Category Archives: Politics

French central bank warns of a global slowdown


Thee global economic is engaged in a slow-moving crash.

When you consider the reasons, it’s inevitable.

While the rich are getting richer , everyone else is stuck or heading down [see our earlier posts].

And the rich are getting richer because their wealth is invested heavily in the  parasitical FIRE sector, the finance, insurance, and real estate markets,

Real economic growth, based on the consumption of goods and services, can’t happen without growth in the wages of the working and middle classes, the driving factors leading to consumption of those tangible goods and broadly used services.

But corporate mergers are producing cuts in pay and benefits, with cash assets stripped away and pocketed by plutocratic plunderers, rather than being shared with those folks whose labors produced all that wealth and could use their enlarged share of the pie to actually grow the economy [and, yes, we’re well aware that endless economic growth is itself problematic in the longer run].

And to buy what goods they can, people are increasingly forced to turn to debt, either through bank loans or credit cards, paying ever-higher rates of interest to the FIREy plutocrats.

And with education being privatized or subjected to reduced state subsidies, ever larger numbers of young people are being forced to take loans to attain educations once taken for granted.

And the FIRE folks get richer again.

And now for the warning, via Agence France Presse:

France’s central bank trimmed its growth forecasts for 2016 and 2017 on Friday, citing a deterioration in the global economy and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The Bank of France revised its 2016 and 2017 growth forecast down to 1.3 percent, having previously expected growth of 1.4 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year.

It also predicted growth of 1.4 percent in 2018, down from its previous figure of 1.6 percent.

“In 2017 and 2018, the downward revision of our GDP growth projection… is mainly due to the deterioration in the international environment,” it said in a statement.

“The projection is thus particularly affected by less favourable foreign demand prospects.., notably as a result of the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and of its dissemination to the euro area economies.”

Understanding the predatory FIRE sector

For more on the current slowdown and its causes and the predatory nature of the FIRE section, watch this very informative German television interview with University of Missouri-Kansas City economist Michael Hudson, perhaps the most incisive commentator of the modern economic conditions:

Michael Hudson: How Private Debt Makes the Rich Richer

Program notes:

Michael Hudson talks about the causes of inequality in the 21st century

Our author Michael Hudson summarizes some important theses from his book “The Sector – Why Global Finance Is Destroying Us”.
The interview took place on the occasion of the 16th International Literary Festival in Berlin for a symposium titled “Inequality in the 21st Century. Progress, capitalism and global poverty. “ The authors, Angus Deaton, David Graeber and Michael Hudson, presented the most important theses of their current books.

Michael Hudson Bio: Michael Hudson is one of very few economists – globally – who perfectly predicted the 2008 financial crisis.

Michael is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others.

ISLET engages in research regarding domestic and international finance, national income and balance-sheet accounting with regard to real estate, and the economic history of the ancient Near East.

Michael acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law.

Star Wars: It’s just another day in Trumplandia™


From teleSUR English:

Neo-Nazi groups on the Internet are calling to boycott the premiere of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” as they feel offended about the themes of the upcoming film, calling it “nothing but a Jew masturbation fantasy of anti-White hate,” reports IB Times.

According to what these white-supremacists have poured into their comments on a forum on the discussion website Reddit, they are upset mostly because “nearly all of the major characters are non-whites and the main character is an empowered white female.”

A similar thing happened before the release of the franchise’s Episode VII “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, when men’s “activists” called on boycott the film because it was starred by John Boyega and Daisy Ridley: a black actor and a woman.

The election of Donald Trump has underscored deep national divisions that have fueled incidents of racial hatred across the United States. There has also been a spike in the number of hate crimes after the vote, according to the FBI.

Income inequality leads to distrust of democracy


A new study reveals the hole card in the Trumpster’s political hand: When there are high levels on income inequality, people begin to spurn the very concept of democracy.

And in the United States, income inequality has been increasing regardless of which party holds the White House, as this graphic from the Congressional Budget Office makes clear [shaded ares indicate economic downturns]:

blog-unequal-2

And growing dissatisfaction among voters is the perfect medium for a culture of discontent and a key reason for the strong showing of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party.

But at its deepest level, anger at a democratic system that only rewards those at the top can lead voters to seek a strong man, one who promises to upend the whole system.

Hence, Trumpster striving and the rise of the alt-Right in Europe.

From Michigan State University:

Voter satisfaction with democracy may have less to do with who actually wins an election and more to do with income inequality, or the gap between rich and poor, indicates a new study by Michigan State University political scientists.

Eric Chang and Sung Min Han studied presidential and parliamentary elections in 43 countries, including the United States, and found that rising income inequality widens the gap in satisfaction with democracy between electoral winners and losers. The findings will be published in the December issue of the journal Electoral Studies.

“This study suggests that the degree of income inequality is the real driver behind electoral winners and losers’ satisfaction with democracy,” said Chang, associate professor of political science. “Elections matter much more for both the rich and poor when income inequality is high.”

Income inequality in the United States has risen dramatically in recent decades, driven largely by the very rich getting richer. The share of income owned by the top 10 percent of the wealthiest households increased from 32 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 2014, according to the Census Bureau.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to revive small-town America – a pledge that most experts believe must involve tackling the income gap, Reuters recently reported.

Past research found that voters who support winning parties are more satisfied with democracy than those who vote for the losers. In this winner-loser gap theory, the difference in satisfaction levels is smaller in consensus democracies where the losing party can still affect policy outcomes, suggesting an institutional effect.

But the MSU study is one of the first to argue that the effects of economic inequality are more critical to satisfaction with democracy than the institutional effects of political systems.

That’s because both the upper and lower income classes are affected by how politicians address increasing income inequality. As the disparity between rich and poor grows, the poor intensify their demand for the redistribution of wealth. The rich, meanwhile, become more anxious about the possibility of losing income.

“Our findings suggest that rising income inequality pits political winners and losers against each other,” Chang said. “And this conflict over economic interests can undermine citizens’ satisfaction with democracy and lead to instability.”

A vengeful Trump has all of Big Brother’s tools


And more. . .

Donald J. Trump is a man who reacts to legitimate criticism with rage, taking to Twitter to denounce and defame anyone who dares question His Regal Purulence, even if it’s just a college student with legitimate questions.

But once in office, this man of arrogance and hubris will have at his fingertips, the most powerful espionage apparatus in the history of the Homo sapiens.

And because of laws and precedents set by legislators, courts, and his predecessors in office, Trump will have the power to enlarge that spook machine to levels a Hitler and Stalin could only envy.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at New York University, spells out those powers and their implications in a post for the center’s blog:

President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit the most powerful surveillance apparatus in history. Combining unprecedented technological capabilities with a lax legal regime, his spying powers dwarf anything the notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover could have fathomed.

Many privacy and civil rights advocates worry Trump will seek to expand these powers further in order to spy on Muslim Americans, activists and political opponents. The truth is, he won’t have to. Because of our country’s rush to strip civil liberty protections from surveillance laws after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Trump will already have all the powers he needs and more.

How did we get here? The laws that until recently safeguarded Americans from sweeping government intrusion were established in the 1970s, after a special Senate investigation revealed widespread abuses of intelligence-gathering. Almost every president dating to Franklin D. Roosevelt had a version of Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies list,” resulting in wiretaps of congressional staffers, executive officials, lobbyists, law firms and reporters. Between 1956 and 1971, under the program dubbed COINTELPRO (short for “counterintelligence program”), the FBI routinely spied on anti-war protesters and civil rights organizations. The bureau targeted Martin Luther King Jr. with particular ferocity, bugging his hotel rooms and using the resulting evidence of infidelity to try to induce him to commit suicide.

To stem the abuses, the government implemented laws and regulations that shared a common principle: Law enforcement and intelligence agencies could not collect information on an American unless there was reason to suspect that person of wrongdoing. In some cases, this meant showing probable cause and obtaining a warrant, but even when no warrant was required, spying without any indication of criminal activity was forbidden.

The thinking was that if officials had to cite objective indications of misconduct, they wouldn’t be able to use racial bias, political grudges or other improper motives as a reason to spy on people. This logic was borne out, as government surveillance abuses went from being routine to being the occasional scandalous exception.

Then came Sept. 11. As swiftly as the principle had been established, it was rooted out. In 2002, the FBI abolished a rule barring agents from monitoring political or religious gatherings without suspicion of criminal activity. A 2007 law allowed the National Security Agency to collect calls and emails between Americans and foreign “targets” with no warrant or demonstration of wrongdoing by the American or the foreigner. Revisions to Justice Department guidelines in 2008 created a category of FBI investigation requiring no “factual predicate” — meaning no cause for suspicion. The list of erosions goes on.

Continue reading

Quote of the day: Why Trump won the presidency


From the venerable American editor and writer Lewis H. Lapham, writing in Counterpunch:

Trump won the election because he didn’t try to sell the Gettysburg Address. Upfront and fascist in his scorn for the democratic idea, he declared his candidacy on June 16, 2015, a deus ex machina descending by escalator into the atrium of Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, there to say, and say it plainly, democracy is for losers. Money, ladies and gentlemen, is power, and power, my friends, is not self-sacrificing or Democratic.  Never was and never will be; law unto itself, and the only one that counts. Name of the game, nature of the beast.

The mogul could afford the luxury of truth because he was really, really rich, un-bought and un-bossed, so selfishly and fearlessly rich he was free to do and say whatever it came into his head to do and say, whatever it took to root out the cowardly incompetence in Washington, clean up the mess in the Middle East, plant well-paying jobs in the American heartland. His was the greatest brand on earth come to make America once again the greatest show on earth, revive it with the sweet smell of his signature men’s colognes, Empire and Success.

Trump didn’t need briefing papers or policy positions to refine the message.  He embodied it live and in person, an unscripted and overweight canary flown from its gilded cage, telling it like it is from the inside looking out. Had he time or patience for messing around with books, he could have sourced his wisdom to Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis, who in 1933 presented the case to Franklin D. Roosevelt at the outset of the New Deal:

“We must make our choice.  We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

In the world according to Trump, as it was in the worlds according to Alexander Hamilton and Ronald Reagan, democracy is a tip on a dead horse. An idea as far past its sell-by date as FDR’s straw hat, not up to the task of keeping America safe or running the trains on time.  Too long-winded and slow, soft in the head and weak in the knees, no match for the barbarians (Mexican and African, radical Islamic and leftist academic) at the gates of Westchester County and Palm Beach.

Charts of the day II: Low marks for Trumpsition™


From a new survey from the Pew Research Center:

blog-trump

Graphic Representation: A Trumplandia™ Frightzine


We begin with a general assessment from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: The Scream

blog-t-lucko

From the Miami Herald, the other big winners:

Jim Morin: Smoke gets in your eyes

blog-t-morin

From the Arizona Republic, a day that will live in infamy:

Steve Benson: America’s next Pearl Harbor

blog-t-benson

The Salt Lake Tribune looks at the impact of handing the nation’s environment to Big Oil’s pet:

Pat Bagley: Environmental Predation Agency

blog-t-bagley

The same appointment, see from the candidate’s home state, via the Tulsa World:

Bruce Plante: Oklahoman tapped to run EPA

blog-t-plante

Other appointees, as seen by the Sacramento Bee:

Jack Ohman: Donald Trump and the General election…

blog-t-ohman

And while it’s not a cartoon this tweet from the Apppointer-in-chief with one of those generals, his Defense Secretary pick, might as well be:

blog-t-tweet

From the Los Angeles Times, another general:

David Horsey: National Insecurity Adviser

blog-t-horsey

The Washington Post makes excuses:

Tom Toles: Trump has quietly replaced swamp-drain with brain-drain

blog-t-toles

From the Lexington Herald-Leader, a graphic comment on Littlefingers’ refusal to attend those vital daily intelligence briefings:

Joel Pett: Intelligence briefs. . .very brief

blog-t-pett

The Buffalo News ponders a governing style and its impact on the public:

Adam Zyglis: Post-truth world

Post-truth world

Finally, from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Trump’s other China policy:

Clay Bennett: Signature Collection

blog-t-bennett