Is Another Recession Looming? Growth Slows, Housing Fizzles

By Seth Sandronsky
 

U.S. economic growth rose at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in July–September, the slowest in more than three years, the Commerce Department recently reported.  By way of comparison, the nation’s rate of growth was 2.6 percent in the second quarter.  What is happening to nearly slice the growth rate by half in an $11 trillion economy?

In brief, growth in residential housing dropped 17.4 percent in the third quarter.  Housing’s fall was 11.1 percent in the second quarter.  This downward trend has been underway for the past 12 months in the U.S. economy.

Economists have a word for two straight quarters of declining growth: recession.  Is the housing dip forecasting a 2007 recession?  That is unclear.

Clearly though, a recession is very bad news for the U.S. working class.  On that note, housing has been a motor for employment in the building, financing and furnishing of existing and new homes.  “Last year, housing could be credited for creating over 15 percent of the year's new jobs”; reports the Economic Policy Institute, “this year housing-related jobs will account for less than 5 percent of the economy's new jobs.”


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Questioning the Logic of Occupation in Iraq

by Jeremy R. Hammond
 

The debate over what to do about the crisis in Iraq has, on one hand, those who argue for immediate withdrawal and, on the other, those who argue, justification (or lack thereof) of the initial invasion aside, that the US must remain lest the country descend further into chaos. Among the latter, the focus is on finding a "timetable for withdrawal", which would be dictated by how quickly "Iraqization" could be successfully implemented to a degree that Iraqi forces could take over the job currently being done by US troops. That this needs to occur seems to be the general consensus. This view is predicated upon a number of assumptions that are in need of serious questioning if any real solutions to the ongoing crisis are to be found.

 


 

 

One assumption is that the US has intended to withdraw from Iraq from the onset. The US has an enormous number of strategic military bases scattered around the globe. It never completely withdrew from either Germany or Japan after WWII. It maintains a military presence in South Korea. As a result of the war in Afghanistan, the US acquired a number of military bases in Central Asia, not only in Afghanistan but also in several neighboring former Soviet republics. It is well known, and was easily demonstrable prior to the invasion, that the principle justification for war, namely the threat of weapons of mass destruction, was a fabricated pretext. Although chosen as the selling point for public consumption, it is self-evident that the "threat" of Iraq was simply not the true motive for the invasion. Rather, if we assume the historical norm is being followed, and if we trust documents expressing the views of policymakers within the US government, the goal of the invasion was hegemony over what has been long been regarded as a region of the utmost strategic importance, primarily due to its rich resources in oil and gas. There is little reason to believe that US has any intention whatsoever of abandoning the bases in Iraq it has acquired as a result of the invasion.

 


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Baghdad is Surrounded: “The American Era in the Middle East has ended”

by Mike Whitney

 

Don Rumsfeld is not a good leader. In fact, he is a very bad leader. Leadership is predicated on three basic factors: Strong moral character, sound judgment, and the ability to learn from one’s mistakes. None of these apply to Rumsfeld. As a result, every major decision that has been made in Iraq has been wrong and has cost the lives of countless Iraqis and American servicemen. This pattern will undoubtedly continue as long as Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense.

Here’s a simple test: Name one part of the occupation of which has succeeded?

Security? Reconstruction? De-Ba’athification? Dismantling the Iraqi military? Protecting Saddam’s ammo-dumps? Stopping the looting? Body armor? Coalition government? Abu Ghraib? Falluja? Even oil production has been slashed in half.

Every facet of the occupation has been an unmitigated disaster. Nothing has succeeded. Everything has failed.

Everything.

 

 

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Freedom Loved and Hated

by Paul Balles

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. --Thomas Jefferson

 

There’s no such thing as objectivity. Everything is seen through conditioned eyes. What we love or hate depends on the kind of washing our brains have been subjected to. That theory is verifiable. The practical evidence can be seen in the world’s press.

The Western mind looks at the world through the familiar eyes of CNN, BBC, Fox News, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, Reuters or the Associated Press and Rupert Murdoch. To the Eastern and Middle Eastern mind, much of the controlled Western perspective of the world doesn’t make sense. The Middle East TV channel Al Jazeera, broadcasting in Arabic out of Doha, Qatar, makes sense to 40 million viewers.

The channel has been the object of personal vendettas, agency closures, assassinations and vilification by a number of regimes and government organizations. The real reason for the hatred and attacks? Al Jazeera is the only completely free public broadcasting organization in the world.

Al Jazeera should be a lesson for journalists from other news organizations. Not that restrained journalists could do much to free themselves from the controls that inhibit and restrict them worldwide, but a few might realize the possibilities of truly working as the professionals that journalists should be. Because it exercises freedom from political restraints, here are some of the results experienced by Al Jazeera:

 


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Philly Inquirer: Making Biased News out of Mole Hills

by Dave Lindorff

For an example of shameless partisanship and promotion of one candidate in the news pages, it would be hard to find a case more over the top than the Philadelphia Inquirer's handling of John Kerry's botched joke.

Although it offered absolutely no evidence to support the claim that the joke incident had induced a single Pennsylvania voter to change sides in the Senate race from Democratic challenger Bob Casey to Republican incumbent Rick Santorum, the once-proud paper ran a banner headline on its front page on Nov. 2 saying "Kerry's gaffe jolts Santorum, Casey," with a subhead that said, "Santorum uses the remark to put Casey on the offensive."

Anonymous "analysts" were said near the top of the article to be claiming that Kerry's remark to students implying that those who didn't hit the books in college would end up "stuck in Iraq" had "cracked a small window of opportunity for Santorum's struggling campaign." No mention was made of the fact that Santorum is in trouble precisely because the majority of Pennsylvania's voters have concluded that his war-mongering (he wants war with Iran, too) and uncritical support of Bush's war in Iraq mean he has to go.

The truth is that Kerry's remark, which was characteristic of this Boston blue-blood snob, was nothing but a meaningless blip on the electoral terrain, where the vast majority of Americans have already concluded that they've been lied to big time by the Bush administration, and ill-served by a Republican Congress that has turned into nothing but an unthinking cheering section for Bush administration war-mongering. The only way Kerry's comments could have any impact on this election--nationally or in Pennsylvania--would be if they were hyped and blown up in the media into something they were not. But then, that is precisely what the Inquirer attempted to do by making them page-one banner material.


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Endgame: The Lights Are Going Out All Over Baghdad

by Chris Floyd

 

While the American election campaign thrashes toward the finish line with the usual spasms of witless diversion and hyper-mendacity – an echo chamber of utter bullshit roaring in a media bubble murderously detached from reality – in the actual world of flesh and blood, the destruction of Iraq engineered by George W. Bush is entering a new phase that could make the previous three years of all-devouring hell look like a sojourn in paradise.

Baghdad is under siege, as Patrick Cockburn reports in the Independent; the city has been encircled by Sunni militias who have cut almost all the roads leading into the capital. Inside the city, "the scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict," says Cockburn. And it will inevitably, inexorably grow worse, as Shiite militias consolidate their hold within Baghdad while trying to break the blockade from outside. Already, "food shortages are becoming severe" in some parts of the city, he reports, while almost a thousand Iraqis are being slaughtered each week, mostly in Baghdad. Meanwhile, at least 1.5 million internal refugees have fled the ethnic cleansing by both Sunni and Shiite militias, joining the hundreds of thousands who have fled the country altogether. Again, these numbers dwarf those in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars – while the total dead from Bush's war, a very credible estimate of at least 650,000, is approaching the level of the Rwandan genocide.


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Palestine as a Foil for People’s Unconnected Dreams

By Ramzy Baroud.

Thousands of people recently marched in London to commemorate Quds Day, an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian people that emanated from Tehran some 26 years ago.

I neither wish to contend nor corroborate the sincerity of the call, made by Ayatollah Khomeini, in a time when the Palestinian people endure, unaided, the unbearable brunt of the Israeli occupation, international isolation and its subsequent economic boycott, and the burden of their leaderships’ own folly, that of factionalism and lack of political coherence.

However, the scene in London was too surreal, and brought into question the usefulness of such displays of solidarity with the Palestinians. As Hezbollah and Iranian flags and banners wavered in the cold London breeze, and posters of Iranian leaders sprung everywhere, I failed to spot one Palestinian flag, one positive message, one helpful chant. It was only when the black clad Neturei Karta rabbis made their entrance that the Palestinian flag was introduced into the march.


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Botched or Not, the Joke's on Us

by Mickey Z.

Every now and then, a series of events (and the reaction to those events) converge to effectively illustrate just how deeply the indoctrination runs in the home of the brave/land of the free. Senator John F. Kerry was the catalyst for the most recent such convergence. His "botched joke" laid bare the passionate cult of the soldier, America's enduring military fetish.

 

 

 

It has been and remains career suicide for any public figure to even hint at criticizing the men and women in uniform. Consider Kerry's apology: "I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform." It's not even an issue of actually being critical of the military. Among a war-loving people, you must be cautious to not even "wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform." Kerry himself said people were "crazy" to think he would denigrate America's military. As profound as this may be, the realities exposed by the "stuck in Iraq" affair go much deeper than that.

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Palestine: Women of Beit Hanoun Go "Over the Top"

Women of Beit Hanoun
Go "Over the Top"
by C.L. Cook
[The news of Israel's tower soldiers firing on Ken O'Keefe and his party demonstrating in Beit Hanoun, appropriately enough, on November 29th, the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine, reminded of this old article I wrote in 2006. It followed shortly the invasion of Lebanon. This then from the wayback file. - ape]
 
The symbol of the end of the 'Gilded Age' and ultimate refutation of Hope in the still young 20th Century, the ‘Trenches’ of the First War, horrors filled with dead farm boys a-swim in mud, blood, rats and the reek of futility was given an eerie revisiting today in Palestine.

Through the courtesy of BBC television, we witnessed not the flower of Europe's manhood going "over the top," but the women of Palestine, desperate to shield their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers from the relentless, and pitiless, and murderous Israeli Defence Force (IDF), mounting the barricade to face naked the guns.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
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Kerry and Bush: The Joke's on Us

by Dave Lindorff

 

There are so many things to say about the John Kerry gaffe, it's hard to know where to start.


Just the idea of President Bush’s scolding Kerry and telling him that "words are important" is beyond belief. This, after all, is the guy who for five years has been warning Americans about various "nookular" threats facing us. A guy who has his every utterance scripted for him and yet still manages to screw up his lines with regularity. A guy who had to have a cueing device hidden in his ear canal during his debates with that selfsame Kerry, so he'd avoid just standing at the lectern and saying "duh" in response to questions.

 


 

But let's not stop there. Kerry himself was right in character. He clearly didn't write his own joke, and was too slow-witted to get the joke he was supposed to deliver, which reportedly was that if students didn't work and study hard might end up someday being ignorant incurious leaders like President Bush, and getting the country into another mess like Iraq. It wasn't much of a joke, but by bunging it up, Kerry revealed his Boston Brahman snobbishness, saying instead that if students didn't study hard, they'd end up in Iraq--the clear implication being that he thinks that the US troops fighting and dying in Iraq are there because they’re uneducated.

Kerry, the candidate who voted for the war but opposes the war, who voted for funding for the war and voted against it, is now trying to say that the joke he told is not the joke that was written for him, but that's not going to work. He certainly should have understood instantly what he was saying when he said it, and realized how smarmy it was. What we're left with is the unavoidable conclusion that Kerry doesn't know anything about what he's saying when he says it. Like Bush, he's just reading a script, and like Bush, he's bungling it badly.

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Who Let The COW Into The Classroom?

By Tom Chartier  

Yes, that’s right you heard me. Who let the COW into the classroom? No, no, no, not the mooing, milk-producing, four-legged bovine. I’m talking about COW: Curriculum On Wheels, a teaching device produced by Ignite! Learning

COWs are the latest gadgetry in a long line of “easy teaching” scams swallowed by incompetent school administrators, lazy teachers and helpless parents desperate for any sign of learning from their children… like a grade of C+ in “health studies.” 

Basically, COWs are self contained software projectors complete with all the bells and whistles one wants in the “iStupid” age. Miss Crabtree is being replaced by a machine. Real teaching is going down the swirly bowl in favor of catchy jingles and cute cartoons. Hey kids. Let’s see how Mr. Bighead explains Pluto’s demotion from planet to mere space rock. 

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America the Temporary

by Mickey Z.

Sigmund Freud sez: "America is gigantic; but a gigantic mistake.".

America is a nation built upon myth. If you don't believe me, consider the Florentine merchant-adventurer after whom this country was named. Amerigo Vespucci probably made at least two voyages to the Americas, but he was not the leader of any expedition or the first European of his era to set foot on the mainland. (America named after a self-hyping fraud? It's just too perfect.) Yes, the USA is a nation built upon myth...and the greatest myth of all is that the land of the free is gonna last forever.

I'm sure the Aztecs, the Incas, the Romans, and the Mongols were pretty damn pleased with themselves and figured what they were doing could never end.

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