Saturday, July 30, 2016

Today's Links

1--Americans' Satisfaction With U.S. Drops Sharply, Gallup

Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. dropped 12 percentage points in the past month, amid high-profile police killings of black men and mass shootings of police. Currently, 17% of Americans are satisfied with the state of affairs in the U.S.....

Bottom Line

Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. has generally been low in the past decade, even before the July downturn. In an era increasingly defined by wars in the Middle East, a Great Recession, ongoing economic uncertainty and heightened and polarized political rhetoric, it is not surprising that more than half of Americans have said they are not satisfied with the way things are going in the country for more than a decade.

2--Americans overwhelmingly pessimistic about country’s path, poll finds

More than two-thirds of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction, the highest in nearly four and a half years, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll found.
Fully 68 percent of adults think the country is on the wrong track, while just 27 percent think things are moving in the right direction.

3--Gundlach: "Sell Everything, Nothing Here Looks Good"

4--How low can she go??? Fake Unity at the DNC - Reserved seats for actors

5--US economy 'close to stagnant for almost a year' as growth shudders

The  US economy grew by just 0.3pc in the three month period to the end of June, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Economists had anticipated that the US economy would expand at more than twice this pace. On an annualised basis, growth was 1.2pc, which was also well below forecasts.

Growth was held back by a third straight quarter of falls in business investment, and a $8.1bn (£6.1bn) drop in inventories in the second quarter, as firms chose to decrease their stocks. The BEA also revised down its estimate for first quarter growth, from just under 0.3pc to 0.2pc.
Paul Ashworth, of Capital Economics, said that the data showed the US economy had been “close to stagnant for almost a year”, with growth of only 1.2pc over the last 12 months.

6--   The Obama Recovery?  Spring slump: U.S. economy only grows 1.2%

7--US in weakest recovery since '49---Economic growth was well below expectations; cautious business investment offset robust consumer spending

Declining business investment is hobbling an already sluggish U.S. expansion, raising concerns about the economy’s durability as the presidential campaign heads into its final stretch.....

On the downside, the third straight quarter of reduced business investment, a large paring back of inventories and declining government spending cut into those gains.

“Consumer spending growth was the sole element of good news” in the latest GDP figures, said Gregory Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics. “Weakness in business investment is an important and lingering growth constraint.”...

Companies also spent less on buildings and equipment this spring. Nonresidential fixed investment, a measure of business spending, declined at a 2.2% pace.

That’s a concern because capital expenditures are an important ingredient in improving employee productivity, which has grown at an anemic pace in recent years, but is critical to workers’ wages and corporate profits....

In some cases businesses may be substituting labor for capital, given depressed wage growth around the globe....

She noted that companies are also increasing dividends and buying back stock rather than investing in capital.     (Free trade has pushed down wages as planned. Now companies wonder why there is no demand. )

8--Obama says economy doing "pretty darn great right now". Got that?

America's pretty darn great right now," Obama told reporters Friday as he celebrated a strong jobs report that he said proved Republicans' "doomsday rhetoric" is little more than "fantasy."  (Time for a reality check)

9--Kuroda Leads BOJ to a Policy Crossroads as Pressures Intensify

After more than three years of pumping out wave after wave of cheap money that’s failed to secure its inflation target, the Bank of Japan has signaled a rethink.

Instead of buying yet more government bonds, cutting interest rates or pushing further into uncharted territory, the BOJ disappointed some Friday when its policy meeting concluded with only a modest adjustment..

We are at a turning point" for the BOJ, because "it can no longer assume that stepping harder on the gas pedal would make this car go faster," said Stephen Jen, co-founder of hedge fund SLJ Macro Partners LLP and a former International Monetary Fund economist. "Arrow 2 will take the lead now," he said, in a reference to the three arrows of Abenomics -- monetary, fiscal and structural-reform policies.    (time to throw in the towel on monetary policy)

10--U.S. Homeownership Rate Falls to Five-Decade Low

The U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in more than 50 years in the second quarter of 2016, a reflection of the lingering effects of the housing bust, financial hurdles to buying and shifting demographics across the country.


The homeownership rate, the proportion of households that are owner-occupied, fell to 62.9%, half a percentage point lower than the second quarter of 2015 and 0.6 percentage point lower than the first quarter 2016, the Census Bureau said on Thursday. That was the lowest figure since 1965

11--Global trade is not growing slower – it's not growing at all, finds a new report

12--GDP: Breaking down the bad news ---Mosler

Worse than expected, Q1 revised lower, and note the year over year deceleration in the chart. The inventory correction previously discussed looks to be well underway and has much further to go to bring inventories into balance with sales.

Problem is, sales growth is declining, and the downward spiral will continue until ‘borrowing to spend’ steps up to support the negative effects of what I call unspent income, aka savings desires. And the historical drivers of private sector deficit spending- housing, cars, and business investment- are all going the wrong way.

And note that the much touted increase in consumer spending was in energy purchases, as prices went up, which tends to reduce other consumer purchases over time

13--The noose tightens in Aleppo

With the SAA and YPG teaming up on the jihadists in Aleppo, it now seems almost impossible for rebel forces to avoid a full-blown defeat in the battle for Syria’s largest city, often dubbed ‘the mother of all battles’...

At the same time, if the Syrian Arab Army takes control of the city of Aleppo, the Idlib province will be its next target. The Jaish al-Fatah leadership is well aware of this threat of the existential survival of the Islamist coalition....

The decision on the part of the rebels to strip their western Latakia front is IMO indicative of rebel and/or Turkish belief that the outcome at Aleppo will be politically decisive in the outcome of the war especially in the context of the desperate internal situation now faced by Turkey. 

    Read more here:

    Vladimir Putin might have a point. Hillary Clinton is the most dangerous person on the planet because she is a neoliberal militarist who is absolutely immune from the consequences of the crises she creates. Armed with nuclear weapons freshly ‘upgraded’ by Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton and the neocon cabal she hopes to lead have destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, have surrounded Russia with NATO troops and weapons, staged a neo-fascist coup in Ukraine, supported a right-wing coup in Honduras and have indicated their intentions to proceed apace turning entire regions of the planet into chaotic rubble with body-counts already in the millions.

    This isn’t speculation about some future state of affairs. Hillary Clinton sold U.S. sanctions against Iraq in which one-half million of Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens were starved and denied life-saving medicines to ‘teach Saddam Hussein a lesson.’ And the Clinton-Bush war against Iraq cost one million more innocent lives and created chaos across the Middle East. ISIS is a direct result of Clinton-Bush policies. The liberal pretense that the U.S. War of Aggression against Iraq was ‘Bush’s war’ requires overlooking the eight years of liberal bombing and sanctions that preceded it and that Bill Clinton gave Mr. Bush political cover for the war as his wife voted for it. The U.S. war against Iraq— catastrophe that it was / is, was as bi-partisan as they come.

    15 --Nader on Hillary

    It is true, as numerous speakers repeated, Clinton is “most qualified and experienced,” but her record shows those qualities have led to belligerent, unlawful military actions that are now boomeranging against U.S. interests. The intervention she insistently called for in Libya, with Obama’s foolish consent, over-rode the wiser counsel of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (and his generals), who warned of the chaos that would follow. He was proven right, with chaotic  violence now all over Libya spilling into other African countries. This is but one example of what Bernie Sanders meant during the debates when he referenced her “poor judgement

    16--US-Turkey relations deteriorate fast

    On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made headlines by accusing the head of US Central Command of, "siding with the coup plotters," and demanding that the four-star general should, "know your place...

    The Turkish President implied that the United States played a direct role in the failed coup by insinuating, "My people know who is behind this scheme… they know who the superior intelligence behind it is, and with these statements you are revealing yourselves, you are giving yourselves away."

    US National Intelligence Director James Clapper acknowledged that the post-coup purge in Turkey impairs NATO’s mission in Syria, as a disproportionate number of Turkish forces working with the United States in the fight against Daesh have been caught up in the arrests and firings.
    "Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested,” said Clapper. “There’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks

    Accusations that the United States is protecting Erdogan’s arch-nemesis Fethullah Gulen, and that American forces and intelligence personnel played a direct role in the attempted overthrow, date to a July 16 comment by the Turkish Labor Minister, during a live interview with HaberTurk, in which he stated, "the United States is behind the coup."...

    remarks by high-ranking Turkish officials have now been converted into a call to action for Turkish nationalists, after the pro-Erdogan Islamist newspaper Yeni Safak published a picture of NATO International Security Assistance Force Commander and three-star US Army General John F. Campbell on the front page, under the unambiguous headline, "The man behind the failed coup in Turkey." 
    Hours after the pro-AKP newspaper published their accusations, a large fire erupted near the Izmir Air Station, a US Air Force base in western Turkey. T24 News reported that officials believed the fire was the result of "anti-American sabotage."...

    The situation deteriorated further on Friday following a filing by a Turkish prosecutor alleging that the FBI and the CIA trained and equipped members of the so-called Gulenist Terror Organization (FETO), leading to an explosion of activity on social media among Turkish speakers calling for the execution of 'American traitors' and for the immediate closure of NATO’s Incirlik Air Base.

    Many have predicted that US-Turkey and NATO-Turkey relations cannot withstand a growing domestic unrest against the American military presence in the country. Some ask whether Erdogan has opened a Pandora’s Box by placing Washington’s nuclear weapons and allied forces in the line of fire from a well-supported mob of nationalists

    17--US media celebrates Democratic Party warmongering (The Trump-Putin connection indicates the desperation of the Clinton campaign)

    These commentaries, published within hours of the close of the Democratic convention, demonstrate the real constituency of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. Far from representing the interests of working people, as Clinton claimed in her convention speech, the former secretary of state seeks to be the consensus choice of the military-intelligence apparatus, and has tailored her campaign explicitly to its dictates

    18--Meet the big-name Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton

    Richard Armitage, Henry Paulson, Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and adviser to GOP presidential candidates, Larry Pressler, former three-term Republican senator from South Dakota, Arne Carlson, a former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota and Robert Smith, former New York state Supreme Court justice — "This year, I’m going to vote for a Democrat for president  —  the first time I’ve done it in 36 years  —  and I think the decision is easy. Hillary Clinton is the only responsible choice, and I don’t understand why so few of my fellow conservatives see it that way

    19--Chris Hedges on capitalism, neoliberalism and the election charade

    CHRIS HEDGES: Well, reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism. It’s a system where corporate power has seized all of the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We’ve lost our privacy. We’ve seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We’ve seen the executive branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. We have bailed out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a bipartisan effort, because they’ve both been captured by corporate power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’├ętat in slow motion, and it’s over....

    I didn’t back Bernie Sanders because—and Kshama Sawant and I had had a discussion with him before—because he said that he would work within the Democratic structures and support the nominee. And I think we have now watched Bernie Sanders walk away from his political moment. You know, he—I think he will come to deeply regret what he has done. He has betrayed these people who believed in this political revolution. We heard this same kind of rhetoric, by the way, in 2008 around Obama....

    CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I think we have to acknowledge two facts. We do not live in a functioning democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do. You can’t talk about—when you eviscerate privacy, you can’t use the word "liberty." That is the relationship between a master and a slave. The fact is, this is capitalism run amok. This whole discussion should be about capitalism. Capitalism does what it’s designed to do, when it’s unfettered or unregulated—as it is—and that is to increase profit and reduce the cost of labor. And it has done that by deindustrializing the country, and the Clinton administration, you know, massively enabled this....

    We live in a system where, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the executive branch can put the soldiers in the streets, in clear violation of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, to see—carry out extraordinary rendition of American citizens who are deemed to be, quote-unquote, "terrorists," strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities, including in our black sites. We are a country that engages in torture...

    I covered the war in Yugoslavia, and I find many parallels between what’s happening in the United States and what happened with the breakdown of Yugoslavia. What is it that caused this country to disintegrate? It wasn’t ancient ethnic hatreds. It was the economic meltdown of Yugoslavia and a bankrupt liberal establishment that, after the death of Tito, until 1989 or 1990, spoke in the language of democracy, but proved ineffectual in terms of dealing with the plight of working men and women who were cast out of state factories, huge unemployment and, finally, hyperinflation.

    And the fact is that these neoliberal policies, which the Democratic Party is one of the engines for, have created this right-wing fascialism. You can go back—this proto-fascism. You can go back and look at the Weimar, and it—Republic—was very much the same. So it’s completely counterintuitive. Of course I find Trump a vile and disturbing and disgusting figure, but I don’t believe that voting for the Democratic establishment—and remember that this—the two insurgencies, both within the Republican Party and the—were against figures like Hillary Clinton, who spoke in that traditional feel-your-pain language of liberalism, while assiduously serving corporate power and selling out working men and women. And they see through the con, they see through the game..... When you dispossess that segment, as large as we have—half the country now lives in virtual poverty—and you continue to essentially run a government that’s been seized by a cabal, in this case, corporate, which uses all of the machinery of government for their own enrichment and their own further empowerment at the expense of the rest of the citizenry, people finally react. And that is how you get fascism. That is what history has told us...

    CHRIS HEDGES: I don’t think it makes any difference. The TPP is going to go through, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Endless war is going to be continued, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We’re not going to get our privacy back, whether it’s under Clinton or Trump. The idea that, at this point, the figure in the executive branch exercises that much power, given the power of the war industry and Wall Street, is a myth. The fact is

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