With his Likud party trailing behind the Zionist Union by three-to-four seats in polls on the final weekend before Tuesday’s elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been engaged in a round of media interviews aiming to shore up the vote. On Friday afternoon, a few hours before the start of Shabbat, he spoke to the Times of Israel.
The surveys still suggest Netanyahu might have an easier time than Zionist Union leader Isaac (Boujie) Herzog in building a coalition, but momentum seems to have moved away from the Likud. The coalition arithmetic is perilous — and could be easily remade by factors including voter turnout, parties falling below the raised 3.25 percent electoral threshold, and the preferences of party leaders when recommending their choice of prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin once the votes are counted.
In our conversation, conducted by telephone, Netanyahu’s key aim was to plead with voters from the “national camp” — those who want to see him re-elected — to vote Likud rather than for its potential allies such as Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, Eli Yishai’s Yachad and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu. While the left was united going into these elections, he said, the right was split and there were no guarantees that even party leaders such as Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beytenu, his foreign minister and former ally, would back him for prime minister.
Asked whether the Obama administration — whose emerging deal on Iran he went to congress 10 days ago to publicly oppose — should be counted among those who want to see him gone, Netanyahu said dryly that this didn’t require a tremendous leap of the imagination.
Iran’s a very aggressive power without nuclear weapons. It’s rampaging throughout the Middle East and conducting a worldwide campaign of terror. So once they’re armed with nuclear weapons, the level of their conventional aggression would grow. And you can’t discount that they’ll have unconventional aggression.
America is a very large county; Israel is one of the smallest. America lives in a safe neighborhood; we live in the most dangerous part of the planet. America is not directly threatened with its existence; we are. So naturally we have a difference of views on the severity of the threat. We are doing everything in our power to prevent this agreement which paves the way of Iran to the bomb.
There is an effort by leftist NGOs throughout the world, and left-leaning tycoons and consultants from various political parties, including from the United States, to try to bring down the Likud and me. They say so openly. They are conducting a campaign with tens of millions of dollars under the banner, ‘Anyone but Bibi.’ They understand that if I’m gone, the right will collapse. And that’s what they’re trying to do.
They’re trying to get Boujie and Tzipi in government here, because they realize that they will capitulate to all the dictates the international left wants to impose on Israel. They’re not doing it because they care about the cost of living in Israel. They care about getting Israel to retreat to the ’67 lines, to divide Jerusalem, and to accept this deal with Iran. I oppose them, and therefore I’m in their way.
That is a drop in the bucket, nothing, compared to the mountains, the mountain-range of words and images and slander that has been heaped on me. I don’t think there’s been anything like it in any campaign. It’s almost Soviet-style. It’s organized, first of all, locally by (Yedioth’s) Noni Mozes. He uses tactics that no one uses, that Israel Today never uses — investigations, pressure, threats, unlike anything found anywhere.
There’s a difference between what people would want in theory and what they’re going to get in practice. I’d focus on what will happen in practice, and everybody in his right mind understands that. So I don’t think we should proceed and vacate territory on a premise that doesn’t hold in the field.
Yet I am constantly braced with questions about the US dollar and its impending demise. The reasoning seems to be that if America is a debt addicted dystopia—-and it surely is—- won’t the US dollar sooner or later go down in flames as the day of reckoning materializes? Won’t you make money shorting the doomed dollar?
Heavens no! At least not any time soon. The reason is simply that the other three big economies of the world—Japan, China and Europe—are in even more disastrous condition. Worse still, their governments and central banks are actually more clueless than Washington, and are conducting policies that are flat out lunatic—–meaning that their faltering economies will be facing even more destructive punishment from policy makers in the days ahead.
Indeed, Draghi, Kuroda and the commissars of red capitalism in Beijing make Janet Yellen and Stanley Fischer (Fed Vice-Chairman) appear to be slightly sober. So as trite as it sounds, the US dollar is the cleanest dirty shirt in the laundry. And on a relative basis, its is going to look even cleaner as two decades of monetary madness around the world finally hit the shoals.
You have to start with a stark assessment of the other three major economies.To hear the Wall Street analysts and economists tell it, Japan, China and Europe are just variants of the US economy with different mixes of pluses and minuses, experiencing somewhat different stages of the economic cycle and obviously shaped by their own diverse brands of domestic politics and economic governance. Yet despite these surface difference, the non-US big three economies are held to be just part of a global economic convoy heading for continued economic growth, rising living standards and higher stock market prices.
Actually, not so. Japan is a bankrupt old age colony. China is the most monumental credit and construction Ponzi in human history. Europe is a terminal victim of socialist welfare and statist dirigisme. All three are attempting to defer the day of reckoning via resorting to a final spasm of money printing and central bank manipulation that is so desperate and crazy that it can only end in disaster.
So there is no global convoy of inexorable economic growth and progress. Instead, we are entering a new era of spectacular financial disorder and credit fueled booms turning into unprecedented deflationary busts. And it is the three big economies outside the US which will hit the wall first, causing the US dollar to thrive on a relative basis.
Consider the absolute monetary madness in Japan—-where the current policy of the BOJ is to expand its balance sheet each month by what would amount to one-quarter trillion dollars on a US scale GDP. Yet this madcap money printing cannot possibly help the Japanese economy because it already has essentially zero interest rates and has had them for nearly two decades. So Kuroda can’t possibly induce Japanese households and business to borrow more money and stimulate growth because they have long been at “peak debt” and couldn’t borrow more if you paid them.
The consequences for fiscal policy and Japan’s ability to finance its immense public debt as its collective old age home steadily fills up is simply mind-boggling. If it continues to monetize the public debt at current rates, it will destroy the yen—sending into free-fall from today’s 121/ dollar to 200, 300 or even worse.
In China the scene is even more tortured. As McKinsey’s charts so dramatically document, the overseers of red capitalism in Beijing have driven China into a monumental debt trap.
Its massive spree of construction and fixed asset investment has created an utterly deformed economy that will literally implode unless its keeps building empty luxury apartments, phantom cities, silent shopping malls and hideously redundant roads, bridges, subways and airports. Yet whenever the short-term indicators stumble, the government finds some new, convoluted way to release more credit into the system.
The rate at which the China Ponzi is falling apart is now accelerating. In a nearby post this morning, Mish Shedlock provided a devastating survey of the excess capacity which looms in nearly every industry and the massive overbuilding of public infrastructure and housing based on debt that cannot be serviced and customers and users who are non- existent.
But now things are heading into the theatre of the economic absurd. Government officials are forcing the restart of idle steel and aluminum plants so that the can produce unwanted supplies to dump on the world market in order to generate enough cash to pay interest.
Needless to say, as China veers ever closer to a crash landing, the China-dependent EM economies are rapidly faltering. It now appears that Brazil will suffer back-to-back years of GDP decline for the first time since 1930-1931. Indeed, the China-led global commodities and industrial production boom is cooling so fast that global CapEx in mining and energy, materials processing, manufacturing and shipping is on the verge of a huge downward correction. And that will hit the high end machinery and engineering exporters like Germany and the US, creating a further negative loop in the gathering deflationary crisis.
Finally, the madness in Europe speaks for itself. The ECB is now literally destroying the Euro in a disastrous quest to restart economic growth by monetizing $1.2 trillion of mostly European government debt. But Europe’s stagnation is not due to insufficient private sector borrowing or interest rates that discourage it.
The problem is a state sector that has reached nearly 50% of GDP and is thereby smothering entrepreneurs and investment everywhere on the continent. And it also means a public debt burden so high that prohibitive levels of taxation are unavoidable.
Stated different, Europe’s economic growth problem is structural and was the result of statist policies over many decades. The only thing Draghi will accomplish with his massive bond buying campaign is to drive the Euro to par and below; and enable Europe’s government —–all of which can now borrow long-term money at 1% or less—-to kick the can down the road, thereby insuring that Europe’s eventual day of fiscal reckoning will be cataclysmic.
So there is a reason why the dollar is soaring. The other shirts in the laundry are not just dirtier. They are actually disintegrating.
Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California's winter was as well.
As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too.
Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.
Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.
As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.
Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.