Sunday, February 28, 2016

UPDATE: Macedonia re-opens border. But NOT to Afghans

Europe's borders are closing in piecemeal. Macedonia has reopened its border, but only to Iraqi and Syrian "migrants." That means no more Afghans. The rest of Europe will certainly be happy to not be receiving any more Afghans, as Afghans have proven to be much more prone to violent crime and brawls than most other refugees. This restriction is in addition to forbidding 'migrants' from all other countries as well, including North Africa, Eritrea, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Macedonia said it would allow up to 350 "migrants" to pass through its borders every day. That's not very much. Meanwhile, it's estimated that about 20,000 "migrants" are now stranded in Greece. 

This chart, made by Greek 'open borders' groups, gives an idea of how many migrants are still in Greece. It's safe to assume that most of these people are no longer allowed to pass through the Balkan Route. Where they will go, I have no idea yet. Stay tuned, will update. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Last Night's Horrible Republican Debate

"Hi I'm the new face of your party!"

Now that the Republican field is down to five candidates, I was hoping these debates would be more about substance and less about sound bytes. Instead, we got probably the worst presidential debate I think I've ever seen, filled with personal attacks, endless back-and-fourths, and the drudging up of old stuff nobody cares about.

Yeah, the last debate in South Carolina was filled with the same back-and-fourths, but at least it was about policy and the something meaningful; the Iraq War. The Houston debate, however, represents a new low in sleeze and juvinility in the Republican Party.

Trump was the big target, unsurprisingly. Does anybody really care about Trump hiring Polish workers from a contractor 35 years ago? What was Rubio trying to prove with that? Those workers were contract construction workers hired to demolish an old building in Manhattan, they weren't hired directly by Trump. It's unclear exactly how much Trump settled for on that. They sued for a million, but we don't know how much it settled for. Under oath, Trump said he didn't know the Polish workers were illegal and blamed the contractors. Is this shit really worth five minutes of precious airtime at a presidential debate?

Trump University, does anyone really care about that either? "Trump University" was really a series of self-help ballroom workshops that were common in the early 90s. Misunderstandings about it being a real university are understandable, but again, is this kind of crap really worth anyone's time? I would hope nobody cares about this.

Rubio also said that "if it weren't for Trump's $200 million inheritance, he'd be selling watches in Manhattan."

Well, that's just sad and vicious and comes across, to me at least, as totally phony. Granted, I'm a Trump supporter, but I'm being as objective as I can here. Who says that kind of thing during a presidential debate? I know Trump says some ridiculous stuff too, but it's Rubio himself who said "the time for games is over," "it's time to get serious," etc. Apparently not.

"The Rubio shriek brigade" - Ann Coulter

Does the RNC not understand that these choreographed applause lines and stacked audiences don't fool anyone anymore? The fourth wall has already been broken on that.

I found myself agreeing with Chris Matthews of all people when he said the back-and-fourths were "embarrassing in any presidential election." The endless crosstalk is getting ridiculous, and at this point everyone is guilty of it, including Trump. The difference is that when a New Yorker does it, it feels perfectly natural. When Marco did it, he looked like an annoying little shit.

Unsurprisingly, Ted Cruz's attacks on Trump were a little more substantive, but equally petty and misleading. Yes, Trump donated to various Democrats, as he did Republicans, when he was a businessman. Been over this so many times in previous debates. Is it possible to just move on and talk about other things?

"Trump may appoint liberal judges." OK, based on what? And don't say his record of donations to Democrats. Those were lobbying efforts to "get along with everyone." Trump has been a registered Republican since the 80's. Me, personally, I just don't buy it because there's no real evidence of it.

Ted Cruz's attacks on Trump for not being electable are kind of like throwing stones out of a glass house. First, Trump's general election poll numbers are improving quickly, and he will bring other states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania into play. Second, Ted Cruz's general election numbers aren't much better than Trump's! If that's the new criteria, we'd better just nominate the RINOs Marco or John Kasich. I thought the purpose of the Ted Cruz campaign was to STOP doing that.

Ugh, and finally, the taxes. They should have just moved to another topic after Trump said he would release them after being audited. That's a fair promise. I'm repeating myself now, but dwelling on this is just a waste of precious time that could be spent on policy arguments. That would be a welcome change of pace. 

As for "who won," I don't think anybody won. It was the worst presidential debate I've ever seen. Who's to blame for it? All three of them are to blame, but Rubio more than anyone. "Miami Sleaze" should be his nickname. Trump needs to learn how properly deal with attacks as a front runner does; simply move in the same direction of the attack, remain cordial (hard to do, but hey), factually rebut when needed and direct attacks to the Democratic frontrunner. Ted Cruz just sucked. Get some better talking points. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

CDU Candidates in March state elections break from Merkel

There's a big election coming up in March for Germany, where two of the biggest states, Rheinland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg will go to the polls and elect a state parliament. In both of those states, Merkel's center-right CDU party has lost considerable support to far-right AfD, which now has somewhere between 9 and 12% of the vote, well above the 5% threshold required to get seats in the regional governments.

The CDU's candidates in Rheinland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg, Julia Kloeckner and Guido Wolf, have broken away from Merkel and are calling for the federal government to set daily "refugee" quotas. This is an especially big deal because Kloeckner is understood to be Merkel's 'heir apparent,' and party members are increasingly turning to Kloeckner. Not only that, Guido Wolf is neck-and-neck with the Green Party candidate in Baden-Wuerttemberg, thanks in no small part to the rise of AfD. A Green Party victory in the Black Forest state would be a gigantic loss to the CDU, and Merkel will be to blame.

Merkel, unsurprisingly, is holding the line on her "refugee" policy.

"I'm truly working to reduce the number of refugees," the childless chancellor chided on Monday in the town of Landau. "Some people always think I don't even want that. I do."

Well, sorry Merkel, but actions are louder than words. With Merkel continually holding down her more common-sense oriented candidates in Rhineland and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the CDU is headed for a big fat loss in March.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ALERT: Macedonia "temporarily" shutting off border to Afghans

Back in November, Macedonia began restricting 'migrant' entry through its borders to just Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. Reports from the Macedonian border on Monday, however, indicate that Macedonian police are now demanding "proper travel documents" from Afghan nationals. Nobody travelling on the Balkan route has proper travel documents. So, in effect, no Afghans are getting through.

This has left some 1,000 Afghans stranded, and Greek authorities have been busing them back to Athens.

Whether this move is temporary remains to be seen. This move is probably linked to Austria now allowing only some 3,000 "migrants" to travel through the country per day. Latest reports from Greece indicate that "migrant" arrivals on the Balkan Route have picked up to 4,000 per day, and those numbers are expected to be even higher as the water warms up in the Mediterranean. This move could be Macedonia's way of complying with Austria's new rules. After all, if Austria starts rejecting people at the Spielfeld crossing, those same people may end up being dumped on Macedonia, which is something the Macedonian authorities do not want at all.

There are now 10,000 "migrants" stranded in Greece. Please stay tuned, will continue to update.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

German Interior Minister Panicking

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere has lost his temper and is panicking. Germany has lost another ally in its "experiment" with migration when Austria introduced a cap on asylum seekers. Austria's asylum seeker cap is about one-third of the number it took in last year. In late December, Sweden also more-or-less shut off its border to asylum seekers, leaving Germany pretty much alone to take in "refugees." 

De Maziere doesn't like that. In a "furious outburst," de Maziere said that "(Germany) will continue to fight for a European way out of the refugee crisis as long as it also promises to be successful in diminishing the number of refugees."

Any reasonable person can see there will be no 'European way' of diminishing the number of refugees. This "crisis," which I am beginning to think is in many ways manufactured, has been ongoing for eight months and Europe has done nothing to secure its border.

"However," de Maziere continued, "should some countries try to unilaterally shift the collective problem onto the back of Germany, it would be unacceptable and would not be without consequences from our side in the long term."

That sounds to me like an empty threat. First of all, it was, in fact, Germany that unilaterally shifted the entire "refugee" problem onto Europe to begin with! 

And second of all, Germany already is isolated in this. I believe de Maziere's threat was directed at Austria. Sanctioning and punishing Austria will only drive voters in the latter state to the Freedom Party, and it just might push Austria into the camp of Poland and Hungary. 

Germany is isolated, out of friends, and increasingly resented for its arrogance and its destructive policies that it is trying to force onto Europe. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Let's Be Real about the 'UK-EU' deal

Well, David Cameron finally got his "deal" with Angela Merkel. There were some small changes, but most of it is 'window dressing.' Will this deal change the opinion of Britons, 54% of whom want to leave the EU? Honestly, I don't know. Cameron's deal doesn't have to sway many for it to keep Britain in. The deal had four tenants, only two of which, in my opinion, are of any substance whatsoever.

1) The EU now officially recognizes the Pound as a currency of the EU. This is little more than slight of hand, and has been unofficially recognized by the EU for quite some time.

2) UK industry cannot be 'discriminated against,' particularly the financial sector. For example, financial firms in London will be able to trade in Euros. Actually, it was already this way, so this is just another item that went from de facto to de jure.

3) Fewer benefits for EU 'citizens' who move to Britain. Those who move to Britain from other countries in the EU will now have to wait four years to get any benefits. This should put an end to those who came to Britain to take advantage of the National Healthcare Services for just a few months. Cameron also secured a deal where child benefits will be reduced for those who are sending their money to children in other EU countries.

This is a some what substantive change, although I believe the biggest foreign welfare abusers in the UK come from outside of the EU.

4) No more "ever closer union." This is also somewhat substantial. The goal of an 'ever-closer union' is written into the EU Constitution. Ever-closer union is understood to mean that the goal of the EU is to merge the states politically, to make some kind of 'EU superstate.'

Britain has already had a somewhat special role in the EU, and it was already somewhat understood that Britain was not part of an 'ever closer union.' (This is why British MEP's are often shut out of decision making in the EU Parliament.)

Still, an official declaration that the UK is not to be a part of 'ever closer union' could be reassuring to many.

What's missing from this bill? First and foremost, border control and free movement of people. Anyone with an EU passport still has the right to come to Britain freely, work in Britain freely, and live in Britain freely. That's going to be a big problem in the coming years, because all these 'migrants' coming from middle eastern countries can (and will) come straight to Britain as soon as they get EU passports. The biggest gripe of Britons has been migration, and I don't see this deal doing terribly much about it.