Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Going via Dunkirk and returning via Calais

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.

Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.

As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.

Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.

Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.


After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.


This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.

Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.


This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That was one of three or four such wine superstores in the area near Calais.


Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.

We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.


Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.


Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.

In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.

Ferry Terminal

These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in

I am worried about the next political killing. Not that Tucson was political.

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

The shooter in Tucson is an obvious paranoid schizophrenic, uninterested in and ignorant of political rhetoric.

Ashleigh Banfield said that Loughner “disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right,” according to an interview on “Good Morning America.” Loughner wasn’t shooting at people, “he was shooting at the world,” Banfield said, according to the report.

The next shooter will probably be very interested in the hate-filled rhetoric coming from the left and directed at talk radio and Fox New, plus of course, Sarah Palin.

I fear that the torrent of hate and slander that has poured from the left, including the “paper of record” the New York Times, will agitate some leftist radical and we will have an ugly incident. Libertarian (and gay) Dutch politician (and professor), Pim Fortuyn was assassinated three weeks before the next election by a Green and “animal rights” activist.

However, words have power and if someone is called a racist often enough, an impressionable mind may decide that saving the world from the latest Hitler will require that person’s murder.

Some version of that scenario appears to have taken place in the Netherlands on May 6, 2002, with the political assassination of Pim Fortuyn, a rising star in Dutch politics who could possibly have become the next Prime Minister. A man identified only as an “animal rights activist” shot him down in the street near a radio station.

Certainly Professor Fortuyn’s notoriety played a part in his being targeted. Both the media and Dutch politicians in the ruling party attacked him mercilessly in the most disparaging language. Prime Minister Wim Kok called him a fascist, as did the European press. Anyone who objects to massive Muslim immigration is branded automatically as a racist, xenophobe and fascist. Mr. Fortuyn was regularly compared with real right-winger Jean Le Pen, although aside from the immigration issue, the men had nothing in common.

The assassin was a typical leftist activist.

A vegan animal rights activist accused of the murder of the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has confessed, public prosecutors said on Saturday.
Volkert van der Graaf is reported as saying he saw Mr Fortuyn’s far-right views as a threat to vulnerable sections of society.

Note that Fortuyn’s speeches were principally concerned about Muslim immigration. For that position, he was called “far right” and a fascist. This person who did the killing that was obviously being called for by leftist politicians and the media, had nothing to do with Muslims. He was responding to the rhetoric from the political left.

I fear we may see a similar attempt this year as the next election begins to raise the temperature of political speech. I hope Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin have good security. She is probably the most vulnerable and I really worry about her safety.

Europe may be changing its mind

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The European Union countries have been the principle supporters of the Palestinians since 1948. As noted previously, Arab countries contribute only 6% of the annual cost of UNRWA, which is the UN agency that has perpetuated the Palestinian camps. Other refugees have been settled elsewhere. Only the Palestinians, serving as a perpetual “victim” of Israel’s existence, have never been resettled. Now, Egypt and Jordan, which share borders with Palestinian zones, resist any effort of accept them for settlement, as I posted on before.

Now, Europe may be losing patience with the Palestinians, as it faces its own Muslim problems.

Europe was a Middle East counterbalance – generally sympathetic to Palestinians as the weaker party, critical of an unqualified US backing of Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization had offices in Europe. France’s Navy helped Yasser Arafat escape Tripoli in 1983. Europe backed the Oslo Accords, and saw the Palestinian cause as a fight for territory and statehood.

Yet Europe’s traditional position on the Arab dispute has been quietly changing: It is gravitating closer to a US-Israeli framing of a war on terror, a “clash of civilizations,” with a subtext of concern about the rise of Islam – and away from an emphasis on core grievances of Palestinians, like the ongoing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and “occupation.”

As Europeans witness violent anti-Israel rallies that burn cars and murder Jews who have nothing to do with Israel, they may be coming to see the serpent they have clasped to their collective breast.

Public support for Arabs is down due social tensions with Muslim immigrants. “Europe fears an Islamist threat, whether internal or external, and this has begun to change the overall views on the Israel-Palestine conflict,” says Aude Signoles of the University of La Réunion. “There is a general ‘Arab fatigue’ in Europe,” says Denis Bauchard of L’Institut français des relations internationales.

A Pew Global Attitudes poll in 2006 found that French sympathies were evenly divided (38 percent) between those sympathizing with the Palestinians and with Israel, marking a doubling of support for Israel and a 10 percent gain for Palestinians over the previous two years. In Germany, 37 percent sympathized with Israel – an increase of 13 points over 2004 and more than double those who supported the Palestinians.

This is a change and may be a sign that the Palestinians should become more realistic about their goals.

Maybe it is 1929 again

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The world financial crisis has been blamed on the mortgage market in the US although it seems to be as bad in Europe and Asia, especially Japan. This seemed a bit odd as European markets should not have been as exposed to sub-prime American mortgages as American financial institutions are. It turns out that they have generated their own problems with little contribution from us.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been leading the way with the finger pointing, kicking American capitalism and calling for an end to the “hateful practices of the past.” Super Sarko has demanded that the upcoming economic summit to be hosted by US President George W. Bush be held in New York because, he said, “that’s where everything started.”

Newspaper headlines cheer that, suddenly, “Europe looks pretty smart.” Dutch newspaper Trouw announces that “European capitalism is better suited to meet the challenges of the present financial crisis.” German weekly Der Spiegel features the Statue of Liberty with an extinguished torch as “the price of arrogance.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck tell us that the financial crisis is an American affliction. London’s The Daily Telegraph talks about “emboldened Europeans” eager to ambush Bush to impose a “European vision” for new financial market regulation.

Is this true ?

Well, maybe not. What have sub-prime mortgages got to do with Iceland, for example ?

Bayerische Landesbank, a state-owned regional bank, has put out its hand for a E5.4 billion ($11 billion) bailout from the German Government after writing down E2.6 billion in investments during the first half of this year, much of that related to sub-prime mortgages.

Indeed, the most recent data from the Bank for International Settlements should wipe the smirk from many European faces. Western European banks lent three-quarters of a total $US4.7 trillion ($7.5trillion) to emerging markets in eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia: a bursting bubble that surpasses the US sub-prime mess. Again, in Germany alone, financial institutions lent $US21.3 billion to Icelandic banks now collapsing, accounting for more than a quarter of all foreign lending to Iceland and more than five times the level of British lending, Iceland’s next biggest creditor country.

Iceland is in trouble because the big US air base at Keflavik and other US installations have closed.

Germany’s economic newspaper Handelsblatt speared European self-righteousness by listing eight German myths about the financial tsunami. Editor Bernd Ziesemer pointed out that the German Government’s bank bailout is almost the same size as the US package: “The truth is the most awful weapons of mass financial destruction came from London and Frankfurt.” Aggressive German financiers were busily inventing and packaging up derivatives that Europeans would prefer to frame as a curse of American capitalism.

In 1929, a large part of the collapse was due to profligate lending to Latin American countries, countries that had no reason for us to expect them to repay their debt. Similar things happened with the Mexican bailout under Clinton.

Before we embrace European solutions as our saviour, remember that in the past decade, Europe has had the distinction of stagnant job growth: unemployment in France and Germany has not fallen below 7 per cent. With European governments addicted to regulation and with work practices mired in rigid inflexibility, it could be that the US will recover much more quickly from a recession that many European countries. In that vein, beware of sniggering Europeans peddling myths about the demise of American capitalism and the need for a new inspiring European solution. The triumphalism behind talk of a new grand European model of economics may turn out to be short-lived.

Unless Obama is elected to “spread the wealth.” Then Laffer’s article in the Wall Street Journal may sound prophetic.

Financial panics, if left alone, rarely cause much damage to the real economy, output, employment or production. Asset values fall sharply and wipe out those who borrowed and lent too much, thereby redistributing wealth from the foolish to the prudent. This process is the topic of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Fooled by Randomness.”

Somebody once said “government is the problem, not the solution.”

To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn’t create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don’t believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they’ll do with Wall Street.

Oh well. I’m getting a bumper sticker for next year. “Don’t blame me, I voted for McCain.”

Maybe I won’t need it.