Sunday, November 28, 2021

Fact of the Day

 In China, the richest 10% have increased their share of national wealth from 48% to 67%

Friday, November 26, 2021

Australian CEO Pay

 


The remuneration of Australia’s highest-paid chief executives has exploded by an average of almost 70% in the past year.

Kogan boss, Ruslan Kogan, enjoyed the biggest increase among the top 50 highest paid executives, his pay skyrocketing from $594,000 to almost $9m this year – an increase of more than 1,400%.

Macquarie Group’s CEO, Shemara Wikramanayake, enjoyed the largest package among the top 50, worth $15.97m, up 7% from $14.91m.

On a take-home basis, CSL’s boss, Paul Perreault, pocketed $61m this year, boosted by a share price that has steadily risen over the past five years.

OpenDirector’s CEO, Donald Hellyer, said executive pay had “come roaring back” this year.

He said base pay had barely changed but short-term bonuses went up dramatically as share prices surged due to record low interest rates.

“The cynic in me says, is this a result of good, hard work, or is this just a result that very low interest rates are driving up the stock market?

“Who wins and who loses when you have really low interest rates, and the stock market goes up, housing market goes up. Well, people with money win out when interest rates go down, because they’re basically involved with risky assets.”

There was no skills shortage among executive ranks, he said. He questioned whether company directors, who oversee the pay and performance of executives, “have the strength of character to be prepared to lose senior executives based on pay”.

“I don’t see it,” he said. “You don’t really see executives leaving from one ASX 50 company to go work as a CEO for another ASX 50 company, so it’s certainly not happening at the top end of town.”

Australian executive pay ‘roars back’ with 70% increase for top 50, analysis finds | Executive pay | The Guardian

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Re-Writing Thanksgiving


 History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The real history of Thanksgiving overlooks that the colonists' systematic theft of the land of the Native Americans through murderous brutality.

 

In 1620 the Mayflower brought Puritan religious dissenters to the land belonging to the Wampanoag, whose name means “people of the first light”. They had an estimated population of at least 15,000 in the early 1600s, living in villages along the Massachusetts coast and inland. The religious liberty and accompanying economic opportunity for the settlers turned out to be a heavy price for the Wampanoag.

 

 It was their help that enabled the English newcomers to survive. There initially ensued a period of an uneasy co-existence between the English and Wampanoag, but then violence such as the King Philip’s War of 1675, which ended with the head of Metacom, the Wampanoag leader, being placed upon a spike and the survivors sold into slavery. This was the day of thanksgiving and in the celebrations, the settlers kicked the heads of dead natives around as if they were soccer balls.

 

Thanksgiving’ became an official named holiday during the Civil War, but none of the essential narratives of today’s celebration were mentioned in Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation, not the Mayflower, not the Pilgrims, not the Natives, nor any feast shared feast.  

 

The Declaration of Independence refers to Indians as the "merciless Indian Savages."


George Washington, in 1783 compared Indians to wolves, "both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape."


Thomas Jefferson in 1807 wrote to his secretary of war that in a coming conflict with certain tribes, "We shall destroy all of them."


Theodore Roosevelt defended the expansion of whites across the continent as an inevitable process "due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway."


 He also once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

 


Thanksgiving (poem)

 Shall I give thanks? To Whom? For What?

This Mad Chaotic World, its Schizophrenic Society,

Where Affluence Parades and Struts side by side

The Unmitigated Poverty of Stinking Ghettos;

And holy clerks pour the Slime of their Hypocritical Blessings

Over the Horrendous Fetid Mess?

For this Predatory Economy, this Organization of Status,

Where, over-night, Mere Mediocrity is catapulted

Into the Category of Celebrity.

While Genius, disregarded, molds and withers

In some foul and Darksome Garret,

With Millions passing Blunted and Stunted Lives

In the Grind of the Industrial Mill.

The Flower of a Nation's Youth sent forth to Kill

And be Killed on Battlefields Abroad, That Foreign Markets may be Secured, Spheres of Influence Opened,

And the Sources of Raw Material Assured?

For this rat-race, where the Guiding Principles

Are "Dog Eat Dog," and "'The Devil Take the Hindmost"?

For This "Free Enterprise," this All-Absorbing Commercialism,

Which holds Society in its Fell Grip, and Mankind

Hugs to its Breast and Lauds to The Skies, as Something Holy,

Declaring: "This is the Best of All Possible Human Systems

In this the Best of all Possible Worlds."?

For the Lord of the Universe, HOMO SAPIENS,

Who can Circumscribe this Terrestrial Globe Seven to One

To The Earth's Diurnal Revolution, Yet cannot Purify the Atmosphere he has Poisoned,

Nor Cleanse the Life-giving Waters He has Polluted?

FOR THESE I SHOULD GIVE THANKS? If so, again, TO WHOM?

Yet I am Cognizant of Snow capped Mountain Peaks,

The Cathedral Quietude and Cool-Depths of Forest Grove,

The Verdant Stretches of unspoiled Meadows,

The Flora and Fauna of Earth's Wide Open Spaces,

And the Trilling Songs of Unfettered Birds;

The Crystal Rippling Waters of, as yet Untainted Creeks,

And the Glorious Roaring of the Hills' Cascades.

These I can Enjoy, I can Appreciate. Yet, NO THANKS I GIVE.

I can apprehend "Homo Sapiens," of which I am a Unit,

His Insatiable Curiosity, His Inventive Genius,

His Eternal Restlessness and Constant Probing into the Mysteries

Of the Universe;

 

His History of Toil, of Blood and Tears, "The Agony and the

Ecstasy" of his Long Development;

The Magnificent Temples to the Gods He, Himself, created

And understand His Fervent Supplications to these Gods of his own

Creation for Deliverance from the Hells of His Own Manufacture;

His Positive Accomplishment; His Language, Literature, Music,

Sculpture, Paintings, and the Multifarious Arts and Sciences

He Has Developed.

These, too, I can Enjoy, I can Appreciate.

I do NOT Stand Unmoved when listening to the Mighty Strophes

Of a Beethoven Symphony, the Thumping Majesty of a Bach Chorale

The Melodies of a Monteverdi Madrigal, or the Harmonic Tapestries of a Vivaldi Concerto.

These, with Man's GREAT Literature, His Many Arts,

I can Turn to Account for my own Material and Emotional Satisfaction.

For Despite the Chaos and Confusion, the Bestial Exploitation

Of this Modern World and Its Madness, There Abides BEAUTY in Color and in Form.

Appreciating, withal, the Beauty of This Earth,

Man's Instinct of Workmanship, His Creative Powers,

And His Vast Artistic Works, still, NO THANKS I GIVE.

But Appreciating ALL THIS, to a much Greater Degree I Appreciate the Companionship of COMRADES IN REVOLT.

And Yet, NOT GIVING THANKS, I Appreciate, Above All Else.

A Friend and Comrade Such As YOU


W. A. PRITCHARD, 1965

Socialist Party of Canada

Roma Women Sterilised in Slovakia

 Thousands of Roma women were forcibly sterilized in Slovakia, a practice that continued until 2004. The government of Slovakia has now made a formal apology.

The human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, welcomed the "apology to victims of forced sterilisation as a first important step," in a message on Twitter. "I now look forward to quick progress on an accessible and effective compensation mechanism," she added.

One-fifth of Slovakia's population belongs to the Roma minority. They have long been excluded from society, generally living in segregated settlements that often lack basics like electricity and running water, heating and gas. Roma tend to make up some of the most marginalized ethnic groups in Europe.

Slovakia issues apology for forced sterilizations of Roma women | News | DW | 25.11.2021

 

The Green Transition - Poor Neglected Again

 The government's plan to mandate electric car chargers across all new homes in England from next year risks making access to charge points “exclusive”, leaving behind motorists from poorer areas, industry leaders have warned.

Senior figures in the energy and motoring sectors said the plan for all new homes and buildings to be fitted with car charging infrastructure risks benefiting wealthier areas with space for off-street parking and leaving “blackspots” in areas where homes have less space. Guy Jefferson, the chief operating officer of Scottish Power’s energy network business, warned that the burgeoning electric vehicle market was “less likely to provide for all in our society” without deliberate action to ensure a fair energy transition.

“It’s essential that [electric vehicle] chargers are available not just in new homes, private driveways, wealthy high streets and motorway service stations, but in remote, rural and socially disadvantaged areas too,” Jefferson said.

Ross Easton, a director at the Energy Networks Association, added that the government “must make sure access to charging points is not exclusive”.

“Charging points must be accessible to everyone. To truly ‘level up’ charging point access and deliver on the Cop26 electric vehicle pledges requires strategic planning at all levels of government, nationally and locally,” he said.

Many modern homes do not have car parking spaces, and the number of new homes built each year in the UK is so small it would take decades to make much difference by this measure alone, according to industry sources.

Sarah Winward-Kotecha, the director of electric vehicles at RAC, said it was “important to remember that a lot of new housing stock, especially in cities, doesn’t even come with any car parking at all, let alone provision for electric charge points”.

Two-thirds of local authorities in the UK had no plans for public charging points. More than half said they were prohibitively expensive, and more than a third cited other constraints such as a lack of energy network capacity.

Plan for car chargers in all new homes in England ‘will make access exclusive’ | Automotive industry | The Guardian

British Poverty

 One in 10 UK families – about 3m households – are facing a cost of living crisis this winter, unable to cover even basic bills such as food and heating, according to a survey by the consumer charity, Citizens Advice.

One in five of all adults had cut back on their food shopping or turned off their heating.

One in 10 anticipated having to use food banks

Citizens Advice found that even when placed on a strict “minimal budget” – the financial plan used by the charity to support clients through a debt management process – more than 3m households were unable to meet basic living costs. A further 400,000 were left with just £50 a month once bills were paid.

One in 10 UK families will struggle to cover basics this winter, charity finds | Poverty | The Guardian

Fortress UK

 


It was a disaster waiting to happen. The drowning of 27 refugees who were attempting to reach the UK across the English Channel in a flimsy inflatable was avoidable unnecessary and predictable. The media prefers to describe them as migrants, not refugees seeking asylum and sanctuary.

The British and French governments place the blame on one another and both countries will accuse the gangs of people-smugglers as the direct cause of the tragedy.  And we will watch both nations politicians shed crocodile tears as they prepare stringent plans that will most likely bring yet another calamity with their enforcement.  We heard the sanctimonious fake sympathy in 2020, when a family of five Iraqi Kurds perished crossing the Channel with the body of their 15-month-old baby, Artin, washing up in Norway months later.

“To accuse only the smugglers is to hide the responsibility of the French and British authorities,” said l’Auberge des Migrants, an advocacy group that supports refugees and displaced people.

Describing the latest deaths as "truly heartbreaking", the British Red Cross called on the UK government to make it easier, not harder, to claim asylum in the UK.

Mike Adamson, the organisation's chief executive, said in a statement that "nobody puts their life at risk unless they are absolutely desperate and feel they have no other options".

 Zoe Gardener from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants told the BBC that although the UK is a "compassionate country", it's also a rich, powerful and stable place that is "very able to offer protection to lots more refugees than we currently do".

Clare Moseley of the charity Care4Calais explained that the migrants lost their lives seeking a better future for themselves in the UK.

"Part of the worst thing for us is that every single one of those people who are refugees by definition has already suffered something horrific whether they've been through conflict, torture, persecution," she says. "The thought that somebody could escape from something really terrible, could go through hell, travel an immense journey of thousands of miles, to die at our border," she adds. "When they've come here seeking safety, they've come here seeking our help, the scale of the tragedy - that it's here that they die - is quite overwhelming."

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection? Every day, people are forced to flee their homes through no fault of their own. Now is the time to end the cruel and ineffective tactic of seeking to punish or push away those who try and find safety in our country.”

Tom Davies, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights campaign manager, asked: “How many more times must we see people lose their life trying to reach safety in the UK because of the woeful lack of safe means to do so?"

Beth Gardiner-Smith, CEO of Safe Passage International, said: The tragic truth is that these deaths could – and should - have been prevented. No one should have to risk their life to reach safety. Every day, men, women and children are having to make extraordinary efforts to reach safety, sanctuary and loved ones here in the UK because there is no other way. To prevent a repeat of this tragedy, refugees urgently need safe routes to reach their loved ones, find refuge and have the chance to rebuild their lives." She continued, "More and more people are risking the freezing, frightening journey across the Channel in small, unstable boats since the Government closed safe routes to the UK last year. Choosing to play politics with people’s lives, the Government has failed to prevent people risking the crossing and this is the result. The Government must act now to save lives by opening safe routes to the UK, and scrap their unworkable plans in the Nationality and Borders Bill which will only make the situation worse."

Pierre Roques, coordinator of the Auberge des Migrants NGO in Calais, said the Channel risked becoming as deadly for refugees as the Mediterranean which has seen a much heavier toll over the last years of migrants crossing, AFP reports.“People are dying in the Channel, which is becoming a cemetery. And as England is right opposite, people will continue to cross.”

REMEMBER THIS?
                   

Monday, November 22, 2021

A Pandemic. Blame the Profit System

  There is a report called 'Losing Time' from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response that looked at how the world is dealing with the pandemic and how prepared it is for another one.

One of the most striking concerns raised in the report is about the control of vaccine and medicine patents by the pharmaceutical industry.

It states "Global health cannot be left hostage to a pharmaceutical industry which buys up patents for promising products (often originally developed with significant public monies in universities and research institutions) and develops them in the interest of making profits."

The report adds "the promise of this collaboration has not yet delivered adequate access to Covid-19-related products or technologies everywhere they are needed".

It explains that despite an "overwhelming majority of countries supporting a waiver of intellectual property rights" to help vaccine distribution, a global agreement on this has still not been reached. Technology transfer is desperately needed to decentralize production and repair broken supply chains"

It challenges the pharmaceutical industry claims of the complexity of achieving this.

"...this technology can be transferred in six to nine months..."

The report suggests progress has been hampered by a lack of unity. "The capacity of low- and middle-income countries to purchase vaccines is squeezed by confidential high-cost deals between manufacturers and wealthy countries as they add booster doses to their immunization programmes, despite powerful arguments against this on equity grounds"

Large parts of the world have little or no access to vaccines, while wealthy countries are issuing boosters. 

The authors of the report,  former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, seek as a remedy a new serious of international laws to provide WHO with increased powers.

As been highlighted repeatedly by this blog and others within the World Socialist Movement, it cannot be expected for the beast to change its spots. Capitalism through its industrialised food production may well have possibly caused the pandemic in the Wuhan food market, but capitalism most certainly exacerbated the Covid-19 crisis through its fundamental law of the profit motive. 


Home-Ownership - Unaffordable

 “Home ownership is now almost completely out of reach for most people on average or low incomes – with house prices continuing to soar, most people can’t scrape together a sky-high deposit to buy and so are stuck paying extortionate private rents,” Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said. “The government has ploughed money into a series of expensive home ownership schemes that most people can never hope to benefit from, as they still require a sizeable deposit when most renters don’t have any savings.”

Mortgage affordability is that the amount required from a lender – the property price minus a 10% deposit – should not exceed 4.5 times the buyer’s wage or the combined wage of a couple.

That target is unachievable for Single first-time buyers – who are typically aged 32 – in 95% of local authorities in England, based on the median earnings for people in their 30s.

Single first-time buyers in Wales would not be able to afford a home in 86% of local authorities in the country.

House prices increased by the largest proportion in Salford, in the north-west of England, where the average house price for a first-time buyer increased by 58% over the six-year period. This is despite the fact that Salford is within the top 20 most deprived local authorities in England in terms of deprivation.

In 2015, a single first-time buyer would have needed 4.4 times an individual’s wage to afford a typical mortgage, within the affordability criteria generally sought by lenders. Today, a buyer on the median wage for a person in their 30s in the region would require 6.4 times the average salary.

Dan Wilson Craw, the deputy director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said: “It is already a struggle to save the deposit to buy your first home, and as prices have shot up home ownership has become even harder … The government has intervened to encourage banks to lend at higher loan-to-value ratios, so buyers don’t need as much in savings. But ultimately if you’re borrowing that much, your monthly repayments will be huge.”

Revealed: first-time homes have grown less affordable under the Tories | Housing | The Guardian

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Paraguay Against the Poor

 Paraguay, a country with one of the highest inequalities of land ownership in the world.

 Just 2% of people own over 80% of farmland.

 Mario Abdo Benítez, Paraguay’s conservative president, approved a law doubling jail sentences – to up to 10 years – for those found guilty of illegally occupying private land.

And this November alone, five indigenous and small farmer settlements were destroyed by police, leaving hundreds homeless.

More than a hundred human rights campaigners gathered in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital, branded such evictions an “express violation” of Paraguay’s constitution and international treaties.

Agriculture is Paraguay’s largest single contribution to global heating – accounting for about half of the country’s emissions of gases like carbon and methane – followed by deforestation.

“The people who deforest and emit greenhouse gases are the big landowners,” Achucarro added. “Most of them are soybean planters and cattle ranchers. They’re the same people that control the police and use them to kick out indigenous and campesino communities.”

Paraguay’s delegation to Cop26 included several agribusiness representatives but no indigenous people. Along with Venezuela and Bolivia, Paraguay was initially among the only Latin American countries not to sign the historic agreement to end deforestation within a decade. It then backtracked amid a public outcry.

Indigenous community evicted as land clashes over agribusiness rock Paraguay | Global development | The Guardian

Green Fascism?


 “When the Roman empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration – the empire could no longer controls its borders, people came in from the east and all over the place,” Boris Johnson said in an interview on the eve of COP26.

Mixing ecological disaster with fears of rampant immigration is a narrative that has flourished in far-right fringe movements in Europe and the US and is now spilling into the discourse of mainstream politics, in many cases, echoing eco-fascist ideas that themselves are rooted in an earlier age of blood-and-soil nationalism.

In the US,  the Republican attorney general of Arizona has demanded the building of a border wall to prevent migrants coming from Mexico as these people “directly result in the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”. 

In Spain, Santiago Abascal, leader of the populist Vox party, has called for a “patriotic” restoration of a “green Spain, clean and prosperous”.

 The far-right British National party has claimed to be the “only true green party” in the country due to its focus on migration. 

And in Germany, the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany has tweaked some of its earlier mockery of climate science with a platform that warns “harsh climatic conditions” in Africa and the Middle East will see a “gigantic mass migration towards European countries”, requiring toughened borders.

France’s National Front, once a bastion of derisive climate denial, has founded a green wing called New Ecology, with Marine Le Pen, president of the party, vowing to create the “world’s leading ecological civilization” 

“Environmentalism is the natural child of patriotism, because it’s the natural child of rootedness,” Le Pen said in 2019, adding that “if you’re a nomad, you’re not an environmentalist. Those who are nomadic … do not care about the environment; they have no homeland.” 

 Le Pen’s ally Hervé Juvin, a National Rally MEP, is seen as an influential figure on the European right in promoting what he calls “nationalistic green localism”.

The response to this trend on the right has led to what academics Joe Turner and Dan Bailey call “ecobordering”, where restrictions on immigration are seen as vital to protect the nativist stewardship of nature and where the ills of environmental destruction are laid upon those from developing countries.

Turner, an expert in politics and migration at the University of York, said the link between climate and migration is “an easy logic” for politicians such as Johnson as it plays into longstanding tropes on the right that overpopulation in poorer countries is a leading cause of environmental harm. More broadly, it is an attempt by the right to seize the initiative on environmental issues that have for so long been the preserve of center-left parties

“The far right in Europe has an anti-immigration platform, that’s their bread and butter, so you can see it as an electoral tactic to start talking about green politics,” Turner said, adding that migrants are being blamed in two ways – first, for moving to countries with higher emissions and then adding to those emissions, as rightwing figures in Arizona have claimed; and secondly for supposedly bringing destructive, polluting habits with them from their countries of origin. The far right depict migrants as being “essentially poor custodians of their own lands and then treating European nature badly as well”, Turner said. “So you get these headlines around asylum seekers eating swans, all these ridiculous scaremongering tactics. But they play into this idea that by stopping immigrants coming here, you are actually supporting a green project.”

A mixture of this Malthusian and ethno-nationalist thinking is being distilled into political campaigning, as in a political pamphlet described in Turner and Bailey’s research paper from SVP, the largest party in Switzerland’s federal assembly, which shows a city crowded by people and cars belching out pollution, with a tagline that translates to “stop massive immigration”. A separate campaign ad by SVP claims that 1 million migrants will result in thousands of miles of new roads and that “anyone who wants to protect the environment in Switzerland must fight against mass immigration”.

 In an analysis of 22 far-right parties in Europe, the academics found this thinking is rife among rightwing parties and “portrays effects as causes and further normalizes racist border practices and colonial amnesia within Europe”.

 According to a research paper co-authored by Fieschi, this has led to a situation where “detractors are taking up the language of freedom fighters”.

“We are seeing the growth of accusations of climate hysteria as a way for elites to exploit ordinary people,” Fieschi said. “The solutions that are talked about involve spending more money on deserving Americans and deserving Germans and so on, and less on refugees. It’s ‘yes, we will need to protect people, but let’s protect our people.’”

 Fieschi said the right’s interaction with climate is far more than just about borders – it is animating fears that personal freedoms are under attack from a cosseted, liberal elite.

“You see these quite obviously populist arguments in the US and Europe that a corrupt elite, the media and government have no idea what ordinary people’s lives are like as they impose these stringent climate policies,” said Fieschi.

“The right is reclaiming that older Malthusian population rhetoric and is using that as a cudgel in green terms rather than unpopular racist terms,” said Blair Taylor, program director at the Institute for Social Ecology, an educational and research body. “It’s weird that this has become a popular theme in the US west because the west is sparsely populated and that hasn’t slowed environmental destruction,” he added. “But this is about speaking to nativist fears, it isn’t about doing anything to solve the problem.”

Taylor further explained, “We will see weird theories that will spread blame in all the wrong directions,” Taylor said. “More walls, more borders, more exclusion – that’s most likely the way we are heading.”

Climate denial is waning on the right. What’s replacing it might be just as scary | Climate crisis | The Guardian