for whom do YOU think the economy is improving?

As the Wage-Profit Conflict Sets In, Troubles Deepen for Global Capital

As the recession in Europe painfully proves all attempts at austerity to be dead-ends, the search for the miraculous “silver-bullet” continues. The European Central Bank (ECB) has initiated a negative “nominal” interest rate. That means the ECB, the first monetary authority to ever take such an action in a common currency zone, will be charging commercial banks for the funds they deposit (overnight) rather than paying them interest.

The ECB is pursuing an inflation target of 2% with a dogmatic belief that “this is he rate at which agents [read this as financial speculators and the rentiers] will not be affected in their economic decisions.” To this end, it utilizes three sets of interest rates: (1) the marginal overnight borrowing rate of the banks from the ECB; (2) the basic rate for their re-financing operations; and (3) the rate that is applied to the banks’ deposits at the ECB. In order for the monetary interventions of the ECB to have any effect, the rates on these interests ought to be differentiated. Until very recently, the ECB rate on deposits was set to zero, and the rate on the re-financing operations was 0.25%. The decision of the ECB has now been to reduce the latter rate to 0.15% and the deposit to negative 0.10%. The textbook explanation for this unusual negative interest rate on money deposited by banks rests on the expectation that they should be now motivated to lend their funds instead of keeping them in reserves. Hopefully, this will restore eurozone economic growth by encouraging more lending for “real” investment.

More growth certainly is needed. GDP growth for the zone as a whole was a fragile 0.9% (year-on-year) in the first quarter of 2014 and the IMF forecasts the eurozone’s full-year growth at 1.2%, compared with 2.8% for the United States and 2.9% for the UK. Nevertheless, these observations had not inhibited the storytellers of this epic of austerity. Many now argue that, now that Europe has attained the pre-recession (2007) levels of economic output, it is time to declare victory and pull out. Yet, this post-Vietnam syndrome approach fails to ensure that the European Union as a whole is on an expanding course out of the Great Recession. In fact, deflation continues to be a structural feature of the eurozone’s incurable malaise. With investment expenditures staying rock bottom compared to historical standards, firms are desperately cutting prices to boost their sales. Households, confronted with the ongoing austerity measures, are squeezing their consumption expenditures within a low-demand, low growth—nasty—equilibrium.

The Economy May Be Improving. Worker Pay Isn’t.

The latest economic data out Tuesday morning was generally good. Home building activity remained above the one million a year rate. Consumer prices rose 0.4 percent in May, such that inflation over the last year is now 2.1 percent, about in line with what the Federal Reserve aims for.

But that inflation news carried with it a depressing side note. Now that the Consumer Price Index for May has been published, it is possible to determine inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for the month. And the number is not good.

Average hourly earnings for private sector American workers rose about 49 cents an hour over the last year, to $24.38 in May. But that wasn’t enough to cover inflation over the year, so in real or inflation-adjusted terms, hourly worker pay fell 0.1 percent over the last 12 months. Weekly pay shows the same story, also falling 0.1 percent in the year ended in May.

Pause for just a second to consider that. Five years after the economic recovery began, American workers have gone the last 12 months without any real increase in what they are paid.

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“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

The U.S.’s Deafening Silence on Israeli War Crimes

As of the writing of this article, the Operation has claimed the lives of nearly 554 Palestinians, 80% of them civilians and almost half of them women and children.[1] On the Israeli side, the attacks by Hamas militants have claimed the lives of 30 Israelis, 28 of them soldiers, and most of these soldiers have been killed during the IOF ground invasion which began last Thursday.[2]

Israel claims that Operation Protective Edge, and the resulting casualties, is justified by its right to self-defense, and the U.S. strenuously supports this position of Israel. While Israel certainly has a right to self-defense, this right to self-defense is not limitless, and must be guided by such principles as proportionality, necessity and the distinction of the civilian from the combatant population.

Specifically, under international humanitarian law (IHL), which governs the conduct of hostilities, the targeting of civilians and civilian objects is prohibited. What’s more, IHL, as memorialized in the Geneva Conventions, requires that states engaged in hostilities take affirmative steps to ensure the protection of civilian populations from harm, and to guarantee their access to the basic necessities of life, including water and food.

The U.S.’s statement over the weekend that it does not believe the Operation amounts to “war crimes,”[3] simply cannot be squared with Israel’s calculated and foreseeable infliction of massive civilian casualties in violation of international law.[4]

This statement is also unjustifiable in light of the IOF’s targeting of civilian objects. Thus, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the IOF has shelled a center for people with disabilities, a mosque and a hospital.[5] In addition, as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has documented, the IOF has targeted and destroyed over 400 civilian homes, displacing thousands of civilians in the process.[6]

UN to investigate Israel’s Gaza offensive

At least 25 people, including three children, have been killed in bombardment by the Israeli military on the Gaza Strip, just a day after the UN Human Rights Council voted to launch an inquiry into the ongoing Israeli offensive’s alleged violations of international laws.

Most of Thursday’s casualties were reported in the town of Khan Younis in southeast of Gaza, but ambulances struggled to enter the area amid intense fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian Hamas fighters, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported.

Earlier, Navi Pillay, the UN rights chief, told an emergency session of the council on Wednesday that Israel’s military actions could amount to war crimes.

The 47-member council adopted the investigation under a draft resolution after a request by Palestine, which has UN observer status.

29 states voted in favour of the investigation.
17 abstained, including many EU states.
1 voted against – the US.
The Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement that the decision was a “travesty”, adding that Israel had “gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way”.

A total of 732 Palestinians – the vast majority of them civilians – have been killed in Israel’s 17-day campaign in Gaza. In the same period, two Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, and 32 Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza.

Debunking Israel’s 11 Main Myths About Gaza, Hamas and War Crimes

You’ve got to hand it to Israeli spinners like Mark Regev. They are masters of PR. In fact, as the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn revealed over the weekend, “the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe”.

Let’s be clear: I’m no fan of Hamas, a brutal and anti-Semitic group which has been accused by Amnesty International and other NGOs of human rights abuses against the people of Gaza and of war crimes against the people of Israel. Firing rockets into civilian areas isn’t justified under international law, even if it is framed as part of a (legitimate) struggle against foreign military occupation.

Having said that, however, in recent days I’ve been debating supporters of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza on radio and on Twitter and I’ve been astonished not just by the sheer number of fact-free claims made by those supporters, but also by their confidence, slickness and sheer message discipline. According to the pro-Israel, pro-IDF crowd, Hamas is to blame for everything.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. To quote the late US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

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“plucky Israel attacked without motive by demonic foes”…

Blockading the Truth: Obama’s Big Lie About Gaza

At that time, we were told in many news reports about an Israeli “crackdown” in Gaza, including mass arrests, military operations and, finally, the killing of six Hamas members. It was after these operations and these killings — which were clear breaches of a ceasefire which Hamas had been honoring for 19 months — that Hamas began its retaliation against Israel’s unprovoked attacks.

(And no, the murder of the teenagers was not a “provocation” by Hamas, which disclaimed all connection to the crime. It was almost certainly carried out a rogue clan which has often — conveniently — staged provocations whenever it seems that some small movement toward peace might be made, and has been a thorn in Hamas’ side for a long time. What’s more, as Max Blumenthal reported, the Israeli government knew the teenagers had been murdered almost immediately, and who the likely culprits were; but the Netanyahu regime chose to wage a worldwide campaign of mendacity — and torment the boys’ parents — by claiming they might still be alive, and launching “search” missions for them.)

These are all undisputed facts. The narrative that dominates the Washington media and political discourse — “plucky Israel attacked without motive by demonic foes” — is, again, an obvious lie. But that has not stopped it from being repeated endlessly, all across the political spectrum and in every form of media, day after day after day.

It is impossible that Barack Obama does not know these undisputed facts. Standing at the apex of history’s most all-pervasive intelligence system — and receiving daily digests of news reports on volatile areas like the Middle East — he of all people knows that the Hamas rocket fire was a response to an Israeli military action, an Israeli violation of a long ceasefire.

How Israel Spins War Crimes

The booklet is full of meaty advice about how they should shape their answers for different audiences. For example, the study says that “Americans agree that Israel ‘has a right to defensible borders’. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history. Particularly on the left this does you harm. For instance, support for Israel’s right to defensible borders drops from a heady 89 per cent to under 60 per cent when you talk about it in terms of 1967.”

How about the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 and in the following years, and who are not allowed to go back to their homes? Here Dr Luntz has subtle advice for spokesmen, saying that “the right of return is a tough issue for Israelis to communicate effectively because much of Israeli language sounds like the ‘separate but equal’ words of the 1950s segregationists and the 1980s advocates of Apartheid. The fact is, Americans don’t like, don’t believe and don’t accept the concept of ‘separate but equal’.”

So how should spokesmen deal with what the booklet admits is a tough question? They should call it a “demand”, on the grounds that Americans don’t like people who make demands. “Then say ‘Palestinians aren’t content with their own state. Now they’re demanding territory inside Israel’.” Other suggestions for an effective Israeli response include saying that the right of return might become part of a final settlement “at some point in the future”.

Dr Luntz notes that Americans as a whole are fearful of mass immigration into the US, so mention of “mass Palestinian immigration” into Israel will not go down well with them. If nothing else works, say that the return of Palestinians would “derail the effort to achieve peace”.

The Luntz report was written in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009, when 1,387 Palestinians and nine Israelis were killed.

There is a whole chapter on “isolating Iran-backed Hamas as an obstacle to peace”. Unfortunately, come the current Operation Protective Edge, which began on 6 July, there was a problem for Israeli propagandists because Hamas had quarrelled with Iran over the war in Syria and had no contact with Tehran. Friendly relations have been resumed only in the past few days – thanks to the Israeli invasion.

Much of Dr Luntz’s advice is about the tone and presentation of the Israeli case. He says it is absolutely crucial to exude empathy for Palestinians: “Persuadables [sic] won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show Empathy for BOTH sides!” This may explain why a number of Israeli spokesman are almost lachrymose about the plight of Palestinians being pounded by Israeli bombs and shells.



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How propaganda works…

‘Fake’: Russian Defence Min rebuffs US sat image claims

This scheme is called “an informational merry-go-round,” Konashenkov added, using an expression commonly uttered in Russia relating to feeding the information to the media.

“It’s no secret to anyone that fakes like this are made by a group of US counselors staying in the Kiev building of the Security Council, led by General Randy Kee,” he noted.

The general outlined the cycle as follows: the US counselors in the Kiev feed the disinformation to the Ukrainian media, with the news being taken by the Washington official representatives and presented as statements.

Afterwards, the Ukrainian media cite the US authorities and publish articles … as “objective.”

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts

Dr Luntz cites as an example of an “effective Israeli sound bite” one which reads: “I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.”

The study admits that the Israeli government does not really want a two-state solution, but says this should be masked because 78 per cent of Americans do. Hopes for the economic betterment of Palestinians should be emphasised.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted with approval for saying that it is “time for someone to ask Hamas: what exactly are YOU doing to bring prosperity to your people”. The hypocrisy of this beggars belief: it is the seven-year-old Israeli economic siege that has reduced the Gaza to poverty and misery.

On every occasion, the presentation of events by Israeli spokesmen is geared to giving Americans and Europeans the impression that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians and is prepared to compromise to achieve this, when all the evidence is that it does not. Though it was not intended as such, few more revealing studies have been written about modern Israel in times of war and peace.

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Some reactions to AgitProp, mainly propaganda from US and Israel but Germany, too…

Blockading the Truth: Obama’s Big Lie About Gaza

It is simply a lie that Israel’s slaughter in Gaza is a response to an “unprovoked attack” by Hamas. Not only is it a lie, it is a transparent, brazen lie, whose falsehood is glaringly apparent to anyone who had given even a cursory look at coverage of the Israeli government’s response to the murder of three Israeli teenagers in June.

At that time, we were told in many news reports about an Israeli “crackdown” in Gaza, including mass arrests, military operations and, finally, the killing of six Hamas members. It was after these operations and these killings — which were clear breaches of a ceasefire which Hamas had been honoring for 19 months — that Hamas began its retaliation against Israel’s unprovoked attacks.

(And no, the murder of the teenagers was not a “provocation” by Hamas, which disclaimed all connection to the crime. It was almost certainly carried out a rogue clan which has often — conveniently — staged provocations whenever it seems that some small movement toward peace might be made, and has been a thorn in Hamas’ side for a long time. What’s more, as Max Blumenthal reported, the Israeli government knew the teenagers had been murdered almost immediately, and who the likely culprits were; but the Netanyahu regime chose to wage a worldwide campaign of mendacity — and torment the boys’ parents — by claiming they might still be alive, and launching “search” missions for them.)

These are all undisputed facts. The narrative that dominates the Washington media and political discourse — “plucky Israel attacked without motive by demonic foes” — is, again, an obvious lie. But that has not stopped it from being repeated endlessly, all across the political spectrum and in every form of media, day after day after day.

It is impossible that Barack Obama does not know these undisputed facts. Standing at the apex of history’s most all-pervasive intelligence system — and receiving daily digests of news reports on volatile areas like the Middle East — he of all people knows that the Hamas rocket fire was a response to an Israeli military action, an Israeli violation of a long ceasefire.

It is also impossible that a majority, if not all, of the 100 U.S. Senators who voted to endorse the Israeli slaughter in Gaza — including stalwart “progressives” like Al Franken and “socialist” Bernie Sanders — did not know the truth when they cast their ballots. It is impossible that the editors and reporters of the nation’s leading media organizations do not know these facts — which they themselves reported only a few weeks ago.

Does Russia (And Humanity) Have A Future?

The Russian government has finally realized that it has no Western “partners,” and is complaining bitterly about the propagandistic lies and disinformation issued without any evidence whatsoever against the Russian government by Washington, its European vassals, and presstitute media.

Perhaps the Russian government thought that only Iraq, Libya, Syria, China, and Edward Snowden would be subjected to Washington’s lies and demonization.

It was obvious enough that Russia would be next.

The Russian government and Europe need to look beyond Washington’s propaganda, because the reality is much worst.

NATO commander General Breedlove and Senate bill 2277 clearly indicate that Washington is organizing itself and Europe for war against Russia

The “friendly” Mr. Steinmeier

To start with, Steinmeier builds himself a position of moral superiority, by “abstaining from laying blame” – something he is not really doing, after all, but by the time we notice that, he has already made his point. He paints himself as a prudent person. That increases the value of what he is about to say. Finally, he takes care that there is ample room to wiggle (after all, the facts are anything but clear!), by making the statement that “it does not matter if the shoot-down happened fully intentionally or was a terrible mistake.” It seems obvious that he knew how unstable and ambiguous the American claims really were…

Emotional manipulation starts with the use of the words “such weapons.” He leaves things unsaid, open to interpretations we carry sub-consciously with us, which everybody will fill with the pictures and projections that scare him most. It is to be supposed that only a few were thinking of anti-aircraft-units BUK M-1 – but rather something in the form of a mushroom (which was used to re-activate long-forgotten remnants of the cold war); an additional amplification of this sentiment came with his phrase of “the possibility of disaster.”3

The real message, however, comes in the last sentence. The “Russian separatists” (look here – not “pro-Russian”, they have now magically transformed into real blood-and-bone Russians!), “thoroughly neglect the basic rules of our civilization”; barbarians, in other words, savages, cannibals, Untermenschen

Another phrase by Steinmeier in connection with the crash underscores this direction even more: “those who are responsible for this have forfeited any rights for concerns of their own in the name of human rights and humanity.”

No more rights for human treatment and behaviour towards them.

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