It’s a matter of principle

Writing for CounterPunch, John V. Walsh takes to task Professor Juan Cole and the radio program Democracy Now for advocating humanitarian war-making (Cole) and for being too soft on this kind of war-making and for permitting a war-advocate like Cole to claim without opposition and on the air that he is a member of the left (Democracy Now). Walsh even points out that Juan Cole has been a CIA expert-consultant, a strange occupation for a self-avowed leftist. Strange because supporting American imperial statecraft has always disqualified the supporter from left membership, their claims notwithstanding and to the contrary. Walsh concludes by making clear that:

If one reads CounterPunch.org, Antiwar.com or The American Conservative, one knows that one is reading those who are anti-interventionist on the basis of principle. With Democracy Now and kindred progressive outlets, it’s all too clear where a big chunk of the so-called “left” stands, especially since the advent of Obama. In his superb little book Humanitarian Imperialism Jean Bricmont criticizes much of the left for falling prey to advocacy of wars, supposedly based on good intentions. And Alexander Cockburn has often pointed out that many progressives are actually quite fond of “humanitarian” interventionism. Both here and in Europe this fondness seems to be especially true of Obama’s latest war, the war on Libya . It is little wonder that the “progressives” are losing their antiwar following to Ron Paul and the Libertarians who are consistent and principled on the issue of anti-interventionism.

Democracy Now, quo vadis? Wherever you are heading, you would do well to travel without Juan Cole and his friends.

Irene in New York City

Having lived in NYC for many years, I find rubbernecking too difficult to resist.

The Manhattan skyline

Battary Park City

 

West side of Manhattan

Waterfall in Central Park

 

Quote of the day

The quote below was taken from the abstract to a worthy article (h/t Yves Smith) written by Robert J. Gordon, an economist located at Northwestern University:

The US is missing millions of jobs. This column argues that the total is 10.4 million. It claims that 3 million of these can be traced to the weakened bargaining position of labour and the growing assertiveness of management in slashing costs to maintain share prices. Moreover, this employment gap is not shrinking because of the ‘double hangover’ effect — an excess housing supply and besieged consumers unwilling to spend.

Quote of the day

Le Soir quotes Jacques Delors as saying (see also this):

“Open your eyes: the euro and Europe are on the brink. And not to fall, the choice seems simple: either member states accept the closer economic cooperation that I have always claimed, or they transfer more powers to the Union.”

On the brink of what? Mike Whitney will tell us:

It means the [European financial] system is under great stress and beginning to slow down. It means investors have lost faith in the ability of policymakers to fix the system. It means there’s a panic underway and people are moving into cash. It means the eurozone is headed for a crackup. It means we are on the brink of another financial crisis.

Words of wisdom from Riotstan

The Guardian today reports that the aristocrat George Osborne, currently Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, feels optimistic about the future and Britain:

The chancellor used his emergency statement to parliament to say that recent events in the global economy had “vindicated” the government’s deficit reduction programme, putting in a bullish performance after the Bank of England downgraded its UK growth forecasts for the fifth time this year.

George Osborne made the second of two emergency government statements, speaking after nine days of economic upheaval and one day after Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King warned of more economic “turbulence” ahead, saying “headwinds were becoming stronger by the day”.

In his statement, Osborne acknowledged this squall of bad economic news, saying the FTSE had fared badly in the past month. “The huge overhang of debt means the recovery will be longer and harder than we had hoped,” he said.

“This is the most dangerous time for the global economy since 2008, and we should be clear about that.”

But he sought to turn events to his advantage, telling parliament the UK had become a “safe haven” for stock markets in recent days, with the unpredictability of stocks making an investment in UK bonds more attractive. Referring to recent market turbulence, he said: “The market for our government bonds has benefited.”

Tory Realism

The high job-seekers to jobs-available ratio

The ratio remains above 4:1, as the Economic Policy Institute reports. So, job seekers need to gird themselves to wait the long wait.

JOLTS for August, 2011

What does this fact mean? First, it means that Congress must extend unemployment compensation eligibility beyond the 99 week term currently in place. Second, it means that Congress and the Executive must quickly produce a jobs program that reduces this ratio. Third, it means securing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid against the work of the political and economic reactionaries. Fourth, it means the United States would be better served if it returned to something better than “welfare as we knew it.” Fifth, it means a return to stimulus politics. And sixth, it means making a national commitment to a green-friendly reindustrialization program.

Finding good sense in the Wall Street Journal

Economist Ha-Joon Chang rightly informs his readers that the first phase of the post-2008 recovery had a distinct Keynesian flavor, and included activist government and stimulus spending. Most governments eventually abandoned the Keynesian approach, replacing it with one that reflected neoliberal verities. Ha-Joon Chang believes the neoliberal approach will end in failure. His reasons focus on the false premises embedded in that approach. These premises are:

  1. Governments must reduce their deficits before a recovery can begin.
  2. Governments must reduce welfare spending
  3. Governments must reduce welfare spending in order to secure long-term growth
  4. It is a mistake for governments to tax the rich
  5. Governments must reduce or eliminate regulation in order to secure long-term growth

Succinctly put, Chang’s analysis reflects an approach to modern economies which treats them as demand-constrained, not supply-constrained. I can’t argue with that.

Michael Perelman on the recent crisis

See it, believe it, laugh at it

(h/t to Think Progress)

The United States as it looks to a German

Writing for Der Spiegel, Jakob Augstein paints a dismal but accurate picture of the United States today:

The word “West” used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word — along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence — should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.

How so?

The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically — in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.

America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.

America’s national disintegration sits aside the disintegration of the west.

The country’s social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country’s total income for themselves — 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.

Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America’s path is leading it down the road to “banana-republic status.” The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.

Political disintegration sits aside social disintegration.

The same applies to America’s broken political culture. The name “United States” seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and ‘70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country’s highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fexact that Barack Obama is the country’s first African-American president may have played a role there, too.

Augstein concludes his article with a call for Germans and Europeans to avoid America’s fate, a sentiment that would shock many Americans were they to know of it but which is all too appropriate given the circumstances of the day. America, we need to remind ourselves, is now a low-growth, high-unemployment economy. Its economic and political elite prey on the “lesser people,” and the lessers have nary a jot of political clout within America’s rigid and unresponsive polity. This powerlessness exist by design. Indeed, the Constitution was written to secure this outcome. Moreover, every level of government in the United States today is committed to participating in a security-surveillance system that is utterly lacking in external and internal military threats. This system exists as a tool to be used by the government for political and social control. Because of these facts, that is, because of America’s elitism, militarism, economic decline, etc., one may rightly fear the direction in which the United States now travels. I would not find it surprising if the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” were to end with the creation of a novel form of authoritarian government. I believe this kind of government is the telos present within current political and economic trends. The many will be economically, socially and politically disenfranchised.

It is ironic that the “greater people” in the United States may have learned one lesson from the support they long gave to dictators like the Samozas, Pinochet and Shah, namely, they learned that they do not need the support of their subjects. The irony, I believe, issues from the fact that so many of these dictators were ruined by their unruly subjects. They just would not tolerate tyranny forever.

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