But how is Wright wrong?

Following Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s latest remarks, Barack Obama was visibly angry and has denounced Wright, saying, “The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.”

Wright relies on speculation when he blames the US Government for HIV, but to argue that the 9/11 attacks are not a consequence of US foreign policy is to bury one’s head in the sand; as Wright (and I think, Ward Churchill) put it, “the chickens came home to roost.” And to in any way minimize the plight of poor African-Americans, as Obama would now apparently prefer, is to ignore vast discrepancies in education, health care, the criminal justice system, and economic opportunity.

If Obama truly rejects Wright’s remarks, he should refute them, claim by claim. And if he cannot do this, then he is simply pandering to white bigots. What I need to hear from Obama is an answer to this question: In the language of Malcolm X, are you a house negro or a field negro?

Lehman Brothers: “economy has formally slipped into a recession”

According to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, in the United States:

Payrolls fell by 78,000 in April, based on the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey before the Labor Department’s May 2 report. Figures two days earlier may show the economy expanded at a 0.4% annual pace from January through March, the smallest gain in five years.

”Despite our forecast for positive growth in the first quarter, we believe the economy has formally slipped into a recession,” said Ethan Harris, chief US economist at Lehman Brothers in New York. ”Given the headwinds from the housing and credit markets, we expect spending to remain weak through the end of 2009.” Harris projects a 0.7% growth rate for the first three months of the year.

Economists forecast spending rose last quarter at the slowest pace in 13 years as the loss of jobs, increase in food and energy costs, and drop in property values hurt confidence. The Federal Reserve may lower the benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point to try to stem further erosion in the growth. . . .

”The employment report will clearly show the economy is in recession,” said James O’Sullivan, a senior economist at UBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut. While a positive reading on first-quarter growth will stoke debate, ”ultimately, what will determine whether we’re in a recession or not is payrolls,” O’Sullivan said. . . .

”Contrary to popular opinion, the incoming data are, on net, getting worse, not better,” Merrill’s Chief North American Economist David Rosenberg said in an April 24 note to clients. . . .

Investors have been increasing bets in recent weeks that policy makers will pause after this week’s cut, according to Bloomberg data, as concerns over inflation mount.

Fiddling while Rome burns

The AP carries an analysis suggesting that Wall Street is moderately optimistic that the worst of the current financial mess is behind us.

Entitlement is the term that comes to mind. To believe, even as “12.7 percent of all residential borrowers” may lose their homes, as people stockpile rice, as rioters protest food shortages around the world, as oil prices reach $120 per barrel, and as gasoline prices breach $4.00 per gallon, even as middle, lower, and working class incomes remain stagnant, that we are through with this recession clearly requires self-delusion. This belief rests on an assumption that all these people still have money to spend, even if they can no longer rely on increased home values, and even if living costs are skyrocketing.

One can almost hear an elite mantra, We’ll be all right. We’ve been on top of this game for thousands of years, really since the foundation of cities. We’ve survived turmoil and tumult before. We’ll be all right.

But a declining dollar makes dollar-denominated debt less attractive. And only foreigners can finance a $9 trillion US debt; the US savings rate has been low for decades and can’t be expected to rise during a recession. We’ll be all right.

A professor who has disappointed me recently ridicules a chicken little argument. He doesn’t see the sky falling. Since he relies on noblesse oblige as a style of governance, I assume he figures the elite will pull some other trick out of their bag to get through this. Perhaps they will, but I am really wondering what will be happening about two years from now, after what looks to be President Barack Obama’s first year in office, and we’re still embroiled in Iraq and economic conditions have continued to deteriorate.

Credit squeeze

The credit squeeze is spreading throughout the economy as the very companies that have grown the most since 2001–on easy credit–now find conditions have changed. Of course the Wall Street Journal is worried about profits; credit restrictions mean less corporate expansion and fewer “buyouts of publicly traded companies by private funds, and buybacks of their own stock by companies themselves.” The article does not mention the impact of all this on jobs, which will surely become scarcer.

When the news ain’t good enough, just make something up

According to the Times of London, “Hillary Clinton believes that Barack Obama has finally handed her a real opportunity to win the Democratic nomination after his comments that ‘bitter’ small-town Americans ‘cling to guns or religion’, perhaps the greatest blunder of his presidential campaign.” So what did he actually say? That comes farther down in the story:

It emerged on Saturday that Mr Obama had, before an audience in the liberal bastion of San Francisco, tried to explain his trouble winning over white, working-class voters, the fabled “Reagan Democrats” who will be crucial in the general election.

He said: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Rising food prices and riots in Haiti

I have occasionally been hearing about, though not really noticing personally, how food prices are skyrocketing with fuel prices (associated with transportation of products to market) and a diversion of agriculture to biofuel production. But the government in Haiti has fallen due to soaring food prices. Even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund agreed that rising food prices undermine a “decade of progress.”

Remembering Israel’s attack on Hezbollah in June 2006

Why am I remembering Israel’s attack on Hezbollah in June 2006? Because it now looks like the recent attack on the Mahdi Army in Basra may be just as much an embarrassment. The Mahdi Army, “still in the process of retraining and reorganisation,” has inflicted a defeat that has U.S. authorities scapegoating Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a “miscalculation” that couldn’t have occurred without U.S. involvement.