In The Red

In the Daily Telegraph, Matthew Lynn explains what happens when the coffers start to run dry across Europe:

[Last Tuesday] was the day when France ran out of money. As of Nov 7, all the money the government raises through its taxes – and this being France, there are literally dozens of them – had been spent. The rest of the year is financed completely on tick [credit].

In other words, for the French government to continue to function, the rest of November and all of December requires that they borrow money — i.e. run a current account deficit.

Most governments these days do the same, of course: the article goes on to point out that Spain likewise ran out of money on Saturday Nov 11, Romania on Nov 13, Poland will be broke on Nov 21, and Italy on Nov 26. The UK, astonishingly, will run out of money on December 7, while of the other large numbers, only Germany (duh) and Sweden (!!!) will be funded into the new year from their current tax incomes.

So, you may ask, how does the U.S.A. stack up against these spendthrift Euro countries?

We ran out of money in mid-October.

Feel free to write to your Congressweasel, or else sharpen the pitchforks, pluck the chickens and heat up the tar. Guess which action I prefer.

 

Unreadable

When we have our pictures taken for ID docs like drivers’ licences in the U.S.A., we usually have the option of smiling or unsmiling poses. I tend to smile, because in repose I look like this:

That’s my picture as it appears on some British railcard ID — and it’s a perfect example of what my kids call my “hitman” expression. (I think it’s more like “Wanted In 25 States For Murder”, but that probably means the same thing, really.)

When I had said pic taken, the photographer told me that H.M. Government doesn’t allow smiling pictures on IDs, because if you smile, their facial-recognition software can’t identify you.

Ponder on the implications of that, if you will.

Happily, my passport photo is of Smiling Kim, so the BritGov may never be able to identify me — and as I have no intention of breaking any of their poxy little laws, there’s no problem with that… right?

One of the reasons to travel abroad is that we can see how other countries screw their citizens / subjects over, and we can therefore resist similar bullshit on the part of our own government, which is already too fucking big for its boots.

Now read this.

Define “Powerful”

Britain’s Daily Express just ran an article ranking the various countries’ passports in terms of what they term “power” — which for them means the number of foreign countries to visit without requiring an entry visa of some kind.

American passport holders have less power to travel visa-free compared to countries such as Germany, South Korea and the UK, having dropped down one tier in the Arton Capital passport index rankings since 2016.

Austria, Switzerland and Singapore rank with the above at or near the top of the list; we’re about fourth or so, because there are quite a few countries which require us to get a visa prior to arrival — India, as I once discovered for myself, being one.

And a lot of times, this is simply retaliation when we impose a visa restriction on their country:

Earlier this month, Turkey removed the visa-free status to the US after a row with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
US passports could be set to get weaker still, as the European Parliament voted to end visa-free travel for Americans back in March this year.
The vote came after Trump refused to allow visa-free travel to members of five EU countries: Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

Last time I looked, we still don’t need a visa to go to France for less than a 90-day period, which is good because I’m going to France for a week later on in the year and I’m damned if I would submit to their bureaucratic rigmarole just for that.

I once estimated that the average U.S. citizen will spend about $10,000-$12,000 (excluding airfare) over a two-week vacation trip to Europe. I am pretty sure that were the EU to make things more difficult for us to travel there, a number of people (myself included) would simply decide to go somewhere else — and thus spend our highly-prized U.S. dollars in a place where we’re apparently more welcome.

Which brings me back to the issue of “power”. Being able to visit a country without a visa does not fit my definition of power. This does.

If a citizen of a country is kidnapped or otherwise harmed when traveling in a foreign country, do you think the wrongdoers would feel more comfortable knowing that the victim is Singaporean (to pick one of the top passports at random), or an American?

Put even more simply: is there a risk that the Singaporean military would send a drone strike to snuff out the bad guys?

To me, that’s the real power of a passport: whether you can mess with your visitors with impunity, or whether you may get some more visitors from a Special Forces team in response.

So how does that make the U.S., U.K. and Germany (to name but three countries with bad-ass special forces) look now?

Of course, given the state of affairs right now, U.S. citizens face added insecurity when they travel because Muslim assholes look on us as high-visibility targets — so in that regard, we’re worse off than the South Koreans. Frankly, though, as long as Americans avoid traveling to places we’re warned about by the State Department, we do just fine. (And for those idiots who just have to spend their vacation in Yemen or Syria, you deserve everything you get.)

Right: I’m off to finish packing.

“Far Right”

…or maybe I should say, “far out”, in the terms of my yoot. Well well well, now lookee what happened in Austria yesterday:

The leader of Austria’s right-leaning People’s Party has declared victory in a national election that puts him on track to become the world’s youngest leader.
Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, claimed the win on Sunday night after projections gave his party a comfortable lead with more than 90 percent of the ballots counted.
He fell well short of a majority, but has not ruled out the possibility of forming a minority government once the final result comes in.

And with whom will this right-leaning People’s Party form a coalition?

With the Eurosceptic Freedom Party edging closer to finishing second in the election and with Kurz’s policies on immigration shifting right, a right wing alliance is emerging as the most likely outcome.

I bet the EU is filling their collectivist pants and plotting how to overturn this election, even as we speak…

 

Backlash

I see with interest that the people of Majorca have had enough:

Streets of Majorca were filled with 3,000 people protesting over mass tourism in a latest backlash in the British holiday hotspot.
Holidaymakers in the capital of Palma looked on as the angry crowd chanted “Without limits, there is no future” and “tourists go home”.
Spokeswoman Margalida Ramis said the holiday island was being saturated by visitors at the expense of the environment, local jobs, housing for residents and general co-existence.
She said the islands’ dependence on tourism was not a good thing from an economic point of view and was “precarious”.

I should point out that the “onlookers” (tourists) at this protest march probably outnumbered the protesters by about ten to one, which should give the proper perspective to the situation.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: you encourage tourism by offering cheap hotel accommodation, allowing budget airline flights to land on your sun-drenched little Mediterranean island, and in general cater to the meme of “Holiday In Paradise”, and then you are shocked — shocked! — when a bunch of loutish drunks invade your little paradise and fuck things up?

Let’s be honest: the Balearic Islands have little to offer except tourism, so if tourists were suddenly to disappear, Majorca’s and Ibiza’s economies would fall into the pit, so to speak, their citizens’ standard of living would resemble that of a Third World village, i.e. grim and poverty-stricken, and they’d have to resort to fleecing the wealthy foreigners who’ve paid untold millions for their tropical getaways — which is what the Balearics used to do before the era of cheap flights, cheap accommodation and cheap booze.

There’s a solution, of course, but their government won’t take it: raise taxes on holidaymakers, institute curfews, imprison revelers who take it too far, and in general make it uncomfortable for tourists. (The cynic in me would suggest that they allow a different kind of visitor — Middle Eastern refugees / migrants — and let events take their natural course after that. If that doesn’t discourage tourism, nothing will.)

Makes the Florida spring break destinations look quite placid, by comparison.