Monday, March 23, 2015

For lost Souls swimming in a Fish Bowl

Almost six years since the last time Moon of Alabama turned the sign at the door to 'Closed'. As time goes by.

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Any old timers looking for a way to stay in touch, feel free to leave a comment. Alternatively, head on over to LeSpeakEasy, which Okie kindly kept open over the years.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heads we win, Tails you lose

The Australian Fair Pay Commission decided in their wisdom to not increase the minimum wage for the lowest paid 1.2 million workers in the country. Not even a measly dollar, or in their terms
“maintain the adult rates of pay in Australian Pay and Classification Scales (Pay Scales) at their current levels.”
Now, just how fair is that decision. Australia has an annual inflation rate of approx 3%, the CPI has risen by 4 points year on year to 166. In other words a wage freeze is effectively a wage reduction. To buy the same $500 of goods and services a week as this time last year you’d need today approx an extra $15. Without that bare minimum increase this ain’t no freeze, it’s a plain cut in real wages, taken from the already lowest paid workers. Happy days.

The reasoning given not to increase minimum incomes by the tiniest little bit is straight from the employers text book, the standard excuse quoted when a justification is needed for denying the lowest paid workers a pay rise, spiked with a little guilt trip for anyone disagreeing.

With economic times being as dire as they are, increasing the minimum wages would push the payroll expenses in some businesses to the point that they'd have to reduce their workforce, driving up the unemployment rate. So how dare you good for nothing commie support measures which would increase the unemployment rate?

Good question. Let me look to the former Goldman Sachs banker and now opposition leader for some guidance on this:
QUESTION: Is a freeze on minimum wage the correct decision?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, I respect the decision of the Fair Pay Commission. They obviously have some…have got to weigh up the arguments, the arguments for an increase against of course the impact on employment and they’ve taken that decision. I think it’s a reasonable one and I certainly support it.

QUESTION: So are lower paid workers better off earning less and keeping their jobs then?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, I think everybody is better off keeping their jobs.

This from the leader of the Australian Liberals (in comparative terms the Republicans, although in reality closer to US Democrats), the party with a history of giving preference to the big end of town over workers. The same old vanilla flavored junk phrases, learned of by heart during the many hours standing around lavish buffets with fellow champagne drinkers discussing the state of their hedge fund portfolios.

And so we hear that when times are lean we can’t increase wages coz it’ll drive up unemployment, in fat times we can’t because it’ll overheat the economy and put pressure on the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates. No matter which way the cookie crumbles, minimum wages have their name for a reason, they must be kept to a minimum.

In a fictional case of lets say a restaurant with 10 employees, 6 on minimum wages, increasing the payroll expenses by 3% would amount to approx $100 per week. Should a business with 10 employees really be in danger of going broke coz it doesn’t have the $100 pw, then quite frankly there is a good chance the firm would go down the gurgler of failed businesses anyway. That’s like the fuel price going up by 10c a litre. If you can’t sustain such a minimal cost increase without having to cut the number of employees, your biz had it coming. Lame excuse, to hold the workers with the least income responsible for bad management. Why not cut the owner’s and manager’s drawings and salary by $50 ea, and e voila, you got the cash to pay your 6 workers $15 a week more. How does that feel? All neo, all liberal? Now that’s what I call neo-liberalism.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Marines on diplomatic mission

US troops are spreading into Helmand, tasked with clearing the area of Taliban insurgents and supporters, which translates in that province roughly to wiping out a large chunk of its native tribal Pashtun population. At the same time as US forces by the thousands are being helicoptered into remote Afghanistan, Afghan politicians are traveling the country far and wide in the lead up to August’s elections.

As U.S. Marines launched a major offensive against Taliban insurgents in southern Helmand Province, the presidential campaign unfolding in more peaceful parts of northern and eastern Afghanistan last week seemed to be taking place on another planet.

Whether addressing rallies, chatting with voters in the street or receiving delegations of tribal leaders, candidates barely mentioned the violent insurgency that international experts fear could sabotage the Aug. 20 polling.

Instead, the presidential hopefuls stuck to themes they knew would resonate with Afghan audiences. They denounced civilian casualties by foreign forces and called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

So, going by this article we can safely assume that Afghans in general are pissed off about the many civilian casualties and would prefer to come peacefully to some arrangement with the Taliban. What they will get instead is The Surge. Obama delivers the exact opposite of what the Afghan people are hoping for. How come I am not the least surprised?

McCrystal is said to be emphasizing the “protective” nature of the Marines mission, but who is he kidding? The Taliban are everywhere, they are everyone, they bloody well live there.

[...] They [US Troops] will have to overcome deeply entrenched suspicions of American aims in the region, and resentment over civilian casualties inflicted during previous U.S. operations. "This operation will cause even more insecurity," says Joma Khan, a 32-year old unemployed man in Lashkar Gah. "Because when people lose their family members or their houses gets destroyed, then they join Taliban."

Aware of the danger, McChrystal has made the protection of civilians the central tenet of his new approach to fighting the Taliban, even going so far as to limit the use of aerial bombardment to the most extreme circumstances - a turnabout for U.S. ground forces that have grown dependent on air support. McChrystal has also declared in a soon-to-be-released tactical directive that soldiers should hold their fire if there is even the slightest risk of a civilian presence in the target zone. "Suppose the insurgent occupies an enemy home or village and engages you from there, with the clear idea that when you respond you are going to create collateral damage," explains McChrystal. "He's going to blame that on you. Even if you kill the insurgents, what happens is you have made the insurgency wider. You are going to run into more IEDs. You are going to run into more insurgents, [and] at the end of the day you are going to suffer more casualties." [...]

Presumably the same people who believe this “we’ve come in peace” crap will also fall hook, line and sinker for Brig. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson’s feel good spiel:

[...] "We’re doing this very differently," Nicholson said, according to the Washington Post. "We’re going to be with the people. We’re not going to drive to work. We’re going to walk to work."

Nicholson emphasised this dual capacity of the Marines’ mission in Helmand: "We’re not going to measure your success by the number of times your ammunition is resupplied," he told officers. "You’re going to drink lots of tea. You’re going to eat lots of goat. Get to know the people." [...]

Marines without air support embedded in the Pashtun population, walking to work and on orders to drink tea with the locals, which planet is that guy living on? They are neither trained/programmed to be diplomats nor are they known to be nice people one can easily walk up to and have a leisurely chat with. These are schooled killers armed to their teeth good at intimidating and snuffing out lives. James Cogan’s view is imho the closest estimate I came across on how this ramp up in troop presence will play out.

The Obama administration has ordered the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (2 MEB) into a potentially bloody offensive in the southern province of Helmand. The objective is the suppression of the ethnic Pashtun population, which is overwhelmingly hostile to the seven-and-a-half year US and NATO occupation of the country and rejects the legitimacy of the Afghan puppet government headed by President Hamid Karzai.

Early Thursday morning, 2 MEB began what has been described as the biggest airlift of marines since the Vietnam War. Code-named “Khanjar”—Pashtun for “strike of the sword”—the operation is the largest undertaken by the Marine Corp since it led the assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004. In all, some 4,000 marines and a 600-strong battalion of the Afghan Army are involved, supported by an array of jet fighters, unmanned drones and helicopter gunships.

An article in Friday’s New York Times by veteran war correspondent Carlotta Gall, who has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001, made clear why Helmand has been targeted for the first major operation in Obama’s Afghan “surge”.

She wrote that the “mood of the Afghan people has tipped into a popular revolt in some parts of southern Afghanistan”. People have “taken up arms against the foreign troops to protect their homes or in anger at losing relatives in airstrikes”.

Gall noted: “The southern provinces have suffered the worst civilian casualties since NATO’s deployment into the region in 2006. Thousands of people have been displaced by fighting and taken refuge in the towns. ‘Now there are more people siding with the Taliban than with the government’, said Abdul Qadir Noorzai, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission...”

One man interviewed by Gall in June declared: “Who are the Taliban? They are the local people.” Another, whose house was bombed by US jets two months ago, said: “We Muslims don’t like them [the foreign troops]. They are the source of danger.” […]

The offensive has been timed to coincide with the initial stages of an assault by the Pakistani military into the tribal agency of South Waziristan. The ethnic Pashtun tribal agencies are largely controlled by Islamist movements with close links to the Taliban, who provide Afghan guerillas with safe haven and contribute their own fighters to the anti-occupation insurgency. […]

The marines in Helmand will duplicate the methods used by the US military in Iraq and they are well qualified to do so. Most of the 2 MEB units, and many of the officers and enlisted men, served one or multiple tours in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The surge tactics were first tested in Anbar, a centre of Sunni Arab resistance to the US invasion. Over two years, the marines honed their counter-insurgency methods at the cost of thousands of Iraqi lives and the repression of the entire population.

Everyone in the newly occupied areas of Helmand—men, women and children—will be treated as potential insurgents. Bases will be established in towns and villages, from which US troops will use intimidation to identify resistance fighters. Afghans will face constant road-blocks, identity checks and searches. Men of fighting age will have to endure the most humiliating treatment. Local tribal leaders will be offered cash bribes to order their clans to collaborate with the occupation. If they refuse, they will be marked as Taliban sympathisers [...]…. Read the full text here.

For the people living there it’s a lose/lose situation, and I have a feeling that when US troops will be leaving Afghanistan at some point in the future, they’ll be just as popular amongst “the liberated” as they were in Vietnam on their day of departure or now in Iraq.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ideas for New Beginnings

Debs on MoA's Open Thread makes a good point, suggesting we better get a move on with our deliberations on where we want to create a new blog/forum, what form it should be in, and once there is a consensus, proceed with setting up the new site.

As he rightly puts forward,
The person who takes on the co-ordination team leader role needs to be located in either europe or amerika so they are close to web servers and the like (there is only one not very fat pipe running in and out of where I live) and in time zones that don't clash with everyone else's when real time communication is necessary.

So, someone or a group of people has to grab the bull by the horns and start operation Moon Evolution. With my rather limited web design skills, apart from irregular posts, the only assistance I can offer is monetary.

What are your thoughts on how to get this project of the ground?

News & Views

Bankster Bailouts Of 2008/9 Exceed Over 200 Years Of Major Government Spending .... Biggest heist ever.

Honduras - Apparently the coup makers are not only out of bounds, they are out of their minds as well...

Also found via IncaKolaNews (above), In Honduras, a media crackdown.

Europe - This is disgusting: OSCE equates the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. "Out of 385 assembly members, only eight voted against the resolution." More at Russia Today, with criticism including a quote from Greek Communist MP Kostas Alissandrakis who says the resolution is "not aimed against Stalin, who is long dead, but against Communism in general, and in the times of a crisis, when workers’ discontent is on the rise”. [hat tip to Alamet]

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Moon over Palestine

Buenas Dias companeros, should you have come by here via Alabama's Moon, herzlich willkommen. Since Lespeakeasy was torpedoed by some rotten moron, should you feel like grabbing a chair and hang here till a better site is found, I'd be more than flattered to have your company. Chairs and lounges are meant to be comfy and the fridge is over there next to the slightly worn out turn table on the left and the coffee machine on the right. Grab a coldie or pour yourself a cuppa and share your thoughts.

In case you feel like authoring a post, and let’s face it, this place would certainly benefit from some smart people adding to the scrawny list of posts I managed to accumulate over the past three years, please contact me via my profile below on the left. Once I’ve added your e-mail to the recognised author list you should be able to publish new posts.

In the meantime, as some food for discussion. As you can see from the blogroll, the Palestinian issue is close to my heart. I occassionally donate money to benevolent organisations trying to help the beleaguered and suffering population in Gaza, such as the IRC or the Free Gaza movement. And the latter had its boat, loaded with humanitarian supplies, seized by USraeli forces. Via Uruknet:
Bethlehem - Ma'an - A top United Nations official in a statement on Friday denounced Israel's seizure of a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

The UN official, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk, denounced what he called the unlawful naval seizure by an Israeli gunboat on Tuesday.

"This Israeli action implements its cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits any form of collective punishment directed at an occupied people," Falk said.

The seized vessel was carrying medicine and reconstruction material to the blockaded people of Gaza, and was carrying a Nobel laureate and former US congresswoman when it was seized and towed to the Israeli port city of Ashdod. [...]

"Such a pattern of continuing blockade under these conditions amounts to such a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions as to constitute a continuing crime against humanity," the independent human rights expert added.

In a response to the official's remarks, Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno-Yaar attacked Falk, saying he is "known for his bias against Israel and anti-Israel statements," and insisted that Israel is allowing aid into Gaza.

"Clearly the purpose of that ship was to create a buzz and serve as a propaganda vehicle against Israel," he reportedly added, according to Reuters.

The boat in question had been inspected in response to Israeli demands before departure by the port authorities in Cyprus to determine whether there were weapons on board. None were found, and Israeli authorities were so informed, according to the UN official and the Free Gaza Movement, which chartered the vessel.

Nonetheless, the 21 peace activists on the boat were arrested, held in captivity, and have been charged with "illegal entry" to Israel even though they insisted they had no intention of going to Israel. The group included an Irish winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mairead Maguire, and a former US congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney. [...]
In all seriousness, and Bernhard alluded to that in his posts, Israel’s behaviour of strangling its Palestinian neighbours into submission is almost on par with Nazi Germany’s Warsaw ghetto, a holding bin until the final solution can be enforced on any survivors. How can we, in full knowledge of whats going down, witness the atrocities dished out to the helpless people of Gaza and not feel like the Good Germans who all knew about the camps but didn’t act to stop their leaders crimes against their fellow humans?

p.s. Annie, should you read this, ever since I found out about your recent trip to Palestine have I been looking forward to reading your impressions of the tour and a first hand view on the situation there.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Picking raisins

Capitalism & Socialism are portrayed as white v black, two irreconcilable concepts of ownership and class. By doing so, the debate on how to move forward is needlessly polarised, preparing the ground for dogmatists to take over the ship only to ram it against the next best iceberg. By us falling into that trap and not seeing how both systems are partially mutually inclusive we are becoming apostles of a nonsensical dualist approach, similar to the often heard notion of man v nature. Just as We are Nature, so is Capitalism Socialism.

A socialist system of government and ownership of assets still requires capital to operate, and a capitalist system still requires the state to also hold assets and provide a degree of non-productive social security to its people.

Both arrangements contain aspects which are to be endorsed and others which are not in the best interest of the people. Why not pick the raisins from both cakes instead of rigidly defending the taste of one and dismissing the other as uneatable? My idea of socialism is not based on people’s servitude to the state nor does it exclude the concept of profits or entrepreneurship, quite the opposite, effort must be rewarded. But I believe what constitutes effort needs to be redefined.

That a company CEO earns more than the lowest paid cleaner working for the firm is to be expected, but their earnings must be linked. I suggest a ratio of max 20:1, meaning that for the CEO to earn 1 million per year, the lowest paid employee must be on $50K. Should the CEO want to double his income, he must also double the lowest paid employee’s wages.

Private ownership of assets and companies is the way to go, however essential services, such as schools, public transport and hospitals should be state owned or controlled. Capital, eg investment funds and their private equity holders, are not in the business of looking out for thy neighbour, they plan for profit maximisation, which is ok for goods or services that are being sold, but the provision of goods and services to cover quintessential human needs, such as medical treatment, education of the people or commuting between places, should never be allowed to be driven by passion for profits. A society with enough foresight to avoid social unrests or even revolutions should be able to provide its less fortunate members with basic human requirements, such as housing, food and health care in a non-profit framework.

The flaw in the capitalist doctrine is that it is too one-sided in its approach to entitlements, to the point that puritans go as far as to argue against any benefits being handed out to the needy. Stiff shit, that’s social Darwinism for yer, better luck next time. Not recognising that capital itself is constantly asking for its entitlements, as it is also needy. Capital also asks for government handouts, it’s just not called "the dole" but "R&D Grants", "Subsidies" or "Bailouts". Capital is needy, of a peaceful and harmonious society in which it can operate and securely invest its profits, and when listening to business leaders you get the impression they feel entitled to that.

The state needs to be far more regulatory than what it is at the moment, ensuring that the excesses the capitalist component inevitably is drawn to are contained to a reasonable limit and are not running counterproductive to the well being of our fellow men. Free (as in unregulated) enterprise as we know it is the reason for surplus food & produce harvested in a pumper season being destroyed so as to keep the wholesale prices up in the US and Europe. Utter foolishness, and yet that’s what happens.

As Marx said, "From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need." Apply this logic for example to the ever growing disparity between rich and poor nations. Year after year, the relatively few bobs which are given in Foreign Aid by donor nations more often than not disappear in bureaucratic channels or are embezzled by corrupt leaders in the recipient nations. Nobody seems to be accountable for the lack in progress, everybody points the finger at everybody else. There is neither a pragmatic and coordinated approach to FA nor an incentive for the donor nations to ensure long term improvements are achieved. Every five years or so world leaders meet at some posh retreat to discuss the plight of the countless people living in third world conditions, emerge with a communiqué in which they express their firm desire to half within the next few years the number of people dying of starvation, only to meet again five years later to lament how things have gotten even worse. What a bloody circus of fuckwits, drives me mad just thinking about them shits. But what’s even worse is that it is us who elected them in the first place, and when its election time again all their lies and incompetence are forgotten.

So here is my idea on how to tackle the wealth gap across the numbered worlds and improve on that equality thingy. All the world’s countries are grouped by size and ranked by wealth. From the resulting lists, the richest nation is paired with the poorest; the 2nd richest with the 2nd poorest, and so on, till lets say on a list of 100, the 49th is teaming up with the 51st. Now every rich country has one other country it is "responsible" for, which would imho allow for a more focused attitude to FA and over time would lead to better outcomes. If every affluent country would adopt a poor nation of similar size, and without ideological blinkers tried to assist in its humanitarian and economical development, via means ranging from student exchanges to technology transfer, the world would see friendships develop where there were none whilst at the same time causing the boat-lifting tide to rise.

To sum up, Churchill once said "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." I see it the exact other way round, the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of miseries, the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of blessings. I hope this makes sense and doesn’t sound too rumsfeldish.