Soothe your mind with music

Just in time for summer

Mike Whitney provides a tale of economic doom and gloom:

The slowdown has begun. The economy has started to sputter and unemployment claims have tipped 400,000 for the last seven weeks. That means new investment is too weak to lower the jobless rate which is presently stuck at 9 percent. Manufacturing — which had been the one bright-spot in the recovery — has also started to retreat with some areas in the country now contracting. Housing, of course, continues its downward trek putting more pressure on bank balance sheets and plunging more homeowners into negative equity.

The likelihood of another credit expansion in this environment is next-to-none. Total private sector debt is still at a historic high at 270% of GDP which augurs years of digging out and painful deleveraging. Analysts have already started slicing their estimates for 2nd Quarter GDP which will be considerably lower than their original predictions.

Help will not be forthcoming:

This is more than just a “rough patch”. The economy is stalling and needs help, but consumers and households are not in a position to take on more debt, and every recovery since the end of WW2 has seen an increase in debt-fueled consumption. So, where will the spending come from this time? That’s the mystery.

And:

When spending slows, the economy contracts. It’s that simple. Without emergency stimulus, commodities will fall hard and stocks will follow. Look out below.

We have a demand-constrained economy, a macroeconomic limit or effective constraint placed upon economic growth by presence of insufficient effective demand for the goods produced by that economy. If neither the government nor consumers can purchase finished goods, the effects produced by this incapacity will produce a recession or worse. Yet, although knowledge of this problem is common, these days, official Washington does not care much about the plight of common Americans — Alan Simpson’s “lesser people.” If it cared, it would promote and even achieve full employment and living wage policies. It would promote these goals if only to overcome a demand-constrained deceleration of America’s economic growth. It cares instead about appeasing finance capital. It cares a lot. As we have seen over the past year, the primary goal of both parties is to adopt a Federal deficit reduction plan, with the Republicans still taking the lead on the issue and using chicanery to finesse the matter:

In a bit of political stagecraft, House Republicans plan to bring to a vote on Tuesday evening a measure that President Obama and the Democrats were demanding not so long ago: a clean increase in the national debt ceiling, unencumbered by any requirement that spending be cut.

Given that all Republicans and more than a few Democrats oppose any debt-limit increase that is not accompanied by some commitment to future fiscal restraint, the measure is doomed to fail. And for all the talk of economic crisis should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling by August, the financial markets are likely to yawn at this vote — if only because Republican leaders have privately assured Wall Street executives that this is a show intended to make the point to Mr. Obama that an increase cannot pass absent his agreement to rein in domestic programs.

“Wall Street is in on the joke,” said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Finance capital does not care much for an economic stimulus program. It is only weakly interested in the real economy. It does not care for full employment and a living wage, about a fair distribution of risks, rewards and labor. The well-being of the lesser people is just not one of its concerns. Finance capital wants targeted tax cuts, low inflation and a Federal deficit reduction. And this is what it will get, more or less, while cash-strapped Americans will try to make do with what they have. Sadly, America’s weakly democratic political system is rigged to produce this very outcome. This outcome is a conspicuous feature of its identity. It is what the market fundamentalists refer to when they talk of letting the market do its work.

Roaseannenomics

Thanks to Mark Engler for finding this gem.

Quote of the day

Andrew Levine discusses here the Israel lobby, America’s evangelical Zionists, Jews and the Israeli rightwingers who benefit from this profane collaboration:

Unlike classical anti-Semites, evangelical Zionists generally get along with the Jews with whom they interact, but their commitment to Israel does not stem from fondness for Jews or Judaism. It comes from a belief in a literal End Time in which those who do not accept Christ — Jews especially — will be cast into the torments of Hell for all eternity. How Christian Zionists hold this idea in their heads and still interact amicably with real world Jews I do not know; no doubt, monumental levels of self-deception and ambivalence are involved. That aside, one must wonder whether even the Nazis evinced a greater hatred?

Since 1977, when Menachem Begin became Israel’s Prime Minister, the Israeli Right has been the dominant force in Israeli politics even in the years when it was not directly in power, and it has courted Christian Zionists assiduously. Israel’s founders were secular and comparatively progressive, notwithstanding their overriding commitment to building an ethnically pure Jewish state in as much of Mandate Palestine as the world would allow. Like much of the Israeli Left today, they would have disdained Israel’s evangelical allies, in much the way, and for much the same reason, that sensible people the world over disdain those who believe that the world ended a week ago Saturday. And they would certainly never have been so base as to court those who yearn to see them rot in Hell. But the Israeli Right is shameless, and its cynicism knows no bounds.

A match made in Heaven? Only if the Gods are Crazy!

Quote of the day

Uri Avnery discusses Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent command performance in the United States Congress:

It was all rather disgusting.

There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.

What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera — and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?

The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.

R.I.P.: Gil Scott-Heron

His iconic “The Revolution will not be Televised”

DC’s finest

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald’s assessment of Senator Harry Reid now that Congress has renewed the Patriot Act:

This is amazing: in 2005, Russ Feingold led a filibuster, supported by Democrats and 4 Republicans, to block extension of the Patriot Act in order to ensure that reforms were added (he was ultimately unsuccessful). Just look at the fear-mongering claims the GOP spewed about that, and more so, look at what Harry Reid was saying back then as he opportunistically pretended — like so many Democrats — to care about such matters because doing so was a means of bashing Bush for partisan gain:

Senate Democrats yesterday began filibustering a proposal to extend the USA Patriot Act, raising the probability that key provisions of the anti-terrorism law will expire in two weeks….

Republicans warned that allowing the current provisions to expire could have devastating consequences and said Democrats would be punished in next year’s elections for letting it lapse.

“The Patriot Act expires on December 31, but the terrorists’ threat does not,” Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said….

“We killed the Patriot Act,” boasted Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to cheers from a crowd at a political rally after the vote….

Republicans privately marveled that Democrats would open themselves up to being blamed for the Patriot Act’s demise.

“For our colleagues to allow it to expire is to play with fire,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. “It is to take the chance that terrorists will not act in that interim, in that period where the act falls and we’re relegated to using the authorities that we had before September 11th” ….

Mr. Bush issued a statement crediting the Patriot Act with protecting “American liberty” and saving “American lives” since its passage after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“These senators need to understand that the Patriot Act expires in 15 days, but the terrorist threat to America will not expire on that schedule,” Mr. Bush said. “The terrorists want to attack America again and kill the innocent and inflict even greater damage than they did on September 11th — and the Congress has a responsibility not to take away this vital tool…to protect the American people.”

“‘We killed the Patriot Act,’ boasted Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to cheers from a crowd at a political rally after the vote.” To say that Harry Reid and the Democrats have now fully adopted Bush and the GOP’s fear-mongering tactics — on exactly the same topic — is to understate the case. And to say that Harry Reid — who previously demanded that the Park51 Community Center be moved and that Guantanamo detainees not be tried in the U.S. — is a duplicitous, soul-less, craven, worthless politician is also to understate the case.

Partinost über alles! Not at all! America’s militaristic corporate state über alles!

Sherry Wolf sets her sights on Dominique Strauss-Kahn

After ridiculing Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French Socialist Party, the French media and the International Monetary Fund, Sherry Wolf concluded her article by pointing out that:

We rarely, if ever, see such a powerful man fall, and never for the rape of a Black immigrant woman. I can only assume that he’s pissed off people much higher up who decided to cut the cord.

In coming weeks we’ll see the institutions he represents and his former hangers-on scurry about to cover their asses, but for now we can take a bit of pleasure in the political, social and personal collapse of such a man. Let’s use his fall to shine a light on the organizations that have protected him all these years.

Au revoir, Monsieur Pig! FSP and IMF, j’accuse!

Ben Stein defends a ‘socialist’

Ben Stein recently took up the cause of Dominique Strauss-Khan. He defended the embattled politician by blaming the victim who made the allegations against Strauss-Kahn; by class baiting the New York Police Department, the New York District Attorney’s Office, the media that has covered the scandal and the have-nots who are reading about it; and by offering obscurantist arguments regarding Strauss-Kahn’s propensity to commit this crime. Stein also pleads for special treatment for Strauss-Kahn because the former IMF Chief is rich, famous, powerful and important enough that he need not spend time at Rikers Island and should not be subject to a perp walk. In Stein’s world, these indignities ought to be applied only to criminals.

Stein claims: “…this is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about.” Actually, the Strauss-Kahn case originated in the serious allegations made by a hotel employee against a specific man, Dominique Strauss-Khan, a man who already had gained a reputation as a serial harasser of women. His class is irrelevant just as her class is irrelevant.

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