mfioretti: usa*

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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.)
    http://michael-hudson.com/2017/11/germanys-choice
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  2. let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.

    This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange. The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request:

    The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.



    It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.



    “Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”

    (Source)

    The essence of this deal is pretty simple. KSA wanted to be able to sell its oil to its then largest buyer, the USA, while also having a safe place to park the funds, plus receive military protection to boot. But it didn’t want anybody else, especially its Arab neighbors, to know that it was partnering so intimately with the US who, in turn, would be supporting Israel. That would have been politically incendiary in the Middle East region, coming as it did right on the heels of the Yom Kipper War (1973).

    As for the US, it got the oil it wanted and – double bonus time here – got KSA to recycle the very same dollars used to buy that oil back into Treasuries and contracts for US military equipment and training.

    Sweet deal.

    Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.

    Since that key deal was struck back in the early 1970s, the KSA has remained a steadfast supporter of the US and vice versa. In return, the US has never said anything substantive about KSA’s alleged involvement in 9/11 or its grotesque human and women’s rights violations. Not a peep.

    Until recently.
    Then Things Started To Break Down

    In 2015, King Salman came to power. Things began to change pretty quickly, especially once he elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to a position of greater power.

    Among MBS's first acts was to directly involve KSA into the Yemen civil war, with both troops on the ground and aerial bombings. That war has killed thousands of civilians while creating a humanitarian crisis that includes the largest modern-day outbreak of cholera, which is decimating highly populated areas. The conflct, which is considered a 'proxy war' because Iran is backing the Houthi rebels while KSA is backing the Yemeni government, continues to this day.

    Then in 2016, KSA threatened to dump its $750 billion in (stated) US assets in response to a bill in Congress that would have released sensitive information implicating Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11. Then-president Obama had to fly over there to smooth things out. It seems the job he did was insufficient; because KSA-US relations unraveled at an accelerating pace afterwards. Mission NOT accomplished, it would seem.

    In 2017, KSA accused Qatar of nefarious acts and made such extraordinary demands that an outbreak of war nearly broke out over the dispute. The Qatari leadership later accused KSA of fomenting ‘regime change’, souring the situation further. Again, Iran backed the Qatar government, which turned this conflict into another proxy battle between the two main regional Arab superpowers.

    In parallel with all this, KSA was also supporting the mercenaries (aka "rebels" in western press) who were seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria -- yet another proxy war between KSA and Iran. It's been an open secret that, during this conflict, KSA has been providing support to some seriously bad terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other supposed enemies of the US/NATO. (Again, the US has never said 'boo' about that, proving that US rhetoric against "terrorists" is a fickle construct of political convenience, not a moral matter.)

    Once Russia entered the war on the side of Syria's legitimate government, the US and KSA (and Israel) lost their momentum. Their dreams of toppling Assad and turning Syria into another failed petro-state like they did with Iraq and Libya are not likely to pan out as hoped.

    But rather than retreat to lick their wounds, KSA's King Salman and his son are proving to be a lot nimbler than their predecessors.

    Rather than continue a losing battle in Syria, they've instead turned their energies and attention to dramatically reshaping KSA's internal power structures:

    Saudi Arabia’s Saturday Night Massacre



    For nearly a century, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the elders of a royal family that now finds itself effectively controlled by a 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He helms the Defense Ministry, he has extravagant plans for economic development, and last week arranged for the arrest of some of the most powerful ministers and princes in the country.



    A day before the arrests were announced, Houthi tribesmen in Yemen but allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh.



    The Saudis claim the missile came from Iran and that its firing might be considered “an act of war.”



    Saudi Arabia was created between the two world wars under British guidance. In the 1920s, a tribe known as the Sauds defeated the Hashemites, effectively annexing the exterior parts of Saudi Arabia they did not yet control. The United Kingdom recognized the Sauds’ claim shortly thereafter. But since then, the Saudi tribe has been torn by ambition, resentment and intrigue. The Saudi royal family has more in common with the Corleones than with a Norman Rockwell painting.



    The direct attack was undoubtedly met with threats of a coup. Whether one was actually planned didn’t matter. Mohammed Bin Salman had to assume these threats were credible since so many interests were under attack. So he struck first, arresting princes and ex-minsters who constituted the Saudi elite. It was a dangerous gamble. A powerful opposition still exists, but he had no choice but to act. He could either strike as he did last Saturday night, or allow his enemies to choose the time and place of that attack. Nothing is secure yet, but with this strike, there is a chance he might have bought time. Any Saudi who would take on princes and clerics is obviously desperate, but he may well break the hold of the financial and religious elite.
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-11...-worry-you-youre-not-paying-attention
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  3. You know, whiteness is never seen as a cause, in and of itself, of these kinds of massacres, of other forms of violence, despite the fact that whiteness is a structure of privilege and it’s a structure of power, and a structure that, when it feels threatened, you know, lashes out. And so, that’s the kind of thing that we really need to think about, not only why is it—and I think there’s a lot of attention to the fact that we demonize often Muslims or, you know, other people of color when these attacks occur. The far right, of course, jumps on any violence by people of color—and yet, you know, doesn’t want to talk about the real deep structures of white supremacy in our society, and again, not just the fringe, not just the Nazi movements, but what people are going through every day and what it is that is driving people to these kinds of situations, where they feel so entitled to dominance that when that’s questioned, they can explode in these very, very unpredictable ways—

    AMY GOODMAN: And then—

    GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: —and on targets that, you know, are not—you know, it’s not a question of white supremacy playing a role simply because someone is targeting people of color. We’re talking about people who are having, you know, mental—clear mental issues. But again, the cause needs to be identified outside and beyond that, and we need to think much, much harder about what’s going on in our society that makes it so sick.
    https://www.democracynow.org/2017/11/...after_texas_massacre_drexel_prof_asks
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  4. For Mueller’s findings to have any effect, they will have to break some part of the basic dynamic on the right. Here’s how it works:

    Pundits and yellers in right-wing media compete to freak out the base and reinforce its allegiance to Donald Trump. The base leans on politicians. And most elected GOP officials are in seats safe enough that they fear a primary challenge from the base more than a Democratic challenger. The only way to stave off a primary is to pay obeisance.

    That’s why Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are leaving the Senate. They no longer have any control over what their constituents believe or want, and their constituents believe and want increasingly ugly things. Sen. John McCain is saying all the right things now, but back when he faced his own Tea Party challenger, he sprinted right as fast as he could.

    GOP politicians cannot (or feel that they cannot) cross the base. And the base is currently being lied to about the Mueller investigation at a furious pace. The entire right-wing machine has kicked into high gear, led by the president himself, furiously throwing out chaff about Comey, Mueller, Obama, Hillary, the dossier, the uranium, the emails, and whatever else.

    What if we find out Trump is guilty and just can’t do anything about it?

    As long as the base is convinced that Mueller is an agent of the deep state (or whatever), it will punish any Republican politician that strays from the pack and criticizes Trump. For a GOP officeholder, standing up for democratic integrity could mean sacrificing reelection in 2018 or 2020.

    As long as Republican politicians are frightened by the base, the base is frightened by scary conspiracies in right-wing media, and right-wing media makes more money the more frightened everyone is, Trump appears to be safe. As long as the incentives are aligned in that direction, there will be no substantial movement to censure, restrain, or remove him from office.


    There is no longer any settling such arguments. The only way to settle any argument is for both sides to be committed, at least to some degree, to shared standards of evidence and accuracy, and to place a measure of shared trust in institutions meant to vouchsafe evidence and accuracy. Without that basic agreement, without common arbiters, there can be no end to dispute.

    If one side rejects the epistemic authority of society’s core institutions and practices, there’s just nothing left to be done. Truth cannot speak for itself, like the voice of God from above. It can only speak through human institutions and practices.

    The subject of climate change offers a crystalline example here. If climate science does its thing, checks and rechecks its work, and then the Republican Party simply refuses to accept it ... what then?

    That’s what US elites are truly afraid to confront: What if facts and persuasion just don’t matter anymore?

    Donald Trump has the power to hold on to the presidency, as long as elected Republicans, cowed by the conservative base, support him. That is true almost regardless of what he’s done or what’s proven by Mueller. As long as he has that power, he will exercise it. That’s what recent history seems to show.

    Democrats do not currently have the numbers to stop him. They can’t do it without some help from Republicans. And Republicans seem incapable, not only of acting on what Mueller knows, but of even coming to know it.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe US institutions have more life in them than I think. But at this point, it’s just very difficult to imagine anything that could bridge the epistemic gulf between America’s tribes. We are split in two, living in different worlds, with different stories and facts shaping our lives. We no longer learn or know things together, as a country, so we can no longer act together, as a country.

    So we may just have to live with a president indicted for collusion with a foreign power.
    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politi...1/2/16588964/america-epistemic-crisis
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  5. The American social structure, as Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

    America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

    That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

    Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love;; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

    As other relationships wither, many Americans are making partisanship the basis of their identity — their main political, ethnic and moral attachment. And the polls show that if you want to win a Republican primary these days, you have to embrace the Trump narrative, and not the old biblical one.

    The Republican senators greeted Trump on Capitol Hill and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they know which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.

    Even Alexander Kerensky didn’t abase himself so humiliatingly.

    The people who oppose Trump make a big error: “Let’s Get Togetherism.” This is the belief that if we can only have a civil conversation between red and blue, then everything will be better. But you can’t destroy a moral vision with a process. You need a counter-moral vision.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/opinion/the-week-trump-won.html
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-02)
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  6. about to experience a dramatic shift

    The demographics of the United States are changing quickly, and there is no simpler way to understand that than to look at the most common age of each race and ethnic group.

    The US Census Bureau recently released its estimates of the US population as of July 2016. Besides an estimate of the total population (325 million), the census also includes estimates of the number of people of every age within each race and ethnicity. For example, the census estimates that, as of July 2016, there were 976,288 Hispanic 15-year-olds in the country.

    Jed Kolko, chief economist of jobs site Indeed, combed through this data and came away with a fascinating insight. He discovered huge variation in the most common age—more technically, the mode—between each major racial group in the US.

    While there are more 57-year-old white people than any other age, the most common age among Asians is 28. For Hispanics, it’s 10. Perhaps most incredibly, the most common age for people in the US identified as mixed race is 0—babies that have not yet reached the age of one.
    https://qz.com/1013714/one-metric-sho...-about-to-experience-a-dramatic-shift
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  7. SAN DIEGO — In the competition for marquee commencement speakers, the University of California, San Diego thought it had scored a coup this year — a Nobel Peace Prize winner, best-selling author and spiritual North Star to millions of people.

    “We are honored to host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,” gushed Pradeep Khosla, the university’s chancellor, “and thankful that he will share messages of global compassion.”

    Within hours of Mr. Khosla’s announcement, though, the university was blindsided by nasty remarks on Facebook and other social media sites: “Imagine how Americans would feel if someone invited Bin Laden,” said one.

    At the center of the opposition was the U.C. San Diego chapter of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which threatened “tough measures to resolutely resist the school’s unreasonable behavior.” The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of promoting Tibetan independence from China, and if the student group’s message sounded a bit like the Beijing party line, that may have been no coincidence: The group said it had consulted with the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on the matter.
    Continue reading the main story
    Related Coverage

    Recruiting Students Overseas to Fill Seats, Not to Meet Standards APRIL 19, 2016
    China’s Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife MARCH 11, 2015
    Chinese Student in U.S. Is Caught in Confrontation APRIL 17, 2008

    China’s booming economy has increasingly allowed more of its young men and women to seek a college education in the West; 329,000 now study in the United States, more than five times the number recorded a decade ago. By far the largest contingent of foreign students, they can be an economic lifeline for colleges, since they usually pay full tuition, and they can provide a healthy dose of international diversity.

    But those students often bring to campus something else from home: the watchful eyes and occasionally heavy hand of the Chinese government, manifested through its ties to many of the 150-odd chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations.

    The groups have worked in tandem with Beijing to promote a pro-Chinese agenda and tamp down anti-Chinese speech on Western campuses. At Columbia a decade ago, the club mobilized students to protest a presentation about human rights violations in China, urging them to “resolutely defend the honor and dignity of the Motherland.” At Duke, the group was accused of inciting a harassment campaign in 2008 against a Chinese student who tried to mediate between sides in a Tibet protest. More recently in Durham, England, the group acted at the behest of the Chinese government to censor comments at a forum on China-Hong Kong relations.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us...ina-influence.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-05-06)
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  8. Chi chiede il visto d’ingresso deve consentire l’accesso a tutti i contatti che sono stati registrati nella propria rubrica telefonica e in quella della posta elettronica. Ma non basta. Devono essere “consegnate” anche le parole chiave che assicurano l’accesso ai propri profili sui social network e alle caselle mail normalmente utilizzate.

    Per entrare sul suolo a stelle e strisce occorre anche fornire il consenso all’acquisizione delle informazioni finanziarie attraverso la consultazione delle movimentazioni bancarie di conto corrente e ad altre eventuali operazioni. Non manca nemmeno l’obbligo di rispondere alle domande che sul formulario sono predisposte per individuare ideologie e convinzioni religiose. Quesiti di questa natura non sono certo nuovi perché in passato non sono mancate le schede da compilarsi prima di scendere dall’aeromobile e che sollecitavano a confidare se si era o meno “terroristi”.

    L’entrata in vigore della nuova disciplina è destinata a modificare le abitudini e ad innescare l’ennesimo arrembaggio alla privacy. Gli agenti dell’Immigration Service potranno farsi consegnare cellulari, palmari e computer, curiosare tra i contatti e la cronologia della navigazione in Internet, scandagliare l’iscrizione a partiti politici o l’appartenenza a movimenti e associazioni, ricostruire la mappa di parentele, amicizie e relazioni di lavoro. L’obiettivo (legittimo) è quello di identificare (in maniera un po’ troppo invasiva) i soggetti potenzialmente pericolosi che – sapendo di questo screening o vivisezione digitale – si guarderanno bene dal presentarsi con diavolerie informatiche che possano farli incastrare.

    L’intrusione nella vita privata è stata considerata eccessiva non solo dalle organizzazioni a tutela dei diritti civili, ma persino da April Doss, ex “associate general counsel” (ossia avvocato addetto all’ufficio legale) della National Security Agency. Doss ha dichiarato infatti che “l’esecuzione di una simile raccolta di dati potrebbe recare detrimento alle attività di intelligence, perché si corre il rischio di raccogliere tanta immondizia che non ha nulla a che vedere con niente”.

    Vedremo se le tante Authority in materia di privacy faranno sentire la loro voce…
    http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2017/...cumenti-e-password-per-favore/3500365
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  9. He was surprised students questioned Robertson’s credentials.

    “The kids had never gone through someone like this before,” Brown said. But he said he encouraged them to seek answers. “I want our kids to have real-life experiences, whether it’s welding or journalism.”

    Despite questions, Brown said Friday that the district’s school board had “100 percent supported the Robertson hire.”

    Tuesday night he said he felt bad about how it all turned out. “ I do feel it is my responsibility. As superintendent I feel like I let the teachers and the students down. I publicly admit that.”

    Robertson, who he said also has a teaching degree from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, isn’t licensed in Kansas. She would have had to take classes at Pittsburg State University, pass a test and acquire her license before she could officially hold the principal post. That isn’t uncommon for someone hired from outside the state, Brown said.

    Maddie Baden, a 17-year-old Pittsburg High junior, said the student news staff began looking into Robertson’s background after an electronic search of her name turned up several articles published by Gulf News about an English language school connected to Robertson in Dubai.

    The 2012 articles said Dubai’s education authority had suspended the license for Dubai American Scientific School and accused Robertson of not being authorized to serve as principal of that school. The private, for-profit school received an “unsatisfactory” rating on Dubai education authority inspection reports every year from 2008 to 2012 and was closed in September 2013.

    “That raised a red flag,” Baden said. “If students could uncover all of this, I want to know why the adults couldn’t find this..”
    http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article142682464.html
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-05)
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  10. Buchanan wrote a 13-page memo to Nixon, urging him to engage in “heated political warfare, of not cooling off our supporters but of stirring the fires” as they were now “in a contest over the soul of the country” with their liberal enemies in Congress, the press and the universities. “It will be their kind of society or ours; we will prevail or they shall prevail.”

    And another aide, Michael Balzano, urged the president to transmit the following message to disgruntled white voters: “Today, racial minorities are saying that you can’t make it in America. What they really mean is that they refuse to start at the bottom of the ladder the way you did. They want to surpass you … and » they want it handed to them. … You worked the menial jobs to get where you are - let them do it too.” Balzono knew what he was proposing—an intentional rending of American society along racial lines, for political profit. “CAUTION – DANGER,” he wrote. “With respect to the calculated polarization described in this paper, ABSOLUTE SECRECY CANNOT BE OVERSTATED” or “there would be no way of calculating the damage to the Administration.” The capitalization was his.
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/stor...ohn-farrell-nixon-book-excerpt-214954
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-03-28)
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