Sunday, 30 October 2011

How is Money Created?

This video gives much food for thought. The magical nature of 'money' is exposed as scam by the corporate banking system.

This system means that most people get screwed, and the banks' carry on making huge profits, and paying their management massive salaries and bonuses.

It is nothing short of a scandal. So, why do we, the people put up with it?

Answers on a postcard etc, etc....

The video was produced by Postive Money.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion or the 1%?

This article was first published here

The United Nations says that the world's population will reach 7 billion people this month.

The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world's environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York's Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that "human overpopulation is driving species extinct." In London's busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich's bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, "the battle to feed humanity is over," and the 1970s would be a time of global famines and ever-rising death rates. His predictions were all wrong, but four decades later his successors still use Ehrlich's phrase -- too many people! -- to explain environmental problems.

But most of the 7 billion are not endangering the earth. The majority of the world's people don't destroy forests, don't wipe out endangered species, don't pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases.

Even in the rich countries of the Global North, most environmental destruction is caused not by individuals or households, but by mines, factories, and power plants run by corporations that care more about profit than about humanity's survival.

No reduction in U.S. population would have stopped BP from poisoning the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Lower birth rates won't shut down Canada's tar sands, which Bill McKibben has justly called one of the most staggering crimes the world has ever seen.

Universal access to birth control should be a fundamental human right -- but it would not have prevented Shell's massive destruction of ecosystems in the Niger River delta, or the immeasurable damage that Chevron has caused to rainforests in Ecuador.

Ironically, while populationist groups focus attention on the 7 billion, protestors in the worldwide Occupy movement have identified the real source of environmental destruction: not the 7 billion, but the 1%, the handful of millionaires and billionaires who own more, consume more, control more, and destroy more than all the rest of us put together.

In the United States, the richest 1% own a majority of all stocks and corporate equity, giving them absolute control of the corporations that are directly responsible for most environmental destruction.

A recent report prepared by the British consulting firm Trucost for the United Nations found that just 3,000 corporations cause $2.15 trillion in environmental damage every year. Outrageous as that figure is -- only six countries have a GDP greater than $2.15 trillion -- it substantially understates the damage, because it excludes costs that would result from "potential high impact events such as fishery or ecosystem collapse," and "external costs caused by product use and disposal, as well as companies' use of other natural resources and release of further pollutants through their operations and suppliers."

So in the case of oil companies, the figure covers "normal operations," but not deaths and destruction caused by global warming, not damage caused by worldwide use of its products, and not the multi-billions of dollars in costs to clean up oil spills. The real damage those companies alone do is much greater than $2.15 trillion, every single year.

The 1% also control the governments that supposedly regulate those destructive corporations. The millionaires include 46 per cent of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 54 out of 100 senators, and every president since Eisenhower.

Through the government, the 1% control the U.S. military, the largest user of petroleum in the world, and thus one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Military operations produce more hazardous waste than the five largest chemical companies combined. More than 10 per cent of all Superfund hazardous waste sites in the United States are on military bases.

Those who believe that slowing population growth will stop or slow environmental destruction are ignoring these real and immediate threats to life on our planet. Corporations and armies aren't polluting the world and destroying ecosystems because there are too many people, but because it is profitable to do so.

If the birth rate in Iraq or Afghanistan falls to zero, the U.S. military will not use one less gallon of oil.

If every African country adopts a one-child policy, energy companies in the U.S., China, and elsewhere will continue burning coal, bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe.

Critics of the too many people argument are often accused of believing that there are no limits to growth. In our case, that simply isn't true. What we do say is that in an ecologically rational and socially just world, where large families aren't an economic necessity for hundreds of millions of people, population will stabilize. In Betsy Hartmann's words, "The best population policy is to concentrate on improving human welfare in all its many facets. Take care of the population and population growth will go down."

The world's multiple environmental crises demand rapid and decisive action, but we can't act effectively unless we understand why they are happening. If we misdiagnose the illness, at best we will waste precious time on ineffective cures; at worst, we will make the crises worse.

The too many people argument directs the attention and efforts of sincere activists to programs that will not have any substantial effect. At the same time, it weakens efforts to build an effective global movement against ecological destruction: It divides our forces, by blaming the principal victims of the crisis for problems they did not cause.

Above all, it ignores the massively destructive role of an irrational economic and social system that has gross waste and devastation built into its DNA. The capitalist system and the power of the 1%, not population size, are the root causes of today's ecological crisis.

As pioneering ecologist Barry Commoner once said, "Pollution begins not in the family bedroom, but in the corporate boardroom."

The authors of this piece are:

Ian Angus is co author of Too Many People?

He is editor of the ecosocialist journal

Simon Butler is co author of Too Many People?

He is editor of the Australian based Green Left Weekly

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clean Energy Future Can Happen

A new report by The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows that almost all of our energy needs could be met without recourse to nuclear power, by tapping renewable power resources, developing carbon capture techniques and sharing energy across Europe.

Renewable sources of energy could meet between 60-90% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030. That’s a key finding of our new Positive Energy report, widely welcomed by businesses, individuals and organisations as a valuable contribution to the energy debate. More here

The report is further covered in The Guardian newspaper….

"This report is inspiring, but also entirely realistic. It shows that a clean, renewable energy future really is within our grasp," said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. "Failure to commit to a high-renewables future would leave us facing the prospect of dangerous levels of climate change and high energy prices." More here

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Occupy London SX TV Debate

This is a short discussion on the Occupy movement, between an oaf from the Tax Payers Alliance, which is a right wing pressure group, close to the Tory party, and Guardian journalist, Polly Toynbee. In my view, Polly spoils it a bit with her talk of 'good' capitalism, which is rather a contradiction in terms, but she shows up the bloke from Tax Payers Alliance as a shallow apologist for corporate capitalism.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Electoral Registration and Boundary Changes are Blatant Gerrymandering

The ConDem government’s proposals to reduce the number of Parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600 in total have been published by the Boundary Commission, and there is still time left for the public to have their say.

The government is spinning that this will save money and make MP’s work harder, coming as it does after the 2009 MP’s expenses scandal. They also claim that constituency boundaries need to be ‘equalised’ in terms of numbers of voters registered, as the present boundaries favour the Labour party, because many inner city constituencies have fewer voters than some of the larger rural constituencies, which predominately vote Conservative (or in some cases, Lib Dem).

There are sound geographical and cultural reasons for drawing boundary lines where they are in many areas, but this objective is to be scrapped by and large, with the overriding imperative now to equalise the numbers of registered voters in each constituency. This is a cynical attempt by the government to reduce the number of seats winnable by the Labour party, on the back of public disgust associated with the MP’s expenses scandal, and so make it more difficult for the Tory dominated coalition government to be kicked out of office.

Estimates of the number of seats to be lost across the UK by each of the political parties under the proposed changes, are that the Labour party will lose 25, the Tories 16 or 17, and the Lib Dems 10. This potentially would give the Tories an absolute majority in the House of Commons, if voting is the same as at the 2010 general election, in the next general election planned for 2015. So, it is easy to see why the Tories are keen to see these changes take place.

In Haringey, at present, the borough is divided into two Parliamentary constituencies, Hornsey and Wood Green, which has a Lib Dem MP, and Tottenham which has a Labour MP. The proposed boundary changes will see Hornsey and Wood Green lose Stroud Green ward to Tottenham but gain Bowes ward which is currently in Enfield Southgate constituency and in the borough of Enfield. Tottenham constituency will also gain Upper Edmonton (from Enfield) and lose Seven Sisters ward, which will become part of Hackney North constituency, and is in the borough of Hackney.

All of this will probably make little difference to who wins these seats at the next general election, as Tottenham is probably one of the safest Labour seats in the country, although it may be more difficult for the Lib Dems to retain Hornsey and Wood Green, given that the constituency will lose Stroud Green ward, which has three Lib Dem councillors, and gain Bowes ward, which has three Labour councillors, at local government level.

In a further twist, it is proposed that the law pertaining to electoral registration is also to be changed. At the moment, it is an offence for households, liable to a maximum fine of £1,000, to fail to comply with a request for information from electoral registration officers (EROs) or to give false information. This proposed change, will make voter registration ‘individual’ and also voluntary. Whilst this is being couched in terms of modernisation, i.e. doing away with the notional concept of ‘head of the household’ and leaving the responsibility to ‘individuals’, the voluntary nature of registering, is likely to reduce the number who do register. Local authorities will no longer be required by law to attempt to maximise the amount of registered voters, and voters will no longer be required to respond to requests about registering.

This policy has been described by Jenny Russell, the chair of the electoral commission, as the biggest change to voting since the introduction of the universal franchise. Russell warned: "It is logical to suggest that those that do not vote in elections will not see the point of registering to vote and it is possible that the register may therefore go from a 90% completeness that we currently have to 60-65%."

As many as 10 million voters, predominantly poor, young or black, and more liable to vote Labour, could fall off the electoral register under government plans, the Electoral Commission, electoral administrators and psephologists have warned.

So there we have it. A systematic attempt is being made to give us a permanent Conservative government, by manipulating the rules around the setting of election boundaries and the voter registration process. There is a word for this type of behaviour, gerrymandering, which is meant to be illegal, but the Tories seem to have found a way around the law. Don’t let them get away it, write protest letters, blogs, and anything else you can think of. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck with these bastards forever.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Green Party Achievements on the London Assembly

The elections for the London Mayor and London Assembly are on the 3rd May next year (2012). The Green Party campaign for these elections has begun, with a leafleting operation across London, and we in Haringey are in the process of leafleting our five best Green voting wards. Come the new year, the campaign will get into full throttle, in what promises to be very important elections, not only for London, but by reflection, for the rest of the country too. These elections can set the tone and context for national elections, to some extent.

So, it seems appropriate to list some of the key achievements of the Green Party Assembly Members over the last eleven years:

2000 Civil Partnerships

At the first ever Mayor’s Question Time Darren Johnson called on the Mayor to introduce a registration scheme for same-sex partners.

What happened next? A successful scheme was introduced, paving the way for civil partnerships legislation at national level.

2001 Thames Gateway Bridge

Greens began campaigning against Ken Livingstone’s plans for a new six-lane road bridge. As a price for supporting the Mayor’s 2005 budget the Greens called for the mayor to fund the objectors in order that the environmental case could be properly presented at the public inquiry.

What happened next? The public inquiry failed to give the go ahead for the bridge and the new Mayor Boris Johnson then abandoned it altogether.

2003 Climate change budget

Greens criticized Mayor Ken Livingstone’s budget for devoting just £300,000 per year to making London’s homes and buildings greener.

What happened next? In a series of budget deals with the then Mayor, Green AMs got the climate change budget at the London Development Agency increased to £8 million per year.

2004 Living Wage

As part of a budget deal Greens called on the Mayor to establish a Living Wage unit to tackle poverty pay in the capital.

What happened next? The GLA and a growing number of public and private sector bodies now pay the London Living Wage as a minimum.

2005 Leaking water mains

An investigation led by Darren Johnson highlighted the fact that a third of London’s drinking water was lost through leaking mains pipes.

What happened next? Following pressure from the Assembly Thames Water began a major mains replacement programme.

2006 Cycling budget

Jenny Jones commissioned a report which led to the setting of a target to increase cycling by 400% through the introduction of cycle hire, cycling superhighways and cycling hubs in outer London.

What happened next? The Greens AMs secured budget commitments from Ken Livingstone which led to a tripling of the budget for cycling and walking.

2008 Opposing Heathrow expansion

Darren Johnson led the Environment Committee investigation into Heathrow expansion. The report showed that the economic benefits were exaggerated and the environmental impacts understated.

What happened next? In 2010 the new Government abandoned Heathrow expansion, the Assembly’s all-party report playing an important role in establishing a broad political consensus.

2009 Road safety

Jenny Jones fought the closure of the Metropolitan Police Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which instructs HGV drivers on road sharing and awareness of vulnerable road users.

What happened next? This unit has now been reinstated within the traffic police section.

2010 Protecting small shops

For the Assembly’s Planning and Housing Committee, Jenny led an investigation looking at what could be done to protect London’s small shops.

What happened next? Mayor Boris Johnson agreed to put policies for the protection of small shops in his new London Plan, the overall planning document for London.

This is an impressive list, especially considering that the Greens had only two AM’s for most of this time. What more could be achieved with another two or three Green AM’s?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Green Party Leader Gives Support to Occupy London Stock Exchange

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the England and Wales Green party, will today attend the protest by ‘Occupy London Stock Exchange’, which has continued for the last three days, with hundreds of demonstrators camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral, close to the heart of the City of London financial district.

Initially, the police had tried to disperse the crowd on Sunday, but were stopped by the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, who was happy to see the peaceful protest continue.

The Green party leader said, “As awareness increases of the injustice and unsustainability of the global economic system, more and more people are taking to the streets in opposition.

"The camp that has been set up a stone's throw from the London Stock Exchange is an opportunity to explore a different kind of future to the one the mainstream political parties have constructed.

"The authorities must now respect the right to peaceful protest.

"If they have any sense, they will also start to listen to the voices of those ordinary - and extraordinary people - who want to invest in a greener, fairer future rather than the stocks-and-shares house of sand that sustains corporate capitalism."

The demonstration was inspired by the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the United States, and spread to many cities financial districts all around the world, with the same aim, of calling for an end to the disastrous corporate capitalist system which is ruining lives everywhere, and is the effective cause of the worldwide financial crisis.

The London group have released this statement about why they are protesting:

The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.

We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities, dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.

We refuse to pay for the banks' crisis.

We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.

We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.

We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world's resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.

We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Liam Fox and the Best Man Scandal

So, we won’t have to wait until next week for the findings of the investigation, conducted by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, into whether Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has broken the UK government’s Ministerial code and what his fate will be. Fox has bowed to the inevitable and announced his resignation from the government.

Over the last few days, more and more stories have been published on a daily basis by the media, about the extent of Fox’s involvement with his ‘best man’ Adam Werritty, and the numerous official overseas trips they have been on together. This use of the term ‘best man’ is mildly amusing, given that it has clearly been used to send an unambiguously ‘I’m not gay’ signal, rather than just saying ‘friend’. This betrays the homophobic tendency on the right wing of the Tory party, of which Fox was a leading light, whatever the Prime Minister, David Cameron says about a new, un-bigoted Conservative party.

It does seem pretty clear that Fox had broken the Ministerial code, as by his own admission he apologised to the House of Commons this week for ‘giving an impression of wrong-doing, and ….having given the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser, rather than simply a friend’. 1.2 and 7.1 of the code says that Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests. Amongst all the weasel worded spin from Fox about ‘blurring’ the distinctions between his public and private life, he has admitted to at least giving the appearance of a conflict of interest.

When senior civil servants report on these types of investigations into ministers, they couch the language in a very diplomatic way, deliberately leaving open the interpretation of their words, and so passing the verdict to their political masters. So, it was always really down to the Prime Minister to decide Fox’s ultimate fate, in the absence of Fox taking a loaded revolver into his study, and doing the decent thing.

Important though the Ministerial code is, to my mind that’s not the whole point, and I hope the investigation continues and examines what exactly Werritty was doing on all of these official British Ministry of Defence visits to foreign defence ministries and their armed forces. Werritty is said to have a range of business links in the defence field, so it seems obvious to me that he was on these visits to try and win arms contracts, on the back of official British government defence visits. I do not believe that Fox was unaware of this situation, and if this is not corrupt, and it sounds like it is, it is certainly inappropriate and demonstrates extremely poor judgement on Fox’s behalf, which is enough for him to be removed from such high government office.

Michael Portillo, ex Tory Defence Secretary, said on Thursday on the BBC’s, A week in politics show, that he couldn’t see how Fox could keep his job in the circumstances, and surely this chimed with public opinion.

But there is more to this situation than the Defence Minister’s involvement in dodgy arms deals. Fox (and Werritty) have contacts with American neo con politicians and business men, and The Times newspaper reports that some of Werritty’s business trips to Israel have been paid for by a pro-Israeli lobby company. Fox is on the neo con wing of the Tory party and has had much support from right wing Tory backbenchers, who have been very vocal in defence of Fox’s actions, both in Parliament and in the media this week.

All of which probably explains why the Prime Minister hadn’t sacked Fox already, for what is quite clearly behaviour inappropriate for a minister of state. This makes Cameron look weak, and calls into question his own political judgement, not to mention integrity. At the general election last year, Cameron was constantly making speeches about cleaning up politics in the wake of the MP’s expenses scandal, and here we are again. Minister’s lining their own pockets, and that of their friends, whilst passing the bill onto the public. Nothing changes it seems, except the scam itself and the empty rhetoric employed by our leaders in trying to justify it.

Fox tried desperately to hang on to his job, but his position was open to increasingly ridicule, as more of the facts have been revealed. This was not the resignation of an honourable man, it was a calculated act to leave the door open to some future return to a Cabinet post. How long will it be before he is back? There is no shame for our leaders these days, that can’t be swept under the carpet after a year or two on the backbenches.

Photo from The Telegraph

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Party Conference Season Ends – Which Leader Impressed You Most?

David Cameron, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, gave a speech to his party’s conference on Wednesday which brought the political party conference season to an end. It was a surprisingly upbeat speech from Cameron, coming as it did on the day that growth figures for the UK economy were revised downwards, to a paltry 0.1% for the second quarter of 2011. He called on the British people to fight our way out of the dire economic situation we find ourselves in, saying we must have a ‘can do’ attitude. This is particularly hypocritical, given the way the government refuses themselves to do anything positive to aid economic recovery. As I reported here the only thing the government is going to do, other than making deep cuts in public services, is to print more money, which was swallowed up by the banks to improve their balance sheets, the last time this tactic was tried. No can do, seems to be the government economic policy, so why should the public listen to all this patriotic rhetorical nonsense?

The more I see of Cameron, the more I am minded of the Flashman character in the novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays. It is ironic that Flashman the public school bully, turned out to be a coward in the end, and surely people will see through Cameron, as the public relations man he is. Cutting benefits and public services for the most vulnerable in society, while throwing more money at the banks who caused our problems, and of whom he is scared to death of upsetting.

At least Ed Miliband, uninspiring a speaker though he is, talked about the need to change the current neo liberal economic consensus and strike a ‘new bargain’ in the way the capitalist system operates, particularly attacking the ‘asset strippers’ who wait vulture like to devour the carcases of the businesses and workers that their casino type behaviour have laid low. I think it is too early to say whether Labour really has changed under Miliband’s leadership, he said some interesting things, but he also praised Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government for curtailing worker’s rights and for selling council houses, without replacing this social housing stock. He needs to up his presentational game too, as he comes across as a bit nerdy. Unfortunately, these things matter in modern politics.

And so to the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg saw his party’s poll ratings soar in the wake of the leadership debates at the last general election, and this was mainly down to his performance in the debates. The problem for the Lib Dem’s is that many, probably more than half of the people who voted for them, are aghast that this led to a Tory government. Their conference was full of speeches by ministers telling everyone that it was the Lib Dem’s that were putting a brake on the Tory juggernaut, but they bear just as much responsibility for the damaging economic approach taken by the government, raising tuition fees for students, harassing benefit claimants and reducing workplace rights for employees. No amount spin changes this basic position.

The video above is Caroline Lucas, Green party leader, speaking to the Green party conference in September, and she has plenty to say to Lib Dem voters particularly. She has excellent presentational skills, charisma even, but compare the message to what you have heard from the other party leaders. She outlines a genuine alternative to the failed policies of the last thirty odd years, where people are put before profit, where principles are stuck to rather than abandoned for expediency, and where the good society can be become a reality. No contest really.