Monday, January 19, 2015

Q&A - 19/1

Dean Baker

[T]he level of confusion in public discussions of the economy is truly astounding. The people extolling the virtues of the economy today were too blind to see the $8 trillion housing bubble that had been driving the economy before the downturn. Most economic experts just say what other economic experts say; they are not capable of independently assessing the economy [..]

Public discourse on the economy seems unaware of some basic facts. First and foremost, capitalist economies generally grow. It makes no more sense to celebrate the fact that the economy is larger in 2015 than in 2014 than it does to celebrate that your ten-year old kid is taller than when she was five. Growth is the norm, the relevant question is the rate of growth, and by this measure there is little to be happy about.

Second, the stock market is not a measure of economic success. It is a measure of how much wealth the people who own stock have. If the stock market rises rapidly because the economy is growing, and profits and stock prices are growing along with it, then this is further confirmation of a strong economy. However if the stock market rises because there has been a redistribution from wages to profits, as has in fact been the case, this is hardly reason for the bulk of the population, who hold little or no stock, to celebrate.    

A third point is that most workers are unlikely to see wage growth until the labor market has far less unemployment than at present. If the economy continues to add 240,000 jobs a month, we may be at this point somewhere in 2016, but we aren’t there now and we will almost certainly not be there any time in 2015. While the unemployment rate has fallen most of the way back to its pre-recession level, this is largely because millions of unemployed workers have dropped out of the labor force and are no longer counted as unemployed. Contrary to what is often claimed, this is not a story of aging baby boomers retiring.

Yes

The unemploy. numbers need to be reverse-engineered from employment #'s; the ones government releases are unreliable.

Financial Times

[About Tony Judt] A former kibbutznik of the left who had served in the Israel Defence Forces during the Six day war,  Judt had long since repudiated both his Zionism and his Marxism. In the aftermath of 9/11, in particular, no issue was more toxic in New York intellectual life than Israel, none more inescapable for someone of Judt’s background and temperament. He once told an interviewer of his “mischievous disposition” and his fondness for sticking his head above the parapet; but in this case there was his sense of moral obligation as well. His writings made him for a time a hate figure for American Zionist groups. His sin was to have pointed out that the burden of responsibility rested with those with power, hence with Israelis more than Palestinians, and with Washington politicians more than with either.

He was not dewy-eyed about the Palestinian leadership, whose shortcomings he recognised, but his real contempt was reserved for Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and all those who were driving Israel deeper and deeper into isolation. He was deeply concerned, too, about the power of the pro-Israel lobby, and despaired of any enduring solution in the Middle East so long as American foreign policy was held hostage by it. In October 2003, a time when discussion of these issues in the US was especially fraught, he got into trouble for saying the two-state solution was finished; today it is hard to see what the fuss was about, unless it was simply about silencing any mainstream criticism of official Israeli policy.

Beyond its influence (or lack of it) on Israel, there was the broader question of the changing role of the US in the world more generally. Judt was not hostile to the idea of American power — he was scathing and amusing about that form of French cultural anxiety that often expressed itself as anti-Americanism — but he despaired of the direction US foreign policy had taken under George W Bush: unilateralist, hectoring, destructive of international institutions that represented in his view the only chance, however limited, for collective action among nations. In his book Postwar (2005), he presented Europe as a less muscle-bound alternative, more concerned about social equity and cohesion.

I like this guy

He is smart.. and I believe the technical term for such people is.. "self-hating Jew". That's what Israeli rightwingers keep calling them, right?

The Guardian

Given world events over the past decade or so, the most obvious explanation [for C. Hebdo shooting] is also the most plausible: the fate of Muslims in foreign conflicts played a role in radicalising these young men. Working-class Parisians don’t go to Yemen for military training on a whim. Since their teens these young men have been raised on a nightly diet of illegal wars, torture and civilian massacres in the Gulf and the Middle East in which the victims have usually been Muslim.

In a court deposition in 2007, Chérif Kouachi, the younger of the brothers affiliated with al-Qaida who shot the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, was explicit about this. “I got this idea when I saw the injustices shown by television on what was going on over there. I am speaking about the torture that the Americans have inflicted on the Iraqis.” [..] These grievances are real even if attempts to square them with the killers’ actions make your head hurt. France opposed the Iraq war; Isis and al-Qaida have been sworn enemies and both have massacred substantial numbers of Muslims. Not only is the morality bankrupt, but the logic is warped.

It's a big mess all around

In a way this latest attack is a left-over from Bush era; these ppl seem to have been pushed over the edge after Abu Gharib. At the same time, crime is a crime. Fight against ISIS, their supporters, symphatizers and the likes needs to go on unabated. This peasant shit cannot become the norm.

Health Apocalypse Now

Link Much of my time for the past year has been spent navigating the medical maze on behalf of my mother, who has dementia. I obser...