Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fact of the Day

In 2012, the life expectancy gap between the top and bottom one percent was 6.1 years for men, and 5.6 years for women.
By 2030, this will have increased to 8.3 years, according to a report, ‘The future of life expectancy and life expectancy inequalities in England and Wales’, published in the Lancet medical journal.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Abu Dhabi’s Potemkin Village

It’s not a labour camp, it’s the “Saadiyat Accommodation Village” 7,500 men (eventually to house 20,000) from the poorest countries of southern Asia – from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – live and sleep in apparently Utopian comfort when they are not labouring under the Gulf sun on the cultural dream projects of Abu Dhabi’s rulers: the Louvre Museum and the Guggenheim, and the vast emporium built to hold the art treasures of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan at the Zayed National Museum.

There is a sports field, a laundry service, a chess corner, a tea shop, a table-tennis room, a fresh fruit and grocery store, a mobile phone shop, an outside cash dispenser and money-transfer system through which workers can send home 100 per cent of their earnings (wages are issued electronically), basketball, volleyball fields and an outdoor cinema. There are television rooms to watch programmes in Urdu, Pushtu, Hindi, Bengali and English., special menus  offering “South India” food, “North India” food, Bengali food, Arabic food, and Philippine food. The dormitories are spotlessly clean rooms with six beds, four beds, two beds, one bed – the size of your room depends where you are in the pecking order of contractors’ expertise – and air conditioning, free internet and Skype. There’s health insurance.

But there are more than four million foreign workers in the seven wealthy Emirates – well over two million of them in Abu Dhabi. But labourers can spend four years in the Emirates without once seeing their families – there are no visas for wives or children to visit them. And it’s the contractors who pay the workers – not the UAE. The three massive labour camps in Dubai, at Senaful, al-Quoz and Jebel Ali are no Saadiyats. They are three or four-storey concrete blocks that look more like penitentiaries than villages, a bleak and grassless wasteland in which tens of thousands of workers sleep together, sometimes 14 to a room. There are no books, no sports fields, no entertainment, sometimes no air conditioning. There are locks on the gates and each block has a “guard” – as they are called by the contracting companies. On-site contractor managers have business cards in English which actually state their employment as “Camp Boss”.

The Canadians and Americans used the poor of China to build their trans-Canadian railroad in the 19th century. The English used the Irish to lay the rail tracks and dig the Tube tunnels of London. But this is the 21st century and it is little different.

Carlin on Religion

Monday, April 27, 2015

On the Beeb

Abolish Money

Why Money

Wage Slavery

Our Future

Scientific Socialism

Health Inequality

A third of all deaths in 2010 (16.9 million) were from conditions which were treatable with surgery. That was more than the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Two-thirds of the world's population have no access to safe and affordable surgery, according to a new study in The Lancet - more than double the number in previous estimates. It means millions of people are dying from treatable conditions such as appendicitis and obstructed labour. Most live in low and middle-income countries.

93% of people in sub-Saharan Africa cannot obtain basic surgical care. Previous estimates have only looked at whether surgery was available. This research considered whether people can travel to facilities within two hours, whether the procedure will be safe, and whether patients can actually afford the treatment.

One of the study's authors, Andy Leather, director of the King's Centre for Global Health, said the situation was outrageous. "People are dying and living with disabilities that could be avoided if they had good surgical treatment," he said.
"Also, more and more people are being pushed into poverty trying to access surgical care."
The study suggests a quarter of people who have an operation cannot in fact afford it.

Numbers of trained surgical specialists per 100,000 people
UK: 35
US: 36
Brazil 35
Japan 17
South Africa: 7
Bangladesh 1.7
Sierra Leone (before Ebola): 0.1

"Unfortunately a lot of people have given up on the hospitals because they can't find surgeons there," said Dr Duffy, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who has recently returned from a surgical training camp in central Uganda. "People are living in the community with debilitating conditions and they just can't find the skilled people to help them."

313 million operations are carried out worldwide each year. Just one in 20 operations occur in the poorest countries, where over a third of the world's population lives. There is a global shortfall of at least 143 million surgical procedures every year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Truth Cannot Be Told

Scott McIntyre’s tweets summarised:
The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.
Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.
Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.
Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Innocent children, on the way to school, murdered. Their shadows seared into the concrete of Hiroshima.

SBS sports reporter Scott McIntyre was sacked. 

Fact of the Day

The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed grave concern that one-fifth of the world’s children do not receive routine life-saving vaccination.

Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of the WHO Department of Immunization in Geneva, expressed concern on Wednesday that “there are still 1.5 million premature deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases each year.”

Back in 2013, some 22 million infants missed out on routine vaccination against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus (DTP3). Most of the unvaccinated children belong to the world’s poorest countries, while almost half of them live in India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The cost of vaccines, weak health systems and lack of access in poorer countries, as well as armed conflicts and insecurity, are among some reasons mentioned for the lack of progress.

Where's the jail-time for the banksters?

Authorities announced that Germany's biggest bank,  Deutsche Bank would  pay $2.5 billion in penalties, a record for cases involving interest rate fraud, which have already targeted banking behemoths like Barclays and UBS. Officials said the wrongdoing at Deutsche Bank lasted from 2005 to 2011 and touched employees in London, Frankfurt, New York, and Tokyo.

The New York Times reports that Deutsche Bank "also agreed to accept a criminal guilty plea for the British subsidiary at the center of the case. It is the most significant banking unit to accept a criminal plea in the long-running investigation into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR." The LIBOR rate is an average of what banks charge for lending to each other. In addition, it sets a benchmark for interest rates for trillions of dollars' worth of loans around the world—from mortgages and student loans to credit cards and complex derivatives. The penalty follows a seven-year investigation into how some of the world's largest financial institutions secretly conspired to rig benchmark interest rates to their benefit.

"Law enforcers found repeated examples of manipulation as they investigated the bank," said Bartlett Naylor, financial policy advocate in Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division "For example, they discovered pervasive fraudulent practices where traders gave false information about rates at which they borrowed or loaned money with other banks," he said. "That established false benchmarks on which other rates were based. That harms average Americans when they agree to mortgages. Law enforcers also found that Deutsche Bank withheld and even destroyed information about the investigation. Yet, surprisingly, despite the severity of these offenses, the government concluded that these crimes should be punished only through a financial penalty."

Many of the traders responsible for the frauds remain employed at Deutsche Bank. Insider trading in individual stocks seems minute in comparison, yet many people have been jailed for 10 years or more. The case spotlighted the collusive elements of Wall Street trading desks, where rival banks have occasionally joined forces to manipulate financial benchmarks. It also foreshadows looming actions against banks suspected of teaming up to manipulate the price of foreign currencies

Friday, April 24, 2015

Socialist Standard Anti-war poetry

Once more the media is feeding us , here in the Uk and in New Zealand and Australia tales of heroic sacrifice over Galipoli. The following are the voices of socialists who saw through the propaganda at the time much less a hundred years later. 

From the March 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is a Labour man? He who has sold
His class and their Cause in the shambles of Gold,
For pelf, and a place in the council of Greed,
Weaving snares for those dupes Want and Ignorance breed,
Where the offspring of Toil, from the cot to the grave,
Are consigned to the mart of the modern wage-slave.
Here "organised Labour" support and applaud
The Thugs of all progress, Cant, Falsehood and Fraud;
And, like autumn leaves borne on the blast of the storm,
They are whirled in the vortex of futile reform.
Against the class currents they struggle in vain,
Till they sink, where no trace of their efforts remain.
When Knowledge imparts to the people her power.
Slavish fear shall depart from their hearts in that hour;
And thrusting aside tyrant forms of the past,
Revolution shall crown them with glory at last.
The Labour pest, hurled from its seat of ill-fame,
Shall be hailed a political relic of shame.
Then time in its fulness will give Freedom birth,
When the Socialist era shall gladden the earth.
F. G. Thompson 

From the May 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

Compel them to come in, for there shall be
A feast well-spread, to suit the taste of all-
Ruin and pain and untold misery;
The downward trend, the devastating fall,
From every higher impulse; robes to wear
Woven of fraud, hypocrisy and lies.
Compel them to come in that all may share
This wolfish feast of bloodstained infamies.
Not yours the chains of slavery to break;
You heed no woman's sorrows, no man's groans,
No flag of freedom in the breeze unfurled.
Your passion is destruction, you would make
A world-wide graveyard full of dead men's bones.
Whence reeks a stench that sickens all the world.
F. J. Webb.

From the May 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

Grey, desolate, and bare of shrub or tree,
Deep-holed and scarred by many a giant blow;
A grave yard breath of rank mortality
Hovers around in restless ebb and flow;
Dim shapes the colour of the earth they cumber
Lie motionless and silent, writhe and moan;
Dismembered limbs, mixed with war's other lumber,
Weirdly entwined, across the waste are strewn.
Such is this "No Man's Land." The light of day
Brings in its train horrors no tongue can tell,
Sights, scents and sounds that all the senses stun;
And when night falls the will to rend and slay
Creeps from its lair the hideous list to swell
Of bodies rotting in the morrow's sun.
F. J. Webb

From the February 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

If at this time of brute force paramount,
When death itself is made the creed of men;
When love is held of small or no account,
And beauty scorned alike of voice and pen;
There yet should be, hidden amid the crowd,
Some finer spirits, shrinking and alone,
Who hear the voice of Wisdom cry aloud
Before Life's temples, stricken, overthrown;
Now should they lift above the noise and strife
Their song of hope, of confidence supreme
In love and beauty; now indeed should scan
The wide horizon of a boundless life,
Wherein the poet's song, the dreamer's dream
Shall stem the mad brutality of man.
F. J. Webb.

From the October 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

Wars and rumours of wars are round about,
And hell let loose, and death and dumb despair;
The groans of dying men, the victor's shout,
Mingle, befouling what was once so fair.
I feel again the old contempt arise
For men and all men's ways of greed and waste;
World-weariness lies heavy on my eyes;
The joy of life is bitter to the taste.
Is it not tragic, pitiful as well,
That men should dabble in their comrades' gore
To slake their masters' blood and money-lust;
Should suffer all the pains and pangs of hell,
Binding their fetters tighter than before,
Grinding their faces in the blood and dust.
F. J. Webb

From the February 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

You prate of love and murmur of goodwill,
Turn sanctimonious eyes toward your God,
Write on your walls the text "Thou shalt not kill,"
Point out the path your "Prince of Peace" once trod,
While all the time, with murder in your hearts,
You lie, cajole, and bully that the fools
Who heed your words may play their foolish parts
As slaves of Mammon, as the War-Lord's tools.
On many a field, in many a river bed,
Of Flanders and of Poland and of France,
Your bloody-minded words bear fruit indeed.
Preachers of Death! the thought of maimed and dead
Will nerve us when our hosts of Life advance
To crush for ever your accursed breed.
F. J. Webb

The Call
From the December 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Come from the slum and the hovel,
From the depth of your dumb despair;
From the hell where you writhe and grovel
Crushed by the woes you bear;
There are joys that are yours for the taking,
There are hopes of a height unknown,
A harvest of life in the making
From the sorrows the past has sown.
Come from the dust of the battle,
Where your blood, like a river, runs,
Where helpless as driven cattle
You feed the insatiable guns.
You fight when your masters bid you,
Now fight that yourselves be free,
In the last great fight that shall rid you
Of your age-long slavery.
There's a murmur of many voices
That shall roll like thunder at last;
The shout of a world that rejoices
In a harvest ripening fast.
For the slaves their shackles are breaking
With wonder and ecstasy;
There is life, new life, in the making
In a new-won world made free.
F.J. Webb

Hiroshima, August 1945

Forty years ago the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. The following poem was written by a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain shortly after he heard the news of the bombing.
Like a blast from hell the atom bomb came,
And a city in ruins was hurled;
On wings of fear, it thundered its name,
Through a shocked and war torn world;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
Its first warning sign we see,
Garden of plenty, or desert of death;
What is this world to be?
The challenge is vital, and urgent the hour;
When this Capitalist era must pass,
And workers control this atomic power,
So misused by the ruling class;
This nuclear power from the atom was wrought,
It evolved in the womb of time,
Born of the labour of man's social thought,
Its baptism, Fire, blood and crime;
Dark is the future if our governments command
This scientific genie of might,
Secret diplomacy knows no remand,
From chaos and abysmal night;
The Capitalist powers are still planning our fate,
And with their lies seek to stifle our fears,
Turning worker against worker, in blind bonds of hate,
For their new orgy of blood sweat and tears;
A Socialist world, no other solution,
Presents itself to mankind;
The workers must strive for a world revolution,
And cast off those fetters that bind;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
For good or for ill must abide,
Garden of plenty or desert of death?
The workers themselves must decide.

Walter Atkinson

Russian Xenophobia

Anti-immigrant feeling among ethnic Russians, spurred in part by concerns over Islamist militancy in the Caucuses and the Middle East, has put a spotlight on Muslim migrants from across the region. Around 88 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population is Muslim.

1.5 million Kyrgyz – a fifth of the population – working in Russia. Around 33 percent of Kyrgyzstan's GDP is attributed to remittances from migrant workers in Russia, reflecting a regional dependence on Moscow that has only increased since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The official number of Kyrgyz migrants has remained roughly static despite the ruble’s decline, but remittances fell to $1.367 billion for the first 11 months of 2014, compared to $1.447 billion for the same period in 2013. Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) puts the number of documented Kyrgyz workers at around half a million, but experts believe at least another million work there without proper permits, mostly in the construction or service industries.

Laws regulating migrant workers in Russia have become increasingly restrictive in recent years. In January, new rules made it more difficult to obtain work permits and easier for the authorities to find and deport undocumented workers. New arrivals have 30 days to register their residence, obtain a certification of their skills for their desired industry, translate their passport into Russian, find medical insurance, pass a medical examination, and pass an exam on Russia’s language, history and laws.  It's a daunting process, and even if you get all your paperwork in order, Russian administration is often unable to cope with the backlog. On 7 April, a migrant worker from Tajikistan died at a processing centre in Moscow after spending two days in line with nearly 5,000 other applicants. Violators are added to a blacklist, a database of migrants set up in January 2013 for those found to be breaking administrative rules in Russia and subject to deportation. Around 60,000 Kyrgyzstan nationals are currently on the list.

The migrants have long been targets of labour exploitation and sexual abuse, and now, in a Russia increasingly tense about terrorism, xenophobic attacks are on the rise. Falling oil prices and international sanctions over the war in Ukraine have taken a heavy toll on the Russian economy. The ruble lost 68 percent of its value against the US dollar in 2014, occasionally trading at less than the Kyrgyzstani som.

Next month as Kyrgyzstan formally joins the EEU, forming a unified economic bloc with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia. In addition to the dropping of trade tariffs, the accession agreements assure the “free movement of labour” within the union. “This means our migrants will not have to pass this very complicated procedure of obtaining a (visa), and will be on the same level of competition as Russian natives,” said Tatiana Zlobina, a researcher at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek.

Nurbek Umarov, a researcher with the International Organization for Migration in Bishkek, shares such concerns.
“Labour migration depends on the laws of supply and demand,” he explained. “Because employers will have to employ citizens of the EEU under the same terms as a Russian citizen, it may no longer be profitable for them, so those employers who practised illegal employment in the past may switch their attention to migrants from other countries, say Uzbekistan.”

An estimated 2.2 million Uzbeks work in Russia, and Uzbekistan is not slated to join the EEU. Accession into the new bloc is also unlikely to stem hostility to the Kyrgyz among ethnic Russians.

“Even if some legal protection is available (after accession), the situation is complicated by rising xenophobia in Russia,” said Aida Baijumenova, a researcher with the Kyrgyz rights group Bir Duino who regularly interviews migrant workers in Russia.  “We have found that to the police and many Russians, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks all look the same.”

Gerrard Winstanley Movie

We Deserve All We Produce

Next year, the richest 1% of the world will own more wealth than the rest of the entire population of the planet, according to Oxfam. This is a staggering figure. This puts into focus a harsh truth: that we live in a world where a handful of the richest people get richer and more powerful, even as governments across the globe enact austerity measures against the working class. Austerity measures have been presented as the lesser of evils to confront a deficient economy. Austerity is trumpeted by many politicians as a necessary, though painful step to ensure long term economic viability. But it’s simply a way of perpetuating, rather than challenging, capitalist business as usual, a business in which the global 1% get richer and richer while workers get laid off. But what we’re seeing is a massive impoverishment of the population, full-frontal attacks on working conditions and a loss of security for society’s most vulnerable people. Meanwhile, according the Harvard Business School, CEOs in America currently make 350 times what the average worker makes, and 774 times as much as minimum wage workers. Since 1979, Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent. Yet, according to Forbes, income has not increased at the same rate, if it has increased at all. Furthermore, “the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure” while “the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families.”

Governments enact austerity measures to protect the 1% and global capitalism. Those in the 1% influence in government policy. Oxfam reports that the global elite spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.

While the 1% fills their pockets, protests against austerity have been rocking the globe. The entire system needs to be overthrown. “The idea that poverty is a problem of persons—that it results from personal moral, cultural, or biological inadequacies—has dominated discussions of poverty for well over two hundred years and given us the enduring idea of the underserving poor.” Explained Michael Katz in ‘The Undeserving Poor’

Thursday, April 23, 2015

There is Power in the Union

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that wages and benefits are actually lower in states with anti-worker so-called Right to Work laws on the books. Right to Work (RTW) legislation which undercut unions by allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay dues—translates to $1,558 less a year in earnings for a typical full-time worker. Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states. Workers in RTW states are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance or pension coverage.

According to EPI senior economist Elise Gould and researchassistant Will Kimball: "It's abundantly clear that Right to Work laws are negatively correlated with workers' wages. At their core, RTW laws seek to hamstring unions’ ability to help employees bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions," explain Gould and Kimball. "Given that unionization raises wages both for individual union members as well as for nonunion workers in unionized sectors, it is not surprising that research shows that both union and nonunion workers in RTW states have lower wages and fewer benefits, on average, than comparable workers in other states."

Right to Work laws are currently in place in 25 states, including Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a controversial RTW bill in early March—saying it was "the right thing to do for job creators and employees alike." Lawmakers in Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, and West Virginia are considering similar legislation.

Kimball said American workers should be trying to strengthen unions. "Collective bargaining is a clear way to raise wages, and Right to Work laws undercut it."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flexible wage slaves

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of  information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Just-in-time scheduling is another part of the new “flexible” economy – along with the move to independent contractors and the growing reliance on “share economy” businesses, like Uber, that purport to do nothing more than connect customers with people willing to serve them.

New software is behind all of this – digital platforms enabling businesses to match their costs exactly with their needs. 

The business media considers such flexibility an unalloyed virtue. Wall Street rewards it with higher share prices. America’s “flexible labor market” is the envy of business leaders and policy makers the world over.

There’s only one problem. The new flexibility doesn’t allow working people to live their lives.

Businesses used to consider employees fixed costs  – like the costs of factories, offices, and equipment. Payrolls might grow or shrink over time as businesses expanded or contracted, but from year to year they were fairly constant.

That meant steady jobs. And with steady jobs came steady paychecks along with regular and predictable work schedules.

But employees are now becoming variable costs of doing business – depending on ups and downs in demand that may change hour by hour, possibly minute by minute.
Yet working people have to pay the rent or make mortgage payments, and have keep up with utility, food, and fuel bills. These bills don’t vary much from month to month. They’re the fixed costs of living. 

Workers can’t simultaneously be variable costs for business yet live in their own fixed-cost worlds.

They’re also husbands and wives and partners, most are parents, and they often have to take care of elderly relatives. All this requires coordinating schedules in advance – who’s going to cover for whom, and when.

But such planning is impossible when you don’t know when you’ll be needed at work.

Whatever it’s called – just-in-time scheduling, on-call staffing, on-demand work, independent contracting, or the “share economy”  [in the uk it is more commonly known as Zero Hour Contracts]– the result is the same: No predictability, no economic security.

This makes businesses more efficient, but it’s a nightmare for working families.

Last week, the National Employment Law Project reported that 42 percent of U.S. workers make less than $15 an hour.

But even $20 an hour isn’t enough if the work is unpredictable and insecure.

Not only is a higher minimum wage critical. So are more regular and predictable hours.

Some states require employers to pay any staff who report to work for a scheduled shift but who are then sent home, at least 4 hours pay at the minimum wage.

But these laws haven’t kept up with software that enables employers to do just-in-time scheduling – and inform workers minutes before their shift that they’re not needed.

In what may become a test case, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week warned 13 big retailers – including Target and The Gap – that their just-in-time scheduling may violate New York law, which requires payments to workers who arrive for a shift and then are sent home.

We need a federal law requiring employers to pay for scheduled work.

Alternatively, if American workers can’t get more regular and predictable hours, they at least need stronger safety nets.

These would include high-quality pre-school and after-school programs; unemployment insurance for people who can only get part-time work; and a minimum guaranteed basic income. 

All the blather about “family-friendly workplaces” is meaningless if workers have no control over when they’re working.

By Robert B. Reich on Alternet website

We are wage slaves and that's the cold reality. Until we abolish wages system, as Marx and the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the IWW and Eugene Debs proposed, employers will use all manner of ways to ensure they extract the maximum profit from our toil

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walmart's "Giveaway"

Don't be fooled by Walmart's announcement that it is raising its lowest wage to $10 per hour for full-time workers by 2016. The wage increase is just pocket change to the Walmart heirs. According to a recent BloomburgBusiness article that focused on just one Walmart heir: “At the current rate, it would take a full-time Walmart employee working 12 hours a day more than a million years to earn the equivalent of Christy Walton's net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.”

The Economic Policy Institute points out, the six Walmart heirs now have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined, up from 30 percent in 2007. Between 2007 and 2010, the collective wealth of the six richest Waltons rose from $73 billion to $90 billion, while the wealth of the average American declined from $126,000 to $77,000 (13 million Americans have negative net worth). Six people (Walmart heirs) have passive net worth - the money is inherited through stock; they don't need to do anything to earn it - equal to more than the bottom 40% of the people in the US;

Monday, April 20, 2015

India's Militarism

India is the world's largest importer of defense equipment, spending $40 billion annually on military purchases. An IHS Jane's report notes that Asia's third-largest economy is poised to become the fourth-largest military spender in the world by 2020, surpassed only by the U.S., Russia and China.

The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, which assumed power last May, promised in its election manifesto to beef up the country's defense industrial base. India's dependence on imports will be whittled down by Modi's "Make in India" campaign. India imports nearly 60 percent of its defense needs, accounting for 15 percent of the world's weapon imports. Eventually, Modi hopes that India will also become an exporter of defense equipment. It has also allocated 12% more of its budget to the military compared with the interim budget tabled by the previous government in February 2014. Though the industry started to change and modernize under the previous Congress-led government, the bulk of the country's military equipment is still imported. On Apr. 10 India announced it would buy 36 fighter jets from France's Dassault Aviation for an estimated $4.3 billion. Sweden's Saab is set to re-pitch their Gripen planes, eliminated in the Rafale tender, as the kind of lighter, single-engine aircraft that Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday the air force needed to rebuild its fleet. "We are here and we are ready," said a source close to Saab, which is proposing to establish "fully-fledged production" of the Gripen in India alongside a local partner.  Modi’s government earlier shortlisted Larsen & Toubro and Pipavav Defence for a $10 billion contract to build six submarines. U.S.-based Lockheed Martin, the world's largest weapons manufacturer, formed a joint venture with India's Tata Advanced Systems to produce parts for the C-130J Super Hercules plane.

To facilitate foreign and private participation, the Modi administration last year said it would allow foreign investors to own up to 49% of the equity in Indian defense companies. Other regulatory changes include removal of restrictions on the issuance of annual industrial licences, and those on the sale of controlled products by publicly owned companies to private ones, as well as the decision for the military to order $250 billion of equipment. The Confederation of Indian Industry and Boston Consulting Group states that if India is to achieve its target of lifting its manufacturing sector to account for 25% of gross domestic product, the defense sector has to take the lead.

On March 5, tycoon Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure paid $132 million for an initial stake of 18% in Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering, the country's largest shipbuilding and heavy industry company. It wants to increase its share to at least 25.1% in order to take control, with the intention of becoming "the country's biggest defense manufacturer." The Reliance group subsidiary is also in talks with Eurocopter of France, Kamov of Russia, and Sikorsky of the U.S. about technological tie-ups. Company sources said that the company plans to bid for upcoming tenders to make hundreds of military helicopters valued at about $4 billion. If it wins the contracts, the helicopters will likely be made in a proposed 5,000-acre defense and aerospace infrastructure facility called Dhirubhai Ambani Defence Park -- named after the billionaire's father.

His rival and older brother, Mukesh, who helms Reliance Aerospace Technologies and has a tie-up with France's Dassault Aviation, harbors ambitions to become one of the country's largest manufacturers of combat jets. Tata group, Mahindra & Mahindra, Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd and Bharat Forge are also fighting for a bigger slice of an industry expected to generate $100 billion in revenue over the next decade.

ChunkyMark on Fascistic Katie Hopkins

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Problem is UNDER-Population

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Above that, and the population rises; below that, it falls. In the advanced industrial world, the birthrate is already substantially below 2.1. In middle-tier countries such as Mexico or Turkey, the birthrate is falling but will not reach 2.1 until between 2040 and 2050. In the poorest countries, such as Bangladesh or Bolivia, the birthrate is also falling, but it will take most of this century to reach 2.1. Even with the lifting of "one child" China has still maintained a very low birth rate. The United States also has a birthrate for white women at about 1.9, meaning that the Caucasian population is contracting, but the African-American and Hispanic populations compensate for that

The process is essentially irreversible. It is primarily a matter of urbanization. In agricultural and low-level industrial societies, children are a productive asset. Children can be put to work at the age of 6 doing agricultural work or simple workshop labor. Children become a source of income, and the more you have the better. Just as important, since there is no retirement plan other than family in such societies, a large family can more easily support parents in old age.

In a mature urban society, the economic value of children declines. In fact, children turn from instruments of production into objects of massive consumption. In urban industrial society, not only are the opportunities for employment at an early age diminished, but the educational requirements also expand dramatically. Children need to be supported much longer, sometimes into their mid-20s. Children cost a tremendous amount of money with limited return, if any, for parents. Thus, people have fewer children. Birth control merely provided the means for what was an economic necessity. For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average. As a result, the population contracts. Of course, there are other reasons for this decline, but urban industrialism is at the heart of it.

The contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off. Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation. The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that Japan and most European countries have severe cultural problems integrating immigrants. The Japanese don't try, for the most part, and the Europeans who have tried — particularly with migrants from the Islamic world — have found it difficult.

The United States is an efficient manager of immigration, despite all the current controversies and past immigration scares. The American solution of relying on immigration will mean a substantial change in what has been the historical sore point in American culture: race. The United States can maintain its population only if the white population becomes a minority in the long run. The second point is that some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline. Therefore, the third tier of countries where there is still surplus population will have to be the source for immigrants.

World population was steady until the middle of the 16th century. The rate of growth increased in about 1750 and moved up steadily until the beginning of the 20th century, when it surged. Put another way, beginning with European imperialism and culminating in the 20th century, the population has always been growing. For the past 500 years or so, the population has grown at an increasing rate. That means that throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. There has also been a shortage of capital in the sense that capital was more expensive than labor by equivalent quanta, and given the constant production of more humans, supply tended to depress the price of labor.

For the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. First, fewer humans are being born, which means the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. This has never happened before in the history of industrial man. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium. The economic plant in place now and created over the next generation will not evaporate. At most, it is underutilized, and that means a decline in the return on capital. Put in terms of the analog, money, it means that we will be entering a period where money will be cheap and labor increasingly expensive. One of the key variables mitigating the problem would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. We can call this automation or robotics, but growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying. A growth in productivity so vast that it would leave labor in surplus. Of course if that happened, then we would be entering a revolutionary situation in which the relationship between labor and income would have to shift.

The pattern of falling death rates, followed by falling birth rates applies for most of the world. Saving lives doesn't lead to overpopulation - just the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy health, prosperity and fundamental equality is the only way to a sustainable world.

Brand on the Presidential Candidates Brand

Fact of the Day

The number of British people relying on food banks is expected to reach one million, despite a huge increase in the number of people in work.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sick Capitalism

Snaking its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that will block local governments from requiring companies to provide sick leave, even if unpaid, that is more than required by state or federal regulations. The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the bill, 37–12; the Republican-controlled House will now discuss it—and probably follow the Senate’s wishes.

There are no Pennsylvania or federal regulations requiring companies to provide sick leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 39 percent of all employees, and 79 percent of all employees in food service and hotel industries, have no sick leave. Unlike the United States, about 130 countries require employers to provide at least one week of sick leave per employee. The proposed legislation is in response to Philadelphia’s recent directive that requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide mandatory sick leave for its workers. Several metropolitan U.S. cities, as well as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, already require companies to provide sick leave to employees.

Business employers oppose sick leave policies, believing corporate executives know better than workers or governments what’s best for the workers. As is the case for their opposition to raising minimum wage, it is because sick leave, somehow in their warped minds, reduces profits, shareholder dividends, and executive bonuses, benefits, and compensations.

The pretend-savings to preserve corporate greed, however, is a false economy. By not providing a decent sick leave policy, companies risk employees coming to work sick in order not to lose a day’s pay—or be fired.

This can lead to increased accidents because workers may be too ill to perform their jobs adequately.

The absence of a sick leave program can also lead a worker with a communicable disease to spread it to other workers and to the public. About 68 percent of all employees report they came to work with a stomach virus and other communicable diseases, according to a poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

About 30 percent of all workers said they became ill because of communicable diseases spread by fellow workers, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Not having adequate sick leave also can result in workers not staying home to care for sick children who, without anyone to care for them, go to school sick, and cause illnesses in other students, staff, and teachers.

The absence of adequate sick leave can also contribute to low worker morale, less productivity, and higher turnover—all of which affect a corporation’s profit margin.

The Princes and the Paupers

A new study by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reports that the number of people globally living on less than $1.25 per day is likely to be far higher than the already staggering 1.2 billion estimated by the World Bank.

“There could be as many as a quarter more people living on less than $1.25 a day than current estimates suggest, because they have been missed out of surveys,” the report notes, suggesting that the total number of people living in extreme poverty could be undercounted by as much as 350 million.

If, as the report claims, global poverty figures are “understated by as much as a quarter,” then more than 2.5 billion people, or over a third of the world’s population, survive on less than $2 per day. The most deprived layers of society—people who are homeless, or are living in dangerous situations that researchers cannot access—are left uncounted by household surveys, which by design are incapable of covering them. Only 28 of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had a household income survey between 2006 and 2013. Botswana’s poverty estimates are based on a household survey from 1993. The ODI study notes that more than 100 countries do not have functioning systems to register births or deaths, making accurate counts of child mortality and maternal mortality impossible. Twenty-six countries have not collected data on child mortality since 2009.

In Thailand, the official national poverty line is $1.75 per day and the poverty rate is 1.81 percent. However, urban community groups have assessed the poverty line to be $4.74 per day, bumping the country’s poverty rate to nearly half the population at 41.64 percent.

The combined net worth of the world’s billionaires hit a new high in 2015 of $7.05 trillion. Since 2000, the total wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased eight-fold. The amount of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent of the population will exceed that owned by the bottom 99 percent by next year, according to Oxfam.

The vast sums of money spent on war dwarf those needed to significantly reduce social misery. The United States alone spent $496 billion on defense last year, while, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization, “the world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger.”

If one were to define poverty as living on less than $5 per day, over four billion people, that is, two-thirds of the human population, qualify as impoverished, according to World Bank estimates. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants

About 400 migrants are feared drowned after their boat capsized off Libya, survivors have told Save the Children. The Italian coast guard had rescued 144 people on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of rescuing others. More than 7,000 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean since Friday. An estimated 3,400 migrants died in 2014 while trying to make the treacherous crossing into Europe.

“280,000 people entered the EU illegally last year, many fleeing from conflicts in from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.”The BBC website repeats once more the mistaken accusation that political asylum seekers are “illegal.” This is wrong under international law.

The UN Refugee Convention recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. The Convention stipulates that what would usually be considered as illegal actions (e.g. entering a country without a visa) should not be treated as illegal if a person is seeking asylum. This means that it is incorrect to refer to asylum seekers who arrive without authorisation as “illegal”, as they in fact have a right to enter to seek asylum. In line with our obligations under the Convention, the law also permits unauthorised entry into Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. International law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels.

Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk.

Well Paid For Failure

BP chief executive Bob Dudley’s pension scheme “excessive,” after the oil tycoon pocketed £1.7 million in pension benefits last year.
Dudley’s award is roughly 10 times the average pension payment received by a FTSE 100 director and 62 times the average annual salary in the UK.
The oil giant also announced it would be cutting 200 full-time onshore positions and 100 contractor roles from its North Sea workforce.
Luke Hildyard, deputy director of High Pay Centre, said A pay package of this size seems excessive, but three out of four members of the BP remuneration committee are also former top executives and management consultants, who are unlikely to see anything out of the ordinary about a multi-million pound pay package. Former executives are instinctively sympathetic to other people in their position and think they deserve to paid huge amounts of money. They perhaps don't understand how a £1.7 million pension payment might look to ordinary workers across the wider economy who are seeing their pensions cut to the bone. This type of arrangement is fairly typical of a major UK company and highlights why the executive pay setting process needs to be accountable to people from outside the executive class,” he added.

A nice cup of tea?

India's tea industry directly employs more than a million people with many millions more dependent on it for their livelihoods. It brings in about $3bn a year, with up to a quarter of that coming from exports. India became a major tea producer after the British set up plantations in the 19th Century to break China's monopoly. The huge estates have traditionally provided for all their workers' needs - but if owners shut them down, thousands can be left without jobs, health care or enough to eat. Bijiita's Ekka’s ancestors worked as forced labour for British tea merchants, who set up India's north-eastern tea-growing belt in the 19th Century, and imported workers from central regions of the country.

Technically tea workers have been free for decades, but the 1951 Plantation Labour Act, introduced four years after India became independent, remains based on the colonial system. It outlines a duty of care owed by plantation owners to their employees, but at the same time it preserves a system of cradle-to-grave dependency. And even now, although the minimum wage is 169 rupees ($2.68) a day, tea workers typically only receive 96 rupees ($1.52), the companies arguing that the rest is made up by their welfare package.
In 2007 the UN Children's fund, Unicef, found that hunger, disease and child exploitation were a problem even on apparently successful plantations that sell tea to high-end customers. Now India's tea industry is being scrutinised by the World Bank, the National Human Rights Commission, the UN and other institutions.
"They are cocooned communities," says Unicef's Caroline den Dulk. "They have all their own services, nurseries, schools, health provision - but they are run from a private sector point of view, and the people there are among the most marginalised in India. They have fallen off the radar."

The sprawling Bundapani Tea Garden in West Bengal, in the foothills of the Himalayas is a vast, 3,000-acre (1,214-hectare) property which had its own hospital, schools and shops and more than 1,000 families were involved in the growing and processing of tea. Then, in July 2013, the tea garden was shut down. No-one told the workers why - they assume it was not making enough money. In the first 18 months, 10 people died from malnutrition-related illnesses according to Partha Pratim Sarkar, who runs a tea-worker charity, G-Nesep. Today Bundapani has an atmosphere of part post-apocalyptic ghost town and part faded colonial glory. The once blooming deep green tea bushes are overgrown with weeds. A post office, a factory and a school are all boarded up and abandoned. The hospital is derelict with broken windows and posters about health care strewn on the floor.

Bijiita Ekka, was a young teenager enjoying school “We had no money and we had to get money from somewhere," she says. "So my mother took me on a train to Delhi." There they went to see a labour contractor. the pair were separated, and the 14-year-old was taken by train north to Chandigarh, more than 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her home.
"I was terrified because I realised that something really bad was about to happen to me and I didn't know what I could do. I had never felt so scared and lonely," she says, her eyes filling with tears. What followed was a life of servitude in a military family that treated her like dirt. "I worked all day and everything I did was wrong. They used to scold me and hit me. Even the children would hit me." She speaks about being constantly hungry, working all the time and being beaten on a daily basis. One day her mother appeared in Chandigarh, and managed to take her away. She doesn't know exactly how long she spent there, but she knows it was months - and that she was paid nothing. "I can't go back to that life. Please. Never."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

1910 Election: We still say it today

The 1910 General Election:
 Our Manifesto to the Workers

Once again the various political parties are seeking your support in a General Election. The Liberal Government, who are appealing to you to retain them in office, were boasting in January last of their “great victory” at the polls. They pointed to the anti-Lords majority of 120 as a proof of their clear mandate and sufficient backing to abolish the Lords’ veto. Yet within a few months of this “great victory”, they are again asking you to return them for the same purpose.

Hardly had the Liberals been elected when Mr. Asquith admitted that he had not got the “guarantees” without which he promised at Albert Hall he would not hold office.

The history of the Liberal party shows that the House of Lords has nothing to fear from them. Besides acting as a trysting place for their financial supporters, it does duty as an excuse for their broken promises and procrastination. They have raised the bogey election-cry of “Down with the House of Lords!” ever since the rejection of their 1832 Reform Bill, but though in power a dozen times since then with large majorities, they have not once joined issue with the peers. Instead of “ending or mending”, they have been extending, the Second Chamber. A far greater number of peers were created in the 19th century by the Liberals than by the Tories, and they are well ahead, with a total of 40, in the 20th century. In fact, the necessity of rewarding with peerages the great contributors to the party’s funds is, doubtless, one of the reasons for the Dissolution.

After indulging in the most violent denunciation of the Lords the Liberals arranged to patch up their quarrel by holding a conference, which, after five months existence, has been abandoned “for the present” – to use Mr. Asquith’s phrase. During these months a truce was called and we told not to disturb the little game of coddem evidently being played by the wily “eight”. The Government, if returned again, obviously intend to continue the sham-fight ’til the Coronation, when we may expect another General Election – or another conference.

Although the Liberals admit that the reform in the composition of the House of Lords means strengthening it against the people, the preamble to the Government Veto Bill states that “it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists, a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis”. This Bill gives the Lords power to reject every bill twice. Even one of their own members has admitted the hypocrisy of his party. Writing to the Daily Chronicle (June 20th) the Hon. J. Martin, Liberal M. P. for St. Pancras, said: “The Government have changed front several times on the House of Lords question, and on account of their wobbling since the Election, I have no hesitation in saying that I have no confidence whatever in them.” During the Dissolution debate (18.11.10) he said: “I do not believe the Government are in earnest in their fight against the Lords. With a majority of a hundred members like myself to stand by them, I do not believe there was any need for a dissolution.”

All this goes to show how fraudulent the Liberals are; but even were they sincere on this question of the Upper Chamber it would not concern you, fellow-workers. Mere political changes do not affect your economic condition. The Liberals say that there is not such a reactionary Second Chamber abroad as the British, yet you know that poverty and unemployment abound there as here.

The poverty and insecurity from which you suffer has its roots, not in political forms, but in the class ownership of the means of life. No reform, whether of Tariffs, Franchise, or Poor Law, can touch the cause; consequently the effects persist though social reforms are continually passed.

Even Lloyd George confessed, in his City Temple speech (17.10.10), that “before we succeed in remedying one evil, fresh ones crop up. We are hopelessly in error”. That is a very significant admission. But the very reforms that fail to touch the evils they are supposed to remedy are, the “wicked Lords” notwithstanding, being made the issues by the Liberals at the present election.

Very Old Age Pensions for those on the verge of the grave (adopted because they are cheaper than Poor Law relief); Labour Exchanges (organised to smash strikes and reduce wages); a specious promise to qualify the legal effects of the Osborne judgment (a sop to catch the votes of the trades unions): these are the futilities with which the Liberals mock the care-worn wage-slaves of capitalism.

The Labour Party, as we have continually pointed out, is merely a wing of the Liberal party. It is composed of job-hunters who, like Shackleton, are seeking office in Liberal administrations. Said their chairman in the House of Commons (18.11.10): “It was because the Labour Party believed the solution of the House of Lords question would be a step forward that they supported the Government”.

Your masters are seeking your suffrages in this election because upon their control of the political machine their supremacy depends. Liberal and Tory alike are out for the maintenance of this system, which means for you a continuation of your slavery. While pretending to be in deadly enmity, they are united as one against you when you try to better your lot. They combine in Masters’ Federations and try to starve you into submission by locking you out when you seek to make your wages cover the increased cost of living – as in Lancashire. They bring the armed forces into your midst to bludgeon you and menace your very lives – as in South Wales. Through their political supremacy your masters control these forces of repression, and if you are to change the conditions under which you work and live, you must fight to get control of the machinery of Government.

In that fight you cannot take sides with any section of the capitalist class, because it is to their interest to maintain this system which means luxury and idleness for them. Neither can you support those parties which, like the Labour Party and the Social-Democratic Party, are parties of compromise and reform. (The latter of these organisations has, in its election manifesto, advised the workers to stultify themselves by voting for the Tories. Their only candidate is a champion of “a strong navy”!) Your interests, being opposed to those of the capitalists, must lead you to ally yourself with a working-class political party waging an uncompromising battle against all the forces ranged in opposition to your class.

Your emancipation can only be achieved by converting the instruments of production from the property of the few (who use them to exploit you) into the common property of society, so that they can be used to produce the requirements of life in abundance for all; in a word, Socialism must be established.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the only party in this country that consistently works for this end: and as the realisation of Socialism depends upon the conversion of the workers, your place is within its ranks, striving to bring your fellow-workers into line, helping to hasten the day when the fratricidal warfare of capitalism is supplanted by the fraternal co-operation that Socialism alone can ensure.

Pending the time when the workers rally in greater numbers to the Socialist Party, and so enable it to take its proper place in electoral contests as the only working-class political party in this country, it has no candidates in the field. Hence all candidates before you at this election, whether they be openly and avowedly capitalist, or slink at the heels of the Liberals under the title of I.L.P., S.D.P., Labour or Socialist, stand for the maintenance of capitalism, and from the position we have outlined your duty is plain.


On this occasion, and, lest the enemy impersonate you, go to the ballot-box and inscribe “SOCIALISM!” upon your voting paper. Above all, the work that lies before you is to enlist the support of your fellows in the fight for Socialism, for that alone can deliver you from the misery which to-day you endure.


December 1910