Monday, August 29, 2016

Asia's rich get richer

The inequality takes two broad forms: inequality in income and wealth, and inequality of opportunity, which results from unequal access to basic essentials such as health and education, among others.

Asia is home to an increasing number of millionaires and billionaires, with the ultra-rich in the region accumulating wealth much faster than the ultra-rich in any other part of the world. At the other end of the spectrum, the region also accounts for two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor. According to UNESCAP, despite the rapid economic growth witnessed across much of Asia, the region still has 85 million chronically malnourished children under the age of five. Eighty percent of workers are not covered by any pension scheme, and just 20 percent of the region’s population has access to affordable health care.

 In China the richest 1 percent of households own a third of the country’s wealth, while the poorest 25 percent of households own just 1 percent of the wealth. In India, the top 1 percent increased its share of the country’s wealth from 36.8 percent in 2000 to a staggering 53 percent in 2016.

The rich always gets richer

Over that span of time, America’s total family wealth has more than doubled, to $67 trillion. But most average American families haven’t seen a nickel of that gain. In fact, the typical American family headed by someone under age 65 actually lost wealth between 1989 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation.

Families in the upper reaches of the American economy, by contrast, have done just swell. Families in the top 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office calculates, have seen their net worths increase an average 153 percent. Families in the top 1 percent have done the best of all. Their overall share of the nation’s wealth, the new CBO report finds, has jumped from 31 percent in 1989 to 37 percent in 2013. Other reputable statistical methodologies, the CBO report acknowledges, put the current top 1 percent share of the nation’s wealth as high as 42 percent.

Wealth begets more wealth for the wealthy. Society is becoming ever more unequal.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Expelled from Eden

Last year our journal carried an article about conservation refugees - people evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation and nature reserves. Only a few days ago the blog posted on the plight of the Bushmen. 

In Hawaii at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s congress, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples says, “The world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price for today’s conservation,” She has already sounded the alarm at the UN over the impact that conservation is having on tribal peoples in Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh, Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador.

Tauli-Corpuz will tell the congress that nature conservation is not working for people or for wildlife. “Houses are still being burned down, and people are being displaced violently. Protected areas continue to expand, yet threats against them are also increasing,” she will say. Vulnerable tribal peoples are being removed by force from India’s tiger reserves and forests; tribal groups such as the Ogiek and Sengwer, the San, Maasai and Baka are being forced out of forests and wildlife-rich plains in Africa; and from Thailand to Ecuador, Cameroon to Bangladesh, ethnic groups are being dispossessed in the name of protecting nature. Most of the world’s 6,000 national parks and 100,000 protected places have been created by the removal of tribal peoples. Hundreds more parks are being created every year as countries commit to meeting the UN’s goal to protect 17% of land by 2020. And the human toll is rising accordingly.

Simon Counsell, director of the UK’s Rainforest Foundation, said: “Much conservation is still in the mindset of being in opposition to people. The ‘conservation v people’ approach to protecting wildlife has worsened the lives of thousands of native people.” The foundation this year documented dozens of cases of human rights abuses in central Africa, where up to $500m has been spent in the last decade by the US, EU and other western donors to protect the world’s second largest swath of rainforest.

Governments are accessing wealthy conservation groups based in the US and Europe to take advantage of the billions of pounds of conservation money being offered by global banks, northern governments and foundations for climate change and biodiversity protection. The international money duly flows in, but recipient governments are not abiding by international laws to protect communities.

“Governments like conservation because there is a lot of money in it. It brings money from the Global Environment Facility and elsewhere. But when your economic priority is to generate money from conservation, you want to get rid of people from these protected areas. That is what is now happening,” Tauli-Corpuz told the Observer. 

Rosaleen Duffy, a political ecologist at Sheffield University, explained “There are still large-scale, violent evictions, generally in national parks, but they are less common now. But much more common is the everyday form of exclusion [of tribal groups] which makes it impossible for anyone to live in protected areas.”

Gonzalo Oviedo is head of social policy at the IUCN. He told the Observer: “Conservation has changed a lot. Governments are more likely now to restrict the rights of people who live in protected areas. They may ban hunting, or farming, the cutting down of trees or fishing. The effect is to force people to move. They are more careful now about evictions. But in practice they are reducing access to resources and reducing people’s ability to live in protected areas. People in reserves may not be allowed to do anything. They are often poorer than they were before, and the impact can be bigger than if they are moved out,” said Oviedo.

The WWF was accused by tribal defence group Survival International of funding and logistically aiding anti-poaching eco-guards in Equatorial Africa. The guards were allegedly victimising pygmy groups in the region. According to a 228-page complaint made to the OECD, the Baka people in Cameroon had been forbidden to enter many of their traditional hunting areas, despite the fact that their hunting is reported to have minimal impact on the environment. According to Duffy: “Some groups are in danger of becoming complicit in government wrongdoing. They rely on national governments to allow access. Some have very significant links with corporates and corporate sponsorship, and tend not to be very critical of what is going on. It can be difficult for them to talk out of turn. Some facilitate the process.”

The irony is that “anti-people” conservation doesn’t appear to be having a beneficial effect on wildlife and may in fact be self-defeating. Analysis this year of 34 large protected areas in Congo DRC, Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo found that conservation had displaced villages and led to conflict and multiple human rights abuses – and that animals including elephants, gorillas and chimps were still declining at alarming rates anyway.

“Conservation is clearly not working,” said Counsell. “Despite billions of dollars being poured into protected areas over this period and in spite of legally binding commitments to respect people’s rights, there was evidence that local indigenous and local communities across the world continue to pay a heavy price for protected areas,” he said. “A new model of saving nature is urgently needed because the anti-people agenda now being practised by many countries is not working and undermines attempts to protect nature. Not only is the present anti-people model which is being practised unjust. It marginalises the very people who have protected forests for millennia and who represent one of our best hopes for doing so in the future.”

Studies by the Centre for International Forestry Research and the World Bank have found that when traditional communities are given full legal rights to their land, they protect the environment efficiently and cheaply.
“In India, tribal peoples face arrest and beatings, harassment, threats and trickery and feel forced to ‘agree’ to leave their forest homes. But the evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else”, says Sophie Grig of Survival. “In the BRT tiger reserve in southern India where tribal people have been allowed to stay, tiger numbers have increased at above the national average. There is no reason to believe that evicting tribes helps tigers. In fact, it’s harming conservation.”

Tauli-Corpuz will make the same argument. She will tell delegates that indigenous-owned lands are effective at resisting deforestation in Brazil; that in Namibia, community-based wildlife management has resulted in significant growth in wildlife populations; and in the US and Australia, indigenous peoples manage protected areas effectively. “Studies have demonstrated that the territories of indigenous peoples who have been given land rights have been significantly better conserved than the adjacent lands”.

Leading environmentalists and human rights advocates, including Noam Chomsky, Jonathon Porritt and Ghillean Prance, agree. Last year they appealed to conservationists to protect endangered tribes. In a letter to the Guardian, they stated: “Tribal peoples have managed their lands sustainably for generations. Forcibly removing them usually results in environmental damage. Such removals are a violation of human rights. The cheapest and quickest way to conserve areas of high biodiversity is to respect tribal peoples’ rights. The world can no longer afford a conservation model that destroys tribal peoples: it damages human diversity as well as the environment.”

Thousands of pastoralist Maasai groups in Tanzania have been evicted from a 1,500 sq km area close to the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro national parks. The government has tried to remove them to establish exclusive game-hunting in the area. In 2009, a mass eviction left more than 200 homes burned and 3,000 people homeless.

Thousands of these tribespeople in India are being forcibly evicted from Kanha tiger reserve, though they do not hunt tigers and have lived in the forests with the animals for centuries. Many other adivasi, or tribal groups, are under notice to leave their forest homes to make way for tourism and tiger conservation. The Baiga have now set up a project to “save the forest from the forest department”.

The indigenous forest pygmy tribe which lives near Nki national park in south-east Cameroon, and the Bagyeli ethnic group of South Kribi have been forced out of their forests or massively restricted in what they hunt and fish. The groups says that they have become squatters on their own land, with entry into the forest restricted.

Thousands of ethnic Hmong and Karen hill tribes groups in northern Thailand have been displaced from their forests after they were designated national parks or protected areas. The groups have been classed as “illegal occupants” or “squatters” even though they have been living there for more than 100 years. The Hmong and Karen are routinely blamed for resource degradation but say their traditions protect nature.

These tribespeople, who have lived in the forests of central Bangladesh for centuries with other ethnic groups, have been evicted or prevented from living in traditional lands rezoned by the government as protected reserves in the 1980s. They are now restricted in where they live, move, and what they grow.

Kenya Forest Service guards have for years harassed and tried to evict Sengwer indigenous people from the western highlands. The 5,000 hunter gatherers were barred from their ancestral forests in 1964 but continue to return. Many now live in makeshift homes, camped out on roadsides.

The San, or Bushmen, peoples of the Kalahari desert in Botswana have been outlawed from their traditional lands to make way for tourism and mining. Even though they have lived in the desert for generations, they are considered a threat to wildlife. In a series of evictions, they have had their homes destroyed and water cut off and have been restricted from hunting. In 2006 the high court granted the Bushmen the right to return to their land, but the government has continued to enforce a permit system.

The Kenyan government has long been seeking to drive the Ogiek and others from the Mau forest to protect national water supplies and wildlife. The forest has been severely degraded after an influx of logging companies and illegal settlers, but the Ogiek, who have lived there for centuries, say they are not responsible and are resisting eviction. Many communities have had their homes burned but continue to fight to return.

The nomadic reindeer-herding Dukha tribe of northern Mongolia are struggling to survive after being banned from hunting in the name of conservation. Their traditional land was declared a protected area in 2013 and they face prison and restrictions on where they migrate to and hunt. The Dukha have hunted sustainably for generations, with their own strict rules governing the number of animals they can kill, and when and where they can hunt.

The Lickan Antay indigenous people from the Atacama desert in northern Chile live in a state-protected reserve but have been overwhelmed by tourism and conservation which leaves them little water and restricts them from access to many places. “Before the creation of the reserve there wasn’t a single tourist, and suddenly they’re everywhere. Our existence is now a constant battle,” says one member of the community.

The “forest people” of Sri Lanka were evicted from their homeland in what is now the Maduru Oya national park. Until recently, they hunted deer and wild boar, and collected honey, fruit and nuts. Today, they live outside their forest with small plots of land to grow rice and vegetables. They need a permit to enter the forest and those caught hunting risk arrest and violence.

The Provo or Gerry Dome

After British, Irish and other EU 'peace funding' thought to have amounted to around €3bn in the two decades since the paramilitary 'ceasefires', after 30 years of Sinn Fein holding political power, west Belfast has little to show by way of economic advancement. Sinn Fein blames the high unemployment, addiction and teenage pregnancy rates of recent years on 'Tory cuts', sidelining its own culpability as a holder of power in the devolved Stormont government. West Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir is the North's Finance Minister.

The constituency consistently ranks in the bottom two or three of the 650 UK parliamentary constituencies on social and economic measurements. Andersonstown is a traditional Sinn Fein heartland but in recent elections the party's vote in west Belfast has dropped with the local People Before Profit party picking up 7,000 of its votes. The Sinn Fein hegemony in west Belfast is not under immediate threat but the decline in its vote is attributable to the party's failure to improve conditions in its longest-held constituency.

The proposed development of Casement Park has been opposed by both local residents and the emergency services, who have voiced safety concerns and it has been described as a vanity project. The proposed £77m (€90m) expansion of Casement Park into a 40,000-seater 'world-class' sporting and concert venue has been called the "Provo Dome" or "Gerry Dome", in the face of local opposition. Many people see Sinn Fein's promotion of the stadium as misplaced and grandiose in an area that, for the most part, is so severely blighted by poverty and social deprivation.

Degrowth towards a steady-state economy

The flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, It has been described as either a 500 year or a 1,000-year weather event, leaving at least 13 people dead and close to 60,000 homes ruined. According to meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, August has been the wettest month in Baton Rouge in 174 years, when records were first kept.  The thousands of Baton Rouge area residents affected by this historic flooding will face the same struggle to return home that Katrina survivors experienced. Many of these survivors were already living in poverty before the floods hit. Of the 20 parishes that President Obama declared “a major disaster,” 17 had populations above the14.8% national poverty rate, and half of the disaster-declared parishes had more people living in poverty than the state poverty average of 19.8%. Two affected parishes, St. Landry and Washington, had poverty rates near 30%.

The planetary ecological crisis is escalating. Socialists point out capitalism's need for growth at all costs is the road to ruin. “Accumulate, accumulate, Moses and the prophets!” Capitalism can exist with permanent poverty, persistent hunger, and perpetual war but it cannot exist without constant capital expansion. There is little optimism for future because humanity’s extinction is the concomitant of capital's destructive course of development. From what we know global warming will cause a collapse in food supplies, water shortages, desertification or flooding of arable lands and the inundation coastal cities and deltas. This is likely to produce mass starvation, mass migration and wars. The Socialist Party case is that we need to build a higher form of social organisation before the present system destroys us all. We may well not be in a position to say “we told you so” as the world crumbles around us. Mitigating climate change requires a rapid and sustained economic contraction. If capitalism seriously embarked upon policies that cut GDPs they would dwarf the current austerity programmes that have provoked misery, strikes and occupations around the world.

Socialism will be a system of freely associated producers producing for human need, must develop out of capitalism. It is a global system without classes where human labour power no longer takes the form of value and the products of this labour are use values not commodities. Only the working class is in the position to create such a new society since we are an exploited class on whom the system is totally dependent and a class who can only free ourselves by overturning the whole system. Socialist wealth production will be made to serve human needs rather than profit and accumulation of capital. The present system is aimed at expanding capital, leaving human needs to be satisfied only incidentally. The present system entails massive waste production – one only has to think of the armaments and finance industries as examples. Socialist society will not be subject to the need to accumulate capital and will be able to move to a steady-state, non-expanding system; one which can be in balance with the ecosystem.

Another point to note is that new technology has enabled massive increases in the productivity of human labour to be achieved. This is one of the developments which will enable the construction of socialism by dramatically reducing working time and allowing more time for all to participate in the management and social organisation of society. It will also allow time and opportunity for individual potential to be fully developed, potential which is presently squandered by capitalism.

We admit that the planet’s resources are not inexhaustible, nevertheless these resources could provide for humanity’s needs, but only if they are used in a reasonable and rational way, i.e., in a manner directly opposed to capitalist logic, which is itself is the source of imbalance. For sure, the Western ruling classes are increasingly taking the route of new technologies, developing renewable energies, and promoting recycling and "clean" production, among other things. As a result, technological innovations are implemented, mainly in the developed countries, to prevent greenhouse gases from increasing "too much." But it is important to see that this route brings no solutions. Apart from the likelihood the corrective measures being taken will remain insufficient to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint, any pollution reduced in developed nations, is simply transferred to the Global South where has been less progress. Capitalism is fundamentally an unequal society. Its internal logic compels it suicidally forward caused by the appropriation of wealth by a minority and the need for unlimited consumption. To remedy the current destruction of the planet, we'll need much more than the technological revolution imagined by those who call for "sustainable” capitalist development. To challenge the mainspring of the capitalist system—the necessity of expansion - amounts to calling capitalism itself into question. To avoid the destruction of the planet, there are only two possible choices. Either to prevent the countries of the Global South from catching up with the "standard of living" of the Global North or to reconsider completely the economic model in both the North and the South. The latter option, the socialist choice, require that the purpose of production: is organized only to satisfy the needs of humanity; that the best possible use of technological innovations and the practice of recycling and the production of practical goods, not designed to break down after a few years is applied to eliminate most of the pollution and environmental harm. What is necessary is to discard what is superfluous to the future economic system.

Our objective is not an impoverishment of humanity, but its enrichment. Socialism must ultimately integrate the ecological question and create balance between the capacities to produce, the needs of populations, and the limits of the biosphere.

Solidarity V Prejudice

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the US national anthem before games due to oppression of African Americans and other minorities in the country. Kaepernick sat on the team's bench during the anthem before his team played host to the Green Bay Packers
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,"he said.  “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." He added "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right." 

The governor of Maine declared a race war when he said that people of colour were enemies of his state, and appeared to suggest they should be shot. Speaking about Maine's effort to combat drug crime, Paul LePage said that He said: "When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red. You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of colour or people of Hispanic origin."

FBI statistics show that 1,211 people were arrested on charges of drug sales or manufacturing in Maine in 2014. Of those, 170 - 14.1% - were black, and almost all the rest were white.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Longevity inequality

During the last few years, the issue of pushing the retirement age to 70 gained ground as researchers noted that people are living much longer than they once did. In 1915, a 65-year-old man could expect to live until age 79.7 on average. In 2015, it was 86.1 years. That's 6.4 extra years of drawing Social Security benefits. For women, life expectancy has climbed from 83.7 years in 1915 to 88.7 in 2015.

It’s capitalism’s simple fix. Solve the problem of funding Social Security and Medicare for an aging country by making everyone to work until they are 70.  It is the idea being embraced by many politicians, has a long way to go. But it is being challenged in academic circles as a new form of inequality, dubbed "longevity inequality."

Studies have shown life expectancy varies based on income, race, education and even the state or county where people reside. The General Accountability Office dug into the issue this spring with a report that showed great discrepancies in life expectancy between income groups. Lower-income men approaching retirement live on average 3.6 to 12.7 fewer years than higher-income men, the GAO wrote in its report. And with those shorter life spans, the GAO noted, lower-income people would end up earning far less Social Security than the higher-income people because lower-income groups tend to live shorter than the national average for life expectancy. Dying earlier ends up cutting a low-income person's lifetime benefits by as much as 11 to 14 percent, said the GAO. Based simply on longevity, higher-income workers now get $70,000 more over a lifetime than low-income retirees, the GAO said.

Low-income people also depend more on Social Security than the affluent. Currently, monthly Social Security benefits on average equal about half of what lower-income people were making while working. Workers with relatively high career earnings received monthly checks that equal about 30 percent of what they earned while working. When people retire earlier than the full retirement age, their monthly check is reduced. Despite the reduction, the most common age to retire in 2014 was 62. Full retirement age is now 66. So a person who would have received $1,000 at age 66 would get only $750 at age 62.

Currently the average person in the low-income group who was making $20,000 when working would get $156,000 over a lifetime in Social Security benefits after retiring at age 62 and living to 83, according to the GAO. A person in the high-income group who was making about $80,000 would get about $355,000 over a lifetime after retiring at 62 and living to 83. But in the low-income group, living to 80 would be more likely. And that would mean receiving about $138,000 from Social Security after retiring at 62. The higher-income man would have a life expectancy of 86 and earn $411,000 from Social Security after retiring at 62.

People with college educations in better paid office jobs tend to live longer than those with low incomes. If the professional lives a lot longer than the roofer, after retiring at 70 the person who had the desk job could keep getting monthly Social Security checks for years longer than the roofer. So the argument is that a lot more Social Security will go to the affluent people than to those who met their demise at a much earlier point in life.

Another argument made against a retirement age of 70 is that it's not fair to people in the types of jobs that require brawn. Imagine a 68-year-old climbing on top of a house to replace the roofing. Then compare that person with a 68-year-old tapping a computer keyboard. Many people retire early because they have little choice. They become ill or encounter layoffs or other problems at work. About 36 percent of current retirees retired earlier than they planned, according to research by Employee Benefit Research Institute.  The Center For Retirement Research at Boston College recently ranked the jobs that would be the most likely to require a person to retire prior to full retirement age: rock splitter in a quarry, floor sander, steelworker, commercial diver, truck driver and oil rigger. White collar jobs where people tend to be the most able to continue working include: interior designer, lawyer, or aerospace engineer. Some professional jobs are also physically demanding and can become difficult with age, including surgeons and critical care nurses.

Hungary's Second Fence


Hungary says it is set to build a second “massive barrier" on its southern border and increase the number of “border hunters” in an attempt to keep out any possible fresh surge of refugees, almost a year after it erected a razor-wire fence to curb the influx of asylum seekers. The para-military police presence would also be raised to 47,000 from 44,000.

“Technical planning is under way to erect a massive defense system, with the most modern technical equipment, next to the existing line of defense which was built quickly [last year],” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during an interview on public radio on Friday, adding that the new barrier would be “capable of stopping several hundreds of thousands” of refugees.  “The border cannot be defended with flowers and cuddly toys, the border can be defended with police, soldiers and weapons. ”

Last month, Human Rights Watch censured Hungary for its "cruel and violent treatment" of refugees before forcing them to return to Serbia.

“overtime dogs”

Chinese workers log an average of 2,000-2,200 working hours each year – far higher than their counterparts in the United States (1,790 hours per year), the Netherlands (1,419), Germany (1,371) and even Japan (1,719), according to OECD statistics.

Karoshi, the Japanese term for ‘death caused by overwork’, is now a reality in China, and that labour laws aren’t adequately protecting workers’ rights.

For many tech start-ups in China, their business models are not based on a unique idea, but one derived from somewhere else, either another start-up in China or one in the US. This leaves them only two ways to compete—on cost and speed. “And when you’re competing on low cost and speed, there’s really only one culture to be successful, and that’s a 24-7, 365 (day) culture.”

Edible forests

 Edible forests, otherwise known as food forests, are based on permaculture design and are intended to be self-sufficient by working in harmony with nature. They combine the aesthetics of a public park and the concepts of a community garden in order to create a space that offers food for the public. The main idea behind an edible forest is that all the food produced is free to take.

How can edible forests can sustain themselves? Biodiversity — the variety of life in a particular ecosystem — allows the forest to become self-functioning. Various species of trees, shrubs, ground coverings and vines all work together to maintain healthy soil, natural irrigation flows, sun exposure and pest control. This method also limits the use of pesticides, herbicides and intensive-labor techniques that are found in industrial agriculture.

Edible food forests are beneficial in urban areas where there is limited vegetation, and they can also help limit the “heat island effect” — a phenomenon that occurs when a city or metropolitan area is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. Furthermore, edible forests address food access issues by providing greater options in regions where healthy food can be difficult to find or afford.

Michael Bomford of the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems program of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, located in British Columbia, noted that 16 percent of energy used by the U.S. goes into feeding people. When we think about the energy used for food production and distribution, we can’t forget to include the operations and management of food processing plants, packaging, transportation, retail (grocery stores) and restaurants. Most, if not all, of these components are eliminated by cultivating food in edible forests and community gardens.

UN condemns UK racism

UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was ‘seriously concerned’ about some British politicians’ rhetoric. Some British politicians’ “divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric” during the EU referendum campaign fuelled a surge in hate crimes immediately following the vote, a United Nations body has said. The report’s authors said they were concerned about “negative portrayal” of ethnic minority communities, immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in British media. 

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “seriously concerned” that British politicians whipped up hatred and then “failed to condemn” racist abuse during the campaign. Immediately following the referendum hate crimes surged by 42 per cent in England and Wales. Many areas that voted strongly for Leave also posted even higher results.

"The committee remains concerned that despite the recent increase in the reporting of hate crimes, the problem of underreporting persists, and the gap between reported cases and successful prosecution remains significant,” the report also added. “As a result, a large number of racist hate crimes seem to go unpunished.”

‘Poor are born to serve the rich’

Pakistan parliamentarian, Senator Taj Haider of the PPP started a conversation about how the country has become the property of the ruling elite, and that all decisions were made in the interests of the rich.

 “We have sent hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis abroad to work as labour and send foreign exchange; apparently in the national interest and claimed that soon it will be proved that offshore companies were also made in the national interest. The poor of this country will never get to decide their own fates,” Senator Haider said.

To this, Senator Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Khan Nasar of the PML-N, remarked that if everyone were to become wealthy, there will be no one to grow wheat or to work as labour. “This is a system created by God, and He has made some people rich and others poor and we should not interfere in this system,” he said.

Senator Haider replied that socio-economic classes were man-made phenomena with which God had nothing to do with.

Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar said that God created all people equal and that the poor were not meant to serve the rich.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nature not preserved

According to the latest official assessment from the government, birds and butterflies on farmland have continued their long term downward trend and 75% of over 200 “priority” species across the country – including hedgehogs, dormice and moths – are falling in number. Farmland birds fell to the second lowest level ever recorded in 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, 56% lower than in 1970. Farmland butterflies reached their lowest point in 2012 and small increases in the next two years did not significantly alter the overall downward trend. Wintering water birds have also declined in the last five years.

The Natural Environment Indicators for England also showed that water quality has fallen in the last five years, with just one in five rivers and lakes having high or good status, and the amount of time given by conservation volunteers has also fallen.

“This report paints a pretty grim picture of how our wildlife is faring in the countryside,” said Sandra Bell, at Friends of the Earth. “Added to recent new evidence that wild bees have been harmed by neonicotinoid pesticides, it’s clear that if we want to enjoy a thriving natural environment big changes are needed to our farming system.” 

Christine Reid, at the Woodland Trust, said: “It’s hard to be positive about the state of our wildlife when reading these figures…”

People often say that the reason that the world’s eco-systems are is in its current dire state is because there are too many people or because of the inevitable effects of industrialisation and modern technology. It is not the case that most modern industrial technologies are inherently destructive. And there exists no over-population crisis. The problem is in the way society - and particularly manufacturing and commerce - is run. The burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) resulting in global warming is, indeed, catapulting the planet towards disaster. However, it doesn’t have to be so. Environmental destruction is destroying large parts of the planet, threatening the existence of all species, including our own. However, this is not the result of bad choices made by individuals, but of how society is organised. Businesses maximise profits when they do not have to worry about the environment, while governments encourage investment when they do not try to impose strict regulations. As a result, it is up to the working class to defend the environment as we are the only people with an immediate interest in defending it.

At the Paris climate summit in December 2015, the agreement set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. It has now become clear that on present trends, there is very little chance of it being achieved. Indeed, figures for February-March 2016 showed an increase of 1.38⁰C, already very near to the long-term target, even as all the indications suggest there will be major additional rises in the next few years. In any case, many climate scientists and energy analysts argue that the current targets for reducing emissions are far too low. This is because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a slow rate of circulation, meaning that – even if the rate of emissions is brought under control – there is a considerable 'lag' phase before concentrations are reduced.

According to Benjamin M Sanderson of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR):
"If the world puts all its resources into finding ways to generate power without burning fossil fuels, and if there were international agreements that action must happen instantly, and if carbon emissions were brought down to zero before 2050, then a rise of no more than 1.5C might just be achieved."

Other climate experts argue that all coal-fired power-stations worldwide should be closed down by the early 2020s and all use of the internal combustion engine – in cars, trucks, buses and the rest – must end by 2030.

This all mandates an almost unbelievable rate of transition, yet such is the growing impact of climate disruption that it is becoming uncomfortably necessary. Heat-waves of more than 50⁰C in Iraq and India in recent weeks are yet further indications that climate disruption is a present-day reality, not something for the future that the world can respond to at leisure. It should be noted that for years we have had the technology to make buildings far more energy efficient which means less energy needs to be generated but implementation has been slow. Political and financial barriers remain major obstacles to addressing climate change. The technology to save civilization has existed for a while now, but it’s become increasingly clear over the last several decades that we had almost no chance of holding to any survivable temperature anyway, because of the psychopathy of the wealthy corporations.

Seriously tackling climate change  cannot happen, or not at least until climate-related disasters become so extreme that even the most recalcitrant of governments accepts the need for change. The implication is that only huge catastrophes with enormous loss of life in the millions will have the necessary impact. We need to make radical and fundamental changes immediately to our economic system to have any hope of surviving. What we need to talk about, is not more superficial improvements in our already available technologies but upending and completely abolishing capitalism.

It isn’t enough to place a price on emissions with a carbon tax and charge it to consumers. Like sales taxes and all other standalone consumption taxes, a carbon tax is, by nature, regressive. This means that people further down the economic ladder will have more difficulty paying them than their wealthier counterparts. Low-income households in the US spend, on average, 7.2 percent of their income on electricity and fuel — far more than higher income families, which pay about 2.3 percent. Simply put, any tax that increases the price of fossil fuels would hit lower-income families harder than their affluent counterparts because a bigger portion of their income would be subject to it. It is also clear that the environmental crisis affects everybody, and threatens the survival of the human race as a whole. However, even though the environmental crisis is a global threat, working class people are those most severely affected by it. We are the ones that have to do the dangerous jobs that cause environmental degradation and live in areas damaged by pollution, while those with money can afford to move elsewhere.

The goal is to change the way we produce, live, and work to reduce and limit the use of fossil fuels. A successful approach to climate change would be one in which people understand the true costs of dirty energy, and actively demand an economic system that rejects the use in favour of a cleaner future. Living in an eco-friendly way does not necessarily mean that we have to accept a lower standard of living. The real blame for the environmental crisis isn't because ordinary people leave too many lights on or use the wrong type of soap. It is the wasteful system of production for profit that is unsustainable. The real blame for the environmental crisis must be laid at the door of capitalism, governments, and the society that these forces have created. Capitalism is an enormously wasteful system of production, geared towards market competition and profit. For companies to survive this competition, they profits must be maximised. And to maximise profits, costs must be kept low. So just as paying workers is a cost that needs to be minimised, so is the cost of protecting the environment and disposing of waste safely. It is more profitable to shift these costs onto society in the form of pollution.

In a capitalist society, the success or failure of a state depends on the success of capitalism within it. Therefore promoting profit and growth of the economy is the key task of any state in capitalist society. Nations will not willingly enforce strong environmental protection laws against companies because it does not want to cut into their profits (and its own tax revenue). In addition, it is often feared that strong environmental laws will make countries 'unattractive for investment'. While in the long-term a global environmental crisis would affect everyone, not everyone shares an immediate interest in fighting it: the bosses and the state profit from the processes that harm the environment. Only the working class have a direct interest right now in defending the environment. As capitalism is an inherently destructive system, the only real way to stop the environmental crisis is to create a new society based on human need rather than profit. We will have to use our collective strength to build a new world, not based on the relentless drive for profit but on fulfilling human needs; including that of a clean and healthy environment.

The essential arguments of socialists can be easily summarised: if capitalism has a built-in ‘growth imperative’, and limitless growth is environmentally unsupportable, then capitalism is incompatible with sustainability. Therefore, if sustainability is to be taken seriously by all environmentalist, capitalism must be replaced with a post-growth or steady-state form of eco-socialism that operates within planetary limits. In the most developed regions of the world, this environmental equilibrium must be preceded by a phase of planned economic contraction, or ‘degrowth’. Obviously, degrowth by definition is incompatible with the growth imperative of capitalism, so here we have the Marxist claim confirmed: capitalism cannot be reformed; it has to be replaced.

Carshalton Environmental Fair


Monday, 29 August
10:30am - 8:00pm

Venue: Carshalton Park,
Ruskin Road, C
Carshalton SM5 3DD

West London branch will have a stall at this event

Romantic agrarianism

The previous blog post was on the conditions for workers in China. American working conditions can be little different as this story from In TheseTimes demonstrates. 

Exploitative conditions on factory farms have rightly drawn the attention of academics, activists, and journalists. Indeed, the vast majority of research on farmworkers focuses on the largest farming sites. Consumers are offered countless reasons to avoid produce from them—but few alternatives other than to “buy local.” The localist advocates say that when we buy locally grown food directly from farms, we not only secure fresher, more seasonal produce, but we also create an intimate, trusting relationship with the farmer and they have highlighted the many positive aspects of local food systems: economic and social justice, the sense of community facilitated by face-to-face interactions with food producers, and the civic engagement and democracy promoted by alternative agri-systems. This supposed bond reinforces the common understanding that the local food production process is more wholesome than the industrial agricultural system.

In promoting local diets as healthy and righteous alternatives to the capitalist-industrial monoculture food system, such writers have sold us an idea premised on a false dichotomy. On one hand, they demonize factory farms for poisoning the land and local waterways, for confining and mistreating animals, and for exploiting their workers in the name of earning profits. On the other hand, they promote local agriculture as the antidote to the factory farms’ corporate ills and ensure animals are treated humanely. The food activists use terms like local, alternative, sustainable, and fair to distinguish local food production from the hated factory farm. But they often conflate these terms. And with all of the positive attention heaped on local farms, it is easy to imagine that these benefits extend to their workers.

We don’t think about workers on local farms. Instead, we assume these farms are mom-and-pop operations, or imagine that farm laborers have the sustainable jobs that the local food movement has promised. We have oversimplified alternative agriculture’s economy, while glorifying the ethos of family farming. As a result, we have largely ignored farmworkers. farmworkers feared employer retaliation. “If you behave there is work.” The threat of deportation is real, and since employers, by law, do not have to verify their employees’ documents, workers with false documents will try to limit their grievances to deflect attention from their legal status.

But research, dating back to 2000, by Margaret Gray, an associate professor of political science at Adelphi University, reveals that working conditions on local farms in New York’s Hudson Valley are not very different from those on the factory farms that dominate the headlines. 99 percent were foreign born. The vast majority, 71 percent, were non-citizen Latinos; 20 percent were on H-2A guest-worker visas and hailed from Jamaica or Latin America. Most of the Latinos spoke little English, had low literacy in their native languages, and, on average, received a sixth-grade formal education. The lack of English skills actually benefits their employers, who see learning the language as a stepping-stone to becoming American.  Hudson Valley farmworkers were not primarily migrant workers: they lived in New York year-round, even if their farm jobs were seasonal. Many acutely analyzed their positions—they were utterly dependent on farm wages, lonely, and alienated.

The work they perform is difficult, dirty, and strenuous; it requires repeated bending or crouching, sometimes with sharp implements, and sometimes in extreme weather for long hours. “You are dead by the end of the day; your arms and your feet ache because of standing all day,” one worker said. A field hand thought dogs were treated better than he was. There are stories of wage theft, human trafficking, sexual harassment, illegal firings, and intimidation. But even if employers were prosecuted for such violations of existing law, the job would still exploit workers. In New York—as in most other states—farmworkers do not have a right to a day of rest, they do not have a right to overtime pay, and they do not have a right to collective bargaining.

This means that some work eighty to ninety hours a week, for minimum wage, sometimes over seven days. Farmworkers argue that the law sets them up for exploitation since it fails to recognize them as equal to other workers. Workers’ disempowerment in the workplace is the most critical issue they face. While getting paid for hours worked is the most basic element of the labor contract, many farmworkers reported that their paychecks would have missing several work hours. But, like many of the most vulnerable laborers, they were too afraid to say anything. Guest-workers repeatedly said that they were “taught to be quiet.” They explained that if they joined a union or questioned their employment benefits, they would not be allowed to return to the United States.

The plight of hyper-exploited workers on small farms will remain hidden if activists continue to portray factory farming as a unique evil facilitated by some kind of spiritual disconnect from the land, rather than one particularly telling example of capitalism’s inhumanity.

The Yolo (you only live once) Generation.

Under-35s are not a spendthrift generation, but are struggling to save owing to daily financial pressures and low wages, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association said. The cost of living and low salaries were the biggest barriers to saving.

The association's research suggested that the majority were not racking up debts, outside of student loans. About a third were saving for a rainy day and a third were saving for a one-off such as a car, holiday or television.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the association, which represents pension providers, said: "The 18-35 year olds are no different to many people - they want to save for a secure future, but short-term financial pressures get in the way. It is not surprising that without help, this group prioritises short-term over long-term saving, given the current rock-bottom interest rates and low wage increases."

Alistair McQueen, savings and retirement manager at Aviva explained "The gap between wages and property prices continues to widen. Faced with these property pressures, it is understandable that the need to save for retirement can feel like a luxury few can afford,"

Pegatron - the new Foxconn

Hundreds of thousands of young Chinese workers are laboring on iPhone 7 production lines. Foxconn is a familiar name as it became the focus of media attention after widespread labour violations. Pegatron, however, has received scant media attention, despite its growing role in Apple's supply chain over the last four years. Unfortunately, the terrible conditions in which 100,000 young Chinese workers labor and live at Pegatron's Shanghai factory are painfully familiar.

China Labor Watch (CLW), a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing labor rights violations in the Chinese factories, say that the same legal and ethical violations that attracted media attention in 2012 continue unabated at Apple supplier factories today. In the case of Pegatron, CLW reports that conditions have actually worsened since 2015, despite years of audits commissioned by Apple, a membership in the Fair Labor Association, and promises from the company that it is committed to ensuring the safety and dignity of those who make its lucrative products.

A study of workers' pay slips and interviews with workers at Pegatron Shanghai found that workers continue to be forced to endure extreme overtime hours, working as many as 109 hours per month beyond their regularly scheduled workdays -- three times the legal limit in China. CLW found that the vast majority of workers within the maintenance department recorded more than 82 overtime hours in March 2016, while all 382 pay stubs examined from this department showed overtime hours in excess of the 36-hour-per-month legal limit for overtime. Included among these workers are student "interns" who are not legally allowed to work overtime, yet were found to log up to 80 hours of overtime per month.

Pegatron and Foxconn state that overtime within their facilities is optional. However, CLW's research shows that high production quotas imposed by Apple, low base wages imposed by the factory, and harsh management techniques and denial of requests for time off combine to remove workers' choice in the matter.

CLW's investigation revealed that the base wage offered to workers by Pegatron, after deductions, is equivalent to just $213 per month, which is $117 less than the legal minimum wage in Shanghai. Even with all of the overtime hours, workers still earn $300 below the average monthly wage for the region. These figures represent a decline in wages for Pegatron workers from 2015 to 2016, because the factory management made up for a government-mandated minimum wage increase by cutting welfare payments and forcing workers to contribute monthly earnings to the social insurance benefit that was previously paid by the company. So, though wages were legally raised from $1.85 per hour in 2015 to $2.00 per hour in 2016, workers' real hourly earnings after deductions were just $1.60 per hour.

Other labour violations documented by CLW include daily unpaid labour of more than one hour, cramped and unsanitary living conditions in factory dormitories, and the failure to provide necessary protective equipment, which puts the health and safety of workers at risk.

These contraventions of workers’ rights and dignity are happening a full decade after they were first brought to Apple's attention. In a report published in September 2005, SOMO, a Dutch nonprofit group that researches the practices of global corporations, documented trouble at Apple laptop suppliers Quanta Shanghai and Elite Computer Systems, located in Shenzhen.  On August 18, 2006, ‘The Mail on Sunday’ published a scathing report on conditions at Chinese factories where Apple's iPod line was then in production. Data show unequivocally that Apple is not effectively holding suppliers accountable for violations that breach Chinese law and the company's Supplier Code of Conduct. Today, the same violations can be found at Apple suppliers as were present 14 years ago, calling into question the efficacy of the industry-wide practice of auditing.

CLW's Li Qiang asserts that Apple is actively "obstructing" positive change in the industry by squeezing suppliers to miniscule profit margins while simultaneously imposing production quotas that require round-the-clock factory operation. Due to Apple's role as the smartphone sector's profit-leader, Qiang believes that little will change in the industry until Apple changes its practices.

He who pays the piper calls the tune

Do governments and politicians donate to philanthropic foundations because they deeply believe in charitable work? 6,000 donors who have  provided the Clinton charity with more than $2 billion in funding since its creation in 2000

Saudi Arabia has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.

A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million.

The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by “the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei.

Kuwait has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

Yes, these tyrannies that treats females as second-class citizens and outlaw homosexuality funds a foundation that to its credit works for full gender equality and endeavours to improve conditions for LGBTQ community. 

Just exactly what influence are they purchasing from the former and future presidents of the United States of America? 

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP's calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fact of the Day (Pakistan)

Based on World Bank data adjusted for tax evasion, is that the richest 0.1 percent of Pakistan’s population (20,000 persons) has a monthly income of over Rs8,000,000 per person while the per person income of the poorest 60 percent of the population is about Rs6000 per month. 

Thus the income per month of the richest is 1300 times that of the poorest.

The Genocide of the Bushmen

Our journal Socialist Standard has carried criticism of the manner that the Bushmen of the Kalahari are being driven from their land and this our blogs too have highlighted the situation. Despite world attention being drawn to their plight, the persecution of the Bushmen continues.  

Lewis Evans a campaigner with Survival International describes how some Bushmen were shot at from helicopters for collecting food, then arrested, stripped bare and beaten while in custody without facing trial. All of this took place late last month in an incident in Botswana.

The Bushmen of the Kalahari have lived by hunting and gathering on the southern African plains for millennia. Bushmen are portrayed as backward and primitive simply because their communal ways are different. They are a peaceful people, who do almost no harm to their environment and have a deep respect for their lands and the game that lives on it. They hunt antelope with spears and bows. They hunt various species of antelope, using the fat in their medicine and reserving a special place for the largest of them, the eland, in their mythology. None of these animals are endangered. Despite all this the Botswana government has used poaching as a pretext for its latest round of persecution. Botswana would rather see wealthy foreign tourists on the Bushman’s lands – many of them western trophy hunters. The government of General Ian Khama wishes to see them forcibly integrated with mainstream society in the name of ‘progress’. There are also huge diamond deposits on, or close to, the Bushmen’s lands, as well as natural gas which is soon to be fracked. To the foreign corporations the presence of ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherers is an inconvenience.

The government is savvy enough to know that diamonds alone would be an ugly excuse for wiping out an entire people, so they circulated absurd rumors. The Bushmen were ‘poachers’, they said. They rode around in jeeps, they shot game on a massive scale with rifles, and posed a threat to the environment they had been dependent on and managed for millennia. They had to change, for the sake of ‘civilization’. In 2014, Botswana introduced a nationwide hunting ban, but gave a special dispensation to fee-paying big game hunters, who flock to the northern Kalahari and the Okavango Delta in the extreme north of the country to shoot animals for sport. Such a dispensation was not extended to the tribal peoples who actually live in these territories, who are accused of ‘poaching’ and face arrest, beatings and torture while tourists are welcomed into luxury hunting lodges. Botswana police scour the Kalahari, looking for people hunting with spears to intimidate and arrest. The government has introduced planes with heat sensors to fly over the Bushmen’s lands looking out for ‘poachers’ – in reality, Bushmen hunting antelope for food. Police and wildlife officials then use whatever brutality they consider  necessary to enforce the ban.

If the Bushmen cannot enter their land or find food there, they will have no option but to return to the government camps, where vital services are inadequate and diseases like HIV/AIDS run rampant. By denying people their land and basic means of subsistence, viable ways of living are abolished, and peoples’ land and resources are stolen. It is easier and less shocking than simply exterminating people, but in the long-term it has a similar outcome.

City Farming

Urban agriculture isn't new. During the First and Second World Wars, Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Germany encouraged "victory gardens" to aid the war effort by reducing pressure on food systems and farms. Gardens and chicken coops appeared in yards, parks, school fields, golf courses, railway edges and vacant lots. Sheep grazed on sports fields and kept grass in check. Until the 1970s Edinburgh’s city-centre Arthur Seat would have sheep grazing.

During the Second World War, the U.K. had allotment plots producing 10 per cent of the country's food, including half its fruit and vegetables. From 815,000 allotments in 1939 the number rose to 1,400,000 by 1943. Allotments were estimated to contribute some 1.3 million tonnes of food produce. British Restaurants supplied an almost universal experience of eating away from home. Here a three course meal cost only 9d. Standards varied, but the best were greatly appreciated and had a large regular clientele. British Restaurants were run by local authorities, who set them up in a variety of different premises such as schools and church halls. They evolved from the LCC’s Londoners’ Meals Service which originated in September 1940 as a temporary, emergency system for feeding those who had been bombed out. By mid-1941 the LCC was operating two hundred of these restaurants. British Restaurants were open to all, but mainly served office and industrial workers.

By war's end, more than 20 million home gardens supplied 40 per cent of U.S. domestically consumed produce.

Toronto plans to supply 25 per cent of its fruit and vegetable production within city limits by 2025.

 A study from Michigan State University concluded Detroit could grow 70 per cent of its vegetables and 40 per cent of its fruit on 570 vacant lots covering 5,000 acres of city land. One patch of Detroit land where 12 vacant houses were removed to grow food has supplied almost 200,000 kilograms of produce for 2,000 local families, provided volunteer experience to 8,000 residents

To everyone who has, more shall be given.

The richest Florentine families today were already at the top of the socioeconomic ladder nearly 600 years ago, according to a recent study by the Bank of Italy. And research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that in many European countries, not only wealth and income but even occupations tend to be “sticky,” passed on from generation to generation.

More than a third of Italy’s richest people inherited their fortunes according to a 2014 study of the world’s billionaires by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Germany may be prone to even more concentrations of inherited wealth, research shows.  Germany has the highest share of inheritor-billionaires among developed economies, at 65 per cent. Overall, heirs and heiresses make up about half of western Europe’s billionaires.

“In hardly any other country does social origin influence one’s income as much as in Germany,” wrote Marcel Fratzscher, head of the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research, in a recent book. “The richest citizens are also those with the highest income. For to everyone who has, more shall be given.” Germany’s high share of family wealth is in part a consequence of a tax system that until this year allowed family-owned businesses (including a large proportion of the medium-sized companies that are the backbone of its economy) to pass on financial assets while paying almost no estate tax.

The global water crisis

This article on the Counter Current website but first published at the Wealth of the Commons website by Canadian Maude Barlow makes poignant reading. 

“Half the tropical forests in the world – the lungs of our ecosystems – are gone; by 2030, at the current rate of harvest, only 10 percent will be left standing. Ninety percent of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, “There is no blue frontier left.” Half the world’s wetlands – the kidneys of our ecosystems – were destroyed in the 20th century. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a “biodiversity deficit” in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.

We are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of more than 7 billion people. The amount of wastewater produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. A comprehensive new global study recently reported that 80 percent of the world’s rivers are now in peril, affecting 5 billion people on the planet. We are also mining our groundwater far faster than nature can replenish it, sucking it up to grow water-guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities that dump an astounding 200 trillion gallons of land-based water as waste in the oceans every year. The global mining industry sucks up another 200 trillion gallons, which it leaves behind as poison. Fully one third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world. A recent global survey of groundwater found that the rate of depletion more than doubled in the last half century. If water was drained as rapidly from the Great Lakes, they would be bone dry in 80 years. Dirty water is the biggest killer of children; every day more children die of water-borne disease than HIV/AIDS, malaria and war together. In the global South, dirty water kills a child every three and a half seconds.

Knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment, pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geopolitical ramifications. Rich investors have already bought up an amount of land double the size of the United Kingdom in Africa alone.

The global water crisis is the greatest ecological and human threat humanity has ever faced.”

Perhaps the author is not presenting the alternative in the same language as we in the World Socialism Movement use by advocating free access and production for use, and may not agree with us on our strategy for establishing a post-scarcity steady-state planet but it seems there is a similar shared spirit when he explains that:
 “The commons is based on the notion that just by being members of the human family, we all have rights to certain common heritages, be they the atmosphere and oceans, freshwater and genetic diversity, or culture, language and wisdom. In most traditional societies, it was assumed that what belonged to one belonged to all. Many indigenous societies to this day cannot conceive of denying a person or a family basic access to food, air, land, water and livelihood. Many modern societies extend the same concept of universal access to the notion of a social Commons, creating education, health care and social security for all members of the community.”

He even cites the Emperor Justinian in 529 AD who declared: “By the laws of nature, these things are common to all mankind: the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”

World Youth Unemployment

Youth unemployment remains high around the world, the International Labor Organization has said. There are around 71 million people between the ages of 15 and 29 without work, and many earn less than $2 a day. The number of job-seeking youths would likely jump by half a million by the end of 2016.

The ILO also said while many youths in developing countries may have jobs, 156 million of them live in poverty because they don't earn more than $2 (1.78 euros).

Olympic Flop

The Olympic Games are over and athletes are returning home to hero welcomes. Individuals may have broken records and surpassed personal bests but just what did the actual Olympics accomplish?

Sad to say that the poor didn’t get anything much; some lost their homes and livelihoods altogether for the construction of the arenas. 20,000 families were displaced to make way for Olympics-related infrastructure in Rio. The games were held, in a city of such desperate financial circumstances that state workers are not being paid and healthcare centers cannot even afford to take on the Zika virus crisis. Rio declared bankruptcy ahead of the games, and the state’s governor declared a “state of calamity.” After the excitement, there is no substantial change to the deplorable conditions. The only benefactors from the Olympics have been the corporations who have milked the cow to the last drop of the milk, and various government politicians who wave the flag and take the credit for success.

Around the world, people are dying of hunger and being killed with no regard for human life whatsoever. The Olympic Games was nothing but a distraction to the real issues and displacing from the media headlines the tragedies of capitalism. A token gesture of including refugee team participate, but wouldn’t the real gesture be donating the $4.6 billion which the Olympic Games cost to the amelioration of the refugee crisis?

The Gig Economy

More and more American businesses are exploiting what is known as the “1099 worker loophole”—hiring workers as “independent contractors” instead of as regularly employed workers. In some cases, companies have laid off all or most of their regular workers and then hired them back, but as independent contractors.

Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has been a pioneer of this strategy. In 2008, when it came under pressure to cut costs, it sold its Philadelphia factory to a company that fired all 400 employees and then rehired them as independent contractors. Merck then contracted with the company to carry on making antibiotics for them, using the exact same employees.
Arizona public-relations firm LP&G fired 88 percent of its staff and then rehired them as freelancers working out of their homes, with no benefits.
And Out magazine, the most-read gay monthly in the U.S., laid off its entire editorial staff and then rehired most of them as freelancers, with lower salaries and no benefits.

By hiring contractors instead of regularly employed workers, businesses can reduce labor costs by as much as 30 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s because they don’t have to provide health care, Social Security, paid sick leave, or even workers’ compensation after an injury.

Now comes the so-called “gig economy.” Companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Upwork are allegedly liberating workers to become “micro-entrepreneurs,” who are “able to seamlessly integrate work with life,” as TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque put it in the Huffington Post. In reality, these workers have ever smaller part-time jobs (called “gigs” and “micro-gigs”), with low wages and no benefits or job guarantee, while the companies profit handsomely.
Upwork, is based in San Francisco and employs a mere 250 regular employees use technology to oversee 10 million contractors and freelancers all over the world. A vast range of workers can be found on Upwork, including architects, engineers, lawyers, website and app designers, translators, software developers, and logo and graphic designers. U.S. workers bid for jobs alongside workers from India, Thailand, Philippines, and elsewhere. Upwork represents a new low in globalization. The workers auction themselves off, underbidding each other in a global race to the bottom.

The gig economy treats a worker’s labor like just another ore to be fed into the company machine. Workers are paid only for the exact minutes they are producing a report, or designing a logo, or cleaning someone’s house. It’s as if a star quarterback got paid only when throwing a touchdown pass, or a chef was paid by the meal. There’s no annual or monthly salary. It takes us back to the days of the piecemeal wage economy, which was more prevalent in previous centuries. Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, says working for gig economy businesses is like going back to the exploitative system of piece work, popular in 19th century England, in which workers were paid not by the hour or year but based on how much they produced. Companies like Upwork, TaskRabbit, Postmates, and Uber, she says, talk as if they are different from old-style employers simply because they operate online. “But in fact,” as Smith told the SF Weekly, “they are operating just like farm labor contractors, garment jobbers, and day labor centers of old.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Trump's wall is already there

Who needs Trump?

Operation Streamline is a cornerstone program in the “Consequence Delivery System,” part of a broader Border Patrol deterrence strategy for stopping undocumented immigration, is just one part of a vast enforcement-incarceration-deportation machine. The program is as no-nonsense as its name suggests. Since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005, 750,000 prison sentences have been handed down This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a “driving force in mass incarceration” in the United States. It matters not whether you crossed “illegally” or you didn’t. It doesn’t matter why, or whether you lost your job, or if you’ve had to skip meals to feed your kids. It doesn’t matter if your house was flooded or the drought dried up your fields. It doesn’t matter if you’re running for your life from drug cartel gunmen or the very army and police forces that are supposed to protect you. In 2013 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out 72,000 deportations of parents who said that their children were U.S.-born. And many of them are likely to try to cross that dangerous southern border again to reunite with their families.

Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era. In those years, the number of Border Patrol agents had, in fact, quintupled from 4,000 to more than 21,000, while Customs and Border Protection became the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country with more than 60,000 agents. The annual budget for border and immigration enforcement went from $1.5 to $19.5 billion, a more than 12-fold increase. By 2016, federal government funding of border and immigration enforcement added up to $5 billion more than that for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.

The ever-increasing border policing and militarization funneled desperate migrants into remote locations like the Arizona desert where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees in the summer heat. The first U.S. border strategy memorandum in 1994 predicted the tragic future we now have. “Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger,” it stated. 6,000 remains have been found in the desert borderlands of the United States. The Colibri Center for Human Rights has records for more than 2,500 missing people last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In other words, that border has become a graveyard of bones. Despite all the attention given to Trump’s wall and the border this election there has been little or no mention of this existing and long-standing “humanitarian crisis” of deaths that have increased five-fold over the last decade. The wall already exists. 2.5 million people have been expelled from the country by the Obama administration, an average annual deportation rate of close to 400,000 people.  This was, by the way, only possible thanks to laws signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 which vastly expanded the government’s deportation powers.

A real wall’s  construction began during Bill Clinton’s administration but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. At the time, Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-introduced bill, along with 26 other Democrats. "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” she commented at one 2015 campaign event, "and I do think you have to control your borders." Hillary Clinton’s promise of “comprehensive immigration reform” -- to be introduced within 100 days of her entering the Oval Office -- is a much more reliable guide than Trump’s wall to our grim immigration future. If her bill follows the pattern of previous ones, as it surely will, an increasingly weaponized, privatized, high-tech, layered border regime, increasingly dangerous to future migrants, will continue to be a priority of the federal government. On the surface, there are important differences between Clinton’s and Trump’s immigration platforms. Trump’s xenophobic comments and declarations are well known, and Clinton claims that she will, among other things, fight for family unity for those forcibly separated by deportation and enact “humane” immigration enforcement.  Yet the policies of the two candidates are far more similar than they might at first appear.

The 2006 wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that homeland security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security.  In this way, he allowed Border Patrol bulldozers to desecrate protected wilderness and the sacred land of indigenous peoples. With a price tag of, on average, $4 million a mile, these border walls, barriers, and fences have proven to be one of the costliest border infrastructure projects undertaken by the United States. For private border contractors, on the other hand, it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. In 2011, for example, the DHS granted Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, one of our “warrior corporations,” a $24.4 million upkeep contract. The post-9/11 border is now both a war zone and a showcase for corporate surveillance.  It represents, according to Border Patrol agent Felix Chavez, an “unprecedented deployment of resources” with  hundreds of remote video or mobile surveillance systems, or one of the more than 12,000 implanted motion sensors that set off alarms in hidden operational control rooms where agents stare into large monitors. There are spy towers made by the Israeli company Elbit Systems, or Predator B drones built by General Atomics, or VADER radar systems manufactured by the defense giant Northrup Grumman that, like so many similar technologies, have been transported from the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq to the U.S. border.

If the comprehensive immigration reform that Hillary Clinton pledges to introduce as president is based on the already existing bipartisan Senate package, as has been indicated, then this corporate-enforcement landscape will be significantly bolstered and reinforced. There will be 19,000 more Border Patrol agents in roving patrols throughout “border enforcement jurisdictions” that extend up to 100 miles inland. More F-150 trucks and all-terrain vehicles will rumble through and, at times, tear up the desert. There will be more Blackhawk helicopters, flying low, their propellers dusting groups of scattering migrants, many of them already lost in the vast, parched desert. If such a package passes the next Congress, up to $46 billion could be slated to go into more of all of this, including funding for hundreds of miles of new walls. Corporate vendors are salivating at the thought of such a future and in a visible state of elation at homeland security tradeshows across the globe. Included in that bill was, of course, funding to bolster Operation Streamline. G4S has a lucrative quarter-billion-dollar border contract with Customs and Border Protection to transport shackled prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Florence, Arizona where migrants are held behind layers of coiled razor wire, while the corporation that runs the prison makes $124 per day for incarcerating each of them.

Imagine there's no nations. People free to go wherever they want.