Monday READ – 28 October 2013
Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* THE IMF PROPOSES A 10% SUPERTAX ON ALL EUROZONE HOUSEHOLD SAVINGS
Source: Automatic Earth
This is a story that should raise an eyebrow or two on every single face in Europe, and beyond. I saw the first bits of it on a Belgian site named Express.be, whose writers in turn had stumbled upon an article in French newspaper Le Figaro, whose writer Jean-Pierre Robin had leafed through a brand new IMF report (yes, there are certain linguistic advantages in being Dutch, Canadian AND Québecois). In the report, the IMF talks about a proposal to tax everybody’s savings, in the Eurozone. Looks like they just need to figure out by how much.
The IMF, I’m following Mr. Robin here, addresses the issue of the sustainability of the debt levels of developed nations, Europe, US, Japan, which today are on average 110% of GDP, or 35% more than in 2007. Such debt levels are unprecedented, other than right after the world wars. So, the Fund reasons, it’s time for radical solutions.
Now, there’s a history to all this. WW I and WW II led to similar ideas, some of which were executed in practice. Jean-Pierre Robin even suggests that we have just resurfaced from a financial crisis that was as destructive as a war. A nice additional point is that he also says Europe and the US got rid of their debt levels through elevated levels of inflation between 1945 and 1975, but at the same time a shame he doesn’t realize that can’t work here. No inflation to the rescue this time around. But radical solutions.
Back in 2011, the Boston Consulting Group was pondering something even more radical, in a report called: “Back To Mesopotamia? The Looming Threat Of Debt Restructuring“. As Zero Hedge reported at the time:
[..] … it is time to face the facts. What facts? The facts which state that between household, corporate and government debt, the developed world has $20 trillion in debt over and above the sustainable threshold by the definition of “stable” debt to GDP of 180%. The facts according to which all attempts to eliminate the excess debt have failed, and for now even the Fed’s relentless pursuit of inflating our way out this insurmountable debt load have been for nothing.
The facts which state that the only way to resolve the massive debt load is through a global coordinated debt restructuring (which would, among other things, push all global banks into bankruptcy) which, when all is said and done, will have to be funded by the world’s financial asset holders: the middle-and upper-class, which, if BCG is right, have a ~30% one-time tax on all their assets to look forward to as the great mean reversion finally arrives and the world is set back on a viable path. But not before the biggest episode of “transitory” pain, misery and suffering in the history of mankind. [..]
There is one thing we would like to bring to our readers’ attention because we are confident, that one way or another, sooner or later, it will be implemented. Namely a one-time wealth tax: in other words, instead of stealth inflation, the government will be forced to proceed with over transfer of wealth. According to BCG, the amount of developed world debt between household, corporate and government that needs to be eliminated is just over $21 trillion.
Which unfortunately means that there is an equity shortfall that will have to be funded with incremental cash which will have to come from somewhere. That somewhere is tax of the middle and upper classes, which are in possession of $74 trillion in financial assets, which in turn will have to be taxed at a blended rate of 28.7%. […]
* DIEBOLD CHARGED WITH BRIBERY, FALSIFYING DOCS, ‘WORLDWIDE PATTERN OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT’
By Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog
One of the world’s largest ATM manufacturers and, formerly, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents.
The charges represent only the latest in a long series of criminal and/or unethical misconduct by Diebold, Inc. and their executives over the past decade.
According to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, a U.S. Attorney says the latest charges are in response to “a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct” by the company….
Federal prosecutors Tuesday filed charges against Diebold Inc., accusing the North Canton-based ATM and business machine manufacturer of bribing government officials and falsifying documents in China, Indonesia and Russia to obtain and retain contracts to provide ATMs to banks in those countries.
The two-count criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement calls for Diebold to pay nearly $50 million in penalties: $23 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and $25 million to the Department of Justice.
The agreement with federal prosecutors also calls for the implementation of rigorous internal controls that includes a compliance monitor for at least 18 months. The government agreed to defer criminal prosecution for three years, and drop the charges if Diebold abides by the terms of the agreement.
Despite at least $1.75 million in bribes said to have been paid the company around the globe, nobody will go to jail for what U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach describes as their “worldwide pattern of criminal conduct,” because they are a corporation — and you are not. […]
* BP’s ‘WIDESPREAD HUMAN HEALTH CRISIS’
Toxicologists ‘predicted with certainty’ that Gulf of Mexico residents and clean-up workers would become severely ill.
By Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera
New Orleans, United States of America – Peter Frizzell never thought his watersports off the coast of Florida would destroy his health.
“After sea kayaking after BP’s spill happened, I was sitting at my desk and started coughing up loads of blood,” Frizzell, an avid outdoorsman, told Al Jazeera. “My doctor ran a scope down to the top of my lungs and said my bronchi were full of blood.”
Frizzell’s medical records bear out that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, and he is far from alone.
Since the spill began in April 2010, Al Jazeera has interviewed hundreds of coastal residents, fishermen, and oil cleanup workers whose medical records, like Frizzell’s, document toxic chemical exposure that they blame on BP’s oil and the toxic chemical dispersants the oil giant used on the spill.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the toxic components commonly found in chemicals in crude oil, and several of these chemicals have been found in the blood of people living in the impact zone of BP’s disaster. […]
* WHO BUYS THE SPIES? THE HIDDEN CORPORATE CASH BEHIND AMERICA’S OUT-OF-CONTROL SURVEILLANCE STATE
By Thomas Gerguson, Paul Jorgensen, Jie Chen, Moyers & Company
Long before President Obama kicked off his 2008 campaign, many Americans took it for granted that George W. Bush’s vast, sprawling national security apparatus needed to be reined in. For Democrats, many independents and constitutional experts of various persuasions, Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious doctrine of the “unitary executive” (which holds that the president controls the entire executive branch), was the ultimate statement of the imperial presidency. It was the royal road to easy (or no) warrants for wiretaps, sweeping assertions of the government’s right to classify information secret, and arbitrary presidential power. When Mitt Romney embraced the neoconservatives in the 2012 primaries, supporters of the president often cited the need to avoid a return to the bad old days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld National Security State as a compelling reason for favoring his reelection. Reelect President Obama, they argued, or Big Brother might be back.
But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.
In early June 2013, Glenn Greenwald, then of the Guardian, with an assist from journalists at The Washington Post, electrified the world with stories drawn from documents and testimony from Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton working under contract with the National Security Agency, who had fled the country. They broke the news that the US government had been collecting vast amounts of information on not only foreigners, but also American citizens. And the US had been doing this for years with the cooperation of virtually all the leading firms in telecommunications, software and high tech electronics, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Facebook. Sometimes the government even defrays their costs. […]
* MEET THE PRIVATE COMPANIES HELPING COPS SPY ON PROTESTERS
Promotional materials for private spy companies show that mass surveillance technology is being sold to police departments as a way to monitor dissent
By John Knefel, Rolling Stone
The documents leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have brought national intelligence gathering and surveillance operations under a level of scrutiny not seen in decades. Often left out of this conversation, though, is the massive private surveillance industry that provides services to law enforcement, defense agencies and corporations in the U.S. and abroad – a sprawling constellation of companies and municipalities. “It’s a circle where everyone [in these industries] is benefitting,” says Eric King, lead researcher of watchdog group Privacy International. “Everyone gets more powerful, and richer.”
Promotional materials for numerous private spy companies boast of how law enforcement organizations can use their products to monitor people at protests or other large crowds – including by keeping tabs on individual people’s social media presence. Kenneth Lipp, a journalist who attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia from October 19th to 23rd, tells Rolling Stone that monitoring Twitter and Facebook was a main theme of the week. “Social media was the buzzword,” says Lipp. He says much of the discussion seemed to be aimed at designing policies that wouldn’t trigger potentially limiting court cases: “They want to avoid a warrant standard.”
While the specifics of which police departments utilize what surveillance technologies is often unclear, there is evidence to suggest that use of mass surveillance against individuals not under direct investigation is common. “The default is mass surveillance, the same as NSA’s ‘collect it all’ mindset,” says King. “There’s not a single company that if you installed their product, [it] would comply with what anyone without a security clearance would think is appropriate, lawful use.” […]
* OBAMA IS SHOCKED, SHOCKED TO LEARN EVERYONE’S PHONE WAS BUGGED
By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge
The Obama administration, which has a spotless track record in taking credit for everything that goes right (all of which is thanks to Bernanke’s flooding the world with record liquidity as when the No Free Lunch bill comes due, it will be some other president’s clean up), has an even more impeccable history of deflecting responsibility for all that goes wrong.
Most recently, it was the horrific rollout of Obamacare which as we observed earlier in the week, was all “someone else’s fault” but certainly not the government’s. Now, as the Snowden whistleblowing scandal has found its third (or fourth) wind courtesy of a furious international response following revelations that Obama was listening in to Merkel and at least 34 other world leaders’, it is time for perhaps the most stunning revelation of all: you see, Obama is shocked, shocked to learn that cell phone spying – of virtually everyone on the planet – is going on in here. […]
* NSA OFFICIAL: OBAMA WAS INFORMED OF SPYING ON MERKEL’S CELLPHONE, LET IT CONTINUE
By Kevin Gosztola, Common Dreams
German media reports new details related to National Security Agency spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. Her phone was on a list for monitoring since 2002. President Barack Obama was also apparently briefed by NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander on the program in 2010 and did not stop it.
The NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) was the unit involved in the surveillance. According to Bild am Sonntag, Gerhard Schröder, Merkel’s predecessor, was also a target of surveillance. Part of the motivation for the spying was the country’s participation and support in the Iraq War.
The same newspaper quoted an unnamed “high-ranking” NSA official, who claimed, “Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue.” This sharpens the scandal between Germany and the United States considerably, as it had seemed the spying had only taken place while President George W. Bush was in office. […]
* THE REAL REASON U.S. TARGETS WHISTLEBLOWERS
Source: Washington’s Blog
[…] The judge in al-Qahtani’s case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because “it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani … to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists.” When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that “it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government’s intelligence agencies.” In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones.
This approach is alarming in part because it has no limiting principle. The reasons why people choose to align themselves against the United States — or any other country — are nearly as numerous and varied as the people themselves. Our support for Israel is considered a basis for enmity by some. May the government classify the aid we provide to other nations? May it classify our trade policies on the basis that they may breed resentment among the populations of some countries, thus laying the groundwork for future hostile relations? May it classify our history of involvement in armed conflicts across the globe because that history may function as “anti-American propaganda” in some quarters?
Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government’s conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad. Indeed, the judge in the al-Qahtani FOIA case noted that “the written record of (al-Qahtani’s) torture may make it all the more likely that enemy forces would use al-Qahtani’s image against the United States” — citing this fact as a reason to uphold classification.
Using the impropriety of the government’s actions as a justification for secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. To prevent this very outcome, the executive order that governs classification forbids classifying a document to “conceal violations of law” or to “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.” However, a federal judge in 2008 interpreted this provision to allow classification of information revealing misconduct if there is a valid security reason for the nondisclosure. Together, this ruling and the judge’s opinion in the al-Qahtani FOIA case eviscerate the executive order’s prohibition: The government can always argue that it classified evidence of wrongdoing because the information could be used as “anti-American propaganda” by our adversaries. […]
Photo by 401(K) 2013 released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.