Saturday, March 28, 2009

Black US Poverty

The National Urban League released its annual "State of Black America" report. Blacks were twice as likely to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be imprisoned compared with whites, the study said. Blacks also lost their homes due to foreclosure at a greater rate than other ethnic groups.
25 percent of black Americans still in poverty.

According to Survey of Consumer Finances from the Federal Reserve, the “wealth gap” between white Americans and Black Americans has gotten worse in recent years. The latest available data (from 2007) shows that for every dollar in wealth held by a white household, the typical Black household has just 10 cents. Hispanics have now moved ahead of Blacks. They now have 12 cents in wealth for every dollar of white wealth.

Wealth accumulation tends to be inter-generational. Indeed, most experts agree that the single biggest predictor of how much wealth you will accumulate is the net worth of your parents and how much of it they were able to pass on to you. However, this economic truism does not explain why Hispanics have started to accumulate more wealth than Blacks.

Overall, however; the years of the Bush administration were not good for most Americans. The Federal Reserve report shows that the net worth of the average American family is less today than it was in 2001.

Cuba Libre ?

Faced with an aging population and a life expectancy of 77.3 years Cuba's government has raised the retirement threshold by five years, to 60 for women and 65 for men . About 90 percent of Cubans have government jobs, and now both sexes must work at least 30 years, not 25, to get a full pension. When fully phased in by 2015 it means Cuba's retirement age will exceed Latin America's average of 59 for women and 62 for men .
The government says 3 million people attended town-hall meetings to discuss the potential retirement age increase last year, with 99.1 percent supporting it.

As Cuba's work force shrinks, the ratio of workers to retirees has narrowed from seven-to-one in 1970 to three-to-one today. Had the country not raised its retirement age, the ratio would have been two-to-one by 2025, the government said.

Now just where in this decadent capitalist world of ours have we heard the exact same arguments being made and almost the exact same solutions being implemented , i wonder ?

Friday, March 27, 2009

The socialism of the Gaelic Athletic Association

On a previous blog we discussed anarchist football , while surfing i came across this interesting article on the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland . Founded in 1884 with over 1 million members in 2,600 clubs .

Its players are amateurs, the grass roots are as important as the top echelons, and the majority of big games remain on free-to-air TV. And unlike football, clubs cannot be bought and sold and there are no private club owners. On the administrative side, club members elect an executive committee to carry out the running of the club on an annual basis. At the higher echelons of the GAA, such members must vacate their post after four years.

But Dr David Hassan of the University of Ulster denies that running the game with volunteers at grass-roots level means off-field activities are also "amateur". "At a community level, local competent professional people who are sympathetic to the GAA often do administrative jobs, such as a local accountant becoming club treasurer."

"The clubs and games are based in the community and operate on behalf of those people who are based in the community. If the grass roots say some policy proposal is a move in the wrong direction, the administrators cannot just say - as may be the case in English soccer - 'This is just business'."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Perfectly understandable

The Edinburgh home of former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin has been attacked . A police car is now guarding the entrance to Sir Fred's home, in the Grange area of the city.
Three smashed ground-floor windows of the stone villa were clearly visible. In the driveway, the rear window of a dark-coloured Mercedes saloon was smashed, as well as the nearside rear passenger window.

A statement was issued to Edinburgh's Evening News on Wednesday morning by a group which claimed it was behind the attack.
It said: "We are angry that rich people, like him, are paying themselves a huge amount of money, and living in luxury, while ordinary people are made unemployed, destitute and homeless. This is a crime. Bank bosses should be jailed. This is just the beginning."

No comment ;-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Capitalism is the problem - socialism is the solution

Continuing my doom and gloom , the end is nigh , contributions .

Famines affecting a billion people will threaten global food security during the 21st century, according to a leading US scientist. Nina Fedoroff, the US State Department chief scientist, is convinced that food shortages will be the biggest challenge facing the world as temperatures and population levels rise. Food security in the coming years, she said, is “a huge problem” that has been met with little more than complacency. “We are asleep at the switch,” she said.

Dr Fedoroff said famines that strike a billion people are quite possible in a world where climate change has damaged food production and the human population has risen to nine billion. Even wealthy countries like Britain and the United States will struggle to feed many of their citizens, with the poorest in society likely to suffer the most.

Temperatures, which are rising as a result of climate change, are expected to cause savage reductions in productivity in vast areas of the world’s most fertile lands. During the 2003 European heatwave crop yields fell by 20 to 25 per cent in France and this is a pattern likely to be repeated on a much wider scale in the future.

free education

An alternative school in southern Scotland which was closed more than a decade ago after is set to reopen. Kilquhanity House near Castle Douglas has been given the go-ahead to become a day school for 15 pupils. Former pupil Andrew Pyle is to be the school's new head teacher.
He said the children would be offered a creative and flexible education where they could choose what to study and homework and exams would be optional.

Kilquhanity was founded in 1940 by John Aitkenhead to provide an alternative to ordinary schools. He felt they delivered an education which was too authoritarian and too utilitarian.
At Kilquhanity youngsters were expected to fill their time but could opt to play the piano all day or explore the woods. Rules were decided by a weekly council meeting in which the youngest child had the same voting rights as the head teacher.
Many youngsters went on to become gifted artists, designers or writers.
Mr Aitkenhead closed the school in 1997 after a visit from inspectors who criticised education standards and the state of the buildings. He died a year later.

"If Kilquhanity can offer you anything it is the ability to adapt to the uncertain futures that our children probably are going to face. I am not entirely sure that conventional education and state education is going to do that any more." Mr Pyle said

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the gaza tragedy

The BBC news headline called it "abuse" and "vandalism". Why the delicacy ? The reported words of an Israeli described what it was "cold blooded murder". The testimonies were published by the military academy at Oranim College.

"The testimonies conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians," academy director Dany Zamir told public radio.
"The climate in general was that lives of Palestinians are much, much less important than the lives of our soldiers " A soldier's testimony.
The soldiers' testimonies also reportedly told of an unusually high intervention by military and non-military rabbis, who circulated pamphlets describing the war in religious terminology.
"All the articles had one clear message," one soldier said. "We are the people of Israel, we arrived in the country almost by miracle, now we need to fight to uproot the gentiles who interfere with re-conquering the Holy Land.Many soldiers' feelings were that this was a war of religion."

The soldiers’ testimonies include accounts of an unarmed old woman being shot at a distance of 100 yards, a woman and her two children being killed after Israeli soldiers ordered them from their house into the line of fire of a sniper and soldiers clearing houses by shooting anyone they encountered on sight.
“That’s the beauty of Gaza. You see a man walking, he doesn’t have to have a weapon, and you can shoot him,” one soldier told Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy
"When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up storey by storey… I call that murder..." One non-commissioned officer told Mr Zamir

1,434 people dead, 960 of them civilians.

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that "I still say we have the most moral army in the world. Of course there may be exceptions..."

one to put in your diary

Growing world population will cause a "perfect storm" of food, energy and water shortages by 2030, the UK government chief scientist has warned. By 2030 the demand for resources will create a crisis with dire consequences. Prof John Beddington said “If we don’t address this, we can expect major destabilisation, an increase in rioting and potentially significant problems with international migration, as people move out to avoid food and water shortages.”

Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, as the population tops 8.3 billion . Climate change will exacerbate matters in unpredictable ways. The United Nations Environment Programme predicts widespread water shortages across Africa, Europe and Asia by 2025. The amount of fresh water available per head of the population is expected to decline sharply in that time.
Improving agricultural productivity globally was one way to tackle the problem .At present, 30-40% of all crops are lost due to pest and disease before they are harvested.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BBC memory lapse

The BBC reports " Making the Post Office the "people's bank" could secure its future and help those not served by banks, a coalition of MPs and interest groups is arguing.They are due to outline plans for a Post Bank, offering a wide range of financial services at its branches. ..."

Yet in the whole report by the BBC not one single mention of Girobank and its shameful sell-off to Alliance and Leicester for a pittance in 1990 .
Girobank had grown rapidly to become Britain's sixth biggest bank in a few years after its launch in 1968. Lets not forget these facts about Girobank .

According to wikipedia , It was the first bank designed with computerised operations in mind; the first bank in Europe to adopt OCR (optical character recognition) technology; the first UK bank to offer free accounts to individuals; and the first bank in Europe to offer telephone banking, beating the much trumpeted First Direct service by several years. It is widely credited for shaking up the UK banking market, forcing competitors to innovate and respond to the needs of the mass market...Although the Giro did offer personal loans through a third party, it did not offer many of these main services on its own behalf until after the relaunch in 1978. It added savings accounts, overdrafts, revolving credit accounts, credit and debit cards, and was instrumental in the formation of the LINK ATM consortium of smaller banks and building societies which led the commercial clearing banks to begin linking their own networks which they had hitherto refused to do. It was also quick to establish internet banking and mass market it to its customers. So although the Girobank ended up looking much like any other bank, it was clearly nothing like the type of bank it originally expected to be, but it had also been instrumental in changing the competitive nature of the banking market in the UK and had been a great innovator.

It will also be remembered according to The Guardian for introducing the first interest-paying current account in a move that forced the high street banks to fall into line.

If memory serves me right , it was sold for £300 -odd million yet surprisingly enough - not , Alliance and Leicester valued it in its following financial report at about a billion pounds .

Yet the BBC conveniently forgets this past privatisation of the Post Office assets failure and the then government's short sightedness when it is preently busy trumpetting Mandelson's attempts to sell off Royal Mail !!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

water wars

A report by the World Economic Forum, which runs the annual Davos meetings of the international business and financial elite, says that lack of water, will "soon tear into various parts of the global economic system" and "start to emerge as a headline geopolitical issue".

60 per cent of China's 669 cities are already short of water.

The World Water Development Report, compiled by 24 UN agencies under the auspices of Unesco, adds that shortages are already beginning to constrain economic growth in areas as diverse and California, China, Australia, India and Indonesia.

The report also expects water conflicts to break out in the Middle East, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Colombia and other countries.
"Conflicts about water can occur at all scales," it warns. "Hydrological shocks" brought about by climate change are likely to "increase the risk of major national and international security threats".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

now the good news

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published found.

In the survey, one in five Americans said they have no religious identity or did not answer the question, and more than one in four said they do not expect to have a religious funeral.
The rise in what the survey authors call "nones" is the only trend reflected in every single state .

It is now more socially acceptable than it once was to admit having no religion.
"You're not declaring yourself a total pariah. The culture has changed in a way that makes it easier to say, 'No, I don't have a religion'..."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Proudhon , socialism , anarchism and the SPGB

Another plagiarised re-hash of postings from here and re-posted here , re-edited but still representative of the SPGB view

The SPGB does have a clear definition of what they would describe socialism to be and it is not to be unexpected that we will not describe those with certain ideas as socialist if it conflicts .
The SPGB point is that we do have something in common with the Kropotkinists and other communist anarchists Alexander Berkman , Murray Bookchin ( although he is now considered by many not to be an anarchist) ie those anarchists that stand for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society based on common ownership, but not with the Proudhon, ( or Tucker, Warren ) , those who stand for the self-management of a market economy. The problem that aggrieves many members of the SPGB as one article stated is that the anarcho-communists such as pro-Kropotkists seem to feel they have more in common with the Proudhonists, than with us when after all we both agree on the ends (albeit differ occasionally on the means to attain the end and as such is of secondary importance at this point of time in history and what matters far more is what we have in common ) !

The SPGB argument is that capitalism (or property/class based societies in general) necessitates a state. Hence to bring about a stateless society which is what is meant by anarchism you need to get rid of capitalism ( and that logically entails getting rid of the need for money and the market as well , very much echoing Engels to Cuno in 1872 “And since the state is the chief evil [for Bakunin], the state above all must be abolished; then capital will go to hell of itself. We, on the contrary, say: Abolish capital, the appropriation of all the means of production by the few, and the state will fall of itself. The difference is an essential one: the abolition of the state is nonsense without a social revolution beforehand; the abolition of capital is the social revolution and involves a change in the whole mode of production.”)

Proudhon was an opponent of government and wanted a society without one. But being in favour of features of capitalism and wanting to retain the money-prices-wages-profit system (what Marx called "commodity production") well , you know in the eyes of the SPGB (and many anarchists ) that would not make him a socialist . He was against ground rent and interest but not against profit. In fact he was a bit of a currency crank with his ideas of credit bank and stood for a society of small-scale producers trading with each other without the interference of the state. His famous catchword "property is theft" was aimed not at small-scale property but essentially at landed property. He defended individual property against common ownership.
Proudhon was also against workers organising it trade unions, was against workers going on strike for higher wages.

Some would call him the first anarcho-capitalist rather than the mutualist that he was and the reformist he could also be accused of being . Proudhon possessed a popular programme which in essence involved a society of artisans. Proudhon was very concerned at the tendency of employers to exploit employees, and thought that if society was made up of artisans then no such exploitation would take place, each worker would own their own means of production, and would sell their products at the market rate, since the market is an unbiased process of checks and counters, this would tend to balance incomes and prices and provide an equitable system of commodity production and sale, but without the massive problems of class division and exploitation. There are people today who still believe this, Marx's efforts to debunk it notwithstanding.

As for definitions the SPGB has theirs but the definition of "socialist", basically what it generally meant in the 1840s was anyone who wanted to reform society, in whatever way, so as to benefit Labour. That was indeed how it was used them and was of course one of the reasons why Marx and Engels called the manifesto they wrote for the Communist League of Germany in 1848 the "Communist Manifesto" and not the "Socialist Manifesto". Basically, it was much too broad a definition that included too many contradictory views I suppose the more appropriate world (then as much as today) would be "social reformers".It is only on that basis that supporters of private property and the market such as Proudhon, could be called "socialist".

We should be more demanding on labels we ascribe to people . The very words "socialism" and "communism" are connected with the idea that the means of production should be owned by society as a whole (or socially, hence "socialism") or by the whole community (or communally, hence "communism", ). And it is far better that people who are opposed to it are not called "socialists" or “communists".

The difference between socialists and anarchists is not over the aim of abolishing the State as I have stated earlier but over how to do this. Anarchists say that the first objective of the workers' revolution against capitalism should be to abolish the State. Socialists say that, to abolish the State, the Socialist working class majority must first win control of it and, if necessary, retain it (in a suitably very modified form) but for a very short while just in case any pro-capitalist recalcitrant minority should try to resist the establishment of socialism. Once socialism, as the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by the whole people, has been established (which the SPGB has always claimed can be done almost immediately ), the State is dismantled, dissolved completely We are not talking years or decades or generations here , but as a continuation of the immediate revolutionary phase of the over throw of capitalism .

But to end with the Anarcho-Marxist case , some quotes from Marx about the abolition of the State .
In 1844 Marx wrote that "the existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable" - "The King of Prussia and Social Reform",
Again, as Engels wrote in a letter to Bebel in March 1875, "Marx's book against Proudhon and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and disappear" .
Then, in a circular against the Bakunin prepared for the First International in 1875, Marx wrote: "To all socialists anarchy means this: the aim of the proletarian movement--that is to say the abolition of social classes--once achieved, the power of the state, which now serves only to keep the vast majority of producers under the yoke of a small minority of exploiters, will vanish, and the functions of government become purely administrative"

phewwwwwww...that was close

An asteroid which may be as big as a ten-storey building has passed close by the Earth, astronomers say

Missed by just 72,000 km (44,750 miles); a fifth of the distance between our planet and the Moon , and only twice the altitude of satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

Asteroids of this size crashing down on the Earth could potentially unleash a destructive power equivalent to about 10 to 15 megatonnes of TNT. This is about 1,000 times more powerful than the blast from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Just imagine

The Independent reports that the Church of England will ring out the tune of John Lennon's anthem "Imagine", from the bells of Liverpool Cathedral this summer.

The song with the lyrics:-

Imagine there's no heaven,

It's easy if you try,

No hell below us,

Above us only sky...

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Such hypocrisy but should we be surprised ? The Church of England and The Church of Rome ( and all other churches) will endeavour to do anything to retain their popularity and remain institutions of influence and power .

James Connolly had this to say about the matter

"...the man who imagines that in the supreme hour of the proletarian struggle for victory the Church will definitely line up with the forces of capitalism, and pledge her very existence as a Church upon the hazardous chance of the capitalists winning, simply does not understand the first thing about the policy of the Church in the social or political revolutions of the past. Just as in Ireland the Church denounced every Irish revolutionary movement in its day of activity, as in 1798, 1848 and 1867, and yet allowed its priests to deliver speeches in eulogy of the active spirits of those movements a generation afterwards, so in the future the Church, which has its hand close upon the pulse of human society, when it realises that the cause of capitalism is a lost cause it will find excuse enough to allow freedom of speech and expression to those lowly priests whose socialist declarations it will then use to cover and hide the absolute anti-socialism of the Roman Propaganda. When that day comes the Papal Encyclical against socialism will be conveniently forgotten by the Papal historians, and and the socialist utterances, of the von Kettelers, the McGlynns, and McGradys will be heralded forth and the communistic utterances of the early fathers as proofs of Catholic sympathy with progressive ideas. Thus it has been in the past. Thus it will be..."