Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We Know Who Owns Obama

“The Republicans are 95 percent corrupt and the Democrats are 75 percent corrupt.”
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

 "You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches, and say you’re making progress."
– Malcolm X

"When we are ill… we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one."
– Plato

As the American election draws closer how much better off are Americans because the "lesser evil" Obama defeated John McCain for the presidency in the last one. Just how better off will they be if Obama wins against Romney? Obama is clearly a smart, charismatic man  but at the end of the day does that matter. Whether they thought Obama would end the wars instead of escalating them, or stop the torture instead of outsourcing it, Democrats liberals protest about the betrayal of Obama but still promise their votes for him. Obama didn’t change direction or positions. He stayed firm in his commitment to capitalism and Wall St.

It is bad enough when the party known as “labor’s friend” has ignored the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as “card check,” which would give workers the right to simply indicate with a check mark their wish to form a union. The simplified process would allow union organizers easy access to workers who would then be able to organize without the threat of employer intimidation and threats of job loss. However new anti-union legislation was passed by Congress earlier this year despite a Democratic majority in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House. The Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill. The new legislation weakened bargaining rights for workers in the aviation and rail industries by increasing from 35% to 50% the number of worker signatures required to allow an election for union recognition. The anti-labor Taft-Hartley law, passed by Congress 65 years ago, gravely weakened union rights. There were several occasions over the decades when the Democrats enjoyed control of the White House, Senate and House (such as in the first two years of the Obama government, 2009-10), but the law remains on the books.

The union movement has tethered itself to the Democratic Party since the mid-1930s because as the average worker views it, the Republicans are much worse so the Democratics are the relatively lesser “evil”. What this means is that the Democrats need be only half-heartedly supportive and indifferent of the union movement to enjoy labor unions support and abundant campaign contributions. Occasioally the Democrats incorporate representatives of the unions within the party as a subordinate component, to give them a meaningless “seat at the table.” Doing so helps the Democrats maintain the fiction that they are the “party of the people,” or that they’re “friends of labor,” as opposed to the bad big business-backed Republicans. Sadly, in many cases, the strategy worked. Activists who set out to change and takeover the Democratic party end up changing, getting co-opted and neutered by the very forces they sought to challenge. The Democratic Party has managed, contained, controlled, co-opted, rolled back and eventually destroyed every social movement that has arisen.

The lesser-evil strategy has been and will always be a complete disaster, allowing both parties the freedom to become more and more “evil” as time goes on so long as they don’t become equally “evil.” Imagine for a moment it were George W Bush and not Barack Obama who had asserted the right of a president to kill American citizens without trial, subject them to permanent military detention and warrantless wiretapping, and who had authorised the creation of a legally unaccountable fleet of unmanned, perhaps armed, drones to conduct surveillance over American cities. There would be an outcry among liberal Americans. Obama appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, deciding with a secret kill list who lives or dies. Anyone can be targeted anywhere in the world for any reason or none at all. Obama usurped the power of life and death.  

The Democratic Party is a capitalist party. Those who try to get away with “the ends justifying the means” at least have the pretence of some noble end in mind. The re-election of Obama is anything but noble. In the final analysis we either stand up for our convictions or we stand for nothing. Those who desire the "lesser evil" are too afraid to voice their conscience and make it felt politically are already slaves; they simply have not yet heard the rattling of their chains.

Change certainly won’t come from a president, even of the Democratic Party. Our only hope is to seek ways to bring about change ourselves. Anyone who thinks that choosing a “better” leader will somehow bring about  transformations is mistaken. Only powerful social movements can do that. We have to fight for democracy and we have to build our movement—choosing a presidential candidate doesn’t accomplish either one.  And anyone who thinks that voting for one candidate over the other is going to solve our problems—especially global problems including wars, occupations, climate change and global inequality—is wrong. This election, regardless of who wins, will not solve the problems of America  and the world. We have to build movements powerful enough to take on the challenges of climate change, war, poverty, inequality. Elections don’t change the world—only people.

Fact of the Day

In his March 16, 2010, testimony before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and the Committee on Education and Labor, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, explained that the median initial penalty for all investigations in cases where a worker was killed was just $5,900 (2007).

The Dept. of Agriculture can levy $130,000 on milk processors who willfully violate the Fluid Milk Promotion Act  The FCC can fine a TV or radio station as much as $325,000 for indecent broadcasts.  The EPA can hit companies with $270,000 for violations of the Clean Air Act, and penalize them $1 million “for attempting to tamper with the public water system.” Per the terms of the Montreal Convention of 1999 (formally known as the “Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air”) the family of a person killed in an airline crash gets about $175,000, with no quibbles. 

Yet  “the maximum civil penalty OSHA may impose when a hard-working man or woman is killed on the job—even when the death is caused by willful violation of an OSHA requirement—is $70,000.” (SOYMB emphasis)

Since passage of OSHA in 1970, “fewer than 100 cases have been prosecuted [criminally] while more than 300,000 workers have died from on-the-job injuries.

The Pain in Spain

The right-wing Popular Party (PP) government and its Socialist Party predecessor have imposed one draconian austerity package after another, introducing cuts in health care, education and social services, raising taxes and passing new labour laws.The PP government has cut by almost half the budget of town halls dedicated to covering basic social services this year. This takes place amid a recession with rampant inflation and rising unemployment.

 Social inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient (where 0 expresses perfect equality and 100 expresses maximal inequality), showed that Spain went from 31.3 in 2008 to 34 in 2011. The EU average is 30. Only 16 countries have issued their statistics for the Gini index for 2011. Of these, Spain has one of the highest levels of inequality, only outstripped by Latvia with 35.2. Another measure of growing inequality is the s80/s20 ratio that measures the total income of the richest 20 percent to that of the poorest 20 percent. The higher the ratio, the greater is the inequality. Spain has grown from 5.5 in 2006 to 7.5 in 2011—the highest level of the 27 member countries of the EU, which has an average of 5.7. In this measurement, Spain outstrips Latvia, which got 7.3 in 2011.

Official unemployment now stands at 25 percent and 53 percent of youth under 25. 1.7 million homes have all their members unemployed. Of those registered in the public employment office, only 67 percent receive some state aid or provision.

1.7 million homes have all their members unemployed. Of those registered in the public employment office, only 67 percent receive some state aid or provision. The Red Cross has issued a new appeal to raise €30 million (US$38.8 million) in donations to help 300,000 Spaniards. The Red Cross’s Bulletin on Social Vulnerability in Spain states that 43.2 percent of people cannot afford to put on the heat in winter, while 26 percent cannot afford a meal with proteins three times a week. It’s not just in Spain. In Italy, where demands for food are increasing, the Red Cross chapter will soon launch an in-depth assessment of health and social welfare conditions across the country. In Hungary, demands at its food programs are increasing, and there’s also a program to reconnect homes with electricity cut off because of unpaid bills. Even in Finland, where the economy is faring better than in other euro-zone countries, the Red Cross has set up 44 health and welfare centers to counsel the long-term unemployed. The Catholic charity Caritas revealed that the number of people it helped nationwide increased from 370,000 in 2007 to more than a million in 2011. The Plataforma de afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH—Platform of Those Affected by the Mortgage), which pushes for a moratorium on evictions, estimates that 300 families are being evicted every day.

The purchasing power of Spanish workers has seen the biggest decline since 1985. A study published by the trade union CC.OO reveals that employment no longer prevents falling into poverty. The study reveals that 35 percent of workers receive a monthly wage equal or inferior to €641.40, the minimum wage. A European average rate of 22.5 percent places Spain second behind Romania. Among the worst-affected sectors are self-employed workers, with 40 percent at risk of poverty. Eighteen percent of part-time workers are now in poverty. The report forecasts that there will be 28 percent poverty for the whole of Spain by the end of 2012,  a rise of 10 percent from 2007.

The National Statistics Institute, INE, points out that nearly a million people have left Spain. Since the beginning of 2011, Spain’s population has fallen to 46,117,000 compared to 47,153,000 21 months ago.

On the other side, the ruling class is profiting from this social misery. Credit Suisse has estimated that the number of millionaires will grow by 110 percent over the next five years, meaning that there will be around 616,000 in 2017.

From here

Quote of the Day

" Most economists are not paid for knowing about the economy. They are paid for telling stories that justify giving more money to rich people." - Dean Baker, co-founder of  the Center for Economic and Policy Research

TV - The drug

In a truly democratic society, one is gaining knowledge directly through one’s own experience with the world, not through the filter of an authority or what is called a mediated experience. TV-dominated people ultimately accept others’ mediated version of the world rather than discovering their own version based on their own experiences.

There is evidence that the mere act of watching TV -- regardless of the content -- may well have a primary pacifying effect. Historically, television viewing has been used by various authorities to quiet potentially disruptive people—from kids, to psychiatric inpatients, to prison inmates. In 1992, Newsweek reported, “Faced with severe overcrowding and limited budgets for rehabilitation and counseling, more and more prison officials are using TV to keep inmates quiet.” Both public and private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards.

The majority of what Americans view on television—whether on the TV, lap top, or smart phone screen—is through channels owned by six corporations: General Electric (NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, and SciFi); Walt Disney (ABC, the Disney Channel, A&E, and Lifetime); Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (Fox, Fox Business Channel, National Geographic, and FX); Time Warner (CNN, CW, HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT); Viacom (MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick-at-Nite, VH1, BET, Comedy Central); and CBS (CBS Television Network, CBS Television Distribution Group, Showtime, and CW, a joint venture with Time Warner). In addition to their television holdings, these media giants have vast holdings in radio, movie studios, and publishing.

 Sociologist Robert Putnam in 2000 reported that the number of TVs in the average U.S. household had grown to 2.24 sets, with 66 percent of households having three or more sets; the TV set is turned on in the average U.S. home for seven hours a day; two-thirds of Americans regularly watch TV during dinner; and about 40 percent of Americans’ leisure time is spent on television. And Putnam also reported that spouses spend three to four times more time watching television together than they do talking to each other. And in 2011, the  New York Times  reported, “Americans watched more television than ever in 2010, according to the Nielsen Company. Total viewing of broadcast networks and basic cable channels rose about 1 percent for the year, to an average of 34 hours per person per week. In February 2012, the  New York Times  reported that young people were watching slightly less television in 2011 than the record highs in 2010. In 2011, as compared to 2010, those 25-34 and 12-17 years of age were watching 9 minutes less a day, and 18-24 year olds were watching television 6 fewer minutes a day. Those 35 and older are spending slightly more time watching TV. However, there is some controversy about trends here, as the New York Times also reported: “According to data for the first nine months of 2011, children spent as much time in front of the television set as they did in 2010, and in some cases spent more. But the proportion of live viewing is shrinking while time-shifted viewing is expanding.”, more than a decade ago, reporting on only the United States, Australia, and eleven European countries, found the following: the United States and the United Kingdom were the highest-viewing nations at 28 hours per week, with the lowest-viewing nations being Finland, Norway, and Sweden at 18 hours per week.

Jerry Mander  left his job in advertising to publish Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television in 1978. He explains how viewers are mesmerized by what TV insiders call “technical events”—quick cuts, zoom-ins, zoom-outs, rolls, pans, animation, music, graphics, and voice-overs, all of which lure viewers to continue watching even though they have no interest in the content. TV insiders know that it’s these technical events—in which viewers see and hear things that real life does not present—that spellbind people to continue watching.

The “hold on us” of TV technical events, according to Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s 2002 Scientific American article “ Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor ,” is due to our “orienting response” —our instinctive reaction to any sudden or novel stimulus.

In 1986 Byron Reeves of Stanford University, Esther Thorson of the University of Missouri and their colleagues began to study whether the simple formal features of television—cuts, edits, zooms, pans, sudden noises—activate the orienting response, thereby keeping attention on the screen. By watching how brain waves were affected by formal features, the researchers concluded that these stylistic tricks can indeed trigger involuntary responses and “derive their attentional value through the evolutionary significance of detecting movement. . . . It is the form, not the content, of television that is unique.” Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi claim that TV addiction is “no mere metaphor” but is, at least psychologically, similar to drug addiction.

 Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi found that almost immediately after turning on the TV, subjects reported feeling more relaxed, and because this occurs so quickly and the tension returns so rapidly after the TV is turned off, people are conditioned to associate TV viewing with a lack of tension. They concluded:Habit-forming drugs work in similar ways. A tranquilizer that leaves the body rapidly is much more likely to cause dependence than one that leaves the body slowly, precisely because the user is more aware that the drug’s effects are wearing off. Similarly, viewers’ vague learned sense that they will feel less relaxed if they stop viewing may be a significant factor in not turning the set off. Mander documents research showing that regardless of the programming, viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them to a more passive, nonresistant state.

 In one study that Mander reports comparing brainwave activity in reading versus television watching, it was found the brain’s response to reading is more active, unlike the passive response to television—this no matter what the TV content. Comparing  the brain effects of TV viewing to reading, Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi report similar EEG results as measured by alpha brain-wave production. Maybe that’s why when I view a fantastic Bill Moyers interview on TV, I can recall almost nothing except that I enjoyed it; this in contrast to how many content specifics I can remember when I read a transcript of a Moyers interview. Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi’s survey also revealed that:
The sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. Mander strongly disagrees with the idea that TV is merely a window throughwhich any perception, any argument, or reality may pass. Instead, he claims TV is inherently biased by its technology. For a variety of technical reasons, including TV’s need for sharp contrast to maintain interest, Mander explains that authoritarian-based programming is more technically interesting to viewers than democracy-based programming. War and violence may be unpleasant in real life; however, peace and cooperation make for “boring television.” And charismatic authority figures are more “interesting” on TV than are ordinary citizens debating issues.

When you are spending time in front of the television, you are not doing other things. The young child of three or four years is in the stage of the greatest emotional development that human beings undergo. And we only develop when we experience things, real-life things: a conversation with Mother, touching Father, going places, doing things, relating to others. This kind of experience is critical to a young child, and when the child spends thirty-five hours per week in front of the TV set, it is impossible to have the full range of real-life experience that a young child must have. Even if we had an overabundance of good television programs, it wouldn’t solve the problem. Whatever the content of the program, television watching is an isolating experience. Most people are watching alone, but even when watching it with others, they are routinely glued to the TV rather than interacting with one another. TV keeps us indoors, and it keeps us from mixing it up in real life. People who are watching TV are isolated from other people, from the natural world—even from their own thoughts and senses. TV creates isolation, and because it also reduces our awareness of our own feelings, when we start to feel lonely we are tempted to watch more so as to dull the ache of isolation. Television is a “dream come true” for an authoritarian society.

Those with the most money own most of what people see. Fear-based TV programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for an authoritarian society depending on a “divide and conquer” strategy. Television isolates people so they are not joining together to govern themselves. Viewing television puts one in a brain state that makes it difficult to think critically, and it quiets and subdues a population. And spending one’s free time isolated and watching TV interferes with the connection to one’s own humanity, and thus makes it easier to accept an authority’s version of society and life. Whether it is in American penitentiaries or homes, TV is a staple of American pacification.

Taken from here

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We suffer - they prosper

The Commission on Living Standards reports that :

Only 12p of every £1 of UK GDP now goes to wages in the bottom half of households, down 25% in the past three decades.

Incomes of low- to middle-income households grew by just 0.3% a year from 2003 to 2008, even when the economy grew by 1.4% a year.

On current trends, a working-age household in the middle of the income distribution looks likely to have a disposable income in 2020 3% lower than it was it was in 2008. The figures for those in the bottom 10% of households are far worse, with a projected real-terms decline of 15%.

Between 2003 and 2008 average income among the top 0.1% grew by 65% in real terms, at an annual rate of 13.4%.

Meanwhile the Guardian elsewhere reports that the richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth increase by £155bn since the crisis began – more than enough to pay off the whole government deficit of £119bn at a stroke.

Anyone earning over £1m a year can look forward to a £42,000 tax cut in the spring, while firms have been rewarded with a 2% cut in corporation tax to 24%. A new incentive for British multinationals to move their operations inbusiness to overseas tax havens would, according to accountants KPMG offer an "effective UK tax rate of 5.5%" from 2014.

Four US companies – Amazon, Facebook, Google and Starbucks – have paid just £30m tax on sales of £3.1bn over the last four years, according to a Guardian analysis. Apple is estimated to have avoided over £550m in tax on more than £2bn worth of sales in Britain by channelling business through Ireland, while Starbucks has paid no corporation tax in Britain for the last three years.

The Tory MP and tax lawyer Charlie Elphicke estimates 19 US-owned multinationals are paying an effective tax rate of 3% on British profits, instead of the standard rate of 26%. It's all entirely legal, of course. The total tax gap between what's owed and collected has been estimated by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK at £120bn a year: £25bn in legal tax avoidance, £70bn in fraudulent tax evasion and £25bn in late payments. Revenue and Customs' own last guess of £35bn has been widely recognised as a serious underestimate.

Compare those figures against the £18bn in welfare cuts planned for this parliamnet – or the £1.2bn estimated annual benefit fraud bil.

In Greece, authorities arrested the journalist who published the names of more than 2,059 wealthy Greeks with funds hidden in Swiss bank accounts has been arrested on charges of releasing private data. "I did nothing other than what a journalist is obliged to do. I revealed the truth that they were hiding," said Vaxevanis in a video, where he defended his decision to publish the private data. "If anyone is accountable before the law then it is those ministers who hid the list, lost it and said it didn't exist. I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job," he added.  "Tomorrow in parliament they will vote to cut 100-200 euros in pay for the Greek civil servant, for the Greek worker while at the same time most of the 2,000 people on the list appear to be evading tax by secretly sending money to Switzerland."

talking the talk but not walking the walk

Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in Central America, and one of the highest in the world, at 49.3 percent of children under five, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In Guatemala, 54 percent of the country’s 15 million people live in poverty, and 13 percent in extreme poverty, especially in the rural areas that are home to 54 percent of the population. To deal with these situations, President Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general, launched Zero Hunger, which includes actions like the programme for mothers, promotion of business chains for small rural producers, financial support and production of fortified maize tortillas, the staple food. Among the government’s goals is tending to over one million children suffering from chronic malnutrition and reducing their number by 10 percent by 2016, the end of this government’s term of office.

But it has yet to become a reality for many of its potential beneficiaries.

“I heard about the Zero Hunger plan on television, but unfortunately it has not arrived here,” complained Elías Ruíz, a small farmer in the southern community of Santa Odilia. Every rainy season, Ruíz and 307 other families in Santa Odilia, in the municipality of Nueva Concepción in the province of Escuintla, have to deal with the fury of the Coyolate river which bursts its banks and floods their houses and food crops. “Our cattle die and our maize and plantain crops are all destroyed; we have to start over,” he told IPS.

By the end of September, according to a study by ICEFI, only 55 percent of this year’s budget for food security and nutritional programmes, integrated into the new macro plan, had been executed. In the case of another programme, the “1,000 Day Window” which supports mothers from pregnancy until their children are two years old, only 36 percent of the budget had been disbursed.

“Too few resources are devoted to the fight against malnutrition, and there is a lack of coordination among the different institutions and public policy programmes,” said Jonathan Menkos, executive director of the Central American Institute of Fiscal Studies (ICEFI), a local NGO. Pérez Molina said the plan would require 260 million dollars more than the present budget for the areas covered. “The resources devoted to fighting malnutrition are minimal. The Zero Hunger programme is not taking off, and we are seeing a fragmented strategy, without interconnection between the different ministries in charge of the plan,” Alejandro Aguirre of the Guatemalan Coordination of NGOs and Cooperatives told IPS

Bill Clinton, on behalf of his foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, recognised and honoured Pérez Molina’s efforts to reduce malnutrition through the Zero Hunger plan

Quote of the Day

“Occupy has been successful in its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial system for one very simple reason; they are right,” Andrew Haldane, a member of the Bank’s financial policy committee, said

Freedom For Who?

There are strict rules covering the conditions for chickens and eggs the Freedom Food and Happy Eggs brands. They must be grabbed by both legs rather than just one when being caught, for example. The gangmaster business supplied workers to Noble Foods, one of the UK's largest processors of eggs and chickens. Noble is currently promoting its happy eggs on primetime television with an advert that shows its hens leaping for joy to the Olympian soundtrack of Chariots of Fire. On a website there is a boast that : "Concern for bird welfare runs throughout Noble's activities. The care with which we handle day old chicks is matched by our treatment of hens at the end of their laying life." However, the conditions of the humans employed to catch them has had less attention.

 30 Lithuanian workers have been trafficked to the UK. They are said to have then been kept in debt bondage, forced to work up to 17 hours a shift, bussed to farms the length of the country to catch hens through the night, sleeping for days at a time only in vans, in some weeks not paid at all, and, according to workers' testimony, kept under control by Lithuanian enforcers with threats of violence and on occasions actual physical assault. Six dogs, including some fighting breeds, which the migrants claim were used to intimidate themThe gangmaster company is a member of Freedom Food, the welfare scheme licensed by the RSPCA.

The workers said they had been charged a fee of around £350 for what they had been promised back in Lithuania were good jobs. £50 a week was then deducted from their wages each week, so they were debt bonded on arrival. They allege they would be told to bring food to last five days and were then bussed around the country from job to job, from Monday to Friday, sometimes being driven for five or six hours at a time between farms before working a night shift. They were put to work without training or safety equipment, having to learn on the job how to catch four chickens in each hand before crating them. Without face masks, they found the smell and dust in the sheds was often overwhelming. They described not even knowing where they were going, but trying to find out from the GPS system at the front of the minivan. They claim they were refused toilet stops on journeys and that in between jobs they were kept for hours in the vans at roadside parking places. When they were brought back to their accommodation in Kent at weekends, they reported living 15 men to a small house in damp, squalid conditions. Mattresses on the floor were infested with bed bugs and fleas. They say they had £40 a week deducted from their wages for the privilege of being bitten as soon as the lights were out.

Those workers who wanted to open bank accounts or apply for national insurance numbers say they were told they couldn't and were threatened with the sack if they complained. When they were paid, it was by cheque, so they were forced to cash their wages at a local branch of the Money Shop where the charges are £2.50 for registration, a £3.99 flat fee for each cheque plus a 7.99% service fee, meaning that they could lose another £12 from a £100 cheque.

They have described Lithuanian enforcers used by the gangmasters to keep them under control with physical and verbal abuse. They have reported workers being beaten, punched, given black eyes and broken ribs, and then beaten again if they complained. One recalled first meeting one of the enforcers a couple of days after arriving in the UK, when the enforcer is said to have kicked the door of their house in and shouted to them that no one was getting paid that week. Others have said that their wages were withheld on several occasions for random reasons: a dirty cup left in the kitchen, or the smell of alcohol on someone's breath on a day off.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fact of the Day

“Around one-third of all the food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year,” FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said. He added that this amount was enough to feed 500 million people without putting any additional pressure on natural resources.

A recent report commissioned by the FAO found that “every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).”


 Research by the consultants KPMG found that 4.82 million workers ( one of every five families ) have to survive on less than a living wage,currently £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 in the rest of the country. The government has resisted campaigns to increase the current minimum wage of £6.19 to living wage levels.

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people earning below the living wage (24%), followed by Wales at 23%. The lowest proportion of sub-living wage earners are in London and the south-east, both at 16%. It found that at least 70% of cleaners, kitchen staff and waiters and waitresses are were paid less than the living wage.

41% of low paid workers surveyed said that their finances are worse now than they were just one month ago. Nearly half  expect their finances to be in a worse condition in a year's time than now, slightly more than the 43% of those earning above the living wage. And nearly a quarter  feel that their job security has worsened, compared with 16% of those earning above.

 All three main party leaders expressed support for the Living Wage campaign before the last election without committing to implementing it!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Good business sense?

The main purpose of any business is to make a profit. The costs of doing business cuts into these profits and must be minimized. Two large expenses are salaries and, lately, environmental protection requirements.

Exporting jobs offshore where labour is cheap and environmental laws are minimal is seen by some as a sound business practice. The added expense of shipping manufactured goods back , while degrading our environment even further, generates still more profit.

Breaking down full-time jobs into small temporary jobs, then contracting them out to avoid paying employee benefits is another way to help maximize profits.

Watering down any attempt by environmentalists at ecologically sustainable practices maximizes profits even further.

 Increased profits from these business practices end up into the pockets of the rich and powerful.

Vietnam's "class" hospitals

We read that the Central Pediatrics Hospital in Hanoi has voluntary treatment centers at the level of A, B, and C

If patients come to the voluntary treatment centers B and C, they have to wait ( the examination fee is VND90,000 - $4.5) , while at the center A, (where the examination fee is up to VND680,000 - $34) they will be served very quickly and at the best quality. The center A is established to meet the need of rich people, who can afford inpatient treatment cost of hundreds of USD per day. Patients coming to the voluntary treatment center A are warmly welcome and the entire center is equipped with air-conditioner. Each patient is taken care by one nurse, has private room. While patients who use medical services at other zones have to queue for half of a day to wait for their turn.Being tired and sick, many patients sit, lie around the lobby to wait for their turn, making up a scene in stark contrast with the voluntary treatment center A. For inpatient treatment, each poor patient has to share a bed with 2 or 3 or even 4 other patients, increasing the chances of cross-infection.

 Without paying more money, patients must wait months to get surgery. But with the "fast operation" service, they will have to wait for 10 days. At Viet Duc Hospital (Hanoi) this service exists under the name of "quick surgical services." Accordingly, if patients pay an additional VND2 million ($100).  People who have money just have to wait for 7-10 days.

Fact of the Day

In India, 93% dalit (untouchables) families still live below poverty line, says survey. Caste discrimination is mainly responsible for strengthening the process of social exclusion of dalits. 

The Family Business

Wealth in China is now not a new issue for SOYMB. We have blogged on it several times.

The mother of China’s prime minister in one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.
Many relatives of the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership.  The family have assets worth at least $2.7 billion. In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment fronts involving friends, work colleagues and business partners.

The family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The New York Times found that Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.

There has been a spate of revelations about wealth amassed by people around other senior figures. Bloomberg Business News reported the family wealth of Xi Jinping, the man expected to become China's president in November, at a relatively modest $136m.

The National People's Congress which, as the annual Hurun report on China's rich has shown, is now a billionaires' club: the wealthiest 70 members enjoy a combined net worth of $85bn. By way of comparison, the estimated combined net worth of 660 top US officials, including the president, reportedly adds up to a mere $7.5bn.

The price of kids

The rising cost of childcare means that going out to work full-time is now hardly worthwhile for a growing number of "second earners" in middle- and low-income families, a major study will reveal. Where a second earner takes a full-time job at the minimum wage – a couple who use childcare could be left just £4 a week better off with two incomes than with one.

The politically independent Resolution Foundation, also says that childcare costs are eroding incentives to work for those on higher incomes. The study finds that a family with two children in which two earners bring in a total of £44,440 could end up just £4,000 better off than a similar family earning £20,000 less, because of the combined effect of benefits, tax, tax credits and childcare costs. In some cases a family's income can fall when a second earner takes on more hours, because of the complexities of the tax and benefits regime.  It cites an example of how a second earner from a middle-income household who is paid £12 an hour will add £4,500 to the family income while working 13 hours a week. However, if they increase their hours above that level, the family income falls as the combination of childcare costs and withdrawn support through the tax credit system bites into earnings.

Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and joint author of the report, said: "It's hardly worth a typical second earner going out to work more than a couple of days a week, because the family will be barely better off."

The report says the growth in female employment has been critical in maintaining household living standards over the last 30 years as men's employment income has declined in real terms.

The latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, from 2008, put the proportion of income spent on childcare in the UK at 27% for a couple with a joint income of double the average wage, and 21% for a couple on one and half times the average. The Resolution Foundation says that these figures now stand at 30% and 19%.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

No comment needed

Neither candidate

Continuing SOYMB exposure of the Lesser Evil argument

Commercial advertising and public relations are the forms of propaganda activity common in a democracy. In the United States over a very long time now these methods have been honed by incomparably more skill and research than in any other country. Journalists from the print and electronic media such  have been campaigning for Wall Street while appearing to be objective and neutral In their theatrical debates both cadidates avow their allegience to  “the free enterprise system” (capitalism) despite the profits system’s long and ongoing record of savage, murderous history. The essence of capitalism  is one of ever mouting misery, bloody wars, and smiling politicians.

Behind the media story-line of a contest between two “very different” and “sharply polarized” parties and candidates, Obama and Romney agree to the wishes of capital. It is now hardly controversial to suggest that these ruling parties primarily serve the interests of wealth, the corporations and Wall St., and that they exercise dominant influence over the Republican and Democratic leadership. The two parties benefit the big corporations at the expense of  the American working people and the society in which they live. Both supported deregulation of the financial markets that facilitated the recession.

The Democrats gesture politically toward the working class and the unions though they have received nil-to-negligible benefits from the arrangement. Unions are weakened by pro-business legislation and other barriers to labor organizing, and as working class incomes stagnated, the Democratic Party hardly did anything to protect the workers despite labor’s near-total support for Democratic candidates. In fact, many of the gains won in struggles of earlier years are in deep jeopardy today, with little more than a rhetorical fight-back from the Democratic Party grassroots. Many in 2008 thought President Obama was a “good” candidate who would govern from the liberal or progressive “left,” but in practice this was shown to be fictitious. They will now vote for him again in 2012 as a lesser evil candidate. Party insiders well understood that Obama was the corporate candidate backed  by Wall St.

Look at the record: Remember what happened to single payer/public option health care. Remember bank bailouts but the lack of financial reform to rein Wall St. Remember the continuance of Guantanamo, the Patriot Act yet civil liberties attacked. Remember the environment ad  global warming being sidelined yet offshore drilling, "clean" coal, and "safe" nuclear energy prioritised. Remember immigration deportations, the continuing Cold War sanctions on Cuba and Iran, and the rise in the Pentagon budget to pay for Obama's wars. Remember, remember, on the 6th of November!! Come the election, the “betrayed” progressives, the “disillusioned” liberals, and the “disheartened” labor movement will join together and vote Obama against the right wing menace because he’s the current “lesser evil.” Inevitably, lesser evil voters face disappointment. Voting on the hope of perceived social gains in the short-term is not only erroneous; it is without a true understanding of what it is going to take to bring about real change. In purporting to support the "lesser evil"  they are promoting the "greater evil".

Politicians like Obama knowingly market themselves to lesser evil voters by constructing phony sales pitches, making themselves look more progressive than they really are. Obama is not a lesser evil. He is on par with any other Republican. Of two evils, choose neither. Abstention from voting, but more importantly spoiling your ballot, is a valid legitimate expression of a person’s political position. It is an opting out from the system and declares, to a degree, dissatisfaction in the system.

The 17th-century Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracián y Morales warned, “Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

vote jesus

Almost a million and half voters say that they will cast their votes for the write-in candidacy of Jesus Christ for president of the United States on November 6.

Woody Guthrie wrote a song called Christ For President:

    Let's have Christ our President
    Let us have him for our king
    Cast your vote for the Carpenter
    That you call the Nazarene

    The only way we can ever beat
    These crooked politician men
    Is to run the money changers out of the temple
    Put the Carpenter in

Maybe it might happen but don't hold your breath.

Big Pharma Profits Again

Pfizer, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson are facing three class action legal suits about the expiration dates they put on their medicines. Both Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins University research shows those medications “are safe and effective long after the expiration date.”

Pfizer, Bayer and J&J “earn billions annually from the expiration date scheme” according to the suits. The drug giants are accused of using "unconscionable, unfair, deceptive, unethical and illegal" methods to get consumers to throw away their products when expiration date has passed, though the companies know "that if stored properly these medications can and do remain chemically stable, safe and effective long after those dates...The purpose behind this scheme is to increase defendant's sales and profits because consumers have to purchase replacement medications for those they have thrown out," the complaint states. The claim is that the defendants earn billions annually from the expiration date scheme.        

The expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.

Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.

One study of 122 different drug products found that 88% of the medications it tested were still good at least one year after the expiration date, and that this stability period averaged 66 months beyond the expiration date. So the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago. It's true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date.

Is the expiration date a marketing ploy by drug manufacturers, to keep you restocking your medicine cabinet and their pockets regularly? You can look at it that way.

Farm workers unite

Remember that Countryside Alliance? Defending the way of life of those living in rural areas. The local squires and land-owners have now abandoned their low-paid farm-workers. The Countryside Alliance had absolutely no interest in the problems of rural poverty that it paid lip service to. Landowners and agri-businessmen have done so much to make life as hard as possible for rural workers.

Farming minister David Heath announced the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, the last of the wages councils. There are just four weeks of "consultation" before farm workers lose this special protection. Their current minimum pay, which is legally enforced, is just 2p an hour above the national minimum. Wages are bound to fall. The board fixes overtime rates at time and a half and that will no doubt disappear. But the coalition announced plans will result in agricultural employers setting pay locally. Rights that the AWB has secured for the 152,000 casual farm workers in England and Wales, such as payment for annual leave, could also be lost. Whitehall officials estimate casual workers could lose up to £140m from their wages over 10 years and £100m from payment for annual leave. Currently all casual farm workers in England and Wales have their pay set by the Agricultural Wages Board, which was established in 1924 after the bitter Norfolk farm workers’ strike.

 It is still one of the most dangerous occupations with a high accident rate. Isolated, under-unionised, with little choice of other work, a third of agricultural workers live in tied housing, exceptionally vulnerable to the whims of employers.The board sets fair rents for tied housing – £28 a week for a caravan – but there will be no rent limits from now on. The board also sets sick pay, holiday pay and a graded pay progression, important when so many work on small farms with little chance of promotion. The board ordains other conditions, such as warm clothing, essential for outdoor work. It sets a pay rate and age for child pickers (Nine-year-olds were discovered picking spring onions from dawn till dusk in freezing weather in  last year.), who will lose all protection from now on.

Where's the four-wheel drive, green wellies, Barbour jacket protesters now? This is a useful reminder (if one is needed) that the Countryside Alliance was a thoroughly anti-working class tool of the rich, a front for certain sections of the ruling class to defend their interests which is the right to use the land they have stolen in any way they wish. It was part of a strategy is to create the illusion of a “broad-based movement”, claiming to unite all people who live in the countryside, regardless of their class position. Many of those of the so-called Countryside Alliance have been bitter opponents of the working class movement at every turn. There present silence is proof.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

American wealth

"People just above the poverty line are just one paycheck or health disaster away from poverty," said Katherine Newman, a dean at Johns Hopkins University. "They are still quite fragile."

Paul Ryan gave a speech on poverty and economic mobility.  “In this war on poverty,” he said, “poverty is winning.” What he didn’t say is that he and his budget have taken sides in that war — and not on the side of the poor. Ryan — the man whose budget would wreak havoc on the poor — steps to a podium and pretends to be a defender of the poor.

A survey by Spectrem Group breaks down wealthy American business owners into three groups: The mass affluent, who are worth $100,000 (U.S.) to $1-million, the millionaires, at $1-million to $5-million, and the ultra-high net worth, or UHNW, at $5-million to $25-million. According to the report, 96 per cent of the mass affluent are worried about the election, compared to 72 per cent of the millionaires and 80 per cent of the UHNW.  So, the filthy rich more anxious than very rich, but less than just plain rich over U.S. election.

There are more than 35 million households in the United States whose net worth tops $100,000.  Just 60,280 individuals worth more than $30 million. California and New York are the states with the highest number of $30 million plus residents, with a total of 10.955 and 8.595 respectively.

Richest Person in Each US State

1: Washington: Bill Gates: $64.5 billion - Microsoft chairman, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

2: Nebraska: Warren Buffett: $49.6 billion - Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

3: California: Lawrence Ellison: $41.1 billion - CEO of Oracle Corp.

4: Arkansas: James Walton: $33.6 billion - Chairman of Arvest Bank, son of Walmart founder, Sam Walton

5: Kansas: David Koch: $32.1 billion - Vice-chairman of Koch Industries

6: New York: Michael Bloomberg: $24.8 billion - New York City Mayor and owner of Bloomberg LP

7: Nevada: Sheldon Adelson: $20.2 billion - Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands

8: Virginia: Forrest Mars, Jr.: $17 billion - Part-owner of Mars candy company and grandson of the late Frank C. Mars

9: Texas: Michael Dell: $14 billion - CEO of Dell Inc

10: Oregon: Philip Knight: $13 billion - Chairman of Nike Inc.

11: Massachusetts: Abigail Johnson: $11.9 billion - President, Fidelity Financial Services

12: Georgia: Anne Cox Chambers: $11.2 billion - Member of Cox Enterprises' board of directors, chairwoman of Atlanta Newspapers

13: Connecticut: Raymond Dalio: $10 billion - Founder of Bridgewater Associates LP

14: Oklahoma: George Kaiser: $10 billion - Chairman of BOK Financial

15: Colorado: Charles Ergen: $8.3 billion - Founder and chairman of DISH Network

16: Pennsylvania: Hansjorg Wyss: $7.7 billion - Chairman of Swiss medical device manufacturer Synthes Holding AG

17: North Carolina: James Goodnight: $7.4 billion - CEO of SAS Institute

18: Wisconsin: John Menard, Jr.: $6 billion - Founder and owner of home-improvement retailer Menard Inc.

19: New Jersey: David Tepper: $5.2 billion - President and founder of Appaloosa Management

20: Michigan: Richard DeVos Sr.: $5.1 billion - Co-founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic

21: Montana: Dennis Washington: $5 billion - Founder of The Washington Companies and co-founder of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation

22: Ohio: Leslie Wexner: $4.5 billion - Chairman and CEO of Limited Brands

23: Arizona: Bruce Halle Sr.: $4 billion - Founder of Discount Tires

24: Florida: Joseph Lewis: $3.9 billion - Founder of Tavistock Group and owner of Tottenham Hotspur soccer team in England

25: Illinois: Samuel Zell: $3.9 billion - Founder of Equity Residential

26: Maryland: Theodore Lerner: $3.9 billion - Founder of real estate firm Lerner Enterprises

27: Minnesota: Pauline Keinath: $3.7 billion - Part-owner of Cargill Inc. and great-granddaughter of founder W. W. Cargill

28: Indiana: Gayle Cook: $3.4 billion - Member of board of directors of medical device firm Cook Group

29: Tennessee: Thomas Frist, Jr.: $3 billion - Founder of HCA, the Hospital Corporation of America

30: Utah: Robert Earl Holding: $2.7 billion - Owner of Sinclair Oil

31: Mississippi: Leslie Lampton: $2.4 billion - Founder of Ergon Inc.

32: South Carolina: Anita Zucker: $2.2 billion - Chairwoman and CEO of chemical manufacturer InterTech Group

33: Rhode Island: Jonathan Nelson: $1.6 billion - CEO of Providence Equity Partners

34: Missouri: Christopher Cline: $1.5 billion - Founder of Foresight Energy

35: West Virginia: James Justice II: $1.5 billion - Owner of the coal mining Justice Companies

36: Alabama: Marguerite Harbert: $1.4 billion - Widow of the late construction and energy mogul, John Murdoch Harbert III

37: Louisiana: Thomas Benson: $1.3 billion - Owner of New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Hornets

38: South Dakota: T. Denny Sanford: $1.3 billion

39: Idaho: Frank VanderSloot: $1.2 billion - CEO of Melaleuca

40: Kentucky: Bradley Wayne Hughes: $1.1 billion - Founder of Public Storage

41: Iowa: Dennis Albaugh: $1 billion - Founder of Albaugh Inc.

42: North Dakota: Gary Tharaldson: $900 million - Founder of the Tharaldson Companies

43: Maine: Leon Gorman: $860 million - Chairman of L.L. Bean

44: Delaware: Robert Gore: $830 million - Founder of materials and manufacturing company W.L. Gore & Associates

45: New Mexico: Peyton Yates, Jr.: $760 million - President of Yates Petroleum Corp.

46: Alaska: Robert Gillam: $690 million - President and CEO of McKinley Capital Management LLC

47: Hawaii: Jay Shidler: $680 million - Founder of the real estate company The Shidler Group

48: New Hampshire: Martin Trust: $600 million - President of Brandot International, formerly president and CEO of MAST Industries

49: Vermont: Robert Stiller: $580 million - Founder of Green Mountain Coffee

50: Wyoming: John Martin: $210 million - Chairman and CEO of Gilead Sciences

What's a life worth?

 How much is a human life worth? Well, if you are a Pakistani worker - $1,930.

Six weeks ago, at least 259 workers died in a fire in the Pakistani port city of Karachi at a factory that produced jeans for German discount textile and clothing retailer Kik. The disaster created unfavorable headlines for the Western company because it highlighted the poor working conditions of many who create the inexpensive products sold by discounter firms.  Kik plans to pay damages totalling $500,000 (€383,700) to the families of more than 250 workers who died in a fire at a Pakistan factory used to produce its clothing.

"That's not that much at all," says Nasir Mansoor of Pakistan's National Trade Union Federation "Furthermore, we don't know when and how the payment is supposed to come through."
Close to 1,500 men and women worked at Ali Enterprises, most of them without contracts. "We never got anything in writing," says one young woman, who worked doing unskilled support work in the sewing unit. "This is our problem now -- hardly anyone can demonstrate that they actually worked for Ali Enterprises." The lack of a paper trail makes it especially hard to establish the workers' claims. "The government of the province told us that we should show our papers in order to get money. Which papers are they talking about? We never got any."

A report made available long ago stating that the electrical systems in the plant were not up to safety standards and emergency exits were poorly illuminated. The cause of the fire hasn't yet been identified, but it is clear that the factory wasn't up to code. Bars covered the windows, and escape routes were blocked off, preventing people from getting out when disaster struck. There was also no explanation for dangerous waste water used to acid wash clothing that was being flushed into the public sewage system.Employees were paid for each pair of jeans that they produced. They worked on an assembly line, with each worker completing the same task for as many as 14 hours per day.  Hardly any of them made more than 7,000 rupies, or €60, in a month.

Kik has become highly successful, with annual revenues of more than a billion euros and some 3,000 stores in eight countries.  In the past, the company has sold t-shirts for as little as €1.99. But critics have noted that the cheap prices on Kik's products come at the expense of poorly paid factory workers in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. In 2009, the company came under fire following allegations that children under 14 had been working in a plant that produced for Kik in Bangladesh.

Welfare State Attacked

Lord Bichard, former head of the benefits agency, suggested the retired should undertake community service – or have their pensions docked. He made the comments during a session of committee investigating the impact on public services of an ageing population. Four years ago, the pension arrangements of people like Lord Bichard were analysed. It was found that their average pension pot was worth just under £850,000. It’s a bit rich for him to be thinking that someone on a state pension of around £5,300 a year is a “negative burden”

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This amounts to little more than national service for the over-60s and is absolutely outrageous. “Those who have paid their National Insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way.”

Meantime,  the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith  says the welfare system is encouraging poorer families to have more children and denying them the incentive to get a job.

A government source said: “The benefits system is supposed to be a safety net — not a lifestyle choice"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

United Nations or World Socialism

The 24th October was designated United Nations Day. The UN was set up by the victorious powers in the Second World War at a conference in San Francisco in 1945. Socialists have no illusions about the UN; we know full well that the expressive phrase that used to be used of the League of Nations — "the League of Bandits" — applies equally to the UN.

The United Nations was supposed to be dedicated to the preservation of peace but we can see  that the United Nations does not work. The declared intention of the United Nations was "to cut the causes of war at their roots". A glance at history shows that in this respect the U.N. has failed miserably and slaughter and destruction in the defence of capitalist interests has continued. The governments that meet in the United Nations have behind them national capitalist groups which have real and vital conflicts of interest. The conflicts do not disappear. The U.N. may be of use to the major Powers as an instrument to stop the quarrels of the lesser Powers getting out of hand, but that is all. The whole idea of governmental co-operation to maintain peace and prevent war is a delusion in the world of international rivalry that is capitalism. The United Nations (like the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier) was set up because the politicians dared not face their war-weary peoples without being able to offer them something that would deceive them into thinking that their sacrifices had not been in vain. The United Nations is a capitalist institution useless to the working class to stop war.

However the UN is more than the Security Council and a talking-shop General Assembly. When established there was more than an undertaking to try to settle disputes by peaceful means; it was hoped that “nations could plan together so that everyone would have a fair share of the good things of life.” 

 Socialists devised the slogan "One World" as a concise description of the society we are striving for. Socialism means that the whole world will operate as a single productive system where goods and services will be produced so that people can use them freely without resorting to buying and selling. A united humanity, sharing a world of common interests, would also share world administration. This  entirely different vision of the future to such schemes as the United Nations which, as the name imply, is an attempt to improvise a patchwork from the fragments which capitalism makes of the world. This is the socialist alternative to the way that capitalism divides the planet into rival states and sets people against each other. The world-wide communications network—which capitalism itself has built up and which socialism will develop even further—will be used to ensure that everyone can have an input into the decisions which affect their lives on a global, regional and local basis. Just as on the national scale some of the institutions of the capitalist government machine could be adapted and used as part of the new socialist administration, so on the world scale could some of the institutions of the UN. The United Nations includes useful world bodies such as the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agricultural Organisation and UNESCO. This is the world-wide structure already developed by capitalism which would be taken over and developed for the needs of the world's population. For example, one problem that socialism would have to solve as quickly as possible will be the supply of enough good quality food for every person. This will require co-operation at every social level and the existing FAO, national ministries of agriculture and local departments could be swiftly adapted for the task. This is not to suggest that such a single agency based in New York or Geneva or wherever would be making policy decisions for everyone on the planet. Its function could be to provide information and propose various development strategies so that alternatives could be decided democratically. In the specialized agencies of the UN (and even in the ever-growing of multi-national corporations) the basic framework for a world administration already exists. It only remains for the workers of the world to realise this and to organise to take it over for the benefit of all mankind.

Iran Censored

Article 10 of the European Convention of the Human Rights states that: “… it is the peoples’ basic right to receive news and information”.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

On October 15th, a total of 19 Iranian satellite TV channels and radio stations broadcasting to Europe were cut off of its Hot Bird Frequencies. Among these channels are Press TV, Al-Alam, Jam-e-Jam 1 and 2, Sahar 1 and 2, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Quran TV, and the Arabic-language al-Kawthar. The transmissions had been terminated on an order from the European Commission as part of Europe’s latest unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Press TV is state-funded like the BBC. In May 2012 Ofcom revoked Press TV's broadcasting license and removed the channel from Sky. A WikiLeaks cable reveals how the Foreign Office told an American diplomat in 2010 that the government was “exploring ways to limit the operations of … Press TV”. At the time, the department warned the US that: “UK law sets a very high standard for denying licenses to broadcasters. Licenses can only be denied in cases where national security is threatened, or if granting a license would be contrary to Britain’s obligations under international law. Currently neither of these standards can be met with respect to Press TV, but if further sanctions are imposed on Iran in the coming months a case may be able to be made on the second criterion.”

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This quote is widely attributed to Voltaire.

The common struggle

The documentary ‘You’ve been Trumped’  by Anthony Baxter, is a film about how money and power, with the collusion of politicians that has ridden roughshod over ordinary people. It’s a lesson in how capitalist ‘democracy’ functions. ‘You've Been Trumped’ encapsulates the chasm between the powerful, glamorous, jet-setting Donald Trump and a deeply rooted, relatively powerless Scottish community. For Trump, the golf course is just another money-making deal. For the residents, it represents the destruction of a globally unique landscape that has been the backdrop for their lives. Seduced by Trump’s wealth, the politicians, the media, the business community, a local university and the police kow-tow to the billionaire. Someone like Trump does not get to where they are without knowing how to play the media and the politicians. The film shows his half truths, untruths, tacky PR gloss and slurs against local residents who stand in his way are taken as facts by much of the media and many of those in authority. Politicians overturn their own laws in the face of dubious promises of jobs, which are never genuinely investigated by them to see if they actually stand up to scrutiny. The rich have the knack of talking absolute rubbish, but say it with utter conviction that it becomes accepted as ‘fact’.

In South India local people are peacefully protesting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. More than 56,000 have been falsely charged, including 6,000 for the offence of ‘sedition’. 53 have been imprisoned.

Why? Because of the influence of money; because of unaccountable power. India’s expanding multi-billion dollar nuclear sector represents rich pickings for the key players both within India and abroad. The Indian government has agreed to buy US$150 billion worth of nuclear reactors, equipment and other materials from the US, whose companies will benefit for decades from Indian orders for military equipment. It has also promised various other countries that their companies will receive lucrative contracts in India. The French company Areva, US companies GE Hitachi and Westinghouse and the Russian company Atomstroy export are all building nuclear plants in the country. In return, the US lobbied to allow India to engage in civilian nuclear trade, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

What is happening concerning the expansion of nuclear sector is however symptomatic of the wider situation in India. Anti-nuclear activist Neeraj Jain says the Indian elite’s vision for the country is to freely allow Western multinationals to access the Indian market and hand over thousands of hectares of land to them to set up projects like mines, refineries, airports, shopping malls and expressways, while dispossessing people from their mineral-rich lands in rural areas, and demolishing slums in urban areas.

Some like to call this 'progress'. Others choose to call it ‘development’. But let’s state it for what it actually is: self-serving, powerful, wealthy elite interests acting in collusion with politicians and demonstrating utter contempt for democracy and ordinary folk.

Whether we live in Scotland, India or elsewhere, it begs the question: Are we willing to be 'Trumped'? Well, that all depends on us, the 99 per cent, and what we are prepared to do about it.

An extract from an article by Colin Todhunter.

It's worse than we thought

The Office for National Statistics showed that net national income per head (NNI) – considered to be the best guide to real living standards – has continued to drop as a result of the squeeze on family budgets from rising prices. The ONS said that NNI per head fell by 13.2% between the first three months of 2008 (when the economy had peaked) and the second quarter of 2012. Over the same period,  gross domestic product per head fell by 7%. Even if the data is adjusted to include the welfare state – especially important in Britain with the NHS – it still reveals a bleak picture. This figure, known as real household actual income per head, dropped in the second quarter of 2012 by 2.9% below its peak in the third quarter of 2009.

According to the study, the decline in living standards has been more pronounced and longer lasting than in the UK's two previous recessions in the early 1980s and early 1990s. NNI dropped by around 6% in the slump of the early 1980s, but was back to its pre-recession peak within three years. In the early 1990s, the decline was a more modest 4%, and the lost ground had been recouped in two and a half years.

Half the population is worried about mortgage rates, and a quarter of people with mortgages fear having their home repossessed, according to a study by Which.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The soft -soap continues

 We have just had the third and final instalment before election day. Selection by debate turns "democracy" into a TV reality show? This was not a a debate, this was a rehearsed spectacle, a staged performance by a pair of parties largely in agreement, presenting a charade of a debate.  Obama and Romney share the same fundamental ideological framework. Democrats and Republicans are of one mind on almost everything. So what sort of choice are US voters being given as they vote in November? There are no major principled differences between the candidates. Obama long ago lost the support of those those who are anti-war, wanted decent healthcare, wanted the wealthy to pay for their part in causing the recession. He lost those citizens concerned about the environment, constitutional liberties,the a clamp down on whistleblowers and international law. Obama has never fought for the 99%. Obama has advanced the interests of the 1% ever since he got into office. That was always Wall Street’s expectation of Obama, and his promise to them. That’s why they gave him far more money in 2008 than they gave John McCain. They were buying Obama. They invested in Obama to protect them.

It began with his cabinet choices when he appointed the very same individuals responsible for the mis-management of the economy and contributed to the recession, keeping the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and then not releasing any Guantanamo prisoners and escalating the war in Afghanistan. We have an administration currently fighting for the right to put US citizens into indefinite detainment without a trial, a president who approves of drones over the US as well as other countries and the presidential approval of assassinations of US citizens. He signed the Patriot Act extension into law, deported a modern-record 1.5 million immigrants, and continued Bush's rendition program. Obama personally chooses some who will die thousands of miles away by a drone attack as he supports more and more drones that terrorizes Afghans, Pakistanis, and Yemenis with death without warning from the sky. It never dawned on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to withhold its award until Obama proved that he was deserving, which he never was.

  Because many view Romney as unfit to be president, some are inclined to vote for Obama out of fear. Many are forced into rationalizations for voting for more of the same.  Anyone who believes that voting for Obama is voting for the lesser of two evils. No matter how much evil Barack Obama actually accomplishes during his presidency, people that call themselves leftists insist on dubbing him the Lesser Evil. Noam Chomsky as resident in a safe Democrat state has opted to vote for the Green Party while recommending others in swing states to vote for the lesser evil and cast their ballot for Obama. Voting for the “lesser evil” in swing states, however, does not absolve us from having supported a candidate whose policies we consider “evil” or oppressive. The very act of voting for it legitimizes it. We should counter this act of legitimization, by organizing for a transformative change of the U.S. political system. If you are going to fight for anything, you’ve got to fight for the right to fight. Perhaps indeed Romney and the Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of workers but that doesn’t matter. People are not going to roll over for whatever nightmare Romney would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama. The teachers union have actually endorsed  one of their biggest critics!  There was been very little resistance to Obama. Where was the anti-war movement when Obama launched a merciless air-war against Libya? Silence was acquiescence.

Capitalism causes crises and economic downturns and their burden always falls on the vast majority of the population, the working class. Calls for re-regulation, managed capitalism, begs the question: re-regulate what? As demonstrated by history, the system of finance capitalism is intrinsically unstable. Under the guise of reviving a dysfunctional system all benefits continue to accrue to a tiny economic elite. This is why claims of substantive differences between Democrats and Republicans are so misguided. If you believe that what Wall Street does is Evil, then Obama’s service to Wall Street is Evil, and there is nothing Lesser about it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

For change - Now

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” - Karl Marx

 Voters are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with te current political system. They think corporations have too much power. Voters believe that billionaires and corporations have come to dominate our political process, and they think the President has very little ability to affect their economic future. They have a point - government by and for the wealthy.  Voters now doubt that any President can or will do very much to help them. A resounding majority of voters believe that neither candidate’s economic policies will help them. But they’re still pretty convinced the rich will benefit from them. Voters think that wealthy people are greedy and dishonest. The plutocracy usually wins, because it usually runs unopposed. Both parties push its policies and the public is left dissatisfied and voiceless.

If you are still harboring any illusions about the present American electoral process is a lever for change, forget it. Democracy has been bought and paid for.

The lesser evil crowd are impervious to facts, immune to evidence, and unmoved by reality. The lesser evil crowd embraces reform because after all, change can't happen overnight. For those who genuinely care about the future of all life on the planet: Just how much time do you think we have?

Landlord benefits

The number of working households forced to rely on housing benefit since the recession began in 2008 has doubled – a trend that will lead to a million earners being dependent on welfare to keep a roof over their heads by the next election, according to a Home Truths study by the National Housing Federation.

 In May 2012 there were 903,440 working recipients of housing benefits – more than double the figure for November 2008 and a jump that signifies an alarming rise in in-work poverty. As private rents rise faster than wages, another 10,000 working people a month need housing benefit to afford their rent. By the next election, the study warns, 1.2 million "strivers" will only be able to stay in their homes through welfare payments.

The number of households in Britain is growing three times as fast as the number of homes being built. In England by 2018 the average weekly rent will be £245, up from today's £181, a leap of 35%.  By 2018 homes in England will cost on average £292,060, almost £60,000 more than today. The result is that increasingly even those in work will not be able to afford to live in a home without benefits.

An analysis of official statistics for Karen Buck, the Labour MP and a parliamentary expert on welfare, found that between 2011-12 and 2014-15 £35bn of housing benefit will be spent on private landlords, £13bn more than the previous three years.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Galloway memories

"... If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union , yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life..." - George Galloway, the ex-Labour Party and now Respect MP.

Fact of the Day

In 2008, the Dow declined by more than 33 percent and along with the sharp drop in housing prices, there was a 19 percent decline in the total net worth of American households that year. When stock market values are factored in, the rising value of financial assets — including stocks — has now restored the total wealth of American households. Using this measure, it is now higher than when Obama’s presidency began. For stock portfolios, at least, the last four years haven’t been too bad at all.

The stock market has flourished under Obama — and under Democratic presidents generally. Since 1900, it has returned 7.1 percent annually when Democrats have occupied the White House, and only 3 percent under Republicans.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The choice is yours

Estimates of up to 150,000 people participated in yesterdays protest. It was heartening to see so many plebians marching together - it reveals the workers can still be mobilised around issues they feel are important. We can draw comfort from the fact that the workers cannot now be dismissed as totally apathetic and that people can unite in common cause. The capitalist class started this phase of the class war with their austerity programmes, and we’re all in it together whether we want to be or not. But from our experience - and the Socialist Party has had over a 100 years' experience of observing campaigns and demonstrations and protests around every imaginable kind of reform demand being the oldest existing socialist organisation in Britain - we can safely say with a certain degree of confidence that todays demonstration is just one of hundreds over the years that address the symptoms, not the cause of the problem, and will make no significant difference to the established order. That fact is hard to accept but as Diderot wrote "We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter." 

Across the world there are literally hundreds of thousands of campaigns, protest groups and charities all pursuing tens of thousands of issues, and their work involves many millions of sincere workers who care passionately about their individual causes and give their free time to support them unquestioningly. Many will have campaigned on some single issue for years on end with no visible result; others will have celebrated minor victories.

No Hope in Milliband

 Instead of conceding their central complicity in the global economic crisis, the rich have emerged richer and even more unregulated than ever. Banks’ profit are not influenced by widespread poverty among the common people. These firms profit while the ordinary citizens encounter hunger, unemployment, and all manner of hardships. US bank Goldman Sachs’ net profits for the third quarter to the end of September were $1.5bn (£930m). The bank makes most of its money from providing services to big institutional investors such as multi-national corporations and pension funds. Net revenues more than doubled to $8.35bn from $3.6bn a year earlier While many banks were bailed out by governments at high costs, it is now working people who are no made to pay for the crisis be it through unemployment, wage and pension cuts or the cut-back of welfare services more generally. The government is reducing ordinary people’s wages, pensions and hard-won welfare rights. They tell us we are all in the same boat and should all do our bit. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are certainly not all in this together. The rich are not affected, when there are cuts to the National Health Service. They have always had their private health plans and hospitals. It is really working people, who rely on public services, which suffer from these cuts. While the tabloids accused individual CEOs over greed and bonuses their deeper rooted view and the message they continully put out blames welfare scroungers, the disabled, and a work-shy underclass for the current problems.

Trade unions in the UK have not given up and continue the struggle against austerity cuts that threaten their living conditions and their rights. Last year saw the highest number of working days lost to labour disputes in more than two decades.

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, is taking part in todays protests. With friends like him who needs enemies?  The Occupy Movement got it right: 1% of the population owns just about almost everything, to the detriment of everyone else. Like the Con-Dems, the Labour Party too are bought and paid for and they are as hell-bent as their rivals on doing all they can for the one percent. The difference is that they talk a good story when it is convenient to do so, and often workers believe it. The will to believe is a mighty force. The unions demonstrate the futility of supporting the lesser evil. The Labour Party empty the unions’ coffers (£17m in donations since 2010).and mobilise their rank-and-file to do the foot-slogging, door-knocking canvassing work getting Labour Party candidates elected, demanding little in return and getting back even less. At the recent Labour party conference, Ed Miliband warned that a future Labour Government would have to continue making public spending cuts and defended public sector pay freezes. Today, our economy is a dictatorship of the 1%, where maximising profits comes before human needs. Socialists are for organising the economy democratically, where those who produce the wealth are the ones who decide how it should be used. The purpose of the Socialist Party is to assist in the emancipation of the workers from its enslavement to the capitalist class.

To those who still support the Labour Party we would appeal to them to reconsider their position. What does its boasted achievements amount to after all? With many on the Left calling for the re-formation of a Labour party, members of the Socialist Party ask "why bother?".  In office and out, Labour is a party for capitalism. It is a party that has regularly and routinely acted against the working class. Yet we are constantly told not to give up hope. Every time an election comes round the different left wing groups tell us to vote Labour. Can Labour be changed? We think that its history offers ample proof of the impossibility of changing Labour. Labour long ago gave up any pretence at wanting to get rid of capitalism.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Message Today

The text of the leaflet that our members will be handing out in London and Glasgow TUC protest marches.

A future that works?

The market system works. But not for us. It works for the handful of people who own industry or land. Most of them are doing well and getting richer. For them, the present system works, through our hard work.

For us, the workers, it doesn’t. The real value of wages has shrunk. Housing is becoming more unaffordable for many, rents are rising and benefits are being cut. Unemployment is at staggering proportions, especially among young people.

The truth is being revealed across the world: that the system is run in the interests of those who own it. For governments, repaying debts to those who got wealthy from our work is more important than us receiving education or health care.

For us, the future won’t work so long as we depend on an economy based on the market with the private or state ownership of the means of living.

In our workplaces we co-operate. We don’t charge our colleagues for our time: we work together.It's just that we work together for our employer. If we owned the land and all places of work ourselves,we could work together, to make all the things we need, without buying and selling and without an employing class. The alternative is voting for parties that accept the market system: parties that inevitably have to accept the existence of poverty and unemployment.

While we build a movement to bring about a better future, it’s important that we use trade unions to defend ourselves and get the best deal we possibly can under the present system. We must ensure democratic control of trade unions, and not follow charlatans and adventurers to glorious defeat. We should rely on ourselves, not leaders.

If we want to transcend the defensive position forced upon us by the pressures of the profit system then a vision beyond capitalism has to be on the agenda.

That future we call socialism, a future where we would have common and democratic ownership of the resources of the world. A future that will work if the majority of us want it and are prepared to work for it using democratic struggle to create a world of common wealth.