes.  China's woes have reverberated and stocks have plunged.  Questions are raised with regard to the sustainability of the China rise.  In certain media the pessimists rule the waves, the realists are on the defensive.  Exaggerations abound, going as far as suggesting that Xi Jinping's management model might be in jeopardy.

One might argue that the Chinese leadership miscalculated. Getting a first-class seat in the IMF and making the yuan a reserve currency, equal to the dollar, comes with consequences in terms of transparency and greater accountability.  The "Forbidden City culture" needs a reset.
Still, the People's Bank of China is in most professional hands. The likes of Zhou Xiaochuan and Xi Gang are sterling professionals.

President Xi accelerated a move which is supposed to make China less dependent on exports and manufactured goods and more consumer oriented. This creates unbalances in the short- term and automatically weighs on commodity prices everywhere, given an excess capacity which blurs short-term improvement. China is the main client for iron, steel, copper, and a diminished demand will have a negative effect on their value worldwide.  At a time of oil prices in free fall, the snowball effect is unavoidable.  The Chinese stock market is equally hostage to the mentality of a large section of still less-sophisticated players who gamble more than they think rationally.

The Chinese growth rate will certainly slow and as a consequence social unrest and unemployment will be harder to avoid or correct.  It would be foolish to doubt the professionalism at the top, as some are tempted to do. Another thing is that the leadership can no longer play with the growth numbers and cover- up problems which cannot be solved in camera.  Becoming a global player comes with a price, called scrutiny. Even the brightest can no longer hide the facts. Accepting a macro responsibility comes with a price tag, too.  China has to come to terms with a new situation wherein economical and financial facts are no longer on a political leash. President Xi Jinping knows too well that, as was the case with Deng Xiaoping , economy runs faster than policy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Vlaams "Minister" ( beleefdheid oblige) Homans stelt voor dat Belgie zal ophouden te bestaan in 2025. Haar porteufeuille wordt nu aangedikt met de begravenisonderneming sector, passend bij haar profiel.

Monday, January 4, 2016


President Obama intends to reinforce gun control by executive order.  Indeed, something has to be done, but due consideration has to be given to the more socio/cultural aspects of what a large segment of Americans consider to be their constitutional right.  Besides, the timing is ill chosen, when Americans fear terrorism and Chicago-style urban violence.

In the Middle East the followers of Abu Bakr and Ali are at it again. The tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have reached the danger-zone after the Saudi mass execution last week.
The Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr figured among the executed. As a result, Sunni and Shia Islam find themselves at loggerheads.

The growing tension in the region will certainly halt any resolution of the Syrian crisis for the moment. It will test the alliances of Russia's and America's allies in the region. Washington is in a precarious situation, bound (by its own doing) by the nuclear deal with Tehran and by the need to reassure Saudi Arabia and the Emirates mostly, who might lose what is left of their trust in the United States in case the Obama Administration triangulates, as usual.

The President is seen as weak and non assertive in matters of foreign policy and strategy.  His lack of clear leadership feeds into the morose mood of the American public and into the more belligerent mood of the Republicans.  Obama should have chosen immediately to reassure the Saudis and to warn the Iranians, who have lately got a free-ride in the Strait of Hormuz, and with missile-testing and "games".  This is a time where leadership should prevail over political games and sound-bites, but knowing the stubborn ways of this White House it is doubtful that clarity of purpose will overrule an agenda steered by political parochial opportunism.  Meanwhile, globally the situation will get worse by the minute. Where are the days of JFK ?