Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Today's links

A 2013 Gallup poll of 65 countries that was co-sponsored by the US Government and thus never fully published, reportedly found that among people worldwide, "The US was the overwhelming choice (24% of respondents) for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today. This was followed by Pakistan (8%), China (6%), North Korea, Israel and Iran (5%),"

1--Russia & Iran reach agreement on S-300 air defense systems delivery – deputy foreign minister

2--Kiev Gathers Huge 65,000-Strong Army on Frontline Near Donetsk

3--World capitalism “toboggans toward catastrophe”
Seven years after the Wall Street crash of September 2008, fears are growing within ruling circles internationally that the world capitalist economy, far from recovering, is descending into depression. There is increasing speculation as to where the next financial meltdown, triggering a collapse in trade and production, will occur.
As to how to prevent such a turn of events, there is general perplexity.
The very countries previously touted as the “engines” of world economic growth following the 2008 recession, China and the so-called “emerging market” economies, are now seen as the places most likely to spark a new global downturn....

The crisis in China is itself an expression of a general downward trajectory in the world economy. In the second quarter of this year, Japan contracted and Europe sank even further into stagnation.
The United States’ much vaunted “recovery” is proving to be hollow. Over the past two days, the Federal Reserve has reported a sharp decline in manufacturing activity in the New York region, and Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has reported a sharp drop in its second quarter profit and has cut its annual earnings outlook. Wal-Mart’s slump is a telling reflection of the worsening conditions of American workers that underlie record corporate profits and stock prices

These measures were accompanied by ruthless austerity and wage-cutting aimed at permanently slashing the living standards of the working class in Europe and the US. Under President Obama, total state, local and federal government spending, adjusted for inflation, has contracted by 3.3 percent since the recovery began in 2009, compared with an average increase of 23.5 percent over comparable periods in past post-war expansions.

Corporate profits, stock prices and the fortunes of the rich and the super-rich have soared and social inequality has reached unprecedented levels as a result of a vast transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. But these class-war policies, far from resolving the crisis, have strengthened the tendencies toward slump, exacerbating the contradictions that produced the crisis.

This process finds expression in a further growth of financial parasitism and outright criminality within the corporate-financial elite. At the heart of the slump is a decline in productive investment. Instead of using their vast profits to expand the productive forces and carry out research and development, let alone provide decent-paying jobs, bankers and CEOs are plowing billions into mergers and stock buybacks at record rates. These financial machinations increase the personal wealth of the financial oligarchs at the direct expense of workers’ jobs and living standards.

4---What is the pseudo-left?

The pseudo-left denotes political parties, organizations and theoretical/ideological tendencies which utilize populist slogans and democratic phrases to promote the socioeconomic interests of privileged and affluent strata of the middle class....

The pseudo-left is anti-socialist, opposes class struggle, and denies the central role of the working class and the necessity of revolution in the progressive transformation of society. It counterposes supra-class populism to the independent political organization and mass mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system. The economic program of the pseudo-left is, in its essentials, pro-capitalist and nationalistic.

* The pseudo-left promotes “identity politics,” fixating on issues related to nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality in order to acquire greater influence in corporations, the colleges and universities, the higher-paying professions, the trade unions and in government and state institutions, to effect a more favorable distribution of wealth among the richest 10 percent of the population. The pseudo-left seeks greater access to, rather than the destruction of, social privilege.
* In the imperialist centers of North America, Western Europe and Australasia, the pseudo-left is generally pro-imperialist, and utilizes the slogans of “human rights” to legitimize, and even directly support, neo-colonialist military operations.

5---Erdoğan’s hegemony over Turkey’s political agenda

6--Political crisis in Ankara

Perhaps most importantly, though, Erdoğan dares to implement in a de facto way the very thing he could not arrange through elections, and tells us, “The method of leadership in Turkey has changed, and Parliament had better find a format for this.” His recent statement that "the method of leadership has changed" was enough to make any serious legal expert admit that this is a civilian coup.
What we are witnessing is that Erdoğan, unable to fulfill his desire to become president through legitimate means, is trying to realize this dream in a de facto way, and is pushing Turkey to accept it. What this really reveals is that Erdoğan himself is the factor most responsible for this country's way forward being blocked. This is not my personal opinion; this is reality.

7--Asian shares plunge to two-year lows as China stocks continue to fall
8--Abe Aide Says Japan Needs 3.5-Trillion Yen Economic Package
9--Is the New U.S. ‘Law of War Manual’ Actually ‘Hitlerian’?

10--Fed may have just gotten a red light for rate hike

Low inflation readings, particularly the latest CPI, "will certainly give the Fed pause for thought in whether to raise interest rates or not at the next FOMC meeting in mid-September," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.
"On balance, we still think the Fed will go ahead and raise rates in response to the cumulative improvement in labor market conditions. But the decision is finely balanced," Ashworth added. "With underlying price inflation and wage growth still muted, a case can also be made for waiting."

11---Renting in America Has Never Been This Expensive

Americans living in rentals spent almost a third of their incomes on housing in the second quarter, the highest share in recent history.
Rental affordability has steadily worsened, according to a new report from Zillow, which tracked data going back to 1979. A renter making the median income in the U.S. spent 30.2 percent of her income on a median-priced apartment in the second quarter, compared with 29.5 percent a year earlier. The long-term average, from 1985 to 1999, was 24.4 percent...

In 2008, America entered a deep recession, yet rent inexplicably and unexpectedly began to rise, a rise commensurate with a rapid economic expansion that wasn’t happening. I demonstrated this phenomenon locally in the chart from Riverside County above, but rents rose nationally at the same time, and rents have been rising every since.
This kind of economic distortion isn’t tenable. Apartment developers and REO-to-rental firms feverishly work to add to the supply, but so far their efforts haven’t kept pace with the declining homeownership rate.

12--Federal reserve underestimates sensitivity of housing to mortgage rates
13--Out of the blue, the Empire State index has plunged deeply into negative column this month, to minus 14.92 in August vs plus 3.86 in July. This is by far the weakest reading of the recovery, since April 2009. New orders, which had already been weak in this report, fell from July’s minus 3.50 to minus 15.70 for the weakest reading since November 2010. Backlog orders, which had also been weak, came in at minus 4.55 from minus 7.45. Shipments, in the weakest reading since March 2009, fell to minus 13.79 from positive 7.99.

Last week’s industrial production report, boosted by the auto sector, offered hope but today’s report is a reminder that weak exports and weakness in the energy sector are stubborn negatives for the factory sector. Today’s results scramble the outlook for Thursday’s Philly Fed report which was expected to show moderate strength

14--In a white paper dissecting the U.S. central bank’s actions to stem the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, Stephen D. Williamson, vice president of the St. Louis Fed, finds fault with three key policy tenets.

Specifically, he believes the zero interest rates in place since 2008 that were designed to spark good inflation actually have resulted in just the opposite. And he believes the “forward guidance” the Fed has used to communicate its intentions has instead been a muddle of broken vows that has served only to confuse investors. Finally, he asserts thatquantitative easing, or the monthly debt purchases that swelled the central bank’s balance sheet past the $4.5 trillion mark, have at best a tenuous link to actual economic improvements.

15--Credit check, gov employees

Another boring week here with no sign of acceleration or even ‘some’ improvement...

Thought I’d throw this in for those of you worrying about out of control growth of govt payrolls:

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