Thursday, January 31, 2008

And they call it Freedom

What is the "freedom" that the US-UK-NATO axis are fighting for in Afghanistan . Forget the Taliban , it was the pro-west Afghan government which sentenced a journalist student , who also worked as a reporter for the Jahan-i-Naw (New World) newspaper, to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed. The Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

Aminuddin Muzafari, the first secretary of the houses of parliament, said: "People should realise that as we are representatives of an Islamic country therefore we can never tolerate insults to reverences of Islamic religion."

Maulavi Ghulam Rabbani Rahmani, the heads of the Ulema council, said: "We want the government and the courts to execute the court verdict on Kambaksh as soon as possible."

Rahimullah Samander, the president of the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association, said: "This is unfair, this is illegal. He just printed a copy of something and looked at it and read it. How can we believe in this 'democracy' if we can't even read, we can't even study? "

The circumstances surrounding the conviction of Mr Kambaksh are also being viewed as a further attempt to claw back the rights gained by women since the overthrow of the Taliban.

The Independent is launching a campaign today to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The BBC reports a man has started a two-and-a-half year walk from Bristol to India without any money - to show his faith in humanity. He plans not to touch any money and is taking no credit cards or travellers' cheques.

He says he is part of the freeconomy movement - a group which began in the US and aims to bring about a moneyless society.

He said: "My interest started five or six years ago when I was studying economics. The more we accumulate wealth, the more it leads to a breakdown of community."

"We need to get back to a more communal way of living," he said. "My mum and dad always speak about a time in Ireland when people came together and took in the harvest together, and no money changed hands."


Freeconomy now has almost 3,000 members in 54 countries .It offers people the chance to exchange skills and labour . Ultimately, members would like a moneyless society. They also want to see more face-to-face communication .

It's about making the transition from a money-based communityless society to a community-based moneyless society. We , of the World Socialist Movement , describe that as free-access socialism .

On their website , Freeconomy states one of the guidelines is that "Photos of members are not allowed. We currently live in a society where people are judged by their appearances."
We , in the SPGB , has declined to place photographs of our political candidates on election leaflets always claiming it is the case , not the face , that is important when presenting our political views .

Perhaps those adherents of Freeconomy will come to realise that it is through the capture of the State and then the subsequent abolition of the State which will fulfil their aspirations and join us of the World Socialism Movement

Religion and bondage in India

A report from the BBC

Hundreds of families in a remote region of the eastern Indian state of Orissa remain homeless and without support after a wave of violence swept the region last month. After the initial attacks on church institutions and the shops and homes of Christian families, Christian mobs responded in kind.
The minority Christian community in Kandhamal district, many of whom are forest tribal people and low-caste Dalit converts from Hinduism to to Christianity, say they've been targeted by radical Hindu nationalist organisations seeking to put an end to the church and its activities in the region.
Hindu activists accuse the local Christian community of stirring up trouble by making "unreasonable" demands - a reference to their attempts to be granted the same preferential access to jobs and education given to low-caste Hindus and tribal communities.
Churches were ransacked, entire villages razed and their inhabitants forced to flee into the forests. The violence, which began on Christmas Eve, has now largely abated, but the plight of the people has not. Many are now living in the shells of their burned out homes, all their possessions lost. The conflict has pitted Hindu against Christian, tribal against non-tribal. Years of relatively peaceful co-existence of these communities, living a fragile rural existence, has been shattered.

"This conflict is fought in the name of religion," says NGO worker Kailash Chandra Dandpath, "but the real motives are economic and political. The business community here, with its links to the Hindu nationalist organisations, were once in complete control here. They'd lend money to the tribals and the Dalits at incredibly high rates of interest, up to 120% per year, and then the debtor would have to sell his farm produce to the lender at a price controlled by the businessmen."

Mr Dandpath is describing the system still widely practiced in India, of bonded exploitation, where a family might well be indebted to the lender for generations.

"What's happening now", says Mr Dandpath, "is that the farmers, the most marginalised of whom are from tribal and Christian communities, are being linked by the NGOs to local banks, lending at perhaps 10% interest a year - ten times less. This is clearly a threat to the businessmen. And they are trying to break this link, using religion as an excuse... in India, the easiest method of politics is to take religion to divide and rule."

There are always economic and social divisions within society to be exploited by those more rich and powerful, particularly when the existing order is threatened.

This report more or less confirms the Socialist Party of Great Britain's argument that :-

"Religious perceptions in any class-divided society are not neutral, but a tool in the hands of the dominant class in its struggle to maintain its control over economic surplus. Religious and all manner of spurious ideological theories are contrived by the ruling class or its representatives in the intellectual community and church organisations to keep the downtrodden perpetually entrapped in the vicious circle of exploitation."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mud Pies For Food

With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies.

Charlene, 16 , with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.
Cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal for her, according to this report .

At the market , two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.
Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies , they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun. The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me." said Charlene .

About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.

Keeping it in the Family

According to the Daily Mail , Derek Conway , the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup paid his son Frederick £45,163, including £10,066 in bonuses, for a contracted 17 hours a week between September 2004, when he began an undergraduate degree at Newcastle University, and August 2007.

The committee of senior backbenchers from both sides of the House urged Conway's suspension for 10 days. They ruled the salary was excessive and thought it "unlikely" Frederick, despite his father's insistence to the contrary, had carried out work he was contracted to do.

"Frederick Conway seems to have been all but invisible during the period of his employment," the committee said. "He had little or no contact with his father's office, either in the House or the constituency. No record exists of the work that he is supposed to have carried out, or the hours kept. The only evidence available to us of work carried out was that provided by FC and his family. This arrangement was, at the least, an improper use of parliamentary allowances: at worst, it was a serious diversion of public funds..."

The MP previously employed another son, Henry, in his office. According to the Daily Mail, Henry was paid more than £32,000 in parliamentary allowances and bonuses when an undergraduate between 2001 and 2004.

Conway has employed his wife Colette as his parliamentary assistant at £3,271 a month since 1983.

He has previously been criticised for claiming thousands of pounds in travel and second-home expenses.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A McDonald's Education

McDonald's has won approval to offer courses which could form part of an A-level standard qualification. From this month, McDonald's will be piloting their basic shifts manager course. McDonald's have achieved the standards for awarding accredited qualifications at Level 3 - which is equivalent to A Levels or the specialised diploma.

Meanwhile, from this summer FlyBe will offer courses covering the work of cabin crews, engineers, call centre staff, some of which will reach Level 4 - degree level.

Network Rail will offer courses up to A-level or Diploma standard mainly to their track engineers at first.

Critics complain that the diplomas they see as the answer to the issue are not sufficiently academically rigorous. Just last week, four out of 10 university admissions tutors said they would not accept students who had taken the new diplomas which are being introduced next autumn.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"They can't arrest everybody"

As reported here

"Do you know that we're going to take a stroll this weekend?" she whispered, using the latest euphemism for the unofficial protests that have unnerved authorities in Shanghai over the past month...The sudden "strolls" by thousands of office workers, company managers, young families and the elderly in this sleek financial hub are the latest chapter in a quiet middle-class battle against government officials. Police, who have routinely put down rural protests by poor farmers, have found it more difficult to intimidate an affluent, educated crowd in a major city. But these protests here have been unusual. They are led by homeowners and professionals .

In the city of Xiamen, thousands of middle-class residents have managed at least temporarily to halt the construction of a $1 billion chemical factory because of environmental concerns. Demonstrators in that city, in Fujian province, relied on the Internet and cellphone text messaging to organize strolls and other opposition.

"We learned from Xiamen," said Gu Qidong, 36, a Shanghai protester and freelance sales consultant in the health-care industry. "We have no other way besides this. We once asked if we could apply for a march permit, and the police said they would never approve it."

First, a small group of protesters met at a shopping center the morning of Jan. 6, shouting "Reject the maglev!" and "We want to protect our homes!" They left after an hour, regrouping later in a neighborhood near where the extension would be built.
A few days later, hundreds of people went to a mall that is popular with tourists and made an evening stop in another affected neighborhood. By Jan. 12, thousands of people were gathering at People's Square and on Nanjing Lu, both high-profile locations in downtown Shanghai, shouting "People's police should protect the people!" and "Save our homes!"
The growing boldness of the protesters has prompted city officials to emphasize that residents should find "normal" channels to vent their unhappiness. "We will forestall and defuse social tensions," Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said in his annual government report Thursday, in what appeared to be a tacit nod to the protesters' concerns.
After each stroll, residents upload photos and videos to Chinese Web sites, which are often blocked by the government, and to YouTube, a site that isn't. The project has turned neighbors who did not know each other into close friends and allies who now compare notes and strategize.

"They can't arrest everybody," said Yao, a 58-year-old protester .

We can dismiss the description of them being the "middle" classes and all company managers , but what the report does reflect is the rising demand for democratic rights that inevitably arises with the growth and development of capitalism . What is still sad is that they still talk about "their" people's police "their" government , "their" constitution .

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Capitalist Reality

Save the Amazonian Forest has been a campaign that is decades old and that has gained the support of governments.

The Brazilian government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon, months after celebrating its success in achieving a reduction. In the last five months of 2007, 3,000 sq km (1,250 sq miles) were lost. The state of Mato Grosso was the worst affected, contributing more than half the total area of forest stripped, or 1,786 sq km (700 sq miles). The situation may also be worse than reported, with the environment ministry saying the preliminary assessment of the amount of forest cleared could double as more detailed satellite images are analysed.

Gilberto Camara, whose National Institute of Space Research provides satellite imaging of the Amazon, said the figure was unprecedented. "We've never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," he said.

The rise in the price of commodities such as soya could have influenced the rate of forest clearing, as more and more farmers saw the Amazon as a source of cheap land.
"The economic reality of these states indicate that these activities impact, without a shadow of a doubt, on the forest," said the Environment Minister Marina Silva.

Within capitalism , the drive to accummulate profits and the needs of the market outweigh the needs of the enviroment and no amount of palliatives can effectively control this exploitation of our natural wealth .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All Coppers are Workers

Today , saw a protest march for more pay by the police so i have transcribed a Socialist Standard article from way back in August 1971.

Are the police paragons of virtue or fascist bastards? Certainly they are abused as fascists by many leftists who , with their customary lack of originality , have also seized upon the American term “pigs” which is used endlessly in their various journals such a Red Mole and International Times. At the demonstrations against the Industrial Relations Bill earlier this year , the police were denounced as enemies of the working class and many placards showing a Bobby as “your next personnel manager” were on display .

Is this attitude justified ? Of course the police are not in any trade union and they are sometimes seen in conflict with strikers , besides students and other protesters; so how different are policemen from other wage earners in their general outlook?

Obviously , the nature of their job as part of the state machine ensures that the ruling class will try to ensure that the police cannot strike . Add to this the fact that throughout its history many of the force have had a background of military discipline , and the possibility of a police trade union looks bleak indeed . And yet there was such a union - The National Union of Police and Prison Officers , formed in 1913.

Earlier attempts to obtain better pay and conditions through organisation were made in London in 1872 and 1890. Both were quickly crushed by dismissing the men’s spokesmen. However, during World War One the police were no longer well paid in relation to other workers - were even worse off. Cancellation of leave-days plus many other irritations saw the rapid growth of the illegal union with constables Marston and Thiel as Chairman and Provincial Organiser respectively. When the authorities tried the usual victimisation tactics almost the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force , numbering 19000 men , struck . During the strike pickets clashed with blacklegs and special police, just like other workers in a similar situation.

The authorities , caught unprepared , had to climb down and the men’s demands were met with on important exception - the guarantee of union recognition . Soon after the strike the union claimed it had over 40000 paying members . In some cities the union was influential in the Police Representation Boards - in Liverpool it was able to have men promoted who had been unfairly passed over. Meantime the authorities were preparing for a showdown and in this they were helped not only by granting better pay and conditions , but by the union leadership which was far too militant for its members.

When the union was outlawed by the Police Act of 1919 a national strike was called despite the fact that less than half the police were members ; also , there was no strike fund and no likelihood of support from other unions . This time in London only 1113 came out , but in Liverpool 932 out of 1256 struck. Riots took place there in Liverpool , Birkenhead , as looting mobs battled for days with soldiers and specials while a battleship and two destroyers steamed from Scapa Flow to the Mersey . The strike collapsed and every single striker was dismissed , never to be reinstated . For many it meant , besides unemployment , eviction from home and loss of pension. Many who had been opposed to striking nevertheless did so out of loyalty to the union or because they had given their word . Today there are still survivors of this little known episode in working class history who proudly possess a card which proclaims that they are “ still on strike”(1).

Nor is the British experience unique . The same things happened in Boston , USA , in 1919 with similar results - all strikers were dismissed . In 1963 the Helsinki police impressed the urgency of their case on the authorities by resigning en masse on the same day ! In March this year Paris police stopped work twice on the same day for several hours and distributed leaflets outlining their grievances , amongst which was their dislike of being sent to quell campus disturbances ( leftists take note!). Also , many New York police struck for several days last January .
Nowadays the police in Britain , from inspectors to constables , are organised in the Police Federation , formed in 1919. Although forbidden to strike , the Federation negotiates pay and conditions with the authorities in much the same way as a trade union . The separate Scottish Federtion has been demanding the right to strike and its secretary , Dan Wilson , commented that the government in refusing this “…are only burying their head in the sand if they deny the police the same rights as other workers . We are , after all , only workers" (Guardian 28/11/70).

So the police record in recognising their class position in society isn’t as bad as some people may think. They have , from time to time, shown considerable courage in the face of tremendous opposition from the authorities - and from public opinion . And their response to attempts by their employers to squeeze extra work from them is the same as that encountered in factory , mine or office . Some years ago when the Chief of Police in New York attempted to increase the men’s productivity , a police captain observed that “ The Chief makes the decisions and then the locker room makes decisions” . In short , the men themselves regulate their work rate .

That policemen regard their work in much the same way as other workers can be seen from the numbers who leave the Force for jobs offering better wages and hours. In harsher times a job in the Force was a sinecure and much sought after , and men were prepared to accept the strict discipline. With the coming of “full employment” after 1945 there was a mass exodus of police into better paid industrial work and they were joined by those police who had been in the armed forces . By 1959 almost as many trained men were leaving as recruits were joining . 25000 joined between 1960-64 but 17000 left in the same period. In 1964 seventeen recruits meant a net gain of two. As J.P. Martin and Gail Wilson put it - “ For many the police service is no longer a lifetime commitment” (3)

The argument is often advanced that in the event of a socialist majority attempting to establish Socialism democratically , the police will be used , along with the armed forces , to suppress that majority . This is an argument which assumes that policemen have political and moral ideas which are very different from those of society in general . Stuart Bowes , in his attack on the police (4) supports this view - “Anti-democratic sentiments , pro-fascist sympathies and racialist antipathies are commonly revealed by individual policemen” . Perhaps Bowes hasn’t noticed that the same can be said of other workers too - the dockers and market porters who marched in support of Enoch Powell in 1968 are obvious examples.

Bowes quotes many instances of police attacks on strikers and demonstrators , especially during the Depression years The sad fact is that politically ignorant workers , fearful for their jobs in hard times , will be more inclined to perform despicable acts and obey savage orders . Police brutality during the 20s and 30s can be largely attributed to this , and Bowes has to admit that police violence during the post-war strikes has been little.

Michael Banton , in his book Policeman in the Community , points out that “The policeman obtains public co-operation and enjoys public esteem , because he enforces standards accepted by the community” . In other words , if the police are “pigs” then they are only a reflection of a society of “pigs” : they simply do its bidding. The policeman lives in the community and desires to be part of it and have its respect . He needs , as a social being , the moral support of the community in doing his job and will often disregard the law if it is in conflict with what the community thinks is right. For example , in a society with a high proportion of automobile users like America , the point has been reached where the police often avoid booking for traffic offences because of the loss of respect produced by such action .

The police themselves know the situation. The Federation’s Newsletter has stated that “Without the confidence , approval and support of the public , the police machine as we knowit today would become incapable of fulfilling its function…the history of the police force shows [that] clearly” Exactly . Imagine how the Royal Ulster Constabulary would fare if it tried to hunt out IRA men in the Republic ? Or remember how hopeless was the task of the police in Cyprus and Aden when faced with hostile populations? Anyway , policemen who will draw the line at handing out a traffic ticket because of public disapproval are unlikely to be willing to try quelling a majority determined upon changing society .

Do not misunderstand us about the police : this is not whitewash job . Undoubtedly many policemen have obnoxious Political and Social ideas , and there can be no denying that some of them are prone to use violence . But if they sometimes behave brutally towards students , demonstrators , etc, think how many other workers with all their prejudices would behave towards these , if only they had the policeman’s authority and opportunity.

It is long since time for leftists and radicals to stop being hysterical about the police and to have a saner look at the subject .In the Number 6 issue of Ink , one writer , Peter Laurie , has shown just such a welcome approach when in an article describing his past and present attitudes towards the police , he concludes “We feel that there are forces of liberation at work in our society and that they are being held up and obstructed by blocks like the police. It seems to me now that the police are no more than an organic expression of the mind of industrialised man : we will not change them until we change the way everyone thinks , until we demolish the great inhuman system that divides us and uses us all” . Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel?

Our case is that policemen have much the same attitudes as other workers since they are conditioned by the same economical , social and historical forces operating in society. Eventually, the world’s workers , will respond to capitalism’s inhumanities to the extent that they understand and desire the socialist alternative - production for use and the end of exchange relationships. Then Socialist ideas will be just as prevalent in the minds of any policemen who may still be around . They will be for the revolution , not against it .


1 For a history of the police strikes of 1918-19 se “The Night the Police Went on Strike” by Reynolds and Judge 2Western Socialist number 5 1965
3The Police- A study in Manpower
4The Police and Civil Liberties

Monday, January 14, 2008

Planned Coup D'Etat

Britain and its Nato allies considered organising a coup in Italy in 1976 to prevent the Communist Party from coming to power, Foreign Office papers reveal. The documents, made public after 30 years, were unearthed by an Italian researcher in the government archives .
In an election scheduled for 20 June 1976, there was a strong chance the Partito Comunista Italiana (PCI) would beat the Christian Democrats into second place and lead a coalition.
A secret Foreign Office memo dated 6 May 1976, entitled Italy And The Communists: Options For The West, floated one possible course of action as "action in support of a coup d'etat or other subversive action". The authors admitted: "By its nature, a coup d'etat could lead to unpredictable developments." But they added that, in theory at least, "it could be promoted. In one way or another, the force of the right could be counted on, with the support of the police and the army". The idea of a coup to remove the PCI or stop it coming to power "could be considered attractive" .

This , after the consequences of the Chilean Coup against Allende in 1973 and all the subsequent murders .

And they describe themselves as defenders of democracy !!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

always a war for oil

The 2003 Iraq War was war over oil . At the time our greatly esteemed prime minister for a soundbite called such explanations a "conspiracy theory"

UN arms inspector Hans Blix admits oil was a motive .

On November 7, 2007, Hans Blix (former chief U.N. weapons inspector) explained: " One reason why they wanted in was that they felt they must leave Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War in 1991, they left their troops in Saudi Arabia to protect pipelines. And when they felt they could no longer stay in Saudi Arabia, Iraq was the next best place because it was more secularized than Saudi Arabia and had the second biggest oil reserves in the region."

Back in April 2005 he said "I did not think so at first. But the US is incredibly dependent on oil...They wanted to secure oil in case competition on the world market becomes too hard."

Alan Greenspan , exchairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank was also a believer in this conspracy theory

"Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in the area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil...I thought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the excuse was utterly beside the point.."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

For those in Denver , Colorado , USA

Fridays , 7:30 , January 11, 18 and 25 , 2008

Marx in SOHO

Marx is back! The premise of this witty and insightful "play on history" is that Karl Marx has a chance to clear his name and is mistakenly sent to Soho in New York.
To be held @ Mercury Cafe
2199 California St.
Denver CO,
Mercury Café presents “Marx in SOHO” A play on history by Howard Zinn , Starring Chris Kendall, directed by Bob Buckley

Friday’s January, 11 18 and 25 at 7:30 The Mercury Café presents “Marx in SOHO”, a play by Howard Zinn (author of “People’s History of the United States) starring Chris Kendall and directed by Bob Buckley.

Marx is back!

"Don't you wonder: why is it necessary to declare me dead again and again?"

The premise of this witty and insightful "play on history" is that Karl Marx has agitated with the authorities of the afterlife for a chance to clear his name. Through a bureaucratic error, though, Marx is sent to Soho in New York, rather than his old stomping ground in London, to make his case.

Originally produced at the Mercury in 2005, the performance (directed by Bob Buckley) drew laughter, tears, standing ovations and sold out houses. Returning star Chris Kendall was nominated for a Denver Post “Best Solo Performance” award for his portrayal of Marx .

January, 11 18 and 25 at 7:30 Tickets $10
2199 California Street, Denver 80205
Reservations: 303-294-9258

Friday, January 04, 2008

Racism in Immigration Detention Centres

Widespread racism was exposed inside Britain's immigration removal centres last night in an official report.
The Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) said its detainees had been called "black bastards", "donkeys" and "animals" and described the atmosphere as "distressing and turbulent" at one centre and "tense" at another.

It launched its official audit of racism - published yesterday - after a TV documentary broadcast in 2005 uncovered racist abuse at the Oakington removal centre in Cambridgeshire.

The agency found the worst racism at Harmondsworth, a large centre near Heathrow .
"Regular taunting of detainees by some officers goes unchallenged," the BIA report found. Repeated patterns of alleged racist incidents were missed by the in-house investigation process, it added. There were even "staff on staff" racial problems at Harmondsworth between colleagues

At Scotland's only centre, Dungavel in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire some residents felt they were denied access to the kitchen "as a result of bias or the racist attitude of staff".

Ex-prisoners awaiting deportation are filling many of the UK's other nine removal centres. At one, Colnbrook, which, like Harmondsworth, is near Heathrow, they told auditors they would rather be in jail than in immigration detention.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Oliver James and Capitalism

I won't go down the road of saying that there are two types of capitalism , selfish and unselfish , but Oliver James does have some interesting points to make as a clinical psychologist about mental health .

He says

Selfish Capitalism stokes up relative materialism: unrealistic aspirations and the expectation that they can be fulfilled. It does so to stimulate consumerism in order to increase profits and promote short-term economic growth. Indeed, I maintain that high levels of mental illness are essential to Selfish Capitalism, because needy, miserable people make greedy consumers and can be more easily suckered into perfectionist, competitive workaholism.

The real wage of the average English-speaking person has remained the same - or, in the case of the US, decreased - since the 1970s.The top 1% of British earners have doubled their share of the national income since 1982, from 6.5% to 13%, FTSE 100 chief executives now earning 133 times more than the average wage (against 20 times in 1980); and under Brown's chancellorship the richest 0.3% nobbled over half of all liquid assets (cash, instantly accessible income), increasing their share by 79% during the last five years.
Mental illness in both children and adults since the 1970s as reported by World Health Organisation and nationally representative studies in the United States, Britain and Australia, reveal that it almost doubled between the early 80s and the turn of the century.

What does the damage is the combination of inequality with the widespread relative materialism of Affluenza - placing a high value on money, possessions, appearances and fame when you already have enough income to meet your fundamental psychological needs. With overstimulated aspirations and expectations, the entrepreneurial fantasy society fosters the delusion that anyone can be Alan Sugar or Bill Gates, never mind that the actual likelihood of this occurring has diminished since the 1970s.
A Briton turning 20 in 1978 was more likely than one doing so in 1990 to achieve upward mobility through education. Nonetheless, in the Big Brother/ It Could Be You society, great swaths of the population believe they can become rich and famous, and that it is highly desirable. This is most damaging of all - the ideology that material affluence is the key to fulfilment and open to anyone willing to work hard enough. If you don't succeed, there is only one person to blame - never mind that it couldn't be clearer that it's the system's fault, not yours.

Depressed or anxious, you work ever harder. Or maybe you collapse and join the sickness benefit queue, leaving it to people shipped in to do the low-paid jobs that society has taught you are too demeaning - let alone the unpaid ones, like looking after children or elderly parents, which are beneath contempt in the Nouveau Labour liturgy.

Unfortunately , Oliver James doesn't quite grasp that it is Capitalism per se that is at fault and his comparisons between "selfish" and "unselfish" capitalism is just a debate about degree and perhaps particular historic social developments of capitalism in various parts of the world .

His hope of " a passionate, charismatic, probably female leader who advocates the Unselfish Capitalism " that will reduce consumerism and inequality and create a sustainable ecologically sound world is a forlorn doomed hope . He still has a lot to learn about Capitalism . There is no nice or bad capitalism .

The basic theme of Fromm’s The Sane Society is that capitalism, because it encourages competition between individuals, pitting them against each other in a rat race for power, privilege and prestige, is a society that is incompatible with human nature. It is an “insane society”, a “sick society”. Only a society based on co-operation and community is a sane society as one which properly meets the psychological needs of human beings for a sense of belonging; not just a sense of belonging but a state of actually belonging to a real community. Only socialism can offer that . Although capitalism continually seeks to reduce us to isolated social atoms who only collide in the marketplace as buyers and sellers, the basic human need for community still expresses itself even if in distorted and perverted forms - racism, nationalism and religion. Capitalism can try to suppress the human need for co-operation and community but will never be able to succeed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Health Racism

Emergency room doctors are prescribing strong narcotics more often to patients who complain of pain, but minorities are less likely to get them than whites, a new study finds.

Even for the severe pain of kidney stones, minorities were prescribed narcotics such as oxycodone and morphine less frequently than whites. Minorities were slightly more likely than whites to get aspirin, ibuprofen and similar drugs for pain. The analysis of more than 150,000 emergency room visits over 13 years found differences in prescribing by race in both urban and rural hospitals, in all U.S. regions and for every type of pain.

Linda Simoni-Wastila of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Pharmacy said the race gap finding may reveal some doctors' suspicions that minority patients could be drug abusers lying about pain to get narcotics. The irony, she said, is that blacks are the least likely group to abuse prescription drugs.

"If anybody argues they have no social biases that sway clinical practice, they have not been thoughtful about the issue or they're not being honest with themselves," said Dr. Thomas L. Fisher, an emergency room doctor at the University of Chicago Medical Center

Food Inflation and Food Shortages

According to Sue Fisher, an economics analyst at the Meat and Livestock Commission world food prices, as measured by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation, rose by at least one-third in the first nine months of 2007.

Last season resulted in a fall in production of wheat and maize in the UK, Canada and Australia by as much as 60 million tonnes. World stocks are now at the lowest level for almost 40 years . U.S. wheat stocks in 2008 will hit a 60-year low and world barley stocks a 42-year low. Global oilseed stocks are projected down 22 percent in one year.

In 2007, Chicago Board of Trade prices -- world benchmarks for wheat, corn, rice and soybeans -- soared despite big U.S. harvests. Wheat prices rose 90 percent, soybeans 80 percent, corn 20 percent. U.S. prices are key because America is still the world's breadbasket, the single biggest grain exporter.

"The fact we're having higher commodity prices here will have an impact around the world on food prices," Lapp , president of consultancy Advanced Economic Solutions , said. "We've only started to see the impact of higher costs translate into higher consumer prices,"

"Things are really getting tight now and the importing countries are getting worried and some of them may even be panicking a bit because they need to import grain and are not sure if there will be enough," Lester Brown , president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of the 1995 book, "Who Will Feed China?", said, noting that world grain stocks have fallen in seven of the last eight years. "There is going to be continued upward pressure on prices. One of my concerns is that this will lead to social unrest and growing political instability in the low- and middle-income countries that import a large share of their grain supply."

The Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome on December 17 said 37 countries are facing food crises and called for aid.
"High international cereal prices have already sparked food riots in several countries," the FAO said.

FAO chief Jacques Diouf pointed to political unrest over food markets in countries like Yemen and Senegal."There is a very serious risk that there will be less people able to get access to food because of prices," Diouf said.

The reasons apart from bad weather and the suspected climate change , income growth and population growth in China and India -- they are westernizing their diets . Moving up the food chain to meat has a built-in accelerator for draining grain supplies . Chinese consumers ate an average of 20 kilograms (44 lb) of meat a year in 1985, but this shot up to 50 kg in 2007. This reduces the amount of grain available because one kg of beef can take as much as eight kg of grain to produce.

And then there is the effect of the new darling of farmers, politicians and agribusiness: biofuels.

About 24 percent of a record U.S. corn crop in 2007 will be diverted to ethanol , a percentage that could shoot well past 30 percent within two years after President George W. Bush signed the new U.S. energy bill into law on December 19.

"If we convert our entire grain harvest into fuel for cars, it may satisfy 16 percent of our total automotive fuel needs. So it's not really a solution," Brown said. At a time when more than 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, history will judge the U.S. energy bill as "one of the great tragedies," he added.

So importer and biofuels demand look set to continue to shrink world grain stocks, even without major weather or climate shocks. It all adds up to rising U.S. food price inflation with knock-on effects for the world.

A Very Happy New Year