Cryptocurrencies and the War on Cash
Currently up 80% over the last 24 hours. Hovering at $547 up from a low of $205 on August 6th, 2017. Volatility!
by James Richards
Visa recently unveiled its own offensive in the war on cash. Visa is offering certain merchants a $10,000 reward if they refuse to accept cash in the future.
Not surprisingly, Visa’s competitor is also part of the war on cash. Mastercard is increasing its efforts to encourage merchants to refuse cash. Here’s Bloomberg, quoting the CEO of Mastercard:
“Mastercard Chief Executive Officer Ajay Banga has been one of the most ardent supporters of ditching paper currency in the U.S. The 57-year-old first declared his war on cash in 2010.”
These private efforts by Visa and MasterCard exist side by side with official efforts to eliminate or discourage the use of cash coming from governments in India, Australia, Sweden as well as the United States.
These efforts are always portrayed in the most favorable light. Private parties talk about convenience and lower costs. Governments talk about putting pressure on tax cheats, terrorists and criminals.
Governments always use money laundering, drug dealing and terrorism as an excuse to keep tabs on honest citizens and deprive them of the ability to use money alternatives such as physical cash and gold.
But the so-called “cashless society” is just a Trojan horse for a system in which all financial wealth is electronic and represented digitally in the records of a small number of megabanks and asset managers.
Once that is achieved, it will be easy for state power to seize and freeze the wealth, or subject it to constant surveillance, taxation and other forms of digital confiscation.
The war on cash has two main thrusts. The first is to make it difficult to obtain cash in the first place. U.S. banks will report anyone taking more than $3,000 in cash as engaging in a “suspicious activity” using Treasury Form SAR (Suspicious Activity Report).
The second thrust is to eliminate large-denomination banknotes. The U.S. got rid of its $500 note in 1969, and the $100 note has lost 85% of its purchasing power since then. With a little more inflation, the $100 bill will be reduced to chump change.
Extreme right groups, shunned by payment processors and traditional companies, are turning to novel methods to solicit donations. One rightist said he is planning a website where supporters can make monthly donations anonymously to their cause. The site would avoid mainstream processors like PayPal and will accept bitcoin donations, he said.
by Tyler Durden
Trump ignited a political firestorm yesterday during an impromptu press conference in which he said there was “blame on both sides” for the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend.
Now, the discovery of a craigslist ad posted last Monday, almost a full week before the Charlottesville protests, is raising new questions over whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles based “public relations firm specializing in innovative events” to serve as agitators in counterprotests.
The ad was posted by a company called “Crowds on Demand” and offered $25 per hour to “actors and photographers” to participate in events in the “Charlotte, NC area.” While the ad didn’t explicitly define a role to be filled by its crowd of “actors and photographers” it did ask applicants to comment on whether they were “ok with participating in peaceful protests.”
In the wake of this weekend’s rally in Charlottesville, Va., white nationalists reportedly plan to gather in Lexington to oppose the planned removal of Confederate statues.
Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party, who is no stranger to Kentucky, told the Lexington Herald-Leader people in the area asked his group to get involved. He said the goal is to have the rally “sooner rather than later.”
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced after Saturday’s rally that he intends to take action to relocate the city’s Confederate statues. The white supremacist groups that gathered Saturday were drawn at least in part to the city by a vote to sell a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Lexington’s City Council went on to vote unanimously Tuesday in favor of removing the Confederate statues from the lawn of the former county courthouse, according to media reports — a move Heimbach and other white nationalists oppose.
In the wake of the Chalottesville riot, it’s been interesting how quickly the focus has shifted away from the actual events in Charlottesville and toward the public pundits and intellectuals are expressing opinions about the events.
Already, the media has lost interest in analyzing the details of the event itself, and are instead primarily reporting on what Donald Trump, his allies, and his enemies have to say about it.
This is an important distinction in coverage. Rather than attempt to supply a detailed look at who was at the event, what was done, and what the participants — from both sides — have to say about it, we are instead exposed primarily to what people in Washington, DC, and the political class in general, think about the events in which they were not directly involved.
This focus illustrates what has long been a bias among the reporters and pundits in the national media: a bias toward focus on the national intellectual class rather than on events that take place outside the halls of official power.
Note, however, that those quoted rarely have any special knowledge about the events themselves. Their opinions are covered not because they are knowledgeable, but because their quotations fit easily into a narrative that the media wishes to perpetuate.
“While I recognize the danger of the violent right-wing movement, I am more concerned with the right-wing policies that are being enacted into law and policy by both Democrats and Republicans.”
What is the character of racist right-wing politics today? Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows into an anti-fascist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, or can it also be the assurance by Lindsay Graham that an attack against North Korea would result in thousands of lives lost…. but those lives will be “over there”? What about the recent unanimous resolution by both Houses of Congress in support of Israel and criticism of the United Nations for its alleged anti-Israeli bias? Would that qualify as racist and right-wing, since it appears that the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians is of no concern? And what about the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to go even beyond the obscene proposal of the Trump administration to increase the military budget by $54 billion dollars and instead add a whopping $74 billion to the Pentagon budget?
What I find interesting about the current discussion around what many are referring to as the emboldening of the radical white supremacist right is how easy it is to mobilize opposition against the crude and overt white supremacists we saw in Charlottesville. So easy, in fact, that it’s really a distraction from the more difficult and dangerous work that needs to be done to confront the real right-wing power brokers.
The white supremacy that some of us see as more insidious is not reflected in the simple, stereotypical images of the angry, Nazi-saluting alt-righter or even Donald Trump. Instead, it is the normalized and thus invisible white supremacist ideology inculcated into cultural and educational institutions and the policies that stem from those ideas. That process doesn’t just produce the storm troopers of the armed and crazed radical right but also such covert true believers as Robert Ruben from Goldman Sachs, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Nancy Pelosi — “decent” individuals who have never questioned for a moment the superiority of Western civilization, who believe completely in the White West’s right and responsibility to determine which nations should have sovereignty and who should be the leaders of “lesser” nations. And who believe that there is no alternative to the wonders of global capitalism even if it means that billions of human beings are consigned permanently to what Fanon called the “zone of non-being.”
“The political impact of the right gaining power in Ukraine could not be isolated from the growing power of the right elsewhere.”
This is the white supremacy that I am concerned with. And while I recognize the danger of the violent right-wing movement, I am more concerned with the right-wing policies that are being enacted into law and policy by both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government.
More than two years ago I wrote that:
“The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet. Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.”
The impetus of that article was to critique the inherent danger of the Obama Administration’s cynical manipulation of right-wing elements in Ukraine to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych. Not only was it dangerous and predictably disastrous for the Ukrainian people, but because U.S. support for a neo-fascist movement in Ukraine took place within a context in which the political right was gaining legitimacy and strength across Europe. The political impact of the right gaining power in Ukraine could not be isolated from the growing power of the right elsewhere. Which meant that the Obama Admiration’s selfish, short-term objective to undermine Russia in Ukraine had the effect of empowering the right and shifting the balance of forces toward the right throughout Europe.
But because Obama was incorrectly seen as a liberal, he was able to avoid most criticism of his policies in Ukraine, in Europe and domestically. In fact, liberals and the left both in the U.S. and in Europe generally supported his Ukraine policies.
“The U.S. has become a dangerous right-wing society as a result of a steady shift to the right over the past four decades.”
However, playing footsie with right-wing elements in the Ukraine and underestimating the growing power of the right has resulted in powerful and dangerous right-wing movements on both sides of the Atlantic who have effectively exploited endemic white racism and the contradictions of neoliberal capitalist globalization. The ascendancy of Donald Trump cannot be decontextualized from the racial, class and gender politics of this moment here and abroad.
The alt-right that showed up in Charlottesville this past weekend was mimicking the tactics of the frontline neo-fascist soldiers who orchestrated the coup in the Ukraine, yet everyone is saying this is a result of Trump. The objective fact is that the U.S. has become a dangerous right-wing society as a result of a steady shift to the right over the past four decades. The idea that Trump’s election somehow “created” the right cannot be taken seriously and cannot be reduced to the crude expressions of the alt-right.
By orchestrating the 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, U.S. neocons may have indirectly contributed to a desperate Ukrainian factory selling advanced rocket engines to North Korea and endangering America.
Computer science students at the University of Washington have found a way to remotely hack into people’s personal devices, such as cell phones and smart TV’s, to track individual movement, raising serious security questions, the university announced Wednesday.
Modern cars’ electronic components, including safety features, are susceptible to hacks from individuals with physical access, according to researchers.
EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Scotland’s devolved parliament is suffering an ongoing brute-force cyber attack but the attack has not breached the assembly’s IT defences, it said on Wednesday.
“At this point there is no evidence to suggest that the attack has breached our defences and our IT systems continue to be fully operational,” the Scottish parliament said in a statement.
“Users should be aware, however, that this attack remains ongoing. It is not uncommon for brute force attacks to be sustained over a period of days so it is essential that IT account users are vigilant and report any suspicious issues,” it added.
Hackers using a “brute-force” attack repeatedly try to gain access to systems by trying different passwords.
Hackers are becoming more and more adept at developing or finding malware to wipe data on computers, making them inoperable and causing data breaches. Britain’s last major cyber attack was the “WannaCry” ransomware attack, which infected hundreds of thousands of computers in May and caused disruptions in more than 150 countries.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange met with a member of the US Congress for the first time Wednesday, as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA) met him during a three-hour gathering at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
During the meeting, Assange assured Rohrabacher that Russia was not the source of DNC leaks which WikiLeaks published during the 2016 campaign related to the Democratic Party, and he promised specific information would be provided to prove that.
by Jason Ditz August 16th 2017
Throughout 2016, the UN High Commission for Refugees counted 3,936 airstrikes in Yemen. The newly released figures for the first half of 2017 show that previous figure, which covered an entire year, is already far surpassed, with 5,676 airstrikes launched by the end of June.
This has turned an already catastrophic humanitarian situation, with thousands killed in airstrikes, into an ever-mounting disaster, with the new strikes killing yet more civilians, and strikes so intense in some areas as to displace much of the civilian population elsewhere in the country.
Being an internally displaced person isn’t great wherever you are, but in Yemen it’s all but a death sentence, as a Saudi naval blockade is keeping food and medicine shipments in the country to a bare minimum, worsening a cholera epidemic and leaving much of the population on the brink of starvation.
Aid group Oxfam estimated that over 500,000 children in Yemen are already suffering from “severe malnutrition” because of the blockade, and there are no signs of that situation improving any time soon. Indeed, Hodeidah, the last port that has access to the country’s north, is nearly constantly under siege, with the Saudis seeking to transfer it to the control of the country’s southern government.
Chinese food exports to North Korea – both staples and snacks – have increased massively over the past year, hinting at the isolated regime’s growing reliance on its only ally.
Chinese customs data showed a surge in exports of nearly 30 items, with corn increasing 32-fold from 400 tonnes to nearly 12,724 tonnes, bananas from just over 63.4 tonnes to 1,156 tonnes and wheat powder from less than 0.6 tonnes to 7.6 tonnes.
Spirit exports also more than quadrupled, rising from 2.1 million litres to 9.5 million in the second quarter compared with the previous year.
Shortages are becoming ever more severe in Venezuela. As Deutsche Welle reports, according to the World Health Organization, hospitals lack 95% of necessary medicines. Many people are undernourished and they receive no help from the government.
“An estimated 75% of Venezuelans lost at least 10 kilos last year because there is not enough food to go around… people here call it ‘The Maduro Diet’…
“When we say people are eating from the garbage, we are not joking, it’s our reality… people don’t have enough to eat.”
Furthermore, a lack of food and basic services is also creating an education crisis with more than 1 million children no longer attending school due to a lack of food, running water and/or electricity.
BUT IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE…
Despite promising to do everything in his power to improve the quality of life for New York City’s most economically vulnerable residents, Mayor Bill De Blasio has instead presided over one of the largest expansions in homelessness in New York City history.
Over the past two years, the population of homeless students in NYC’s public schools has exploded, increasing by 20% between the 2015-2016 school year and the 2016-2017 school year, which concluded in June. There are now more than 140,000 homeless public-school students, according to the Atlas of Student Homelessness, an annual study conducted by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. At any given time, roughly 9% of NYC public-school students are homeless. Another four percent were currently housed, but had experienced homelessness at some point since 2010-2011 school year. Furthermore, one in seven NYC students will have been homeless at least temporarily during their tenure.
Aug. 16 (UPI) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to give homeowners between $50,000 and $75,000 to build second dwellings on their property in an effort to house more homeless people.
The pilot program passed by a vote of 4-0 and will begin with an allocated amount of $550,000, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.
Officials said the program will roll out slowly as a way to test its feasibility.
In a letter recommending the program’s approval, Richard Bruckner, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, said the initiative will begin to review and approve designs for the additional units, provide incentives for their construction and promote the program.
The county program comes after the state passed a law easing restrictions on building second units, informally referred to as “backhouses” or “granny flats,” in order to combat the rising homelessness rate in California.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, California typically has approximately 118,000 people experiencing homelessness on an average night — the highest rate in the country and 30,000 more than in New York, in second place. In Los Angeles, the number of homeless on an average night is about 47,000.