Monday, May 29, 2017

why blame newcomers?

The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud.  Native-born workers feels imperiled because...they are imperiled.  These are boom times for the employing class, but for all others are being squeezed. It's this economic vulnerability that anti-immigrant forces play on. But pointing to migrant workers and blaming them for the economic pain local people are feeling is a lie. The truth is that even if there were no migrants the misery that is felt would remain, for migrants are not the ones who:
    Downsized and offshored jobs
    Stopped being compliant to wage and hour laws with zero-hour contracts
    Reclassified millions of employees as "independent contractors," (Uberisation) leaving them with no benefits or labor rights.

Powerless migrants didn't do these things . The rich, well-connected corporate interests did them.

"God's" Word

“The new capitalism, through the idea of ‘meritocracy,’ gives moral cover to inequality,” Pope Francis said. “It sees the talents of people not as a gift but a ‘merit,’ determining a system of advantages and disadvantages.”
He argued that the ideology of a ‘meritocracy’ also colors the way we see the poor.
“A second consequences [of a ‘meritocracy’] is a change in the culture of poverty,” he said. “The poor person is considered to not have merit, and therefore to be guilty. They’re dishonored."
 Francis said. “A speculator is a figure similar to what Jesus in the gospels called “money-changers” as opposed to pastors. He doesn’t love his company or his workers, but they’re solely a means for making profits. He fires people, relocates the company, because it’s instrumentalized and eats up people and products.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Abe Lincoln quote on slavery

You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.
You do not mean color exactly?—You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.
April 1, 1854

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Shetland Nationalism

Stuart Hill is standing as a candidate for the Orkney & Shetland constituency on a platform of the restoration of their sovereignty so as the islands' folk “won’t have to ask anyone for permission to do the things we want. We will no longer have to go cap in hand asking – we can make our own decisions.” Hill explains, “We can forget austerity and look forward to keeping our schools open, free ferries and whatever else we decide. Any negotiations will start from the standpoint that we own the land, we own the seas and we own the seabed.”

Graph of the Day

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Saudi despotism

  1. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has spent about $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let's not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden himself.
  2. The Saudis fund terrorism worldwide. A Wikileaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups." In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Senator Bob Graham, believe that ISIS is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.
  3. The government represses religious minorities. Trump says he is promoting tolerance, but this theocratic Sunni regime is based on repressing the Shia minority and non-Muslims. It is the only country in the world to ban all churches, and atheism is a capital offense. Year after year, the U.S. government’s own Commission on International Religious Freedom says Saudi Arabia commits “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
  4. Free speech and free association are forbidden in the kingdom. Criticizing the Saudi regime can lead to flogging, long jail sentences or even beheading. Tragic examples are Raif Badawi, languishing in prison for blogging; attorney Waleed Abulkhair, serving a 15-year sentence for defending human rights; and Ali al-Nimr, arrested as a minor and now on death row for nonviolent dissent.
  5. The regime is the most misogynist, gender-segregated country in the world. Women are not even allowed to drive and must live under a guardianship system that gives men authority over the most important decisions in their lives.
  6. There is no political freedom in Saudi Arabia. While most of the world’s monarchies have evolved to lessen the role of royalty, Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s last absolute monarchies.The Saud family picks the king, who then has ultimate authority in virtually every aspect of government. There are no national elections and political parties are banned, as are unions and most civic organizations.
  7. They have engaged in a catastrophic war in Yemen. In March 2015, the Saudis launched a bombing campaign in Yemen that has targeted schools, hospitals, markets, weddings and funerals. The war has resulted in acute malnutrition and disease, leaving a Yemeni child dying every 10 minutes. Instead of supporting the bombing, the US government should be pushing a ceasefire and negotiations.
  8. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Scores of people are killed each year after being convicted of various nonviolent charges that range from adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The executions are usually carried out by public beheading.
  9. The Kingdom primarily functions on the backs of mistreated foreign laborers. Of the nation’s 30 million people, some 10 million are foreigners. Workers from poor nations seek economic gains within Saudi Arabia, but are often lured under false pretenses and then not allowed to leave the country without permission from their employer. Female migrant workers, treated like indentured servants, often face physical and sexual abuse.
  10. Saudi Arabia helps maintain the world’s destructive dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of oil in the world. With its vast potential for solar energy, Saudi Arabia could lead the world in renewable energy. Instead, the economy remains almost entirely dependent on oil and on the international level, Saudi Arabia works with the United States to oppose global climate agreements that would affect oil profits.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Garbage capitalism

Up to 1992, waste collecting in Donegal was carried out by the county council. From then on, the council withdrew, as elsewhere, opening the way for privately-operated companies.  Rossbracken is an 11-acre site that houses the headquarters of two companies controlled by Jim Ferry – Ferry’s Refuse Collection Limited and Ferrys Refuse Recycling Limited. Today, his companies have close to 40 per cent of the business in some parts of the county, informed sources say, collecting from nearly 11,000 homes and 500 businesses.

But by the end of the 1990s, Ferry was emerging as a serial polluter. Far from being penalised, however, Ferry continued to win three- and five-year permits from a regulatory system that appeared blind to his actions.
In January 2000, Ferry faced multiple charges at Falcarragh District Court relating to separate activities in January 1999, between March and April 1999, and between June and July 1999, plus five breaches of regulations throughout 1999.

The January charges, on which he was convicted, related to illegal dumping causing pollution at Lough Agher in Creeslough. The March/April charges, on which he was convicted, also related to illegal dumping causing pollution at Moyra Glebe. The June/July charges, on which he was likewise convicted, related to two separate incidents of illegal dumping causing pollution, also at Moyra Glebe.

The breaches of regulations, for which he was also convicted, related to his failure to maintain a register that listed the type and amount of waste collected; its treatment and its final destination.
For the illegal dumping, Ferry was given two separate jail sentences of two months each, with both suspended for five years, and was also fined IR£1,000 (€1,270) and IR£1,000 costs. For failing to keep a register, he was fined IR£300.

If these convictions were meant to be a deterrent, they failed.

In January 2005 at Letterkenny District Court, Ferry was again convicted of illegal dumping in 2003 and 2004, and failing to operate according to his permit. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for five years and fined €4,000 plus €2,532 in costs.

In October 2013, Ferry was convicted yet again of illegal dumping in June 2010 and this time was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years and fined €3,000 plus €30,750 in costs.

At the same sitting, he was convicted of a separate incident of illegal dumping and breaching the terms of his permit, also in June 2010, and was likewise sentenced to six months, suspended for two years, and fined €3,000. He was further convicted of failing to comply with orders issued by the Council under the Waste Management Act 1996 and was fined €3,000.

None of these convictions led to him being banned as a waste collector.

Neither did his run-in with the Revenue Commissioners in August 2012 over using agricultural diesel in his trucks, nor the multiple road traffic convictions involving his trucks.

In November 2012, Donegal County Council granted Ferry’s company, Ferry’s Refuse Collection Limited, a permit to operate the facility at Rossbracken. When Ferry did use landfill sites run by Donegal County Council to dispose of waste legally, he frequently did not bother paying the bill. In October 2006, the council got a High Court judgment against him for unpaid bills. By April 2015, he owed €227,750. Ferry agreed to pay €800 a week. For a time, he kept his word, making 83 instalments until, on November 15th, 2016, payments suddenly stopped.

By dumping waste illegally, by not paying landfill charges and by not telling Donegal County Council where he was disposing of his waste, Jim Ferry was saving himself a lot of money. While costs vary, the price for legally disposing of a ton of black bin waste is around €120. It costs €60 to collect it. The total costs facing the company run to €180 a ton. Outside of Dublin, households in rural areas and large provincial towns produce a ton of black bin waste a year. Ferry’s currently charge house-owners €240 a year, suggesting a profit margin of some €60 – if the waste is disposed of legally. But, if the landfill charge is not paid, because the waste is tipped into an illegal landfill, Ferry’s profit rises by a further €120.

This is the uneven playing field that for years has faced reputable waste collection companies operating in Donegal. By 2014, they had had enough. A number approached the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), urging action against Ferry.  Soon, evidence began to emerge of illegal dumping of waste on an industrial scale in a Special Area of Conservation. Rossbracken holds 28,000 and 36,000 tons of illegally-dumped waste that will cost between €4.5 million and €5.8m to clean up. 

On July 1st, 2014, the NWCPO refused to renew the permit held by Ferry’s Refuse Collection Ltd, deeming Ferry to be no longer a “fit and proper person” to run such a business.
It was the first time such an action was taken, according to Leo Duffy, the NWCPO manager. Eight days later, however, Ferry activated a hitherto dormant company, Ferrys Refuse Recycling Limited, from which he resigned as a director to be replaced by Carol Elliott, who shares the same home address as Ferry himself and is understood to be his life partner. The other director is Louise Ferry, Ferry’s daughter. This company, which shares an address, all related facilities and staff with the company that had been refused a collection permit, applied for one. The NWCPO granted the licence on June 5th, 2015.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Poverty Trap

More people in poverty are in work than out of it. Simply, work doesn’t pay and is not a route out of poverty for millions of people.

Shelter confirms this. Research by the housing charity with pollsters YouGov found that one in three low earners have borrowed money to pay their rent, either from family and friends or through credit cards and payday loans. A full 70% of low earners are either struggling or falling behind with rent payments, barely managing to keep a roof over their heads.

800,000 low-earning renters aren’t able to save even £10 a month t, so saving for a deposit would take decades.  if you can barely afford to save £10 a month, summoning up a rental deposit, first month’s rent and removal fees are far beyond your resources unless you deliberately fall behind on your rent.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation points out, after paying their housing costs, an extra 3.4 million people are in poverty. That’s a huge amount of human suffering.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Our flag

The people's flag is pale and grey
It hangs at half mast every day
To symbolise the creeping death
Of what they called the 'loony Left'

So let the dishcloth flap and fly
For what's it's worth, we really tried
Though some continue fruitless plans
The revolution's not at hand

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

James Connolly

Born a mile or so from where I was brought up, James Connolly was indeed a complex, complicated and contradictory figure but I have no trouble describing Connolly as a Marxist - but I would have to qualify it by adding that he was a very mistaken one.
Connolly's ideas were not fixed and they did evolve... He was also a member of the Social Democratic Federation and the Socialist League (which merged to form the Scottish Socialist Federation), SLP of America and then the Socialist Party of America. He was one of the founders of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, then the Irish Socialist Federation and next,  the Socialist Party of Ireland and later the Irish Labour Party.
He of course then died “Commandant-General Connolly of the Dublin Division of the Irish Republican Army”.
Connolly contended that religious faith and nationalist politics were compatible with the objective of establishing socialism. The creation of the Irish Republic has demonstrated all too clearly that a nation run by priests and armed by police and soldiers little different from the British variety is no step forward for the working class. All that Connolly's mistaken association of the concepts of nationalism and socialism has done has been to add to the confusion in working-class minds about what socialists really stand for. In practical terms, it has served to alienate the non-Roman Catholic, non-nationalistic Irish workers (many of them active in the trade unions) from anything they imagine to be socialist politics.
Yet he could write:
“Ireland as distinct from her people is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’ and yet can pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and suffering and the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland: aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women without burning to end it, is a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’”. 'The Coming Generation' 1900
He thought that the Catholic Church for its own opportunistic reasons would come on-side
"...the man who imagines that in the supreme hour of the proletarian struggle for victory the Church will definitely line up with the forces of capitalism, and pledge her very existence as a Church upon the hazardous chance of the capitalists winning, simply does not understand the first thing about the policy of the Church in the social or political revolutions of the past. Just as in Ireland the Church denounced every Irish revolutionary movement in its day of activity, as in 1798, 1848 and 1867, and yet allowed its priests to deliver speeches in eulogy of the active spirits of those movements a generation afterwards, so in the future the Church, which has its hand close upon the pulse of human society, when it realises that the cause of capitalism is a lost cause it will find excuse enough to allow freedom of speech and expression to those lowly priests whose socialist declarations it will then use to cover and hide the absolute anti-socialism of the Roman Propaganda. When that day comes the Papal Encyclical against socialism will be conveniently forgotten by the Papal historians, and and the socialist utterances, of the von Kettelers, the McGlynns, and McGradys will be heralded forth and the communistic utterances of the early fathers as proofs of Catholic sympathy with progressive ideas. Thus it has been in the past. Thus it will be..."
He certainly wasn’t anti-political action and an anti-parliamentarian declaring after the IWW 1908 deletion of the political clause “just try and stop the workers taking it” He expanded this:
"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes."
He did indeed oppose the First World War but began to express certain pro-German sentiments during it. For instance, in the speech above in October 1914 he was reported as saying that "Germany was fighting for the commerce of the seas and for the means of building up a sane civilisation in Europe" and, a month later, wrote that "in this attack upon Germany it [the Irish working class] sees an attack upon the nation whose working class had advanced nearest to the capture of the citadels of capitalism" (Irish Worker, 21 November 1914).
The labour movement and working-class unity were the real victims of the 1916 Dublin Rising by subordinating their class interests to the nationalist interests of the capitalist. After one week of fighting, the 1916 Dublin Uprising was bloodily suppressed. Lacking any real basis of support, the insurgents did not have the slightest chance of victory. Connolly was wrong when he thought that it would ignite the class movement in Europe. The idea that any group of workers can be incited into action by heroic example and martyrdom is a false one. We have the 1921 March Action and the 1923 uprising in Germany for further proof of that.
Why he allied himself with the very nationalists who had opposed him during the Dublin Lock-out and with such a dangerous romantic as Patrick Pearse is all speculation. Was it the disillusionment of the failure of the 2nd International to stop the war that spurred him to make a blood sacrifice as some call the suicidal uprising (there is, of course, a contrary argument that if it had gone to plan it could very well have succeeded, but that’s another debate).
But we can see the futility fo the working class in Ireland.
There have been 29 general elections to the Dàil, Ireland’s parliament, since independence. Ireland’s Labour Party have won precisely none. When socialism goes up against nationalism in a country where all civic politics is about the nation, then Labour doesn’t stand a chance. Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil. His nationalist party talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods. Connolly used his charismatic authority as a party leader, and a trade union organiser, to drag his men behind him. He ignored criticism from the other leaders of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union because his sights were set on action, no matter how futile. A large section of the of the workers’ movement was destroyed and into the vacuum stepped in bourgeois opportunists ready to lavish praise Connolly, in order to divert the working class struggle.
Those who advocate alliances between the workers’ organisations and pro-capitalist political parties on the basis of Connolly’s participation in Tthe 1916 rising should heed the consequences. Connolly himself ignored his own advice. On January 22, 1916 he made a statement:
“The labour movement is like no other movement. Its strength lies in being like no other movement. It is never so strong as when it stands alone.”
Post-war Ireland saw the Limerick Soviet in the south and, in the north, the Belfast 40-Hour Strike where “Bolsheviks and Sinn Feiners” were leading astray many “good loyalist protestants” to the dismay of the Orange Lodge, where the composition of the strike committee was a majority of Protestant, but the chairman was a Catholic. Sectarianism was being challenged. Working class militancy had entered the Shankill Road and Sandy Row. The National Union of Railwaymen in a resolution at a conference in Belfast stated:
“without complete unity amongst the working classes, (we should not allow either religious or political differences to prevent their emancipation) which can be achieved through a great international brotherhood the world over, no satisfactory progress could be made.”
Instead of a Connolly to seize the opportunity for working class unity and solidarity, we had De Valera declaring “Labour must wait”, the interests of the nation must come first (read “the interests of the capitalists”). It was to be national unity, not class unity. By pressing their interests the workers were said to be “endangering” the unity of the republican forces! On the land where the tenants were seizing the estates only to find themselves held back by Sinn Fein and the IRA, who even went to the lengths of carrying out evictions in order to break the back of the land-seizure movement.
I think Connolly made a wrong decision in 1916, but that does not question his sincerity, only hisjudgmentt. Who can say what contribution Connolly could have made if he had lived. But as Sean O’Casey concluded, the decision to commit the Citizens Army to a rising called by class enemies was a betrayal.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Aiding business

Poverty reduction in the world’s poorest countries risks being diluted by the government’s increasing tendency to devote a bigger slice of Britain’s aid budget to pursuing the national interest, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned. In recent years less of overseas development assistance  spending was being channeled through the Department for International Development, with a growing emphasis on ensuring UK firms benefited. The IFS said there had been a change of emphasis since 2015, with more than a quarter of the aid budget now being spent outside DFID in 2016 up from 14% two years earlier. 

They said it...

Warren Buffett has defended the Brazilian buyout house with which he attempted to take over Unilever, by saying 3G was only following a “standard capitalist” stance to doing business by slashing costs and cutting staff.

Buffett’s investment group Berkshire Hathaway and 3G, backed by the Brazilian billionaire Jorge Lemann, own 51% of Kraft Heinz, which made a £115bn approach to household groups company Unilever in February. The Brazilian buyout house is well known for its approach to cutting costs. “They have followed the standard capitalist formula ... of trying to do the same business with fewer people,” Buffett said. 

Humanity - Creative and cooperative

 Augustín Fuente sin his new book, The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional explores the latest findings in evolution, biology, and archaeology to show that the great drivers of human progress have been creativity and cooperation, and that many of the things we believe about ourselves, from religion to race, are wrong. In a National Geographic interview he has this to say.

When asked “You say there are big misconceptions about human evolution. What are they?”
Fuentes answers “There’s a whole range. The first one is that we are bad to the bone, evil to the core. Or at least males are. And it’s this male aggression that has driven our evolution. But the fossil, biological, ethnographical, and historical evidence show that that’s just not the case. The really obnoxious people throughout history have not been the ones who, over the long term, have influenced us the most...

... What we see is that about 10,000-14,000 years ago we start to find examples of large scale or at least coordinated, lethal group violence, which we call war. But warfare today is not just about two groups of people fighting one another. It’s about political, economic, social, religious, and other ideologies coming into conflict and playing out in terms of violence, coercion or manipulation. That kind of warfare—large scale, intergroup violence around ideas, ideologies, money, and resources—shows up in the last 10,000 years more and more frequently because we have more stuff to fight over and more opportunities to do so. But though the world might seem more violent than ever, it’s actually not. If you were to take a slice of time at this moment, the vast majority of the 7.5 billion people on the planet are actually getting along swimmingly. They’re not engaged in horrible violence or coercion or oppression. 

... Humans vary all over the planet and that’s fascinating and important. But labels like black, white, Asian, Latino are social constructs that can be used to enforce inequality, violence, and oppression. When we do that we’re seeing the really negative side of our ability to create things in the world and make them a reality.Nationality is another perfect example. In the U.S. and Europe right now, we’re reverting to a new tribalism, this sense of, “I am THIS nation and you are THAT nation,” and flaring up again the exact kinds of conflicts and problems that led to massive wars in the last century.

Friday, May 05, 2017

China's urbanisation - endless cities

In April, the government announced plans to create Xiongan, an enormous new city 60 miles south of Beijing which sits within the Jing-Jin-Ji urban megaregion. While details are still emerging about the future of Xiongan, reports envisage a city that will grow to three times the size of New York. It will incorporate universities, institutions and residents from the capital, helping alleviate pressure on housing and public services – although not before prompting an initial land-buying frenzy in the area cited for development. The sprawling northern megaregion Jing-Jin-Ji is designed to hold 110 million people and merge outer parts of Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin.

The plan is moving almost 500 million rural Chinese people into cities over the last 35 years. China now has more than 600 cities, many of which were small towns just a few decades ago.

First announced in 2014, the Jing-Jin-Ji region is already said to account for 10% of China’s GDP, with many factories and manufacturing hubs being relocated to the new cluster. A new $36bn (£28bn) rail plan and 600 miles of new track for Jing-Jin-Ji was approved in December, with plans for high-speed trains to connect the outlying cities of the new megaregion to central Beijing on a 30-minute commute.

For the last four decades, urbanisation in China has been centred on export demand, cheap labour and low pricing. But now as more than half of the population lives in a city, and the country is moving to a consumption-driven economy, there is nervousness around how to manage runaway megacities.
“Urbanisation didn’t happen because the government wanted the country to urbanise – they even kept the hukou [household registration system] in order to slow it down,” says Bertrand. “The economy asked for it, and the people voted with their feet. The government have had to cope with urbanisation rather than it being a deliberate policy decision. In a way, they are paying the price of this rapid urbanisation now.”
The country already has at least 15 megacities (defined as cities with more than 10 million residents) and expects several more urban centres to reach megacity status, as it predicts the urbanisation rate to increase another 10% by 2020. The central government’s National Plan on New Urbanisation for 2014-2020 outlines 11 “urban clusters” (regions incorporating multiple cities and smaller towns) to receive additional investment. The largest will be Jing-Jin-Ji; the region around Chengdu and Chongqing (projected population of 60 million); the Yangtze Delta cluster around Shanghai (around 90 million); and the Yangtze River Middle Reaches cluster around Wuhan (projected population 29 million). The Paulson Institute estimates more than 200 million villagers have been reclassified as urban residents because their land was developed as urban land.