Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today's links

1--Understanding Hamas after Khaled Meshaal's Gaza speech, al jazeera

The Goldstone Report also was silent as to the nature and extent of a Palestinian right of resistance. Such unconditional condemnations of Hamas as "a terrorist organisation" are unreasonably one-sided to the extent that Palestinian moral, political, and legal rights of resistance are ignored and Israel's unlawful policies are not considered. This issue also reveals a serious deficiency in international humanitarian law, especially, as here, in the context of a prolonged occupation that includes many violations of the most fundamental and inalienable rights of an occupied people. The prerogatives of states are upheld, while those of peoples are overlooked or treated as non-existent.

It is also relevant to take note of the absence of alternative means available to the Palestinians to uphold their rights under international law and to challenge the abuses embedded in Israeli occupation policies. Israel with its drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter aircraft, Iron Dome, and so forth enjoys the luxury of choosing its targets and determining the level of violence at will, but Palestinians have no such option. For them it is either using the primitive and indiscriminate weaponry at their disposal or essentially giving in to an intolerable status quo.

To repeat, this does not make Hamas rockets lawful, but does it make such reliance wrong, given the overall context of violence that includes the absolute impunity of Israel for a pattern of flagrant violations of international criminal law? What are we to do with international law when it is invoked only to control the behaviour of the weaker party?

It gives perspective to imagine the situation being reversed as it was during the Nazi occupation of France or the Netherlands during World War II. Resistance fighters were uniformly perceived in the liberal West as unconditional heroes, and no critical attention was given as to whether the tactics used unduly imperiled innocent civilian lives. Those who lost their lives in such a resistance were honoured as martyrs. Meshaal and other Hamas leaders have made similar arguments on several occasions, in effect asking what are Palestinians supposed to do in the exercise of resistance given their circumstances, which have persisted for so long, given the failures of traditional diplomacy and the UN to secure their rights under international law.

2----The hysterical economy, VOX

A ‘self-fulfilling recession’ is a long-established idea in economics. This column argues that the US’s economic malaise continues to be caused by leaders’ hysteria rather than by actual engrained economic problems. Obama and Congress need to stop scaring the nation about the ‘fiscal cliff’ because, ultimately, they are coordinating expectations on there being a recession. Tackling the right policies now, and sending out the right message, will help more than hysteria.

3----Can the fed still help the US economy?, Bloomberg video

4---The Economy and Stocks: A Big Disconnect, NYT

History has shown that lousy economic conditions, or even dismal corporate results, don’t necessarily lead to disappointing stock market returns in any given year — or decade, for that matter.

When you buy stocks, you are ultimately buying a share in corporate profits, which are influenced by the overall economy. Nonetheless, the amount of growth in a country’s gross domestic product shouldn’t be confused with the prospects for its stock market, says Simon Hallett, chief investment officer at the asset management firm Harding Loevner. “I cannot emphasize that enough,” he says.
Investors need only look to the current year as an example. The domestic economy has grown at an annual pace only slightly above 2 percent, subpar by historical standards. Overseas, the picture is worse: Japan is teetering on the brink of yet another recession, large parts of Europe’s economy are contracting and China’s pace of growth has slowed uncomfortably.
Yet against this bleak backdrop, United States stocks have returned 15 percent, on average, this year, while those in Europe have gained 18 percent and Asian stocks are up more than 12 percent.
6---QE3 – Pay Attention If You Are in the Real Estate Market, Catherine Austin Fitts, The Solari report
it looks like the Fed decision last week to buy $40 billion a month in mortgage paper is the ultimate plan to clear the market once and for all of fraudulent mortgages, mortgage backed securities and related derivatives. This means Fannie and Freddie will be bailed out and winding down through the back door. This means the big banks may be paid in full for your mortgage. It also means your pension fund assets will not be marked to market – at the price of debasing the purchasing power of your assets and benefits.
The Fed is now where mortgages go to die. Thousands of mortgages on homes that do not exist or on homes that have more than one “first” mortgage are now going to the Fed to disappear. Thousands of multifamily and commercial mortgages will be bought up as well. As this happens, trillions of dollars that have been amassed offshore will be free to come back into the US to buy up and reposition land, farmland, residential and commercial real estate and other tangibles.
With documents shredded, criminal liabilities extinguished and financial institutions made whole, funds can return without fear of seizure.
QE3 proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that the extent of the fraud was as bad as I said it was. You can count up the bailouts and QE1, QE2, QE3 the numbers speak for themselves. The fraud was indeed in the many trillions of dollars. It was intentional. It was a plan.

7---US Federal Reserve expands “quantitative easing”, WSWS

About half of the assets being purchased by the Federal Reserve through the combined quantitative easing programs will be in the form of mortgage-backed securities, an effort to keep the value of these assets elevated while simultaneously removing them from the balance sheets of the banks......

Last week, the University of Michigan said that its confidence index fell sharply in December to 74.5, down from 82.7 percent. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM), meanwhile, reported last week that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 49.5, the lowest level since July 2009.

These figures have led economists to conclude that the US economy has slowed significantly in the last quarter of this year. At the same time, the US is deeply intertwined with the world economy, and global conditions are deteriorating rapidly.

Neither the Federal Open Market Committee press release nor the press statement given by Ben Bernanke explicitly notes a worsening of economic conditions. Rather, Bernanke couched the Fed’s policy moves as a response to concern over the continuing prevalence of unemployment.

This is a fraud. In fact, the Federal Reserve’s policy of providing unlimited free cash to the banks, all the while buying up the toxic assets on their balance sheets, has nothing to do with providing jobs to the unemployed.

US corporations are sitting atop a cash hoard that is estimated to be as much as $5 trillion dollars, while levels of investment have dropped to the lowest levels in years. Instead of putting people to work, banks and corporations are either hoarding or using the money to speculate.

The real goal of the Federal Reserve is to guarantee the continual profitability of Wall Street and the personal incomes of the super-rich.

First, the policy of zero interest rates guarantees the banks a profitable investment opportunity, at the very least by borrowing money at zero interest rates and using it to buy the government’s own debt.

Second, one of the stated aims of the quantitative easing program is to reduce interest rates on mortgages, and therefore prop up the US housing market. This is essential for inflating the values of “toxic” mortgage-backed securities, trillions of dollars of which remain on the balance sheets of the banks.

The quantitative easing program works by having the Federal Reserve create billions of dollars with which to purchase these worthless mortgage-backed securities from the banks at face value, keeping them on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve....

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