Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wealth Concentration - US


Access to wealth in the U.S. is very unequal, as recent protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) reminded us. Wealth can be measured as:
1. net worth: total assets less total debts; or
2. financial wealth: non-housing wealth such as stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, savings accounts.

In 2010:
1. the top 1% of wealth owners held more than 34% of net worth;
2. the top 1% of financial asset owners held more than 35% of financial wealth.
Wealth and Income
To better understand wealth concentration, it can be helpful to compare income and wealth ownership. In contrast to wealth (defined above), income refers to flows of money into the household as in wages, salaries, government transfer payments, and gifts.
An individual's religious participation and affiliation can have both direct and indirect effects on asset ownership and wealth accumulation. Cultural patterns that accompany religious participation often produce behaviors that in turn have consequences for wealth inequality.

from here

Figure 1: Religion and Median Net Worth

Data comes from the NLSY 1979 Cohort. Median 2007 net worth by childhood religion

from here

Searches for above sectors by % of total population show less than 3% Jewish.


For-Profit Universities Lack Advantage

For-profit universities lure students in with promises of an education.

However, it turns out most of them only deliver higher debt and worthless degrees. A new study by the organization CALDER found that graduates of for-profit universities have no better chance at getting an interview than people who never even went to college.
The researchers sent out about 9,000 fake resumes to businesses and found "little evidence of a benefit to listing a for-profit college relative to no college at all." Community college grads actually fared a little better off, but the authors of the study said that the difference was too small to draw a conclusion. However, these for-profit universities often charge students much higher tuition, and use private funding that excludes students from federal repayment assistance programs.

from here

The Ruling Elite


As if we needed to be told that our society is class-based.

Small elites, educated at independent schools and Oxbridge, still dominate top roles, suggests the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study. Britain is "deeply elitist" because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a "closed shop at the top". Elitism was so embedded in Britain "that it could be called 'social engineering'".

Those who had attended fee-paying or independent schools included:
71% of senior judges
62% of senior armed forces officers
55% of permanent secretaries (the most senior civil servants)
53% of senior diplomats.
50% of the House of Lords
45% of chairmen and women of public bodies
44% of the Sunday Times Rich List
43% of newspaper columnists
36% of the Cabinet
33% of MPs
26% of BBC executives
22% of the Shadow Cabinet

In sport, 35% of the England, Scotland and Wales rugby teams and 33% of the England cricket team also went to private schools.

This compares with 7% of the UK population as a whole.

Those who went to Oxford and Cambridge:
75% of senior judges
59% of the Cabinet
57% of permanent secretaries
50% of diplomats
47% of newspaper columnists
38% of the House of Lords
33% of the shadow cabinet
24% of MPs

Less than 1% of the whole population are Oxbridge graduates while 62% did not attend any university.

From here  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crime And Punishment

Many of us who work in the criminal justice system have come to understand the profound connection between poverty and mass incarceration.  Put simply, individuals with criminal histories – even minor ones – find it exceedingly difficult to enter the workforce and provide for their families.  One pragmatic response to this problem is to incarcerate fewer people, particularly in local jails.

While much of the public debate and academic discourse focuses on the challenges of reducing federal and state prison enrollments, mass incarceration is a problem with a significant local dimension too.  As of June 30, 2013, an estimated 731,208 persons in the U.S. were confined in local jails; a much larger total of 11.7 million persons were imprisoned in local jails at some point over the preceding year.

More than 6 out of 10 of those jailed in the U.S. have yet to be convicted of any crime.  Indeed, many of those held in pretrial detention are actually eligible for release yet they cannot afford to post bail – often nominal amounts of money.  And contrary to popular thinking, the overwhelming majority of criminal prosecutions concern relatively minor offenses.  In New York City, three out of four cases that make it to criminal court are misdemeanors – a total of more than 235,000 cases in 2012.

read more here

What is dirty is cheap

"Worldwide, we've built more coal-burning power plants in the past decade than in any previous decade, and closures of old plants aren't keeping pace with this expansion," said  Prof Steven Davis at University of California, Irvine. "Far from solving the climate change problem, we're investing heavily in technologies that make the problem worse," he said. 

Almost the entire developing world is looking to coal as the power plant fuel of choice on the road to industrialisation.

The climate impacts of the world's fossil-fuelled power plants are being underestimated because of poor accounting, say researchers. Researchers calculated that the new coal and gas plants built in 2012 with an expected production life of 40 years, would in total, produce around 19bn tonnes of CO2. This is significantly more than the 14bn tonnes produced by all the existing fossil fuel plants in the world in the same year. All the existing fossil fuel plants in world will contribute 300bn tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes.

"We've been hiding things from ourselves," said  Prof Robert Socolow from Princeton university.

Divide and Rule


from Paul Jamiol here


The World Wide Web Of Living


The web of life – everything linked and interdependent. From the tiniest particle of soil to the African elephant; from plankton to whales and consumers of sea food; from the rice seeds germinating in Asian paddy fields to the plates on western tables. It's easy to recognise the links in the chain, links which if broken can disrupt the natural order and create problems throughout the web.
On a purely physiological level what, to be a part of this web of life, does humankind require?
Sun. Air. Water. Food. The fundamentals for sustaining life of all forms. As far as shelter is required organisms have evolved and developed according to climate and discrete circumstances. Molluscs and turtles have shells, many animal species dig holes in the ground or make nests of varying intricacy and humankind gradually developed structures until we reached the current wide variety of living spaces found today.

Considering the many centuries that humankind has existed on this planet (how long?) it is within a relatively short period of time that these four basic needs – sun, air, water, food – have come to have a very different emphasis, have come to be seen as something other than a basic necessity for all, even though being deprived of any of them puts life in general at great risk.
Since developing beyond the early form when all lived 'close to the earth' to where humanity is now somehow it has come to be accepted in certain circles that these four basics are not to be assumed to be freely available to all who require them. The need for life's basics has become limited by the ability to access them. We are not expected to take them for granted and are being separated from the very basics of the commons without our consent.
This can be seen most clearly where food deprivation is concerned. Malnutrition and hunger are widespread and include millions. Subsistence farmers around the world have been forcibly removed from their land and livelihoods in their hundreds of thousands by agribusinesses and compliant governments. Wars, too, have seen millions uprooted and displaced. Water deprivation and pollution is affecting millions of individuals and thousands of communities negatively. Air pollution is a serious and growing health problem for the whole world's population.
(These three areas have been covered extensively in many articles – posted on this blog and published in Socialist Standard in print and online here )
As for the sun, who knows what plans lie ahead to restrict our access to that shared resource?

Let's turn now to a 'web of living' and see how our communities, both local and global, are linked and interdependent in ways similar to the 'web of life' by looking beyond the purely physiological level to how we might choose to organise our lives for the benefit of all – in stark contrast to how everything is ordered now which is to benefit the few and restrict or deny the majority.

Assuming that we prioritise the four basic necessities and also have some basic accommodation for the time being how can we envisage a 'web of living' within our smaller, local communities and also within and between our much larger regional and global communities that will amply satisfy the multiplicity of our wants, incorporating everything to give a well-balanced and healthy life for all without fear or favour?

Starter List:
Basic services – electricity, energy, water, sewage, communications, transport
Health care - lifelong
Food supply and Distribution - from farm to table
General Supply and Distribution-
Infrastructure – planning, roads, transport,
Manufacturing – local, regional, global,
Building – planning, housing, community facilities,
Sports and Training Facilities -
Entertainment -
Arts facilities- galleries, concert halls,
Environmental care and services-
Administration – included in and linked to all above, incorporating organisation, communication systems, logistics,

This is far from a complete list but is there to be added to. The point being is how we access the services of any of the agencies or individuals above currently. If a trades person's services are required we ask around for recommendations or look online. Problems with one of the utilities ? Make a phone call. We shop in town or online, register with a gym, a health centre or golf club. We eat at home or get a take-away and now and then go to a favourite restaurant.
Who are the people we have contact with in these various activities or transactions? - People who are specifically engaged in the area of work or expertise we are looking for. People not much different from ourselves, who go out on a regular basis to what we call work, or job or profession. Who runs these places of work, manages the transport system, deals with patients on a daily basis, stocks the shelves of the shops, entertains us at the theatre, draws the designs and plans for new housing and then builds them and fits them out, fixes the electrical grid in a storm, takes out that sore tooth, picks the tomatoes or potatoes, collects the trash, cuts your hair, services the car, delivers the post? People like us. We do. We are the ones who keep the whole thing running. Between us we manage the whole affair from start to finish. - And we have access to all of this and more but only if we have the magic password.

We are restricted in our choices by lack of the necessary cash or credit. And the vast majority of the world's population falls into this category – highly restricted choice for severe lack of money.
In the system currently are many inequalities of access both within local communities and between different areas of the world. This manifests itself in many ways and one would need to be both blind and deaf to be unaware of much of it. Money has come to be an essential part of life, in fact of mere existence. Without it you can do almost nothing. It is not a physiological necessity but a false 'need', a manufactured need adding an unnecessary layer to our everyday and lifelong transactions.

There is no way that the current system, capitalism, can be inclusive and offer equal access to all. Full employment and 'fair' wages are a hopeless cause which must surely be widely recognised. Nationalism and its call for manufacturing to stay at home won't fix the problem. Calls like these are red herrings which serve to stop us focussing on the real problem, the elephant in the room, which is the system. The system of profit before people or planet that runs very well for those few at the top of the pyramid. For the rest of us, the ones running the show all around the world, why don't we just expand operations to include all those who currently find themselves surplus to requirements and get on with our organising and managing and doing, - without the money?

The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014




Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson says that he will seek a return to Parliament.

It’s Boris for P.M. it’s said,
In some kind of pathetic joke;
Imagine our great country led,
By a posh Bullingdon Club bloke! (1)                                                                      
But Boris isn’t quite the clown,
That often he pretends to be;
These Eton chaps from Henley town, (2)
Play bumbling fatheads to a tee.

Make no mistake, Bo-Jo is no,
Buffoon or loon upon a bike;
There’s plenty gormless Tories though,
That he is setting out to psych.
The man who brought us Barclay bikes, (3)
And banned the bulky bendy-bus;
Announces through the mikes he likes,
The razzmatazz and all the fuss!

And now he’s bored with London’s grime,
The adoration that he craves;
Will only be fed by a climb,
Up to the Cabinet of Knaves.
For under that blonde mane above,
That’s coiffured oh-so artfully;
Lies one who shows no greater love,
For Boris Johnson more than he!

(1) Prominent members include David Cameron and George Osborne and deceased member, Prince Yusupov, the assassin of Grigori Rasputin.
(2) Johnson was previously M.P. for Henley.
(3) Barclays are withdrawing from the scheme having paid less than half of the original £50m --the tab will be picked up by the taxpayer.

© Richard Layton       

Inequality By Numbers

Wealth distribution, 2000-2011 

The True Threat Of Entitlement

Americans constantly hear about the threat of "entitlements," which in the case of Social Security and Medicare are more properly defined as "earned benefits." The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. The following annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.

$220 Billion: Teacher Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over four million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers in the U.S., earning an average of $54,740.

$246 Billion: State and Local Pensions

Census data shows a total annual (2012) payout of about $246 billion. Only about $100 billion of this came from state and local governments, with the remainder funded by employee contributions and investment earnings. A recent Pew study showed a little over $100 billion in annual state contributions to pensions, health care, and non-pension benefits.

$398 Billion: Safety Net

The 2013 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing.

$863 Billion: Social Security

Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly, and it is an earned benefit. As of 2010, according to the Urban Institute, the average two-earner couple making average wages throughout their lifetimes receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in.

$2,200 Billion: Tax Avoidance

That's $2.2 trillion in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment. It is estimated that two-thirds of tax breaks accrue to the top quintile of taxpayers.

$5,000 Billion: Investment Wealth

That's $5 trillion dollars a year, the annual amount gained in U.S. wealth from the end of 2008 to the middle of 2013. Even though the whole country continued to grow in productivity, most of the new wealth went to the very richest people. According to Oxfam, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Another View: Annual Per Capita Numbers

The following are averages, which are skewed in the case of tax breaks and investment income, as a result of the excessive takings of the .1% and the .01%. Details of the calculations can be found here.

$8,600 for each of the Safety Net recipients

$14,600 for each of the Social Security recipients

$27,333 for each of the Pension recipients

$54,740 for each of the Teachers

$200,000 for each of the Tax Break recipients among the richest 1%

$500,000 for each of the Investment Income recipients among the richest 1%

The super-rich feel they deserve all the tax breaks and the accumulation of wealth from the productivity of others.

This is the true threat of entitlement.

by Paul Buchheit from here


Monday, August 25, 2014

Workers Of The World - 1

A survey finds that most US workers are very stressed—and that for nearly a quarter of all employees, the top priority is simply showing up at work. According to LiveScience, the study from ComPsych Corp., an employee assistance program provider, found that:

  • More than 60% of employees report high levels of stress, and another 32% report constant, but not as high, levels of stress. Low stress? Only 5% of those surveyed are that lucky.
  • As for that top priority, 22% listed “presenteeism”—just being present—as their main concern and the most important thing to do at work.
  • Why so stressed? Almost 40% say it’s because their workload is increasing.
  • Stress causes 36% of workers to waste an hour or more each day, the study found. It also causes almost 30% of employees to miss anywhere from three to six days of work per year.

“As employers continue to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to hiring, people who currently have jobs—many of whom have taken on extra work—are starting to show signs of prolonged stress,” warns the ComPsych CEO. “This can result in burnout and reduced performance.”

Central America, Migrants, Workers and The Class Struggle

Who are these Central American Children? 

 Although the media talk about “Central American children,” almost all of the detainees are, in fact, coming from only three of the six countries of Central America:  Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  There are almost none from Belize, Nicaragua, or Costa Rica.  Anybody who remembers the 1980s can probably guess why.  The enormous quantities of military “aid” that the United States poured into Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras helped create an environment of violently enforced inequality whose bitter fruits are still being reaped.
 In fact, the so-called “crisis” of these last months is anything but new, while the “debate” over where to temporarily detain the children is beside the point.  The number of Central American youths crossing the U.S.-Mexican border has been rising steadily since 2000.  Figures for minors apprehended at the border have gone up from a few thousand a year as the twenty-first century began, to 6,000-8,000 annually through 2011, 13,625 in 2012, and 24,668 in 2013.  A study released in February 2014 predicted that as many as 60,000 children were likely to be apprehended this year.

Why the Children Are Coming?

  First, U.S. policies directly led to today’s crises in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Since Washington orchestrated the overthrow of the reformist, democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, it has consistently cultivated repressive military regimes, savagely repressed peasant and popular movements for social change, and imposed economic policies including so-called free trade ones that favor foreign investors and have proven devastating to the rural and urban poor. Refugees from U.S.-sponsored dirty wars in Guatemala and El Salvador -- mostly peasants whose communities had been subjected to scorched-earth policies and the depredations of right-wing death squads -- began to pour into the United States in the 1980s.
 The refugee flood from Honduras didn’t begin until the United States supported a military coup against that country’s elected leftist president in 2009.  The youths crossing the border today are often the children and grandchildren of those initial refugees, and are fleeing the endemic violence and economic destruction left behind by the wars and the devastation that resulted from them. 
In other words, the policies that led to the present “crisis” were promoted over the decades with similar degrees of enthusiasm by Republicans and Democrats.

Second, an enormous demand for undocumented labor had already drawn the parents of many of these children to the United States where they clean houses and yards, wash dishes, and grow and process food.  Their underpaid labor helps sustain the U.S. economy.  For generations, this country’s immigration policy has focused on using Mexicans and Central Americans as “workers” without granting them legal and human rights.  But workers are people and people have children.  In other words, the present crisis stems in part from the way our economy depends on separating parents from their children in order to exploit their cheap labor.

Finally, the communities and school systems that the federal government expects to receive the border-crossing youth need more federal support.  Many of the locales receiving immigrants are indeed in crisis.  If, thanks to federal legislation and federal agencies, these children are being released in large numbers to communities in which schools are already underfunded, then the federal government should guarantee the services that it requires communities to provide them.  Instead of spending billions of dollars annually underwriting detention, deportation, and the further militarization of the borderlands, it should direct those funds to fulfilling human needs.
All parties should be criticized for their policies in Central America (including President Obama’s free trade agenda), their economic and immigration policies (that criminalize workers), and the ways they are pitting immigrant youth against poor Americans in a struggle for scarce resources.

taken from here

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Creating Chaos Is Very Profitable For Some


Bombing Iraq, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel William Astore indicates this week in “The American Cult of Bombing,” has become a national pastime.  (These days, you can’t be president without sending in the bombers and drones.)  So let’s try to get our heads around the latest U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq against the forces of the new “caliphate.”  It's a campaign that President Obama has already indicated is likely to go on for months and may soon enough spread south to the Baghdad area.  It looks like Washington has finally created the perfect machine for the weapons industry.

Think of it this way: first Washington provides the Iraqi military with training and massive infusions of military equipment to the tune of $25 billion.  Next that military, faced with its first serious opposition, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), numbering in the thousands against security forces in the hundreds of thousands, collapses.  In June, two full divisions, 30,000 Iraqi troops, flee the city of Mosul, abandoning their posts in the face of the advance of ISIS fighters.  In all, four divisions of the country’s 14-division army disintegrate throughout the north.  Left behind is a massive trove of U.S.-supplied weaponry, including 1,500 Humvees, 52 U.S.-made M198 howitzers, tanks, trucks, rifles, and ammunition.

ISIS militants, who seem remarkably capable of operating such equipment without an American trainer or adviser in sight, then turn some of that weaponry (as well as weapons captured from the Syrian military) on U.S.-backed forces, including, in the north, Kurdish pesh merga militias.  (They have evidently even brought tanks into play near the Turkish border.)  To save its Kurdish allies from disaster, the Obama administration then sends in the U.S. Air Force (both fighter-bombers and Predator drones) in close support of the beleaguered Kurdish forces.  Doing what air power seems most capable of, the planes begin destroying the armored vehicles and artillery pieces ISIS has brought to bear in Kurdish areas.  In other words, U.S. air power is called in to take out U.S. military equipment (and anyone manning it).

To complete the circle, both the Iraqis defending Baghdad and the Kurds now desperately need new weaponry, and Washington is already starting to supply it in the north and soon undoubtedly in the south as well.  Can there be any question that this is a win-win situation for the American arms industry and the military-industrial complex?  It gives new meaning to American bombing campaigns that, since 1991, have proven to be disastrous regional destabilizers.  Think of this as an innovative profit center for American industry and a jobs-creation exercise of the first order: we provide the weapons, we destroy them, then we provide more.

Given Astore’s “cult” of bombing and its remarkable futility in policy terms, this is a significant development.  And don’t for a second think that it’s a one-of-a-kind situation. After all, Washington has put at least $50 billion in weaponry and training into Afghanistan’s security forces. So the future is bright.

from here

Comix Strip and Strikes

From The People, paper of the Socialist Labor Party

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fact of the Day

More than thirty million people in Bangladesh have now been suffering from different type of kidney diseases due to adulteration in food items

To be Canadian...Or not to be

 Today there are about 231.5 million international migrants in the world - three percent of the global population.

The Harper government is hoping to make banishment a more regular activity now that their Bill C-24 "Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act" has become law. It raises the bar for acquiring citizenship and allows it to be revoked by a parliamentary minister, with no possible appeal in court.

Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said in a press release: “In Canada, lawfully obtained citizenship has always been permanent — once a Canadian, always a Canadian — and all Canadians have always had equal citizenship rights. This bill turns the whole idea of being Canadian upside-down, so that the Canadian citizenship of some people will be worth less than the Canadian citizenship of others. That is wrong.”

The new law weakens the bonds of citizenship, potentially threatening the very essence of citizenship. Someone found guilty of treason, high treason, espionage or terrorism can have his citizenship revoked without even the benefit of a judicial hearing. If the citizen has a connection to a foreign country, the minister may send a letter advising that his citizenship is under review. If the citizen fails to respond — or fails to respond sufficiently, in the minister’s estimation — he will be on a plane out of Canada to whatever country we can send him. In cases where the citizen believes he or she would thus be stateless, the onus is on the citizen to prove that he or she “is not a citizen of any country of which the minister has reasonable grounds to believe the person is a citizen.” You will be excused if you mistakenly think this law targets foreign-born Canadians. Such targeting is implied, but even native-born Canadians could be deported. Under the guise of “strengthening” citizenship, citizenship is deeply compromised. Upon seeing the words “treason” or “terrorism”, we may wave away concerns about the over-zealous application of this law. No one wants terrorists running loose in Canada. Unfortunately, the language of the law affords the government with the power to strip Canadian citizenship for not only traitors, but political activists, as well. If a citizen were to be labelled a terrorist by a foreign nation — perhaps the United States, Britain or Israel — the powers of expulsion would kick in.

The legal profession , the Canadian Bar Association, explains “we oppose expansion of the grounds to revoke and bar citizenship. Removing citizenship is one of the most serious consequences that a society may impose, and should remain an exceptional process.” They point out that the law “ maintains the risk of statelessness for some persons. It is possible for a child born abroad to be excluded from Canadian citizenship and yet have no claim to citizenship in the country where they were born. Many countries restrict giving citizenship to a child born there who has foreign national parents. A child born abroad to Canadian parents may be stateless...”

Rejected refugee claimants — and refugee claimants from countries the government considers safe — are eligible under the new law for medical care only when they pose a threat to public health. That means no coverage for heart problems, pregnancy, infant vaccinations, diabetes, and any other ailments that threaten the health of the refugee but aren't a risk to public health.
The distinction between what the government calls "bogus" and "genuine" refugees has drawn substantial criticism from opponents of its immigration and refugee system reforms. The Federal Court found the government's treatment of refugees is "cruel and unusual" because it jeopardizes their health and shocks the conscience of Canadians. Judge Anne Mactavish ruled "The 2012 modifications to the [Interim Federal Health Program] potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives, of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency. I have found as a fact that lives are being put at risk." Mactavish wrote in her ruling that there is "no persuasive evidence to show that the changes to the eligibility and coverage provisions of the IFHP have served to deter unmeritorious claims, thereby reducing the cost of the program."

Dr. Philip Berger, co-founder of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care accused government ministers of pre-judging clims. “They've [asylum seekers] not had a determination yet, yet through some clairvoyant power of deduction, Minister Alexander seems to know that they're bogus before they've had their hearing. Perhaps he can explain that finally after the last year of accusing all refugee claimants of being bogus."

Ottawa doctor Doug Gruner said Alexander isn't being truthful with Canadians when he says the policy only affects failed refugee claimants. Gruner calls the changes "horrific."
"That's 100 per cent false information. Not only does this policy affect all refugee claimants, of which almost half become Canadian citizens, it also affects refugees that come here as landed immigrants, soon to become Canadian citizens. These are the privately sponsored refugees. They're sponsored by church groups and other social organizations in conjunction with the federal government of Canada. And when they come here, this policy is preventing them from accessing health care."

From here

The Inclusiveness Of Capitalism


Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

A 3-year CCFC campaign against false and deceptive marketing ends with a decisive victory for families.
Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Dr. Robert Titzer, creator of the controversial Your Baby Can Read!, a $200 video series that encouraged parents to put infants as young as three months in front of screens. The settlement is the final chapter in Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's long effort to hold the makers of Your Baby Can Read! accountable for its false and deceptive advertising.

In 2011, CCFC and its attorneys at Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation filed a FTC complaint documenting how the marketing of Your Baby Can Read! was rife with false and unsubstantiated claims about infant learning.
 In 2012, the FTC filed false advertising charges against Your Baby Can LLC and Dr. Titzer. Your Baby Can and former CEO Hugh Penton agreed to settle the FTC's charges, but Dr. Titzer formed a new company, The Infant Learning Company, and continued to claim Your Baby Can Read! could teach babies as young as nine months to read.
 As part of the new settlement, Dr. Titzer and The Infant Learning Company are now barred from using the phrase “Your Baby Can Read.” Both defendants are prohibited from making any unsubstantiated claims about the performance of any product that teaches reading and Dr. Titzer is barred from endorsing any product unless he has a reasonable basis for its marketing claims.

from here

Nothing and no one is immune to the grasping tentacles of capitalism which seeks profit at every turn. Join those in the World Socialist Movement in the struggle to achieve its end. here

Ferguson's Municipal Court Highly Profitable - Some Relevant Statistics

The Ferguson Police have now released a video that shows police Officer Darren Wilson receiving a commendation six months before he became known to the whole nation as the cop who gunned down an unarmed 18-year-old.
The irony is obvious to anyone who watches the footage of this proud young officer receiving the award at a ceremony in the City Council chamber as Ferguson’s six council members applaud.
“Officer Wilson, in recognition of outstanding police work while investigating a suspicious-vehicle call,” Chief Thomas Jackson says in making the presentation. “Acting alone, you struggled with one subject and [were] able to gain control of the subject and his car keys until assistance arrived. Later, during the interview, it was discovered that the subject was breaking down a large quantity of marijuana for sale.”
Jackson adds, “Great job, Darren.”

But there is another, unnoticed irony in the venue itself. Three times a month—one day and two nights—the City Council chamber also serves as home to the incredibly busy and extremely profitable Ferguson municipal court.
A report issued just last week by the nonprofit lawyer’s group ArchCity Defenders notes that in the court’s 36 three-hour sessions in 2013, it handled 12,108 cases and 24,532 warrants. That is an average of 1.5 cases and three warrants per Ferguson household. Fines and court fees for the year in this city of just 21,000 people totaled $2,635,400.
The sum made the municipal court the city’s second-biggest source of revenue. It is also almost certainly was a major factor in the antagonism between the police and the citizenry preceding the tragedy that resulted when Wilson had another encounter with a subject six months after he got his commendation.

Any complete investigation into how Michael Brown came to be sprawled dead in the street with a half-dozen bullet wounds must consider not just the cop but the system he served, a system whose primary components include a minor court that generates major money, much of it from poor and working people.
Five of the six City Council members who meet in this chamber are white, even though the city itself is more than 70 percent black. The City Council appoints the municipal judge, currently Ron Brockmeyer, who is also white.
But when this same chamber serves as Ferguson Municipal Court, a disproportionate number of the defendants are black.

The immediate explanation is that the bulk of the cases arise from car stops. The ArchCity Defenders report notes: “Whites comprise 29% of the population of Ferguson but just 12.7% of vehicle stops. After being stopped in Ferguson, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.1% vs. 6.9%) and twice as likely to be arrested (10.4% vs. 5.2%).”
Lest anyone contend that blacks inherently merit greater police attention than whites, the report offers another statistic.
“Searches of black individuals result in discovery of contraband only 21.7% of the time, while similar searches of whites produce contraband 34.0% of the time.”
That would suggest both that whites were more likely to be stopped when there was actual probable cause and that blacks were more likely to be stopped when there was not. And the antagonism sure to be generated by such racial disparities was magnified by the sheer number of cases.

The report cites a court employee as saying the docket for a typical three-hour court session has up to 1,500 cases. The report goes on to say that “in addition to such heavy legal prosecution,” the Ferguson court and others like it in nearby towns “engage in a number of operational procedures that make it even more difficult for defendants to navigate the courts.”
The report goes on, “For example, a Ferguson court employee reported that the bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour, a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.”

The lawyers of ArchCity Defenders specialize in representing the indigent and the homeless. They noticed that many of their clients had multiple warrants on minor charges issued by municipal courts in Ferguson and the other 80 municipalities in St. Louis County that have their own courts and police.
“They didn’t just have one case, they had 10 cases,” says Thomas Harvey, the organization’s 44-year-old executive director.
The warrants too often precluded the clients from securing shelter and services, and access to job programs. The lawyers sought some remedy in the issuing courts.
“It kept being about the money,” Harvey recalls. “We were telling the court, ‘They don’t have any money because they’re homeless.’”
The clients felt sure they were being targeted because they were black and poor, and told the lawyers tales of unfair treatment by everybody from the cops to the bailiffs to the judges.
“I’ll be real honest, I didn’t believe them,” Harvey says.
With the help of college students, ArchCity Defenders started a court watch program eight months ago. They concluded that much of what their clients had been saying was all too true. Impoverished defendants were frequently ordered to pay fines that were triple their monthly income. Some ended up with no income at all as they sat in jail for weeks, awaiting a hearing.

“It’s not just about Michael Brown and this officer,” Harvey says.
The statistics assembled for the report concerning race and car stops in Ferguson were no great surprise, especially considering that its police department is proportionately even whiter than its City Council, with just three blacks among its 52 cops. The number that jumped out was the huge revenue, big bucks for a little burg.
“Anybody who makes a revenue source a line of a budget becomes dependent on it,” Harvey suggests.
But if the system’s objective was money, the result was still that many people felt targeted because of race and class.
“For many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay,” the report says.
By the remarkable stats the report offers, Wilson might have been expected to add one more case to the municipal court excess by issuing Brown and his friend summonses for walking down the middle of the road.

That same venue where Wilson received his commendation and the City Council members applauded is where justice is insulted wholesale three times a week.
And an entire city turns poisonous. The fury of the protesters was sparked not only by killing of Brown but by the circumstances that led up to it.
The Ferguson municipal court canceled its August sessions because of the turmoil, but it is expected to resume in September.

whole article here

Socialise Science

 In The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs, Private Sector Myths, Mariana Mazzucato,  professor of The Economics of Innovation at Sussex University, points out  that capitalists are not the visionary risk-takers that free-market economists, the corporate media and politicians would have us believe. Their focus on maximizing profits actually makes capitalists risk-averse. Contrary to public opinion, neither Steve Jobs nor Apple had a critical role in the development of the Internet  or iPhones.  Hard disk drives were developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Internet was constructed by U.S. federal agencies working with publicly funded universities. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the World Wide Web were conceived by U.K. government-funded scientists. Touch screen technology was developed in government labs in the U.S. and U.K.  GPS was developed by the U.S. military and continues to be funded by the U.S. Air Force. Lithium Ion batteries were developed by U.S. Department of Energy scientists. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Thin Film Transistors (TFT) were developed in government-funded labs. So were SIRI, an artificial intelligence program, and the critical Web Search algorithm. Steve Jobs and Apple can be credited with eye-catching designs and effective marketing which allowed their shareholders to make billions from the socialization of research and the privatization of profits.

 Most research is funded by governments because they do not have to answer to shareholders. They can have broader goals.  In the U.S., the federal government funds two-thirds of the country’s research and development: private business funds less than twenty percent. Capitalism has long depended on governments to fund research. In earlier times, governments funded research on canon fire and ocean shipping. They funded construction of railways, telegraph then telephone lines, and funded research on aerodynamics and jet engines. After government funding has made production profitable private business takes charge.

Most new drugs are developed in publicly funded labs. These are then modified slightly, patented and sold to government-funded health care systems at hundreds of times the production cost. Existing capital is locked into profits from fossil fuels; private capital cannot be expected to take the lead with widely coordinated action will be required to rapidly replace dependence on fossil fuels with solar, wind, tidal, wave, and geothermal power. Wider action is blocked by vested interest and lobbying as long as corporations and their shareholders can continue to make massive profits from fossil fuels.

Adapted from here 

A 'new nastier social security system'

A report by Landman Economics concluded that changes made since 2010, which include the introduction of a £500-a-week household benefit cap and the so-called bedroom tax, will cut annual spending by £30.5bn by 2016/17. According to the analysis, the impact of this will be felt more by working families, who will suffer a loss of social security support worth £17.9bn a year by 2016/17, over twice the £6.2bn cut experienced by out-of-work families.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said ‘Ministers like to say that their welfare reforms target workshy scroungers and will get them back to work. But the fact is that the bulk of the cuts hit low-paid families already in work, as well as pensioners who have no way to make up the money lost as a result of Chancellor George Osborne’s social security axe. With nearly half the total cost of welfare changes falling on working families with children, the prime minister has already failed his own new family test, announced just this week. The government has been steadily chipping away at the social security safety net we all pay into and expect will support us when we need help.’

Most benefit cuts, including the £13.8bn annual reduction in tax credits, are a result of the chancellor’s decision to change the measure for uprating benefits from the Retail Prices Index to the lower Consumer Prices Index. In addition, the government’s Universal Credit programme, which is intended to ensure people are always better off in work, will lead to a further £5bn of annual cuts – almost half of which will fall on pensioner families. This is because new UC claimants of this age will no longer get Pension Credit and instead will receive less generous support, as well as being subject to the government’s new sanctions regime.

O’Grady went on to say ‘While many people may think that the recovery means the end of the squeeze on their social security support, the worse cuts are still to come. This new nastier social security system is a world away from the support people expect having paid their national insurance contributions.’

Meanwhile the BBC reports that more people are suffering from malnutrition as a result of worsening food poverty, experts have warned. The Faculty of Public Health said conditions like rickets were becoming more apparent because people could not afford quality food in their diet. Health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year. UK food prices had risen by 12% since 2007. It also noted that in the same period, UK workers had suffered a 7.6% fall in wages

Friday, August 22, 2014

What's Your Wage, Mean Or Median?

Walmart jobs are poverty-level jobs.

Walmart’s average sale Associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to IBISWorld, an independent market research group. This translates to annual pay of $15,576, based upon Walmart’s full-time status of 34 hours per week. This is significantly below the 2010 Federal Poverty Level of $22,050 for a family of four. The Wall Street Journal reported that the average Walmart cashier makes just $8.48 an hour, far below the $11.22 national average for all cashiers.

 According to a 2011 report, if Walmart started paying a $12/hour minimum wage, its workers currently earning less than $9 per hour could each earn $3,250 to $6,500 more per year before taxes. If Walmart were to pass this cost directly to shoppers, the average consumer would need to pay only 46 cents more per shopping trip, or $12.50 per year.

Walmart's own corporate fact sheet state that the average full-time hourly wage for Walmart associates is $11.75. Since everyone at Walmart is an 'associate', including CEO Mike Duke who in 2010 received $18.7 million (1,201 times the annual income of the average sales associate), the mean wage is higher than the median wage.

from here and from Raj Patel's 'Stuffed and Starved' chapter 8, note 85

Oh, how the figures are presented helps the bottom line!

Wade in deep waters

Nicholas Wade in his latest book,  A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, arguing that economic success can, at least in part, be attributed to racial differences with a genetic foundation. He states that the latest research on the human genome establishes beyond doubt that there is indeed a biological basis for race, and that the human population can be broadly divided into three main racial types: sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians and East Asians. In addition to obvious physical differences – notably skin colour – natural selection on the main continents has resulted in marked differences in some aspects of brain function, which has in turn influenced the kind of economic success enjoyed by some countries, and missed out by others.

Nearly 150 population geneticists, who study how genes collectively contribute to physical and behavioural attributes, have now signed a letter criticising Wade misappropriating research from their field to support his arguments about inheritable differences among human societies – epitomised in a biological basis for race.

“Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in IQ test results, political institutions and economic development,” the letter says. “We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not. We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures,” it says.

Britain, and specifically the English, pioneered the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century because since the Middle Ages the rich had more surviving children than the poor and this meant that the values of the upper middle classes – nonviolence, literacy, thrift and patience – spread as genetic traits within the population, according to Wade, an old Etonian. Europe benefited early on from industrialisation because their people were more genetically predisposed to being open and tolerant, unlike the Chinese, while the Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ because the more intelligent among them were richer and therefore able to afford more children, he says.

With all Africans reduced to a single racial category, Wade commences explaining why genes cause its problems. Africans did not “develop the ingrained behaviors of trust, nonviolence and thrift that a productive economy requires.” To advance, they need “the transformation of a population’s traits from the violent, short-term, impulsive behavior typical of many hunter-gatherer and tribal societies into the more disciplined, future-oriented behavior seen in East Asian societies” and in the West. The failure of “Africa” to evolve the necessary traits for success in our modern world is not for lack of resources.  Rather, after colonialism, Wade writes, Africa “reverted to the kind of social system to which Africans had become adapted during the previous centuries.” By “adapted,” he means “genetically adapted,” a point made explicit at the beginning of the book. Wade offers no evidence to support his genetic story of Africa’s poverty because none exists. In the absence of evidence, Wade resorts to homicide statistics.

Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, said that Wade should be deeply embarrassed because his propensity to “make up” stories resembles a theologian more than a science journalist. “For Wade to write a whole book resting on this speculative house of cards – the idea that genes and natural selection are everything in explaining culture – is simply bad popular science,” Professor Coyne said.

Mark Stoneking, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig in Germany said that Wade is wrong to say that modern genomics shows there is a biological basis for race. “How to define the concept of race biologically is not easy, but to me one prediction is that not only should one be able to define discrete clusters of people that correspond to races, there should be distinct boundaries between them,” Dr Stoneking said. “And if you look at patterns of genetic variation in human populations, you find they are distributed along geographic ‘clines’ with no distinct boundaries,” he said. “It's like a rainbow. Sure, I can identify parts of a rainbow that are different –red, yellow, blue, and so forth – but there are no sharp boundaries between them; a rainbow is a gradient of colours.”

Wade is a science writer, not a scientist. The people criticising him are actual scientists and specialists in the field, and he is using their research to support racist theories. So when the people who did the actual research say he does not know what he is talking about,  SOYMB would go with the scientists rather than Wade.

 In the New York Times Book Review of  July 13, David Dobbs wrote that it was "a deeply flawed, deceptive, and dangerous book" with "pernicious conceits". Biologist H. Allen Orr writes, "Hard evidence for Wade's thesis is nearly nonexistent."  In the Boston Review, sociologist Philip Cohen places it "in the grand tradition of scientific racism." Discussion of human race isn't shunned in academia, they say: it's merely kept within the bounds of what is known and unknown. On race, researchers "say about all we can say," in the words of UC Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen. Wade, Eisen says, "is trying not just to make it OK to voice racist theories about the origins of human phenotypic variation, he is yearning to give them the validity of science." Wade has blurred "the distinction between storytelling and science," writes Eisen.

From here  and here and here

A World at War

Of 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, just 11 were not involved in conflict of one kind or another.

The only ones to achieve the lowest score for all forms of conflict were Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Panama and Brazil. And even those countries are not entirely exempt from other problems that, the IEP says, could lend to conflict further down the line. Japan and Vietnam are involved in territorial disputes with China. Qatar is one of the countries financing jihadist groups fighting in Syria. Switzerland exports armaments. Brazil’s paramilitary police have been involved in almost war-like conflict with gangs in the favelas.

See the study here

Low pay and low paid jobs increase

Since 2009, while higher-income sectors saw a drop between 2.1 and 2.5 percent, workers in the three lowest-paid groups were hit much harder, with wage declines between 3.6 and 4.6 percent. Some of the hardest-hit professions within the three lowest-paid groups were maids, housekeepers, home health and personal care aides, and restaurant workers, whose wage decline ranged from 5.8 to 8.3 percent.

 Low-paid jobs are on the rise. Despite the stagnant or diminished level of wages more people found work in lower-paid occupations than in any other industry in the past year. Low-wage and mid-wage jobs constituted a combined 67 percent of job growth from July 2013 to July 2014.

“These real wage declines mean that workers in mid - and low - wage jobs are falling further and further behind,” said National Employment Law Project (NELP) executive director Christine Owens. “These losses are part of an alarming trend toward greater inequality and a shrinking share of the economic pie going to workers’ wages, especially low - and mid - wage workers.

NELP, an nonpartisan organization that has been fighting for a higher national minimum wage, has analyzed job growth data twice since 2009 and found that the trend has been consistent every year: real median hourly wages had declined by 2.8 percent last year, on average, across all occupations, with the greatest losses hitting the exact same groups — mid- and low-wage workers, particularly maids, housekeepers, care aides, and restaurant cooks. Over the next decade, one in four American workers is expected to work a low-wage job.

From here

Hiding poverty by statistics

The World Bank, the governments of wealthy countries, and - most importantly - the United Nations Millennium Campaign all agree the world is getting better, thanks to the spread of free market capitalism and western aid. Development is working, and soon, poverty rates are declining one day in the very near future, extreme poverty will be no more. Except, according to Dr Jason Hickel who lectures at the London School of Economics, it is just not true. Poverty is not disappearing as quickly as they say. In fact, according to some measures, poverty has been getting significantly worse.

Banksters Selling Sour Milk

Banksters fined again

Bank of America has agreed to pay a record $16.7bn (£10bn) to US authorities for misleading investors about the quality of loans it sold.

 The associate attorney general, explained: "It's kind of like going to your neighbourhood grocery store to buy milk advertised as fresh, only to discover that store employees knew the milk you were buying had been left out on the loading dock, unrefrigerated, the entire day before, yet they never told you. And just like you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you got home and poured yourself that glass of milk, investors - such as public pension funds and federally-insured financial institutions - were unpleasantly met with billions of dollars in losses when those securities investments soured."

Not all bad news for Bank of America. Even after the penalty payment, it still left them with third-quarter profits of $5.3bn and the shares of Bank of America opened 1.5% higher following the settlement.