Saturday, August 19, 2017

End Terrorism

Jihadi terrorism has again struck, this time in Barcelona. 

The aim of the Islamist fundamentalists, according to some analysists, is to intensify hatred against Muslims, because that strengthens recruiting networks. The terrorists are aiming to kill a few, but scare millions and their weapon of choice are fanatics willing to die in the act to become "martyrs". Winning notoriety and sowing fear to help recruiting is what terrorists want to achieve with these bloody indiscriminate attacks. Those who commit the atrocities  - often young, marginalised men, alienated and blinded by anger - may well believe they will go to Paradise and receive their heavenly reward. But they are only a symptom, not the actual disease. Of course, they believe that Allah will be pleased and rewarding but their action is not simply a religious gesture; it is intended as a political act aimed at a political end - though, of course, Allah‘s "approval" of their action makes it a sound investment in their perceived "Hereafter".

Those who preach hate from the mosque and in the madrassas or on their internet websites want is to create tensions, to stir up hatred against Muslims, to radicalize non-Muslims to draw the world into a religious war - one that they are convinced they can win. But let's not be mistaken. Jihadi extremism kills more people in Muslim-majority countries than in the West. Jihadi terrorism kills more innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the rest of the world. It is just that our "own" dead have a bigger "impact" and leads to bigger headlines in the media, of course.

Federico Aznar of Spain's Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) has said: "The West is not their real target, just part of their rhetoric. Western victims are for show; they are high-profile targets, an expression of power and resolution meant to bolster the group's legitimacy in their own territory, where their true interests lie."  

Let us not play into their hands. Terrorism is a political weapon. It has been used by nationalists, anarchists, leftists, fascists and by many nations in state-sponsored acts of terrorism. 

Muslims in Germany have become a particular object of hatred for violent far-right extremists. The number of people being injured in Islamophobic attacks in Germany has increased this year. But very few anti-Muslim hate crimes are successfully prosecuted. The real number of crimes was likely to be far greater, as most of them went unreported.  The PEGIDA marches aimed at what they call the "Islamization of the West," are still going on every Monday throughout the country. The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has gained national prominence and regional electoral success in the last five years, looks likely to enter the Bundestag after September's national election. 

The World Socialist Movement says terror is terror whether unofficial and illegal terrorism or legalised state-sponsored terrorism through conventional warfare, whether it is the Taliban, Al-Qaida Islamic State or bombing missile strikes and drone attacks by the world powers. Clearly, there are double standards applied when it comes to defining what a terrorist is, with the media choosing to turn a blind eye to what the political elite in charge of the state does.

The solution to the ongoing insanity, we insist, remains the same. There is one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a planet worth living in. We need people across the world, united in one common cause – to create a global society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation and technology, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity – socialism.

Killing Kids

Business as usual
The Saudi Arabian military coalition – which receives logistical support, weapons and political backing from the US and UK – has been accused of killing hundreds of children in Yemen, according to a confidential UN report.

 51 per cent of all child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year were the result of the Saudi-led military operation. It says the deaths were “unacceptably high”. The report said the Houthi rebels and affiliated forces were responsible for nearly a third of the total child casualties. 

“Attacks carried out by air caused over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 killed and 333 injured,” said the report.

“The United Nations was informed of measures taken by the coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children. However, despite these measures, grave violations against children continued at unacceptably high levels in 2016.”

Britain has also continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite mounting worries over civilian deaths. A British court ruled that such sales could continue despite humanitarian concerns and rejected an appeal by the Campaign Against Arms Trade to stop them. Last year, the UK Government did consider suspending arms sales after a strike in October 2016 killed 140 civilians attending a funeral. In the end, Britain, which has sold around $3.8bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia over the past two years and is its biggest supplies of arms, decided to continue with the sales.

In May, Trump visited Saudi Arabia where he delivered a major speech before Muslim leaders and announced multiple agreements between American and Saudi companies, including between the Saudi oil giant Aramco. “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” he said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said of the UN report: “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is among the worst in the world, and the bombardment is making it even worse. This couldn't have happened without the complicit support of governments like the UK, which have armed and supported Saudi forces every step of the way. For decades now, the Saudi regime has had one of the worst human rights records in the world, and that brutality has been on full display in its destruction of Yemen.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

Poverty Tourism and Voluntourism

16,500 children are living in 406 residential care institutions in Cambodia, according to the Cambodian government and the United Nations children’s fund (Unicef). Between 2005 and 2015, the number of orphanages has increased by 60% in Cambodia, and half are now concentrated in the tourist destinations of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A significant proportion of Cambodia’s orphanage network is operating without scrutiny. 12% were not registered with the government, meaning they operate completely off the radar.  38% have never been inspected by government, and 21% have no agreement with the government in place.
The vast majority of those children are not orphans. Roughly 80% still have a living parent, according to Friends International, a child-focused nongovernment organisation operating across south-east Asia. The growth in orphanages is completely at odds with a declining poverty rate and falling numbers of genuine orphans over the same decade, according to Friends International’s Cambodian communications coordinator, James Sutherland.
“Coincidentally that was a period of real growth in tourism as well, and in ‘voluntourism’ – combining holidays with humanitarian work,” Sutherland tells Guardian Australia from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. “So essentially what’s happened is that unscrupulous directors of institutions have seen a business opportunity,” he said. “Most tourists, donors and volunteers are simply unaware of the facts, of the scale of the exploitation that is happening,” Sutherland said. “Unscrupulous orphanage directors know that if you open hearts, you also open wallets,” he said.
Much was hidden from the tourists visiting Sinet Chan in her rundown Cambodian orphanage. When they returned to their hotels, cameras full and best intentions sated, they remained oblivious to the reality of what they had just supported. Chan, the nine-year-old who sang and danced for them, was being starved. She and the other children hunted and ate mice to survive.

“I thought it might be a good place. Maybe I could have enough food to eat, have a chance to go to school. But actually what I imagined is wrong,” Chan told Guardian Australia. “He dressed us up looking poor so the visitors see us, they feel pity for us, and they donate more,” she said. “But they don’t really know what was going on inside the orphanage.”
What the tourists saw was a pantomime. A cruel theatre with vulnerable children as its cast.
 An estimated eight million children live in institutions globally, and the vast majority still have family who, given the right support, could care for them.
Australians are among the top financial supporters of orphanages in many south-east Asian countries, including Cambodia, according to Unicef. Australia props up the industry through volunteers, donations, and tourist visits, arranged by Australian travel agencies, charities, churches, universities, or high schools. 51% of all church attendees in Australia are contributing funding to institutional care overseas. About one-quarter were providing the funding through a Christian agency or charity, and another 21% did so through their local churches. Australian universities that offer volunteer placements and high schools are also significant contributors. 57.5% of Australian universities were advertising orphanage placements through international volunteering programs. About 245 registered NGOs directly funded or sent volunteers to residential care institutions, and 565 Australian charities were involved with or operated residential care institutions overseas.
“Despite their good intentions, supporters of orphanages such as tourists and volunteers, actually end up contributing to the breaking up of families and removing children from their own family environment,” Unicef’s Cambodian communications chief, Iman Morooka, told Guardian Australia.
Australian-based travel agencies market orphanage placements as “voluntourism”, a blend of holiday and volunteering sold to well-intentioned travellers. 22 Australian-based travel agencies or organisations that send volunteers to residential care centres. Another 61 overseas-based travel agencies were found to be recruiting Australian volunteers to work in residential care.
“I think people who are supporting orphanages, whether they’re funding or volunteering, generally have excellent intentions,”  Griffith University law and human trafficking expert, Kate van Doore said. “Unfortunately it’s those very good intentions that are being manipulated in these instances.”
In places like Cambodia, orphanages are now replacing more traditional forms of kinship care and community-based care as a means of caring for orphaned children. To sustain the business, children are “recruited” from poor families with promises of education and a better life. Some are trafficked. Many orphanages deliberately market themselves as tourist destinations. Children are kept looking poor and malnourished and taught to sing or dance to maximise pity and Western donations.

“We see orphanages that have become tourist attractions and in many cases there is no rigorous background check of those given access to the facility,” Morooka said. “This puts children at risk of exploitation and sexual abuse,” he said.

Even where they are well-run, orphanages are damaging for children. Children tend to be more likely to develop reactive attachment disorders, developmental delays, behavioural issues, poor physical health and reduced intellectual capability compared to those living at home.

In Australia, efforts are focused on pressuring the federal government to ban orphanage tourism. parliamentary inquiry into the establishment of a modern slavery act is currently considering banning Australian support for orphanages in places such as Cambodia. Chan, now an adult, travelled to Canberra this week to give evidence before the committee.  She told the inquiry of how an Australian, Tara Winkler, rescued her, after initially working at the orphanage as a volunteer. Winkler soon realised the extent of exploitation occurring within the orphanage.
“I began to realise the gross corruption that was going on, that every cent that was being sent to the orphanage, not just from me, was being embezzled by the director, and the kids were often catching mice to feed themselves,” she told Guardian Australia. Winkler rescued 14 children, with the help of the Cambodian government, and set up her own orphanage. She soon realised opening her own institution was a mistake. The children, once away from the orphanage, began to open up. They told Winkler their parents were still alive. Winkler gradually realised the extent of the problem and created the Cambodian Children’s Trust, which helps to reunite children in orphanages with their families.
Reputable NGOs, charities, and travel companies have formed an alliance, known as ReThink Orphanages, to lobby government. They are also trying to raise awareness among smaller charities, schools, and universities. The aim is not to cut off precious donations and volunteering resources, but to redirect it to reunification and reintegration services, which link children back up with their families. The partnership involves 50 Cambodian child welfare and protection NGOs, who work to reintegrate children with their families, while providing medical and psychological services, family support, and transitional care. The ministry of social affairs, veterans, and youth rehabilitation has set a target of reintegrating 30% of children back to their families and communities in five priority provinces by the end of 2018. 

“I think, for people, around the world, there is no better place like home,” Chan said. “You live with your family. You have your mum and dad, your brother and sister, if you have that kind of family, why do they need to go to live in the orphanage? I think if they want to help Cambodian children to have a good future or better education, better to have a poor parent that can look after their own kid, and they can have support on top of that.”

Avoiding taxes

Wealthy foreigners are prepared to shell out as much as £25,000 a week renting luxury homes in London without bothering to set foot inside before opening their wallets. High-end estate agents report that overseas demand for super-prime London homes is so strong that the global super-rich are agreeing to rent properties after only viewing them on FaceTime or WhatsApp. Iin the past wealthy tenants would have sent their personal assistants or hired relocation experts to go to viewings on their behalf, but are now utilising technological advances instead.

Rich overseas clients are increasingly choosing to rent properties rather than buy in order to save on the government’s increased stamp duty on homes owned via by offshore companies. “Those who considered buying can now rent for four or more years for the equivalent cost of the stamp duty on a comparable home, leaving them in a good position to buy if and when the time is right.” 

Trevor Abrahmsohn, the owner of Glentree Estates, a top-end north London agency, who has sold dozens of multimillion-pound homes on and around The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead to billionaires from across the world, said his agency had secured a series of “mega deal” rentals recently and let properties worth £40,000 a week in aggregate. “The properties these people want could be valued at £30m or more,” he said. “The stamp duty on that would be near £5m – that’s the equivalent of five years’ rent even at £20,000 a week. And you save on all the maintenance costs, as they become the owner’s responsibility. The number of high-end rentals has been gradually increasing for the past two years, but now they’re quite a regular event.”

 Renting also lets wealthy individuals maintain their privacy, as the government prepares to force the declaration of the identity of the true owner of all properties. At the last count, 200 wealthy foreigners are choosing to pay £218,200 a year in tax rather than declare which of London’s £20m-plus mega-mansions they own. The number of homes let for more than £5,000 a week – or £156,000 a year – in the first six months of 2017 increased 21% compared with the first half of 2016.

Support McDonald's Workers

Workers at two restaurants in England have voted to strike in what would be the first industrial action taken against the fast-food chain McDonald's in Britain. 

Staff at restaurants in Cambridge and in Crayford, south-east London, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike amid concerns over working conditions and the use of zero-hour contracts.

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union said staff were demanding a wage of at least £10 an hour and more secure working hours alongside the recognition of the right to form a trade union as employees of the company. The BFAWU said: “Workers have found themselves living on low wages with no guarantee of hours. This has been viewed by some as punishment for joining a union, and has seen employees struggle to meet their rent payments, whilst some have even lost their homes.”

Ian Hodson, BFAWU national president, said: “We at the BFAWU fully support the historic decision by these brave McDonald’s workers to stand up and fight back against McDonald’s, a company that has let them down one too many times. McDonald’s has had countless opportunities to resolve grievances by offering workers a fair wage and acceptable working conditions. This is a call for change.”

Global Solidarity and World Socialism

Junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju told the Indian Parliament the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport all illegal immigrants including Rohingya, even those registered with the U.N. refugee agency. Rijiju, a high-profile minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government, said the UNHCR registration was irrelevant. India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out states' responsibilities towards refugees. Nor does it have domestic legislation to protect the almost 210,000 refugees it hosts.

Human rights groups have condemned India's plan to deport some 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, saying India should abide by its legal obligations and protect the stateless refugees who face persecution in Myanmar.

"Indian authorities are well aware of the human rights violations Rohingya Muslims have had to face in Myanmar and it would be outrageous to abandon them to their fates," said Raghu Menon, advocacy manager at Amnesty International India. "It shows blatant disregard for India's obligations under international law." India is bound by customary international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they face danger, rights groups say.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming centuries-old roots. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar, where they face atrocities, including murder, rape and arson attacks, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh, and some then crossing a porous border into India. Many others have also headed to Southeast Asia, often on rickety boats run by people-smuggling gangs.
"The government should put an end to any plans to deport the Rohingya, and instead register them so that they can get an education and health care and find work," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
If you seek a planet without borders contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Too much food

From Iowa to China, years of bumper crops have overwhelmed storage capacity for corn, wheat, and other basic foodstuffs. Brasil, the world's biggest soybean exporter and the No. 2 corn exporter after the United States, is also seeing these stockpiles.

This year's harvest has been so big, and prices so low, that farmers have no choice but to leave it exposed to the elements. Record soybean output sits in silos while producers wait for prices to rebound. Growers say the grain stocks may still be there when the next soy harvest arrives in January.

"For the first time in history, producers here will pile one harvest on top of the other," said Rafael Bilibio, who cultivates some 4,700 hectares of soy and corn near Vera, in the mid-North of the state.

Brazil’s corn production in the 2016-17 season is forecast to surge 45 percent from a year ago to a record 97 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency estimates that the 2016 U.S. harvest reached an all-time high and that the crop gathered this fall will be the second-bigger ever. 

Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida(ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso, explained.

Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics. Ssoybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A free market?

 Foxconn agrees to invest $10 billion to construct, over six years, a facility in Wisconsin and create up to 13,000 jobs, with a reported average salary of $53,875 over a period of up to six years. The state's agreement among other things, is to provide up to $3 billion in an economic package which would include refundable tax credits and a construction sales tax exemption for Foxconn. The state of  Wisconsin would reimburse Foxconn for 15 percent of its capital expenditures for the Wisconsin plant. This credit would be capped at $1.35 billion. The second would pay for 17 percent of Foxconn’s payroll and be capped at $1.5 billion. Because the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit would leave Foxconn with little or no tax liability even before the new credits kicked in, these credits would result in cash payments to Foxconn, rather than a reduction in its tax liability. At the peak, between 2022 and 2026, about 2 percent of Wisconsin’s state revenue would go to Foxconn.

It is unclear how many jobs will actually be created by the Foxconn deal. It appears that the hiring of 3,000 workers is a firmer commitment from Foxconn. Foxconn’s president has been quoted as desiring to more fully automate his plants. It has been suggested that if Foxconn heavily automated its plant, the number of employees could be radically reduced. In this scenario, the payroll tax credits drop substantially but the capital expenditure credits continue.

Over a 15-year period Wisconsin would pay Foxconn a total of $218,516 per job created. If, instead, the number of jobs topped out at 3,000, the cost per job would rise to $546,958.

Canterbury Street Stall (19 Aug)


Saturday, 19 August  

In the Parade pedestrian precinct from 12 noon

 (Organised by Kent & Sussex Branch)

Can capitalism cope with success?

Population aging is certainly a significant human achievement, the result of smaller family sizes, lower mortality rates and increased longevity.

In the past century, for example, the percent elderly, those aged 65 years and older, averaged around five percent. In striking contrast, the proportion elderly will more than triple during the 21st century, reaching close to one-quarter of the world’s population.  Nearly all the G20 countries are expected to have no less than one-quarter of their populations aged 65 years and older by 2100. And eight of those countries, including China, Germany, Italy and Japan, are projected to have one-third or more of their population elderly by the close of the century.  

In countries such as Japan, Portugal, Singapore and South Korea, the proportion of the female population aged 65 years and older is expected to reach 40 percent during the 21st century. Given that women typically survive their partners, many elderly women will need care and assistance, especially the growing numbers living alone.

Another clear indicator of the unprecedented population aging underway worldwide is the Historic Reversal or the demographic turning point when children (0 to 14 years) in a population become fewer than its elderly (65 years and older). The Historic Reversal first occurred in 1995 in Italy. Today some 30 countries have experienced the Historic Reversal, including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom.  In 2075, and for the first time in human history, the world’s population will go through the Historic Reversal with the elderly increasingly outnumbering children.
Lower mortality rates and living longer increase the numbers of elderly. But the primary driver of population aging is fertility. Low fertility results in age structures having relatively fewer children, a growing concern of many governments, and comparatively more elderly. In addition, the faster the decline from high to low fertility levels, such as has taken place in China, the more rapid the transition to older population age structures. Fertility rates below the replacement level of about two births per woman also mean declining populations for many countries, especially those with limited immigration. Today more than 80 countries, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, have fertility levels below replacement, including China, United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Viet Nam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
 Increased longevity and growing proportions of elderly are raising serious economic questions and fiscal concerns within many countries. In particular, population aging is resulting in growing financial stresses on government-sponsored retirement, pension and healthcare programs. Governments with extensive social programs for the elderly, such as income support, healthcare services and social benefits, are experiencing escalating costs as the numbers of elderly grow rapidly and the duration of support lengthens. Loathe to raising taxes, governmental attempts to address the escalating costs of those programs have by and large focused on adjustments in retirement ages, benefits, contribution rates and savings plans.

"We're all just people."

The museum's special exhibit, entitled "Two Million Years of Migration," shows that ultimately we're all migrants. It also reveals that today's migration routes are uncannily similar to those from thousands of years ago. One route that seems to always have played a central role leads from the Middle East via present-day Turkey to eastern Europe. 

 "Our objective is to show that migration is an intrinsically human phenomenon going back millions of years," said Gerd-Christian Weniger, the director of the Neanderthal Museum.

 The reasons for migrating have changed. Whereas the early hunters followed their prized herds, people nowadays flee the wars and poverty of their home countries. Still, "The development and the evolution of man are closely intertwined with migratory movements," Weniger added. "The mobility of man and changes in his environment are part of the picture. Considering these facts, simply closing off borders cannot be a solution to the present refugee crisis, Weniger claimed.

Norway is not as green as it claims

Norway trumpets its low carbon footprint, but a new report says plans to ramp up oil and gas production in the Arctic will increase its emissions by half again - making a mockery of its Paris Agreement promises.  The report from the research organisation Oil Change International is challenging Norway's reputation as a climate champion. The report represents the first calculation of Norway's planned oil and gas extraction expansion, compared with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The research says 12 gigatonnes of carbon could be added by exploration sites in the Barents Sea and other parts of the Arctic over the next 50 years and concludes that the plans are incompatible with the Paris goals to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Though it may be adopting laudable emissions reduction efforts domestically, it is exporting 10 times the amount of its domestic emissions to other countries through the extraction and export of North Sea oil and gas. It is the 6th largest gas producer in the world and the 15th largest oil producer. The main thing worrying environmentalists, which sponsored the report, is that these exports are set to grow. The report asserts that Norway's continued extraction efforts are hurting the global effort to wean the world off of oil and gas. It raises a particular alarm about the country's plans for oil development in the Arctic. "Much of this proposed development pushes further into the fragile and remote Arctic ... where a spill would be catastrophic," the report warns.

"Norway wants to be a climate leader - but every lease sale, every piece of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and every expansion into new carbon to be burned elsewhere says otherwise," Friends of the Earth's Silja Ask Lundberg told DW. 

Last year, Oslo issued 56 new licenses to allow 36 companies to explore near the Lofoten Islands - home of some of the world's richest cod stocks. Statoil, the national oil company, also plans to spend $6 billion developing the Castberg field, a stretch of Arctic ocean to the north of the country that could hold as much as 650 million barrels of oil equivalent.The report calls on the new government to freeze further leases or permits for new oil and gas extraction projects, or for transportation infrastructure that would incentivize further exploration.  Prime Minister Erna Solberg has remained unconvinced by the argument that Norway should stop the extraction. However much of this exploration is on hold pending the election on September 11 - particularly any extractive activity at the Lofoten Islands but green groups are hoping that a successor government might be more open to their message.

Learning the Law

In the case of Jaisha Aikins, in 2005. Jaisha, a five-year-old black girl, was handcuffed and arrested at her St Petersburg, Florida, school for essentially throwing a temper tantrum – as every five-year-old has done at some point. 
The school’s administrators and some media commentators justified putting a five-year-old in handcuffs on the grounds that she “punched” the school’s vice-principal, as if the little girl had hauled back and clocked her, rather than flailing at her with tiny hands while in the throes of a tantrum, with the force of a child.
It was clear from video taken of the incident that the vice-principal was not hurt and that Jaisha eventually calmed down. In fact, Jaisha was sitting calmly in a chair when police arrived in response to the vice-principal’s call to arrest an unruly student.
Even after discovering the student was a kindergartener, three white armed officers nevertheless proceeded to pull the little girl’s hands behind her back to put them in handcuffs as she cried and begged them not to. Jaisha was taken to the police station in a patrol car, but released to her mother’s custody when prosecutors refused to file charges against her.
In her  book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique Morris tells the stories of several other black girls as young as six and seven arrested in school in similar incidents over subsequent years, some as recently as 2013. In some cases, the little girls were held in police cars and stations for extended periods of time after arrest. Alarmingly, among the violent policing tactics that have migrated from the streets to schools is indiscriminate use of stun guns, or Tasers, which are used to subdue people by firing barbs into them that deliver a jolt of electricity.
While researching a 2006 report on the US government’s failure to comply with the UN Convention Against Torture,  a 2004 case described a Miami-Dade police officer used a Taser against a 12-year-old girl, shocking her with 50,000 volts of electricity – for skipping school.
Policing of girls extends beyond instances where officers are summoned by school administrators. Police are increasingly stationed inside schools, leading to increased police contact with girls, and increased police violence as officers enforce school rules.
For instance, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) reported several cases where young women of color were slammed against the wall, thrown to the floor and arrested by officers stationed in their schools for leaving class a few minutes late (“roaming the hallways”), asking for return of a confiscated cell phone (“threatening an officer”), or cursing in the hallway (“disorderly conduct”).
The presence of law enforcement officers in schools has driven increased student referrals to police and arrests in schools, often “for actions that would not otherwise be viewed as criminal ... such as refusing to present identification, using profanity with a school administrator, or ‘misbehaving’”.
One study found that the rate at which students are referred for lower-level offenses more than doubles when a school has regular contact with a “school resource officer”.
The result is a “net-widening” effect expanding surveillance of youth of color and infusing policing and prison culture into schools across the country, with predictable effects.  “Routine” frisks and scans can quickly escalate to strip searches. Girls whose underwire bras set off metal detectors have been forced to lift up their shirts or unbuckle or unzip their pants to prove that they are not concealing weapons, or cell phones. The searches these girls were subjected to appear to have been motivated at least in part by controlling narratives framing Asian women as knife-wielding assassins, Latinas and black girls as drug “mules”, and Muslim women as potential terrorists. They also often produce racially gendered humiliation, as officers rifling through young women’s belongings find tampons, birth control pills and condoms.
Kathleen Nolan, a former New York public school teacher, describes “considerable subjectivity in determining whether a behavior was actually a violation of the law”, and notes that everyday items – box cutters used for after-school jobs, razors used to style hair, Mace or pepper spray carried by young women for protection – were met with “zero tolerance” in a school populated by youth of color.
a 2005 report issued by the Advancement Project concluded: “Across the board, the data shows that black and Latino students are more likely than their white peers to be arrested in school . . . despite the lack of evidence that black and Latino students misbehave more than their white peers.” Black students are “punished more severely for less seriously and more subjectively defined infractions” such as “disturbing school” or “disorderly conduct”.  Race remained a reliable predictor of discipline for subjective violations like disruption. In South Carolina, black students are nearly four times as likely to be charged with “disturbing school” as white students. Today, black girls make up approximately 33% of girls referred to law enforcement or arrested on school grounds but only 16% of the female student population. 
Between late 2003 and early 2005, at least 24 Central Florida students, some as young as 12, were shocked with Tasers by police officers in public schools. A typical scenario involved officers wading in through a crowd to break up a fight and using Tasers to “get them to move”. As of 2005, 32% of police departments interviewed by the weapon’s manufacturer, Taser International, had used Tasers in schools. An August 2016 Huffington Post investigation uncovered at least 84 incidents of Taser use against students since 2011.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fact of the Day

Bill Gates gives away $4.6bn to charity. 

To put this in its context, the UK spent £3bn on a single new battleship!

What George Learnt (1905, short story)


 A Short Story from the June 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

George — “You class-conscious Socialists want too much. You ought to be more reasonable.”

Frank — "Well. Socialism being justice, isn’t it reasonable to want it?”

George — “Oh, yes! But you demand the lot. I reckon that half a loaf is better than no bread.”

Frank — “Granted, my boy; but a whole loaf is better still. Besides, why ask for half when you want the whole?”

George — "Because I think you are more likely to get it. In a bargain both sides must make concessions.”

Frank — "Must they? Well, in a bargain according to your curious plan, though the article you have for sale is worth 20/- and you want that amount, yet you would make it known that you would be jolly glad to get half for it. Do you think you would stand the ghost of a chance of getting what yon want? ”

George — “Maybe not; but we would get something.”

Frank — "Would you? In any bargain with the ruling-class the workers’ claims would obviously only be respected when the workers are in a position to take what they ask for. Therefore a bargain would be unnecessary except to enable the capitalists to stave off the workers’ victory.”

George — “But wouldn’t you bargain with them? ”

Frank — “Of course I would not. Look here: the country round a certain small town in Italy was infested by a band of brigands who waylaid and robbed those who came to and from that town. The town folk were too lazy to undertake the extermination of this band, so they bargained with the brigand chief that on payment of a yearly sum his band would cease to molest them. The brigand agreed, but feeling his power, he increased year by year his demands for money, and his insolence became unbearable. The town folk, driven to desperation, organised an attack on the brigands and finally succeeded in breaking up the band. The townsmen lamented bitterly, but too late, that they had not made war on the brigands sooner, but had instead supplied them with the means of becoming more powerful.”

George — "Very pretty, and the lesson is, I suppose, that the longer we bargain with the brigand capitalist-class, the longer they will be on our backs and the harder it will be to dislodge them? ”

Frank — "Not only that. Remember that it takes two to make a bargain, and if the master class are not going to gain by it, a bargain won’t come off. In fact, the ruling class will only bargain when they know that if they don't concede a little, the people will take the lot. The people lose at that game all the time.”

George — “I didn’t think of that.”

Frank — “Besides, the capitalist-class has in its pay, and can buy, the most cunning brains in the nation, whilst the workers have, in comparison, but homely common-sense. Who are likely to get the best of bargains under such conditions? ”

George — “The capitalist politicians of course.”

Frank — “You’ve guessed right. In a game of cunning or hoodwinking, the master-class, having in its pay the lawyers and commanding by its wealth the smartest wits, will always win. The workers can't play successfully at that game. But in an open political battle, the workers have the advantage of mass and numbers, which the capitalists have not.”

George —  “I see."

Frank — “Glad you do. The workers’ advantage lies on the side of an open struggle with the forces of capitalism, for in strategy and cunning the owning-class is first every time. To urge the workers not to adopt the class struggle basis of action is to play the capitalists’ game, and to deliver the workers, ready scalped, into the hands of the enemy. Now that you understand the position you will, of course, apply for membership in The Socialist Party of Great Britain.”

F. C. Watts

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Caring for the old

The amount of time spent needing daily care at the end of life has doubled in England over the past two decades, a study suggests.
The Newcastle University study found men spent 2.4 years on average needing regular care and women three years. This includes everything from help with washing and dressing each day to round-the-clock care.
Researchers said it suggested there needed to be a sharp increase in the number of care home places to cope. The number of places would need to rise by a third to cope. An extra 71,000 care home spaces are needed in the next eight years to cope with Britain’s soaring demand as people living longer face more health problems
Between 1991 and 2011, life expectancy increased by more than four years for both men and women to 82.6 and 85.6 respectively. But the number of those years spent with substantial care needs rose much more rapidly, from 1.1 to 2.4 for men and 1.6 to three for women. Looking ahead to 2025, it means there will be another 350,000 people with high care needs, the researchers predicted.

Why protect the poor

Capitalism exists to make profits. This is the underlying mechanism of the system, for a business must be successful at not only making, but maximizing profits, or it will lose out to competitors. 

The cost of labour, that is, wages, depends on the costs of maintaining the worker in working condition, providing training, and replacing workers lost to disability or retirement. Thus a low-skilled worker in a time of high unemployment, when he or she can be easily replaced, is much less valuable and is paid less than a highly trained one with scarce skills.

Within capitalist nations, where industrialized production requires the well-being of a large number of workers and the availability of healthy young workers for the military, the level of health and health care must be ample to maintain this productive force. Services that are necessary to maintain workers in general, such as public schools, sanitation, and health care, are general expenses to the capitalist system.

In the 19th century, as factory production flourished, workers lived in filthy crowded hovels, ate very poor diets, worked 15-hour days, suffered exposure to filthy air and toxins, and had frequent crippling accidents.  The economist CEA Winslow wrote in 1908 that improved factory ventilation would pay for itself by decreasing absences and preventing workers from being stupefied by late afternoon. Another economist, Irving Fisher, wrote a report using a cost-benefit analysis of disease pointing out the loss of work years by early death. Stacy May, a WWII era Rockefeller-linked economist, summed up the capitalist view of health: “Where mass diseases are brought under control, productivity tends to increase – through increasing the percentage of adult workers as a proportion of the total population, and through augmenting their strength and ambition to work….”

It is clear that the health and survival of the poorest people of the world, away from capitalist centers of production, is not of enough concern to the wealthy and powerful to mitigate the plagues of cholera and the many other infectious diseases that plague only the destitute poor of the less developed world or those whose well-being is less important. A century ago, W.E.B. Dubois said “The Negro death rate and sickness are largely matters of [social and economic] condition and not due to racial traits and tendencies”  This year, Harvard sociologist David R. Williams noted that every 7 minutes, a black American dies prematurely, over 200 people each day who would not die if their health were the same as their white counterparts. He presented evidence that these racial differences cannot simply be accounted for by unequal economics and education because even within groups of equal income and education, racial gaps persist. Only racism can be the answer. Even among college graduates, there is a 4.2 year black/white gap in life expectancy, and it rises for each lower rung of achievement.  High blood pressure, obesity, cancer, heart disease and premature death have all been shown to correlate with the experience of everyday racism.  Another factor is different access to medical care, which reflects housing and employment discrimination. In addition to these institutional factors, implicit bias, or unconscious racism, occurs amongst many health care providers, even well-intentioned ones.

 In Israel/Palestine, there is a ten-year gap in life expectancy between Jews and Palestinians, and a five fold difference in infant mortality. In South Africa, based on data from 2012, black men had an 18 year shorter life expectancy than white men, 17 years after the end of apartheid.

In sum, some health services for workers, from the unskilled to the professional, are necessary under capitalism to provide a dependable workforce, in order to maximize profits. Care for the unemployed, unemployable or less skilled and easily replaceable workers is not a priority. To admit this is in no way seen as a dark matter to be couched in euphemisms but is proudly touted with all sorts of cost-benefit analyses. For example, during medical student and resident training, the introduction to every lecture on a condition starts with a statement that cost in loss of time from work is XXX million/year and the expenditure in medical cost is XXX million or billion/year. Thus young doctors are inculcated with the ethic of measuring treatment or prevention benefits on the basis of profitability to capitalism, as opposed to the well-being of patients.  Thus it is unlikely – indeed, economically unfeasible — that any political administration will usher in a health care system that provides excellent preventive, chronic or acute care to all segments of the population. Only a mass movement which includes millions, employed and unemployed, old and young, and of all ethnicities can realistically fight for that.

Taken from

"The U.S. and the U.K. are complicit in the suffering of millions"

Once more the SOYMB blog feels it necessary to draw attention to that ignored and neglected civil war in Yemen. Waging war by destroying civilian populations seems to have become the norm these days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced that the number of cholera cases in Yemen had reached 500,000. The WHO also noted that around 5,000 people are being infected with cholera daily.

 WHO noted in a statement. "Millions of people are cut off from clean water, and waste collection has ceased in major cities."

WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed that "Yemen's health workers are operating in impossible conditions. Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough clean water. These doctors and nurses are the backbone of the health response—without them we can do nothing in Yemen...The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer—they need peace to rebuild their lives and their country."

 Katy Wright, head of advocacy for Oxfam, called the cholera epidemic a "man-made disaster driven by national and international politics." Wright went on to single out two world superpowers—the United States and the United Kingdom—that have fueled conflict in Yemen by providing weaponry and intelligence to Saudi Arabia, which has for years been waging a relentless bombing campaign against its neighbor.

She explained, "All those fighting and backing this war need to stop fueling the madness and instead come to the peace table for the sake of civilian families in Yemen. Too many people have died, too many have lost everything they owned, too many have seen their futures put on hold, Wright concluded. "In backing this war with billions of dollars of arms sales and military support, the U.S. and the U.K. are complicit in the suffering of millions of people in Yemen."