Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

 "It is true that, to the mode of thought of the educated classes which Herr Dühring has inherited, it must seem monstrous that in time to come there will no longer be any professional porters or architects, and that the man who for half an hour gives instructions as an architect will also act as a porter for a period, until his activity as an architect is once again required. A fine sort of socialism that would be—perpetuating professional porters!" -  Engels 

America's Poverty

A United Nations expert investigating poverty in the United States says the state of Alabama has the worst poverty in the developed world.
“I think it’s very uncommon in the First World."
This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this,” Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said, according to a report in Newsweek magazine. The UN rapporteur traveled to areas where residents have fallen ill with hookworm, a disease usually seen only in extremely poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, the report said. These social conditions tend to affect minorities more frequently, with black, Hispanic and Native American children two to three times more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts, it said.
"There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country and that does have significant human rights implications,” he said.

In Alabama, nine out of 1,000 infants died before celebrating their first birthday in 2016. That's a higher infant mortality rate than Sri Lanka, Ukraine and many other developing countries. Alabama's relatively high infant mortality rate—second only to Mississippi in the United States—also diverges along racial lines: Black babies in Alabama died at three times the rate of white babies in 2015.
The US's overall 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births trails behind 55 other nations and a  similar infant mortality rate as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Official government numbers  underestimate the problems of poverty in America.

Officially, the 2017 federal poverty level is $12,060 for one individual and $24,600 for a family of four.  In 2016, the U.S. poverty rate was 12.7% with about 41 million Americans including 14 million children living in poverty.
The child poverty rate of 19% is consistent with federal estimates of child hunger – about one in five children lack consistent access to sufficient and healthy food. For minority children, about one in three African American, Native American and Hispanic American children live in poverty often without access to sufficient food. Globally, the USA rank 1st in wealth and 18th in the number of children living in poverty.
Many dispute the government’s interpretation of poverty levels and rates by questioning whether rules created in the 1960s take into account basic living expenses in 2017. Many believe that poverty in America is about twice the official federal numbers with nearly 100 million Americans living in or near poverty.
Research from organizations such as the National Center for Children in Poverty and the Economic Policy Institute calculated the sum of food, housing, transportation, health care, child care, taxes and other expenses for a modest standard of living and concluded that poverty in America touches nearly 50% of the population. These analyses suggest that doubling the official formula and then building programs for both the 100% and 200% federal poverty levels would yield better outcomes.
Some programs already trend in this direction. For example, children living in households at 185% or less of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced lunch.
Related data support this broader view:
  • The latest research shows that no one working for the minimum wage of $7.25 can rent a basic two-bedroom apartment in any of our United States.
  • 6% of public school students participate in free or reduced price lunch.
  • 45% percent of homeless people work at least part-time.
  • 40% of all workers are temporary, on-call, or contractors with no benefits; research suggests all the job growth in the last ten years is for such “alternative work arrangements” – where illness or a broken-down car may mean losing a job and even a home.
  • 78% percent of working Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
National numbers only tell part of the story – states and counties show vastly different ranges of children and families in poverty. 

Busting the Over-population Myth

Clearly, the fear of overpopulation is widespread. But the truth is that overpopulation in the United States is not even close to a serious problem. Even globally, overpopulation is an overstated problem. The truth is that the rest of the world has plenty of potential for increased food production: more than enough to feed itself and provide imports for a more populous United States. 
To start with just the United States. How many people can the country support? Because I am an agricultural economist by profession, my bias is to first think about food. One simple question is how many people can the United States feed? Well, our net agricultural exports account for about 25 percent of the physical volume of agricultural production, which suggests that if we redirected those exports internally, the US could probably support approximately 25 percent more people. That’s assuming current technology and current diets and current land use. In short, we could feed more than 400 million peopletotal, merely by consuming locally what we now export.
Consider that the European Union has approximately 300 people per square mile, making it as dense as the ninth-densest US state (that is, similar to Pennsylvania or Florida). The continental United States, on the whole, has about 110 people per square mile (excluding Alaska, an outlier), making the US less than one-third as densely peopled as the EU. Yet the European Union, too, has roughly balanced or even slightly positive agricultural trade. That suggests that Europe, too, has no trouble feeding itself despite being three times as densely settled as the United States. 
If the continental United States were as heavily settled as the EU, the US would have nearly a billion people living in it. Granted, the Western US is extremely dry and thus might not support an EU-density population. Nonetheless, if just the states east of the Mississippi had European-style population density, and the other states maintained current population, then the United States would still have more than 400 million people.  Achieving European-style densities wouldn’t require technological change. It wouldn’t even require any non-voluntary lifestyle changes or new regulations.
The concern with overpopulation, naturally, often dovetails with concerns about climate change. Won’t higher population devastate the environment? We can’t solve our climate-change problems by having fewer babies. Even if US population stopped growing at around 325 million people in 2017 and flatlined out, it would produce at best a marginal change in global emissions. Plus, accomplishing that trend would require draconian anti-fertility policies and extremely strict immigration laws. Even if US population rises over 500 million people, the impact on the world is barely noticeable. Meanwhile, lowering US carbon intensity by about a third, to around the level of manufacturing-superpower Germany today, has a bigger effect than preventing 100 million Americans from existing.
 We should provide the resources for women to take control of their fertility. We should want to reduce undesired conceptions and increase desired conceptions. We should facilitate the kind of human development that tends to reduce desired fertility from the four- to seven-child range to the two- to four-child range as well. But we should do these things because it is to empower individual decision-making, not because we can save the climate through Malthusian reductions.

Israel's Poverty

About one-third of Israeli citizens live below the official poverty line, the Latet organisation’s Alternative Poverty Report revealed.

2.5m Israelis are classed as poor; that’s 29.1 per cent of the population. The figure is made up of 1.46m adults and 1.06m children; one in every three children is poor.


Ryanair pilots in Germany,  Ireland, Italy and Portugal have voted to engage in some form of industrial action in the near future.

 The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) said that its Ryanair staff members will strike on Wednesday, December 20.

Pilots in Italy and Portugal also voted for similar action over the past week.

Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), the German pilots union that represents some Ryanair pilots based in Germany, announced the decision to take industrial action  although it is not yet clear when it  would take place or indeed, precisely what form it will take.

Ryanair has steadfastly refused to engage with unions over the years, but relations between the airline and its staff — particularly pilots — have become increasingly strained. Rostering issues, combined with what is believed to have been a significant shortage of available pilots, is believed to have the main cause of the mass cancellations. Since then, an increasing number of Ryanair pilots have been seeking collective bargaining power rights. So far, Ryanair has refused to engage in any collective union negotiations.

It is almost one year since Ryanair pilots based in Germany formed a "company council" as part of the Vereinigung Cockpit union to represent their interests in Germany. As well as that, the recently formed European Employee Representative Council (EERC) is seeking to represent Ryanair pilots based across Europe but mirroring its policy towards unions, Ryanair has so refused to engage with it. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A warming North Pole

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years. Scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times. About 79% of the Arctic sea ice is thin and only a year old. In 1985, 45% of the sea ice in the Arctic was thick, older ice, said NOAA Arctic scientist Emily Osborne.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

“2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and co-author of the report “The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open,” Mathis said.

The Squeeze

Inflation rose to 3.1% in November, the highest in nearly six years, as the squeeze on households continued, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Average weekly wages are growing at just 2.2%.

USA's Share of Global Wealth

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years.

 Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10%—much less than 1% of the world's adult population—took over half the world's wealth gain in the past five years. 

US Inequality

Asenior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Richard Reeves describes in his new book, Dream Hoarders, that while the top 1 percent overwhelmingly receives a disproportionate share of economic gains, the upper middle class is also "hoarding" resources. 

Families in the 80th to the 99th percentiles—or those earning at least $112,000—have made out pretty well over the past 35 years. Since 1980, incomes for the top 1 percent skyrocketed, and wages for those in the next 19 percent increased considerably.

 Comparably, the bottom 80 percent saw wages stagnate. Reeves details how the wage gains for the top 20 percent translate into access to better schools, better colleges, and, eventually, better jobs with higher wages.

Census data from 2015 demonstrate that just 5 percent of Black households have an annual income of $150,000 or more, compared to 12 percent of White households. In contrast, 22 percent of Black households earn less than $15,000 a year, which is double the 11 percent rate for White households. In terms of income trends, Blacks are the only racial group that actually saw a decline in their real income since 2000.

 The 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances indicates that Black households have median wealth of about $17,600 (inclusive of home equity), in contrast to $171,000 in median wealth for White households. And these disparities persist and even worsen factoring in education. Black families where the head of household has a college degree have less wealth than White families where the head of household dropped out of high school.

Yemen Crisis Continues

8.4 million people who are "a step away from famine" in Yemen, a senior U.N. official said. Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said the blockade has since been eased, but the situation remained dire. "The continuing blockade of ports is limiting supplies of fuel, food and medicines; dramatically increasing the number of vulnerable people who need help."

"The lives of millions of people, including 8.4 million Yemenis who are a step away from famine, hinge on our ability to continue our operations and to provide health, safe water, food, shelter and nutrition support," he added. The United Nations says food shortages caused by the warring parties blocking supplies has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis

Austerity Continues

Workers in Britain look set to suffer another hit to their spending power in 2018 while most of their peers in the world’s other big rich economies will have small gains, human resources firm Korn Ferry said.

A combination of high inflation and weak wage growth means British workers are expected to see their salaries fall in real terms by 0.5 percent next year, according to a survey published by the firm. The most recent official data has shown British average weekly earnings fell by an annual 0.4 percent in the three months to September when adjusted for inflation.

Globally, inflation-adjusted wages are expected to rise by 1.5 percent next year, Korn Ferry said, the weakest predicted increase in five years, underscoring the challenge for policymakers in many countries where unemployment is low but wage growth is weak. Benjamin Frost, Korn Ferry’s global general manager, said the situation in Britain was aggravated by the jump in inflation which hit 3 percent in October and is expected to stay at that level when data for November is released on Tuesday. “What stands out is that employers are not increasing their pay rises to account for that,” he said. “They have limited ability to charge their customers more and improvements in productivity are easier said than done in the short term.”

In the United States, workers were expected to see a real-terms salary increase of 1 percent in 2018, based on forecasts of wage increases of 3 percent and inflation of 2 percent.

Workers still in austerity

A poll of employers across nine different industry sectors found a net balance of just 4% were planning to increase staff levels rather than make cuts in the final months of the year. London and the south-east are home to the most pessimistic firms, where the outlook has fallen to 0% and 3% respectively.
The latest ONS data provided signs that the jobs boom has petered out following the slowdown in growth in the first half of 2017. 
The recent figures from the ONS found that output per hour worked rose by 0.9% between the second and third quarters of 2017.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank published a report finding that one in 10 of Britain’s workers put in paid overtime last year but only one-fifth of them got the “time-and-a half” premium for their extra hours.
The share of employees working overtime has fallen from 17% in 1997 to 10% in 2016, the thinktank said, adding that the premium paid over wage rates had also shrunk.
Half of those doing paid overtime enjoyed a premium of at least 10% last year (down from 61% in 1997), while 20% of those doing overtime got “time and a half” (down from 25%).

THE ROYAL NUPTIALS! (Part Two) (weekly poem)


American Divorcée, Meghan Markle, & Prince Harry are to wed in
May (so as not to steal the limelight from Kate's April childbirth.)

A US divorcée will wed,
A feckless English Prince;
And some with quite long memories,
May pull a face and wince.
It could be a rerun of when,
Brash Wallis lured King Ed;
And sought the Windsor 'family jewels',
By schooling him to bed! (1)

Young Meghan is an immigrant,
So what will UKIP say?
(That's if they're still upon the scene,
To show all their dismay)
The EDL and BNP,
Will lead the racist pack;
She's foreign just like their St. George, (2)
Although he wasn't black!

The blue bloods of old England will,
Lock the doors to their stud;
As they won't want their lineage,
Diluted with dark blood.
From Tunbridge Wells, “Disgusted” will,
Send missives to The Times;
Accusing the Establishment,
Of anti-waspish crimes. (3)

He'll claim the British Monarchy,
Is doomed to go downhill;
Unless the Firm makes Meghan use,
The morning-after Pill.
The only consolation is,
There could be one worse scene;
As Jezza Corbyn could be King,
And Diane Abbott, Queen!

(1) King Edward the Seventh became infatuated with American
divorcée, Wallis Simpson, who reputedly knew exotic Oriental
ways of lovemaking. He caused a crisis by abdicating in 1936.

(2) St George, according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek
origin. King Edward III made him patron saint of England in 1350.

(3) White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
© Richard Layton

The Migrant Torture Camps

European leaders stand accused by Amnesty International of being knowingly complicit in the torture and exploitation of thousands of migrants and refugees by the EU-financed Libyan coastguard and officials running the country’s detention camps. In an attempt to stem the flow of people across the Mediterranean to Europe, the EU is financing a system that routinely acts in collusion with militia groups and people traffickers to “make money from human suffering”, a report from the human rights group claims.
Amnesty claims the coastguard and those to whom they hand over refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, are often acting in cahoots with criminal gangs and militia. Agreements between the coastguard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow specific vessels to pass through Libyan waters without interception, it is claimed. The coastguard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters. Those are who are intercepted on their way to Europe are sent to camps run by the Libyan general directorate for combating illegal migration (DCIM), where torture for the purposes of extracting money is almost routine, Amnesty reports.
After interviews with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and meetings with Libyan officials and others with knowledge of the abuses, Amnesty claims it now has sufficient evidence to take leaders of EU states to international courts over alleged abuses of human right obligations.
“You will see us in court,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe director. “Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of the Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse. European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these crimes.”
It is claimed by Amnesty that the EU member states “cannot plausibly claim to be unaware of the grave violations being committed by some of the detention officials and coastguard agents with whom they are so assiduously cooperating”.
Up to 20,000 people are currently held in what the Amnesty report, Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion, says are overcrowded, unsanitary centres, often under the control of militia and criminals. “For some time there has been concern that the price for stemming migration has been the human rights of those seeking to come to the EU,” the report says. The reports says: “The lack of any judicial oversight of the detention process and the near total impunity with which officials operate has facilitated the institutionalisation of torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres.”
In March, a review by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact said the UK role in the capacity-building programme with the Libyan coastguard was “delivering migrants back to a system that leads to indiscriminate and indefinite detention and denies refugees their right to asylum”.
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has described the suffering of migrants in Libyan camps as an “outrage to the conscience of humanity”.

Merchants of Death

A massive vote of confidence in Britain’s economy was how Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described BAE Systems’ £5bn deal to sell 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar. It’s also a massive vote of confidence in the willingness of the British to sell weapons to anyone whose money is good. Qatar is hardly a model of enlightened democracy. According to Williamson, these “formidable jets” will boost the Qatari military in its mission to “support stability in the region” and deliver “security at home”. But quite how isn’t entirely clear. 
Qatar has been isolated by Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis, all of which have accused it of sponsoring terrorism. It has responded to this by ramping up military spending. The arms deal is destined to stoke tensions in one of the world’s more dangerous regions. So where will the stability arise from?

US Poverty

In 2016 nearly 41 million Americans, or 13% of the population, were living in poverty 

  • Twice as many African American families are in poverty (22%) than white families
  • 19% of Hispanic families are in poverty
  • Women (14%) are more likely to be in poverty than men (11%)
  • Poverty rates range from 11% to 14% across large regions of the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West
  • Many counties - mainly in the Southeast and Southwest - have poverty rates of more than 25%

Monday, December 11, 2017

Being a SOCIAList Party

Friday, 15 December @ 7.30pm 
London Head Office Seasonal Social
Everyone welcome - bring a friend... and something to drink!

Manchester Branch Social 

  Friday, 15 December @ 8.30pm - Bolton
 Sweet Green Tavern, 127 Crook Street, Bolton BL3 6DD
  Across the road from Bolton rail station
 Winter social; quiz - probably no prizes but fun and comradeship with excellent beer.
 Everyone welcome - Bring a friend!

Fact of the Day

 The richest 1% Indians possess 58% of all wealth in the country

Trade in Death Rises

Arms sales are increasing around the world. Munitions, tanks, drones: The global trade in arms and military services increased again in 2016. 

It was up 1.9 percent on the previous year — and 38 percent compared to 2002.

 These new figures are from the latest report on the international arms industry by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

It says that in 2016 the world's 100 biggest armaments groups sold 374.8 billion US dollars-worth of weapons and weapons systems.

The United States' armaments groups are producing and selling more weapons. According to the report, sales from US firms rose 4 percent in 2016, totaling 217.2 billion US dollars. This was not only because of the US' own military deployments abroad: The figure was also boosted by the purchase of large weapons systems by other countries. 

The US group Lockheed Martin — the biggest weapons producer worldwide — did lucrative business selling its new F-35 to countries like Britain, Italy or Norway. Its biggest customer, though, is the United States Air Force.

 Once again, the report clearly shows that the majority of arms come from American companies — a total of 57.9 percent of all global arms sales. Western Europe takes second place in the list of the most important suppliers of arms, followed by Russia with 7.1 percent of arms sales around the world. The SIPRI researchers believe China may also be a top weapons manufacturer. The country does not, however, appear in their statistics, because the experts have no reliable data on the Chinese arms trade. "But we assume that Chinese armaments groups are among the top 20 biggest companies in the world," says Aude Fleurant.

 German and British groups increased their turnover. The German tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei, for example, and Rheinmetall, which makes military vehicles, profited from the demand for their products in Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. 

There is no question but that wars prompt individual states to procure weapons. When crises threaten, countries spend more money on more modern arms: They buy new warships, fighter jets and tanks, and armaments groups sell more as a result.

"Nonetheless, it's very difficult to make a direct connection between large arms purchases and ongoing wars. But of course there are links: There's a greater demand for certain types of weapon — munitions, missiles or ground vehicles, for example,” says Aude Fleurant, Director of the Arms and Military Expenditure Program at SIPRI. The rise in arms sales around the world is also a response to smoldering conflicts, she adds. "We observe that in some regions the perceived threat is increasing."

South Korea is one example of this. In 2016 South Korean firms reported huge 20.6 percent increase in arms sales. "That quite clearly has to do with the security situation in the region," Fleurant says. South Korea feels seriously threatened by the nuclear provocations of its neighbor North Korea — and is increasing its military expenditure in response. South Korean arms manufacturers, who mainly sell to their country's defense ministry, are profiting from this.

The traditional weapons importers apparently ran out of money in 2016. "The falling commodity prices for oil and gas have put such a strain on the public finances of many African and South American countries that they bought fewer weapons than planned," says SIPRI researcher Fleurant. Russia's armaments groups were also affected by the crisis.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Roma in Glasgow

In Govanhill, in Glasgow, the besmirching of another immigrant community is in full spate. A century ago, it was the poor Irish, fleeing famine and persecution by the British government, who were being demonised. Now it’s the turn of the Roma people. 
Britain’s largest concentration of Roma families resides in Glasgow, where they began to settle in numbers following the 2004 expansion of the EU.
The Roma community, mainly from Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, were among those who took advantage of free movement. They are a travelling people and are among the world’s most persecuted minorities. They have always provided an easy target for the hard right in any country where they settle. When widespread social inequality prevails, the presence of any minority provides an opportunity for reactionaries to camouflage its real causes.
The Irish immigrants were depicted as unclean, savage and given to base desires; they were regarded as something less than human. Later, Glasgow became home to thousands of Asian families. They, too, encountered discrimination, but the sullen resentment soon gave way to acceptance.
Glasgow’s Roma community in Govanhill are a people accustomed to living on the margins of society and wearily familiar with the loathing that accompanies them on their travels. This has bred in them a suspicion and resentment of authority and a spirit of stubborn self-reliance. As such, many of their children pass into adulthood without anything resembling a formal education.
In recent weeks, the Roma have been subject to a newspaper report short on fact and heavy on insinuation claimed that there was widespread evidence of Roma families selling their children into prostitution. The lurid tales fed on unsubstantiated claims from nameless individuals that have been whispered in the area for a decade or so. The police and Glasgow city council have been aware of these claims, too, but insist that they have never received any information worthy of investigation. The shocking child sex abuse claims sit at the apex of a collection of social evils, steadily escalating by degrees of luridness, which have been blamed on the Roma. These range from tenement backcourts being deployed as fly-tipping areas to tales of a crime wave caused by rampaging Roma youth.
The recent child sex abuse claims also require some scrutiny. Some of the responses accompanying stories about the Roma are utterly devoid of any compassion and replete with the language of Ukip and Britain First. This led police chiefs to warn some about the “need to be very careful about the language they are using”. Much of the outrage purports to be concerned about issues of child welfare and a sudden burst of compassion for “our own poor”, where none existed before. It ignores the fact of child welfare issues in the indigenous white communities in other parts of the city.  Certainly, the claims of child sex abuse, no matter how threadbare, need to be investigated. Let’s just hope that these are not merely being used to mask something sinister. And if true that such allegations of child exploitation have existed for a decade, we need to ask whether Roma children were afforded the same protection and resources as offered to non-Roma children. Why have people been willing to pass these stories around the community for at least 10 years now without any concerted effort to get the police or social workers involved?
For further reading on the persecution of the Roma read the Socialist Standard

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The food revolution

The Socialist Party is a political party of the working class, for the working class, for socialism, for a sustainable future and a world without profit.

The biggest myth is that hunger and food security are the result of food scarcity. We produce one and a half times more than enough food to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet. People go hungry because they are poor and don’t have enough money to buy the food being produced. Calls to “double food production” are half a century old. Instead of ending hunger they have indebted farmers who borrow money to buy newer, bigger, and more expensive inputs, only to see prices bottom out because of a glut of food on the market.
It’s not scarcity but overproduction that is driving hunger and getting the agrifoods corporations and their shareholders very rich. Of the billion or so hungry people in the world, most are the poor farmers who actually produce 70 percent of the world’s food, but they can’t even afford to feed themselves. They don’t need expensive inputs, they need more land, access to water, and to health, education, and welfare services.
No consumer, farmer, or activist participates in the food system without also participating in capitalism. This is a basic truth that’s too often overlooked in the struggle to change our broken food system.
In his new book, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, Eric Holt-Giménez describes these basic truths of capitalism and how they are connected to the history of our food system. Part history book, part practical guide, the book links many of the injustices associated with food to other inequities, arguing that capitalism fuels and is fueled by oppression. If we better understand “the rudiments of how capitalism operates,” he explains, “we can better grasp why our food system is the way it is, and how we can change it.”  Holt-Giménez said “I realized that many food activists—mostly in the U.S.—had no analysis of the root causes of the problems they were dealing with. Many people were genuinely surprised when I pointed out that we had a capitalist food system, and that it was going to act the way capitalism acted... I also provide some very basic concepts in political economy (use and exchange valuesurplus valuethe agrarian questionsocially necessary labor timeland rentparity, etc.) and show how they can be used to understand why the food system does what it does...”
 He concludes “We can’t change the food system in isolation from the capitalist system because they are systemically and historically connected...There are no magic small-scale projects that bring about whole-system transformation in and of themselves...Right now the global market makes our decisions for us—which just means the big corporations with the most market power will continue to put profits before people and before the environment. We need the concerted power of social movements to change that. Otherwise, we can be assured that whenever our hopeful alternatives really start working for us, they will be co-opted by capitalism. ..It is important to eat according to one’s values—organic, fair trade, local, etc.—but conscious consumption—essentially a market-based approach to transforming capitalism—comes up short because sooner or later capitalism ends up absorbing these products into the system.”


Farmers say they were experiencing increased difficulty in recruiting seasonal workers since the EU referendum. A former environment secretary suggested a return to land work for British youths, an idea shared by many. The truth is, British people are highly unlikely to fill any positions left by migrant workers. It isn't as simple as there being sufficient labour available in the UK to perform the work. The situation is far more complex.

Rural communities have been transformed due to the of locals, and people from cities moving to the country or buying second homes, pricing potential farm workers out of the local housing market. As a result, physically able unemployed people are now less likely to live anywhere near the farms requiring workers. Transport systems in rural areas are limited, and basic, temporary housing is unlikely to attract people away from comfortable, permanent housing situated close to friends and family.

The current benefits system also from engaging in any kind of seasonal work due to the inflexibility of signing on and off. Add this to the inconsistency of work availability itself, and there is little wonder why no compulsion exists to pick fruit.

The conditions of seasonal work – low pay, physically demanding, long and unsociable hours – do not help. They are far from the expectations of the typical British worker, who is now culturally tuned to a 40-hour Monday to Friday schedule. There is also a greater desire for career progression, which is unlikely to occur in the world of fruit picking. But even if conditions and incentives of picking fruit and veg were improved, British workers would still be unlikely to perform it because of how this kind of work is perceived. Among other things, the task has become negatively associated with migrant workers and slave labour. Farmers have repeatedly tried to employ locals, with a drastically low rate of return, telling stories of and even fewer returning after just several days of work.

Farmers have little power over price setting against the whim of supermarket control. This cost squeeze leaves many farmers with their hands tied in terms of increasing worker pay – the effect of which would be higher prices for the consumer. Mechanisation might one day be the answer, but due that is not yet feasible.

Global warming gets warmer

World temperatures could rise 15 percent more than expected this century, obliging governments to make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming, scientists said.

Average surface temperatures could increase up to 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) more than previously projected by 2100 in the most gloomy scenarios for warming, according to a study based on a review of scientific models of how the climate system works.The extra heat would make it harder to achieve targets set by almost 200 nations in 2015 to limit a rise in temperatures to "well below" 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times to restrict droughts, heat waves and more powerful storms.

"Our results suggest that achieving any given global temperature stabilization target will require steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than previously calculated," authors Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science wrote in the journal Nature. 

William Collins, a professor of meteorology at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study, commented, "We are now more certain about the future climate, but the bad news is that it will be warmer than we thought." 

The models that best represent the recent climate "tend to be the models that project the most global warming over the remainder of the twenty-first century," the scientists wrote. In one pessimistic scenario, under which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise until 2100, temperatures could rise by 4.8C (8.6F) against 4.3C (7.7F) estimated by a U.N. panel of experts in 2014, they said.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Private medicine

Hospitals are detaining hundreds of thousands of people against their will every year – many of them mothers and their newborn babies – simply because they are too poor to pay their medical bills, a study has found.
The practice, which is widespread across parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, sees patients chained to drainpipes, starved and abused, and forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for cash to pay off their bills, according to the paper published by Chatham House this week.
"Healthcare user fees are at the root of the problem, and this just shows how bad a privately financed health system can get. We need to do more research on this and the global health community needs to start taking this seriously,” said Robert Yates, project director at the Centre on Global Health Security. “This is a systemic problem, and the number of rights abuses is quite profound: people are being detained without trial, they’re being locked up with security guards, and women are giving birth to babies who are entering the world, in effect, as prisoners.”
Over a six-week period in 2016 in one health facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 54% of women who had given birth and were eligible for discharge were detained for nonpayment of user fees. In a Nairobi hospital in Kenya, women who had been detained post-childbirth for fees amounting to 210,000 shillings (£1,500), were having sex with doctors for as little as 300 shillings (£2.16) in order to pay off their bills.
 In some countries, the practice is so common that patients consider it “normal” for hospitals to detain those who cannot pay their bills. Politicians have used it to their advantage in the run-up to elections. Recently in Nigeria, an aspiring governor paid off a number of patients’ bills at a public hospital in Osun state, while the wife of a state governor in Abia showered nursing mothers with gifts, and paid off their bills, after visiting them in a hospital presided over by her husband.
“Healthcare really needs to be free of charge to the patient, because this is the consequence of making patients pay, and it is the worst situation in a whole range of very difficult situations: they may get the medical care they need but then they, or their belongings or their ID papers, are kept, hostage,” said Dr Mit Philips, health policy advisor at Médecins sans Frontières. “Unfortunately, because many of these health facilities don’t receive sufficient funding to provide adequate care even when patients can afford to pay, this is the kind of economic logic that results. If we’re serious about universal health coverage, then abolishing user fees would be a good place to start.”

John Lennon


Once bitten - twice shy.

'Their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it.” Oscar Wilde 

Homelessness is a degrading, dehumanising situation that would not arise in any sane society. It is also totally unnecessary in the sense that if the workers decided, once and for all, to put an end to the system that gives birth to such iniquities, it could be done quickly and finally. Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens will be the venue on the 9th to the “Sleep in the Park” charity event involving various media personalities to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. Bob Geldof will be present (Bono sent his apologies, he will be with his accountants and tax lawyers devising another off-shore evasion scheme.)

There is no good reason why sufficient homes should not be built. The "Catch 22" in capitalism is that if a million homes were built they could not be sold. We know they could be built. The materials and those skilled in the building trade exist, the only thing the homeless are short of is the money to pay rent or the mortgage.  The rent is too high, the income is too low; they cannot afford, or to use the jargon of the market, they do not constitute an effective demand. Poverty is the word, and the present increase in the number of homeless is due to just that. Compared to the complexities of capitalism socialism is a simple social system. Houses will be built for people to live in, not property portfolios for corporations to invest in and share-holders to receive dividends on.

Social Bite and Josh Littlejohn, the initiators of the 'Sleep In the Park' should heed the lesson of Shelter which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.  The homelessness 'problem' existed long before Shelter and will persist for another 50 years unless we bring an end to capitalism.  Those supporting “Sleep in the Park” should note Shelter has been on the reformist treadmill for half a century so we hope they have booked their sleeping bag for next year..and the year after...

The market system portrays itself as a dynamic, productive and creative mechanism. By incentivising the entrepreneurs (so the fairy-tale goes) capitalism liberates businesses to produce more houses and more choice. The only problem with this superficially-appealing narrative is that capitalism is not in fact geared to the production of homes per se, but rather is tailored to the production of profit. The UK homebuilding sector is under investigation because – bafflingly – they seem unable or unwilling to build sufficient homes. So what's happened? Why has the market failed? Why has the magical driving force of demand not triggered increased supply in this sector? The notion that the price mechanism is the most efficient allocator of resources took a further blow recently with the confirmation that Britain has a massive deepening housing shortage crisis. The reason is that inside a market-based system of buying and selling, wealth is not produced to meet human needs of the entire population, but instead to meet the profit expectations of the minority who monopolise ownership and control of the means of producing wealth (in this case, the housebuilding employers). For many years now it has been in their interest to keep the brake on the rate of releases of houses to the market, as this helps keep the price up: better to make 30 percent profit selling one house at £200,000, than make 20 percent profit on two houses at £150,000. And, of course, every plot of land they build on is one less house they can sell in the future, and the housebuilders don't see the price falling in years to come. In the ideal theoretical market – beloved of the apologists of capitalism – this shouldn't happen. But in the real world, the housebuilders are far from being independent economic agents and can be more co-operative than competitive. The market system itself creates nothing beyond profit and misery.

The hundreds of thousands of vacant houses and second holiday-homes plus all the empty and superfluous offices will be occupied immediately by a family at present homeless. A simple socialist solution to a problem that capitalism finds insoluble. This is the madness of capitalism - houses and buildings lying empty while people are forced to sleep in the street. The madness of the market will have to give way to a co-ordinated system of production for use, with free access to the goods, materials, and services available to society. It's time to put capitalism out of its misery and thereby help put us—the world working class—out of ours. Josh Littlejohn and Social Bite should take note that trying to patch-up capitalism is a thankless task. No sooner is one problem is fixed than another appears, often, as here, the result of the previous remedy.

One of England's renowned judges, Lord Denning, in a case against some squatters made the following statement:
 "If homelessness were once admitted as a defence to trespass, no one's house could be safe. Necessity would open a door which no man could shut . . . So the courts, for the sake of law and order, take a firm stand. They must refuse to admit the plea of necessity to the hungry and the homeless; and trust that their distress will be relieved by the charitable and the good" (our emphasis).