Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Crude Oil five-year trend to January 19th, 2016

Oil continues down, with Brent Light Sweet North Sea crude now at $28.76 -- WTI is at $28.46:

(I clipped the Oil Price tracker in the RH column of the KF blog. I thought the five year trend would be most informative, notice the decline across the back end of 14 from the $100 level to about half that level. We are halving again as the Saudis try to squeeze the Shale Oil people and as Iran seems about to come back into the market. China's slowdown and the stock market plunge add to the trends.) 

Food for thought. END

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 285: Donald Trump -- at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Day -- says Christianity is under siege around the world

On Martin Luther King Day at Liberty University, US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump reached out to Christians in a major speech:
"We're going to protect Christianity," he said. "If you look at what's going on throughout the world...Christianity is under siege."
Trump pointed to targeting of Christians by terrorist groups in Syria and urged Christians to work together to use their "power" within the United States to enact change.
He added that "I'm a Protestant. I'm very proud of it, Presbyterian to be exact. ...[but] bad things are happening, very bad things are happening."

Now, at one level, we can simply say that Mr Trump feels a need to reach out to especially white American Evangelicals (who have not had a dominant major party candidate who readily aligns with their Faith and moral stance since 2004). But that probably would be just a bit too dismissive.

The fact is, that anti-Christian bigotry and persecution have mounted to unprecedented levels for many years and that his has gone largely unremarked in major media and is too often studiously avoided by major policy-making figures. Far too many major figures have been clearly cold at best and implicitly hostile to the Christian Faith and to Christians . . . including the persecuted.

So, it is important that someone who is able to make headlines says, A is A.

The reaction of some critics is revealing, when Trump mis-spoke in referring to 2 Cor 3:17. As WND puts it:
“We’re going to protect Christianity. And I can say that – I don’t have to be politically correct – we’re going to protect it,” Trump said. “And I asked [Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.], and I asked some of the folks, because I hear this is your major theme right here, but Two Corinthians – Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ And here there is Liberty College – Liberty University.”

Trump actually quoted the text of the Bible verse accurately, word-for-word. The only thing that some critics objected to is that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is usually cited in America as “Second Corinthians” instead of “Two Corinthians,” even though the numeral 2 is used in print . . . . In the United Kingdom, British subjects often refer to these letters from the apostle Paul as “One Corinthians” and “Two Corinthians.”

(I personally will often say "Two Cor" if I am speaking quickly, but "Second Corinthians," if I am being more formal or giving full form.)

WND Continues:

Headlines read:
  • Buzzfeed: Donald Trump knows the Bible so well he misquotes it at Christian university
  • Jezebel: A good Christian could never vote for Donald Trump, who just pronounced it ‘Two Corinthians’
  • Mashable: Donald Trump flubs Bible verse during speech at Christian university
  • New York Times: Donald Trump quotes Scripture, sort of, at Liberty University speech
  • Politico: Trump bungles Bible reference at Liberty University
  • AOL: Trump flubs Bible verse during rally at Christian school
 I find it interesting that the same or similar media houses were by and large silent when Mr Clinton misquoted "scripture" to say "eye has not seen nor ear heard . . . what we can build" or when Mr Obama spoke of Romans 1 as "an obscure passage" while wrenching the golden rule out of context of the moral law but they pounce on this. (Which may indeed show lack of familiarity with the scriptures but possibly a genuine reaching out to Christians on a major concern. )

Here is my comment at the time -- and, the attitude revealed would turn out to be highly relevant to what Mr Obama has done to marriage and law as President of the USA:
A week ago, in answer to a question from a Pastor in his audience at a town-hall meeting held in Ohio on Sunday March 2nd, Senator Obama has evidently said:
"People who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and the state should not discriminate against them . . . I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state…. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans."
There are several points of concern in the above, and his campaign website's open letter to the "LGBT community" underscores many of them; for it shows that the above is no off-the cuff, impromptu, ill-considered remark but instead it is a calculated part of his political agenda . . . .

The most obvious problem with Sen Obama's position as stated, is that equality of persons made in the image of God, for excellent reason, does not equate to moral equality of the ideas and behaviours of those persons.

For, as Greg Koukl so aptly points out in his essay on knowledge, truth right and wrong, we should indeed tolerate and respect persons, but we must be discerning in our evaluation of ideas and behaviours, as there are ideas and behaviours that are self- and/or socially destructive. That is, wrong, or even evil.

In short, unchecked error is destructive, and indeed, following Kant's logic on the Categorical Imperative, that is one way that we can discern errors of truth and moral behaviour. Namely, error is destructive so if it propagates across a community it would result in chaos.

Chaos, we are now beginning to see.

 But it is patently a chaotic agenda obviously favoured by many in the media, who have not learned the due lessons about marches of folly:

 That difference in the response of media houses speaks volumes.

While I am at it, let me share a graphic on a modern take on Plato's cave . . . the Overton Window and its BATNA points, in the context of how the spinmeisters work hard to push the boundaries of what is acceptable or to be rejected to suit their agendas and/or paymasters:

For far too many, might and manipulation make 'right' and 'truth,' etc.

No wonder we are headed over the cliff.

 So, while this blog post is by no means anything even approaching an endorsement of Mr Trump and his views/agendas (far from it!), we need to at least recognise that he has put the ugly but studiously neglected fact of major persecution of Christians and attacks against the Faith in the headlines.

For that, we must at least say a sincere, thank you for speaking up. END

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 284: China is to establish its first African military base -- in formerly French-ruled Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa

Djibouti is the intended site of China's first naval/ air/ military/ logistics base in Africa. 

As the AFP/ Times of India indicated in a May 9, 2015 article:
"Discussions are ongoing," President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP in an interview in Djibouti, saying Beijing's presence would be "welcome".

Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent, used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa.

France and Japan also have bases in the port, a former French colony that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and which has been used by European and other international navies as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia.

For context, Djibouti is a small (8958 sq mi, ~ 2 x Jamaica, about the size of Israel), port based country on the horn of Africa, just north of Somalia and directly across from Yemen on the Gulf of Aden.  It is one side of the Bab-el-Mandeb (gate of tears) straight at the mouth of the Red Sea as it opens up into the Indo-Pacific Ocean. In short, it is a port state sitting on a global trade choke point.

The just linked Wiki article notes:

On February 22, 2008, a company owned by Tarek bin Laden unveiled plans to build a bridge named Bridge of the Horns across the strait, linking Yemen with Djibouti.[4] Middle East Development LLC has issued a notice to construct a bridge passing across the Red Sea that would be the longest suspended passing in the world.[5] The project has been assigned to engineering company COWI in collaboration with architect studio Dissing+Weitling, both from Denmark.
That would be very significant in the context of a spiritually loaded geopolitical contest with Africa a major prize. And yes, that is the half brother of Osama Bin Laden; their family comes from Yemen and have as main business construction (including demolition, which -- no great surprise given 9/11 -- was Osama's specialty).

Google Earth Map:

 Of course, given our recent discussion of geostrategic issues linked to Islamism, the obvious points are:
  • Africa is currently the "soft" continent which is in geostrategic contention
  • Radical Islam is making a major African push (the context of the fighting, terrorism and piracy in and around the Horn of Africa)
  • This part of Africa is in naval and air terms, near the Nile Valley which offers a route into central Africa that gets around the Sahara
  • China has been making a major resources and relationships push into Africa
  • It has also been expanding a network of bases and access arrangements across the seas to Africa:

As the just linked Submarine Matters post by Peter Coates said in introducing the above map:

All of this, fits an emerging geostrategic picture of a three-way contest for influence and/or control in Africa. The Islamist thrust vs. the long resented Western "traditional" domination  vs. the emerging Chinese resources push.

 The current Jan 12 discussion in the UK based The Week, is therefore unsurprising -- though it only emphasises the China vs US angle:
The U.S. and China, major powers with a minor footprint, are both poised for much deeper and more direct involvement in African affairs . . . . Thanks to the much different challenges and priorities facing both powers, African intervention is shaping up as a feast for China and a famine for the U.S.

Look to Djibouti for big clues about why. News is quietly breaking that China has sealed a deal to build its first military base in that little country, a former French colony strategically located across from Yemen on the Red Sea, squeezed between Eritrea and Somalia. Confirming years of under-the-radar suspicions, AFRICOM commander Gen. David Rodriguez told The Hill that the "logistics hub" and airfield will let China "extend their reach" into Africa over the course of an initial 10-year contract. Currently, The Hill observed, China can't do much more than stage some naval patrols out of Djibouti ports.

Given China's breakneck expansion into Africa, that's just not good enough. In Africa, China has found not just a market for money but for jobs and land — crucial components of sustained economic growth. As December's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation revealed, the Middle Kingdom wants to ensure privileged access to that kind of future. Although it's hard to unravel the details, Beijing used the Forum to pledge $60 billion in loans and export credits . . . . 

While China is free to pursue its economic and financial interests with clarity and focus, allowing its military and political agenda to unfold accordingly, Washington finds itself scrambling to keep up with a sour security situation that doesn't play to its strengths. Instead of reaching into Africa's sub-Saharan heartland, where China is racking up lucrative or influential deals, the U.S. will have to stretch itself remarkably thin over the wide and barren expanse of Africa's northern tier.
The Week also points out that the Stuttgart based US AFRICOM has a cluster of its:
top three priorities [that] reach from one end of Northern Africa to the other: "neutralizing" the jihadist al-Shabab group in Somalia to the east, while "containing" enemies like ISIS in Libya and Boko Haram, to the west, in Nigeria and the greater Lake Chad region.
This of course indicates a continent-wide zone of operations in the slow burn global contest that properly is the latest phase of the 1400 year war of Islamist global expansionism. From our C21 perspective, it is World War IV, as WW III -- logically -- was what we term the Cold War.

Here in the Caribbean, we are an extension of Africa in the Americas due to our history of the slave trade based plantation era.

That means that to the Islamists and Chinese, we look like a stepping stone going West and North from Africa sitting on the Panama Canal global trade choke point and near to the United States. To the Americans, we are their backyard and a stepping stone to go South and East into Africa. Hence, the two tidal waves challenge we face (given the current great apostasy of the North):

 Where also in the midst of such wars, turmoils and rumours of wars as the kingdoms of man contend with one another, the church of the Caribbean faces a great Missionary mandate and opportunity. 

Precisely because we bridge North and South, East and West:

To make the best use of that opportunity, we must strengthen ourselves, deepening our discipleship base and equipping ourselves for leadership and service. For which, the Internet age offers the opportunity to create a regional education programme based on cybercampuses and local microcampus centres that use the deep penetration of church resources across our region.

Hence, the AACCS proposal:

 (An Associate in Arts can complement other studies or be a gateway that empowers many by allowing them to access tertiary level studies, perhaps via a supplementary secondary level bridge that rounds out the high school baseline.)

With this base and other studies,we can develop and mobilise a critical mass to take up our challenges and opportunities.

We now face a multipolar, multi-level geostrategic, ideological and spiritual conflict, with sobering consequences in the stakes. We may not be interested in such a chaotic contest, but it is interested in us.

We have no responsible choice, other than to face it and address it seriously.

The question is, are we willing to step up to the plate, first acknowledging what we face then assessing and addressing our strengths and weaknesses, then making the most of our opportunities?

Again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END

Matt 24 watch, 283: The stock market nosedive continues . . .

According to a CNBC report, Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, indicates:
Almost $3.2 trillion has been wiped off the value of stocks around the world since the start of 2016 . . . . The sell-off this year, driven by renewed jitters over China's economy and a slump in energy prices, has pushed the S&P 500 index in correction territory, with the benchmark now down 11.29 percent from its May 21 closing high.
According to the veteran market commentator, U.S. stocks are now off $1.77 trillion, while overseas stocks are down $1.4 trillion.

This bears watching. END

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 282: Clinton emails investigation may be broadening into a corruption probe -- Neil Cavuto

Mrs Hillary Clinton is the leading presidential candidate of the US Democratic Party, which is almost reflexively supported by many people here in the Caribbean -- despite very worrying trends such as being the driving force behind support for mass abortion [which has been the worst holocaust in history in the past generation, enmeshing millions in guilt of innocent blood] and despite having pushed through the recent attempt to create under colour of law, so-called same sex marriage [a contradiction in terms that manifestly harms family as social foundation and puts our civilisation in the same category as Sodom and Gomorrah]. 

With a crucial election coming up, and with the Democrats being in effect the natural majority party in the USA, developments affecting her candidacy are a significant trend and indicator of the signs of our times.

Against that backdrop, Neil Cavuto (of Fox News) is reporting that Fox's sources indicate a possible broadening of the Hillary Clinton emails abuse  scandal probe to include questions on possible corruption through exploitation of access by donors.


For a quick backgrounder on the email scandal -- it is now well known that Mrs Clinton installed a private and inadequately secure server in her home and improperly used it to carry out official business, cf here:

This has been coming for months, here is Judge Napolitano in September -- and notice that a key figure in this investigation is a leader of the investigation that led to the conviction of Gen Petraeus in connexion with Internet security violations connected to a love affair:

WSJ's summary and the curiously subdued approach of Wikipedia are illuminating.

In a related development, Huma Abedin, daughter of significant Islamist activists -- e.g. her parents founded and have run the Journal of Muslim Minority affairs which is connected to the settlement-jihad strategy [and which published Sultana Afroz's deeply questionable slaves and Maroons were Muslim Caribbean history thesis] -- and an extremely close aide, is also being probed:
The State Department has agreed to process for public release an archive of 29,000 pages of emails longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin sent or received on a private account while working as deputy chief of staff to Clinton from 2009 to 2013.

Abedin turned over the collection of emails to State last year at the agency's request following the controversy over the disclosure of Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account while secretary of state . . . . a legal filing Monday in a lawsuit brought by the conservative group Judicial Watch indicated State has acceded to a request to process all the emails Abedin turned over, except for news articles and summaries.

"The parties have agreed that State will produce to Judicial Watch responsive, nonexempt records from within the recently received documents, excluding news clippings/briefings contained therein," said the court filing (posted here).
We need to monitor. END

PS: Poll trends, from IBD:


Monday, January 04, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 281: Stocks nosedive Jan 4, 2016

WSJ reports -- as red headlined on Drudge:

The article continues, in a context that China is the no. 2 global economy so has big impact:
Weaker-than-expected manufacturing data and a falling currency triggered a 7% fall in mainland Chinese stocks that led authorities to halt trading there for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, rising tensions in the Middle East added to bearish sentiment across markets and sparked volatile trading in oil, offering a further glimpse of the themes investors say are likely to influence markets this year.

Futures markets pointed to a 1.8% opening loss for the S&P 500. Changes in futures aren’t necessarily reflected in market moves after the opening bell

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 2.8% midway through the session, led by a 4.3% drop in Germany’s exporter-heavy DAX index . . .
Sky news is tracking:

Let us take due note but let us not be troubled. END