Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The ethnic pay gap

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane said, “The ethnicity pay gap problem in the UK is every bit as acute as the gender pay gap problem.”

Ethnic minorities in the UK earn around 10 per cent less than white workers, even once individual and job characteristics are taken into account. Ethnic minorities earn less, ranging from 20 per cent less for people of Bangladeshi origin to 6 per cent less for workers of a Chinese background.


Racism and Immigration

The right-wing nationalists appear to be gaining the hearts and minds of many around the world, winning a number of crucial elections. Despite their extremism they have acquired a large degree of mainstream legitimacy. The far right have developed an ideology that is uniting racist neo-nazis, conservatives and populist politicians going well beyond their previous fringe existence. Over and over again in different languages they are telling us it is “Us” (whites, Christians) or “Them” ( black and brown, Muslims), that immigrants are storming the battlements of “Fortress Europe”, breaking through the southern border walls of America and invading the island nation of Australia, in other words what they call the “civilized world”. It is what’s called the “great replacement” to oust the native-born inhabitants. Its tactics are infiltrating institutions from the inside, spreading their “insidious” culture, and producing a lots of babies to out-populate the local people.

Between 2012 and 2019, for instance, 1.5 million tweets in English, French, and German referenced this warped theory of the “great replacement”. Its origins was from a gay radical poet, Renaud Camus, who had been a student demonstrator in Paris in 1968 and who in 1981 voted for Francois Mitterrand for president of France. In 2010, he published a book entitled Le Grand Remplacement depicting a France and a Europe transformed by immigration. His work became the foundational text for a growing movement called Generation Identity, a version of white nationalism. The “identitarians” embraced Renaud Camus' ideas and spread conspiracy theories. It was not just only explicit racists and Islamophobes who are pushing these views but also mainstream conservatives such as Republicans fearing demographic change such as increased Hispanic voters will undermine their political power.

Our entire civilization is now at risk, they keep saying. European christian culture and civilization is being undermined and must be preserved. The American way of life is endangered.

Putin said, “This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

Africa wants to kick down our door and Brussels is not defending us,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in 2018. “Europe is under invasion already and they are watching with their hands in the air.”

In the context of great insecurity among the “middle class” and the working poor, believing themselves abandoned by the elite and their political parties multiculturalism and immigrants became easy targets for the mounting anger of the nationalists and white supremacists. Subject themselves to austerity policies, the funds being spent on caring for migrants and refugees has led to a growing resentment against them among workers. Those on the right have taken full advantage of this latent xenophobia. No more is the talk about keeping immigrants out but ethnic cleansing (or as they euphemistically call it “remigration”) is being voiced. The platform of the German far-right party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), for instance, reads: “Germany and Europe must put in place remigration programs on the largest possible scale.” In America, they now demand the deportation of the “undocumented”. No more is the discussion about absorption and assimiliation. The EU slogan “unity in diversity” and the Statue of Liberty's Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” are being challenged by those who do not accept humane immigration and refugee policies or believe in an inclusive vision of society. It is “Us” versus “Them”. They work hard to use the social media to dehumanize the “Other”, the “Undesirables.”

The real tragedy is that a “Great Replacement” is imminent and looming on the horizon. Millions of desperate families will be fleeing the environmental destruction of climate change. Some argue that civilization will disappear and humanity itself will be replaced.

Adapted from here

Slow down on the British population rise

The UK’s population growth rate is slower than in projections made in 2016, with the expected population set to be 400,000 less in mid-2028 and 900,000 less in mid-2043 than previously predicted.

The annual population growth rate is predicted to drop from 0.6 per cent in mid-2019 to 0.27 per cent by mid-2043.

This slowdown is based on the expectation that women will have fewer children, based off recent falls in fertility rates, and a slower rate of life expectancy increases.

The UK is also expected to see a growing number of older people, with the proportion of people aged 85 or over predicted to almost double over the next 25 years. 
“The population is increasingly ageing and this trend will continue,” the ONS said. “However, because of the expected rise in the state pension age to 67 years, it is projected that slightly fewer than one in five people will be of pensionable age in 2028, a similar proportion to today.”
Net international migration is expected to account for 73 per cent of the UK’s population growth, with the ONS predicting 5.4 million people will immigrate long-term to the UK between 2018 and 2028, while 3.3 million people will emigrate long-term from the UK.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The risk in football

A long-awaited study commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association has found former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than people of the same age range in the general population.

The study began after claims that former West Brom striker Jeff Astle died because of repeated head trauma. Former England international Astle developed dementia and died in 2002 at the age of 59. The inquest into his death found heading heavy leather footballs repeatedly had contributed to trauma to his brain.
 It compared deaths of 7,676 ex-players to 23,000 from the general population. 
It began in January last year and was led by consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart, who said that "risk ranged from a five-fold increase in Alzheimer's disease, through an approximately four-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a two-fold Parkinson's disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls".
Dr Stewart said: "This is the largest study to date looking in this detail at the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in any sport, not just professional footballers. Our data show that while former footballers had higher dementia rates, they had lower rates of death due to other major diseases."
They were less likely to die of other common diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers, including lung cancer.

The Wealth Gap

According to a report by Credit Suisse, millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the late 90s – are the least well-off age group.
The report says: 
“Not only were they hit at a vulnerable age by the global financial crisis, its associated recession and the poor job prospects that followed, but they have also been disadvantaged in many countries by high house prices, low interest rates and low incomes, making it difficult for them to buy property or accumulate wealth. Studies in several countries have indicated that the millennials can expect to be worse off than their parents.”
Personal savings of $109,430 (£83,630) are required to be part of the top 10% of the world’s richest people. 
46.8 million collectively own $158.3tn in net assets, 44% of the global total.
55,920 adults are worth at least $100m.
4,830 have net assets above $500m. 
Net assets are defined as realisable savings minus debts and does not include the value of property.

Our World Or No World (London Day School)

 'Our World Or No World!' 

 A day of talks on the environment and climate change. 

This is being held on Saturday 9th November at:

The Mayday Rooms, 

88 Fleet Street,
London, EC4Y 1DH. 

The event starts at 11.15 and ends around 16.45. 

Entry is free and there will be plenty of time for discussion

Talks (and approximate timings) are as follows:

11.15 – Bill Martin on ‘Flat Earthers against global warming: how, when and why to debate climate change’

12.25 – Paddy Shannon on ‘Reuse, Recycle, Revolt: why tokenism is not a class act'

14.30 – Stephen Harper on ‘Hot planet, cool media: environmental discourse in the digital age’

15.35 – Glenn Morris on ‘A utopian vision?’

For more details, see here 

Stats and Facts

Roger Revelle former director of the Harvard Center for Population Studies estimated that Africa, Asia and Latin America alone, simply by using water more efficiently, could feed 35 billion to 40 billion people – seven to eight times the current world population – and that assumes no change in technology.

The former director of the Agricultural Economic Institute at Oxford University, Colin Clark, has estimated that if the world’s farmers were to use the best methods of farming available, an American diet could be provided for 35.1 billion people. 

If a Japanese-style diet were provided, this number would be trebled.Global agriculture currently produces 4,600 calories per person per day, enough food to feed the world population.

The University of Michigan – a switch to organic agriculture would be more than enough to support an estimated population peak of around 10-11 billion people by the year 2100″we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet,” 

 Jonathan Foley, head of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.Eco-farming could double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change, according to a new U.N. report.

In 1996 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the world was producing enough food to provide everyone with 2,700 calories a day, 500 more than is needed by the average human.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997, 78 percent of all malnourished children aged under five live in countries with food surpluses.”The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food” …Even though ‘hungry countries’ have enough food for all their people right now, many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.”

Since 1948, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, annual world food production has outpaced the increase in population by about 1 percent. 

Despite sufficient national food production to meet the needs of Pakistan’s 170 million people, according to WFP, some 83 million people, almost 50 per cent of the population, were food insecure by 2010

In the 2009-2010 crop year, the world produced 2.26 billion metric tons of cereals. Approximately 0.2 metric tons (440 pounds) of cereal grains provide the food energy an average human needs for a year. Dividing the 2.2 billion metric tons produced by 0.2 metric tons required per person shows that current grain production could feed 11 billion people.

”Can we feed a world of 9 billion? I would say the answer is yes,” - Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser to Britain’s Department of Environment and Rural Affairs and a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

”Hunger is not a food production problem. It is an income problem.” - Robert Fox of Oxfam Canada. 

“There is no food shortage in the world. Food is simply priced out of the reach of the world’s poorest people.” - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director – 

“There is not a global food shortage — there is a price crisis” The Financial Express of Bangladesh 

“…if all the earth’s available arable land, water and technology were to be used to produce food, it could feed sixty billion people, according to one FAO estimate

China's Capitalists

The number of rich Chinese has surpassed the count of wealthy Americans a study by Credit Suisse showed. 

The Swiss bank’s annual wealth survey released on Monday found 100 million Chinese ranked in the global top 10% as of the middle of this year versus 99 million in the United States. 

“Despite the trade tension between the United States and China over the past 12 months, both countries have fared strongly in wealth creation, contributing $3.8 trillion and $1.9 trillion respectively,” said Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, global head of economics and research at Credit Suisse CSGN.S. 

The ranks of the world’s millionaires have risen by 1.1 million to an estimated 46.8 million, collectively owning $158.3 trillion in net assets, 44% of the global total, the study found.

The report estimates that 55,920 adults are worth at least $100 million and 4,830 have net assets above $500 million. 

It forecast global wealth — which increased 2.6% over the past year — would rise by 27% over the next five years to $459 trillion by 2024. The number of millionaires would also grow over this period to almost 63 million. 

The share of the world’s bottom 90% accounts for 18% of global wealth.

Natural Gas - Unnatural Consequences

$112 billion worth of new natural gas plants are proposed or under construction, along with $32 billion of proposed pipeline projects to carry the gas from shale fields to the plants. Joe Daniel, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists told USA Today, “it would make de-carbonizing the power sector by 2050 nearly impossible.”

Natural gas is now America’s leading source for electricity generation, providing 35 percent of fuel. The EIA currently expects gas to rise to 39 percent by 2050, still higher than the expected 31 percent of electricity provided by renewables. The effects of gas becoming our dominant fossil fuel is only now being understood.

The natural gas industry claim it is the “bridge” between coal and renewable energy, pushing gas as a “foundation for the future” because it is “clean.” The PR campaign seeks to focus only on the climate benefits of gas vs. coal and not the broader debate of gas vs. renewables. Gas producers know their claim of being “clean” does not match solar and wind. They know their only hope to be a “foundation for the future” is to lock in consumer dependence to gas infrastructure for many decades to come. Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that by 2030, “new wind and solar ultimately get cheaper than running existing coal or gas plants almost everywhere.” An analysis by Lazard Asset Management that found that the range of unsubsidized levelized costs of onshore wind and utility-scale solar to be below that of natural gas.

The federal Energy Information Administration has estimated that by 2023, the levelized cost of producing power by onshore wind and solar, will be considerably cheaper than natural gas ($36.60, $37.60 and $40.20 per megawatt hour respectively for each energy source). Levelized costs reflect construction and operation costs over the technology’s assumed lifetime, including subsidies, which solar and wind currently enjoy.
The growing gap between ever-cheaper renewables and natural gas means that some 71 percent of planned new gas capacity analyzed by RMI could become uneconomic by 2035,  potentially resulting in tens of billions of dollars of silent hulks otherwise known as stranded assets. If new pipelines were built, they are likely to become underutilized almost overnight as the amount of gas flowing through them plummets 20 to 60 percent over the next 16 years, depending on the region.
Conversely, RMI says that replacing the planned gas projects with clean energy could save consumers $29 billion and avoid major volumes of greenhouse gases

The United States Geological Survey recently announced new estimates of reachable gas in Appalachia and upstate New York that are nearly double the old estimates. Despite the fact that New York banned fracking in 2014 for its feared health risks, USGS Director Jim Reilly called these reserves “crucial to ensuring our nation’s energy independence.” Reilly who ordered his scientists to study climate change only out to 2040 instead of the rest of the century, when even more dire impacts are expected to kick in.

Trump recently rolled out its plans to eliminate methane standards for new gas and oil operations. Even though some of the biggest energy companies said they opposed the rollback of methane standards, the administration’s actions are quite convenient for industry’s unified attempt to narrowly frame gas as a friend of the environment.
Many major oil and gas producers tout “sustainability” programs to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. But those pledges are hard to square with their proclamations about natural gas.
Harry Brekelmans, Shell’s projects and technology director,  told analysts this summer: “Probably the greatest contribution Shell can make right now is to continue to increase the role of natural gas to fuel transport, heat and light homes, and power industries.” ExxonMobil’s 2019 Energy and Carbon Summary says: “Natural gas will expand its role, led by growth in electricity generation and industrial output.”

. In a 2013 report, Union of Concerned Scientists said that while gas might play a “modest” role in a clean energy future, a gas-dominated system will “fail to effectively address the growing dangers of climate change.

Most studies show methane emissions to be soaring in the fracking era, at rates already close to a negating any suggested benefits of natural gas over coal in terms of global warming emissions. Risks to those who live near fracking operations continue to emerge. Just before Trump took office, the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama found that fracking could contaminate drinking water.


What Socialism Will Mean

As long as capitalism endures the problems of the world take on a capitalist form; all “solutions” must be capitalist solutions — which often means that no real solution is possible.
If socialism had already been instituted there would not now be any environment crisis. But when the Socialist Party says that the task coming before all others is to hasten the achievement of socialism by winning over a majority to the socialist cause our doubters have their glib answer ready. Socialism, they say, cannot be achieved quickly, therefore it is necessary to be practical and find a solution to these dire problems now. So they draw up their solutions, not one solution but many, and engage in disagreements with each other over them. Some are good-intentioned and well-meaning schemes but which capitalism simply laughs out of court. Then come the cynical compromises arrived at after making compromises and concessions to the demands of the business groups and national governments, “solutions” blandly ignoring the wishes of the majority but suitably subordinate to the needs of global capitalism rather than the welfare of the planet and its peoples. Here is where the eco-activists short-coming become exposed – their lack of understanding what capitalism is and why it is the cause of the climate emergency we all face. It will be the spread of socialist knowledge that will do more, even as an immediate, practical contribution, than the attempts to solve such problems within the framework of the capitalist system.
 Capitalism remains a danger to our planet and that a socialist society would be in a better position to look after it. However, if socialism were to be established in the near future our first priority would be to rapidly increase the production and free distribution of food, clothing, shelter and essential medical supplies to those human beings in need and to end the miserable poverty caused by capitalism. This will take priority over any long term ecological and environmental concerns. The immediate well-being, welfare and health of the human species is of paramount concern. In the long run socialism implies stable or only slowly gradual rising consumption and production levels, though it also envisages to combat global poverty a carefully planned initial rapid growth over a period to end deprivation until we reach a level at which consumption and production could then level off. 
People need to survive and so we all need air, food, water, etc. It is human nature to eat when you are hungry, to drink when you are thirsty, and to sleep when you are tired. Nothing can alter this. We also have sexual and emotional needs. To live happy lives we seek out physical contact, affection and love. All these features of human nature will be met in socialism and be much better than they are now under capitalism.
Our present social system is poorly equipped to grant happiness. Too often we must do somebody harm in order to do a good deed for another, and vice versa.

Socialism does not require us all to become altruists, putting the interests of others above our own. In fact socialism doesn’t require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, co-operation) at the expense of others which capitalism encourages.

We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs, our need to be well considered by others as well as our material and sexual needs. No doubt too, we will want to “possess” personal belongings such as our clothes and other things of personal use, and to feel secure in our physical occupation of the house or flat we live in, but this will be just that – our home and not a financial asset.

The socialist solution to the problem is by making the conditions and circumstances of our daily life humane by re-organising the entire network of economic and social relationships so that the problem itself disappears, so that no-one ever has to choose between the demands of the “conscience” and the dictates of “reason”.
We don’t need to change human nature; it is only human behaviour that needs to change. While our genes can’t be ignored, they only intervene in our behaviours in an indirect way, by programming the development of our brains. Therefore, to understand the complexities of our behaviour, it is to our brains, not directly to our genes, that we have to look. When we do this we find that our brains allow us, as a species, to adopt –  a great variety of different behaviours depending on the natural, economic and social environments we have found ourselves in.

Socialism is no fanciful utopia, but the crying need of the times; and that we, as socialists, are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others to do something about it as speedily as possible, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. The seeming failures, the disappointments and discouragements, the slow growth, only indicate that socialist work is not an easy task.