Monday, January 20, 2020

White Power on Display

On Martin Luther King Day could you imagine if thousands of African-Americans paraded in the streets with rifles, many masked and in combat gear.

Today white pro-gun advocates including some white nationalists, far-right militia members, anti-government extremists, and neo-Nazis are protesting in Richmond, Virginia against proposed gun-control law. Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned guns from the capitol. The ban does not appear to being enforced.

What would the reports on Fox News be if thousands of blacks were openly carrying weapons. History recalls the  reaction of the State when a few decades ago, the Black Panthers armed themselves for self-defence. Ronald Reagan then governor of California passed gun control laws with the support of the NRA. 

White fear of armed black people overcame the NRA's defence of the 2nd Amendment. 

And the media made little protest as members of the Black Panthers were murdered by police.

Climate Refugees

Although non-binding on countries, the United Nations now recognise the category of climate refugee. A UN panel which stated that climate refugees seeking asylum cannot legally be sent back to their home countries if they face life-threatening conditions due to the climate crisis.

"Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights," ruled the U.N. Human Rights Committee, "thereby triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending states."

The committee handed down its ruling earlier this month in a case brought by Ioane Teitiota, a man who applied for asylum in New Zealand in 2013 after sea level rise and other conditions in his home country of Kiribati forced him and his family to leave. Kiribati is expected to be uninhabitable in the coming decades—as soon as 10 to 15 years from now, according to Teitiota's case—as rising sea levels leads to overcrowding on the Pacific nation's islands. Teitiota took his case to the committee in 2016 after being deported back to Kiribati by New Zealand's government the previous year. He argued that the lack of fresh water and difficulty growing crops in Kiribati has caused health problems for him and his family, as well as land disputes.

The committee ultimately rejected Teitiota's case this month, saying in its ruling that since he argued that Kiribati is expected to be uninhabitable in 10 to 15 years, the country and the international community have time to move the population to safety or to make the islands safe.

Amnesty International praised the decision as "good news" and said in a statement
that it could help prompt the international community to take concrete action. 
Amnesty International said, the ruling held promise for the 143 million people who are expected to become climate refugees by 2050—many of whom reside in Pacific Island nations.

"The decision sets a global precedent," said Kate Schuetze, Pacific researcher at Amnesty International, in a statement. "It says a state will be in breach of its human rights obligations if it returns someone to a country where—due to the climate crisis—their life is at risk, or in danger of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The message in this case is clear: Pacific Island states don't need to be underwater before triggering those human rights obligations," Schuetze told The Guardian. "I think we will see those cases start to emerge."

Prof. Jane McAdam of the Kaldor Center for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales agreed with Amnesty's assessment, saying that while the ruling was not in Teitiota's favor, "the committee recognized that without robust action on climate at some point in the future it could well be that governments will, under international human rights law, be prohibited from sending people to places where their life is at risk or where they would face inhuman or degrading treatment."
"Even though in this particular case there was no violation found, it effectively put governments on notice," she told The Guardian.


Hunger in Canada

Canadians who cannot afford regular meals are more likely to die early, according to a study showing that people are dying from hunger even in wealthy countries. More than 4 million people in Canada struggle to get enough to eat, official data show, a problem that ranges from running out of food or skipping meals to compromising on quantity and quality. Globally, more than 2 billion people lack access to adequate healthy food, putting them at risk of health problems, including 8 percent of people in North America or Europe, according to the latest data from the United Nations.

The study of more than half a million Canadian adults found that hunger was linked to raised mortality from all causes of death except cancer.

But infectious diseases, unintentional injuries and suicide were twice as likely to kill those who faced severe problems finding enough food as those who do not, said the paper, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"It's like we found third-world causes in a first-world country," lead author Fei Men, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Food insecure people in Canada are facing problems like infections and drug poisoning that we would expect people from developing countries to be facing," he said.

"The results are pretty striking to us as well. In the developed world such as Canada, food insecurity can still cause deaths," Men added.
Not having enough to eat leads to both "material deprivation and psychological distress" which in turn results in chronic inflammation and malnutrition, it said.

They are also less able to manage chronic conditions, Men said.

"If they have diabetes, they are more likely to not adhere to their treatment and drugs so it might have much bigger and harmful effect on them."
The findings show public health efforts to prevent and treat diseases and injuries should take into account people's access to adequate food, the authors said.

Some housing facts

 From In These Times

There are at least 10 million unoccupied homes in the US. Houses are built for profit not need. Thus, particularly during a slump, brick mountains, empty houses, mothballed developments, and unemployed builders exist alongside the homeless and those living in sub-standard accommodation.

Poor Education for the Poor

A new study has revealed that one out of three adolescent girls from the poorest households around the world has never been to school.

"Countries everywhere are failing the world's poorest children, and in doing so, failing themselves," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "As long as public education spending is disproportionately skewed towards children from the richest households, the poorest will have little hope of escaping poverty, learning the skills they need to compete and succeed in today's world, and contributing to their countries' economies."

The UNICEF study finds that "education for children from the richest 20% of households are allocated nearly double the amount of education funding than children from the poorest 20% of households."

Disparities in education spending are particularly high in ten African countries, with four times as much funding allocated to the richest children compared with the poorest.

Guinea and the Central African Republic are the countries with some of the world's highest rates of out-of-school children, with the richest children benefitting more from the public education funds than the poorest children.
More than half of children living in low- and middle-income countries cannot read or understand a simple story by the end of primary school.

Global Inequality

The 42 richest people in the world have as much wealth as half the world put together.

The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion

The 22 richest men in the world have more combined wealth than all 325 million women in Africa, according to an Oxfam report

Half the world’s population continue to live on less than $5.50-a-day. Figures show that 82 per cent of all wealth created last year went to the richest 1 per cent. They claim that 0 per cent went to the world's poorest half

Women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, such as looking after children and the elderly, which amounts to a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year - more than three times the size of the global tech industry. Women, especially those living in poverty, “do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. 42 per cent of women are outside the paid workforce because of unpaid care responsibilities compared to just six per cent of men.”

The 42 richest people in the world (estimated wealth in billions)

Bill Gates ($86), Warren Buffet ($75.6), Jeff Bezos ($72.8), Amancio Ortega ($71.3), Mark Zuckerberg ($56), Carlos Slim Helu ($54.5), Larry Ellison ($52.2), Charles Koch ($48.3), David Koch ($48.3), Michael Bloomberg ($47.5), Bernard Arnault ($41.5). Larry Page ($40.7), Sergey Brin ($39.8), Liliane Bettencourt ($39.5), S. Robson Walton ($34.1), Jim Walton ($34), Alice Walton ($33.8), Wang Jianlin ($31.3), Li Ka-shing ($31.2), Sheldon Adelson ($30.4), Steve Ballmer ($30), Jorge Paulo Lemann ($29.2), Jack Ma ($28.3), Beate Heister and Karl Albrechet Jr.($27.2), David Thomson ($27.2), Jacqueline Mars ($27), John Mars ($27), Phil Knight ($26.2), Maria France Fissolo ($25.2), George Soros ($25.2), Ma Huateng ($24.9), Lee Shau Kee ($24.4), Mukesh Ambani ($23.2), Masayoshi Son ($21.2), Kjeld Kirk Krstiansen ($21.1), Georg Schaeffler ($20.7), Joseph Safra ($20.5), Michael Dell ($20.4), Susanne Klatten ($20.4), Len Blavatnik ($20), Laurene Powell Jobs ($20), Paul Allen ($19.9)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sanctions for some, not for others

The United States last year imposed sanctions that barred imports of Venezuelan oil and transactions made in U.S. dollars with Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA.

Chevron and oilfield service firms Baker Hughes Co , Halliburton Co , Schlumberger NV, and Weatherford International have regularly received permission to remain in the country.

Chevron has said it would lose about $2.7 billion in assets if required to leave the country. 

The Treasury also on Saturday issued a license allowing transactions related to PDVSA’s 2020 bond, which is backed by shares in U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp. That license begins on April 22, replacing a previous license that last year had authorized transactions from Jan 22.

Why stop at free travel?

Interesting article in the Times of London a couple of days ago, which complements the book review in the December Socialist Standard.
Here’s an extract from the Times article:
“The city of Olympia was preparing to replace the elderly ticket machines on buses with electronic card readers when transport officials hit upon an alternative that would be cheaper, faster and more convenient: free travel.
This month the capital of Washing­ton state became the latest in the United States to experiment with free public transport. The idea, which once seemed far-fetched and rather Euro­pean in the land of the motorcar, is being considered across the country.
Councillors in Kansas City, Missouri, with half a million residents, voted unanimously last month to make the buses free. They plan to cancel fares this year. In Worcester, the second larg­est city in Massachusetts, the city council has indicated that it would support waiving bus fares, while in Lawrence, north of Boston, buses on three lines serving poorer neighbourhoods were made free in September, leading to an increase in passengers.( …)
In Olympia officials felt it was more efficient to stop charging fares than to upgrade payment systems. “It costs a lot of money to collect money,” Ann Freeman-Manzanares, head of the city’s transit agency, told the broadcaster OPB. Buses were regularly delayed by people trying to pay. Removing the fares removed a source of .”conflict”. “We can be speedier at what we do.””
And there are still people around who say that this sort of thing is against “human nature”. But if it will work under capitalism it surely will in socialism.


Feeding the People

The world already produces enough to feed 10 billion people but over two billion are experiencing micronutrient deficiencies (of which 821 million were classed as chronically undernourished in 2018).

In the 2019 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102nd out of 117 qualifying countries. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious. Yet there is enough food (in terms of calories) available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, fruit and vegetables.

Food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Large sections of India’s population do not have enough food available to remain healthy nor do they have sufficiently diverse diets that provide adequate levels of micronutrients. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 is the first-ever nationally representative nutrition survey of children and adolescents in India. It found that 35 per cent of children under five were stunted, 22 per cent of school-age children were stunted while 24 per cent of adolescents were thin for their age.

People are not hungry in India because its farmers do not produce enough food. Punjab, the food bowl, has broken all previous records in wheat productivity. From 50.64 quintals per hectare achieved last year, the average wheat yield has risen to 51.71 quintals. With such high crop productivity and with 98 per cent cultivable area under assured irrigation. Even with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress.

 Hunger and malnutrition result from various factors, including inadequate food distribution, (gender) inequality and poverty; in fact, the country continues to export food while millions remain hungry. It’s a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance.

Calls for agroecology and highlighting the benefits of traditional, small-scale agriculture are not based on a romantic yearning for the past or ‘the peasantry’. Available evidence suggests that smallholder farming using low-input methods is more productive in total output than large-scale industrial farms and can be more profitable and resilient to climate change. But policy makers tend to accept that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be owners and custodians of natural assets (the ‘commons’). These corporations, their lobbyists and their political representatives have succeeded in cementing a ‘thick legitimacy’ among policy makers for their vision of agriculture.

We must acknowledge the destructive, predatory dynamics of capitalism and the need for agri-food giants to maintain profits by seeking out new (foreign) markets and displacing existing systems of production with ones that serve their bottom line.

abridged and adapted from here

Saturday, January 18, 2020

War is Hell

Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die.”

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives. They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. 

 If war is right let it be declared by the people. You who have your lives to lose, you certainly above all others have the right to decide the momentous issue of war or peace.

We offer solidarity and friendship to all the peoples of the world. What hope can we ever have of socialism, or even of the salvation of the human race, if we don’t resolutely oppose the endless wars which capitalism inflicts upon mankind? Under capitalism the chief causes of war are not religious or national differences but economic antagonisms, into which the exploiting classes of the various countries are driven by the system of production for profit. Just as this system sacrifices unceasingly the life and health of the working class on the battlefield of labour, so it has no scruple in shedding their blood in search of profit by protecting their existing markets or the opening up of new markets. Nation to-day is set against nation in the interests of the capitalist class. For the people, national and religious interests must disappear and the people must recognise what is for the common good of the people. The capitalist mode of production, with its war of all against all, its forcible oppression of the working class, is the real cause of war.

The working class alone have the serious desire, and they alone possess the power, to realise universal peace. In the name of those millions butchered in war; in the name of the mental and physical wrecks left to beg and starve on the streets of our villages and cities; in the name of the bereaved who mourn the vain sacrifice of their loved ones, we appeal to you to arouse yourselves before it is too late. 

Fellow-workers, you have nothing to do with the quarrels of your rulers. Your task is to wage war against the capitalism, to end it and the industrial slavery that is grinding us down into ever increasing poverty.

 Economic rivalries are extended from the home market to the world market. Economic rivalries on an international scale lead to economic wars, and economic wars lead to a clash of arms. This is a truth that cannot be denied. War is all about the re-division of the Earth. Capitalism is seeking to dominate the markets of the world. This cannot be done peaceful means. Capitalism breeds war. War is devastation. It destroys not only precious human lives, but large amounts of goods. It is an orgy of destruction. The brunt of a capitalist war, however, is borne by those who work. Wars are waged for the purpose of dominating other countries to be used as markets, sources of raw materials and investment grounds.

To quote scripture, Isaiah saw in prophetic vision a time when nations should war no more—when swords should be transformed into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. The fulfillment of the prophecy only awaits socialism and the solution of the economic problems we all face.