The PBOC and Bundesbank Sign Pact to Turn Frankfurt into Yuan Hub….Meanwhile Obama Heads to Saudi Arabia

I haven’t paid too much attention as of late to agreements between China and other nations intended to expand the use of the yuan (renminbi) internationally, because the near-term implications always seem to be exaggerated by many market commentators. That said, this deal between the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and Germany’s Bundesbank seems quite significant given the importance of Germany within the global economy generally and the E.U. specifically.

From Bloomberg via BusinessWeek:

Germany’s Bundesbank and the ™People’s Bank of China agreed to cooperate in the clearing and settling of payments in renminbi, paving the way for Frankfurt to corner a share of the offshore market.

The central banks signed a memorandum of understanding in Berlin today, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Frankfurt-based Bundesbank said in an e-mailed statement.

Germany’s financial capital prevailed over Paris and Luxembourg in a euro-area race to win trade in renminbi, which overtook the euro to become the second-most used currency in global trade finance in October, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The U.K. Treasury said on March 26 that the Bank of England would sign an initial agreement with the PBOC on March 31 to clear and settle yuan transactions in London.

“Frankfurt is one of Europe’s foremost financial centers and home to two central banks, making it a particularly suitable location,” said Joachim Nagel, a member of the Bundesbank’s executive board. “Renminbi clearing will strengthen the close economic and financial ties between Germany and the People’s Republic of China.”

China was Germany’s third-biggest foreign trade partner last year, with 140 billion euros in turnover passing between the two countries, according to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden. China ranks fifth among importers of German goods and is the second-biggest exporter to Germany.

German companies including Siemens AG, the country’s biggest engineering company, and Volkswagen AG are embracing the renminbi internally as a third currency for cross-border trade settlements.

“The potential is vast,” said Stefan Harfich, the Siemens Financial Services manager, who steered the introduction of the yuan at the Munich-based company in October. “The introduction of the renminbi as an official company currency will therefore have a big impact on Siemens’s business in the coming years.”

Daimler AG, the Mercedes manufacturer that sold 235,644 autos in China last year, issued 500 million yuan of one-year notes in Asia’s largest economy on March 14, in the first so-called panda bond by an overseas non-financial company.

With all that in mind, let’s not forget that Obama is currently in Saudi Arabia trying to restore ties with the Medieival Kingdom, i.e., he is trying to figure out a way to arm al-Qaeda in Syria without the American public finding out about it.

From the Wall Street Journal:

RIYADH—Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday marks a bid to warm relations that the Saudis hope will result in commitments by the U.S. president to boost the supply of sophisticated weapons to Syrian insurgents.

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How The Washington Post and The New Yorker Refused to Publish an Article on Obama Admin Syria Lies

Seymour Hersh is not some guy off the street with a laptop and a head full of crazy ideas. The pulitzer prize winning journalist broke the My Lai Massacre story during the Vietnam War and also led reporting on the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. Well his most recent investigative reporting involves covering some of the blatant lies told by the Obama Administration earlier this year in an attempt to push the nation into a war in Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda, based on some very shaky evidence that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. Bizarrely enough, the publication with which Mr. Hersh is most associated, The New Yorker, refused to publish it. So did The Washington Post.

I don’t know about you, but this sure stinks of self-censopship to me. In particular, I think the Washington Post is playing defense following its reporting of the Edward Snowden leaks, and is afraid to further piss off the crony Obama Administration. It also seems likely The Post didn’t want to publish an article that would have showcased the paper’s own sloppy and irresponsible reporting on the matter. Which if true, is beyond pathetic.

From the Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh accused the Obama administration Sunday of having “cherry-picked intelligence” regarding the Aug. 21 chemical attack in Syria that served as evidence for an argument in favor of striking President Bashar Assad’s government.

In his piece — titled “Whose Sarin?” — Hersh reported that al-Nusra, a jihadi group fighting in Syria’s long-running civil war, had also “mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.” Therefore, he wrote, “Obama did not tell the whole story” when stating with certainty that Assad had to be responsible, crossing a so-called “red line” that would trigger U.S. retaliation.

You don’t say…

Hersh is a freelancer, but he’s best known these days for his work in The New Yorker, where he helped break the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. While Hersh is not a New Yorker staff writer, it was notable that his 5,500-word investigative piece landed in the London Review of Books, a London literary and intellectual magazine, rather than the publication with which he’s most closely associated.

In an email, Hersh wrote that “there was little interest” for the story at The New Yorker.

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U.S. Military Changes Drone Rules to Make Targeting of Civilians Easier

The drone issue is just another topic in which President Barrack Obama has proven himself to be a world-class liar and master of deception. Despite his claims that drone strikes do little damage to civilian populations, in July we discovered that “of the 746 people killed in drone strikes in Pakistan from 2006-2009, an incredible 20% were civilians and 94 (13% of the total) were children.”

I suppose that number just isn’t good enough, because The Pentagon has decided to change the rules of engagement when it comes to drone strikes, now making it easier to target civilians. From The Washington Times:

The Pentagon has loosened its guidelines on avoiding civilian casualties during drone strikes, modifying instructions from requiring military personnel to “ensure” civilians are not targeted to encouraging service members to “avoid targeting” civilians.

Hey cops, how about you “try to avoid” beating the shit out of people and violating their constitutional rights for no reason. Yeah, because that’ll work.

In addition, instructions now tell commanders that collateral damage “must not be excessive” in relation to mission goals, according to Public Intelligence, a nonprofit research group that analyzed the military’s directives on drone strikes.

Administration officials say the strikes are legal because the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda and its associates. They also insist there is a wide gap between the government’s civilian casualty count and those of human rights groups.

Right, we are at “war with al Qaeda,” when it is convenient to be at war with them. When it is convenient to be allies with al Qaeda, we will do that too.

Despite Mr. Obama’s pledge for more transparency on drone strikes, the administration “continues to answer legitimate questions and criticisms by saying, ‘We can’t really talk about this,’” said Naureen Shah, advocacy adviser at Amnesty International.

Can’t. Make. This. Stuff. Up.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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How I Remember September 11, 2001

I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I was one year into my Wall Street career. I got up that morning just like every other morning and headed toward Union Square station to get on the subway down to 3 World Financial Center, the headquarters of Lehman Brothers. I had just purchased breakfast in the cafeteria when I saw one of the human resources folks from my floor yelling to evacuate. I was confused but I got my ass downstairs fast. When I got down there I joined the hundreds of others staring in awe skyward at the gaping hole in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. People speculated that a helicopter had hit the building, but I said no way. It looked like a bomb went off to me.

Shortly afterward, the ground started shaking and I heard an enormous explosion and saw fire and debris shooting out from behind the North Tower. The herd starting running and I was trampled on. We all retreated to safer ground, at which point I ran into some co-workers. I mentioned that I was a bit worried these things could fall, but I was ensured by a higher-up at the firm that this was impossible. It was at that point that some co-workers and I decided to take the long walk home to my apartment on east 12th street. As we walked, we saw people jumping from the buildings, and ultimately we saw the first one collapse in front of our eyes as we traversed through Soho.

In the days following the collapse, all I wanted was for the towers to be rebuilt just like before. I wanted the skyline back to what I had know since the day I came into this earth at a New York City hospital to be restored exactly as I had always known it. Career-wise, I felt I should leave Wall Street. I thought about going back to graduate school for political science, or maybe even join the newly created Department of Homeland Security (yes, the irony is not lost on me). I read a lengthy tome on Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. I was an emotional and psychological mess, and it was when I was in this state of heightened distress that my own government and the military-industrial complex took advantage of me.

It wasn’t just me of course. It was an entire nation that was callously manipulated in the aftermath of that tragedy. The courage and generosity exhibited by so many New Yorkers and others throughout the country and indeed the world was rapidly transformed into terrifying fear. Fear that was intentionally injected repeatedly into our daily lives. Fear that translated into pointless wars and countless deaths. Fear that was used to justify the destruction of our precious civil rights. Fear that was used to initiate a gigantic power grab and the source of tremendous profits for the corporate-statists and crony-capitalsits. Unfortunately, that is the greatest legacy of 9/11.

While all of the above is true, I now see a very bright silver lining. Although it took me an embarrassingly long time, I did wake up from the deep haze of propaganda and am now able to see things for what they really are. Of course, I am only one of millions globally who now recognize how badly we have been duped and are working to restore all of the precious things we have lost.

So let’s take 9/11 to remember all the people that were lost on that day, as well as all of those to whom we have done injustice in the name of the Orwellian never-ending “War on Terror.” Let’s strengthen our resolve to right all of these wrongs and make us proud of these United States once again. That is how I remember September 11, 2001.

In Liberty,
Mike

The Pentagon Admits: The “War on Terror” Will Never End

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

- Glenn Greenwald from his recent article:  Washington Gets Explicit: Its “War on Terror” is Permanent 

So last Thursday at a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, we found out what many of us already knew.  That the “war on terror” is never going to end.  Indeed, it was never supposed to end.  This never-ending “war” on a fantastical enemy provides the American oligarch class with too much money and too much power to ever make it worthwhile for the establishment to shut down.  It matters not to them that this civil liberties destroying fraud has been going on for my entire post-college life and, if they have their way, for the remainder of it.  It matters not to them that the “war on terror” itself has done more to destroy the Constitution and vital essence of this nation than any terrorist act ever could.  No, it matters very little indeed.  What matters to them is money and power, and the “war on terror” provides them with boatloads of both.

My favorite excerpts from Glenn’s article are below:

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this “war” – the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired’s Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US’s national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

“Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, ’At least 10 to 20 years.’ . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

In response, I wrote that the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?

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McClatchy Study: Obama Administration Has No Idea Who They are Killing with Drones

McClatchy has released a very important study that demonstrates that not only is the Obama Administration being intentionally secretive about their entire drone program, but in reality they have no idea who they are killing or how many.  In many cases those killed are just classified as an “unknown extremist,” aka civilian.  We already know how insane the drone program is from many sources, including the confessions of drone operator Brandon Bryant, who quit after realizing his superiors told him the child he had incinerated was just a “dog.”  From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.

The administration has said that strikes by the CIA’s missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans.

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.” 

Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.

The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”

Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”

You don’t say.

The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”

McClatchy’s review is the first independent evaluation of internal U.S. intelligence accounting of drone attacks since the Bush administration launched America’s secret aerial warfare on Oct. 7, 2001, the day a missile-carrying Predator took off for Afghanistan from an airfield in Pakistan on the first operational flight of an armed U.S. drone.

At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists.  Drones killed only six top al Qaida leaders in those months, according to news media accounts.

“Unknown extremists,” just another euphemism for civilian.

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It’s Time to Repeal the AUMF

Even a mainstream media dinosaur like the New York Times will publish something decent and in the public interest from time to time.  In case you aren’t familiar with the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force), it was the law enacted three days after 9/11 to provide the President of the United States with the flexibility to fight the now never-ending “war on terror.”  It is very important that we deal with the AUMF and get rid of it once and for all, since it is the key law used by the Obama Administration to justify the NDAA, and very soon may be used to kill “associates of associates” (basically anyone they want) of Al Qaeda without charges or a trial.  This editorial published l over the weekend calls for a repeal of the AUMF and I completely agree.  We can’t trust our current or future leaders to not abuse this authority.  From the New York Times:

Three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force. It was enacted with good intentions — to give President George W. Bush the authority to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda and the Taliban rulers who sheltered and aided the terrorists who had attacked the United States.

Mr. Bush used the authorization law as an excuse to kidnap hundreds of people — guilty and blameless people alike — and throw them into secret prisons where many were tortured. He used it as a pretext to open the Guantánamo Bay camp and to eavesdrop on Americans without bothering to obtain a warrant. He claimed it as justification for the invasion of Iraq, twisting intelligence to fabricate a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.

Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama does not go as far as to claim that the Constitution gives him the inherent power to do all those things. But he has relied on the 2001 authorization to use drones to kill terrorists far from the Afghan battlefield, and to claim an unconstitutional power to kill American citizens in other countries based only on suspicion that they are or might become terrorist threats, without judicial review.

The concern that many, including this page, expressed about the authorization is coming true: that it could become the basis for a perpetual, ever-expanding war that undermined the traditional constraints on government power. The result is an unintelligible policy without express limits or protective walls.

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When Lindsay Graham and Barrack Obama Agree…Run the Other Way Fast

The easiest way for a patriotic, civil liberties defending U.S. citizen to know whether to support or oppose an issue is when two of the most authoritative, narcissistic politicians from the two controlled political in America are in strong agreement. In this case, I am referring to Lindsay Graham and Barrack Obama’s recent love fest on drone warfare.  From Politico:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will offer a resolution next week commending President Barack Obama’s use of drones and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

“Every member of Congress needs to get on board,” Graham said. “It’s not fair to the president to let him, leave him out there alone quite frankly. He’s getting hit from libertarians and the left.

“Everyone needs to get on board…” in commending the death of someone from 30,000 feet?  What kind of Nazi talk is this?  So this is what America has become.  Politicians with 10% approval ratings patting themselves on the back for killing other humans being without ever getting their hands dirty.  USA! USA!

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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