Post by only2percent on Sept 9, 2011 21:50:01 GMT -5
Debt crisis Author: Günther Lachmann | 06.09.2011 Video reveals the hidden goals of euro rescue
ESM = European Stability Mechanism
"In the video, the following points from the preliminary draft Treaty ESM are discussed:
- The ESM is to get a share capital of 700 billion €. That's twice as much as the entire federal budget this year.
- The ESM members say "irrevocably and unconditionally to" a payment requirements "within 7 (seven) days" to comply.
- The Board of Governors may decide to change the share capital.
- The ESM, his property, his financial assets and enjoy full judicial immunity.
- The property, funds and assets of the ESM are "exempt from access through search, seizure, forfeiture, expropriation and any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by government action or a judicial, administrative or legislative action." ... "
Post by only2percent on Sept 11, 2011 13:38:39 GMT -5
Hunt On for New Safe Havens After Swiss Act By Reuters Thursday, September 08, 2011
LONDON (Reuters)—The search is on for new investment "safe havens" following Switzerland's blocking off of its franc, diverting flows into less traditional assets that may already be too expensive.
The Norwegian crown, the Australian dollar and emerging market debt are all in the frame for increased investor attention as one of their favorites has at least temporarily been blocked off. This is in addition to the traditional harbors such as gold and U.S. Treasuries, which are at or near record prices.
The Swiss National Bank shocked markets this week by setting a target for the franc against the euro that it would defend, drawing a line on how much it would allow the currency to appreciate and losing investors nearly 9 percent in one fell swoop. It underlined the precept that there really is no such thing as a safe haven in investing outside cash, given that heavy flows drive up prices and set assets up for a correction, prompted by authorities or not.
But like water in a disrupted river, the Swiss move—and lesser attempts by the Bank of Japan to defend the yen for similar reasons—means money will flow elsewhere.
Lena Komileva, global head of G10 strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, reckons it will exacerbate a search for non-traditional havens. Among these are the Norwegian crown and Australian dollar both of which have been popular for some time because of preferable interest rates but which also now have some claim to safe haven status because they have maintained a distance from some of the crises hitting the rest of the world.
"They provide a viable hedge to the cyclical and strategic risk that the markets will be pricing," Ms. Komileva said.
It is already happening. Since the Swiss move on Tuesday [Sept. 6], the euro has tumbled as much as 3 percent to an eight-year low against the Norwegian crown, although it has recovered a bit.
The Australian dollar, meanwhile, is attractive because Chinese and other Asian demand for the country's commodities has kept its economy relatively buoyant. But both have their risks.
Norway protects itself from currency appreciation in part by overseas investment, but its central bank governor has already warned investors that it could take steps to make the currency less attractive if it rises too high.
"We don't have a zero rate, which means we have the freedom to move both ways," he told Reuters. "Should the pressure become too big one way or the other, the interest rate is our weapon."
The limited liquidity of the crown also threatens large losses for investors trying to exit should the investment mood suddenly turn.
The Australian dollar suffers from the same problem that traditional safe havens do: it is already expensive. On a trade-weighted basis -- that is, essentially, against a basket of currencies -- the Aussie has risen 11.5 percent since the beginning of 2011. Financial services firm State Street calculates that out of 22 global currencies, the Australian dollar is the fifth most expensive.
That suggests investors buying now won't be getting much benefit and may get hurt by a sudden reversal.
Perhaps the most unlikely new safe haven—given history—is emerging market debt.
Far from being seen as risky and vulnerable, local currency paper in countries whose economies were once highly suspect are now seen in many cases as paragons of fiscal virtue, primarily because of their surpluses.
Many of their currencies are also seen rising against those in the moribund West, with its low growth and low interest rates.
"EM local bonds are still the darling of international investors," said Gyula Toth, an analyst at Unicredit, noting the jump in Hungarian paper that followed the Swiss move.
Again, however, the problem for investors heading that way is that it is a crowded trade, JPMorgan's local-currency bond index has risen almost solidly since 2007, gaining around 55 percent over the period. It is up more than 8.5 percent since a low in February.
There is also the issue of which emerging markets might be the safest.
Thanos Papasavvas, head of currency management at Investec Asset Management, says diversity is essential if EM is to be considered a safety play. He favors a mix of Chile, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea and India.
It is indeed a new world for safe havens.
By Jeremy Gaunt, with additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu, Nia Williams and Carolyn Cohn
Post by only2percent on Sept 14, 2011 0:47:51 GMT -5
By now you know "whodunit". In this article they keep pushing the lies of OBL and 19 boxcutters upon you. Nevertheless, the subject, touched here is important. Of course, they will use this campaign to destroy even more records, implicating them. Let's try to end "this crap" peacefully, in an orderly manner.
September 13th, 2011 Freedom Not Fear: Ending A Decade Long Legacy of International Privacy Erosion Commentary by Katitza Rodriguez
This Saturday, September 17th, concerned European citizens with the Freedom not Fear movement have decided to take their protest to the capital of the European Union, Brussels. Their slogan: Stop the surveillance mania! For five years in a row, the Freedom Not Fear movement has taken to the streets in several cities in Europe and beyond to demand an end to suspicion-less surveillance measures. These include mandatory data retention laws and other reactionary surveillance measures that have been justified by the rhetoric of fear. Their protest efforts have been among the most meaningful demonstrations for this cause. Previously, Freedom not Fear protests were spread out across various European towns. For the first time, protesters from throughout Europe are descending on Brussels to directly confront the European Union’s policies at its headquarters.
Last week, protests were also organized in Desdren, Vienna, and Berlin. With motto such as: “Privacy is not a crime”, “mass surveillance threatens an open society”, “mountains of data compromise our security”, thousands of people took the streets of Berlin to protest the surveillance of air travelers and to stop any attempt to re-introduce a German mandatory data retention law. A coalition of German activists is also urging fellow citizens to sign a petition against data retention. Its ultimate goal is to persuade the German government to fight for the repeal of the overall European Data Retention Directive.
As the world reflects on the decade following September 11th, Freedom not Fear protesters are attempting to reverse the unfortunate post-911 legacy of online anti-privacy measures. In the wake of 9/11, international government responses had significant impact on Internet privacy. The “war on terror” rhetoric enabled one of the most effective international policy laundering campaigns to quickly enact unpopular and often covert policies with minimal fanfare. Within forty five days of 9/11, then-president George W. Bush already sent his much wanted surveillance wish-list to the European Union. In a letter to the European Commission President in Brussels, the United States sets out a blueprint for privacy erosions the EU could undertake that have sacrificed privacy for little gain in the struggle against terrorism.
The letter called on the EU to eliminate existing privacy protections so that online companies would be free to retain their customer’s online activities: “[r]evise draft privacy directives that call for mandatory destruction to permit the retention of critical data for a reasonable period.” What did this proposed revision mean? One of the key European privacy protections is the data minimization principle. This provision compels companies to limit their collection of personal information to a specific purpose [e.g., billing], and keep their data for only a specific period of time before destroying or irreversibly anonymizing it. This helps prevent online companies from developing sweeping databases on their customers’ activities, while the U.S. Government wished to encourage retention of everyone’s data, whether innocent or not, so investigators will have access to it. The impact of 9/11 on deliberations at the EU was evident at the time:
"We think this new version of the directive sends a powerful signal and it responds to the events of Sept. 11," said a European Union diplomat involved in the Wednesday meeting who insisted on anonymity. "Since that date there has been a reappraisal of the issue of data retention."
These initial U.S. efforts to facilitate a permissive data retention regime evolved to something worse: a mandatory Data Retention Directive adopted by the EU in 2006. Mandatory data retention is an extreme measure that the U.S. government has perennially tried--and failed--to pass through Congress. It was reintroduced by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee once again this year, in a bill that will require any commercial providers of Internet access to keep for at least 12 months a record of which users were assigned to particular network addresses at particular times.
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we should reflect on the way in which a climate of fear has been exploited to advance Bush’s controversial proposals into international policy and practices. The fear of 'imminent threats' has made rational assessments aimed at achieving actual security and privacy difficult. Ten years later, the rhetoric of threats continues to pervade the dialogue.
As James Bamford said, in his recent op-ed, Post-9/11, “somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide.” Bamford is right, but the problem isn't limited to the U.S. In many countries around the world ordinary people morphed into potential criminals and governments took free reign to invade their privacy. If we allow the tragic attacks of 9/11 to create a cloud of fear, confusion and paranoia, we give in to the terrorists, and threaten the very freedoms that make open societies great. Freedom not Fear’s bold march into Brussels and across the European Union brings hope that the political climate is shifting and that we can re-establish our privacy rights and the principle of data minimization in the face of a decade’s worth of massive civil liberties breaches.
Post by only2percent on Sept 16, 2011 3:05:40 GMT -5
Winding down the "9/11 crap".
Guy Who Created The TSA Says It's Failed, And It's Time To Dismantle It from the say-that-again dept by Mike Masnick Wed, Sep 14th 2011
One of the politicians instrumental in creating the TSA, Rep. John Mica, who wrote the legislation that established the TSA, has apparently decided that the whole thing has been a failure and should be dismantled. He notes that "the whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats."
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”
As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”
“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said.
“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.
It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said.
“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
There's a lot more at that link. Now, one could (and perhaps should) note that when Mica wrote the legislation, his particular political party was in power, and now it's not. So the cynical voice might say that his words are somewhat politically motivated. And one can (and probably should) ask how it was that Mica didn't expect this kind of result. This is what the government does. It creates agencies that are then "hijacked by bureaucrats." While it's nice to see him realizing this now, it's too bad he didn't see it back then.
Post by only2percent on Sept 16, 2011 12:33:28 GMT -5
Unelected, Unaccountable, Unrepentant: The Federal Reserve Is Using Your Money To Bail Out European Commercial Banks Once Again by Michael
The Federal Reserve
For a moment, imagine that there is a privately-owned organization in the United States that can create U.S. dollars out of thin air whenever it wants and can loan that money to whoever it wants to. Imagine that this organization is able to act with the full power of the U.S. government behind it, but that nobody in the organization is ever elected by the American people, and that for all practical purposes the organization is not accountable to the president or to Congress. Imagine that the organization is able to make trillions of dollars of secret loans to banks, to foreign governments and even to their close friends without ever having to face a comprehensive audit. Does that sound preposterous? Well, such an organization actually exists. It is called the Federal Reserve, and today we found out that once again the Fed is going to be taking huge piles of your money and loaning it to commercial banks in Europe. The Congress cannot overrule this decision. Neither can Barack Obama. Because it has so much power, many refer to the Federal Reserve as "the fourth branch of government", but unlike the other three branches of government, there are basically no significant "checks and balances" on the Federal Reserve. If you don't like the fact that the Federal Reserve is racing in to help big foreign banks survive the European debt crisis that is just too bad. The Federal Reserve pretty much gets to do whatever it wants to do, and the folks over at the Fed simply do not care whether you like that or not.
So what in the world just happened today? The following is how an article on CNBC explained it....
Just ahead of the Wall Street open Thursday, the European Central Bank, along with the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank announced they would offer three-month dollar loans to Europe's commercial banks, easing dollar funding constraints.
It must be nice to do whatever you want without having to get the approval of anyone else.
What do you think Barack Obama would give for such power right about now?
The Federal Reserve and other major central banks around the world decided that lending big European banks gigantic piles of dollars would be a good idea, so they are just doing it.
No debate, no votes and no democracy - they just tell us how things are going to be and that is that.
It is a bit ironic that all of this happened on the third anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It is almost as if the central bankers of the world are trying to send some sort of a message.
The deal announced yesterday means banks will be able to borrow ‘any amount’ of money in three separate auctions in October, November and December. Banks will have to put up collateral, or security, to tap the emergency funds.
Wow - I wish someone would offer to lend me an "unlimited" amount of money.
But of course this really is not going to solve anything in the long run. You can't solve a raging debt problem with more debt.
Yes, it will help the big European banks with their short-term liquidity problems, but it will do nothing to fix the long-term structural problems that are tearing Europe to pieces.
"They're taking care of the symptoms, but the underlying illness is still out there. On the margin, it's positive. Until Greece defaults and we clear this whole thing up, they're still treading water"
So, no, the financial problems of Europe have not been solved.
Just think of this latest move as a temporary band-aid.
So why get upset about it?
Well, what all of this shows is just how arrogant the Federal Reserve is.
The Federal Reserve gets to throw around trillions of dollars without any accountability to the American people.
As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve made $16.1 trillion in secret loans to their friends during the last financial crisis.
This was revealed in a GAO report, and members of Congress such as Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders tried to get people to pay attention to this. The following is a statement about this report that was taken from the official website of Senator Sanders....
"As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world"
So how much of that money went overseas? Well, it turns out that approximately $3.08 trillion of that money was loaned to big banks and major financial institutions in Europe and Asia.
Barack Obama can't lend trillions of dollars to foreign banks.
So why does the Federal Reserve get to do it?
Sadly, most Americans know very little about the Federal Reserve. In the United States today, most Americans graduate from high school without ever learning much of anything about the Fed.
But if you really want to understand what is going on with our economy, it is absolutely critical that you understand the Federal Reserve.
The following are some more reasons why you should be upset about what the Federal Reserve has been doing....
*The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine. Today, the U.S. national debt is 4700 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.
*The Federal Reserve has recently been actually paying banks not to make loans. Right now banks can park money at the Federal Reserve and make risk-free income without having to make loans to the American people.
*Current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a track record of failure that is legendary, and yet George W. Bush and Barack Obama both backed him 100%.
*The Federal Reserve system is designed to create inflation. The truth is that the United States has only had a persistent, ongoing problem with inflation since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.
*Since 2008, what the Federal Reserve has been doing to our money supply has been absolutely insane. Eventually this is going to have very serious consequences for us.
*The U.S. government has handed over the task of "centrally planning" our economy to the Federal Reserve. The Fed decides what the target rate of inflation should be, what the target rate of unemployment should be, what interest rates are going to be and what the size of the money supply is going to be. This is quite similar to the "central planning" that goes on in communist nations, but very few people in our government seem upset by this.
*The Federal Reserve picks "winners" and "losers" in the financial system. For example, when the last financial crisis hit, the Fed bent over backwards to help out the big Wall Street banks, but hordes of small banks were left out in the cold.
*As mentioned above, the Federal Reserve has become way, way too powerful. The Fed is able to do a lot of things that the three branches of government are simply not able to do. Fortunately, there are a few of our leaders that are alarmed by this. For example, Ron Paul once told MSNBC that he believes that the Federal Reserve is now more powerful than Congress.....
"The regulations should be on the Federal Reserve. We should have transparency of the Federal Reserve. They can create trillions of dollars to bail out their friends, and we don’t even have any transparency of this. They’re more powerful than the Congress."
As long as we continue to use a debt-based currency that is controlled by a privately-owned central bank, we are going to continue to have permanent inflation and government debt that expands at an exponential pace.
The "central planning" done by the Federal Reserve has created bubble after bubble after bubble. Our dollars is on the verge of dying and our financial system is about to collapse.
The Federal Reserve system simply does not work.
Hopefully we can start sending more politicians to Washington D.C. that will be willing to stand up to the Federal Reserve.
But for now, the Federal Reserve is going to keep running around doing whatever it wants to do whether we like it or not.
Post by only2percent on Sept 18, 2011 21:39:43 GMT -5
I like their euphemisms: "Maybe" is new "No!". Sarcasm, European style.
Colorful phrases instead of real solutions
Politicians are increasingly demanding the United States of Europe, can open, but what should be the
Vs. USA? In the United States of America, there is no revenue sharing between the states. Image: vario
Although the euro crisis leads to more and more Germans to a weariness to the European Union in general, many politicians seem to recognize this fact and demand more, not less Europe.
It almost seems as if it were here for the remedy against the euro crisis, because politicians are increasingly calling for the United States of Europe. Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) have shown the United States of Europe as a way out of crisis. Von der Leyen, however, is the only detail and stressed that they wanted to keep the "life-like design in the countries and regions," "but in important financial, tax and economic policy issues the size advantage of Europe" wants to use. Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, is still holding back: "I use for myself prefer the notion of 'political union'," Merkel said. It already expressed some opposition politicians have a positive idea for the United States of Europe. The only question is what the proponents of this idea to aim accurately. For even now the EU is in terms of financial relations, and to be dealt with at the Euro-rescue, especially so much more clearly than the intended model: the United States of America. While Europe that is already in the middle of the transfer union is liable and the richer EU countries, already among the poorer, the U.S. federal government not liable for the debts of individual states. In general, there are no revenue sharing between the states. Washington and the states even collect taxes independently. However, here the bankruptcy of a state is not permitted by law, what is interesting, as Illinois and California are already on the verge of bankruptcy. And most other states, it is no better. Washington could theoretically but in case of impending insolvency give money, but may then make sure the budget of the state under his administration. But this is pure theory, because the U.S. government, which is up to its neck in debt, is no model in terms of indebtedness determined for the states and also has own problems, their constant hunger for more and more loans to breast-feeding. The only question is if the U.S. is not the model for the United States of Europe is, what exactly aiming for those politicians who call lately more and more often to the United States of Europe? The fact is that the associations with the United States at present due to the U.S. prototype in Germany are more positive still. Viewed from afar from the German, amazingly, the U.S. is apparently still for unity and prosperity. Historically, however, they have nothing to do with the "old" to do Europe, especially since the Americans also united by their own language, of which the States of the European Union, with its officially 23 official languages and over 60 regional and minority languages are far away. The United States of Europe obviously serve as a kind of tranquilizer. Given the increasingly desperate situation of € looser crisis to the United States of Europe serve as a lifeline in times of need. With much pathos, they are presented as a solution, even if no one knows exactly what the United States of Europe really should be. But especially the nebulous that surrounds this term seems to view him from so many politicians seem to give exactly the needed aura of the current crisis can only help. So the United States of Europe as a miracle cure? The former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, sees the need for the United States of Europe, however, quite objectively. "In my estimation, that would be based only after a referendum on a new constitution, Article 146 of the Basic Law, conceivable," says the 68-year-old lawyer. In addition, he talking about the United States of Europe seems premature. He is not sure whether, in light of political and social conditions would be the right step at this time. In the end, so could an anti-Europeanism can be transported, as in some other EU Member States was already the case. "I refer only to the party, The True Finns'." Also, would the creation of a European federal state clearly at the expense of democratic participation, "because democracy would suffer," warns paper. "Do you know your Member of the European Parliament? I'm not a romantic, but democracy works better in smaller units, "said the 2010 Constitution was put into retirement a judge. Rebecca Bellano
Post by only2percent on Sept 19, 2011 16:07:59 GMT -5
Their game is changing. Oil sands ...? Had they made us a part in the game?
Oil Release a Game-Changer Despite Price Bounce By Reuters Friday, September 16, 2011
NEW YORK (Reuters)—It might not sound like much of a victory. The United States and other oil-consuming countries release emergency stocks of oil to put a lid on prices. The result: crude prices in London rise by $1 since the program began, three months ago.
But many oil experts say the strategic releases — just the third-ever by a group of consumer countries — were a major success. Not only did they likely avert a further rise in oil prices during the peak U.S. driving season, but they set a precedent for consuming countries to keep bullish oil speculators in check.
"The releases completely changed the psychology of the oil market," said Amy Jaffe, an energy policy expert at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston. "The move worked, as it has in the past, because speculators now have to worry that extra oil may come if prices reach a certain level. It showed they are willing to use the strategic reserves."
The program to release 60 million barrels by the 28-nation International Energy Agency, which formally ended on Thursday [Sept. 15], was first announced on June 23, when it set off an immediate drop of $7 a barrel in Brent crude prices.
The program, led by the U.S. government, was controversial, with lots of oil market players deriding it as a political move to appease testy consumers, after U.S. gasoline prices rose to near $4 a gallon in May.
IEA's extra oil supplies may have helped accelerate a 22 percent slide in U.S. oil prices from 30-month highs near $115 in early May. U.S. crude traded below $90 on Friday [Sept. 16].
While European benchmark Brent crude has bounced back to its June price levels, it has not come anywhere near a high of $127 a barrel reached in April — a price some economists warned could tip major economies back into recession.
The IEA releases came in response to surging oil prices and supply disruptions in war-torn Libya. As Libya starts to resume output following the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi's regime, the IEA says it sees no need to release more oil for now.
Although the United States imports little Libyan oil, it contributed more than half of the strategic oil released, in a sharp departure from Bush administration policy, which abhorred using the 727 million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve for anything but a major war or hurricane. The Bush administration, for instance, never tapped SPR crude when the oil sector of Venezuela, a top U.S. supplier that pumps more crude than Libya, was crippled in late 2002 and early 2003 by a strike.
The IEA also coordinated closely with Saudi Arabia, which has lifted its own output by some 900,000 barrels a day since May, according to Gulf sources.
"It's pretty clear that things would have been worse without the releases," said Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. "The supplies freed up oil that would have moved to the United States Northeast, instead sending it to Europe or Asia."
To be sure, economic malaise has also contributed to cooling oil prices, as U.S. job growth stalled in August, manufacturing slowed worldwide, and Europe's economies faced debt crises.
The IEA's extra oil was less than a day's worth of global supply, and less than a fourth of the crude that Libya stopped producing since February. The country's normal 1.6 million barrels a day (bpd) ground to a halt during a civil war, with most experts expecting it to take a year or more to recover.
Analysts say the economic downturn could have been even worse without additional supplies.
"The SPR releases did help since prices would have been higher without them," said Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Geneva.
Even with the releases, U.S. crude stocks fell last week to their lowest levels since February. Without the 30.6 million barrels in SPR oil, inventories would have slipped below their five-year average level for the first time since late 2008, Energy Department data shows.
(To see a chart of U.S. commercial crude inventories, click here.)
U.S. average retail gasoline prices, which rose to $3.91 a gallon in early May, have receded to around $3.63 a gallon. But U.S. gasoline demand has not recovered. Motorists this summer used the least fuel since 2003.
The IEA releases also came over a period of growing global supply tightness. The world's light oil output has stalled due to maintenance in the North Sea, and Nigerian disruptions.
Goldman Sachs said this week that the end of the IEA releases may usher in higher oil prices, forecasting Brent at $130 a barrel in 2012, or $16 above current levels. Others, however, say the recent intervention will give oil bulls reason to think twice.
"Speculators now know they can't just bet on prices rising with impunity," Ms. Jaffe said.
Post by only2percent on Sept 20, 2011 21:35:13 GMT -5
"The EU wants to solve the problems caused by centralisation by further centralisation" from Open Europe blog by email@example.com (Open Europe blog team)
If you think that Europe's toughest economic hawks sit in Frankfurt or dwell within Ifo - the flagship German econmic institute - think again. In fact, the German hawks have nothing on some economists and politicians in Slovakia - the tiger of Central Europe.
Peter Gonda, an economist at the Conservative Institute of M. R. Štefánik and lecturer of economics at the Comenius University in Bratislava, wrote today:
"The euro rests on an inappropriate understanding of EU integration. The common market requires real competition and the absence of barriers to free exchange. Not centrally managed harmonisation of terms and a common currency. The irony is that the EU wants to solve the problems caused by centralisation by further centralisation. The debt crisis in the Eurozone is an excuse to pursue fiscal and political union. The Slovakian parliament could reject the EFSF 2, which is an instrument for supporting moral hazard and fiscal irresponsibility at taxpayers’ expense. Slovakia should consider leaving the Eurozone or the EU altogether should the EU bring further problems in terms of freedom and prosperity for our country."
Post by only2percent on Sept 22, 2011 15:40:35 GMT -5
Submitted by Brandon Smith of Alt Market
The Redline: A Tale Of Collapse
Special Note: In this latest Alt-Market piece we try something a little different; short fiction based on fact. Make no mistake; while the characters and events in this story are products of imagination, the issues presented and their probable consequences are anything but fantasy. The message? What will you choose to be in the face of hardship and crisis; a mountain? An impassable obstacle to tyranny? Or, a silent and beaten passenger of the Redline?
Adam awoke to a distant murky warbling in the back of his mind, just beyond the sound of the wind and the gentle clap of cold rain against the vinyl tarp overhead. His fresh morning eyes stung as they met the chilled air within the tent. The thin fabric membrane rippled with the rush of the dreary weather outside and he curled into a ball, burying his head under the folds of his rather inadequate sleeping bag, attempting to stay warm. He wished he could remain there, just lay there within his cotton and nylon shelter forever, and never again step outside into the harsh world. If it weren’t for the love of his wife, Sarah, six months pregnant and hungry, he probably would have given up a long time ago.
She lay next to him blissfully still, her swollen belly rising and falling with her breath, the kind of rhythm that comes with deep and all encompassing dream. He loved her. Unbearably so. The thought of anything terrible happening to her frightened and enraged him. He had never felt so useless in his life, or so lost. Only a year ago he had everything; his prosperity was acquired, his destiny assured. He was in control of his future, or at least he thought he was. Homelessness and destitution was something that you heard about in passing, a fact of life for “other” people. Fifteen minutes of cable news a day had somehow convinced Adam of the otherworldly nature of catastrophe. The theater of disaster was meant to be observed from a distance, not actually experienced first hand. That was absurd! Who ever heard of affluent upper-middle-class people actually losing everything and being cast to the roaring tides of fate? It was something out of a movie. It wasn’t reality.
Of course, here he was, bankrupt, without a home, and unemployed. Unemployable, in fact. His banking background and mutual fund middle-management experience was virtually useless in a country that was in the midst of losing its entire financial structure, not to mention lacking any investment class to speak of. Such paper coated industry was truly an illusion, utterly dependent on the existence of easy capital often derived not from savings, but from debt. If only he had realized that months ago.
Adam pulled on his socks and leather boots, unzipped the tent, and stepped onto the moist grass and weeds at the doorway. Rows of cars, tents, and motor homes stretched across the open field before him. The patch of land near the edge of Highway 5 cutting through the Central Valley of California used to hold only a few dozen migrants. Now, it was a veritable tent city occupied by hundreds of people traveling the corridor north looking for work, or looking to stay with relatives still above water. The area was relatively peaceful, but with the growth of the camp, and the ever increasing poverty of its residents, problems were beginning to arise.
He once made the mistake of leaving his shoes outside the tent in order to avoid tracking in mud, which seemed to quickly spread over every surface until he and his wife found themselves sleeping in it. The concept of a sterile living environment was difficult to let go. A certain level of cleanliness was always possible, but never near what they used to expect in their long gone suburban castle.
The next day his shoes were gone. Such quiet pilfering was not commonplace yet, but the frequency of these kinds of crimes was more blatant now. People were becoming more desperate and taking greater risks. They were starting to abandon their principles more often, and trust was beginning to bleed out of the makeshift town. The ultimate dysfunction of the whole situation was rooted in the fact that most of these wayward travelers (some would call them refugees) sat around waiting for help instead of helping themselves. Rarely did anyone try to build anything of value. There was no neighborhood watch, no community garden, and very little organized trade, primarily because most of the tent city dwellers were still deluded enough to think the system would soon correct itself, and that there was no need to take such measures. Adam knew enough not to fall into that mental trap, but his inability to conceive of alternative ways of living, his 38 years of neo-American pro-collectivist conditioning, was sabotaging him at every turn. He simply had no experience in self reliance, and certainly not self sustainability. He saw the many troubles that lay ahead for the migrants, but practical solutions were beyond him.
Adam searched the surrounding grounds for kindling of any kind for a morning campfire, but the place had been picked clean. Newer residents, some of them either unintelligent or unconcerned, had started burning trash in their open fires. The noxious rubber and plastic fumes poured over the surrounding camps and people became sick. A group of original migrants, including himself, confronted the newcomers over the practice and an argument ensued, almost coming to blows. Luckily, the older migrants outnumbered the trash burners, and they finally relented, some leaving to start their own tent city a mile away. He chuckled at the thought. Many of the people in the large camp were there because they had not had much foresight, including himself, and now the most ignorant of them had separated to launch their own little tribe of super-imbeciles. How far can an amoeba self divide, he wondered…
On returning to his tent, he came again upon the sound that had woken him earlier. A middle-aged man, beginning to grey, and physically worn by a lack of proper nutrition, sat hunched over the steps of his RV in expensive loafers sobbing like a child. In the beginning, Adam felt disturbed by similar sights. Now, all he could think was “What the hell does that guy have to cry about!? He has a god d**ned RV! All I have is a useless tent and a car with almost no gas…” Adam hated that he was becoming callus. He hated that he was allowing the darkness of the world to corrode away his heart the way it did.
Later that week, he learned that the man had been robbed at knifepoint in the middle of the night. Two drifters made off with what little food he had left. One advantage of living out of a run down car and a patched up tent was the overt poverty of it. No one had ever pulled a knife on Adam. What could he possibly have to steal? Just the same, he was carefully arranging a deal with a gruff man named Samuel who lived out of a beastly truck at the far end of the tent city to trade an extra car battery for a small pistol. He was a former light aircraft mechanic on the way to Oregon to live on his brother’s farm. His battery’s lead oxide plates had corroded beyond resurrection, and his enormous hulking steam roller of a vehicle simply refused to turn over one day. He pushed the car a mile and a half by himself down I-5 until he came upon the migrant camp. That was 6 months ago and he had been there ever since.
One of Adam’s few preparations before leaving the Monterey Bay area for the north was to collect as many extra vital car parts as he could. He hadn’t counted on gas prices exploding to $16 a gallon from $8 a gallon in the span of only a few months. Looking back, more than one emergency gas-can would have been prudent. All the car parts in the world couldn’t save a man whose hopes rested on a quarter of a tank. Almost no one had extra fuel for trade, and few even had as much left as Adam did. He was constantly on guard for thieves with siphons. The pistol would hopefully act as a deterrent in the event that someone decided to get bold.
“I’ve never touched one of these things, Samuel. What do I do if I have to use it?” He asked begrudgingly, almost embarrassed to admit such a thing to the old man. Samuel didn’t blink. He knew Adam was a semi-reformed lemming.
“Don’t get fancy with it. Aim it right at the bastard’s guts and squeeze the trigger straight back. Don’t yank it. And don’t aim for his head. You’ll miss…”
Adam fumbled with a box of ammo trying to load the worn .38 revolver. His discomfort with the process of loading a gun was readily visible. Samuel mumbled with concern.
“Oh, and don’t bother with the safety. It’ll get you killed. You don’t have kids to worry about. Not yet anyway.”
The ripple of a small jet engine echoed overhead, and both men instinctively veered their eyes skyward. A menacing missile like craft with wings hovered, circled the encampment, and then flew away after a few short minutes. The sight was becoming more and more common. The use of predator drones within U.S. borders had been ongoing for a few years now. It started as a measure to secure the southwest, at least, that was what the government claimed. It didn’t take long for people to realize that the roving weapons were in no way being utilized to solidify the porous border. Instead, their use escalated to city and highway surveillance, supposedly in the name of quelling “terrorism”.
The world was, indeed, ready to burst. At first, Adam had rationalized aggressive federal actions as necessary in the face of expanding crisis. BRIC nations in a surprise joint statement a year ago had announced a widespread trade agreement similar to that which was implemented bilaterally by China and Russia in 2010. The U.S. dollar was no longer the primary mechanism for the exporting and importing of goods between developing economies. China and the ASEAN trading bloc moved quickly to distance themselves from all U.S. debt instruments, especially after the U.S. executed trade embargoes on Chinese goods in a bid to force a valuation of the Yuan. What Congress didn’t seem to understand (or pretended not to understand) was that the Chinese had planned all along to speed up Yuan appreciation. Inflation was ravaging their economy. Increasing bank reserves on several occasions did absolutely nothing to stem rising prices. Their only other option was to trigger a massive spike in the Yuan’s purchasing power before Chinese citizens began to revolt in response.
Chinese holdings of American dollars and treasuries were quickly dumped to ignite an expedient devaluation of the greenback, and a subsequent rush of investment into the Yuan. OPEC nations soon followed, spurred on by very unpopular U.S. and NATO incursions into Yemen and Syria. At first, they took the diplomatic route, accepting Euros and gold in tandem with dollars for oil purchases. Soon, the dollar was overwhelmed by a basket of currencies represented by the IMF’s burgeoning trade security; the SDR. The greenback’s world reserve status was lost, and it all happened so discreetly, that few people noticed before it was too late. Energy prices rocketed to historic heights, and pump prices changed almost daily along with the violently erratic swings of the commodities markets.
Food prices doubled, then tripled. The government quickly moved to divert blame for $8 bread and $75-a-bag rice on “crop shortages”, and a “dry growing season in Russia”. A thorough examination of global crop production numbers revealed this excuse to be fraudulent. Numbers were down, but barely below record crop yields the year before. The truth was, supply had nothing to do with extreme price spikes. It was all due to the devaluation of the dollar, pure and simple. The privately owned and operated Federal Reserve Bank, in the name of saving the economy, extended fiat printing beyond all reason. Eventually, they became the only buyers of U.S. debt. All foreign investors had abandoned treasuries after ratings agencies S&P and Moodys downgraded American credit twice in a single month. Resulting monetization led to an inflationary groundswell.
A catastrophic combination of scenarios came together in what the mainstream constantly referred to as a “perfect storm”; as if it was all some kind if accident, or an act of nature. A percentage of the American populace, ever growing, began to see it as deliberate; an engineered breakdown of the dollar meant to usher in a new era of global IMF control. Adam didn’t know what to think of these accusations of conspiracy, but his background in financials told him that far too many pieces of the debt puzzle had to come together in a very particular manner to create the disaster the country now faced. First, the Federal Reserve had to artificially lower interest rates to spur the cheap flow of money into banks, all without any oversight from government. The banks would then have to fashion the debt instruments created by these easy loans into toxic assets. The ratings agencies would then have to rate those toxic assets as AAA despite all common sense. The SEC then had to completely ignore these shady practices and let the banks run wild. The government then had to respond by allowing the Fed to print mass amounts of fiat as a stop gap despite 80% opposition from the general public. All leading to the exact conditions needed to ignite simultaneous deflation in employment, wages, housing, and stocks, and inflation in goods and services. Stagflation like this was not the result of “coincidence”.
Federal reaction was swift, and all wrong. Austerity measures and higher taxes were launched simultaneously, but the cuts seemed to target the middle class, and so did the taxes, despite posturing against the “super rich” on the part of the White House. A public works program similar to that which permeated FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression was set in motion. There were rumors of a high speed train system called the “Redline” which supposedly ferried work groups across the Midwest from Denver to the Mississippi. Almost every man at the migrant camp talked about the Redline with quiet awe. It was the answer to their prayers. To join the Redline was the ticket to prosperity and the means to save their families. It was a return to the old life.
Food stamp programs were continued until the dollar tanked. The government knew that when the welfare and entitlement handouts ceased, civic anger would be unleashed. Riots in major cities soon became a daily activity amongst forlorn urbanites.
Other citizens decided to decouple from the system altogether in a process of unspoken secession, building their own local economies, using their own currencies, and organizing into mutual defense groups. Adam had only heard bad things about these people. Though they had no specific leadership or top down organization, the media always labeled them domestic terrorists who were destabilizing the U.S. economy by debasing the use of the dollar, refusing to pay income taxes, and defying DHS oversight authority over states rights in times of danger. He partly blamed them for the prolonged nature of the collapse, as well as the insertion of armed troops into California. The government was a mess, and obviously influenced by outside interests, but that could all be sorted out after the crisis had abated, Adam thought.
A state of national emergency was declared, but only small portions of the country were locked down at any particular time. Military personnel were too limited in number to be dispersed to every city that had issues of civil unrest. China also pushed further and further into disputed South Sea territories, leading some Congressmen to suggest the initiation of a new draft for what they felt would become the next world war. National Guardsmen and Northcom units were strategically placed around eastern population centers, as well as LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver. Privately contracted security forces (corporate military) roamed the interstates, setting up random checkpoints. They answered to no one, and were accused of taking advantage of their position. Horror stories of robbery, rape, and murder spread through migrant cities like Adam’s. He believed they were probably overblown. Panic generated rumors and tall tales, a plague of unverifiable perceptions and assumptions. But all of this was irrelevant to a man who can barely feed his wife and unborn child. Adam had better things to worry about than the sway of socio-political ties.
About a week had passed when Adam found Sarah staring off at the western horizon one early morning with a look of dread. The camp had grown by 70 families in that short time alone, and they had discussed the idea of leaving permanently the night before. There were too many hungry mouths packed too tightly together for the tent city to be safe any longer. He thought at first that the thought of leaving without an exact destination was what was causing her tension. They certainly couldn’t go back to Monterey, so close to the riots of LA and San Diego. Then he followed her eyes to a hill only three miles off. Two humvees rumbled along the ridgeline and then cut down across a field towards them.
“What are they? National Guard?” She said, trembling slightly.
He squinted, straining to see any identifying marks. He could find none.
“I don’t think so. They have to be private.”
“You have to hide your gun, Adam. If they find it…!” She was beginning to turn frantic. The pregnancy was straining her beyond the ability to cope. He wrapped the weapon in a piece of cloth and shoved the barrel into his right boot. She was right. Gun ownership was strictly prohibited after the national emergency was declared. They used to merely confiscate them when discovered, but that policy had evolved into often violent and brutal arrests.
“We have to go, honey. We have to leave.” She stepped towards the car, but he knew it was too late. The military style vehicles lurched the last few yards to the edge of the encampment. A surprisingly unassuming and unthreatening looking man popped out of the top of one of the humvees with a bullhorn. His skinny frame looked hilarious in his full body combat gear. The bullhorn crackled.
“Attention. This has been deemed an unlawful settlement by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. You have been asked to disperse and have refused to comply…”
Adam wondered what the hell they were talking about. As far as he knew they had never been asked to “disperse” by anyone.
“I repeat. This is Federal land. Permission has not been given for any settlement or public residency…”
That was news to him as well. He thought they had been careful to position the camp on state land, not federal.
“We will be transferring you to a FEMA designated facility via the Redline. You may bring only items that you can carry. Please form a line towards the west of this camp in an orderly fashion and await inspection…”
Some in the crowd actually cheered when they heard mention of the Redline, rushing to grab armloads of their vital possessions (mostly food), and clambering to be the first transported. A river of personnel trucks flowed from the western hills and straddled up to the tent city. Adam’s wife gripped his arm and the shock began to set in. They were being forced to move, without warning, and they didn’t even have a choice in where they went. The settlement was far out of the way of any public activities. It was not an obstacle or a hindrance to anyone. Yet, they were being shipped off to some unnamed location like criminals. Memories of FEMA actions during Katrina came back to Adam in a rush, and his mind raced with thoughts of veritable imprisonment in a sweltering unsanitary makeshift hellhole.
During the Great Depression, millions of Americans survived by the migrant life. Certainly, it was not a crime to be poor, was it? Apparently, attitudes had changed.
Over half the camp lined up voluntarily for transport, including Adam and his wife, but some stayed, staunchly refusing to leave their makeshift homes behind. The man with the bullhorn repeated his previous warnings and made further offers of food and shelter. A string of mercenaries began patdowns of those in line. Adam cringed as a man in a black Kevlar vest ran his hands across his pant legs. Somehow, the guard missed the .38 packed into the side of his boot. He suddenly heard furious shouts from the tent city as troops began enclosing the resistors. Rocks and glass bottles rained down, launched by hundreds of the holdouts. Adam was led to the cramped corner of a truck, and as it sped away, brimming with tired and frightened migrants, he could see the streak of tear gas grenades rip through the air, and hear the screams of men and women in the distance.
The trucks sped on, tearing down I-5. There seemed to be an expediency to this operation that eluded Adam. He couldn’t understand what the rush was all about. The line of vehicles braked abruptly, and more men with weapons sprinted back and forth slapping down tail gates and barking orders at the passengers. Adam’s truck was unloaded at gunpoint even though they had all come on board willingly. The guards roared, dragging people out of the trucks and snatching away the possessions they had originally been allowed to bring. The goods were tossed to the side of the railroad like garbage, a simple act that instilled so much pure terror in the migrants that they did everything they were told without question. Their eyes had become saucers, their minds operating in an adrenaline saturated tunnel.
Finally, Adam stood before the Redline, Sarah still clutching him. It was so far beyond what he expected the sight of it turned his insides to ice. His stomach curdled. This was no Amtrak passenger train. It looked more like an armored gulag on wheels. The windows were barred, there was only one entrance in or out of each car, and there were no seats. Migrants were forced on board in groups. The old and disabled were filtered from the ranks and pulled away towards a separate section of the train. As Adam and his wife reached the entrance, a guard wrapped his gloved hand around the nape of her neck and jolted her away from him. He instinctively reached for her, only to be met with a solid backfist to the bridge of his nose. He wheeled, stunned, and found himself kicked into the train before he could compose himself.
The doors slammed shut and the dull drop of a dead bolt could be heard falling into place. Through the window Adam could see Sarah shaking, loudly protesting as she pulled back towards the train car. The guard wailed obscenities at her, then struck her fiercely in the eye. Adam thought about the gun in his boot. He thought about killing. But his fear overtook him, and he instead begged quietly for Sarah to shut up, to just shut up and do what she was told. He cursed her pregnancy and her hormone driven acts of insanity and her inability to understand the inevitable cost of her stupid quarreling and blind panic. The guard struck her again, and she pressed her hand to her nose as a trickle of red dripped through her fingers. Finally, he dug his fist into her scalp, snatching up a ball of hair and dragging her away. Adam could not see her anymore, and there was quiet.
Tremors ran through the train as its engines rumbled to life, and the machine rolled forward. The overpacked belly of the monster was silent. No one cried. No one even moved. The migrants looked like pale facsimiles of life; statues, remnants of humanity long passed the waters of some wretched otherworld. They might as well have been in the ground. They left their souls behind on the boarding platform of the Redline.
The railway crossed into a placid valley between the jutting towers and dark recesses of a vast mountain range. These rocky edifices were ancient, unchanged by millennia of human accomplishment, sacrifice, and atrocity. The sight of them drove Adam to question what little he had ever done with the life that was given him. He was certain he was soon to die, but the knowledge of this troubled him far less than the knowledge that he had squandered every opportunity he ever had to leave something behind. He couldn’t even protect his own child. Like the primeval citadel before him, Adam realized that some men are mountains, and others are shadows. Adam was a shadow. A specter. A spectator. A nothing. Tossed about by the tides of fate, leaving an empty space in time behind him. His refusal to think and act beyond his own immediate world had consequences that spanned into the very future of all things. Only now, when he had lost it all, did this become clear.
A ringing struck his ears. At first, he thought it was a psychological snap; a break in his mind that cut to his core. He overlooked the leaping and screaming of the men and women around him. It didn’t matter anymore. Only when the crack and the ping of another bullet burst through the metal wall of the train car did he take a breath and look at what was in front of him. A peeled mushroomed hole only inches from his right ear lit up the inside of the car as sunlight streamed in. The migrants dropped to the floor, gasping in a huddled mass as the Redline was enveloped in small arms fire. Without warning, a shockwave throttled the train and it derailed, flipping several cars and bashing the prisoners about. Shrapnel peppered the exterior and several migrants were struck. The floor of the wheeled cage became slippery with blood. The fighting was fast. Ten minutes, maybe less. The shooting stopped immediately. There were no voices. Only the sounds of the coursing wind. A twisting metal bolt signaled that the door was being unlocked. Adam peered out the window but could find no one.
He reached cautiously and quietly for the door latch and pushed. It swung open to the smoking wreckage of the train. Slowly, the migrants who survived crawled through the carnage and sat stunned in the scorched earth. Adam wandered for several hundred yards towards the back of the Redline. In a small patch of trees, at the gentle bend of a beautiful crystalline stream on the far side of all that death, sat Sarah, looking up at the snowcapped mountain tops, bruised, but breathing. He knelt down and softly pressed his lips to her swollen eye. She watched the hills intently and smiled, her belly full and alive.
Bootprints were scattered all around, congregating at the mouth of the forest and marching off into the wilderness. The attack had saved them. Whether that was the ultimate purpose or not, it had saved them. Adam saw the absence of the emancipating army as a stark message: “This is your last chance”. In the foundations of that old and unforgiving place, the choices were not immediate, but they existed, and that was enough. Whatever he chose to do with this new beginning, he knew one thing without doubt; never again would he do nothing. Destiny, responsibility, freedom, life. They were his, and no one, would take them.
Post by only2percent on Sept 25, 2011 0:54:29 GMT -5
Germans divided on the likelihood of bankruptcy Greek Friday 18:40, Updated: Friday 23:14
Most Germans believe that a bankruptcy will hurt Greece to Germany, but 41% favor such a move, according to a poll released Friday. However, 50% of Germans do not want the EU to allow Greece to go bust, according to the poll of public television ZDF.
Of respondents, 68% believe that the impact of a Greek default would be negative for Germany. Nevertheless, 75% of respondents opposed the changes in the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), while only 19% support these reforms.
Moreover, Peter Altamaier, parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU) of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Friday that it will not allow Greece to leave the eurozone. "We want to keep the euro and 17 euro zone countries," Altmaier said in the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse. He adds that Greece will maintain the euro, even if a coordinate bankruptcy.
Saturday in Washington
"The official position is indisputable. Expressed by Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble, "said Altmaier. For its part, the German chancellor said, according to Reuters, that a Greek bankruptcy not an option for her and that the consequences of such a development would be incalculable. "A Greek bankruptcy would create a risk of uncontrolled metastasis," said Merkel.
"There is an option for me. The consequences would be impossible to calculate, "he added, noting that Greece has to fulfill its obligations.
Post by only2percent on Sept 26, 2011 21:10:23 GMT -5
Couple of Artificial Intelligence Patents I received in email today:
Don't do any "criminal" moves.
Abnormality detection and surveillance system
A surveillance system having at least one primary video camera for translating real images of a zone into electronic video signals at a first level of resolution. The system includes means for sampling movements of an individual or individuals located within the zone from the video signal output from at least one video camera. Video signals of sampled movements of the individual is electronically compared with known characteristics of movements which are indicative of individuals having a criminal intent. The level of criminal intent of the individual or individuals is then determined and an appropriate alarm signal is produced.
Rule selection is enforced on user email inboxes using an inbox monitor and administrative rules at an email server. The inbox monitor includes a first agent for identifying inactive user inboxes from email messages stored at the email database, and a second agent for identifying, from the inactive user inboxes identified by the first agent, user inboxes without appropriate user rules activated. For each user inbox identified by the second agent, administrative rules are applied to the user inbox if the user inbox has been inactive for at least a predetermined period of time. If the user inbox has not been inactive for at least the predetermined period of time, a notification message is sent to a user associated with the user inbox. The notification message informs the user that administrative rules will be applied to the user inbox if appropriate user rules are not activated.
Post by only2percent on Sept 26, 2011 22:05:56 GMT -5
Prohibitive cost - an excuse to fold an attempt at global coup de tat.
Financial Crisis The €2 trillion fund to save the euro
The numbers keep getting bigger. When the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) was created in May last year it was underwritten to the tune of €440bn (£384bn).
Protestors in Athens demonstrate against austerity cuts (REUTERS)
By Jonathan Russell 6:44PM BST 25 Sep 2011
This was bolstered by $60bn (£38.9bn) from the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism and $250bn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Wind the clock forward and the sums talked about at the IMF in Washington over the weekend were almost three times that amount. After months of prevarication and political buck-passing European leaders have woken up to the fact that more money, action and structural change is required if the euro is to survive.
The plan that emerged over the weekend included €2trillion to be raised for the EFSF, a 50pc default on Greece’s €350bn of debt and for European banks that hold that debt, largely French and German, to be bailed out.
The sums are huge, but then so are the problems. Unfortunately for those tasked with sorting them out the problems are increasingly political as much as economic. For the new, larger plan to be put into action it will require the backing of eurozone member states’ national governments. Changes to the current €440bn facility that will allow it to be used to support banks are currently being ratified by individual countries. Germany, which supports over a quarter of the current fund, will vote later this week.
There can be no certainty the current vote will be won. If the Bundestag is asked to stump up another €500bn the problems will only mount.
Post by only2percent on Sept 27, 2011 16:04:56 GMT -5
Peculiar tendency is brewing ...
Bloomberg Millionaires Form Family Offices to Avoid Private Banks September 22, 2011, 2:28 AM EDT
By Netty Ismail (Updates with comment by DBS executive in 26th paragraph.)
Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Stephen Diggle, who co-founded a hedge fund that made $2.7 billion for investors in 2007 and 2008, set up a family office to manage the millions in fees he earned instead of entrusting his wealth to private bankers.
“It was fairly demonstrably clear that there was a very significant problem of alignment of interests by private banks and their customers,” said the 47-year-old founder of Vulpes Investment Management, whose Singapore-based family office has invested in hotels in Japan and farms in Uruguay. “They ceased to be custodians of people’s money and they became salesmen.”
Asia’s wealthiest investors, whose ranks are swelling as the region’s economic growth outperforms the rest of the world, are turning to family offices to maintain control of their money after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008 made them more risk averse.
“Private banks try to sell you everything and not necessarily what’s best for your family office or for yourself,” said Clinton Ang, managing director of Singapore- based wine and spirits distributor Hock Tong Bee Pte, who is among those preferring to manage his family’s wealth himself. “If sophisticated investors haven’t already learnt the lessons of the past crisis, with the impending crisis that is on the horizon they’d better.”
The MSCI World Index has tumbled 17 percent from this year’s high in May and is trading close to a one-year low after Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its AAA credit rating in August and Europe’s debt crisis deepened.
“Markets go up and markets go down,” said Tan Su Shan, head of wealth management of Singapore-based DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest bank. “It’s easy enough for clients to point the finger at the banker when things go wrong. What about when things go up? There are always two sides to the story.”
DBS attracted more than S$2 billion ($1.6 billion) in net new money in August, Tan said. The bank’s wealth-management unit turned bearish two months ago and “took money off the table for clients” invested in equities, Tan said.
About 90 percent of Ang’s family’s investable assets of almost S$100 million are in cash after he sold from October through March its investments in stocks, bonds and most property assets, said the 38-year-old, who describes himself a follower of Templeton Asset Management’s Mark Mobius.
Family offices are typically tailored to the families’ investment and personal needs, and often include estate planning, philanthropy and lifestyle management such as maintaining homes and yachts. Private wealth managers, who generally work for global investment banks, rely on fees and commissions from managing their clients’ money.
Most family offices in Asia are more defensive in their investment strategy and tend to hire a “generalist” to manage their wealth, rather than specialists such as former hedge fund managers, said William Chan, chief executive officer of Singapore-based Stamford Privee, which manages his family’s wealth and that of two others. Such managers may cost a family office between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, while specialists would be more expensive, Chan said, citing U.S. surveys.
Wealthy families tend to choose investment professionals they had previous dealings with, such as a private banker, as their office manager, said Chan. Others may select an ex- investment banker who advised them on transactions such as an initial public offering of their company, he said.
“Being the trusted adviser is key,” Chan said. “Failure to retain talent in a buoyant market will usually be the cause of the office’s failure. Right hires are managers who have a strong streak of loyalty to the family and who will not be easily swayed by other offers.”
Wealth in Asia, excluding Japan, is expected to rise at about double the global rate of almost 6 percent through the next five years, the Boston Consulting Group said in a May 31 report. Singapore will become the world’s top wealth management center by 2013, overtaking Switzerland and London, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP study published in June.
The region also is attracting overseas family offices. Tano Capital, the financial adviser of the founders of Franklin Templeton Investments, and London-based Alta Advisers Ltd., the family office of Swedish billionaire Hans Rausing, have opened units in Singapore.
“Anecdotally, we are seeing more European family offices making enquiries about setting up their Asian headquarters to participate in the Asian growth story,” said Amy Lo, head of ultra-high net worth in Asia-Pacific at UBS AG’s wealth management business.
About 62 percent of U.S.-based family offices surveyed this year said they were considering increasing allocations to Asian markets outside Japan, according to Family Office Exchange. The median family office reported 12 percent annual pretax portfolio return in 2010 and families are expecting a median return of 8 percent this year, according to the Chicago-based organization, which represents 350 families worldwide.
Singapore’s central bank will require banks from Jan. 1 to advise inexperienced investors on the suitability of products they wish to buy.
“The Lehman crisis was a learning experience for most private banks and private bankers,” said DBS’s Tan. “You cannot sell products that don’t fit the clients’ risk profile and investment objectives.” The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s rules serve “as a protection from hopefully mis- selling from the bankers to the clients.”
Noor Quek, previously the head of business development in Southeast Asia at Citigroup’s private-banking unit who now runs Singapore-based family office adviser NQ International Pte, said family offices shouldn’t be seen as a replacement to banks.
“The whole issue is about both working together,” she said. “The bank must be able to understand the client and the client is to understand what the bank can offer. This is not something that happens overnight.”
Some investment banks are now seeking to tap the growth of family offices in the region by setting up units that cater to the independent firms. Credit Suisse Group AG is housing five Asian and European families in Singapore that are seeking to “incubate” their own wealth management firms, said Bernard Fung, head of family office services at the private banking unit. The Zurich-based bank also works with other families in the region seeking to set up their own family offices, he said.
Role to Play
Family offices and private banks are “not mutually exclusive,” said Fung, who previously oversaw the London-based family office of David Sainsbury, the billionaire philanthropist and former chairman of the eponymous supermarket chain. Families that are serious about managing their assets should use “proper systems to measure risk and governance processes,” he said.
“If you’ve got that, then financial institutions can have a role to play within that,” Fung said. “Trust goes both ways.” Part of the wealth of the family offices that Credit Suisse is housing is still managed by the bank, he said.
Zurich-based UBS set up in January a family services unit in Asia, where much of the wealth was created after World War II, which provides non-investment advice such as philanthropy and wealth planning to its richest clients.
“Most families prefer to set up their own family offices with a combination of their own employees and external experts, with specialist skills ranging from accountants to legal and tax advisers to investment professionals,” said Hong Kong-based Lo.
DBS built up its family office advisory business this year, offering services that include advice on private-equity investments and philanthropy. There’s a “huge movement” of family offices creating their own funds and teaming up with other independent firms to co-invest, said Terry Alan Farris, who joined DBS’s private banking unit in January as its Singapore-based head of family office.
Market gains helped boost assets managed by private banks by 11 percent last year with the top 20 in the world overseeing a combined $11.1 trillion, according to London-based Scorpio Partnership. The rate of net new money inflows fell on average by almost 19 percent from 2009 and many banks saw margins squeezed, according to the wealth-management consultancy firm.
There are about 50 established family offices in Asia outside of Japan that are managed professionally, according to Scorpio. Worldwide, there are an estimated 2,500 to 3,500 family offices, said Joseph Reilly, president of the Greenwich, Connecticut-based Family Office Association. The first family office was established in the U.S. by oil baron John D. Rockefeller in 1882 to manage his family’s assets.
GFIA Pte, which advises investors seeking to allocate money to hedge funds and began its wealth-advisory business when it started managing Diggle’s money, is in talks with other prospective clients, said Peter Douglas, the firm’s principal.
As financial institutions curb risk after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global credit crisis, wealthy families are “stepping into the holes left by the exits of the banks” in making higher-return investments, Douglas said.
“It’s partly the realization of the conflict between private wealth and the financial services industry, and it’s partly because now there’s a lot more opportunity out there for private wealth relative to that available for the financial services industry compared with pre-crisis,” Douglas said.
Diggle’s family office bought farms in Uruguay and Illinois, a kiwi-and-avocado orchard in New Zealand, land in Italy and Bali, boutique hotels in Japan, defensive stocks, gold and “a large portfolio of very high-end wine,” he said. Diggle set up Vulpes in April after closing in March Artradis Fund Management Pte, the hedge fund he co-founded with Richard Magides.
Diggle, who has four children, said he set up the family office with GFIA to put in place the processes and structure to preserve his fortune.
Some family offices cater to more than one family to gain economies of scale. It costs at least $1.5 million a year to run a family office that includes an investment team, and a family will need a minimum of $100 million to justify the expenses, said Chan of Stamford Privee.
Blue Ocean Capital Partners, a unit of Singapore-based private-equity firm Tembusu Partners Pte, plans to set up an office with a U.K.-based family firm this year, said Director Daniel Lin.
Lin, 28, said he and his 54-year-old father, who founded Tembusu Partners, will start by managing the wealth of their family with the help of a chief executive officer. At least two other families have agreed to partner with them later, he said.
“For private banks, because they have certain targets, they need to find something that will give them a financial return pretty quickly,” Lin said. “For us, we’re not in a hurry to make money out of this; we have time to build on the intangibles such as family values and governance.”
--Editors: Malcolm Scott, Andreea Papuc
To contact the reporter on this story: Netty Ismail in Singapore firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andreea Papuc at email@example.com
Post by only2percent on Sept 28, 2011 13:18:50 GMT -5
Which Telecoms Store Your Data the Longest? Secret Memo Tells All
By David Kravets September 28, 2011 Categories: Surveillance, privacy
The nation’s major mobile-phone providers are keeping a treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers, according to newly-released Justice Department internal memo that for the first time reveals the data retention policies of America’s largest telecoms.
The single-page Department of Justice document, “Retention Periods of Major Cellular Service Providers,” (.pdf) is a guide for law enforcement agencies looking to get information — like customer IP addresses, call logs, text messages and web surfing habits – out of U.S. telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
The document, marked “Law Enforcement Use Only” and dated August 2010, illustrates there are some significant differences in how long carriers retain your data.
Infographics: Michael Cerwonka/Wired.com
Verizon, for example, keeps a list of everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with for the past year, according to the document. But T-Mobile stores the same data up to five years. It’s 18 months for Sprint, and seven years for AT&T.
That makes Verizon appear to have the most privacy-friendly policy. Except that Verizon is alone in retaining the actual contents of text messages. It allegedly stores the messages for five days, while T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint don’t store them at all.
The document was unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina via a Freedom of Information Act claim. (After the group gave a copy to Wired.com, we also discovered it in two other places on the internet by searching its title.)
“People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been,” said Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney. “The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance.”
The biggest difference in retention surrounds so-called cell-site data. That is information detailing a phone’s movement history via its connections to mobile phone towers while its traveling.
Verizon keeps that data on a one-year rolling basis; T-Mobile for “a year or more;” Sprint up to two years, and AT&T indefinitely, from July 2008.
The document also includes retention policies for Nextel and Virgin Mobile. They have folded into the Sprint network.
The document release comes two months before the Supreme Court hears a case testing the government’s argument that it may use GPS devices to monitor a suspect’s every movement without a warrant. And the disclosure comes a month ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Electronic Privacy Communications Act, an outdated law that the government often invokes against targets to obtain, without a warrant, the data the Justice Department document describes.
“I don’t think there there is anything on this list the government would concede requires a warrant,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This brings cellular retention practices out of the shadows, so we can have a rational discussion about how the law needs to be changed when it comes to the privacy of our records.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has proposed legislation to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to protect Americans from warrantless intrusions. Debate on the issue is expected to heat up as the anniversary nears, and the Justice Department document likely will take center stage.
See Also: Google+ vs. Facebook on Privacy: + Ahead On Points — For Now Senator Wants Investigation of OnStar’s ‘Brazen’ Privacy Invasion Report: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Believe In Privacy DuckDuckGo Challenges Google on Privacy (With a Billboard) Insurance Company Telematics Trade Perks for Privacy Plug-Ins for Privacy: Redirect Remover and Trackerblock
David Kravets is a senior staff writer for Wired.com and founder of the fake news site TheYellowDailyNews.com. He's a dad of two boys and has been a reporter since the manual typewriter days. Follow @dmkravets on Twitter.
Post by only2percent on Sept 28, 2011 13:49:00 GMT -5
Of course, it means, the "alphabets" are watching you.
How the new Facebook buttons are watching you
At f8, Facebook’s developer conference, they’ll be announcing a bunch of new buttons that will join the 905,000 websites that already use “Like” buttons. Now you’ll have “Read,” “Listened,” “Want,” and “Watched.” buttons.
Where's the only button we actually want: dislike?
But did you know that social buttons track you at each site you visit, even if you never click on them?
This means that data on your visits (what sites you’re on and when, plus your IP address and cookie ID’s) all go back to Facebook’s databases. According to our surveys of users, this is neither obvious nor transparent: 66% of people had no idea.
Check out the infographic below for stats. Consider that while sharing our interests with these buttons can be convenient & fun, people should be in control of what they share, rather than under the illusion of control.
Facebook social buttons have taken the web site markets by storm in the last year, increasing their penetration for the top 10,000 sites (by how many visitors they get each month) from about 3% (300 sites using the Facebook buttons last September) to over 15% today. This means that Facebook is getting an ever-more complete picture of you: not just what you do on its social network with your friends, but also what you do online every day at other sites you visit.
Social buttons are more than a means of sharing. They’re a tracking system.
Post by only2percent on Oct 4, 2011 1:37:25 GMT -5
Reuters Insider: World moves closer to 2008-style cliff – Breakingviews By Chris Clair
Panic after the Lehman Brothers crash moved the global economy from teetering to free fall. The European debt crisis has stalled growth, but a new crash is not certain, says Edward Hadas of Breakingviews.
“The problem is that no one really expected the cliff back in 2008,” Hadas says. “You could draw a picture then and say there were a lot of factors that were risky, but most of the people watching it thought we would get through that.”
Post by only2percent on Oct 5, 2011 0:09:28 GMT -5
Mind blowing speech by Robert Welch in 1958 predicting Insiders plans to destroy America
Uploaded by NYredwhiteandblue on Apr 27, 2009
"Proof that the NEW WORLD ORDER has been planned by the elite. Robert Welch, Founder of The John Birch Society, predicted today's problems with uncanny accuracy back in 1958 and prescribed solutions in 1974 that are very similar to Ron Paul's positions today. This is proof that there are plans in place by the elite to systemically disassemble US sovereignty. I wonder who those elite are."
Post by only2percent on Oct 6, 2011 11:01:37 GMT -5
Rediscovery of the gold standard The current debt crisis highlights the weaknesses of the current monetary system 09/25/11
Chinese visit to disappoint: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had hoped Beijing would buy government bonds, but the Chinese are only interested in tangible assets. Image: pa
To counter the tendency of many national central banks, the debt crisis by printing new notes and the purchase of government bonds, which reduces confidence in paper money more and more.
With the growing public debt in many European countries now also increases the fear of many in front of a new German currency collapse. The flight to tangible assets such as gold or real estate continues unabated and the prices can rise. The representatives of Austrian economics calls the plan, which for decades were not listened to the experts. The root of today's economic ills is to believe that school of economics in the creation of money by loan. The economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) once claimed that there must be a real value for the printed bills. Until 1971 this was the case, because the gold standard for the U.S. dollar was. For 35 U.S. dollars had a whole ounce of gold will be deposited. After the release of the gold standard was the U.S. central bank, the license for an almost unlimited printing of paper money. Logically, therefore, the price for one troy ounce rose to about $ 1,800 today. Calculated in gold to the U.S. currency since 1971 has also marked down by the approximately 50-fold. This unrestrained multiplication of money or make the devaluation Austrian economists responsible for the economic cycles that occur in rapid succession and economic crises. "The money is de facto nationalized production," Thorsten Polleit criticized by the British investment bank Barclays Capital, a supporter of the gold standard. The central banks alone would determine how much money is printed and at what interest rate it offered. The central banks have "a sort of state license for the production of money" and would "create money out of nothing," says Polleit. Exactly this policy followed the U.S. Federal Bank, under its legendary chief Alan Greenspan from 1987 to 2006th The consumer sentiment of Americans, the so-called domestic demand picks up, so be on a high state and the economy kept going. But 2008 crashed together this theoretical model, because many Americans were so highly indebted that they no longer pay their rates for the home could. Greenspan is now considered one of the most responsible for the economic problems of the U.S. and the world economy. A similar policy seems to be the European Central Bank (ECB) to follow, who bought recently for about € 100 billion of junk bonds issued by southern European countries, for which there is no real value. The German chief economist of the ECB's Juergen Stark, announced at the beginning of the month because of his retirement from the Board. He was tired of being outvoted by countries wishing to carry out their public debt in ever new heights. The latest developments seem to Geldzweiflern the Austrian economists are right. Keep fear at the end only worthless paper money in the hands of - - the flight into real values is ubiquitous. This development revived the doctrine of 'fiat money standard, "states the following: A license to print money should only be granted (from the Latin fiat = it happens), when the bills a real value in the form of means of production, savings, property values , or similar property there. Increasingly, this trend seems to make the Chinese central bank nervous. She sits on a mountain of foreign exchange $ 3.2 trillion, which is to be applied to one-third in European and U.S. government bonds. That Chinese people in this situation would be ready, as it was in the last week to buy Italian government bonds, therefore, caused astonishment at first for experts, because the Chinese would act so selflessly virtually. The Chinese government has denied, however, post haste, and said it was interested only in Italian industrial companies or other real values. In other words, the Chinese have been practicing longer, what is being discussed in Germany only, namely lending to debt countries only for real values. The anxious question of the citizen, how long you can still pay with the euro or dollar know, even the followers of Austrian economics can not be answered. Clear just seems that nobody knows how to "collect" the many printed bills again, as the central bankers say. Fearing the next world economic crisis is allowed to prefer the bills in circulation. When citizens, meanwhile circulated the word "currency reform". The Internet search engine Google have in the past year many visitors entered striking the word-combination "currency reform of 1948" and "currency reform in 2010." And the magazine "Stern" found that one third of Germans are thinking bears to buy gold to hedge their assets.
Post by only2percent on Oct 6, 2011 19:56:00 GMT -5
HedgeWorld's gone crazy! It's telling the truth!
Politics Drives Europe's Schizophrenia on Banks By Reuters Wednesday, October 05, 2011
PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - It may look schizophrenic, but European governments are simultaneously contemplating making banks take a bigger write-down on Greek debt, taxing their financial transactions and boosting their capital base.
There are strong political reasons behind this seemingly contradictory approach: aiding banks with taxpayers' money is political dynamite across Europe and needs to be handled with extreme care.
European leaders are walking a fine as they try to prevent a systemic banking crisis that could plunge the continent and the world back into recession, while avoiding political suicide by being seen to bail out the financial sector again.
This week's near collapse of Franco-Belgian municipal lender Dexia, weighed down by Greek and other peripheral euro zone debt as well as toxic U.S. sub-prime securities, highlights the dangers and the potential cost to the taxpayer.
In the minds of many voters from Bordeaux to Berlin, it was banks that got us into this mess in the 2008 financial crisis, and they should be made to pay. The online campaign organization Avaaz says it has received more than 430,000 electronic signatures in less than a week on a petition denouncing the current EU/IMF rescue for Greece as a hidden subsidy to financiers.
"The bailout deal must be rewritten to ensure that public money serves the public interest and doesn't reward the banks and speculators which have helped caused the crisis," says the petition addressed to European Union leaders.
In France, contenders for the opposition Socialist party nomination in next year's presidential election have been vying with proposals to tax, control and break up the banks. Arnaud Montebourg, an up-and-coming Socialist, advocates levying �250 billion ($334.1 billion) from the financial sector in the euro zone and putting banks under "tutelage," with state directors in the boardroom, to force them to fund the real economy. Indignation
Public indignation against bankers explains the vocal drive by two conservative leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for a financial transactions tax in Europe � a measure previously championed by the anti-globalization far-left.
Cynics suspect they may be counting on a lack of unanimity in either the 27-nation EU or the 17-member euro zone to ensure that no such measure comes to pass.
The backlash against banks is also taking the form of much tougher capital requirements and regulation that will reduce their return on equity and, with a lag, bankers' pay. Governments across northern Europe, led by Germany, sought to assuage voters' anger over the cost of bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal by insisting in July that the financial sector share the burden of a second rescue package for Athens.
With Greece sinking deeper into recession and missing its fiscal targets, some ministers are now pressing for the private sector to take more than the agreed 21 percent write-down, or for debt restructuring to be mandatory instead of voluntary.
The deal negotiated with the Institute for International Finance banking lobby was larded with publicly-funded "credit enhancements" to sweeten the deal for investors, including hedge funds that bought Greek debt at a discount and stand to profit.
Yet the bigger the "haircut" imposed on private bondholders, the greater the need will be for fragile banks to raise more capital, much of it from the public sector given the depressed levels of bank shares. So taxpayers are set to pay one way or another, and European leaders have little time to figure out how to make that politically acceptable to their electorates. 'Time is of the Essence'
"The financial sector problems are becoming ever more apparent and that is increasing pressure on policymakers," said James Ashley, senior European economist at Royal Bank of Canada in London. "To some extent we are seeing markets forcing the pace, and that is why the need for urgent action is ever more apparent."
So far, opposition from Britain and Germany in the name of national sovereignty has blocked efforts to give the European Banking Authority power to assess banks' capital needs and order recapitalization where required.
Ms. Merkel squelched a French idea early in the 2008 financial crisis for a European bank rescue fund, arguing there was nothing wrong with German banks. The next day, she had to arrange an emergency rescue of a big German mortgage lender. Now even the German chancellor accepts that recapitalizing Europe's banks is a matter of urgency.
"Time is of the essence," she said at European Commission headquarters on Wednesday [Oct. 5], suggesting EU leaders could discuss a plan at a summit on Oct. 17-18. Other experts said the Europeans needed to find a joint approach before a Group of 20 major economies summit in Cannes, France, on Nov. 3-4.
When policies become too unpopular at a national level, the response is often to seek political cover by making them into a European initiative. Experts such as Nicolas Veron, of the Bruegel economic think-tank, argue that Europe's banking crisis predated the sovereign debt crisis and the two have now become intertwined in a way that threatens financial stability.
Along with U.S. economist Adam Posen, now a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, Mr. Veron proposed in 2009 a Europe-wide triage system to identify banks' capital needs and provide a framework for recapitalization.
Mr. Veron said euro zone governments should create a European Resolution Trust Corporation to conduct an objective capital assessment based on consistent criteria, which is where he says two rounds of EU-wide bank stress tests fell short, because national regulators applied different standards.
"You need to set up a temporary entity that does the dirty business of clearing up the mess," he said in an interview. "Once we announce that we are going to do that, the market is ready to wait a couple of months if there is a process under way."
Other analysts are not so sure Europe can wait that long and argue that only decisive action by the European Central Bank, or the unlikely prospect of euro zone governments agreeing to joint debt issuance, can prevent a systemic crisis.
"The only two options that will work to stem this systemic crisis now are an open-ended commitment by the ECB to do 'whatever it takes' to support sovereigns or a swift move toward Eurobonds issuance," said Sony Kapoor, managing director of the economic think-tank Re-Define. "Everything else is likely to fall short."
ByPaul Taylor and Alan Wheatley; additional reporting by John O'Donnell and Luke Baker
Post by only2percent on Oct 9, 2011 18:25:21 GMT -5
Switzerland should have invaded the US to establish Democracy here. Should we send the hijackers there?
Switzerland is put to the test The Confederates choose a new parliament: How stable is the model democracy? 10.10.11
€ crisis also makes for chilly days in Switzerland: The export nation is suffering under the strong franc. Image: colourbox
On 23 October choose a new parliament, the Confederates. It's also about whether the Swiss model will survive.
We want to be a single nation of brothers to separate us in no distress and danger - with such lofty words transfigured Friedrich Schiller, the founding myth of Switzerland. According to the first order August 1291 to have the Rütli, a meadow on Lake Lucerne, Werner Stauffacher, Walter Furst and Arnold von Melchtal as representatives of the three original cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Walden conspired to protect against the Habsburgs and Trutzbund "evil overseers." William Tell was later incorporated into what is happening. But no matter how much is invented by this national myth is true or just good - the descendants of the three confederates are well advised to remain faithful to the Rütlischwur. For Switzerland, in German lands like is admired as a model democracy, internal and external political pressure. So it goes in the parliamentary elections, ultimately, is whether the proven Swiss model - a combination of direct and representative democracy emphasizes harmony - endures. The Federal Assembly of Switzerland is composed of two chambers: the National Assembly with 200 members and the Council of States (Stöckli) with 46 delegates. A carefully balanced system of proportional representation ensures that all the 26 cantons are adequately represented in both chambers. Switzerland is governed by the principle of the so-called concordance. Parliament elects the seven Federal Councillors, who preside over the governmental departments (ministries). One of them is elected for one year at a federal president, preside as "primus inter pares," the Federal Council meetings, representing Switzerland enjoys the outside, but not the usual privileges of a head of state. The legislative powers of the two chambers are limited by strong elements of direct democracy. Federal, cantonal and municipal level, the nation has in almost all major (and sometimes irrelevant) issues the last word. The vote of initiatives and referendums binds parliaments, governments and administration. "We want to be free" - the line from the Rütlischwur means for the Confederates also just to take the liberty to choose differently than media and parliamentary majorities. An example is reminiscent of the ban on building minarets, a referendum whose result made headlines worldwide attention and excitement. Unlike Germany, for example in Switzerland, the federal government (Federal Council) is not provided by the parliamentary majority. Rather, the seven federal councilors represent all relevant political groupings. Concordance of this system is best compared to a more all-encompassing grand coalition. The current Federal includes two representatives from the Social Democratic Party (SP) and the Liberals (FDP) and one representative of the conservative Swiss People's Party (SVP), the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP) and the split of the SVP Civic Democratic Party (BDP) at. Overall, the bourgeois-conservative group represents about 60 percent of voters. The rise of the Greens, most recently at 9.6 percent, could now lead to the date the concordance system supporting "magic formula" no longer comes into play, since they could claim one of the seats in the Bundesrat. Nationally and internationally, Switzerland sees confronted with great challenges. The high proportion of foreigners (about 22 percent) concerns as well as preparing the high Swiss franc, the weakening export. The fine line between neutrality and pressures of globalization, the relationship with the EU to be redesigned. And the attacks on the Swiss bank secrecy laws of the United States still presented as an aggressive Germany, exacerbate the situation. As the Confederates should stick to the end of the Rütlischwur: "We want to trust to the highest God and have no fear of the power of people."
Post by only2percent on Oct 10, 2011 15:43:22 GMT -5
What would Germans say about the state of privacy in the US? That we fell through the cracks in the bottom?
Culture time - visit to the computer by netzpolitik
"The anatomy of a digital vermin now disassembled into its individual parts: the German "State Trojans" was cracked. The Chaos Computer Club has hacked a government monitoring software. The result is more than frightening. The computer experts to collect the analysis of the Trojan serious allegations against the state. In this source interception (interception) is about to tap Internet phone calls before they are encrypted. This is legal. According to the Chaos Computer Club, the software can more clearly: "The examined Trojans not only highly intimate information can drain out, but also offer a remote control function for loading and executing any other malware", said the association. In addition, the software would arise with "glaring security gaps" on the computers. So criticized that possible through the back door is an online search. For this measure, the Federal Constitutional Court in late February 2008 but has set high hurdles.
Markus Beckedahl in conversation Politicians and privacy advocates are calling for clarification. What happens if the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court in practice by the technique are not met? What that means for every citizen? We ask the network Beckedahl political activist Markus from Berlin, who supervised the blog "netzpolitik.org". Its focal point is the information society."
Comment: Germany has fallen to a level of China.
I do not understand, but a state should be transparent, I would be interested to know how often the Trojan has been used by the state and how often because a crime has been prevented ...
Post by only2percent on Oct 11, 2011 15:14:44 GMT -5
State of the Union (EU, that is). Poland. "... it did not extend the rights of the European courts to overturn domestic law."
Poles at the Polls: The big change is no change
Following Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Poland, the governing centre-right coalition composed of Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) and the Peasants’ Party (PSL) has effectively been re-elected, with PO winning 39.2% of the vote and PSL 8.4%. While this might not come as a surprise given the government has been largely scandal free and has presided over the most healthy economic growth in the EU during the ongoing crisis, it is nonetheless noteworthy that Tusk will become the first Polish Prime Minister to win a consecutive term since the fall of Communism in 1989. As the Guardian noted:
In the first 18 years after communism, Poland had 13 different governments, a new one every 17 months on average. Now it seems that Tusk could govern for eight years in a row.
The results suggest that Poland's notoriously volatile and unpredictable politics might be entering a phase of consolidation, although it must be said pre-election polls were far from consistent and set out a variety of possible scenarios. It appears that Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law & Justice (PiS), despite winning a healthy 29.9% of the vote, might have plateaued, and will struggle to expand into fresh political territory. Political commentators last night couldn’t decide whether Kaczynski’s attack on Angela Merkel and Germany’s “new imperial ambitions” helped or hindered his party’s cause, but they agreed that it was unlikely to have had a deciding effect either way.
Meanwhile, the other big news was the poor result of the well established post-Communist Democratic Left Alliance (8.3%) and the strong showing by new Ruch Palikota (10%), a socially liberal populist movement established by ex-PO troublemaker Janusz Palikot, renowned for unconventional press conferences, which aims to take on the influence of the Catholic Church in Poland. EurActiv described the result 'good news' for the EU Presidency because Tusk is a “pragmatic liberal conservative” opposed to what he sees as “a new wave of euroscepticism" within the EU.
So looking at the bigger picture, what does this mean for EU politics? It is has been said that if you get three Poles in a room you end up with four different political opinions. We'll not speculate as to whether this is true, but what is true is that there is a significant degree of commonality in Poland when it comes to EU issues. With the exception of PiS, all the main parties are broadly in favour of the current EU arrangement. However, Poland remains a value-conservative nation - a disposition which clashes with the often humanitarian (some would say post-modern) under-current in EU law.
As a socially conservative party, PiS voters in particular tend to be be more assertive when it comes to EU law, and this is why the previous president Lech Kaczynski decided to opt Poland out from the Lisbon Treaty’s Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which clarified (in theory at least) that it did not extend the rights of the European courts to overturn domestic law.
While the coalition with PSL has in effect given PO free reign in many policy areas, the condition has been to put off reforming Poland's outdated and deeply flawed agricultural insurance system, which is very generous for farmers and sacrosanct for PSL. Poland is likely to remain staunch defenders of generous EU farm subsidies, and will oppose any serious attempts at radically reform the CAP (which we have argued in favour of many times). Poland will instead lobby for a more even distribution of benefits from North-West Europe to Central and Eastern Europe. Likewise, in the context of current wrangling over the EU budget, as a net recipient of EU funds, Poland is unlikely to want to see a reduction or freeze in the budget, as again, we have argued for. Meanwhile, in opposition, PiS is likely to keep an eye out for any value driven EU legislations, especially in the social sphere, which it can use to attack the government for not defending Polish interests. Given the ECJ's renowned judicial activism, it is possible such a tussle is only over the horizon.
But PO is also insinctively economic liberals in many areas, and will hopefully be a voice of reason in opposing top-heavy or disproportional regulations coming out of Brussels. And, with the right diplomacy, there should ample scope for the UK and other pro-growth member states to co-operate on trade liberalisation and expanding the single market.