German Vice Chancellor acknowledges Saudi terrorism ties

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Following a report by German intelligence on the threat posed by Saudi terror financing and religious propaganda networks – a report disavowed by Chancellor Merkel – Germany’s Vice Chancellor, of the junior coalition partner Social Democratic Party, offered some public thoughts.

The Telegraph (UK):

Sigmar Gabriel said that the Saudi regime is funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security.

“We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Mr Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

“Wahhabi mosques all over the world are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities in Germany.”

The allegation that Saudi Arabia has funded mosques with links to Islamist terrorism in the West is not new. But it is highly unusual for a Western leader to speak out so directly against the West’s key Arab ally.

 
His full statement wasn’t unqualified either…unfortunately. The Kingdom continues to get a special pass vastly misaligned with the scale of its involvement in global destabilization today.


Previously on this topic:

Oped, 10/4/14 | “Reform Islam Vs. the Billionaire Barons”
1/13/15: “German MP asks if his country’s (and party’s) leader supports salafists”

The origin story of minimum wage laws, part 2

Part 2: Why did some industrialized nations wait so long to get a minimum wage? When did the UK, Germany, and France get minimum wage laws? Why do some industrialized nations still not have legal minimum wages? || This original research was produced for The Globalist Research Center and Arsenal For Democracy.

Why did some industrialized nations wait so long to get a minimum wage?

From a historical perspective, minimum wage laws were implemented first in countries where trade union movements were not strong. Countries such as the UK that traditionally had strong labor unions have tended to be late adopters on minimum wage laws.

In those countries, powerful unions were able to bargain collectively with employers to set wage floors, without needing legislative minimums.

The early gold standard guideline for government participation in wage setting was the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 26 from 1928 – although many industrialized countries never adopted it.

The convention said that governments should create regulatory systems to set wages, unless “collective agreement” could ensure fair effective wages. This distinction acknowledged that, by 1928, there was already a major split in approaches to creating effective wage floors: leaving it to labor organizers versus using statutes and regulators.

When did the UK, Germany, and France get minimum wage laws?

Much like pioneers New Zealander and Australia, the United Kingdom did adopt “Trade Boards” as early as 1909 to try to oversee and arbitrate bargaining between labor and management. However, its coverage was far less comprehensive than Australian and New Zealand counterparts and cannot be considered a true minimum wage system. Instead, UK workers counted on labor unions to negotiate their wages for most of the 20th century.

The Labour Party introduced the UK’s first statutory minimum wage less than two decades ago, in 1998, when it took over the government following 18 years of a Conservative government that had focused on weakening British unions. The country’s current hourly minimum wage for workers aged 21 and up is £6.50 (i.e. about $8.40 in purchasing power parity terms), or about 45% of median UK wages.

Despite opposition to minimum wages in some quarters, The Economist magazine noted recently that studies consistently show that there is little impact on hiring decisions when the minimum wage level is set below 50% of median pay. Above that level, some economists believe low-level jobs would be shed or automated, but this is also not definitively proven either.

In fact, not all countries with minimum wages above that supposed 50% threshold — a list which includes at least 13 industrialized economies, according to the OECD — seem to have those hypothesized problems. True, some of them do, but that may indicate other economic factors at work.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, only adopted a minimum wage law after the 2013 federal elections. Previously, wages had generally been set by collective bargaining between workers’ unions and companies.

As a result of the postwar occupation in the western sectors, Germany also uses the “codetermination” system of corporate management, which puts unions on the company boards directly. This too encourages amicable negotiations in wage setting, to ensure the company’s long-term health, which benefits the workers and owners alike.

The new minimum wage amounts to €8.50 per hour ($10.20 in PPP-adjusted terms), or more than 45% of median German pay.

However, in some areas of Germany, the local median is much lower. There, the minimum wage affords significantly more purchasing power. In eastern Germany, the minimum is about 60% of median wages.

In France, where unions have long had a more antagonistic relationship with management, a minimum wage law was adopted much earlier – in 1950. It is now €9.61 per hour (about $10.90 in PPP-adjusted terms), or more than 60% of median French pay.

N.B. Purchasing-power currency conversions are from 2012 local currency to 2012 international dollars rounded from UN data.

Why do some industrialized nations still not have legal minimum wages?

Because of their generous social welfare systems, one might assume that the Nordic countries were early adopters of minimum wage laws. In fact, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland all lack a minimum wage, even today.

Instead, wages in these countries are virtually all set by collective bargaining in every sector – conducted between workers’ unions, corporations, and the state. (This is known as tripartism.) Non-union workers generally receive the same pay negotiated by the unions.

A prevailing minimum or average lower-end wage can usually be estimated, but there is no law. In U.S. dollar terms, Denmark’s approximate lowest wage level is higher than almost every minimum wage in the world. Mid-level wages are even higher. Even McDonald’s workers in Denmark reportedly make the equivalent of $20/hour.

 
Missed part one? New Zealand, Australia, Massachusetts, the New Deal, and China: How governments took an active role initially, and how they balance economic variability now.

Greece’s defense ministry ratchets up rhetoric

Panos-Kammenos-greeceAs part of the anti-austerity coalition deal between the leftist, pro-european reformers of Syriza and the right-wing, euroskeptic Independent Greeks, the latter were given the country’s National Defense portfolio in the government. Unlike Syriza, which at least officially favors cooperation with Europe, the Independent Greeks party under Defense Minister Panos Kammenos (pictured) is openly antagonizing other European Union governments and being far less diplomatic — either as a rogue effort or as the role of “bad cop” outside the negotiations.

The latest ramp-up in “bad cop” talk was Minister Kammenos’s suggestion that the eurozone would disintegrate in the aftermath of a Greek economic implosion or exit, with Italy, Spain, and possibly even Germany being forced to go back on to their own currencies too. (The latter seems pretty unlikely.)

He also recently threatened to release all Middle Eastern refugees in holding in Greece into the rest of the Union with papers to enter Germany — in the midst of a political crisis there over refugees — if Germany fails to ease up on its demands upon Greece, and he reiterated counter-demands that Germany repay Nazi war debts that Greece forgave under Allied pressure in 1953 along with damages from the brutal Nazi occupation and counterinsurgency of Greece during the war. (Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, a former academic who is not a member of either party in the governing coalition, also suggested that failure to repay the debts and damages could open German companies in Greece to asset seizure.)

But the most specific and perhaps unexpected demand to emanate from the defense ministry was actually related to defense! The ministry — along, actually, with some German journalists — alleges that its predecessors wasted billions in public funds on buying weapons systems and arms it didn’t need from EU firms that bribed Greek officials to make the purchases, and they want compensation. Reuters reports: Read more

The language of austerity

What happens to the politics of word choice when two dozen languages are spoken in a union?

Below are excerpts from “How do you say ‘austerity’ in German? You don’t” in France24:

In Germany, the crisis rocking the country’s EU partners has produced the ugly term “austerität”, but few use it, least of all Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has made no secret of her distaste for the word, prefering to speak of “sparpolitik” – which translates as “the politics of saving money”, or of spending it “sparingly” – and “sparsamkeit” (frugality). Both terms have positive meanings and refer to very reasonable policies. Conversely, anyone opposing “sparpolitik”, like Greece’s government, is necessarily unreasonable.
[…]
“Schuld”, the German word for debt, also means “guilt”. It has a moral quality that doesn’t translate into other European languages. For Keynesian economists, spending one’s way out of crisis, at the risk of temporarily increasing the debt load, is eminently sensible – particularly at a time of low interest rates, as is presently the case in Europe. But to many Germans it is sinful.

The West German debt writeoff

France24 — “Lessons from 1953: The debt write-off behind Germany’s ‘economic miracle'”:

West Germany’s debt at the time was well below the levels seen in Greece today. But German negotiators successfully argued that it would hinder efforts to rebuild the country’s economy – much as Greek governments have in recent years, in vain. Under a crucial term of the London Agreement, repayments of the remaining debt were made conditional on West Germany running a trade surplus. In other words, the German government would only pay back its creditors when it could afford to – and not by borrowing even more money. Reimbursements were also limited to 3% of export earnings. This gave Germany’s creditors an incentive to import German goods so they would later get their money back, thereby laying the foundations of the country’s powerful export sector and fostering its so-called “economic miracle”.
[…]
Back in 1953, the money Greece gave up included a loan extorted during the gruesome Nazi occupation of the country, when thousands of resistance fighters and civilians were murdered and hundreds of thousands starved to death. Even before Syriza’s electoral triumph, Greek newspapers were awash with calls for Germany to repay the loan, the exact amount of which is a matter of historical dispute. Estimates range from $24 billion to five times the amount. While few Greeks expect Berlin to pay up, many believe that Germany was let off the hook after the war and should now be more generous in Greece’s hour of need.

 
See also: A Brief History of the Greek Debt Coverup – Arsenal For Democracy
And: Greece’s Syriza, Germany, and the Gordian Knot – Arsenal For Democracy

German MP asks if his country’s (and party’s) leader supports salafists

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chair of the center-right CDU, is being praised for participating in a rally against Islamophobia today (following up on her New Year’s remarks on the same subject). In particular, one line she issued today is getting a lot of attention:

Merkel, who is often known to avoid controversial issues, has weighed in strongly, condemning PEGIDA’s leaders and stressing on Monday that “Islam is part of Germany” – a comment that was plastered on the front pages of leading newspapers.

Not everyone in her party is happy about that is happy about that:

But it drew criticism from a range of right-wing politicians, including members of Merkel’s CDU.

What Islam does she mean? Does this include fundamental Islamist and Salafist currents?” said Wolfgang Bosbach, a veteran CDU lawmaker. “Germany has a Judeo-Christian, not an Islamic, cultural tradition.”

 
This is not the first time Mr. Bosbach, a member of the Bundestag (national parliament) since 1994, has made remarks ostracizing German Muslims. He is a high-ranking member of the governing CDU party, however, and accusing his party leader and chancellor of being supportive of “fundamentalist Islam and Salafist currents” (a strand of hardline thinking that has been behind the extremist attacks and anti-democratic activities within radical Sunni Islam over the past two decades) is a disgusting and shameful attack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), September 2010. Credit: European People's Party via Wikimedia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), September 2010. Credit: European People’s Party via Wikimedia

January 7, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 112

AFD-logo-470

Topics: Rep. Steve Scalise, US policy on Cuba and North Korea, Islamophobia in Sweden and Germany. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: January 5th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Why House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is at least a White supremacist sympathizer, despite his sketchy denials — and what that means for the Republican Party now.
– What does the US policy change on Cuba mean for both countries? Should the US also adjust policies on North Korea?
– Why are Germany and Sweden witnessing a surge of anti-Muslim public actions?

Episode 112 (55 min)
AFD 112

Related links
Segment 1

Cen Lamar: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was reportedly an honored guest at 2002 international white supremacist convention
Washington Post: House Majority Whip Scalise confirms he spoke to white nationalists in 2002
NYT: Much of David Duke’s ’91 Campaign Is Now in Louisiana Mainstream

Segment 2

NYT: Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations
AFD: Hip-Hop Invasion! (and other stupid covert Cuba projects)

Segment 3

The Globalist: Political Courage: Merkel Vs. Cameron
BBC: Anti-Islam ‘Pegida’ rally in Dresden sees record turnout
BBC: Three mosque fires in one week (Sweden)
AFD: Sweden’s budget deal is American-style extortion

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