Israel Takes Away 44% of Gaza Land … Herds Gazans Into Remaining Area

Already Crowded Gazans Are Now Being Jammed Into a Much Smaller Area

Daily Beast reports (hat tip Wall Street Journal reporter Tom Gara):

This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

It’s not like Israel didn’t plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man’s land of half standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal. During a brief humanitarian ceasefire some Gazans were able to come back to get their first glimpse of the destruction this war has brought to their communities, and to sift through their demolished homes to gather clothes or other scattered bits of their past lives. But many were not even able to do that.

In related news, Lisa Goldman tweets:

IDF is calling now for evacuation of Jabalyah Camp in Gaza. That means 110K people. Per @galberger https://twitter.com/galberger/status/493818637460180992 …

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

Why the Democratic Party Will Die Unless a House Democrat Introduces a Resolution to Impeach President Obama

Eric Zuesse

The only individuals who possess the Constitutional power to introduce a bill of impeachment against the President are the members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans there have said that they won’t do it, and the reason is that they won’t impeach him for doing things that George W. Bush did — and that’s all they’d be able to prove against him. So: that’s understandable — they don’t want to look like fools, especially heading into the 2014 elections. But what about House Democrats? So far, they’ve not done it because the Party base, the people who elected them, think it would be disloyal. Boy, are they wrong! Democrats impeaching and removing Obama is, to the contrary, the only way to salvage the Democratic Party.

As things now stand, Republicans will win back control of the U.S. Senate in this November’s elections, and President Barack Obama will thus spend his final two years in office rubber-stamping Republican-passed laws into effect regarding U.S. foreign policy, the military, spending-priorities, his emerging (perhaps nuclear) war against Russia, and many other things. Some of his vetoes on other issues, such as abortion, will be overridden by Congress. Obama will be even more despised than he now is, because he will be the dream President for the billionaires who fund the Republican Party (he’ll prove himself to have been the Republican-in-sheep’s-clothing “Democrat” that they previously could only hope for and dream about). The American masses will rightfully come to loathe him, and they will rightfully blame the Democratic Party for it, because they will see him as not only a liar, but a traitor, and they won’t ever again trust the Democratic Party, which will then be finished.

Even as things now stand, this recognition is beginning to sink in, among the broader public.

According to “United States presidential approval rating” at wikipedia, “President Obama has averaged an approval rating of 48% through his first five-plus years in office, which has dropped his average approval below Richard Nixon (49.1%) and George W. Bush (49.4%).”

On June 24th, I headlined at Huffington Post, “Gallup: The Lowest-Rated Living President Or Ex-President Is Barack Obama,” and I opened:

A Gallup poll published on June 20th shows that the only living current or former occupant of the White House who has a negative rating from the U.S. public is its current occupant, President Obama, with 52% unfavorable, 47% favorable. All others of them are favorably rated. The least favorably rated of those (the one closest to Obama in unfavorability) is George W. Bush, with 53% favorable, 44% unfavorable. His having invaded Iraq for non-existent WMD, and produced the 2008 crash, have apparently been forgiven, which is remarkable, and which is due to his having increased his favorability rating from only 32% at the crash in 2008. Next-least favorably rated is Jimmy Carter, with 52% favorable, 32% unfavorable, and a remarkably high 16% “No opinion” or undecided. He has now become a rather popular former President. Next-least favorably rated, and virtually tied at the very top as being one of the two top-rated recent Presidents, is G.H.W. Bush, with 63% favorable, 31% unfavorable. That compares with Bill Clinton’s 64% favorable, 34% unfavorable. Although Clinton has a 1% edge on “favorable,” his “unfavorable” rating is 3% higher than the senior Bush’s; so: the person with the highest overall ratio of favorable/unfavorable is actually G.H.W. Bush, who is, thus, the highest-rated living current or former President.

Of course, people’s Presidential ratings are highly partisan. G.W. Bush is popular now only because 88% of Republicans rate him favorably — their post-crash disappointment with him is, in effect, gone. The only reason why G.H.W. Bush scores significantly higher overall than does G.W. Bush is that he scores far higher than “Junior” does among Democrats, only 26% of whom approve, whereas 44% of them approve of his father, G.H.W. Bush. (The latter is favorably rated by 89% of Republicans; so, Republicans give him only an insignificant 1% edge over his son.)

On 18 July 2014, I documented that, “Obama is a terrifically unpopular President, and his being called a ‘Democrat’ is, in fact, destroying the Democratic brand, which desperately needs to be rebuilt.” However, the many negative reader-comments there from my fellow Democrats suggest that they need more data in order to recognize that their Party’s brand has actually been destroyed by Obama. So: here that it is.

Here are Americans’ Party-affiliations shown by Gallup since 2004.

I’ll boil it down:

In 2004, there were more Republicans and lean-Republicans than Democrats and lean-Democrats on only 9 out of the 35 Gallup polls taken during that year.

In 2005, this went down to only 8 of the 42 polls.

All the way from 2006-2009, which is four straight years, there were no such occasions at all;  Democrats consistently outnumbered Republicans.

Then, in 2010, starting in the 27-30 August 2010 poll, after hundreds of millions of dollars spent mainly by the Koch brothers and their friends, frightening Americans against “Obama’s death panels” and “fake birth certificate,” 6 of that year’s 22 Gallup polls on Party-affiliation showed Republicans outnumbering Democrats.

In 2011, that happened again in 10 of the 19 such polls.

In 2012, it happened on only 1 of the 21 polls.

Since then, it hasn’t happened even once. But look there at the percentage of Americans who are now turned off to both Parties  and who therefore identify as “Independent.” On 8 January 2014, Gallup headlined, “Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents: Republican identification lowest in at least 25 years.” It’s not that people have been gravitating to the Republican Party; it’s instead that they are gravitating away from both Parties.

We are entering the period of America’s great cynicism.

Ever since that time, that 8 January 2014 report from Gallup, this 42% has risen to 45% in the latest such poll, which was taken July 7-10. Furthermore, in that July 7-10 poll, there are 42% who are or lean as “Democrat,” and again a close 40% who are or lean as “Republican.”

What has been happening, in other words, is disgust with both Parties, and a re-evaluation of what America is: is this still really a democracy at all — really?

Consequently, the latest analysis by the Washington Post  concludes that there is an 86% likelihood that Republicans will control both houses of Congress in 2015 and 2016, and only a 14% chance that one house (the Senate) will be in Democratic control during Obama’s final two years in office. There still are Democrats, but they no longer care enough about politics for them to be able to prevent an Obama-Republican alliance from taking over this country and dragging it into far-right territory, in terms of governmental policies.

Basically, Democrats are demoralized because they’ve voted twice for a man who deceived them both times, and they are beginning to recognize that Obama is such a liar that they no longer have real hope for America. By contrast, Republicans have plenty of hope, for passing and getting signed into law almost their entire agenda, during the next two years, 2015 and 2016.

Strategically, Democrats in Congress therefore need to pull a rabbit out of a hat. If they don’t do that, they’re merely staying terrified, in a dead Party as it’s going down and sucking the country down the toilet with them, where Republicans want it to go: the toilet of further decaying infrastructure, increasing concentration of wealth, and more gated communities, while the entire public sector gets privatized and prices for formerly public services soar, while those aristocrats’ stocks soar even more than before as a result.

The latest poll on impeaching Obama shows that whereas only 19% of Americans supported impeaching Bill Clinton when Republicans started pushing for it in 1998, 33% of Americans already favor impeaching Obama right now (18-20 July 2014). That figure is 3% higher than the 30% who favored George W. Bush’s impeachment in the same poll taken during 30 August through 2 September 2006, when the nation was absorbing his lie about his being certain regarding the continued existence of “Saddam’s WMD” — his actually fake  ”justification” for invading. Democrats in Congress then did not press for GWB’s impeachment, because they feared it would be seen as “partisan.” What would be their excuse now, when they actually need to do their job in order to prevent their Party from going down the toilet?

Furthermore, as that same poll-report also shows, that 19% rose to 29% by six months later, when the impeachment-vote actually took place. Starting with a 33% base now, outright majority-support for impeaching President Obama would certainly be within reach, especially because it would be led by Democrats (against a fake  one of themselves), and because the case against Obama would be vastly stronger and far more serious than Monica Lewinsky’s stained dress.

Granted: the vast majority of Democrats are (as all polls show) so uninformed and misinformed as to think that impeaching Obama would be attacking the Party instead of preserving and restoring it. They’re still Obama’s suckers. But Democrats in Congress are not. They have a job to do, both for their Party, and, even more importantly, for their country.

Will they do it?

If not, then here is one more Democratic voter who will be becoming an “Independent.” But I then certainly wouldn’t ever vote again for the Democrat who represents me in the U.S. House of Representatives, to whom I have communicated all of these facts.

On 30 June 2014, Gallup headlined “Americans Losing Confidence in All Branches of U.S. Gov’t,” and the next day, July 1st, they bannered, “Americans Less Satisfied With [level of] Freedom.” That second poll reported also that ever since Obama entered the White House, the percentage of Americans answering “Yes” to the following question has risen from 66% then to 79% now: “Is corruption widespread throughout the government in this country?” This soaring sense of public corruption cannot be good news for political incumbents. Americans now are becoming alarmed at Washington’s corruption. Congressional Democrats have one way to show that they’re breaking away from the banksters’ President. It would be a game-change, and not only for them but for the country.

America needs it. Who will step forward, then, to do what America needs to be done?

If the pressures from the Republican Party base succeed in getting a House Republican to come forth with an impeachment bill before any House Democrat does, then the bill will cite Republican reasons, and Democrats in both the House and the Senate will need to vote against it (because of its phony reasons), and they’ll have permanently lost their only chance to redeem not just the nation but themselves, and especially their Party. That’s why Obama is trying to goad House Republicans into doing it — so as to protect himself. But his success in that regard would destroy his (nominal) Party. And that’s precisely why a House Republican just might do it. House Democrats would be colossal failures if they don’t do it first, citing (authentically) Democratic, true, reasons (of which there are many). That would have John Boehner tearing his hair out. The stakes in this are immense.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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The U.S. Is Already MILITARILY Involved In Ukraine … Even Though the American People Want Us to STAY OUT

Americans Are Sick and Tired of War

A new poll from Politico shows that Americans want the U.S. to stay the heck out of Ukraine militarily:

Americans are recoiling from direct engagement overseas and oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine by large margins, according to a POLITICO poll of 2014 battleground voters.

***

Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative. Thirty-one percent said the current policy is correct and 34 percent said the U.S. should be less involved.

***

Americans are profoundly wary of getting entangled overseas and seem to be skeptical of the value of projecting U.S. power on foreign conflicts. Republicans are modestly more hawkish than Democratic and independent voters, but a majority of self-identified GOP voters support pulling out of Afghanistan and maintaining or reducing involvement in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

***

In the big picture, two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that U.S. military actions should be “limited to direct threats to our national security.” Only 22 percent agreed with the statement that as a “moral leader,” the United States “has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe.”

Numerous other polls show the same thing:

But U.S. Already IS Involved Militarily

Despite the wishes of the American people, the U.S. already is involved militarily in Ukraine.

The Pentagon has already sent military advisers and gear to Ukraine. USA Today reported on June 5th:

A small team of American military advisers will soon head to Ukraine to assess that embattled nation’s “mid- and long-term needs for defense reform,” a Pentagon official said Thursday.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said senior U.S. defense officials met with senior Ukrainian officials earlier this week to discuss “ways our countries could strengthen our long-term defense cooperation to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions.”

***

Earlier this week, Obama announced he had approved $5 million in body armor, night vision goggles and additional communications equipment for the Ukrainian military.

That is just the latest wave of support; in March, the White House put in motion the delivery of about 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat, and work continues on various other procurement efforts on items ranging from medical supplies to personal troop gear such as helmets, sleeping mats and water purification units, as well as explosive ordnance disposal equipment and handheld radios.

“We are committed fully to getting the assistance to Ukraine as quickly as possible,” Lainez said.

The U.S. aid is not flowing only to Ukraine’s military; American funds also are supporting the purchase of supplies for that nation’s State Border Guard Service.

(Military advisers is always the first step to military involvement. And as shown by the Vietnam war, whenever the government says it’s sending in a “small team of military advisers”, it really means a large contingent of special forces and other military operatives.)

The New York Times reported Saturday:

The Pentagon and American intelligence agencies are developing plans that would enable the Obama administration to provide specific locations of surface-to-air missiles controlled by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine so the Ukrainian government could target them for destruction, American officials said.

But the proposal has not yet been debated in the White House, a senior administration official said. It is unclear whether President Obama, who has already approved limited intelligence sharing with Ukraine, will agree to give more precise information about potential military targets, a step that would involve the United States more deeply in the conflict.

***

The official added that the decision on whether to provide targeting information would soon become “part of the intel mix.”

Of course, the U.S. State Department spent more than $5 billion dollars in pushing Ukraine towards the West.  The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (Geoffrey Pyatt) and assistant Secretary of State, (Victoria Nuland) were also recorded as plotting the downfall of the former Ukraine government in a leaked recorder conversationTop-level U.S. officials literally handed out cookies to the protesters who overthrew the Ukrainian government.

And the U.S. has been doing everything it can to trumpet pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian propaganda. So – without doubt – the U.S. government is heavily involved with fighting a propaganda war regarding Ukraine.

Postscript:  Just like in Iraq and Syria, the “facts are being fixed around the policy“.  The powers-that-be want war, and so the whirlwind of propaganda is being deployed to justify the decisions … regardless of what the American people want.

Indeed, wave after wave of false propaganda is being deployed against the American people in an attempt to rally support for war.

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

If We Dislike War Like We Dislike Cancer

War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world.  They can’t be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation.  (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we’ve become familiar with.)  War and cancer, by their nature, also can’t be addressed with the same sort of responses.

Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy.  When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or — alongside a road — a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think “WTF is that?” than “We need to help cure breast cancer.”

War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits.  But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made.  Most of its fatal victims die immediately.  Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war’s path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it.  Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense — if not impossible — task compared to that of avoiding wars before they’re started.

So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress.  And of course they should.  We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer’s which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast).

But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand.  Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all.  The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer).  What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?

Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars.  What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones?  What would that look like?

 

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The Case for a Bull or Bear Market in Two Charts

Which appears more likely–a straight-line extension of the past two years’ rise in stocks, or another “impossible” decline to complete the megaphone pattern?

There are dozens of charts and data points supporting the case for a continuation of the Bull market in stocks or a reversal into a Bear market. For the sake of brevity I’ve distilled the two arguments into two charts, one for the Bull case and one for the Bear case.

The Bull case is easy: the economy has reached self-sustaining expansion, a.k.a. escape velocity; hotel occupancy rates are high, home valuations are rising, stocks are fairly valued based on forward earnings, debt has been paid down/written off, and the Fed has tapered its quantitative easing (QE) bond and mortgage buying with no ill effect.

Looking ahead, there is no fundamental or technical reason for stocks to drop significantly; stocks always go up in years ending in 5, and there is nothing magical about 2016 in terms of a decline, either. The market could advance for years.

Bottom line: the advance since early 2012 is founded on solid fundamentals and there’s no reason the advance can’t continue along with strengthening fundamentals such as corporate profits, rising tax revenues, etc.

The Bear case is based on sentiment, but this reliance on extremes of bullish sentiment is misplaced; the fact that everyone is talking about a bubble in stocks and expecting a correction just goes to show there is no bubble and a correction will simply offer another opportunity to buy the dip, a strategy that has been richly rewarded.

The Fed (and other central banks) have our back: any decline in risk assets will be washed away with another tsunami of near-zero-interest money, liquidity and credit.

The Bear Case is also simple: the supposedly solid fundamentals of earnings, stock buybacks, etc. are all based on an unprecedented expansion of debt, central bank monetary easing, leverage and systemic risk.

Finance trumps economic data, and financial risk has reached a tipping point:shadow banking is unraveling in China, the Fed already owns most of the new home mortgages that have been issued and has to taper lest it own the entire mortgage/Treasury markets, junk bonds have been bid to the moon, etc.

Debt, leverage and risk have reached bubble heights, and simple cause and effect means the stock market has also reached bubble heights.

Faith in the central banks’ ability and willingness to push stock markets higher has reached extremes. Volatility and complacency have both reached levels that historically correspond to major highs.

Take away massive buybacks funded by cheap credit and the market’s dependence on financial one-offs will be revealed: the Bull market was never about earnings; it was always about cheap credit, central banks pushing investors into risk assets like stocks and corporate buybacks. Bulls claiming hotel bookings, auto sales and profits are “proof” of a self-sustaining economy are looking at the effects, not the causes.

To understand the cycle of credit addiction, please read Are We Addicted to Failure?

Bulls and Bears alike tend to marry their convictions. As we all know, the human mind is uncomfortable with uncertainty, and so once a person chooses the Bull case, recency bias and confirmation bias kick in and the Bull selects recent data that confirms his conviction.

The same tropism toward certainty takes hold of Bears, and those of us without the conviction of marriage watch from the sidelines.

I have long been skeptical of the Bull case based on the unprecedented scale of central bank/state intervention, support and manipulation. If everything’s so great, then why does the Fed need to buy trillions of dollars in assets and manipulate markets with reverse repos, etc. and direct purchases via proxies? If a market only rises as a result of such outlandish one-off intervention, how can anyone claim it has any fundamental foundation?

Which appears more likely–a straight-line extension of the past two years’ rise in stocks, or another “impossible” decline to complete the megaphone pattern? If stocks continue climbing once the Fed ends its bond-buying in and stock buybacks drop to less frenzied levels, that will be evidence the Bulls are right about the economy’s escape velocity.

If the market tanks as soon as the monetary heroin is withdrawn, that will support the Bear’s case that financial legerdemain trumps economic data.

Two things favor the Bear case in my view: if volume is the weapon of the Bull (i.e. rising volume drives Bull markets), then the fact that volume has been declining for years is not supportive of the Bulls.

Secondly, I don’t see how the economy can reach escape velocity with household income declining in real terms: Five Decades of Middle Class Wages (Doug Short).


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