Calls for massive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions ignore the impacts on the poor
People who believe in the theory of catastrophic human-induced global warming claim that they want to “save the planet” and that this is the moral thing to do. They insist, however, that saving the planet requires stringent reductions in people’s use of fossil fuel energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They never talk about what that means to the poor. I think that, before people decide on the ethics of the debate, they need to consider what the impact would be of sharply reducing energy consumption on the wellbeing of world’s population, and especially on the poor.
In 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a Special Report entitled “Modern Energy for All”. In it, the IEA stated that modern energy services are:
…crucial to human wellbeing” and to a country’s economic development.
Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of clean water, sanitation and healthcare and for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting heating, cooking, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications services.”
Today billions of people lack access to the most basic energy services. Nearly 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on traditional use of biomass (wood, charcoal and animal dung) for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution.
Pause to think about that for a few minutes. Hundreds of millions of people are without the modern energy services that were available to our ancestors who lived in the nineteenth century. They get up with the dawn and go to bed close to nightfall because they have no electrical lighting. They have to go a river or well (if they are lucky) for water to drink or wash in. They have no way to power an appliance, including a refrigerator, so all food has to be eaten quickly or it may go bad. They have to walk long distances everyday to search for firewood or dried animal dung. There is no light to extend the day to provide time for reading or entertainment. They have no telephones. They have no way to pump water for irrigating crops. They have no motorized transportation, so they cannot go very far. Almost all their time is spent simply doing the simple tasks that in Canada and other advanced countries are done by machines. Worse, every day they breathe in the fumes from the dirty cooking fires, developing lung disorders. In fact, according to the IEA, every year 4.3 million premature deaths can be attributed to household air pollution resulting from the use of traditional biomass fuels for cooking.
The international community has long been aware of the close correlation between income levels and access to modern energy; not surprisingly, countries with a large proportion of the population living on an income of $2 per day tend to have low electrification rates and few motorized vehicles. The problem is spread throughout the developing world, but it is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, which together account for 95% of people in abject energy poverty.
The latent demand for electricity is immense. An estimated 400 million people in India still lack access to electricity. A recent study looked at the expansion of electricity that would be needed on an economy-wide basis in sub-Saharan Africa to comprehensively address energy access. To reach moderate access, where electricity generation capacity is around 200-400 megawatts (MW) per million people, the region would need a total of 374 MW of installed capacity. That’s about twelve times the level of capacity in the region today. All energy sources would be needed to help provide that much capacity.
This is where aspiration runs into reality. In desperately poor countries, they do not have the luxury to spend millions of dollars on energy. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy can sometimes be useful where there is no electricity transmission system to take centrally-generated power to rural areas, but it is expensive and often requires technology to install and operate. Further, wind and solar are “intermittent” sources, meaning that they only produce energy when the wind blows or the sun shines respectively. Electrical energy is expensive to store and this can only be done in small amounts.
For reliable electrical energy supply for any possibility of industrial development and for transportation, developing countries need large scale power generation based on low cost, generally available fuels. In India, and in many parts of Africa, this means coal.
Coal reserves are available in almost every country worldwide, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries. In fact, coal is the backbone of modern electricity in most parts of the world. It now provides about 30% of the primary energy and 41% of global electricity generation. It is plentiful and relatively cheap. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, China showed the world how massive expansion of coal-fired electricity generation could modernize its economy and bring electrification to almost all parts of the country. As a result, hundreds of millions of Chinese have lifted themselves out of energy and economic poverty and dramatically improved both their income and quality of life.
Yet, coal is the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels. It is the fuel source most despised by those who want to drastically reduce emissions. The Obama Administration in the United States has, as part of its climate change agenda, pressured the World Bank to stop lending to coal-fired electricity projects and the World Bank has complied. The U.S. Administration has also withdrawn funding from the Export-Import Bank for such projects. Fortunately for the developing countries, a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been established with major funding from China, which will include funding of new coal projects.
Those pursuing the climate change political agenda are prepared to condemn the world’s poor living without modern energy to remain in their backward situation. For them, billions of blighted lives are preferable to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Even in the developed countries, the policies advanced for climate reasons fall heavily on the poor.
Electricity prices continue to surge in Europe where costs are often triple those in the U.S. EU governments have various schemes, taxes, subsidies, and mandates, such as Cap and Trade, feed-in tariffs, and surcharges that make Europeans pay more for power. Perhaps the best (worst?) example is Germany, where nearly 20% of families now live in “fuel poverty,” spending more than 10% of household income on energy. Germany’s energy transition (“Energiewende”) is expected to cost an astounding $735 billion, and many are demanding changes. Overall in Europe, 1.4 million more households are expected to be in fuel poverty by 2020.
In the name of climate change, governments are forcing utilities to sign long-term contracts paying as much as four times the going wholesale electricity rate for renewables. Power markets have become so distorted that wind farms in the UK and in Ontario, for instance, have been paid millions to NOT produce electricity.
Supporters of “green” energy policies keep saying that poverty will be reduced if only efficiency would improve, but that position doesn’t hold up. Energy efficiency in the EU has improved around 20% since 2005. In the UK, for instance, energy efficiency has increased nearly 30% since 2003, yet electricity prices have almost doubled and homes in fuel poverty have nearly quadrupled. Europe’s main fuel poverty problem isn’t a lack of efficiency, it’s soaring prices.
Apart from the higher prices, another meaningful measure of energy poverty in Germany is the number of supply stoppages (“power cuts”) ordered by utility companies. Basic suppliers are entitled to interrupt their electricity or gas deliveries in the event of arrears in payment of more than 100 euros after a warning notice followed by a repeated threat to terminate service. According to a survey of the German Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), in 2013 warnings of electricity supply termination were issued to 5.7 million private households in Germany. The supply of electricity was actually interrupted to roughly 320,000 households.
There are many different moral standards to which one might refer in defining what is the most “ethical” way for people to act when considering their use of energy and other goods to improve their lives. Those environmentalists who claim that “nature” is more important than humans and that any measure, regardless of how costly, should be taken to reduce the effects of humans on the planet will never be satisfied. In my view, human wellbeing, and especially the plight of the world’s poor, deserves a prominent place in judgments about what is ethical behavior. Sharply reducing fossil fuel use means reducing economic development, condemning poor societies to remain poor, and requiring the poor people of today to sacrifice for the sake of addressing an unproven problem in a distant future — this is truly immoral.
The Sinister Ideology of the Rich
If physical violence is to be used only as a final resort, a dominant class must seek to gain people’s consent if it is to govern and control a population. It must attempt to legitimize its position in the eyes of the ruled over by achieving a kind of ‘consented coercion’ that disguises the true fist of power. This can be achieved by many means and over the years commentators from Gramsci to Althusser and Chomsky have described how it may be done.
However, one of the most basic and arguably effective forms of control is eugenics/ depopulation, a philosophy that includes reducing the reproductive capacity of the ‘less desirable’ sections of a population.
There is a growing fear that eugenics is being used to get rid of sections of the world population that are ‘surplus to requirements’. And it is a legitimate fear, not least because there is a sordid history of forced/covert sterilizations carried out on those deemed ‘undesirable’ or ‘surplus to requirements’, which reflects the concerns of eugenicists who have operated at the highest levels of policy making. From early 20th century ‘philanthropists’ and the Nazis to the nascent genetics movement and rich elites, by one means or another ridding the planet of the great unwanted masses has always been fairly high on the ‘to do’ list (see this informative piece)
Millionaire US media baron Ted Turner believes a global population of two billion would be ideal, and billionaire Bill Gates has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to contraception in the Global South. Gates has also purchased shares in Monsanto valued at more than $23 million at the time of purchase. His agenda is to help Monsanto get their genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into Africa on a grand scale. In 2001, Monsanto and Du Pont bought a small biotech company called Epicyte that had created a gene that basically makes the male sperm sterile and the female egg unreceptive.
Bill Gates’ father has long been involved with Planned Parenthood:
“When I was growing up, my parents were always involved in various volunteer things. My dad was head of Planned Parenthood. And it was very controversial to be involved with that.”
The above quotation comes from a 2003 interview with Bill Gates.
Planned Parenthood was founded on the concept that most human beings are reckless breeders. Gates senior is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a guiding light behind the vision and direction of the Gates Foundation, which is heavily focused on promoting GMOs in Africa via its financing of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The Gates Foundation has given at least $264.5 million to AGRA. According to a report published by La Via Campesina in 2010, 70 percent of AGRA’s grantees in Kenya work directly with Monsanto and nearly 80 percent of the Gates Foundation funding is devoted to biotechnology. The report also explains that the Gates Foundation has pledged $880 million to create the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which is a heavy promoter of GMOs.
The issue of genetic engineering cannot be fully understood without looking at the global spread of US power. The oil-rich Rockefeller dynasty helped promote the ‘green revolution’, which allowed the US to colonise indigenous agriculture across large parts of the planet. By projecting power through the WTO, IMF and World Bank, Washington has been able to make food and agriculture central to its geopolitical strategy of securing global dominance.
As with the control of food and agriculture, the US also regards depopulation as a potential geo-strategic tool (see this) in the quest for control of global resources. What better way to achieve this via a (GM) tampered-with food system that US agribusiness has increasingly come to dominate?
What better way to achieve this than with ‘spermicidal corn’ for example? In Mexico, there is concern about biopharmaceutical corn. Some years ago, Silvia Ribeiro, of the ETC organization, stated:
“The potential of spermicidal corn as a biological weapon is outrageous, since it easily interbreeds with other varieties, is capable of going undetected and could lodge itself at the very core of indigenous and farming cultures. We have witnessed the execution of repeated sterilization campaigns performed against indigenous communities. This method is certainly much more difficult to trace.”
While most of the literature on GMOs is concerned with the impacts of crops that have been genetically modified to deal with pests or herbicide spraying, there are very worrying trends regarding plants being genetically modified to contain industrial pharmaceuticals or possess possible contraceptive traits.
The world’s problems are not being caused by overpopulation, as Turner states, but by greed and a system of ownership and global power relations that ensures wealth flows from bottom to top. The issue at hand should not be about stopping population growth in its tracks but about changing a socially divisive global economic system and the unsustainable depletion of natural resources.
Millionaires like Ted Turner believe it should be a case of carry on consuming regardless, as long as the population is cut. This is the ideology of the rich who regard the rest of humanity as a problem to be ‘dealt with.’ He says there are “too many people using too much stuff.” He couldn’t be more wrong. For instance, developing nations account for more than 80 percent of world population, but consume only about one third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy.
We should be wary of a politically and militarily well-connected biotech sector which has ownership of technology that allows for the genetic engineering of food and a gene that could be used (or already is) for involuntary sterilization. From covert vaccination campaigns to germ warfare and geo-engineering, sections of the population around the world have too often been sprayed on, injected or exposed to harmful processes to induce sterility, infertility or to merely see the outcome of exposures to radiation, bacteria or some virus. It is for good reason some conflate GMOs and bio-terror.
Herbert Marcuse once summed up the problem facing us by saying that the capabilities — both intellectual and technological — of contemporary society are immeasurably greater than before. As a result, the scope of society’s domination over the individual is also immeasurably greater than ever before. That domination comes in increasingly sinister forms.
Inequality in the developed world is the sharpest in 30 years, a recent OECD research reveals. Yet even in this context, two countries stand out in the disparity between rich and poor: the USA and Israel.
“In most countries, the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level since 30 years. Today, in OECD countries, the richest 10 percent of the population earn 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10 percent,” said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report released Thursday. “In the 1980s this ratio stood at 7:1 rising to 8:1 in the 1990s and 9:1 in the 2000s.”
Compare the average 9.6 index with the US, where the richest 10 percent of the population earn 16.5 times as much as the poorest 10 percent. The poorest citizens of Israel scrape by on one-fifteenth of the earnings of the richest 10 percent.
The US also has the widest gap between the income of the richest and the average households. The top 5 percent of US households own practically 91 times the wealth of the average.
The OECD report, covering the situation in 18 member nations, says half of total wealth resides in the hands of just 10 percent of population, while the next 50 percent hold almost all of the second half, leaving the remaining 40 percent with the scraps – just over 3 percent of the wealth.
The record level of inequality is explained partly by a wider gap in education between the richest and poorest social groups, leading to lower quality and productivity in the workforce.
Another factor that OECD considers responsible for growing inequality is the growth in what it calls non-standard work, which includes temporary contracts and self-employment.
Since the mid-’90s more than half of all new jobs created in OECD countries fell into this category, according to the report. Families that rely on this type of employment are much more likely to be poor, exacerbating overall inequality.
OECD experts warn that the rising level of inequality is hampering world economic growth.
“High and often growing inequality raises major economic concerns, not just for the low earners themselves, but for the wider health and sustainability of our economies,” the report says. “Put simply: rising inequality is bad for long-term growth.”
The report also cites increasingly less progressive tax systems and social benefits losing ground to inflation as reasons why income redistribution schemes have become less effective as of late. Instead, the study advocates a more direct system of taxation and transfer.
“Redistribution via taxes and transfers is a powerful instrument to contribute to more equality and more growth,” the report says.
It also mentions the increasing number of working women as one of the factors contributing to the growth in inequality. Women earn 15 per cent less than men, according to the report, which says ensuring equal pay for men and women could be one way to reduce the wealth gap.
Latin America is one of the few regions where inequality hasn’t been growing in the last 30 years, despite the social gap there being initially higher, the OECD said.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | May 8, 2015
When I think of America’s place in the world today, the image that comes to mind is of a very large animal, perhaps a huge bull elephant or even prehistoric mammoth, which long roamed as the unchallenged king of its domain but has become trapped by its own missteps, as caught in a tar pit or some quicksand, and it is violently flailing about, making terrifying noises in its effort to free itself and re-establish its authority. Any observer immediately knows the animal ultimately cannot succeed but certainly is frightened by the noise and crashing that it can sustain for a considerable time.
I think that is a pretty accurate metaphor for the situation of the United States today, still a terribly large and powerful society but one finding itself trapped after a long series of its own blunders and errors, a society certain ultimately to become diminished in its prestige and relative power with all the difficulties which will entail for an arrogant people having a blind faith in their own rightness. America simply cannot accept its mistakes or that it was ever wrong, for Americanism much resembles a fundamentalist religion whose members are incapable of recognizing or admitting they ever followed anything but the divine plan.
America has made a costly series of errors over the last half century, demonstrating to others that the America they may have been in awe of in, say, 1950, and may have considered almost godlike and incapable of mistakes, has now proved itself indisputably, in field after field, as often not even capable of governing itself. The irony of a people who are seen as often unable to govern themselves advising others how to govern themselves brings a distinct note of absurdity to American foreign policy.
America’s establishment, feeling their old easy superiority in the world beginning to slip away in a hundred different ways, seems determined to show everyone it still has what it takes, determined to make others feel its strength, determined to weaken others abroad who do not accept its natural superiority, determined to seize by brute force and dirty tricks advantages which no longer come to it by simply superior performance.
Rather than learn from its errors and adjust its delusional assumptions, America is determined to push and bend people all over the world to its will and acceptance of its leadership. But you cannot reclaim genuine leadership once you have been exposed enough times in your bad judgment, and it is clear you are on the decline, just as you cannot once others realize that they can do many things as well or better than you.
In the end, policies which do not recognize scientific facts are doomed. Policies based on wishes and ideology do not succeed over the long run, unless, of course, you are willing to suppress everyone who disagrees with you and demand their compliance under threat. The requirement for an imperial state in such a situation is international behavior which resembles the internal behavior of an autocratic leader such as Stalin, and right now that is precisely where the United States is headed. Stalin’s personality had a fair degree of paranoia and no patience for the views of others. He felt constantly threatened by potential competitors and he used systematic terror to keep everyone intimidated and unified under him.
Stalin’s sincere belief in a faulty economic system that was doomed from its birth put him in a position similar to that of America’s oligarchs today. They have a world imperial system that is coming under increasing strain and challenge because others are growing and have their own needs and America simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. America’s oligarchs are not used to listening to the views of others. Stalin’s belief in a system that was more an ideology than a coherent economic system is paralleled by the quasi-religious tenets of Americanism, a set of beliefs which holds that America is especially blessed by the Creator and all things good and great are simply its due. Americanism blurrily assumes that God’s promise in the Old Testament that man should have dominion over the earth’s creatures applies now uniquely to them. Such thinking arose during many years of easy superiority, a superiority that was less owing to intrinsic merits of American society than to a set of fortuitous circumstances, many of which are now gone.
In Vietnam, America squandered countless resources chasing after a chimera its ideologues insisted was deadly important, never once acknowledging the fatal weaknesses built right into communism from its birth. Communism was certain eventually to fail because of economic falsehoods which were part of its conception, much as a child born with certain genetic flaws is destined for eventual death. America’s mad rush to fight communism on all fronts was in keeping with the zealotry of America’s Civic Religion, but it was a huge and foolish practical judgment which wasted colossal resources. In Vietnam, America ended in something close to total shame – literally defeated on the battlefield by what seemed an inconsequential opponent, having also cast aside traditional ethical values in murdering great masses of people who never threatened the United States, murder on a scale (3 million) comparable to the Holocaust. It used weapons and techniques of a savage character: napalm, cluster bombs, and secret mass terror programs. The savagery ripped into the fabric of America’s own society, dividing the nation almost as badly as its Civil War once had. America ended reduced and depleted in many respects and paid its huge bills with devalued currency.
Following Vietnam, it has just been one calamity after another revealing the same destructive inability to govern, the same thought governed by zealotry, right down to the 2008 financial collapse which was caused by ignoring sound financial management and basically instituting a system of unlimited greed. The entire world was jolted and hurt by this stupidity whose full consequences are not nearly played out.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were completely unnecessary, cost vast sums, caused immense misery, and achieved nothing worth achieving. We now know what was kept hidden that more than million Iraqis died in an invasion based entirely on lies. These wars also set in motion changes whose long term effects have yet to be felt. Iraq, for example, has just about had its Kurdish, oil-producing region hived off as a separate state.
America’s primitive approach to the Soviet Union’s collapse, its sheer triumphalism and failure to regard Russia as important enough to help or with which to cooperate, ignored America’s own long-term interests. After all, the Russians are a great people with many gifts, and it was inevitable that they would come back from a post-collapse depression to claim their place in the world.
So how do the people running the United States now deal with a prosperous and growing Russia, a Russia which reaches out in the soundest traditional economic fashion for cooperation and partnership in trade and projects? Russia has embraced free trade, a concept Americans trumpeted for years whenever it was to their advantage, but now for Russia is treated as dark and sinister. Here America fights the inevitable power of economic forces, something akin to fighting the tide or the wind, and only for the sake of its continued dominance of another continent. Americans desperately try to stop what can only be called natural economic arrangements between Russia and Europe, natural because both sides have many services, goods, and commodities to trade for the benefit of all. America’s establishment wants to cut off healthy new growth and permanently to establish its primacy in Europe even though it has nothing new to offer.
America’s deliberately dishonest interpretation of Russia’s measured response to an induced coup in Ukraine is used to generate an artificial sense of crisis, but despite the pressures America is capable of exerting on Europe, we sense Europe only goes along to avoid a public squabble and only for so long as the costs are not too high. The most intelligent leaders in Europe recognize what the United States is doing but do not want to clash openly, although the creation of the Minsk Agreement came pretty close to a polite rejection of America’s demand for hardline tactics.
The coup in Ukraine was intended to put a hostile government in control of a long stretch of Russian border, a government which might cooperate in American military matters and which would serve as an irritant to Russia. But you don’t get good results with malicious policy. So far the coup has served only to hurt Ukraine’s economy, security, and long-term interests. It has a government which is seen widely as incompetent, a government which fomented unnecessary civil war, a government which shot down a civilian airliner, and a government in which no one, including in the West, has much faith. Its finances are in turmoil, many important former economic connections are severed, and there is no great willingness by Europe, especially an economically-troubled Europe, to assist it. It is not an advanced or stable enough place to join the EU because that would just mean gigantic subsidies being directed to it from an already troubled Europe. And the idea of its joining NATO is absolutely a non-starter both because it can’t carry its own weight in such an organization and because that act would cross a dangerous red line for Russia.
Kiev is having immense problems even holding the country together as it fights autonomous right-wing outfits like the Azov Battalion in the southeast who threaten the Minsk Agreement, as it tries to implement military recruiting in Western Ukraine with more people running away than joining up, as it finds it must protect its own President with a Praetorian Guard of Americans from some serious threats by right-wing militias unhappy with Kiev’s failures, as it must reckon with the de facto secession of Donetsk and the permanent loss of Crimea – all this as it struggles with huge debts and an economy in a nosedive.
America is in no position to give serious assistance to Ukraine, just plenty of shop-worn slogans about freedom and democracy. These events provide a perfect example of the damage America inflicts on a people with malicious policy intended only to use them to hurt others. There is such a record of this kind of thing by America that I am always surprised when there are any takers out there for the newest scheme. One remembers Kissinger encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein and then leaving them in the lurch when the dictator launched a merciless suppression. I also think of the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War as American helicopters took off in cowardly fashion from the roof of the embassy leaving their Vietnamese co-workers, tears streaming down their faces, vainly grasping for the undercarriages of helicopters, a fitting and shameful end to a truly brainless crusade.
I don’t know but I very much doubt that the present government of Ukraine can endure, and it is always possible that it will slip into an even more serious civil war with factions fighting on all sides, something resembling the murderous mess America created in Libya. Of course, such a war on Russia’s borders would come with tremendous risks. The American aristocracy doesn’t become concerned about disasters into which they themselves are not thrust, but a war in Ukraine could easily do just that. In ironic fashion, heightened conflict could mark the beginning of the end of the era of European subservience to America. Chaos in Ukraine could provide exactly the shock Europe needs to stop supporting American schemes before the entire continent or even the world is threatened.
I remind readers that while Russia’s economy is not as large as America’s, it is a country with a strong history in engineering and science, and no one on the planet shares its terrifying experiences with foreign invasion. So it has developed and maintains a number of weapons systems that are second to none. Each one of its new class of ballistic missile submarines, and Russia is building a number of them, is capable of hitting 96 separate targets with thermo-nuclear warheads, and that capability is apart from rail-mounted ICBMs, hard-site ICBMs, truck-mounted missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, and a variety of other fearsome weapons. Modern Russia does not make threats with this awesome power, and you might say Putin follows the advice of Theodore Roosevelt as he walks softly but carries a big stick, but I do think it wise for all of us to keep these things in mind as America taunts Russia and literally plays a game of chicken with Armageddon. I don’t believe America has a legitimate mandate from anyone to behave in this dangerous way. Europe’s smartest leaders, having lived at the very center of the Cold War and survived two world wars, do understand this and are trying very carefully not to allow things to go too far, but America has some highly irresponsible and dangerous people working hard on the Ukraine file, and accidents do happen when you push things too hard.
In another sphere of now constant engagement, instead of sponsoring and promoting fair arrangements in the Middle East, America has carried on a bizarre relationship with Israel, a relationship which is certainly against the America’s own long term interests, although individual American politicians benefit with streams of special interests payments – America’s self-imposed, utterly corrupt campaign financing system being ultimately responsible – in exchange for blindly insisting Israel is always right, which it most certainly is not. An important segment of Israel’s population is American, and they just carried over to Israel the same short-sightedness, arrogance, and belligerence which characterize America, so much so, Israel may legitimately be viewed as an American colony in the Middle East rather than a genuinely independent state. Its lack of genuine independence is reflected also in its constant dependence on huge subsidies, on its need for heavily-biased American diplomacy to protect it in many forums including the UN, and on its dependence upon American arm-twisting and bribes in any number of places, Egypt’s generous annual American pension requiring certain behaviors being one of the largest examples.
Here, too, inevitability has been foolishly ignored. The Palestinians are not going anywhere, and they have demonstrated the most remarkable endurance, yet almost every act of Israel since its inception, each supported by America, has been an effort to make them go away through extreme hardship and abuse and violence, looking towards the creation of Greater Israel, a dangerous fantasy idea which cannot succeed but it will fail only after it has taken an immense toll. Despite America’s constant diplomatic and financial pressure on other states to support its one-sided policy here, there are finally a number of signs that views are turning away from the preposterous notion that Israel is always right and that it can continue indefinitely with its savage behavior.
Recently, we have had a great last effort by America and covert partners to secure Israel’s absolute pre-eminence in the Middle East through a whole series of destructive intrusions in the region – the “Arab Spring,” the reverse-revolution in Egypt, the smashing and now dismemberment of Iraq, the smashing and effective dismemberment of Libya, and the horrible, artificially-induced civil war in Syria which employs some of the most violent and lunatic people on earth from outside and gives them weapons, money, and refuge in an effort to destroy a stable and relatively peaceful state.
I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: in almost every sphere of American governance, internally and abroad, America’s poor political institutions have yielded the poorest decisions. America has over-extended itself on every front, has served myths rather than facts, has let greed run its governing of almost everything, and has squandered resources on achieving nothing of worth.
I view America’s present posture in the world – supporting dirty wars and coups in many places at the same time and treating others as game pieces to be moved rather than partners – as a desperate attempt to shake the world to gain advantages it couldn’t secure through accepted means of governance and policy. America is that great beast, bellowing and shaking the ground, and for that reason, it is extremely dangerous.
May 8, 2015 Posted by aletho | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, United States, Zionism | 2 Comments
The Economic Destruction of Baltimore
“We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” – Hillary Clinton 1994
The Economic Backdrop
American politics is the realm of Immaculate Conception where actual policies and accumulated history disappear behind a veil of personal characteristics and unrelated acts. The (mis)leadership class pretends that ruling class machinations— trade agreements, financial deregulation, imperial wars, surveillance and policing have no bearing on social outcomes. American cities bear the imprint of these policies plus the residuals of slavery, genocide and the particulars of Western capitalism that have embedded history into current social relations. This is to argue that the individualist explanation of Western history may be interesting for those so-inclined, but it fails as description in every conceivable dimension.
Political explanations of public policies like trade agreements and financial deregulation put a political face on fundamentally economic arrangements. When Bill and Hillary Clinton instituted the ‘tough-on-crime’ policies that so exacerbated mass incarceration there was a political explanation— pandering to White suburban voters’ manufactured fears of a Black urban underclass to garner votes, but the policies tied closely to American economic history as well. From slavery to convict leasing to urban dispossession, racial repression has produced economic value that has been expropriated. The Clinton’s neoliberal trade policies exacerbated the urban industrial exodus while deregulation of finance ‘monetized’ Black wealth for the taking. Seemingly unrelated ‘political’ policies often have economic explanations.
Freddie Gray. Original image source: cnn.com
Economic history ties America’s cities to political and economic hierarchy through the dimensions of this hierarchy. Washington to Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York was the land route North for Southern Blacks fleeing slavery. This was also one of the routes to industrial jobs following WWII. Sequential (engineered) oil crises in the 1970s roiled industrial America. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Federal Reserve policies decimated the industrial economy by increasing the value of the U.S. dollar. Bill Clinton passed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and his deregulation of Wall Street provided the money needed to finance the relocation of a large portion of the U.S. industrial base overseas. None of these policies were crafted by the inner-city residents.
Modern day Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago have neighborhoods left behind by policy decisions that decimated the economic bases that once supported them. When there were jobs people worked. When the jobs left people either stopped working or found other, less remunerative work in the service sector. The housing boom and bust monetized inner-city houses until the bubble burst. Rather than forcing Wall Street to clean up the mess inner city residents were left with their former wealth in the hands of bankers and an economy that imploded in the Great Recession. While this story is full of malefactors, Bill Clinton has major policy responsibility for mass incarceration, for neoliberal trade deals and for bank deregulation.
The bankers who destroyed Baltimore discuss their bonuses with Congress. Image source: google images.
The Murder of Freddie Gray
The wholly implausible storyline that Freddie Gray severed his own spine being put out by the Baltimore police is a Rorschach test for social accountability. The political strategy of officialdom is to peel away those who will accept any explanation in favor of police actions, no matter how implausible, to marginalize protestors. That a significant portion of the population, both Black and White, wants to believe that the police always act in good faith illustrates a preconception that will only be effectively challenged through political estrangement. The fabrication adds insult to Freddie Gray’s murder and as such, to the conduct that the Baltimore police department needs to be held to account for. Freddie Gray was murdered in police custody. Technocratic explanations of the particulars only serve to obscure this basic truth.
When videotape revealed the brutal beating the Los Angeles police inflicted on Rodney King the defense was able to convince a jury and a substantial portion of America that Mr. King had assaulted the police ‘batons’ with his head. One might wonder how graphic footage of a group of cops beating Rodney King within an inch of his life in plain public view could be construed otherwise. The tactic used was similar to the comments from officialdom, including the Black (mis)leadership class, toward protestors in Baltimore. Mr. King was alleged to have been in an angel dust rage that made him impervious to pain and to rational thought— he was an ‘out-of-control’ Black man. Likewise the protestors in Baltimore were deemed irrational ‘thugs,’ criminals with no legitimate right to political action.
Graph (1) above: the official storyline has unknown forces producing intractable poverty in American cities when many of the forces are quite visible. Mass incarceration is racially targeted and causes wholesale immiseration by precluding meaningful employment. Wall Street’s subprime lending fiasco racially targeted neighborhoods and emptied them of residents as local wealth was transferred to the bank accounts of the already wealthy. It is paradoxical that public discussion of ‘looting’ in Baltimore has focused on angry citizens without deep discussion of what they are angry about. Home foreclosures in Baltimore (Graph (1) above) have followed the national housing boom – bust because Wall Street made predatory mortgage loans targeting neighborhoods of color. Rather than charging bankers with making fraudulent, predatory loans the citizens of Baltimore were forced to bear the consequences of banker malfeasance. Source: Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition.
In telling form, officialdom’s concern for property overshadowed care for the life of Freddie Gray and the many other Black, Brown and poor White youth and men murdered by the police. These misplaced priorities are thinly veiled socio-cide, concern with what can be replaced in place of what can’t be. The rapid vilification of protestors was accompanied by Immaculate Conception politics, denial of responsibility for the circumstances being protested. However, made apparent by events in Baltimore is that police murders only enter the American consciousness when buildings and police cars burn. Assertions that peaceful protests are the only legitimate form face the burden of history and official hypocrisy. Moral suasion through peaceful protest assumes a capacity that divergent class interests render improbable.
Democracy Now! illustrated one such experiential divide when a Baltimore mother refused to join local youth who had volunteered to clean a burned CVS store because, as she put it, the police need to be made to understand that they can’t murder Black youth with impunity. Left unexplored, and apparently unconsidered by the youth who saw the local CVS outlet as ‘their’ store, is that through direct purchase and their Caremark consulting business CVS has put hundreds of locally owned pharmacies in inner city neighborhoods out of business and replaced them with minimum wage jobs and extractive economic practices. Likewise, the Ace Cash Express that was burned is a payday lender whose business model is to make usurious loans in poorly banked communities under terms that lead to permanent debt servitude.
State police or police state? Original image source: spaulforrest.com.
National Mis-Leadership Meets Local Mis-Leadership
When President Obama called protesters in Baltimore ‘criminals and thugs’ he neglected to mention the class divisions that have as his major campaign contributors the Wall Street bankers who engineered the housing boom – bust still devastating Baltimore and whose subsidiaries are the payday lenders who destroy lives and neighborhoods there. Some fair portion of these campaign contributors would have been ‘criminals’ if Mr. Obama’s Justice Department had not shielded them from prosecution for their crimes. The term ‘thugs’ is widely used as racist code for Black and Brown youth and could be more appropriately applied to American drone operators so regularly slaughtering wedding parties across the Middle East. And the term most certainly applies to the police who murder Black and Brown youth with alarming regularity and officially sanctioned impunity.
Much of the reaction to events in Baltimore harkens to the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s quip that “justice is incidental to law and order.” Implied is that justice may be set to the side if order can be maintained through systematic injustice. The conceptual problem is that, as with President Obama’s and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s slander of protestors as ‘thugs,’ class interests lie behind class-based policing. Heavily armed, militarized police could storm Wall Street (as metaphor for geographically dispersed finance) and corporate executive suites kicking in doors, handcuffing everyone they meet and opening fire on those who aren’t immediately compliant under the same theorized justification they have for doing so in Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. That they don’t is evidence that neither law nor justice is behind police actions in poor communities.
If peaceful change is possible, why have the police been militarized to prevent it? The Department of Homeland Security calls protestors ‘terrorists’ and the Ferguson, MO police department calls them ‘the enemy.’ Original image source: google images.
The economic crises affecting communities of color in Baltimore and elsewhere tie directly to government policies like trade agreements that benefit financiers, upper class ‘professionals,’ industrialists and the owners of capital. Official indifference to the social consequences of industrial relocation has produced economic dead zones in major cities since the 1960s. Wall Street’s predatory mortgages decimated black wealth in cities like Baltimore and with it the capacity for economic investment. Elite chides that citizens are destroying their future prospects through rebellion provide cover for the economic forces they control for their own benefit. In the last decade Wall Street has destroyed more of urban America than citizen rebellions ever could.
The problem of the economic capture of the mis-leadership class suggests that political resolution is unlikely to come through the ballot box. Blacks have joined this mis-leadership class with co-optation being the singular result. American political economy is set up to perpetuate existing class relations with the racial residual of history as a component. Martin King began addressing economic justice with the understanding that it is a prerequisite to social justice. He was murdered shortly thereafter. The interest in ‘property’ in the face of the loss of life at police hands is clear indication of what drives official concerns. Therein lies the political paradox— economics is the more dangerous dimension of social injustice to address but it is also the most necessary. The U.S. has subverted democratic movements and invaded countries to prevent implementation of a minimum wage. But how is life possible without a living wage?
Bjorn Lomborg has been invited by the Australian government via the University of Western Australia to relocate the Copenhagen Consensus Center to the lucky country. I wish him well in his new surroundings.
News of this has revived the muttering and outright ranting about how Evil!!! Lomborg is. This is because the policy conclusions of the Consensus Centre (and Lomborg in his writings prior to the CC being established) shows that investing in renewable energy and other mitigation and adaptation measures regarding climate change is less effective at improving health and raising living standards in the developing world than other measures, such as insuring access to micro nutrients, suppressing and treating malaria, etc.
Obviously, Lomborg and the CC are right. Nicholas Stern estimates the cost of dealing with climate change at between 1% and 5% of global GDP. Providing micro nutrients for the poor costs pennies per person. The only real question is are healthy poor people more important than reducing CO2 emissions?
Although Stern and a few other economists argue that eliminating or reducing the threat of climate change for people in 2100 is more important than providing sustenance to today’s poor, not many agree, which is why the argument is rarely put in such stark terms.
However, the argument is clearest in discussions about provision of power to the poor. Those most alarmed about climate change wish to push the developing world into using renewable energy sources instead of the much cheaper and more available fossil fuels, especially coal. As Matt Ridley notes over at his blog, “In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.”
This argument is not actually new–those of us who remember the Greenpeace thug who threatened skeptics saying “We know where you live and we be many while you be few” know that the subject under discussion was Greenpeace and the WWF’s efforts to stop World Bank funding for a coal plant in South Africa.
The average household income for someone with solar panels on their roof in the USA is $150,000. The capital costs of renewable energy make it unaffordable for Africa and India in most cases.
There are numerous exceptions, of course. In areas where it is expensive to extend the transmission grid to villages, Rural Electrification Programs using solar power have been used effectively since the 1980s. However, these don’t provide enough power to truly power a village–at most they provide radio and some lighting. These are hugely valuable and I support the expansion of such programs.
But they are insufficient for powering the light industry the region needs to truly improve their lot and they cannot power the refrigeration needed for improved health outcomes.
Lomborg is right that the poor of today need more concrete aid than they do emission reductions. Ridley is right to point out that coal fired power plants are what they are crying out for and would make possible the concrete aid that we all know they need.
And the manic Alarmists have forgotten that coal, bad as it is (I am no friend of coal), is a denser fuel than dung and firewood, emitting less than what it will replace. Obviously, because of the potential to provide more power to more people, emissions will rise as it saves lives, but dung burnt indoors kills millions and the relentless search for firewood denudes forests and exposes the women who undertake the daily search to threats of attack from animals and unscrupulous men.
The developing world has found an unlikely savior in China, who are well-pleased to help them build the infrastructure that Africa and Southern Asia need, want and are crying out for.
Because the argument is truly clear, alarmists are reduced to insinuations about Lomborg’s motives (does he really want to help the poor?) and the horror of his being offered a post in Australia, while Ridley is attacked because he used to serve on the board of a bank that went broke some years ago. Phoney arguments such as these keep the alarmists occupied, the water muddied and the Greens still dictating policy to western governments. Alarmists agonize over whether or not climate scientists should fly (coming to the conclusion that they should), but after sober reflection they call helping Africa a ‘serious and complex issue’.
Perhaps the clearest example of their hypocrisy is their accusation that people like “Lomborg and Ridley, if they were serious, would be encouraging dialogue, not trying to demonize” their opponents.
After ten years of a concerted effort by Greens to demonize Lomborg and Ridley, the very people who have demonized Lomborg and Ridley say they shouldn’t demonize their opponents. But Lomborg and Ridley do not. They don’t make attacks on people or even organizations. They just show quite clearly that stringent caps on emissions that are enforced first on the poor and loosely or not at all on the rich kill, sicken and immiserate the poor. It is the Greens that have vigorously pursued a policy of vicious and calculated demonization of those like Lomborg and Ridley.
At some point, future generations will have a different color code–and they will say that Greens have no right to advocate policies that trap Black and Brown people in poverty. They may use a different ‘G’ word to describe the net effects of what Greens are doing today.
There is a case to be made for saying the aggregate effect of Green policy in the developing world is perilously close to being complicit in genocide. At the very least they are showing an appalling indifference to the plight of people in the developing world. I wonder if the skeptics will mention that while they’re touring the Vatican?
China is doing more for the world’s poor than Greenpeace. Go figure.
A new study by the AFL-CIO found that 4,585 workers were killed while at work in the US in 2013, and another 50,000 died from occupational diseases.
The report entitled “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” found that while there had been some improvements in safety at work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was weak and understaffed.
The President of the AFL-CIO said that the OSHA has enough staff and resources to inspect workplaces in the US just once in 140 years.
“America’s workers shouldn’t have to choose between earning a livelihood and risking their life, yet every day too many end up on the wrong end of that choice. Corporations are prospering while working people suffer because of corporate negligence and insufficient government oversight,” he said.
A huge 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were recorded but the real figure is thought to be far higher as many are not reported.
Latino workers were found to be the most at risk. The fatality rate among them increased in 2013 to 3.9 per 100,000 up from 3.7 in 2012. A total of 817 Latino workers were killed on the job in 2013.
Latinos working in grounds maintenance were among the most likely to have a fatal accident, with deaths due to tree trimming and pruning doubling since 2012.
North Dakota was found to be by far the most dangerous area of the US to work and the state’s job fatality rate was more than four times the national average.
One of the main reasons for the grim statistics the report found was poor government oversight.
The OCHA has just 1,882 inspectors for the whole of the US, one inspector for every 71,695 workers.
Penalties for employers are low. The average penalty for a fatality investigated by the OCHA was just $5,050 in 2014.
Prosecutions are also low, since 1970 when the Occupational Safety and Health Act became law, just 88 cases have been prosecuted with defendants serving just 100 months total in jail.
The report notes that under the Bush administration work safety was completely neglected and under the Obama administration progress in making new protections law has been slow. Since 2009 only four OCHA safety and health standards have been issued.
The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama administration to finalize legislation, much of which the Republican dominated Congress is trying to block.
These include improvements to the Mine Safety and Health Act to give inspectors more authority to shut down dangerous mines.
April 29, 2015 Posted by aletho | Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Employment, Health, Human rights, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, USA | Leave a comment
MOSCOW — Metropolitan police have used tear gas against protesters after they have tried stormed into a police station in South London’s Brixton during anti-gentrification demonstrations, local media reported Saturday.
According to ITV, members of the law enforcement removed the protesters who entered the station using tear gas.
Thousands of people have gathered in Brixton’s central square to protest against gentrification earlier in the day, according to media.
The event’s organizers claim they support change and regeneration which would benefit the existing communities in the area, but not gentrification. The local council or associations have sent eviction notices to tenants of at least four council homes to be renewed by private constructions.
“Stop rent rises, stop evictions,” the protesters’ placards read. Other slogans included “People before profit,” “More council homes, not luxury homes,” and “Property developers are vultures.”
One demonstrator held a sign saying “Black communities matter,” protesting against the gentrification of Brixton, which has a large percentage of residents of African and Caribbean descent.
“Social diversity is driven out by lack of truly affordable housing. Local businesses are driven out by increasing rents and redevelopment schemes that benefit national & multinational businesses, siphoning money out of the area,” according to the event’s organizers, who fear only the wealthy would be able to live in Brixton.
Gentrification is affecting more and more regions all over London, with people protesting against urban renewal. Earlier this week, anti-gentrification campaigners disrupted a property developer event in London, according to the local media.
On Shlomo Sand’s “How I Stopped Being a Jew”
Shlomo Sand’s gracefully written and translated short book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, deals with a question many have wondered about but have been afraid to ask: What makes someone a Jew? While it has been a puzzle from time immemorial, it is more salient today as Israel welcomes all deemed Jewish, regardless of their nationality or religious beliefs (or lack of them). On the other hand, non-Jews (25% of Israelis), even if born and resident in Israel, are not quite full citizens of the Jewish state.
“If the United States of America decided tomorrow that it was not the state of all American citizens but rather the state of those persons around the whole world who identify as Anglo-Saxon Protestants, it would bear a striking resemblance to the Jewish State of Israel.” (p. 82)
Sand is an Israeli, and a secular and atheist Jew, defined by his parentage as Jewish by the state of Israel. He is a professor at Tel Aviv University, specializing in French history. He is best known as the author of two controversial books, The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012).
His major argument is that the claim that today’s Jews are descendants of the ancient Israelites is simply a myth, of considerable use to the Zionist cause. Sand’s theories are ably expounded in a CounterPunch article of February 14-16, 2014, by Paul Atwood.
Briefly, Sand contends that European Jews, and even many of the Middle Eastern ones, are descendants of converts to Judaism, with no biological connection to ancient Israelites. Yet the founders of Zionism, mostly secular and atheist Jews, while rejecting the supernatural aspects and miracles of the Old Testament, proposed its stories to be accurate history.
“To justify colonization in Palestine, Zionism appealed above all to the Bible, which it presented as a legal property title to the land. It then proceeded to depict the past of various Jewish communities not as a dense and varied fresco of the motley groups that converted to Judaism in Asia, Europe and Africa, but rather as a linear history of a race-people, supposedly exiled by force from their native land and aspiring for two thousand years to return to it.” (p. 48)
This provided a somewhat shaky justification of “return” to the “Promised Land,” in already inhabited Palestine, but it was adequate to persuade the great powers, which were feeling guilty about the fate of Jews in WWII, and also anxious to have an offshore place for the survivors to migrate.
In addition, it provided an identity and rationale for the secular and atheist Jews of the US and elsewhere who were urged to “return” to
Israel to help develop and defend the land, by joining the kibbutzim and the military.
Sand, who identifies as an Israeli and wishes it were the only form of national identity for all inhabitants, rejects the historical as well as the cultural, racial, ethnic, and biological bases of Jewishness. He questions the orthodox definition of a Jew: a person born of a Jewish mother, who was herself thus born since time immemorial, “I have the increasing impression that, in certain respects, Hitler was the victor the Second World War… his perverted ideology infiltrated itself and resurfaced.” (p. 5)
He explores the idea of a common Jewish culture apart from religious belief, but finds no convincing evidence. Jews of Western Europe, Africa, and the Middle East may have practiced their religion, but in everyday life shared the culture and settlements of their fellow nationals. (p. 35) In contrast, the Yiddish speakers of Eastern Europe had a distinctive culture in dress, food, language, and religious fundamentalism. (p. 36) The children of these Jews often became atheist socialists, some of whom, rejecting the shtetl culture, founded the Zionist movement.
“The Yiddish colonists [of Israel], in fact, were very quick to discard their despised mother tongue. The first thing they needed was a language that could unite Jews the world over, and neither Theodor Herzl nor Edmond de Rothschild could communicate in Yiddish. The early Zionists subsequently aspired to create a new Jew, who would break with the popular culture of their parents and ancestors as well as with the wretched townships of the Pale of Settlement.” (p. 41)
Sand maintains that Jewish holidays serve only as nostalgia for secular Jews and do not honor their universalist culture. For example, the traditional Haggadah for Passover Seder includes an “explicit demand to exterminate all the peoples who did not believe in the God of the Jews and had dared to attack Israel. . .” (p. 67) In the book of Exodus (23:23), God promises to “exterminate all the inhabitants of Canaan in order to make room in the Promised Land for the sons of Israel.” (p. 72) The Old Testament command to love thy neighbor as thyself was applied only to fellow Jews. (p. 70) The Talmud states: “You shall be called men, but the idolaters are not called men.” (p. 71)
Sand provides a long list of Jews who adopted a universalistic morality (from Karl Marx to Naomi Klein) and also distanced themselves from the Jewish religious tradition. (p. 73)
Sand refutes those who claim that what binds all Jews is their history as unique victims of persecution: “Zionist rhetoric [insists that] there are hosts of murderers like Hitler, while there have never been and never will be victims like the Jews.” (p. 63) Yet millions of non-Jews were killed by the Nazis; persecution, genocide and ethnic cleansing have been and continue to be inflicted on many peoples.
Some critics of Sand argue that a motive for remaining Jewish despite enjoying nothing of its culture or religion is the ability to have legitimacy when criticizing Israeli policies, but this is a merely pragmatic basis for a major decision.
Sand concludes: “I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew.” (p. 97) Although he considers Israel “one of the most racist societies in the Western world” and the perpetrator of “cruel military colonization [of] weak and defenceless victims who are not part of the ‘chosen people,’” he remains “by everyday life and basic culture” an Israeli. (p. 98-99)
Others have resigned from Judaism in protest of Israeli policies; Sand has the additional motive of seeing no convincing basis for Jewish identity other than the religion. Contemporary concepts of free choice of religion and ideology are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , and warmly championed by secular Jews. So why wouldn’t a person be able to resign from any or all religions and systems of belief? In contrast, one can’t resign from one’s ethnic background; Sand acknowledges that his is Austrian.
While I do not have the expertise to assess Sand’s historical assertions, the status of secular Jews is of personal significance and an issue independent of the exiles, migration, and conversions of people long ago. One problem with Sand’s choice is that Israeli authorities, Jewish religious leaders, the general public, and anti-Semites are not going to let him or others slip out of it so easily. Joining another religion makes resignation more convincing, even legally recognized in Israel, but Sand does not want to do this.
Another issue is how to have holiday celebrations, weddings, funerals, potluck suppers, youth groups, communities of shared values, etc., if you eschew the Jewish institutions. Religion has been a source of social justice activism and solace, despite its flaws. Many secular Jews remain in the faith without faith for these reasons. A solution is to join one of the religions (it means bind together) welcoming atheists, such as Unitarian Universalism, or the burgeoning atheist churches of England.
Sand’s fine accessible book is likely to provoke heated controversy, and it should.
Joan Roelofs, Professor Emerita of Political Science, Keene State College, New Hampshire can be reached at email@example.com
UK families are fleeing to Ireland as social workers continue to use false allegations and vague definitions of abuse to forcibly remove children from their parents and boost adoption statistics. RT’s documentary crew spoke to several of those families.
The UK is just one of two countries in Europe (the other is Croatia) where adoption without the consent of a child’s biological parents – known as ‘forced adoption’ – is practiced.
Despite international law calling it an emergency measure, “there were over 2,000 children forcibly taken from one family to another” last year, MP John Hemming told RT’s documentary channel (RTD). Every year, some 11,000 children are taken into local authority care without the consent of their parents.
According to the MP, social workers are instructed by their managers to advise the court to get the child adopted – even if they’re been taken care of by a competent family.
With Britain’s children’s minister, Edward Timpson, proudly announcing a 63 percent rise in adoptions since 2011, children are being removed from their families “merely to satisfy government target,” Hemming said.
UK legislation provides several reasons for removing a child from their parents, with “risk of future emotional harm” being the most widely used – and the most controversial.
“Now how do you quantify that? It’s almost impossible to quantify, but a lot of people lose their children because the social services and the courts say there’s a risk of future emotional harm,” human rights activist Yolande Lindbridge said.
It’s very difficult for parents to get their children back after a final hearing in court, because “the appeal system isn’t set up for people to win,” she stressed.
If the court rules that the forced adoption was a mistake, it often still decides to leave the child with their new family, so as “not to upset the child again,” said Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.
There are also cases when parents – especially those with complications in mental development – are told that their children will be removed even before they’ve given birth.
With limited tools to fight the system, many UK families are choosing to flee to neighboring Ireland or other foreign countries to keep their children.
Ireland is willing to provide support to those parents, unlike England, which “may identify that there may’ve been a problem, but is not willing to help you solve that problem,” according to John Paskell, a parent who fled the UK with his child.
The documentary ‘Forced Adoption: UK,’ premiering on RT and RTD on March 23, tells the story of several UK families who have experienced forced adoption and are now fighting to keep their children or have them returned.
Legislators in the U.S. state of Virginia voted Thursday to allow compensation for victims of forced sterilization, though few survivors are alive today.
“I think it’s a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government,” said Democrat delegate Patrick Hope. “Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin.”
Close to US$400,000 is available in a fund earmarked for compensation payments, though only around 11 sterilization victims in the state are known to be alive today. However, Hope stated if any new victims come forth, they too could be eligible for compensation.
From 1924 to 1979, over 8,000 people were forcibly sterilized in Virginia. The victims ranged from people with psychiatric disorders to people considered social misfits. While most victims were patients at state mental institutions, some were homeless people who were sterilized to reduce poverty figures. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 22 percent of victims were African-Americans, and 66 percent were women. At the time of sterilization, most victims were misled, being told they were undergoing surgical procedures for miscellaneous health issues.
Virgina’s program has often been credited with inspiring the Nazis, who used the state’s methods as a model for their own eugenics project.
Yet the program was just part of a broader and often state -sanctioned eugenics movement that flourished across the United States in the first half of the 20th Century. Like the Nazis, U.S. eugenics advocates believed they were improving the genetic purity of the population by sterilizing those with traits deemed undesirable, such as the impoverished. In some states, ethnic minorities were also targeted. No federal law existed to cover sterilization in the first half of the century, meaning states were left to regulate the practice. While most states only allowed for surgical sterilization aimed at making reproduction impossible, some went as far as allowing male victims to be castrated.
At the height of the movement, over 30 U.S. states practiced some form of forced sterilization. An estimated 65,000 people were sterilized before the practice ended nationally in the early 1980s.
Call it the reverse Robin Hood tax strategy: Republican governors in several states want to rob from the poor through higher taxes and give to the rich by cutting their taxes.
GOP Governors Paul LePage of Maine, John Kasich of Ohio, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and several others are considering raising so-called consumption taxes, such as those imposed on sales of cigarettes, gasoline, even haircuts and movie tickets, to generate more revenue for their state budgets.
At the same time, they want to slash income taxes, which would benefit wealthy taxpayers the most.
This strategy would, they argue, stimulate business creation and job growth.
But increasing sales taxes usually hurts lower income earners more than the wealthy because the former has to spend more of their earnings on food and necessities.
The report cites two national studies to support its claim. One is from the Economic
Policy Institute, which revealed that “one percent of people at the top now claim at least one sixth of all personal income in 38 states, while incomes for the middle class have remained flat,” according to the Keystone report. The second study cited is from The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which found that “in 20 states, the top one percent pay less than half the tax rate of the middle class,” noted Keystone. “On average across the 50 states, the top one percent pay only 60 percent as much in taxes as the middle fifth.”
The report’s warnings may have come too late for several states that have already put the controversial tax juggle into practice.
“The strategy of shifting from income taxes to consumption taxes has caused huge budget shortfalls in Kansas and, more recently, North Carolina, which announced a budget shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars,” Shaila Dewan wrote at The New York Times.
To Learn More:
States Consider Increasing Taxes for the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent (by Shaila Dewan, New York Times )
Tax Fairness: An Answer to State Budget Problems (Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First) (pdf)
Under the Radar, Payroll Tax Increase Hits the Working Poor (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
Louisiana Gov. Jindal Proposes Raising Taxes for 80% of State’s Citizens(by Matt Bewig, AllGov )
Kansas Tax Committee Approves Bill to Raise Taxes for Poor and Lower Taxes for Rich (by Matt Bewig, AllGov )
or go to
From the Archives
By Robert Faurisson | INSTITUTE FOR HISTORICAL REVIEW
On the subject of the Nazi gas chambers, Jean-Marie Le Pen recently stated: “If you take a thousand-page book on the Second World War, the concentration camps occupy two pages and the gas chambers ten or fifteen lines, and that’s called a detail.”
He might have brought up some even harder hitting and more precise arguments, and referred to Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle, Elie Wiesel, René Rémond, Daniel Goldhagen, and even the text of the Nuremberg Tribunal judgment. … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
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