Sunday, March 23, 2014

Today's links

Today's quote:  "The violent treatment inflicted on women in the military...is an extension of the internal process of “military education,” applied to the most vulnerable portion of the armed forces. ...The military teaches its enlistees to be impervious to human pain and suffering, readying them for criminal operations against hostile peoples abroad and the working class at home."....


"The pervasive climate of violence and abuse in the military is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a crystallized expression of social conditions in the US, which are characterized, above all, by the immense gap between the super-rich and the rest of the population."....David Walsh, "Sexual violence and abuse in the US military", World Socialist Web Site








1---Housing sales still above trend, Dean Baker


housing market has recovered pretty much all we should expect. In the mid-1990s, before the bubble began to dominate the market, existing home sales averaged about 3.5 million annually. If we adjust upward by 20 percent for population growth, we should expect existing home sales of around 4.2 million.


In fact, they have been running at around 4.8 million, considerably above trend levels. This is partially offset by lower than trend sales of new homes (this is due to the fact that unusually high vacancy rates are still discouraging new construction). However this piece is focused on explaining a weakness in the housing market that does not exist.


The piece also misrepresents the scenario we would face if interest rates rise further, implying that this will directly make housing less affordable. It ignores the fact that higher interest rates will likely lead to lower house prices. This will not completely offset the impact of higher interest rates on monthly housing costs, but the almost inevitable drop in house prices will alleviate the impact on higher interest rates


2--Russia's threat to the (petro)dollar, zero hedge


3---The Stone Unturned: Credit Ratings, NYT


4--War In Syria Set To Intensify, eric Margolis


let’s remember that this brutal war was begun by the Western Powers and Saudis, is financed by them, and could be stopped at anytime if Washington and Riyadh give the order.
In 2011, fighting erupted after demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians were fed up with the brutal, 40-year Assad dynastic dictatorship and domination by Assad’s Alawi minority.


Western intelligence used techniques developed in Georgia, Ukraine, Iran, Libya, Turkey (unsuccessfully) and Egypt to convert public anger into demonstrations. The Assad government’s typically heavy-handed response turned a local problem into spreading civil war.


Most of the uprising against Damascus began on the borders with Lebanon and Jordan, from where US, British, French and Saudi intelligence services organized, trained, and financed anti-Assad groups. Turkish intelligence, MIT, also fuelled the uprising in the north.
This writer strongly believes Western special forces armed with the latest anti-tank weapons covertly supported anti-government forces – just as in the western-organized overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Khadaffi.


5---Housing: One Chart Says It All, Mike Whitney (I don't usually put my stuff on this blog, but I like the photo of the sinking house)


6---Sanctions effect: Russia to change its economic partners…for the better, RT


Bye bye USA, Hello, new multiworld order


7---Has the Foreclosure Housing Market Improved?, DS News


We saw less than half that number of bank repossessions nationwide in 2013. Even in hard-hit markets like Stockton, Las Vegas, and Lansing, Michigan, where REO sales represented more than half of all sales in 2010, the percentage of REO sales has been cut at least in half," Blomquist said.


Continuing an ongoing trend, affordability continues to be a problem in key areas. Increasing home prices and low inventory continue to keep prices high, and are helping bring certain areas a speedier recovery—in some cases past pre-recession levels.


"Home prices in three-fourths of the counties analyzed are still below 2006 levels, but low inventory has helped home prices accelerate past pre-recession levels in some markets like Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Oklahoma City," Blomquist noted.


8---Two-thirds of those who live paycheck to paycheck aren’t poor, marketwatch


He continued, "Those rapid home price gains are causing a concerning drop in affordability rates in some cities, but homebuilders and homeowners with regained equity should help provide more supply to balance out many of those markets in 2014."


9---David Walsh, "Sexual violence and abuse in the US military", World Socialist Web Site (Today's "must read")


The Department of Defense estimates that there were some 26,000 incidents of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact in 2012, with only 10 percent or so having been reported. Virtually no serious punishment is ever meted out.
In 2011, a lawsuit was filed by two male and 15 female veterans claiming that the Department of Defense permitted a military culture that failed to prevent rape and sexual assault and that then Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms.”
The prevalence of such criminal behavior in the US military is hardly a secret. Scandal after scandal has erupted in the past decade or more, especially since the US Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal in 2003. In a number of cases, charges have been laid against officers with responsibility for sexual assault prevention!




As the German socialist Karl Liebknecht explained in his classic, Militarism & Anti-Militarism (1907), mistreatment within the armed forces, “the horrors of the barracks,” is “an indispensable auxiliary” to and “an illegal but necessary method of military education.”...


other words, whatever its official rules provide for, the military high command finds that ill-treatment of soldiers “is nevertheless probably the most effective of all coercive means of discipline used by militarism. There is an attempt to tame men in the way in which beasts are tamed. Recruits are drugged, confused, flattered, bribed, pressed, locked up, disciplined and beaten. Thus grain upon grain is mixed and kneaded to serve as mortar for the great edifice of the army.”
Aside from a psychopathic minority, members of the armed forces are not automatically or even easily suited for murderous operations. They have to be psychologically broken, their hearts and souls hardened, or torn out, and unthinking obedience to superiors and “the flag” instilled. The goal is to turn the individual into the impervious Full Metal Jacket of Stanley Kubrick’s film...


The violent treatment inflicted on women in the military, a phenomenon unknown in Liebknecht’s day, is an extension of this internal process of “military education,” applied to the most vulnerable portion of the armed forces. In this way, the military teaches its enlistees to be impervious to human pain and suffering, readying them for criminal operations against hostile peoples abroad and the working class at home....


The photos of Abu Ghraib, which captured US troops enthusiastically carrying out acts of sexual sadism and torture, were only the tip of the iceberg. Here was the outcome of “successful” military training: backward, mentally impoverished individuals encouraged to see the “enemy,” the Iraqi populace, as inhuman and worthy of being treated as animals.
As war veteran Josh Stieber told the WSWS in 2010, acts such as those captured in the infamous Baghdad “collateral murder” video posted by WikiLeaks, were “not out of the ordinary in Iraq;” on the contrary, they were everyday occurrences.
The pervasive climate of violence and abuse in the military is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a crystallized expression of social conditions in the US, which are characterized, above all, by the immense gap between the super-rich and the rest of the population....


Militarism also makes its appearance as a system which saturates the whole public and private life of the people with the militaristic spirit. The Church, the school, and a certain tendency to cheapness in art, together with the press, a wretched, venal rabble of littérateurs, and the social nimbus which surrounds ‘our glorious war army’ like a halo—all these work together in a tenacious and cunning manner.”

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