Friday, January 31, 2014

Selling Drugs

Not sick, well we have just the illness for you ...

Do you have undiagnosed hypothyroidism? Is your thyroid making you fat?  Hypothyroidism could be causing  stress, depression and chronic pain.
Synthroid, the thyroid supplement drug  enjoyed almost 25 percent growth last year and accounted for $153 million during the same quarter. Synthroid is the nation's leading thyroid supplement drug despite going off patent decade ago, because it is widely perceived as more stable than competitor and generic versions of the drug. Abbvie its manufacturer has set up the "National Academy of Hypothyroidism."

Do you have non-24 hour sleep wake disorder? “Struggling to keep up because not "sleeping through the night.Sound familiar? You're not alone!" "Could You Have Non-24?" There are only 146 citations for the disorder in the entire U.S. National Library of Medicine. The drug company Vanda have Non-24, Hetlioz.  Hetlioz is said to be chemically related to the sleeping pill marketed as Rozerem (Ramelteon).  on the web-site, it says "The key symptoms of Non-24 are the inability to sleep or stay asleep and a powerful urge to sleep during the day" with no mention of the accompanying blindness which is a cause of it.  A longer list on the site mentions waking up "groggy," being "less productive than usual at work or at school," relationships that "are strained," "sluggishness and forgetfulness," mood that is "affected" and frustration "because no one seems to understand what you're going through," and also again it doesn't mention it is mostly associated with blindness.

Then there was shift work sleep disorder. "Do you work a nontraditional work schedule?" asked the ads for Cephalon's stimulant Nuvigil. "Do you struggle to stay awake?" You may be suffering from Shift Work Sleep Disorder! Soon there was a website called the Wake-Up Squad to sell the disease. The Wake-Up Squad is "on a mission to lead the fight against Shift Work Disorder," it announced, offering facts and myths about the disease and a big red headline asking, "Are You At Risk?"
SOYMB has frequently reported on the health risks of working shifts but the remedy is not a magical pill or swallowing the claims of the pharmaceutical industry.

Capitalism will sell you anything, even a made-up illness. We won't bother relating the tales of the medicalisation of high spirited children.

From here

The Escape Through Drugs

The Yemeni capital of Sanaa is reputed to be over 2,500 years old, making it one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. But it is living on borrowed time.

Economists warn that if poverty trends continue, by 2030 more than half of the Sanaa’s projected four million inhabitants will be unable to afford their basic food needs. But before that happens, the city will run out of water. Yemen is an arid country, and Sanaa receives only 20 cm of precipitation per year. But climate is not the reason for the rapid depletion of groundwater stocks. The culprit is entirely man-made

“Sanaa is using water much faster than nature can replace it,” says Noori Gamal, a hydrologist at the Ministry of Water and Environment. “The water table is dropping by up to six metres a year. By 2025, Sanaa could be the first capital in the world to run out of water.”

Qat is a mild narcotic plant whose bitter-tasting leaves release a stimulant when chewed. It is an integral part of daily life in this poor Arab nation of 26 million, where 72 percent of men and a third of all women are reported to be habitual users. By one estimate, 20 million dollars is spent each day on qat, and 80 million work hours lost to its consumption.

“In Yemen, the day revolves around qat,” says Ali Ayoub, a leather merchant. Like many poor Yemenis, Ayoub spends more money on the narcotic leaves than food for his malnourished family. He says qat stimulates the mind and offers an escape from the hardships of Yemeni existence: grinding poverty, high unemployment, and ongoing political strife. “People say qat is the root of Yemen’s problems, but it is really just a symptom,” he says.

As the practice of qat chewing has grown, farmers drawn by the higher profits of the plant’s cultivation have abandoned traditional food and export crops. In 1997, some 80,000 hectares were planted with qat. By 2012, the number reached 250,000 hectares, according to official figures, and is growing at a rate of 10 percent per year. The cultivation of qat has displaced staple crops like wheat and maize, which has sent local food prices soaring. The increase of food prices has had a deep impact on many households, especially among the poor, who account for 40 percent of the population.

“Until the 1980s, over 90 percent of produce was grown locally, but now because of qat Yemen must import 90 percent of its food needs,” Gamal explains.

He estimates that qat fields consume about 50 percent more water per hectare than the cereal fields they have displaced. Farmers typically irrigate qat trees with water pumped from underground aquifers filled over thousands of years by the occasional rainfall that seeps through the soil and rock.

Government sources estimate that qat fields sucked up over a billion cubic metres of the country’s scarce water last year, accounting for about a third of all groundwater consumption.

Yemen already has one of the lowest annual per capita water shares in the world, estimated at 125 cubic metres, compared to the world average of 7,500 cubic metres. The annual water share is projected to drop to 55 cubic metres per capita by 2030 unless drastic measures are taken. A population with an annual water share of less than 1,000 cubic metres per capita faces water scarcity, while humans need 100 cubic metres per year to survive.

A study by Aden University found more than 100 types of pesticides used in qat cultivation, many known to transfer to babies through their mother’s milk. According to Yemen’s health ministry, carcinogenic pesticides used by farmers to increase qat production are responsible for about 70 percent of new cancer cases in the country. Mouth and throat cancer are widespread in Yemen, far exceeding world averages.

From here

Indebted Britain

17 percent of the UK’s households rent from the private sector, an increase from the 8 percent level through much of the 1990s. In London, the proportion of the population that rent privately has more than doubled from below 10 percent in 2001 to over 20 percent in 2011.

Home ownership, which hit a peak of 69 percent of all UK households in 2001, but has currently dropped to below 65 percent.

The average household debt in Britain stands at £54,000, nearly twice the level seen a decade ago. 3.9 million British families lack enough savings to cover their mortgage or rent for more than a month. 5,000 households are losing their homes every year because they cannot make their payments.

The total personal debt in Britain has reached £1.43 trillion, almost as high as the country’s national economic output.


President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements (us mortals call them lies) about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001

The Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism explains "It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda," the report reads, citing multiple government reports, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the 9/11 Commission and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, which reported that Hussein had suspended Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to revive it. “Some journalists -- indeed, even some entire news organizations -- have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical," the report reads. "These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq."

 Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein's possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq's links to al Qaeda.  Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer each made 109 false statements, it says. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made 85, Rice made 56, Cheney made 48 and Scott McLellan, also a press secretary, made 14.

Has the public and have the press, learned the lesson of Iraq to doubt pro-war propaganda?.Libya? Iran? Syria? SOYMB doesn’t think so.

It pays dividends to invest

This year, UK companies will pay shareholders an estimated £101 billion, 27 per cent jump on the previous year.

Investors in the blue-chip FTSE 100 index would have been content last year however, as dividends here bounced 7 per cent, against a rise of just 2.9 per cent for the FTSE 250.

The biggest investors in our large companies today are central and local government pension schemes, private sector pension providers, insurance companies and unit and investment trusts investing on behalf of millions of small private investors. A typical pension fund will hold substantial lines of shares in FTSE 100 giants such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Vodafone, HSBC and GlaxoSmith­Kline. Together they paid out more than £28bn in dividends last year – more than a third of the UK’s total.

Figures over five years, investment in the FTSE 100 would have given a capital gain of 52 per cent. With dividends re-invested, the overall growth would have been 83 per cent.

Real Australians

Real Australians don’t swear, don’t spit, don’t gossip. Real Australians don’t irritate or disturb other people. Nor do they ignore and ostracise others for such bad behaviour or anti-social acts, do they?

Instead, the government of ‘real’ Australia deport such transgressors! To think they even accuse the newly arrived asylum seekers of refusing to assimilate and act like ‘real’ Australians!!

The Australian Government has been accused of “criminalising everyday behaviour” after a draft code of conduct for asylum seekers was leaked, which reportedly proposed that those who spread rumours or swear in public could be deported.

A leaked draft of the set of rules allegedly drawn up by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison reveals that asylum seekers could potentially be deported if they: “irritate” people, “disturb someone”, spit or swear in public, “spread rumours" or "exclude someone from a group or place on purpose”. The document describes “Antisocial” behaviour as “an action that is against the order of society". The draft reads that it is intended to set out "how people are expected to behave while they are living in the Australian community on a bridging visa". It explains:  “This may include damaging property, spitting or swearing in public or other actions that other people might find offensive. Disruptive means to cause disorder or to disturb someone or something.”

A spokesman from  the independent Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said : “The idea that spitting in public or getting a parking fine is enough to get you sent to an off shore detention centre is extraordinary. It is an abuse of power and creates a climate of terror for asylum seekers.”

Blair the Democrat

 A democratically elected President overthrown in a military coup d’├ętat who is then put on trial for his life as a “terrorist”.

His replacement being an Army general, now Field Marshall, whose men have gunned down 1,000 protesters since last summer, who has also now pushed through a new constitution with not just a majority but an impressive 98.1 % yes vote (albeit on a turnout of 38.6%) which forbids the Muslim Brotherhood ever standing again in any election.

20 journalists for the Al Jazeera television channel including 4 foreign ones, two being British, charged with with joining or aiding a terrorist organisation and endangering national security, their identities kept secret by the Egyptian authorities.

Surely, such acts would be condemned by all supporters of democracy? Umm...Middle-East peace envoy Tony Blair doesn’t think so. Blair defends the Egyptian army's decision to remove Egypt's first elected leader. War criminals have a tendency to cling to one another, don't they?

  Blair said: "We should support those people in the region who want the open-minded society and the modern economy. That means we support the government here in know we can debate the past and it’s probably not very fruitful to do so, but right now I think it’s important the whole of the international community get behind the leadership here and helps.”"

Of course, Blair is well known for his skewed vision of the world and his re-writing of his personal involvement in past events which he understandably declines to debate. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's not over yet

Average UK living standards have fallen "dramatically" since the recession. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculated that a mid-range household's income in 2013-14 was 6% below its pre-crisis peak.

This was felt equally across high and low income groups when the cost of living was taken into account. But those on low incomes could feel the squeeze more in the coming years. This was the result of further cuts to benefits and tax credits, the IFS said. It added that earnings might pick-up faster than benefits and tax credits, which meant the poorest might be squeezed harder than others.

Rising food and energy prices, which formed a bigger proportion of the spending of poorer households, had risen faster than the average cost of living measured by inflation. The report said that inflation between 2008 and 2013 was 20%, while energy prices rose by 60% and food prices were up by 30% over the same period.

"Looking forward, there is little reason to expect a strong recovery in living standards over the next few years," the report said.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that UK real wage growth was the strongest in the G7 group of countries before the financial crisis. However, post-downturn, the UK has experienced the largest fall in real wage growth among this group of countries - the UK, the US, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Canada.

Owen Jones’s hopeless agenda

Writing in the Independent on Sunday (26 January), ubiquitous Labour leftwinger Owen Jones proposed a nine-point ‘Agenda for Hope’.  It is essentially a wish-list of reforms to capitalism, as illustrated by the first of the points:
‘A statutory living wage, with immediate effect, for large businesses and the  public sector, and phased  in for small and medium  businesses over a five-year Parliament. This would save billions spent on social security each year by reducing subsidies to low-paying bosses, as well as stimulating the economy, creating jobs because of higher demand, stopping pay being undercut by cheap labour, and tackling the scandal of most of Britain’s poor being in work. An honest days’ pay for an honest days’ work would finally be enshrined in law.’

The ‘finally’ is a nice touch since the campaign for a ‘living wage’ was started by the old ILP, then still part of the Labour Party, over 80 years ago in the 1920s. Since Jones has demonstrated in the past that he has some knowledge of Marx’s ideas, he must have chosen the phrase ‘an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work’ deliberately. It is of course a modern version of the demand for ‘a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’ which Marx, in a talk to British trade union leaders in 1865, described as a ‘conservative motto’ as opposed to the ‘revolutionary watchword’ of ‘abolition of the wages system.’

Jones does not give a figure for what he considers to be a living wage. At the moment the so-called living wage which some employers and especially local councils have agreed to pay no one beneath is £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 in the rest of the country, compared with the legal minimum wage of £6.31 an hour. This ‘living wage’ is only about £15,000 for a year of full-time employment outside London. Although this would be an improvement on what many workers are getting now it is hardly a living wage in any reasonable sense of the word ‘living’.

What Jones is advocating is a legally-decreed wage increase for millions of workers. This is unlikely to have the effect he intends. It could well ‘save billions spent on social security each year by reducing subsidies to low-paying bosses’. The Tories are on to this too and favour an increase in the minimum wage for precisely this reason. On the other hand, it could lead to employers laying off workers or even going out of business, so augmenting the ranks of the unemployed and social security payments to them. Not that the cost of social security should be of concern to workers. It’s only a problem for the capitalist class since they pay for it.

One thing it won’t do is stimulate ‘the economy, creating jobs because of higher demand.’ Since the extra wages will have to paid by employers this will not result in any ‘higher demand’; the increase in demand resulting from higher wages (to the extent that it happens) would be offset by a fall in demand derived from employers’ profits. It’s a zero-sum game. So it won’t stimulate the economy or create extra jobs. In fact, since it is profits not wages that drive the economy, the reduced profits could have the opposite effect.

Owen Jones has failed to grasp that capitalism is not a collection of random bad things that can be tackled piecemeal. It’s an economic system with its own mode of functioning that cannot be reformed by legislation to work other than as a system that gives priority to profits not wages and which has to be done away with altogether in one revolutionary change.

Charity Begins At Home?

In an October 2013 report, public health lawyer and activist Michele Simon documents how the transnational burger colossus McDonald’s benefits from the Ronald McDonald House Charities brand, yet only disburses roughly 20 percent of the funding globally and ten percent locally.
The Ronald McDonald Houses operate internationally to assist financially beset families with shelter and everyday necessities. Simon explains that in 2012 McDonald’s brought in revenue of $27 billion but short changes those appealing for assistance from the in-house charity. McDonald’s supposed philanthropy is belied by the reality of the numbers. According to the report’s findings, McDonald’s charitable giving is 33 percent less than leading corporations. Further, McDonald’s spends almost 25 times as much on advertising as on charitable endeavors.

“I show how McDonald’s enjoys a huge public relations and marketing boost relative to how little money it donates,” Simon explains. “In fact, Ronald McDonald Houses report that the name causes many people to assume that McDonald’s provides 100 percent of the charity’s funds – and that this ‘common misperception’ is ‘absolutely confusing.’ In other words, the McDonald’s brand may be more of a liability than it’s worth.”
Simon also examines how McDonald’s employs the Ronald McDonald figure to target children in schools under the guise of charity. The benevolent front is used “as a shield against critics, to distract from its harmful business practices.”

Source: Michelle Simon, “How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children,” Alternet, 

Anti-Migrant Hysteria

The relentless diet of anti-migrant hysteria served by the mainstream press for the past few months has been staggering. The media, whose owners make up part of the bosses class, help set the agenda for their friends in political parties to make increasing severe policies more palatable. The media shapes public opinion, even if that opinion is formed by our own experiences, it is manipulated into worst case scenario knee jerk soundbites, constant and all pervasive, until what we think on an issue is so influenced by the arguments we are spoon fed, that a process of de-indoctrination is needed just to gain some clarity on what is actually happening. A recent study, again by Ipsos MORI, illustrates how our perceptions do not match reality. It is precisely this that politicians and their far-right cheerleaders utilise to distort and mis-inform large parts of the populations into believing, accepting and supporting government policies.

The idea that Britain is “full up” is also somewhat complicated by the fact that, according to the government’s own figures, more than 700,000 homes in Britain stand empty, including nearly 300,000 which have been empty for more than six months.

Working-class people in Britain are right to be concerned about the lack of affordable housing, low wages, and the strain faced by our public services. But migrants are not to blame for those problems as migrants are not in control of rents, wages or public sector spending. Employers, landlords and the government which represents their interests are. Therefore it is where any struggle that hopes to challenge this situation needs to target – not migrants but those that are actually in control.

Politicians of all three mainstream parties compete to see who can best pander to anti-migrant sentiment. Their rhetoric is cynical vote-grabbing; savvy Tories, Lib Dems, and New Labourites know that stopping immigration is neither desirable nor possible. Even on capitalist terms, Britain’s economy needs immigrants, on whose labour our essential public services often rely. But politicians play up to, and help reinforce, fears about immigration in order to bolster their support and to keep working-class voters from turning on the real enemy: the capitalist parties and their policies.

Taken from here 

The Charade of Phony Crony Populism

The State of the Union address - a state of undress. The emperor without any clothes.

“The Obama administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery,” scholar and activist Cornel West said in November 2010. More than three years later and entering his sixth presidential year, Obama’s record does little to refute that assessment.

During 2009 and 2010 — when Democrats controlled not only the White House and Senate but also the House — Obama skipped past vital options for working and want-to-be-working Americans. For instance, he never really pushed for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have helped unions regain footing and halt their downward slide of membership, especially after crackdowns in state legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

Obama presented himself as an ally of federal workers, he neglected to mention at the end of 2010, he signed a bill that prohibited pay increases for most of the federal government’s civilian employees. The pay freeze had come at his initiative.

Instead Obama beat the drum about his executive order to increase the minimum wage for some federal contract employees, which will see few workers affected. His plan is to raise wages to $10.10 for people making a miserly $7.25, but only some of them. And only the new ones.

Obama  is presiding over waves of privatization of USPS assets and services, with grave consequences for its workers and the public, having done nothing to undo the extreme pension-prefunding rules that were imposed during the last two years of the George W. Bush administration.

Obama presents himself as a champion of working people but his appointments of his top economic officials belie the pose.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is a former top executive at Citigroup, where he ran a unit that profited from the housing collapse. The same collapse was also very good to Obama’s current commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, a Chicago billionaire who profited handsomely from banking operations that methodically targeted low-income people for subprime mortgages. (By the way, Pritzker was the national finance chair for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and a co-chair of his 2012 campaign.)

Obama offers his continuing allegiance to the predatory elites of Wall Street and not to the people. But what politician would make such an admission? But socialists don’t expect anything different. We understand that any hope for real economic change begins with dismantling such a system, getting rid of it entirely & implementing something different and sustainable.


Distorting Causes of Poverty

This article by Garry Leech on the Counterpunch website is an interesting read and worth reposting extracts from.

 “..Microsoft chairman Bill Gates claimed that foreign aid from wealthy nations and philanthropy were successfully alleviating global poverty and inequality. . According to Gates, “The poor have in fact been doing quite well and people really should feel good about their generosity.” He went on to note, “This is very good news, it means equity in the world is closer than we think.” But is this in fact true? Are foreign aid and philanthropy proving to be as successful as Gates claims? Or are they helping to promote a narrative that seeks to gloss over the brutal realities of global capitalism?

World Bank statistics support Gates’ claims by showing that the number of people enduring “extreme poverty” (less than $1.25 a day) has diminished significantly from 1.94 billion to 1.22 billion over the past 30 years while the number of people living in “poverty” (less than $2.00 a day) has remained relatively constant over the same period. These numbers suggest that three quarters of a billion people have elevated themselves from “extreme poverty” to either a life of “poverty” or out of poverty completely. However, many of those who have escaped poverty still earn less than $2.50 a day, which means that they are classified as poor. In fact, some three billion people, almost half the world’s population, live on less than $2.50 a day.

The process of urbanization in recent decades has resulted in a dramatic demographic shift in many countries in the global South, which has been highlighted by the emergence of scores of mega-cities and their corresponding slums with populations near or above 20 million. This process has mirrored the apparent successes in poverty reduction noted above because statistics show that urban poverty levels are often lower than those in the countryside. The implication is that rural residents enduring extreme poverty can improve their economic situation by moving to urban areas where they can earn higher incomes. But in actuality, despite these higher incomes, rural migrants to cities often experience increased economic and physical insecurity.

As long as people have access to land they can often meet their basic needs by utilizing readily-accessible natural resources for food, shelter and clothing. In many traditional and indigenous rural communities people engage in subsistence farming and sell or trade their surplus production in local markets. But when peasant and indigenous families are forced to abandon their lands they usually have no other option than to move to towns or cities in order to survive. Without access to land, they are compelled to work as wage laborers in order to earn the necessary income to purchase the basic needs that the land previously provided for them.

A common myth in the capitalist narrative is that the Industrial Revolution liberated the rural population from the land so they could become wage laborers in the cities and improve their standard of living. But if the English rural population felt “liberated” by the emergence of factory work then why didn’t people flock voluntarily to the cities to take advantage of the new industrial jobs? Why did it require a series of Enclosure Acts passed by parliament to force peasants off the land that had provided them with their basic needs for centuries so they had no choice but to migrate to the cities to become wage laborers (and consumers) in order to survive?

The history of capitalism is the history of the forced displacement of people from the land. In other words, capitalism is a process that ensures that people no longer have the capacity to meet their own basic needs. As Karl Marx noted, “The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole [capitalist] process. The history of this expropriation assumes different aspects in different countries, and runs through its various phases in different orders of succession, and at different historical epochs.”

This process has been evident in the aforementioned enclosure of the “commons” in Britain; the forced displacement from the land (and corresponding genocide) of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas; the forced removal of more than 12 million blacks from rural Africa to work as slaves in the “New World”; and the intensification of the forced displacement of peasants in the global South in recent decades under the process of capitalist globalization, which ensures access to valuable natural resources and a surplus army of cheap laborers for multinational corporations.

Poverty statistics help legitimize this process of forced displacement by suggesting that it is beneficial for displaced rural populations because as wage laborers (or informal sector workers) many of them increase their income levels above $2.00 a day, thereby lifting themselves out of poverty. But the burgeoning shantytowns surroundi surrounding many cities in the global South highlight the fact that the number of rural residents moving to urban areas in recent decades has far outstripped the number of jobs created. As a result, many migrants are forced to endure the economic insecurity of the informal economy; in other words, a life without a formal job, income security or social benefits. According to the United Nations, the percentage of the economically active population in the global South engaged in the informal economy has almost doubled in recent decades from 21 per cent in 1970 to approximately 40 per cent.

In most countries the cost of living in urban areas is significantly higher than in rural regions, particularly with regard to food and housing. So while many of these new urban residents earn a higher income by rummaging through municipal garbage dumps in search of any item of value they can sell as illegal street vendors, this income is often insufficient to meet their basic food needs and other increased costs of living such as housing, utilities and transportation. Consequently, despite now earning more than $1.25 a day, or even surpassing the poverty level income of $2.00 a day, many migrants to urban areas face even greater economic insecurity than they did in the countryside.

This economic (and poverty) reality is evident in a 2009 United Nations report which states, “Despite higher rates of poverty in rural areas, rural food insecurity is not necessarily higher than that in the cities. In fact, … in 12 of 18 selected low-income developing countries, the incidence of food insecurity (as measured by food-energy deficiency) in urban areas is the same or higher than in the countryside, even though urban areas on average have higher incomes.”

One of the problems is the fact that the limited financial resources of the urban poor also have to cover the higher urban costs of housing, utilities and transportation among other things. Therefore, as the UN report notes, “Food security in the cities thus depends to a large extent on individual household circumstances as the household operates within this ‘purchasing environment.’ The question becomes whether the relatively higher income compared to rural dwellers can compensate for what may be higher food prices and demands to spend remaining income on other needs, as well as the much lower capacity to buffer food price shocks by actually growing or raising the food the family need.”

Not only do many migrants to urban areas face increased economic insecurity despite achieving higher income levels, but they are also forced to endure the skyrocketing levels of violent crime that is the brutal reality of daily life in many cities in the global South. Many also struggle to cope with the disintegration of the social networks and cultural practices prevalent in their rural communities; social and cultural practices often directly linked to nature and the land...

.... The wealth gap between the global North and the global South has grown from a factor of 3:1 in 1820 to 35:1 in 1950 and to 72:1 in 1992 to 167:1 in 2010. Throughout the history of capitalism far more wealth has flowed from the South to the North than vice-versa. Today much of that wealth is transferred to nations in the global North in the form of debt payments (often for loans that have been paid off several times over due to the amount of interest paid). In fact, the annual debt payments made to the North by many nations in the global South exceed the amount that flows in the opposite direction in the form of development aid, remittances and philanthropic donations. ...Foreign development aid from wealthy nations and philanthropy provided by Bill Gates and others of his ilk help to distort this historical trend by creating the impression that wealth (and generosity) actually flow from the North to the South, thereby humanizing a global capitalist system that primarily benefits people in the global North....”

SOYMB, as it has on so many occasions, finds it frustrating that writers and thinkers who offer such insightful observations fail at the final hurdle in offering effective solutions. Sadly, Leech can only suggest debt cancellation and land redistributation, the latter at least possessing the merit of allowing local decision making on food allocation. How we wait for such people as Leech to come to the realisation that only socialism offers a permanent solution to poverty.

The full article here

Private Police

Virgin Media offered the Metropolitan police a 25% share of compensation recovered from fraudsters the company had targeted in a private prosecution, in which the Met used its powers of arrest and search as part of the private prosecution. The case began in 2008, and centred on set-top boxes being imported into the UK which gave access to Virgin services without the company being paid any fees. Virgin Media estimated the fraud cost it £144m a year and decided on a private prosecution. It is believed that the CPS, which usually brings criminal suspects to court, was not approached. The company enlisted the Met's help "for the arrests and obtaining search warrants".

The lord chief justice Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Foskett and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, said the agreement between Virgin and the Met risked damaging the police's reputation for independence. He said: "It did in fact provide an incentive for the police to devote resources to assisting Virgin in their claim for compensation.” The most senior judge in England and Wales also warned about the possible dangers of more prosecutions being privatised as state funding is being cut for both the police and Crown Prosecution Service, writing: "There is an increase in private prosecutions at a time of retrenchment of state activity."

Labour MP Tom Watson said: "This sounds like emerging two-tier policing where corporate interests can buy the time of the police, leaving those who can't offer remuneration losing out. This is creeping privatisation with big business hiring police powers."

Jenny Jones, London assembly member for the Green party, said: "I hate the thought that if you are rich you can buy more justice that if you are poor. It's private policing. Paid work could take priority over other very important crime. Police were not out catching other criminals."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Olympic Games, The Hunger Games, The Human Cost

As a former Olympic athlete, I can tell you from experience that the Olympic Games have much more in common with The Hunger Games than anyone would want to admit.
I connect with the inhumanity of The Hunger Games because I’ve been there, as a luge competitor at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. No, I didn’t get sucked into the depths of an artificial lake, like the character played by Jennifer Lawrence. But I did get sucked into the rafters of an artificially manufactured tube of glare ice, only to come crashing down in the second run of my Olympic moment.

The grandeur of the opening ceremonies of The Hunger Games is designed to mask the cruelty of the competition itself. The Olympic opening ceremonies serve a similar purpose. Like the kids representing the districts of Panem, each nation’s athletes are trotted around a massive arena like prize ponies, shrouded in the patriotic glory of their particular flag. The carefully orchestrated pageantry is misleading, telling us that the Olympics are a celebration of the human capacity to achieve, to overcome obstacles, and that the world’s best athletes represent something bigger than themselves.

But make no mistake: for the global elite, the Olympics are an investment—and one with a rapidly growing price tag. At the London Games, the cost of the opening ceremonies alone was a whopping $42.3 million. This year, Russia will shell out more than $51 billion for the two-week event, making these Games more expensive than all previous Winter Olympics combined.

In The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence is the sacrificial lamb of District 12. As one of the prize ponies of the US team, I served a similar purpose for the Turin Games. Groomed from the tender age of 11, I spent my childhood pursuing Olympic glory, which epitomizes the American dream of merit-based success.
Looking back now, I finally understand an experience I couldn’t quite grasp as a child. I see that the beautiful illusion I once searched for is a fabrication, the creation of ingenious marketing mechanisms by those who run the Olympic show. I once hoped that the patriotic glory I was told so much about would give meaning to the physical and emotional pain of my athletic struggle. I grew accustomed to gritting my teeth under the strain of various forms of pain: the daily grind of hours of elite-level training, and the toll it exacted on my developing body; the pain I felt upon slamming into a wall of ice at 80 miles per hour; the biting winter cold that whipped across my thinly protected, spandex-clad form while sitting atop a frozen winter landscape. Then there was the emotional pain and fear, which took on various forms: the constant fear of bodily harm that scarred my mind, just as my body was scarred by more than a hundred stitches; the fear that I would disappoint those I loved and those who had invested time and money in my athletic career. There was the pain of failure, of hope swallowed by frequent defeat. Then there was the gendered pain: that of an adolescent female standing in underwear in the glass cube of sport science, each area of fat accumulation clinically pinched by a man with metal tongs. I once hoped that by withstanding all this pain, there would one day be a payoff, even if only an emotional one.

Now I understand my failure to connect to the pomp of the opening ceremonies, the confused emptiness that consumed me as I stood in the cold of a Turin winter, wrapped in the American flag, wincing under the cruel glare of a thousand flashbulbs. The real function of the Olympic athlete in the world of corporatized sports is clear to me now.
Amateur status is mandatory for any Olympic hopeful, but athletic training at the elite level is a full-time job. Most nations get around the problem by giving their Olympic athletes significant government support, but our best athletes are almost entirely dependent on corporate sponsorship. For the athletes, the consequences of this addiction can be disastrous.

The socialization of my allegiance to Verizon began the moment I was selected—as an 11-year-old—for the US development team. The culture within the US Luge Association viewed brand loyalty as integral to the survival of the organization. All of my clothing was plastered with the Verizon logo. I was not allowed near any camera without giving a visual and verbal statement of thanks to Verizon for making all of my dreams come true. I went through intensive media training each year to reinforce this allegiance—to learn how to be a better spokesperson for Verizon. During my Olympic year, I signed away my rights to use media time for just about anything other than gratitude to sponsors. It was a condition for entrance into the Olympic Village.

In the wake of the 2008 recession, Verizon found itself on rocky terrain, so it began breaking many of its sponsorship contracts with amateur sports organizations. One of those was with the US Luge Association, to which it gave millions of dollars a year. USA Luge, which spent decades cultivating this relationship at the expense of all other sources of funding, has been unable to replace Verizon. Today’s luge athletes have had to look elsewhere for support, with many having little choice but to join the US Army World Class Athlete Program (not surprising, given the similarity in value systems: both the armed forces and elite-level sports cultivate extreme discipline, patriotism and victory at all costs). Apparently, one must be willing to enlist—and possibly fight and die for one’s country—in order to cover the expenses of international competition. Many of those who haven’t gone this route hold down outside jobs in addition to full-time training schedules.

There’s a lot of money to be made in Olympic sports, a huge global media event that rolls around every two years. Corporate-sponsor bottom lines are merely one indicator of the vast sums involved. To see just who is generating this wealth, one has to look no further than the act of sponsorship itself, with individual athletes and entire teams purchased and traded among the corporate elite like valuable additions to bursting stock portfolios. As an athlete in a sport as insignificant in the United States as luge, I could never hope to see my face plastered on a Wheaties box. However, I wasn’t too obscure to escape the eye of the masterminds of gender commodification at Maxim. Apparently, spandex uniforms make the women of USA Luge hot commodities. Lucky me.

For sponsors, the way to cash in is clear. Athletes are put up for sale in a variety of ways. Olympic event coverage, elaborate marketing devices and product placement, branding rights, and exclusive access to the use of athlete images and identities are used not only in the sale of media products, but in the gamut of other commodities attached to the Olympic brand during the course of an Olympic year. The Olympic rings themselves have been copyrighted by the IOC, reserved exclusively for use by corporate sponsors.
As those who generate super-profits for sponsors, today’s Olympic athletes are workers. Like any other workers, athletes are limited by their economic vulnerability—in this case, control by the sporting hierarchy. Iron-clad corporate control enforces social discipline over the athletes themselves, but also over the economy of the Olympics as a whole. The IOC, the USOC and each sport’s national governing body are mere intermediaries between athletes and corporate sponsors, solidifying the relationship of exploitation.

Corporate domination of the Olympic economy is supreme. Yet as any good capitalist knows, the best way to ensure the continuation of top-down control is successful psychological manipulation. All too often, athletes’ perspectives on the nature of their social position are shaped by the same PR campaigns that further the exploitation of their labor. To sponsors, athlete value is about how much money can be made off an individual not just in the act of competition but, more importantly, in victory. It’s no surprise that the indicators of athlete success are also those that drive market success, and that both are products of the same ideology: competition, individualism, domination. When these values are combined with the athletes’ tenuous economic identity as an exploited labor pool, the competition for resources cements a divide-and-conquer relationship that undermines their ability to think and act in terms of solidarity with their fellow athlete-workers. Throw in a teaspoon of patriotism and a dash of nationalism, and the recipe for divide and conquer is complete. The result is a subservient class that plays by the rules of the corporate sponsors and the sporting managerial class—the IOC, USOC and other national governing bodies.

The economics of the Olympic movement mirror the global picture. Privatization, deregulation and austerity politics have overtaken the world of sports, just as they have all other aspects of the global economy. But every cloud has a silver lining, right? Privatization may appear to lead us toward a dystopian future, but the potential remains for a uniquely explosive, and possibly transformative, resistance. Corporate supremacy in the Olympic movement has brought under its control the world’s best athletes. In previous epochs of working-class growth, class consciousness has inevitably blossomed. As the austerity agenda advances, governments will likely continue slashing their budgetary allocations for “unnecessary spending.” Clearly, the well-being of the sporting world’s prize ponies is on the chopping block. The likelihood is that the privatization of sports will continue on a global scale. Will the creation of an internationalized resistance follow? That’s up to the athletes—and those in solidarity with them.

By Samantha Retrosi who competed in women's singles luge at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

from here

A call for common sense

This article is worth quoting from at length since it encompasses the socialists' aspiration for social solutions to social problems. It is written by John Avery, professor at the University of Copenhagen and a peace activist.

"Our modern civilization has been built up by means of a worldwide exchange of ideas and inventions. It is built on the achievements of many ancient cultures. China, Japan, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Islamic world, Christian Europe, and the Jewish intellectual traditions, all have contributed.

The sharing of scientific and technological knowledge is essential to modern civilization. The great power of science is derived from an enormous concentration of attention and resources on the understanding of a tiny fragment of nature. It would make no sense to proceed in this way if knowledge were not permanent, and if it were not shared by the entire world.

Science is not competitive. It is cooperative. It is a great monument built by many thousands of hands, each adding a stone to the cairn. This is true not only of scientific knowledge but also of every aspect of our culture, history, art and literature, as well as the skills that produce everyday objects upon which our lives depend. Civilization is cooperative. It is not competitive.

No scientist understands all of science. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci could come close in his day, but today it is impossible. Nor do the vast majority people who use cell phones, personal computers and television sets every day understand in detail how they work. Our health is preserved by medicines, which are made by processes that most of us do not understand, and we travel to work in automobiles and buses that we would be completely unable to construct.

As our civilization has become more and more complex, it has become increasingly vulnerable to disasters. We see this whenever there are power cuts or transportation failures due to severe storms. If electricity should fail for a very long period of time, our complex society would cease to function. The population of the world is now so large that it is completely dependent on the the high efficiency of modern agriculture. We are also very dependent on the stability of our economic system.

How will we get through the difficult period ahead?...Above all, we must maintain our human solidarity...[human civilization] has been built by all humans, working together. By working together, we must now ensure that it is handed on intact to our children and grandchildren."

Some Numbers to Ponder

1. New income generated since 2009 that has gone to the top 1 percent: 95 percent

2. Financial wealth controlled by the bottom 60 percent of all Americans: 2.3 percent

3. Record combined wealth of the top 400 richest Americans: $2,000,000,000,000

4. Real decline in median middle-class incomes since 1999: $5,000

5. Percentage of Hispanic and African-American children living in poverty, respectively: 33.8 percent; 36.7 percent

6. Federal minimum wage: $7.25. What the minimum wage would be if it had kept pace with gains in worker productivity since 1968: $21.72

7. Number of U.S. workers laboring at or below minimum wage: 3.6 million – the near equivalent of the population of Los Angeles.

8. Amount that food stamps will be cut in 2014: $5 billion. Subsidy to the fast-food industry, paid out as safety-net benefits to McWorkers earning poverty wages: $7 billion.

9. 24. Official unemployment rate: 6.7 percent. Alternate rate including Americans who've given up looking for work, or have only been able to secure part-time employment: 13.1 percent. Number of jobs the United States is still down from 2008 employment peak: 1.69 million. Number of Americans who were cut off from long-term unemployment benefits at the turn of the year: 1.3 million

10. Number of Americans disenfranchised from voting for felony convictions: 5.9 million. Share of those disenfranchised voters who are African-American: 37 percent. Total incarcerated U.S. population: 2.3 million. Total population on probation/parole: 4.8 million. States that could be entirely filled by all of the Americans under correctional supervision: Nevada and Kentucky

Fact of the Day

A man will stand trial next month after being caught taking some tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from the dustbins. Initially arrested for burglary, the three men were charged under an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being discovered in "an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food".

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger - RIP

The Case For Working Less

The focus of conventional employment policy is on creating “more work”. People without work and in receipt of benefits are viewed as a drain on the state and in need of assistance or direct coercion to get them into employment. There is the belief that work is the best form of welfare and that those who are able to work ought to work.
This particular focus on work has come at the expense of another, far more radical policy goal, that of creating “less work”. Yet the pursuit of less work could provide a route to a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life.
The idea that society might work less in order to enjoy life more goes against standard thinking that celebrates the virtue and discipline of hard work. Dedication to work, so the argument goes, is the best route to prosperity. There is also the idea that work offers the opportunity for self-realisation, adding to any material benefits from work. “Do what you love” in work, we are told, and success will follow.
But this ideology is based on a myth that work can always set us free and provide us with the basis for a good life. As I have written previously, this fails to confront – indeed it conceals – the acute hardships of much work performed in modern society. For many, work is about doing “what you hate”.

Here I want to address another issue that is overlooked in conventional policy debates. This is the need to diminish work. Working less presents several advantages. One is the opportunity to overcome the anomaly of overwork for some and unemployment for others. Sharing out work more evenly across the available population by reducing average working time would enable those who work too much to work less and those who do not work at all to partake in some work.

Another advantage is the opportunity to enhance the quality of work by reducing drudgery and extending opportunities for creative activity. Reducing work time, in this sense, can be as much about realising the intrinsic rewards of work as reducing its burdensome qualities.
Economists may cry foul that a reduction in working time will add to firm costs and lead to job losses (mainstream economics accuses advocates of shorter work hours of succumbing to the “lump of labour fallacy” and of failing to see the extra costs of hiring additional workers on short-hour contracts). One retort to this is that longer work hours are not that productive. Shorter work hours may actually be more productive if they increase the morale and motivation of workers. In practice, we could achieve the same standard of living with fewer hours of work.
But the more profound question is whether we should be asking society to tolerate long work hours for some and zero hours for others. Surely we can achieve a more equitable allocation that offers everyone enough time to work and enough time to do what they want? A reduction in work time would offer a route to such an allocation.

There is also the deeper issue of whether we should be measuring the value of our lives by what we produce. The cult of productivity crowds out other more “leisurely” ways of living that can add to human well-being. Challenging this cult and seeking ways to lighten the burden of work could allow us all to live better lives inside and outside of work.
Arguments for shorter work time have a long history. Keynes, for example, gave support to a reduction in working time as a way of achieving full employment. In a letter to the poet TS Eliot in 1945, Keynes suggested that “less work” represented the “ultimate solution” to unemployment. He also saw merit in using productivity gains to reduce work time and famously looked forward to a point (around 2030) when people would be required to work 15 hours a week. Working less was a part of Keynes’s vision of a “good society”.

Marx, from a radically different perspective, saw a reduction in working time as an essential ingredient of a future communist society. Work was part of the “realm of necessity” and via the use of technology it could be curtailed as a way to expand the “realm of freedom” in which people could realise their creative capacities in activities of their own choosing. Marx importantly thought that under communism work in the “realm of necessity” could be fulfilling as it would elicit and harness the creativity of workers. Whatever irksome work remained in the realm of necessity under communism again could be lessened by the harnessing of technology.

Yet another advocate of shorter work time was John Stuart Mill. He dismissed the “gospel of work” in part because it drew a veil over the real costs of work, including slave work that its advocates sought to defend. Instead, Mill proposed a “gospel of leisure”, arguing that technology should be used to curtail work time as far as possible. This stress on technology as a means to shorten work time was later to feature in Bert­rand Russell’s 1932 essay, In Praise of Idleness.

The essential ideas of the above writers resonate still today. They cut through romantic views of work and show how human progress depends on society performing less work, not more. Although developed in radically different ways, their ideas point to a future where the burden of work is lighter and more time is available for free creative activity. At least in the case of Marx, there is still the prospect of turning work into a fulfilling activity, but the latter objective is seen as achievable only within the context of a situation in which work time is reduced. Less work is seen as a necessary foundation for better work.

Ultimately, the reduction in working time is about creating more opportunities for people to realise their potential in all manner of activities including within the work sphere. Working less, in short, is about allowing us to live more. Let’s work to achieve it.

By David Spencer

See original here, with links

SOYMB would add one small post script: let's go the whole hog and abolish wage slavery and with it the capitalist system. Let's work to achieve socialism!


This Drug Isn't For Poor People

In 2005, the FDA granted approval for a promising new cancer-fighting drug called Nexavar. Bayer took it to market shortly thereafter, and it is currently an approved treatment for late-stage kidney and liver cancer.
That is, so long as you live in the developed world. In a recently published interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said that his company’s drug isn’t for poor people.

“We did not develop this medicine for Indians…we developed it for western patients who can afford it,” he said back in December. The quote is quickly making its way across Indian news outlets.

The comment was in response to a decision by an Indian patent court that granted a compulsory license to a local company to reproduce Bayer’s drug. Under Indian patent laws, if a product is not available locally at a reasonable cost, other companies may apply for licenses to reproduce those products at a more affordable price. Nexavar costs an estimated $69,000 for a full year of treatment in India, 41 times the country’s annual per capita income.
In 2012, Indian pharmaceutical company Natco Pharma Ltd. applied for just such a license, and it was granted. The company began reproducing the drug at a 97 percent discount, offering it for just $177. Bayer has been appealing the ruling ever since, and in December Dekkers told Businessweek that he viewed the compulsory license as “essentially theft” before dismissing poor Indian cancer patients.

Pharmaceutical companies have long been accused of ignoring the plight of those who cannot afford their astronomical prices. In the United States, where insurance companies often pick up most of the tab, consumers are often shielded from the true cost of drugs they are prescribed (Nexavar, for example, costs as much as $96,000 in the United States, but Bayer ensures that eligible US patients only see a $100 copay).
Dekkers’ quote brings into sharp relief the industry’s general ambivalence towards the developing world. A 2012 report from Doctors Without Borders found that most pharmaceutical companies devote only a small fraction of their operating budgets to fighting diseases that disproportionally affect — and kill — millions of the world’s poorest people.

taken from here

The Business Of Climate Change - Making Money

Most writings on climate are tedious or polemical. Windfall, journalist McKenzie Funk‘s fabulous new book on the business of climate change, is neither. Funk’s reporting takes him all over the globe. We meet investors who are buying up land in Africa and water rights in Australia and the American West, and are wagering hundreds of millions of dollars that climate-related drought and food shortages will earn them a fortune.
Funk visits Greenland secessionists who imagine the mineral wealth made accessible by a thawing tundra will bankroll their cause, as well as Israeli snow makers, Dutch seawall developers, geoengineering patent trolls, private firefighters, Big Oil scenario planners, and the scientists deploying mutant mosquitoes against dengue fever — a horrific tropical disease that’s crept into Florida of late.

In one particularly surreal chapter, he finds himself in Senegal meeting with African military officials overseeing the first phase of a quixotic 4,700-mile-long foliage barrier against the encroaching Sahara. In short, rather than waste our time on a settled question (duh, it’s real!), Funk offers an up-close-and-personal glimpse of climate change’s potential winners — and inevitable losers. The book is as fascinating and readable as it is unsettling.

To read an excerpt from the chapter “Uphill to Money,” go here.
To read an interview with the author go here.


The threat of war will exist as long as the capitalist system of industry remains in existence. Even  a brief study of the nature and causes of modern war is sufficient to prove that war is an essential part of capitalism. War is not the cause of the troubles of society. The opposite is true. War is a symptom. The only way to fight against war is to fight against the causes of war. Since the causes of war are part of the inner nature of capitalism, it follows that the only way to fight against war is to fight against capitalism. The end of wars will come with the establishment of social and industrial democracy the world over. The Socialist Party calls upon all the workers to join it in its struggle to reach this goal, and thus bring into the world a new society in which peace, fraternity, and human brotherhood will be the dominant ideals.  This is the  class war, the war to end wage-slavery, to end capitalism with its evils of misery and degradation and crime. The war to end war. And until that war is ended we do not want peace—because such peace will be the peace of the beggar and the slave. The only possible struggle against war is the struggle for the workers’ revolution. Marxists must be absolutely clear on this point. There is no “separate” or “special” struggle against war. The struggle against war cannot be divorced from the day-to-day struggles of the workers.  By overthrowing capitalist economy and supplanting capitalism with a socialist economy, it will remove the causes of war. Under socialism there will no longer exist the basic contradictions that lead to war. Artificial economic barriers based on national boundaries will be removed. The expansion of the means of production, under the owner-ship and control of society as a whole, will proceed in accordance with a rational plan adjusted to the needs of the members of society. Socialism will remove the limits on consumption, and hence permit the scientific and controlled development of production. Thus, under socialism, war will disappear because the causes of war will be done away with.  Every step on the path to socialism is a blow at war.

The Call of the Patriot

FELLOW Workers,—During the last three months there has been staring at you from every hoarding, from trams, 'buses, and stations, from vans, warehouse walls, and notice boards on churches, from the pages of the newspapers and every other available space, the statement that: "YOUR KING AND COUNTRY NEED YOU."

This statement, showing, if you will but think, how important and vitally necessary you are to the ruling class, has been re-iterated again and again, with innumerable variations, from countless pulpits and platforms up and down the country. Urgent appeals by the hundred thousand have been made to all " fit" men to enlist; every device and every weapon that the "liberty-loving" masters could invent, from the call of a sham patriotism to the wholesale backing of employers; from lying to bribery; from silent coercion to the insults of the white feather brigade, and from this to the deliberate suppression of hostile opinion, have been used either to entice or drive you into the ranks. For you, fellow workers, are today, as you always are, indispensable to the bosses, both for the production of profits in the "piping times of peace" (!) and for cannon fodder and the slaughter of the "enemy" in times of war.

Without you the masters are helpless; without you the State collapses and the rulers of the one country cannot hope to win in their struggle against the rulers of another country ; and knowing this, and recognising YOUR supreme importance, the bosses have been moving heaven and earth, spending money like water, lying like Christians, combining cajolery with economic pressure, and ringing the changes on every form of cant, from "stirring" appeals to your manhood to virulent denunciation of your indifference or backwardness, in order to make YOU go and fight battles from which you will receive the usual rewards of empty honour, broken health, wounded bodies, or the eternal silence of the grave...

...In England it is declared to be a war for "liberty, righteousness, democracy," and other bunkum—although the bosses occasionally give the game away by stating, as the "Sunday Chronicle" of August 30th, that "the men in the trenches are fighting on behalf of the manufacturer, the millowner, and the shopkeeper." In Germany it is declared to be a conflict in which the ruling class of England, Russia, and Japan have combined to reduce her to the level of a fifth-rate power, and to render her politically, militarily, and above all economically, impotent for ever. And each aide, using every possible device, has dragged you and your fellow-workers abroad into the arena...

...We Socialists would therefore ask you to put on your considering caps and think for yourselves, instead of allowing the capitalist Press, Tory, Liberal, and sham Labour, to think for you. When the war is over, and you are tramping the country, as you will be in many cases; when you and those near and dear to you hunger and thirst; when you feel the whip of semi-starvation and the gaunt spectre of want is your daily companion, will your "King and Country" need you then? Does not your daily experience teach you that you have no country, that you are landless and propertyless? Does it not show you that here, as in Germany, the land and its fatness belong to the masters, your portion being a mean tenement in a mean street, with the bare means of existence, and then only if you are lucky enough to get work? When the bosses ask you to fight—to offer your lives for "democracy and liberty against militarism"; when they pose as the defenders of oppressed people, and express themselves deeply concerned to uphold justice, humanity, and right, ask them why it is that they have so long practised in England—practise to this day the tyranny and oppression they now denounce abroad....

...If, therefore, you are wise, if you are men, if you are really anxious for freedom from slavery, then look around you here, and you will soon learn the truth, that it is your class which is denied this freedom, and denied it by the very class who now call upon you to act. One law for the rich and one for the poor. Adulation, servility and the world's wealth for the rich; grinding toil, insecurity and eternal hardship for the poor—these are the commonplace of every day life. Is it not so?
Your duty, then, is to fight against this, and the only way you can fight successfully is by understanding your position in society, realising that wars and hate, malice and theft, oppression and greed, class rule and the travail of the workers the world over, are to-day born of capitalism. This it the root evil; it is this you have to war against if you would be free, for all else is futile; and when you do this, BUT NOT BEFORE, then liberty will be with you as your possession; there will be no oppressed peoples, for the might of the working class, organised consciously for the overthrow d the modern octopus, will have conquered, and the international commonwealth will be here.”

November 1914

Capitalists for Higher Wages

Silicon Valley multimillionaire, Ron Unz, supports the demand for a higher minimum wage.  More attractive wages in low-wage job sectors (such as washing dishes or stocking supermarket shelves) will draw “legitimate” workers, which will diminish employment opportunities for undocumented immigrants competing in the same job market.

“The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants come to America for jobs and just as business lobbyists endlessly claim, they are hired “because they take the jobs that Americans just won’t do.” But the reason Americans won’t do those jobs is because the wages are too low. Raise the wages to a more liveable figure of $12 per hour or higher and millions of Americans would eagerly fill the positions”

 So Unz sees the wage boost as a long term deterrent against future migrants “flooding” into the U.S. and snatching up jobs to which “native” workers would otherwise be entitled. SOYMB will not concentrate on the validity of such a claim except to point out that it has been challenged by those who say a higher minimum wage serves as a magnet, attracting immigration.

More importantly, there is far more to the decision to migrate than demand-and-supply economics. People come to reunite with family members, to pursue educational opportunities, to escape persecution. Migration is a basic, universal, social impulse, and far from a harmful one.

There is also the fact that one section of the capitalist class does not benefit from a low wage economy but is required to pay the taxes to maintain it. Walmart rely on suppressing wages for their massive workforce. Other employers view minimum-wage increase as a strategy to reduce public assistance to the working poor and a state subsidy to low pay businesses since higher incomes would reduce the poor's reliance on government benefits like food stamps. Some also see a minimum-wage hike as part of what is needed to be done to boost the economy by raising consumer spending and their market.

From here

Libya liberated?

 Security Council Resolution 1973 [R-1973], was passed on March 17, 2011, and it authorized member states  “to  take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahirija, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force in any form…”  Its benign and limited character was shown by this exclusion of an occupation force.

Foreign powers violated R-1973 from day one and clearly never intended to abide by the spirit of its words. Gaddafi and the African Union called for a cease fire and dialogue, but the rebels and imperial powers were not interested, and the bombing to “protect civilians” began within two days of the war-sanctioning resolution, without the slightest move toward obtaining a cease fire or starting negotiations.  It was clear from the start that the principals (the United States, France, and Great Britain) were using civilian protection as a “figleaf” cover for their real objective—regime change and the removal of Gaddafi. Forte demonstrates throughout his book that from the beginning of the regime-change-war the bombing powers were not confining themselves to protecting civilians, but were very often targeting civilians. He shows that they used “double-tapping,” with lagged bombings that were sure civilian killers. They were also bombing military vehicles, troops and living quarters that were not attacking or threatening civilians. They also bombed ferociously anywhere their intelligence sources indicated that Gaddafi might be present.
R-1973 explicitly mentions Benghazi as a massacre-threatened town, but Forte points out that no document or witness was ever turned up during or after the war that indicated any Gaddafi plan to attack Benghazi, let alone engage in a civilian slaughter. Furthermore, Forte notes that “the only massacre to have occurred anywhere near [Benghazi] was the massacre of innocent black African migrant workers and black Libyans falsely accused of being ‘mercenaries’….”  There were no black mercenaries brought in by Gaddafi. But the claim of the threat posed by his alleged resort to “mercenaries” (read: black mercenaries) was repeated by officials (e.g., Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton) and the mainstream media, and found its way even into R-1973 (“Deploring the continuing use of mercenaries by the Libyan authorities”). The charge was reiterated often by the rebels in justifying their systematic abuse of blacks during the war.

The war that followed was one in which the foreign powers worked in close collaboration with the rebel forces, serving as their air arm, but also providing them with arms, training and propaganda support. The imperial powers, and Dubai, also had hundreds of operatives on the ground in Libya, training the rebels and giving them intelligence and other support, hence violating R-1973’s prohibition of an occupation force “in any form.”

Maximilian Forte’s book on the Libyan war, Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa shows that the factual base for Gaddafi’s alleged threat to civilians, his treatment of protesters in mid-February 2011, was more than dubious.  The claimed striking at protesters by aerial attacks, and the Viagra-based rape surge, were straightforward disinformation, and the number killed was small—24 protesters in the three days, February 15-17, according to Human Rights Watch—fewer than the number of alleged “black mercenaries” executed by the rebels in Derna in mid-February, and fewer than the early protester deaths in Tunis or Egypt that elicited no Security Council effort to “protect civilians.” There were claims of several thousand killed in February 2011, but Forte shows that this also was disinformation supplied by the rebels and their allies. The rebels were merciless in brutalizing and slaughtering people viewed as Gaddafi supporters, and in the substantial parts of the country where Gaddafi was supported, the rebels’ air-force (i.e., NATO) was regularly called upon to bomb, and it did so, ruthlessly.

The rebels and their air force smashed a stream of towns in Eastern Libya, killing and turning into refugees many thousands of civilians.  Among the many cases that Forte describes, in one a hospital was destroyed and dozens of its black patients were massacred. The word “genocide” was often used to describe Gaddafi’s threat to the rebels and their supporters, in fact, the only facet of this conflict in which a special ethnic group was targeted for  mistreatment and removal, and on a large scale,  was the rebel focus on, and treatment of, black people. The largely black population of the sizable town of Tawargha was entirely expelled by the rebels.

When NATO finally caught up with Gaddafi on the outskirts of Sirte, NATO justified destroying the town destroyed to save it—for the rebels, who Forte shows (citing Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN and other observers) executed substantial numbers of captured Gaddafi supporters. This was a major war crimes scene. The civilians in Sirte needed protection, from NATO and the rebels. The destruction of Sirte, similar to what R-1973 and the “international community” claimed to fear for Benghazi, and the lynching of Gaddafi, elicited no “grave concern” over “systematic violations of human rights,” or call for any Chapter 7 response from the Western establishment.

As the evidence rapidly accumulated that the imperial powers were killing directly and facilitating rebel killings of civilians, and were  carrying out and supporting serious war crimes, although these were sometimes recorded by UN personnel on the ground in Libya, there was no UN response or constraint imposed. The reliable Ban Ki-Moon found NATO and rebel behavior beyond reproach (“Security Council Resolution 1973, I believe, was strictly enforced within the limit, within the mandate”). Although R-1973 does call for the ICC to prosecute anybody “responsible for or complicit in attacks targeting the civilian population, including aerial as well as naval attacks,” it should not surprise that there was no trace of ICC enforcement against NATO or rebel officials. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International welcomed the NATO intervention And in contrast with their very early support of intervention, they failed to call for action against imperial and rebel war crimes.  A substantial chunk of the Western left succumbed once again, sometimes reluctantly agreeing that bombing to protect civilians was here justified, but remarkably silent in the face of  the growing evidence of bombing OF civilians and a de facto race war and war of aggression for regime change.

NATO behaved just as the “international community” claimed Gaddafi would behave, and the civilian casualties that resulted from the rebel-NATO combination vastly exceeded anything done by Gaddafi’s forces, or any probable civilian deaths that would have resulted if NATO had stayed away.  Gaddafi removal breathed new life into AFRICOM and the West’s power in the scramble for control and access in this resource rich but fragmented and militarily weak area.  R-1973 crucially gave them authority to commit mayhem and create another failed state.

From here

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fact of the Day

Houses in London's 10 most expensive boroughs are now worth as much as the property markets of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined.

It contains the richest (Kensington and Chelsea) and the most deprived (Tower Hamlets) council wards in the United Kingdom.

Were London a sovereign state, it would have a GDP on a par with Switzerland or Sweden. Interestingly, an independent London would boast a national income about twice as large as Singapore.


(Motto: The Voice of Business.)

(In the past, The CBI has opposed additional Bank Holidays
on the grounds that each day would cost £6 Billion extra--
but kept quiet about  the Royal Wedding Bank Holiday!)

Let’s glorify the CBI,
That philanthropic entity;
Whose own ‘non-profit’ aims belie, (1)
Its corporate propensity!

The CBI, we must give thanks,
Is altruistic to the core;
And like the City and the Banks,
Is most concerned about the poor.

But more Bank Holidays, ‘for free’,
Are really quite beyond the pale;
As the UK economy,
Invariably is far too frail!

The workers here lack discipline,
But have a plethora of perks;
And like the unemployed, live in,
A land where almost no one works!

The Big Kahunas earn their dimes,
Twice-monthly, toiling half a day;
For peanuts, such as fifty times,
The average worker’s lavish pay!

It’s fair ‘cause those who slave so hard,
Deserve their well-earned income hike;
Whilst workers only have regard,
For going out on constant strike.

The latter in their apathy,
Work at a rate that’s quite sedate;
(But go on strike and suddenly,
‘They hold to ransom the whole State’!)

The CBI would legislate,
So workers upped their plodding pace;
With more hours at a lesser rate,
To keep them in their proper place.

So more Bank Holidays? - No way!
As each cost ‘us’ Six-Billion quid;
But for the Royal Wedding Day,
One kept one’s Scrooge-like views well hid!

(1) The CBI is incorporated as a
‘non-profit’ organisation.

© Richard Layton 

Whose Australia?

Australia Day was on the January 26th

Australia  was home to about a million peoples of, at least, 200 nations that traced their ancestry back 60 millennia when it was invaded.

The imperial wars and massacres (guns vs spears) such as those at Hawksbury, Nepean Richmond Hill, Risdon Cove, Appin, Bathurst, Port Phillip, Swan River (Battle of Pinjarra), Gravesend, Vinegar Hill, Myall Creek, Kinroy, Rufus R, Long lagoon, Dawson River, Kalkadoon, Cape Grim, the Black war, McKinley River, and West Kimberely were resisted by Aboriginal warriors like Pemulwuy, Winradyne, Multuggerah, Yagan, and Jandamarra. These wars, along with starvation and Western diseases decimated the dispossessed Aboriginal population to about 70,000 by 1920.

Australia's First Peoples were marginalised onto reservations and missions, restricted entry into white towns, exploited as unpaid slave labour, their indigenous languages and sacred rituals forbidden, and mixed blood children (The Stolen Generations) were forcibly kidnapped from their parents for resocialisation - ie to be made "white". Until the 1967 referendum in Australia, Aborigines were government property: "The right to choose a marriage partner, to be legally responsible for one's own children, to move about the state and to socialise with non-Aboriginal Australians, were just some of the rights which Aboriginal people did not have."

The Native Title Act, 1993, finally acknowledged that some Indigenous Australians "have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs". But, as mining boomed on resource-rich indigenous lands, corporate colonialism reared its greedy head undermining this landmark act with the Northern Territory Intervention.

It was initiated by the Howard government in 2007 and maintained by successive governments including that of Kevin Rudd who made the historic apology to the Stolen Generations even though indigenous communities were suffering the humiliation of quarantined welfare payments and struggled to survive in third world conditions. The Intervention was imposed "on the pretext that paedophile gangs were operating in Indigenous settlements. Troops were sent in; townships were compulsorily acquired and native title legislation ignored. Yet no prosecution for child abuse resulted, and studies concluded that there was no evidence of any systematic child abuse."

 Australia doesn't give a toss for honouring its obligations under international law. It tossed aside its obligations to the Refugee Conventions with its inhumane offshore asylum seeker policy, forcing asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia and with its refusal to compensate people who have been held for prolonged periods in mandatory detention. It "breached its international anti-race discrimination obligations by continuing for almost three years its intervention policies with indigenous communities of the Northern Territory". It continues to tolerate the high instance of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

From here 

NHS needs foreign workers

Tim Finch, from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, said "If the single thread of immigration policy is just to get the overall figure down by any means, you've got to look at the consequences of that on the NHS. Without them [immigrants] we'd clearly be short – it would be very hard to replace that number overnight.

11% of all staff who work for the NHS and in community health services are not British.

The proportion of foreign nationals increases for professionally qualified clinical staff -14% -  and even more so for doctors - 26%. (GPs are not included in the figures because they are not employed by the NHS.)

India provided the highest number after Britain, with 18,424 out of a total of 1,052,404 workers. India also provided the highest number of professionally qualified clinical staff, doctors and consultants, after Britain. The number of Indian consultants was 2,708.

The Philippines provided the highest number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff after Britain, with 8,094 out of a total of 309,529,  reflecting the recruitment drive in the country under the Blair government.  The Philippines also provides the third highest number of NHS staff overall with 12,744.

British Medical Association (BMA) said that without the contribution of non-British staff, "many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients".

Finch downplayed the prospect of foreign nationals preventing British people getting a job in health services, saying that under the government's points system for non-EU migrants, workers would not gain entry unless there was a vacant post they were needed to fill.

Fact of the Day

A third of 22-30 year olds leaving their home-towns end up living in London. Eighty-thousand people in that age group moved to the city between 2009 and 2013, compared with 31,600 who left London – a net inflow to the capital of 48,400.
Its research finds that people begin to move out again when they reach their thirties, but only to surrounding counties such as Essex, Kent and Sussex. “While these people may no longer live in London, they very much remain within commuting distance, and commuting patterns suggest that some are likely to remain part of the capital’s labour market,” the Centre says.

London was responsible for four out of every five jobs created in the private sector between 2010 and 2012, (215,000 private-sector jobs)10 times as many private sector jobs as any other city

It also bucked the national trend by seeing an increase in public sector employment. For every public-sector post created in London, two were lost in other cities.

 Bradford, Sheffield, Bristol, Southampton, Blackpool and Glasgow saw employment shrink in both private and public sectors.  Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester saw an increase in both private and public sector jobs between 2010 and 2012, while in Liverpool the loss of public sector jobs was more than compensated for by the creation of private sector employment (12,800 jobs).

It is accurate to say Britain is divided between London and its south-east hinterland and the rest. London does not end at the M25 but extends up the M11 towards Cambridge, down the Thameslink line to Brighton and along the M4 corridor where many high-tech companies are based.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the thinktank Centre for Cities said that the gap between London and other UK cities is widening. She added that Britain was one of the world's most centralised countries. In Germany, she said, the government was in Berlin, the financial centre was Frankfurt and there were cultural hubs in Hamburg and Munich. In the UK, London had it all.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

World Cup Brazil - Popular Protest In Pictures


coca cola original WC commercial




welcome eviction 2


the real WC welcome

All Capitalism Is Built On Inequality - Indonesia

And here we go again! It is January 2014, but somehow it all feels like last year, or the year before last… or ten years ago. Jakarta is under water; people are trying to save all they can, but their houses are being ruined… some men, women and children are dying… Tens of thousands are sick, suffering from typhoid, and diarrhea.
As I plunged into flooded areas, my friend, a medical expert from Yogyakarta, sent me a text message: “Please be careful in Jakarta… Leptospirosis, typhoid and other infectious diseases…”
Dozens had already died in the capital city alone, or at least this is what was reported in the local media. As always, we will never know the real numbers. As always, they are much higher.

“This year’s floods are worse than those from the last year”, explains a police officer, called Nurasid. Inside the shelter, the daughter of a neighborhood chief says she had been here for six days already: “This time the water was two meters high, as I measured it inside our house. I have no idea why.” Good question, as this administration was actually elected mainly because it promised to ease the almost total traffic gridlock, and to prevent devastating floods in the capital.
A few minutes’ drive, and under a flyover, dozens of people are living in the open, surrounded by bundles of belongings, by their children, and even by several domestic animals. One of displaced people, Mr. Ilyas, recalls: “We went to ‘At Tahiriyah Mosque’, but they were overstretched. We couldn’t enter other mosques – they just refused to let us in. They said that if we entered, it would be considered najis and kotor, meaning unclean, filthy. We had no idea why they felt that way… There are two hundred of us now, under this bridge. There is a police kitchen nearby, but they are cooking for themselves, not for us.”

I know people get some help. But it is sporadic, uncoordinated, and insufficient. The water rises and subsides. People die. Thousands lose their shelters, hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, have their dwellings damaged. Arch capitalist Indonesia does close to nothing to help. The system despises everything that is public. Only profitable undertakings are taken seriously and implemented. Meaning: only those activities that can enrich individuals, who are already wealthy, are seriously considered.

As Jakarta is under water, the rest of Indonesia is living through many equally unnecessary horrors: the flood inundated at least twenty-two villages in Central Java, and landslides killed people in Malang, East Java. Nineteen people died from flooding and landslides in and around Manado, on the island of Sulawesi. Several years ago, the UN nominated Indonesia as “the most disaster prone nation on earth”.

It is true that the country sits on the so called ‘ring of fire’. It is true that it is periodically shaken by earthquakes, battered by tsunamis and even by ash flying from restless volcanoes. Some calamities cannot be predicted or prevented. But most of the lives lost are due to absolutely ‘unnatural disasters’ triggered by a totally unnatural element – bizarre market fundamentalism. Indonesia is run by thugs, by a heartless, cold-blooded clique of thieves, who have survived as species ever since the US-sponsored coup of 1965 in which most of leading Indonesian citizens were slaughtered, imprisoned or exiled.
The country is kept static by a violent blend of late feudalism/early capitalism, fundamentalist religiousness (definitely not only Islam, but also Christianity, even Hinduism), and disinformation/ awful level of education.
The infrastructure of the country is almost finished – collapsed. Corrupt priests, factory owners, business lobbies: all of them have no time for things they see as frivolous or even insane: like public works, the building of public transportation, better schools and hospitals, or simple things like tsunami prevention, a drainage system, waste management or the distribution of drinking water.

The country’s system is essentially based on maximizing profits, on looting all there still is under and above the earth, and then on throwing some meager and voluntary charity into the faces of the poor, that is the majority. As a member of the Academy of Science of Indonesia told me few years ago, Jakarta and all major Indonesian cities have the worst access to clean water than the cities of India and even Bangladesh. Waste management is seen as an unnecessary expenditure. And so the rivers and channels of all major cities are clogged by garbage.
The drainage system is inadequate and old, dating often to the Dutch era, when Jakarta, then Batavia, was a small city of few hundred thousands, not the monster of twelve million that it is now. There are hardly any green areas in the city, as developers ate almost all the parks. And in the mountains, soil erosion, excessive logging, mining and ‘development’ again, caused such environmental destruction that in the rainy season, water flows from higher ground in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way.
Of course nature fights back; it punishes those who break its patterns, destroying it. Unfortunately, in this country, those that are really responsible for this disastrous national project – Indonesia – are hiding behind high walls in comfortable and relatively safe neighborhoods. The poor, robbed of everything and unprotected, are battered by landslides, inundated and ruined. It is all very brutal and very simple.

“In Jakarta”, as a leading Indonesian businessman who presently lives abroad told me: “they will never build any decent public transportation system, because of the car lobby. And business cares nothing that all major cities are experiencing near-total gridlock and terrible pollution”. The same can be said about the construction industry. As I was explained to by Ms. Sofya, a victim of this year’s floods, who literally lost her house in North Jakarta: “Why should businesses care about state projects. Once they are finished, state projects do not return. If no drainage is built and floods keep coming back every year, hundreds of thousands of houses will keep getting destroyed … It is great, isn’t it? It is great for business. It means tremendous profits for those who repair and rebuild houses and buildings.”
Professor Muslim Muin from the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) has no doubts where the problem lies: “Don’t blame the ocean. The sea level this year is normal. The problem is that the rivers and channels in Jakarta, cannot not cope with the amount of water. Before the rainy season, the government should perform a hydrodynamic simulation, and then it would know what kinds of pumps are needed and what type of drainage system should be used.”
But the government doesn’t perform almost any such tests. And every year, the floods come as a ‘surprise’. And people lose their homes. And those in power make huge profits. And the religions somehow make sense of all this, so that the rich remain rich. And nothing changes. And so next year, the nation will be once again be ‘surprised’ by new occurrence of devastating floods.

complete article by Andre Vltchek here