Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


 Tuesday, October 4, 2022.  The 'answer' to inflation is to up unemployment according to 'experts,' Iraq sees more protests and the US State Dept screws up again.

Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

An analysis published Tuesday shows that the top executives of the largest corporations in the United States have seen their pay soar by nearly 1,500% over the past 43 years, helping to fuel a massive surge in inequality as workers' wages lag.

Between 1978 and 2021, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), CEO compensation at the 350 largest publicly traded U.S. companies rose by an inflation-adjusted 1,460%, far outstripping the 18.1% pay increase that the nation's typical worker saw during that period.

The trend of soaring CEO pay has continued during the coronavirus pandemic, which caused mass economic chaos and job loss among ordinary workers. EPI found that "while millions lost jobs in the first year of the pandemic and suffered real wage declines due to inflation in the second year, CEOs' realized compensation jumped 30.3% between 2019 and 2021."

"Typical worker compensation among those who remained employed rose 3.9% over the same time span," note EPI's Josh Bivens and Jori Kandra, the authors of the new report.

The findings come amid mounting fears of a global recession triggered by central banks' attempts to fight inflation via increasingly aggressive interest rate hikes, a strategy aimed at crushing economic demand.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, the world's most powerful central banker, has been forthright about the primary goals of rate hikes: A weaker labor market and lower wages. According to the Fed's own projections, rate increases could throw around 1.5 million people in the U.S. out of work by the end of next year.

And where's Joe Biden.  He's president and this all happened under his watch.  Now there's a good chance he doesn't know what's going on.  That's always a risk for a man of his age.  


And right on queue, you have The Brookings Institute offering a podcast this morning calling for higher unemployment:

While President Biden has officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” America now faces a new challenge in the form of an overheating economy and high inflation, and the prospect of a Federal Reserve-induced recession is looming. In the latest Brookings Podcast on Economic Activity, David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, spoke with Laurence Ball of Johns Hopkins University about his new paper, “Understanding U.S. inflation during the COVID era.” In the study, Ball and his co-authors find that the Fed may need to push unemployment higher than its 4.1% projection to return inflation to the 2% target.

In a world like this, when unemployment is seen as the 'answer,' you need real leaders.  Will Lehman is running to become president of the United Auto Workers union.  WSWS reports:

On Saturday, Will Lehman, socialist candidate for president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), held an online meeting to bring his campaign to graduate student workers and other university employees in the UAW. The meeting was attended by grad students and tenured faculty, as well as workers and supporters of Lehman’s campaign from around the US.

The meeting took place amid ongoing struggles of university workers in both California and New York. As of September 30, 48,000 UAW members across the University of California (UC) system—including graduate student workers, academic researchers, tutors, postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) and other academic employees—are working either without a contract or under a contract that had been extended. There is also an ongoing strike authorization vote of adjuncts at New York University (NYU), where the UAW extended the previous contract by two months, with the new expiration set for October 30.

At the start of the meeting, Lehman—who is a second-tier worker at Mack Trucks in Macungie, Pennsylvania, and the only socialist candidate in the UAW election—summed up his campaign’s call to abolish the corrupt UAW apparatus and put power in the hands of workers.

The UAW is comprised of two distinct layers, he explained: The rank-and-file workers within the factories and other workplaces who pay dues, versus a bureaucracy sitting on $1.1 billion in assets that enforces sellout contracts and keeps workers divided. The UAW bureaucracy accepts capitalism and is deeply tied to the companies it claims to be fighting against. Two of the last four UAW presidents were jailed as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal, in which large sections of the union’s leadership were shown to be accepting bribes or embezzling dues.

The bureaucrats, Lehman said, “operate within the framework of capitalism and believe they can win that way. They are absolutely wrong. That is why we need to force our own way forward, and that comes with linking up, and it might not be a traditional way.”

As part of the fight to unify and empower workers, Lehman advocated the formation of rank-and-file committees as a means of staying informed and coordinating actions with other workers, whether they are UAW members or not. Workers need a means to share information and unify their struggles, he said, and break out of the isolation imposed by the UAW apparatus.

“I’ll give the example of the HarperCollins workers earlier this year,” Lehman stated. “Their CEO is billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Nobody was informed of the HarperCollins one-day strike by the UAW, and they should have been, we all should have been. They should have been on strike until their needs were met. They’re making $30 an hour, but living in New York City. And I’m sure that workers from the University of California could relate to that, with one of the highest cost of living in the country.”

Responding to a comment from a UC student worker that UAW Local 5810 (which includes postdocs and academic researchers) had reportedly again extended its previous contract with the university for another month to October 31, Lehman said, “They’re being strung out on contract extensions. And this is a typical UAW play. When a contract runs out, they keep workers on the job, while they’re also appealing to the Democratic Party, which has absolutely no interest in advancing anything for the working class. The Democratic and Republican parties both are not representative of the working class.”

He added, “The way forward won’t be found in an appeal to any Democratic Party politician or any politician from either of the two parties of the ruling class. It’s going to be through struggle.”

A graduate student at New York University (NYU), Karsten, spoke during the meeting about the UAW’s betrayal of the NYU grad workers’ strike in 2021.

“Last year, we struck for three weeks,” Karsten said. “And we were not only in a struggle up against the university, but the UAW as well, which isolated the strike and forced through a completely rotten contract, which has been promoted widely as this ‘historic agreement.’ But really, this is an agreement that did not meet any of the demands of graduate student workers. It’s a six-year agreement with a no strike clause.

“There was a big hullabaloo made over the fact that the wage increases for hourly workers went from $20 per hour to $26 per hour for the 2020 to 2021 year. But this is $20 or more under what is a living wage in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and a wage cut essentially, with inflation at over 8 percent.

“Most significantly, the union dropped the demand for ‘unit erosion,’ which would have essentially prevented the university from cutting positions. So any raises in wages that the university made won’t have an impact on the university’s coffers, because they’ll be able to cut positions. And the same was true at Columbia University, which graduate students struck at the same time, but our struggles were isolated from one another by the UAW.”

Worthless Joe does nothing but send the country's tax dollars to Ukraine.  He loves supporting racist regimes because it reminds him of the good old days when he'd pull a chain on Cock Roach.  While he does nothing but stare into space and drool, people might want to look to see what California is doing.  

Kaitlyn Koterbski (FORTUNE) reports:

Qualifying Californians will begin receiving relief payments of up to $1,050 this week to soften the blow of inflation. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $308 billion state budget in June to deliver direct tax refunds to 23 million Californians as they struggle with inflation, which jumped 8.3% year over year. 

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” said Gov. Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a joint statement

It's a one time payment which, honestly, isn't enough.  But it's still more than Joe Biden's managed to do for any US citizen -- unless he's thinking Ukraine is the 51st state of America.  CNN notes:

Several states are sending taxpayers money to help them cope with inflation, but some economists warn that the payments will do little to alleviate the pain of rising costs and could further fuel inflation.

In California, for example, about 23 million qualifying taxpayers are expected to receive up to $1,500, with smaller payments going to higher earners. The payments, which are technically tax refunds, will start going out October 7 and are meant "to help address rising costs," according to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

In Georgia, taxpayers received up to $500 in one-time tax refunds over the summer.

"As hardworking Georgians face rising inflation caused by failed federal government policies, we are doing what we can to provide relief by returning their money back into their pockets," said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a May statement.

In other places, like Colorado, states are required by law to return excess state revenue to taxpayers. Tax rebates that went out this summer are worth $750 for individual tax filers and $1,500 for joint filers. Labeled as a "Cash Back" program, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the state moved up sending the refunds out by about a year "because they need it now," according to an interview with Colorado Public Radio in August.

Yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Emma Kinery (CNBC) notes:

Economic issues like inflation are of top mind for midterm voters a month out from Election Day, giving Republicans a slight edge over Democrats in a new poll released Monday by Monmouth University.

For the first time since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision overturned the constitutional right to abortion, a majority of voters polled by Monmouth say they think Republicans should take back control of Congress.

The poll found 47% of voters want or prefer Republicans to control Congress compared with 44% who want or prefer Democrats. It’s a 4 percentage point gain for Republicans, up from 43% in August, and a 6 percentage point loss for Democrats, down from 50%.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 21 to 25 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

While Democrats care about a variety of issues from climate change to abortion and Republicans home in on inflation and immigration, the poll found independent voters are primarily concerned with rising prices.

Overall, 82% of Americans ranked inflation as an extremely or very important issue, compared with 56% who ranked abortion as a top worry and 32% who said the coronavirus pandemic was a big concern. More broadly, anxiety about the economy and cost of living supersede concerns about losing fundamental rights or threats to democracy 54% to 38% among all Americans.

Yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Mid-term elections are next month, yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Is there a strategy or do they just thinking having a Brit go around endorsing in US elections is a plan.  Someone tell pop king Harry that membership in One Direction does not qualify for political expertise and that this country fought revolution to ensure that the British didn't tell us what to do.  And no one was waiting for you to release your political opinions.  No one thinks you're smart enough -- or that anyone is -- to become an insta-expert on another country's voting system and on various candidates running for election.

If people are kind enough to enjoy the art you produce, you shouldn't abuse the relationship by attempting to tell them how to vote -- especially when you can't vote in this country, you do not this country's system and you're just a visitor.  

I will endorse and have -- but only in races I can vote in.  

I'm very happy with my non-C.I. fan base and I don't abuse them by telling them to do this or to do that.  I don't mistake our relationship for master-servant.  Clearly, Harry's under the belief that the British empire continues and that we are his subjects.  

If he wants to do his civic duty, he can take his ass back to England which is dealing with a number of issues and problems.

At CNN, Linda Stewart writes:

       One year into the pandemic lockdown, I retired from my job of 14 years as program coordinator and academic adviser at the University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering. I loved the work I did, but it was time to move on. I was in my early 60s, and being old enough to retire suddenly made that option more appealing. Finances would be a little tight for a while, but some outside projects would supplement my income, so I felt confident I would be able to handle it.

But by the end of the second year of lockdown, inflation started taking a toll and money was getting uncomfortably tight. Soon I was in the red each month, just trying to keep up. The usual suspects were groceries and gas, which meant cutting back on some of the more expensive food items and cooking meals at home.

I stopped driving for anything other than essentials. And with the continuing drought here in the Southwest, utility bills went through the ceiling. I cut back on watering my garden and turned the furnace down a few degrees in the winter and the air conditioning up a few in the summer. I switched to washing clothes mostly in cold water and only running the dishwasher once a week.      

       I also take care of my elderly mother, who lives alone, and we are both on fixed incomes. My freelance projects slowed down during lockdown, so my income did, too. The COLA (cost of living adjustment) for our Social Security benefits was very welcome, but it certainly didn’t cover price increases elsewhere.

Everything medical jumped at the beginning of the year. Co-pays went from $35 to $45. Prescription prices rose from $10 for a 90-day supply of medicine to $20 for a 90-day supply. Meanwhile, insurance benefits dropped from covering 90% of surgery costs to 80%.

My mother now hesitates to go to a doctor until it’s really necessary due to her higher co-pays, and I’ve switched all of my medications to generic brands that my insurance fully covers. They only cover the name brand of my asthma medicine.    

And Joe does nothing.

When his administration does manage to get around to action, they still manage to screw it up.

Yesterday, the US State Dept issued the following:

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I offer Prime Minister Kadhimi and the Iraqi people congratulations on their National Day, October 3.

This is a day to reflect on and be proud of Iraq’s achievements and the perseverance of its people. For 90 years, Iraq has endeavored through adversity to foster a more inclusive and equitable society for its citizens and for future generations of Iraqis.

The United States remains firmly committed to its strategic partnership with Iraq and to deepening and strengthening our relations under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. I look forward to continuing our work together on our shared priorities and enhancing the bond between our peoples.

I wish the people of Iraq best wishes and prosperity in the coming year.

They issued it at 1:00 pm EST.  Which means it was nine p.m. in Baghdad with the workday over.  Has there been a more incompetent Secretary of State than Tony Blinken? 

You kinda picture Tony's 16-year-old child all excited all day looking around.  Then, after dinner, the child gets less excited.  Eventually, it's 8:30 and the child turns in.  About 20 minutes later, Tony turns to his wife and asks, "Is today a birthday?"  They rush to the kitchen, slap a candle on a Twinkie and wake up the kid while singing "Happy Birthday" and insisting, "We didn't forget!"

"Late or never" -- the two speeds he works in.

Meanwhile Haydar Karaalp (ANADOLU AGENCEY) reports:

Protesters set fire to a government building Monday in Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq, according to security sources.

A group of masked men took to the streets of the city center of Nasiriyah to stage demonstrations, the sources said.

The demonstrators then set fire to the governor's office with Molotov cocktails, they added.

A curfew was declared in the city over the incident.

Nasiriyah, located 350 kilometers (217 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, is mired in poverty and plagued by poor infrastructure and joblessness, especially among young people.

Daniel Stewart (360 NEWS) adds:

Shortly after, the governor of Di Qar, Muhamad Hadi al Gazi, announced a curfew and stressed that "the situation is under control", as reported by the INA news agency.

On the other hand, during the last hours armed clashes have been reported in Basra (south), with no information so far on possible casualties. Witnesses quoted by the Kurdish television channel Rudaw have indicated that hostilities have broken out due to the arrest of several people by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of pro-Iranian militias.

The arrests took place on Monday as part of protests in the province, during which security forces used tear gas. The governor of Basra, Asaad al-Eidani, then tried to meet with the protesters, who refused and criticized the intervention of the officers to suppress the demonstrations.

Iraq has been the scene in recent days of new mobilizations, coinciding with the third anniversary of the October 2019 protests, which resulted in at least 600 deaths across the country due to the reaction of the Iraqi Police and pro-Iranian militias. The protests were active for several months to demand an end to the system of government in place since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an end to corruption, better basic services and employment.

The protests led to the resignation of the then prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced - after the rejection of several nominees - by Mostafa al-Kazemi, who initiated a series of reforms and called for early elections, held on October 10, 2021.

The following sites updated:

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