Jul 152019
 


Jack Delano L. Logan, boilermaker at the roundhouse in the Proviso yard in Melrose Park, near Chicago 1942

 

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)
UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)
Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)
China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)
China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)
China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)
US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)
Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)
Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)
Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)
Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)
Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)
Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

 

 

The theme is better than the article, but that’s fine once in a while. Is the Longest Expansion in actual fact the Longest Recession?

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)

I say “It’s been a great recession” because we never actually left the Great Recession. Rather than the longest expansion in US history, we’ve been enduring the longest recession in US history ever since the dot-com bust. The above chart shows the GDP growth rate, and the REAL GDP “growth” rate, which has actually been contraction, not growth, for the past two decades if measured by historic standards. So long as GDP is growing, (above 0 on the chart above), we’re in expansion. Whenever GDP is shrinking (below 0 on the chart below), we’re in recession. So, when you see financial commentators writing or talking about “the longest expansion on record,” this month, translate that in light of this article.

It is only the longest expansion on record if you change the way you calculate GDP from the way previous records were calculated. It’s sort of like saying, “This person ran the longest marathon in history,” but not memtion that we’ve reduced the length of the kilometer or mile by which we measure marathons. The government (and the Fed) love to cook the books. They do it under the guise that old numbers really were not all that accurate, but if that were truly the reason, why is it the “corrections” and “adjustments” always serve to make the present regime’s numbers look better? (Perhaps people doing the calculations in the past were willing to be more conservative in terms of how much they patted themselves on the back for how well they were doing?)

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Brexit will hit like a hammer. Not because Brexit itself is such a bad idea, but because a bunch of complete wankers have been working it out.

UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)

Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers. Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support. Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read. The survey of 1,290 frontline family support workers from 616 organisations across the UK was published by the poverty grants charity Buttle UK.


It said it was undertaken to provide a “thermometer reading” of the lives of some the UK’s most vulnerable families. It comes amid rising concern that alongside headline increases in relative poverty in recent years – more than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution. Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.

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Stimulus!

Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)

Chinese growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades in the second quarter with the US-China trade war and weakening global demand weighing on the world’s second-biggest economy, official data showed Monday. The slowdown makes it more difficult for president Xi Jinping to fight back forcefully against the US, which is using tariffs as leverage to try to force Beijing into opening up its economy. The 6.2% figure released by the national bureau of statistics on Monday was in line with forecasts by analysts and down from an expansion of 6.4% in the first quarter. The GDP figures are within the government’s target range of 6.0-6.5% for the whole year, down from the 6.6% growth China posted in 2018.


“Economic conditions are still severe both at home and abroad, global economic growth is slowing down and the external instabilities and uncertainties are increasing,” said bureau spokesman Mao Shengyong. “The economy is under new downward pressure,” he said. Beijing has introduced measures this year to boost the economy, but they have not been enough to offset a domestic slowdown and softening overseas demand made worse by a punishing trade war with its biggest trading partner country, the US. Exports to the world rose only 0.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year. Analysts widely expect Beijing will step up support for the economy in coming months and the prospect cheered investors in China where stocks rose.

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Chinese factories don’t stop producing when there are no clients. That why there’s Belt and Road.

China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)

China’s daily crude steel output rose to record levels in June, according to Reuters calculations, even as anti-pollution production curbs pushed whole-month production slightly lower, official data showed on Monday. The world’s biggest steel producer churned out 87.53 million tonnes of crude steel last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. That was down from a record 89.09 million tonnes in May – the first monthly drop this year – as the government stepped up its drive to cut smog, but still well above 80.2 million tonnes in June 2018 as daily output grew.


Average daily output of steel was around 2.92 million tonnes, calculations showed, compared with 2.87 million tonnes in May. The monthly drop for June came as the smog-prone northern province of Hebei, which accounts for a quarter of China’s total steel output, ordered local governments to bring forward capacity cuts and anti-pollution measures to meet annual air quality targets. The Hebei cities of Handan and Tangshan extended production curbs until August. Analysts expect the restrictions, if fully implemented, will have a bigger impact than curbs usually imposed in winter to restrict smog, and will trim blast furnace operations by around 40% in the region.

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There were two headlines for this artilce, the one I used and, kid you not: “China home price growth cools in June, but investment quickens”

China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)

Growth in China’s new home prices cooled in June as sales shrank for a second month, but building starts and investment quickened, providing a cushion for the slowing economy while Beijing claims some wins in reducing market froth. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities grew 0.6% in June from a month earlier, easing from a 0.7% gain in May, according to Reuters calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Monday. That marked the 50th straight month of price gains. Most of the cities still reported higher prices. Sixty-three of the total 70 cities surveyed by the NBS reported higher prices in June, down from 67 cities in May.


On an annual basis, home prices increased 10.3% in June, easing from 10.7% in May. The weakness mainly came from tier-1 cities. Prices in China’s four top-tier cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – rose an average of 0.2% from a month earlier, slowing from a 0.3% uptick in May. For tier-2 cities, which include most of larger provincial capitals, home prices grew 0.8% in June, identical with the previous month’s advance. Despite still elevated prices in some of China’s biggest cities, many analysts are still bearish on the market’s overall outlook this year as demand in smaller cities – which account for 70% of sales by floor area – will likely falter, and as Beijing has not indicated it will ease nationwide property curbs anytime soon.

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Article quotes westerners who say everything’s fine, and also suggests it’s not at all.

China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)

Xinjiang, a fraught region where flare-ups of interethnic violence have led to unprecedented levels of surveillance, is one of the fastest growing areas for tourism in China. Armed police and frequent checkpoints have not dampened the flow of vacationers visiting the region, which in 2018 saw a 40 percent increase year-on-year of visits – mainly from domestic tourists – outstripping the national average by 25 percent, according to official figures. Business has grown steadily over the years mainly because “Xinjiang is very stable”, explained Wu Yali, who runs a travel agency in the region. Though tourists are not used to the high-level of security at first, “they adapt after a few days,” she told AFP. But travellers are barred from witnessing the most controversial part of Xinjiang’s security apparatus: the network of internment camps spread across the vast region.


Many of these facilities are outside main tourist hubs and are fenced off with razor-wired walls. On a six-day trip to the region last month, AFP reporters encountered roadblocks and were turned away by security forces upon nearing some camps. China describes the facilities as “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking “trainees” learn Mandarin and job skills. “The violence that is being inflicted on the bodies of Uighur and other Muslim people…has been rendered invisible,” said Rachel Harris, who studies Uighur culture and music at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. “For a tourist who goes and travels around a designated route, it all looks nice,” she told AFP. “It’s all very quiet and that’s because there’s a regime of terror being imposed on the local people.”

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For both the US and EU, the solution to this is clear: help people fix their countries so they can live there and prosper. Unless we do that, the problems will persist and grow.

US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)

The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, then postponed before telling reporters on Friday that it would proceed, was expected to target hundreds of recently arrived families in about 10 cities who had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States. Immigrants and their advocates were bracing for mass arrests, but by Sunday night there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.


“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update. Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta. There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas. “Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.

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It has become their main identity. Like Novichok is a Monty Python skid.

Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)

The British government appears to be more and more aping a Monty Python-type farce with each passing day. Soon the absurd ensemble will be complete if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt becomes the next prime minister. This week the mandarins at the Ministry of Funny Walks ruled that two internationally respected Russian news media channels were banned from attending a global conference on “press freedom”. RT and another Russia-based news outlet Sputnik were refused permission by the British government to participate in the Global Conference for Media Freedom, held in London. A British Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their earlier role in spreading disinformation.”

The irony of it. The British government is peddling unsubstantiated accusations (more accurately, ridiculous slander) against Russian media which is then invoked as “justification” for censorship at a much-vaunted international conference supposedly dedicated to freedom of the press. You could hardly make the farce up. It’s a kind of cross between George Orwell and Monty Python. What the British government is doing is blatantly ramping up the media war against Russia. London is giving a license for further outrageous repression of Russian news media, as well as piling on demonization of Russia as a state.

[..] It is bitterly ironic that an independent journalist like Julian Assange of the Wikileaks website is being currently detained in a maximum security British prison on trumped-up extradition charges to the US for spying – when Assange’s real “crime” is that he exposed American and British war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Arguably, Assange’s credibility and appreciation among ordinary citizens the world over is much higher than either of the US or British governments, or their mainstream media. The same dichotomy applies to the two above-mentioned Russia-based news channels. Not able to cope with hearing the critical message, the British government has resorted to shooting the messenger. However, the British and international public can see what’s going on here, and so the “emperor” is hastily, clumsily trying to cover up the embarrassment from being exposed.

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Spruik. Good word. Good article too. “..bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction..”

Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)

Collective violence, such as torturing a publisher for journalism, requires more than persecuting authorities, mobbing states and media smear campaigns to survive. Those who orchestrate and perpetrate state-sanctioned violence depend crucially and fundamentally upon one other thing. That thing is bystanders. Atrocity does not take place without passive, complacent, compliant bystanders: citizens watching silently, declining to take a stand, even as their leaders say one thing at global media conferences and do precisely the reverse in the real world.

Passive bystanders are the social pillars of atrocity, fashioned from “kindly people, struggling to evaluate the actions they are agents or accomplices in” writes Professor of Philosophy, Adam Morton. The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, who died screaming as neighbours listened on, prompted psychologists to investigate the processes by which kindly people might become agents and accomplices in horror, such torturing a journalist in Belmarsh while elites parse media freedom at exclusive conference dinners, practically next door. A simple and pedestrian psychological culprit emerged, known as diffusion of responsibility. In numerous research paradigms since 1964, when witnessing an emergency among a group of seemingly unconcerned others, most people will fail to intervene.

The more people that are present, and the less alarmed they all appear to be, the less inclined is each individual to act. The ensuing collective stasis is driven partly by a diminished sense of personal responsibility, and partly by conformity, or a reluctance to stand out. Such prosaic group processes, on display in spades at the Global Media Freedom Conference, can paradoxically make it easier to commit violence before a sea of onlookers than before one or two passers-by. Which is just as well for the elites in London holding Julian Assange bound and gagged in Belmarsh, metaphorically speaking, while listening to Amal Clooney and embracing a joint statement by four Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, with a straight face.

Peace psychologist Ervin Staub writes, “The passivity of witnesses, internal bystanders who are part of the population… affirms perpetrators and allows the unfolding of the evolution of violence”. He adds, “bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction”.

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The EU will have to act. But it’s the last thing they want to do.

Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in waters off Cyprus if the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government does not accept a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriots, Ankara’s foreign minister has said. Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that both parties on the divided island cooperate in exploration and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions in the region have risen after Turkey told energy firms not to work with the Greek Cypriot government, and sent two ships to drill off the island. Cyprus issued arrest warrants for the crew of one of the ships, and the European Union is discussing curbing contacts and funds for Turkey in response.


The dispute stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus, linked to the 45-year-old split of the island and Ankara’s rejection of agreements Cyprus has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones. In an article for the Cyprus Post published on Sunday, Cavusoglu said that until Greek Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akinci on Saturday to work with Turkish Cypriots, Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work, “with determination and without change.”

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The old elites are back in charge, and the country will feel it. So what is the EU going to do? Side with the right wing?

Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras appears confident that the country can enter a “virtuous cycle” of growth, strengthen market confidence and negotiate a deal with its lenders to trim a high primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in exchange for an acceleration of reforms and investments now that a center-right government is in power. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the central banker also said that he would welcome a judicial inquiry into what he describes as a “coordinated effort” by the previous administration to malign his character and prevent him from carrying out his duties.

“Success in restarting the Greek economy… will depend on whether the new government, taking advantage of market confidence, adopts policy measures to attract new investments,” Stournaras said. “If these measures are forward-looking and reliable, the Greek economy will soon enter a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle of reliability, credibility and growth,” the central banker said. This “virtuous cycle” of strengthened credibility, Stournaras said, could lead to rating upgrades, which would be “a key condition to a review of the primary surplus target.” This, he added, would “give the economy the room it needs to grow.”

Commenting on the new government’s plan to introduce a series of tax reductions in order to ease the burden on the middle class, Stournaras said that “changing the fiscal policy mix with a lightening of the tax load (including social security contributions) on workers and businesses is imperative.” He added that while the previous government’s policy of high taxation managed to stem the growth of public debt thanks to large primary surprises, it also suppressed the economy’s growth potential.

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The new PM has promised new agreements with the EU. But they can’t give him any, other than superficial ones.

Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)

The high primary surplus targets may be one of the toughest legacies passed down to the new administration by the Alexis Tsipras government. An agreement with creditors for reducing the target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product is a key priority for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which analysts and economists speaking to Kathimerini say is feasible but only under specific conditions. “The reduction of the targets for the primary surpluses will be a difficult uphill road for the Greek government, mainly because the northern European states are not so willing to accept the idea of a level below 3.5 percent for the medium term,” says Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group. “For the time being no such negotiation is expected, but this is possible for the targets after 2021,” he predicts.


Raffaella Tenconi, an economist at Wood, appears to agree, saying that “the maximum likely is a 0.5 percent of GDP discount for 2021 and 2022 – a short window until it drops to 2 percent,” but reminds that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “again said there is no big reason to change the goals.” Rahman adds that “what Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government have to do is first build a relationship of confidence with the creditors, second proceed with structural reforms so as to send the right message, and third to continue the fiscal policy and adhere to what has been agreed in order to bring to negotiation in Brussels the reductionn of targets. This is an issue concerning 2021.” Teneo Intelligence Co-President Wolfango Piccoli comments that “only a fool would have expected a positive stance from the creditors about reducing the primary surplus target the day after the election.”

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Just about the very first thing the right wing government has done. Count me not surprised.

Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

Labor and Social Affair Minister, Nikos Vroutsis, has cancelled a ministerial decision regarding the issuing of social security number (AMKA) to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied refugee children and non-EU nationals. The decision, in fact a circular signed by three SYRIZA ministers for Health, Migration and Social Solidarity was issued on June 20, less than a month than the general elections. Justifying his decision to block the issue, Vroutsis said that the Issue of AMKA to non-EU nationals will be re-examined and new directives will be published.


The Social security number is essential to access services in Health, Education and Labor. To the immediate and harsh criticism by SYRIZA that conservative New Democracy will implement harsh policies to services provided to refugees and migrants living in Greece, Vroutsis responded with a tweet: “A few days before the election, SYRIZA issued an easily disproved circular, opposed to the law that provides AMKA to third-country nationals in arbitrary way. Labor ministry services were opposing this. I abolished it immediately. Our Country is not an unfenced backyard.”

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