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When Cash Is Outlawed …

… Only Outlaws Will Have Cash

submitted by Bill Bonner of Bonner & Partners

annotated by Acting-Man.com’s Pater Tenebrarum

Zero Hedge (February 19 2016)

Control, Tax, Confiscate

Harvard economist Larry Summers is a reliable source of claptrap. And a frequent spokesman for the Deep State.

To bring new readers up to speed, voters don’t get a say in who runs the country. Instead, a “shadow government” of elites, cronies, lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians, and zombies – aka the Deep State – is permanently in power.

Larry Summers – the man with a plan for everyone. An economist whose economic theorizing is truly abominable crap (more on this in an upcoming post), a reliable, crypto-fascist, bought and paid for evil intellectual in the service of the Deep State. His “policy proposals” all have one thing in common: they are apodictically certain to restrict economic progress and individual liberty.

Put simply, it doesn’t matter which party is in power; the Deep State rules. Want to know what the Deep State is up to now? Read Larry Summers.

“It’s time to kill the $100 bill”, he wrote in the Washington Post (another reliable source of claptrap).

The Deep State wants you to use money it can easily control, tax, and confiscate. And paper currency is getting in its way.

France has already banned residents from making cash transactions of 1,000 euros ($1,114) or more. Norway and Sweden’s biggest banks urge the outright abolition of cash. And there are plans at the highest levels of government in Israel, India, and China to remove cash from circulation.

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan predicts that cash “probably won’t exist” ten years from now. And here is Mr Summers in the Washington Post:

 

Illicit activities are facilitated when a million dollars weighs 2.2 pounds as with the 500 euro note rather than more than fifty pounds, as would be the case if the $20 bill was the high denomination note.

 

He proposes “a global agreement to stop issuing notes worth more than say $50 or $100. Such an agreement would be as significant as anything else the G7 or G20 has done in years.”

What makes Mr Summers so confident that a ban on Ben Franklins would be a good thing? It turns out that a research paper – presented by Peter Sands, the former CEO of British bank Standard Chartered, and published for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government – says so.

Idiotic Ideas

“High denomination notes”, said the report, “play little role in the functioning of the legitimate economy, yet a crucial role in the underground economy”.

Mr Sands should know about hiding money. While he was CEO, New York’s top financial regulator threatened to strip Standard Chartered of its banking license. It claimed the bank “schemed” with the Iranian government to hide at least 60,000 illegal transactions – involving at least $250 billion.

If the Benjamin is killed, it will “deter illicit activities” they say, apparently taking us all for complete idiots. Very organized criminals all over the world could be heard rolling on the floor laughing their heads off at this pronouncement. Here’s another idea: if we lock all the peasants up in a small room without doors and windows, they will no longer have to suffer the indignities and dangers inflicted by bad weather! Never again will they be made wet and uncomfortable by rain, and the threat of skin cancer due to excessive exposure to sunlight (as recently highlighted by Hugh Jackman’s withering nose) will soon be but a distant memory. Isn’t such a comprehensive level of security well worth whatever small trade-offs it involves?

Here at the Diary, we don’t pretend to know how to improve the world. We just know what we like. And we don’t like other people telling us what to do. Last year, we traveled all around the world. We went where we wanted to go. We did more or less what we wanted to do. Rarely did we feel that someone was bossing us around. But back in the USA …

“Take your belt off. Take your shoes off. Anything in your pockets? Take it out …”

“Turn on lights. Fasten seat belts. Turn on windshield wipers.”

This morning, walking through the park, we found this sign:

 

Curb Your Pets

Not just a courtesy to your neighbors

IT’S THE LAW

The unspoken threat behind the “law”, made explicit.

 

People who insist you follow their ideas are always the same people whose ideas are idiotic.

 

“Always do the opposite of what they tell you do”, said a friend in France whose father was mayor of a small town during World War Two.

“There had been ‘an incident’ “, he explained. “I think the Resistance had killed a German soldier in the area. It was that time, late in the war, when the Nazis were retaliating against civilians.

“So, they told my father to get everyone in town to assemble in the town square. Instead, my father told everyone to run for the woods. They all did. They were lucky. They survived the war.”

 

Electronic Dollars

And now, Mr Summers wants us to bring our cash to the town square. Instead of $100 bills, he wants to force us to use electronic notations faithfully recorded in a federally regulated bank. Have you ever seen one of these “electronic dollars”, dear reader?

We have not. We don’t know what they look like. And we’re deeply suspicious of the whole thing. The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan – along with central banks in Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland have already imposed a negative interest rate “tax” on the accounts commercial banks hold with them (known as “reserve accounts”).

Negative yielding government bonds in Europe as of December 2015 – a monument to the decline of Western civilization

These central banks are hoping banks will pass on this new tax to their customers. This has already happened in Switzerland …

As colleague Chris Lowe told Bonner & Partners Family Office members at our recent annual meeting in Rancho Santana in Nicaragua, Alternative Bank Schweiz (“ABS”) will begin charging a negative interest rate on customers’ deposits this year.

ABS will levy an annual penalty of 0.125% on deposits of less than 100,000 Swiss francs ($101,173) and an annual penalty of 0.75% on deposits of more than 100,000 Swiss francs. Essentially, ABS is charging its customers to keep their money on deposit.

If you put $1 million in the bank, at 0.75% negative interest, you come back a year later, and you have $992,500 left. The bank has confiscated the other $7,500. At a negative rate of, say, three percent you pay $30,000 a year just to keep your money on deposit. It sounds like a scam …

Governments abolish cash. You have no choice but to leave your savings on deposit. And you’re forced to pay banks for storing your money.

Cash Outlaw

But wait. Banks are not really storing “your” money at all. A bank deposit is an IOU from your bank. There is no vault cash backing it up … just 1s and 0s on a database somewhere. If the bank decides not to give you “your” money, you’re out of luck.

It’s as though someone offers to store your cherry pie. Then he goes and eats the pie, promising to give you one just like it when you want it. He then has the cheek to charge you every month for “storing” the pie. And when you want it, he won’t be able to give it to you.


The precedent – no-one can say they weren’t warned.

“I don’t have any baking powder. You’ll have to come back tomorrow”, he says. Or, “I’m sorry. But the federal government has declared cherries an endangered species. I’m not allowed to give you your pie back. It was very tasty, though.”

How much could this electronic pie be worth anyway … if you have to pay someone to eat it for you? Imagine the automobile you have to pay someone to drive away. Or the rental unit you have to pay someone to live in.

When you have to pay someone to take it off your hands, you can imagine how much your money is really worth. And when your bank – or the Deep State – wants to confiscate your money, who will stop it?

At least if you have your money in cold, hard cash, they will have to come and physically get it from you. When it is “in the bank” – existing as nothing but electronic account balances – all they have to do is push a button.

Once it’s all numbers in a computer, they won’t even have to point their guns at you anymore. Then it will be possible to rub out your money savings by simply pushing a button on a computer keyboard. At that juncture you’d better not be too uppity, citizen.

That’s what happened in Cyprus. The banks were going to the wall. So, they confiscated deposits to help make themselves whole again. Who will stop the same thing from happening in America?

The judge the Deep State appointed? The police on the Deep State’s payroll? The politicians the Deep State bought and paid for?

When cash is outlawed … only outlaws will have cash. And we intend to be among them.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-02-19/when-cash-outlawed-only-outlaws-will-have-cash

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The Technospheratu Hypothesis

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (February 23 2016)

My next book, Shrinking the Technosphere: Getting a Grip on the Technologies that Limit our Autonomy, Self-Sufficiency and Freedom, is due out from New Society Publishers this fall. I am about halfway through writing the first draft of the manuscript. Here is an excerpt.

It can sometimes seem that the technosphere thwarts its own purpose. What sense is there in wasting resources on weapons, when there is already enough war materiel to kill all of us several times over? What sense is there in contaminating the environment with long-lived chemical toxins and radioactive radionuclides, producing high rates of cancer in the technosphere’s human servants? What purpose is there in fostering extreme levels of corruption in government and in banking, or in creating conditions for extreme social inequality? How does it help the technosphere grow stronger and more controlling to provoke international conflicts and split up the world into warring sides? Are these all failings, or are they just little problems that are too small to matter? Or – here’s a shocking thought – maybe they are all perfectly on strategy as far as the technosphere is concerned.

If we look closely, we will discover that all of these manifestations of the technosphere, although on a superficial level they appear to be problems, are, in fact, helpful to the technosphere in many interrelated ways. They help the technosphere to grow, to become more complex, and to more fully dominate the biosphere. There are far too many of them to trace out all of them, so let’s just examine a few of the more important ones – the ones I alluded to above.

With regard to cancer, it would seem that minimizing rates of cancer by keeping carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive contamination out of the environment and eliminating microwave and ionizing radiation would be a very good idea. However, this turns out to be suboptimal from the technosphere’s point of view. First, this would violate one of its prime directives by prioritizing the interests of the biosphere above its own technical concerns. Second, this would limit the need for technical intervention. Cancer treatment is a tour de force for the technosphere, allowing it to use its favorite techniques –  chemistry (in the form of chemotheraphy) and physics (in the form of radiation therapy) – to kill living things (cancer cells, that is). Third, it would forgo the opportunity to exercise control over people, and to force them to serve and to obey, lest they find themselves deprived of very expensive, supposedly life-saving cancer therapies. What is optimal for the technosphere, then, is a situation where everybody gets treatable forms of cancer and where nobody can hope to survive without chemo and radiation therapy. The technosphere likes us to be patient with it, and medical patients are patient by definition.

When it comes to fostering extreme levels of corruption in government and banking, this again seems at first counterproductive: wouldn’t a lawful, efficient financial sector and a transparent, moral government be expected to produce better results? Yes, but results for whom? Moral governance and proper banking regulation would serve the purposes of … humans! That’s right, it would be bits of the biosphere reaping the benefits again! And so it is far more efficient, from the technosphere’s perspective, for the major banks to corrupt government officials by funneling money to them through a variety of schemes, and to have these officials then refuse to regulate them or to prosecute them for their crimes. Once all of this corruption is in place, the allegiance of public officials is no longer to the tricky, willful living entities known as “voters” but to abstract tokens of wealth, which are much easier for the technosphere to manipulate to its fullest advantage.

Finally, wouldn’t world peace, and a benevolent and unified world government, be of much more use to the technosphere than having humanity continually split up into warring sides? Perhaps, but what would that do for enhancing the technosphere’s ability to murder people? When the great nations have to constantly prepare for war, they are forced to arm themselves, and to arm themselves they have to industrialize – to develop and maintain an independent industrial base. Were it not for the need to keep up with the arms race, some nations might prefer to forgo industrialization and remain agrarian, but because of the threat of war the choice is between industrialization and defeat.

War has other benefits as well. War requires swords which, once war is over, are beaten into ploughshares, which lead to increases in agricultural efficiency, which make peasant labor redundant and drive peasants off the land and into the cities, where they are forced to work in factories driving more industrialization. War offers an easy way for industrialized armies to exterminate or enslave nonindustrial tribes, who would otherwise be setting a bad example of people who are able to live happily outside the technosphere. Lastly, without a powerful war machine, people would be able to self-organize and provide for their own security, making them harder to control, while the existence of powerful military weapons makes it necessary to put security in the hands of tightly controlled, strictly disciplined, technocratic, hierarchical organizations – just the sort the technosphere prefers.

Thus it appears that the technosphere, viewed as an organism, possesses a sort of primitive emergent intelligence. If this claim seems like an outlandish conjecture, then compare it to James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. According to Lovelock, all of the living organisms that inhabit the Earth’s biosphere can be viewed as a single super-organism. It is a complex, self-regulating system that interacts with the inorganic elements of the planet in such a way as to make it habitable. Its basic functions include regulation of temperature, atmospheric concentrations of various gases and ocean salinity. This ability of the biosphere to maintain homeostatic equilibrium, and to restore it in case of disruptions in the form of, say, volcanic eruptions and major asteroid impacts, can be viewed as an emergent intelligence that strives for the greatest possible complexity and diversity of the web of life. Although somewhat controversial, and not directly testable, the Gaia hypothesis is taken quite seriously in a number of academic disciplines.

Taken in this context, my hypothesis – let’s call it the Technospheratu hypothesis – seems rather less outlandish. It is that the technosphere, having risen up on top of and in opposition to Gaia and the biosphere, possesses a certain primitive emergent intelligence that allows it to grow in complexity and power and to dominate the biosphere to an ever-greater extent.

Unlike Gaia, which is an organism onto itself, the technosphere is a parasite upon the biosphere, using living organisms as if they were machines, and striving to replace them with machines as much as possible. This is perfectly obvious in industrial agriculture, which replaces complex ecosystems with machine-like simplicity of chemically fertilized monoculture. The factory farm, in which animals are confined in a sort of mechanized hell, is a perfect example of how the technosphere prefers to treat higher life forms. When it comes to us humans, the best example of technosphere’s influence is the modern corporation, in which people are incentivized (and in fact required by law) to act as perfect psychopaths, blindly pursuing shareholder profits to the neglect of all human concerns. In politics, the technosphere gives rise to political machines, which treat voters as if they are laboratory animals, conditioning them to press certain voting machine levers in response to certain mass media stimuli.

Also unlike Gaia, which strives to maintain homeostatic equilibrium, this intelligence strives for disequilibrium – for continuous growth, which, on a finite planet with limited stores of nonrenewable natural resources, is an obvious dead end – “dead” as in “extinct”. To compensate, the technosphere dreams (with the help of certain humans who are in thrall to it) of universal conquest: it dreams of breeding a race of self-reproducing, space-faring robots. It dreams of leaving this exhausted, devastated planet behind and of colonizing other worlds – ones with lots more nonrenewable natural resources for it to mindlessly squander and, crucially, whole new biospheres for it to dominate and destroy. This last bit is very important, because the technosphere’s existence loses all meaning without living things it can force to act like machines. Without a biosphere to destroy, the technosphere becomes just a blind, deaf robot whistling to itself in the dark. Without the miraculous, wondrous goodness that is life, the technosphere cannot even aspire to being evil – only banal. “Widgets in space! Yawn …”

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2016/02/the-technospheratu-hypothesis.html

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A New Level of Absurdity

The Boneheaded Logic of Negative Interest Rates

by Bill Bonner, Chairman, Bonner & Partners {1}

Wolf Street (February 22 2016)

About $7 trillion of sovereign bonds now yield less than nothing. Lenders give their money to governments … who swear up and down, no fingers crossed, that they’ll give them back less money sometime in the future. Is that weird or what?

Into the Unknown

At least one reader didn’t think it was so odd. “You pay someone to store your boat or even to park your car”, he declared. “Why not pay someone to look out for your money?”

Ah … we thought he had a point. But then, we realized that the borrower isn’t looking out for your money; he’s taking it … and using it as he sees fit. It is as though you gave a valet the keys to your car. Then he drove it to Vegas or sold it on eBay.

A borrower takes your money and uses it. He doesn’t just store it for you; that is what safe deposit boxes are for.

When you deposit your money in a bank, it’s the same thing. You are making a loan to the bank. The bank doesn’t store your money in a safe on your behalf; it uses it to balance its books. If something goes wrong and you want your money back, you can just get in line behind the other creditors.

The future is always unknown. The bird in the bush could fly away. Or someone else could get him. So, when you lend money, you need a little something to compensate you for the risk that the bird might get away.

A New Level of Absurdity

That’s why bonds pay income – to compensate you for that uncertainty. Inflation, defaults, depression, war, and revolution all raise bond yields because all increase the odds that you won’t get your money back.

That’s why countries with much uncertainty – such as Venezuela – have higher interest rates than countries, such as Switzerland, where the future is probably going to be a lot like the past.

The interest you earn on a bond is there to compensate you for the risk that you won’t get your money back. Or that the money you do get back when the bond matures will have less purchasing power than the money you used to buy the bond in the first place.

You never know. Maybe the company or government that issued the bond will go broke. Or maybe the US Federal Reserve (“Fed”) will cause hyperinflation. In that case, even if you get your money back, it won’t buy much. With interest rates at zero, lenders must believe that the future carries neither risk. The bird in the bush isn’t going anywhere; they’re sure of it.

As unlikely as that is, negative interest rates take the absurdity to a new level. A person who lends at a negative rate must believe that the future is more certain than the present. In other words, he believes there will always be MORE birds in the bush.

Boneheaded Logic

The logic of lowering rates below zero is so boneheaded that only a PhD could believe it.

Economic growth rates are falling toward zero. And at zero, it normally doesn’t make sense for the business community – as a whole – to borrow. The growth it expects will be less than the interest it will have to pay.

That’s a big problem … Because the Fed only has direct control over the roughly twenty percent of the overall money supply. This takes the form of cash in circulation and bank reserves. The other roughly eighty percent of the money supply comes from bank lending.

If people don’t borrow, money doesn’t appear. And if money doesn’t appear – or worse, if it disappears – people have less of it. They stop spending … the slowdown gets worse … prices fall … and pretty soon, you have a depression on your hands.

How to prevent it? If you believe the myth that the feds can create real demand for bank lending by dropping interest rates below zero, then you, too, might believe in negative interest rate policy (“NIRP”).

It’s all relative, you see. It’s like standing on a train platform. The train next to you backs up … and you feel you’re moving ahead. Negative interest rates are like backing up. They give borrowers the illusion of forward motion … even if the economy is standing still. Or something like that.

Now what that we have the Negative Wealth Effect? Read {2}.

Links:

{1} http://www.bonnerandpartners.com/

{2} http://wolfstreet.com/2016/02/10/here-come-the-money-helicopters/

A New Level of Absurdity

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Edward Snowden’s New Revelations …

… Are Truly Chilling

by Sophie McAdam

True Activist (October 07 2015)

Former intelligence contractor and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told the BBC’s Panorama that the UK intelligence centre GCHQ has the power to hack phones without their owners’ knowledge

In an interview with the BBC’s ‘Panorama’, which aired in Britain last night, Edward Snowden spoke in detail about the spying capabilities of the UK intelligence agency GCHQ. He disclosed that government spies can legally hack into any citizen’s phone to listen in to what’s happening in the room, view files, messages and photos, pinpoint exactly where a person is (to a much more sophisticated level than a normal GPS system), and monitor a person’s every move and every conversation, even when the phone is turned off. These technologies are named after Smurfs, those little blue cartoon characters who had a recent Hollywood makeover. But despite the cute name, these technologies are very disturbing:

* “Dreamy Smurf”: Lets the phone be powered on and off

* “Nosey Smurf”: Lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off

* “Tracker Smurf”: A geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ] to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.

* “Paranoid Smurf”: Hides the fact that it has taken control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognising that the phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance.

Snowden says: “They want to own your phone instead of you”. It sounds very much like he means we are being purposefully encouraged to buy our own tracking devices. That kinda saved the government some money, didn’t it?

His revelations should worry anyone who cares about human rights, especially in an era where the threat of terrorism is used to justify all sorts of governmental crimes against civil liberties. We have willingly given up our freedoms in the name of security; as a result we have neither. We seem to have forgotten that to live as a free person is a basic human right: we are essentially free beings. We are born naked and without certification; we do not belong to any government nor monarchy; we don’t even truly belong to any nation or culture or religion – these are all social constructs. We belong only to the universe that created us, or whatever your equivalent belief. It is therefore a natural human right not to be not be under secret surveillance by your own government, those corruptible liars who are supposedly elected by and therefore accountable to the people.

The danger for law-abiding citizens who say they have nothing to fear because they are not terrorists, beware: many peaceful British protesters have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act since its introduction in 2005. Edward Snowden‘s disclosure confirms just how far the attack on civil liberties has gone since 9/11 and the London bombings. Both events have allowed governments the legal right to essentially wage war on their own people, through the Patriot Act in the USA and the Prevention Of Terrorism Act in the UK. In Britain, as in the USA, terrorism and activism seem to have morphed into one entity, while nobody really knows who the real terrorists are any more. A sad but absolutely realistic fact of life in 2015: if you went to a peaceful protest at weekend and got detained, you’re probably getting hacked right now.

It’s one more reason to conclude that smartphones suck. And as much as we convince ourselves how cool they are, it’s hard to deny their invention has resulted in a tendency for humans to behave like zombies, encouraged child labor, made us more lonely than ever, turned some of us into narcissistic selfie–addicts, and prevented us from communicating with those who really matter (the ones in the same room at the same time). Now, Snowden has given us yet another reason to believe that smartphones might be the dumbest thing we could have ever inflicted on ourselves.

_____

This article (Breaking BBC News: Edward Snowden’s Chilling New Revelations) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com.

Opinion: Edward Snowden’s New Revelations Are Truly Chilling

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Regime Change in Ankara?

More Likely Than You Think

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (February 24 2016)

On Friday, the United States rejected a draft resolution by Russia that was intended to prevent a Turkish invasion of Syria. Moscow had called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to address its growing concern that Turkey is planning to send thousands of ground troops and armored vehicles it has massed on its southern border, into Syria to protect Turkish-backed militants and to block the Kurdish militia, the YPG, from establishing a contiguous state in northern Syria. Moscow’s one-page resolution was a thoroughly-straightforward document aimed at preventing a massive escalation in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 250, 000 and left the country in ruins.

According to Russia’s deputy UN envoy, Vladimir Safronkov,

 

The main elements of this Russian draft resolution are to demand that all parties refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, that they fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and independence, stop incursions, and abandon plans for ground operations.

 

The resolution also expressed Moscow’s “grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic”.

There was nothing controversial about the resolution, no tricks and no hidden meaning. The delegates were simply asked to support Syrian sovereignty and oppose armed aggression. These are the very principles upon which the United Nations was founded. The US and its allies rejected these principles because they failed to jibe with Washington’s geopolitical ambitions in Syria.

Quashing the resolution confirms in the clearest terms that Washington doesn’t want peace in Syria. Also, it suggests that the Obama administration thinks that Turkish ground troops could play an important role in shaping the outcome of a conflict that the US is still determined to win. Keep in mind, if the resolution had passed, the threat of a Turkish invasion would have vanished immediately.

Why?

Because the Turkish “military has publicly stated that it is not willing to send troops across the border without UN Security Council approval”. {1}

Many people in the west are under the illusion that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dictatorial powers and can simply order his troops into battle whenever he chooses. But that is not the case. While Erdogan has removed many of his rivals within the military, the top brass still maintains a certain autonomy from the civilian leadership. Turkish generals want assurances that they will not be prosecuted for war crimes in the future. The best way to do that is to make sure that any invasion has the blessing of either the US, Nato or the UN.

The Obama administration understands this dynamic, which is why they quashed the resolution. Obama wanted to leave the door open so Turkish troops could eventually engage the Russian-led coalition in Washington’s ongoing proxy war. This leads me to believe that the Washington’s primary objective in Syria is no longer the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad but the bogging down of Russia in a never-ending conflict.

Just hours after the US defeated Moscow’s draft resolution at the UN,  closed-door talks were convened in Geneva where high-level US and Russian military officials met to discuss the prospects for ceasefire.

The cease-fire, which is typically referred to as a “cessation of hostilities”, is aimed at temporarily stopping the fighting so the battered jihadists and US-backed rebels can regroup and rejoin the war at some later date. Both Moscow and Washington want to deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn cities across Syria, and to move towards a “political transition” although both sides are deeply divided over Assad’s role in any future government. According to the Washington Post:

 

One of the many problems to be overcome is a differing definition of what constitutes a terrorist group. In addition to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Russia and Syria have labeled the entire opposition as terrorists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, whose forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups in the northwest near the Turkish border, is particularly problematic. Russia was said to have rejected a US proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out. {2}

 

Repeat: “Russia was said to have rejected a US proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra (al Qaida) off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out”. In other words, the Obama administration wanted to protect an affiliate of the group that killed 3,000 Americans in the terror attacks on 9-11 and that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians whose only fault was that they happen to occupy country that these Wahhabi mercenaries wanted to transform into an Islamic Caliphate. Naturally, Moscow refused to go along with this charade.

Even so, Secretary of State John F Kerry announced on Sunday that he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, “had reached a ‘provisional agreement in principle’ for a temporary truce in the Syrian civil war and that it could start within days”, although no one really knows how the “cease-fire would be enforced and how breaches would be resolved”.

Consider how hypocritical it is for Obama to reject Russia’s draft resolution at the UN and, just hours later, try to put Al Qaida under the protective umbrella of a US-Russia brokered ceasefire. What does that say about America’s so called “war on terror”?

Meanwhile in Turkey, Erdogan’s threats to invade Syria have intensified following a car bombing in Ankara last week that killed 28 and wounded 61 others. The Turkish government blamed a young activist, Salih Neccar, who had links to the Turkish militia (YPG) in Syria of being the perpetrator. But less than 24 hours after the blast, the government’s version of events began to fall apart. In a story that has been scarcely reported in the western media, the  Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed full responsibility for the bombing according to a statement on its website. (The Freedom Hawks are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.) Then, on Monday, the Erdogan regime was slammed with more damning news: DNA samples demonstrated conclusively that Neccar was not perpetrator, but rather Abdulbaki Somer, a member of the group that had claimed responsibility from the beginning (TAK).  As of this writing, the government still hasn’t admitted that it lied to the public to build their case for war.  Erdogan and his extremist colleagues continue to use thoroughly discredited information to threaten to invade Syria. As he said on Saturday at a UNESCO meeting in Gaziantep:

 

Turkey has every right to conduct operations in Syria and the places where terror organizations are nested with regards to the struggle against the threats that Turkey faces … No one can restrict Turkey’s right to self-defense in the face of terror acts that have targeted Turkey.

 

This explains why Turkey has been shelling Syrian territory for the last week. It also explains why Erdogan has given Sunni jihadists a free pass to traverse Turkey and reenter the war zone in areas that improve their chances of success against the Syrian Army. Check this out from the New York Times:

 

Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Thursday.

Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria’s Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.

“We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks”, Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity”.  {3}

 

The Obama administration knows that Erdogan is fueling the conflict, but has chosen to look the other way. And while Obama has (weakly) admonished Turkey for shelling Syrian territory, he has, at the same time, acknowledged Turkey’s “right to defend itself”, which is an expression the US reserves for Israel when it conducting one of its murderous rampages in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Now, Obama has bestowed that same honor on Erdogan. This alone speaks volumes about the duplicity of Washington’s approach.

So what is Washington’s gameplan in Syria? Is the administration serious about defeating ISIS and ending the hostilities or does Obama have something else up his sleeve?

First of all, Washington is not the least bit concerned about ISIS. The group is merely a straw-man that allows the US to conduct military operations in a region that is vital to its national interests. If the ISIS boogieman disappeared tomorrow, the White House would conjure up some other phantom – like the drug war or something equally ridiculous – so it could continue its depredations uninterrupted.  What matters to Washington is breaking up the strong, secular Arab governments that pose a long-term threat to US-Israeli ambitions. That’s what really matters. The other obvious goal is to control critical resources and pipeline corridors to the EU and make sure those resources continue to be denominated in US dollars.

We continue to believe that the US-Kurdish (YPG) alliance does not really advance US strategic interests in Syria. The US is not interested in Kurdish statehood nor do they care if jihadist militias control the northern quadrant of Syria’s border-region. The real purpose of the US-YPG alliance is to enrage Turkey and provoke them into a cross-border conflict with the Russian-led coalition. If Turkey deploys ground troops to Syria, then Moscow could face the quagmire it has tried so hard to avoid. Turkish forces would serve as a replacement army for the US-backed jihadists and other proxies that have prosecuted the war for the last five years but now appear to be in full retreat.

More importantly, a Turkish invasion would exacerbate divisions inside Turkey seriously eroding Erdogan’s grip on power while creating vulnerabilities the US could exploit by working with its agents in the Turkish military and intelligence agency (MIT). The ultimate objective would be to foment sufficient social unrest to incite a color-coded revolution that would dispose of the troublemaking Erdogan in a Washington-orchestrated coup, much like the one the CIA executed in Kiev.

It is not hard to imagine Obama secretly giving Erdogan the greenlight, and then pulling the rug out from under him as soon as his troops crossed over into Syria.  A similar scam was carried out in 1990 when US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, gave Saddam Hussein the nod to invade Kuwait. The Iraqi Army had barely reached its destination before the US launched a massive military campaign (Operation Desert Storm) that forced Saddam to speedily withdraw along the infamous Highway of Death where upwards of 10,000 Iraqi regulars were annihilated like sitting ducks in a vicious and homicidal display of American firepower.  That was the first phase of Washington’s plan to overthrow Saddam and replace him with a compliant Arab stooge.

Is the same regime change trap now being set for Erdogan?

It sure looks like it.

Links:

{1} https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/turkeys-increasingly-desperate-predicament-poses-real-dangers/2016/02/20/a3374030-d593-11e5-a65b-587e721fb231_story.html?tid=pm_world_pop_b

{2} https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/russia-says-international-meeting-for-syria-cease-fire-cancelled/2016/02/19/47179aac-d692-11e5-a65b-587e721fb231_story.html

{3} http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/02/18/world/middleeast/18reuters-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo.html?ref=world&_r=0

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/24/regime-change-in-ankara-more-likely-than-you-think/

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A Nineteen-Year-Old Made a Free Robot Lawyer …

… that has Successfully Appealed $3 million in Parking Tickets

by Leanna Garfield

Tech Insider (February 18 2016)

Hiring a lawyer for a parking ticket appeal is not only a headache – it can also cost more than the ticket itself.

Depending on the case and the lawyer, an appeal (a legal process where you argue out of paying the fine) can cost between $400 to $900.

But with the help of a bot made by British programmer Joshua Browder, nineteen, it costs nothing.

Browder’s bot handles questions about parking ticket appeals in the UK. Since launching in late 2015, it has successfully appealed $3 million worth of tickets http://static2.techinsider.io/image/56c4a60f2e5265b8008b7a90-2560-1328/screencapture-212-47-245-181-chat2-index-php-1455664316041.png

Once you sign in, a chat screen pops up. To learn about your case, the bot asks questions like, “Were you the one driving?” and “Was it hard to understand the parking signs?” It then spits out an appeal letter, which you mail to the court. If the robot is completely confused, it tells you how to contact Browder directly.

The site is still in beta, and the full version will launch this spring, Browder, a Stanford University freshman, tells Tech Insider.

Since laws are publicly available, bots can automate some of the simple tasks that human lawyers have had to do for centuries. Browder’s isn’t even the first lawyer bot. The startup Acadmx’s bot creates perfectly formatted legal briefs {2}. The company Lex Machina does data mining on judges’ records and makes predictions on what they will do in the future {3}.

Beyond parking tickets, Browder’s bot can also help with delayed or cancel led flights and payment-protection insurance (PPI) claims. Although the bot can only help file claims on simple legal issues – it can’t physically argue a case in front of a judge – it can save users a lot of money.

Browder programmed his robot based on a conversation algorithm. It uses keywords, pronouns, and word order to understand the user’s issue. He says that the more people use the robot, the more intelligent it becomes. Its algorithm can quickly analyze large amounts of data while improving itself in the process.

Although Browder programmed the bot according to UK law, he says it can be helpful in the US too. For example, if a flight is delayed from New York City to London, the ticket holder can use the robot to claim compensation. Browder is working to program US city laws into the bot, starting with New York City.

 

In the future, people won’t likely need to hire lawyers for simple legal appeals. They’ll just use a bot.

 

While Browder doesn’t think robots will be debating in the Supreme Court any time soon, he believes as artificial intelligence technology progresses, fewer lawyers will do mundane tasks.

“As a nineteen-year-old, I have coded the entirety of the robot on my own, and I think it does a reasonable job of replacing parking lawyers”, he says. “I know there are thousands of programmers with decades more experience than me working on similar issues”.

But are bots like these the same as hiring a lawyer?

It depends on whether they cross the ethical line of giving subjective advice, says Bradley Moss, a Washington DC attorney who specializes in national security. If the bot were to answer subjective questions, that would be viewed as practicing law, which only humans can legally do.

“There are ethical and legal limits to what they can do. Programs such as this one do not, at least in my humble opinion, threaten the legal profession writ large”, Moss says. “They will, however, continue to streamline processes for handling simple tasks that arguably people should be able to handle without the need for – and expense of – formal legal assistance.

Most of these bots are tools that can rapidly crawl public records and serve up legal information. Bots can’t provide full and genuine legal counsel, and it will likely take them several decades to become as sophisticated as a human, says Samuel Woolley, who tracks and studies political bots.

“Bots can’t fully replace human actors – not in the foreseeable future at least”, he tells Tech Insider. “They can’t provide nuanced social insight because they can’t really understand humor or emotional subtleties”.

When driverless cars start dominating the roads in the future, they may also automatically appeal speeding tickets. Browder is already talking with entrepreneurs about integrating his bot into cars.

He’s programming the bot to handle more complicated legal issues too, including asylum for Syrian refugees. The language barrier is a coding challenge, since the robot needs to understand Arabic but produce a legal document in English. This bot will likely launch by summer – at no cost.

“If it is one day possible for any citizen to get the same standard of legal representation as a billionaire”, Browder says, “how can that not be a good thing?”

Selected Links:

{1} http://www.businessinsider.com/joshua-browder-saves-motorists-2-million-with-parking-appeal-website-2015-12?_ga=1.185743657.1677787020.1454137231

{2} http://www.acadmx.com/

{3} https://lexmachina.com/

Also see: http://www.techinsider.io/robots-in-warehouses-for-online-shopping-2016-1

http://www.techinsider.io/joshua-browder-bot-for-parking-tickets-2016-2

Categories: Uncategorized

Real Unemployment …

… is Double the ‘Official’ Unemployment Rate

by Systemic Disorder (March 18 2015)

How many people are really out of work? The answer is surprisingly difficult to ascertain. For reasons that are likely ideological at least in part, official unemployment figures greatly under-report the true number of people lacking necessary full-time work.

That the “reserve army of labor” is quite large goes a long way toward explaining the persistence of stagnant wages in an era of increasing productivity.

How large? Across North America, Europe and Australia, the real unemployment rate is approximately double the “official” unemployment rate.

The “official” unemployment rate in the United States, for example, was 5.5 percent for February 2015. That is the figure that is widely reported. But the US Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of various other unemployment rates, the most pertinent being its “U-6” figure. The U-6 unemployment rate includes all who are counted as unemployed in the “official” rate, plus discouraged workers, the total of those employed part time but not able to secure full-time work and all persons marginally attached to the labor force (those who wish to work but have given up). The actual US unemployment rate for February 2015, therefore, is eleven percent.

Canada makes it much more difficult to know its real unemployment rate. The official Canadian unemployment rate for February was 6.8 percent, a slight increase from January that Statistics Canada attributes to “more people search[ing] for work”. The official measurement in Canada, as in the US, European Union and Australia, mirrors the official standard for measuring employment defined by the International Labour Organization – those not working at all and who are “actively looking for work”. (The ILO is an agency of the United Nations.)

Statistics Canada’s closest measure toward counting full unemployment is its R8 statistic, but the R8 counts people in part-time work, including those wanting full-time work, as “full-time equivalents”, thus underestimating the number of under-employed by hundreds of thousands, according to an analysis by The Globe and Mail. There are further hundreds of thousands not counted because they do not meet the criteria for “looking for work”. Thus The Globe and Mail analysis estimates Canada’s real unemployment rate for 2012 was 14.2 percent rather than the official 7.2 percent. Thus Canada’s true current unemployment rate today is likely about fourteen percent.

Everywhere You Look, More Are Out of Work

The gap is nearly as large in Europe as in North America. The official European Union unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in January 2015. The European Union’s Eurostat service requires some digging to find out the actual unemployment rate, requiring adding up different parameters. Under-employed workers and discouraged workers comprise four percent of the EU workforce each, and if we add the one percent of those seeking work but not immediately available, that pushes the actual unemployment rate to about nineteen percent.

The same pattern holds for Australia. The Australia Bureau of Statistics revealed that its measure of “extended labour force under-utilisation” – this includes “discouraged” jobseekers, the “underemployed” and those who want to start work within a month, but cannot begin immediately – was 13.1 percent in August 2012 (the latest for which I can find), in contrast to the “official”, and far more widely reported, unemployment rate of five percent at the time.

Concomitant with these sobering statistics is the length of time people are out of work. In the European Union, for example, the long-term unemployment rate – defined as the number of people out of work for at least twelve months – doubled from 2008 to 2013. The number of US workers unemployed for six months or longer more than tripled from 2007 to 2013.

Thanks to the specter of chronic high unemployment, and capitalists’ ability to transfer jobs overseas as “free trade” rules become more draconian, it comes as little surprise that the share of gross domestic income going to wages has declined steadily. In the US, the share has declined from 51.5 percent in 1970 to about 42 percent. But even that decline likely understates the amount of compensation going to working people because almost all gains in recent decades has gone to the top one percent.

Around the world, worker productivity has risen over the past four decades while wages have been nearly flat. Simply put, we’d all be making much more money if wages had merely kept pace with increased productivity.

Insecure Work is the Global Norm

The increased ability of capital to move at will around the world has done much to exacerbate these trends. The desire of capitalists to depress wages to buoy profitability is a driving force behind their push for governments to adopt “free trade” deals that accelerate the movement of production to low-wage, regulation-free countries. On a global basis, those with steady employment are actually a minority of the world’s workers.

Using International Labour Organization figures as a starting point, professors John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney calculate that the “global reserve army of labor” – workers who are underemployed, unemployed or “vulnerably employed” (including informal workers) – totals 2.4 billion. In contrast, the world’s wage workers total 1.4 billion – far less! Writing in their book The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (2012), they write:

 

It is the existence of a reserve army that in its maximum extent is more than seventy percent larger than the active labor army that serves to restrain wages globally, and particularly in poorer countries. Indeed, most of this reserve army is located in the underdeveloped countries of the world, though its growth can be seen today in the rich countries as well. [page 145]

 

The earliest countries that adopted capitalism could “export” their “excess” population though mass emigration. From 1820 to 1915, Professors Foster and McChesney write, more than fifty million people left Europe for the “new world”. But there are no longer such places for developing countries to send the people for whom capitalism at home can not supply employment. Not even a seven percent growth rate for fifty years across the entire global South could absorb more than a third of the peasantry leaving the countryside for cities, they write. Such a sustained growth rate is extremely unlikely.

As with the growing environmental crisis, these mounting economic problems are functions of the need for ceaseless growth. Once again, infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet, especially one that is approaching its limits. Worse, to keep the system functioning at all, the planned obsolescence of consumer products necessary to continually stimulate household spending accelerates the exploitation of natural resources at unsustainable rates and all this unnecessary consumption produces pollution increasingly stressing the environment.

Humanity is currently consuming the equivalent of one and a half earths, according to the non-profit group Global Footprint Network. A separate report by World Wide Fund For Nature (“WWF”) in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and Global Footprint Network, calculates that the Middle East/Central Asia, Asia-Pacific, North America and European Union regions are each consuming about double their regional biocapacity.

We have only one Earth. And that one Earth is in the grips of a system that takes at a pace that, unless reversed, will leave it a wrecked hulk while throwing ever more people into poverty and immiseration. That this can go on indefinitely is the biggest fantasy.

https://systemicdisorder.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/unemployment-double-official-rate/

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