Monday, June 30, 2014

Ireland's Inequality

More than 750,000 people in Ireland live in poverty today, an increase of 120,000 since the recession began, according to a new report from Social Justice Ireland. The report said a quarter of those in poverty were children, while as many as 16 per cent of adults in poverty were in employment. Fifty-eight per cent of those in poverty are not connected to the labour market (ie retired, students, caring roles, ill/disabled), consequently jobs are not the key means of reducing poverty for this group.

The top 10 per cent of households received 24 per cent of total disposable income, while the bottom 10 per cent received just 3 per cent.

The Socialist Party wants to end poverty, not simply alleviate its pain. 

The Poor's Education

A child's background can be a bigger deciding factor than their academic ability in how likely they are to get into top universities, says research. 2,000 of the "brightest poorest" children miss out on places at "top universities", a study suggests.  Even the highest performers lose out to less able, better-off pupils if they come from a more deprived background.

Academics at the Institute for Fiscal Studies looked at 8,000 children who had been high-achieving at 11 in primary school. By the age of 16, these children were behind average achievers from wealthy families, said the research, published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

GMO and Profits

GM crops are unpopular with European citizens and viewed with suspicion, but the industry's massive lobbying is finally paying off. Last week, the EU Environment Council accepted a proposal that could see GM crops planted in Europe as soon as next year. The proposal could alsogive Monsanto and other biotech giants the power to overturn decisions made by democratically-elected governments to ban GM crops. The proposal is being spun by the European Council as a 'compromise', but in reality it could allow GM companies like Monsanto to overturn any opposition. Experts have warned that it would weaken the legal basis upon which countries can ban GM crops, opening the legislation   prohibiting GMOs up to legal challenge. With Bayer and Syngenta already fighting in the courts to overturn Europe's ban on bee-killing "neonics",  this is a real threat.However, the European Parliament still has to vote on whether to take these proposals forward.

Within the Socialist Party there exists differing opinions on the benefits or otherwise of GMO food. There is no party-line on the issue, just the various and sometimes conflicting thoughts of our members. Fortunately, no-one subscribes to the theory that Big-Ag is involved in a conspiracy to create a docile and dependent population of automatons. We are neither enthusiasts nor alarmists. The problem with GMOs is not necessarily the GM technology but the nature of the businesses tasked with running this industry. This article By Harry J Bentham expresses much of our concerns.

​The controversy involving GMOs is that it is an extension of the problem of greed that has burdened mankind for as long as feudal lords or capitalists have been privileged to put their self-interests above the common good.

Whether or not certain GMOs on the market today actually cause cancer and infertility is irrelevant to the real debate. The problem is that we can guarantee that the companies engineering these organisms do not care if they do cause health problems (just as long as they can avoid any legal repercussions as with the tobacco industry). They are only interested in downplaying or blocking bad news, and putting out constant marketing and good news about themselves. Profit is their exclusive priority and they have to put increasing yields, shelf life and resistance to pathogens above anything else when designing crops. They have no choice than to do this, from their perspective, because the alternative is to allow themselves to be outperformed by their rivals.

The fact that corporations put their own profit above health is a systemic symptom of  the world economy, and it is already known to the majority of consumers. We face it every day. Most of the fast food served by multinational fast food companies is accepted to be unhealthy, so the claim that giant food companies have little interest in our health is not a conspiracy theory. It is the natural, rational suspicion that the agricultural producers of seeds will put profit over the long-term health of consumers and the interests of local farmers. In theory, genetic modification could lead not only to higher yields but healthier food. Unfortunately, the businesses involved only really care about beating competition and becoming the most successful supplier. This behavior poisons everything, perhaps literally, now that these companies have been entrusted to define the toxicity in crops as a defense against pests. What we can learn from this is that the problem is not GMOs, per se, but the aggressive greed of the corporations who desire the oligopoly on food production via GM technology.

The public harm caused by giant firms, especially when they practice their ability to lobby the state itself, already runs very deep in most facets of life. The more significant the tools made available to such firms, the greater the potential for harm. Even if specific specimens are not harmful and can be proven completely benign, the fact is that GMOs open up an unacceptable avenue for unprecedented harm and malignant corporate interests invading people’s innards. It is this, rather than the whole science of genetic modification, that should be opposed and protested against.

Genetic modification and synthetic biology do not need to be new instruments of oligopoly and monopoly. There is a benign alternative to foolishly entrusting the mastery and ownership of living organisms to greedy multinational leviathans. We can look into “biohacking”, a development which would transform society for the better, eliminating any need to trust an unsympathetic and self-interested corporation like Monsanto. DIY genetic engineering is already possible. DIY means the product will be entirely disinfected from corporate greed, and adhere to your own specifications. They would not be able to put their profit above your health, because they would not get the chance. With this, biohackers can already genetically modify organisms for their own benefit. The extent to which farmers can begin to modify their own crops using comparable technology is not yet clear, but the development nevertheless represents an extraordinary possibility. What if farmers and consumers could decide to genetically modify their own food? In that case, it would not be the profit-oriented poison that is being consumed at so many different levels as a result of corporate greed. Crops would be modified only insofar as the modification will meet the farmer’s own needs, and all the technology for this process could be open-source. This hypothetical struggle for DIY genetic engineering rather than corporate genetic engineering would be comparable to the open-source and piracy battles already raging over digital technology.

Of course, some new hazards could still conceivably emerge from DIY genetic modification, if the technology for it should become ubiquitous. However, the only risk would be from individual farmers rather than unaccountable corporations. This way, we would be moving away from giving irresponsible and vicious companies the ability to threaten health. Instead, we would be moving towards giving back individuals more control over their own diets. Of course, abuse would still occur, but it would not have global consequences or frighten millions of people in the way that current genetic engineering does.

In sum, there is no reason to complain that genetic modification is perilous in its own right. However, there is always peril in giving a great social responsibility to a profit-hungry corporation. In much the same way that large firms have captured the state machinery to serve their greedy interests, we should expect them to be subverting health and the public good for profit.

The complex dilemma over GMOs requires not an anti-scientific or neo-Luddite reaction, but an acknowledgment that intertwined monopolistic, statist and hegemonic ambitions lead to the retardation of technology rather than progress.

Adapted from an article by Harry J. Bentham

Free Access? The Internet Commons Under Assault

The Federal Communications Commission proposes to create a tiered, pay-to-play internet structure.

The rich and powerful are stealing the commons of the people.
Comcast, Verizon and other telecom giants are the new Lairds of the Highlands, the Marie Antoinettes, the Robber Barons of the 1890s. The Commons are no longer large tracks of land or public grazing grounds or local self-governance - those have already been stolen. The Commons under assault is the internet.
As with every achievement of humanity, individual sectors of the populace try to take credit and ownership of the internet, saying, "I created this" or "I provide the infrastructure for your access." This is akin to saying, "I built the Empire State Building" instead of "thousands of hardworking, impoverished Americans poured the concrete and scaled the steel trusses; countless educators and inventors passed the knowledge of engineering to the designers; and the banks financed the construction with funds from war profiteering that was made on the bloodshed of millions."

Truth is hard to swallow, lengthy, complicated, and often more sordid than the tidy "I built the Empire State Building." The whole of the populace supports the efforts and achievements of the society, but all too often, the lauding of individual success glosses over the theft of common efforts, resources and knowledge that underlies the immense power and profit of the few.
The internet was build not by a single individual. It arose through the combined efforts of billions of people - techies, teachers, factory workers, miners, military think tanks, visionaries, software designers, celeb personalities, small business owners, and most of all: the users. The users are the unsung heroes of the internet's success. Billions of clicking, searching, watching, chatting users drive the functionality of the internet. Service providers claim a place of power, yet without users, they are nothing but bored toll-takers at the doors of a vast, empty agora.

The development of agriculture provides an insightful parallel to the internet. Both emerged from the collective efforts of society, and, as with agriculture, the greedy few monopolize what should belong equally to all. Agriculture requires five main ingredients: lands, seeds, labor, water and sunlight. At one time, these were all free; but now, the first three on the list have been relentlessly privatized and controlled by the rich and powerful. Water currently faces a global assault from privatization. The last, sunlight, simply waits for the day when human greed knows no bounds. When the colonization of the human mind is complete, no one will question why we must pay a fee to gain access to a sun that used to shine freely on all, but now is owned by an enterprising new millennium version of the land-grabbing William the Conqueror.

The theft of common land to privatized ownership is a major strand in human history - one that is often left unexamined in our history books. Long ago, the Earth spread out in all directions, equally accessible to humans, plants, forests, rivers, clouds and oceans. But now, the Earth has been snatched up by the human species under the concept of private ownership. Once owned by none, used by all; our globe is now controlled by human beings for the purpose of benefiting our species, above all others, and for the profit of a few members of our species above the well-being of all of the rest of creation.

The tiered, pay-to-play proposal of the internet is yet another thrust of the longest root of injustice that humanity can remember: the domination of the commons for the profit of the few. "Equal access" is not just a dry, technical term referring to stopping a proposal about fast- or slow-loading website rates. It is the rallying cry of the Scottish peasants shoved off the Highlands by lords who wanted to profit from sheep. It is the cry loosed by Crazy Horse, Black Elk and all the indigenous peoples of North America as the Europeans slaughtered not only their tribes, but also the notion of equality between humanity, animals and plants on an Earth that could not be owned.  It is the cry of the French peasants who wanted bread for their children while the aristocrats feasted on cake. It is the songs of African Americans yearning for equal access to liberty, voting and civil rights. It is the flaming body of Mohamed Bouazizi who ignited the Tunisian Revolution in protest of debilitating poverty. It is the echo of countless cries for justice and equality that have resounded throughout human history.

The contemporary battle for Net Neutrality must be understood as the front line of a 10,000-year battle between avaricious elites and the average citizens' struggle for equality. The efforts of the corporations to control the internet reflect ancient patterns of conquest and control. To the power-hungry, the internet is just a new world from which they can profit. But humanity has reached this crossroads before. We have encountered a so-called New World; we have learned through intense suffering that colonization, conquest, domination and genocide are immoral. We cannot pretend the internet is an empty land, free for the taking. Like the Americas at the time of European contact, the internet is a world populated by millions of people. The internet does not belong to Comcast or Verizon, or the FCC, or Silicon Valley or the United States, or even the whole of humanity.

The internet belongs to all of the Earth, for all of Earth gave rise to it.
The nonhuman species of the Earth have long been viewed as resources for the human species. Yet, when examining the Commons, the internet and the history of privatization, it must be pointed out that land, animals and plants have been subjected to human domination, giving rise to a human-centric world view that trivializes the contributions of our natural world to modern inventions like the internet. Yet, the internet was not built out of thin air by human effort alone. The Earth created the minerals that built the computers. The rivers brought the water that cooled the power plants that fuel the electricity to servers. The sky and forests create the oxygen that every single human that touches the internet breathes. The nonhuman resources that have contributed to the internet have often been terribly abused in the process of this creation. Before the CEOs and shareholders of Comcast and Verizon receive a dime, before Bill Gates collects another million, perhaps we ought to pause to consider the sacrifices of our Earth in the creation of the internet and apply the profits to the restoration of destroyed ecosystems and remediation of toxically polluted areas.

These are deep and weighty questions that bear lengthy examination. The immorality of the privatization of the commons  - or of the once-free species and natural systems that comprise Earth - by individuals and groups shakes the core of human civilization. The notion of ownership straddles its legs over both profit and access.  In the struggle for equal access to the internet, the telecom corporations' ambitious drive for the tiered, pay-to-play system echoes the corporate charters of the East India Company to control all access to foreign lands - a claim that grew to include ownership of those lands.

In the realm of the internet, all human beings deserve equal access. For one human regulatory committee to pass a proposal to subjugate the internet to the control of the few is tantamount to treason in a world that so desperately needs to learn equality. It is another betrayal in the long history of theft of our collective commons. It is a backslide in the efforts to understand equality in the context of our interconnected fate with every species on this Earth.

from here

The Red Feast (poem)

When the war broke out in Europe, with millions of working-men flinging death and misery at one another, men like Chaplin, the world over, regarded it as the last straw. Was it not bad enough that these exploited creatures should be used as factory-fodder? Must they be cannon-fodder too? Why should they fight to increase the economic power of German traders? of British manufacturers? The war was a capitalist war between capitalist nations. What interest had the workers in these nations? in their winnings or in their losses? So ran the argument. Technically, Ralph Chaplin and his comrades had conspired to obstruct the war. Actually, they had lined themselves up solidly against the present economic order, of which the World War was only one phase. This was their real crime.
The Red Feast expresses sentiments that the war placed workers in harm's way to serve the vested interests of wealthy men who would never be called up to fight. A member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW, or “Wobblies”) he was the  editor of its eastern U.S. publication Solidarity. In 1917 Chaplin and some 100 other Wobblies were rounded up, convicted, and jailed under the Espionage Act for conspiring to hinder the draft and encourage desertion. He wrote Bars And Shadows: The Prison Poems while serving four years of a 20-year sentence. Chaplin was very disillusioned by the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the evolution of the Soviet state and  particularly its involvement in American unions. Chaplin maintained his involvement with the IWW, serving in Chicago as editor of its newspaper, the Industrial Worker, from 1932 to 1936.

His anthology of poems is available free online 

The Red Feast

Go fight, you fools! Tear up the earth with strife
    And spill each others guts upon the field;
  Serve unto death the men you served in life
    So that their wide dominions may not yield.

  Stand by the flag--the lie that still allures;
    Lay down your lives for land you do not own,
  And give unto a war that is not yours
    Your gory tithe of mangled flesh and bone.

  But whether it be yours to fall or kill
    You must not pause to question why nor where.
  You see the tiny crosses on that hill?
    It took all those to make one millionaire.

  It was for him the seas of blood were shed,
    That fields were razed and cities lit the sky;
  And now he comes to chortle o'er the dead--
    The condor Thing for whom the millions die!

  The bugle screams, the cannons cease to roar.
    "Enough! enough! God give us peace again."
  The rats, the maggots and the Lords of War
    Are fat to bursting from their meal of men.

  So stagger back, you stupid dupes who've "won,"
    Back to your stricken towns to toil anew,
  For there your dismal tasks are still undone
    And grim Starvation gropes again for you.

  What matters now your flag, your race, the skill
    Of scattered legions--what has been the gain?
  Once more beneath the lash you must distil
    Your lives to glut a glory wrought of pain.

  In peace they starve you to your loathsome toil,
    In war they drive you to the teeth of Death;
  And when your life-blood soaks into their soil
    They give you lies to choke your dying breath.

  So will they smite your blind eyes till you see,
    And lash your naked backs until you know
  That wasted blood can never set you free
    From fettered thraldom to the Common Foe.

  Then you will find that "nation" is a name
    And boundaries are things that don't exist;
  That Labor's bondage, worldwide, is the same,
    And ONE the enemy it must resist.

Ralph Chaplin

The USA will deport children

Obama is preparing  additional powers to enable the fast-track deportation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who are crossing the US border illegally, a move that could bypass protections introduced by the the Bush administration who set out strict protocols for handling unaccompanied minors

 Although Obama has called it a “humanitarian crisis” Obama’s administration will request the authority to immediately repatriate children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – the Central American countries from which most of the child migrants are travelling. Juanita Molina, executive director of Border Action Network, a rights group said that many government officials were doing their best to treat the children well, with some facilities now having toys. But she warns that the lack of facilities and staff can defeat even the best-intended workers. “The federal government needs to reframe how they look at this,” she says, “not as a detention crisis, but as a humanitarian and refugee crisis.”

More than 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended on the border since October. Administration officials have been particularly alarmed by the increase in children, many of them girls, under the age of 13. Border officials have reported finding some children as young as four or five or travelling alone. The US border control agency cannot hold them for more than 72 hours before they are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) who in turn are required to “act in the best interest of the child”, which often means transferring the child into foster care or, more commonly, the custody of a family member or relative in the US. Nevertheless, such migrants are still in the removal process, and will have their case heard by a judge, who can deport them.

The United Nations has interviewed more than 400 children on their experiences in their home countries. Nearly 60 percent reportedly meet the requirements for international protection, in what the U.N. called a conservative estimate.
“We heard stories of children watching classmates tortured, dismembered, threats against girls,” Leslie Velez, of the U.N. Refugee Agency, told reporters last week. “This wasn’t just about gangs but criminal armed groups, drug trafficking, cartels, transnational criminal organisations – all operating with greater and greater impunity.”

Children they don’t see themselves in the future of Honduras. Just like their parents – who migrated because they saw no possibilities for work or survival.  It seems that only the rich can afford to stay in the country, pay for education for their children, afford to buy food and clothing for their families. The average citizen cannot find a job or support their family. The Central American Free Trade Agreement, and other trade agreements with mining companies, have exacerbated poverty in the country by dispossessing people of their land and subsistence. These agreements have weakened labor laws and worker rights, and with this post coup government friendly attitude towards foreign companies, even national lands are up for sale. Laws that favor capital have given transnational companies an advantage and power to not respect labor law, oppose unions and challenge the very fabric of the working class family. When parents are not earning decent wages to afford the basic food basket, or school uniforms and supplies, children suffer.

 Michelle Brane, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, an advocacy group, told IPS that the United States regularly asks countries around the world to uphold international protection standards, with Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan currently accepting millions of Syrian refugees into their much smaller countries. “The numbers here are small in comparison.”

Immigrant rights groups have labeled the president "deporter in chief”, for forcefully removing two million immigrants since coming to office in 2008 – more than any other president to date. Obama is now cowardly putting in limbo the lives of young children migrants at the border, endeavouring to refuse them access to humanitarian aid. The U.S. government should realize that they are gaining themselves a long-term problem by militarizing the border and deporting children instead of trying to get to the root of the problem. When kids are deported they are returning to a country where young citizens have only three options: first, try their best to survive the growing violence and exclusion; a second option is becoming part of the violence joining the organized crime; or the third option is continuously try to enter the United States, they have nothing more to lose.

Adapted from here

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Enough, Already! Root Out The Cause

Each week, the American people are confronted with new abusive anti-democratic actions by the corporate-run government. The underlying cause is the rule of money which is now documented to have a greater effect on policy than the desires and needs of the public.

Here are some examples of recent assaults on democracy:

Wikileaks leaked another trade agreement being negotiated in secret that could have a devastating impact on the US economy by further empowering the big banks and aiding the privatization of basic services like water and electricity. The draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) involving 50 countries and being promoted by the United States and the European Union is in its sixth round of negotiations and would cover a wide range of service industries.

The Obama administration continues to push other secretly-negotiated trade agreements, the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic “TAFTA,” forward despite widespread public opposition.
The Democrats are preparing to push some type of trade authority, known as Fast Track, which would allow the agreements to be signed without a democratic and transparent process in Congress to review their potential impact.1humanrights

If there is any question which side the Obama administration is on when it comes to the rights of transnational corporations versus the rights of people that was answered this week. The United Nation Human Rights Council voted by a majority in favor of a legally-binding treaty to prevent transnational corporations from violating human rights. And the US promptly stated that it would not cooperate and would urge other countries to do the same.

The slippery slope to another Iraq war began this week with President Obama sending 500 soldiers to Iraq to protect US “interests” and work with the Iraqi military, thereby doubling the military presence in Iraq. He also increased intelligence activity in the area which may be preparation for drone attacks. Obama decided to ignore the constitutional requirement that Congress authorize military action. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is the first senator to highlight that the constitution requires Congress to act, echoing comments we made as soon as the drum beat for military action began. Thankfully, a bi-partisan group in Congress is circulating a letter to Obama for sign-on.

Obama is taking this action in Iraq, with Secretary of State Kerry promising even more military support, despite widespread public opposition to another Iraq war. Obama seems very comfortable ignoring the Constitution and the people – if he continues on this path he may find his final years in office enmeshed in impeachment proceedings.

This week we learned that an amazing near universal consensus has grown in the United States around genetically modified foods. A Consumers Union poll found that 92% believe GE food should be labeled, 92% think GE food should meet government safety standards before being sold, and 92% demand the government label GE salmon.
In addition, a multi-faceted food justice movement has developed around GMOs, organic gardening, community-supported agriculture and fair wages for agricultural workers.

There are frequent examples of corporate-government attacks on the environment.
  • The Pennsylvania government ordered health workers not to tell the people how fracking could adversely affect their health.
  • The highest court in Utah refused to consider the substance of serious claims against tar sands excavation in the state finding that the complaint was filed more than 30 days after the decision. The problem for the environmentalists was that the decision was issued in secret without any notice to the public so they could not sue within 30 days.
  • The Obama administration has been announcing to the public what sounds like steps in the right direction on coal, while behind the scenes, it is acting to weaken standards for coal plants.
And, the United Nations responded to complaints from Detroit residents regarding the city shutting off water to tens of thousands of residents. The water was not shut off to major corporations that were behind in their bills. The UN weighed in on the actions of a truly undemocratic city – the city of Detroit where elected officials have been replaced by a city manager appointed by the governor. The United Nations found that the action of cutting off water supplies “constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”

The Supreme Court also continues down the path of undermining democracy and legalizing bribery under the spurious legal concepts that money equals speech and that corporations have human rights.

 taken from here

The article goes on to list the various ways that groups are fighting back, tackling the various 'issues' and how they are clawing back some semblances of democracy. The question is when is enough enough, when is enough too much? All that can be done here on SOYMB is to keep on pointing out the egregiousness of the capitalist system, the fighting spirit of ordinary people and relentlessly attempt to convince the masses that all of these 'issues' stem from the one root, capitalism. When enough have decided they have had enough of it then will be the time for the revolution - on the single issue - overthrow capitalism.


Iraq - The Blinding Arrogance Of Foreign Intruders

In America, if we reflect on World War I at all, we think mostly about the battlefields and trenches of Europe and tend to forget another front in that war — against the Ottoman Empire of the Turks that dominated the Middle East. A British Army officer named T.E. Lawrence became a hero in the Arab world when he led nomadic Bedouin tribes in battle against Turkish rule. Peter O'Toole immortalized him in the epic movie, "Lawrence of Arabia."
You may remember the scene when, after dynamiting the Hijaz railway and looting a Turkish supply train, Lawrence is asked by an American reporter, "What, in your opinion, do these people hope to gain from this war?"
"They hope to gain their freedom," Lawrence replies, and when the journalist scoffs, insists, "They're going to get it. I'm going to give it to them."

At war's end, Lawrence's vision of Arab independence was shattered when the Versailles peace conference confirmed the carving of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine into British and French spheres of influence; arbitrary boundaries drawn in the sand to satisfy the appetites of empire – Britain's Foreign Office even called the former Ottoman lands "The Great Loot."
The hopeful Lawrence drew his own "peace map" of the region, one that paid closer heed to tribal allegiances and rivalries. The map could have saved the world a lot of time, trouble and treasure, one historian said, providing the region "with a far better starting point than the crude imperial carve up." Lawrence wrote to a British major in Cairo: "I'm afraid you will be delayed a long time, cleaning up all the messes and oddments we have left behind us."

Not for the last time in the Middle East would disaster come from the blundering ignorance and blinding arrogance of foreign intruders convinced by magical thinking of their own omnipotence and righteousness. How soon we forget. How often we repeat.

from here 
A Report on Mesopotamia
by T.E. Lawrence
August 2nd, 1920   

Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, a.k.a. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1888-1935), British soldier and author, whose works include The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, achieved world renown for his exploits as Britain's military liaison to the Arabs during the rebellion against the Ottomans. Sent to Mecca on a fact-finding mission when the Arabs rose in revolt, in 1916, he soon became a friend of the Arab people and their struggle for independence is chronicled in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, as well as Revolt in the Desert.
The sellout of the Arabs at Versailles, and the subsequent carving up of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious European powers, disgusted him, and he returned to England disheartened. In protest, Lawrence refused to accept medals from the King, and wrote numerous letters to the newspapers in favor of Arab independence. When British attempts to impose colonial rule on Iraq failed – in a way that, by the account below, seems awfully familiar – Winston Churchill asked Lawrence to help him draft a settlement.

Sunday Times
August 2nd, 1920
[Mr. Lawrence, whose organization and direction of the Hedjaz against the Turks was one of the outstanding romances of the war, has written this article at our request in order that the public may be fully informed of our Mesopotamian commitments.]
The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.
The sins of commission are those of the British civil authorities in Mesopotamia (especially of three 'colonels') who were given a free hand by London. They are controlled from no Department of State, but from the empty space which divides the Foreign Office from the India Office. They availed themselves of the necessary discretion of war-time to carry over their dangerous independence into times of peace. They contest every suggestion of real self-government sent them from home. A recent proclamation about autonomy circulated with unction from Baghdad was drafted and published out there in a hurry, to forestall a more liberal statement in preparation in London, 'Self-determination papers' favourable to England were extorted in Mesopotamia in 1919 by official pressure, by aeroplane demonstrations, by deportations to India.

The Cabinet cannot disclaim all responsibility. They receive little more news than the public: they should have insisted on more, and better. They have sent draft after draft of reinforcements, without enquiry. When conditions became too bad to endure longer, they decided to send out as High commissioner the original author of the present system, with a conciliatory message to the Arabs that his heart and policy have completely changed.*
Yet our published policy has not changed, and does not need changing. It is that there has been a deplorable contrast between our profession and our practice. We said we went to Mesopotamia to defeat Turkey. We said we stayed to deliver the Arabs from the oppression of the Turkish Government, and to make available for the world its resources of corn and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million of money to these ends. This year we are spending ninety-two thousand men and fifty millions of money on the same objects.

Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer. We cannot hope to maintain such an average: it is a poor country, sparsely peopled; but Abd el Hamid would applaud his masters, if he saw us working. We are told the object of the rising was political, we are not told what the local people want. It may be what the Cabinet has promised them. A Minister in the House of Lords said that we must have so many troops because the local people will not enlist. On Friday the Government announce the death of some local levies defending their British officers, and say that the services of these men have not yet been sufficiently recognized because they are too few (adding the characteristic Baghdad touch that they are men of bad character). There are seven thousand of them, just half the old Turkish force of occupation. Properly officered and distributed, they would relieve half our army there. Cromer controlled Egypt's six million people with five thousand British troops; Colonel Wilson fails to control Mesopotamia's three million people with ninety thousand troops.

We have not reached the limit of our military commitments. Four weeks ago the staff in Mesopotamia drew up a memorandum asking for four more divisions. I believe it was forwarded to the War Office, which has now sent three brigades from India. If the North-West Frontier cannot be further denuded, where is the balance to come from? Meanwhile, our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the wilfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad. General Dyer was relieved of his command in India for a much smaller error, but the responsibility in this case is not on the Army, which has acted only at the request of the civil authorities. The War Office has made every effort to reduce our forces, but the decisions of the Cabinet have been against them.

The Government in Baghdad have been hanging Arabs in that town for political offences, which they call rebellion. The Arabs are not at war with us. Are these illegal executions to provoke the Arabs to reprisals on the three hundred British prisoners they hold? And, if so, is it that their punishment may be more severe, or is it to persuade our other troops to fight to the last?
We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. All experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?

*Sir Percy Cox was to return as High Commissioner in October, 1920 to form a provisional Government.

from here

The Inequality of it all

The Boss Class excuse poor wage growth and high unemployment as part of the global competitive marketplace, saying that everyone needs to tighten their belts. But not everyone is struggling--in fact, the rich are better off than ever. They  control half of all the wealth, and the top 10%  control almost 9/10ths of it. Corporate profits are  at or near record highs, disproving the myth that the middle class must suffer due to competitive pressures. The Dow Jones index is threatening to burst past 17,000. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated since the Reagan era, even though  productivity continues to increase. Corporate executives, in other words, are forcing workers to toil longer, harder and smarter than ever, but all the proceeds are going into the hands of the very rich while the people actually creating the wealth are struggling harder than ever to get by. Some liberals desperately attempt to blame poor regulation and "crony capitalism." but it is the system.  Tax rates on the wealthiest Americans are at near record lows and asset values are up to record highs.

40% of the assets of the wealthy are sitting in deposits: the rich person's equivalent of a security blanket for the very people who need it least. 80 percent of the bank accounts in tax havens are not declared to tax authorities. The bulk of the private wealth held offshore evades taxes. $7.6 trillion is deposited  in these offshore accounts.

Adapted from here

Lies About War Never Stop

A “good war” was launched by George Bush Senior in 1990 and the “bad war” was Bush Junior’s in 2003. Yet we overlook a few facts. Both depended upon lies to garner popular support.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid-September of 1990 that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier. George HW Bush said, “I took this action to assist the Saudi Arabian Government in the defense of its homeland.”  A quarter of a million troops with heavy armor amassed on the Saudi border certainly seemed like a clear sign of hostile intent. Yet it was false. No military build-up, just simply empty desert.

In October 1990 a young woman who gave only her first name, Nayira, testified that she had been a volunteer at Kuwait’s al-Adan hospital, where she had seen Iraqi troops rip scores of babies out of incubators, leaving them “to die on the cold floor.” Between tears, she described the incident as “horrifying.” Her account was a bombshell. Portions of her testimony were aired that evening on ABC’s “Nightline” and NBC’s “Nightly News.” Seven US senators cited her testimony in speeches urging Americans to support the war, and George HW Bush repeated the story on 10 separate occasions in the weeks that followed.  Except the story was totally bogus — a piece of war propaganda the American media swallowed hook, line and sinker.  Nayirah was in fact the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the US. Her testimony had been organized by a group called Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was a front for the Kuwaiti government. Citizens for a Free Kuwait hired Hill & Knowlton, a New York-based PR firm that had previously spun for the tobacco industry and a number of governments with ugly human rights records. The company was paid “$10.7 million to devise a campaign to win American support for the war. Without the atrocities, the idea of committing American blood and treasure to save Kuwait just “wasn’t an easy sell.” Hill & Knowlton had spent $1 million on focus groups to determine how to get the American public behind the war, and found that focusing on “atrocities” was the most effective way to rally support for rescuing Kuwait. Hill & Knowlton sent out the video news release featuring Nayirah’s gripping testimony to 700 American television stations. In an effort to spruce up the Kuwait image, the company also organized Kuwait Information Day on 20 college campuses, a national day of prayer for Kuwait, distributed thousands of “Free Kuwait” bumper stickers, and other similar traditional PR ventures.

Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait was just as illegal as the US invasion that would ultimately oust him 13 years later — it was neither an act of self-defense, nor did the UN Security Council authorize it. But it can be argued that Iraq had significantly more justification for its attack than Bush Jnr. and Blair. Saddam Hussein felt that Kuwait should forgive part of his regime’s war debt because he had halted the “expansionist plans of Iranian interests” not only on behalf of his own country, but in defense of the other Gulf Arab states as well.

After an oil glut knocked out about two-thirds of the value of a barrel of crude oil between 1980 and 1986, Iraq appealed to OPEC to limit crude oil production in order to raise prices — with oil as low as $10 per barrel, the government was struggling to pay its debts. But Kuwait not only resisted those efforts — and asked OPEC to increase its quotas by 50 percent instead — for much of the 1980s it also had maintained its own production well above OPEC’s mandatory quota. According to a study by energy economist Mamdouh Salameh, “between 1985 and 1989, Iraq lost US$14 billion a year due to Kuwait’s oil price strategy,” and Kuwait’s refusal to decrease its oil production was viewed by Iraq as an act of aggression against it. There were additional disputes between the two countries centering on Kuwait’s exploitation of the Rumaila oil fields, which straddled the border between the two countries. Kuwait was accused of using a technique known as “slant-drilling” to siphon off oil from the Iraqi side.

George HW Bush told the public that Iraq’s invasion was “without provocation or warning,” and that “there is no justification whatsoever for this outrageous and brutal act of aggression” and not a  longstanding and complex dispute between two undemocratic petro-states.   These underlying disputes between Iraq and Kuwait got considerably less attention in the American media than did tales of Kuwaiti babies being ripped out of incubators.

 Saddam reportedly decided on war sometime in July 1990, but before sending his army into Kuwait, he approached the United States to find out how it would react. In a now famous interview with the Iraqi leader, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, “We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” The U.S. State Department had earlier told Saddam that Washington had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” The United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did. Glaspie told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee insisted she had been tough. When diplomatic cables between Baghdad and Washington were released via WikiLeaks the State Department instructed Ms. Glaspie to give the Iraqis a conciliatory message punctuated with a few indirect but significant warnings but Glaspie apparently omitted the warnings. There is no dispute about one crucially important point: Saddam Hussein consulted with the US before invading, and the US ambassador chose not to draw a line in the sand, or even hint that the invasion might be grounds for the US to go to war. Hussein ordered the attack on Kuwait confident that the US would only issue verbal condemnations.

Twelve years later, the second invasion of Iraq was premised on Hussein’s supposed cooperation with al Qaeda, vials of anthrax, Nigerian yellowcake and claims that Iraq had missiles poised to strike British territory in little as 45 minutes with secret WMDs.

Lest we forget the UK’s culpability and Tony Blair’s so-called wisdom we recall a few of his statements.

'I have certainly made up my mind, as indeed any sensible person would that the region in the world, most of all the people of Iraq, would be in a far better position without Saddam Hussein... It will be far better if he was not leading Iraq; the whole of the world would be safer if that were the case.' - May 2002

'The threat is very real and it is a threat not just to America or the international community but to Britain.' -  7th September 2002

'The document discloses that his (Saddam's) military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.' - Tony Blair's foreword to the infamous 'dodgy dossier': 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Assessment of the British Government, 24th September 2002.

'A majority of decent and well-meaning people said there was no need to confront Hitler and that those who did were war-mongers.' - 28th February 2003.

'We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.' -  House of Commons, 18th March 2003.

'Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction I suggest they wait a little bit. I remain confident they will be found.' - 28th April 2003.

Eleven years on and the names and place may now be different but the lies are still being told about Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran.

When will we learn? Perhaps the lessons of the First World War commemorations will also contribute more to our understanding of how the ruling class manipulate feelings and attitudes to foster their war plans.

Adapted from here

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Corporate Lobby at Work

The majority rules? Not if you are the USA or the EU.

The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva which adopted, by majority vote, a proposal to negotiate a legally-binding treaty to prevent human rights abuses by transnational corporations (TNCs) and the world’s business conglomerates. The vote was 20 for, 14 against and 13 abstentions in the 47-member HRC.  Yet after the vote, the United States said this legally binding instrument will not be binding for those who vote against it.

 The United States and the EU, have warned they would not cooperate with an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) which is to be established to lay down ground rules for negotiating the proposed treaty. The EU has clearly stated it will not cooperate in implementing the proposal.

When the United Nations began negotiating a Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations (TNCs) back in the 1970s, the proposal never got off the ground because of vigourous opposition both from the powerful business community and its Western allies. For decades calls have been made for a strengthened international framework on corporate rights obligations and their redress. This movement has been partly successful, culminating in the 2011 endorsement by the U.N. HRC of what are known as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. While seen as a major step forward by many, the Guiding Principles were hobbled from the beginning in that they are voluntary.

“Ultimately there are no means to ensure enforcement of the Guiding Principles, and what we’ve seen since 2011 is that the implementation of the Guiding Principles has not worked as a barrier to human rights violations by trans-national corporations,” Gonzalo Berron, an associate fellow at the Transnational Institute and a Treaty Alliance organiser, told IPS. 

Jens Martens, director of the Global Policy Forum Europe, told IPS  “Corporate Influence on the Business and Human Rights Agenda of the United Nations,” said “corporate actors have been extremely successful in implementing public relations strategies that have helped to present business enterprises as good corporate citizens.”

Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe, told IPS “The division of the votes clearly shows that the countries who are host to a lot of TNCs, such as the EU, as well as Norway and the U.S., are against this proposal,” Elsewhere, she said “The EU is therefore effectively boycotting the UNHRC and standing up for corporate interests instead of human rights. ”

There are some 80,000 multinational corporations in existence and millions of subsidiaries. A parent company can have a wholly owned subsidiary – as shareholders, they own shares of that corporation – and then, of course, have no liability whatsoever except for the investment that they’ve made in that corporation. Today what we see is this becoming a tool for large, transnational businesses to outsource the risk yet get all of the profit. So many very complex corporate organisations exist so that corporations have minimal risk but get these benefits. The London-based Global Exchange, an international human rights organisation, has put out a list of the “top 10 corporate criminals”, accusing them of being complicit in violations of human rights and the environment. The companies identified include Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum, Nike, Blackwater International, Syngenta, Barrick Gold and Nestle. The charges include unlivable working conditions for factory workers, lack of worker’s rights, pollution, child labour, toxic dumping, unfair labour practices, discrimination, and destruction of indigenous lands for mining and oil exploration.
“Shell and other multinational corporations are free to do business in the United States, and free to commit human rights abuses in other countries around the world, and not have any fear that the victims of those abuses would be able to gain access to a U.S. federal court to obtain justice for those abuses,” Marco Simons, Earthrights International’s legal director said. “This essentially contravenes the fundamental purpose of the Alien Tort Statute – to not provide protection in the United States for those who violate international law.”

From here 

The Dream That Cannot be Broken

Mamadou is 17 years old and comes from Mali, fleeing from war, poverty, violence and starvation. Mamadou has crossed Mauritania and Algeria before reaching a mountain that stands behind the Moroccan city of Nador and overlooking the Spanish enclave of Melilla.  He is one of about 4,000 inhabitants of a veritable tent city on the slopes of an impervious mountain, exposed to every kind of hardship. Cold, hunger, disease and violence are the order of the day on Gurugu. Tents made of plastic bags and branches, blankets retrieved from garbage cans, small bonfires to keep warm, and nothing more. There’s no water on Mount Gurugu. It is packed with migrants from nearly every corner of Sub Saharan Africa. There are Malians, Senegalese, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Liberians, Ghanaians, and all have arrived on Gurugu with a single goal: to scale the fence that divides Morocco from Melilla. It is a triple barrier 12km long, controlled by dozens of cameras and continuous patrols both by the Moroccan police and the Spanish Guardia Civil.

 The Moroccan police are the greatest nightmare for the migrants: both for those dwelling on Gurugu and for the others hiding in the forests and in the suburbs of Moroccan cities.

“Almost every day, at dawn, the Moroccan soldiers leave their base at the foot of Gurugu, come to our camp and destroy everything” says Idriss, who can barely walk after being severely beaten. “They pull down the tents, set fire to them, throw away the food, steal the little money we have, our phones. And if they can catch anyone then they arrest him and beat him, and then take him to Rabat the capital. We fall over the cliffs, many of us fracture arms and legs, we are hurt and we have no medicine to treat us. Over the years we have stopped counting the dead.”

All migrants have a dream: Europe. A Europe which, however, doesn’t want them, and turns a blind eye to the – both Moroccan and Spanish – violence as many NGOs point out. Violence, mafia, arrests, nothing seems to be able to blunt the will power of these people,

 “They can treat us like animals, beat us, steal everything from us, hurt us, even kill us, but they don’t know what we are running away from and they don’t know how strong our desire is to reach Europe. Everyone here dreams of having a pair of wings, but if God wills, sooner or later, even without them we will make it.”

From here 

Land Mines

The USA has announced it won’t make or buy any more anti-personnel landmines. We should be thankful for small mercies. But we should also be aware that the US possesses 3 million such devices and has no intention of getting rid of this stock-pile.

Landmines kill, according to UN estimates, from 15,000 to 20,000 people a year in dozens of countries and cripple many thousands more. Landmines are scattered throughout an estimated 78 countries and the majority of victims are civilian: children, women and the elderly, making up approximately 80 percent of the casualties.

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said in a statement , “Without a commitment to destroy some or all of the United States’ existing stockpile of landmines and on a schedule, the pledge not to produce or acquire landmines will have little material effect on existing US stockpiles for many, many years to come.”

Steve Goose, head of delegation for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said, “While they are saying they are working toward banning them in the future, they are leaving open the option of continuing to use them in the meantime, which is kind of a contradictory way to approach things.”

Financial Services Industry Patrons Boost Clintons' Fortune

In a review of the ways in which the Clinton family has amassed its fortune since leaving office, The Washington Post reports that the majority of Bill Clinton’s speaking fees came from foreign sources. Clinton has made $104.9 million for 542 speeches since leaving the White House, and $56.3 million of it was from abroad. In addition, the most frequent patron of Clinton during this time was the financial-services industry, which has had the former president make at least 102 appearances, for $19.6 million. Clinton’s speech income was publicly available because his wife, Hillary, has been in public office.

from here

Paraguay's Criminalisation Of Peasants

For 2nd Anniversary of “Curuguaty Massacre,” New Report Sheds Light on the Criminalization of Peasants and the Right to Land in Paraguay

OAKLAND, California; HEIDELBERG, Germany; ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay, June 18, 2014

  On June 15, 2012, seventeen people—eleven peasant farmers and six police officers—were killed in the rural district of Curuguaty, Paraguay. Now known as the “Curuguaty massacre” the killings took place during a violent eviction carried out by police and prosecutors against families of landless peasants who had occupied a piece of land known as Marina Kue.

A new report based on the findings of an international fact-finding investigation carried out in September 2012 shows evidence of widespread human rights violations, legal irregularities and a state-sponsored campaign to criminalize peasant movements struggling to access land on which to grow food.

The “Curuguaty massacre” is now recognized as one of the most serious cases of human rights violations in Latin America and an emblematic example of the growing criminalization of peasant struggles for the right to land in the region. It is also a critical case in linking the global trend of “land grabbing” with grabs for political power. Only one week after the massacre, the event was used as a pretext for ousting democratically elected president Fernando Lugo.

Paraguay is one of the countries with the greatest land inequality in the world. Paraguay’s extreme land concentration, combined with the high levels of violence and impunity surrounding the Curuguaty massacre, indicate a severe lack of responsible land governance in Paraguay; an absence of protections for the rights of small and landless farmers; and the use of state repression in the service of the country’s powerful landed elite.

This report—authored by human rights advocacy organization FIAN International and international peasant movement La Vía Campesina—is published by Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy as part of its Land & Sovereignty in the Americas publications series.

 from here

SWAT Teams Claim Exemption From Public Scrutiny

Operators of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams comprised of tax payer-funded police and sheriffs in Massachusetts claim they are immune to public records requests about deadly force, incident reports, and more because they are private "corporations."
In addition to SWAT teams run by individual towns, many of these military-style domestic policing units are operated by regional "law enforcement councils," which are bankrolled by tax-payer money and comprised of publicly-funded police and sheriffs. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, approximately 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts belong to these LECs.
Some of these LECs have become incorporated with 501(c)(3) status—a classification they say makes them exempt from public records requests.
Jessie Rossman, staff attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, told Common Dreams that her organization issued records requests to "a couple of LECs" to obtain information about their policies for a recent report on the militarization of local police. "We got responses from individuals claiming to speak on behalf of the LECs saying they would not be responding because they do not believe they are subject to public records law," she explained.
This is despite the SWAT teams' possession of automatic weapons and combat gear, as well as their military-style "counter-insurgency" tactics, which, according to the ACLU of Massachusetts report, turn communities into "war zones."
As Washington Post writer Radley Balko points out, Massachusetts SWAT teams have an ugly history of brutality and excessive force, including a litany of deaths in botched drug raids. In their report, the ACLU of Massachusetts report notes that "unjustifiable force and SWAT raids against people in their homes most often target people of color and the poor."
In response, the ACLU of Massachusetts announced this week it is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council for information about its SWAT teams, after NEMLEC refused a public records request. NEMLEC possesses a combat-level vehicle and weapons for "military style operations," according to a statement about the lawsuit.
"NEMLEC can't have it both ways," said Rossman. "The same authority that allows them to participate in high risk warrant service, forced entry, and arrests of individuals also means they must be subject to public records law."

from here

When Charity is a Business

The American Red Cross spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy and has now hired a law firm to fight a public request  filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."  The Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.

An attorney from the firm Gibson Dunn New York office has lodged an appeal with the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law's trade secret exemption. The documents requested for scrutiny include "internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information," wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn. If those details were disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage,"

So a supposedly NON-PROFIT and HUMANITARIAN organization is worried that it "would suffer  competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage"? If the Red Cross wanted to help people wouldn't they want other organizations to copy their model and methods and so help more people and not kept as a trade secret or commercial confidentiality? Instead, this supposed humanitarian and non-profit organization is more worried about losing its market share of donor money.

From here

The New Slave Markets

The slave market is alive and well in Singapore.  Maids are put on display and made available for 'purchase' in central shopping malls. You will find five levels of brightly lit rooms and galleries called "Homekeeper" and "Budget Maid". Inside these rooms, dozens of women sit in a listless, artificial silence. They nod respectfully as you enter, and some watch closely as you speak to staff. You might take one home with you - for two years, or longer.

The women, domestic workers, come from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. They sit beneath garish signs and posters, testifying to their friendliness and industriousness, or advertising "super promo" rates and "special discounts". Along one aisle, domestic workers push each other around in wheelchairs, as though they're taking care of the elderly. In another gallery, a woman cradles a baby doll and pretends to change its diapers.

Jolovan Wham, executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation of Migration Economics (HOME), a migrant workers advocacy group based in Singapore, said that some agencies market their domestic workers like "commodities". He adds that racial stereotypes are sometimes used in transactions with patrons. "Some of the stereotypes include Filipinos as 'smarter', Indonesians as 'less bright' and Burmese as 'sweet-natured and compliant'."

Bukit Timah and other shopping centres like it are the culmination of networks and organisations extending from Singapore to various parts of Southeast Asia: from brokers who recruit women from poor countries, to training centres that prepare women for life abroad, to "runners" who ferry domestic workers from airports to shopping centres, and finally to the employment agencies themselves, of which there are hundreds in Singapore, competing in what is effectively a multimillion dollar industry. Wham says that there are currently 215,000 domestic workers in Singapore. Most domestic workers who come to Singapore have large debts in the form of placement fees paid to agencies as monthly salary deductions. Some domestic maids also work in Singapore illegally. A number of women are employed even though they are underage and some will be brought into the country under conditions indicative of trafficking.

Shelley Thio, executive member of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)  raised concerns over Singapore's "live-in" requirement, by which a full-time domestic worker is legally obliged to live in the home of her employer. "We have continually advocated that the live-in requirement is unsatisfactory because it easily leads to abuse." The live-in requirement can leave women vulnerable to sexual abuse. Earlier this year, a Cambodian domestic worker was sexually harassed by her employer's father, with whom she was made to share a room. Although the woman had complained about this arrangement, both to her employers and employment agency, nothing was done to change her situation prior to the abuse.
 Istiana, an Indonesian domestic worker who has recently come to work in Singapore. "Those signs that say 'cheap price' and 'discount maid'. But these are people."

From here 

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Inequality

Still the evidence that the rich are growing richer rolls in.

Britain's top earners have pulled away from all other income groups, with the top 20% of households increasing their disposable incomes last year while all others fell.

The top fifth of earners saw their annual disposable income rise by £940, while the bottom fifth lost £381 and all other groups lost around £250.

 Excluding retired households, disposable incomes fell overall by 6.3% on average, or £2,100, much further han the £1,200 fall for all households. The bottom fifth of non-retired households saw a 2% fall in incomes

General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The return of rising inequality should worry everyone as it suggests that nothing has been learned from the financial crisis despite the huge fall in living standards that so many people are still experiencing."

Duncan Exley, director of the anti-poverty charity, the Equality Trust said the figures showed the government's main measure of income inequality, the Gini coefficient, had returned to its 2009/10 level. The Gini for disposable household income is 33.2 for 2012/13, up from 32.3 in 2011/12. He said: "By George Osborne's own measure, inequality has now risen to the same level as before his government came to power. There is now overwhelming evidence that the UK's unusually high inequality is damaging our health, society and economy.”

Yes, There Is An Alternative To Capitalism

The excesses of capitalism are not simply a question of bad management and a political unwillingness to properly regulate it by imposing the right sort of checks and balances, but symptoms of a fundamentally and irretrievably flawed system that tends toward destruction of human and other life.

2014 626 tem sw

The idea of capitalism as an expression of economic freedom that also secures moral and political freedom of thought, or the notion that "free-market" economies are guided by an impartial mechanism of supply and demand - an "invisible hand" to use Adam Smith's metaphor - are both powerful indoctrinating notions. As such, they bear little resemblance to actual reality. Smith himself never used the word "capitalism," preferring to call his economics a "system of natural liberty." In fact, the inner logic of capitalism can be difficult to get hold of simply because there have been different configurations of capitalism throughout history. In its classic form, before the advent of corporations (when there was still an implicit sense of social responsibility, and insatiable greed was considered a vice), capitalism might have appeared less virulent. Additionally, there is reason to believe that capitalism unfolded differently in different countries with distinct political and legal frameworks.

All of these contingent factors are worthy of consideration in any assessment of capitalism. However, it is also reasonably clear that once we actually look at history, it is difficult not to conclude that pretty much every embodiment of capitalism - classical capitalism, oligarchic or corporate capitalism, casino capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism - presuppose similar elements: private property, ownership of the means of production, notions of unlimited growth, the maximization of profit, using wealth to create wealth. They also all embody a form of instrumental rationality, the kind of rationality concerned with maximizing profits and minimizing costs. In its globalized corporate form, capitalism has been able to relentlessly realize this form of instrumental reasoning on a large scale - and thereby show itself as one of the most destructive and undemocratic economic system humans have ever come up with.

(This is the beginning of an article longer than usually pasted here, but which affirms SOYMB's stance that capitalism cannot be tweaked to work in the best interests of people and planet and that, therefore, it must be eradicated in favour of the system that will.

"The Compelling Conclusion About Capitalism That Piketty Resists" by Fred Guerin  which can be found here 

Rich investors get richer

The evidence that the rich are getting richer doesn't seem to be slowing.

Researchers from Imperial College Business School, Columbia University and the University of Maryland found that wealthy individuals in the US can get in relative terms up to 70 per cent times greater returns on their investments than those with modest wealth, when the yields on assets such as stocks and bonds are calculated. The team say that this further widens the income gap between rich and poor and potentially creates disparities in society.

Rich investors have better access to resources and advice from professionals such as asset managers. This enables them to better determine where to invest their money on the stock exchange.  In contrast, investors with a modest income are unable to afford the same access to information and expertise and they're also wary of being exploited by rich investors.  This means that they're less likely to invest in riskier stocks and bonds that could provide them with a higher return on investments.

 “Our research shows that some wealthy individuals are making substantial profits on stock markets because they have tools at their disposal that individuals from modest incomes don't.   This further creates a widening income gap between rich and poor...”  Professor Marcin Kacperczyk, co-author of the report, said. 

US Embassy Berlin: Desperately Seeking Support For TAFTA

Some folks in Europe — farmers, consumer groups, enviros, privacy advocates and others — have strongly opposed  the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that’s now being negotiated.
Opposition in France and Italy had been strong. And now it seems the Germans are looking increasingly askance at the treaty. But the Obama administration,free-trade and business groups are pushing hard for an agreement.
So the U.S. embassy in Berlin is enlisting treaty-supporting Germans — even offering cold, hard cash.

“Are you pro-TTIP and angry at the negative coverage it’s been getting? Send us your ideas and we’ll support you!” the embassy, or “Botschaft,” said in a tweet in German on Friday:

Du bist für und ärgerst dich über negative Berichterstattung? Sende uns deine Idee und wir unterstützen dich! 
That’s right, the embassy’s public affairs section has launched project “T-TIP: Get Informed! Get Involved.” The section is “soliciting proposals” and offering grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 to German non-profits, “non-governmental organizations, think tanks and academic institutions” to get out the real “facts and figures” and to “combat misinformation.”
The embassy suggests things like “short documentaries on T-TIP” or an “Expert Speaker Tour with proposed names for travel (including per diem and honoraria).” You might want to set up a “T-TIP conference. . . that can be live-streamed” or “digital posters in German” or set up a “website devoted to T-TIP.”
The initial reader tweets included a couple who were supportive, some who thought the tweet was a joke and several negative ones, such as: “Your PR for TTIP won’t save this project, no matter how much money you pay” from Maritta Strasser and a rather caustic one from “Unimpeachable,” who tweeted: “TTIP cancels out democracy! This is an attack on all mankind and the environment.”

from here

More on Immigration

Emigration for survival has been going on for time immemorial. Human beings from the beginning of time were looking for a place where their basic needs would be met. At the time there were no countries or no borders. Today emigration continues to be a survival skill.  Millions of workers who emigrate hope of improving their lives have been bitterly disappointed and subjected to the most ruthless exploitation by the ruling class.

Some on the Left see the free movement of labour as part of neo-liberal globalisation  - something which benefits Big Business but not ordinary people. They further add that  immigration is a capitalist ploy to drive down wages.  For the capitalist, immigrants are sources for both exploitable labour and consumers in the market. But being Leftists they call for policies to make migration unnecessary and for funds to be used to enable poorer regions to be self-supporting.

Some mistakenly scapegoat immigrants as the source of stagnant or falling wages, declining living standards and unemployment, and call for punitive measures against them. In truth, however, unemployment, and whatever pressure immigrant labour places on wages, is a direct result of the competitive capitalist system itself. It is a by-product of the system of wage labour, which forces workers to compete for their livelihoods on the basis of the conditions laid down by the capitalist system. Accordingly, efforts to scapegoat immigrants only serve to divide workers against one another, place greater hardships on immigrants and their families, and draw attention away from the capitalist source of these problems.

Capitalism with its private ownership of the economy and exploitation of wage labour is responsible for economic hardship and insecurity for all workers; that it compels workers for economic or political reasons to leave their home countries and seek a new life elsewhere; that immigration laws, whether promoted by so-called liberals or conservatives, only serve to benefit the capitalist class. Accordingly, the critical issue facing workers today is the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. We can't let the employers divide us and play us off one against the other. If we organise in unions, and politically, we can fight back.

Azeb Brahana is a 25-year-old Eritrean who left her country in 2012, aware, she says, that the life she wanted was not possible in a country with mandatory national service. To get to Europe she worked for a year in Sudan and endured months in a Libyan jail, where the United Nations estimates thousands of refugees and migrants are being held in deplorable conditions. It was in prison that Brahana gave birth to her son, and it is because of him that she is determined to make it, finally, to a place of safety and stability. “Somewhere I can live with my baby, happy,” she says. She paid people-smugglers $1,600 (£950) to board a boat packed with more than 300 people.

Many others have stories of torture and ill-treatment on their epic journeys across Africa. “They threatened you,” says Adama Bah, 16, from Gambia, recalling his time in Libya where he says he earned the money to pay smugglers for the sea crossing to Italy. “I saw many people shot in the leg or dead.” Bah wants to be a footballer when he grows up. “That’s my dream,” he says.

Teame Habte, 20, from Eritrea, came to Italy through Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya and was taken from the sea to Lampedusa. “My uncle lives in Rome,” he says. “I will work. I will do any work. I need to send money home because my family is very poor.”

 The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi told his parliament: “A Europe that tells the Calabrian fisherman that he must use a certain technique to catch tuna but then turns its back when there are dead bodies in the sea cannot call itself civilised.”

“We continue to talk of an emergency about migrants … It’s not possible to talk about an “emergency” after 20 years,” says Rosario Valastro, president of the Italian Red Cross in Sicily.

Water and not a drop to drink

War, famine, and pestilence leading to mass extinctions - all of these are coming unless some kind of miraculous solution is found to the world's rapidly growing water crisis.  By the year 2030, the global demand for water will exceed the global supply of water by an astounding 40 percent according to one very disturbing U.S. government report.

  #1 Right now, 1.6 billion people live in areas of the world that are facing "absolute water scarcity".

#2 Global water use has quadrupled over the past 100 years and continues to rise rapidly.

#3 One recent study found that a third of all global corn crops are facing "water stress".

#4 A child dies from a water-related disease every 15 seconds.

#5 By 2025, two-thirds of the population of Earth will "be living under water stressed conditions".

#6 Due to a lack of water, Chinese food imports now require more land than the entire state of California.

#7 At this point, the amount of water that China imports is already greater than the amount of oil that the United States imports.

#8 Approximately 80 percent of the major rivers in China have become so polluted that they no longer support any aquatic life at all.

#9 The Great Lakes hold about 21 percent of the total supply of fresh water in the entire world, but Barack Obama is allowing water from those lakes "to be drained, bottled and shipped to China" at a frightening pace.

#10 It is being projected that India will essentially "run out of water" by the year 2050.

#11 It has been estimated that 75 percent of all surface water in India has been heavily contaminated by human or agricultural waste.

#12 In the Middle East, the flow of water in the Jordan River is down to only 2 percent of its historic rate.

#13 Due to a lack of water, Saudi Arabia has essentially given up on trying to grow wheat and will be 100 percent dependent on wheat imports by the year 2016.

#14 Of the 60 million people added to the major cities of the world every year, the vast majority of them live in deeply impoverished areas that have no sanitation facilities whatsoever.

#15 Nearly the entire southwestern United States is experiencing drought conditions as you read this article.  It has been this way for most of the past several years.

#16 Thanks in part to the seemingly endless drought, the price index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs in the U.S. just hit a new all-time high.

#17 As underground aquifers are relentlessly drained in California, some areas of the San Joaquin Valley are sinking by 11 inches a year.

#18 It is being projected that Lake Mead has a 50 percent chance of running dry by the year 2025.

#19 Most Americans don't realize this, but the once mighty Colorado River has become so depleted that it no longer runs all the way to the ocean.

#20 According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie" has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940, and it is currently being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.

#21 Once upon a time, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of approximately 240 feet, but today the average depth is just 80 feet. In some areas of Texas, the water is already completely gone.

#22 Approximately 40 percent of all rivers and approximately 46 percent of all lakes in the United States have become so polluted that they are are no longer fit for human use.

#23 Because of the high cost and the inefficient use of energy, desalination is not considered to be a widely feasible solution to our water problems at this time...

The largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is currently under construction in Carlsbad in San Diego County at great expense. The price tag: $1 billion.

Right now, San Diego is almost totally dependent on imported water from Sierra snowmelt and the Colorado River. When the desalination plant comes online in 2016, it will produce 50 million gallons per day, enough to offset just 7 percent of the county’s water usage. That’s a huge bill for not very much additional water.

#24 We have filled the North Pacific Ocean with 100 million tons of plastic, and this is starting to have a very serious affect on the marine food chain.  Ultimately, this could mean a lot less food available from the Pacific Ocean for humans.

#25 One  U.S. government report concluded that the global demand for water will exceed the global supply of water by 40 percent by the year 2030.

From here 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The People Speak - WAR IS NOT WORTH IT!

The Iraq war wasn't worth it, say an overwhelming majority—and increasing number—of Americans.
Results of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll of over 1,300 voters conducted this month found that 71 percent of respondents said the occupation that began in 2003 wasn't worth it.
That marks a considerable increase since January 2013, when an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 59 percent of respondents said it the war wasn't worth it.

A CBC News/New York Times poll also out this week and conducted this month similarly showed widespread regret for the war; those results showed that 75 percent of respondents said the invasion was worth neither the loss of life nor monetary costs. That's up from 67 percent in 2011.

Those results show the Iraq War may be even more unpopular than the Vietnam War, but they also follow a pattern.  Gallup polls from the 1960s through 1970 revealed increasing percentages of people who thought that war was a mistake, and a 2000 Gallup poll showed that 69% of Americans said the war in Vietnam was a mistake.

In December 2013, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 66 percent of Americans thought that the war in Afghanistan wasn't worth it—a spike from the 52 percent who in 2010 said it wasn't worth it.
In addition, a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released earlier this year showed that a majority of Americans thought the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were 'failures.'

from here