Monday, May 26, 2014

Today's Links

1---The US and Thailand’s military coup, wsws


On May 20, the US State Department endorsed the army’s imposition of martial law and accepted the word of Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha that it was “not a coup.”
....
The US has since announced a token suspension of $3.5 million in military aid to Thailand, the cutting short of a joint naval exercise underway last week, and the cancellation of a police training program and two high-level exchanges. There is no doubt, however, that behind the scenes the Pentagon’s close collaboration with the military will continue unabated with the resumption of full ties at the earliest possible time....


Last week’s coup follows the same pattern as the military’s ousting of Thaksin in 2006. WikiLeaks cables later revealed that US ambassador Ralph Boyce had been briefed about the military takeover several weeks in advance and had given the nod of approval. Both sides understood there would be cosmetic US aid cuts. However, US funding continued for law enforcement, counterterrorism and non-proliferation programs. Thailand kept its preferential treatment as a major non-NATO ally and the joint Cobra Gold military exercises, one of the world’s largest, went ahead as planned in 2007 under the junta. The Obama administration undoubtedly gave the green light for the latest coup as it did in 2006.


The military’s actions are not aimed primarily against the pro-Thaksin faction of the ruling class, but against the working class and the rural poor. The fear in Thai ruling circles, and also in Washington, is that the protracted factional infighting could open the door for a movement of workers and peasants in conditions of negative economic growth, rising social tensions and corporate demands for austerity


2---US veterans health care scandal used to push for privatization, wsws
 
The Memorial Day holiday is being observed in the US amid a developing scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and calls to privatize veterans’ health care.


The Obama administration is currently embroiled in a major scandal following revelations that some VA hospitals systematically falsified records to conceal delays in treatment, with dozens of patients dying before they could be seen by a doctor. Hospitals in Arizona, Florida, Colorado, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas are now under investigation.


In the midst of this scandal, the Obama administration announced Saturday that it would begin allowing more military veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced that the VA is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care.”....


Calls for the privatization of the VA make clear that the ongoing scandal will not lead to improvements in health care for veterans, but will instead be exploited to accelerate the political establishment’s ongoing dismantling of the American health care system.
A misnamed “health care reform” has been a major priority of the Obama administration. Judged by its progress so far, the goals of this “reform” include lowering the quality of health care available to the working class, increasing the profitability of the insurance and medical corporations, reducing employer-provided health care, shifting the burden of paying for health care onto the poorest sections of the population, and setting the stage for further cuts to social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid....


The VA scandal has its origins in the revelations earlier this month that approximately 40 patients had died while on a waiting list at a Phoenix, Arizona veterans’ hospital. A whistleblower revealed that the hospital systematically falsified its records to conceal backlogs and delays. When the hospital became the subject of an investigation, a second doctor stepped forward to reveal that medical records were being shredded to conceal the hospital’s misconduct from investigators. (See:  Arizona veterans’ hospital scandal: Forty patients died awaiting treatment)


Another issue is the deliberate underreporting of suicides among military veterans. Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day, or close to an average of one suicide every hour. As many as 25 percent of veterans returning from combat are diagnosed with post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
President Obama has refused to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has headed the agency for the past six years. Both Shinseki and Obama have made speeches expressing their supposed indignation and outrage. In a May 22 statement, Obama declared, “As commander in chief, I believe that taking care of our veterans and their families is a sacred obligation.” Notwithstanding all of the posturing, it is clear that the scandal presents a significant crisis for the administration.
(neo-liberals: 1) Starve public programs; 2) Run PR campaign; 3) Privatize and profit!!! )


3---Report: US targets poor and working class with mass imprisonment, wsws


4--Euroquake, Reuters


5---When did the Great Financial Crisis begin?” , Fred


How would you answer the question, “When did the Great Financial Crisis begin?” Some date the beginning of the crisis according to the events surrounding the failure of Lehman Brothers in mid-September 2008. But at that point, financial markets had already been in turmoil for more than a year, as certain time series from the summer of 2007 show. So how do you date the crisis?


In the graph, we plot the spread between Moody’s seasoned Aaa corporate bond yield and Moody’s seasoned Baa corporate bond yield, as well as the spread between the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average in the United States and the 30-year Treasury constant maturity rate


6---Always Low Wages, More Pollution: Why Barack & Michelle Obama Relentlessly Shill For Wal-Mart, Black Agenda Report


7--Michael Hudson: They should have let the banks fail,


The alternative that has been for the last few hundred years would have been to let the bad debts go under. In other words, you would have done two things. Either you’d let the banks foreclose as they have–but the banks would have taken a loss. The purpose of quantitative easing was to do something that had never been done before in modern history: to make sure that the banks wouldn’t lose and to make sure that the 1 percent behind them didn’t lose. The money was poured into the economy, and instead of writing down the debts, the debts were all left in place.


What I was advocating and Steve Keen was advocating and most other people in our group were advocating was write down the–let Citibank go under, let the banks that have made the bad loans go under. And Bill Black on your show has been telling you about how bad these loans were. Let them go under. The government would have taken over the banks, and nobody would have lost the money.

The secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, just wrote his autobiography last week, pushing the big lie again that the ATM machines would have been closed down. None of the ATM machines would have been closed down. Sheila Bair wrote in her book that there was plenty of money–and even in Citibank and Bank of America, even in these most rotten banks–to bail out all of the insured depositors. But the Fed came in and said, we don’t want the speculators to lose money; the depositors, the homeowners, the economy can be sacrificed in order to help the speculators. And normally it’s the speculators who would have lost, but in this case it was the taxpayer who lost. That was basically the principle at work.

8---RETAIL DEATH RATTLE GROWS LOUDER, Burning Platform (must read)

It was exactly four months ago when I wrote THE RETAIL DEATH RATTLE. Here are a few terse anecdotes from that article:
The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.
The lack of retirement and general savings is reflected in the historically low personal savings rate of a miniscule 3.8%. Before the materialistic frenzy of the last couple decades, rational Americans used to save 10% or more of their personal income. With virtually no savings as they approach their retirement years and an already extremely low savings rate, do retail CEOs really see a spending revival on the horizon?

  • If you thought the savings rate was so low because consumers are flush with cash and so optimistic about their job prospects they are unconcerned about the need to save for a rainy day, you would be wrong. It has been raining for the last 14 years. Real median household income is 7.5% lower today than it was in 2001. Retailers added 2.7 billion square feet of retail space as real household income fell. Sounds rational.

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