Tuesday, 22 March 2011

medieval call to crusade

The capitalist coalition of the US, France and the United Kingdom on Monday escalated their bombardment of a largely defenceless and naked in comparison Libyan security forces, military installations and civilian sites, including Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in the capital, Tripoli.

Hundreds of Libyans have died in this onslaught. The death toll from a hospital destroyed in Tripoli on Saturday was reported by Libyan state television to be 48, with over 150 wounded. Most of the casualties were said to be children.

The cruise missile attack on Bab al Azizia, reportedly carried out by the British, came almost 25 years after the Reagan administration’s April 1986 air strikes on the same compound, carried out in the name of fighting terrorism.

In spite of efforts to portray the US role as secondary in the attack on Libya, Washington has assumed command over the operation. The US military has carried out the vast majority of cruise missile bombings, and on Sunday it conducted the majority of all sorties.

Three US B-2 stealth bombers have by themselves delivered 45 2,000-pound bombs, 90,000 pounds of ordinance in all, making the round-trip flight from their base in Missouri. The long-distance bombers have reportedly destroyed an airfield in Misrata, west of Tripoli. The US has so far fired 124 Tomahawk cruise missiles from naval vessels.

Italy, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Greece and Qatar have also participated in the military operations.

In a state visit to Chile on Monday, Obama declared “it is US policy that Gaddafi has to go.” UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox said in an interview over the weekend that Gaddafi was a “legitimate target” of US and allied missiles and bombs.

International condemnation of the attacks mounted on Monday. The US, France and Britain, while operating under cover of the UN resolution, are acting outside of the official structures of NATO. Formal NATO participation has been blocked by Turkey, which opposes military action against the Gaddafi regime.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday condemned the operation as a “medieval call to crusade” and called the UN Security Council resolution allowing the attacks “defective and flawed.” Russia, along with China, Brazil, India and Germany, abstained from voting on the resolution, thus allowing the US, France and Britain a veneer of diplomatic legitimacy for the war of aggression.

Speaking at a meeting of the African Union, South African President Jacob Zuma said Monday his government opposed “the regime change doctrine and… the foreign occupation of Libya.”
Zuma was part of a high-profile African Union committee that had intended to travel to Tripoli to broker a peace deal between Gaddafi and the rebel forces. The US-led coalition refused to allow them to land, however.India has called for an immediate cessation of air strikes, and China convened a United Nations Security Council meeting Monday to discuss Libya.

In Cairo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was mobbed by dozens of people protesting the bombing campaign against Libya. Ban had intended to visit Tahrir Square on Monday, but the demonstration forced him back into the offices of the Arab League.

Instabilities in the world economy

A central banker from the Group of Seven major capitalist economies, who declined to be named, told Reuters: “I think the world economy is going to go right down and it has happened at a time when financial markets are still fragile.”

Even before the events of that two-fold and terrible human tragedy in Japan, the global financial system was looking increasingly unstable.

On the other side of the pond that great lake that separates us from our friends in that so-called special relationship, the two-year rise in US equity markets has been based, not on any upturn in the American economy, but on a massive injection of funds by the Federal Reserve into the financial system. In a recent comment published in the Financial Times, business economist David Rosenberg noted that just as the stock market rise of 2003-2007 had been built on a “shaky foundation of unsustainable credit growth and house price appreciation, the current … rally has been built on the even shakier ground of surreal public sector intervention.”

The absence of any real recovery in the US economy was underlined by home construction figures released on Wednesday. They showed that last month, construction of single-family and multi-family homes was down 22.5 percent on the level in January, while building permits fell to their lowest level, in seasonally adjusted terms, since the government started recording them in 1960. At the same time, wholesale prices in the US rose by 1.6 percent last month, as a result of higher energy and food costs.

In the European Economic Community, it is clear that the banking and currency crisis, which broke loose a year ago, it has not been resolved as Spain and Portugal come under increasing pressure from the financial markets.

And in Asian continent, it had become apparent that the Japanese economy was about to experience another downturn, while fears were being voiced that the Chinese economic expansion was being produced by an unsustainable real estate and construction boom, fuelled by a massive expansion of credit; add-on, the rise in oil prices resulting from the turmoil in the Middle East which has sparked fears of a recession, or at least a significant reduction in economic growth.

In a major speech delivered last Friday, prepared before the Japanese events, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King remarked that the instabilities in the world economy that had led to the financial crisis in 2008 had not been overcome.

 “None of the underlying causes of the current crisis have been removed. The problem of ‘too important to fail’ banks is still with us. And even more intractable is the challenge of how to reconcile free trade with a stable international monetary and financial system. Today, the most obvious problem at the global level is that the imbalances are growing again.”

Cleansing the homeless from the West End

Westminster council has proposed a new bylaw that will enable the officialdom of local authorities to fine people in and around the Westminster Cathedral Plaza if they "bed down or sleep, what rough sleepers call skippering, in any public place or even if charities distribute free food and drink to homeless people.

Campaigners, have called it an attempt to criminalise homelessness, and they are right, but this is not the first time that this Tory flagship local authority has attempted to move on the street homeless and clear them away. During the last five years they have attempted on numerous occasions to either close-down soup runs or move on homeless people with the help of the police homeless persons unit stationed in Charring Cross police station, and in effect cleansing the homeless from the West End.

Now we hear a great deal about the big society, but this disgraceful attack on the homeless is anything but big, so what if the tourists who spend their money in a city that is becoming an expensive playground for the rich and better off, get shock dose and a measured portion of reality, and then of course their will be a big push to clear the streets in preparation for the Olympics.  

The Guardian reports that figures to be published this week suggest that government spending cuts will lead to the closure of around one in six of England's 44,000 homeless hostel beds from April. According to Homeless Link, which represents 480 homeless charities, the authorities where most hostel bed spaces have been earmarked for closure are Rochdale, Kingston upon Hull, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, and Nottinghamshire and Nottingham city. Homeless Link says a survey reveals that its members expect a 25% average cut in local authority funding, with over a quarter saying they will have to reduce the number of homeless clients they work with.

Westminster council says, and preposterously, that soup runs provide a magnet for homeless people and encourage crime, begging and antisocial behaviour. In 2007 the council attempted to ban soup runs in 2007. Now I spend a lot of time amongst the street homeless and have done for the last tens years, many of whom I consider my friends, they come they go, they somehow and under their own stem with the help of front-line services (who will be cutback) find a way back into affordable accommodation which in itself is quickly disappearing here in London as property is turned over to the property developers and the rich.

Changes to housing benefits will force many people young and old out of accommodation as many councils cut spending on hostels and other housing support services, this will amount to and contribute to a national housing crisis the like of which we have not seen in a long time and instead of clearing the streets of the homeless they will fill them up. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Japan many remain without basic necessities

Of the approximated 700,000 people made homeless or displaced in Japan after last Friday’s annihilating earthquake wreaking complete destruction with the added tsunami, about 430,000 are in makeshift emergency shelters. Many remain without basic necessities, including food, electricity, heat and fuel. It has been snowing in the affected areas in the country’s north-east, with overnight temperatures plunging to –5 degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit). The situation poses grave dangers to the lives and health of survivors, especially the young elderly.

Japan’s Police have raised the official death toll as of midnight Wednesday to 4,314, across twelve administrative districts, while another 8,606 people remained unaccounted for in six districts. The government says that across the country, almost 2 million households are still without power, while millions more are subject to rolling blackouts and an estimated 1.6 million people lack water.

The final death toll is likely to be well above 10,000. Rescue and search and recovery teams are only now entering some areas hit by the tsunami. The work of searching through the vast area of debris and destruction is difficult and time consuming.

Six days after the natural catastrophe struck, the survivors are bearing up to extremely difficult conditions. They have lived without light or heat, an ordeal made worse by the plunging temperatures, snow and hail storms reported in the past day. The national broadcaster NHK reportedly advised people to wrap themselves in cling film and newspaper to keep warm.

Because there is no running water, no showers are available, and many people remain in the clothes they were wearing when the earthquake struck. Communications are also down, though limited phone services have been provided to some people in the shelters and others have been able to charge their mobile phones using generator-powered points in public places.

The sick and the elderly are especially vulnerable to disease and health problems caused by the cold weather and lack of food. Moreover, many survivors lost their prescribed medicines in the earthquake and tsunami. Children are also at risk. The Save the Children charity reported that one-fifth of the displaced population were children and warned that many would have been orphaned.

Food and fuel shortages are spreading beyond the worst affected areas, as more people are panic buying because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The Guardian noted: “Supermarkets and convenience stores across the north-east first sold out of jerry cans as queues lengthened at petrol stations, then they ran out of batteries when the government announced plans for rolling power cuts. In the panic buying that followed the first explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, shops imposed a ‘two bakery items per person’ limit. Many shops have also run out of blankets, sanitary pads, nappies, toilet paper, instant noodles, torches, and anything else that people preparing for disaster might need.”

Two women killed every week in England and Wales as victims of domestic and sexual violence

Whether or not the crime statistics can be completely trusted is one thing, but there is one matter that society still overlooks and turns away from, and for sure I believe that it is safe to say that ‘domestic violence’ has never left the parameters of personal relationships whether married or otherwise. Now this is a subject that I thought or rather didn’t think we would tackle on this blog, but as they say there is a first time for everything.

I’m writing this post because two friends of mine have been struggling with what I will and can only describe as a real living hell; one a female and the other a male in separate relationships. Without giving too much away there are children involved with one of the above mentioned, this makes it worse in my book, and I feel totally uncomfortable, the very convergent feeling of mental discomfort at that very thought, and as the reality is that as a friend I am totally helpless and can do nothing but give support and urge my friends to leave the abusive partner which is easily said by an outsider but for many hard to do practically as in these case’s, it has gone on for years.

I’m no expert on or in these matters, but I know and believe that any form of violence is totally unacceptable especially the violence that still happens in many relationships and despite what people think today that the victims of domestic violence can simply go to the police and report a crime, as if it was so simple, it’s not.

I read the other day that according to Strathclyde police, offences of domestic violence in the west of Scotland rise by 138.8% when a football match, game is played on a Saturday, with smaller but still significant rises (96.6% and 56.8%) for games played on Sundays and weekday evenings.

Then there’s the criminal case of Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva which ended last Friday when a judge sentenced him to probation for hitting her and prosecutors declined to charge her with blackmail. Gibson, the tough cop (joke) in the box-office smash hit Lethal Weapon movies and Braveheart epic of Scottish struggle against the English, has waged a bitter custody battle for almost a year with Grigorieva over their infant daughter, Lucia.

Gibson, 55, pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic violence against the mother of his baby daughter. He received three years' probation, and was ordered to spend one year in counselling, perform 16 hours of community service, and pay fines and court costs. Mel Gibson demonstrates that domestic violence is not fastened and tightened around the ankles of the working class, and as we approach the royal event of the year and that of the pending wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, so the call to all die hard monarchists has gone out! Where will you be on Royal Wedding Weekend; well I will be protesting against government cuts that will put the lives of thousands at risk of death as a national charity warns that cuts to domestic and sexual violence services will cost lives

National domestic violence charity Women’s Aid this week launched the results of their survey of the effects of the proposed cuts to domestic and sexual violence services. The survey shows that:

60% of refuge services have no funding agreed from 1st April 2011 
72% of outreach services have no funding agreed from 1st April 2011

Two women every week in England and Wales are killed by a former or current partner and proposed cuts will mean a significant reduction in lifesaving services for those affected by violence in the home. Comparisons of this special survey with Annual Survey figures for refuge and outreach use for 2009/10 suggest that nationally over 70,000 women, and their children, might not be able to access a service after April 2011, putting more lives at risk. The Home Office estimates that each domestic homicide costs the government £1million.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Youth unemployment rose yet again

Youth unemployment rose yet again to record levels in the three months to January, helping to push the overall jobless rate up to 8%, according to the new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The overall unemployment rate for the period was up by 0.1 percentage points, from 7.9% over the previous three months, the highest level since 1994. The rate for those aged 16 to 24 was up by 0.8 percentage points at 20.6%, the highest level since records began in 1992.

While young school-leavers and graduates are struggling to find work, there was a 56,000 increase in the number of people aged 65 and over in employment, supposedly this may be due in part to the rising cost of living and the uncertainty of pension security, still it says something about working till we drop and fall to the ground the expectations of our exploiters.

Today’s figures also show a fall in the number of people claiming jobseekers’ allowance, which can be explained by the government drive and directive to sanction claimants at any given opportunity.

Clearly unemployment is an applecart that may turnover with an explosion of anger when job losses increase due to cuts. The government is hoping for strong private sector job growth that will help to hit it up, vacuum up out-of-work public sector staff.
However, John Salt, director of website totaljobs.com, said private sector job growth had remained weaker than expected in recent months. "Sectors which had previously been key to job growth, such as retail have been affected by a drop in consumer spending that comes in response to inflation and fear of an interest rate rise."   

Japan’s earthquake will deepen the economic crisis

Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown emergency have begun not only to destabilise the world’s third-largest economy, but deepen the economic crisis and financial fragility afflicting global capitalism as a whole.

Production halts, rising sovereign debt, interruptions to investment flows and soaring energy prices are driving home shocks to Japan’s economy, with unfathomed international implications.

Ports, airports, highways and manufacturing plants shut down, the Japanese government has predicted “considerable impact on a wide range of our country’s economic activities.” Yesterday, Japanese stocks closed down more than 7.5 percent, wiping out $US287 billion in market capitalisation in the biggest one-day fall since the eruption of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co. led the declines, plummeting 23.6 percent after two explosions hit the company’s nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture. Shares in Japanese vehicle-makers fell by about 10 percent after they largely suspended domestic manufacturing because of factory damage and power outages. Sony shut eight factories and there were closures reported by Kirin, Asahi and Sapporo breweries, Fuji Heavy Industries, GlaxoSmithKline and NestlĂ©.

Stocks plummeted despite the Japanese central bank pumping a record amount of liquidity into financial markets in a bid to “pre-empt deterioration in business sentiment”. The Bank of Japan yesterday made 21.8 trillion yen ($US265 billion) available to financial institutions and doubled its asset-buying program to 10 trillion yen in a bid to calm markets.

The Financial Times reported: “Economists generally welcomed the central bank’s move as a measure to quell potential panic over access to funds in the wake of a major disaster. But some said the liquidity injection was not likely to be enough to counter the negative impact of the quake and tsunami on the Japanese economy, already weakened by a strong yen and deflationary pressures.”

Globally, as the Wall Street Journal noted, the Japanese disaster intensified “the ripple effects of the weekend euro-zone debt accord and the continuing crisis in Libya.” Credit Suisse strategist Shun Maruyama in Tokyo told the Journal: “We possibly cannot ignore the impact that this quake will have in terms of geographical span and scale—as well as the psychological impact.”

Because of the closely intertwined character of global production, the shutdowns in Japan will have knock-on effects throughout Asia and the world. Japan remains a critical part of the Asian and global economy despite recently losing its place as the world’s second largest economy after the US to China. It is the biggest source of foreign direct investment for some parts of Asia and a major purchaser of the iron ore, coal, natural gas and other commodities produced in Indonesia, Australia and elsewhere.

Japan is also the world’s No. 3 oil importer, after the US and China. Disruptions in production may limit Japan’s short-term demand for energy, but over time the shut nuclear plants could lead to increased imports of oil, natural gas and coal. Analysts estimate that replacing all of Japan’s nuclear capacity with oil would mean importing 375,000 more barrels a day on top of the current demand of about 4.25 million barrels. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

East End and Living off the Land

Children are really truly wonderful, all of them, in their own small special way, and I was reminded of this, this last weekend gone, when a good friend and her young daughter descended and spent the weekend guesting-over. And what a treat it was, just to share the world of a two and a half, well really, soon to be a three year old girl; frankly, a real privilege, and the pleasure of her company, well it was for me inspiring. This young child brought home to me why I am a socialist; why I must continue to write posts for this blog site and on-line journal, with if I can then regular entries about personal experiences as well as continuing to advocate the socialist case. Those who come to read and visit the blog, possibly regularly, will have noticed posts have fallen back a little, two excuses I offer, home decorating and work have got in the way, along with the need to take a break and do some serious thinking or kind of take some time out I suppose; but I am pleased to say that we are back and with a new burst of energy thanks to a young three year old comrade.

Continuing on from our last post, and all of nearly three weeks on now; the Barking Road that runs through Canning Town is still looking like a building site, traffic has been diverted as workmen lay new pavements, all a part of the great grand and august  plan to tart-up the area in preparation for the Olympics, and of course along with the construction of new housing which will mean that Canning Town will look much different in the time to come as we see the gentrification, the restoration (allegedly) of this run-down urban area by the so-called middle classes (resulting in the displacement of low-income residents).

Now I think that children, and that’s our children, they are important and wheresoever they exist in this big old world (well maybe not so big), and no mater what race, creed or doctrine (religious or political) they happen to live under, and hopefully my anointed words are not too clumsy or ill-chosen in this respect. The interminable biological dependence of humankind's suckling’s, compared with that of other mammals has been modified and extended by different societies in many different ways. In modern capitalism we have defined and expanded the state of childhood to a far greater extent than ever before.

If we question what it is that we teach children, however, it is then obvious that it has little to do with becoming capable, able and autonomous adults. From time to time, employer’ organisations complain that school leavers lack numeracy, literacy and a willingness to work for their living. Every few years, the examination system is revamped in an effort to improve the selection of the most able and diligent youngsters, and to raise the general standard of attainment. But, after years of this process that we call education, some adolescents still leave school with almost nothing to show for the time they have been under adult instruction and the money that has been invested in the education system.

We now have a record number of young and unemployed, and with all indications that for the youth, and this generation, things won't improve any time soon. But, let’s not look at his generation too closely, although they should not be forgotten or deserted by those of us in the Labour and Trade Union Movement. However I’ve been observing a group of friends, trying to learn something about what has happened to them during the last two or three generations back, and how life has panned out for them since the Thatcher and New Labour years.

These relatively but still young people ranging from and in their late twenties and early forties, and in the words of one of them ‘Live off the Land’. They are a very remarkable group, and I have found great friendship amongst them. However they are the victims of a system that has betrayed them, underemployment and unemployment has meant and entailed that they live life sometimes on the other side of the tracks, and sometimes (on certain occasions or in certain cases but not always) that means breaching the law in order to make ends meet, now please don’t get me wrong, getting hold of scrap metal is their forte and speciality. With a forest of scrap-yards in the East End they try to get by from one week to the next, their task made that much harder these days with unemployed and homeless Eastern Europeans competing for any old scrap they can lay their hands on. Now I tell this story because it has to be told, and the more pitiful it is when I tell you that that in order to make a living the Eastern Europeans regally turn-out the bins in blocks of flats looking for any morsel of cooper they can add to their harvesting.

So, ‘Living off the Land’ takes on a new meaning in the urban sand bar of a city desert, as if this rich city was arid land with little or no vegetation, well maybe for some but not all.

Pledge to March for the Alternative

Pledge to March for the Alternative

On 26 March 2011, tens of thousands will march in Central London, calling for an alternative to the coalition government's plans for fast, deep cuts to public spending.

Join us on the march and help show our politicians and our media the huge concern over a cut that is building right across the country. Getting a huge turnout on the streets of London will demonstrate to the government that if they don't change course, there will be a very real political price to pay for the damage they're wreaking on British society.

Sign up here http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/pledge and pledge to come on the march. Let's spread this about and get as many pledges as we can. We'll also use your details to send you updates on the event and campaign.

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