Sunday, May 31, 2015

Socialist Standard No.1330 June 2015

Illusion Of Choice

Where you get your information


High Tech Servitude: Skin Implants To Die For

People really have learned to love their high tech servitude.
Via Business Insider Australia:
A mind-boggling 25% of Australians say they are at least “slightly interested” at the prospect of having a chip implanted in their skin that could be used for payments, new research has found.
The research by credit card company Visa and the University of Technology Sydney found Australians are open to the prospect of paying for items using wearable tech including smart watches, rings, glasses and even a connected car. [emphasis added]
“Australians are among the world’s earliest adopters of new technology,” Head of Emerging Products and Innovation for Visa in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, George Lawson said.
Think we’re being tracked and traced now? Why would you be interested in not only taking the mark but for a cashless control grid in the modern era of corruption we find ourselves swimming in? This is not only trusting to the point of idiocy, it’s literally voting for one’s own enslavement.
What happens when the government starts turning people’s chips off for not falling in line and being good little statist citizens? Have fun buying milk and bread then, Australians.

Delivered by TheDaily Sheeple here

Oil Giants Brush Up Climate Credentials Ahead Of Paris Summit

Eight of the world’s top oil and gas producers have offered an intriguing glimpse into a future of rusting oil rigs and gleaming solar panels.
A vision of old and new energy sources, on what looks like a dried out seabed, dominate the front page of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) website, a project launched by BG Group, BP, Eni, Pemex, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Sinopec and Total.
They joined forces last week at the Paris business and climate summit to emphasize their qualified support for carbon cuts, and plan to reveal how they can contribute to global efforts to address climate change in a report due out later this year.

The oil giants – responsible for 25 million barrels of oil equivalent a day – a sixth of global hydrocarbon production – say they want to “drive the sector forward” on climate solutions.
Options discussed at a gathering of the OGCI last week include cuts to gas flaring and methane emissions from production facilities, together with work on measuring climate-related impacts.
“Outcomes from the workshop will help inform the OGCI’s first joint report that will be published ahead of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21),” the group said in a statement.

It offers another signal that after decades of blocking efforts to tackle climate change, some of the world’s top fossil fuel producers are now acknowledge rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions could be an issue.
Last week Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said the country could be finished with fossil fuels by 2040 or 2050, and offered the thought it could turn to exporting solar power.

BP and Shell recently adopted shareholder resolutions to force them to reveal if their assets will be unburnable under tighter climate regulations.
Chevron and Exxon Mobil, which are not part of the OGCI, have rejected calls to pull out of carbon-intensive projects. And apart from Total, which has gas solar projects in the US, South Africa, Chile and Abu Dhabi, other OGCI members have insignificant renewable investments.
The “long term solutions” part of the website talks about digital solutions or regulatory behavior. It doesn’t mention the UN climate science panel’s warning that at the rate of current emissions, in less than 30 years dangerous warming will be locked into the world’s climate.

Many seasoned observers of climate change talks have called the commitment of oil companies to decarbonise into question, pointing to Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic this summer.
Environmentalist Jonathan Porritt, who once advised BP on its environmental strategies, said it was “impossible” for them to adapt to a world that needs to rapidly slash emissions.
The UK’s former top climate diplomat John Ashton has described Shell’s strategy of warning about climate dangers yet continuing to explore as “narcissistic, paranoid and psychopathic”.

But with the Paris summit fast approaching, there appear to be efforts at senior UN levels to offer the oil giants a way to bring solutions to the French capital.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and UN assistant secretary-general on climate change Janos Pasztor also addressed last week’s OGCI meeting, according to the statement.
Speaking to RTCC in Barcelona this week, Figueres said it was time to stop “demonizing” hydrocarbon producers, arguing their technical expertise was vital in curbing emissions.
“We need everyone – climate change is so important so we cannot afford to demonize any country or company,” she said.

By Ed King from here

 Ever the cynic, one comment - don't hold your breath!

Let’s End Chronic Hunger Now

At the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), heads of government and the international community committed to reducing the number of hungry people in the world by half. Five years later, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lowered this level of ambition by only seeking to halve the proportion of the hungry.

The latest State of World Food Insecurity (SOFI) report for 2015 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme and International Fund for Agricultural Development estimates almost 795 million people — one in nine people worldwide — remain chronically hungry.
The number of undernourished people — those regularly unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life — in the world has thus only declined by slightly over a fifth from the 1010.6 million estimated for 1991 to 929.6 million in 2001, 820.7 million in 2011 and 794.6 million in 2014.

With the number of chronically hungry people in developing countries declining from 990.7 million in 1991 to 779.9 million in 2014, their share in developing countries has declined by 44.4 per cent, from 23.4 to 12.9 per cent over the 23 years, but still short of the 11.7 per cent target.
Thus, the MDG 1c target of halving the chronically undernourished’s share of the world’s population by the end of 2015 is unlikely to be met at the current rate of progress. However, meeting the target is still possible, with sufficient, immediate, additional effort to accelerate progress, especially in countries which have showed little progress thus far.

Overall progress has been highly uneven. All but 15 million of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. Some countries and regions have seen only slow progress in reducing hunger, while the absolute number of hungry has even increased in several cases.
By the end of 2014, 72 of the 129 developing countries monitored had reached the MDG 1c target — to either reduce the share of hungry people by half, or keep the share of the chronically undernourished under five per cent. Several more are likely to do so by the end of 2015.

Instead of halving the number of hungry in developing regions by 476 million, this number was only reduced by 221 million, just under half the earlier, more ambitious WFS goal. Nevertheless, some 29 countries succeeded in at least halving the number of hungry. This is significant as this shows that achieving and sustaining rapid progress in reducing hunger is feasible.
Marked differences in undernourishment persist across the regions. There have been significant reductions in both the share and number of undernourished in most countries in South-East Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean — where the MDG target of halving the hunger rate has been reached.

While sub-Saharan Africa has the highest share of the chronically hungry, almost one in four, South Asia has the highest number, with over half a billion undernourished. West Asia alone has seen an actual rise in the share of the hungry compared to 1991, while progress in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Oceania has not been sufficient to meet the MDG hunger target by 2015.

Despite the shortfall in achieving the MDG1c target and the failure to get near the WFS goal of halving the number of hungry, world leaders are likely to commit to eliminating hunger and poverty by 2030 when they announce the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations in September.
To be sure, there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world. However, hundreds of millions of people do not have the means to access enough food to meet their dietary energy needs, let alone what is needed for diverse diets to avoid ‘hidden hunger’ by meeting their micronutrient requirements.
With high levels of deprivation, unemployment and underemployment likely to prevail in the world in the foreseeable future, poverty and hunger are unlikely to be overcome by 2030 without universally establishing a social protection floor for all. Such efforts will also need to provide the means for sustainable livelihoods and resilience.

The Second International Conference of Nutrition in Rome last November articulated commitments and proposals for accelerated progress to overcome undernutrition. Improvements in nutrition will require sustained and integrated efforts involving complementary policies, including improving health conditions, food systems, social protection, hygiene, water supply and education.

 By Jomo Kwame Sundaram from here

It is widely acknowledged that there is more than sufficient food produced worldwide to meet all human needs. The paragraph in bold reaffirms that. We would add that attempting to refashion some aspects of capitalist principles to achieve the goal has been a regular and ongoing failure. Evidence shows that each time there is a review of the state of the millenium goals figures are cleverly manipulated to show progress, whatever the actual numbers reveal. 
What is really needed if, as a global population, we are serious about eliminating hunger and poverty is the removal of the cause, thereby enabling us to deal with the situation immediately, not by 2030. Profits being the number one priority in capitalism are the reason that the hungry can't access food. To eliminate profit we must eliminate capitalism. Let's do it and get serious about feeding everyone now!

Information Centre For Workers Freedom

There is a group from Bangladesh called, Information Centre For Workers Freedom, which stands for socialism/communism. Not very different from ourselves in ideas. No doubt there will be some differences about how to achieve socialism and perhaps certain divergence in our analyses of contemporary society but they are definitely not Leninists (quite the opposite in fact). As we have always argued, capitalism generates the idea of socialism independently of the WSM. So it might be appropriate to re-post one particular article from their website. 


If there is commodity, there is capitalism.
If there is no commodity, there is socialism.

If there is capital, there is capitalism.
If there is no capital, there is socialism.

If there is selling and buying, there is capitalism.
If there is no selling and buying, there is socialism.

If there is trade and commerce, there is capitalism.
If there is no trade and commerce, there is socialism.

If there is banking and insurance, there is capitalism.
If there is no banking and insurance, there is socialism.

If there is buyer of labour power, there is capitalism.
If there is no buyer of labour power, there is socialism.

If there is seller of labour power, there is capitalism.
If there is no seller of labour power, there is socialism.

If there is wage slavery, there is capitalism.
If there is no wage slavery, there is socialism.


The Killing Industry

The tobacco industry has been accused of “appalling hypocrisy”, amid claims that it is fuelling the illicit trade in cigarette smuggling to bolster its arguments against tax increases and other anti-smoking measures. In a report published to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, the pressure group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) claimed that some tobacco companies are flooding foreign markets with more products than there is demand. The report said that when some of this tobacco is subsequently smuggled back to the UK, it enables the companies to point to the dangers of a burgeoning contraband trade and to say that measures such as increasing tax would only serve to make legitimate cigarettes more expensive.

The World Health Organisation claimed: “The tobacco industry covertly and overtly supports the illegal trade, from providing products to the market, to working to block tobacco control by trying to convince governments that measures like health warnings or tax increases will lead to more illicit trade.”

Suspicions about oversupplying foreign markets to stimulate a return trade in smuggling to the UK have been raised by organisations including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which has reported that the 2011 supply of some brands of rolling tobacco to some countries exceeded legitimate demand by 240 per cent. In November, British American Tobacco was fined £650,000 by HMRC for oversupplying cigarettes to Belgium, although the company insisted it was “providing a perfectly legal supply to a legitimate demand” and announced its intention to challenge the fine in court.

Meanwhile, Employment minister, Priti Patel, was once part of a team of spindoctors paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to help a tobacco giant counter negative publicity. Patel’s job was to lobby MEPs against the introduction of the EU tobacco control directive, which was introduced shortly after the new millennium. She was charged with ensuring that a letter from the BAT chairman at the time, Martin Broughton, outlining his objection to the directive, was faxed to every MEP. BAT was charged £165 an hour for Patel’s services.

In addition to her work lobbying MEPs, Patel’s team played a key role in fashioning the company’s public profile. In a memo dated 14 December 2000, a senior executive within the company, Andreas Vecchiet, conducted an annual appraisal of the Shandwick team’s performance. “We have mainly used Shandwick for project-based work relating to the WHO [World Health Organisation] campaign, NGO monitoring … reputation issues relating to Burma, and some limited advice relating to Nigeria and labour standards.”

BAT’s position in Burma at the turn of the millennium was hugely controversial. “BAT’s factory in Burma was jointly owned with the military dictatorship and so helped fund one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world,” said Anna Roberts, executive director at Burma Campaign UK. “BAT refused to admit how much money it gave to the dictatorship, but Burma Campaign UK estimated that BAT paid the generals $16m (£10m) in taxes alone between 1999 and 2002. In contrast, BAT paid its factory workers in Burma just £15 a month. The dictatorship spent 40% of its budget on the military.”

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The “Socialist Roots” of the UK’s Labour Party

The “Socialist Roots” of the UK’s Labour Party

by Richard Layton / May 29th, 2015
Mr Graham Peebles in his article, ‘A Lost Opportunity for Change‘ (Dissident Voice, May 28, 2015) appears to be living in a quite different part of the U.K. to the one I am familiar with. He states that the British Labour Party are, ‘frightened to be true to their socialist roots’ but fails to tell us how he defines ‘Socialist’.
Perhaps his definition includes the time when the Labour Government sent in troops to undermine striking Dock Workers? Perhaps he means by ‘Socialist’ the Labour Government building the Atomic Bomb without telling Parliament or even its own Members of Parliament? Maybe his definition of a ‘Socialist’ is millionaire Tony Blair who’s vivid imagination dreamt up ‘weapons of mass-destruction’?
Having lived under a number of Labour Governments my recollection is that when in power they are obliged by the constraints of the market system to run things in much the same way as the ‘nasty’ Tories—and that means restricting the rights of working people in favour of the holders of capital.
Now it is true that when first incorporated, the Labour Party did make favourable noises towards working people. Unfortunately, however, like many on the ‘Left’, it failed to understand the nature of the Capitalist system and believed that it could, by degrees, change it into a system which  it called ‘Socialism’.
However the opposite occurred. Far from the Labour Party changing Capitalism by degrees, the Party was itself changed by Capitalism to become the full-blown pro-market pro-Capitalism political party that it is today.
The first mistake it made was in believing that state-ownership of the means of production, which it called ‘Nationalisation’ was ‘Socialism’ and that this equated to real common-ownership. The hypocrisy of this arrangement was highlighted by a legal case where in a particularly bad winter in tough times shortly after the war, a miner was prosecuted for taking a few lumps of coal home to keep his family warm.
He was prosecuted for theft and when, in his defence, he argued that he could not steal from himself as a co-owner of the mine, the court dismissed his plea on the grounds that the mines were owned by the King! And all this under a Labour Government!
In the Labour Party’s infamous Clause 4 of its Constitution, it talked of, ‘Common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange’. But genuine common ownership (unlike the mines example above) would entail the disappearance of ‘exchange’. In fact, real common ownership would mean the concept of ownership would disappear.
Nowadays, as Mr Peebles, in effect, concedes, the Labour Party avoids like the plague the use of the word ‘Socialism’ preferring to use even vaguer terms like ‘social justice’ and the like.
Mr Peeples uses the term, ‘clash of the new’ to describe the policies of such parties as the SNP and Plaid Cymru—parties that were founded respectively in 1934 and 1925! And since when has crude Nationalism been the answer to the problems of humankind?
Can he, for example, provide evidence that since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, its respective workers have benefitted from ‘independence’? And who or what are they ‘independent’ from? The Market System? The U.S. Dollar? Recessions? Global Warming? War? Terrorism?
As for the ‘Greens’, they continue to support the very political/economic system that, in putting the profit of the few before the needs of the many, is the very cause of the pollution and global warming they rail against.
Finally, Mr Peebles seems to be besotted by the idea of women politicians as a magic formula for the world’s problems. No doubt he is thinking of such gentle feminists as Mrs Thatcher, Mrs Nehru, Mrs Bandaranaike and Mrs Marcos! A person’s gender is no guarantee as to whether that person’s views are rational or otherwise as his article sadly demonstrates.

Ukraine's Operation Vulture Firmly Against Workers

Ukraine’s collapse since the February 2014 coup has become an umbrella for grabitization. Collateral damage in this free-for-all has been labor. Many workers are simply not getting paid, and what actually is being paid is often illegally low. Employers are taking whatever money is in their business accounts and squirreling it away – preferably abroad, or at least in foreign currency.
Wage arrears are getting worse, because as Ukraine approaches the eve of defaulting on its €10+ billion London debt, kleptocrats and business owners are jumping ship. They see that foreign lending has dried up and the exchange rate will plunge further.
The Rada’s announcement last week that it shifted €8 billion from debt service to spend on a new military attack on the country’s eastern export region was the last straw for foreign creditors and even for the IMF. Its loans helped support the hryvnia’s exchange rate long enough for bankers, businessmen and others to take whatever money they have and as many euros or dollars as they can before the imminent collapse in June or July.

In this pre-bankruptcy situation, emptying out the store means not paying workers or other bills. Wage arrears are reported to have reached 2 billion hryvnia, owed to over half a million workers. This has led the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine to picket against the Cabinet of Ministers on Wednesday (May 27). More demonstrations are scheduled for the next two Wednesdays, June 3 and 10. According to union federation Deputy Head Serhiy Kondratiuk, “the current subsistence wage of UAH 1,218 is 60% less than the level set in Ukrainian law, which is confirmed by the calculations if the Social Policy Ministry. … the subsistence wage in the country should exceed UAH 3,500 a month, but the government refuses to hold social dialog to revise standards.”

Emptying out Ukrainian business bank accounts will leave empty shells. With Ukraine’s economy broken, the only buyers with serious money are European and American. Selling to foreigners is thus the only way for managers and owners to get a meaningful return – paid in foreign currency safely in offshore accounts, outside of future Ukrainian clawback fines. Privatization and capital flight go together.
So does short-changing labor. The new buyers will reorganize the assets they buy, declare the old firms bankrupt and erase their wage arrears, along with any other bills that are owed. The restructured companies will claim that bankruptcy has wiped out whatever the former firms (or public enterprises) owed to workers. It is much like what corporate raiders do in the United States to wipe out pension obligations and other debts. They will claim to have to “saved” Ukrainian economy and “made it competitive.”

The Pinochet coup in Chile was a dress rehearsal for all this. The U.S.-backed military junta targeted labor leaders, journalists, and potential political leaders, as well as university professors (closing every economics department in Chile except for the Chicago “free market”-based Catholic University). You cannot have a “free market” Chicago-style, after all, without taking such totalitarian steps.
U.S. strategists like to name such ploys after predatory birds: Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, and Operation Condor in Latin America that targeted “lefties,” intellectuals and others. A similar program is underway against Ukraine’s Russian speakers. I don’t know the code word being used, so let’s call it Operation Vulture.
For labor leaders, the problem is not only to collect back wages, but to survive with a future living wage. If they refrain from protesting, they simply won’t get paid. This is why they are organizing a growing neo-Maidan protest explicitly onbehalf of wage earners – so that the junta’s Right Sector snipers cannot accuse the demonstrators of being pro-Russian. The unions have protected themselves by seeking support from the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), and from the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels.

The most effective tactic to tackle the corruption that is permitting the non-payment of wages and pensions is to focus on the present regime’s foreign support, especially from the IMF and EU. Using labor’s grievances as an umbrella to demand related reforms could include warnings that any sale of Ukrainian land, raw materials, public utilities or other assets to foreign buyers can be reversed by future, less corrupt governments.

In labor’s favor is the fact that the IMF has violating its Articles of Agreement by lending for military purposes. As soon as its last loan was disbursed, Poroshenko announced that he was stepping up his war against the East. This brings the IMF loan close to being what legal theorists call an Odious Debt: debts to a junta taking power and looting the government’s Treasury and other assets in the public domain, leaving future governments to pay off what has been stolen.
Labor’s fight for a living wage is not only for retroactive shortfalls, but to put in place a recovery plan to protect against the economy being treated like Greece or Latvia, neoliberal style. U.S. strategists have been discussing whether they could dismiss the $3 billion that Ukraine owes Russia this December as an “odious debt”; or, perhaps, classify it as “foreign aid” and hence not collectible in practice. Ironic as it may seem, the Peterson Institute of International Economics, George Soros and other Cold Warriors have provided future Ukrainian governments with a repertory of legal reasons to reconstitute their economy foreign-debt free – leaving the government able to pay wage and pension arrears.
The alternative is for international creditors to win the case for putting foreign bondholders, the IMF and European Union first, and sovereign rights to prevent self-destruction second.

from here

Climate-Destroying Corporations To Sponsor Climate Talks

Fresh revelations that yet another round of United Nations climate talks—this time the upcoming negotiations in Paris—will be sponsored by some of the very corporations driving global warming have been met with outrage and alarm that the global process continues to be “captured by big polluters.”

Pierre-Henri Guignard, Secretary-General of the UN Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21), unveiled the list of corporate sponsors on Wednesday. “We are building a very business friendly COP which will show the commitment of the private sector to the spirit of the convention,” he stated.

But climate justice advocates say that by being “business friendly,” the conference is, in fact, hostile to the public good—and the planet itself.

Today’s announcement of the corporate sponsors of the COP21 exposes the deep contradiction in UN COP process and their cozy relationship with the very corporations who are driving the climate crisis,” Cindy Wiesner of the U.S.-based Grassroots Global Justice Alliance told Common Dreams. “The effort of these corporations to green-wash their ongoing damage of the planet in order increase profit and gain public support is offensive.”

The French government claims the private sector will foot a large portion of the bill—as much as 20 percent—for the conference, according to a senior foreign ministry official cited by AFP.

According to Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory, this historically high level of private funding bodes poorly for the talks: “Twenty percent of private funding is more than at the COP19 in Warsaw in 2013. Back then, NGOs, social movements and trade unions left the negotiations to protest the takeover of the talks by industry and polluting lobbies.”

And who are the corporations financing the November 30th to December 11th conference—purportedly held to “achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C?”
They include the French energy companies Engie and EDF, whose coal plants, according to Malika Peyraut of Friends of the Earth, “are equivalent to nearly half of France’s entire emissions.”
They also include the French bank BNP-Paribas, which “accounts for half of the total support—now totaling more than 30 billion euros—provided by French banks to the coal industry between 2005 and April 2014,” according to the global NGO network Bank Track.

The 20 corporate sponsors revealed by Guignard on Wednesday constitute just the first group, with many more to come. For years, civil society and social movement organizations around the world have sounded the alarm about the heavy role of corporations in UN climate talks—a reality that has prompted the organization of alternative “People’s Summits,” including the grassroots gathering in Lima, Peru last year.
Climate justice advocates say that the financial backers of the Paris talks unveiled so far already pose a grave threat.

 “The public interest demands that these talks not be polluted by the private interests represented by these companies. Would we entrust the fight against tobacco to cigarette manufacturers? Why do it for climate policy?” said Maxime Combes, ATTAC France

from here

There's a fable in here somewhere - something about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?


EU Dropped Pesticide Laws Due To US Pressure Over TTIP

PNG - 3.4 Mb
 US trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertilitywere shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.
Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.
Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.
Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.
The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.
“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.
A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.
“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.
These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.

read more here

Oil Company Bonuses Linked To $1tn Spending On Extraction

Bosses at the world’s big five oil companies have been showered with bonus payouts linked to a $1tn (£650bn) crescendo of spending on fossil fuel exploration and extraction over nine years, according to Guardian analysis of company reports.

The unprecedented push to bring untapped reserves into production, and to exploit new and undiscovered fields, involves some of the most complex feats of engineering ever attempted. It also reflects how confident Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and BP are that demand will remain high for decades to come.
The big oil groups are pressing ahead with investments despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimating that two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground to prevent the earth from warming 2C above pre-industrial levels – a proposed temperature limit beyond which scientists warn of spiralling and irreversible climate change.

Multi-billion-dollar capital projects amount to huge, long-term bets by the big five that exorbitant costs associated with unlocking hydrocarbon reserves in some of the most inaccessible locations on the planet can eventually be recouped and converted into profits.

Bonuses for chief executives at all five firms are tied to the achievement of delivery milestones in the construction and deployment of such projects.
Shell’s Ben van Beurden, for example, last year received a pay deal worth $32.2m, including bonuses linked to delivering “a high proportion of flagship projects on time and on budget”. These are thought to include four platforms floating 1,000 metres or more above deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Guinea and South China Sea.
Similarly, BP’s Bob Dudley was awarded a pay deal worth $15.3m, with bonuses linked to seven “major projects”, thought to include Sunrise, a tar sands joint venture in Canada, as well as projects in Angola, Azerbaijan, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.
The boss of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, was paid $33.1m last year including bonus payouts linked to projects including the first well in the Kara Sea, in the Russian Arctic, and the expansion of the Kearl tar sands operations in northern Alberta, Canada.

The Guardian asked each of the big five about the appropriateness of linking bonuses to capital spending given the looming threat posed by climate change. Shell said pay for Van Beurden “reflects delivery of company strategy, measured by both short-term and long-term targets”.
Chevron said executive rewards were “strongly tied to corporate performance and directly linked to increases in shareholder value”. Exxon Mobil and BP declined to respond, while Total did not answer.

for more detailed information go here

Friday, May 29, 2015

Texas, Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Capitalism

With at least a dozen people dead and the raging high waters described as having “tsunami-type power” in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend, the latest example of extreme weather in the U.S. is being tied to a global pattern of increasingly volatile events that are claiming lives and costing billions of dollars in damage each year.
As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the range of a declared disaster zone in his state today, neighboring Oklahoma is also coping with an emergency response to flash floods and overflowing rivers.
Marking the official end of a four-year long drought in the south-central part of the country, the storms may be filling the region’s diminished reservoirs, but not without a high cost.

As the nation’s media focuses on the acute damage to property and loss of life, an international conference sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which kicked off in Switzerland yesterday, may shed additional light on the impact that human-caused climate change is having on the planet’s highly-dynamic weather patterns.

With the title of ‘Facing Up to Climate Change, Extreme Weather,′ the WMO conference is asking the world’s foremost meteorologists to weigh in on how increased atmospheric and ocean temperatures created by carbon and other heat-trapping gases affect the planet’s weather patterns.
“So far in 2015—as in preceding years—weather-related disasters have destroyed or disrupted millions of lives and livelihoods,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud ahead of the meeting. Citing devastating events like Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, major droughts in India, California, and Brazil, and the kind of flooding that recently struck Chile and now being seen in Texas, Jarraud said the “list of extreme events is long and there is growing scientific evidence that at least some of them would have been unlikely without human-induced climate change.”

With the next round of UN climate talks slated for later this year in Paris, Jarraud affirmed that the WMO’s efforts will be aimed at addressing the threat of increasingly extreme weather caused by global warming. “It is a pivotal year for action on behalf of future generations,” he said. “We have more than a responsibility. We have a moral duty to take action to limit climate change. If we don’t do it we will be judged by our children and our grandchildren.”

According to Haaretz:
There is no argument that the planet has undergone many a climatic change in its 4.5-billion year history, but most scientists agree that this time is different. To name just one indicator, never before has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide climbed as rapidly as in the last century, since the industrial revolution really took off. This month atmospheric CO2 reached 400 parts per million, a concentration last seen before man even began to evolve some 2.5 million years ago.
And while the cause of any individual weather event is debatable, a pattern has emerged, and it isn’t business as usual.
The weekend’s weather was also attributed in part to the naturally occurring phenomenon known as El Niño. But with the planet experiencing increasing warming due to humanity’s continued emission of greenhouse gases, the current experience of those living in Texas and Oklahoma—intense flooding caused by heavy rains after prolonged periods of drought—is just one of the expected dangers that climate scientists have long warned about.

As ThinkProgress reported on Monday:
Going from one extreme to another is a hallmark of climate change. Scientists predict more droughts in the coming decades, as well as more intense rainstorms. In the midwest, the number of storms that drop more than three inches of rain have increased by 50 percent, according to an analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Texas and Oklahoma both face intensifying drought and flooding, although politicians in both states have denied climate change. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Texas “has yet to formally address climate change preparedness”—one of only 12 states to not have taken any steps toward addressing the impacts of climate change on water resources.
“Between more intense rainstorms and sea level rise, flooding will only increase if we don’t address climate change,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

from here

 Who the 'we' is in the calls for addressing climate change is not made too clear, however we the people all over the world have been calling for this issue to be addressed for some time now. 'We' are paid little attention. 'They', corporations and lobbyists throw money at politicians so they also largely ignore public opinion. The capitalist system is bolstered by 'them' and 'their' main interest is in making more profit so 'we' have little hope of being heard on this and any other topic. 
It's time to grasp the nettle and recognise the only action that can halt capitalism's ills is the total abolition of the system that allows and sustains this division of 'us' and 'them.' We are many, they are few. Together anything is possible.

Climate Change: Capitalism Must Go

Are we going to let capitalism destroy life on Earth?
According to 99 percent of climate scientists – we'll know by the end of the century.

Scientists have agreed for three decades about what is causing atmospheric temperatures to rise – humans are burning Earth's carbon resources to fuel economic activity. But even before we knew what was causing the temperature to rise – scientists warned about the dire global impacts of a two degree increase in atmospheric temperatures.

Earth's climate has been basically stable for hundreds of thousands of years.

But that changed during the industrial revolution - when Great Britain realized the potential of coal-powered steam engines.
Soon continental Europe and the US followed suit.And more than 150 years later – coal, oil and natural gas dominate the global politics and economics: wars are fought over oil; communities are destroyed for coal; and increasingly scarce water supplies are poisoned by natural gas extraction.

The Earth has already warmed about one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels - which means we have to change our energy system completely before the Earth warms another degree in order to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Is it possible? Scientists say "Yes!" - BUT it will require us to take bold and immediate steps towards a completely renewable energy system.
The technology exists – the shortfall is in investment.
According to the IMF – oil companies get $5.3 trillion in subsidies worldwide per year. And the oil companies pay only a portion – if any – of the environmental costs of ripping fossil fuels from the ground and burning the CO2 into the atmosphere.
In other words, every living human being and government are paying for coal, oil, and gas companies to profit from the destruction our planet.
And that's not a market failure – that's how the market was set up.

Capitalism as we know it isn't the solution – it's the problem.

In a report in "Nature Climate Change" – scientists point out that we can keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius – if every country takes bold and immediate action to deploy current clean energy and limit the use of fossil fuels.

Burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into our atmosphere has very real costs that corporations aren't paying for – costs that are being kicked down the road for future generations.

In the US, we've let the fossil fuel industry become so profitable that it relentlessly funds campaigns and lobbies to keep oil subsidies in place and weaken environmental regulations - all at the expense of our communities and our planet. Our current oligarchs claim that renewable power isn't efficient or cheap enough to be competitive or to reliably replace fossil fuels – but that's just not true. Solar, wind, and wave technology are all ready to be deployed at large scales – and Denmark, Germany, the UK and China, among others, are doing it right now. Our transportation system is ready for renewables – solar roadways in the Netherlands are proving more effective than expected – and over two dozen models of electric cars are now out on the market.
Our households are ready for renewables: LED lightbulbs and high efficiency appliances mean that households use less energy – and affordable rooftop solar means that households can meet a lot their own energy needs.

We can make renewables competitive if we just cut subsidies to oil and coal companies and enforce our clean air and clean water regulations – but that means getting money out of politics so that legislation is written in the interest of communities and the planet - instead of corporations.

Capitalism is great at creating profits and products – but it doesn't care about environmental justice.

Capitalism doesn't care whether we restore our forests and soils so that the planet can begin to reabsorb the carbon we've dumped into the atmosphere.

Capitalism doesn't care whether streams are poisoned or if the air is noxious – it doesn't care if a river burns because of pollution – and it doesn't care if another technology is 'cleaner' - unless the 'dirty' option becomes unprofitable.

Capitalism is to make money - but a government like our republic is put into place to protect the people from those whose quest for money harms society. We cannot replace democratic government with capitalism – and climate change proves this.

In fact - climate change challenges capitalism at its very root – is an economy really growing when all the costs are dumped on society while a handful of corporations and billionaires take all the profits?
Science says that we can keep global temperatures from rising another half degree – but it can't be left to a private sector that makes its profits from leaving the costs to everybody else.

taken from here

The article above seems to hit the nail on the head but then wanders off topic by seemingly endorsing 'a nicer kind' of capitalism - bring it to heel with more regulation and by preventing huge profits to be take by 'those whose quest for money harms society'. By now we all should have realised that capitalism is not going to be reined in. To quote from above 'Capitalism is about making money.' Then surely the obvious answer is to cut out that as a possibility by abandoning the monetary method of organising production, distribution and everything else in our lives in favour of an egalitarian moneyless society in which all have free and open access to the necessities of life - and in which the planet can prosper.
Capitalism must go.

"Yes" To Same-Sex Marriage In Ireland

In a historic victory for marriage equality, Ireland has become the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage via popular vote. By a 62-to-38 margin, the people of Ireland voted a resounding "yes" for equality in a national referendum on Friday. This signals what some are calling a "social revolution" in the traditionally conservative Catholic country. Ireland’s constitution will now be amended to say that two people can marry "without distinction as to their sex."

The turnout was one of the highest in the country’s history and came after a robust civic campaign led by human rights activists, trade unions, celebrities and employers. Ireland’s referendum reflects a sea change in a country where homosexuality was decriminalized just two decades ago and where 70 percent of the population still identifies as Roman Catholic. We are joined from Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Gavin Boyd, the policy and advocacy manager at The Rainbow Project.

An interview by 'Democracy Now' with campaigners, voters and officials in Ireland follows here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

UK Counter-Extremism Tests For Muslim Children


In recent days, images of a ‘counter extremism’ test set specifically for Muslim school children by UK schools have been shared widely across social media. The case highlights a deepening prejudice towards the Muslim community across the Western world which echoes the hysteria of McCarthy era America.

In the time of the ‘Islamist Threat’, every Muslim is a latent terrorist, prone to ‘radicalization’ at any moment. And if you think I’m laying it on a bit thick, just look at the comments by Britain’s most senior Muslim police commander Mak Chishty.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation from the age of five-years-old. Asked to define what sort of behavior would be worthy of suspicion, Chishty responded with a list of activities which included:

  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Dressing in non-western clothes
  • Not shopping in Marks and Spencers
  • Voicing criticism of politics or foreign policy
 Chishty would no doubt fall into the ‘House Negro’ category expertly outlined by Malcolm X in his 1963 speech at Michigan State University.

Certainly, Chishty is enforcing the will of his political masters, and this goes right to the top.
Speaking to the National Security Council earlier this month about the introduction of his new Counter Extremism Bill, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke perhaps the most anti-democratic words uttered by a British Prime Minister in history, saying:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”
Within this mindset, the core principles of democracy are forgotten. Worse, actively twisted into authoritarianism. Dissent becomes treason. Protest becomes extremism. And at the centre, every Muslim becomes suspect – right down to school children. In this paranoid context, the interrogation of children with this ‘counter extremism test’ is accepted as prudent and appropriate. People don’t ask questions about the racism, the invasion of privacy, or indeed the long term impacts.

It is simply unacceptable for anyone who claims a shred of fidelity to the principles of democracy to back these measures. How many times must we go through this process before we become immune to the efforts of political and media propagandists bent on dividing us into opposing camps? One need only pick up a history book to find several examples from living memory – Japanese Americans during World War II, the Red Scare, the Nazi holocaust, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.  All done in the name of protecting and expanding freedom and democracy, all of which merely trashed the principles of both.

There is a certain irony at play here, because Democracy is absolutely at threat today. But the threat does not come from Islamic Extremists with Kalashnikovs and Korans. It comes from politicians with censorship and propaganda.

 taken from here

Afghanistan: The War Is Over. Long Live The War

Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered remarks before a Memorial Day service at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, in which he celebrated the day as the first Memorial Day since the end of the war in Afghanistan.
For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end. Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war. So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers—men and women—who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
Our war in Afghanistan came to an end. Well, sort of.
The United States and NATO did formally end the war in Afghanistan, amidst some ceremony, in December 2014. However, in many ways, it is hard to see that the changing of the guard was little more than the changing of a flag. And President Obama’s own Justice Department—for its part—is busily arguing in court that the war is not, in fact, over.
In the United States’ opposition to a Guantanamo Bay detainee’s “End of War” motion, the President’s lawyers write, “active hostilities” are continuing against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that the President and the Congress are “in agreement” that this is the case:
As a matter of international and domestic law, the United States currently remains in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated forces. Petitioner Mukhtar Yahia al Warafi (ISN 117), a Guantanamo Bay detainee previously determined by this Court to be part of Taliban forces, incorrectly contends that his detention at Guantanamo Bay has become unlawful because he alleges the United States’ armed conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan ended at the close of 2014.
. . .
[T]he determination of whether hostilities have ended is a matter “of political judgement for which judges have neither technical competence nor official responsibility.” Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160, 170 (1948). With respect to the current armed conflict against al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated forces, both political branches are in agreement, through Congress’s continued statutory authority and the Executive’s posture and military actions undertaken pursuant to that authority, that active hostilities against those forces have not ceased.
. . .
Petitioner . . . misunderstands the meaning of the President’s public statements in December 2014 announcing that “[t]his month, our combat mission” and “America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.” The President has not declared that active hostilities against al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated forces have ceased or that the fighting in Afghanistan has stopped. Rather, the President’s public statements made clear that, in light of continuing threats faced by the United States in Afghanistan, counterterrorism and other military operations would continue even after the end of the combat mission. Simply put, the President’s statements signify a transition in United States military operation, not a cessation.

In effect, the Justice Department is arguing that the President does not quite mean what he says when he says the war was over. What he means is that “military operations” will continue after the “combat mission” is over.
The war is over. Long live the war.

The Justice Department is not the only agency making this argument. In an April speech, Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston clarified the point further, stating “Although our presence in that country [Afghanistan] has been reduced and our mission there is more limited, the fact is that active hostilities continue. As a matter of international law, the United States remains in a state of armed conflict against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida and associated forces, and the 2001 AUMF continues to stand as statutory authority to use military force.”
And in many ways, the Justice Department and the Defense Department are more right than the President. The war continues for the Afghans, the war continues for the Taliban, and for many Americans, the war also continues. Fierce fighting in the country has killed record numbers of Afghan security forces over the last year. In March, the United States agreed to slow the withdraw of U.S. troops from the country.

Before that, in February, the New York Times reported that the United States was escalating a secret war in Afghanistan. Airstrikes continue aplenty; night raids throughout the the country have reached a fever pitch.”It’s all in the shadows now,” One Afghan security official told the Times. “The official war for the Americans—the part of the war that you could go see—that’s over. It’s only the secret war that’s still going. But it’s going hard.”
That was confirmed by another Times report from the end of April. In March alone, the United States launched 52 airstrikes:
Rather than ending the American war in Afghanistan, the military is using its wide latitude to instead transform it into a continuing campaign of airstrikes—mostly drone missions—and Special Operations raids that have in practice stretched or broken the parameters publicly described by the White House.
How do we square the circle of the war’s being over except that it isn’t? Perhaps, the clearest summation of the situation came from the commander expanding the secret war, General John F. Campbell in a New York Times story:
“Washington is going to have to say what they say politically for many different audiences, and I have no issue with that,” General Campbell said. “I understand my authorities and what I have to do with Afghanistan’s forces and my forces. And if that doesn’t sell good for a media piece then, again, I can’t worry about it.”
He added: “Combat and war and transition, as you know, it’s a very complex thing. For me, it’s not black and white.”
Recognizing that final point, the very transitional nature of modern day warfare, yesterday the President acknowledged that “the nature of war has changed.” Instead, it is only the “the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform [that] remain constant:  Honor, courage, selflessness.”

from here

WAR: Two Thirds Of Yemenis Without Access To Water

As war continues to ravage Yemen, at least 16 million people—nearly two-thirds of the country's population—are now without access to clean water, a humanitarian crisis that threatens to escalate, Oxfam warned on Monday.
According to a statement released by the international aid group, "People are being forced to drink unsafe water as a result of the disintegration of local water systems, bringing the real risk of life-threatening illnesses, such as malaria, cholera, and diarrhea."
"Yemen's hospitals are in no condition to adequately cope with an outbreak of a water-borne disease," the organization stated.

In addition, the price of water that is trucked in from other areas has tripled, making it an unfeasible alternative for most Yemenis. Prior to the airstrike campaign, which began March 26, 2015, trucked water cost $9 in the western governorate of Al Hudaydah. It now costs $36.
Al Hudaydah and nearby Hajjah have seen 40 percent of their water systems shut down.
Roughly 13 million people in Yemen were already without access to clean water before the war began, with estimates from previous years warning that the capital city of Sanaa could be without "economically viable water supplies" by 2017.
That means it has taken only seven weeks of bombings, ground fighting, and blocking of humanitarian aid to cut off water access for an additional three million people.

Without a ceasefire between Houthi factions and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition—which includes the U.S., Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco—the crisis is unlikely to let up, and it will be civilians who pay the price, Oxfam warned.
"If the fighting, the fuel shortages, the lack of medical supplies, lack of sleep due to bombing, and the spiraling prices were not enough, now nearly two thirds of Yemenis are at risk of being without clean water or sanitation services," said Grace Ommer, country director for Yemen Oxfam.
She added: "This is equivalent to the populations of Berlin, London, Paris and Rome combined, all rotting under heaps of garbage in the streets, broken sewage pipes and without clean water for the seventh consecutive week."

Seven weeks of bombing by the coalition has not only caused extensive damage to civilian infrastructure in Yemen, it has displaced about half a million people—in turn compounding the growing water crisis, Oxfam said in a media briefing (pdf) last week.
On Monday, Ommer repeated Oxfam's plea to end the military assault and give Yemenis a chance to recover from the crisis.
"Yemen needs an urgent ceasefire, and the opening of trade routes so vital supplies can enter the country to allow for the rebuilding and revamping of the water infrastructure," Ommer said. "Anything short of this will usher a health disaster to add to the pile of miseries that Yemenis are facing."
"Yemenis have the right to a better life, but they face an increasing risk of life threatening illness and disease," Oxfam stated on Monday. "This is a direct infringement of their right to health and wellbeing, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

from here

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Australian Poverty

About 2.5 million Australians are living below the poverty line, according to a Salvation Army report. It found on average, people had just under $18 a day to live on after paying for accommodation. The Salvation Army said the results painted an alarming picture of what was happening to many marginalised Australians.

The survey found 75 per cent of respondents had cut down on basic necessities, 59 per cent had delayed or were unable to pay utility bills and 57 per cent had gone without meals. It also found 68 per cent of those surveyed went without dental treatment and 37 per cent went without medical treatment.

The US Judicial System - Labor's Enemy

One doesn’t have to be a professional historian or archivist to appreciate just how virulently skewed the U.S. judicial system has been in its dealings with working people. One doesn’t have to be a legal scholar to acknowledge that moneyed interests have always been provided with their own form of “justice.” All one has to do is pay attention.
From Day One, the federal courts and Supreme Court have taken the side of employers, peddlers, merchants, plantation owners, industrialists, entrepreneurs, bankers, and any other remotely Establishment agent (including law enforcement officials) who more or less stands in opposition to the interests of the working masses. Not to get all “Marxian” here, but it’s true.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, whom do federal judges typically pal around with? The Country Club set, or men and women who actually toil for a living? Indeed, if it happened to be the latter, it could be the opening of a classic joke: “A welder, bricklayer and federal judge are drinking together in a bar….”

Granted, the High Court has thrown the occasional bone in the direction of the “proletariat,” but that gesture has usually been in the form of extending due process or some other civil libertarian right to the underdog. It’s different when it comes to money and property. In matters involving economic hegemony, workers have historically been pissed on from a great height.

One example of just how “corporate-minded” the judiciary has always been is the application of the landmark Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890) in the Danbury Hatters Case (1908). While liberals loved passage of the Sherman Act because they finally had something on the books that thwarted monopolies and price-fixing, the manner in which the Supreme Court interpreted the Act was a mind-blower.

Briefly, the facts are these: When a labor union, the United Hatters of North America, tried to organize a hat factory—D.E. Loewe and Company, located in Danbury, Connecticut—the company unceremoniously rebuffed them (officials refused even to meet with the union). Accordingly, the United Hatters called a strike.
And when D.E. Loewe and Company hired scabs to replace the striking workers, the hatters swung into action. With the assistance of the influential AFL (American Federation of Labor), they launched a public relations campaign, urging the company’s retail outlets not to carry Loewe’s merchandise. Apparently, the proposed boycott worked extraordinarily well. Customers balked and orders shrank.
But D.E. Loewe took its case all the way to the Supreme Court. They argued that the AFL’s boycott violated the “restraint of trade” provision laid out in the Sherman Act, and incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court bought the argument. The Court basically stated that anything that resulted in significantly impeding a commercial venture—including strikes and boycotts—was illegal under the Sherman Act.
Not content to simply win, D.E. Loewe filed a lawsuit against the union, demanding compensation. Citing the Sherman Act, a lower court awarded Loewe triple damages (triple!!), to be paid by members of the United Hatters. Bank accounts were attached and home foreclosures were threatened. Naturally, the union appealed, but the Supreme Court, in 1915, upheld the decision. So much for workers’ rights.

The Danbury Hatters Case was just one of many anti-labor decisions passed down by the courts. There were dozens of others. It wasn’t until 1932, with passage of the Norris-LaGuardia Act (which forbid judges from arbitrarily issuing strike injunctions), that things began looking up, and it wasn’t until 1935, with passage of the Wagner Act, that organized labor finally gained a place at the table.
Still, even with Wagner in effect, organized labor’s status was precarious. In fact, labor’s “glory days” lasted barely 12 years. In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act altered many of the Wagner Act’s provisions, including making “right to work” states legal and making secondary boycotts illegal.
By passing Taft-Hartley, the U.S. Congress demonstrated that it was equally as hostile to labor as the courts were.

Unfortunately, boycotts (even the legal, modestly ambitious ones) don’t usually work today because we’ve become too fragmented and diluted (in union jargon: “corpuscular”) as a nation. It’s hard to mobilize and harder yet to maintain discipline.
But even if we did become unified, even if by some crazy happenstance working people (the bottom 80-percent), in a splashy show of solidarity, were able to put a dent in the nation’s commerce, it would be illegal. President Obama would invoke Taft-Hartley and make everybody go back to work.
Working people have no leverage. They aren’t allowed to engage in meaningful strikes, they aren’t allowed to engage in meaningful boycotts, and they aren’t even allowed to keep their jobs during a walkout. Doesn’t that give a whole new meaning to the term “stacked deck”?

from here

Socialism Not A Dirty Word For US Millennials

YouGov's latest research shows that when Americans are asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of socialism and capitalism, capitalism comes out on top. 52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism, while only 26% have a favorable view of socialism. Among younger Americans, however, attitudes are a lot more divided. 36% of under-30s have a positive view of socialism, while 39% have a positive view of capitalism. Among over-65s, who came of age at the height of the Cold War, only 15% look upon socialism favorably while 59% have a like capitalism.

from here

Turkey's Wildcat Strikes Pre-Elections

With all the attention here in Turkey being focused on the upcoming June 7th parliamentary elections, the strike by thousands of workers in Turkey's automobile production sector, concentrated in the northwest provinces of Bursa and Kocaeli, caught everyone by surprise. For those of our readers who did not know, Turkey has a significant vehicle manufacturing industry. In 2014, 1.17 million cars and commercial vehicles were produced. In fact, it is the backbone of Turkey's export sector with a yearly value of nearly 23 billion dollars. So when auto production is virtually shut down, as it was for the past week or two, this is big news.

We spent most of our working lives in the U.S. working union jobs, as steelworkers and railroad workers, although we did our time in non-union workplaces as well. We are well aware of the sorry plight of unions in the U.S. but, believe us when we say that we were privileged to work under union contracts. In spite of how bad our union leadership might have been, and it was about as bad as it could be, workplace safety, wages, benefits and job security was better than for the overwhelming majority of workers without union representation.

Previously, we have written about the long hours, low pay and dismal working conditions of the Turkish working class. The deaths of workers in the mines and on construction sites are some of the highest in the world. The 301 coal miners who died in a mining disaster in the town of Soma a year ago have become a national symbol of the life-and-death issues that workers here face every day they go to work. The unexpected downing of tools by thousands of autoworkers here in the midst of the election campaign has again brought the issue of workers' wages and working conditions forcefully back onto the national agenda. More than that, it has highlighted the demand of the workers to be represented by unions of their choice, free from company or government control.

The strikes in auto here have been wildcat strikes, organized by the rank-and-file without notice and without the approval of their union leaders. Workers at Oyak Renault (a joint venture with the Turkish military's pension fund) and Tofaş (a joint Fiat/Koç Holding venture), Ford Otosan as well as major parts suppliers and Türk Traktör stopped production for more than a week. Oyak Renault and Tofaş produce some 40% of Turkey's export vehicles. While most have now gone back to work having negotiated concessions from the companies in wages and working conditions, Renault workers at Turkey's biggest car factory have rejected the company's offer and remain on strike. Thousands of workers have resigned from their company 'union', frustrated and angry that it did not represent their interests. Forty-seven strike leaders have been summoned to court by a prosecutor, accused of organizing an illegal work-stoppage. To be able to understand these developments, readers should be aware that most unions in Turkey were effectively smashed in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup. The unions that were allowed to exist were company and military-approved 'unions'. Their purpose was to ride herd on the workers, put a damper on militancy, keep production running and ensure that company profits were protected. In addition to these company unions, the military-written constitution of 1982 severely curtailed workers' rights. The result is that today only 8% of Turkey's workers are union members, only about 4.5% are covered by union contracts, and most of the major unions defend the company's interests more than they do the workers'. It is in this context that the wildcat strike of autoworkers can best be understood.

These wildcat strikes have been a wake-up call to both workers and their bosses. The speed with which the strike spread and the resolve shown by the workers shows an incredible courage that has been an inspiration to the downtrodden Turkish working class and a message to Turkey's powerful business class. No matter the results of the June 7th election, we can expect that those who work to create Turkey's wealth will be flexing their muscles and demanding that their voices be heard.

from here

Solidarity with workers worldwide!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


(The Queen’s Speech to Parliament)

My Government will legislate,
To raise the basic wage
By 20p per week in the
First incremental stage,
Which from my own experience
Should just about assuage,
The lower orders and their sham,
Austerity-led rage.

In this my Sovereign island realm,
This true democracy;
My subjects are all equal in,
The right to be quite free.
In fact they’ve almost got the right,
To be the same as me,
If it weren’t for that small elite
Topped by the monarchy!

They’re free to choose the boss by whom,
They’ll sometime be employed;
And free to choose the Job Centre,
When their career’s destroyed.
And free to join the millions,
Of long-term unemployed;
And free to treat depression by,
The methods used by Freud.

They’re free to cast their hard-won vote,
Once every five long years;
But have no say from day to day,
Unlike M.P.’s and Peers,
Who are, of course, unlucky when,
The market interferes,
And wonder why their best-laid plans,
At all times end in tears!

© Richard Layton

Towards Legalized Corporate Secrecy in the European Union?

How industry, law firms and the European Commission worked together on EU “trade secrets” legislation - a threat to consumers, journalists, whistleblowers, researchers and workers.

This report (pdf version) is based on the analysis of hundreds of documents, obtained through an access to documents request, exchanged between the European Commission's DG Internal Market and the main corporate lobby groups involved in the development of the EU's draft legislation on so-called “trade secrets”.

Industry's main message throughout the process has been that trade secret theft is a major threat to the EU economy that demands a legislative initiative to improve and harmonise rules on the matter. Industry's recommended approach for this was to define trade secrets as a form of intellectual property (IP).
From the very beginning the Commission took a strong interest in the idea and went on to collect the evidence it needed to demonstrate that legal "fragmentation" and trade secret theft would, indeed, be a threat.
But it outsourced the research to law firms that have a structural interest in the development of new legal protection tools for their corporate clients. In the end, industry and the Commission acted together, working hand in hand on the methodology of the very evidence collection for the research, jointly organising a “Commission conference on trade secrets”, even coordinating media outreach on one occasion.

Eventually, the Commission followed industry's demands almost completely, stopping short of creating a new IP category for trade secrets in the EU but granting the associated means of legal redress.
The collaboration between DG Internal Market and the lobby groups seems to have extended to lobbying the other DGs, jointly preparing the submission to the Commission's Impact Assessment Board, and lobbying the two other EU legislators, the Council of Ministers (Member States) and the European Parliament.

When asked, the Commission did not dispute much of the above and failed to see how working for three years on a quasi-daily basis with lobby groups could be a problem. Emails show the opposite is actually true: the Commission, once the decision to initiate new legislation was taken, actually needed industry lobby groups' help. The Commission for example did pro-active outreach to business lobby groups to be sure that as many companies as possible participated in the public consultation. Non-industry groups were completely absent from the Commission's drafting process until the public consultation, and no pro-active outreach to them seems to have been undertaken by the Commission.

 Three other important observations should be made about this correspondence:

- Reference was often made to the upcoming TTIP negotiations to justify the action, as comparable legal action was being drafted in the US, and direct lobbying of TTIP negotiators to get trade secrets protected as IP under TTIP was undertaken.

- Lobbying is made easier by the lack of capacity on the public side of the discussion. Between 2010 and June 2012, only one policy officer and his head of unit were in charge of the technical development of the file, and in June 2012 one other policy officer joined them. Other levels of the administration also intervened but at the management level. On the other side, industry sent in teams of consultants, lawyers and executives, background legal research, field examples, and senior academic contacts –all free of charge for the Commission.

- To the Commission's credit, there are at least two moments in the correspondence where the head of unit objected to industry proposals that went too far from a political independence point of view (a meeting proposal from the fragrance industry to discuss a template draft legislation, and angry remarks about suspicious-looking exchanges between the law firm working for the Commission (Baker & McKenzie) and lobby groups active on the file), but his staff never wrote anything of the sort. On the contrary, there are several instances where they actually facilitated the lobbying work of industry by introducing various lobby groups and the consultants working for the Commission to one another. Who doesn't appreciate competent free help for one's work?

Find the rest of the long report here