Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Western Central Bank assault on freedom and Dostoyevsky’s reply: Money is coined freedom!

Wolf Richter writes

In Denmark, a new law was proposed that would allow shops to refuse cash payments. Officially, it’s to reduce the “administrative and financial burdens” of handling cash. Since it’s up to the shop to decide, the law sounds innocuous. But it would be another step to making money a purely electronic entity that can be seamlessly tracked anywhere. It would also be another step in granting the central bank the absolute power to inflict confiscatory monetary policies on any entity or person with money in the bank.

Lars Feld argues in the Frankfurter Allgemeine with a nod to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s famous quote, “Money is coined freedom.” Feld put it this way: “Cash is coined freedom.”

Feld also criticized those who argue for a similar law in Germany for having “apparently neglected the constitutional aspects of this proposal.” Not that they couldn’t be ruled away by the courts, but for now, the constitution – and not only in Germany – would still be a roadblock.

And there was another problem: Cash enables individual citizens to “escape the reach of the state” when their intentions are not legitimate, including moonlighting, which has the illegal dimension of tax evasion, he said. “But moonlighting is often for those affected the only chance to earn a livelihood at all.”

So deprive them even of that?

Cash is one of the few ways to escape for a tiny moment the powerful octopus arms of our seamless, borderless surveillance society. And it is one of the last, if feeble, checks on the absolute power of central banks. And it represents an aspect of “freedom,” as Feld put it. Hence the by now overt war on cash. Cash simply must cease to exist.


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The Tories Won the Vote, but They’re Losing Britain

Gary Younge writes

In the end, the only reliable poll in the United Kingdom’s recent elections was the one that people cast at the ballot box. The surveys leading up to the election all suggested a close race, with the two main parties, Labour and the Conservatives, finishing within a few percentage points. The outcome seemed certain to be a coalition government. Indeed, with the exception of Scotland, the campaigns had been so dull that the most interesting thing about the whole process promised to be the horse trading in its immediate aftermath.

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Death sentence passed on Egypt’s legitimate President Morsi, for a misdemeanour

Morsi has already been condemned to 20 years hard labour on 20th April, for which there was no basis in fact or law.

The illegality of Morsi’s original arrest, was confirmed in the Mekameleen leaks. Conversations between General Mamdouh Shahin, the legal advisor to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Sisi’s office manager Abbas Kamel, and Sisi himself, demonstrated without any shadow of doubt that the charges against Morsi were trumped up.Despite these revelations, the trial and the sentencing of Morsi went ahead.

So, why the additional new death sentence? Amnesty calls this trial, along with more than 100 others, ‘charade trials’. Morsi is accused of a jail break from Wadi al-Natroun prison on 30th January 2011, during the Egyptian revolution against Mubarak, when prison officers sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood let him and a number of his colleagues go. The offence, under Egyptian law, is a misdemeanour (Arabic: ‘gunha’), it doesn’t carry a sentence even of an extension in the jail term – let alone a sentence of death.

The failure of the call to mass rallies on 6th February by Sisi’s media and the subsequent failure of the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on 13th March to bring in the enormous amounts of money the country needs has driven Sisi’s régime into a corner. Morsi’s execution Sisi knows would send the Middle-East’s largest country into melt-down. The death sentence is supposed to be a simple act of blackmail. However, all it will do is speed up his demise.

QE at the edge of the cliff?

Taken from David Stockman and Jeff Snider

US manufacturing output growth has stalled since November, and we are  in month 70 of the fake “recovery”. It is 7-1/2 years since the pre-crisis peak, but  at its current plateau, today’s  April number for manufacturing production represents a miserable 0.33% annual rate of growth since December 2007.

Inventory has piled up, and given the recovery cycle is long in the tooth, and there is no trend recovery of manufacturing production, there is little hope it will be used. Exports are faltering, the oilfield boom is over, and the inventory-to-sales charts spell fire-sale “liquidation”.


In the seven-years after the mid-2000 peak, industrial production grew at a 1.7% CAGR—-or at 5 times the rate achieving in the current cycle, while in the ten-years after the 1990 peak, the annual rate of growth was 4.6%. That’s how recoveries performed before QE rammed the economy into the corner of maximum debt.


The recent crazy monetary policy is doing nothing for the real economy.

In this recent quarter total services spending amounted to $7.352 trillion in constant 2009 dollars, but more than $4 trillion of that was accounted for by health care and housing and utilities. But health care is a function of fiscal spending, not the Fed’s QE. Meanwhile, the majority of the $2 trillion spent on housing and utilities represents the “imputed spending” number that  the Commerce Department works out, in other words makes up, for the 75 million homeowners of America. Again the Fed’s QE has no impact here, and certainly not in terms of the vaunted “wealth effects” that the Fed maintains is the conduit for its policies into the real economy.

Just think about it: QE has ballooned the fed’s balance sheet fivefold from $900billion to $4.5 trillion. Meanwhile, the massive services component of GDP has grown from $6.684 trillion in Q4 2007 to $7.352 trillion in the quarter just ended. That’s only a gain of $670 billion and represents a compound annual growth rate of 1.4%, of which $485 billion , or nearly 75%, was down to health care and housing.

The only thing QE did was to stimulate the greatest stock market bubble in history, driving corporate executives to tap the credit markets at virtually no cost because of ZIRP, to the extent of more than $2 trillion in this “recovery” cycle alone—- to buy back their stock. It also becomes self-feeding as stock prices feed into stock options, and the gains to the pockets of the executives create a mystical aura, which convinces them that “escape velocity” must have been reached and leading them to pile up inventories and hire staff.

This is what Snider describes as the effect of the Blue Chip Economic Survey and the call by almost all economists that last year’s bad news was an aberration and that “the sun was going to rise”. This appealed to the “repression fatigue” in businessmen, but it wouldn’t the first time they will have been wrong. The consumer, rammed up again his own corner of the debt space, isn’t going to be able to budge.

Five months worth of falling wholesale sales and soaring business inventories are evidence that a problem lies around the corner. In effect, QE and the talk surrounding it has created unwarranted confidence, while the floor under the market has gradually been eaten away.

Corporatocracy overreaching is re-igniting democracy

Don Quijones writes

Not everything seems to be going according to script for the self-anointed architects of the new global order. For years lobbyists and representatives of the world’s largest corporations and banks have been meeting with government trade negotiators from Europe, North America and Asia to patch together what could soon be the world’s two biggest ever “trade” deals, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The problem is that as more and more people learn about them, public opposition continues to grow — and with good reason.

If signed, these new deals will enshrine into international law a new system of semi-global, technocratic governance for the exclusive benefit of the world’s largest, richest multinational corporations and private investors. What’s more, in the eternal words of the U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman, once they are passed, agreements like TTIP will become “the global benchmark for standards in a globalized world.”

For the world’s uber-class of super wealthy individuals and corporations, this is great news.

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Bedouin village razed 83 times must pay $500,000 for demolitions, Israel says

Bedouin Village razed 83 times


The unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Araqib was in court Wednesday, where the state of Israel argued the southern desert town must pay $500,000 [2 million Israeli Shekels] to cover the cost of demolitions, and more than 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction. Since 2010 al-Araqib has been razed to the ground 83 times, more than any other locality in Israel.

In Israel around half of the Bedouin population, 90,000 Arab-Palestinians herders, live in towns the state does not view as legitimate. Without “recognition,” these villages are pre-approved for demolition. In al-Araqib’s case additional legal battles over land ownership prompted Israel to issue the entire desert hamlet the mass eviction order. The state claims it legally expropriated the territory using Ottoman code still on the books during the 1950s. Al-Araqib’s residents still have copies of their old deeds and say they are valid and up to date.

While individual owners have been charged with the cost of demolishing a home in the past, this is the first case in Israel’s history where an entire town was told it must pay for its destruction. In instances when Israel demolished settlements, outposts the state viewed as illegally construction in the West Bank, those Jewish-Israeli towns were never later given a bill.

“[Jewish] Israelis were never sued before for the cost of these demolitions,” Khaled Sawalhi, an attorney representing al-Araqib, told me. Sawalhi has tried dozens of demolitions cases throughout his career. He underscored al-Araqib is unique in that could set a costly precedent for 45 other unrecognized villages facing demolition where land ownership is contested.

Israel has demolished more than 27,000 homes in the occupied Palestinian territory since its occupation began in 1967. When the state demanded Palestinians pay for the razing of the structures, the Civil Administration or the city of Jerusalem set the fees. In al-Araqib’s case, the fee is being demanded by the Israeli Lands Administration, a government agency that oversees state owned plots, and that is the plaintiff in a petition filed by the village.

“There is no justice in the way the state is handling it. We have proof that this land is theirs and that it is private property,” Sawalhi said.

After more demolitions than any other village in Israel, and rebuilding their homes just as many times, al-Araqib’s residents are now cramped in tents between gravestones. Since the demolitions began more than a decade ago, residents have moved into the town’s cemetery. Villagers do not see resting next to a headstone as morbid; camping is regarded as a creative measure to pose a challenge to Israel’s frequent demolitions.

“I hope that Ayman Odeh [a leading politician and head of the Joint Arab List] will do something,” al-Araqib resident Aziz Abu Madegam, 41, told Mondoweiss, lamenting, “I don’t believe that in this government he can change Israel’s politics.”

Abu Madegam was born and raised in al-Araqib and is one of the town’s most prominent activists against the demolitions. He lives in a small tent in the graveyard with his wife and six children. They own a car, and sometimes Abu Madegam sleeps there when the weather turns cold and rainy. His youngest son, age three, is named al-Araqib after the village. “He was born at the same time, the same minute that they [Israel] demolished al-Araqib,” Abu Madegam said.

Aside from the demolitions Abu Madegam’s family is constantly entangled in legal woes. The state dropped criminal charges against Abu Madegam’s father for “forcibly taking control” of al-Araqib’s land “failing to obey orders to leave the land,” last February.

In a separate case pressed by the Israeli Lands Administration, Abu Madegam is one of ten al-Araqib residents charged with a combined $1,300 [5,000 NIS] in daily fines. Those damages are for “arona,” or back rental fees in which the state has demanded payment even though the question of who owns the land has been locked up in court for years. Al-Araqib’s residents see these battles as attempts by Israel to drive them off of their land permanently.

Abu Madegam will be back in court this fall in late September– when the $500,000 penalty trial opens.

The Problems with Amnesty International’s Reports on Gaza

Paul de Rooij writes

Amnesty International has issued four reports on the Massacre in Gaza in 2014 [1]. Given the scale of the destruction and the number of fatalities, any attempt to document the crimes committed should be welcomed. But these reports are problematic, and raise questions about this organization [2], including why they were written at all. It also raises questions about the broader human rights industry that are worth considering.

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Breaking the Silence – GAZA 2014

May 3, 2015

Press Release: This is How We Fought in Gaza 2014

This is How We Fought in Gaza 2014- Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation “Protective Edge”

Today, May 4th, 2015, “Breaking the Silence,” an organization of Israeli soldiers, is releasing testimonies from over 60 officers and soldiers who took part in Operation “Protective Edge” in Gaza during the summer of 2014. These testimonies paint a disturbing picture of the IDF’s policy of indiscriminate fire, which directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.

The testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence paint a troubling picture of a drastic change in the IDF’s combat norms. The IDF’s guiding values such as the “Purity of Arms” principle —which mandates that soldiers use the minimum amount of force necessary and “maintain their humanity even in combat”— were devalued and even discarded by the IDF itself.

The rules of engagement relayed to the soldiers were the most permissive Breaking the Silence has ever heard.


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Why Things Are Going to Get Much Worse in the Arab World Before They Get Better

This last Wednesday 29th April Saud al-Faisal was retired from his 40 year tenure as foreign minister which started, oddly, five days after his father King Faisal was murdered on 25th March 1975 by his nephew, Faisal bin Musaid. Whoever let the young man into the King’s “open house” session with a gun obviously wanted him dead. Since 1933, the US and the Saudi royal family had been joined at the hip with their Aramco deal – a deal on which the Empire was subsequently built, and which had saved it from British and French machinations to control all the oil fields of the Middle-East, trying to exclude America from the region.

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