Month: April, 2016
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
worker | April 30, 2016 | 11:40 pm | Analysis, Economy, political struggle | Comments closed

by jackrasmus

(The following article was published April 30, 2016, by TelesurTV media. For more audio commentary, listen to the Alternative Visions radio show, of April 29, listen below this blog entry)

This past week the U.S. government announced the country’s economy rose in the January-March 2016 at a mere 0.5 percent annual growth rate. Since the U.S., unlike other countries, estimates its GDP based on annual rates, that means for the first quarter 2016 the U.S. economy grew by barely 0.1 percent over the previous quarter in late 2015.
Growth this slow indicates the US economy may have “slipped into ‘stall speed’, that is, growth so weak that the economy loses enough momentum and slides into recession”, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase.

Has the U.S. economy therefore come to a halt the past three months? If so, what are the consequences for a global economy already progressively slowing? What will an apparently stagnating US economy mean for Japan, already experiencing its fifth recession since 2008? For Europe, stuck in a long term chronic stagnation? And for emerging market economies, struggling with collapsing commodity prices and currencies, rising unemployment, and long term capital flight trends? Once heralded as the only bright spot in the global economy, the US economy now appears to have joined the slowing global trend.

Some Interesting Trends

Last quarter’s 0.5 percent U.S. GDP may indicate the nation’s economy is even weaker than it appears. The economy of the United States’ recent 0.5 percent growth rate is the latest in a steady declining U.S. GDP growth trend over the past year. In the previous fourth quarter 2015, the US economy grew 1.4 percent, which was down from the preceding quarter’s growth of 2 percent and before that 3.9 percent. So the U.S. economy appears to be slowing rapidly over the past year.

Over an even longer period of more than eight years, since the previous peak growth in late 2007, the U.S. economy has grown by a cumulative total of only 10.1 percent. That’s a paltry annual growth of only 1.2 percent a year on average for the past 8+ years.

But even those figures are overestimated. In 2013, the U.S. redefined the way it estimated GDP, adding categories like R&D expenses and other intangibles that artificially boosted U.S. GDP estimates simply by redefining it. That “economic growth by redefinition” raised GDP by around 0.3 percent annually, and in dollar terms by roughly US$500 billion annually. So the real U.S. GDP may be actually growing by less than 1 percent on average per year since 2007; and during the most recent quarter, January-March 2016, the economy may not have grown at all, but may have stagnated, collapse, and come to a halt.

Behind the Wizard’s Curtain

The media and press like to define recessions as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Actually, U.S. economists tasked with declaring when a recession has begun or has ended don’t rely totally on GDP estimates, which are notoriously inaccurate and have become increasingly so, given U.S. and other governments’ penchant for changing how they define GDP.

Redefining GDP to boost the appearance of growth is not just a problem in the US in recent years. For example, there are few independent research sources that think China is growing at its officially announced 6.8 percent GDP rate. To note but a couple, both Capital Economics and Lombard Street research estimate that China’s GDP is growing at only around 4-4.5 percent based on close examination of other indicators like electricity usage, power generation, local transport volumes, and so forth. In recent years India officially nearly doubled its GDP overnight by redefining it. So did Nigeria. India bank researchers, whom this writer has talked to, say they have a rule of thumb: take the official government GDP rate and half it and that’s probably close to India’s actual GDP. In Europe, a number of economies, including Britain, which have been desperate to raise their GDP in recent years, now include drug smuggling and prostitution services in their estimates of GDP. How they come up with such estimates and the pricing of such services is, of course, interesting.

Not satisfied with the media-press definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP, US economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who are tasked with declaring the beginning and end of a recession, look at various economic indicators — like industrial production, retail sales, exports-import trends, and other sources. A recession may occur in just one quarter; or may require more than two.

Looking at these other indicators for this past January-March 2016 period, the US economy appears even more likely headed for a recession and sooner rather than later.

US industrial production (manufacturing, mining and utilities) declined at an annual rate of -2.2 percent this past quarter, after having declined -3.3 percent the preceding quarter. Industrial production has fallen six of the last seven months. US industrial capacity is now at its lowest point since 2010.

Business investment is another trouble spot. Investment in business structures fell by -10.7 percent and investment in new equipment by -8.6 percent, the latter the biggest drop since the 2007-09 recession. Business inventories rose barely, by the smallest amount in two years, continuing a slowing trend of the past nine months.

And what about consumption, which constitutes about two thirds of the total US economy? US consumer spending has been growing at an average monthly rate of only 0.1 percent. Retail sales, the largest element of consumer spending, has fallen every month on average during the quarter. After having sustained retail sales in previous years, auto sales, a large component of retail sales, declined for the second consecutive quarter during the January-March period. The outlook for U.S. consumer spending recovery is also not too bright. A recent Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of those interviewed indicated the U.S. economy was “getting worse.” Reflecting the poor demand for consumer goods, U.S. consumer prices now hover on the brink of deflation, falling at an average monthly rate of -0.1 percent for the quarter.

Exports are declining, residential housing construction recently plummeted. In other words, not many of the economic indicators that comprise GDP show a promising picture. GDP should probably be even lower than the recently reported 0.5 percent annual and 0.1 percent quarter to quarter growth rates. The U.S. economy has obviously “stalled.” But it’s not the first time. In fact, it’s the fifth time it has since the official end of the last recession in June 2009.

What’s a Relapse?

The performance of the US economy this past January-March, a trend that appears is continuing into April, represents what this writer has called an ‘economic relapse’. A relapse is a collapse of economic growth for a single quarter, to near zero or even negative growth.
The U.S. economy has experienced now five such single quarter relapses since the 2007-09 recession was officially declared over. The economy collapsed to 0.1 percent in early 2011, to 0.2 percent in late 2012, declined again by -2.2 percent in 2014 and collapsed to 0.2 percent in 2015.

Relapses are the consequence of “epic” recessions such as occurred in 2007-09, which are typically characterized by short, shallow recoveries that slip repeatedly into periodic bouts of renewed stagnation. They are the result of near total reliance on central bank monetary policies that are designed to boost stock, bond and other financial markets — and thus the incomes of rich investors — but which fail to generate a sustained real economic recovery. Fiscal policies designed to stimulate consumption and good paying jobs are rejected. That almost perfectly describes U.S. economic policy the past eight years.

Politicians Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses

Despite the facts, U.S. government politicians and Federal Reserve bank officials continue to run around declaring that the U.S. economy is performing well. They like to cite the 200,000 jobs allegedly created in recent months. But a closer examination shows the jobs being created are part time, temp, contract, low paid, no benefit service jobs. Jobs that generate no overall wage increase for the economy and no real income gains for working people.

Young workers 30 years old or less are especially hard hit by this “‘well performing US economy.” A recent study by the Center for American Progress, for example, showed that 30 year old workers earn today the same pay, adjusted for inflation, that 30 year olds earned back in 1984.
Despite all that, President Obama continues to tour the country complaining that he doesn’t get enough credit for bringing the US back from the worst recession since the 1930s depression. He should tell that to the millions of millennial young workers, with low paid crappy service jobs, with no medical insurance, having to live at home with relatives because they can’t afford to rent an apartment, loaded with debt and with no prospects for meaningful change on the horizon. No wonder they’re rallying around Bernie Sanders, who continues to capture 85 percent of their votes in the presidential primaries. Obama (and Hillary) will have a hard time convincing them “all is well” — and an even harder time getting them to vote Democrat in the coming election in November.

Jack Rasmus is author of the recent, 2016 book “Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy,” by Clarity Press, soon translated into a Chinese edition, and the forthcoming June 2016 book, “Looting Greece: The Emerging New

US Voters Should Break Free From Republican-Democrat Bipolarity
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:28 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | Comments closed
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (File)

© REUTERS/ David Becker/Nancy Wiechec
Get short URL

Skeptical American voters who dislike Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump need to break free of the Republicans and Democrats and organize new political movements, founder and director Sam Husseini told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — encourages disenchanted Democrats and Republicans to pair up and each vote for the candidates they genuinely want.

“It is clear that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have incredibly high negatives. Most Americans do not agree with, like or trust either of them,” Husseini stated on Thursday.

Husseini suggested an alternative to the two major political parties with broad support would soon appear in reaction to the now-likely selection of Clinton and Trump as presidential candidates, and such a development would be truly responsive to the US public.

“Unfortunately our system is locked into the dominance of the two establishment parties. So the negative aspects of Clinton and Trump perversely expand the base of support for the other. As a result, voters end up being trapped between the unpopularity of the two candidates.”

The main forces that still held the bipolar and dysfunctional US political system together were fear and hate — even as the candidates chosen through the selection processes have falsely proclaimed that they have brought people together, Husseini noted.

“We see that most of the people supporting Clinton are not doing so because they view her as upstanding, wise or just. They support her because they fear and despise Trump and his misogyny, racism and temperament. The same dynamic works in reverse for Trump.”

Trump’s supporters back him because they detest the establishment of the Republican Party and they also hate Clinton, as she had so much in common with the Republican establishment even though she tries to present herself as a new-born progressive, Husseini observed.

“However, if voters could break free of the guillotine pendulum of the two party system and gather around other candidates offering more constructive alternatives, they could finally break out of the two party trap.”

The Greens, Libertarians, Socialists and Independents could all offer more hopeful and creative alternatives, Husseini suggested.

“It is time the American public learned to vote strategically instead of continuing to be the perpetual play thing of the old and corrupt duopoly.”

However, schisms were finally emerging in both the old major establishment parties, he observed.

“Bernie Sanders has exposed the real schisms in the Democratic Party, especially in his outspoken attacks on the current, inadequate healthcare system, the continued dominant role of Wall Street and the growing economic inequality between the super-rich and everyone else,” Husseini said.

Trump among the Republicans had taken some stands on foreign policy that broke away from the long-established party orthodoxy demanding the waging of perpetual war, and he had also adopted some populist rhetoric, Husseini assessed.

Sam Husseini also serves as communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Read more:

Satanists Deny Boehner’s Claim That Ted Cruz is Lucifer
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:26 pm | Analysis, political struggle | Comments closed
Ted Cruz speaks during the Republican presidential debate.

Satanists Deny Boehner’s Claim That Ted Cruz is Lucifer

© AP Photo/ Morry Gash
Get short URL

During a speech at Stanford University on Wednesday evening, former Speaker of the House John Boehner asserted that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh,” but members of the Satanic Temple adamantly disagree.

Boehner did not hold back when asked about his opinion of Cruz, referring to him as a “son of a bitch.”

“Lucifer in the flesh,” Boehner said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

The comments did not only offend Cruz and his supporters. Members of the Satanic Temple declared that they do not want to be associated with a man that the internet suggests may be the Zodiac Killer.

“Adherents of the Christian faith continue to bolster a false and simplistic narrative of defining what is good and evil. Without any analysis or introspection, they use labels such as ‘Lucifer’ to describe that which they do not like. This hypocritical and childish standard creates stagnation in personal thought and apologists for those in their own ranks who commit atrocities,” Satanic Temple member and criminal lawyer Stu de Haan told Sputnik News.

“There is nothing Satanic about the ignorance and lack of critical thought shown by Ted Cruz. In fact, those traits have become a cornerstone for the faith-deranged, who continue to use their political offices as pulpits,” he stated.

The Temple points out that Cruz’s lack of human decency disqualifies him from keeping company with true Satanists.

“Boehner’s comment is illustrative of how well-past-time it is to adjust our mythologies to reflect our realities. Cruz’s failures of reason, compassion, decency, and humanity are products of his Christian pandering, if not an actual Christian faith. It grows tedious when pedophile priests and loathsome politicians are conveniently dismissed as Satanic, even as they spew biblical verse and prostrate themselves before the cross, recruiting the Christian faithful. Satanists will have nothing to do with any of them,” said spokesman for the church, Lucien Greaves, in a statement to the Friendly Atheist.

Followers of the Satanic Temple are generally agnostic or atheist, and don’t believe Satan actually exists, using the concept of an anti-Christ symbolically. Members of the group are fierce proponents of freedom, “including the freedom to offend.”

Read more:

Cher Accuses Donald Trump’s Son of Killing Her ‘Friend’
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:21 pm | Analysis, political struggle | Comments closed
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign rally in Farmington, New Hampshire January 25, 2016.

Cher Accuses Donald Trump’s Son of Killing Her ‘Friend’

© REUTERS/ Gretchen Ertl
Get short URL

Cher, internet-famous for her amusingly obtuse all-caps tweets, shocked the twitterverse on Thursday evening by accusing Donald Trump’s son of murder.

The tweet began with a joke about the Republican frontrunner having a small penis, a regular topic in this election season, a few silly emojis, a photo of the candidate, and ended with the showstopping: “PS HIS SON KILLED MY FRIEND.”

At this point, her Twitter followers lost their minds, and journalists begged for someone who could explain what she was talking about.It seems, however, that the music legend was referring to her animal friends, and the fact that Trump’s sons are big game trophy hunters, judging by the photos she subsequently tweeted.

“Animal rights activists are revolted by a series of trophy photos that have emerged showing Eric and Donald Trump Jr. posing with a dead elephant, kudu, civet cat and waterbuck while on a big game safari in Zimbabwe last year. In one photo, Donald Jr. proudly holds a dead elephant’s tail in one hand and a knife in the other. In another, the brothers are seen standing beside a 12′ 8″ crocodile hanging from a noose off a tree. Activists obtained the photos and created [a] video montage of the Trumps’ big hunt,” the Gothamist wrote in a 2012 article titled ‘Photos: Donald Trump’s Sons Awesome At Killing Elephants And Other Wildlife.’

Last year, another trophy hunter made global headlines, becoming for a moment the most hated man in the United States, after killing Cecil the Lion, a protected black maned lion in Zimbabwe.

Read more:

Donald Trump Endorsed by KKK Grand Imperial Wizard
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:19 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | Comments closed
KKK Gets Go Ahead for Cross-Lighting Pro-Confederate Flag Rally in South Carolina

Donald Trump Endorsed by KKK Grand Imperial Wizard

© Flickr/ arete13
Get short URL

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a hate group attempting to rebrand itself as a political group, has endorsed Donald Trump for president.

The KKK hate group is one of many active in the state of Virginia, according to a study from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that tracks extremists.

In an interview with Chris Thomas of the local NBC affiliate, the group’s boss, who styles himself as a Grand Imperial Wizard, stated that “society today is more racial [sic] than we are,” and complained that the ‘hate group’ label is unfair to his organization.

“This flag right here is the Confederate Battle Flag. This is not the flag of the Ku Klux Klan,” said the self-styled Wizard, who then pointed to an American flag hanging behind him. “That is the flag of the Ku Klux Klan. This all started over a little punk thug who went in a church and murdered a bunch of innocent people. That was wrong,” the KKK boss told Thomas, speaking of Dylann Roof, a young unemployed white man who entered a Charleston church and killed nine black community members. He was later shown in photos waving a Confederate flag.

“He was a Nazi skinhead,” claimed the hate group spokesman. “Neo-Nazis and skinheads are socialist. We are not socialist. We are patriotic American citizens standing up for our God, family and country. We are not white supremacists. We are white separatists. We choose to stay within our own race. We are not the big bad hate group that everybody thinks we are. A lot of people, as soon as they hear the words Ku Klux Klan, their mind automatically goes back to the 50s and 60s. It was a pretty bad time, but that was the 1950s and 60s. We are living in a different century now.”

The interview turned to the current election.

“I think Donald Trump would be best for the job,” said the KKK boss. “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes in, we believe in. We want our country to be safe.”

The spokesman also asserted that he will not support Ted Cruz, even if he agrees with his policies, because he is “not an American citizen.”

“If Donald Trump dropped out tomorrow I would support Kasich before I would Ted Cruz because he is not an American citizen,” said the KKK spokesman. “Even if I agree with some of the things that Ted Cruz says, I would not support him because he was born in Canada. He is not an American citizen.”

Read more:

Native-American Tribe Left Without Emergency Room Sue Federal Government
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:16 pm | class struggle, Native Americans, political struggle, Struggle for Native American equality | Comments closed

Native-American Tribe Left Without Emergency Room Sue Federal Government

03:14 30.04.2016Get short URL

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the federal government to force it to re-open an emergency room on a reservation in South Dakota.

It was the only emergency room at the hospital administered by the Indian Health Service (IHS) and it has been closed for five months after an unannounced visit by federal inspectors revealed serious deficiencies threatening patient lives.

US Health Agency Confirms 683 Zika Cases, One Death in Puerto Rico

The report stated that in some cases infection-control measures had been neglected and that the treatment wasn’t always provided in due time because of staffing shortages and outdated equipment.

The tribal members accuse the IHS (an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services) of breaking the law by failing to submit an evaluation of the impact of the closure to Congress at least a year before the shutdown, as required by the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

The government is required to take into consideration certain factors, such as the quality of healthcare that would remain, and how far reservation residents would have to travel to get care.

Since the ER closure in December 2015, five people have reportedly died and two babies have been born in ambulances on the way to hospitals located some 50 miles away in Valentine, Nebraska, and Winner, South Dakota.

The lawsuit, obtained by The Associated Press, states that the IHS decision resulted in “the Tribe and its members’ immediate and irreparable injury.”

The Department of Health and Human Services — one of the listed defendants — refused to comment on pending litigation.

South Korean Health Authorities Confirm Third Case of Zika Virus

The IHS, known to be underfunded and understaffed, provides free health care to enrolled tribal members, which is guaranteed by treaties that tribes signed with the United States.

The IHS aims to privatize the closed ER, along with another two in the Nebraska and South Dakota reservations.

Lawyers argue that there is no basis for the federal government to provide “inadequate health care to members of the Tribe” and are asking the US District Court in Rapid City to require the IHS to “take sufficient measures” to ensure that proper health services are provided.
Read more:

Sikh community furious at Texas authorities after detention on false terrorism accusations
worker | April 29, 2016 | 8:10 pm | Analysis, Local/State, police terrorism, political struggle | Comments closed

© John Gress
A Sikh man and a Pakistani-American man were arrested at gunpoint after fellow bus passengers claimed they were discussing a bomb threat in Arabic – even though they were speaking Punjabi. The Sikh Coalition has filed a complaint against the accusers.

Daljeet Singh, an asylum-seeker from India, began chatting with Mohammed Chotri, a Pakistani-American man, while the two were traveling on a Greyhound bus from Arizona to India in February. The two conversed in Punjabi.

When a woman on the bus claimed she heard the word “bomb” mentioned in their conversation, she urged the bus driver to pull onto the side of the road. The bus was passing through Amarillo, Texas, at the time.

The driver dialed 911 and two other passengers restrained the men in their seats until police arrived and arrested them at gunpoint, the Hindustan Times reported.

The men were detained for 30 hours and eventually released after being cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the FBI and the Potter County Attorney’s Office.

The Sikh Coalition has filed a complaint against the woman, identified as Tianna Lynn Decamp, which urges her prosecution due to the fact that she “knowingly reported a false and baseless bomb threat.”

The complaint also urges for criminal charges to be filed against passengers Anthony Lamar Lillie and Kelly Michael Morris, for “unlawfully restraining Mr. Singh on the bus.”

“By filing this complaint, we hope to bring attention to the crisis facing minority communities today. The list of things brown people can’t do on public transportation is growing — we can’t get a can of Diet Coke, we can’t switch seats on a bus or a plane, we can’t speak in a language other than English, really we can’t be human beings,” Gurjot Kaur, senior staff attorney for the Sikh Coalition, told NBC News.

Singh said in a statement that the only crime he committed was “wearing a turban, having a beard, and speaking in a different language to another brown man on a bus.”

“I still cannot believe that this happened to me in America,” he said.

Potter County Attorney Scott Brumley told the Globe-News that he will review the complaint before deciding if any charges should be filed.

The February incident occurred the same month that a Sikh actor, model and designer was barred from taking a flight to New York after refusing to take off his turban. Just two months prior, a passenger on a Delta flight falsely believed a breastfeeding Sikh mother posed a terror threat.