Thursday, March 22, 2018


More than 800 million people need to travel and queue for at least 30 minutes to access safe supplies of water. Collecting water raises the risks of disease. Children are often the victims, with close to 289,000 dying each year from diarrhoeal illnesses related to poor sanitation.

Eritrea, only 19% of the population have basic access to water. It is followed by Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, all of which have rates of between 37% and 40%. 

In Niger, only 41% of the poorest people have access to water, while 72% of its wealthiest do. In neighbouring Mali, 45% of the poor have access to water, compared to 93% of the rich.

“Inequality in access to water is growing primarily as a result of a lack of political will,” said Lisa Schechtman, the director of policy and advocacy for WaterAid.

Jonathan Farr, WaterAid’s senior policy analyst said, “Those marginalised by age, gender, class, caste or disability, or living in a slum or remote rural community, are hardest to reach and will continue to suffer as long as governments do not prioritise and fund access to water for all, and while disproportionate use of water by industry and agriculture continues.”

The UN earlier this week forecast that 5 billion people could face shortages for at least one month a year by 2050.

Climate Change is hurting

The past three years have been the hottest on record, the United Nations said, contributing to climate-related disasters such as Arctic warmth and water shortages in South Africa. Floods affected farmers in Asian countries in particuar, with heavy rains in May 2017 causing extreme flooding and landslides in south-western areas of Sri Lanka. The impact of floods on crop production further hurt food security conditions in the country

"The start of 2018 has continued where 2017 left off — with extreme weather claiming lives and destroying livelihoods,"  said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas"Australia and Argentina suffered extreme heatwaves, whilst drought continued in Kenya and Somalia, and the South African city of Cape Town struggled with acute water shortages," he continued. Over the past quarter of a century, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased from 360 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million, the report found. "They will remain above that level for generations to come, committing our planet to a warmer future, with more weather, climate and water extremes," Taalas said.

Global sea surface temperatures in 2017 were the third warmest on record, contributing to the melting of the polar ice sheets, mostly in Greenland and to a lesser extent Antarctica, and significant coral bleaching in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

The North Atlantic hurricane season, major monsoon floods in India and severe drought in parts of east Africa made 2017 the most expensive year yet for severe weather and climate events. "Fuelled by warm sea-surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States, and eradicated decades of development gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica," Taalas wrote. Reinsurer Munich Re assessed the total disaster losses from weather and climate-related events in 2017 to be $320 billion (€260 billion), the largest annual total on record. 

The overall risk of heat-related illness or death has been increasing steadily since 1980, with about 30 pecent of people now living in conditions that deliver potentially deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year, according to the World Health Organization.

Climate change hits vulnerable nations particularly hard, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which said that an increase of 1 degree Celsius in temperature would significantly slash economic growth rates in many low-income countries. In 2016, weather-related disasters displaced 23.5 million people. In Somalia alone, drought and food insecurity saw 892 000 displacements from November 2016 to December 2017, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Autocracies are on the rise

 According to a new study by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation democracy is "under pressure" and that repression and polarization within societies are on the rise.

"More and more people are living not only in less equal, but also in more repressive environments," the foundation says.

According to the foundation, some 3.3 billion people in the world currently live in autocratic regimes, with 4.2 billion living in democracies. In 2003, only 2.3 billion lived in non-democratic countries. Also, the number of autocracies among the 129 nations probed in the report rose from 55 two years ago to 58 today. Conflicts between various social groups have been on the rise "clearly and continuously" in recent years, according to the report. However, many governments are no longer offering solutions for the growing tensions in their respective societies. Regimes in an increasing number of countries are undercutting institutions meant to provide checks and balances on their power, the researchers say.

However, "it is by no means just autocrats who have been tightening the screw of repression." "Governments in democracies have also increasingly been trying to govern with a hard hand," the report said.

 "Many rulers are trying to cement their leadership by repressive measures," said the head of the Bertelsmann Foundation Aart de Geus.  

Rulers in "defective democracies" such as Turkey and Hungary often pledge to fight corruption during election campaigns, but eventually fail to implement policies. "Leaving aside the lip service, most autocrats think little of fighting corruption and abuse of power, and instead secure essential support by giving away official posts or public contracts," the report says. "The large majority of autocracies are not efficient or professional systems; they are generally characterized by corruption, kleptocracy, and arbitrary decisions," the researchers added.

"Eliminating the threat"

US border agent Lonnie Swartz is accused of shooting dead a stone-throwing teenager on the Mexican side of the border. Swartz's attorney, said his client "did what he had to do,"  in response to a barrage of rocks that were being thrown from the Mexican side of the border. One allegedly rock hit a US police dog, while another reportedly hit the foot of a US Border Patrol agent. The defense attorney said his client's use of deadly force was lawful claiming that agents are not required to seek cover or retreat when under attack. Chapman told the court that the agents are trained to "eliminate the threat."

Border agent Lonnie Swartz "calmly and deliberately" walked up to the border fence and fired 16 rounds in little more than 30 seconds on October 10, 2012. Swartz shot 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, hitting him 10 times — eight shots from behind and twice in the head. Swartz needed to reload his pistol to fire all 16 rounds. Swartz, who was charged in 2015 and pleaded not guilty.

Assistant US Attorney Mary Sue Feldmeier said, Swartz "became the judge, the jury and the executioner" when he emptied his cartridge into Elena Rodriguez. " and she added  that Swartz "cannot use his badge as a shield against a murder charge," she added.

Sleepless Nights

Johann Rupert, the multi-billionaire owner of luxury jewellery company Cartier, speaking at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in Monaco, told his fellow elite that he can’t sleep at the thought of the social upheaval he thinks is imminent.

According to Bloomberg, Johann Rupert told the conference to bear in mind that when the poor rise up, the middle classes won’t want to buy luxury goods for fear of exposing their wealth.

He said he had been reading about changes in labour technology, as well as recent Oxfam figures suggesting the top 1 per cent of the global population now owns more wealth than the other 99 per cent.

 Johann Rupert told the conference to bear in mind that when the poor rise up, the middle classes won’t want to buy luxury goods for fear of exposing their wealth.

South African Rupert has amassed a fortune of around $7.5 billion from brands including Cartier, Chloe and Vacheron Constantin.

Ahed Tamimi Jailed

Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager who was filmed slapping Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank will serve eight months in prison as part of a plea deal reached with Israeli military prosecutors.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested at the time that the women involved "should finish their lives in prison."

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin's Likud party, even suggested the Tamimi family "may not be a real family" and accused them of conducting propaganda against Israel by dressing children up in Western clothes 

"There is no justice under occupation and this is an illegitimate court," Tamimi told reporters at the military court. Tamimi's case drew international attention to Israel's military court system used to try Palestinians in the West Bank, while Jewish settlers in the West Bank face Israeli civilian courts. Each year hundreds of Palestinian youths are rounded up, interrogated and held in military detention. Conviction rates are near 100 percent after many reach plea deals.

"Plea bargains are the norm in Israel's military justice system, which is characterized by prolonged pretrial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remained locked up with little attention to their cases," said Sarah Leah Wilson, the executive director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. 

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem said military courts "are not, nor can they ever be, neutral arbiters. They constitute one of the main apparatuses of the occupation Israel uses to oppress the Palestinian population and quell any sign of resistance to its continued control over the Occupied Territories."

The $ cost of the US wars

March marked the 15th anniversary of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

According to estimates by the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the war on terror has cost Americans a staggering $5.6 trillion since 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
$5.6 trillion. 

This figure includes not just the Pentagon’s war fund, but also future obligations such as social services for an ever-growing number of post-9/11 veterans.

It’s hard for most of us to even begin to grasp such an enormous number.

It means Americans spend $32 million per hour, according to a counter by the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Put another way: Since 2001, every American taxpayer has spent almost $24,000 on the wars — equal to the average down payment on a house, a new Honda Accord, or a year at a public university.

The cost and toll on human lives and the misery it has caused is perhaps incalculable.

Defend your pension

Getting rid of the triple-lock will reduce pension pots for the poorest and the young, say TUC, Age UK and Centre for Ageing Better. The triple lock guarantees that the basic state pension will rise annually by either a minimum of 2.5 percent, the rate of inflation, or average earnings growth – whichever one of the three is the largest. Before it was brought in, state pensions rose in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was consistently lower than 2.5 percent.

The number of pensioners living in poverty in 2050 could be 700,000 higher if the triple lock for the state pension is scrapped, a new report has warned. The research – carried out by the Pensions Policy Institute – estimates that getting rid of the triple lock could lead to nearly 3.5 million older people facing poverty in 2050, compared to 2.8 million if it remains in place.

The report says that scrapping the triple lock would force low earners to put an extra £540 a year into their pension to avoid hardship in retirement. 

 Young people would bear the brunt of this change. Getting rid of the triple lock would double the amount a low-paid young worker needs to save to avoid poverty in old age. Women would also be hard hit. They currently account for nearly two-thirds of those in poverty over the age 65. The weekly retirement income of a low-paid woman would drop by 7 percent, on average, if the triple lock was abolished.

 Getting rid of the triple lock would reduce the income of a mid-earner pensioner by £1,000 (5 percent) a year. Reduce the income of the poorest pensioners by £800 (7 percent) a year. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK already has the least generous state pension in the developed world. Getting rid of the triple lock would increase pensioner poverty and hit the poorest hardest. Today’s report shows that scrapping the lock will hurt young and old alike. A race to the bottom on pensions helps no-one.”

Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams said: “This very thorough analysis from the PPI shows just how important the triple lock will be in reducing pensioner poverty in the future, enabling low-income workers to save enough for a decent retirement income whilst helping to protect the income of those already retired. Many people are surprised to learn that the average state pension is only just over £7,000 per year – less than half the annual salary of a full time working adult on the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour. Yet millions of older people are heavily reliant on this relatively modest sum, a situation that is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams said: “This very thorough analysis from the PPI shows just how important the triple lock will be in reducing pensioner poverty in the future, enabling low-income workers to save enough for a decent retirement income whilst helping to protect the income of those already retired.

“Many people are surprised to learn that the average state pension is only just over £7,000 per year – less than half the annual salary of a full time working adult on the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour. Yet millions of older people are heavily reliant on this relatively modest sum, a situation that is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Claire Turner, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: "If you rely only on the state pension any reduction in your weekly income is going to hit hard. This report shows the importance of uprating pensions to ensure fewer people will live their lives in poverty now and in the future. It also serves as a wake-up call for anyone assuming the state pension will provide a comfortable income in retirement. Such people will find themselves much less well off than anticipated."

'Practical Ways for Spreading the Case for Socialism' (public meeting Brighton 25/3)

'Practical Ways for Spreading the Case for Socialism' 

Sunday, 25 March - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Venue: The Victory Pub (upstairs), 6 Duke St, Brighton BN1 1AH
Directions: About ten minutes walk from Brighton rail station

Making a profit out of destitution and desperation

Those on the lowest incomes pay the most to borrow money even where they are borrowing for essentials. This is compared to those on higher incomes who can generally borrow at lower rates for luxuries like holidays and high-end consumer goods.

But those on the lowest incomes are much less likely to borrow on credit cards or get personal loans for new cars. Instead, they turn to alternative lenders such as payday lenders, rent-to-own and home collected or doorstep lenders. And often this is to pay for basic items such as school uniforms, nappies, white goods and sometimes even food, and to tide them over between jobs. Or when their wages are lower than expected due to zero hour contracts and casual work.

These alternative lenders typically charge far higher rates of interest than mainstream lenders. For example, in 2016 the charity Church Action on Poverty highlighted the cost of buying a fridge freezer from BrightHouse, a large weekly payment retailer with shops on many local high streets. The total cost was £1,326, which included the purchase price of £478.33, interest of £658.74 and various warranty and delivery charges. The exact same fridge freezer, bought through Fair For You, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, would have cost a total of £583.68 (including the purchase price £373.99 and interest £120.38).

 200,000 people took out a rent-to-own product in 2016 and 400,000 had outstanding rent-to-own debt at the end of 2016. The home-collected credit market is larger, with 700,000 people taking out a home-collected credit loan in 2016 and 1.6 million people with outstanding debt on these products at the end of 2016. So it is clear that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people on low incomes are paying dearly for access to credit. 

Research also highlights that many people in the UK, both in and out of work, are on very low incomes which vary week to week. This makes it very difficult to make ends meet and is one of the main reasons why people turn to credit. It is therefore important to tackle these fundamental problems of poverty and precarity, as well as the issue of high-cost credit.

Sport and Politics

Boris Johnson  predicted Vladimir Putin will revel in the World Cup in Russia this summer in the same way that Adolf Hitler did in the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.


Golden Payday

Tesla shareholders have approved a huge pay deal for its chief executive, Elon Musk, worth an estimated $2.6bn (£1.85bn). It is believed to be the biggest share-based pay deal in US corporate history.
Big shareholders had said they would back the proposal, but prominent advisory groups argued it was too generous.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Australian unions gear up for a fight

 Sally McManus, the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary,  has called for a return to industry-level bargaining to help unions win pay rises and organise workers in industries such as childcare. She outlined the key demand of the Change the Rules campaign: “equal rights” for all workers including casuals, labour hire and gig economy workers.
McManus said the enterprise bargaining system is “so restrictive, excessively regulated and is smothering wage growth”.
The enterprise bargaining system in place since 1993 requires unions to bargain workplace by workplace for pay deals. Even Labor’s Fair Work Act does not allow protected industrial action for uniform conditions across an industry. McManus said workers needed to be able to bargain with the “real decision-makers” who set wages, including companies at the top of supply chains and governments who control funding for community services.
Workers needed “much more freedom to bargain”, she said, including a system that allows negotiation “across a sector or industry should they choose to do so”.
She argued in some industries, such as childcare, it was not practical to bargain for separate pay deals. “The only way for those workers to have the power they need is to band together beyond a small childcare centre.”
McManus also said bargaining should occur “without restrictions” such as bans on clauses that protect jobs by preventing contracting-out or requiring companies to hire apprentices.
She said the union movement was independent and would “campaign for what we think is right and do so regardless of who’s in government”. Asked if unions should consider breaking industrial laws to win pay rises, McManus did not rule it out. She said the ACTU would focus on changing the law but she believed that “working people have a right to withdraw their labour as a last resort”.
McManus suggested bargaining changes would help unions recruit members, blaming declining density on rules governing their access to workplaces and employers who sought to exclude unions or refuse to strike union collective agreements. McManus called for gig economy and labour hire workers to get the same minimum conditions as employees, including access to unfair dismissal and collective bargaining, and a right for casuals to convert to permanent employment.

Childrens well-being

Healthy children develop in remarkably similar ways, no matter where they live, according to a study that confounds prevailing beliefs on childhood development.

The report, which studied thousands of healthy children, said: “Our study advances the understanding of early childhood development by showing that many milestones in numerous domains are similarly attained across sexes and countries. We found that the attainment of almost all milestones is similar in the first year when environmental and cultural influences might have the smallest effect.”

“With irrefutable evidence that children in low- and middle-income countries can be expected to develop optimally as long as basic needs for nutrition, safety and stimulation are met, policy makers and political leaders can now turn their attention to making it happen.”

We suspect that it will be another case of politicians ignoring the science

Religious Decline

Religion was “moribund”, Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London said. “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practising religion.” According to Bullivant, many young Europeans “will have been baptised and then never darken the door of a church again. Cultural religious identities just aren’t being passed on from parents to children. It just washes straight off them.” He continued, “The new default setting is ‘no religion’, and the few who are religious see themselves as swimming against the tide. In 20 or 30 years’ time, mainstream churches will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed” he said.
The survey of 16- to 29-year-olds found the Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe, with 91% of that age group saying they have no religious affiliation. Between 70% and 80% of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also categorise themselves as non-religious.
The most religious country is Poland, where 17% of young adults define themselves as non-religious, followed by Lithuania with 25%.
In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, fewer than the 10% who categorise themselves as Catholic. Young Muslims, at 6%, are on the brink of overtaking those who consider themselves part of the country’s established church. The figures for the UK were partly explained by high immigration, he added. “One in five Catholics in the UK were not born in the UK. “And we know the Muslim birthrate is higher than the general population, and they have much higher religious retention rates.”
In Ireland, there has been a significant decline in religiosity over the past 30 years, “but compared to anywhere else in western Europe, it still looks pretty religious”, Bullivant said.
In the Czech Republic, 70% said they never went to church or any other place of worship, and 80% said they never pray. In the UK, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, between 56% and 60% said they never go to church, and between 63% and 66% said they never pray.
Among those identifying as Catholic, there was wide variation in levels of commitment. More than 80% of young Poles say they are Catholic, with about half going to mass at least once a week. In Lithuania, where 70% of young adults say they are Catholic, only 5% go to mass weekly.

Mega-city Dhaka

According to UN Habitat, Dhaka is the world’s most crowded city. With more than 44,500 people sharing each square kilometre of space, and more migrating in from rural areas every day, the capital is literally bursting at the seams. The economic opportunities conferred by globalisation, as well as climate-induced disasters in rural and coastal areas, have driven millions to seek better fortune in the capital, putting a strain on resources.

Overpopulation is usually defined as the state of having more people in one place that can live there comfortably, or more than the resources available can cater for. By that measure, Dhaka is a textbook example.

“There are cities bigger in size than Dhaka in the world,” says Prof Nurun Nabi, project director at the department of population sciences at the University of Dhaka . “But if you talk in terms of the characteristics and nature of the city, Dhaka is the fastest growing megacity in the world, in terms of population size...We can see a huge avalanche coming towards the city from the rural areas,” says Nabi. “People are pouring, pouring, pouring in. Do we have the housing infrastructure to accommodate them? Where are the facilities for poor people to live?”

Cities can be densely populated without being overpopulated. Singapore, a small island, has a high population density – about 10,200 per sq km – but few people would call it overpopulated. The city has grown upwards to accommodate its residents in high-rises, some with rooftop “sky-gardens” and running tracks.

Overpopulation happens when a city grows faster than it can be managed. To live in Dhaka is to suffer, to varying degrees. The poor are crammed into sprawling shantytowns, where communicable diseases fester and fires sporadically raze homes. Slum-dwellers make up around 40% of the population. The middle and upper classes spend much of their time stuck in interminable traffic jams. The capital regularly tops “least liveable cities” rankings. This year it sat behind Lagos, Nigeria, and the capitals of war-ravaged Libya and Syria.

Dense urban populations,  Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser writes, bring benefits such as social and creative movements as well as scourges like disease and congestion. “Almost all of these problems can be solved by competent governments with enough money,” he writes. In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar successfully fought traffic by introducing a daytime ban on the driving of carts in the city. Baghdad and Kaifeng, China, meanwhile, were renowned for their waterworks. “These places didn’t have wealth, but they did have a competent public sector,” writes Glaeser.

In Dhaka, management of the city falls to a chaotic mix of competing bodies. “The lack of coordination between government agencies that provide services is one of the major obstacles,” says Nabi.

Cheating Claimants

"Tens of thousands of people, most of whom have severely limiting disabilities and illnesses, have been underpaid by thousands of pounds each, while the department for several years failed to get a proper grip on the problem, "said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office. "The department has now committed to fixing this error by April 2019, but not everyone will be repaid all the money they have missed out on."
The National Audit Office said the mistakes began as far back as 2011, that officials became aware of them in 2013 but only started properly to address the issue last year. The DWP says a court judgment means it has to backdate payments only until October 2014, a decision the National Audit Office says will mean up to £150m will not have to be reimbursed.
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, hit out at the "shoddy administration" at the Department for Work and Pensions which left vulnerable people out of pocket.
"The NAO's report shows the Department for Work and Pensions was unacceptably slow to act on early signs something was wrong," she said.
Daphne Hall, who advises claimants on their welfare rights, said the DWP had clearly failed to follow its own guidance.
"As a result some of the most severely disabled people have lost out on thousands of pounds that they will never get back," she told the BBC.
We wonder if this tardiness by the State would have occurred if over-payment had been the case or if fraud by claimants was involved

The US continues its support of the Saudis

The US Senate has rejected an effort to end support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and driven the country to the brink of famine, after an attempt by Congress to claw back its war powers from the executive branch. The US has backed the Saudi coalition, in that it has provided target intelligence to the bombing campaign and has assisted with refueling coalition bombers.

The Senate voted 55-44 on Tuesday against taking up the war powers resolution, which had been opposed by the Trump administration. The vote coincided with a White House meeting between Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at which the president lauded US defense sales to Saudi Arabia.

Trump said. “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

Radyha al-Mutawakel, chair of the Mwatana organization for human rights, said: “It is much cheaper to stop the war rather than the continuously buying and selling arms. There are no heroes in Yemen, just criminals and victims. Anyone that comes to Yemen says ‘you are not living you are dying’. People no longer have the resources for life.”

Marx in Lights

The hometown of influential communist thinker Karl Marx is celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth... with new pedestrian lights.
The philosopher and author of The Communist Manifesto was born in Trier in western Germany on 5 May 1818, and spent his first 17 years in the city.

'The Right To Be Lazy' (public meeting Manchester 24/3)

'The Right To Be Lazy' 

Saturday, 24 March - 2:00pm - 5:00pm

Venue: Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS
Title from a pamphlet written and published by Paul Lafarge, son-in-law to Karl Marx. Come along to listen, question and exchange views on the immediate need for a socialist revolution.

'Bitcoins: tulips from cyberspace' (public meeting London 24/3)

'Bitcoins: Tulips from Cyberspace' 

Saturday, 24 March - 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Venue: Quaker Meeting House, 20 Nigel Playfair Avenue, London W6 9JY
Speaker: Adam Buick
Discussion period

Never Forget

A year ago this month, a boat carrying about 145 people, almost all of them Somalis with official refugee documents, was on its way to Sudan from Yemen. It was passing through the narrow Bab el-Mandeb strait when it came under fire. The shots, a confidential report to the UN Security Council confirmed four months later, were ‘almost certainly’ fired from a machine-gun mounted on a helicopter. Only ‘the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces,’ it added, ‘have the capability to operate armed utility helicopters in the area.’ (They are Apache helicopters, made in the United States.)

‘The helicopter was right over us and it had these huge lights on,’ a survivor later told a journalist. ‘They just kept shooting.’ Some of the people on the boat hid under the bodies of the dead. Others tried to signal that they were civilians by using flashlights. When the firing eventually stopped, the boat’s captain, who had been shot in the leg, managed to steer the boat back towards the Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah before he bled to death.

Dawood Fadal, the port’s head of security, told the New York Times that the workers at the port had been overwhelmed by the number of bodies when the boat arrived. ‘Our hospitals did not have room for them so we had to put them in the fish fridges. Can you imagine what that looks like?’ he said. 

At least 42 people had been killed.

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, repeatedly asked about the attack in the House of Commons. Each time the British government issued a two-sentence response saying it was for the Saudis to investigate. 

The Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman was fêted by the British government when he came to London earlier this month. He was greeted at Heathrow by Boris Johnson. Billboards with the slogan ‘United Kingdoms’, paid for by the Saudi government, lined his route from the airport. He had lunch with the Queen. Theresa May spoke glowingly of his record on women’s rights. At the end of his visit, Salman pledged to buy 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. A Downing Street spokesperson trumpeted new ‘direct Saudi investment in the UK’. There was no mention of the Yemenis.

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said: ‘We are sharing the best of British expertise.’

Moishe Postone - Marxian Competence?

Marxist philosopher Moishe Postone, a critic of value theory, died on the 19th March
Andrew Kliman, in Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, “Postone’s Counter Critique”, reveals Postone’s scientific incompetence on the subject of Marx’s value.
To set the context of Marx’s Capital...
  • Capital Volume I is a critique of the political economy of capitalist production, conceived by Marx as the process of producing value as capital.
    In Volume I, Marx investigates capitalist production under idealized conditions in which commodities sell at their values.
  • Capital Volume II is a critique of the political economy of capitalist circulation, conceived by Marx as the social process of circulating value as capital.
    In Volume II, Marx investigates capitalist circulation under idealized conditions in which commodities sell at their values.
  • Capital Volume III is a critique of the political economy of capitalist distribution, conceived by Marx as the social process of distributing value as capital.
    In Volume III, Marx investigates the interconnected capitalist processes of producing, circulating and distributing value as capital under realistic conditions in which commodities do not sell at their values.
Just after Engels published Capital Volume III, a marginalist economist, and Austrian Minister of Finance, Eugen Böhm-Bawerk, in his book “Karl Marx and the Close of his System”, famously claimed that Marx unconditionally contradicted himself:  price = value in Volume I, but price ≠ value in Volume III.
Böhm-Bawerk had been scientifically trained in conditional methodology, where a scientist investigates idealized conditions before progressively investigating more realistic ones, but he was in no mood to recognize conditional methodology in Marx.
Postone is scientifically naive.  He blithely sidesteps the “unconditional contradiction” by claiming that...
  • Marx never intended “to write a critical political economy”.
  • Marx never intended to use “the law of value to explain the workings of the market”.
In other words, Postone wriggles out of his “unconditional contradiction” by unconditionally contradicting Marx’s thoroughly well-known intention, already announced in his well-known Contribution — Marx’s unconditional subtitle to Capital: “A Critique of Political Economy”.
To this extent, Postone has nothing of value to contribute to Marx’s value.
Andrew Kliman proceeds to consider Postone’s emphasis on Marx’s intentions in Capital — which is philosophical guesswork on Postone’s part — as follows...
  • “The crux of the problem, once again, is that Postone is discussing Marx’s intentions and method when the point at issue is instead the logical consistency of his arguments....”
  • “I suspect that [Postone’s] misplaced emphasis on intentions and method is due in part to the influence of relativism within much of the humanities and social sciences.  If our presuppositions fully determine the conclusions at which we arrive, as relativism holds, then the logic of our arguments is irrelevant; presuppositions lead to conclusions directly, not through logical argument.  If that were so, one could bypass the logic of Marx’s arguments and acquit him of error simply by explaining “where he was coming from.”  It seems to me that this is the methodology of Postone’s discussion.  I do not mean to suggest that he is a relativist; his text indicates otherwise.  My point is simply that, if Postone had been working in a different milieu, he might have been more cognizant of the need to respond to allegations that Marx’s arguments are logically flawed.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Even among the rich, there is racial inequality

 There are structural forces that prevent upward economic mobility—and stability—for Black men living in the United States according to researchers at the United States Census BureauStanford University and Harvard University.

1. Black boys who grow up in the nation’s wealthiest families are more likely than their White counterparts to live in poverty as adults.
White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, Black boys fare worse than White boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.
2. The racist argument that Black people have lower cognitive ability—which causes them to earn less—is nonsense.
The disparities that remain also can’t be explained by differences in cognitive ability, an argument made by people who cite racial gaps in test scores that appear for both Black boys and girls. If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research. A more likely possibility, the authors suggest, is that test scores don’t accurately measure the abilities of Black children in the first place.
3. This study thoroughly debunks the notion that class is more important to race when it comes to economic mobility.
“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”
4. The gap between whites and blacks is much wider than other groups.
The research makes clear that there is something unique about the obstacles Black males face. The gap between Hispanics and Whites is narrower, and their incomes will converge within a couple of generations if mobility stays the same. Asian-Americans earn more than Whites raised at the same income level, or about the same when first-generation immigrants are excluded. Only Native Americans have an income gap comparable to African-Americans. But the disparities are widest for Black boys.
5. Black men raised in the millionaire households are just as likely to be incarcerated as white men whose families earned an average of $36,000 a year.
The new data shows that 21 percent of Black men raised at the very bottom were incarcerated, according to a snapshot of a single day during the 2010 census. Black men raised in the top 1 percent—by millionaires—were as likely to be incarcerated as White men raised in households earning about $36,000.