Friday, July 29, 2016

Today's links

Today's Quote:  "This political evolution of the Democratic Party is not merely the matter of machinations within the party leadership and the state apparatus. It has a social base within a privileged social layer that has moved sharply to the right, providing a new constituency for war and imperialism. The systematic fixation on the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation—deliberately opposed to that of class—has provided a key ideological foundation for this reactionary turn.....The convention in Philadelphia has exposed a party that is moving in direct opposition to, and preparing for a confrontation with, a growing radicalization of the American working class". WSWS



1--GDP Shocker: US Economy Grew Only 1.2% In Second Quarter; Q1 Revised To 0.8%

The Obama economy gripped by inertia


2--Yen, bond yields rise as Bank of Japan action underwhelms


The BOJ modestly increased purchases of ETFs, but maintained its base money target at 80 trillion yen ($775 billion) and the pace of purchases of other assets, including Japanese government bonds. The central bank also held at 0.1 percent the interest it charges to a portion of excess reserves that financial institutions leave with the central bank. The dollar fell 1.8 percent to 103.35 yen JPY=, its biggest one-day decline since June 24 - the day after the UK's decision to leave the European Union - having earlier fallen below 103.00.


3--The "Forever" Depression-- The Atlanta Fed just slashed its GDP outlook


The Atlanta Fed, in its closely watched GDPNow indicator, on Thursday cut its forecast to 1.8 percent, a sharp reduction from the 2.3 percent expectation just a day earlier. Wall Street economists project the number to come in around 2.6 percent, according to FactSet.

If the Fed number is correct, that would put average growth for the first half of 2016 at just 1.45 percent, and just shy of 1.6 percent over the past four quarters.
As recently as May 31, the Fed tracker was looking for a growth rate of 2.9 percent, but that's been on a steady decline since


4-- Homeownership rate drops to lowest point on record


Rising home prices in an economy of stagnant wages (for the lower 80%) have pushed entry-level homes out of reach for many people....

The Census Bureau, which has been tracking homeownership rates in its data series going back to 1965 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, just reported that in the second quarter 2016, the homeownership rate dropped to 62.9%, the lowest point on record.

It matches the low point in Q1 and Q2 of 1965 when the data series began. At no time in between did it ever fall this low. And it was down half a percentage point from 63.4% a year ago.

The relentless slide has lasted for 12 years, from its peak of 69.2% in Q4 2004, which was when the Greenspan Fed’s low interest rates were boosting speculation in the housing sector, and prices were going haywire. At the time, the concept of “home” had already become an asset class that can never lose money, financialized and later shorted by Wall Street, subsidized by government agencies, and backstopped by the Fed....

The fact that Housing Bubble 2 in most urban areas is now even more magnificent than the prior housing bubble that blew up with such fanfare, even while real incomes have stagnated for all but the top earners, is a sign that the Fed has succeeded elegantly in pumping up nearly all asset prices to achieve its “wealth effect,” come heck or high water. In this ingenious manner, it has “healed” the housing market.

5--IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro and apologises for the immolation of Greece


(policies driven by ideology not economics)
The report said the whole approach to the eurozone was characterised by “groupthink” and intellectual capture. They had no fall-back plans on how to tackle a systemic crisis in the eurozone – or how to deal with the politics of a multinational currency union – because they had ruled out any possibility that it could happen.

“Before the launch of the euro, the IMF’s public statements tended to emphasise the advantages of the common currency," it said. Some staff members warned that the design of the euro was fundamentally flawed but they were overruled.
“After a heated internal debate, the view supportive of what was perceived to be Europe’s political project ultimately prevailed,” it said.

This pro-EMU bias continued to corrupt their thinking for years. “The IMF remained upbeat about the soundness of the European banking system and the quality of banking supervision in euro-area countries until after the start of the global financial crisis in mid-2007. This lapse was largely due to the IMF’s readiness to take the reassurances of national and euro area authorities at face value,” it said....

At root was a failure to grasp the elemental point that currency unions with no treasury or political union to back them up are inherently vulnerable to debt crises. States facing a shock no longer have sovereign tools to defend themselves. Devaluation risk is switched into bankruptcy risk.

“In a monetary union, the basics of debt dynamics change as countries forgo monetary policy and exchange rate adjustment tools,” said the report. This would be amplified by a “vicious feedback between banks and sovereigns”, each taking the other down. That the IMF failed to anticipate any of this was a serious scientific and professional failure. (A ridiculous lie. Numerous essays and articles were written about these issues as the crisis unfolded. This is an obvious coverup to conceal the IMF's role is bailing out the French and German banks that benefited from the bailouts.)

6--Philadelphia vs. Cleveland: Divided We Stand


Do Americans share Philadelphia’s belief in Clinton’s greatness and in the magisterial achievements of the Obama presidency?
Let us see. Fifty-six percent of Americans believe Clinton should have been indicted; 67 percent believe she is neither trustworthy nor honest. And 75 percent of Americans think that, under Obama, the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

After Cleveland, Trump took a 62-23 lead among white high school graduates, those who constitute a disproportionate share of our cops, firemen, soldiers and Marines — and those interred in Arlington National Cemetery

7--The "lost war" drags on--US-trained Afghan forces keep losing territory to Taliban – US govt report


8--Lesson in US foreign policy?--Coup D'Etat: Untold Story of Washington Leaving Its Friends in the Lurch


...no matter how hard US allies try to abide by the rules set by Washington, they may eventually find themselves abandoned by their US patrons.

9--'Battle of Aleppo Would Have Been Long Over if Not for the US'


...government troops are moving ever closer to imposing a military blockade on rebel suburbs in eastern Aleppo.

Formerly, the Castello road served as the last supply line to thousands of Islamist insurgents in Aleppo.

Vzglyad notes that the balance of military forces on the ground and the configuration of the front line show that neither al-Nusra nor any other jihadist units trapped in Aleppo are able to break out of the trap as their supply routes with other militants in the Anadan Valley or in Idlib have been fully cut off....

In reality, the outlet says, al-Nusra and Fatah Halab are coordinating their operations in Aleppo and it’s simply impossible to identify which particular group is operating at a certain time.

The US is either intentionally “playing games” with the local units, or really does not understand that it is being manipulated, the website says, adding that the latter is quite possible as the CIA and its army intelligence may really be unable to figure out what is happening on the ground.

10--The al Qaida name-change fiasco


the Middle East Eye revealed that al-Nusra Front would change its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, citing sources within the terrorist organization.
Interestingly enough, the sources also added that al-Nusra Front would lose its access to al-Qaeda's funds. However, the claim has been immediately thrown into question by experts.

The media outlet cited Mohamed Okda, an expert who has been involved in negotiating with Syrian rebel groups. Okda pointed to the fact that al-Nusra Front is mostly funded by private Gulf donors. He also stressed that the separation is not ideological but "organizational."

"They might be severing relations with al-Qaeda as an organization. [But] they are not breaking up with the ideology of al-Qaeda," he underscored, adding that the re-branding is aimed at attracting groups like Ahrar ash-Sham under its wing....

al-Nusra Front's announcement is de facto a pretext to "save" part of the jihadist group from the Russian Aerospace Forces' airstrikes.

11--Obama's legacy


Obama, who was swept into office on a wave of popular antiwar sentiment, will enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first president to keep the US at war throughout two full terms in office.
He has continued the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, while launching a new one that toppled the government and decimated the society of Libya; engineering a proxy war for regime change that now includes US troops deployed in Syria; and carrying out attacks in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and beyond.

With its “pivot to Asia” and steady buildup of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe, Washington’s military might has been increasingly directed against Russia and China, in a relentless quest for global hegemony that poses the growing danger of a third world war.

Obama’s administration will also be remembered for its vast expansion of drone warfare, targeted assassinations and kill lists, along with vicious attacks on civil liberties and the militarization of America’s police....

This formula was on full display at the Philadelphia convention, where identity politics—the promotion of race, gender and sexual orientation as the defining features of political and social life—was woven directly into an unabashed celebration of American militarism.
This found carefully crafted expressions in Obama’s speech, including his declaration that “our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service,” a claim that could be made on behalf of another “all volunteer” imperialist fighting force, the French Foreign Legion.

He went on to state, “When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just… ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”
The US military had long been a bastion of fanatical homophobia, with over 114,000 service members forced out, with dishonorable discharges, over the issue between World War II and the scrapping of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. That allowing gays into the military would erode discipline had been an article of faith for the US command.

Central to support for changing this policy was the recognition, within both the ruling political establishment and decisive layers of the military brass, that it would prove politically useful in winning support for the military among a privileged upper middle class layer that had identified with the politics of American liberalism.

The message at the convention was explicit: “These are your troops. These are your wars. They are being fought in your interests

12--Syrian War Report – July 28, 2016: Major Gains of Pro-Government Forces in Aleppo


13--Russian minister: Turkish Stream pipeline becoming more attractive


14--US general is on side of coup plotters: Erdoğan


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed comments by the head of U.S. national intelligence for suggesting that crackdowns in the Turkish military after the failed July 15 coup had harmed the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying the statements showed that he was “on the side of the plotters.”

“The U.S. general [Joseph Votel] stands on the coup plotters’ side with his words. He disclosed himself via his statements,” Erdoğan said during a visit to the Gölbaşı Special Operations Department in Ankara, where bombing by coup plotting soldiers killed scores of police officers.

“Is it up to you to decide on this? Who are you? Instead of thanking the state for repelling the coup attempt, you stand with the coup plotters. The coup plotter is in your country. You are nurturing him there; it’s out in the open,” he said, referring to the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who is believed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to have masterminded the failed coup attempt

15--Coup suspects confess Gülen links to the attempt



17--NBC false reporting on coup??


On July 15, 2016, as an attempted coup unfolded in Turkey, NBC began to report and then circulate widely that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had fled the country by air and was requesting asylum in Germany.  NBC attributed the false report to its senior US military official- MSNBC Producer Kyle Griffin’s tweet stated, “senior US military source tells NBC News that Erdogan, refused landing rights in Istanbul, is reported to be seeking asylum in Germany.” The story has been deleted from NBC and related sites since being debunked. Newsbud sources have identified General Campbell as the likely NBC News’ Senior Military Official source in this strategically broadcasted false story.

On Monday, July 25, the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C. sent its official request for public retraction and apology to the relevant divisions at NBC News. A few hours after that, Newsbud’s founder and Editor Sibel Edmonds received direct e-mail communication from the MSNBC Producer involved … Watch the video for related developments and updates in Newsbud’s Campaign #ConfrontNBC.

18--Turkey coup, Brookings


Turkey—literally the bridge between Europe and Asia—sometimes seems of two minds on governance issues. On the one hand, its leaders express a commitment to a Western form of governance based on the rule of law, liberal democracy, transparency, and accountability. On the other—and more in the vein of governance styles in Russia, Iran, and China—they sometimes reject what they see as outside interference, restrict civil liberties and government transparency, and promote a heavy state role in the economy. ....

if Turkey seems to be moving away from Western norms, is it also moving away from the West? Possibly. In November 2013—after years of stop-and-go accession talks with the EU—Erdoğan sought Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for accepting Turkey into Eurasian organizations like the Shanghai Five. That could be a big geostrategic gain for Russia, something not lost on the Russian press.

Western Europe and the United States would be the biggest losers if Turkey moved closer to Russia’s camp. Losing their partnership with Turkey would deliver a serious blow to the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, for one thing. But it would also further dim prospects that Turkey might really embrace Western-style democracy any time soon. As Ted Piccone has written, Turkey has the potential to be a linchpin of the liberal international order—and a long-term downturn in the country could have wide detrimental effects in regional and global governance. 

19--America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)  Hillary's gameplan, the forever war


“As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…

The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets

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