Monday, February 28, 2011

poor and rich

Chester County, the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania with a median household income of close to $85,000. In fact, Chester County is very close to being the wealthiest county in the entire nation, according to a report last year in Forbes Magazine that ranked the county as 24th. Last year saw the median price of a house sell at $276,700.In 2008, the average household income in southern Chester County was $85,547, while the median income in all of Pennsylvania is $50,702, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. To make matters worse, southern Chester County has the fastest growing population in Chester County (102,000 residents in 2008) and is projected to hit 113,000 by 2013. Chester County as a whole has more than 500,000 people and has averaged an increase of 7,500 people per year since 2000. And Chester County's Hispanic population has increased 28.8 percent since 2000.

"Right now, it's a landlord's market in Chester County," said Rivera, housing counselor for Alliance for Better Housing.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $915 a month, meaning a person must make $8 per hour and work 88 hours a week to afford it, paying no more than 30 percent of gross income on housing. In southern Chester County the majority of migrant workers make minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. For families, it's worse. Three-bedroom apartments average $1,339, meaning one person must work 129 hours a week at $8 an hour, or two people must work 64 hours per week. Throw in daycare costs, which average about $8,060 annually for toddlers, and it's easy to see how even dual-income families earning minimum wage or even several dollars above minimum wage cannot afford to live in Chester County.

Carrie Freeman, executive director of the United Way of Southern Chester County, an organization that provides financial assistance to agencies that help the needy, said there's a severe lack of affordable housing for hard-working, low-income workers in the area. "We have people here living in very substandard housing conditions," she said. "I've been in trailers where plumbing isn't working and sewage is dropping under the trailer. The wires in the light bulbs are dangling from the ceiling. It's an unbelievably bad housing situation."

Substandard living conditions in Chester County aren't limited to any one culture.

Jackie Maas, director of Tick Tock Learning Center in Avondale, said she's seen deplorable living conditions in diverse housholds. "I have African-American and white families that have the same issues relating to poverty," she said. "I know a family renting a trailer and it's infested with cockroaches and rain comes in. They don't have enough money for food. It happens right here. We have children who sleep in inferior accommodations. We had a child two years who slept on tires. There are pockets of poverty in Chester County. It's sad."

Currently, one in 19 households in Chester County is living in poverty, according to the most recent survey performed for the Chester County Department of Community Development. Poverty is defined as an individual with an income of less than $16,350 per year or $23,350 for a family of four. Poverty in Chester County is concentrated in pockets. In the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, where the median sales price of a home is $453,500, poverty is virtually nonexistent. Travel about a mile south to Kennett, and the face of poverty is evident. There are 586 single-parent families who live in the Kennett School District and nearly 350 families live in mobile homes. Many of those homes have codes violations and substandard living conditions. Single-parent families are hardest hit. A single mother in Chester County with one infant preschool child needs to earn $69,613 yearly to be self-sufficient, according to the most recent survey. Self-sufficiency measures the real costs of meeting basic needs and is meant to assess the costs facing working-age, nondisabled and nonelderly households.

"People I meet every day are just trying to eke out an existence," said Jay Malthaner, executive director of Good Neighbors Inc., a Christian home repair ministry for low-income residents in southern Chester County. "These people are living on the edge and aren't sure where to get help from."

Those earning a low-income often do not own cars. In southern Chester County, in fact, 1,644 households do not own cars. Others take public transportation, which is limited to certain routes, largely along the Route 1 corridor. And still others walk to work. Mike Pia Jr. of Kaolin Mushroom Farm in Kennett Township said about 30 percent of employees walk.

http://dailylocal.com/articles/2011/02/27/news/srv0000010991756.txt?viewmode=default

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Friday, February 25, 2011

power brokers

The term "tax haven" is a bit of a misnomer, because such places aren't just about tax. What they sell is escape: from the laws, rules and taxes of jurisdictions elsewhere, usually with secrecy as their prime offering. The notion of elsewhere (hence the term "offshore") is central. The Cayman Islands' tax and secrecy laws are not designed for the benefit of the 50,000-odd Caymanians, but help wealthy people and corporations, mostly in the US and Europe, get around the rules of their own democratic societies. The outcome is one set of rules for a rich elite and another for the rest of us. Nearly every multinational corporation has offshore subsidiaries (not counting those in Lon­don) - and the biggest users of offshore finance are banks. Financial Mail recently counted over 550 offshore subsidiaries just for Barclays, RBS and Lloyds - each of which far outstrips any other multinational. Barclays chief executive, Bob Diamond, who told the UK Treasury select committee that he didn't know how many offshore subsidiaries his bank had.

The 1.2-square-mile slab of prime real estate in central London that is the City of London is an offshore island inside Britain, a tax haven in its own right. A Teflon-like, medieval institution dedicated to keeping finance strong and free.The City's "elsewhere" status in Britain stems from a simple formula: over centuries, sovereigns and governments have sought City loans, and in exchange the City has extracted privileges and freedoms from rules and laws to which the rest of Britain must submit. A few symbolic examples illustrate the carve-out. Whenever the Queen makes a state entry to the City, she meets a red cord raised by City police at Temple Bar. In this ceremony, the lord mayor recognises the Queen's authority, but the relationship is complex: as the corporation itself says: "The right of the City to run its own affairs was gradually won as concessions were gained from the Crown.". Then there is the Remembrancer, the City's official lobbyist in parliament, sitting opposite the Speaker, and is "charged with maintaining and enhancing the City's status and ensuring that its established rights are safeguarded". And the City's Cash, "a private fund built up over the last eight centuries". Its assets are beyond proper democratic scrutiny. The corporation has two main claims to being a tax haven: first, as a semi-alien entity, floating partly free from Britain (just as the Cayman Islands are), and second, as the hub of a global network of tax havens sucking up offshore trillions from around the world and sending it, or the business of handling it, to London. the role of the City of London Corporation as a municipal authority (and Lord Mayor) is it is a hugely resourced international offshore lobbying group pushing for international financial deregulation, tax-cutting and tax havenry around the world. In 2008, the City of London accounted for 4% of UK GDP

In his book Treasure Islands, Nicholas Shaxson, describes how Bank of England, in effect encouraged tax havenry in British outposts of the Caribbean and elsewhere. By the 1980s, the City was at the centre of a great, secretive financial web cast across the globe. The Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guern­sey and the Isle of Man, which focus heavily on European business, form the web's inner ring. In the second quarter of 2009, Jersey alone provided £135bn in bank deposits upstreamed to the City. Jersey Finance, the tax haven's promotional body, puts the relationship plainly: "Jersey is an extension of the City of London." The next ring of the web contains the British overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Like the Crown dependencies, they have governors appointed by the Queen and are controlled by Britain in myriad ways, but with enough distance to allow Britain to say "There is nothing we can do" when it suits. The web's outer ring contains an assortment of havens, such as Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, Hong Kong and the Bahamas, which Britain does not control but which still feed billions in business to the City from around the world.

Over the centuries, reformers in Britain have tried, and failed, to have the corporation merged into a unified London authority. In 1917, Peter Mandelson's grandfather Herbert Morrison, plainly declared "Is it not time London faced up to the pretentious buffoonery of the City of London Cor­poration and wipe it off the municipal map?" he asked. "The City is now a square mile of entrenched reaction, the home of the devilry of modern finance." Clement Attlee in 1937. "Over and over again we have seen that there is in this country another power than that which has its seat at Westminster," he said. "Those who control money can pursue a policy at home and abroad contrary to that which has been decided by the people." In 1996, Tony Blair got Labour to replace its pledge to abolish the corporation with a promise merely to "reform" it.

Like any other local authority, the City of London is divided into wards. These elect candidates to serve on the Court of Common Council, the City's principal decision-making body. Unlike any other local authority, however, individual people are not the only voters: businesses can vote, too. Political parties are not involved - candidates stand alone as independents. Before 2002, the 17,000 business votes (only business partnerships and sole traders could take part) already swamped the 6,000-odd residents. Blair's reforms expanded the business vote to about 32,000 and gave a say, based on the size of their workforce in the Square Mile, to international banks and other big players. Voting reflect the wishes not of the City's 300,000 workers, (these workers did not have control of their own votes - the reform programme was comparable to the voting rights of chattel owners in the pre-war American South: the slavery franchise.) but of corporate managements. So Goldman Sachs and the People's Bank of China get to vote in what is arguably Britain's most important local election.

"The Corporation, which runs the City like a one-party mini-state, is an unreconstructed old boys' network whose medievalist pageantry camouflages the very real power and wealth which it holds." - Rough Guide to England, 2006

taken from here

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

food news 2

In the United States, more than 20 million people are workers in the food chain, over 11 million of which are full-time. Also, the food industry continues to grow even during
economic recession, offering more job opportunities. The nation, as a whole, lost 1.9 percent of jobs between December 2007 and December 2008, yet the restaurant industry only contracted by 0.5 percent in the same time frame. Often, workers in the food chain suffer low wages and exploitative conditions.

At least six out of every 10 farmworkers is an undocumented immigrant. Workers in the food chain suffer low wages and exploitative conditions. Farm labor, for example, has a higher rate of toxic chemical injuries than workers in any other sector of the U.S. economy, with an estimated 300,000 farmworkers suffering from pesticide poisoning annually. Service workers in the restaurant industry, which serves food to consumers at the end of the chain, face unfair labor practices ranging from employers withholding wages to not getting paid for overtime.

Many sectors of the food chain are excluded from the protections of federal labor laws. This includes farmworkers, tipped minimum wage workers such as those in restaurants, and the formerly incarcerated. These workers fall under the rubric of excluded workers, who lack the right to organize without retaliation, because they are excluded from labor law protection or the laws are not enforced.

Food workers also suffer from lack of access to healthy food. Numerous studies document high rates of food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger among farmworkers. In California, a 2007 study found that 45 percent of surveyed agricultural workers were food insecure, and nearly half were on food stamps. A similar survey in North Carolina documented that over 63 percent of migrant and seasonal farmworkers were food insecure, with almost 35 percent experiencing hunger.

The Good Food Movement
Contemporary food production, like much of our economy, is dominated by large corporations, and these corporations produce edibles through an industrial process.The food chain is incorporated in the world capitalist system, where crops are grown in the global or domestic south, often in fields of monoculture crops, using bioengineered seeds and subjected to harsh pesticides; then the products are packaged and shipped to the end consumer.6 What we see on the supermarket shelves or serve to eat is a food product, alienated from the natural and social world.
The good food movement—also known as eco-food, slow food, real food, local food or the sustainable food movement—is a reaction to the world food system. It’s driven largely by the middle class, nostalgic for a preindustrial mode of food production, who demand organic food grown locally by independent farmers. The roots of this tradition stem from Thomas Jefferson, who believed that a nation of small farmers would be morally virtuous, economically independent and the citizenry of an equitable republic.However, Jefferson’s vision ignored or glossed over the slave labor that powered agrarian economies, the history of colonization and the displacement of people of color from their land. The overwhelming desire is for a sustainable food system—for the earth, consumers, and family farmers.

The food chain provides employment for millions of workers in other sectors, some unseen to the eye of the consumer, such as processing and distribution. A movement based on a holistic understanding of food justice needs to encompass the chain of food production that connects seeds to mouths. The foodchain includes the workers that help to plant the seeds, harvest the crops, package the food, deliver the product and serve the meal to consumers. The future of good food must not ignore these workers.
The five food industries:
• Agriculture, fishing and hunting
• Food Manufacturing
• Wholesale Trade of Groceries and Farm Products
• Retail Trade of Food and Beverages
• Food Services
More than 900 occupational categories populate these five industries

http://arc.org/downloads/food_justice_021611_F.pdf

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food news

There is no doubt whatsoever that rising food costs are hurting people all over the world. More than half of the world's population spends 50% of their income or more on food, and the massive rise in staple prices threatens to increase famine rates drastically. It is also undoubtedly true that rising food prices are digging into the budgets of average people. For the 40-plus million Americans who are food insecure (that is, they may or may not go hungry in any given month, but they aren't sure there's going to be food) are increasingly stretched. Everyone is finding that food and energy inflation are cutting into their budget substantially.

The long hours required by industrial society also have the further "benefit" of ensuring that it is extremely difficult for those embedded in it to meet their needs outside the money economy. It is difficult (not impossible, just difficult) to feed yourself from a garden when economic policies supporting urbanization create incentives to build on every piece of land, and when one works long hours, or multiple jobs. As we see now, it is difficult even to feed your family a home cooked meal, much less grow one.

For example, in "1066: The Year of the Conquest" historian David Howarth notes that the average 11th century British serf worked one day a week to pay for his house, the land that he fed himself off of, his access to his lord's woodlot for heating fuel, and a host of other provisions, including a barrel of beer for him and his neighbor on each Saints day (and there were a lot of him). How many of us can earn our mortgage payment, our heat, and our beer on a single day's work?

As George Kent exhaustively documents in "The Political Economy of Hunger", the main beneficiaries of the Green Revolution were not, in fact, the world's poor, the supposed recipients of our help, but the food buying members of the urbanized rich world, who got increasing quantities of cheap meat and food products. This study was backed up by a 1986 World Bank study that concluded that increased food production in itself does not reduce hunger, and that the gains of the Green Revolution went overwhelming to the Global North. What these increases in product do, however, is reduce food prices paid to farmers, thus meaning fewer people can make their living successfully in agriculture. It does create surpluses to dump on markets, thus increasing market volatility, and it does create incentives to turn farmland into urban land, and to increase the size of cities and their suburbs.

Mark Rosegrant, a senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and co-author of the study, said the impact of eating more meat was felt on the cost of maize, which was used as livestock feed, rather than on the prices of wheat and rice, the main staples in most developing countries. But in Sub-Saharan countries, where maize is a staple, lower meat consumption could reduce the number of malnourished children younger than five by a million by 2030. In countries outside of Africa, the effect on the number of hungry children was not as great, said Rosegrant.

Authors, Delia Grace and John McDermott, warned that the intensification of livestock production in many developing countries was focused on increasing food production and making more money, with little regard for the potential effects on human health. Animals transmit about 61 percent of all human pathogens and 75 percent of new human pathogens, according to the ILRI. The resulting illnesses are called zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza and the Nipah virus infection, which causes inflammation of the brain and respiratory ailments. Livestock diseases could not only endanger food security in poor countries, where some 700 million people keep farm animals and up to 40 percent of household income depends on them, but also threaten human health when viruses spread from their animal hosts to human beings. “I am not suggesting people in developing countries should give up on meat - I am all for balanced diets and sourcing minerals, such as zinc, from meat naturally,” said McDermott. “What we want to highlight is the need to manage the risks.”

Rather than focusing on reducing meat consumption, the IFPRI paper suggested that developing countries ensure good economic growth. This would provide incomes that allowed their people to access food and invest in agricultural and infrastructure development, such as irrigation, domestic water supply, good roads, communications, and effective markets, resulting in improved food security. Eating less meat could help, Rosegrant said, and diversifying diets to include vegetables and fruits would have additional health benefits.

Producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries' food and energy security. The study, "Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) Work for People and Climate - An Overview", draws on specific examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as from some developed countries to show how constraints to successfully integrating production of food and energy crops can be overcome. "For example, poor farmers can use leftovers from rice crops to produce bioenergy, or in an agroforestry system can use debris of trees used to grow crops like fruits, coconuts or coffee beans for cooking," he explained, noting that other types of food and energy systems use by-products from livestock for biogas production.

If we truly consider world hunger to be an abomination, and not merely an investment opportunity, big changes need to be made and that means the establishment of socialism.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

American foreign policy-real politics

“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” - George Kennan, Director of Policy Planning, US State Department, 1948, discussing some of the finer points of America's Manifest Destiny.

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A world of hunger again

Each year, the world demands more grain, and this year the world's farms will not produce it. Millions more people will be malnourished, and hundreds of millions who are already hungry will eat less or give up other necessities. Agricultural production is keeping up in general with the growing demand for food - but it keeps up with the added demand for biofuels only if growing weather is good.

Demand for biofuels is almost doubling the challenge of producing more food. Since 2004, for every additional ton of grain needed to feed a growing world population, rising government requirements for ethanol from grain have demanded a matching ton. Brazil's reliance on sugar ethanol and Europe's on biodiesel have comparably increased growth rates in the demand for sugar and driven up demand for vegetable oil. Biofuels have grown rapidly, from consuming 2 percent of world grain and virtually no vegetable oil in 2004 to more than 6.5 percent of grain and 8 percent of vegetable oil last year. Governments worldwide seek to triple production of biofuels by 2020, and that implies more moderately high prices after good growing years and soaring prices after bad ones. It's pretty simple — corn that could go for food or fuel is diverted to fuel. That influences prices.

The price of corn in your corn flakes and other retail products is so small that even a tripling of crop prices has little effect at U.S. grocery stores. But the world's poor do not eat processed, packaged corn flakes; they spend more than half of their incomes on staples such as corn meal. "Ethanol uses 4.9 billion bushels of corn in the U.S.," says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental think tank. "That's enough grain to feed 350 million people."

The ethanol industry in the U.S., though, is hitting back against the suggestion that it is pushing up food prices.Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis complained that a "highly well-funded and highly orchestrated campaign of misinformation" was overstating the impact of biofuels on food prices. Yet no one is arguing that biofuels are solely responsible for driving up food prices. Rising demand and bad weather play significant roles — droughts, heat waves and floods could become more common in the future as the climate warms. Speculators who buy up food futures as investments contribute to price volatility, too. But it's clear that in a tighter market, diverting corn and other crops to biofuels will only act to raise prices. Canadian Wheat Board market analyst Neil Townsend said U.S. incentives first offered almost a decade ago to encourage producers to grow corn for ethanol have led to stiffer competition between corn and other crops for limited farmland. With bad weather, rising demand and production problems all conspiring to create pressure on food prices, "there's no wiggle room in the system'' at the moment, he said.

Adding to the crisis was U.S. trade policy: Because they subsidize wheat, corn and a handful of other crops so much, they can offer them cheaper on the world market and “dump” supplies on other countries. This puts farmers in those countries out of business, as they are forced to compete with artificially low prices at the market.

Go back a little further in time in Egypt and the roots of their political crisis can be found with its 1992 land reform. Guided by what many say was U.S. and International Monetary Fund influence, the country’s small farmers who were “registered tenants” became subject to rent increases, in many cases triple what they had been paying. As expected, these small farmers couldn’t afford the steep rent increases and were forced off their land. More than half of all Egyptians live in the countryside, and millions were forced into poverty. Moreover, Egypt itself became more reliant on imports.

In 2009, developed nations promised to provide more than $20 billion to aid agriculture in developing countries; $6 billion of that total was intended for a food security fund at the World Bank. Less than $1 billion of those pledges has been paid.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/10/AR2011021006323.html

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Body, Our Earth

"...We live in a time where the dominant interaction between the Earth and people is one-sided, with no reciprocity. Throughout the centuries, the notion of Manifest Destiny was used as justification for this one-sided use of the land and its resources; political and religious leaders were able to claim their exploitative practices as their divine right. Growing up in my Cree community where traditional interaction with the Earth is based on respect is in stark contrast to these dominant world views.

Traditional Cree values are difficult to articulate because the ideals are easily associated with contemporary socialist and environmentalist perspectives, and people are inclined to frame Cree values based on these perspectives. While there are similarities, the distinction is that pro-environmentalist perspectives are ideals that people strive to incorporate into their lifestyles, whereas for Cree people, it is part of our traditional lifestyle, with no distinction between the way we live and our ideals...

....If we continue to abuse the land by taking without giving back, the situation will become chronic and irreversible. The consequences associated with this neglect and disrespect of the land has culminated in climate change. What Cree people have to offer to the world is shared with many other indigenous people—that interaction with the land must occur with deep respect and with recognition that what is taken, must be given back...

....Growing up in my community, my experiences have provided me with an opportunity to understand the connection that Cree people have with the land. Also, growing up in a broader society that is dominated by capitalism, I’ve been able to see the drastic disconnection between humans and the land. The direction capitalist society is headed is unsustainable. These insights, based on my Cree background, bring me to the knowledge that genuine respect for the land is not only important, it is required for the continuity of human existence..."

Null at here

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Friday, February 04, 2011

immigration

Britons are more fearful about immigration than many other nations.

Almost one in four (23%) said immigration was the most important issue facing the country. The other countries, including the US (9%), Canada (5%), France (8%), Germany (9%), Italy (10%), Holland (4%) and Spain (3%), appeared far less concerned. The survey also found 59% of Britons agreed there were "too many" people living in the country who were not born here, also a much higher figure than the other nations. 47% believed legal immigrants were a burden on social services like schools and hospitals, and 33% said legal immigrants increase crime. About one in four (22%) said only British citizens should have access to UK schools and 25% said only British citizens should have access to healthcare.

However, the survey also showed that 77% of people agreed legal immigrants were hard workers, and 43% said they were integrating well or very well into society - a higher figure than several of the other nations.

Whether Polish plumbers or Chinese cockle-pickers, migrant labour in the UK is undoubtedly higher profile now than it has been for many decades. Should we be surprised by such findings when politicians ever ready to seek the votes of Little-Englanders often speak about the problem of immigrants from abroad coming to this country and causing problems such as housing, medical care and education. The problems facing working people and their families are not caused by immigration or immigrants and will not be solved by the Fortress Britain or a policy of "British Jobs for British Workers". They are caused by capitalism. We face manipulations, lies and exaggerations from the media accounts of immigration and asylum seekers, e.g. in the Thatcher era, with immigrants making up 4 percent of the population, she gave her vision of what made Britain 'Great' – 9 percent felt there were too many immigrants before she expounded compared with 21 percent who admitted to being worried afterwards. The actual state of monetary and housing benefits to immigrants are wildly different from the stories abounding in the media. The estimate of a £200m expense for so-called “health tourism” turned out to be unsupportable, and the real cost is probably far less. Most desperately poor and sick people capable of scraping together the cost of reaching Britain would spend this trying to get well close to home. And with a NHS budget of almost £70bn, the true cost of transnational healthcare pay-avoidance must be comparatively trivial.

The capitalist system is marketed on its promises of equality and freedoms through purchasing power. Prospective immigrants are given rhetoric about how capitalism makes anything possible – if one has money. It is taught in school that capitalist countries are mosaic countries, small units of various cultures co-existing alongside. This view is marketed so that potential immigrants will not have to leave their customs behind and still be able to reap the so-called rewards of capitalist society. In reality, what exists is a melting pot where these cultures are eventually assimilated. The opposite of a mosaic, melting pot, a term with a negative connotation, is often used to describe societies experiencing large-scale immigration from many different countries that seem to “melt” into the existing society. For example, Muslims are being assimilated into Western culture by way of developed capitalism. Only those who assimilate into the capitalist system are able to experience the "freedoms" it promises, but at often cost to their culture. It follows that people who come to developed capitalist countries work to serve the needs of the majority, who are of a different culture, often by forgoing their own so that they might fit in the prevailing market-driven norms. The immigrants who now try to settle in Britain come at the bottom of the social scale, taking the worst houses, accepting the worst conditions. Yet many publicists cannot contain their indignation that they should try to come here at all.

Capitalism needs a reserve army of unemployed, to exert a downward pressure on wages as well as a source of readily-available extra labour-power that can be called upon during the expansion phase of the capitalist economic cycle. The problem for the capitalist class is a potential labour shortage threatens the growth of the economy. However, a labour shortage puts the working class in a strong position and clearly the employers wish to counteract this. All things being equal, a labour shortage causes wages to rise and thus puts workers in a comparatively stronger bargaining position vis à vis overall working conditions. Naturally, our masters will always seek to counteract such a situation by importing (often cheaper, more compliant) workers, which in turn intensifies competition among workers, potentially fermenting xenophobia and racism. This can lead to the government actively recruiting labour from overseas to bridge the gap. Some economists have pointed out that such a policy is likely to put intolerable pressure on public and private housing in terms of provision and surging house prices . In some parts of the UK the influx may well have resulted in increased unemployment for existing workers and appears to be putting a downward pressure on wages in some sectors. For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation to blame your unemployment or wage level on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies elsewhere. In order to stay profitable, UK employers are demanding cheap labour. In the nineteenth century, capitalists in Britain welcomed many thousands of Irish immigrants, in the belief that they would keep wages down. So some English or Scottish workers may have felt that their pay was less than it might have been, without the competition from these Irish newcomers. From this point of view, then, immigration might be a minus for British workers.

Now the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises and such economic crises make migrants unwanted. They put politicians under maximum pressure to keep them out to minimise state expenditure

We must not blame another worker for our poverty, whether migrant or not, whether illegal or legal.Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves. Instead of falling for the divide and rule tactics which weaken us all, workers should recognise who their real enemy is and work together to defeat the system that enslaves us all.

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for richer or... richer

The average UK couple splash out £21000 on their big day. Others, a little bit more...

10. Sir Elton John & David Furnish: £1 million.
700 guests with an estimated £6,000 spent on caviar and £75,000 on champagne

9. Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes: £1.2 million
150 guests at the Scientology ceremony in the 15th-century castle's banqueting suite as Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli serenaded the couple with Italian love songs. The bride wore an exclusive Clive Christian No. 1 perfume, which costs $2,350 (£1,450) an ounce and spent $3,000 (£1,850) on wedding night lingerie.

8. Elizabeth Hurley & Arun Nayar: £1.5 million
The nuptials took place over eight days and across two continents. The first wedding ceremony took place at the medieval Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. That was followed by a traditional Hindu ceremony at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, India.

7. Liza Minnelli & David Gest: £1.6 million
A 60-piece orchestra was accompanied by the likes of Paula Abdul, Tony Bennett, Roberta Flack, Gloria Gaynor and Dionne Warwick. The wedding cake stood 12-tiers high

6. Paul McCartney & Heather Mills: £2 million
a lavish ceremony at St Salvador's Church in Monaghan in Ireland in 2002. The marriage was followed by an Indian-themed reception that took place beside a lake and featured dancers in authentic Indian dress and a vegetarian feast. A dazzling fireworks display ended the night as the couple headed off on their honeymoon on a yacht rented for £12,000 a night.

5. Chelsea Clinton & Marc Mezvinsky: £3.2 million
Around £6,400 is estimated to have been spent on each of the 500 guests. With a Vera Wang wedding gown costing £16,000, a £7,000 cake and a £130,000 bill for security.

4. Wayne Rooney & Coleen McLoughlin: £5 million
£5 million on his and Coleen's big day, OK! Magazine was rumoured to have footed half the bill in return for an exclusive deal to publish pictures. Held at a castle near Portofino in Italy the couple hired five private planes to ferry guests from London at an estimated cost of around £200,000.

3. Andrei Melnichenko & Aleksandra Kokotovic: £18 million
Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston were flown in by private jet and each paid $3.6 million (£2.2 million) to perform at the wedding party.

2. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum & Sheikha Hind Bint Maktoum: £27 million
20,000 guests. The wedding lasted a week, during which Sheikh Mohammed rode his horse to every village and fed everyone. At a cost of $44.5 million back in 1979 it would cost the equivalent of £62 million today.

1. Vanisha Mittal & Amit Bhatia: £35 million
A thousand guests attended the five-day event, which included an engagement party at the palace of Versailles, a Bollywood directed re-enactment of the couple's courtship, a performance by Kylie Minogue

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Box Office

10. Robert Downey Jr.
ACTOR
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $31.5 MILLION (2009 rank: 28)
$15 million: Fee for starring in upcoming untitled Sherlock Holmes sequel
$12 million: Iron Man 2 (back-end, based on worldwide gross of $627 million, and share of DVD and pay-TV revenue)
$3.5 million: Sherlock Holmes (back-end, based on worldwide gross of $523 million, and share of DVD and pay-TV revenue)
$1 million: Older film revenue

9. Taylor Lautner
ACTOR
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $33.5 million (2009 rank: —)
$12.5 million: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 (fee for co-starring in upcoming penultimate Twilight film)
$12.5 million: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 (fee for co-starring in upcoming final Twilight film)
$7.5 million: Abduction (fee for starring in upcoming John Singleton thriller)
$1 million: Older film revenue, mostly from Twilight franchise

8. Todd Phillips
WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $34 MILLION (2009 rank: 5)
$15 million: The Hangover Part II (fee for writing, producing, and directing)
$13 million: The Hangover (back-end for producing and directing; excludes $39 million earned in 2009)
$3 million: Due Date (back-end for producing and directing, based on worldwide gross of $200 million, as of December 31, 2010)
$2 million: Older film revenue
$1 million: Project X (fee for producing upcoming low-budget comedy)

7. Adam Sandler
ACTOR, PRODUCER, WRITER
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $50 MILLION (2009 rank: 12)
$25 million: Just Go with It (fee for producing and starring in upcoming comedy opposite Jennifer Aniston)
$20 million: Jack and Jill (fee for producing and starring in upcoming comedy with Katie Holmes and Al Pacino)
$3 million: Grown Ups (back-end for starring and writing, based on worldwide gross of $271 million, plus share of DVD and pay-TV revenue)
$2 million: Older film revenue

6. Tim Burton
DIRECTOR
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $53 MILLION (2009 rank: —)
$50 million: Alice in Wonderland (back-end for directing, based on worldwide gross of $1.02 billion, and share of DVD and pay-TV revenue)
$3 million: Older film revenue

5. Leonardo DiCaprio
ACTOR
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $62 MILLION (2009 rank: —)
$59 million: Inception (back-end for starring in somewhat convoluted Christopher Nolan film)
$3 million: Back-end for starring in somewhat convoluted Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island, older film revenue

4. Christopher Nolan
WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $71.5 MILLION (2009 rank: —)
$69 million: Inception (back-end for writing, producing, and directing, based on worldwide gross of $823 million, and share of DVD and pay-TV revenue)
$2.5 million: Older film revenue

3. Steven Spielberg
DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $80 MILLION (2009 rank: 2)
$50 million: Universal-theme-park royalties and consulting fees
$20 million: War Horse (fee for directing and producing upcoming World War I drama)
$10 million: Older film revenue

2. Johnny Depp
ACTOR
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $100 MILLION (2009 rank: 21)
$40 million: Alice in Wonderland (back-end for starring in Tim Burton film, based on worldwide gross of $1.02 billion)
$35 million: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (up-front money for starring in next installment of Jerry Bruckheimer’s waterlogged but ludicrously profitable franchise)
$20 million: The Tourist (fee for co-starring in one of the year’s bigger flops alongside Angelina Jolie)
$5 million: Older film revenue

1. James Cameron
WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
ESTIMATED 2010 EARNINGS: $257 MILLION (2009 rank: 4)
$248 million: Avatar (back-end for writing, producing, and directing, based on 2010 worldwide box-office gross of $1.95 billion, and share of DVD and pay-television revenue; excludes $50 million earned in 2009)
$5 million: Avatar (share of toy licensing, other revenue)
$4 million: Older film revenue (e.g., back-end and royalties from earlier projects, other payments)

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

the arab uprising

World socialists applaud those workers around the world who fight at massive risk to themselves­ for basic civil liberties and trade union rights, for the freedom to hold meetings and participate in free elections. No socialist can withhold sympathy from the struggle of the Arab peoples for political liberty.

There is an old adage that “a hungry man is an angry man” and we can see some of the result in the streets of Cairo. We have seen that once millions of workers take to the streets and begin to demand change, no force can effectively resist them. Faced with the hostility of a majority of workers (including, of course, government workers and members of the armed forces, ), Mubarak will be unable, in the long run, to enforce his control since the workers have dislocated production and transport. In such circumstances the Egyptian capitalists find themselves divided. Not all of them would be disposed to provoke chaotic conditions in an heroic last-ditch struggle. No dictator can manage to maintain hold of the machinery of government for any length of time in face of the organised and united opposition of a majority of the population. Revolution, though, isn’t just about street power.

The fight for a measure of democracy world-wide is an essential part of the struggle for world socialism. If workers are not able to fight for something as basic as the vote, they are unlikely to be able to work for the transformation of society from one based on production for profit to one based on production for human need. That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that such a transformation would be restricted to parliament. Far from it – the transformation to socialism will obviously resonate across all parts of society, and in many different ways. But we in the Socialist Party challenge the notion that revolution cannot at the same time be democratic and planned, cannot be participative and structured. Where it is available to workers we take the viewpoint that capitalist democracy can and should be used. But not in order to chase the ever diminishing returns of reforming capitalism. Instead we see democracy as a critically-important instrument available to class-conscious workers for making a genuine and democratic revolution. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, refusing to be tricked and bluffed by promises, is an urgent necessity. The movement which begs a crumb when it has power to take its fill is ultimately lost.

Workers across the world experience poverty and violence to some extent on a daily basis – it is the common bond that transcends national boundaries. This feature of our class-based society, an inevitable result of the social relation of worker to capital, has never been abolished by "good" government. The workers in Egypt desire for real democracy is commendable, however, this should not be limited to defence of perceived or actual gains within capitalist society but for the abolition of capitalism and establishment of world socialism.

For the workers and peasants of Egypt and Tunisia, they will rapidly find that they have just changed one set of rulers for another. The biggest danger that confronts them – the biggest mistake they can make – is to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to socialism.

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