Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion

If you still have illusions about the American dream, thanks to sojourner for this:

Image: http://www.commondreams.org …Inequality is not a result of ‘technology’ and ‘education’- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion… …US corporations in […]

via How Billionaires Become Billionaires | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization — An Outsider’s Sojourn II (The Journey Continues)

Advertisements

Democracy under threat in New Zealand

Citizens in Germany and New Zealand have just exercised their democratic right to elect representatives to their countries’ parliaments. The results are not dissimilar but response from the media and mainstream politicians has been remarkably different.

maxresdefault

New Zealand is one of them – and Big Business doesn’t like it!

In Germany, the party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel won 33% of the popular vote, and 35% of the seats in the Bundestag. She, the country’s news media and most Germans expect Ms Merkel to continue as Chancellor after forming a coalition with one or two other parties. That’s the way the system works. It’s called Proportional Representation, and allocates seats in the nation’s legislature to parties according to the number of votes they receive. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? No moaning and grumbling – just get on with the job. As they do in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and many other civilised countries using a PR electoral system.

But take a look at what’s happening in New Zealand. The governing conservative National Party gained 46% of the vote and a proportional number of seats in the House of Representatives; the Labour Party, 36%, and two minor parties, around 8% and 6%, entitling their supporters to some representation in parliament.

And listen to the uproar! The news media are filling their pages with black propaganda against Winston Peters, leader of the tiny NZ First Party:

6PPHYG5H2VFOPD3KNGQR4AVV4E

An orchestrated campaign to turn back the clock

“New Zealand’s hung parliament”

“The New Zealand First leader and kingmaker”

“Winston Peters, who currently holds the country’s future in his hands”

Kingmaker? Does that mean that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, almost always from the big business National Party, exercises the power of a monarch? More or less, yes!

Certainly Big Business does not like the MMP system of proportional representation that citizens in New Zealand worked so hard to bring in in 1994. And I guess they are also not keen on Mr Peters, who campaigned against business “fat cats”, and has been harshly criticising the size of exit packages dished out to departing corporate CEOs.

Interestingly, voter turnout in NZ parliamentary elections has been increasing in recent years, possibly as voters start to realise the power MMP gives them to exercise some control over the actions of the government. This year the turnout was 79%, similar to Germany’s 76%.

the-rise-of-big-business-37-638

Not much has changed in the US. The best democracy money can buy!

Compare that to the United States of America, land of the free and loudest trumpeter of its hallowed democracy. In the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the world stage, only 58% of American voters bothered exercising their right. Two years previously, in the mid-term election for representatives to Congress, a mere 36% turned out.

I’m sure there is nothing Big Business in New Zealand would like better than to return to the old First-past-the-post voting system where the National Party used to regularly govern alone despite winning fewer than half of the popular votes, and sometimes fewer than the main opposition party.

When you have been the government for most of the last 70 years, you have had ample opportunity to “adjust” the system to ensure you continue to do so. Now it seems they are dragging out the counting of special votes to build up pressure on the small parties, and to persuade the New Zealand public that the system is bad. And they have the news media in their pocket. As always, prior to the election, the tame media once again built up the pathetic Labour Party into a “credible” opposition to ensure that the “minor” parties stayed that way.

When all the shouting is over, poor New Zealanders can look forward to another four years of being screwed by Big Business and their National Party stooges.

United States opposes Kurdish referendum in Iraq – Yeah, sure!

I saw it first in our local newspaper, and I checked it out. Yep, it seems some low-ranking “spokeswoman” from the State department was given the job of lying to the world. Ignore the fact that the US used the Iraqi Kurds to get rid of Saddam Hussein – and what did they promise in return? Ignore the fact that the US is providing military hardware to Kurdish separatists in northern Syria, against the repeatedly expressed wishes of loyal NATO ally Turkey. What do they think will be the consequences of that?

n_116975_1

US “coalition partners” in Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States “strongly opposes” the planned independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds and urges Iraqi Kurdish leaders to engage in negotiations with the Baghdad government instead, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

In the most forceful U.S. statement so far opposing the referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25.”

Trump thanks Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees

nuke-em-til-they-glow-1

If they don’t do as they’re told . . .

My beloved NZ Herald reported it under this headline: “Never heard a more courageous speech”. It was referring to US President Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The report went on to TRUMPET: “Trump vows to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea over weapons threats”.

The New York Times picked up on the President’s threats to other sovereign states his government is currently not happy with:

“In his speech, Mr. Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea if it threatened the United States or its allies. ‘If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,’ he said.

He also called Iran a ‘rogue nation’ and said the United States was ‘prepared to take further action’ on Venezuela.”

n_69467_1

Local governments in Istanbul and elsewhere provided free evening meals during the month of Ramadan – made some refugees happy for a time.

Our local English language newspaper in Turkey chose instead to focus on a brief mention Mr Trump gave to neighbouring countries that have been quietly getting on with the mammoth task of catering for millions of impoverished refugees from the six-year civil war in Syria.

“U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Turkey for hosting Syrians who escaped from their war-torn country, while grilling North Korea and Iran during his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19. 

‘We appreciate the efforts of the United Nations agencies that are providing vital humanitarian assistance in areas liberated from ISIS, and we especially thank Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict,’ Trump said.”

“Canım benim”, as Turks might say. Thanks for those crumbs of appreciation from the rich man’s table!

I’m not sure who is qualified to award the title of “The Righteous” to any human being on Earth – but I’m suspicious of anyone who applies the label to him or herself, and I’m 100% sure that precious few US Presidents would qualify.

 

Remembering and revising history – Smash that statue!

It seems to have become a worldwide phenomenon recently, almost an epidemic – statue-smashing. It used to be just Islamic fundamentalists – the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example – but suddenly everyone seems to be doing it, and I have to tell you, I’m confused.

CFjkJQOW8AAk-IF

Diogenes the Cynic

Of course, religious fanatics are still at it. In Turkey there’s been a spate of attacks on statues of Atatürk, the revered founder of the Republic. And in Sinop on the Black Sea coast, members of a local conservative religious foundation have taken exception to the effigy of an ancient Greek philosopher that stands on the outskirts of town, demanding its removal.

Well it’s easy to dismiss religious fundamentalists as cranks and nutcases, but clearly there are political motives at work too. We’ve been following with interest events in the USA, where violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia over some controversial statuary, and the trouble has apparently spread further afield. Hundreds of protestors gathered at the campus of North Carolina University insisting that a statue of a Confederate soldier be torn down. Adding fuel to the fire, a prominent businessman, politician and diplomat, Ray Mabus, called such images “monuments to treason” and insisted that they “must be removed now and forever”.

Meanwhile, a news item from Australia informed me that “there is fury” over a statue of Captain Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park. In this case, it’s not so much the figurine itself raising hackles, but the inscription on the pedestal claiming that the 18th century British explorer “discovered this territory”. Spokespersons for the indigenous aboriginal community are pointing out that the country wasn’t actually in need of discovering since there had been people living there for 60,000 years or so.

Carrot

Carrot adventures

So who’s right, and who’s at fault? Clearly human beings love making graven images – have done since time immemorial – to remember a famous person, to commemorate an event, to show off their wealth or prestige, to worship in place of an invisible deity . . . Most of the time they sit discreetly on their plinths quietly collecting verdigris and bird droppings. Some people think having an enormous model of a carrot (yes, a carrot!) in the New Zealand town of Ohakune is a great idea. Others think it’s pretty stupid, but no one seems to get overcome with blind destructive hatred. Same goes for the giant lobster in Kingston, South Australia. Some local authority in Paris, France, had a 12-metre, 18-tonne bronze thumb erected in their neighbourhood, and I haven’t heard of any complaints. Akşehir in Turkey, birthplace of Nasrddin Hodja, contains several sculptures of the legendary folk philosopher, of which citizens are rather proud.

On the other hand, America’s one-time allies in Afghanistan, the Taliban, attracted much international ire when, a few years ago, they dynamited several large statues of Buddha at the ancient site of Bamiyan. It seems the heresies implicit in the Buddhas overrode any historical value they may have had – at least in the opinion of the dynamiters.

Bamiyan+Buddha+before

One of the Buddhas – before the dynamiting

This, then, seems to be the nub of the problem. Carrots, lobsters and thumbs are relatively neutral when it comes to arousing emotional response, either positive or negative. Representations of religion, politics (and sex), however, stir strong feelings. In the years after the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity, zealots of the new faith journeyed around the temples of earlier ages chiselling off female breasts and male appendages from carvings they considered immoral.

We in the post-modern world like to think of ourselves as more enlightened, but many of us have sympathy for the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, who may not have felt the same way about colonial invaders using superior technological might to steal their land and birthright. So what to do about Captain Cook? Remove the statue? Edit the inscription? Is this, as one politician asserted, “Stalinist revision”, or belated sensitive recognition that the ancestors of the aboriginal inhabitants have a valid point?

What about that statue in the Black Sea town? Diogenes the Cynic is believed to have been born there in the early 5th century BCE when it was an Ionian colony, Sinope. Cynical he may have been, but the poor man can hardly be blamed for the tragic events that unfolded a century ago after the Greek military invasion of Anatolia. Feelings still run high in some circles, on both sides of the Aegean, but I suspect current objections to Diogenes represent a small minority of opinion. Attitudes to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, however, are a far more controversial issue in Turkey. For decades a small elite backed by a powerful military controlled the country, fostering a cult-like adoration of the national hero to suppress religious and political opposition to their rule. I read an interesting article the other day in a Turkish newspaper entitled, “Let’s just stop abusing Atatürk.” The writer, Nazlan Ertan, was finding fault with the pseudo-faithful, who decorate their car rear windows with his signature, prefix their Facebook accounts with the initials TC, and claim to know how the great man would vote in elections and referenda if he were around today. And she has a point.

6207998629_e5206c9872_z

Robert E Lee in Charlottesville

All of which brings me to the most recent controversy over symbolic statuary – the one currently raging in the United States over the question of whether representations of Confederate heroes or their cause should be permitted in public places. Personally, I don’t care one way of the other, but it seems to me that the issue has become a focus for the lovers and haters of President Donald Trump to vent their hyperactive spleens. And the man does seem to have polarised opinion in the USA in a way that few of his predecessors were able to do. What is clear is that there is still some feeling in Southern states of the old Confederacy that their cause was just, and they were unfairly treated. It seems also certain that the victors, as is generally the case, wrote the history books with their version of the story. Was slavery the only, or even the main issue over which the Civil war was fought? Were those soldiers of the Union really fighting for the rights of black Americans to be treated equally? I have read suggestions that Abe Lincoln himself wasn’t 100% certain about that. Were their opponents in the Confederate army all slave-owners or believers in the system?

More and more of American history is being shown up as mythology and politically motivated censorship. Books such as James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of the United States (and its associated TV documentary series) and Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow, are highlighting serious cracks in the foundations of the American ideal. Maybe we should just pull down all the statues everywhere until we sort the whole business out.

What are we fighting for?

Country Joe And The Fish – Vietnam Song

Rock Cellar Magazine called it the greatest protest song of the Sixties, which may well make it the greatest protest song of all time.

Country Joe and the Fish performed it at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Alter a word or two here and there (North Korea, Syria, Iraq for Vietnam, for example), and it’s as relevant today as it was nearly 50 years ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Y0ekr-3So

Well, come on all of you, big strong men,

Uncle Sam needs your help again.

He’s got himself in a terrible jam

Way down yonder in Vietnam

So put down your books and pick up a gun,

We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

 

And it’s one, two, three,

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam;

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

 

Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,

Why man, this is war au-go-go

There’s plenty good money to be made

By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,

But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,

They drop it on the Viet Cong.

 

And it’s one, two, three,

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam.

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

 

Well, come on generals, let’s move fast;

Your big chance has come at last.

Now you can go out and get those reds

‘Cause the only good commie is the one that’s dead

And you know that peace can only be won

When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.

 

And it’s one, two, three,

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam;

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

 

Come on mothers throughout the land,

Pack your boys off to Vietnam.

Come on fathers, and don’t hesitate

To send your sons off before it’s too late.

And you can be the first ones in your block

To have your boy come home in a box.

 

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam.

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

 

Thanks to Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall for bringing the song to mind. Visit her blog The Most Revolutionary Act . . .

And Thom Hickey. If you haven’t visited his Immortal Jukebox, you really should!

Statue of Liberty Debate – My two cents worth

I read an article last week about a debate in American political circles over the true significance of the Statue of Liberty.

sad-statue-of-libertyApparently a CNN journalist was taking an aide of President Trump to task over the administration’s proposals to tighten immigration laws. The journalist was suggesting that limiting immigration was against the spirit of the iconic New York statue, as expressed in a poem inscribed on its pedestal. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The poet, Emma Lazarus, was addressing the nations of Europe, the tired old world with its hereditary aristocracy living in luxury on the backs of its oppressed people. The United States, by contrast, was a brave new classless world of opportunity and equality where merit would rise to the top.

The Trump aide, it seems, wisely avoided entering into a debate about whether such egalitarian ideals formed part of his boss’s plan to make America great again. He diverted the issue by pointing out that the Lazarus poem was not part of the original statue, and was, in fact, added twenty years after the unveiling of “Lady Liberty”.

maxresdefaultSo, what was that “Liberty” thing all about then? The Time article claims that the original idea in the mind of the French government when they gifted the statue was to congratulate the United States for their moral fortitude in abolishing slavery. There is also an implication that there was a diplomatic purpose tucked away – to cement the alliance between France and the US. France, of course, had supported the American revolutionaries in their independence war, and later backed the fledgling republic in the War of 1812 – both fought against Britain. Maybe there was a smidgen of imperialist rivalry going on behind the façade of altruism.

Certainly abolishing slavery in the United States was a worthy achievement – but it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t a unanimous decision. 750,000 lives were lost in the Civil War of the 1860s before the issue was decided; and the USA certainly wasn’t in the forefront of slave emancipation. Just as a matter of interest, here’s a timeline of when slavery was abolished in certain key countries:

1811 – Spain, 1813 – Sweden, 1833 – Britain, 1848 – France, 1851 – Brazil, 1858 – Portugal, 1861 – Netherlands, 1865 – United States of America

A century later civil rights activists were still being imprisoned or assassinated; and some might argue that race relations in the land of the free are far from perfect even today.

And another thing. The driving force behind slavery is economics. If you don’t have to pay your work force, your profit margins are going to look a lot healthier than if you have to pay a living wage to your workers and PAYE income tax to your government. The United States economy must have taken a hit when all those slaves were liberated. Certainly the poor huddled masses from Europe had to be paid to work in the industrializing powerhouse they had come to for a better life, but I imagine there was a lot of competition for jobs keeping the price of labour to a minimum. Health and safety regulations would have been pretty lax, and social services, hospitals, schools and so on, not much in evidence. Need a new source of cheap labour to replace those liberated slaves? Why not import a few million desperately poor Europeans and exploit them?

236_cartoon_outsourcing_jobs_hurwitt_largeWe might think that both the CNN and the Trump guy were haggling over historical details and losing sight of the real issue. Whatever shenanigans may have lain behind the erecting of the Statue of Liberty, generations of US politicians have made local and international capital out of peddling the concept that America is a shining beacon of equality, freedom, democracy and hope in a corrupt and dangerous world. The American people have been encouraged (brainwashed?) to believe that these qualities are best exemplified by their own political system and way of life.

I don’t have time to write a poem to the United States of America, but listen, people. You’ve got poor tired huddled masses of your own that need your attention. You may not want the poor tired huddled masses from elsewhere any more, but at least stop bombing them and exploiting them, so they can get on with the business of living and raising their children in their own countries.