Tuesday, June 30, 2015



A gay clergyman has been sacked by the C. of E. for
marrying his lover. Unlike secular bodies, the Church
cannot be sued for wrongful dismissal in this respect.

It’s curious how Christian love,
In this Established sect; (1)
Has the whiff of a hypocrite,
In that it has the opposite,
And quite reverse effect.

It was reversed in byegone days.
When slavery was rife;
With Negroes semi-human and,
Through Noah, Ham and God’s own hand, (2)
The lowest form of life.

It was reversed not long ago,
With each unmarried mum;
When working-class unfortunates,
Were classed as mere inadequates,
And treated just like scum.

It was reversed when bastard kids,
Were herded well away;
And hidden from society,
In dutiful propriety,
To morally decay.

It was reversed in the World Wars,
When God was on each side;
And Christian love for all mankind,
(A feature difficult to find)
Lay down and finally died.

A question for the C. of E.,
Why has it for so long;
Got all the things it claimed was right,
(About which it got so uptight)
Invariably so wrong?

(1) A sect is simply a church whose crazy
ideas don’t agree with your own crazy ideas.

(2) The Curse of Ham, the son of Noah who supposedly
sired all Black people according to Biblical interpretation.

© Richard Layton

The Risks Of Recycling For Workers In The Capitalist System

The industries that pride themselves on being friends of the earth are often hostile to workers, according to new research on the safety conditions in recycling plants. Published by the Massachusetts Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National COSH, and other advocacy groups, the analysis of the industry shows that, despite the green sector’s clean, progressive image, workers remain imperiled by old-school industrial hazards. Workers face intense stress, dangerous machinery, and inadequate safeguards, while toiling in strenuous positions amid constant toxic exposures.

Often the sorting of recyclables requires directly handling hazardous materials and improperly disposed waste, such as plastic bags that accumulate and cause potentially deadly clogs in machines. Some cities allow dumping of “mixed” trash, leaving workers to separate metal cans from organic waste, or battery fluid from old meatloaf (cities could prevent such dangers through the slight inconvenience of simply requiring people to separate garbage beforehand).

Though they might lack proper safety training or protective gear, workers might routinely encounter used syringes, glass shards, noxious oil residue, or the odd squirrel.
In MassCOSH’s announcement of the report, former Boston recycling worker Mirna Santizo recalled, “We would find lots of glass, and needles. Sometimes workers are punctured and hurt from the needles. We would find dead animals in the bins and it really stinks.” Research shows composting and recycling workers also suffer “exposures and illnesses associated with inhaling endotoxins” emitted by rotting waste.

According to federal statistics, “The rate of nonfatal injury incidents in [recycling facilities] was 8.5 per 100 workers in 2012. This is much higher than the rate for all industries (3.5 per 100 workers) higher than the average for all waste management and remediation services (5.1 per 100 workers).”

A 2013 survey found seven in ten recycling workers suffered workplace injury or illness, including “musculoskeletal disorders such as injuries to the back and knees (reported by 57 percent of workers), and scrapes and cuts (reported by 43 percent of workers).” Between 2011 and 2013, 17 recycling workers died on the job.

from here

Workers Of The World - 36

Family Farmers - They Really Do Feed The World

In October of last year, World Food Day celebrated ‘Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth’. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s website, the family farming theme was chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. The aim was to focus world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, especially in rural areas.

Family farming should indeed be celebrated because it really does feed the world. This claim is supported by a 2014 report by GRAIN, which revealed that small farms produce most of the world’s food.

Around 56% of Russia ‘s agricultural output comes from family farms which occupy less than 9% of arable land. These farms produce 90% of the country’s potatoes, 83% of its vegetables, 55% of its of milk, 39% of its meat and 22% of its cereals (Russian Federation Federal State Statistics Services figures for 2011).
In Brazil, 84% of farms are small and control 24% of the land, yet they produce: 87% of cassava, 69% of beans, 67% of goat milk, 59% of pork, 58% of cow milk, 50% of chickens, 46% of maize, 38% of coffee, 33.8% of rice and 30% of cattle.
In Cuba, with 27% of the land, small farmers produce: 98% of fruits, 95% of beans, 80% of maize, 75% of pork, 65% of vegetables, 55% of cow milk, 55% of cattle and 35% of rice (Braulio Machin et al, ANAP-Via Campesina, “Revolucion agroecologica, resumen ejectivo”).
In Ukraine, small farmers operate 16% of agricultural land, but provide 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk (State Statistics Service of Ukraine. “Main agricultural characteristics of households in rural areas in 2011″).
Similar impressive figures are available for Chile, Hungary, Belarus, Romania, Kenya, El Salvador and many other countries.

The evidence shows that small peasant/family farms are the bedrock of global food production. The bad news is that they are being squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland and such land is under threat. The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful speculators and corporations.
The report by GRAIN also revealed that small farmers are often much more productive than large corporate farms, despite the latter’s access to various expensive technologies. For example, if all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. In Russia, it would be six fold.

Yet in many places, small farmers are being criminalised, taken to court and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. They are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion from their land by foreign corporations, some of which are fronted by fraudulent individuals who specialise in corrupt deals and practices to rake in enormous profits to the detriment of small farmers and food production.

Imagine what small farmers could achieve if they had access to more land and could work in a supportive policy environment, rather than under the siege conditions they too often face. For example, the vast majority of farms in Zimbabwe belong to smallholders and their average farm size has increased as a result of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. Small farmers in the country now produce over 90% of diverse agricultural food crops, while they only provided 60 to 70% of the national food before land redistribution.
Throughout much of the world, however, agricultural land is being taken over by large corporations. GRAIN concludes that, in the last 50 years, 140 million hectares – well more than all the farmland in China – have been taken over for soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane alone.

By definition, peasant agriculture prioritises food production for local and national markets as well as for farmers’ own families. Big agritech corporations take over scarce fertile land and prioritise commodities or export crops for profit and markets far away that cater for the needs of the affluent. This process impoverishes local communities and brings about food insecurity. The concentration of fertile agricultural land in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day and is undermining global food security.

The issue of land ownership was also picked up on by another report last year. A report by the Oakland Institute stated that the first years of the 21st century will be remembered for a global land rush of nearly unprecedented scale. An estimated 500 million acres, an area eight times the size of Britain, was reported bought or leased across the developing world between 2000 and 2011, often at the expense of local food security and land rights.
A new generation of institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity, pension funds and university endowments, is eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns, not food security, are what matter. In the US, for instance, with rising interest from investors and surging land prices, giant pension funds are committing billions to buy agricultural land.

The Oakland Institute argues that the US could experience an unprecedented crisis of retiring farmers over the next 20 years, leading to ample opportunities for these actors to expand their holdings as an estimated 400 million acres changes generational hands.
The corporate consolidation of agriculture is happening as much in Iowa and California as it is in the Philippines,Mozambique and not least in Ukraine.

Imperialism and the control of agriculture

Ukraine’s small farms are delivering impressive outputs, despite being squeezed onto just 16% of arable land. But the US-backed toppling of that country’s government may change all that. Indeed, part of the reason behind destabilizing Ukraine and installing a puppet regime was for US agritech concerns like Monsanto to gain access to its agriculture sector, which is what we are now witnessing.
Current ‘aid’ packages, contingent on the plundering of the economy under the guise of ‘austerity reforms’, will have a devastating impact on Ukrainians’ standard of living and increase poverty in the country.
Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan include agricultural deregulation that is intended to benefit agribusiness corporations. Natural resource and land policy shifts are intended to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land. The EU Association Agreement includes a clause requiring both parties to cooperate to extend the use of biotechnology. Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute states:
“Their (World Bank and IMF) intent is blatant: to open up foreign markets to Western corporations… The high stakes around control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an oft-overlooked critical factor. In recent years, foreign corporations have acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land.”
Chemical-industrial agriculture and the original ‘green revolution’ has proved extremely lucrative for the oil and chemical industry and has served to maintain and promote US hegemony, not least via the uprooting of indigenous farming practices in favour of cash crop/export-oriented policies, dam building to cater for what became a highly water intensive industry, loans, indebtedness, dependency on the dollar and the corporate control of seeds, etc.

Whether through ‘free trade’ agreements, commodity market price manipulations, loan packages, the co-optation of political leaders or the hijack of strategic policy-making bodies, corporate profits are being secured and food sovereignty surrendered to the US, which has always used agriculture as a tool with which to control countries.
(The GMO issue has to be regarded within such a geopolitical framework too: it has less to do with ‘feeding the world’ and more about controlling it (see this and this)

While celebrating of the role of the family farm in feeding the world, rich speculators and powerful US agritech corporations continue to colonise agriculture and undermine the existence of small farms and global food security.
Choosing to ignore the research, however, much mainstream thinking rests on the fallacious assumption that uprooting small farms and displacing rural populations is a good thing. This assumption stems from an ethnocentric mindset that legitimises the plunder we are witnessing across the globe.
Environmentalist Vandana Shiva sums it up as follows:
“People are perceived as ‘poor’ if they eat food they have grown rather than commercially distributed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made from ecologically well-adapted materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cinder block or cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics.”
This is an ideology that fuels the myth that the ‘poor’ are poor due to their own fault and must be lifted up by the West and its corporations and billionaire ‘philanthropists’. It is the ideology that attempts to legitimise imperialism and economic colonialism, which causes economic devastation and ecological destruction in the first place. From Africa to India and beyond, the disease is being offered as the cure.

Modern-day slaves or modern-day workers?

The Socialist Party objective is to have more of a shared humanity and it can only be achieved when people everywhere understands and cares.

India’s Adivasis often work in conditions commonly described as ‘modern-day slavery’, but they are not slaves. Their unfreedom is both the fuel and product of modern Indian capitalism.

Who are India’s Adivasis? Put very simply, the term Adivasi—which means original inhabitant—refers to a range of ethnic groups that predominantly inhabit hilly and forested areas across rural India. They are classified by the Indian constitution as belonging to the category of 'scheduled tribes', a designation which reflects the fact that Indian authorities do not recognise Adivasis as being indigenous people, but rather define them as ‘tribal’ according to a specific set of features. These include their dependence on subsistence agriculture and their distinct ethnic and cultural identity, which tends to position them beyond the pale of even the ‘lowest’ rungs of India’s caste system. Constituting roughly eight percent of the country’s population, the Adivasis are vastly overrepresented among the poor in India: according to recent data, almost half of all Adivasis—some 44.7 percent—live below a very meager poverty line of 816 Rupees (£8.32/$12.75) per month for rural households…

… We must begin with poverty if we are to understand why Adivasis so often work under conditions that Walk Free refers to as slavery. Adivasis are overwhelmingly poor, a fact acknowledged in the Global Slavery Index, and it is this poverty that compels Adivasis to turn to labour migration. This is often the first step to working under varying degrees of unfreedom. Let us ask then ask a very basic question: where does that poverty come from?

Speaking broadly there are two causes that stand out: the twin losses of livelihood and land. Firstly, Adivasi poverty stems from the erosion of their agricultural livelihoods. Historically, the core of tribal livelihoods is subsistence cultivation, which is now rarely capable of sustaining a household for a full year. While some aspects of this situation are specific to Adivasi livelihoods, this state of affairs is symptomatic of a larger crisis of small and marginal agriculturalists in the context of neoliberal reform in India. This crisis is most acutely manifest in the quarter of a million farmers who committed suicide in India between 1995 and 2011, due to severe economic distress.

In addition, many Adivasis who have turned to labour migration have been dispossessed of their land due to the construction of the large dams, industrial plants, and mines that are intended to bolster India’s emergence as an economic superpower. Let’s recall the figures for a moment: Adivasis constitute eight percent of India’s population. However, even conservative estimates suggest they also constitute 40 to 50 percent of the 20 to 30 million people who have been dispossessed by large-scale infrastructure and development projects since independence in 1947. Given that policies for resettlement and rehabilitation have been woefully inadequate, the vast majority of those who have been dispossessed have no other choice than labour migration—and whatever work can be found within migration circuits—in order to survive. In other words, the poverty that compels Adivasis to resort to forms of labour that are profoundly unfree is produced by the fundamental workings of Indian capitalism...


The terrorism they don't talk about

In the US six black churches burn down in seven days, three of which have already been named as arson. 

Capitalism - sugar coated

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year, and should be eliminated from people’s diets, medical experts have warned. The global death toll from sugar-laden drinks – ranging from soft drinks to fruit smoothies – has been revealed in a new paper published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal.

Most of the deaths are from people who die from diabetes, estimated at some 133,000 a year. Around 45,000 people die each year from heart disease and another 6,450 from cancer, according to the study - which is the first comprehensive assessment of the global deaths attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

When it comes to the total number of deaths annually, the United States tops the list – with 25,347. But when it comes to the actual death rate, Mexico is top – with 404.5 deaths per million adults. Most of the deaths are concentrated among adults aged 20 to 44 years of age in low and middle income countries, say researchers. Britain has 1,316 deaths a year, with an estimated mortality rate of 30.5 per million adults.

It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” commented Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston. “There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year.”

As the tobacco industry previously did, the British Soft Drinks Association to protect their profits denied any connection with the consumption of their products and bad health leading to death.

SOYMB blog’s comment is that over 3 million children die each year caused by malnutrition, through no faut of their own. Apologists for capitalism are also in denial mode to the fact that the buying and selling system is to blame, too 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Economy Of Exclusion and The Disparate Impact of Climate Change

Mr. Ban, the United Nations secretary general, had brought the leaders of all his major agencies to see Pope Francis, a show of organizational muscle and respect for a meeting between two global institutions that had sometimes shared a bumpy past but now had a mutual interest.
The agenda was poverty, and Francis inveighed against the "economy of exclusion" as he addressed Mr. Ban's delegation at the Apostolic Palace. But in an informal meeting with Mr. Ban and his advisers, Francis shifted the discussion to the environment and how environmental degradation weighed heaviest on the poor.

The encyclical—which has now been formally issued—includes an economic critique of the way in which global capitalism has facilitated both the exploitation of nature and vast inequities among people—even people living in the same countries. That message makes the encyclical a distinctly political document, no matter how forcefully the Vatican insists that it is intended to be a statement of theology and morality, not politics. The Pontiff has raised two issues that are seldom recognized in the heated debates over climate policy: the interrelated nature of the policy decisions we make and the social and economic systems we institutionalize; and the wildly disparate impact of those decisions and systems on those who are "differently situated," as lawyers might put it.

The term "privilege" is usually connected to a descriptor like "white" or "male," but we might also consider what privilege means for other kinds of diversity in the context of global climate change. Similarly, we tend to think of poverty as the absence of money and material goods, but poverty includes many other deficits, including an individual's ability to withstand or recover from incidents of violent weather, to cope with economic changes and job losses linked to climate change, and eventually, the means to move away from newly uninhabitable locations.

A prime example unfolding in the past few days is that of Karachi, Pakistan which can be seen as a clear indicator of future global events in this business and money oriented world system called capitalism:

Over 950 people have perished in just five days. The morgues, already filled to capacity, are piling up with bodies, and in over-crowded hospitals the threat of further deaths hangs in the air.
Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, home to over 23 million people, is gasping in the grip of a dreadful heat wave, the worst the country has experienced since the 1950s, according to the Meteorology Department.

Temperatures rose to 44.8 degrees Celsius on Saturday, Jun. 20, dropped slightly the following day and then shot back up to 45 degrees on Tuesday, Jun. 23 putting millions in this mega-city at risk of heat stroke. Though the entire southern Sindh Province is affected – recording 1,100 deaths in total – its capital city, Karachi, has been worst hit – particularly due to the ‘urban heat island’ phenomenon, which climatologists say make 45-degree temperatures feel like 50-degree heat. In this scenario, heat becomes trapped, turning the city into a kind of slow-cooking oven.

Already crushed by dismal health indicators, the poor have scant means of avoiding sun exposure, which intensifies their vulnerability.
Anwar Kazmi, spokesperson for the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s biggest charity, tells IPS that 50 percent of the dead were picked up from the streets.
Two days into the crisis, with every free space occupied and corpses arriving by the hundreds, the city’s largest morgue, run by the same charity, began burying bodies that had not been claimed.
“In all my 25 years of service, I’ve never seen so many dead bodies arriving in such a short time,” Mohammad Bilal, who heads the Edhi Foundation’s mortuary, tells IPS.

Hospitals, meanwhile, are groaning under the strain of attempting to treat some 40,000 people across the province suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Saeed Quraishy, medical superintendent at Karachi’s largest government-run Civil Hospital, says they have stopped all elective admissions in order to focus solely on emergencies cases.

And as always – as with droughts, floods or any other extreme weather events – the poor are the first to die off in droves.

The crisis is shedding light on several converging issues with which Pakistan has been grappling: energy shortages, the disproportionate impact of climate change on the poor and the fallout from rapid urbanisation.
Though a census has not been carried out since 1998, NGOs say there are hundreds of millions who live and work on the streets, including beggars, hawkers and manual labourers.
More than 62 percent of the population here lives in informal settlements, with a density of nearly 6,000 people per square kilometre. Many of them have no access to basic services like water and electricity, both crucial during times of extreme weather. The ‘kunda’ system, in which power is illegally tapped from the electrical mains, is a popular way around the ‘energy apartheid’. Just this month, the city’s power utility company pulled down 1,500 such illicit ‘connections’.

But even the 46 percent of households across the country that are connected to the national electric grid are not guaranteed an uninterrupted supply. With Pakistan facing a daily energy shortage of close to 4,000 mega watts, power outages of up to 20 hours a day are not unusual. At such moments, wealthier families can fall back on generators. But for the estimated 91 million people in the country who live on less than two dollars a day, there is no ‘Plan B’ – there is only a battle for survival, which too many in the last week have fought and lost.
For the bottom half of Pakistani society, official notifications on how to beat the heat are simply in one ear and out the other. Taking lukewarm showers, using rehydration salts or staying indoors are not options for families eking out a living on 1.25 dollars or those who live in informal settlements where hundreds of households must share a single tap.

The monsoon rains are still some days away, and until they arrive there is no telling how many more people will be moved from the streets into graves.
Interestingly, while other parts of the province have recorded higher temperatures, the deaths have occurred largely in Karachi due to urban congestion and overcrowding, experts say, with the majority of deaths reported in poor localities like Lyari, Malir and Korangi.
The end may be in sight for now, but as climate change becomes more extreme, incidents like these are only going to increase in magnitude and frequency, according to climatologists like Dr. Qamar-Uz-Zaman Chaudhry.

taken from here and here

SOYMB can only repeat once again that the solution to ending the ills and inequalities of capitalism is to democratically seek its abolition in favour of a global system geared to putting people and planet at the top of the agenda.
It's not going to happen any other way.


Child Labour and India

According to the ILO, involves more than 120 million children between the ages of five and 14 around the world.  

 Despite being a vibrant economic zone, Asia Pacific is the region with the largest incidents of child labour, with a reported 18.8 percent of the 650 million working children around the world.  

 Children around the region are found to be working in a broad range of economic sectors, from garment factories in Bangladesh, to sugarcane plantations in Cambodia, and fishing boats in the Philippines. Other sectors include seafood processing, entertainment, mining, scavenging and domestic labour.  

 Many factors influence the prevalence of child labour, with poverty being the root cause of children having to work.

In a bid to overhaul the country’s child labour laws, the Indian government has banned the employment of children below 14 years of age in various commercial ventures, while permitting them to work in family enterprises and on farmlands after school hours and during vacations. The Act defines 64 industries as hazardous, deeming it a criminal offence for children to employed in any of them. While parents or guardians will not face any punishment for the first offence, a maximum fine of about 150 dollars will be levied for the second and subsequent offences. The new amendment will, however, permit kids to work in “non-hazardous” businesses, the entertainment industry (including films, advertisements and TV serials) and sporting events from the 18 occupations and 65 processes specified under the 1986 law.

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who helms the child rights non-profit organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, has been calling for a ban on every form of child labour in India for kids up to 14 years of age. Activists fear that the provision allowing children to help out in domestic or family-based occupations will enable families to flout or skirt the new law.

“The new amendment will push millions of innocent children into forced labour and deprive them of education and a normal childhood,” Rakesh Slenger of Bachpan Bachao Andolan told IPS. “The girl child will be particularly disadvantaged as she will be denied education while being stuck with all the household work.” Experts also fear this loophole violates the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India signed and ratified in 1992. The worst off will be kids from marginalized backgrounds who need to equip themselves with an education and job skills in Asia’s third largest economy to brighten their employment prospects. Experts also allege the government is overlooking the fact that even in household enterprises, children still remain vulnerable to exploitation and health hazards, which impacts their education.

The 2011 census puts the number at 4.35 million working children in the 5-14 age bracket. One in every 100 full-time workers in India is under the age of 14, and a third of those child workers are under the age of nine. This augurs ill for a country of 1.25 billion people, 42 percent of whom are children. Already, many kids are at risk of languishing in an endless cycle of poverty – an estimated 23 percent of the population survives on less than 1.25 dollars a day – particularly since the government slashed the budget allocation for the ministry of women and child development by 1.5 billion dollars this year. Activists say this move could deprive millions of marginalised Indian kids the chance to turn their lives around.

Kids in the agriculture sector are made to carry heavy loads and sprinkle harmful pesticides on crops. So-called “family enterprises” are no better, say experts. This includes such industries as matchbox making, carpet weaving and gem polishing. In these sectors, where child labour is in high demand, police raids have highlighted inhumane conditions in which children are made to work for no pay, with scant food and no access to toilets.

India’s beedi (cigarette)-making industry is particularly notorious for employing kids as young as seven years old. While government figures put the total number of workers engaged in this informal industry at 4.4 million, activists claim the real number is nearly double that, totaling roughly 10 million labourers.

According to the social activist, Amod Kanth, founder of Prayaas, a non-profit working for children’s welfare, relaxing legislation on child labour as a means of alleviating poverty is a deeply flawed strategy. “The move will nullify whatever progress the country has made in getting children out of forced labour and into school. As it is government surveys are known to under-report child labour. If child labour is legalised, the situation will spiral out of control.”

Rather than going in for piecemeal amendments to current laws, activists say the government should revamp the flagship 1986 Act itself, which has failed to curb child labour effectively. A new beginning will also pave way for the rehabilitation of millions of children rescued from exploitative industries or households, they say.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee On the Child Labour Amendment Act underscores the fallacy of the government proposing to keep a check on children working in their homes.

“The Ministry is itself providing loopholes by inserting this proviso since it would be very difficult to make out whether children are merely helping their parents or are working to supplement the family income. Further, allowing children to work after school is detrimental to their health, as rest and recreation is important for fullest physical and mental development in the formative years, besides adversely affecting their studies,” states the report.

From here

Fellow Workers

We are witnessing the largest and most rapid escalation ever in the number of people being forced from their homes. According to UNHCR, by the end of 2014, just short of 60 million people were “forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations” In 2014, an average of 42,500 people were displaced every day. Millions of people fled conflict in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, as well as persecution in areas of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, creating the highest level of displacement since World War II. More than 125,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, all carrying the hope that they will be able to start new lives in Europe. Many more will have arrived by other means using forged documents or will have overstayed on their visas. Those from countries subject to conflict or severe human rights abuses such as Syria and Eritrea have a good chance of being able to remain in the European Union as refugees. But the majority will be classified as irregular migrants who, in theory, can be returned to their home countries.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos called on countries confronted with large numbers of arrivals to take advantage of an emergency clause of the EU Return Directive that allows irregular migrants, including families with children, to be detained in prisons rather than in separate immigration detention facilities, for up to 18 months. The detention of migrants, including children, for longer periods in prison settings would be viewed as a major retrograde step by rights groups, who have long campaigned for an end to immigration detention altogether.

“I think it represents a hardening of attitudes as part of a general concern about trying to manage the big increase in numbers,” Steve Peers, a law professor at the University of Essex, told IRIN. Peers pointed out that the EU Commission also recently published a paper providing guidelines for the use of force on migrants who refuse to be fingerprinted. “To say the least, this is hard to square with the EU’s frequent professions of support for the human rights and decent treatment of migrants.”

Referring to “a crisis of human suffering” at EU borders, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) accused member states of neglecting their humanitarian duty. “Urgent action should be taken to allow asylum-seekers entering through EU’s southern borders to get the assistance and protection they are entitled to according to EU directives.”

An aggressive strategy by the United States to deter thousands of people fleeing violence in Mexico and Central America includes keeping women and children in detention for months while they await asylum hearings. Following a peak in arrivals last year of children and families, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, President Barack Obama’s administration was under pressure to introduce tough measures to stem the flow. The response has included expanding the use of family detention. Lawyers and activists are trying to shut the new facilities down and bring an end to family detention altogether, arguing that it is inhumane to incarcerate children awaiting asylum hearings.
Mayra Cifuentes Cruz, an indigenous Mayan, initially fled Huehuetenango for the United States in December 2013 after being attacked and hounded off her land by a wealthy landowner. Although she told border officials she feared for her life, she was not granted a so-called “credible fear” interview and was deported back to Guatemala. Such interviews are supposed to be used to determine whether an individual has a “credible fear” of persecution or torture back home that would make them eligible to apply for asylum. Most of the women and children fleeing gang and domestic violence in Central America are not evading detection when they are apprehended at the border. “When they arrive they are looking for someone to help them because of the humanitarian nature of their flight,” Greg Chen from the American Immigration Lawyers Association told IRIN

The UK is to build a 9-foot high high-security fence over 2-miles long that was previously used to secure the London Olympics and last year’s NATO summit in Wales, at the lorry terminal in Coquelles, near Calais to deter migrants.

63,000 migrants have arrived in Greece by sea so far this year, overtaking Italy (62,000) for the first time, according to the UN.

Macedonia, a country of just two million inhabitants, has become a major thoroughfare for migrants and asylum-seekers intent on reaching northern Europe and avoiding the deadly sea crossing from Libya to Italy. But the route through Macedonia has many dangers of its own. Following the railway from the Greek border, they must travel on foot for 200 kilometres to the border with Serbia. The hazards along the way include criminal gangs, speeding trains, police beatings, detention and kidnapping.

In the “war on drugs” there is something called the “balloon effect”: squeeze the balloon in one place, and it expands somewhere else. Something similar is happening with efforts to crack down on migration, with an important difference: when the balloon consists of people, they get more desperate the harder you squeeze. So too do border officials and politicians.

The balloon effect puts the supposed success of some migration control operations in a rather different light. For instance, desperate EU politicians have looked to Spain and Australia as models of migration control that have worked – yet these experiments have been successful only in the narrowest sense. Spain’s much-celebrated closure of the maritime route between the Canary Islands and West Africa around 2007 simply shuffled people around. The route itself had only emerged after tough crackdowns in northern Morocco pushed routes south; and as Spain and African states started collaborating on deportations and patrols in the Atlantic, routes shifted again, now towards the Sahara. And voilà – Spain’s problem became Italy’s, then Greece’s, and on it went. As European leaders celebrate 30 years of the Schengen agreement on free movement across the Union this week, they would rather have us forget about this self-interested scramble to make irregular migration someone else’s problem.

Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders has been much praised by hardliners and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on Europe to adopt similarly harsh measures and simply “stop the boats”. No matter that Australia, like Spain, has depended on poor and powerless neighbours for the success of its draconian offshore policy - a solution simply not available in Europe’s relations with states in North Africa, where there’s no Nauru in sight. And never mind the cruelty and human rights abuses in detention, the pushbacks and even the reported payments to smugglers. Even if taken as a success on its own narrow numerical terms, we should recall that the nationalities that were arriving in Australia now overlap with those arriving in Europe. Some 3,500 Afghans arrived in Australia in 2012-13; after the launch of Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013, overall arrival figures dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, the number of Afghans arriving at Europe’s borders shot up from about 9,500 in 2013 to more than 22,000 in 2014. As the CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia told The Guardian in April, “What Australia has done is just displace the issue away from the shores of Australia, by promoting an attitude of deterrence and harsh responses. They have, almost without doubt, made the situation worse for people who have tried to find safety in Europe.”

Different destinations, similar story. Israel – also keen to extol its border control model – completed a fence along its border with Egypt in early 2013, and around the same time, draconian new detention provisions were put in place. As IRIN reported at the time, until then “about 1,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, were reaching Israel every month.” Soon after, that figure was almost zero. Meanwhile, border reinforcements in Saudi Arabia and growing hostility towards foreigners in South Africa have made refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa recoil from those destinations too. During this period, detections of Eritreans at the EU’s external borders shot up, from 2,604 in 2012 to 34,586 in 2014, while the number of Somalis arriving at Europe’s borders more than doubled between 2011 and 2014.

Under US pressure after a record number of unaccompanied Central American children reached the Mexico-US border, Mexico launched “Plan Frontera Sur” (the Southern Border Plan). The initiative has seen security beefed up along the border with Central America's Northern Triangle – including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – but it has also led to a crackdown on migrants and asylum-seekers heading north on buses and trains.  As a result, in the first four months of the year, deportations of Central American migrants from Mexico rose 79 percent compared to the same period last year, while detention of minors almost doubled, according to Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM). The Southern Border Plan is broadly viewed by migrant rights activists as a step in the wrong direction. Claudio Montoya of the Human Rights Commission of the state of Coahuila argues that migrants are less willing to report abuses or go to the hospital with a medical emergency because of fear of being detained or deported, and are more likely to take dangerous routes to avoid detection. “The migrant problem still exists, but it has gone underground. And there is more violence against them.” according to Pedro Pantoja, a Catholic priest who runs a shelter for migrants. 

In short, irregular migration routes are globalising, as most recently seen with the Rohingya boats pushed back and forth in south-east Asia’s seas. As the callous response to the Rohingya’s plight showed, routes have globalised in parallel with a punitive “border security” model that generates ever larger risks for border-crossers without reducing overall numbers. As this security model has been exported from its western heartland, it has simply empowered and fed the security forces, corrupt regimes, defence contractors and human smugglers variously involved in the trade, from Mexico to Turkey to Thailand. A “not in my backyard” approach has occasionally reaped short-term rewards for national governments, yet internationally, this one-eyed approach spells disaster. Instead of an evidence-based policy, we get political point-scoring. With more and more funds poured into migration controls in Europe and elsewhere, and record fatalities at borders, it is time for a rethink. Refugees and migrants have been making the headlines like never before. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, acknowledges that since the Refugee Convention was drafted, global migration patterns have become much more complex and refugees now often travel alongside millions of so-called economic migrants. In an age when neither refugees nor migrants are particularly welcome, the line between the two is increasingly blurred and the terms themselves have become politically loaded. Economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families,” whereas “refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom.” The reality is much murkier. People often move for a number of reasons that may include fear of persecution as well as wanting to find better economic opportunities, and they may move more than once, like the Syrians who initially crossed into Turkey or Jordan but are now boarding boats to Greece. Most of the boats now crossing the Mediterranean contain both migrants and refugees, a phenomenon that researchers refer to as “mixed migration”. However, it often serves the interests of politicians to refer to everyone crossing the Mediterranean as illegal migrants who are generally viewed as much less deserving of our sympathy and support than refugees. Only in situations where there are mass movements of refugees – usually as a result of war – and no need or capacity to do individual refugee status determinations, do host governments sometimes make the decision to recognise all new arrivals from that country as “prima facie” refugees. Melissa Phillips, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, has pointed out that such distinctions matter because migrants are generally viewed as much less deserving of our sympathy and support than refugees. “It is time we stopped talking solely about migrants and start to use more technically accurate and relevant labels,” she writes.

Chris Horwood, coordinator of the Nairobi-based Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat. “If an Eritrean gets refugee status in Sudan and then moves on (as most do) towards Europe, even though they may think of themselves as registered refugees, once they leave Sudan they are migrants/asylum-seekers again.” While failed asylum-seekers may still consider themselves refugees, the state that rejected them now considers them an irregular migrant who must either leave the country or be forced to leave.

The term “forced migrants” is sometimes used, mainly by academics, to acknowledge the many people who migrate unwillingly but don’t fall under the Refugee Convention’s technical definition of a refugee and are therefore not entitled to international protection. This would include people who have abandoned their homes and countries because of drought or some other natural disaster.

Loren Landau at the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg observed “research in southern Africa suggests that people who claim asylum or become refugees are, for the most part, little different in experiences or needs than those who don't.” He added that to say this publicly had become increasingly difficult as it was viewed as giving ammunition to those who would like to place more limits on asylum.

Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist with the London School of Economics and author of “Illegality, Inc.” commented “Our terminology on human movement is in a real muddle.” 

SOYMB describe economic migrants, asylum seekers, refugees as fellow-workers and in the words of Eugene Debs:

“If Socialism, international, revolutionary Socialism, does not stand staunchly, unflinchingly, and uncompromisingly for the working class and for the exploited and oppressed masses of all lands, then it stands for none and its claim is a false pretense and its profession a delusion and a snare. Let those desert us who will because we refuse to shut the international door in the faces of their own brethren; we will be none the weaker but all the stronger for their going, for they evidently have no clear conception of the international solidarity, are wholly lacking in the revolutionary spirit, and have no proper place in the Socialist movement while they entertain such aristocratic notions of their own assumed superiority.”

Bill Gates…having your cake and eating it,too

The 2013 study “Oil and Carbon Revisited: Value at Risk from ‘Unburnable' Reserves,” from the giant global bank HSBC explained: 
“The IEA's World Energy Outlook (2012 edition) estimated that in order to have a 50% chance of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2ºC, only a third of current fossil fuel reserves can be burned before 2050. The balance could be regarded as ‘unburnable'.”
For only a 50% chance of a livable world in 2050 the remaining two-thirds must be wasted (left permanently in the ground).

Bill Gates, what's not good enough seems to be instead too good, too much. He doesn't want merely for those two-thirds to be burnt; he wants even more oil and gas and coal to be discovered; he wants to add yet more to these unburnable reserves. According to Gates fossil fuel divestment alone will not halt climate change and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will continue its investments in like BP.  

He was “rejecting calls from environmental campaign groups for shareholders to dump holdings in oil and gas companies, on the grounds this will have little impact.”

This money that his Foundation is investing props up these companies' stock prices, so that even more oil and gas can be discovered and added to their existing stockpile of unburnable reserves. Exploration, after all, is what a company like BP does: it explores for and develops — sends to market — yet new sources of unburnable oil and gas. If it doesn't explore for yet more oil and gas and coal, then it simply dies. There are all of those sunk costs, which will kill it, even when they stop exploration altogether. If the assets that they've discovered in the past can't be sold, then certainly new such assets can't be sold — but Bill Gates wants his ‘charity' to pay (indirectly) to discover more such ‘assets.' He apparently wants to burn the planet. But, he says he doesn't; so, Gates himself also personally "will invest $2 billion in green energy.”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

California drying up

Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California all share water from the Colorado River, a hugely important water resource that sustains 40 million people in those states, supports 15 percent of the nation’s food supply, and fills two of largest water reserves in the country. The severe shortages of rain and snowfall have hurt California’s $46 billion agricultural industry and helped raise national awareness of the longer-term shortages that are affecting the entire Colorado River basin.

When officials divvied up rights to Colorado River water nearly a century ago, it happened to be a wetter period than usual. The result? The states vastly overestimated the river’s annual flow. Today, the river’s reserves are especially low and states are still claiming the same amount of water from the Colorado River that they always have — which is 1.4 trillion gallons a year more than the river actually produces.

California uses almost one-third of the entire Colorado River flow, having a larger share than any other Colorado River basin state. California gets 16 percent of its surface water — water that comes from snowpack, streams, and rivers — from the Colorado River via two huge aqueducts. The California Aqueduct runs beneath mountains into Riverside County and eventually toward Los Angeles, providing a substantial supply for both L.A. and San Diego. The All-American Canal moves water along the tail-end of the Colorado River near the Mexican border, nourishing one of the state’s most valuable agriculture areas, Imperial County, where a large proportion of the nation’s winter fruits and vegetables are grown. Of the seven basin states, California holds the most senior legal rights to the Colorado, which entitle it to keep drawing water even as Lake Mead runs dry and the rest of the Colorado River states suffer through shortages. That means in the short term, not much that California does will change the situation on the Colorado, unless it were to voluntarily surrender more of its entitlement to the river. But should Colorado River shortages worsen to the point that the states ever renegotiate that division of water, a reduction of California’s Colorado River water rights could have a brutal impact on California’s remaining supplies. Officials in California, like every other state in the region, are now facing a “new normal,”

For all of the warnings people in the West get about taking shorter showers and turning off sprinklers, the fact remains that agriculture uses the most water, by far. Farming and agriculture use more than 70 percent of the water that flows from the Colorado River to the seven river basin states.

Most of California is experiencing “extreme to exceptional drought,” and the crisis has now entered its fourth year. This month, signaling how serious the current situation is, state officials announced the first cutback to farmers’ water rights since 1977, and ordered cities and towns to cut water use by as much as 36 percent. Those who don’t comply with the cuts will face fines, but some farmers are already ignoring the new rules, or challenging them in court. The drought shows no sign of letting up any time soon, and the state’s agricultural industry is suffering. A recent study by U.C. Davis researchers projected that the drought would cost California’s economy $2.7 billion in 2015 alone.

Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops a farmer can grow, especially in a desert. As it happens, many of the crops that use less water entitle farmers to fewer federal subsidies, and so farmers don’t have much of an incentive to switch crops. Though cotton production has dropped steeply in California, since 1995, California farmers have gotten $3 billion in federal subsidies to grow it. On top of subsidies, “Use it or Lose It” clauses in state water laws actually encourage farmers to flood their fields with much more water than they need lest they lose the right to that amount of water in the future.

Calculations by the Pacific Institute indicate that, by eating food grown in California, each American indirectly uses more than 300 gallons of the state’s water each week. Almonds, which require a comparatively huge amount of water to produce, have become the most visible scapegoat for an enormous problem of which they are only one small part. One almond takes almost an entire gallon of water to produce — but so does a tiny slice of cantaloupe, four strawberries, two florets of broccoli, or a fraction of an egg. In fact, some of the biggest “water hogs,” indirectly, are meat and dairy. Cows and chickens and other animals eat a lot of crops, which in turn require a lot of water. So it takes 86 gallons of water to make just 1.75 ounces of beef. Some research has suggested that the country’s meat industries create such a high demand for water-thirsty feed crops, that if every American ate meat one less day a week, it could save as much water as flows through the Colorado River in an entire year.

The Making Of Empire

Australia's New Law - Do Not Report Child Abuse

Last month the Australian government, with the support of the opposition, passed the Border Force Protection Act through both houses of Parliament. It will come into effect on July 1. 
If the act defines you as an "entrusted person," you might be facing jail for up to two years if you reveal anything about what happens in Australia's immigration detention centers to anybody else.
An "entrusted person" is anyone working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, so that's doctors, nurses, psychologists, teachers, counsellors, security staff, maintenance workers, or anyone who has signed a government contract.
This puts medical professionals and those who work with children on Nauru or Manus Island in bizarre circumstances. Outside of detention centers, they're legally obligated to report child abuse. As of July 1, they can't do the same with abuse witnessed on the inside. 
Refugee advocates and human rights lawyers say the legislation is a veiled attempt to silence whistleblowers from revealing human rights violations inside Australia's detention centers. And the mounting evidence of such violations makes this legislation all the more disturbing. 
In October last year, Australia's Immigration Department ordered ten workers from Save The Children to leave Nauru's detention center after they alleged sexual abuse against women and children.
The ensuing independent Moss Review looked at both the allegations of sexual abuse, as well as claims from then Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, that Save the Children's workers coached seekers to make false claims. It found evidence of the rape and sexual assault of minors and women as well as guards trading marijuana for sexual favors. There was no evidence of collusion between asylum seekers and advocates to make false claims. The findings of the review are subject to a senate enquiry which is due to report on July 31.
Similarly, February's Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) report on children in detention found there were 233 recorded assaults involving children with 33 incidents of sexual assault between January 2013 and March 2014. 

read more here

Capitalism Itself Is The Disaster And The Catastrophe

In a recent column on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si, the conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says that “After this document, there’s no doubting where Francis stands in the great argument of our time….But,” Douthat elaborates, “I don’t mean the argument between liberalism and conservatism. I mean the argument between dynamists and catastrophists.” Here’s how Douthat understands that “great argument”:
“Dynamists are people who see 21st-century modernity as a basically successful civilization advancing toward a future that’s better than the past. They do not deny that problems exist, but they believe we can innovate our way through them while staying on an ever-richer, ever-more-liberated course….Dynamists of the left tend to put their faith in technocratic government; dynamists of the right, in the genius of free markets. But both assume that modernity is a success story whose best days are ahead.”
“Catastrophists, on the other hand, see a global civilization that for all its achievements is becoming more atomized and balkanized, more morally bankrupt, more environmentally despoiled. What’s more, they believe that things cannot go on as they are: That the trajectory we’re on will end in crisis, disaster, dégringolade…that current arrangements are foredoomed, and that only a true revolution can save us.”
Douthat puts Pope Francis in the “catastrophist” camp because of the pontiff’s call for humanity to take climate change seriously by undertaking global action and “radical change” to move off fossil fuels and selfish profiteering and consumerism. Thanks to anthropogenic global warming, the Pope writes, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”
Douthat mildly applauds Pope Francis for increasing the likelihood that Catholics and non-Catholics will “think anew” about climate change. Still, Douthat rejects the Pope’s “catastrophism” and related radicalism. “It’s possible,” Douthat argues, “to believe that climate change is happening while doubting that it makes ‘the present world system … certainly unsustainable,’ as the pope suggests. Perhaps we’ll face a series of chronic but manageable problems instead; perhaps ‘radical change’ can, in fact, be persistently postponed.”

“Successful Modernity”: The Present is Stranger Than Dystopia

It’s not an impressive argument. Who thinks anymore that the U.S-of American “argument” between “liberalism [translate: the Democrats] and conservatism [translate: the Republicans]” (both of which are aligned with corporate plutocracy, global U.S. Empire, and eco-cide against democracy, social justice and the common good) marks “the great argument of our time? (Try democracy and the common good versus the unelected and interrelated dictatorships money and empire or, more simply, the people versus the ruling classes.) What is a leftist who believes in governmental technocracy? A contradiction in terms, not to be taken seriously – no more seriously than “the genius of free markets.” No such markets or genius remotely exist. Contemporary capitalism, likes its antecedents, relies heavily and thoroughly on state protection and subsidy. Its “market logic” (cover for corporate and financial rule) is the amoral enemy of democracy, justice, and livable ecology.

Who in their right moral and intellectual mind could possibly believe that “21st-century modernity” (the world capitalist system) is “a basically successful civilization” moving on “an ever-richer, ever-more-liberated course….a success story whose best days are ahead”? Why should anyone take Douthat’s unnamed “dynamists” seriously? Humanity today isn’t merely moving towards a potential catastrophe. It’s in the middle of multiple and interrelated catastrophes right now: mass poverty and hunger; mass involuntary migration; shocking inequality (the Guardian reported last year “that the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker” bus); massive structural unemployment; permanent war and endemic militarism; nuclear re-escalation; ubiquitous corporate and financial totalitarianism, (both hard and soft); abject corruption and plutocracy; mass incarceration; rampant governmental police statism; ubiquitous propaganda in ever more potent mass media; a corporate-crafted mass culture of stupidity, selfishness and cruelty; rampant disease and poor health more generally; a compromised food supply and the degradation of food; the ever-escalating crisis of livable ecology, led by anthropogenic global warming (AGW), which poses the very real near term risk of human (self-) extinction. “Successful modernity” indeed!

You don’t have to turn to the dystopian warnings of 20th century writer and filmmakers like Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451 and other writings), George Orwell (1984), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), Kurt Vonnegut (Player Piano), Robert Brunner (The Sheep Look Up), John Carpenter (They Live, Escape From New York), Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green), Norman Jewison (Rollerball), Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and other novels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) to glimmer a world gone mad and suicidally eco-cidal under the rule of elites. You can pay close attention to current events and developments.
Truth, the old saying goes, is stranger than fiction. And the present, I might add, is stranger than dystopia. We don’t have to imagine and warn of authoritarian and ecological nightmares at some point in the far-away future. The nightmares are happening in real time. The catastrophic future, brought to us by the financial-corporate and military state, is now. The Pope’s “Doomsday predictions” are coming true right now. And, no, this planet-cooking present is not remotely sustainable. The judgement of Earth science on that is clear as day: only prompt and radical change leading to a radical reduction in carbon emissions can save prospects for a decent future. Anyone who thinks that such a future is possible if “things go on as they are,” without radical change, is in deep denial and/or lost in a dream world.

Calling such judgements and observations “catastrophist” is an interesting choice. I’ve always found that choice gendered in a patriarchal sort of way, as in the outwardly composed man who tells a distraught and “emotional” woman to “calm down” and “stop being so hysterical.” So consider a clinical analogy. If you went with terrible symptoms to a team of expert doctors and received a carefully considered diagnosis of potentially terminal cancer, would you denounce those medical professionals as “catastrophists” and ignore their prognosis – or would you accept the diagnosis and undertake a serious, likely radical, plan of treatment and change to prolong and enhance your life?
The real questions for those who wish to save the prospects for a decent human future isn’t whether Douthat’s “dynamists” or Douthat’s “catastrophists” are correct about the state and trajectory of the species. Instead, they are: what is/are the cause/s of current cancerous catastrophes? What must we do about it/them before it is too late?

Capitalism is the Disaster

Regarding climate change, the problem isn’t “modernity” (whatever that term really means at the end of the day) or “industrial civilization” as such. It is a particular form of “modernity” known as capitalism, which stands in an inherently antithetical relationship to livable ecology. The taproot is the growth-, accumulation- and exploitation-addicted world capitalist system, with its anarchic and atomized dispersion of economic decision-making, inherently antithetical to public planning for the common good. As the Canadian Marxist Sam Gindin explained last winter:

“It is not just that…capitalism is inseparable from the compulsion to indiscriminate growth, but that capitalism’s commodification of labor power and nature drives an individualized consumerism inimical to collective values (consumption is the compensation for what we lose in being commodified and is the incentive to work) and insensitive to the environment (nature is an input, and the full costs of how it is exploited by any corporation are for someone else to worry about)….[furthermore…] A social system based on private ownership of production can’t support the kind of planning that could avert environmental catastrophe. The owners of capital are fragmented and compelled by competition to look after their own interests first, and any serious planning would have to override property rights — an action that would be aggressively resisted.”

There’s a lot more that could be said about how and why the soulless and chaotic bourgeois mode of socioeconomic management (furthered and not tempered by the modern corporation) is wired to destroy life on Earth, but that will do for a useful summary at present. Louis Proyect is correct when he argues that “capitalism and capitalist politics have to be superseded if humanity and nature are to survive. Once we can eliminate the profit motive, the door is open to rational use of natural resources for the first time in human history. How we make use of such resources will naturally be informed by our understanding that reason governs the outcome and not quarterly earnings. The alternative,” Proyect reminds us, “to this is a descent into savagery, if not extinction.” To update Rosa Luxembourg for the age of “the ecological rift,” it’s eco-socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky.

The Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein deserves credit for identifying the profit system as the main culprit behind global warming in her latest book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.  “The really inconvenient truth,” Klein notes, “is that [AGW] is not about carbon – it’s about capitalism…. [and] the war [that system] is waging on earth.” But what does Klein mean, exactly, when she says “capitalism?”  Listen to the following passage from This Changes Everything:

“What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far simpler than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis.  We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets”

The final sentence in this passage is consistent with Klein’s radical statement about “the really inconvenient truth” – that the problem is capitalism.  Not so the second sentence, which attaches the moderating description “deregulated” to the overall system supposedly in the docket. The problem recurs across This Changes Everything, which repeatedly attaches such qualifiers (“free market,” “neoliberal,” “market fundamentalist” and the like) to the profit system It leaves space for Ross Douthat’s foolish hope (formulated in a critique of the Pope, not Fidel Castro) “that perhaps ‘radical change’ can, in fact, be persistently postponed.”
This is not a new difficulty in Klein’s writing.  Her previous book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) was directed primarily at neoliberalism – at (Milton) “Friedmanite capitalism” and at so-called disaster capitalism, not at capitalism itself. It exhibited no small nostalgia for the Keyensian “regulated” and “welfare” capitalism that reigned across much of the rich world in the post-World War II “Golden Age” – a rapidly growing capitalism that (among its many terrible consequences) pushed the world into environmental crisis by the last quarter of the last century.

Capitalism itself is the disaster and the catastrophe. Understanding and transcending capitalism in a systemic fashion is going to be essential for moving beyond d the real time dystopian catastrophes of the present. For the profit system lays at the base of all the “Doomsday” developments mentioned above (environmental ruin, mass poverty, stark inequality, plutocracy, mass incarceration, the police state, racial hyper-disparity, corporate media, etc.) and not just AGW, the biggest issue of our or any time.. All these and other evils of so-called modernity are – to use the language of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the middle and late 1960s – intimately “interwoven” and “interrelated.” They suggest that King was right near the end of his life when he wrote that “real issue to be faced” beyond superficial matters (like, say, the color or gender or sexual orientation of a corporate-captive political candidate) was “the radical reconstruction of society itself.” And that King was correct when he said that “the United States will have to adopt a modified form of socialism.”

Paul Street from here

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Re The Schizophrenic Approach Of Governments To Climate Change

The Arctic is screaming. Can you hear her in the floods of Houston, the drought in California and the epic snowfall in Boston this past winter? In Alaska, the only Arctic state in the United States, it was a record-smashing 89 degrees in Anchorage at 6:30 at night on June 15, 2015, one of several 80 degree days. Historically, June temperatures fluctuate between the mid-60s to mid-70s. Currently, 238 wildfires, burning 408 square miles, are forcing the evacuation of residents in several communities. Fifty-seven new fires ignited on June 22.

Our collective failure to limit greenhouse gas emissions has pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide -- the primary driver of climate change -- to levels not seen for millions of years, when the Earth did not support human life. These increases are causing significant changes in the Earth system and most profoundly in the Arctic. In the last half-century, Alaska and the Arctic have warmed twice as fast as the global average.

In Alaska, record-breaking high temperatures, lack of snowfall and decreased Arctic sea ice are colliding to accelerate dramatic environmental changes. In 2014, plants grew in January in Anchorage during a 10-day warm spell when temperatures hovered in the 40s and reached 50 degrees on January 27. In August 2014 children swam in the frigid Chukchi Sea, north of the Arctic Circle, to get relief from a heat wave. Winter snows have shifted to winter rains.
This past year was the lowest snow season on record in Anchorage, with no snowfall accumulation over four inches. February's record-breaking temperatures in the 40s was followed in March, when snow covered the ground for only the first five days of the month -- that snow cover was less than an inch when 10-13 inches of snow typically covers the city. Gardeners who traditionally wait until Memorial Day weekend, planted as early as April. May was the hottest on record and hovered in the 70s in Anchorage and the 90s further north -- reaching this temperature earlier than Atlanta Georgia. In Barrow, perched on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures soared for three consecutive days, including a record high on May 19 that was eight degrees above the previous daily record set in 2009. To the south in Fairbanks, temperatures reached 86 degrees, breaking the old daily record by six degrees.

Arctic sea ice is also rapidly diminishing. Historically, Arctic sea ice reaches its maximum extent in March, but in 2015, Arctic sea ice was at its lowest maximum extent since record keeping began in 1979. In the past four decades, Arctic sea ice has decreased 40 percent, with projections that it will disappear entirely during summer within the next 30 years or less. This is bringing catastrophic consequences to the communities, cultures and wildlife of the region.
And, ultimately, to those beyond the Arctic, as these changes impact the polar jet stream and contribute to the extreme weather occurring in lower latitudes, such as Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012, the 2015 blizzards in Boston, Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, and Cyclone Pam in 2015 in Vanuatu -- which wiped out that island nation in the South Pacific with sustained winds of 155 mph.

Despite the vast differences in wealth, development and technological and organizational resources, no country in the world has yet been able to adapt to these weather furies. What place in the world currently has the capacity to withstand 155 mph sustained winds? A focus on adaptation efforts is urgently needed to reduce the death, damage and destruction caused by extreme weather events

But extreme weather events are not the only environmental events challenging our ability to adapt to climate change. Accelerating rates of erosion, caused by permafrost thawing and decreased Arctic sea ice, are threatening the infrastructure and the very lives of residents of many coastal communities in Alaska. Situations are so dire that several indigenous communities have decided that the relocation of their entire village is their only viable long-term adaptation strategy. State and federal government officials concur, but not a single community has yet relocated, placing residents in extreme danger from autumn storms when hurricane-force winds batter Alaska's western coast. Only one rural Alaskan village, Newtok, is in a relocation process. The lack of a governance framework -- including the policies and protocols to determine when and how a community needs to relocate -- has been a major barrier. No federal or state government agency in the United States has the mandate or funding to relocate communities.

The issue of relocation is not isolated to Alaska but also impacts millions of people residing in low-lying coastal areas around the world. No relocation institutional framework exists anywhere in the world. Yet the land on which people live and maintain livelihoods will permanently disappear, swallowed by rising sea levels.

In an impressive display of the schizophrenic approach that characterizes much government response to climate change these days, the Obama Administration has simultaneously made Climate Resilience and Preparedness a priority, while also granting a permit to Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic. Scientists have made it clear that at least half of the world's reserves of coal and oil needs to "stay in the ground" if we are to avoid the most catastrophic warming scenarios. Drilling in the Arctic is a "climate breaker." So I have to ask again: Is anyone listening to the Arctic? I hope so.

from here

Is it realistic to expect those at the helm of capitalism, a system based on profit and accumulation, to abandon their mode of organisation in an effort to stop or even slow the pace of climate change? If it was a realistic expectation wouldn't they have started by now? We must face up to the challenge and work together to change the system if there is to be a reasonable chance for future generations to pull themselves back from the brink. Capitalists won't do it. Socialists would.

Ethnic Cleansing In Its Purest Form - Dominican Republic Expels 'Haitians'

After the Dominican Republic stripped naturalized citizenship rights from residents with roots in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of its residents became essentially stateless. On June 15, the Dominican Republic gave them two days to produce documentation to register their immigration status under threat of deportation to Haiti. At least 200,000 were unable to make the deadline.
The Dominican Republic says it isn't planning a "mass deportation," but it is readying buses to shuttle Haitian-descendant Dominicans to newly opened detention centers. Over the weekend, at least 700 Haitian-Dominicans fled the chaos. The Dominican Republic says it will begin deportations in August.

The United States funds the Dominican military and provides millions of dollars in development and humanitarian aid. US Border Patrol agents monitor the Haitian-Dominican border. In the face of this gross human rights violation, the US should consider withholding some forms of aid to the Dominican Republic.
The US hasn't made any official statements about what is happening just miles away from our maritime borders. International media, human rights organizations and the UN have denounced the abuses. Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, who is running for president, denounced the Dominican Republic's decision, as did Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, and protesters recently marched on the Dominican Embassy in Washington. But the US government has remained largely silent about the Dominican Republic's new citizenship ruling.

Until 2010, the Dominican Republic granted automatic citizenship to all people born on its soil. However, in the past years, Haitian-born and Haitian-descendant Dominicans have suffered blows to their legal status that have wracked the community with uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to stay in the country they call home. Adding insult to injury, many Haitians wound up in the Dominican Republic after being recruited or smuggled in by Dominican businesses and traffickers.

In 2013, the Dominican government retroactively stripped citizenship rights from 210,000 of their citizens, including anyone who had undocumented immigrant parents or whose parents were deemed "in transit" at the time of their children's birth. These people have since become stateless, suddenly unauthorized to live in their home country and ineligible for citizenship in Haiti. In 2014, Dominican President Danilo Medina passed a naturalization law that would give some of those who had lost their citizenship a path toward reestablishment, but the law's implementation only helped a small number of Haitian-Dominicans regain citizenship.

The current crisis underlies a long history of violent racism in the Dominican Republic. In 1937, the Dominican government under former US Marine and dictator Rafael Trujillo rounded up all suspected Haitians and massacred tens of thousands of them. Often, government officials selected their targets by asking them to pronounce the word perejil (parsley) to see if they could roll their Rs like native Spanish speakers. At the time, the US, which occupied the country from 1916 to 1924, justified the attacks as a necessary evil.

According to data from the Security Assistance Monitor, the US has given the Dominican military more than $96 million since 2000, through military training and education programs, counternarcotics operations and antiterrorism programs.
Although the government claimed there would be no mass roundups, as of June 18, 2,000 Dominican troops were overseeing the process of ordering buses and preparing detention centers.

Starting in 2006, the US government has also deployed its own Border Patrol members to the Dominican-Haitian border, and funded the Dominican Border Patrol, or CESFRONT, greatly influencing its "strong borders" policy. As reported by Todd Miller in a 2013 article for The Nation, the Dominican Republic-Haiti border looks "like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the US southern border."

The US Embassy in Santo Domingo also has its own Border Patrol office. In addition to the Dominican Republic, Customs and Border Protection attachés are also now detailed to US embassies in Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa, Italy and Canada, among other countries.
Despite the close relationship between Dominican and US Border Patrol forces, the US has refused to help the government address the massive influx of Haitian immigrants in the wake of the disastrous 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In fact, in the five days after the earthquake, a US Air Force plane circled the island for five hours, with the prerecording voice of Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States, saying on repeat:
I'll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the US and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. They will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.
Dominicans' hatred toward their Haitian-born population resembles ethnic cleansing in its purest form. In a 2013 article in El País, Mario Vargas Llosa compared the Dominican government's decision to strip Haitians of their citizenship as reminiscent of Hitler's laws to strip German citizenship from Jews who "had for many years (many centuries) been resident in that country and were a constitutive part of its society."

Some of the Dominican-Haitians who await detention and deportation today have lived in the Dominican Republic for their entire lives. Many have no family members in Haiti, do not speak Haitian Creole and will not be granted citizenship in Haiti. The US must use its influence in a positive way by denouncing the acts of terror the Dominican Republic is exerting against its own people and by holding funding to Dominican forces accountable.

 from here

Poverty Facts

There are 1.6 billion people living in multidimensional poverty across the world and nearly 440 million of them are in eight large Indian states, according to a new analysis using a unique index developed atthe University of Oxford. In 2010, the Oxford analysis had concluded that there were poorer in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. Its 2014 analysis said the largest number of people classified as ‘destitute’ among developing countries was in India.

The eight Indian states that have similar number of poor as in 25 African countries are Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal. The poorest region in south Asia is Bihar, the analysis states.

Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative  explained “Our measure of destitution, which identifies a subset of poor people as destitute if they experience a number of extreme deprivations like severe malnutrition, losing two children, having all primary-aged school children out of school, and using open defecation,” she said. The destitution results for South Asia “are significant”, Alkire said. Afghanistan has the highest rate of destitution of 38%, followed by India at a “troubling” 28.5% (over 340 million people).