Sep 132019
 September 13, 2019  Posted by at 7:03 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »

Max Ernst Untitled 1913


No, I don’t want to talk about last night’s US Democrats’ debate. That’s just lousy comedy. But I’ll admit I’m happy to see Tulsi Gabbard demolished DNC favorite Kamala Harris’s chances before the same DNC managed to get rid of Tulsi. She should have been at that debate just for having that kind of influence.

Instead, unfortunately, and I’m almost apologizing, I have to revisit Brexit yet again. Hey, at least it’s better comedy. But I’ve addressed it a bit much lately. I did find it interesting to see Julian Assange’s view the other day in Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit. After all, Julian’s been in Britain for so long he could probably apply for citizenship. That makes his view more interesting than for instance mine, I think.

By the way, he was in court again today, Friday the 13th. Or not really in court, he appeared via videolink. Only to be subjected to more derogatory nonsense from the British court system. I’m sure he saw that coming, he never even requested bail, but still. These people lack all decency.

Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to remain in prison when his jail term ends because of his “history of absconding”, a judge has ruled. He was due to be released on 22 September after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. But Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again. [..] District judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video-link: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end.

“When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.” She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”. “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

I don’t even want to get into the reasoning behind that insulting behavior. But it does make one think about the deep dive the UK justice system has taken. I would propose no longer using the word Justice to describe it. A court system that functions as political theater it not worthy of the title.


And that’s a good link back to Brexit. A few days ago two different courts in the Once-United Kingdom, the Inner House of Session of Scotland and the High Court of England and Wales, issued entirely opposite judgments on the legality of the prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson’s government.

Or, rather, to get the details right, the Scottish court said the matter was ‘justiciable’, and the prorogation was unlawful, while the English court simple said the case was not ‘justiciable’, and it’s Parliament that has to decide on this. Yes, the same Parliament that has effectively been shut down.

Longtime friend of the Automatic Earth, Mike ‘Mish’ Shedlock, has been running quite a series of articles on Brexit lately. Since he’s American, his views are no more relevant than mine, but whereas I am -or try to be- fully neutral on the issue, Mish is a fervent supporter of Brexit. He sees it as something fair and just. I have my doubts on that, but I do agree with Mish that the EU is a pretty bad institution.

It’s just that I also think the UK has prepared itself very poorly for leaving the EU, and that this lack of preparation will end up hurting the British population, a substantial part of which is already suffocating under a yoke of extreme austerity. Britain is very much still a class society, and Boris Johnson and his ilk will be fine, but millions of others will not.


I saw something in Mish’s latest today that I though I’d highlight. See, I think it’s obvious that there are not two, but three ‘factions’ in the UK today where Brexit is concerned. There are those who want to Remain in the EU, there are those who want to Leave no matter how or what, and as we’ve seen a lot off late, there are many who want to leave but only if a deal with Brussels has been agreed.

Now, the tendency has become, as the bickering worsens, to group that third faction, which wants a deal before leaving, in with those who want to Remain. If you’re not with us you’re against us. This has appeared as a sort of tactical move for the Leave campaign. Here’s Mish quoting Eurointelligence:

If the Supreme Court, as we expect, does not intervene on prorogation, that leaves Hilary Benn’s legislation – requiring Johnson to seek an extension to the Art. 50 withdrawal period – as the main tactical approach left for Remainers.

It’s obvious that those seeking that extension are not only Remainers. Many are not, there are for instance a lot of Labour party members and voters who favor Leave, but with a deal. Jeremy Corbyn himself is one of them. There are many in the Conservative party who want to leave only with a deal. 21 MPs were banned from the party for exactly that. Casting these people in with the Remainers may be a dangerous game.

Beacuse let’s play with the numbers a little. If that third faction, Leave With A Deal, makes up one third of all Leave voters, which seems quite reasonable if not even lowballing it, than what does that do to the 51.89% majority for Leave in the June 23 2016 referendum? I’ll go with 51%, easier to play with. One third of 51% is 17%. Add that to the 48% who voted Remain, and you’re at 65%. Almost 2/3 doesn’t want to Leave without a deal.

That leaves the ‘pure’ Leavers with just 34%, little more than a third of total votes. Does that still sound like The Will of the People to you? And the people behind Boris Johnson who wish to push Leave through even if there is no deal (some would prefer that) can say all they want, but Boris doesn’t even have a majority in Parliament anymore.

If you must suspend Parliament to push through something that will affect the country for decades and that 2/3 of people don’t want, you are on very thin ice. And it doesn’t look like you’re executing The Will of the People, at all. Because many would not have voted Leave if they had been told it could take place without that deal.

And of course when you see EU commission head Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen setting up an office for the “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life”, you too think “get me out of this asylum, and fast”, but you can’t do that unless that is The Will of the People.

This will end with the Supreme Court deciding what that will is. Which is far from ideal. But Boris can call an election; he just needs to agree not to Leave without a deal. Because that is the Will of 2/3 of the People’s chosen representatives.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper this week defined British politics as “what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.”

Good theater. I rest my case.





Sep 062019
 September 6, 2019  Posted by at 2:06 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »

Kazemir Malevich Floor polishers 1912


Everything Brexit changes every 5 minutes. That makes it hard to follow. It makes it hard to write about it too, because things are certain to be different as soon as you hit Publish.

Boris wanted snap elections on October 14. That became 15 because of a Jewish holiday. but the opposition didn’t really want that election, Or they did, but not on his terms. And over the past few days it’s been said 1000 times that Boris is not to be trusted so no election at all, lest he underhandedly changes the date. Well, okay let’s have one but not before November. That way his hands are tied.

Because there is no such thing as a British -or UK, if you will- constitution, court challenges against prorogating Parliament get thrown out, since no judge feels obliged to waddle into that minefield. The Supreme Court will have to, though. And soon. The prorogation apparently still leaves room on Monday September 9 for another go in Parliament at Boris’s move for an election. It will be thrown out.

Then: 5 weeks of silence. Yeah, right. Parliament may be prorogued, but Boris won’t be, and neither will the courts. There was this judge the other day who said Parliament itself can decide when to sit, but that is simply untrue. Because it ignores prorogation, which another judge just said is perfectly legal.

Boris wants to prorogue Westminster for 5 years? Perfectly legal, it would seem. Unless some lawyer or judge delves up a law from the 16th century that says otherwise. Constitutions have their use, you know.

But it’s hard not to feel sorry for the man here and there and now and then. Ministers leave, friends leave, his brother is outta here and even his dog handed him a pink slip.



And the opposition, including a whole bunch of his own party, is ganging up on him. Maybe that has something to do with special adviser Dominic Cummings telling 21 Tory parliamentarians they’re no longer welcome in their own party, of which he himself is not even a member and never has been. Maybe that’s it.

But the strongest words came from Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster -Plaid Cymru is a a social-democratic political party in Wales advocating Welsh independence from the United Kingdom within the European Union- says Wikipedia.

Saville Roberts said that this morning the opposition party leaders agreed that guaranteeing an article 50 extension should take priority over calling an early election, via BBC News:

We need to make sure we get past the 31 October and an extension to article 50. In that respect, we were in agreement that the prime minister is on the run. Boris is broken. We have an opportunity to bring down Boris, to break Boris, and to bring down Brexit. And we must take that.

Just as this week, the vote for a general election would play into Boris Johnson’s hands. It would allow him to ignore the legislation that is currently going through the House of Lords, likely to have royal assent today. It would allow him to ignore that. It would give him the opportunity to ignore the law.

Our duty, therefore, as parliamentarians who are intent on stopping no-deal Brexit is to be here in this place, to hold him to account, and to make sure that he abides by the law.

See, my theory is that Boris doesn’t give a hoot about politics, he just wants being PM on his bucket list. And he trusts, as he always has in his life, in his particular charm to woo the -older- ladies in the country to his side. Boris looks like someone with mother issues, she’s the one he’s trying to charm.

But ganging up on him like this is not nice. The older ladies will confirm this. There’s a former PM too who’s in on it:

Pressed on a challenge by Sir John Major on Thursday night to sack Cummings, Johnson first failed to answer a direct question from one reporter, then refused to give his chief adviser explicit support when asked a second time. He answered:

“I … I … Look … Advisers, as I think someone said in the Commons the other day, advisers advise and ministers decide.”

On Thursday evening, Major made an implicit reference to Cummings in a speech to the CBI Scotland annual dinner: “We have seen over-mighty advisers before. It is a familiar script. It always ends badly. I offer the prime minister some friendly advice: get rid of these advisers before they poison the political atmosphere beyond repair. And do it quickly. There is no need for them to be led out of Downing Street by armed police, but go they should. And now.”

Boris looks to be checkmate at this point. But he’s not the leader, Dominic Cummings is. And Cummings can see a few moves ahead. So there may still be surprises coming. Then again, Boris has claimed he’d rather die in a ditch than ask the EU for another Brexit extension, and Parliament appears to have made it impossible not to ask for one.

Ergo, Boris may have to go this weekend or right after the Monday vote that will deny him his snap election in time for Halloween. And if he does, he doesn’t lose all that much face, because he can blame his failure on a vast selection of other people.

But then what? Have that election anyway? Half of Britain will be red hot angry if there still is no Brexit, and there will be a lot of Labour voters in that half. So Jeremy Corbyn is not very likely to win right now. Lib Dems then? They were salvaged from the dustbin what seems just 5 minutes ago because nobody else wanted to support the Remain option. They were gone, broken.

It’s going to take a long time to put the pieces of that broken country back together again, no matter what the outcome of all this may be. That doesn’t bode well for anyone. And make no mistake, it’s broken. Into millions of little pieces.

Boris is just one of them.





Aug 152018
 August 15, 2018  Posted by at 11:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »

Salvador Dali The Madonna of Port Lligat 1950


On August 15, Greeks celebrate the “Dormition (or the Assumption) of the Virgin Mary (in Greek: Koimisis tis Theotokou). The holiday commemorates the “falling asleep” or death of the Theotokos (Mary, translated as “God-bearer”). August 15, one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox calendar, is celebrated across the country, and is a date when many Greeks leave the towns and cities where they live and work to return to their home villages.”

Stole that bit from the local Kathimerini paper. And I would add: while most Athenians leave for the islands, along with about 2 billion tourists. Thought I’d bring up the national holiday because in Turkey, they celebrate the same. The orthodox church is still going strong in both countries. Even if Turkey is leaning increasingly towards Islam. And even then: the House of the Virgin Mary shrine in Turkey, which the Apostle John is supposed to have built for her, on a mountain overlooking the Aegean, the place where Mary is said to have spent her last years, sees both Christian and Muslim pilgrims.

All this can’t be seen apart from some recent developments between the two countries. Turkey had been holding two Greek servicemen in jail after they crossed a border in bad weather early March. And then yesterday evening, this happened according to Kathimerini:

Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Pending Trial

Two Greek servicemen who had been detained in Turkey since early March for accidentally crossing the border in bad weather have been released from jail pending trial, Anadolu agency reported on Tuesday evening. According to Anadolu, a court examined the request for their release and ruled there are no reasons to keep them behind bars. The ruling does not mention any measures restricting their movement which means the soldiers can return to Greece.

Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis had been held in a high security prison in Edirne for 167 days. It is not clear what charges they are facing. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a tweet the release of the servicemen “is an act of justice which will contribute in boosting friendship, good neighborly relations and stability in the region.” “I would like to congratulate and thank our two officers and their families for their courage, patience and confidence in our efforts, which were ultimately vindicated,” he added.

On Monday, Greece’s top military announced it was suspending some confidence-building activities with Turkey for the remainder of the year, as a response to the prolonged detention. The measures under suspension extend to the the exchange of military academy graduates as well as sporting and cultural activities, which have already been scaled down over the detention of the two soldiers, who were arrested after accidentally crossing a borderline between the two countries.

And mere hours later there was this:

Two Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Return Home

Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet early Wednesday after their unexpected release by a provincial court. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece. “This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940,” Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940. “I hope that their release … will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The soldiers [..] were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki. “All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters. The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

[..] The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey. Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

Athens got a phone call from Ankara, probably to Kammenos, not Tsipras, that said: you come get them. Whether that call was before or after the court decision we’ll probably never know. A bit of a shame, because it could tell us a lot of where the decisions are made in Turkey. Then again, we do have an idea. A mere provincial court that could make decisions that go completely against what Erdogan desires? What are the odds? But stick around.

Here’s what’s interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year, were released by a provincial court, and got back home on a joint Turkish/Greek national holiday. What’s not to like?

But then this: a few hours after they arrive home on PM Tsipras’ own government jet at 3pm, another Turkish court decides that an appeal for American pastor Brunson to be released, is denied. Brunson is the guy Trump wants freed. John Bolton has said there’ll be no more talks until that is done. But if one court takes a decision that at least on the face of it goes against supreme ruler Erdogan’s demands, and another decides differently, Erdogan can claim the pastor’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides.

That victory over Trump, concerning not freeing the pastor, is apparently worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have gotten asylum in Greece. Something Erdogan is allegedly very angry about, because he accuses them of being party to the 2016 ‘coup’. He’s trying to play chess with Trump. We can discuss how good of an idea that is. Here’s AFP:

Turkey Court Rejects New Appeal To Free Detained US Pastor

A Turkish court on Wednesday rejected a new appeal to free US pastor Andrew Brunson, whose detention has sparked a major row between Turkey and the United States, local media reported. The court in the western city of Izmir ruled that Brunson, who faces 35 years in jail over terror and espionage charges, will remain under house arrest, the state television TRT reported. Brunson’s jail term had been converted to house detention for health reasons.

His detention has soured relations with Washington, with US President Donald Trump doubling aluminium and steel tariffs for Turkey in punitive actions against Ankara’s refusal to release Brunson. The crisis has sent the Turkish currency into free fall since Friday. “The president has a great deal of frustration (about) the pastor not being released,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday. The statement came after US embassy charge d’affaires Jeffrey Hovenier visited Brunson in Izmir.

Brunson’s lawyer Cem Halavurt told AFP that a higher court would also discuss his appeal for Brunson’s release. Turkey’s ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic on Monday held private talks with US National Security Advisor John Bolton in a meeting to discuss the pastor’s status.

And then Reuters has this just now:

Erdogan Spokesman Says Problems With US Will Be Resolved

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday he expected problems with the United States, which helped drive the lira to record lows, to be resolved but Washington must stop trying to influence Turkey’s judiciary. Ibrahim Kalin also told a news conference that Turkey would exercise its rights if the U.S. does not deliver F-35 jets to Ankara. The lira, which has rallied after hitting a record low of 7.24 to the dollar, would continue to recover, he said.

A masterstroke? Did Erdogan just succeed in making everyone, including Trump, believe the Turkish judiciary system is impartial, and he’s not the one keeping Brunson from leaving the country? Sure looks like he tried. “Sorry, Mr. Trump, it’s out of my hands.. A judge let the Greek soldiers go, and I didn’t want that either..”

Problem is, everyone knows Erdogan fired half the judiciary system and 90% or so of the press, accusing them of being part of the same coup plot as Gülen and the pastor Brunson. It’s almost amusing. Almost, because innocent people’s lives are being played out on some primitive chess board and sacrificed against dreams of ever more power. Only a pawn in their game.

The lira is recovering a little today. Got to wonder how long that will last, and what it’s cost Turkey. To be continued.