mfioretti: wwii*

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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. perché per settant’anni non si era più parlato del ruolo della Brigata nella resistenza italiana? Un articolo apologetico sulla “Stampa” ammette alla fine che la Brigata si chiamava palestinese, e che “viene chiamata ebraica oggi per evitare equivoci”. Eppure non basta. C’è qualcos’altro.

    Semplicemente era sparita perché la maggior parte dei combattenti erano di paesi diversi dall’Italia, erano partiti dalla Palestina e volevano tornarci subito dopo la guerra, per continuare la lotta per impossessarsi di una terra in cui erano minoranza. E ci sono tornati, praticamente tutti. Probabilmente, molti di loro oggi sono morti, e i sopravvissuti dovrebbero essere non moltissimi e tutti sui novanta anni. Nelle foto, quelli che sfilavano sembravano invece anziani, ma non vecchi. Ci si può domandare se sono stati fatti venire dallo Stato di Israele, o se qualcuno ha scelto la strada della rievocazione facendo sfilare una parte della comunità ebraica locale sotto le insegne apparentemente più rispettabili di una formazione partigiana inesistente. Se fosse così, potrei augurarmi che le comunità ebraiche (soprattutto quella romana che ho conosciuto meglio) ritornino alle loro origini antifasciste e democratiche, che da molti anni sembravano dimenticate, e sostituite da aggressioni in stile fascista a qualche kefia comparsa nelle adiacenze del Portico di Ottavia a Roma, o da spedizioni vocianti e insultanti alla sede centrale del PRC e di Liberazione in via del Policlinico…
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  3. So it’s Saturday night in 1941, and you want to wear stockings with your cocktail dress, but the new wonder material nylon has been rationed for the war effort and has disappeared from department store shelves. What do you do in such times of patriotic privation? You get resourceful, and cover your legs with a layer of nude-colored makeup, and line the back of each leg with a trompe l’oeil seam.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-10)
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  4. Il servizio della tv inglese sul compleanno dell'Europa passa dal paesino in cui i nazisti trucidarono 560 persone. Tra gli intervistati uno dei superstiti, Enrico Pieri, 83 anni. Il giornalista Allan Little: "Non abbiamo posti della memoria come questi, in Regno Unito: forse per questo gli inglesi non vedono che l'Ue è un progetto di pace e non solo un blocco commerciale"
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-03-31)
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  5. On 24 August 1942, 700 Italian horsemen of the Savoia Cavalleria routed 2,500 Soviet troops of the 812th Siberian Infantry Regiment near Isbushenskij. While taking 84 casualties (32 dead, 52 wounded), the Italians inflicted 1,050 casualties (150 dead, 300 wounded, 600 captured) on the Soviets, and captured 14 artillery pieces.

    Italian soldiers fought well in the Battle of Arbuzovka and the Battle of Nikolayevka.
    Axis troops were largely Italian also in the phases of Axis victories in the North African Campaign.
    Italian troops put up a good show in the East African Campaign.
    The 10th Light Flotilla, also known as Decima Flottiglia MAS or XMAS, sank or damaged 28 ships from September 1940 to the end of 1942. These included the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and Valiant (damaged in the harbour of Alexandria on 18 December 1941), and 111,527 long tons (113,317 t) of merchant shipping. The XMAS used a particular kind of torpedo, the SLC (Siluro a Lenta Corsa), whose crew was composed of two frogmen, and motorboats packed with explosives, called MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato).
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-02-24)
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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. The Russians had a flying aircraft carrier that actually worked & deployed aircraft from the “mother-ship” that successfully shot down two Bf 109s
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2016-06-15)
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  8. Quando i denunciati erano 'normali' cittadini tedeschi le brutalità della Gestapo erano quasi inesistenti, il che confermerebbe l’idea per cui il sistema di terrore nazista, «se mostrava il suo volto feroce nei confronti di uno specifico gruppo di oppositori, esibiva un volto umano e più professionale nei confronti dei comuni connazionali». A questo proposito l’autore ricorda la circostanza, quasi incredibile, che il direttore della Gestapo, Heinrich Müller, si iscrisse al partito unico solo nel 1939 e che tutta la catena operativa di funzionari e burocrati di questa polizia segreta non era formata solo da fanatici nazisti, ma da servitori dello Stato in buona parte formatisi professionalmente nella repubblica di Weimar.

    Lo studio dello storico britannico si inserisce dunque nel solco di un parziale revisionismo attento a ricostruire, nelle pieghe delle più approfondite ricognizioni documentarie, le ragioni del consenso sul quale il regime di Hitler poté contare, dentro la società germanica del tempo, per effetto della forza ipnotica e di fascinazione esercitata dalla narrazione nazista.

    Resta da evidenziare che McDonough, nel suo volume, dedica spazio considerevole al tipo di resistenza che le confessioni cristiane di Germania, tanto quella riformata, a cui aderiva il 66% della popolazione, quanto quella cattolica romana, opposero al regime di Hitler. In campo protestante fu soprattutto la cosiddetta “Chiesa confessante” (la quale rivendicava uno spazio di libertà dai condizionamenti del sistema totalitario, rompendo la continuità rispetto alla lunga tradizione di “Chiesa di Stato”, o meglio dei principi, che il luteranesimo incarnò) ad animare un braccio di ferro con il potere nazista. Questa dissidenza scatenò la Gestapo che tuttavia fu misurata nel procedere agli arresti e alle deportazioni dei pastori.

    La reazione fu invece più agguerrita nei confronti dei cattolici.
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  9. «Libertà? Questo Paese non ama la libertà. Ama l’abitudine, il conservatorismo, ama tirare avanti».

    Parole dure di chi, ancora diacono, venne mandato dal cardinale Schuster, nel 1944, a benedire i corpi dei partigiani ammazzati dai nazifascisti a Milano, in piazzale Loreto. «Sognavamo un’Italia diversa, democratica e libera. Sognavamo un’Italia religiosa ma non clericale. Oggi c’è un fascismo strisciante, mediatico. La stampa impone un pensiero, una realtà. Per noi la libertà era un sogno. Oggi contro di noi, contro la libertà, non ci sono di certo i mitra, ma molti limiti, troppi».

    Dopo l’8 settembre 1943, don Barbareschi fondò, con uomini di valore come Mario Apollonio, Carlo Bianchi, Dino Del Bo, Teresio Olivelli, il musicologo Claudio Sartori e David Maria Turoldo, un giornale clandestino, e il nome di quella testata dice tutto dell’anelito di libertà che quel gruppo e tanti altri italiani sentivano: Il ribelle. «Bisogna tornare ad amare la libertà, non i miti odierni del successo e del denaro, perché quando si cammina verso un mito si fallisce. Il fascismo sta tornando, ed è un nuovo fascismo. Vuole un esempio? Oggi non si ama più la persona, ma il gruppo, la massa. Non si pensa al bene comune ma a quello privato. Quando vedo nei cortei uomini e donne che urlano sempre gli stessi slogan, penso che alla fine quelle persone vivranno per lo slogan stesso, senza interrogarsi nel profondo. O si vive come si pensa, o si finisce a pensare per come si vive».
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  10. According to economist Michael Hudson, the most successful debt jubilee in recent times was gifted to Germany, the country now most opposed to doing the same for Greece. The German Economic Miracle followed massive debt forgiveness by the Allies:

    All domestic German debts were annulled, except employer wage debts to their labor force, and basic working balances. Later, in 1953, its international debts were written down.

    Why not do the same for the Greeks? Hudson writes:

    It was easy to write down debts that were owed to Nazis. It is much harder to do so when the debts are owed to powerful and entrenched institutions – especially to banks.

    Loans Created with Accounting Entries Can Be Canceled with Accounting Entries

    That may be true for non-bank creditors. But for banks, recall that the money owed to them is not taken from the accounts of depositors. It is simply created with accounting entries on the books. The loans could be canceled the same way. To the extent that the Greek debt is owed to the ECB, the IMF and other financial institutions, that is another option for canceling it.

    British economist Michael Rowbotham explored that possibility in 1998 for the onerous Third World debts owed to the World Bank and IMF. He wrote that of the $2.2 trillion debt then outstanding, the vast majority was money simply created by commercial banks. It represented a liability on the banks’ books only because the rules of banking said their books must be balanced. He suggested two ways the rules might be changed to liquidate unfair and oppressive debts:

    The first option is to remove the obligation on banks to maintain parity between assets and liabilities, or, to be more precise, to allow banks to hold reduced levels of assets equivalent to the Third World debt bonds they cancel. Thus, if a commercial bank held $10 billion worth of developing country debt bonds, after cancellation it would be permitted in perpetuity to have a $10 billion dollar deficit in its assets. This is a simple matter of record-keeping.

    The second option, and in accountancy terms probably the more satisfactory (although it amounts to the same policy), is to cancel the debt bonds, yet permit banks to retain them for purposes of accountancy.

    The Real Roadblock Is Political

    The Eurocrats could end the economic crisis by writing off odious unrepayable debt either through quantitative easing or by changing bank accounting rules. But ending the crisis is evidently not what they are up to. As Michael Hudson puts it, “finance has become the modern-day mode of warfare. Its objectives are the same: acquisition of land, raw materials and monopolies.” He writes:

    Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other debtor countries have been under the same mode of attack that was waged by the IMF and its austerity doctrine that bankrupted Latin America from the 1970s onward.

    Prof. Richard Werner, who was on the scene as the European Union evolved, maintains that the intent for the EU from the start was the abandonment of national sovereignty in favor of a single-currency system controlled by eurocrats doing the bidding of international financiers.
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