Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Class War

Workers at a tea plantation in eastern India killed the owner during negotiations over a pay dispute. The owner of the Sonali tea estate in West Bengal was dragged out of talks on Saturday, beaten up and stabbed by a crowd. The workers had reportedly not been paid for two or three months. Many workers in India's tea plantations are malnourished and poorly paid.

According to Raja Das, Secretary of Terai Indian Planters’ Association (TIPA) the tea estate had been plagued with a series of issues relating to non-payment of dues. “It had long history of defaulting in payment of statutory dues to workers. According to initial reports the garden did not implement the industry-wide wage settlement, and, denied supplying the promised rations. On top of all, it had failed to pay wages in time,”


 Several incidents of attacks on tea executives by workers have been reported in recent years. In 2012 a tea plantation owner and his wife were burned to death in the neighbouring state of Assam.

WHO said what?

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan recently stated: "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay." Dr. Chan  noted that "My budget is highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests."


A study in  The Lancet of medical products registered in 2000-11 revealed that "Only four new chemical entities were approved for neglected diseases (three for malaria, one for diarrhoeal disease), accounting for 1% of the 336 new chemical entities approved during the study period."

For women's rights

The Bread of the World Institute is a non-partisan, Christian citizens' movement aimed at educating policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public about hunger, shows that discrimination against women is a major cause of persistent hunger and that increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor could help stem the worldwide epidemic.

According to their new report "Neither women nor men living in poverty have much economic bargaining power—that is, an ability to negotiate favorable economic outcomes for themselves—especially in developing countries, as the vast majority of people do low-paying, low-productivity work," However, it goes on to explain "Even within the constraints of poverty, however, working conditions for men and women are far from equal: women suffer many more forms of discrimination, which worsen the effects of poverty on their lives. Discrimination that establishes and reinforces women’s lower status in society starts within the family and extends through community customs and national laws… Discrimination is why women farmers labor with fewer productive resources than their male counterparts, why women in all sectors of the economy earn less than men, and why girls are pulled out of school to work or to marry… we must identify and adopt policies that help eliminate entrenched and interconnected sexism and racism.""

Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute says "We must not tolerate discrimination against women and instead, demand a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment that includes applying a gender lens to all programs and policies."

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/11/24/end-hunger-empower-women-study


Labels:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Some people are more equal than others.

Today, the United States has the fourth most uneven income distribution among economically developed nations. According to Forbes, a leading business magazine, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans has now reached the staggering total of $2.3 trillion. This gives them an average net worth of $5.7 billion–an increase of 14 percent over the previous year.

Other Americans aren’t doing nearly as well. According to the Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans are living in poverty, which it defines as under $11,490 a year for an individual and under $23,550 for a family of four. Many of them endure lives of hunger, misery, and despair, helped along by a Congress that has slashed billions from government food stamp programs, ended extended unemployment benefits, and refused to raise the minimum wage.

From 1978 to 2013, CEO compensation, inflation-adjusted, grew by 937 percent, while the typical worker’s compensation over that same period grew by only 10 percent. Thus, although the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965, it stood at 296-to-1 in 2013. 

Americans on middle income, plagued by stagnant income and declining wealth, has also suffered. According to the Federal Reserve, between 2010 and 2013 median income in the United States fell by five percent. Indeed, since 1989, the median net worth of the statistical ‘middle class’–the middle 20 percent of Americans–has dropped by nearly 18 percent.

From 1989 to 2013, the wealthiest three percent of Americans increased their share of the wealth from 44.8 percent to 54.4 percent, while the bottom 90 percent found their share of the wealth dropping from 33.2 percent to 24.7 percent.

The wealthiest Americans have grown richer at the expense of others. In 2005, Larry Ellison ho now is worth $50 billion, and reportedly has 15 or so homes scattered all around the world. Among his yachts are two exceptionally big ones, each over half as long as a football field. bought out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor, and then eliminated the jobs of 5,000 of them.
Or consider the four members of the Walton family–owners of Wal-Mart, the country’s biggest private employer–who rank among the top 10 richest Americans, with a combined net worth of $143.7 billion. Most of their full-time workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. Wal-Mart’s cashiers, for example, average $8.48 an hour, and thousands of Wal-Mart workers receive no more than the minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). These low wages keep many of the company’s workers mired in poverty and dependent upon government assistance. Indeed, it is estimated that Wal-Mart’s low-wage workers cost American taxpayers $6.2 billion a year in public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.

Charles and David Koch, the sons of a wealthy founder of the John Birch Society, as well as the fourth and fifth richest Americans (with $84 billion). Over the years, the Koch brothers have used their vast wealth to champion the abolition of public schools, the postal system, minimum wage laws, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Bankrolling a broad variety of right-wing groups and foundations, they have zealously opposed legislation providing for environmental protection, health care reform, and limits on campaign contributions. As massive financiers of right-wing election campaigns–including more than $400 million to candidates in 2011-2012 alone–they have been very effective in pulling the Republican Party and American politics rightward.

pt foundations often use them for questionable purposes. Since 2008, the Gates Foundation–funded by Bill Gates (the nation’s wealthiest individual, with $81 billion)–has spent at least $2 billion to undermine public schools by promoting charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing, and other corporate educational initiatives. The Gates Foundation has also played a key role in creating organizations opposing teacher unions and teacher tenure. Meanwhile, the Walton Foundation contributed more than $750 million to these efforts. Both the Gates and Walton Foundations have funded the work of ALEC, the right-wing operation that has successfully promoted the passage of state laws that restrict voting rights, weaken unions, privatize education, harass immigrants, encourage “Stand Your Ground” behavior, and, of course, provide big tax cuts for the rich.

According to Forbes, the top “industry” among the 400 richest Americans is “investments.” Are these stock market and hedge fund speculators really the most valuable members of society?


Labels:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

our choice

While science and technology have increased the land’s capacity for producing food, it is sobering thought to realize that of the 7 billion people inhabiting the earth, 1 billion are hungry.

Sustainability. That’s the popular word today in discussions of food production and the environment. But for farmers, ‘sustainability’ means not only those practices that are good for managing soil, water, and land, it also means a few things practical to the business side of the farm, such as having enough land and feed to sustain the cattle, or managing the farm to stay profitable and in business, or managing the land in a way that brings opportunities to future generations. At its basic level, sustainability can mean maximizing the land’s potential to produce more forage per acre and more milk per cow. Profitability. Whatever the specific definition of ‘sustainable,’ one thing is for certain: economics drive solutions within capitalism.


We humans face a choice. As populations grow towards crisis levels and earth resources come under near-intolerable pressure, we have to decide how to feed ourselves.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another Day of Infamy

October 2003, an independent, blue-ribbon commission released its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

The commission consists of:

A former ambassador to one of the US’s most important allies
A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy’s legal division
A Marine general, America’s highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines
A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets
The panel is moderated by a former ambassador who served as Chief of Mission in Iraq and Deputy Director of Ronald Reagan's White House Task Force on Terrorism.

The commission findings:

»   That the attack, by a US ally, was a “deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew”
»   That the ally committed “acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States”
»   That the attack involved the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts
»   That “the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship]... never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack”
»   That surviving crew members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government”
»   That due to the influence of the ally’s “powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people”
»   That due to continuing pressure by this lobby, this attack remains “the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress”
»   That “there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history”
»   That “the truth about Israel's attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace”
»   That “a danger to the national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation...” and that this policy “endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States”

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean. Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded. The official claim is that the Israeli attack – which lasted two hourswas somehow accidental.

Few Americans realize that a US president chose to sacrifice US interests and US servicemen (specifically, the 25 of the 34 dead who were killed after US rescue missions were recalled) to Israeli interests, and then ordered a cover-up of his actions. The official investigation gave  one week to conduct an investigation that normally would have been allotted a minimum of six months, found the attack to be a case of “mistaken identity.” Its conclusions had been a sham. President Lyndon Johnson and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, had ordered the court to cover up the fact that all the evidence had indicated clearly that the attack had been intentional.

One of the Israeli pilots Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yiftach Spector explained, "There was a mistake. Mistakes happen. As far as I know, the mistake was of the USS Liberty being there in the first place…" said Spector, "…The fool is one who wanders about in the dark in dangerous places, so they should not come with any complaints."

Or that Israel quibbled for years over what it would pay in compensation to the widows, children, and parents of those it killed and to the United States for the ship it destroyed. (Thirteen years later it grudgingly paid $6 million for a ship valued at $40 million.)

From here
http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/misslib.html

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chomsky Thoughts

Noam Chomsky is a highly respected political commentator and activist over a number of decades. Chomsky has often often dubbed as the world's greatest living philosopher, a man who is steadfastly opposed to icons of any description, to human sheep following political shepherds. He even opposed the documentary about the book he co-wrote with Edward S. Herman (Manufacturing Consent) on the grounds that it personalised grand political issues. Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most important intellectual figures in both the sciences and the humanities, and one of the ten most quoted writers of all time, ranking with Marx, the Bible and Shakespeare, has admitted that his speeches are very boring. But, he says, that’s the way he likes it. It means that, when people turn up to listen to him, and millions do, they’re doing so because they’re interested in the issues Chomsky is talking about, not in Chomsky himself as some kind of intellectual celebrity. Therefore it is always surprising to witness the degree of personal adulation bestowed on this man by many people. We do not underestimate the immeasurable contribution that Noam Chomsky has made, and is making, to radically change the world, but to treat him as a saviour is to misunderstand his arguments.  His popularity cannot be doubted. Books and lectures are bought and attended in the thousands and he has a strong influence amongst the left and anarchists. But mere anti-capitalism is not enough as it can encourage reformism.

Chomsky's opposition to the wages-system is always clearly put: "I don't think that many people ought to be forced to rent themselves in order to survive", as he once put it. He's quoted at on point as saying, "capitalist relations of production, wage labor, competitiveness, the ideology of 'possessive individualism' - all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman." Another time he said “Presupposing that there have to be states is like saying, what kind of feudal system should we have that would be the best one? What kind of slavery would be the best kind?"  Noam Chomsky puts it, “the effort to overcome ‘wage-slavery’ has been going on since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, [and] we haven’t advanced an inch. In fact, we’re worse off than we were a hundred years ago in terms of understanding the issues.” Chomsky is right, and it’s the reason we in the Socialist Party devote so much of our time and energy to promoting an understanding of the issues. We seem, in fact, to be the only political organisation in this country to take this task at all seriously.

Chomsky has argued that the problem of human rights abuse was just a necessary consequence of having a system run by bankers not by philanthropists or moral philosophers, yet the reformers want him to approve of huge human efforts to plead with governments to act more kindly. Chomsky seems to treat legal interference with capitalism as an unreliable solution to the problems of human rights violations. Chomsky patiently explains there was no convincing evidence that governments could be persuaded by moralists to run capitalism in accordance with anything but the principles of accounting. Many people on the Left  have an unwarranted optimistic view of what can be achieved by using the law to tame and control commerce. History has shown them to be nothing but disposable guarantees whenever they prove an inconvenience to the ruling class. Chomsky's analysis of capitalist society broadly hits the mark and socialists could find little to disagree with generally. However, the leftist and anarchist supporters who look to Chomsky for inspiration miss the wider point. While Chomsky blames capitalism for poverty, human rights abuse, limited democracy and so on, his adherents support  fruitless reformist campaigns banging the capitalist table with a begging bowl, waiting for some new "right" like a dog barking for a crumb from his master's plate. To blame Chomsky for his supporters may seem a touch harsh, especially as he has consistently spoken out against the following of leaders. many who read or hear Chomsky will arrive at something close to anti-capitalist conclusions but without the aim of abolishing capitalism itself this means relatively little. If Chomsky can be accused of a fault it is he does little to redress this.  He does not oppose reformism as such and so unfortunately his analysis serves to assist futile reformism, however much this may not be his aim. While Chomsky's anti-leadership, anti-capitalism stance is sincere it runs counter to the adoring leftists who persist in quoting his analysis while campaigning for minimal gains and not for the abolition of the system which creates the need for such demands that seek to address problems which capitalism inevitably cannot solve.

According to Noam Chomsky, writing in On Power and Ideology and referring to the US as a 'capitalist democracy', true capitalism isn't possible, state intervention being a necessary component for several reasons: to regulate markets, to support business interests and to employ its means of violence in the international arena on behalf of  business. Many would agree with this assertion and with his comment that democracy is a commodity – you can have as much of it as you can afford. It is probably pertinent to add to Chomsky's statement that true democracy also is not possible in capitalism because the system (and the market) is manipulated by the capitalists to fit their agenda by use of media, advertising and lobbying. The incompatibility of capitalism and democracy, which follow opposing principles, render democratic capitalism an oxymoron.  Chomsky has said, 'Propaganda is as necessary to bourgeois democracy as repression is to the totalitarian state.' The purpose of both to keep control.

He is scathing of the so-called libertarians . “If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.” http://www.alternet.org/economy/chomsky-business-elites-are-waging-brutal-class-war-america-0?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Socialists aren't the only people pointing out that it is useless pleading with governments to end the problems which are endemic to capitalism. Noam Chomsky reiterates this. Chomsky’s conception of socialism is not quite the same as ours. He is against the idea of providing a detailed plan of a future society, preferring to rely on general principles. He favours making changes piecemeal, since we cannot know the effects of large social changes; and if one change works out well, make further changes. But he does not explain how a major change to abolish the wages system could be carried out piecemeal.  Many anarchists also disagree with him when he advocates defending and strengthening some aspects of state authority. His stance is that only the (US) federal government can protect people from the tyranny of corporations. Chomsky has also often expressed his support for 'left wing' governments such as Lula and Chavez. He gives the example of environmental regulations, but admits that these have only a limited effect. Chomsky points out that in capitalism "politics takes place in the shadow cast by big business". His objective is to get out of that shadow. “Once democracy has been enlarged far enough for citizens to control the means of production and trade, and they take part in the overall running and management of the environment in which they live, then the state will gradually be able to disappear. It will be replaced by voluntary associations at our place of work and where we live.”




The main criticism to level at Chomsky, although he would not see it as a criticism at all, is that he is insufficiently Marxian. He understands, as he puts it in the book, that many of the crimes he documents are “rooted in deeper features of prevailing socioeconomic and political systems”. But he is unconvinced of the power of Marxist theory.  It means that Chomsky is able to applaud efforts to democratise capitalist commodity production, without having anything much to say about whether it might be necessary to go beyond this if humanity is ever to achieve a truly free society.

 Capitalism subverts human need to profit and this is at the heart of the problems Chomsky so ably denounces. No amount of tinkering within capitalism can change this essential characteristic. Two centuries of hope has produced nothing but more capitalist misery and failed reformist efforts. Only organisation for socialism will do. The working class must organise not to reform capitalism but to abolish it and establish a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of productive wealth. A society of free access and real democracy and an end to classes, states, governments, frontiers, leaders and coercion. A world without vested "interests" and freed from the constraints of profit.

The last word should be left to Chomsky:
“There are no set anarchist principles, no libertarian creed to which we must all swear allegiance. Anarchism - at least as I understand it - is a movement that tries to identify organisations exerting authority and domination, to ask them to justify their actions and, if they are unable to do so, as often happens, to try to supersede them. Far from collapsing, anarchism and libertarian thought are flourishing. They have given rise to real progress in many fields. Forms of oppression and injustice that were once barely recognised, less still disputed, are no longer allowed. That in itself is a success, a step forward for all humankind, certainly not a failure.”

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Independence Ref...errr?...end...ummmm?

The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain on the 2nd August adopted the following as a statement on the Scottish Breakaway Referendum on 18 September:-

Most of us don’t own a single square inch of Scotland.

It doesn’t belong to us: we just live here and work for the people who do own it. In or out of the Union, that won’t change.

In Scotland, society is run in the interests of those who own the wealth. They argue among each other over billions of barrels of oil, GDP rates, profits and exports, because where the borders lie matters to them. Every border is an opportunity to wring cash out of other property owners. Scotland will remain dependent upon their whims and interests whatever the outcome of the referendum.

They’ll try to sway us one way or another with crumbs (or the promises of crumbs) but we’ll only get what they feel they can spare to protect their privilege and wealth. We will remain dependent upon their investments making a profit for them before we can get our needs and interests seen to

The only way to stop this dependency would be for us to take ownership and control of the wealth of the world into our own hands. We could, together, use the wealth of the world to meet our mutual needs and grant the true independence of being able to control our work and our lives in free and voluntary association of equals.

Though the outcome of this referendum is irrelevant, it is an opportunity for us to tell our fellow workers that this is what we want. We don’t have to suffer in silence, we can go to the ballot stations and write “NEITHER YES NOR NO BUT WORLD SOCIALISM” across the voting paper. Then, join The Socialist Party to fight for an independent world."


The Israeli PR


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gaza - The Doctors' Response

Well worth linking to is this letter in The Lancet

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61044-8/fulltext

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Global Warming

The American West is locked in what’s likely to be recorded as the worst drought in U.S. history as farmers and industry from Texas to California despair over conditions so severe that California is expected to introduce statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time ever.

But the U.S. isn’t alone. In South America, a drought in northeastern Brazil has wreaked havoc among coffee growers and spiked coffee prices around the world. Severe drought conditions are also plaguing Australia and some regions in Africa, threatening to cause food shortages in some of the poorest nations on earth and higher prices across the world.

Ethiopia: An estimated 8 million of Ethiopia's 60 million people are at immediate risk due to drought. UNICEF estimates that 1.4 million of those at risk are children under five.

Eritrea: Successive years of drought, combined with the border war with Ethiopia, has created major food shortages. Nearly 1.3 million people are at risk.

Somalia: Due to seven consecutive poor harvests coupled with chronic insecurity in some regions, food stability is deteriorating, affecting as many as 1 million people, including 300,000 children aged under 5 years.

Sudan: An estimated 2.8 million people in the south face food insecurity in the coming months.

Uganda: About 550,000 people face food insecurity.

Morocco: The worst drought for a decade. About 70 percent of the country's arable land has been affected.

Afghanistan: Large parts of the south are severely affected, where 60 to 80 percent of livestock have died. Almost 2.5 million people, or 10 percent of the population, are at risk.

China: In the northern Shanxi province, nearly 3 million people don't have enough water. About one-third of the province's wheat crop has been hit by the drought and more than 60 percent of its soil lacks water.

India: Madhya Pradesh, along with the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in the south, are in the grip of a severe drought following the failure of last year's monsoon rains. Nearly 130 million people living in 12 states have been seriously affected by what some officials call the worst drought in 100 years.

Pakistan: Government officials estimate that nearly 3 million people - mostly villagers - face possible starvation. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Pakistan's southern Thar Desert. The drought has devastated crops and livestock in the desert, home to 1 million people, sparking fears of a massive humanitarian crisis.

http://www.ibtimes.com/global-drought-conditions-are-drying-out-several-regions-sparking-food-production-concerns-1628770

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Rise of the Right

A spokesman said police had been called to "reports of a disturbance" but no arrests had been made.
He added: “The incident is being investigated by detectives from Bexley Community Safety Unit to establish whether any offences have been committed.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-first-battalion-invades-mosque-demanding-removal-of-sexist-entrance-signs-9607978.html

I can name one offence...Public Order Offence 1936 - the wearing of political uniform in public places



 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Scottish Poor

The number of people living in poverty in Scotland increased to 820,000 last year, Scottish government-published figures have said.

The 2012-13 figure, which accounts for 16% of the population, was 110,000 more than in the previous year.

The number of children in poverty rose by 30,000 to 180,000. 15% of pensioners (150,000) were living in relative poverty in 2012-13, 10,000 more than the previous year

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28106456