Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Micro credit no solution

Post-apartheid South Africa provides ample evidence of the debilitating trajectory of the microcredit movement. Evidence shows that microcredit didn’t create large numbers of sustainable jobs. Nor did it raise incomes in the poorest communities. Instead, the deployment of microcredit precipitated a major disaster. South Africa saw a dramatic fall in average incomes in the informal economy - around 11% per year in real terms - from 1997-2003. This was brought about by two things: A modest rise in the number of micro enterprises in townships and rural areas driven by greater availability of micro credit, along with little additional demand due to the austerity policies of the government.

What then happened was that the self-employment jobs created by the expansion of the informal sector were offset by the fall in average informal sector incomes. Increased competition softened prices and reduced turnover in each microenterprise as existing demand was simply shared out more widely. Poverty inevitably spiked. The microcredit movement thus helped plunge large numbers of black South African’s into deeper over-indebtedness, poverty and insecurity. At the same time, not coincidentally, a tiny white elite became extremely rich by supplying large amounts of microcredit to black South Africans. Not surprisingly, many in South Africa say that microcredit brought about the country’s own sub-prime-style financial crisis. It had its own local flavour, generating even more disturbing race-based exploitation overtones than even in the US.

In Latin America for over two decades an increasing number of microcredit institutions and some commercial banks have massively expanded the supply of microcredit. Surelythere should be evidence of a “bottom-up” microenterprise-driven miracle? Well, there isn’t. Instead there is growing evidence that micro credit has helped destroy Latin America’s economic base. This happened because scarce financial resources - savings and remittances - were channelled into unproductive informal micro-enterprises and self-employment ventures, as well as consumer loans. Communities were thus “dumbed down” not “scaled-up” to become more productive and growth-oriented. In a negative assessment reached by the mainstream Inter-American Development Bank it reported that the proliferation of microenterprises and self-employment ventures was the principle cause of deeper poverty, inequality and economic weakness between 1980 and 2000. Its conclusion was quite damning: "The overwhelming presence of small companies and self-employed workers in Latin America is a sign of failure, not of success."

Africa is most often given as the obvious example of a region held back by a shortage of entrepreneurs. The international development community, aided by high-profile African economists like Dambisa Moyo, continually stress this point. They argue that microcredit is desperately needed to create an African entrepreneurial class. This, it is argued, will serve as the vanguard of job creation and sustainable development. But development economist Ha-Joon Chang points out that this argument is entirely bogus. He argues that Africa already has more individual entrepreneurs than perhaps any other continent. Many more are being created thanks to rafts of new microcredit programs initiated by commercial banks. Yet it is because of this trajectory that Africa largely remains trapped in poverty and under development.

There are three main reasons why the expansion of microcredit has helped preclude the emergence of a growth-oriented local economic structure in Africa.
First, the arrival of microcredit induced the over supply of tiny “buy cheap, sell dear” trading operations. This, predictably, led to: very high levels of displacement - jobs killed in other competing microenterprises, and exit - many more failed microenterprises.
Second, the financial sector in Africa has switched into supporting the much more profitable microcredit sector. Informal microenterprises and consumption spending get support. Formal small and medium businesses don’t. They are much riskier and can only pay low interest rates. But they are much more important in reducing poverty and underpinning longer term development. So we find a perverse situation. The more productive formal small and medium business sector is starved of financial support. Meanwhile the hugely unproductive informal microenterprise sector is being stuffed full of microcredit.
Third, the market share grabbed by rafts of largely “here today and gone tomorrow” informal microenterprises has militated against patient capital accumulation and organic growth by better placed formal enterprises.

The core problem everywhere in developing countries is quite simple: the microcredit model actually works as a fundamental block on sustainable development and growth at the local level. The microcredit model actually sends developing countries off in completely the wrong direction. It does this by absorbing the financial resources, time, effort and policy attention which should have gone into supporting the most productive enterprises. The microcredit sector today is like a rapidly growing weed that absorbs the sunlight and nutrients required by the more valuable but slower growing crops around it. The microcredit model is not one of the solutions to endemic poverty, inequality, low productivity and under development. Rather, it is one of the principle causes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Endless War?

Attempts to divide Syrian rebels into moderates and extremists are “bound to fail," according to a think-tank run by the TonyBlair Faith Foundation. The report, published by the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics on Monday, states that groups form coalitions when they share objectives – regardless of ideology. It cites examples of Islamists and non-Islamists battling Assad and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) together.

The think-tank studied 48 rebel factions in Syria, finding that 33 percent – nearly 100,000 fighters – follow the same ideology as IS. If Islamist groups who want a government run according to Islamic law are taken into account, the number of Islamist extremists within the rebel ranks in Syria increases to 60 percent of major rebel groups.

The report notes that the 16 Salafi-jihadist groups fighting in the Syrian civil war have some 96,000 fighters in their ranks, and that IS accounts for 31,000 of those, according to the latest CIA figures. It goes on to say that if IS is defeated, there are “at least 65,000 fighters belonging to other Salafi-jihadi groups” who are ready to take its place.

“In our study alone, there are 15 Salafi-jihadi groups, many opposed to ISIS, which share the group’s vicious ideology and will benefit from its defeat. Of these, eight have explicitly committed themselves to international jihad, making them highly likely to support attacks on the West,” the report says.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Failed War on Terror

No friend of Cruz but CBS on the US failed War on Terror he is right - it hasn't succeeded

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Socialist Video

Worth a watch


Thursday, December 03, 2015


“Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity,” as the old phrase goes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fox, music and politics (video)

"FOX 8 was not the time or opportunity for Boots to go on his political rant. With his statements he not only hurt our station’s credibility, but also the festival’s. I was looking to do a fun interview and it turned into something entirely different. We will not be reaching out for any interviews in the future."
On the band's Facebook page Boots says "This letter is very telling about the intended function of mainstream media outlets. I was rushing because I could see from the looks being shot around the room while I was talking that they were going to cut me off any second..."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The EU's shame

“We can’t advance and we can’t go home…For us, it’s Europe or die.” - Bamba, from the Ivory Coast 

Austria: Austria is requiring refugees to take an “Austrian values” course; one of those values is apparently barbed-wire fences, which it erected to try to keep them from entering the country in the first place.

Belgium: The interior minister has suggested that refugees wear special identity badges, raising the specter of Europe's fascist past.

Bulgaria: As one of the border countries, Bulgaria has militarized its territory to try to stop refugees coming from Turkey. Recently, an Afghan man was shot and killed by border police.

Croatia: Rival political factions have turned the refugees into a political football, wiht some criticizing the government for letting them in and others criticizing the refugees' treatment. The country's border with Serbia has been one of the main entry points for refugees.

Cyprus: The government has made clear it prefers “Christian” refugees, drawing a religious line in the sand; it also wants to limit refugee intake to 300.

Czech Republic: Czech police drew gasps worldwide when they started to write identification numbers on the arms of refugees.

Denmark: Known worldwide as a left-leaning social democratic state, Denmark refused to show solidarity by declining Sweden's plea to share some of the refugees it is importing.

Estonia: Estonia's only refugee center can hold about 100 refugees; far-right parties are calling for a referendum to cap the country's number of refugees, even though the government has only agreed to take in an additional 550 people.

Finland: “Finnish extremist organizations have been activated to oppose immigration, and this is the most visible and concrete security threat,” said Interior Minister Petteri Orpo of the growing backlash against the refugees.

France: French police have reportedly abused refugees, many of them living in tents in squalid conditions. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen declared, with no evidence, that 99 percent of refugees are men.

Germany: Germany has been among the most welcoming countries, choosing to accept as many as half a million refugees a year. Yet there have been beatings and even bombings committed against refugees in the past few weeks as the German far-right reacts to the influx. One German mayor who welcomed the refugees was stabbed in the neck. At least 580 attacks on asylum facilities have occurred this year.

Greece: In Greece, hooded men are hunting refugees arriving by boat. They smash the engines, leaving the refugees stranded.

Hungary: The ruling prime minister has seen his political fortunes rebound due to his anti-refugee stance; both tear gas and water cannons were used to repel refugees.

Ireland: The Irish people have rallied to support refugees, but the country has been fairly modest in the number of refugees it is taking, slating just 4,000.

Italy: Activists say Italian officials are using refugees' countries of origin to define them as economic migrants, which would give them fewer rights and make it easier for Italy to deport  them.

Latvia: Latvia agreed to take just 776 refugees, which set off protests from the far-right. “The refugees are not victims, most of them are here for money,” said one protester holding a picture of Hungary's anti-refugee prime minister.

Lithuania: Lithuania's parliament is trying to wrestle control over where refugees are settled; the country has agreed to bring in just 1,105 people.

Luxembourg: The small but rich EU country has been critical of the harsh response of other countries to refugees, but is only letting in a few dozen itself. One woman who has set up a Facebook page to welcome refugees has to constantly delete hateful comments.

Netherlands: In the Netherlands, cars belonging to left-leaning, pro-refugee lawmakers were set on fire, and other politicians received death threats. A refugee center was burned to the ground, and a renowned rabbi has called for refugee camps to be set up away from the country's Jewish neighborhoods because of anti-gay violence within the refugee centers.

Malta: Malta let in 100 refugees this year; the country is harshly punishing those who bring refugees into the country outside the quota.

Poland: Only 8 percent of Polish citizens surveyed said their country should take more than the 20,000 refugees the country is slated to accept.

Portugal: Portugal has seen protests in response to the small number of refugees it is taking in, with some citizens holding signs saying “Protesters NOT Welcome.”

Romania: Romania's president and prime minister have been quarreling as one made a pact with neighboring countries to close borders to refugees.

Slovakia: One small town in Slovakia held a vote on accepting refugees; 97 percent of the residents said no.

Slovenia: Slovenia's president doesn't want his country to become a “pocket” for refugees, and wants to step up border control to stop them from coming.

Spain: The mayor of Melilla said he “has to defend Melilla and its borders and impose order” in response to protests from the left-wing Podemos party, which is criticizing the country's stance toward refugees.

Sweden: A man donned a sword and attacked a nearby school, killing a student and teacher assistant and injuring others. Witnesses say he attacked only dark-skinned people. The attack came as many in Sweden are trying to stem the flow of refugees.

United Kingdom: UK leader David Cameron infamously referred to refugees as a “swarm.” The issue becomes contentious as the new leader of Labour takes a much more pro-refugee stance than his predecessors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Capitalism (video)

A day to remember India

1.5 million Indians fought for Britain in the First World War
70,000 lost their lives
11 won the Victoria Cross

 The Indian regiments were sent to Europe in their tropical cotton drill; winter kit, including greatcoats, did not arrive before dozens had perished from cold and frostbite. Wounded Indian soldiers being cared for in hospitals in places such as Brighton were not allowed to receive direct care from English nurses, and recuperating troops were also kept under armed guard in locked camps.

One injured “sepoy” felt sufficiently aggrieved to write a letter directly to King George V. “The Indians have given their lives for 11 rupees,” he wrote. “Any man who comes here wounded is returned thrice and four times to the trenches. Only that man goes to India who has lost an arm or a leg or an eye.”

A poem by one Sikh soldier reads: “The cannon roar like thunder, the bullets fall like rain/ And only the hurt, the maimed and blind will ever see home again.”

Saturday, November 07, 2015

We are human beings, but where is our humanity

The United Nations special representative for international migration, Peter Sutherland, a former attorney general of Ireland, and chairman of the London School of Economics, said: “This year 700,000 people have come to Europe looking for sanctuary or jobs. Britain has pledged to take in 4,000 a year from camps near Syria, a tiny number compared with German and Swedish offers. Sutherland said Europe was more than capable of absorbing a problem which is “less than 1% of our population”.

“We have three alternatives. One, do we send them back? Two, do we leave them on the beaches or put them in insanitary camps getting bigger and bigger? Three, do we welcome them? There’s no way to dress this up. These are the questions and the moral answer is we take them in. You cannot solve this problem by building fences or moats.”

“This is not a transient issue. It challenges the moral fabric of the societies we live in. To think, to be told, that your country can in some way isolate itself from the crisis is insane. It’s completely wrong.” Sutherland added: “Are we going to allow refugees to stand in freezing rivers at our borders this winter, to live in freezing tents with their children?”

“If the national debate is all around the negatives, keeping people out, then of course it’s going to be polarised and xenophobic,” he said. “This is not me having an Anglophobic rant. Right across Europe the evidence is that migration makes a positive contribution, not a negative one. Migrants contribute far more than they take out and they are necessary to keep a balance between retirees and workers.”

If immigration has led to the rise of the far right groups - it is only through the racist tactic of blaming economic woes on them. The majority of informed opinion and study suggest otherwise. If you are unhappy about this why not condemn the far right groups as opposed to immigration itself? Building walls around Europe is the most xenophobic, impractical idea that shows a complete ignorance towards current social and economic factors (as well as historic). If you want to live in a inward looking walled off country, please do not include the rest of us in your suggested dystopia. The UK is 53rd in terms of population density, 2% overall land area taken by development and 160th in terms of birth rate. So we aren't full, and we aren't likely to be anytime soon. We are one of the richest countries in the world To suggest that we aren't capable of helping in the same magnitude today is simply wrong. To ignore it is ignorant.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Old Mr. Capitalism (1977)

A Short Story from the July 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Poor old Mr. Capitalism. He was in a very bad way indeed. Pains all over his body, from head to toe. He put on his hat and coat and decided yet again to see his doctor.

Poor old Mr. Capitalism. He could hardly walk, dragging his feet along as though each step were his last, and causing many a sympathetic eye to glance knowingly in his direction. After all, he had been around a very long time. Too long, he had heard some say—sometimes discreetly, sometimes openly for all to hear.

"Not you again, Mr. Capitalism," the doctor shrieked, and rose from behind his desk to help the wheezing old man into a chair.

"I'm afraid so, doctor," Mr. Capitalism sighed. "I've been having those same old pains again. All over me they are. I just can't get rid of them."

"Take a breath and tell me all about the,," the doctor said. So poor old Mr. Capitalism gathered as much strength as he could muster and poured forth his troubles.

"Well, to start with," he began, "I've got those Conservative pains in my  . . . you know, doctor . . . "


"Yes, that's right. I've tried everything. Exercise, hot flannel, the lot, but they're always there—as though they sort of like me the way I am, old and decrepit. It's hard to explain really. All I can say is that they're nothing but a pain in the  . . . the  . . . "

"Ar . . . posteria?"

"Yes, that's right. Then there's those Labour pains I get in my stomach. If I wasn't a man I'd swear it was  . . .  They double me up at times. It's a queer sensation. I get the feeling they're trying to change my basic metabolism—you don't mind me saying that, do you? trying to change the way i walk and things like that. Yet fundamentally they're just the same as the Conservative pains in my  . . . my . . . "

"Go on," urged the doctor impatiently, getting a little tired of the same old complaints. "What else is the matter with you?"

"Well there's this other pain, the one in my neck. You called it the Liberal pain, I think. I get it when I'm undecided, you know, like when I can't make up my mind. It's as though it doesn't quite know whether it wants to be a Conservative pain or a Labour one, if you can see what I'm driving at? Then there's the same old CP ailment, those red rashes that keep appearing at odd places on the surface of my body."

"You've been sleeping under the bed again, haven't you?" the doctor said chastisingly. "What have I told you about the little bugs that dwell under mattresses and on bedroom carpets?"

"I know, doctor, but sometimes I get to thinking that perhaps if I sleep that way my other pains will disappear and I'll only have to worry about the rashes."

"Rubbish. I've told you before that they're really no different, and will give you exactly the same suffering."

"I know," old Mr. Capitalism acceded with a groan. "But I've tried everything else, haven't I? I took those reform pills you gave me but the relief only lasted for a very short while. It hardly seemed worthwhile taking them. Then there was the anti-inflation medicine and the wage-policy drug. Even the TUC capsules didn't make a scrap of difference. I don't know what's going to become of me, doctor. What kind of future has a man in my position got to look forward to?"

He left, and the doctor shook his head. "Poor old fellow, he's not long for this world." He rang the bell and asked: "Where's my next patient, nurse?" 

"There aren't any," she said.

"No patients! Nobody ill! What's happened?" said the doctor.

"A new crowd moved into the neighbourhood today", said the nurse. "They say they don't need any pills or potions, and the've got a big van waiting to—"she whispered in his ear.

"Bury Mr. Capitalism! He's not dead yet."

"As good as," said the nurse." I'm thinking of helping them actually. They're re-naming their house 'Socialism'."

"I'll come with you," said the doctor. "Old Mr. Capitalism was as much as I could stand."
Paul Breeze

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hot Potatoes or Cold Tatties?

According to scientific surveys in Switzerland, 300 kg of perfectly good food ends up in the bin per person each year. However, this number encompasses the entire shopping basket, from yoghurt to drinkable leftover wine and two-day-old bread. From this basket, scientists have now identified one product that is discarded disproportionately often: the potato. On the way from field to fork, more than half of the potato harvest is lost. Until now, precise figures on potato waste were only available from England, where around two thirds of potatoes end up in the bin. However, researchers says that these figures cannot be compared with the situation in Switzerland.

The study breaks down the losses of this staple food along the entire supply chain. Losses occur at all stages of the supply chain: up to a quarter of the table potato harvest falls by the wayside even at the producer stage. A further 12 to 24 percent are rejected by wholesalers during sorting. Just one to three percent fall between the cracks at retailers, and a further 15 percent are wasted in households. Although private households account for a relatively small proportion of potato waste, Willersinn says their contribution has the most impact: in private homes, most of the unused potatoes end up in the bin bag or on the compost heap. Producers, traders and processors, on the other hand, recycle the vast majority of waste into animal fodder or, to a lesser extent, into feedstock for biogas plants.

"Overall, potato waste is also very high in Switzerland," From the field to the home, 53 percent of conventionally produced table potatoes are wasted, and this figure rises to 55 percent for those produced organically. For processing potatoes, the figures are lower: 41 percent of organic potatoes are discarded, compared to 46 percent of those from conventional production. The higher waste proportion for conventionally farmed processing potatoes is connected to the overproduction of this crop, which barely ever occurs with organic farming. Waste is greater for organically farmed table potatoes because these fail to satisfy the high quality standards more often than conventional ones. "After all, consumers have the same expectations of quality and appearance for organic production as they do for conventional."

The blame lies primarily with consumers' high quality standards, especially when it comes to fresh potatoes. This accounts for two thirds of the waste in respect of fresh potatoes from conventional farming. For organic potatoes, this figure rises to three quarters. Misshapen or deformed potatoes would be edible butare fed to animals for aesthetic reasons.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Afghan Lie

Afghanistan is America’s longest war and it is a war that by every measure has been a failure, especially for the people of Afghanistan. One in three Afghans lives in absolute poverty. Half the urban population doesn’t have access to safe water. So, America's longest occupation has done nothing for the people of Afghanistan, and that is why there is no security.

The number of US troops will be reduced from 10,000 to 5,500 by 2017. Obama makes no mention of there now more than 30,000 US paid contractors in Afghanistan. That’s huge and it’s much larger:  the contractors used to be of equal number to the troops - now there are three times as many.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Proper Charlies (video)

Post Office woes at it goes

 Workers are decrying the demise of "one of the great inventions of our social history," after the British government announced on Monday that it was completing the privatization of the UK's state-run mail service by selling off its final 14 percent stake.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) issued a statementsaying the privatization underscores the Tory party's commitment to austerity "ideology" over the interests of the British people.
"This fire sale nails the lie that the Tories stand up for the interests of ordinary people," said CWU general secretary Dave Ward. "By their actions today they have made it abundantly clear that they are only interested in privatization dogma and making the rich richer—even when their actions place public services at risk."

Sadly throughout my time as a postal worker, the union failed to offer an alternative to all the various versions of state-ownership that Royal Mail had experienced. No thought was ever given to one of its earliest postions that it should be follow the proposals of GDH Cole to create a Guild Socialist model of organization. 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Gone fishin'

According to FAO, about one billion people – largely in developing countries – rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein. And in 2010, “fish provided more than 2.9 billion people with almost 20 percent of their intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of such protein.” And in some countries, especially small island states, fish accounts for over 25 percent of animal protein intake, the U.N. agency reports. 12 percent of the global population – or 875,000,000 people – depend directly or indirectly on fishing and aquaculture.

Nearly one-third of the world’s fish stocks are over-fished. Around eight million tons of plastic bottles, bags, toys and other plastic waste is dumped into the oceans every year, killing innumerable marine animals and sea birds.


Food cannot be pushed aside or forgotten for more than a few hours. Food is political. We make laws about what children should be served at school, how animals should be raised, what crops should be grown and what foodstuffs imported and exported. Food, and especially the lack of it, has been a major force in history, sparking wars, revolutions, migration, invention and technology. Socialists say we can do better. We can fix all the problems.

In 2006 a report from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) threw the climate change effects of farming into the spotlight. It claimed that the meat and dairy industries are responsible for more greenhouse gases than the whole transport sector. The majority of ensuing studies have only considered emissions released directly through farming. Yet when supporting industries such as transport, packaging and retail are included, agriculture is responsible for around half of total human-made emissions, not to mention other ecological degradation such as water scarcity and biodiversity loss. Farming itself is also a victim of climate change, as shifting temperatures adversely affect farming conditions and crop yields, particularly in the global south. Despite the severity of the situation and although food security is stated as a core objective of the UN climate negotiations, agriculture is still off the agenda at COP21 in Paris this December.

Industrial agriculture is at the heart of social and ecological costs of farming and integral to this are monocultures. These vast areas of production of one type of crop entail systematic deforestation and require machinery, fertilizers and pesticides which are highly reliant on fossil fuels. As more and more crops are cultivated for agrofuels, the interrelationship between big agriculture and energy firms is increasing and fields are viewed more like oil wells than as places of food production.

These harmful effects are intensified with meat and dairy production, which requires huge amounts of grain feed and bring belching cattle into the equation, which accounts for a huge chunk of direct emissions. This problem has deepened over the last fifty years with the increasing “meatification” of diets. The situation is only likely to worse. National states and agribusiness have been key drivers of increases in meat production and industrial farming. For example, the swing towards meat and dairy consumption in the twentieth century is directly related to the search for a market for the vast grain surpluses produced by U.S. farmers. Expanding measures to open up markets to free trade and private investment, such as the G8’s recent New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, also illustrate how corporations, facilitated by the state, are responsible for the intensification of industrial agriculture.

Researchers, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are confident that traditional or smallholder production can help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while increasing food security. For example, a recent report from Global Justice Now found that the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities Project, a participatory agriculture and nutrition program in northern Malawi, has succeeded in improving child health, crop diversity and food security through sustainable agriculture techniques. And mitigation practices from indigenous communities also have adaptation effects according to a group of scientists and small-scale farmers that met last year at the Lima climate talks. Their voices are likely to remain systematically ignored in the negotiations in favor of business lobbyists.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Lincoln Myth

Most Americans believe that the Civil War was fought over slavery and that emancipating the slaves was its primary purpose. Yet Lincoln in his clearest statement on the subject was made in his debate with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858, in Ottawa, Illinois.

“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”

Lincoln supported the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, according to which runaway slaves were to be captured and returned to their owners. Slaves were property and slaves’ owners had the right to claim their property. Owning slaves was a right guaranteed by the Constitution. “I acknowledge them [the slave owner’s rights], not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives.” The Fugitive Slave Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and the supreme courts of every northern state. As late as 1860 none of the four parties fielding presidential candidates favored abolition of Southern slavery. Lincoln, himself, was clear on the matter, “My paramount object in this struggle [the Civil War] is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.”

Blacks in the North were discriminated against just as they were to be once liberated in the South. As Alexis de Tocqueville observes, “the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists …” Lincoln opposed black immigration into his state and supported the laws that denied blacks citizenship. According to Lincoln, freed blacks should be sent back to where they came from: Africa, Haiti, Central America. Eliminating every last black person from American soil would be a “glorious consummation.”

On January 22, 1861, the New York Times announced that it was opposed to the abolition of slavery. Blacks should be taught to read and write and save money, making slavery “a very tolerable institution.” The New York Herald speaks of “the good treatment and happy, contented lot of the slaves.”

Both Henry J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune favored peaceful secession. Said Greeley, “We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.”

Says Lincoln:
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better…. Nor is the right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much territory as they inhabit:

But he is talking about the right of Texans to rebel against the Mexico. Isn’t that what the Confederacy did?

But don’t forget the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln liberated the slaves. 

Yet in the words of William Seward, Lincoln’s own Secretary of State, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.” Seward is referring to the fact that the “Emancipation” was selective in its application, not universal. Slaves living under the Confederacy, that part of the country at war with Lincoln, were “liberated,” in quotes because there was little or nothing that Lincoln could do to actually set those slaves free. However, those states or parts of states that were loyal to the Union or under Union control were exempt from “Emancipation.” Slave owners in those states were free to continue to enjoy the benefits of their human property. As observed in the London Spectator, at the time, “The principle [of the Proclamation] is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”

Why would Lincoln have done such a thing if he were truly concerned with the suffering of slaves? Lincoln was up for re-election in 1864, he did not want to alienate allies by depriving them of a benefit. The “Proclamation” did not grant full citizenship to the ex-slaves (called freedmen). But, “such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.” In other words, blacks who found their way to freedom could offer up their bodies to fight in Lincoln’s war.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Syria and the refugees (video)

Insect life

Did you know that there are an estimated 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects (about 900,000 species) on the planet according to Smithsonian Information? That seems like a wonderfully massive untapped source of animal protein that would be valuable for feeding the world’s growing population. 

There are at least 2037 edible species according to a comprehensive survey of literature performed by Mr. Yde Jongema, taxonomist at the Department of Entomology of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. 

If we start to look at insects as the “shrimp” of the land (insects, shrimp, lobsters, and crab are all a part of a group or phylum called arthropods), maybe we can learn to get over our aversion and start including them as a part of our diets. 

With the huge economic impact from crop losses due to insects, isn’t it time we turned the tables on them and have them for dinner?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hidden Hunger

A silent epidemic is afflicting more than a quarter of humanity — 2 billion people — around the world. It accounts for 11 percent of the global burden of disease. This epidemic disproportionately harms young children and in some of its forms causes 1 in 5 maternal deaths. Unlike with climate change, cancer or global conflicts, ending this epidemic is well within our grasp; in fact, the cure has existed for almost a century, and it costs pennies per person.

“Hidden hunger” is a new term for an age-old problem we know how to solve. It refers to the lack of access to micronutrients critical to proper physical and cognitive development. In the developed world, the simple practice of food fortification has integrated essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iron, iodine and folic acid into diets invisibly, effectively and on a mass scale. Nothing illustrates or makes the case better than the simplest of foods: salt. Since we began adding iodine to salt in 1922 and enriched other staple foods such as bread and milk, we have virtually eradicated many debilitating but preventable diseases, raised collective IQ and provided a stronger foundation for healthy, productive lives. Ninety years ago, the introduction of salt iodization wiped out goiter and cretinism in parts of the United States and Europe

Food fortification is a simple, cost-effective recipe that could improve the well-being of millions, yet too many countries are falling behind. For many in the international community, addressing malnutrition is a footnote to acute health crises such as food insecurity and the outbreak of diseases, yet the chronically malnourished more than twice outnumber the hungry, and 60 percent of children who die from easily treatable diseases such as malaria would survive with adequate nutrition. Vulnerable countries lose 2 to 3 percent of GDP to hidden hunger’s effects.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Network's Jensen Speech (video)

Iraqi Oil - In case we have forgotten

Many opponents of the war suspected that one of West's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil. It was not a conspiracy theory as Tony Blair attempted to claim to throw us of the trail. Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show. Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as "highly inaccurate". BP denied that it had any "strategic interest" in Iraq, while Tony Blair described "the oil conspiracy theory" as "the most absurd". But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change. The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity." After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office's Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq." Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything we've seen for a long time". BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf's existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world's leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take "big risks" to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Immigrants Feed America

The way the 2016 Republican presidential candidates tell it, the nation’s biggest problem is illegal immigration. Billionaire Donald Trump, says that the only solution to this problem is that “They’ve got to go!”

“They,” noted conservative columnist George Will in late August, are “approximately 11.3 million illegal immigrants.” If all were gathered to be deported, he said of the Trump’s big-sweep plan, the group would be “94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of Japanese descent.”

 Undocumented workers — including women and children — pick most of the nation’s fruit and vegetables, slaughter most of our livestock, milk a growing number of our cows, and mow millions of acres of our lawns. They are the key source of cheap American labor for our food system and losing any portion of it will cost us dearly.

Recent estimates suggest roughly 70 percent of the 1.2 million employed by American farms have no legal right be in the U.S. If accurate, estimated the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2012, the last time such a mass deportation strategy was discussed (and, not coincidentally, the last presidential election year), the exodus would bring “labor shortages that will result in losses of up to $9 billion” to American agriculture. According to USDA, if the U.S. cut the number of undocumented workers within our borders by half, or 5.8 million, “Fruit, tree nuts, vegetables, and nursery production [would experience] long-run relative declines of 2.0 to 5.4 percent in output and from 2.5 to 9.3 percent in exports ...” 

According to a Feb. 2015, National Public Radio report by Dan Charles one grower told him, “They’re just trying to feed their families.” But, the grower added, “giving more legal rights to those workers is probably bad for his business. He believes that if some of the workers ... working in agriculture ... gain legal status then the pressure is off. Now they can go to the cities and look for construction jobs, or manufacturing jobs.’”

Rural America is “a good place to hide from the authorities.” The hiding, of course, carries a price; there is little job safety and even fewer job benefits for undocumented workers and their families.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

No way forward, no way back

Migrants in Libya are faced with three equally grim choices: they can take their chances crossing the Mediterranean in an unsafe smuggler’s boat; return home via an equally perilous route through the desert; or stay in Libya, where work is limited and conditions miserable and insecure. More speak of going forward or back. No one wants to remain in Libya, which has descended into civil war since the 2011 uprising that that dislodged long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi from power.

Many still see the boats as their only option. Libya’s crumbling economy has reduced employment opportunities in a country once viewed as a lucrative place to work. “I’m really scared about taking the boat, but what else can I do?” said 31-year-old Mohamed, a labourer from Sudan currently working in Tripoli. For every migrant who chooses to return home, many more are still prepared to risk the boat journey. Even knowing friends and family who have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean is not always a deterrent. Porthé, 28, from Senegal, said he was still saving for the voyage despite having lost both his parents when they attempted the crossing two months ago. “I am told they died at sea and I believe it because I never heard anything from them again, but I will still go. I have no family and nothing in Senegal now, so I will place my life in God’s hands.”

“I’m not going in that sea,” said 23-year-old James, from Ghana. “No way. I thought I would, but now I see the reality, no way.” He travelled to Libya a year ago, planning to follow in the footsteps of his brother, who successfully made the crossing to Italy in 2013. “He told me not to come. He has been there two years and still has no papers, no work and no money. He said it was too hard to make a life in Italy and told me to stay here in Libya or go back home. “I don’t know what I will do. I can’t go back through the desert – it was too hard and there was too much suffering. I didn’t even care if I died by the end of the third day in the desert.” How to pay for the return journey also presents a problem, with labourers and tradesmen struggling to find regular work. The dollar is now strong against the Libyan dinar on the black market, meaning prices for places on a boat have fallen to as little as $500, often less than the cost of the arduous overland desert route. “It would take me a year to save the money to make that journey home, if I don’t get robbed,” James said.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is the next recession on the way?

Returning profits to shareholders through buybacks and dividends accounted for 95 percent of all earnings in 2014. As a result, each additional dollar of corporate earnings now translates to under 10 cents of reinvestment, according to a study by J.W. Mason of the Roosevelt Institute. This explains why business investment is at record lows.  It’s because the bulk of earnings is being recycled into buybacks, over $2.3 trillion dollars since 2009 to be precise. Corporations no longer look for ways to grow their businesses, expand operations, hire more employees or improve productivity.  Instead, they look for the quick fix, that is, load up on debt, buy more shares, goose the stock price, and walk away with the loot. Last year, companies spent $553 billion to repurchase outstanding shares, just short of the record $589.1 billion in 2007. Large companies like Apple, General Motors, McDonald’s, Pfizer, Microsoft and more have engaged in buybacks in recent years.  Buybacks are driving the stock market higher. Corporations purchase buybacks with credit. The level of corporate debt relative to the size of the economy… is now at its highest level ever. As corporations have borrowed more and more money, the level of corporate debt relative to the size of the economy has continued to increase. As the chart below shows, this ratio is now at its highest level ever — even higher than it was in 2007, before the last debt-fueled economic implosion. Importantly, corporate net debt — the amount of debt that corporations are carrying minus the cash they have on hand — is also at its highest level ever as a percent of the economy. Those stock prices are a bubble and that a significant stock market shakeout could leave some of biggest corporations teetering towards insolvency.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

“Companies are increasingly turning to accelerated share repurchase agreements…to return cash to shareholders and secure an immediate boost to per-share profits…..But these turbo-charged stock buybacks can backfire, especially when a steep market plunge—such as the 5.3% drop in the markets over the past two trading days. That’s because a steep plunge in stock prices can force the companies to potentially pay more to buy the shares through an ASR than what they would pay if they purchased the shares over time on the open market. “Things can go wrong,” said Robert Leonard, head of specialty equity transactions at Citigroup Inc…

Michael Hudson is a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His latest book, which we promise to unpack in detail very soon, is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy Global Economy. He explains: 

Companies are under pressure. The managers are paid according to how well they can make a stock price go up. And they think, why should we invest in long-term research and development or long-term developments when we can use the earnings we have just to buy our own stock, and that’ll push them up even without investing, without hiring, without producing more. We can make the stock go up by financial engineering. By using our earnings to buy their own stock. So what you have is empty earnings. You’ve had stock prices going up without corporate earnings really going up. If you buy back your stock and you retire the shares, then earnings per shares go up. But all of a sudden the whole world realizes that this is all financial engineering, doing it with mirrors, and it’s not real. There’s been no real gain in industrial profitability. There’s just been a diversion of corporate income into the financial markets instead of tangible new investment in hiring…

… The job of the Federal Reserve is to increase the price of wealth and stocks and real estate relative to labor. The Federal Reserve is sort of waging class war. It wants to increase the assets of the 1 percent relative to the earnings of the 99 percent, and we’re seeing the fact that this, the effect of this class war is so successful it’s plunged the economy into debt, slowed the economy, and led to the crisis we have today…. when the 1 percent lose money, they scream like anything, and they say it’s the job of the 99 percent to bail them out.

Friday, August 21, 2015


From Chris Hedges

"The animal agriculture industry causes suffering, death and environmental degradation—to humans as well as animals—on a scale equaled only by the arms industry and the fossil fuel industry. And by eating meat and dairy products we aid and abet a system that is perhaps the primary cause of global warming and is pumping toxins and poisons into our bodies and the rest of the ecosystem.

Animal agriculture sends more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than worldwide transportation. The waste and flatulence from livestock are responsible for creating at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock causes 65 percent of all emissions of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Crops raised to feed livestock consume 56 percent of the water used in the United States. Seventy percent of the crops we grow in the U.S. are fed to animals. Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals. It is a flagrant waste of precious and diminishing resources. It takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Filipino poverty and population

The Philippine population reached 100 million in 2014, and is projected to reach 101.6 million this year. The projection is based on an annual growth rate of 2.1%, which, while lower than the 2.42% rate from 1990 to 1995, is still the highest in the Southeast Asian region. Population growth rate was 1.9% in Cambodia, 1.6% in Malaysia, 1% in Vietnam and Indonesia, and 0.4% in Thailand, according to Rosalinda Marcelino, Population Commission director for Metro Manila. During the public hearings on the Reproductive Health Bill, Marcelino also told the House Committee on Population that the population would continue to grow for the next 50 years even if couples were to limit the number of their children to two each, because the population is predominantly young. Some 35% of Filipinos are below 15 years old, while 15% are 15 to 24 years old. “…More than 50% of [Filipinos] are young and, in due time, would become parents. And even if each couple would only have two children, our population will still continue to grow in the next 50 years,” Marcelino said.

For many politicians such figures are “the best argument for birth control”. They argued that high population growth rates exacerbate poverty, and that there is more poverty among big families. In addition, families with fewer children can better provide for the education, health, nutrition and other needs of each child, since whatever income they earn can be divided among fewer individuals. There was nothing new in these arguments. Almost all have been raised in other countries with high incidences of poverty.

Against the argument that a lower population growth rate would reduce poverty is that the causes of poverty are: flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures, etc. The conclusion is unavoidable: to escape from poverty, we have to address the real causes of poverty and not population. South Africa, for example, has lowered its previously high population growth rate, but is still hounded by poverty.

The Philippines can arguably support a population of 200 million — but only if the structural causes of poverty were addressed. Among these is the grossly unequal distribution of wealth, in which the 25 wealthiest individuals appropriate the equivalent of the incomes of 70 million Filipinos. IBON Databank also points out that while the wealth of the richest Filipinos tripled during the last five years, there are more poor Filipinos (25.8% of the population) during the same period. The solutions to Philippine poverty are fairly well known, but unlikely to be adopted by a political class that is hardly committed to the authentic transformation of Philippine society from one in which economic growth benefits only a handful of families to one in which economic development would benefit the majority. In the Philippine context, a key solution include the outright abolition of the land tenancy system. The archaic, grossly inefficient and unjust tenancy system has persisted, primarily because the attempts at so-called land reform have been deliberately riddled with loopholes by the landlord-dominated Congress.

Poverty is the cause of overpopulation, rather than its result.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Press Freedom?

2,040 press articles mention Yvette Cooper in the last month. Not one of these mentions her support for the war that wrecked Libya.
2,453 articles mention Andy Burnham in the last month. Not one of these mentions his support for the war that wrecked Libya.
1,855 articles mention Liz Kendall in the last month. Not one of these mentions her support for the war that wrecked Libya.

Regime change, illegal bombing, mass killing, ethnic cleansing, torture, fragmented militia rule, economic and social chaos, 100,000s of refugees, many of them drowning in the Mediterranean - you'd think it would feature. 

 Corbyn voted against military intervention in Libya.

It says a lot about the fanatical discipline of the 'free press' that no-one has discussed it in any newspaper - it's a very recent war crime and the consequences ('migrants') have been covered heavily by the press this summer.

But the unwritten media agreement with politics, as we know, is that no matter how many people our politicians kill abroad, the issue doesn't feature in domestic elections. Even though it matters hugely to many voters, and even though it has obvious implications for future killing. For example, the unwritten rule allows the Guardian and Telegraph to endorse Cooper in the full knowledge that she'll support more war crimes. They care so much about the 'responsibility to protect' - they could start by discussing political candidates' penchant for killing.

Chaplin's Second Greatest Speech

Charlie Chaplin's speech at the end of The Great Dictator has become famous as one of the most inspirational ever recorded. 17 years later, having been forced from the United States because of his political views, Chaplin made A King In New York, satarising McCarthyism and once again using an epic speech to share his views. This time it is his 10 year old son, Michael Chaplin, who delivers it...