Tempest and Transition

January GEOPOLITIC

Good Riddance” is how Peter Smith, of Quadrant Magazine, saw the end-stage of 2016:

Hussein is his middle name and mayhem and malaise will be his lasting shame. His legacy is a weakened America and, correspondingly, an infinitely more dysfunctional and violent Middle East than when he came to power. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have all grown more belligerent. ISIS – “the JV team” — was spawned and grew on his feckless watch. Millions of Syrian and other Muslim refugees fleeing conflicts have streamed into Europe creating havoc. And then we have his last dastardly deed; an abject betrayal of Israel …

That betrayal of Israel we have previously spoken of. And that betrayal of Israel is indicative of commencement of countdown to the Tribulation, on this the first month of the Gregorian calendar year: we have an Islamic confederacy at the United Nations (Psalm 83); and the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1) has conceived. A baby is on the way! The Tribulation will begin in September, lasting for three and a half years and culminating in “Armageddon” (often referred to as the War of Gog and Magog according to the description of Ezekiel chapter 38). Then, Messiah Yeshua returns and sorts everyone out. But there is a bit to get through before that.

Before that, we need to quickly meet Latvia.

Say hello, Latvia.

Latvia says hello.

Military organisations like to give quaint code-names to their exercises and missions. Special Forces sent to Latvia are part of “Enhanced Forward Presence.”

Enhanced Forward Presence includes forces being sent to Poland. Latvia, Poland, and all of “Enhanced Forward Presence” are part of a bigger story. At NB3S we use code-names also. And we call this bigger story, “Romancing the Stone”.

Romancing the Stone is a love story. It’s a story about a boy named Nato:

Nato is torn between the love of two girls: the one girls’ name is Russia and the other is called China. To make things worse, the two girls are also friends. Poor Nato! He has such strong feelings toward both girls, what is he to do?

On the surface of it, however, we had a better start to the month of January than to the way December ended.

In its 12th week, the [Mosul] offensive has gained momentum since Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition renewed their push for the city a week ago, clearing several more eastern districts despite fierce resistance.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to find itself, or is actively, following an ambivalent agenda. If Germany is the political “push-me-pull-you” of the United States and Europe (and for now, they still are), then Turkey is likewise of Europe and the Middle East, NATO emblem or not:

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told broadcaster A Haber that the issue of the Incirlik air base, used by NATO and the U.S.-led coalition, was on the government’s agenda.

“Silvertip” Stoop

January began, or at least December ended, also with a bizarre attempt by Washington to frame Russia with hacking its political process, indeed its very electoral process, with the release of apparent evidence that the hacking was by the Russian government and, by implication, President Putin himself. Even greater a peculiarity is the name given this US-Cert (The Cert Division of the Department of Homeland Security, entrusted with “Anticipating and Solving the Nation’s Cybersecurity Challenges”) investigation — “Grizzly Steppe”.

From the early independent reviews that I have looked into (here, here, and here), the timing and substance of Grizzly Steppe reeks of desperation — of a desperate administration. But just what are they desperate for?

Ready, Mr Music

Life is a game of musical chairs. In the game of musical chairs, there is always one less chair than people actively playing.

To be able to enjoy the opportunities that life offers, we have also to give back something. If we don’t give back, if we don’t put into the system, the system will ultimately reject us. Some people always take and never put into the system. These people are well behind in the stakes of giving, always taking or simply just causing trouble. But so far—for them—so good, as the music keeps playing. Having gone around the chairs a few times, and the music suddenly stops, these folk find themselves scrambling for a seat. And they will do whatever it takes to get one.

And the Band Played On

In the world of finance, however, the band keeps playing despite water-level to the gunwale. An economic history PhD candidate at Harvard, Paul Schmelzing took to the Bank of England’s blog to sound the alarm on a “perfect storm” facing the bond market.

“Looking back over eight centuries of data, I find that the 2016 bull market was indeed one of the largest ever recorded,” he wrote, using this chart for some perspective on the 36-year bond run. “Only two previous episodes — the rally at the height of Venetian commercial dominance in the 15th century, and the century following the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559 — recorded longer continued risk-free rate compressions.”

As John Mauldin (Thoughts From the Front Line) maintains, this problem has been increasing steadily since the 60s. France and even Greece have higher participation rates than the United States today. Nevertheless, American businesses are expanding and creating new jobs. So there is reason for hope. That hope translated into a 0.25% rise in the federal funds rate, with the view that, over the course of 2017, it will rise by a further 0.75% (or “75 basis points” in Fed-speak). Gone then are the halcyon days of 5% interest rates (the 90’s). No one in the Fed (let alone in the real world) is predicting 5% interest rates in the foreseeable future. And that means real interest rates, for now, will remain submerged, not floating to water-level until 2018.

GDP growth is stuck in low gear, forcing the long-awaited rise in interest rates to occur slower than hoped for. We’re seven years out of recession and have yet to see GDP growth break above 3%. The top of the forecast range for GDP growth out to 2019 and into the longer term is only 2%. 2013 was a better year but it’s been flat ever since, and the winds of economic fortune wont be blowing for some time yet. Meanwhile, GDP itself is a poor measure of a modern economy’s capacity. Yet it does appear that we have become entrenched in Larry Summers’ “secular stagnation”. The unemployment rate has (officially) come down to 5% (from 9% in 2011) but it too is flattening. Moreover, the numbers belie the true situation —more people have left the labor force altogether (the so-called ‘participation rate’ has fallen): Roughly 10 million American males of prime working age have literally dropped out of the workforce.

161219_tftfA Trump presidency will be a distinct improvement on the previous 8 years, but it will come at a cost to those at the lower end of the scale. There are also Federal Reserve appointments coming. Meanwhile, Italy remains on the brink of a major crisis that can send the EU into deep recession. That then tips America into a recession (it is, unofficially, already in recession). We are not far from a global economic depression. Derivatives have a value apportioned to them that is 70 times that of global GDP, used as they are to buttress global financial transactions. Yet they are nothing but contractual smoke and mirrors (worthless) — not good to wipe yourself with.
Central banks will continue printing their fiats until a days’ wage will buy a loaf of bread (Famine Rides a Black Horse), by which time gold will have all but replaced currency. But even gold will not outlive what’s coming, and mankind will revert to barter for subsistence.

The 3rd seal, the black horse. [Image: Public Domain]


John Mauldin again:

To an agonizingly great degree, the incoming US administration is hostage to the German election cycle, which means that Merkel cannot condone bailing out Italian banks until after her election in the fourth quarter of next year. Sometimes, bond markets can be very inconvenient. Italy is in extremely deep kimchee. And that’s putting it delicately. Unlike Greece, Italy matters. Italy is too big to bail out, too big to save. A breakup of the euro practically guarantees a deep recession in Germany – and I mean really deep. Which will suck in its other northern partners. A recession in Europe would drag the world down – including a debt-driven China.

Americans can smile and wave flags all day long, thanks to food stamps, but their real unemployment rate is 23% — still short of the 39% non-farm unemployment rate of the Great Depression but “Great Recession” levels nonetheless (and consistent with a real GDP of zero).

And what in the name of a sleepy-eyed infantile January could require a National Security Team meeting now?

Is it because in Russia people are on the move: 40 million moving to the march of evacuation drills and another 12 million along escape routes to underground shelters.

In other news …

Invasion of America

When they say “peace” …

The French called for a Paris Peace Conference. We call it Psalm 83: Syria disintegrates with each passing second, Iraq too is a rubble-heap with ISIS at large, there is a civil war in Yemen, and the pressing concern for Paris is to run a peace conference aimed at the Arab-Israeli situation vis-à-vis “Palestine”? And what great irony — albeit tragic irony: one doubts that France, commemorating the second anniversary of Charlie Hebdo — “the first of a wave of militant attacks that left more than 230 dead and triggered a state of emergency” — could secure the peace in a friary.

Seventy

The number 70 in the bible relates to the 70 grandsons of Noah, and it refers to the 70 oxen proffered throughout the Feast of Tabernacles. “70 nations” symbolizes all the nations of the world.

Cuba and the United States agree to jointly prevent, contain and clean up oil and other toxic spills in the Gulf of Mexico, as they rush to conclude deals before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

This is awful, and certainly not meant to be prescient, but the inauguration procession, especially of the vehicles, is reminiscent of a cortège. That in itself should remind us to pray for our leaders — whether we agree with them or not.

Gordon Hahn well describes that “since the Cold War’s end, the United States has been not just the globe’s lone superpower, but it regarded and still tends to regard every part of the planet to be a region of vital U.S. national security and interests”. By all means then, “maintain our country’s defensive capacity” but “abandon neo-imperialist military expansion and regime change revolutionism.” And, “at present, almost any revolutionary opposed to an authoritarian regime that conducts an independent foreign policy or one that is at all detrimental to maintaining and expanding American hegemony is greeted as pro-democratic and something deserving of US backing.” [†]

Contrary to the claims of Condoleezza Rice in the early 2000s and Barack Obama in the mid-2010s, Russia is not a weak country. It is a Eurasian superpower and global power. Although it is not yet capable of competing with the U.S. for international leadership. In partnership with China it is capable of doing so and then some.

But unbeknown to America, we are almost (not quite, but almost) ready to welcome in the brave new multipolar world:

In 2016, Russia surpassed Germany, and Israel joined the list [of the years’ eight great powers] for the first time.

America will need to decide, and quickly, whether she wants to be a player in the game or the game’s official, because it will become increasingly difficult to be both:

For Trump, the key is to recognize that the Post-World War II period of multilateralism is over, and that continuing to act otherwise is harming the United States’ interests in multiple ways. For the United States 9/11 remains a defining moment, and 15 years of unsatisfactory operations in the Middle East do not mean that a solution is unattainable. Since NATO members are either unwilling to commit to this effort, or have very little to commit, the United States seeks other nations with a common interest, and chief among those is Russia. 

The U.S. and the U.N.

A bill introduced by Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers earlier this month calls on the US to “terminate” its membership in the United Nations (UN) and effectively sever all ties with the organisation.

And finally, some good news …


Disclaimer

Please note that Pilgrim Bobby does not (and cannot) ascribe to all things in the videos posted here. Where a video is posted it is because it offers a general perspective and tone that reflects the times we are in and the perils that we face. For instance, Mr du Noon, of Israeli News Live (INL), whom we respect greatly (and for his military insights) and who we love as a fellow believer in Yeshua, is of the opinion (as are many) that the Vatican is the seat of antichrist. Here at NB3S, we do believe that the Vatican is on the wrong side of history but we do not ascribe to the view that it’s leader (call no man father) is the antichrist. That he is a significant player in the End Times, we have no doubt. You do the math.

Romancing the Stone” [of course] is a 1984 American action-adventure romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.

Annotations

Psalm 83
A Song or Psalm of Asaph.

1 Keep not thou silence, O God:
hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult:
and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people,
and consulted against thy hidden ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation;
that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5 For they have consulted together with one consent:
they are confederate against thee:
6 the tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites;
of Moab, and the Hagarenes;
7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek;
the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Assur also is joined with them:
they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.
9 Do unto them as unto the Midianites;
as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:
10 which perished at Endor:
they became as dung for the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb:
yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:
12 who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.
13 O my God, make them like a wheel;
as the stubble before the wind.
14 As the fire burneth a wood,
and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;
15 so persecute them with thy tempest,
and make them afraid with thy storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame;
that they may seek thy name, O Lord.
17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever;
yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:
18 that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH,
art the most high over all the earth

References
  1. As the Fed Turns, John Mauldin – Thoughts from the Front Line e-letter, December 19, 2016
  2. ‘Perfect Storm’ could lead to historic bursting of bond bubble, warns Harvard academic, Shawn Langlois – Market Watch, January 5, 2017
  3. Iraqi General says 70% of east Mosul retaken from Islamic State – Reuters, January 5, 2017
  4. Turks questioning U.S.-led coalition presence at air base: deputy PM  – Reuters, January 5, 2017
  5. Good Riddance…, Peter Smith – Quadrant Magazine, December 28, 2016
  6. How World War III Became Possible, Max Fisher – Vox, June 29, 2015
  7. REPORT: Towards a Realist American Russia Policy (Revised Final Edition, Parts 1 and 2), Gordon M Hahn – Russian and Eurasian Politics, January 23, 2017
  8. As Europe’s Financial System Fails, Gold Will Rise, Egon von Greyerz – Gold Switzerland, December 8, 2016
  9. Year in Review: The Eight Great Powers of 2017, Walter Russell Mead & Sean Keeley – The American Interest, January 24, 2017
  10. Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Radical Foreign Policy Doctrine, George Friedman – Real Clear World, January 20, 2017
  11. A bill has already been introduced in Congress to remove the US from the United Nations, Natasha Bertrand – Business Insider Australia, January 24, 2017
Further Reading
Featured Image

Seamless Transition

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