Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wage Slavery And The Bondage Of Marriage

On Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sought to advance the GOP’s rebranding effort among female voters by suggesting that Republicans have long “led the fight for women’s equality.” The statement came just days after Republicans voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act and sought to downplay the problem of equal pay for equal work by suggesting that Democrats were using the issue to distract from Obamacare.

Now three days later, a prominent member of the Republican movement further undermined the party’s campaign to appeal to women voters by suggesting that the current pay gap isn’t wide enough. In an op-ed published by the Christian Post, Phyllis Schlafly — the founder of the Eagle Forum — maintained that increasing the pay gap will help women find suitable husbands:
Another fact is the influence of hypergamy, which means that women typically choose a mate (husband or boyfriend) who earns more than she does. Men don’t have the same preference for a higher-earning mate.
While women prefer to HAVE a higher-earning partner, men generally prefer to BE the higher-earning partner in a relationship. This simple but profound difference between the sexes has powerful consequences for the so-called pay gap.
Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.
Obviously, I’m not saying women won’t date or marry a lower-earning men, only that they probably prefer not to. If a higher-earning man is not available, many women are more likely not to marry at all. [...]
The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.
Schlafly has long been crusader for “traditional values” within conservative movement and the Republican party, serving as a member of the National GOP Platform Committee as recently as 2012 and as a delegate to the National Convention. Her Eagle Forum PAC has also donated thousands to prominent Republicans like Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Ted Cruz.

Since losing the presidential election in 2012, Republicans have repeatedly tried to enhance the GOP’s appeal beyond its traditional white male voting base. In 2013, the Republican National Committee published a widely discussed “autopsy,” promising to “addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” and held training sessions advising candidates to simply avoid talking about rape. Schlafly’s comments appear to undermine that effort.

From here

The abolition of wage slavery will herald equality in all areas for those who are currently called 'employed': female, male, old, young, black, white, brown or yellow, blue collar or white. Equal access to our common wealth, from each according to ability to each according to need. Marriage, too, will be deemed unnecessary by many when women are released from the bondage that many currently find necessary to exist. JS


USAID - Food, Vouchers, Or Special Interests?

NEW YORK, 14 April 2014 (IRIN) - Efforts to improve the way the US government distributes roughly US$2 billion in international food aid each year achieved some successes in the recently enacted Agriculture Act of 2014 - commonly referred to as the Farm Bill - but the food aid mechanism used by the world’s largest donor continues to prioritize the needs of US commercial interests.

The positives are: a pilot project in the 2008 Farm Bill that tested the feasibility of local and regional procurement of food aid during emergencies has been transformed into a regularized programme that will provide $80 million for local and regional procurement (LRP) each year. In addition, the new Farm Bill increases from 13 to 20 percent the percentage of funding in the largest food aid programme, Food for Peace (or Title II), that can be spent on non-emergency programmes with cash-based resources or commodities rather than through the much-criticized vehicle of monetized food aid.

Monetization is a major flaw in the US food aid system, in which US grain is donated to NGOs and other “cooperating sponsors”, who then sell the food in recipient countries to raise money for their programmes. Almost all other major aid agencies have given up the practice because selling the donated food distorts local markets, and is detrimental to long-term food security.

“The main favourable developments [in the new Farm Bill] were the authorization of a permanent (if modest) LRP programme and a significant increase in the cap on funding cooperating sponsors, which effectively allows USAID [the US Agency for International Development] to end open monetization of food aid,” said Chris Barrett of Cornell University, a leading food aid analyst.

“These are important developments. But the Farm Bill still fell well short of providing USAID with flexibility to use cash, vouchers or LRP where those would be the most appropriate food assistance tools, as the main US food aid programme (Title II of PL480) remains legislatively restricted to buy commodities in the US and to ship from the US, at least half of the cargo on US flag vessels. This causes needless waste and delay without generating any significant benefit to the US economy. So the 2014 Farm Bill can be reasonably assessed as modest progress.”

“Unprecedented” debate

Yet reform advocates have emerged from the legislative process hopeful for the future. “I’ve been working on this issue for 10 years,” said Eric Munoz, senior policy adviser for Oxfam America. “I’ve been through two Farm Bills. And this is the first time in my experience when there has been a serious debate and where real proposals were put on the table and where there was a real demand for the special interests who are supporting the status quo to defend the programme in its current form. This is unprecedented. I don’t think that the conversation is over yet and certainly from our perspective we will continue to press to see that inefficiencies in the programme are addressed.”

“This is actually the beginning of a reform conversation.”
Among the most noteworthy developments was an amendment to the Farm Bill (jointly offered by a Republican, Ed Royce of California, and a Democrat, Eliot Engel of New York) that proposed giving USAID the flexibility to use up to 45 percent of food aid funds for LRP, cash transfers or food vouchers. During a hearing convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, some Congress members expressed worry that the increased reliance on transfers or vouchers would deny the US the public relations benefit of commodity donations.

“This is what food aid looks like,” said Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, holding up a photograph of a large bag with US markings. “It says, `From the American people. USAID.’ It makes it very clear that this is an American product.” If food aid comes in the form of a voucher, he said, the generosity of the US will not be properly advertised. “I think we are losing a very impactful thing that we do, which is that we put right in front of the people of Afghanistan or Darfur or wherever that this is a gift grown in and from the American people,” he said.

“Congressman, if you could put up the picture of the food voucher,” said Andrew Natsios, administrator of USAID from 2001 to 2006, a hearing witness, referring to a second photograph. “It says on it, `US aid from the American people’ on the right side.”
“Yeah, it’s not quite the same as a bag with food,” said Congressman Kinzinger.

Powerful shipping interests

But it wasn’t concerns over losing the PR benefit of commodity food aid that defeated the amendment. It was a powerful lobbying campaign by shipping companies and maritime unions. The Royce-Engel amendment lost by a vote of 220 to 203. According to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, Congress members who received contributions from the two leading maritime unions voted 83 to 29 in opposition to the measure.

“I am not aware of one single source other than special interest groups who are effected financially by these reforms who thinks the current system works well and works to our advantage,” said Natsios.

Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute, noted that both President Bush and President Obama have sought to reform US food aid over the last decade. “The US Congress has each time resisted changes because of the combined influence of the US agribusiness firms and the shipping industry, which both highly benefit from this form of hidden subsidy and pocket every year hundreds of millions of dollars of public money through this business,” he said.

Yet perhaps the most powerful sign that greater change is in the offing was the broadcast of a satirical segment on the food aid debate on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Comedy Central programme that represents one of the most powerful progressive voices in American culture. During a report that featured interviews with Chris Barrett and a maritime industry magazine editor, correspondent Jessica Williams mockingly demanded that the needs of “most vulnerable among us” - “international shipping conglomerates” - be “balanced against the needs of the hungry.”

from here

CEOs keep on getting richer

 SOYMB  keeps saying it - the rich get  richer while you get poorer

In new data certain to fuel the growing public debate over economic inequality, a survey released Tuesday by the biggest U.S. trade-union federation found that the CEOs of top U.S. corporations were paid 331 times more money than the average U.S. worker in 2013. According to the AFL-CIO’s 2014 Executive PayWatch database, U.S. CEOs of 350 companies made an average of $11.7 million last year compared to the average worker who earned $35,293. The 331 to 1 ratio between the income of the 350 corporate CEOs in the Pay Watch survey and average workers is generally consistent with the pay gap that has prevailed over the past decade.

The same CEOs averaged an income 774 times greater than U.S. workers who earned the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25 in 2013, or just over $15,000 a year, according to the database.

A separate survey of the top 100 U.S. corporations released by the New York Times Sunday found that the media compensation of CEOs of those companies last year was yet higher — $13.9 million. That survey, the Equilar 100 CEO Pay Study, found that those CEOs took home a combined $1.5 billion in 2013, slightly higher than their haul the previous year.

As in past years, the biggest earner was Lawrence Ellison, CEO of Oracle, who landed $78.4 million in a combination of cash, stocks, and options.

“Consider that the retirement benefits of the CEO of Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has benefits of over $232 million in his company retirement fund, all of which is tax deferred,” said Sarah Anderson, at the Institute for Policy Studies . “It’s quite obscene when you know it’s a corporation that relies on very low-paid labour.”

Anti-union USA

Volkswagen offered a deal to the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union: Please represent workers at our assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen offered their workers a German-style works council through which workers could participate in decision-making at the plant, guarantees that unionization would not affect the future of the plant, and broad support for a pro-union vote. The workers voted no by a margin of 712-626. Even if the UAW had won the vote, any Volkswagen worker could simply refuse to pay dues to the UAW - with no negative consequences.

Tennessee's senior US senator, Lamar Alexander, declared that Tennessee workers "have decided in almost every case that they are better off union-free. The UAW may not like this, but that is the right of employees in a right-to-work state like Tennessee."

Unfortunately, living in a "right-to-work" state does not mean that you have a right to work. In Tennessee, only 55.6 percent of the working-age population has a job of any kind, compared to 58.6 percent for the country as a whole. Work is as hard to find in "right-to-work" states as anywhere else.

 In America the "right to work" means the "right not to join a union or pay union dues despite the fact that your co-workers have democratically voted for union representation." Under federal law, once a union has won the right to represent the workers in a workplace, it has a duty of representation to fairly and without prejudice represent all workers in that workplace, whether or not they are union members. In "right-to-work" states, recognized unions must fairly represent even those workers who refuse to join them or even to pay modest representation fees. Given the legal duty of fair representation, the problem with granting workers this dubious "right to work" is obvious. No union can survive for long in a "right-to-work" environment. Inevitably, workers who are facing financial difficulties, lazy about paying their dues, or just plain jerks decide it would be easier not to pay dues than to pay them.  The right to work in "right-to-work" states is a right to freeload on your coworkers who pay union dues so you don't have to.

There seems no point in conservative politicians mobilizing business support to defeat a union representation vote in "right-to-work" Tennessee. Just 3.4 percent of Tennessee's private sector workers are union members. Yet,  right-wing politicians and political operatives pulled out all the stops to convince Chattanooga Volkswagen workers to reject UAW representation.  The anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation  prepared a legal brief on behalf of five anti-union Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga defending political interference in union representation votes.

The anti-UAW campaign at Volkswagen had everything: a senator deliberately misleading workers; a governor offering Volkswagen hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars - but only if the union lost - senior state politicians openly making threats of financial retribution; Republican staffers secretly coordinating the anti-UAW campaign with notorious union busters; shadowy organizations with links to the nation's leading right-wing activists; an Ayn Rand-inspired anti-union consultant; and right-wing political fronts that purported to be groups of rank-and-file workers.

Unions are membership organizations  so it is hard to see why non-members should be involved at all. But here is a list of those who interfered in the practice of democracy.

Center for Worker Freedom: A special project of Grover Norquist's American for Tax Reform. CWF Director Matt Patterson spent a year in Chattanooga spreading misinformation. After the election, he boasted that his strategy of involving workers' families and the community had caused "strife."

Bob Corker: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) twice told workers he had been given assurances that Volkswagen would expand production at Chattanooga if they voted against the union. It wasn't true. Never before has a senator misused his position to interfere in a union election at a private company in this way.

Jim Gray: Antiunion consultant Gray heads a South Carolina firm that has a "primary focus on union avoidance." After attending an anti-UAW planning meeting, Gray stated, "I'm just here to help out." It appears that Gray helped arrange the production of the antiunion campaign videos.

Bill Haslam: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam offered Volkswagen $300 million in subsidies, but only if the UAW lost. Written at top of the confidential document was the following caveat: "The incentives described below are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee."

Peter List: A notorious antiunion consultant, List is the founder and CEO of Kulture Labor Relations. According to a profile in Fortune magazine, List is "a firm believer in Ayn Rand's philosophy of radical individualism" who "opposes all state efforts to regulate labor relations." In a 2007 organizing campaign, NLRB member Dennis Walsh wrote that in his effort to "persuade" workers, List had engaged in "patently unlawful" activities.

National Right to Work Committee Legal Defense Fund: The organization claimed that it only provided free legal support for antiunion workers, but the UAW has alleged that a NRTW lawyer was also involved in coordinating the antiunion campaign.

Maury Nicely: A Chattanooga antiunion lawyer who fronted Southern Momentum, Inc., Nicely told Reuters that his group had raised over $100,000 from antiunion businesses and individuals. Despite purporting to represent ordinary Volkswagen workers, none of SMI's funding came from workers, and few Volkswagen workers had any direct involvement with it.

Projections, Inc.: One of the country's leading "union avoidance" firms, Projections created three antiunion videos for SMI, which were shown at public meetings, put on SMI's "" website and given to workers on flash drives so they could watch them with their families. The videos implied that workers job security would be threatened if they voted for the union.

Robin Smith: Chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Smith compared the UAW to an "infestation" of "Ichneumon wasp larvae." When the NAACP expressed support for an investigation into Haslam's secret offer, Smith tweeted: "@NAACP supports @UAW at @VW in Chattanooga. Those allies tell the tale." As indicated by her comments, the Tennessee GOP establishment intervened in the election in a disgraceful manner.

Southern Momentum, Inc.: SMI was the one antiunion group that claimed to represent ordinary Volkswagen workers. In reality, it was another AstroTurf organization, headed by antiunion lawyer Maury Nicely, funded by antiunion businesses, and which hired expensive external union avoidance professionals.

Bo Watson: State Senator Watson and other senior state politicians threatened to block financial incentives for the company - which the workers understood would threaten their job security - if workers voted for the UAW. The day before workers started voting, Watson stated at a press conference that, "members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee," and that lawmakers would "have a difficult time convincing our citizens to support any Volkswagen incentive package."

Todd Womack: Corker's chief of staff was in direct contact with Tennessee politicians - including members of the Governor's cabinet - and union avoidance groups about anti-UAW messaging. Womack sent an email concerning the three Projections anti-UAW videos. Recipients of his message included Grey, List, and the heads of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association.

The Volkswagen election showed the extraordinary lengths to which Republican lawmakers and anti-union organizations are prepared to go to subvert workers' right to choose a union. US business is vehemently anti-union for the obvious reason that unions empower workers vis-à-vis their employers. Representation is a matter for the workers to decide, not for their employers. Once workers have professional union representation, employers have a right to professional bargaining representation as well. But for employers to hire professional union-busting firms to prevent their workers from joining a union seems patently unfair. It seems even more unfair for elected political leaders to seek to influence union representation votes.

Maybe the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is right. Maybe union representation votes should be more like national elections. It is strictly illegal to seek to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters. For unions used to dealing with ruthless and well-funded opponents, a system as simple and transparent as a federal election would be a blessing. Every few years workers at all large companies could simply be asked: "Which of these candidates do you want to represent you?" Any person or organization that registered as a candidate could run, perhaps including the employer itself. Workers could decide. After a workplace election, all workers should be held responsible for abiding by the outcome. If the majority votes for a union that charges dues, all workers should be forced to pay their dues. Minority protections might allow workers to opt out of some union programs on moral grounds, but these should be the exception, not the rule. If a majority of workers vote in a fair workplace election free from company or outside intimidation that they would prefer not to join a union, let the unions take the bad with the good and come back in two years for a re-match.

The labor unions themselves have proposed a limited fix compromise: the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The EFCA would enshrine the "card check" system, whereby unions can be empowered to represent workers when over 50 percent of the workers at a plant sign a card requesting union representation. The card check system avoids the need for a subsequent election once workers have expressed their pro-union preferences in writing. This prevents employers and outsiders putting undue pressure on workers to vote against union representation in an election, for example by threatening to close the plant if the workers unionize. Card check is better than the system we have now, but it is far too modest and not sufficiently democratic. It gets around the problem of political and economic coercion in representation votes by doing away with the votes. Sadly, Obama missed his opportunity to enact it, despite a pledge to do so.

Workers’ unions need more freedom and democracy in the workplace, not less. Current regulation of unions is anything but democratic.  A free economy in a free society requires free workers.

From here and here  at the Truth Out website

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



(Mad about the M.O.D.)

(7/4/2014. The British army will seriously
consider close-combat roles for women.)

Rejoice! all gentle Feminists,
And soon enjoy the thrill;
Of having full equality--
The right to fight and kill!

The right to march repeatedly,
Across the barrack square;
Whilst Sergeant Major-ette barks forth,
Obscenities out there.

The right to polish hobnail boots,
And whitewash army coal;
As indispensable parts of,
The training for this role.

The right to look like brutish men,
Whilst dressed in camouflage;
The right to be last in the yomp, (1)
And dressed down by the Sarge.

The right to keep the enemy,
Of either sex at bay;
With rifles and fixed bayonets,
Has really made the day!

The right upon the Killing Fields,
To fill up empty graves;
Now all we want’s the right to be,
Dead equal as wage-slaves!

(1) A army march with heavy
equipment over difficult terrain.

© Richard Layton 

American Democracy - Working Only For The Wealthy

In a functioning democracy, free from corruption and the money of private interest groups, you'd expect that as more and more average citizens approved of a policy or piece of legislation, lawmakers would be more and more likely to adopt that policy or piece of legislation.

But that's not the case anymore here in America.

Instead, according to Gilens and Page, as more and more average American citizens support a policy or piece of legislation, the probability of it being adopted by lawmakers in Washington stays the same. It doesn't matter if 10 percent of Americans support it, or 90 percent of Americans support it.
But the same can't be said for the interests of the wealthy elite.
That's because, as more and more members of the wealthy elite support a policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that lawmakers in Washington adopt that policy or piece of legislation increases steadily.
And the same is true with well-funded special interest groups. The more special interest groups support a policy or piece of legislation, the greater the likelihood that lawmakers will adopt it.

You also see similar results when you break up Americans by income groups.
When more and more Americans in the bottom tenth percentile supported a particular policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that it would be adopted by lawmakers stayed relatively the same.

But, as more and more Americans in the 90th income percentile or the even richer wealthy elite supported a policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that it would be adopted by lawmakers increased dramatically.
When it comes to working class Americans, it doesn't matter if they're in the bottom 10th income percentile or the 50th income percentile: they're ignored by our politicians for the preferences of the wealthy elite.

The bottom line here is that the elites are getting what they want, while the rest of us aren't, because money has taken over our political process.
For the first time in American history, a majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives are millionaires, and a startling number - at both the federal and state level - are being bankrolled by billionaires like the Koch brothers.

This isn't what the founders had in mind when they founded our once-great nation.
Thomas Jefferson once said that, "Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government..."

Whole article here


Members in the Great War

When conscription came into operation during the 1914-1918 war, members knew that they stood no chance of being exempted from military service on conscientious grounds. Nevertheless, some went before the tribunals whilst others went on their travels.

Adolph Kohn went to America and landed into trouble there when America came into the war. He took part in the formation of our companion party over there and continued to send articles to the Socialist Standard. One of his articles was opened by the American authorities and they tried to trace him. As soon as he discovered they were looking for him; though he did not know why, he adopted various expedients to keep under cover. One of these was taking a job as a civilian auditor in a military camp. However, he succeeded in remaining free until the end of the war. At the behest of the American authorities the police over here made enquiries. In the course of their enquiries they interviewed Fitzgerald, whom they kept in prison for a night. On him they found an address book containing the name of Kohn's sister, Hilda. They also interviewed her without success. They did not even find out that she was a member of the Party, although she was the General Secretary at that time, and also at the time when Head Office was raided by the police.

Harry Russ had decided to sleep out in the open and keep away from towns. He moved about the country, wet and dry, and after some months reached the neighbourhood of Sheffield. He saw some placards advertising a meeting to be addressed by Ramsay MacDonald. Craving for company he resolved to risk attending just this one meeting. He did so. The meeting was raided and he was arrested, along with others, as an absentee from military service. He refused to be conscripted on the ground that, as a Socialist, he was opposed to the war. He was stripped of his clothes and presented with a uniform but refused to put it on. Various manoeuvres were tried to get him to sign his name, but he refused to sign anything. He was then transferred to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight. Whilst he was there, one of the buildings was occupied by soldiers who were going back to the front after their leave. One evening a warder who was taking him across the compound pushed him in with the remark, "here you are boys, here's a bloody conchie." He was knocked about and was so furious when he got out that he determined to complain to the warden. He crossed to the gate, which was open, went into the road and, finding it deserted, suddenly decided to walk off. He had the name of a sympathiser on the island who hid him and then provided him with money to get across to Portsmouth and then to London. On the platform at Portsmouth late that night he heard someone calling him. He turned around and found it was an army officer. He thought "this is it," but all the officer wanted to know was if the train in the station was bound for London! When Russ arrived in London he lodged with some members, also "on the run," who pretended to be employed on jobs essential to the war. He succeeded in remaining free until the war ended.

E. Hardy ("H" of the Socialist Standard) was working as a farm pupil when he was called up. He was offered exemption on the ground that he was engaged in the essential service of farming. He refused to accept this on the ground that it would have meant some other worker being called up. He went before the tribunal and was turned down, as he expected. After some months in an army guardroom and a court martial he was put in Wormwood Scrubs prison, where he remained for six months. Whilst in there he learnt from the "old lags: the mystery of dealing with the burden of the bugs that came out and attacked him when he lay down on his plank bed. The method was to use hi soap to fill in as many cracks in the planks as he could find. Incidentally he was glad that he had learnt poetry as he was able to while away solitary hours by repeating poetry to himself. In the Scrubs there were other S.P.G.B.'ers. and lively discussion went on under the tolerant eye of a sympathetic warder.

At one time in an army guardroom there were two other S.P.G.B.'ers., and one of them named Brooks, organised a class on Marxian economics among the military prisoners, more than a dozen who listened attentively. It went on for many nights until it came to the notice of the authorities and they separated Brooks, Hardy and the other member from the rest of the prisoners. Eventually Hardy was transferred to a Conscientious Objectors party working on construction in Wales. The first night in camp he climbed into the top hammock. There was an argument going on between two of the inmates. He intervened. Immediately a head popped out below him and a voice exploded "Well, gorblimey, we got rid of old Banks this morning and now we have another S.P.G.B.'er." It appeared that Jimmy banks had also been transferred there before Hardy and used to hold forth on the Party's position.

One morning, while Hardy was there, the foreman on the job complained about the appearance of one of the C.O.'s who used to turn up for work in a pair of dirty old trousers, supported by a string, a pair of old boots, a ragged shirt with no collar, and a dilapidated coat. The foreman appealed to the chap to dress a bit better. The next morning this man turned up in a clean shirt, collar and tie, a nice coat, hat and walking stick, but he still wore the trousers tied up with string and the dilapidated boots.

Mick Cullen was a member of Birmingham Branch. When he was turned down by the tribunal he got half a column write-up in the Daily Mail headed "A class fighter, not a conscientious objector." Cullen was handed over to the military who put him in a house with other prisoners for the night. He climbed through the window, caught a train to Holyhead and then the night boat to Dublin. At that time Irishmen who were prepared to work in England during the war, to make up for the shortage of manpower, were provided with a green ticket exempting them from military service. The morning Cullen arrived in Dublin he applied for a green ticket, received it and took the boat back to England the same night. As he did not care to risk going back near Birmingham he took a train up the North East Coast. After he had travelled some way up the coast a man who was sitting opposite him in the compartment suddenly leaned forward and demanded to see his exemption papers. Cullen asked him what the hell he was talking about and who the hell he was, anyway. Then the man produced his warrant card showing that he was a police inspector. Cullen then went into action. "Oho," said he, exploding with wrath, "You're just the man I want to meet. I was told in Dublin that there were plenty of jobs over here but I have been traipsing around unable to get one.: And so he went on, going for the inspector in a fury. At last the exasperated inspector assured Cullen that he had been just unlucky: that there were plenty of jobs. He gave Cullen his card with the address of a factory in Newcastle and told him to present the card and he would be assured of a job. At the next station the inspector hurriedly got out, obviously glad to escape the ravings of Cullen. However, finally the authorities caught up with Cullen again and he had to make his way back to Ireland and remain there for the rest of the war.

There was a group of members imprisoned in Dartmoor and others in Scotland in C.O. camps where they distributed Party literature.

The present writer also went to Ireland. I packed a kit-bag with so many books that I had no room for my clothes. On that account I had to cycle from Cork around the South and East coast to Belfast wearing two suits, a heavy overcoat, and a heavy kit-bag fastened to my back. I crossed over with a member who was a music hall juggler and was appearing for a week in Cork. I was supposed to be his assistant and he got me through.

In Belfast, being somewhat unsophisticated, I tried to sell art postcards in the streets. I had to give up deciding, by results, that the Irish were not an art-loving nation. I then got a job with a dentist as a canvasser but later the dentist took me in to teach me dentistry. Finally he arranged for me to "walk the hospitals" so that I could qualify. Fearing this would reveal the fact that I was technically a deserter from the army, I told him I was not fitted for the profession and gave up the job. This was not much of a financial loss because, in order to get the job, I had pretended I had private means and the doctor had ordered me to take an open air job on account of my health. In fact I was half starved.

I then followed a number of occupations, including selling cattle, horse and sheep medicine, dock labouring, working in a saw mill and driving a Foden steam wagon. Part of the time a friendly tailor let me sleep in his shop on the sewing board. Finally I got a job cutting timber in the mountains for a lumber company. This lasted me until the war ended, when I returned to London.

These are just a few rambling notes about what happened to a few members of the Party during the 1914-1918 war. Many other members could tell similar stories. Some went to different parts of the world and either remained there or only returned after the passage of a long time. As a result it was a sadly battered and reduced Party that gathered together after the war to continue the struggle.

September 1964

The Oligarchy of America

 The first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two presents a clear finding that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious "electoral" "democratic" countries.

The  study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, "Who governs? Who really rules?" is:
"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ..." and then they go on to say, it's not true. It says:
 "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."
The findings shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories of America. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:
“Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.”

Once more confirmation of the Marxist claim that the government is the executive committee of the capitalist class and that "The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them."

However, the Socialist Party despite the flaws in the democratic process suggests it still can be accessed by an organised united working class and used as part of its self-emanciption

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fighting For Peace - Refusing Conscription


Fighting for peace earned you anything from vitriolic accusations of cowardice and treachery to job loss, state-abetted mob attacks, arrest, imprisonment, hard labour, courts-martial, show trials and even execution orders.

Vanessa Redgrave as Sylvia Pankhurst
Vanessa Redgrave playing anti-war dissident Sylvia Pankhurst, in the film Oh! What A Lovely War, which government education minister Michael Gove singled out as propagating what he called the myth of the first world war as a 'misbegotten shambles'. Vanessa Redgrave was one of the early signatories to the No Glory in War Open Letter

The commemorations of the first world war now under way in the media and museums are, we are given to understand, intended to be inclusive.
They will cover the roles of women, soldiers from Africa and Asia, even animals, and examine the impact of the war on everything from the economy and technology to medicine and cinema.
This is all to the good if it furthers our understanding of how that terrible conflagration still shapes our difficult present. But in an atmosphere thick with invocations of "courage" and "sacrifice", there seems to be a curious exclusion. The bravery of those who rallied behind the powerful banner of nationalism will be honoured, but what about the courage of those who took the path of most resistance and dissented from the status quo by challenging the war itself?

Unlike those historians who can, with the benefit of hindsight and peer approval, lament the pity of that war, the motley coalitions that organised resistance to the unfolding of the first world war did so in the face of enormous social disapproval and institutional pressures. As the War Propaganda Bureau's massive efforts, along with press acquiescence, kept public opinion on side, it took a special kind of bravery to query the wisdom of bloodshed before shots were fired, or call for a negotiated peace mid-carnage.
Fighting for peace earned you anything from vitriolic accusations of cowardice and treachery to job loss, state-abetted mob attacks, arrest, imprisonment, hard labour, courts-martial, show trials and even execution orders. As a consequence, many campaigners suffered nervous breakdowns and ill health. Their sacrifices must not go unsung.

Well before the first trenches were dug, questions were being asked about the motives for and conduct of the war by an expanding anti-war coalition, fronted by some of Britain's most distinguished people. Denounced furiously by Rudyard Kipling as "human rubbish", Britain's dissenters included Liberals, Labour supporters and socialists; a striking number were women. They ranged from the aristocratic philosopher Bertrand Russell, who lost his Cambridge lectureship over his activism to the socialist James Keir Hardie, raised in a Glasgow slum; the lion tamer John Smith Clarke; and the train driver's daughter Alice Wheeldon.

There were aristocratic pacifists like the conscientious objectors – or "conchies" – Clifford Allen and Stephen Hobhouse; feminists like Catherine Marshall and Sylvia Pankhurst (whose stance estranged her from her pro-war mother Emmeline; and the famous exposer of Belgian atrocities in the Congo ED Morel, imprisoned on obscure charges for criticising secret diplomacy. Adam Hochschild's excellent To End All Wars tells some of their stories.

While anti-war organisations like the Women's International League, the Society of Friends, the Union of Democratic Control, and the No-Conscription Fellowship differed on many matters, including whether it was all right to work in non-combat roles, what brought them together was a sense that behind the rhetoric of a "glorious, delicious war" for civilisation and freedom lay rather more grubby interests, not necessarily those of ordinary Britons. Some, admitting they too felt drawn to nationalism and war fever, believed this was not so much a war against militarism as a war between militarisms. In claiming to fight militarism in Europe, asked Labour leader Ramsey McDonald, was Britain actually giving it "hospitality, harbourage and welcome" at home?

As the commemorative drums of national unity start to beat again to rally us behind dominant narratives, it is time to remember that more than 20,000 men, remembered by the No Glory Campaign, refused conscription after it was introduced in 1916, seeing it as a violation of freedom. Then as now, dissidents – who included thousands of Clydeside workers who staged walkouts – understood that the belligerent question "do you love your country?" is not answered by blindly following politicians' commands, particularly where there is lack of consultation.

The distinguished economist JA Hobson, neither socialist nor pacifist, saw the war as rational only for the capitalist ruling classes who stood to benefit from the "ever-worsening burden of armaments". Wasn't massive state expenditure better directed towards a "beautiful school … a grander sight than a battleship"? To be anti-war was to actively fight poverty, mediate for peace, build schools and workshops, undertake relief work, and provide food and refuge for troops and civilians alike.

Many critics of the war also understood that it was being waged for stakes outside Europe in great tracts of colonised land in Asia and Africa. While it is necessary to acknowledge the sacrifices made by soldiers from these regions, it is dishonest to assimilate them to Kipling's narrative of "everybody's war" for freedom. These were colonised subjects whose war this was certainly not, and in whose countries Britain was doing anything but defending freedom – its own occupying troops as unwelcome as German ones in Belgium.

It is no surprise, then, that many prominent anti-war leaders, including the feminist Sylvia Pankhurst and Labour politician Fenner Brockway, became trenchant critics of British imperialism, which believed itself better than the German brand. At a 1917 Leeds anti-war conference, resolutions were also passed calling for the independence of Ireland, India and Egypt.

Commemorating Britain's anti-war campaigners – invoked by the National Archives in a small online exhibit – is not about fetishising the past. Many of the issues they faced remain pressing today. They were on the front lines of the criminalisation of dissent, the erosion of civil liberties and press freedom in the name of national security, and crackdowns on industrial action and popular unrest at a time of economic privation. Then, as now, the poor were requisitioned to fight the wars which enrich the few, dying and suffering disproportionately.

The fighting spirit we need to invoke today is that which was willing to face down a small but powerful ruling class with control of state and media apparatuses complete with embedded war correspondents and close advisory relationships between politicians and press barons. Remembering that the Great War also unleashed revolution and anti-colonial rebellion, it is this spirit of principled dissent that we must seek to channel and honour.

From here

Bankers and US Politics: Who's In Control?


From J.P. Morgan to Jamie Dimon - the inside story of how banks and bankers control our politics

New York is a wonderful town — if you run a mega bank. Because for over a century, the Big Six banks and their leaders have dominated not just the U.S. banking industry, but American and global finance, traversing the power corridor between the White House and Wall Street to help themselves, their families and their friends in good times and bad, in partnership with the President.

But in the process of placing personal enrichment over the public interest and fair practices, particularly in recent years, they have created an atmosphere where the next big crisis is not a question of if, but of when. History has shown that absent true reform, those holding the power and the money can and will wreak havoc on the rest of the population.

For the first 80 years of the 20th century, four families largely controlled the nation’s top three banks: Morgan, Aldrich, Stillman and Rockefeller. National, financial and foreign policy was fashioned through personal connections to the Presidents — forged through blood, marriage, mentorships and connections made at Ivy League colleges, and through social activities like yachting, golfing, ranch barbeques and exclusive parties and clubs.

In October 1907, Manhattan was struck by a major bank panic. People from Fifth Ave. to Harlem rushed to extract their money from the Knickerbocker Trust Company because one of its leaders had made a horrendous bet on copper, which precipitated a wider panic. A fear of greater ramifications caused the “Trust-Buster,” President Teddy Roosevelt, to turn to the one man he believed could help — a banker, J.P. Morgan.

At midnight, Morgan and his entourage gathered at the Hotel Manhattan. With $25 million from the government to utilize as he saw fit, Morgan directed his financial friends to back the Trust Company of America, the “Too Big to Fail” firm of the time, embraced by the government and finance men who decided which banks lived and died — not the Knickerbocker Trust Company. President Roosevelt sat in Washington awaiting the results.
At 1 a.m., Frank Vanderlip, vice president of National City Bank (now Citigroup), informed reporters in the lobby that all would be well. And it was. New York papers sung Morgan’s praises. He had “saved” the city, the country. He was dubbed a “king.” The press omitted that he did it without dropping a dime of his own money.

Fast-forward through WWI and years of speculative buying and shady scams, and the stock market stood poised for collapse. In October 1929, it did.
Another meeting was called. The Big Six bankers gathered at the House of Morgan on 23 Wall Street before Thomas Lamont, acting Morgan Chairman. At his table were five other bankers: from National City Bank and First National Bank (both now part of Citigroup), from Morgan Guaranty and Chase (which, along with the Morgan Bank, became part of JPM Chase), and from Bankers Trust (which was controlled by the Morgan Bank). President Hoover sat in Washington awaiting the results.
The men hashed out a plan to boost the markets using their firms’ (or customers’) money. Each banker agreed to pony up $25 million. The stock-buying began. The mood and the markets were lifted. The media exalted. Nonetheless, over the next three years, the market lost most of its value, and a Great Depression ensued, crushing citizens.

Yet the Big Six survived, devouring thousands of smaller banks that failed.
Today’s Big Six banks are largely combinations (with additional members thrown in the mix) of the same Big Six banks that thrived through the Panic of 1907, Crash of 1929, WWII, the Bay of Pigs, the 1990s merger mania, and the recent financial crisis of 2008.
They now hold $9.4 trillion, or 84%, of U.S. FDIC-insured deposits, $12.5 trillion, or 85%, of all U.S. bank assets — and control 96% of all U.S., and 43% of the $693 trillion of global derivatives positions.

For the last 100 years, their leaders have collaborated with willing Presidents to run America. Given current global financial complexity, the Big Six chairmen have more economic control than Presidents, governments or central banks. We don’t elect them, but we do keep our money with them. We shoulder the cost of the risks they take.
With so much power in the hands of an elite few, America operates more as a plutocracy on behalf of the upper caste than a democracy or a republic. Voters are caught in the crossfire of two political parties vying to run Washington in a manner that benefits the banking caste, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is sitting in the Oval. Meanwhile, American inequality is reaching pre-1929 heights.

Mitigating the big banks’ power requires, at long last, breaking them up in such a manner as to split our deposits and taxpayers dollars from their speculative activities — by finally reinstituting the Glass-Steagall act of 1933.
In addition, we need to instill deposit and assets limits on these monstrosities to reduce the amount of control they have over America’s money. We need Congress to wake up to the looming mega-crisis around the corner that will happen without serious reform.
And, not least, we need a President who will get out of the bankers’ bed.

By Nomi Prins from here

The talk of reform, even 'serious reform' is a total distraction from seeking to instigate a solution. Who can really believe that the next reform or the one after it, or the one after that is going to make a blind bit of difference long term when the evidence shows clearly that reforms have achieved very little and have usually not been lasting? Capitalists and their system based on money are what need to be removed/abolished before we, as the whole human race, can move on and begin living our lives as partners in a world of common ownership and access for all.


Euroelections - South East Region

As part of Kent and Sussex branch's electoral efforts we are planning to have a number of literature stalls in various towns in Kent between April 26th and Polling Day on May 22nd. The locations are to be finalised but they will most likely be along these lines:

Saturday, April 26th in Maidstone
May Day Bank Holiday Monday, May 5th in either Tonbridge ORMaidstone
Saturday, May 10th in Canterbury
Thursday, May 15th in Maidstone OR Tonbridge
Tuesday, May 20th in Chatham OR Rochester
Depending on the measure of support available additional stalls might be held in Sittingbourne and Folkestone
Assistance from other members and sympathisers welcome.
Please email or phone either 07971 715569 or 07973 142701

No Cause For Opitimism

For a while now there has been glowing reports of the fall in extreme poverty figures and a rising “middle” class. Yet the Financial Times shows just how transient this progress can be. Decades of success have led to a tendency to think of the fight against poverty as a one-way path: people move up the economic ladder and rarely slip back. Yet in many developing countries there remains a huge churn between those above and just below the poverty line each year. Incomes in rural India remain vulnerable to a bad harvest, so the march in and out of poverty is linked intimately with the monsoons.

The Asian Development Bank has defined the entry point to the new middle class as the derisory $2 per day poverty line, adjusting for purchasing power, while other economists have argued that a more robust definition begins at $10 per day.

More than one-third of the world lives on between $2 and $10 a day, making this “fragile middle” the world’s biggest income group. Some 2.8bn people – 40 per cent of the world’s population – were earning $2-$10 a day in 2010, the latest year for which data are available from the World Bank’s income distribution database.

Adjusting for inflation and purchasing power, the share of those living below $2 per day has dropped markedly since 1981 from 70 per cent of those living in developing countries to two in five, but the bulk of those lifted out of poverty remain only just above the line. About 1.5bn people were earning between $2 and $4 a day in 2010, and this $2-$4 group has grown more quickly than any other across the income spectrum. There were 952m people earning $2-$3 a day in the developing world in 2010.

Yet a market slowdown could tip millions over the brink and back into destitution. The International Labor Organisation said it was already seeing the effect of slow growth in emerging economies, with the number of workers worldwide in extreme poverty declining only 2.7 per cent in 2013, one of the slowest rates seen over the past decade. In a recent paper, World Bank economists warned that “developing-country growth could be 2-2.5 percentage points weaker than it was during the pre-crisis boom period”.

Kaushik Basu, the World Bank’s chief economist, warned that many of those people who had emerged from poverty in recent years remained “very vulnerable” to slipping back. He also said the world economy faced risks, including the possibility that China’s growth could slow even more than it has already, something that would have big repercussions for the developing world. Even if that risk did not materialise, Mr Basu said, current growth would not be enough to return to the sort of poverty reduction seen in recent decades. How vulnerable would those who have risen out of poverty be to sliding back into it? “That’s a very good question,” Mr Basu says. “And I think they are still very vulnerable.”

The wealth gap in the world’s fourth most populous country is widening. Consumption by the poorest half of the country stagnated last year, according to the World Bank. The poorest half of Indonesians saw zero or slightly negative growth in consumption expenditure between 2012 and 2013, compared with 4 percent growth across the entire population and an average of 7 percent for the richest 20 percent, the Washington-based World Bank said in a 2013 report. The country’s gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, widened to 0.41 in 2012, from 0.35 in 2005. That’s above the 0.4 level that the United Nations has said is a predictor of social unrest, and compares with China’s level of 0.47 the past two years. The number of Indonesians living below the government’s poverty line rose by half a million people in the six months to September to 28.55 million, or 11.5 percent of the population.

“The rate of poverty reduction has been slowing,” Matthew Wai-Poi, a Jakarta-based senior economist for the World Bank, said in an interview on April 10. “The distribution of economic growth has been much more to the richest 20 percent.” The decline in the poverty rate over recent years may be masking increases in inequality because about three times more people are now classed as “vulnerable” rather than poor, Wai-Poi said. About 16 percent of Indonesians lived on less than $1.25 a day in 2011, while 43 percent lived on under $2 a day, according to the World Bank. “There’s a bunch missing out in terms of growth,” Wai-Poi said. “There is a risk because higher inequality can lead to higher conflict.”

Keith Loveard, head of risk analysis at Jakarta-based security company Concord Consulting, explained “There is certainly the potential for local issues creating tensions and violence. The growth in inequality that has occurred over the years of ‘boom’ times have logically created a stronger sense of resentment.”

Muljoko, a 27-year-old cleaner who works in one of Jakarta’s gleaming office towers, has all the trappings of a newly minted member of the middle class. He owns a motorcycle, slings a Sony smartphone and has a futuristic-looking phone-watch strapped to his wrist that he uses to text friends during working hours. He is infinitely better off than he was growing up in an impoverished farming village in southern Sumatra. Like millions around the world over the past three decades, Muljoko has risen out of poverty and is now a proud member of Asia’s emerging urban middle class.

Muljoko earns Jakarta’s minimum wage of Rp2.4m a month, meaning he lives off the equivalent of $7 a day. Roughly half of that goes to pay for food and the small boarding-house room he shares with his younger brother. After covering fuel and maintenance costs for the motorbike, he is left with as little as Rp500,000 ($44) – or less than $1.50 a day – to cover any discretionary spending, send money home to his family in Sumatra, or save for an all-important wedding.
It is no wonder Muljoko frets about the future. He worries about what he would do if he were confronted with a family medical emergency and how his earnings would stretch if he were to marry and have a family. By the Asian Development Bank’s standard definition of middle class – earning between $2 and $20 a day – Muljoko is a member in good standing. Yet he feels anything but. “I don’t feel secure,” he says. Put into context, the number of solidly middle-class people remains small.

Four in 10 of the world’s people now live in this “fragile middle” as it is now newly termed.
“More of humanity lives in that grouping than any other grouping,” says Homi Kharas, an economist at the Brookings Institution think-tank, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the rise of an emerging-markets middle class, a status that he says really begins at $10 a day. “It is larger than the middle class. It is larger than the rich. It is larger than the poor.”

But extending the gains is becoming harder now that the great emerging-market growth spurt of the past 30 years appears to many to be coming to an end. As growth slows, the rise of an emerging-market middle class may look less inevitable.

Half of all Turks are out of work. Even the country’s 11 million registered workers are struggling to make ends meet because they earn less than minimum wage and are vulnerable to exploitation.  According to the OECD, the gap separating the poorest and richest 10% of Turkey’s population has been growing steadily since 2008.

“Informal and unregistered labour is one of the main drivers of inequalities in income distribution,”   Ozturk Turkdogan, secretary general of Turkey’s Human Rights Association told SES Türkiye. “But among the workers who are registered, only 10% of them are unionised. Hence the working class of Turkey cannot act together to push for improvements in their salaries and work conditions. For example, last year 1,500 workers lost their lives in work-related accidents. But since unionisation is very weak, most of these cases remained unheard.”

The Guilty Men

Steve Cohen ran SAC Capital, a $15bn hedge fund with a trading floor in Stamford, Connecticut, where he controlled every aspect – including temperature and sound. In order to maintain tombstone silence, phones were set to blink instead of ring. Temperatures of 70 degrees forced traders to stay alert all day, spurring the firm's fashion armor: black fleece jackets with the SAC Capital logo – like a very rich, very exclusive street gang. Video cameras observed every employee. Cohen made $2.3bn last year. It's hard to picture that kind of wealth, but it comes to just over $262,000 an hour – if you count all the hours in 2013, including the ones during which he was sleeping and staring at computer screens and talking with his lawyers.

A judge last week fined SAC Capital, the largest-ever fine for insider trading –  $1.8bn – to federal regulators. SAC, which is the first firm to ever become a convicted felon. Cohen has set up a new firm called Point72 Asset Management that exists solely to manage his multibillion-dollar fortune.

Former ImClone CEO Sam Waksal, once named one of the "10 most crooked CEOs" by Time, left jail long ago and is wheeling and dealing once again with a new venture called Kadmon.

 Jack Grubman, the Citigroup telecommunications analyst who was banned from the securities industry in 2002, started a consulting firm called Magee Group in 2003.

Michael Milken, the junk-bond trader who was also banned for life in 1991, started the Milken Institute think tank and presides over a yearly conference that is a kind of Davos for the West Coast.

 Mary Meeker, the analyst who was often called "Queen of the Net", was named in hundreds of post-tech-crash lawsuits but went on to a successful career as a venture capitalist.

John Thain, forced out of Merrill Lynch, created a new life as the chief executive of lender CIT.

 Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers, has a place to show up for work every day: an advisory firm he founded, Matrix Advisors.

From here

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The rich and the mega rich

SOYMB will keep on revealing the wealth of the capitalists.

The richest of the rich are amassing wealth at an astonishing rate and increasingly hiding it in offshore bank accounts, far more than previously known. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman summed up the numbers Friday, arguing that they tell us "something important about how the world really works ...At the commanding heights of the US economy, hiding a lot of one’s wealth offshore is probably the norm, not the exception," Krugman wrote.

As much as six per cent of all world wealth is hidden in tax shelters, according to a new study.

The 1% earned an average of $1.2million in 2012, the most recent year data is available for. The 0.1% earned almost $6.4million but the top 0.01% earned over $30million.

The 1% incomes have remained mainly flat. The 0.1% have seen earnings double what they were 20 years ago, and many multiples higher than in the 1970s but the super rich 0.01 per cent have seen incomes sky rocket by 1,300 per cent since the early 1990s.

The 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country's wealth in half a century. They don’t work for their money. Their money ‘works’ for them. The 400 richest tax returns analyzed by the IRS take home about 50 percent of their income from capital gains. Capital gains are income earned through investments.

Don't talk about pay

Asking someone how much they make in a year and you might be told not to be too nosey but ask someone about their salary at work, however, can get you fired. The US Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have protected workers’ rights to compare and discuss their wages at work, a law aimed at dismantling workplace “pay secrecy” policies, which would have strengthened safeguards against discrimination at work regards pay. Wage discrimination for women and minorities has persisted in large part because workers can be banned from discussing compensation levels with co-workers.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would have shielded workers from retaliation if they discuss their salaries with co-workers. Employers would have had to “prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons.”

Millions of workers remain effectively gagged at work. According to a 2003 study, over one-third of private sector employers surveyed admitted to having specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with co-workers.  A 2011 survey estimated that 50 percent of workers are subject to some kind of restriction on discussing their pay with coworkers—slightly more women than men, with the largest concentration among private sector workers (about 60 percent, compared to less than 20 percent of public workers).

Many of these workers will never even know that they’ve unfairly benefited from or suffered from unequal pay. Ultimately, the big winner in this game of secrecy is the boss, who profits directly from the ignorance and pliability of workers who don’t grasp their own economic situation.

In unionized workplaces, where there is additional protection for organizing-related activities, the National Labor Relations Board and the civil courts have consistently sided with workers, ruling that under the National Labor Relations Act, wage discussions should be considered “concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

Employers have defended their restraints on workplace speech as a business prerogative, as if payscales were “trade secrets,” or by suggesting that too much disclosure leads to “jealousies and strife among employees.” In other words, if workers really knew what their bosses were doing, their anger would start to unravel the complacency, along with ingrained fear and anxiety, that employers use to keep their labor obedient and their production chains running smoothly.

 In capitalism, the real depths of of the wealth gap are not between coworkers but between workers and the CEOs on top. Workers are, of course, trained to view such inequalities as central pillars of the corporate edifice, just as society has normalized the interlocking inequalities in race and gender that are plainly on display in our communities and workplaces every day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Truth is Told

John Humphreys, BBC's Today programme : Have you been censored?

Christina Lamb, OBE, Sunday Times’s foreign correspondent : I believe I have. I mean, every single word that I send back from Afghanistan, as all British media, every photograph, has to first be vetted by the MoD. And I don’t think the British public generally know that.

John Humphreys: But isn’t that fair enough if there is any danger that unwittingly you may give away information that may help the enemy. That’s always happened in war hasn’t it? Assuming you’re the hosts as it were, the guests rather, of the fighting forces.

Christina Lamb: Well, I mean, no other army feels the need to do that. If I’m embedded with the American troops they trust us that they would tell us some things and say, ‘Obviously you can’t write about that.’ And anything else that we would see they don’t ask anything to come back. And for this reason American journalists generally refuse to embed with the British troops because they think that this is just such appalling censorship we have to go through. And I’ve had situations where I’ve had generals, senior generals out there, where I’ve had to do interviews on the basis that the quotes are cleared before they appear. The quotes that come back are not cleared quotes, they are new quotes, things that they’ve decided afterwards

John Humphreys: So they insert things into your copy? 

Christina Lamb: Yes.

 Asked to respond to Lamb’s complaint of censorship, Major Richard Streatfeild, a former British Army officer who was attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Rifles Regiment in Helmand the retired Major General said: ‘I mean at the end of the day, is censorship and propaganda a part of this?  Of course it is.’

Then, replying to Humphreys’s interjection, he added: ‘This building [the BBC] is all about censorship and propaganda.  It happens every day.  Every news editor is censoring things, and propaganda, and putting their own spin on it, and so forth.’

Taken from here

Financial Markets, Government Reforms And Socialism

The enormous power and destructive influence of financial markets became apparent after the global economic collapse of 2008. This event revealed a need for bringing the sector under democratic public ownership; failing that, stronger regulations for financial markets at the very least. But political will has been lacking on both counts. The sector enjoys massive financial resources and successfully translates them into political influence.

Many ordinary people might be wondering why governments have not curtailed the criminality of the financial sector on the back of the economic crisis which it created. Instead, billions of dollars, pounds and euros have been handed over to the sector, and governments continue to grant banks free rein and thus dictate national economic and social policies.
 If bankers and financiers are to be able to stuff their bulging suitcases with taxpayer handouts and to further loot economies, it is essential for them to have politicians in their pockets. One way by which this is achieved is shown in a new report, which indicates that the financial industry spends more than 120 million euros a year on lobbying in Brussels and employs more than 1,700 lobbyists to influence EU policy-making.

The report, ‘The fire power of the financial lobby’ has been released by Corporate Europe Observatory, ÖGB Europabüro (Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation), and AK EUROPA (Brussels office of the Austrian Chamber of Labour) .
Kenneth Haar from Corporate Europe Observatory says:
“Reform has proved difficult, and these numbers are an important part of the explanation. The financial lobby’s fire power to resist reform has been evident in all significant battles over financial regulation since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.”
 The report shows the financial industry commands tremendous lobbying resources and enjoys privileged access to decision makers. The financial sector lobbies EU decision-makers by means of over 700 organisations, including companies’ public relations offices, business associations, and consultancies.
 This figure outnumbers civil-society organisations and trade unions working on financial issues by a factor of more than five. And the imbalance is even greater when numbers of staff and lobbying expenses are compared. The report shows that the financial lobby massively outspends other actors by a factor of more than 30. In order to arrive at a safe estimate, the survey used the most conservative figures. The actual numbers – and the imbalance between different interests – are thus likely to be far higher. This underestimate is mainly due to the lack of a mandatory register of lobbyists at the EU level that would provide reliable information for proper monitoring.

The report also shows the presence of the financial industry in the EU’s official advisory groups that play a key role in helping to shape policy. And, here too, the financial lobby is massively over-represented here: 15 of the 17 expert groups covered by the study were heavily dominated by the financial industry.
 Oliver Röpke, from ÖGB Europabüro said:
“This situation represents a severe democratic problem that politicians must act on swiftly. A first step is to adopt effective rules on lobbying transparency and strong ethics rules against undue influence.”
Amir Ghoreishi from AK EUROPA said:
“The fact that the financial lobby is so dominant in advisory groups reveals that the European Commission feels that people representing the financial industry should be allowed to set the agenda. An arms-length principle should be applied immediately.”
The report is a damning indictment of the sector’s political influence. The sector continues to rake in unimaginable profits, while sucking the life out of economies. Ordinary people continue to pay the price via the privatization of public assets and ‘austerity’.
“The stench emanating from the financial system is a product of the decay of the entire profit system. That system must be replaced by a higher socio-economic order in which the vast wealth created by the collective labour of the world working class is deployed to meet human need. The expropriation of the banks and finance houses, placing them under public ownership and democratic control, is the first step in implementing such a program.” Nick Beams

by Colin Todhunter from here

Stated above, 'reform has proved difficult' - but reforms keep being proposed as 'first steps', 'adopt effective rules', 'implement regulation', etc. etc. As SOYMB tirelessly and consistently points out for those who will listen and observe the evidence, reformism may make incremental improvements here and there, but overall, throughout the decades, an improvement for one sector generally signals regression for others.
 " That system must be replaced by a higher socio-economic order in which the vast wealth created by the collective labour of the world working class is deployed to meet human need." - quote from above, one with which we can wholeheartedly agree - but public ownership and democratic control cannot be the first step but the immediate aim of socialists worldwide.


US Workers - You Feel Poorer Because You Are Poorer

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reveals that 62 percent of Americans earn $20 or less per hour.  And this only examines those that actually have a job.  Most of the new jobs added since the Great Recession ended have come in the low-wage segment of our economy which seems to be adding the bulk of employment.
 These are certainly interesting times that we live in.  The US has close to 130 million jobs.  18 million jobs pay less than $10 an hour and 63 million pay between $10 and $20.  These two segments makeup 81 million jobs so it is understandable why the two income household is more of a necessity rather than a luxury.  The median household income in the US is roughly $50,000 per year.  Adjusting for inflation income is back to levels last seen in the 1980s.

 Americans feel poorer because their purchasing power has been eroded by inflation and also the swarm of lower paying jobs that now dominate the market.  The US middle class is shrinking and to ignore this is to ignore the actual facts.

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Capitalism Or Socialism? - Face The Truth

Greenhouse gas emissions grew in the first decade of the 21st century at a rate almost double that of the previous 30 years, despite the 2008 economic downturn, a leaked portion of the UN's International Panel on Climate Change's latest research reveals.

"Global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions have risen more rapidly between 2000 and 2010," says the leaked portion of the the draft report obtained by the Guardian, adding, "Current GHG emissions trends are at the high end of projected levels for the last decade."

According to the report, the drastic upswing in emissions is largely due to an increased reliance on coal-fired power plants.

As Suzanne Goldenberg at the Guardian reports, there are over 1,000 new plants under construction around the world, with most arising in China and India. As the IPCC research highlights, those plants are largely supplying power for factories making goods for the U.S. and Europe.
Countries such as Germany, Britain and France have also significantly increased coal burning.

The latest draft says emissions grew 2.2% per year between 2000 and 2010, compared to 1.3% per year over the previous three decades.
And between 2010 and 2011 emissions grew 3%.
This noted increase in emissions coincides with a recent report released by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which said 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century.
That report said the extreme weather systems wreaking havoc across the world would have been "virtually impossible" without man-made climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC's leaked draft comes as the third part of the the panel's extensive climate change assessment, which has been released in portions over the past year.
The scientists are in Berlin this week finalizing the research and will release a "Summary for Policymakers" of the "Working Group III contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)" in a press conference in Berlin on Sunday.

"This third part was supposed to be focused on solutions," writes Goldenberg. "Instead, the report made increasingly clear the large and growing gap in the scale of the threat and the readiness of those solutions."

What little solutions are offered in the report were criticized earlier this week by a British environmental organization, which also recently reviewed the draft. The group said many of the climate fixes suggested by the IPCC, such as bioenergy and carbon capture, are "largely untested" and "very risky" and could "exacerbate" climate change, agricultural problems, water scarcity, soil erosion and energy challenges, "rather than improving them."

from here

Let's face it - there is neither interest nor resolve in the capitalist system to do anything at all about this threatened disaster. Profit is the sole motivation. All the talking shops have fallen far short of what is required. The only hope for a solution will come from a fundamental change of approach globally which SOYMB calls world socialism.


Argentina's Strike Against Austerity

A 24-hour general strike gripped Argentina on Thursday, bringing many public services to a halt.
Unions say over one million workers took part in this second strike the administration of Cristina Fernández has faced. The strike's focus was to denounce the country's low wage increases in the face of high inflation, as well as other policies, like cuts in utility subsidies and salary caps, critics say are unfair to workers and are fomenting social unrest.
The strike stopped public transportation, forced the cancellation of flights, blockaded roads, and resulted in some clashes between police and protesters.
From Spanish news agency EFE:
"The strike has been a success from the outset," labor leader and congressman Nestor Pitrola said, adding that "a new stage has been launched" in the unions' struggle, "which began with the teachers strike and continues with this strike that seeks to define where the country is heading."
Spearheading the strike was Hugo Moyano, head of the General Confederation of Labor, and former Fernández ally.
Moyano said the strike was a sign of people's "anger and disenchantment," and that the president must respond to this message from the people.

from here