Thursday, June 12, 2014

Today's links

Today's quote: "In every case where Washington attempts to utilize militarism to advance US imperialism’s interests and offset the economic decline of American capitalism, it is the masses of people who suffer, from the millions killed and displaced in nearly nine years of US war and occupation in Iraq, to the carnage unleashed on the people of Syria, and now the turning of a half a million impoverished residents of Mosul into homeless refugees." Bill Van Auken, World Socialist Web Site

1---Mosul fall to insurgents threatening oil production, naked capitalism

2--archive --Biden plan for 'soft partition' of Iraq gains momentum, NYT

3---U.S. Economic Recovery Looks Distant as Growth Stalls, NYT

For more than a century, the pace of growth was reliably resilient, bouncing back after recessions like a car returning to its cruising speed after a roadblock. Even after the prolonged Great Depression of the 1930s, growth eventually returned to an average pace of more than 3 percent a year. But Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, citing the Congressional Budget Office, said on Wednesday that the government now expected annual growth to average just 2.1 percent, about two-thirds of the previous pace....

Lawrence H. Summers, formerly President Obama’s chief economic adviser and now a leading member of this Cassandra chorus, has warned that growth may fall short of expectations unless the federal government increases its spending on things like upgrading deteriorating roads and bridges and the development of new technologies. “A soft economy casts a substantial shadow forward onto the economy’s future output and potential,” he said in a speech in April.....

Gauti Eggertsson and Neil Mehrotra, economics professors at Brown University, argued in a recent paper that the combination of the financial crisis, fewer workers and rising income inequality could leave the economy in a state of “permanent recession.”
The paper, which sought to formalize recent conceptualizing about so-called secular stagnation, argued that in a normal cycle, falling interest rates would eventually generate sufficient demand to restore the economy to its historical growth rate.
(The Fed creates more money. The majority of the money goes to the wealthy who exchange the money for bonds which derive rent from workers. The rents are a drag on growth, wages and ultimately, productivity. The debts must be reduced to rebalance the system, increase wages and growth)

4--Jobs keep getting shittier, NYT

“Many higher skilled workers have moved down the occupation ladder and accepted less challenging employment,” Beaudry wrote in an emailed response to my inquiry about this development. “This movement down has been very detrimental to the low skilled, as higher skilled workers have taken many of ‘their’ jobs.”

In these papers, the authors describe “a clear break in 2000,” a sudden shift in the job prospects of college graduates. They write that in earlier years, “each successive entry cohort has a higher share in cognitive occupations at the outset of their working lives.” From 1980 to 2000, the demand for highly skilled college graduates provided increased opportunity for good wages and advancement.
Beginning in 2000, however, each graduating class has encountered a smaller share of well-paying, high-prestige jobs. By 2010, the openings into these occupations were back to 1990 levels, the authors write.

Because these downward trends in capital investment and in the level of demand for high-skill workers were already in evidence between 2000 and 2007, the possibility that the post-2000 shifts were the result of the 2008 financial collapse should be discounted, according to Beaudry, Green and Sand....

The downward pressures mean that the problem of declining opportunity will now be a fact of life across nearly all classes.....

Gordon’s prognosis is perhaps the bleakest: “The future of American economic growth is dismal, and policy solutions are elusive.”

Summers has warned of the threat of sustained, long-term economic stagnation, but he is a believer in the efficacy of government action: “The single most important step the U.S. government can take to reverse these discouraging trends is to mount a concerted, large-scale program directed at renewing our national infrastructure,” he wrote.

5---Retail investors move to cash, Big Picture

6---Rising Household Debt: Increasing Demand or Increasing Supply?, Big Picture

Basit Zafar, Max Livingston, and Wilbert van der Klaauw

Total consumer debt continued to increase in the first quarter of this year, marking the first time since the recession that aggregate debt had grown for three consecutive quarters, according to the May 2014 Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. Is this increase in household debt driven by changes in supply or demand? The January 2014 and April 2014Senior Loan Officer Opinion Surveys (SLOOS) show an increase in lenders’ willingness to make consumer loans over the last several quarters and an increase in the number of lenders reporting looser lending standards, which indicates that credit supply is increasing

7---Lavrov to US: "Admit you blew it", RT

The events in Iraq are a result of the actions carried out by the US and the UK, and the situation has spiraled out of control, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists.
“It has been reported that the UK foreign minister declared that the events in Iraq are, according to him, an illustration that terrorism is rampant in the region due to the absence of reconciliation in Syria,” Lavrov said.

“We’ve known that our English colleagues have a unique ability to twist everything. But I didn’t expect such cynicism, because the events that are taking place in Iraq are an illustration of a complete failure of the venture started by the US and the UK that allowed it to spiral out of control completely.”

“We express our solidarity with the Iraqi authorities, the Iraqi people who should restore peace and security in their country, but the actions of our Western partners raise a lot of questions,” Lavrov marked.

8--Immigration groups accuse US customs officials of abusing minors, RT

“More than 80 percent described denial of adequate food and water in CBP custody, including a child who se only available drinking water came from a toilet tank and others who received only frozen or spoiled food and subsequently became ill.”

The document added, “The sheer volume and consistency of these complaints reflects longstanding, systemic problems with CBP policy and practices. Unfortunately, the abuse of unaccompanied children by U.S. immigration officials is not a new phenomenon.”...

As RT reported previously, the Border Patrol in Texas found itself dealing with as many as 48,000 children crossing into the US through the Rio Grande Valley. Unable to deal with so many people locally, the Department of Homeland security transferred many to Arizona and other facilities. But Arizona was unprepared to cope with over 1,000 children sent to the state.
"I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama's administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a written statement on Friday, referring to the transfer of children to sites in her state.

"Not only does the federal government have no plan to stop this disgraceful policy, it also has no plan to deal with the endless waves of illegal aliens once they are released here."
Many of the children interviewed for the complaint fled countries where they faced violence and persecution, only to be subject to abuse by CBP officials in the US.

“Children are fleeing untenable conditions in their home countries, including pervasive violence and persecution, and are often re-victimized in transit to the United States,” Joseph Anderson, director of litigation for Americans for Immigrant Justice, said in the coalition’s statement. “We need to ensure that these children are treated with dignity and respect and afforded all applicable legal protections while they are in U.S. custody.” ...

Border agents operate in a zone of impunity,” said James Lyall of the ACLU Border Litigation Project. “Given CBP’s recent promise to be more accountable and transparent, we call on the agency to finally address these systemic abuses in a serious and meaningful way.”
The coalition’s goal is to protect the children and give them access to medical care, food and sanitary conditions. They also want children to be able to easily and safely file complaints against officials who abuse them.

“Border Patrol agents are committing appalling abuses of children all along the border,” Ashley Huebner, managing attorney of the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project at the National Immigrant Justice Center said in the statement. “Even worse, Border Patrol has been committing these abuses for years, and our organizations have notified the agency numerous times, yet nothing has changed. The recent increase in arrivals of young people at the border makes it especially urgent that CBP ensure all children in their custody are treated safely and humanely.”

9---The Ukrainian government has been using National Guard conscripts as a major assault force in attacks on anti-Kiev forces in the east of the country. It is mostly the guards, many of whom are members of the ultranationalist Right Sector movement, who have been shelling the city of Slavyansk and the villages around it with mortars and Howitzers to force the pro-federalist region of Donetsk into submission, RT

10--Idiotic U.S. Policy Is Making Al Qaeda Stronger Than Ever, WA blog

11---Japan Inc.’s Worst Quarterly Outlook Since The 2011 Earthquake, Testosterone Pit 
Big businesses in Japan are – or wait, were – practically giddy. They had good reason as they were happily floating on the Bank of Japan’s rising sea of yen. And a sea it is. With the start of the fiscal year on April 1, 2013, the BOJ promised to print enough money to double the monetary base in two years. It now has delivered a 68% surge in just 14 months.

Purpose? Devalue the yen, buy up every Japanese Government Bond that isn’t nailed down to impose an iron-fisted peg on yields (0.6% on the 10-year JGB), and make unlimited amounts of nearly free money available to the banks and by extension to Japan Inc. The moves benefitted the largest corporations. They get to translate their overseas sales and earnings – from exports, but more often from production overseas – into devalued yen, thereby adding a lot of artificial glitter to their financial statements. And they’re getting drunk on liquidity...

Now a terrible hangover has set in which the Ministry of Finance has tabulated in its quarterly Business Outlook Survey......(plunging confidence)

12---California court ruling signals nationwide attack on teacher tenure, seniority rights, wsws
A Los Angeles, California court ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure, seniority and other basic rights are unconstitutional. The ruling was immediately hailed by the Obama administration as a precedent for the entire country.
The ruling declares unconstitutional five California statutes, some in existence for over a hundred years. The laws guarantee the democratic right of teachers to a fair dismissal process and to job security. They also require that when budget cuts mandate teacher layoffs, the most recently hired teachers are the first to be cut. The judge placed a temporary stay on the ruling pending appeal....

Three of the five statutes that were declared unconstitutional guarantee teachers the right to defend themselves during the firing process. A teacher can be fired for a variety of reasons ranging from “unsatisfactory performance” to “dishonesty” and “unprofessional conduct.” However, a teacher under these laws has the right to contest his or her firing and be reviewed by a three-person committee consisting of two teachers and a judge.

Judge Treu declared that this right of due process is “unconstitutional” because it is “too time consuming and too expensive.” He argued that this violates the “equal protection clause of the Constitution of California,” because bad teachers are supposedly more likely to be at economically underprivileged schools, meaning the protections “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”

13---The fall of Mosul and the crimes of imperialism, WSWS

While official Washington publicly wrings its hands over the fall of Mosul, the effect of this development on the US proxy war in Syria may not be all that unwelcome within sections of the US military and intelligence apparatus.

The fall of Iraqi military stockpiles to ISIS has provided one of the most dramatic increases in the firepower of the forces seeking to topple the Syrian government since the US-backed civil war began. Hundreds of armored vehicles have been captured—enough to outfit a full armored division, according to one source. ISIS has overrun the Mosul airport, gaining access to military helicopters and other aircraft. Huge amounts of arms and ammunition have been seized, and virtually all of it is being sent back across the border into Syria. Thousands of Islamist prisoners have been freed from Iraqi jails to go and fight there.

The demand to provide US arms to the “rebels” has been largely met in practice by the developments in Mosul. The result will be a further escalation of the bloodbath in Syria.
The reaction of the US media to the debacle in Iraq has been dominated by stunned disbelief combined with questions as to how this could have happened after all of the “sacrifices” made by the United States—4,500 troops killed and tens of thousands of wounded, along with trillions of dollars spent.

What hypocrisy! The catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is the direct product of the crimes—both past and present—carried out by US imperialism in its attempt to assert its hegemony over the Middle East and its massive energy reserves.

The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the pretext that the regime of Saddam Hussein was developing “weapons of mass destruction” and cementing ties to Al Qaeda, which supposedly raised the imminent threat of a nuclear 9/11....

The crimes carried out under Bush in Iraq—leading to over one million Iraqi deaths and the destruction of an entire society—have been followed by those of the Obama administration in Libya and Syria, where US imperialism has fostered and armed proxy forces based on Sunni Islamist and Al Qaeda-linked elements to wage wars for regime-change. One result has been an immense strengthening of these forces throughout the region.
These wars have been based on the “war on terrorism” narrative used by the Bush administration and still employed by the Obama White House as a justification for global militarism. Wars launched in response to a terrorist attack carried out by 19 individuals—15 of them Saudis—who were allowed to enter the US and hijack airplanes, have now led to the creation of a de facto Al Qaeda state that straddles the Iraq-Syria border and stretches from Aleppo, near the Mediterranean Sea in the west, toward the border with Iran in the east...

There has been an increasingly intense debate within ruling circles over the arming of the “rebels,” with the former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, writing a column for Wednesday’s New York Times urging the provision of mortars, rockets and surface-to-air missiles to “moderates” among the Islamist-led militias, as well as placing them directly on the US payroll. Of course, Ford, like other US officials, claims that such aid to the “moderates”—whose organizations are never named—would serve as well to isolate the Al Qaeda-linked elements. This caveat, however, is meant merely to cover up the real criminality of US operations, in which these very elements play the decisive role.

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