mfioretti: germany*

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  1. After World War I the U.S. Government deviated from what had been traditional European policy – forgiving military support costs among the victors. U.S. officials demanded payment for the arms shipped to its Allies in the years before America entered the Great War in 1917. The Allies turned to Germany for reparations to pay these debts. Headed by John Maynard Keynes, British diplomats sought to clean their hands of responsibility for the consequences by promising that all the money they received from Germany would simply be forwarded to the U.S. Treasury.

    The sums were so unpayably high that Germany was driven into austerity and collapse. The nation suffered hyperinflation as the Reichsbank printed marks to throw onto the foreign exchange market. The currency declined, import prices soared, raising domestic prices as well. The debt deflation was much like that of Third World debtors a generation ago, and today’s southern European PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).

    In a pretense that the reparations and Inter-Ally debt tangle could be made solvent, a triangular flow of payments was facilitated by a convoluted U.S. easy-money policy. American investors sought high returns by buying German local bonds; German municipalities turned over the dollars they received to the Reichsbank for domestic currency; and the Reichsbank used this foreign exchange to pay reparations to Britain and other Allies, enabling these countries to pay the United States what it demanded.

    But solutions based on attempts to keep debts of such magnitude in place by lending debtors the money to pay can only be temporary. The U.S. Federal Reserve sustained this triangular flow by holding down U.S. interest rates. This made it attractive for American investors to buy German municipal bonds and other high-yielding debts. It also deterred Wall Street from drawing funds away from Britain, which would have driven its economy deeper into austerity after the General Strike of 1926. But domestically, low U.S. interest rates and easy credit spurred a real estate bubble, followed by a stock market bubble that burst in 1929. The triangular flow of payments broke down in 1931, leaving a legacy of debt deflation burdening the U.S. and European economies. The Great Depression lasted until outbreak of World War II in 1939.

    Planning for the postwar period took shape as the war neared its end. U.S. diplomats had learned an important lesson. This time there would be no arms debts or reparations. The global financial system would be stabilized – on the basis of gold, and on creditor-oriented rules. By the end of the 1940s the Untied States held some 75 percent of the world’s monetary gold stock. That established the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, freely convertible into gold at the 1933 parity of $35 an ounce.
    It also implied that once again, as in the 1920s, European balance-of-payments deficits would have to be financed mainly by the United States. Recycling of official government credit was to be filtered via the IMF and World Bank, in which U.S. diplomats alone had veto power to reject policies they found not to be in their national interest. International financial “stability” thus became a global control mechanism – to maintain creditor-oriented rules centered in the United States.

    To obtain gold or dollars as backing for their own domestic monetary systems, other countries had to follow the trade and investment rules laid down by the United States. These rules called for relinquishing control over capital movements or restrictions on foreign takeovers of natural resources and the public domain as well as local industry and banking systems.

    By 1950 the dollar-based global economic system had become increasingly untenable. Gold continued flowing to the United States, strengthening the dollar – until the Korean War reversed matters. From 1951 through 1971 the United States ran a deepening balance-of-payments deficit, which stemmed entirely from overseas military spending. (Private-sector trade and investment was steadily in balance.)
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  2. Hackers of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) have studied a software package used in many German states to capture, aggregate and tabulate the votes during elections, to see if this software was secure against external attack. The analysis showed a number of security problems and multiple practicable attack scenarios. Some of these scenarios allow for the changing of vote totals across electoral district and state boundaries. „PC-Wahl“, the software in question, has been used to record, analyse and present election data in national, state and municipal elections for multiple decades.

    The result of this analysis is somewhat of a „total loss“ for the software product. The CCC is publishing its findings in a report of more than twenty pages. 0 » The technical details and the software used to exploit the weaknesses are published in a repository. 1 »

    „Elementary principles of IT-security were not heeded to. The amount of vulnerabilities and their severity exceeded our worst expectations“, says Linus Neumann, a speaker for the CCC that was involved in the study.

    A depressing finding of the study is that a state-funded team of hackers is not even necessary to control the tabulation of the votes. The broken software update mechanism of „PC-Wahl“ allows for one-click compromise. Together with the lacking security of the update server, this makes complete takeover quite feasible. Given the trivial nature of the attacks, it would be prudent to assume that not only the CCC is aware of these vulnerabilities.

    „A whole chain of serious flaws, from the update server, via the software itself through to the election results to be exported allows for us to demonstrate three practical attack scenarios in one“, Neumann continues.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-09-08)
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  3. The League is most easily understood as a loose federation of cities that acted together in self-interest to promote trade. The Hanseatic cities developed their own legal system, and their armies came to one another's aid. Merchants who wanted to buy and sell and travel were taking the lead at a time when nation states were not fit for purpose: in the case of England or Denmark, leadership was too centralised and authoritarian, while in German-speaking lands a nation had yet to be formed.

    We think of nations today as elemental almost, immovable. Yet look at any city of Mitteleuropa and you'll see the many different names it has had as borders and regimes have shifted with the sands of time. Nations come and go. Cities endure.

    "It is often said that great cities survived great empires," says Cristina Ampatzidou, editor-in-chief of the Rotterdam-based online publishing platform Amateur Cities. "So it is not unrealistic to think of cities as discrete entities that compete and collaborate with each other, independently from the states to which they belong."
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  4. By the time of Germany’s unconditional surrender in May 1945, 20% of Germany’s housing stock was rubble. Some 2.25 million homes were gone. Another 2 million were damaged. A 1946 census showed an additional 5.5 million housing units were needed in what would ultimately become West Germany.

    Germany’s housing wasn’t the only thing in tatters. The economy was a heap. Financing was nil and the currency was virtually worthless. (People bartered.) If Germans were going to have places to live, some sort of government program was the only way to build them.

    And don’t forget, the political situation in post-war Germany was still quite tense. Leaders worried about a re-radicalization of the populace, perhaps even a comeback for fascism. Communism loomed as an even larger threat, with so much unemployment.

    West Germany’s first housing minister—a former Wehrmacht man by the name of Eberhard Wildermuth—once noted that “the number of communist voters in European countries stands in inverse proportion to the number of housing units per thousand inhabitants.”

    A housing program would simultaneously put people back to work and reduce the stress of the housing crunch. Because of such political worries—as well as genuine, widespread need—West Germany designed its housing policy to benefit as broad a chunk of the population as possible.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-09-21)
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  5. countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, which have recent histories of currency instability and financial crises, also are quite heavy users of cash.

    But the real point isn’t that Germans love cash. It’s that—for the same historical reasons—they loathe debt. (Armchair anthropologists have also long noted that German word for debt—Schulden—comes from the word for guilt, Schuld.)

    Levels of consumer debt in Germany are remarkably low. German aversion to mortgage debt is part of the reason why the country has some of the lowest homeownership rates in the developed world. Just 33% of Germans said they had a credit card back in 2011. And most of those hardly ever get used. In 2013, only 18% of payments in Germany were made via cards, compared to 50% in France and 59% in the UK.

    The national preference for cash, then, seems to be the flip side of aversion to debt, which, in turn, can be interpreted as a sign of deep-seated doubt about the future. (German businesspeople are also notorious for their pessimism about the future.) And fear of the future, of course, is rooted in the past.

    In other words, the German tendency to settle up in cash undeniably reflects the fact that for much of the last century, Germany has been either on the brink of, in the midst of, or struggling to recover from, disaster.
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  6. In the week of the referendum vote, no British politician and, to my knowledge, no journalist referred to Vladimir Putin's speech in St. Petersburg commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941. The Soviet victory - at a cost of 27 million Soviet lives and the majority of all German forces - won the Second World War.

    Putin likened the current frenzied build up of Nato troops and war material on Russia's western borders to the Third Reich's Operation Barbarossa. Nato's exercises in Poland were the biggest since the Nazi invasion; Operation Anaconda had simulated an attack on Russia, presumably with nuclear weapons. On the eve of the referendum, the quisling secretary-general of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, warned Britons they would be endangering "peace and security" if they voted to leave the EU. The millions who ignored him and Cameron, Osborne, Corbyn, Obama and the man who runs the Bank of England may, just may, have struck a blow for real peace and democracy in Europe.
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  7. British politicians hoping to get a special deal with Europe in the wake of Brexit will face strong headwinds. Merkel’s primary short-term concern is to stop the chain of dominoes from collapsing. For Berlin, the real risk after Brexit is that countries from Sweden to Hungary might call for their own exit referendums. If other countries started to peel away, Germany would fear enormous damage to the internal market that it relies on for its exports and the political project that it has spent the last 70 years building. The risk of a train of dominoes also casts uncertainty over European decision-making on a host of critical issues to Berlin, from migration to banking union.

    In order to shut down this threat, the chancellor will have to deal with the U.K. as it has dealt with Greece — with a stern and uncompromising hand. This will allow it to avoid the death by a thousand cuts, where each U.K. concession produces similar demands by other member states. Germany can use negotiations with the U.K. to shut down contagion. Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, made this clear in an interview earlier this week when he said, “In is in. Out is out.”

    In the mid-term, German bankers might indeed see Brexit as an opportunity rather than a disaster. Frankfurt has been working for the last two decades to modernize and internationalize its financial services sector. Nevertheless, it has continued to play second fiddle to London. In fact, a lobbying organization for Frankfurt’s financial sector opened a hotline today for London bankers interested in moving across the Channel. Hubertus Vath, the managing director of the body, was in a giddy mood, “The welcome banner is hung and Frankfurt’s doors are wide open.”
    Tags: , , , , , by M. Fioretti (2016-06-25)
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  8. Germany is a natural home for the vertical farm pilot. The country has long accommodated garden-loving urbanites with small garden allotments, referred to as ‘schrebergarten’ after Leipzig-based Dr. Daniel Schreber, who dreamt of having fields where children could connect with nature. After Schreber’s death in 1861, the idea evolved into dedicated vegetable garden plots, which became particularly important in wartime. Schrebergarten were also known as ‘paupers’ gardens,’ as they allowed needy people to grow their own produce in lieu of receiving financial aid, the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment says.

    A century and a half later, garden allotments are in major demand. Berlin has just 833 highly sought-after allotments for some 3.5 million residents. Acquiring one requires payment of a ‘transfer fee’ of between €2000 and €5000, and that’s only after you’ve joined the gardening association and made your way to the top of a lengthy waiting list.

    While vertical farming solves a litany of traditional farming complications—it takes up less space, uses less water, doesn’t require pesticides and doesn’t suffer from soil damage caused by growing a single crop at a time—broader adoption still has hurdles. A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future cited limited access to urban gardens, as well as the high cost of urban farming programs.
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  9. Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens at European Council headquarters in Brussels two days after the attacks in Brussels. (Eric Lalmand/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/Getty Images)
    By David Ignatius Opinion writer March 24

    “We have the Europe we deserve,” admitted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday. The question is how Europeans can build the security structures they need.

    The first requirement is solidarity, within each country and among the 28 nations of the European Union. This begins with better links with the Muslim communities, the angry, alienated people at Europe’s table. Yes, Europe needs to be more welcoming, but that’s only half of it. Muslims need to embrace the obligations of European residence and citizenship.
    David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. View Archive


    What would this solidarity look like? After Sept. 11, 2001, Muslims in the United States by the thousands volunteered for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. They despised the terrorist acts that had been committed in their name by al-Qaeda and wanted to show themselves and their fellow citizens that they were loyal Americans.

    European Muslims should step up now in a similar way. In immigrant neighborhoods like Molenbeek in Brussels or the banlieues that surround Paris, Muslim leaders who want change should organize campaigns to enlist their neighbors in the army, police and security services; these leaders can create a new social compact by showing their fellow citizens that they are ashamed of what the jihadist thugs have done and are unafraid of retribution. European Muslims need to feel ownership of security, rather than viewing the police as an occupying army.

    The jihadists often emerge from a youth-gang subculture of violence and intimidation. No wonder the Belgian authorities stumbled for four months looking for Islamic State fugitive Salah Abdeslam. No wonder they couldn’t find the suicide bombers who struck Tuesday, four days after Abdeslam’s arrest, even though they suspected an attack was coming. Nobody would talk to them. The community was “deaf and dumb,” as the mobsters liked to say about ethnic neighborhoods in the United States.
    Why are terrorists targeting Brussels?
    Play Video1:36

    The second requirement is fairness. The European Union has largely been a project of the elites. The powerful companies (and nations) have prospered. The weak have suffered. When the bills came due, the haves told the have-nots to tighten their belts. Should it surprise us that this arrogant system is cracking at the seams?

    The Greeks may have exploited a system that gave them a financial free ride, but the Germans then insisted on imposing an impossible debt-repayment scheme that was meant to teach the debtors a lesson. The Germans should have known better: The punitive repatriations plan imposed by the allies after World War I created the bitter payback of Nazism.

    The third requirement is for Europe to grow up about intelligence. Many Europeans seem to think that good intelligence is created by immaculate conception, rather than through the hard and sometimes intrusive work of surveillance. The authorities often don’t mind if the United States does the counterterrorist snooping, so long as they don’t have to admit it to their publics.

    Europeans don’t like to talk about intelligence, and they often pretend their countries don’t spy. This immature approach leaves them unable to demand accountability from the security services after chronic intelligence failures like the ones we have seen in France and Belgium. How can you reform something if you won’t talk honestly about how it works?

    A fourth requirement is for a trans-Atlantic partnership that’s equal to the seriousness of this crisis. All the alarm bells are ringing. The leaders of the United States and Europe should meet in a crisis summit — Brussels would be a good spot — and they should stay until they have agreed on plans for collecting and sharing intelligence together, so that citizens across Europe are safer.

    Bureaucracy, a modern European specialty, is the enemy: To forge an alliance that can succeed, Europeans must break through national, regional and international barriers to fight a global adversary. President Obama, perhaps more popular in Europe than in the United States, can lead this trans-Atlantic partnership and create a legacy that’s worthy of him.

    The final requirement is to think ahead about changes that will create better stability in the future. If it’s 1941 in terms of the shock, it should be 1944 in terms of planning for the future — devising the post-crisis equivalents of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations that can cope with the explosion of rage that has swept Muslim Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It’s an interconnected problem, and the solutions require shared, visionary ideas about governance, economic development and global tolerance.

    Fix it or lose it. That’s the challenge today for Europe. It won’t get it right without American help. Now is the time to start.
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  10. The euro zone is to benefit German industrial output.

    ECB turned off the money supply to Greece to force Greece to its knees. Once there was unconditional surrender, a choice between suicide or execution, ECB turned back on the money supply to Greek banks. The money that was lent, flowed back out to pay off international creditors, a point Germans should note when they keep referring to bailing out Greece.

    The Fourth Reich showed they would happily destroy a country if that country did not give in to its demands. They forced onto Greece, not only a surrender, but an unconditional surrender, part of which is rape and pillage of the country, enclosure of the commons, sell off of Greek assets on the cheap. But at least we all now know what the Fourth Reich is capable of, Its brutality was exposed for all the world to see. At least Podemos in Spain now know exactly what they are dealing with.

    It was meant to set an example to Podemos, do not dare oppose the Fourth Reich this too will be your fate.

    But it has had had the opposite effect, for pro-democracy activists across Europe to double their efforts to defeat the Fourth Reich.

    What we have learnt, we have to work from the grass roots upwards. Syriza has grass roots support that most parties would die for, the NO vote showed that. But it was not enough. We have to restructure society from the bottom up.

    Greece may have lost a battle, but not the war, the fight continues.

    John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker:

    Syriza’s surrender wasn’t necessarily an ignominious one. As Lenin commented of the failed 1905 revolution in Russia, it was a retreat for a new attack, which ultimately proved successful. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this and pass it off as a success story,” Tsipras said to parliament on Wednesday, prior to the vote, acknowledging that the spending cuts and tax increases contained in the agreement would deal another blow to the Greek economy. However, that wasn’t the full story, Tsipras insisted. “We have left a heritage of dignity and democracy to Europe,” he said. “This fight will bear fruit.”

    The euro zone is to benefit German industrial output.

    The problem Greece has is many idle hands, work that needs doing, and no money to connect the two. What connects the two is money.

    In the Great Depression there was no money, in US banks were closed, because they were bust.

    They created scrips, alternative currencies, across Europe and in the States. They were successful, incredibly successful. The reason they do not exist today is because they were too successful, the Central Banks closed them down.

    In 1931, a German coal mine operator decided to open his closed mine by paying his workers in wara. It was backed by coal. Because it was backed by coal, which everyone could use, local merchants and wholesalers were persuaded to accept it. The mining town flourished, and within the year at least a thousand stores across Germany were accepting wara, and banks began accepting wara-denominated deposits. Feeling threatened, the German government tried to have the wara declared illegal by the courts; when that failed, it simply banned it by emergency decree.

    The following year, the depressed town of Wörgl, Austria, issued its own stamp scrip inspired by the success of the wara. The Wörgl currency was by all accounts a huge success. Roads were paved, bridges built, and back taxes were paid. The unemployment rate plummeted and the economy thrived, attracting the attention of nearby towns. Mayors and officials from all over the world began to visit Wörgl until, as in Germany, the central government abolished the Wörgl currency and the town slipped back into depression.
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