Thursday, May 29, 2014

Today's Links

1---Le Pen  would instruct the French Treasury to draft plans for the immediate restoration of the franc, Telegraph

British people will vote to leave the EU unless offered a new dispensation, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard...

when I asked Mrs Le Pen what she would do on her first day in office if she ever reached the Elysee Palace, her reply was trenchant. She would instruct the French Treasury to draft plans for the immediate restoration of the franc, that great symbol of emancipation from the English occupation (franc des Anglais).

She vowed to confront Europe's leaders with a stark choice at their first meeting: either to work with France for a "sortie concertee" or coordinated EMU break-up, or resist and let "financial Armageddon" run its course. "The euro ceases to exist the moment that France leaves, and that is our incredible strength. What are they going to do, send in tanks?" she said....

She said there can be no compromise with monetary union, deeming it impossible to remain a self-governing nation within the structures of EMU, and impossible to carry out the reflation policies necessary to defeat the economic slump. "The euro blocks all economic decisions. France is not a country that can accept tutelage from Brussels. We have succumbed to a spirit of slavery," she said.
The EU authorities are now in a near hopeless situation. The logic of EMU is a further erosion of nation states. The "Two Pack", "Six Pack" and "Fiscal Compact" are all coming into force, and national regulators are losing control over their banking systems. The euro will inevitably lurch from crisis to crisis without some form of fiscal union and debt pooling. Yet voters have just let forth a primordial scream against any further transfers of power.
With the exception of Germany, the elections were a broad repudiation of EMU austerity.

"If economic historians learned anything from the Great Depression, it is that adjustment based on austerity and internal devaluation is dangerous. Britain ran large primary surpluses throughout the 1920s, but its debt-to-GDP ratio rose substantially thanks to the deflationary, low-growth environment."
Prof O'Rourke said he has been waiting five years for Europe's leaders to forge the new instruments needed to make the failed experiment work, but it is by now obvious that Germany will not allow fiscal union or shared banking liabilities, and others will not accept a federal political Europe. It therefore pointless to protract the agony.

2---Japan April retail sales tumble after tax hike, Reuters

Japanese retail sales fell in April at their fastest pace in three years due to declining sales of cars and electronics, offering the first indication of how much consumers are trimming their purchases after a sales tax hike took effect on April 1.
The 4.4 percent annual decrease in retail sales was more than the median estimate for a 3.3 percent decline, and marked the biggest drop since a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
"The one area of concern is durable goods. Sales of these more expensive items may take more time to recover."
The government raised the nationwide sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent on April 1

3---Fed Chair Bernanke Held 84 Secret Meetings in the Lead Up to the Wall Street Collapse , Wall Street on Parade

But the mystery of these redactions is deepened by the fact that Bernanke has no problem listing meetings with President Obama, specific members of Congress, representatives of the Bank of England, every major CEO of a Wall Street firm, titans of industry like the heads of Ford Motor, IBM, and British Petroleum, quasi lobbyists like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Even the Reverend Jesse Jackson of RainbowPUSH Coalition is listed as meeting with Bernanke.

So just who is left whose identify needs to be secreted away for more than five years? One meeting on Tuesday, September 25, 2007 is so secret that both the meeting participant(s) and the location are redacted.

A careful study of where the most heavy concentration of redactions occur suggests two things: (1) Bernanke does not want the public to know that the Fed knew that Citigroup was in severe crisis months before the public became aware and (2) the Fed Chair’s participation in efforts to save Bear Stearns from a bankruptcy filing was more involved than presently known.

As we detailed last week, long before Congress approved and President Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program on October 3, 2008, Citigroup had gotten customized relief from the Federal Reserve. For example, on August 20, 2007, the Fed granted Citigroup an exemption that would allow it to funnel up to $25 billion from its FDIC insured depository bank to mortgage-backed securities speculators at its broker-dealer unit.  The Fed notes in this letter that the bank “is well capitalized,” a statement that has been called into serious question in hindsight. (Federal Reserve Exemption to Citigroup to Loan to Its Broker-Dealer, August 20, 2007)

4--US economy shrank at 1% annual pace in 1Q, USA Today

5--Calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign intensify following watchdog report, WA Post

6---Glenn Greenwald ;  the NSA has targeted what they call ‘radicalizers’ – people who establish radical views, but who are not, says the document, actual terrorists, AA

Look, sometimes the NSA intercepts communication between people who, regardless of the ambiguity of the word ‘terrorism’, would be regarded as legitimate targets of the NSA, but the problem is the vast majority of what they do isn’t about that.

AA – What is it about?

GG – It’s about putting entire populations under surveillance, targeting people and companies for economic interests, just generally wanting to use surveillance as a means to exert hegemony and domination over the world. The more you know what people in the world are saying and doing, the more power you have over them.

AA – Have you seen evidence of this?

GG – There is already some reporting we’ve done about that – there’s reporting we’ve done where the NSA has targeted what they call ‘radicalizers’ – people who establish radical views, but who are not, says the document, actual terrorists or even associated with terrorist organisations, and some of the documents we’ve uncovered talk about monitoring their online activities to see if there are any sex-chats or visiting pornographic sites and using that as a means to destroy their reputation and discredit them. So that’s targeting people who the government believes have radical ideas and using the surveillance as a means to ruin their lives, which is what the surveillance scandals of the 1960s and 70s were about. There are other documents we’ve reported on where they collect the data on people who visit the Wikileaks website, or ways in which they try and harm the reputations of activists on behalf of Anonymous, but one of the big stories that’s left to be told, which is the one we’re working on most now, is reporting on who it is specifically that the NSA has targeted with the most evasive type of surveillance on US soil, and who these people are, and what are the reasons for it, and that is the story of targeting of dissidents, and activists, and advocates as retaliation for their political views.

7---Kerry blasts Snowden. Readers blast Kerry, zero hedge

Kerry marries his billions, a cauligen-faced Georgetown skirt chaser, selling out America to the Banks and their CIA bagboys every step of the way.

8---Record Exports For A Forgotten Petroleum Power, oil price

Estimates are that Iran shipped 317,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas to Asia during the month.
Here's why those numbers are important. This is the highest export volume seen since sanctions against Iran were lifted in May 2013. Suggesting that global buyers are ramping up purchases here.

That represents a major, and largely forgotten, source of supply returning to the market. Iran had been sanctioned since July 2012. Meaning that the country's petroleum exports had dwindled over the last two years. For some commodities, shipments had dropped to almost nothing.

But the new data show us that Iran is back--and as important as ever. Buyers from key markets like China, South Korea and Southeast Asia have all been reportedly stepping up their buying here now that shipping restrictions have been lifted

9---The economy is shrinking, but more people are finding work, VOX

10--Wall Street Threaten to Blow Up Economy If They’re Prosecuted, WA blog

11--Obama West Point speech, Pravda

In their hearts and minds exists everything that was missing from the speech of Barack Nobel Peace Prizewinner Obama: that where Washington treads, terror ensues. Who created the Mujaheddin? Who funded bin Laden? Who helped Saddam Hussein? Who masterminded Operation Condor in Latin America? Who had close relationships with Fascist dictators? Who meddled in Central America for decades? Who broke international law and insulted the UN Charter in Iraq? Who lied? Who claimed that Gaddafi was bombing his own people, then broke UNSC Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011) by placing boots on the ground in Libya? Who is aiding terrorists in Syria? Who knew that the Syrian terrorists perpetrated the chemical weapons attacks to try and blame the forces of President Assad? Who has lost the war in Syria? Who tried to grab Russia's Crimea bases, then threw the toys out the pram when Moscow protected them?

That is what Ukraine is about. What the USA is about we can see perfectly clearly in Guantanamo Bay, where human rights abuses are a shining example of where the heart of the United States of America, or rather those who govern it, lies: this torture and concentration camp continues to operate, despite promises by Mr. Nobel Peace Prizewinner that he would close it, it continues to hold people in deplorable conditions without any due legal process, without even accusation in some cases. Yet when US citizens are imprisoned (without torture) abroad, he complains.

15---Housing fade, Lance Roberts

The biggest issue, however, remains household formation. As of the end of last year, for example, the number of American households was not growing at all. This is likely due to record low marriage rates as well as a slew of other factors (lack of employment, wage growth, etc.). Whatever the reason, household formation needs to stabilize before we see stronger results in the US housing market."
Housing, Is It Just The Weather?
Is Housing Set To Lift Off?
Rising Rates Squash Housing Recovery?
Housing Recovery, What Has Been Forgotten?
The point here is that while the housing market has recovered from the financial crisis lows, it has primarily been a function of speculation, historically low interest rates and massive amounts of government support. However, it is in this nascent recovery that we should recognize the true state of the average American family.
Without such massive interventions, it is unlikely the housing market would be showing much of a recovery considering the decline in real wages, and household incomes, over the last five years. Furthermore, while there has been much written about the deleveraging of the household balance sheet - the latest quarterly report shows that the only real decline in debt occurred in the mortgage segment

16--Unfazed by Weak Yen, Corporate Japan Boosts Foreign Investment , wsj-

Japanese companies’ ravenous appetite to expand business overseas creates a challenge for Mr. Abe’s growth-enhancing economic policy known as Abenomics. One key aspect of the policy was an effort to weaken the yen to help shore up the bottom line for Japanese exporters. But the latest data show that Japanese manufacturers, while enjoying a profit recovery, accelerated their investment overseas, rather than taking steps to boost exports. The long-term outcome of their increased overseas production is declines in exports from Japan, which weighs on the nation’s economic output.

17---Big Banks Can't Find Trading-Flow Mojo, wsj

Declining volumes aren't the only sign of continued trouble. Falling volatility across asset classes also has driven down revenue; price stability reduces bank profits from market-making activities. Daniel Pinto, head of J.P. Morgan Chase's investment bank, put it succinctly at the conference Tuesday: "If the market doesn't move, it's hard to monetize your flow."
Adding to the gloom, Citi's Mr. Gerspach said the second quarter "feels like the third quarter" of 2013. In that quarter, the bank reported results that missed analyst expectations, largely due to a fixed-income-trading swoon of 26%.

18--Why are bond yields tanking? Yahoo

The risk of deflation

19--The end of QE, sober look

20--Obama defends global US interventionism in West Point speech, wsws

Not only did Obama declare the US the “indispensable nation,” he also proclaimed, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” This cringing loyalty oath appeared aimed in part at fending off criticism from the Republican right.....

“America must always lead on the world stage,” the US president told the graduating cadets. “If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.” He could not have provided a clearer definition of the word “militarism.”

He continued: “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it—when our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake; or when the security of our allies is in danger.” In other words, it will wage war whenever war is considered to be advantageous to the interests of the American capitalist ruling establishment.
“International opinion matters,” he added. “But America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, our way of life.”.....

He also stressed that his talk of “counter-terrorism partnerships” and the training of proxy forces to wage war for US interests in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere is by no means meant to replace “direct action” by the US itself and, in particular, the continuation of massacres and assassinations by means of drone missile strikes.
Obama has already ordered over 400 of these attacks and by conservative estimates their victims number well over 4,000—most of them civilians—including at least four US citizens.
he declared Syria a “critical focus” of a wider plan for intervention across a broad swath of the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia. He said he had recently ordered his “national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel,” the crisis-plagued region of north-central Africa, and was proposing a new $5 billion “Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund.”
While in countries such as Yemen, Somalia and Mali, these funds would be used to train and arm repressive forces to carry out counterinsurgency operations in the name of fighting Al Qaeda
terrorism, in Syria they would be used to train and arm an insurgency that consists overwhelmingly of Islamists who, in many cases, are affiliated to Al Qaeda. Obama tried to square the circle by claiming that the funds would also be used to “push back” against “extremists” in Syria.

Nothing could more nakedly expose the fraud of the so-called “war on terror,” which, after so many lies and so many crimes carried out under its mantle, is still portrayed in Obama’s speech as the driving force of US foreign policy.

The now utterly rancid character of this “terrorism” pretext for foreign intervention found expression in Obama’s invocation of America as the “indispensable nation” that is called upon to help, whether when “girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine.”
This equation of the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria with popular protests in eastern Ukraine has the immediate purpose of justifying the slaughter being carried out by the right-wing nationalist regime in Kiev—dubbed an “anti-terrorist operation”—with Washington’s full collaboration and support.
The reference to “masked men” occupying buildings in Ukraine is also designed to erase from historical memory the fact that the US was backing precisely such men—thugs of the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector groups—when they violently seized government buildings in Kiev as part a Western-orchestrated coup to overthrow the country’s elected president.

21--The results of last week’s European elections represent a massive rejection of the European Union. Twenty-two years after the Maastricht Treaty and ten years after the incorporation of many Eastern European states, most people see the EU for what it is: the tool of powerful capitalist interests., wsws

Well over half (57 percent) of all registered voters in Europe did not take part in the elections. The disillusionment was particularly high in the Eastern European states that joined the EU over the last 10 years. In Slovakia, only 13 percent of voters went to the polls; in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland and Croatia less than a quarter of voters participated...

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