Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accumulation - This Is How It Works Against You

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the food industry ahead of consumers by refusing to block the biggest supermarket merger in history. The FTC allowed the Albertsons-Safeway merger to go through almost completely unobstructed after the chains divested a paltry number of grocery stores in a handful of cities.
The merger creates the third largest grocery retailer (behind Walmart and Kroger) and leaves supermarket shoppers vulnerable to price gouging. 
The FT approved a divestiture plan that is simply inadequate to protect consumers. It largely permits supermarkets to tighten their stranglehold on consumers at a time of rising grocery prices and stagnant wages. Albertsons and Safeway agreed to shed a modest 7 percent of their combined 2,400 stores.

The FTC did not require the chains to divest a single store in twenty metropolitan areas where the merger combined local rivals. In these markets, the four largest retailers will sell two-thirds of all groceries, and 12 million consumers will face higher prices and reduced choices.

Even in the areas where stores will be sold, the divestiture plan is unlikely to protect consumers. The merger entrenches Albertsons as the biggest grocer in 13 markets and the second biggest in six more, controlling about one-fifth of grocery sales, according to figures from Deutsche Bank.

The FTC should have blocked this supermarket mega-merger. Unfortunately, the FTC abandoned its mission to protect consumers and allowed continued consolidation of the grocery industry, increasing the power these grocery store goliaths have over consumers and their food.

taken from here

Capitalism Will Not End Inequality - Change The System

A new report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indisputably confirms what many scientists had predicted: 2014 is officially the hottest year on record. And this past year is not an anomaly—the previous ten hottest years on the books have all occurred since 1998. This announcement adds to the urgency expressed just last month in Lima, where political leaders and business tycoons from around the world met for the 20th yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The gathering in Peru was historic in that it was the last time the decision-making body would meet before COP 21 in Paris next December, where an international and legally binding agreement on climate will be signed.

However, growing movements of those on the frontlines of climate disruption argue that the high-level political remedies touted at venues such as the COP amount to false promises and leave out marginalized voices. Via Campesina is perhaps the most prominent of these movements, with more than 250 million peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous members from around the world. Along with allies ranging from labor to environmental networks, Via Campesina organized the Cumbre de los Pueblos (Peoples Summit) in its own grassroots rendition of the COP 20 process in Lima to promote bottom-up solutions to the climate crisis and refute the corporate-driven and exclusionary nature of the official negotiations.

Two policies highly promoted at COP 20 were Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and Climate-Smart Agriculture, both aimed at reducing temperatures worldwide through carbon trading. At a first glance, REDD and Climate-Smart Agriculture appear laudable actions—especially given what are seemingly climate-friendly names. But under the surface, these programs create chaos within already volatile ecosystems and sabotage humble livelihoods.

Take REDD for example. In a nutshell, REDD allows wealthy industrialized countries and corporations to continue polluting by buying forests in the Global South to offset the carbon they release into the atmosphere through their practices elsewhere. These forests, meticulously managed by generations of indigenous people, are folded into the market—often resulting in the forced eviction of communities. Even worse, REDD makes no distinction between natural forests and industrial tree plantations—meaning that its implementation often results in massive loss of biodiversity.
“There is no excuse to turn nature into a commodity,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the U.S. and Canada-based Indigenous Environmental Network, a close ally of Via Campesina. Both groups are strongly opposed to REDD and work together in spaces such as the No REDD in Africa Network. Goldtooth spoke powerfully at the Peoples Summit in Lima, warning against the interconnected nature of imperialism, militarization, and market-dependent strategies. “We reject the WTO of the sky,” he concluded.

Climate-Smart Agriculture, another centerpiece strategy to the COP proceedings, basically takes the tenets of REDD and applies them to farmland. Between 44 and 57 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are from food production, and the overwhelming majority of these discharges are the direct result of wasteful industrial agriculture. Climate-Smart Agriculture builds on staples of the Green Revolution—modified seeds, chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers in the name of intensification and productivity—to impose new biotechnology on farmers around the world, creating yet another wave of dependency on markets. Just as with REDD, investors from the Global North will receive carbon credits from their contribution to Climate-Smart Agriculture projects in the Global South, thus increasing speculation within the food system by expanding its profit value.

 “There’s absolutely nothing smart about it,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian Via Campesina leader who coordinates the movement’s work around climate change, in a critical workshop on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Lima. “The climate crisis is rooted in capitalism, which is also in crisis as an economic system,” he explained. “Entrepreneurs are trying to emerge from this crisis, and as a way of doing so are creating green capitalism, of which Climate-Smart Agriculture is typical.”

The slogan of the Peoples Summit in Lima—“change the system, not the climate”—is one that will persist throughout the year and into next December’s COP 21 in Paris, where a parallel Peoples Summit will again accompany official negotiations. Via Campesina and its tight network of allies are committed to their cutting-edge alternatives, particularly food sovereignty and agroecology.
Food sovereignty assumes the fundamental principal that rural working people and their urban counterparts—not market institutions and corporations—should govern the global food system. Agroecology is the key practice for realizing food sovereignty, building local markets through ecological methods grounded in tried-and-true ancestral knowledge. In that process, carbon is sequestered in the soil—helping to curb global warming patterns while protecting territorial rights. “Agroecology can double food production in entire regions within ten years, while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty,” stated Olivier de Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food upon presentation of his March 2011 report to the Human Rights Council.

REDD and Climate-Smart Agriculture are experimental programs with irreversible implications on the environment, while food sovereignty and agroecology respect the earth’s natural systems. “Food sovereignty is our struggle against capitalism and the way it shapes our land,” said Nivia Regina da Silva, representative of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil. MST is a founding member movement of Via Campesina that, among other initiatives, runs political training and agroecology schools throughout the country. Along with other Via Campesina members and allies, MST organized a lively conference on food sovereignty that was a focal point of the Peoples Summit in Lima.
Peasant agriculture can feed the world and cool the planet,” affirmed Jean-Baptiste.
Via Campesina’s activism around climate is integral to its obligation of representing those most affected by systemic injustice. And this year, while high-level negotiations further unfold, the movement and its allies will be sure to turn up the heat every step of the way.

from here

No, we are not promoting peasant agriculture for the whole world BUT we do respect different approaches to food production around the world in order to achieve sustainability and a planet safe for all humanity. We are in strong agreement here with the struggle against capitalism and the commodification for profit of anything and everything, including food and nature. Movements like these are to be applauded for drawing wider attention to crucial matters at hand. This 'systemic injustice' can be overcome only by a global change to socialism.

More Popular Resistance To Undemocratic Decisions Across India

Oppose And Resist The Undemocratic Land Acquisition, Rehab, Resettlement Ordinance

Bhoomi – a Forum for Protection of Land in India (FPLI) resolved on 22nd January 2015 at Visakhapatnam meet to call upon people of India to oppose and resist the undemocratic Land Acquisition, Rehab, Resettlement (LARR) ordinance to take away the democratic rights of the farmers, tribals given in the Act 2013. The soul of the new Act was that the acquisition could not be done without consent of 80% land owners and Social Impact Assessment on which the public hearing was must. 

But without consulting the public, people and organizations and political parties and Parliament members the Union Government’s ordinance to end the democratic action of land acquisition process is nothing but to establish despotic corporate rule in our country at the cost of life and livelihood of millions of farmers, agriculture workers, Fishers, Adivasis and Dalits. This arbitrary anti-people decision is the gateway of corporate governance which will also mill the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the autonomy of Gram Sabha, PESA CRZ regulations, environment protection on laws by which the Fishers, Adivasis, Dalits all the marginalized people depending on natural resources like sea, forest, land of any category, rivers in name of so called development.

As main opposition party BJB had extended support to the LARR in two houses of parliament to be smoothly passed but its newly elected government did not hesitate to murder a democratic people’s law made after more than hundred people sacrificed their lives resisting forceful land acquisition under 1894 law. As a result of this ordinance, corporates will continue to take over the common and people’s resources for their own growth in the name of nation development that will further aggravate the trend.
It is an attack on constitutional fundamental rights of the people of our country who have right to resources for secured life and livelihood with dignity guaranteed by the constitution. Unless and until we resist this corporate fascist move to handover our resources to the corporates of gluteal imperialism and build united struggle to make our polity and development model free from corporate power, our great constitution will be irrelevant. So to campaign and resist all the anti-corporate and anti-communal people’s organizations and democratic movements have to come together to discharge a historical responsibility for a rational struggle for reconstruction of sovereign, socialist, democratic and republic and secular nation as per the preamble of our constitution.

We call upon on all the organizations and alliances to protest the ordinance and force the government to withdraw it as well as appeal to the members of Parliament irrespective of political parties to force the central government to withdraw it. We also call upon the various communities to pass resolutions in the gram sabhas against the draconian LARR ordinance as well as to protest in state, district and village levels to establish democratic right.
A massive campaign for awareness and mass protest rallies will be organized to demonstrate the people’s power to reclaim and protect the rights as ensured in the constitution.

Bhoomi – a Forum for Protection of Land in India (FPLI)

from here

India Resists - No Democracy Without Participation


We are shocked by the conspicuous absence of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Indian constitution’s preamble used in the customary advertisement in newspapers of 26th January, greeting people of India on the Republic Day. The advertisement has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Ministry and also carries a quotation by the Prime Minister.

At the time when the people of India, and even the global community, have genuine apprehensions about the secular character of the Indian democracy, which stands threatened by a right-wing government formed with less than one-third of the popular votes, this omission is utterly condemnable.
Secularism has been pivotal to the post-independent India, binding all communities together as equal citizens. Similarly, the word socialist was added to emphasize the social committments of the state in a country like India. These two values are non-negotiable and any attempt to dilute them would face strong resistance. We condemn the I & B Ministry and demand an apology from the govt for this mischievous advertisement on Republic Day.

taken from here

Haiti is open for business

Yet another post revealing the dire state of democracy and accountancy in Haiti. 

The World Bank, the Haitian government, and international mining company representatives walk into a hotel lobby to discuss the future of mining in Haiti. A two-hour gathering was held in a luxury hotel to assess a 100-page document which was a draft mining law stipulating how the Haitian government expects to deal with companies that want to begin extracting the estimated $20 billion worth of gold and minerals that is believed to lie in the mountains to the north.

This investor-friendly mining bill would replace a decades-old convention that has stymied foreign exploration of the country's untapped mineral deposits. The document is consistent with the President Michel Martelly administration's slogan, "Haiti is open for business," welcoming an influx of foreign capital that would bring much-needed tax revenues and new jobs to the struggling country — but at the risk of significant social and environmental cost.

The draft mining law was written with assistance from the World Bank, which supports the Haitian operations of Canadian mining company Eurasian Minerals through its private-sector investment arm, the International Finance Cooperation. The World Bank became involved in redrafting the Haitian mining convention in 2013, and has worked in close consultation with North American mining companies that have already secured mining permits in Haiti. In an effort to streamline the infusion of foreign investment, the draft contains a number of provisions that Haitians are concerned will further marginalize communities most affected by mining activity in the north.

 For example, the proposed law would formalize a 10-year confidentiality period for any "reports, documents and data pertaining to… work undertaken within the context of a mining title," including geological discoveries or topographical information gleaned in the course of mining operations.

The draft law makes it easier for the government to expropriate land to enable mining installations if they are deemed to be in the "public interest." As the complaint notes, the bill "does not make clear whether landowners and land users have the right to refuse to allow mining companies to enter onto and use their land."

According to the draft law, the country's Environment Ministry will have 180 days to evaluate a company's environmental assessment of a given project in its application for a mining permit. Six months might seem like a reasonable amount of time, but complainants point to the inefficiency of Haitian governmental bureaucracy getting in the way of timely assessments. They fear that the cap will compromise the ministry's authority and inhibit critical oversight of environmental concerns. A statement of "no objection" will be assumed after the period lapses, allowing mining activities to proceed regardless of any potential dangers.

Opponents argue that the bill's provisions fall short of World Bank environmental safeguards that weigh a project's benefits against its degradation of natural habitat. Critics bemoan the lack of clarity surrounding the Environment Ministry's authority, and questions the adequacy of the rehabilitation measures outlined in the bill. World Bank operational policies require a discussion with "project-affected groups and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) about the project's environmental aspects." They should be provided relevant material in a timely manner, in a form and language that is "understandable and accessible." Between 90 to 95 percent of Haitians speak only Creole, so French-language documents are useless as far as engaging with the general public. Most of the affected communities, which are largely made up of subsistence farmers, also don't have email addresses or access to the internet. The public's lack of awareness makes plain that the World Bank's requirements haven't been met.

Nixon Boumba, an organizer from the Mouvman Demokratik Popilè (MODEP) attended a consultation meeting in June. Invitations were sent out by email, in French, and Boumba noted that the hotel hosting the event was inaccessible by public transportation. The meeting was well attended by representatives from mining companies, the Bureau of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Boumba counted just seven civilians, himself included. A 45-minute delay gave them little time to react to the 100-page document written in what Boumba described as "legal jargon." "If you're going to consult people, you have to consult them on something they can understand," he said.

"This is an industry that even extremely well-developed regulatory states like those in the US have had problems with," Meg Satterthwaite, a lawyer and professor at New York University, "The idea that a place that doesn't have a functioning regulatory state would be capable at this stage of really regulating and monitoring such an inherently dangerous industry seems facially questionable."

Buying Democracy

"A handful of deep-pocketed donors gets to determine who runs for office, what issues make it onto the agenda, and too frequently, who wins," said Dan Smith, democracy campaign director with U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

For presidential contenders, appealing to the handful of wealthy donors is as important as building support among voters.

It is apparent that the people don’t rule. They are ruled over and managed and manipulated by various vested interests, but above all, by the monied interests. The primary method this is done is divide and conquer. The right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch plan to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaigns, an amount on par with both the major political parties, the Washington Post reported. The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Unlike the parties, their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors. That makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs — among the wealthiest men in the country — and how much by other donors. The Kochs will have free rein in 2016 not only to pour astonishing amounts of money into U.S. elections, but--in contrast with traditional parties--to do so in secret, without disclosing the financial interests behind the spending.

Those resources will go into field operations, new data-driven technology and policy work, among other projects, along with likely media campaigns aimed at shaping the congressional and White House elections. That network aims to advance a conservative platform that prioritizes austerity, deregulation, and privatization while opposing efforts to address climate change.

"The $1 billion the Koch network plans to spend in 2016 should dispel any doubts that the Kochs are operating their own secretly-funded shadow political party," read a post on the PR Watch blog published.

"We have never seen this before," Sheila Krumholz, who runs the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, told USA Today. "There is no network akin to this one in terms of its complexity, scope and resources."

A great deal hangs in the balance with regard to the feasibility of advancing democratic socialism while under the continuous attack. The organized expressions of popular power will probably be decisive in determining the outcome of the present economic and political crossroad. Our class enemy out-spend us and buy their publicity and advocates. We have truth on our side. 

War for Resources

The Socialist Party has long insisted that many of the modern wars revolve around natural resources such as oil. Now research suggests they do play an even bigger role in conflicts than some pro-capitalists have tried to deny. The study confirms our view.

Research from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex found foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none. The research is the first to confirm the role of oil as a dominant motivating factor in conflict, suggesting hydrocarbons were a major reason for the military intervention in Libya, by a coalition which included the UK, and the current US campaign against Isis in northern Iraq. The study, published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, analysed 69 civil wars between 1945 and 1999, but did not examine foreign invasions. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, led by the US and the UK, wasn’t covered in the research because it wasn’t a civil war. However, the report notes previous claims that a thirst for oil was “the alleged ‘true’ motivation of the US invasion of Iraq”. It noted that civil wars have made up more than 90 per cent of all armed conflicts since the Second World War and that two-thirds of these have seen a third-party intervention. It found that the decision to intervene was dominated by the third-party’s need for oil, far more than historical, geographic or ethnic ties.

“We found clear evidence that countries with potential for oil production are more likely to be targeted by foreign intervention if civil wars erupt,” said one of the report authors, Dr Petros Sekeris, of the University of Portsmouth. “Military intervention is expensive and risky. No country joins another country’s civil war without balancing the cost against their own strategic interests.”

“After a rigorous and systematic analysis, we found that the role of economic incentives emerges as a key factor in intervention,” said co-author Dr Vincenzo Bove, of the University of Warwick. “Before the Isis forces approached the oil-rich Kurdish north of Iraq, Isis was barely mentioned in the news. But once Isis got near oil fields, the siege of Kobani in Syria became a headline and the US sent drones to strike Isis targets.”

The US maintains troops in Persian Gulf oil producers and has a history of supporting conservative autocratic states in spite of the emphasis on democratic reform elsewhere, the report says.

 Britain intervened in the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, between 1967 and 1970. During this period the UK was one of the biggest importers of oil in the world, with North Sea oil production only starting in 1975. BP’s presence in the oil-rich eastern region of the country meant stability in the area was of critical importance. David Cameron was instrumental in setting up the coalition that intervened in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011, a country with sizeable oil reserves. Britain watched on as Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front, with support from Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, attempted to overthrow Joseph Momoh’s government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years (1991 to 2002) and enveloped the country, leaving more than 50,000 dead. The UK also opted not to intervene in the Rhodesian Bush War between 1964 and 1979 – a three-way battle between the Rhodesian  government, the military wing of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TPP: Protecting Big Pharma Profits, Putting Public Health At Risk

Braving snow and blizzard warnings, health, labor and environmental activists rallied outside a New York City hotel on Monday where industry leaders met with international trade representatives to commence the "final negotiations" over the secret text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Leading the protest and carrying signs that read "Hands Off Our Medicine," protesters with health groups Doctors Without Borders and Health Global Access Project (GAP) warned that the TPP will undermine efforts to ensure access to affordable, life-saving medicines in both the United States and abroad.
Roughly one hundred people, including the Teamsters and the Raging Grannies, joined the health activists in chanting "Derail Fast Track," in reference to the Administration's push to pass the agreement quickly without Congressional interference.

"The TPP would create a vicious cycle. The provisions currently proposed will allow for fracking and other practices that fuel environmental degradation and make people sick. Strengthened intellectual property rules will then prevent people from accessing life- saving medicines," said Michael Tikili, national field organizer for Health GAP, in a press statement. "Thirteen million people living with HIV depend on generic AIDS medicines and another 20-plus million are waiting line for treatment. By protecting Pharma’s bloated profits, the Obama administration is undermining its own global AIDS initiative—this isn’t a trade agreement—it’s a death pact."

 As Tikili further explained to Common Dreams, national efforts to end epidemics such as HIV and Hepititis C are being thwarted by the prospective trade laws which would threaten generic manufacturers in countries with patent suits. For instance, Tikili says, the U.S. government says it is "going to war on HIV" while at the same time pushing laws that limit drug production and access in certain countries.
"It is a public health issue, a global health issue," Tikili said. "Countries are trying to fight epidemics and this really limits that. It puts the process over people."

Most of the agreement details have been so kept in the shadows that many members of Congress have not seen the text. What little is known has been revealed through leaks.
According to Health GAP, leaked drafts of the TPP revealed that the U.S. is seeking stronger, longer, and more accessible patent monopolies on medicines and new monopolies on drug regulatory data that would prevent marketing of more affordable generic equivalents. The TPP will reportedly also place some of the "most severe intellectual property rules ever demanded in international trade," including strict price control measures and enhanced investor rights that would permit Big Pharma to sue governments when they expect profits will be undermined by government policy.

from here

A LOAD OF PAPAL BULL! (weekly poem)


Following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, The Pope said
it’s wrong to retaliate to insults with violence but then
said he would punch anyone who insulted his Mother

The Pope says he’ll thump anyone,
Who’s rude to his old Ma;
But claims retaliation’s wrong,  
In edicts to his docile throng,
With logic quite bizarre.
Such a conception, rationally,
Is far from adequate,
And being faulty, can’t be said,
(Unless one’s empty in the head)
To be immaculate!

Not for His Holiness the need,
To turn the other cheek;
That’s for the one of virgin birth,
And those inheriting the Earth,
The (multi-moneyed) meek.
It must be clear to all those with, 
A non-judgemental mind;
Those who refuse to moralise,
Can see with their wide-open eyes,
The Holy See is blind.

Especially on their legacy,
Of priestly child-abuse;
In trying to sell folk a pup,
The crimes they tried to cover up,
In due course cooked their goose.
The Vatican to fool its flock,
Engulfs their eyes with wool; 
Then in Christ-like humility,
Claims its infallibility,
With loads of Papal Bull!
© Richard Layton

Labour - The Nasty Party

Here's a photo of a Labour Party leaflet pushed through people's letterboxes in Haringey last night.

 The text is:
Labour's tough new approach to immigration
It's fair that before drawing on the welfare state, people should first make a contribution to it.
That's why Labour will stop people claiming benefits until they have lived here for at least two years.
The Tories have lost control of our borders and have no idea who is coming in or out of the country. That's why Labour will bring in 1,000 extra border staff to count people in and out of the country as well as fingerprint checks to clamp down on illegal immigrants.
People who rely on public services have a right to expect that staff, like nurses and care workers, can speak English. That is why Labour will make sure that all frontline public sector staff can speak English.

Nasty stuff. Real nasty stuff.

But which is worse: People like UKIP who really believe this or people like Labour who only pretend to so as to win votes?

Making Money Is No Game For The Working Class

For Americans generally we understand that 'middle class' means middle income bracket. For socialists worldwide there are only two classes: working class and capitalist. Anyone who has to work in order to secure the necessities of life is a member of the working class and a part of the vast majority of the global population. (99.???%)

'Making money is all a game to the super-rich'

Just 10% of Americans own 91 percent of the nation's stocks and mutual funds, according to economist Edward Wolff. Most of the remainder is held by a "middle class" that is steadily losing ground. The bottom 60% is almost entirely shut out).
Stock owners, some of whom made billions of dollars last year, can defer their income taxes indefinitely, pay a reduced capital gains tax when they decide to cash in, or pass on the capital gains tax-free to their heirs.
Making money is all a game to the super-rich -- redistribution toward the top, trickle-down delusions, tax avoidance, and even, for some of them, dabbling in criminal activities. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) once said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game."

Here's part of their game plan:


$2 of every $5 owned today was created in the last five years, most of it from the financial markets, and almost all of it going to the richest 10%.

Unfathomably, the richest 1% took anywhere from 95 percent to 116 percent of the new income gains after the recession. Yes, 116 percent, because almost everyone else went backwards. Median wealth dropped about 40 percent from 2007 to 2013.


JP Morgan CEO Jaime Dimon said, "I am not embarrassed to be a banker." On the contrary, he and his banking buddies can sit back and gloat, knowing that not a single Wall Street banker has been prosecuted for the financial collapse, and that the little fines they pay for their misconduct simply amount to the cost of doing business.
Their crimes include faulty mortgages, lying to the U.S. Senate, and conspiring to hide billions of dollars of trading losses from regulators. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission used variations of the word 'fraud' over 150 times in describing the buildup to the crisis.

Piling On

The superrich team tries to convince us that all is well.
From the Wall Street Journal: The U.S. economy is on a tear.
From a Moody's analyst: Our economy is firing on most cylinders.
And from President Obama himself: Tonight, we turn the page.

People with stocks are happy, but the news is a lot different for middle America, which has seen its pay drop a stunning 23 percent since 2009, and its median wealth plummet by about 40 percent.


Even though corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years, corporations aren't pumping it back into the economy. Instead they're holding it. S&P companies last year spent an incredible 95% of their profits on stock buybacks to enrich executives and shareholders.
Meanwhile, as the rest of us dutifully pay our taxes, we get blind-sided by wealthy individuals and corporations who defer their taxes, stash income in tax havens, enjoy a special capital gains tax rate, invest their money in tax-free foundations, or simply don't pay.
Boeing, Ford, Chevron, Citigroup, Verizon, JP Morgan, and General Motors, with a combined income last year of $74 billion, paid no taxes, and instead received a combined refund of nearly $2 billion.

And the Middle Class Keeps Losing

This is the middle class of a nation in which over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies.

It is a middle class so poor that almost two-thirds of polled Americans said they didn't have enough money to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.

from here

There is an alternative. There is a way out of this but it means working together - unification of the global working class. We have to think beyond the limits of borders and recognise we have much more in common with workers of every other country in the world than we do with our own 'elite' countrymen. It is this global elite we have to bring down to earth by creating a single class, those who contribute to the well being of all whilst sharing in the fruits of our common heritage.


The Fate Of The Environment Is A Class Issue

400 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide may seem an arbitrary milestone, but given the scientific consensus that 350 ppm is the maximum compatible with long-term species-survival, we may take the newer and higher figure as an occasion for reflecting on where human society is headed.
I suspect that in most parts of the world, the 400 threshold is being crossed without much notice. Too many concerns of a more immediate nature get in the way, be they the routines of daily life or the more spectacular events – almost always of the “bad news” variety except on sports-pages – that flood our media-outlets.

This is unfortunate, for although many such matters have a legitimate claim on our attention, the conditions for our collective survival are being undermined on a continuing basis while we’re not looking.
To the extent that people are oblivious to this danger, it is pointless to criticize them. What we must do, rather, is discover the real links that exist between those unavoidable day-to-day occurrences and the forces that are now steadily undermining the conditions of life. A necessary step toward establishing such links is to understand – and explain to others – that the fate of the environment is a class issue.

Of course, the destruction of the environment will ultimately engulf people of all classes, including even the capitalists (whatever short-run success they might have in hoarding vital necessities). But the immediate policy issues are nonetheless framed by class, in a number of ways.
First of all, it is the class interest of capital that dictates the permanent pursuit of economic growth. Without this capitalist drive, increased economic activity in some sectors could be more than offset by reduced activity in sectors whose output does not add to human well being (e.g., military, status luxuries, excessive numbers of cars, etc.).
Related to this is the fact that capitalism’s political operatives consistently obstruct efforts to protect the population against environmentally destructive activities, such as the increasingly dangerous processes involved in extracting fossil fuels (e.g., deep-water drilling for oil, mountaintop removal for coal, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas).

More generally, while it is true that no one has a positive interest in destroying the environment, capital has an interest in blocking measures that could protect it. In countries where the political opposition to capital is well-organized, such obstruction may be partially neutralized. But, given the extreme scale of the current danger, it is necessary to do more than just regulate and punish the worst abuses; we have to redefine the priorities of production and consumption. We need fewer planes and more bicycles; fewer parking areas and more biodiversity; fewer high-tech gadgets and more opportunities for direct interaction in public space.

On a global scale, the strongest opposition to such altered priorities comes from the government that most fully embodies the power of capital, namely that of the United States. Here, capital shows its basic thrust with the least restraint. It has to such an extent dominated the environmental debate that the very fact of humanly produced climate change is still widely viewed as being unproven.
Thus every level of the political battle over environmental policy is bound up with class interests. The capitalist class, with its commitment to accumulation and expansion, still holds most of the positions of strength. Recognizing this class-dimension to the environmental struggle is important at both the domestic and the international levels.

At the domestic level, we can become more alert to how preservation of the environment is tied to other working-class or anti-capitalist demands. The forces that drive the assault on the environment are the same ones that seek to hold down wages and that divert resources away from satisfying human needs and toward concentrating wealth and maintaining global military supremacy.
The military dimension alerts us to the international level at which we need to consider capital’s anti-environmental thrust. It is common knowledge that nature does not recognize political boundaries. What is done to the ecosphere in one locality affects all other localities as well. This gives people in all countries a legitimate interest in practices pursued anywhere insofar as these affect the future of the planet.

The common interest of people across national boundaries reminds us once again of the need for the kind of internationalism that was initially advanced in the Communist Manifesto, but which subsequently suffered crushing setbacks throughout the world. Its guiding principle is quite straightforward. The working class – or, more generally, the popular majority – in each country has more in common (in terms of basic interests) with its counterparts in other countries than it does with the ruling class in its “own” country.
For Marx and Engels in 1848, this insight was the key to revolutionary consciousness. For us in the 21st century, it is also the key to survival.

by Victor Wallis from here

Holocaust Day

Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust, six million European Jews as well as millions of others by the Nazi regime. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on November 1, 2005.

190,000 Holocaust survivors reside in Israel today. 50,000 are estimated to live below the poverty line, according to the Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors. The average age of Israel's remaining Holocaust survivors is 80.
 “It feels like they are a bother to our government which is just waiting for them to pass away”,  Susan Rotem, a volunteer with the Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors, says 

A report published by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel in April 2014, one of every four Israeli Holocaust survivors lives in poverty. One out of five noted that they were forced to choose between medication and food during the past two years due to economic hardship, and half reported suffering from loneliness. Over a third approached the Foundation last year to request assistance; most of these fall into the Finance Ministry’s “needy” category. 

"We cannot ignore the fact that the state had failed to provide the remedy, welfare, containment, treatment and the attentiveness that Holocaust survivors need and deserve," a recent report about survivors published in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper suggested.

There is a classification for government assistance for Holocaust victims. Those who are described as survivors and those who fled to become refugees. Only those who were deported to camps or ghettos during the war are automatically eligible for compensation, while the rest have to argue their case.

When the reparations agreement with Germany signed in 1952, claims Yossi Katz, Israel placed the needs of the new state above the needs of the survivors. The German funds were used to build the country and absorb refugees, and Israel, in the name of the survivors, waived any further claims against Germany. This precluded the possibility of personal injury claims by Israeli survivors, unlike their fellow survivors living anywhere else in the world. The struggle for legislation to compensate deprived Holocaust victims continues to this day. Israel left the matter of personal claims against Germany to private organizations, which opened the way for a thriving industry of public and private bodies that profit at the expense of the survivors.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Problem Is Capitalism: A view From Mexico


  For Julio César Mondragón, In memoriam

Ayotzinapa is an ominous emblem of the atrocities generated by contemporary capitalism. Ayotzinapa is anywhere in our world where a dissident voice has been raised, a demand, a sign of rebellion in the face of the devastating dispossession and plunder on which the accumulation of capital is based, as well as the networks of power that sustain it.

Ayotzinapa is the end result of a bundle of interconnected events. These, with greater or lesser density and visibility, are part of the essence of Twenty-First Century capitalism, not limited to Mexico but spreading, whether surreptitiously or scandalously, throughout the whole world.

Twenty-First Century capitalism
It is increasingly clear that today’s capitalism runs on two tracks. On the one hand, we have the formally recognized society, with its economy, its organization and confrontation, its morality; and on the other the accelerating growth of a parallel society, whose economy is generically qualified as illegal, that works with a morality, organization and disciplinary methods that are quite different.

There are places in this world, such as Mexico, where the crises of neoliberalism, in addition to provoking substantial changes in their position in the international division of labour, in the definition of their productive activities and in the usage of their territory, have generated a social fracture that grows deeper over time. One of the central issues is that young people have lost their perspectives and a space to occupy. A society has been created with few possibilities for absorbing them, a society in which the chances of work or incorporation have disappeared, in which the horizons have faded out. It no longer had room for many existing workers, and much less so for those arriving on the scene. Some have called this Generation X, a generation that does not know where it is going because it has nowhere to go. The current phase of capitalist concentration has eliminated spaces even as it extends its power. Land, domestic activities, even entertainment were taken over, but growing sectors of the population were eliminated from the benefits, being left on the edge or becoming pariahs.

Given the depth and characteristics of this process, it is no longer possible to speak of a social order. The existing conditions are rather those of disorder, rupture, decomposition, breakups. That is to say, this new order appeals to authoritarianism, as the only visible way to sustain it.
The militarization of the planet, especially in everyday affairs, has begun to impose itself as the general pattern of the whole process. Stability for this system not only demanded the “open and free market” of the neo-liberals, but the force that can guarantee its functioning. This is a militarized market, whose hands are not only visible, but also armed. This was the path taken by formal capitalism, that which is recognized and, paradoxically, “legal”.
However, the fractures this society has opened up, as if it had been subjected to fracking, have found cover in the development of a parallel society. This society occupied the small niches of the old one, but ended up invading it. It is a society that adopted the hidden trash the old one had -hypocritically- rejected, and made it into a business, an opportunity for accumulation and power.

All forms of illicit trade moved there: the illegal arms trade, drug production and traffic, human traffic, trafficking in valuable and rare species and a great number of variations on these that are the most profitable dealings – in part because they are not taxed – but that established morality is obliged to deny.
Here, the game of mutual confrontation took off, fuelling the arms trade, and above all, the practice of extortion, blackmail, kidnapping or any variants on these.
Yet capital accumulation feeds on both sectors. The losers are the marginalized sectors: those economically, socially, politically or culturally excluded – excluded from business at different levels, or from power.

This is where a generous opening for young people came into play: their incorporation into the police or the armed forces provided them with conditions that no productive sector could offer them, and also gave some small recognition and a little power to those who had been categorized as socially useless. At the same time, there were openings in the supposedly contrary ranks. Drug dealers or businessmen engaged in illegal activities also needed their armies of servants or thugs. And these have provided employment over the last two or three decades, creating a new culture: the culture of the mercenary, of arbitrary power, of plunder by extortion.

As the “legal” economy entered a state of crisis, the dark side of the economy grew, operating in some of the same sectors as the “legal” economy, but in ways that are more profitable.
One example is that of undeclared mining operations, that even involve several forms of slavery in their work force. Whether in Africa or Mexico, there are mines operating with forced labour of children or adolescents, who are often kidnapped for this work and guarded by armed bodies, that might be either the army or mercenaries. The mining products are extracted almost without cost because the workers are not paid, without taxes because the products are undeclared and are exported with the complicity of mining consortia and their home States, as well as that of local authorities that take part of the profits for looking the other way or actively protecting the industry.

This kind of two-edged capitalism is thus able not only to survive the crisis, but also to engage in a double exploitation of the population through slave or semi-slave labour, different kinds of extortion, expulsion from land, outright robbery of their property and similar tactics. The key to all this is the exercise of ruthless violence.
Under these circumstances, the State becomes part of the process and society is subjected to warlike conditions in daily life. Violence is installed as social discipline and becomes generalized. In a public-private game those in charge of social control come together around the real sources of gain, be these legal or illegal, and around the configuration of local powers invested through their ability to impose a social order corresponding to these modalities of accumulation.

Diffuse and asymmetric wars
The conditions of concentration of wealth and power in today’s capitalism, associated with growing instability in a broad range of social groups, have driven the system into a state of risk, manifest in permanent conflicts and confrontations that are asymmetric in character, to use the terminology of the Pentagon. Contemporary wars increasingly adopt the notion of a diffuse enemy and take on the character of preventive wars that for the most part are undeclared.
Operations of destabilization and imposition of discipline, episodes of violence unleashed in specific places or of violence metered out over broad areas, are the preferred mechanisms of unspecified wars against diffuse enemies. At the same time, they are ideal mechanisms to open the way for the looting of resources in many regions of the planet, creating confusion that makes social organization very difficult. The controlled supply of weapons and the provocation of violent situations are allies sought by contemporary capitalism.

There are no declared wars. There are no wars between equals. There is corrosion. A spreading stain of violence accompanies the capitalism of the beginnings of the Twenty-First Century. The institutions responsible for discipline and security of States have been inadequate in the face of the high level of appropriation and dispossession that marks today’s capitalism. These institutions are reproduced on a local and private level as often as they are needed. “Islamic states”, “private guards”, “cartels” or “gangs” of so-called organized crime, appear as needed, to protect and broaden or deepen the sources of gain, of accumulation, and as such, complement the institutions that are officially recognized for these purposes. Just as markets required military support, the institutional forces of social disciplining, given the level of appropriation and dispossession, require de-institutionalized support capable of exercising a level and a kind of violence that changes the patterns of social contention. These are “irregular” forces that, like the state of exception, come into existence to remain in place. They have become part of the regular forces that make the system function.

Ayotzinapa as the limit
Colombia was in a state of internal war when Plan Colombia was introduced and, in spite of the changed intensity in the violence and the direct and obvious intromission of the United States in the conduct of the conflict, the change in other areas was maybe less visible. On the contrary, Mexico was celebrated as an emblem of discipline in democracy before the Merida Initiative began.

In less than ten years, the axis of discipline passed from the Institutional Revolutionary Party – the PRI – to the perpetrators of violence, in both State and private hands. The key was in the factors of corrosion that marked the way and in the disproportion of the corrective means employed. Violence exists in all societies, but the scope and methods introduced here imposed a new social logic. In this period, Mexican society had to get used to beheadings, mutilations, burned bodies, repeated disappearances, common graves and the ostentatious complicity of elements responsible for the security and justice of the State.
Estimates already surpass some one hundred thousand disappeared people and news reports start at twenty deaths daily. Mexico has become a cemetery for the poor and for migrants who are extorted, kidnapped for slave labour, savagely murdered in order to terrify and discipline others, or killed en masse. The relation of these actions with the control of migration to the United States is a matter of speculation, but there is no doubt as to the results. What is evident is the takeover of land, of business, of resources and of power that take place because of this. Every day there are more displaced people, more dispossessed people who dare not even complain for fear of reprisal and because there are no institutions of justice that will protect them.

In less than ten years and after much pain, society has been transformed. It is corroded, with clear signs of Balkanization, with growth of local power centres that make their own laws and negotiate with the federal authorities. Fear has taken root through repeated and explicit savagery, although, through its much repetition, it is beginning to generate the opposite.
Ayotzinapa is the mountain peak. In Ayotzinapa the limits were overreached. With complete impunity, ostentatious force and total complicity between the State and organized crime, they went against the most vulnerable members of society: poor young people from devastated rural areas, students in teacher training, children of the people known for their joy of living, desiring to change the world, that world that no one wants to accept. In addition, Ayotzinapa is the peak of a mountain of insult, defencelessness and anger. It is the accumulated conscience of ignominy and indignity. It is the limit, the situation that brought back the energy, vitality, courage and dignity of the people of Mexico and drove them into the streets. “They have taken so much from us that they have even taken away our fear” was one of the first posters raised by young people everywhere. Julio César Mondragón, a young man who had just entered the Teacher Training School of Ayotzinapa, already a father of a few months, and victim of the most savage tortures that we have seen, because of his pain has become the involuntary detonator of the recovery of strength, hope and decision on the part of the people of Mexico, mobilized today as they have not been for a long time.

Ayotzinapa is a symbol. It is the peak of the iceberg or a cleavage.
Ayotzinapa is the symbol of the wars of the Twenty-First Century and of the new patterns of social discipline that accompany the processes of looting and dispossession in the whole planet. In just ten years, Mexico, that had not experienced the dark night of the Latin American dictatorships, even though it had known dirty wars and massacres, has become a land of pain and common graves. 
The problem is not “the narco”; the problem is capitalism.
Ayotzinapa is a two-way mirror: that of the path of power is obvious, visible and overwhelming; that of the call to defend life is pallid and discreet, but it will certainly leave footprints.

By Ana Esther Ceceña from here
Source: Latin American in Movement

The return of left-wing reformism

Syriza, a left wing coalition party has won the Greek election. This is an article which is to be published in the upcoming  February issue of the Socialist Standard. 

Syriza is the acronym of the Greek for ‘Coalition of the Radical Left’ and is made up of various left-wing and Green groups, including a part of the old Communist Party and some Trotskyists. It is a bit like Left Unity in this country which in fact aspires to be like them. Set up in 2004, it already emerged from the May 2012 elections as the main opposition party and topped the poll in Greece in last year’s Euroelections.

At the beginning of the campaign Counterfire (one of the SWP fragments) claimed that ‘Greece could be about to elect the most radical government of the left in Europe since the 1930s.’ This is presumably a reference to the Popular Front government that came to power in France in 1936 but the claim is open to question. If you examine Syriza’s programme it is far less radical than that of the government in Portugal that ruled immediately after the overthrow of the dictatorship there in 1974, than the ‘common programme’ of the PS/PCF government that came to power under Mitterrand in France in 1981, and arguably even than the British Labour Party’s 1945 election manifesto.

What is different is that some of the people who might end up as ministers and their top advisers are not the usual professional politicians and careerists but leftwing intellectuals like those behind Counterfire. Not that that will make any difference as to what they will be able to do in office.

One of them, John Milios, described as ‘chief economist of Syriza’ and one of their MPs, interviewed in the Guardian (23 December), declared ‘I am a Marxist … The majority [in Syriza] are.’ He himself is a Marx-scholar who has written extensively about Marx’s views, including his theory of crises. Presumably, then, he must have some idea of what’s involved in taking responsibility for governing within capitalism. In any event, the programme his interviewer recorded him as outlining accepted that a Syriza government would have to govern in the context of capitalism, and capitalism in a period of economic crisis and austerity:
‘Milios rolls off the party’s priorities one by one. It would make concerted efforts to help those hardest hit by the crisis – free electricity for Greeks who have had supplies cut off, food stamps distributed in schools, healthcare for those who need it, rents covered for the homeless, the restoration of the minimum wage to pre-crisis levels of €750 a month and a moratorium on private debt repayments to banks above 30% of disposable income.’
And, more generally, as he put it in another interview:
‘"We are going to boost growth and combat the humanitarian disaster." Syriza's recipe for boosting growth is through a fiscal stimulus, targeted at lower incomes in order to boost their spending power’ 
Syriza is not even promising to run a budget deficit to ‘boost spending power’, only not to run a surplus as the outgoing government was planning. But it’s still based on Keynes’s discredited theory of ‘demand management’ which says that the problem in a slump is not enough spending rather than not enough prospects for profit-making.

The Syriza government might, by taking some of the measures outlined above by Milios, be able to mitigate a little the ‘humanitarian disaster’ in Greece where there’s been a massive increase in destitution leading to, among other things,  an increase in mental ill-health, suicides and the infant mortality rate. But it won’t be able to boost the accumulation of capital.

No Podeis
Meanwhile in Spain a similar party, Podemos (‘We Can’) has gone up in the opinion polls. Its policy is the same as Syriza’s, if perhaps a little bolder as it envisages some nationalisations. What they mainly have in common is a commitment to ‘boost growth’ by government action to boost consumer spending, as described in Left Flank (another SWP fragment):
‘Its analysis is that the crisis is fundamentally one of “under-consumption” (which [Podemos leader] Iglesias agrees is “the problem”) caused by mushrooming socio-economic inequalities under neoliberalism (including a sharp decline in wages’ share of GDP) – a view that overlaps with those of Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. The solution is thus to increase consumer demand through expansionist public spending (à la Keynes). They then neatly tot up how exactly this can be funded though measures such as combating relatively high levels of tax fraud (mostly carried out by the rich), reintroducing inheritance and property taxes, and debt restructuring.’

It is not as if this has not been tried before. The PS/PCF government in France tried to ‘relaunch’ the economy in 1981 by increasing ‘popular consumption’, putting up the minimum wage and other benefits. It didn’t work. In fact it failed miserably, leading to three devaluations in two years and ending in a U-turn to a policy of austerity.

The reason why it failed – and why a Syriza and Podemos government would fail too – is that capitalism is not a system geared to meeting people’s needs, not even those they can pay for. It is a profit-driven system in which priority has to be given to profits and profit-making. Since the government cannot just magic into existence the resources to increase ‘popular consumption’, and that in the end these have to come one way or the other (taxation, borrowing, currency inflation) from profits, such a policy undermines the driving force of the capitalist system, provoking an economic crisis. Which was what happened in France.

There is another aspect to the breakthroughs achieved by Syriza and Podemos. They represent a revival of the old Social Democratic tradition of a reformist party using some Marxist terminology, at least in the two countries concerned. The equivalent of the Labour Party in Spain, the PSOE, is called, believe it or not, the ‘Socialist Workers Party’ but, like the Labour Party and similar parties in other countries, has long since given up any idea of replacing capitalism and has settled for offering itself as an alternative team for managing capitalism in Spain.

That millions of people in Spain and Greece are prepared to vote again for parties that say they are against capitalism must mean something. Of course these are not explicit and deliberate votes for socialism but only for the parties voted for to do something about the effects of capitalism. This, however, is not something these parties will be able to deliver because it is not in their power to do so. They have been set the impossible task of trying to reform capitalism so as to make it work other than as a system that has to put making profits before meeting people’s needs and which periodically plunges the economy into crisis and depression.

There is no alternative under capitalism. The only way out is to get rid of it altogether and replace it with a system based on productive resources being commonly owned and democratically controlled, so they can be used to provide what people need in accordance with the principle ‘from each according to ability, to each according to needs.’

Parasites In The Workforce

Statistics of inequality - UK: Workforce and Members of Parliament

2014 January: average annual earnings £26,500
2014 January: MPs' average basic earnings £67,000+

2014 August to October: average earnings increase 1.6%
2015 New Year increase in MPs' earnings 9.26%

Who really thinks they're worth it? Not us. Our aim is to get rid of the lot of them and abolish the wages system. We don't need leaders and we don't respect parasites.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics - Make Capitalism History

For 60 years, India made a half-hearted attempt to reduce poverty. Why I say a half-hearted attempt is because the way the Planning Commission worked out a stringently low poverty line all these years, aimed more at ensuring a low budget outlay for fighting poverty, it lacked any meaningful commitment to make poverty history.  

Let me explain why it didn’t work. Perhaps this story will better explain. A poor person fell down in a 100-feet deep village well. Listening to his cry for help, a number of villagers collected and were exploring the options of pulling him out. Meanwhile, an economist, who happened to be passing by, saw the crowd and walked it to know what was happening. He told the villagers to step aside as he could be of help. Looking at the depth of the well, he immediately worked out that the man in the well probably had to energy to climb the walls to about 50 feet. So he told villagers to bring a rope of 50 feet that can pull out the man to safety.

The poor man, who was crying for help, finally was drowned.

This story tells you how all these years a futile half-hearted attempt was made, despite substantial budgetary outlays, knowing well that the poverty eradication strategy will not work.

In the last three decades, policy makers found a still better way of removing poverty. Knowing that much of the half-attempts being made was going waste, they realized the best way to remove poverty is to sweep the number of poor under the carpet. I still remember when Pranab Mukherjee was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission (1991-96),  he brought down poverty in one shot from 37 per cent to 19 per cent. It was only after the next government took over, and replaced the Planning Commission members, that poverty was once again restored back to 37 per cent.

The business of poverty that actually extends to sweeping the poor under the carpet has now grown worldwide.  

Over the years I find that while most governments across the world have failed to stem poverty (except in countries like China), the international financial institutions are bending backwards to demonstrate that economic liberalisation helps in reducing poverty, and often drastically. This is being achieved by tampering with statistics, and often providing social indicators that don't actually measure up. One such classic example is the dollar a day measure adopted by the World Bank to define the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty.

Global empirical evidence is now emerging challenging the World Bank's deliberate underestimation of poverty. Recent studies have conclusively shown that in Latin America for instance actual poverty rates are twice than what the World Bank had projected. More recently, on April 11, 2014, a study by the University of Bristol concludes that the World Bank is painting a 'rosy' picture by keeping poverty too low due to its narrow definition. Dr Christopher Deeming of the Bristol University's School of Geographical Sciences is quoted as saying: "Our findings suggest that the current international poverty line of a dollar a day seriously underestimates global poverty."

Not even caring for such voices, World Bank has found another magic rope trick to remove poverty. Using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) index, it has in its latest poverty vanishing trick reduced India’s poverty in one stroke from 400 million in 2005 to a very impressive 98 million in 2010. What Planning Commission could not do in 60 years, World Bank has done remarkably well in just five years – between 2005 and 2010.

I find the World Bank behaving like a pigeon when comes face to face with a cat. By closing it eyes, the pigeon fatally pays for its mistake thinking that the danger has gone away. Similarly, removing poverty by a statistical jugglery is a dangerous exercise. It’s therefore time for India not to bask in the glory of fake poverty reduction figures but to accept the dark reality.

Poverty in India is actually growing. If you raise the existing global poverty line from 1.25 dollars a day to just 1.5 dollars a day, as Asian Development Bank has shown, India’s poverty line swells to 584 million or 47.7 per cent of the population. In simple words, if the poverty line extends to Rs 90/day, which is a more realistic benchmark, the number of people below poverty line in India will be at least five times more than what the World Bank has estimated.

And makes me wonder. Why does the world need to move towards the next series of targets under the SHGs? Just ask World Bank to play around with statistics. 

 Making Poverty History: All it needs is statistical jugglery. 

from here

(SHG - Self Help Group) 

As advocates for socialism we acknowledge this 'statistical jugglery.' It can be applied to all aspects of our lives: unemployment, new jobs, welfare, immigration, homeless, deaths in custody, deaths as a result of poverty, deaths at work, deaths as a result of working conditions, collateral damage, victims of drone strikes, corporate fact and fiction, government fact and fiction - the list is endless. All aspects of 'the economy' are open for manipulation by the powers that be and their lackeys. 
Making Poverty History, as with all the rest of the above, requires the abolition of the capitalist system and that can only come from the will and the action of the people. Spread the word. Make Capitalism History.


This land (and sand) is OUR land

The State Lands Commission may use powers never employed in its 77-year history, seizing private land for public use.

Billionaire venture-capital investor Vinod Khosla, who has been locking a gate at his beach property along California’s Pacific coast. A sign posted on the metal barricade reads “private property, no trespassing.”  Khosla’s campaign to keep the public off the 36 hectares he owns on the crescent-shaped coastline marks the latest salvo in an income-inequality battle in which long-time residents are being priced out by the influx of highly paid tech workers and wealthy executives which has generated resentment among those already worried about the area’s soaring cost of living.

“I live here, and I want to be able to bring my kids here,” said Krishneil Maharaj, a 35-year-old information technology project manager who recalled scattering his grandmother’s ashes at a family ceremony at the beach a decade ago. “I don’t think one man should be able to cut off access to this beautiful spot.” She added “You can’t thwart a billionaire.”

“In California, the public owns the beach; we like that,” Rob Caughlan, 71, a former president of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation that sued Khosla for blocking access

A patchwork of laws governs access along U.S. coastlines, with the boundary based on a formula referencing the tide line, including the mean high-water and low-water lines, said Ben Sherman, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Under the California Constitution, land that’s seaward of the mean high tide line is considered public land and access is enforced by the state Coastal Commission. Officials last month invited Khosla to begin talks to sell the state a right of way on his $32.5 million property providing public access to and along Martins Beach, a popular surf spot about 53 kilometres south of San Francisco.

 Jennifer Lucchesi, executive officer at the State Lands Commission, sent a letter to Khosla’s representatives on Dec. 31 initiating talks mandated by a law enacted last year that directs the agency to consider using its eminent-domain powers if an agreement isn’t reached by Jan. 1, 2016. The agency has about $6.4 million in a land bank fund to buy the property, she said, adding that she hasn’t yet received a response. If the state decides to use those powers, it could acquire land leading to and along the shoreline, including the sandy beach, through Khosla’s property. The battle waged in the courts and the Legislature also involves the California Coastal Commission, which sent Khosla a letter last month advising him that he will face a penalty of as much as $11,250 daily for blocking public access, said Sarah Christie, the agency’s legislative director.

In earlier fights in Southern California, entertainment mogul David Geffen and Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw tried unsuccessfully to block public access to shorelines near their homes.

In Canada oceanfront land owners own to the high tide mark and the public has free use of the beach between the high and low water marks. They cannot however cross private land without permission to get to the beach as that would be trespassing. In the UK the beach is crown property (except in Shetland.) Socialists demand that all land will be common property, not just a beach

Invasion Day

Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention states: “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

26 January is commemorated as Invasion Day by Indigenous Australians (or should it be described as the day that the attempted genocide began) but celebrated as Australia Day by Australian settlers.

Before the British Invasion of Australia on 26 January 1788, Indigenous Australians had been living in Australia for about 60,000 years. There were about 750 different tribes, 300 language groups and 750 dialects, of which only 150 survive today and of these all but about 20 are endangered.

After the British Invasion, the Aboriginal population dropped from about 1 million in 1788 to about 0.1 million in the first century through introduced disease, dispossession, deprivation and genocidal violence. The last massacres of Aborigines occurred in the 1920s but no Treaty has ever been signed. Indigenous Australians were only counted after a referendum in 1967 and were finally given some protection by the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. In the 20th century up to 10% of Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their mothers, the so-called Stolen Generations. Forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their mothers is continuing today at a record rate. Indigenous Australians are far worse off than Australian settlers in relation to housing, health, wealth, social conditions, imprisonment, deaths in custody, forcible removal of children, avoidable death and life expectancy.

In 2000 about 9,000 Aborigines out of an Aboriginal population of 500,000 died avoidably  every year (the avoidable death rate as a percentage of population of 1.8% pa was the highest in the  world and 1.8 times that for non-Arab Africa)  but by 2011  this had declined to about 2,000 annual avoidable deaths out of a population about 670,000 (an avoidable death rate of 0.4%, the same as for impoverished South Asia but occurring in one of the  world's richest countries).