Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Race and wealth in the US

New research from Yale University psychologists Jennifer Richeson and Michael Kraus demonstrates how many white and black Americans possess radically different perceptions -- and lived experiences -- on the economy, wealth and income. Americans, especially wealthy whites, vastly overestimate progress toward racial economic equality despite evidence of persistent gaps between black and white workers when it comes to hourly wages, annual income and household wealth by Yale University researchers published Monday. The study’s results are especially stunning in the wake of census data released last week that showed that African Americans were the only racial group still making less than they did in 2000.

 On average, white Americans have 13 times more household wealth than blacks and 10 times more than Latinos. 

New research from Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies predicts that by the year 2053, the household wealth of the median black family in America will be zero.

 Social scientists estimate that it would take 228 years for black families to possess the same wealth in America that white families own today. 

The race wealth gap becomes even more severe if cars are removed from the calculations as a household asset. In that scenario, white families have at least 69 times the wealth of the median black family.

The racial wealth gap in America is a predictable outcome and intentional result of federal, state and local policies that subsidized the creation of wealth and income for white America. (That history is detailed by Ira Katznelson in his excellent book "When Affirmative Action Was White.")
This racial wealth gap is also a consequence of housing segregation and racial discrimination against nonwhites in the labor market -- the latter of which is estimated to cost the U.S. economy at least $2 trillion a year.
 And one cannot overlook how centuries of chattel slavery, followed by Jim and Jane Crow, created and amplified intergenerational wealth for white America from the exploited bodies of black and brown people.
Research has repeatedly shown that white Americans and people of color have radically different opinions and experiences on various matters: from policing, civil rights, the impact of racism on day-to-day life, the overall economy and "race relations" more generally.

“Divided we stand—United we fall,”

So here we are at Brighton suffering yet another Labour Party conference. When all the ballyhoo has died down, however, what is it that remains? Nothing but a pitiful collection of woolly-minded and sometimes well-meaning resolutions, that signify nothing as far as actual practice is concerned.  The Labour Party is a party that intends to administer capitalism when in power, and to administer it in the only way possible—that is, in the interests of the ruling class. For all their fine phrases about equality and opportunity, they have nothing more to recommend them to workers than the Tories or LibDems. When it suits them—and particularly at election time—they pretend to operate under deeply held, inviolable principles over which they are passionately divided from the lot with the rosettes of a different colour. But it takes only the normalities of capitalism—the political problems of a minority government, the pressures of an economic crisis, the emergencies of a war with a rival capitalist power—for their basic unity of principle to assert itself in some sort of alliance or coalition.

The Labour Party has a lot to answer for. They have frittered away the energies of the working class by so-called reforms that have left the workers in the same position as when they started; they have turned working-class militancy into apathy; they have upheld the slaughter of one nation’s workers by another; they have led the trade unions into a position of tacit support for capitalism, by basing their wage claims on rises in the cost of living and production, instead of the basic fact of worker's exploitation. One could go on enumerating the policies by which the Labour Party has caused incalculable harm to the working class of this and other countries, but what is perhaps most unforgivable of all. they have deluded people into imagining that what they were doing was somehow bringing the equalitarian society of socialism nearer.

Nationalisation, which was once the great plank of the Labour Party, is now a heap of sawdust and shavings which was quietly swept up. It is only when there are internal conflicts within that the Labour Party is it at one with itself. It is only when it has a vociferously organised element demanding a more militant approach and offering vague threats about storming the citadels of privilege, which give the Labour Party the semblance, if not the reality, of being different from the Tories. It is only this which raises the pulse and tingles the blood of the hard core of the rank and file and makes them believe that the movement has not yet lost its ideals. Without this there is despondency and gloom and the Labour Party is divided against itself.

At Brighton this year “grass roots” activists will talk earnestly about the evils of capitalism and call for “socialist” policies. Understanding only too well that “something” is wrong in society they live in perpetual hope of legislating the nastiness out of capitalism. Not understanding how capitalism works, delegates appear to think that governments have unlimited resources at their disposal. Shortage of the good things of life is nothing new to a worker. That’s something no politicians have been able to do anything about, but it certainly does not stop them from promising. In fact, there was certainly no shortage of promises.

Our message to working people is this: Instead of looking to leaders and political racketeers to solve their problems, they should start examining the problems for themselves, and see what it is that keeps them in economic subjection. Once they do this, they are well on the way to seeing that only the abolition of classes and private property can solve their problems. The Labour Party has undoubtedly proved an inestimable boon for existing capitalist interests. The Labour Party, in securing the support of the workers by their claims to be able to run capitalism differently from the older parties, have not only strengthened the hold of capitalism over the working- class but have facilitated its recovery.  We suggest that the first step to removing the evil of capitalism is to understand how the system works. The Socialist Party holds that socialism is the only cure for the effects of capitalism. While capitalism continues so the workers must suffer from its effects and their condition become worse, so we ask our fellow-workers to join us in the work of advocating socialism and organising for the overthrow of capitalism. Socialism is the only solution to their problems. 

Class and Colour and Gender

 Operation Black Vote, the Guardian and Green Park recruitment have worked on the groundbreaking research project, The Colour of Power.

 It looked at more than a thousand top jobs. Black and ethnic minorities held just 3% of them. 

The figures aren’t great for women either. Their representation came in at a paltry 23%. 

Given that BME population is close to 14%, and women are around 50%, the data tells us at the top level the white male stranglehold is vice-like. 

Top jobs such as high court judges and senior police officers, and in the top consultancy, accountancy and advertising agencies, are held as if by right by this perennially dominant group.

 50% of the 2014 intake for Oxford and Cambridge University was taken from five private schools.

Tests show that when minority children have their work marked blind – with no name or identifying material attached – lo and behold, their marks dramatically increase.


Things could be different

This generation has the unenviable distinction of being the people who may well decide the fate of civilisation and the future of the planet. We must take the required and much necessary measures to establish an ecologically benign economic system.

According to the Guardian, the sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already underway is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.
“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that published a new report. “If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”
Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures. Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast-changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming will reduce agricultural production by 2% every decade, while demand will increase every decade by 14% until 2050. 
There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment. But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth. The focus to date has been on wild animals – half of which have been lost in the last 40 years – but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.
Up to 22% of wild potato species are predicted to become extinct by 2055 due to climate change. In Ghana and Ivory Coast, where the raw ingredient for 70% of our chocolate is grown, cacao trees will not be able to survive as temperatures rise by two degrees over the next 40 years. Coffee yields in Tanzania have dropped 50% since 1960. These crops are the tip of the iceberg. About 33% of the world’s farmland is estimated to be degraded, lacking the nutrients essential for growing crops. 
Tutwiler said the number one cause of human death and disability in the world is poor diet, which includes both too much and too little food. “We are not winning the battle against obesity and undernutrition,” she said. “Poor diets are in large part because we have very unified diets based on a narrow set of commodities and we are not consuming enough diversity.”



One of the many TV adverts for the Royal Air Force shows 19 year
old Ellie having a grand social life, occasionally working but never
killing or wounding people nor being killed or wounded in action.

Our Ellie's jogging down the road,
(Which is the first thing that you do!)
When one has joined the Air Force boys,
To play with their expensive toys,
Flown by all the same chaps in blue.

Our Ellie's sitting on a train,
Returning to her home on leave,
She's quite fatigued from all the fun,
And life has only just begun,
The ad would have us fools believe!

Our Ellie's back upon the base,
With no sign of a single plane,
Then blow me down she's on the road,
Not marching with a heavy load,
But jogging with the guys again!

Then Ellie frolics in the sea,
With the said drop-dead gorgeous chaps,
Then duty calls from State and Queen,
She looks at her fluorescent screen,
And studies all her radar maps.

And then she fiddles with a plane,
And twiddles lots of nuts with glee,
But in the next shot, give me strength,
She's swimming more than just a length,
In the warm blue Aegean sea!

Boobs pointedly point out the way,
As Ellie shows off each bronzed loin,
As this daft sexist TV ad,
Exists to urge each randy lad,
And divvy-civvy girl to join!

© Richard Layton

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dictators 'R' Us

Americans were told the US had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. It had to bomb Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was an evil dictator. Today, Americans are told that we should support jihadists in Syria because Bashar al-Assad is an evil dictator and that North Korea's Kim Jong-un and Russia's Vladimir Putin, too, are evil dictators.

According to Freedom House's rating system of political rights around the world, there were 49 nations in the world, as of 2015, that can be fairly categorized as "dictatorships." 

As of 2015, the last year for which we have publicly available data, the United States had been providing military assistance to 36 of them. The United States currently supports over 73 percent of the world's dictatorships!


Quack Cures

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), an umbrella organisation representing 29 national academies in Europe, including the Royal Society in the UK, branded homeopathy “nonsense” and warned the “promotion and use of homeopathic products risks significant harms”.

In a 12-page statement, the group summarised extensive scientific research and concluded that homeopathy is scientifically implausible and produces nothing more than a placebo effect in patients. The EASAC said homeopathic remedies can be dangerous because they may delay patients from receiving conventional medical treatment.

The body recommended that EU states set up regulations to quash what it claims are misleading advertisements by homeopaths, remove homeopathic treatments from public health provision, and require that homeopathic product labels clearly identify ingredients and their amounts.

The treatment has grown in popularity in the western world, with the homeopathy industry valued at around €1 billion in the EU in 2015 with an annual growth rate of around 6 per cent.

A House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy found that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are “scientifically implausible”.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Rich Are Destroying the Planet

Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of the world’s population is poor, living on $10 a day or less, and 11 percent (767 million people, including 385 million children) live in what the World Bank calls “extreme poverty” (less than a $1.90 a day). Meanwhile, Oxfam reliably reports that, surreal as it sounds, the world’s eight richest people possess among themselves as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire human race.

Six of the world’s eight most absurdly rich people are U.S. citizens: Bill Gates (whose net worth of $426 billion equals the wealth of 3.6 billion people), Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York City). 

Seven heirs of the Walton family’s Walmart fortune have among them a net worth equal to that of the nation’s poorest 40 percent. Half the U.S. population is poor or near-poor, and half lacks any savings.

Just over a fifth of the nation’s children, including more than a third of black and Native American children, live below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, while parasitic financiers and other capitalist overlords enjoy unimaginable hyper-opulence. One in seven U.S. citizens relies on food banks in “the world’s richest country.” Many of them are in families with full-time wage-earners—a reflection of the fact that wages have stagnated even as U.S. labor productivity consistently has risen for more than four decades.

 Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University determined that the U.S. political system has functioned as an oligarchy over the past three-plus decades, in which wealthy elites and their corporations rule. As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo, “Ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”

After the crash, the government under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama bailed out the very financial predators who pushed the economy over the cliff. The Obama administration, populated by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup operatives, left the rest of us to wonder “Where’s our bailout?” as 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during his first term.

“Natural disasters” such as Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Irma—crisis moments allow wealthy interests to rack up huge profits almost overnight while much of the population is too shocked and distracted to respond. As Susan Zakin notes in the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Handing out billions for hurricane reconstruction will shore up [Donald] Trump’s faltering support on Wall Street and among major corporations profiting from a bonanza expected to top $100 billion.” Katrina provided precisely such a business opportunity to corporate America.

Environmental ruin lies at the heart of the system, intimately related back to class rule. As Le Monde’s former ecological editor Herve Kempf noted in his aptly titled 2007 book, “How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth,” the oligarchy sees the pursuit of material growth as “the solution to the social crisis,” the “sole means of fighting poverty and unemployment” and the “only means of getting societies to accept extreme inequalities without questioning them.” “Growth,” Kempf explained, is meant to “allow the overall level of wealth to arise and consequently improve the lot of the poor without—and this part is never spelled out—any need to modify the distribution of wealth.”

“Capitalist democracy” is an oxymoron and a mirage. So is the curious notion of “inclusive capitalism”—a term taken up by the corporate right wing of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton’s closest economic advisers, in 2015. This is the Orwellian name...

This extract from an article by Paul Street can be read in full here

The Real Refugee Problem

According to Oxfam, six of the wealthiest countries host less than 9 percent of the world’s refugees.

Though Germany has welcomed far more refugees than the other richest nations, a major gap remains as low and middle-income countries continue to provide for the vast majority of refugees. Trump  reduced its refugee admission cap from 110,000, set by the previous administration, to 50,000. The figure is the lowest since 1986. Trump is also proposing to cut the Refugee Assistance budget from 3.1 billion dollars to 2.7 billion for next year.

Assistance to such countries has also been lacking, leaving refugee-hosting nations alone to shoulder the costs.
As conflict rages in South Sudan after a peace agreement fell apart in July 2016, over one million refugees have flocked to the neighboring nation of Uganda.It is the biggest exodus of refugees in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and has contributed to the creation of the world’s largest refugee camp. Strained for resources, Uganda requested two billion dollars for the immediate crisis and long-term development solutions. However, world leaders have thus far contributed less than a quarter of the appeal.  

Labour Party Conference - Confronting our class enemies

This year’s Labour Party Conference in Brighton is likely to be the biggest ever. Also, compared with previous years there is more interest in the word “socialism”, no matter how vaguely it is defined. We of The Socialist Party of Great Britain have cherished no fond delusions concerning the Labour Party. From our inception, we have consistently opposed it Every one of the measures introduced by the Labour Party during its governments has been completely compatible with the structure of capitalist society. As a party, the Labour Party is now a battle ground for the careerist professional politician seeking after power, privilege, and prestige.

The party of socialism in this country is the Socialist Party which made socialism its one and only Object. The Socialist Party recognises that only a class-conscious working class can build socialism. Its task, therefore, is the advancement of an unadulterated, uncompromising socialist programme.

The Labour Party conference takes place from Sunday 24 September to Wednesday 27 September and Socialist Party members will have a presence, distributing our literature.

What foreigners?

A new study shows that while Muslim immigrants integrate well in their countries of residence in the EU, they still experience a lot of discrimination. The study focuses on first- and second-generation immigrants – for example, people who were born in another country and moved to Germany and their children, who were born in Germany. The people surveyed have roots in many different regions around the world: North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Turkey. 

The majority of Muslims in the European Union feel at home in the countries they live in is one of the key findings in a study released by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) . 

"Our survey results make a mockery of the claim that Muslims aren't integrated into our societies," FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty said. "On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population."

76 percent of participants said they felt strongly attached to the country they live in. Many also report having a strong trust in institutions like the police and parliament. Only around 2 percent of all participants reported not feeling attached at all. Second-generation immigrants report slightly higher levels of attachment – they feel at home in the country where they were born.

The majority of survey participants reported they feel at home in the place where they live now. In Sweden, the average answer came up to almost 5, the highest score representing a very strong attachment. In Italy, Muslim immigrants were the least enthusiastic, reporting an average attachment to their home country of only 3.3.

Almost 40 percent of Muslims surveyed for the FRA study said they had experienced discrimination in their daily life over the past five years. Areas, where discrimination occurred, include the job and apartment hunt, work, and contact with teachers. 

Numbers vary strongly from country to country, however. In Malta, only 3 percent of Muslims polled said they had been discriminated against because of their religion, but 18 percent reported discrimination based on their ethnic origin or immigrant background. Ten percent of Muslims in the UK had experienced discrimination based on their immigrant background. In Greece, that number was 52 percent. In Germany, 16 percent of Muslims polled had experienced discrimination because of their religion, and 17 percent because of their immigrant background.

The Digital Tax-Haven

The European commission is looking at ways to capture tax from companies that may have no offices, shops or other physical presence in a country, but are accruing profits through large numbers of online users or customers.
The EU is pushing ahead with plans to rewrite tax rules for technology companies, aimed at increasing governments’ take from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.
report published by the commission  said technology companies paid less than half the tax of bricks-and-mortar businesses.
A digital business with international operations typically pays a 10.1% tax rate in the EU, compared with a 23.2% rate levied on traditional companies, said the report. 
In reality, many technology companies pay far less than their high street rivals. Amazon’s corporation tax bill in the UK is 11 times smaller than that of British bookstores, a recent study found. In Ireland, the European commission concluded that Apple paid 0.005% to Irish tax authorities in 2014, far below the corporation tax rate of 12.5%. Apple continues to fight the ruling.

The Police State

Banks and building societies are to carry out immigration checks which are to be carried out quarterly on 70m current accounts from January in the biggest extension of Theresa May’s plans to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in Britain, the Guardian has learned. Banks have been told to adopt a default position of telling customers to take up the matter with the Home Office if a mistake has been made, even if they provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing they are lawfully present in Britain. Also, banks have also been told there is no requirement on them to contact account holders or require additional documentary evidence as part of the check.
The Home Office expects to identify 6,000 visa overstayers and failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation in the first year of the checks. Status checks are required by anyone opening a new bank or building society account under the Immigration Act 2014, but no measure has previously required checks on the scale of every current account in Britain.
The accounts of those identified will be closed down or frozen “to make it harder for them to establish or maintain a settled life in the UK”. Officials say freezing accounts that hold significant sums “will create a powerful incentive to agree to voluntary departure” so they can secure their money once they have left the country.
Welfare campaigners warned that the Home Office’s recent record meant it could not be trusted to implement this new system without errors and that migrants with every right to be in Britain were likely to be hit by mistakes in the imposition of the checks.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, criticised the move: “The government’s own record shows it cannot be trusted even to implement this system properly. Immigration status is very complex, and the Home Office consistently gives out incorrect information and guidance. Migrants and ethnic minorities with every right to be here will be affected by the imposition of these new checks.”
An official Home Office impact assessment acknowledged “the proposed measures may have the potential to impact on the appetite of firms to offer banking services to legal migrants who do not have permanent leave to remain in the UK”
Another official Home Office impact assessment acknowledges that rather than encouraging illegal migrants to go home it could simply drive them even further into the “hidden economy”.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

West London Peace Market (23 Sept)


Saturday, 23 September
10:30am - 4:00pm
The Party will have a stall at this event
 Directions: Nearest tube station isTurnham Green on the Piccadilly and District lines
What is the socialist attitude to war? It is that war as we know it is produced in the main by the conflict between the interests of capitalists of various nations. It is born of the rivalry between sellers of goods for profit, and it can only die when selling for profit is abolished. In other words, socialist theory holds and capitalist practice proves that only by ending the entire capitalist system can war with all its attendant horrors cease.
All sorts of appeals are made to the Socialist Party to join forces with  "anti-war” organisations, but we are deaf to all such calls. Not because we do not yearn for the cessation of the war. By no means so. Socialists above all others fully understand the horrors of war. We know and feel the wreckage of human life, the sorrow and suffering arising from the brutal carnage. But there are two important reasons why we cannot associate with the various "Peace" and "Stop the War" organisations.
Firstly, because we abide by the dictates of the class struggle. Because we stand for socialism and many pacifists do not. We refuse to associate with those who support the capitalist class during times of "peace".  We refuse to lower the socialist red flag to march with the enemies of socialism knowing full well that the very men who seek our help for "peace" now would be amongst the first to "war" on the working class.
The second reason for which we cannot unite with the stop the war movement is that it is impotent. They propose to leave in power the makers of wars, the capitalist class. They intend to continue the profit-making system which itself produces commercial rivalry and inevitably international warfare. Surely it is not now doubted that wars are born of the fight for spoil between capitalists. The economic objects of the various wars have stood out so clearly as to compel even capitalist writers to admit it.
If you wish to stop all wars you must stop all capitalist competition and rivalry and to do this you must work for socialism.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Housing Crisis and the Young

Young people in Britain are spending three times more on housing than their grandparents did, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.
They also have to cope with less space and longer commutes to get to work.
While their parents typically bought their own home in their 30s, young people will soon have to wait until their 40s.
Those now in their 70s and 80s spent just 7% of their annual income on housing at the age of 30, it says. The baby-boom generation - now in its 50s and 60s - spent 17% of income at the same age. However, millennials - those now in their 20s and 30s - spend 23% of everything they earn on housing costs.
By the time the millennials reach the age of 40, they will each be spending an extra 64 hours a year commuting to work, compared with their parents, as they struggle to find housing they can afford.
Since 1996, the average floor space occupied by someone under 45 has fallen by 4%. 
 Lindsay Judge, one of the report's authors, said, "The big danger today is that young people are having to settle for lower quality, longer commutes and less security in order to afford a place to live, despite spending a record share of their income of housing."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There is hope

Human destruction of natural habitats, unbridled economic development, pollution and climate change are among the threats to plant and animal life, on land and underwater. Preserving biological diversity is an uphill fight.  Experts say failing to protect the essential diversity in the natural world would cost billions, creating global repercussions of disease, hunger, poverty and diminished resilience to climate change.
"It doesn't have to be humans versus nature, it can be humans and nature," ecologist Greg Asner, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But to do that well, you have to know where the biodiversity is, what its condition is and how it's changing so that you can work with it...The answer rests in where and how you place that development. Imagine a future where we could map out the biodiversity of the planet every two weeks and understand it, see it changing and engage governments," he said.

Arms Control - What went wrong?

Four years ago, the U.S. and the UK signed a landmark treaty to restrict the sale of arms to rights abusers. So why are they still profiting off the atrocities in Yemen?

On April 2, 2013  the UN General Assembly adopted a new treaty establishing “the highest possible common standards” for regulating the “international trade in conventional arms.”

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was variously described as a “landmark agreement” (by British Prime Minister David Cameron), “ground-breaking” (by Oxfam), and “a direct win that will help save thousands of lives” (by Amnesty International).

What went wrong?

Article Six of the ATT declares that a state should not transfer conventional arms if it has knowledge “that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.”

No fewer than 19 state parties and three signatories continue to export “arms, ammunition parts, and components to Saudi Arabia” despite “mounting evidence” of war crimes. Britain and the United States have led the way.

In April 2014, Britain ratified the ATT, with the government promising that it would build on the UK’s “robust” licensing regulations. Britain licensed $3.7 billion worth of arms sales in the first year of the Saudi air campaign, the United Nations documented 119 Saudi-led sorties violating international humanitarian law, including airstrikes on targets such as refugee camps, weddings, buses, medical facilities, schools, and mosques. At the same time, as the director of Physicians for Human Rights has put it, the Saudi-led coalition has sought to “weaponize” disease by imposing a harsh blockade which has deepened Yemen’s cholera and malnutrition crises.

In May 2017, President Trump sealed the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, helping the State Department to set an all-time record for arms sales in the 2017 fiscal year.

Yet President Obama — who signed the ATT and attempted to get it through Congress — was if anything even more complicit in the destruction of Yemen, providing the Saudis with almost unquestioned support from March 2015, when the bombing started, to the end of his second term.

During the Obama era, Human Rights Watch cited numerous examples of U.S.-produced weapons striking civilian targets in Yemen, including a March 2016 attack on Mastaba market, which killed at least 97 civilians, and an October 2016 attack on a funeral hall which killed over 100. By the time he left office, President Obama had “overseen more sales of military weaponry than any other president,” Mother Jones reports. Saudi Arabia was among the top five customers.

With such obvious disregard of its core principles, the Arms Trade Treaty is looking toothless. Critics anticipated this in 2013, pointing to the treaty’s lack of proper enforcement mechanisms. This is a charge that can be made against all international treaties, which ultimately rely on the actions of self-interested and often duplicitous governments.

There’s a deeper problem with the ATT: its insistence on distinguishing between the “legitimate” and “illicit” arms trade. The treaty pledges to “eradicate” the latter, while protecting the former.

Although the black-market gun runner makes for a good movie plot, the biggest and most lethal arms dealers are governments. Legal sanctions don’t make a missile less deadly — as any Yemeni will tell you.

 Twenty-six countries legally sold weapons to both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, as the two countries nearly bled each other to death.

 And — at least according to the UK high court — there’s nothing illegal about selling weapons to the Saudi regime as it crushes its far poorer neighbor.