People’s Voice October 16-31, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 16   $1

CONTENTS

1) UNIFOR SETTLEMENT WITH GM: CONCESSION BARGAINING IN THE AGE OF NEO-LIBERALISM

2) LIBERALS DISCARD PROMISE TO CONSULT FIRST NATIONS

3) COMMUNIST PARTY CALLS TO “MAKE EVERY VOTE COUNT”

4) ONE YEAR LATER... People’s Voice Editorial

5) MILITARISM IS KILLING US - Editorial

6) STANDING ROCK SIOUX REFUSE TO SURRENDER

7) TRADE DOESN’T SCARE POPULISTS LIKE US, BUT PLUTOCRACY DOES

8) PEACEKEEPING: FICTION VS. REALITY

9) AIDING & ABETTING: THE BRITISH MEDIA AND THE INVASION OF IRAQ

10) WOMEN’S SOLIDARITY BOAT TO GAZA HIJACKED BY ISRAEL

11) N.Z. EQUALITY SLIPS AWAY

12) ROBOTS AND US

 

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PEOPLE'S VOICE      OCTOBER 16-31, 2016 (pdf)


 

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(The following articles are from the October 16-31, 2016, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

 

1) UNIFOR SETTLEMENT WITH GM: CONCESSION BARGAINING IN THE AGE OF NEO-LIBERALISM

 

Central Trade Union Commission, Communist Party of Canada

 

            Unifor and General Motors reached a tentative contract settlement on Sept. 19, minutes before a strike was to begin at GM’s Oshawa and St. Catharine plants, and its Woodstock parts processing facilities.

 

            Having defined the main issue in bargaining as“continued investment in the Oshawa and St. Catharines plants of GM beyond 2019”, Unifor said the agreement meets this demand.

 

            President Jerry Dias claimed that Oshawa will be the only plant in North America with the ability to produce both cars and trucks, and that the new deal at St. Catharines will bring production from Mexico back to Canada, reversing the trend over the last decade.


            Just how solid are the assurances of future production? Estimates say the amount of investment for Oshawa is $400 million, and $120 million for St. Catharines. One of the two lines in the Oshawa assembly plant, the consolidated line, now used to produce the Chevy Equinox, will close. The investment will be to the flex line, used to produce three different cars, and the overflow from the Cami plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Even if these particular projections materialize, how long will this commitment last?

 

            GM told the Toronto Star "we will be working with government on potential support." Is the production contingent on government support? No doubt Unifor will actively join in this lobbying for federal and provincial funds. But many activists fear this as a ramping up of ‘tripartism’, or even of ‘strategic support’ for Liberal governments. Some unions already show signs of responding to this siren call.


            The Toronto Star also reports that the union negotiated higher wages, a higher starting wage rates and signing bonuses, and that 700 temporary workers will now get full-time jobs. But at what cost?

 

            In the Bargaining Program passed at its second Constitutional Convention in August, Unifor pledged to “resist ongoing employer attempts at ‘two-tiering’ pension plans, which inevitably hurts the next generation of worker”.

 

            Yet somehow “two-tiering” pension plans made it into the tentative agreement. New hires will have a defined contribution pension rather than the hybrid plan (a mixture of both defined-benefit and defined contribution) negotiated in the last round of bargaining.


            Dias said, “The only GM employees worldwide that still had a defined benefit plan was us in Canada... When you’re the last survivor, it puts added pressure on ... Ultimately, we weren’t going to gamble (on that). There was no question they were planning on closing Oshawa.”

 

            Speaking to CBC’s Metro Morning, he said, "Was it worth it to get new employees the opportunity to get jobs at our wages, at our security level and give up the [defined benefit] plan for new starts? The answer is yes."

 

            He also said GM's contribution to the new defined contribution plan will be more than some companies are putting into hybrid plans. "GM is not getting out of this one easy, I can assure you."

 

            This is at least consistent with the Unifor Bargaining Program, which says that employer contributions to a defined contribution plan should include an additional levy to cover the administration costs and investment risks the employee must take on.

 

            This was GM’s third crack at the pension plan, which it claimed was its biggest liability during the global economic crisis of 2008-9. When the collective agreement was ordered reopened as part of the US and Canadian governments’ bailout packages for GM, indexing of the retired workers’ pensions were eliminated. When over 400 retirees entered the 2012 CAW convention to demand the restoration of indexing, then-Canadian Auto Worker President Ken Lewenza responded by saying in the end, there have to be healthy companies. In the 2013 negotiations, GM agreed to the hybrid pension plan for new hires.

 

            GM was chosen in 2016 to be the lead set of negotiations with the Detroit Big 3 (GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler) in order to set the pattern of bargaining. That means pension concessions are in store for Fiat-Chrysler, and then Ford.

 

            The end of the US-Canada Auto Pact (ordered by the World Trade Organization), and the ratification by the Liberals of the North American Free Trade Agreement, increased economic pressures on auto unions to give in on pensions.

 

            But why did Unifor give it up, and why now? GM made record profits of $10 billion in 2015, and $4.8 billion so far this year. Going into bargaining, the slogan of Unifor’s Convention was “It’s Time” to make back the concessions the workers gave the company to help it survive six years ago.

 

            The CAW was founded in 1985 because Canadian workers refused to accept the profit-sharing wages structure negotiated by the United Auto Workers. The CAW demanded and got its traditional $3 per year with a Cost Of Living Allowance.

 

            Many unions merged with the CAW in the 1990s because of the union’s prestige in fighting for its members. When the CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers (CEP), created UNIFOR, they promised to go on the offensive.

 

            In a Sept. 21 column in the Toronto Star, Thomas Walkom declared the Unifor-GM agreement “A Stake in the Heart of Company Pensions”. He wrote, “…private pension plans fell by the wayside as union after union agreed under duress to trade them away. Throughout, the Canadian Autoworkers — or Unifor as the union is now known — was a kind of beacon. It made strategic retreats. But it never entirely gave up. Now, on the pension front at least, it has … But if even the autoworkers can’t protect their defined-benefit company pension plans, who can?”

 

            The 700 temporary workers who got full-time job are considered new employees, and subject to the defined-contribution pension. That may explain the relatively low 64% ratification vote, which shows some opposition in the membership over the settlement. It shows a willingness to struggle for the future members of the union. Local 707 Unifor at Ford in Oakville has stated that the GM settlement will not be the pattern for the Ford workers.

 

            Contrast the GM settlement to a union which has a tradition of class struggle and social unionism. In negotiations with Canada Post this past summer, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were able to defend their defined-benefit pension plan.

 

            CUPW was also able to address the issue of pay equity for rural members, mostly women, who  make 25% less than the urban workers, mostly men. The result: a joint committee will implement changes within 19 months.

 

            CUPW’s bargaining took place in the context of a federal review of Canada Post, which could fundamentally change the nature of the business. The Harper-appointed Canada Post board seems hell-bent on preparing the grounds for potential privatization of the Post Office. Such a prospect would be allowed under the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Instead, CUPW has proposed alternative options. In its “Delivering Community Power”, which puts the needs of the community first, one option is to provide a network of stations where electric cars could recharge. This would provide a market for the production of such cars in Canada. CUPW President Mike Palecek said at a May Day forum in Ottawa that he had made such a proposal to Unifor.

 

            CUPW’s successes are a signal that progressive change is possible.

 

            The potential for mass struggle for a people’s agenda is evident in Canada and Quebec: the 2012 student strike in Quebec; the CFS-Ontario mobilization for free education; the Idle No More movement; Black Lives Matter struggles in Quebec and Ontario; the US-inspired Fight for $15 movement which has spread across the country.

 

            The labour movement had pledged full support for Unifor going into its negotiations. Rather than relying on the good graces of the Trudeau or Wynne Liberals for “fairness”, the trade union movement can and must become the catalyst to bring together all sections of the working class into a powerful, fighting united front. It can reach out to indigenous people, students, racialized workers to fight for a people’s agenda that will challenge corporate power.

 

            Over the past couple of decades, workers at dozens of private sector workplaces have drawn a line in the sand around their defined benefit pensions. There have been many lengthy and heroic sacrifices to fight off transitional two-tier attacks against pensions. Many of these struggles – in mining, smelting, manufacturing, etc – have lasted for months, even years. There have been successes, but increasingly few and far between. There have been closures and downsizings.

 

            Should we therefore conclude that “resistance is futile”? That “there is no alternative”? That to avoid the hardship of strikes and the risk of job losses, by trading long-term acquiescence at the bargaining table for short-term gains and assurances, “makes us smart”?

 

            Communists believe that the struggle for liveable, sustainable pensions is a vital component of our overall struggle for a decent life for working families. It’s vital to protect and build upon what previous generations have already won through bitter struggle. We have to fight smart, but we must fight. This is particularly important now in the public sector, where governments increasingly target “over-generous” and “unsustainable” pension plans.

 

            We recognize that in this era of corporate neo-liberalism, high unemployment and precarious jobs, to rely on employers for our old age security (as for health coverage) makes less and less sense, and creates significant inequalities. The labour movement, and the whole working class community, have to redouble the pressure for an urgent and radical overhaul of the Canada Pension Plan. The CPP must become the defined benefit plan that covers all Canadians. The modest tinkerings recently promised by the current federal government are woefully inadequate for this social purpose. Billions of dollars must be injected, and the basis of qualification has to be totally reformulated.            This is not to let private employers of the hook. They should pay the freight for shirking their social responsibility. As an integral part of the regenerationain  of the CPP, corporate tax cuts must be reversed, and their direct contributions to the fund sharply increased.

 

            For this fight, too, the labour movement is called upon to mobilize its members for struggle and sacrifice. Another world is possible!                  


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2) LIBERALS DISCARD PROMISE TO CONSULT FIRST NATIONS

 

By Kimball Cariou, Vancouver

 

            A vigorous debate is underway over what exactly the federal government means by its various statements and election promises regarding approval of natural resource projects - in particular whether indigenous peoples have the right to stop construction of pipelines and related infrastructure on their traditional territories. This debate shows that while progress has been made towards overcoming the legacy of colonial genocide in Canada, structural racism remains embedded in our country's fabric.


            Leading up to and during the 2015 federal election, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau struck a very different tone. Unlike the Conservatives, he promised that a Liberal government would develop a new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, based on mutual respect, full recognition of the International Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which the Conservatives had considered as only an "aspirational" document), and fulfillment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 93 recommendations.


            On the specific issue of resource projects and pipelines, the Liberal platform referred to "community consent" as necessary for final approval. This concept was widely welcomed in areas such as the BC Lower Mainland, where a solid majority of the population opposes Kinder Morgan's application to expand its oil pipelines from Alberta to Burnaby.


            These pledges helped the Liberals win a big majority in Parliament. Voter turnout was way up on First Nations reserves and in urban areas like Metro Vancouver, where many people counted on a new political approach. Hopes were raised by the new federal government's initial steps, such as the long-awaited inquiry into murdered and mission indigenous women and girls, and the appointment of First Nations activist Jody Wilson-Raybould to the federal cabinet as Justice Minister.


            But as many predicted, the Liberal government's stance has shifted under pressure from the resource industry. Even as he pledges further consultation with aboriginal peoples and environmentalists, the PM also says that "unanimous consent" is not needed for the government to approve pipeline projects, and that no community has a veto.


            This would appear to contradict the 2014 Supreme Court decision in the Tsilhqot'in v. BC case, which had wide implications for the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in British Columbia, where many never signed treaties or surrendered their traditional territories. That ruling clearly found that in cases where aboriginal title is proven, consent is required before major projects can go ahead.


            This court ruling is in accord with the content of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which everyone interested in these issues should read.


            Article 32 of this historic declaration reads: "1) Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2) States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3)

States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact."


            Not surprisingly, First Nations leaders and communities saw the Tsilhqot'in ruling (part of a longer-term trend for the courts to uphold indigenous rights) and the Liberal campaign promises as major victories. But their optimism was tinged with a realistic understanding that their struggles are far from over.


            Within indigenous peoples and communities, there are a range of views over development issues. Cheam First Nation Chief Ernie Crey recently told a Reuters reporter that his community is not opposed to development, but they want their rights and needs to be treated with the same gravitas as those of other Canadians. Similarly, the Tsilhqot’in in central British Columbia have indicated that they would support mutually beneficial mining and resource projects in some parts of their traditional territories, but also that areas of special historical and cultural importance are simply off-limits.


            Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs recently stated that Justin Trudeau should keep in mind that the economic considerations of the oil industry do not outweigh aboriginal rights.


            "Nothing has changed on our side of the equation. The answer is still 'no'," Grand Chief Phillip told Reuters when asked about Trudeau's latest comments at a news conference in Montreal.


            The PM told the media that his job is to look out for Canada's best interests and not act as a "cheerleader" for pipeline projects as the previous Conservative government did. But he also indicated that his responsibility is to balance the economy and the environment. Trudeau said his government would announce a new review process for pipelines and other energy projects "shortly."


            Some deadlines are imminent, such as the federal cabinet’s final decision on Kinder Morgan by late this year. In the meantime, the old Harper-appointed National Energy Board (NEB) is still dealing with TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline, in the wake of revelations that TransCanada consultant Jean Charest, the former Liberal PM, met secretly with NEB panel members to discuss the application.


            Similarly, Trudeau’s government has issued permits to the Site C mega-dam in northern BC,  even while First Nations challenge the project in court, and First Nations near Prince Rupert are preparing legal action and blockades of Lelu Island just as the Liberal government is preparing to approve or reject a Malaysian gas terminal.


            All this is happening before the new government acts to carry out its promise of "a full review of regulatory law, policies, and operational practices” in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.


            Clearly, the Trudeau government is backing away from its responsibility to carry out the letter and spirit of treaties and court rulings, and to implement the UNDRIP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations. Will it yield to the pressures of the big energy monopolies which remain determined to expand the extraction and export fracked gas and unprocessed bitumen from the Alberta tar sands?


            The answer came in late September, when Ottawa gave conditional approval to the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia, claiming that the decision followed extensive studies on the project's environmental impact, and after consultations with First Nations.


            That argument was rejected by environmentalists and indigenous groups, who point out that the project would be one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in Canada, and pose huge potential risks for traditional communities along the coast.


            The Liberals also admit that the groundwork for the project was laid by the previous Harper government. In response, UBC Prof. Sheryl Lightfoot, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous rights and politics, warned that the government is damaging the cautious optimism held by Indigenous voters.


            "It just confirms people's deepest suspicions - that there actually is no change, and that the processes in place have just continued, and that the status quo of the Harper government is the underlying agenda of the Trudeau government," she said.


             Don Wesley,  also known as Chief Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots, part of the Tsimshian Nation, also called the news disappointing.


            "We had a feeling this might come," he told CBC Radio. "[But] my feelings as a First Nations person were that we were really slapped in the face by the announcement. All his talk in the past year here, and his campaign promises, you know - at least he [could] have had the common courtesy out of his office to give us an indication that this was coming. But there was nothing."


            The LNG project may yet falter, due to low energy prices worldwide, But a year after the federal election, it appears that the old colonial drive to maximize profits for resource corporations trumps the PM’s lofty words about genuine reconciliation and justice for indigenous peoples.


            (An earlier version of this commentary appeared in Radical Desi magazine.)


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3) COMMUNIST PARTY CALLS TO “MAKE EVERY VOTE COUNT”

 

Excerpts from the submission of the Communist Party of Canada to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform

 

            The Communist Party of Canada is a registered political party with a 95 year history of fighting for peace, democracy, and socialism. Ours was the first political party in Canada to call for proportional representation. We maintain that any discussion about electoral reform should begin with scrapping the anti-democratic “Un-Fair Elections Act” imposed by the Harper Conservative government, and building from the principle of making every vote count.


            The Communist Party of Canada again goes on record as a strong champion of electoral reform and replacing First-Past-the-Post (FPP) with Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) representation, without threshold limits.


            Despite misinformation campaigns, the Mixed Member Proportional voting system is very clear, involving one ballot with two votes. With one vote, a local Member of Parliament is elected, and with the second vote, the people select a party. The Member of Parliament can be with the party you vote for, or not. Local MPs would be elected in exactly the same way as they are now. The second vote would go toward electing a Member of Parliament from a party list...


            Today, the reality is self-evident that the FPP “winner take all” system is undemocratic, entrenching the big business parties. A vast and costly electoral machine is required to win ridings. The big business parties raise tens of millions of dollars through individual donations from bankers and private business. Electoral spending limits are obscenely high, while limiting donations from trade unions, democratic organizations that are already financially transparent. The Conservative Party’s recent “In and Out” scandal further exposed gross violations of electoral funding rules and the 2014 “Un-fair Elections Act” effectively limited the franchise, gagged Elections Canada, and created further loopholes for election fraud.


            Elections are therefore widely recognized as a horse-race largely orchestrated by the corporate media, where small and progressive parties are marginalized. This is not only true for the Communist Party; the exclusion of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, from the 2015 federal election debates had a marked impact on their voter turnout and subsequent vote. This situation is partly created by FPP, which effectively rejects the idea that every vote counts. Most majority governments are formed with less that 50 percent of the vote.


            We propose: dramatically cutting spending limits for political parties; banning corporate donations; permitting donations from trade unions; guaranteeing equal time for all registered political parties, including in leaders and all candidates debates, governed by the Elections Act, not the Broadcast Act.


            While voting for a party like the Communist Party can send a powerful message regardless whether it wins or loses, voters often feel compelled to “vote strategically,” instead of choosing the party whose policies they support. Strategic voting results from the FPP system and serves voters very poorly. This choice, as well as the decision not to vote, are nevertheless understandable. Indeed, among the big parties voters have little fundamental difference in status quo ideas. For example, voters seeking to support a peace candidate have no options among the big parties in Canada today, which all clearly support NATO and oppose Palestinian liberation...  Our party has maintained long-standing and strong support for MMP because it is a much needed and significant reform to the voting system. MMP would help break the stranglehold of the giant corporations over politics. It would help counter the trend to squeeze progressive, small parties off the electoral platform altogether. The peoples of Canada have waged prolonged campaigns to enlarge democracy in this country. Historically, this has included revolutionary struggles to win representative assemblies. Later battles to expand the franchise have fought against class oppression as well as colonialism, racism, sexism, ageism and other structural inequalities. The campaign for proportional representation is all part of this struggle, led by groups like Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle and Fair Vote Canada with support from their allies in labour and the people’s movements, the Communist Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and others. When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the 42nd General Election would be the last under FPP, many people thought his government would bring in some form of PR.


            ...Mixed Member Proportional representation most accurately reflects majority opinion, while taking into account geographic differences. In contrast, Ranked Balloting and “Single Transferable Vote” (STV) systems mean the first or second choices of only half of the voters are counted, which does not create a parliament that is proportionally representative of all votes cast in an election.


            By making the composition of the party list a political concern, MMP could also help elect more Indigenous candidates, people from racialized communities, women and Trans-persons.  It will also contribute to the break-up of the dominance of the big parties by fostering coalitions, which are susceptible to public opinion and mass pressure.


            The institution of MMP should generally maintain existing Electoral Districts, while being an occasion to eliminate gerrymandering in riding boundaries, including regressive changes in the 2012 redistribution by the Harper Conservatives, and possibly create new ridings. New proportional seats, in equal number to the riding seats, should be added. We strongly oppose any calculation “threshold” beyond the achievement of one proportional seat. Thresholds reinforce the big party system, blocking the entry of small parties and contradicting the principles of proportional representation.


            The Communist Party is not in favour of online voting and mandatory voting. Online voting could threaten the sanctity of the secret ballot, and not all family homes should be considered safe spaces like a poll booth. Mandatory voting will not achieve the desired effect.


            Instead, we support making voting more accessible including reducing ID requirements, restoring the authority of the Voter Identification Card, and restoring multiple-vouching, to help transient voters (overwhelmingly working class people including young workers and students, the poor, single mothers, seniors, the disabled and people from racialized communities) as well as voters in northern and Indigenous communities. We call for conducting comprehensive enumeration before every election, and lowering the voting age to 16.


            ... For our Party, democracy is not only about voting, but the people having a decisive sway about the future. But MMP would be a long overdue and important reform, helping the working people in their struggle for a fundamentally new direction and for winning a better society.


            (To read the full CPC brief, visit www.communist-party.ca)


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4) ONE YEAR LATER...

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            On October 19, 2015, the most reactionary federal government in decades was defeated, in a  victory for all opponents of the dangerous Conservative corporate agenda. But while the new balance of forces in Parliament improved the terrain for popular resistance, we warned that the incoming Liberal government represented big business, not “real change.” A year later, the saying that the Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right has proven quite correct.


            On the plus side, the Liberals welcomed Syrian refugees, launched the public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and reversed the Tory increase in pension eligibility age.


            However, reconciliation and consultation with indigenous peoples has been abandoned in favour of rubber-stamping resource extraction projects; the 2016-17 federal budget did little to fund major infrastructure projects, and even less to improve living standards and educational opportunities for indigenous peoples; urban home mail delivery is still under threat; pension reform has been miserably inadequate; and Justin Trudeau’s promise of electoral reform is just a public relations exercise for options that would help the Liberals.


            Not surprisingly, the Liberals continue to promote the pro-corporate Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and have not introduced even superficial amendments to the anti-democratic Bill C-51. On foreign policy, they have eagerly joined NATO’s Russia-bashing, escalating international tensions.


            In this situation, cozying up to the new PM is not a winning strategy. Nor does it help to dream about a federal NDP victory in the future. What’s required to block the corporate steamroller is a conscious  effort by labour and its allies to build united and powerful extra-parliamentary movements, and an ideological struggle to overcome illusions about the “progressive” Liberals. Three years from now Canadians will head back to the polls; the time to fight for a people’s alternative is now, not later.


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5) MILITARISM IS KILLING US

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            Two new studies point to clear options facing the human race, as we struggle for planetary survival.


            The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate reports that a massive overhaul of the world’s buildings, public transport and energy infrastructure is needed to prevent runaway climate change. The study points out that $90 trillion will be spent on such infrastructure over the next 15 years, but also that an urgent shift is needed to focus on low-carbon, energy-efficient projects, since “the window for making the right choices is narrow and closing fast.” Over 60% of the world’s greenhouse gases are associated with ageing power plants, roads, buildings, sanitation and other structures, and 1,500 coal plants are already in construction worldwide. This trajectory leads inevitably to increased deaths from respiratory illnesses and road accidents, degradation of drinking water and arable lands, and a cooked planet..


            Can we afford a radical change away from this catastrophe? There are real options, such as ending the $550 billion annual subsidies to fossil fuels, greener energy infrastructure projects, and phasing out coal-fired power grids.


            But the most fundamental change will be an end to the arms race. A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies says the United States spends 28 times more on its military than on climate change. The U.S. has allocated $21 billion for 2017 to transition to clean energy, but plans to spend $1 trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal, and $1.4 trillion on building F-35 fighter jets.


           The world can slash greenhouse gas emissions, or pour trillions of dollars into fossil fuels and weapons of war. But we can’t do both. The choice is stark: human survival or death by militarism. Unless we choose the first option, our children and grandchildren will face the terrible consequences.


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6) STANDING ROCK SIOUX REFUSE TO SURRENDER

 

Combined reports from TeleSUR

 

            Despite a federal court’s ruling, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it will continue its resistance movement.


            Twenty-seven protesters were arrested on Oct. 10 at a Dakota Access pipeline construction site, one day after a U.S. federal appeals court rejected a request from Indigenous activists to suspend construction on the hotly-contested Dakota Access pipeline.


            The two-page ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling was handed down about an hour before the Oct. 9 U.S. presidential debate. It denied the request to grant a permanent injunction to block the behemoth US$3.7 billion 1,170-mile pipeline that, when completed, will transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil across 4 states. The pipeline would also snake through half a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation, which straddles the border between North and South Dakota.


            The court, in essence, refused to extend a temporary injunction issued in late August, suspending pipeline construction near the tribe’s main water source. In doing so, the court opened the door for Energy Transfer Partners — the Dallas company that is funding the project — to move forward.


            Attorneys for Dakota Access, the coalition of activists battling against the pipeline, says that company attorneys have made it clear to them that is exactly what they intend to do.

            Despite this setback, the tribe and their supporting allies are determined to continue.


            Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II called the ruling "disappointing," but told NBC News, "We aren't done with this fight."


           Thousands have joined protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe including 300 other tribes at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the site of the Oceti Sakowin Camp. In winning the temporary injunction in August, the tribe successfully sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the land. Standing Rock Sioux argued that it did not adequately consult with them when they granted approval for the construction, as is required under the National Historic Preservation Act.


            As such, the three-judge panel said it "can only hope that the spirit" of the act "may yet prevail,” adding that the ruling is "not the final word," noting that the final decision lies with the Corps of Engineers.


            Archambault said this notes that the court is signalling "to not proceed" with the project.


            "It seems they are coming to the same conclusion as the federal government in acknowledging there is something wrong with the approvals for the pipeline," he said. "We see this as an encouraging sign.”


            Officers from outside states are on standby to assist the policing of the ongoing protests against the North Dakota Access Pipeline project.         


            “There’s a lot of expertise out there across this nation with the sheriffs, and if they can in somehow bring their expertise and their resources here to assist the sheriff, that’s what we need to do,” said Danny Glick, Laramie County Sheriff, Western States Sheriffs’ Association President in joint press conference on Oct. 6. “When we get a call from Sheriff Kirchmeier, we will be ready to assist.”


            Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier made the request to the National Sheriffs’ Association for assistance after a request for federal reinforcements was rejected. Kirchmeier is attempting to take a more direct approach to handling the swelling number of “water protectors,” who say the pipeline will ruin sacred burial grounds and pollute local water supplies.  


            Kirchmeier stated that the new approach would include more patrols and sending officers to speak to local farmers fearful of protesters trespassing on their property. Kirchmeier stated that he would continue blocking roads to construction sites if protesters intended to halt construction.


            The county sheriff estimated that the Sacred Stone Camp had 2,000 to 2,500 people living on the site, saying that his force has reached its capacity to be able to control the protests.      


            “The protest has grown outside I think of what the intentions of the Standing Rock people wanted to occur. This was all about the water, and the pipeline, and the easement going to the core, not a pipeline being put out in the middle of the prairie,” he said.


            Nearly a thousand Native American youth from the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe are undertaking a fundraiser to join their elders in the protests which have been described as the largest Native American mobilizations in decades.           


            Police and private security personnel have been more aggressively cracking down on the peaceful protests. Earlier in October, North Dakota police armed with shotguns, assault rifles and armored vehicles broke up a group of Native Americans gathered in prayer. Witnesses filmed the crackdown but said their access to Facebook was blocked. Up to 21 people were arrested according to Unicorn Riot.


            Unleashed attack dogs bit protesters, including a pregnant woman and child from contracted private security film Frost Kennels during a nonviolent direct action.


            Meanwhile, it has been reported that Republican Presidential candidate and business mogul Donald Trump's extensive commercial networks include the Dakota Access Pipeline.


            While Trump has increasingly been under pressure to release his tax returns – he is the first major party presidential nominee in modern history who has not done so – his many investments include companies that are financing the pipeline, according to the environmental group, Greenpeace.


            Greenpeace says that Trump's financial disclosure forms reveal investments with two corporate stakeholders in the pipeline. Trump disclosed $US500 million to $US1 billion in investments going to Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based company that is the primary builder of the pipeline which, when finished, would run from North Dakota to Illinois.


            Trump's disclosure form also reveals that he had between $US50,000 to $US100,000 in company Phillips 66, which has purchased an ownership stake in the pipeline that is equal to one-quarter of its value, once it is completed.


            Harold Hamm, Trump's energy advisor who made millions of dollars through Continental Resources, the biggest fracking company in the U.S., is also a stakeholder in the pipeline.


            While Trump has not made any public comments about his connection to the pipeline, he has continually downplayed a number of major environmental concerns. He has previously stated that he wishes to renegotiate climate change regulations in favour of big oil industries and even claiming that he would "cancel" the Paris Climate Change accords.


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7) TRADE DOESN’T SCARE POPULISTS LIKE US, BUT PLUTOCRACY DOES

 

This October 7th article from the blog of Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey originally appeared in the Huffington Post

 

            This week, there were two competing narratives on free trade. While (astonishingly!) both the IMF and The Economist said there are problems with free trade, others asserted that free trade is under attack by "populists." Some have determined that the electorate is under the influence of scaremongers and must be re-educated to rid them of their fearful, misinformed views.


            If you are reading this blog, you may be a "populist." The economic press and world leaders have caught on to the obvious fact that there is resistance to free trade agreements. In response to 320,000 Germans rallying against CETA (the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and strong sentiment in Austria and Slovakia, Canada's International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, said there is a very tough mood in Europe on trade deals, "the rise of sometimes quite ugly, protectionist anti-globalization sentiment in Europe - we're seeing a lot of those feelings being expressed in the U.S. election campaign." The Economist this week said the TPP is "faltering," CETA is "fragile" and the TTIP is "flailing." It continued: "A nasty brew of opportunistic politicking and sceptical (and often misinformed) electorates is largely to blame for this halting progress."


            Many have linked openness to immigration with openness to trade deals, arguing that those who oppose trade are closed-minded and obviously on the side of bigots. I admit that having a potential U.S. President Donald Trump as the loudest voice against free trade hasn't helped: his collection of misogynist, racist and incoherent views is not something that progressive populists should strive towards. But there is another word for populism: democracy. The Oxford Canadian dictionary defines a populist as "a person who holds, or who is concerned with, the views of the populace."


            Freeland herself, before she was trade minister, knew this well. In a New York Times article, she pitted populists against plutocrats, arguing, "People might not mind that if the political economy were delivering for society as a whole. But it is not: wages for 70 per cent of the work force have stagnated, unemployment is high and many people with jobs feel insecure about them and about their retirement. Meanwhile, the plutocrats continue to prosper. And for more and more people, the plutocrats' technocratic paternalism seems at best weak broth and at worst an effort to preserve the rules of a game that is rigged in their favour."


            So, what are the "populists" so "unreasonably" afraid of?


            Our jobs, for one thing. A new study from Tufts University on the effects of CETA shows a loss of 23,000 jobs in Canada and 230,000 jobs in the EU. Similar studies of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have shown losses of 58,000 jobs.


            Rising inequality, for another thing. The CETA study also shows a rise in inequality, which is already growing. While productivity gains create higher profits, job creation and workers' incomes will stagnate. One out of every two additional dollars that would normally have gone to workers will now go instead to owners and investors. This amounts to losses of $2,656 per person over seven years, a far cry from government projections of a $1,000 cheque per person every year.


            We are afraid of the sorts of rules contained within trade agreements that establish more rights for corporations.


            Our public services, on top of that. Tax income will decrease by 0.12 per cent of GDP. Public spending will fall by 0.20 per cent of GDP. This is due to the increased competition for investors under CETA, with countries competing for investment by reducing corporate taxes.


            Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, speculated on what, if anything, Canadians would be getting out of the deal. "Here's an independent study that suggests that there aren't economic gains -- only job losses, inequality and the erosion of the public sector," she said. "But that's only the economic part. We haven't begun to quantify the damage to our laws, policies, and democracies through regulatory harmonization and corporate lawsuits challenging our environmental and social standards. Not to mention attacks on farmers and municipalities."


            Trade is not something we are not afraid of. It is not something we oppose. But we are afraid of the sorts of rules contained within trade agreements that establish more rights for corporations. This week, the "populists" got an unusual champion, the International Monetary Fund. A report issued by the IMF regards free trade as benefiting only the wealthy few and says more needs to be done for workers displaced by globalization. Their solutions are different from ours, but, when the IMF says there are problems, perhaps it is because things have come to an extreme point. Agreements like CETA and the TPP are pushing the world in the wrong direction.


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8) PEACEKEEPING: FICTION VS. REALITY

 

By T.J. Petrowski

 

            The word peacekeeping is like the word terrorism; meaningless on its own and able to be molded to serve the interests of a political clique. Like Alex P. Schmidt's description in The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research, peacekeeping "is usually an instrument for the attempted realization of a political…project that perpetrators lacking mass support are seeking".


            Peacekeepers themselves have been linked to an increase in violence and human rights abuses, particularly of a sexual nature. In Bosnia, Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, peacekeepers have been "associated with criminal misconduct, including sexual violence. Crimes against women and children have followed UN peacekeeping operations in several locations, and the UN reported that the entrance of peacekeeping troops into a conflict situation has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution" (See “Human Rights Violations by 

Peacekeeping Forces in Somalia, by Richard J. Wilson and Emily Singer Hurvitz.)


            Allegations of sexual violence against peacekeepers dates back to the 1990s. During the 1995-2002 UN mission in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, a human rights investigator, found that young "girls from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European countries being brought in to service the UN and military bases as sex-slaves. The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, government contractors, and local organized criminals". Bolkovac was subsequently fired for her investigation.


            As of 2015 more than 200 women and girls have been sexually exploited by UN peacekeepers in Haiti in exchange for food, clothing, medicine, and other basic necessities. In the Central African Republic, French peacekeepers have forced young girls to have sex with dogs, starving and homeless boys as young as nine have been sodomized by peacekeepers, and an entire UN contingent was expelled from the country due to sex crimes.


            Extrajudicial murder, torture, and mass murder, all war crimes under international law, have also been committed by peacekeepers. A 14-year-old boy was beaten, tortured, and murdered by Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia, the peacekeepers having posed in photos with the boy's bloody corpse. Not to be outdone, Belgian peacekeepers were photographed roasting a Somali over a fire.


            In some countries UN peacekeepers have behaved more like heavily armed, rampaging militias than 'peacekeepers'. Since the start of the UN mission peacekeepers have committed numerous human rights violations and massacres in Haiti. Peacekeepers were deployed in Haiti to support the brutal regime after the country's democratically elected government was overthrown by the U.S., France, and Canada in February, 2004. On July 6th, 2005, 350 heavily armed UN peacekeepers massacred 20 to 50 unarmed civilians in one of the vast ghettos of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. An eyewitness told a U.S. labour delegation that "[t]here was systematic firing on civilians."


            All exits were cut off. The community was choked off, surrounded …facing tanks coming from different angles, and overhead, helicopters with machine guns fired down on the people. The citizens were under attack from all sides and from the air. It was war on a community.


            Seth Donnelly, a member of the delegation, who visited the scene within 24 hours, described what the delegation found: “What we found actually when we went into the community the day after the operation was widespread evidence that the troops had carried out a massacre. We found homes, which when we say homes, we are talking basically shacks of wood and tin, in many cases, riddled with machine gun blasts as well as tank fire. The holes in a lot of these homes were too large just to be bullets. They must have been tank-type shells penetrating the homes. We saw a church and a school completely riddled with machine gun blasts. And then the community came out.


            “Once we had passed through, and we were — the community understood who we were, women, children, old and young, came out en masse and started to give us their testimony. They clearly were not being coerced by (quote/unquote) `gang leaders’ or `gang elements.’ They took us into their homes. They showed us bodies that still remained. They gave us very emotional testimony. People were hysterical still. And they all claimed that the U.N. forces had fired into their homes, had fired into their community, and people were saying at a minimum 20, if not more, people were killed.”


            The target of the attack was Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme, a prominent community member and supporter of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the ousted president who was kidnapped by the U.S. At least 30 more were killed in a second massacre committed by UN peacekeepers in December 2006. "They killed women, children and old people," Samuel Leconte, a community activist, said, "They shot them like animals".


            Then again, in December 2014, UN peacekeepers fired live ammunition and chemical agents on protesters demanding a new government.


            Mass graves of those murdered by UN peacekeepers have been uncovered in the Central African Republic as well. The remains of 12 people detained by peacekeepers from the Republic of the Congo, including two children and a pregnant woman, were exhumed near Boali. Newsweek reported "the death by torture of two anti-Balaka leaders in December 2013; the public execution of two suspected members of the Christian militia in February 2014; and the beating to death of two civilians in June 2015".


            Underlying the abject failure of peacekeeping is the contradiction between the maintenance of peace and a socio-economic system where the pursuit of surplus value at the expense of humanity and the planet reigns supreme. Peace is anathema to the ruling class.


            There is no "peacekeeping tradition," as Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion claims, to be found in the history of Canada, or in any other U.S.-NATO alliance member state. From the slave societies of Athens and the Roman Empire to European colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, the genocide of Aboriginal people, the forcible expropriation of peasant land, and the rise of industrial capitalism, where the living standards of the masses are continuously under attack, there has only been exploitation and violence.


            The Canadian state itself was founded on the violent and brutal exploitation of Aboriginal people and their land; the enslavement of Chinese and other Asian immigrants for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, in which conditions were so bad that two Chinese labourers died for every mile of railroad built; the exploitation of the world's natural resources and people by Canadian finance capital and by the murderous suppression of the working class within Canada.


            Peace cannot be maintained if powerful Western interests – arms manufacturers, oil and energy companies, big agribusiness, mining companies, etc. – stand to profit from violence and exploitation. At the root of many of the world's conflicts is "the role of interventionary core capitalism in perpetuating poverty through discriminatory policies that structure the global economy". In Africa, writes Yash Tandon, "rich natural resources are taken away from the continent at a fraction of their value."


            The terms of exchange between Africa’s natural resources and the West’s capital-and-knowledge intensive technologies continue to remain the basis for vast seepage of net value out of Africa and into Europe, the USA and Japan ... Africa’s poverty does not just ‘exist’, it is systematically created. It is created not by any conspiracy. It is created by the simple operation of the so-called 'law of the market' (Yash Tandon, Root causes of peacelessness and approaches to peace in Africa, Peace & Change, 2002).


            U.S.-NATO alliance foreign and international economic policy is conducted with the aim of maintaining these unequal terms of exchange. In Somalia, IMF and World Bank imposed structural adjustment policies decimated the country's pastoralist economy, leading to the collapse of the state and a brutal civil war; in East Timor, the U.S., Britain, Canada, and Australia funded the genocide of 200,000 people to secure the rich oil and gas deposits beneath the Timor Sea; the democratically elected governments of Iran and Guatemala were overthrown in 1953 and 1954 respectively to prevent the nationalization of natural resources; in Haiti, the Aristide government was overthrown shortly after it nearly doubled the minimum wage; in the Central African Republic, the government was overthrown for accepting Chinese investments; in Libya, once the wealthiest African nation, U.S.-NATO alliance death squads brutally murdered Gaddafi to prevent his gold-backed African currency from competing with the euro and the dollar; in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands have been killed to control oil, strategic pipeline routes, and, in the case of Afghanistan, the drug trade. In many countries – from Greece to the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Western-backed paramilitaries and right-wing dictators have murdered tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more, and caused untold devastation and human suffering.


            Western corporations have themselves been complicit in extrajudicial murder, torture, and other human rights abuses. Thousands of trade unionists in Colombia have been murdered since 1986. A human rights lawsuit in 2001 charged that Coca-Cola "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders".


            In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Luis Adolfo Cardona, a worker at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, recounted how in December 1996, armed paramilitaries came into the plant and murdered a union leader. Two days later workers in the plant were rounded up by armed paramilitaries and told if they didn't quit the union by a specific time, they, too, would be killed.


            Royal Dutch Shell, in another lawsuit, was charged with complicity in the torture and murder of protesters in Nigeria. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Shell has "frequently called upon the Nigerian police for 'security operations' that often amounted to raids and terror campaigns against the Ogoni" people. Deforestation, oil spills, and pollution in the Niger Delta have caused massive environmental destruction, destroying the subsistence farming and fishing the Ogoni people depend on.


            The U.S.-NATO alliance is reluctant to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. Montreal-based Anvil Mining, for example, transported Congolese troops who killed 100 people, mostly civilians, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Anvil also provided the trucks used to dump the corpses of the victims into mass graves. In Tanzania, Toronto-based Acacia, formerly Barrick Gold, and current employer of former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, has killed dozens of impoverished villagers searching for bits of gold near its mine. Yet, in response to a UN inquiry into human rights abuses committed by Canadian mining companies, the federal government retorted that it is under no obligation to regulate the activities of Canadian companies overseas. As a Mining Watch Canada’s Jen Moore says, “Canada's unwillingness to hold Canadian companies accountable for human rights abuses "merely confirms a clear tendency to shirk its human rights obligations in favour of promoting and protecting private investments, with serious consequences for local communities".


            The Trudeau Government's recent commitment of $450 million and 600 troops to UN peacekeeping operations should be understood for what it is: the will and need to intervene to protect Western corporate interests and the hegemonic power of the U.S.-NATO alliance, "by identifying with, and using the language of, the interests of the international community." (See Michael Pugh, “Peacekeeping and Critical Theory”.)


            (To read more, including sources for this article, visit the author’s blog, https://tjpetrowski.com.)


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9) AIDING & ABETTING: THE BRITISH MEDIA AND THE INVASION OF IRAQ

 

By Pablo Navarette, Third World Resurgence

 

            While the recently released Chilcot Report was a damning indictment of the duplicitous conduct of the Labour government of Tony Blair in the invasion of Iraq, there has been no similar exposure of the British media’s shameful role in abetting this illegal act of war.


            On July 6, more than 13 years after the British government joined the US, Australia and Poland in invading Iraq with the stated purpose of removing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the Iraq Inquiry report was finally released, to much media attention. The inquiry, commonly known as the Chilcot Inquiry after its chair Sir John Chilcot, was first announced in 2009 by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was tasked with considering Britain’s involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009.


            According to a 2015 report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq was followed by the death of around one million Iraqis in the period between the invasion and 2012; that represents around 5 percent of Iraq’s population. In addition, 179 British army personnel were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.


            The seven years that it took for the Chilcot report to materialise were characterised by repeated delays in its publication and concerted, often successful, moves by the British government to suppress key information from being included. For example, the Foreign Office appealed successfully against a judge’s ruling and blocked the disclosure of extracts of a conversation between US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair which took place days before the invasion. The reason? According to the British government, revealing what was said would present a “significant danger” to British-US relations.


            Nevertheless, in the end, the report’s 2.6 million words still contained a damning indictment of the British government, and Blair in particular. In one passage, Chilcot states, “By early December [2001], US policy had begun to shift and Mr Blair suggested that the US and the UK should work on what he described as a ‘clever strategy’ for regime change in Iraq, which would build over time.”

 

Media strategy

 

            While the report’s candid exposition of Blair’s Iraq deceptions has received significant media coverage, less has been reported on the equally damning revelation contained therein about the British government’s efforts to use the media to aid and abet its assault on Iraq. As a recent detailed article on this issue states: “A letter, sent more than a year before war was declared, sets out the government’s media strategy and objectives for ensuring public support for the conflict. Penned by John Williams, the head of news for the Foreign Office, the document was sent to, amongst others, Alastair Campbell at No 10, all ministers and some diplomats.”


            The government’s media strategy started with a very revealing sentence: “The process of preparing media and public opinion for possible action in Iraq is under way.” It recommended that the government should “exploit” interest by “feeding newspapers and broadcasters with information on WMD, diversion of imports for military use, and human rights abuses”.


            The article went on to outline the extent to which the government went to ensure sympathetic media coverage of its plan for regime change in Iraq, and cites the sickening headline in the Sun on the first day of the invasion which read: ‘Show them no pity… they have stains on their souls.’


            Critically, the strategy letter made the point that beyond merely targeting right-wing outlets such as the Sun and the Telegraph, the government also deemed newspapers such as the British Guardian to be key components in its war propaganda efforts.


            It is fair to say that the British government succeeded in its efforts. As media watchdog Media Lens has outlined after looking at the Guardian’s reporting of Blair’s speech to parliament prior to the vote that resulted in MPs authorising war on Iraq: ‘When it mattered, the Guardian took Blair seriously, respectfully, offering not a word of criticism of anything he had actually said. The Guardian could have joined the millions of people in the UK and across the world excoriating Blair for waging a needless, illegal and immoral war of aggression without even the fig leaf of United Nations support. It could have denounced yet another superpower assault on a country already devastated by war and 12 years of US-UK-led sanctions; a country that represented precisely zero threat to the West.”


            Media Lens also offered a damning analysis of the BBC’s reporting, citing the following academic study of its performance: “In 2003, a Cardiff University report found that the BBC ‘displayed the most pro-war agenda of any broadcaster’ on the Iraq invasion. Over the three weeks of the initial conflict, 11 percent of the sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all the main television broadcasters. “The BBC was less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to use independent sources, who also tended to be the most sceptical. The BBC also placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties, which were mentioned in 22 percent of its stories about the Iraqi people, and it was least likely to report on Iraqi opposition to the invasion.”


            And lest we forget, the BBC’s Andrew Marr’s fawning tribute to Blair on April 9 2003, the day that Baghdad fell to “coalition” forces, included the following: “[Blair] said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.”

 

Structural bias

 

            It isn’t surprising that the British media should wish to suppress the extent to which they parroted government propaganda and helped to soften up public opinion for the subsequent carnage in Iraq. A rare puncturing of the government-friendly line on Iraq found in the mainstream media was the December 2010 airing on ITV of John Pilger’s documentary The War You Don’t See (although it was aired at 10.35pm on a Tuesday night, hardly a prime-time slot).


            The film began with shocking images from a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians which first came out via the whistleblowers’ website WikiLeaks. During the course of the documentary Pilger built a compelling case against the mainstream media’s performance on Iraq. Pilger filmed Mark Curtis, a historian focusing on British foreign policy, who underscored the primacy of the media’s role in facilitating the devastation brought on Iraq, arguing that Britain could not have got away with invading Iraq if the media had been doing its job. In an interview with me about the film, Pilger made the broader point that “the mainstream media will not change until its structure changes”.


            When we look at the corporate bias in the ownership structure of the British media, it is perhaps naive to believe that they would act more responsibly when assessing the claims of the government in matters as serious as waging war on a sovereign country. Until this structure is democratised and the correlation between the interests of the political and media elites becomes less pronounced, it will be difficult to see how official enemies of the British establishment will escape becoming victims of sustained campaigns of vilification. Closer to home, the British media’s current treatment of left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn offers another instructive case study in how the established political and media class can savage someone deemed to be a threat to the prevailing order.


            In Iraq, the cost of the media’s dereliction of duty includes a level of responsibility for the millions of people killed, and those left without fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Working towards ensuring Tony Blair and other British politicians face war crime charges for their role in Iraq would be a small but important step in breaking the culture of impunity that our political class has been afforded. Similarly, finding ways of holding our media class to account for reckless reporting, as well as creating a media structure that isn’t beholden to establishment narratives, should be an urgent priority for all of us. The stakes are too high for inaction.


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10) WOMEN’S SOLIDARITY BOAT TO GAZA HIJACKED BY ISRAEL

 


With files from Electronic Intifada and the Morning Star

 

            Israeli forces arrested 13 female peace campaigners bringing aid to the besieged Gaza Strip on Oct. 5, after hijacking their boat in international waters.


            The Israeli navy towed the Dutch-flagged Zaytouna-Oliva into the port of Ashdod after intercepting it about 65 km from the coast of Gaza. The military said the women on board “were transferred to the appropriate authorities for further processing.”


            They included Northern Irish 1976 Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, Malaysian doctor Fauziah Hasan, retired US army colonel Ann Wright and Swedish MEP Malin Bjork.


            Israeli officials said 11 of the passengers were being detained for 96 hours and would then be deported. The two other women, both journalists, were deported immediately.


            The International Freedom Flotilla Coalition which organised the mercy mission lost contact with the Zaytouna-Oliva on the afternoon of Oct. 5, immediately assuming she had suffered the same fate as earlier attempts to breach the blockade. The vessel sailed from the Spanish port city of Barcelona on September 14.


            Following the loss of contact with the vessel 45 MEPs from the Nordic Green Left, Social Democratic and Greens parliamentary groups signed a letter demanding the EU take immediate action to free the passengers and crew.


            It noted the boat was seized inside the “military exclusion zone,” imposed “unilaterally and illegally by the Israeli government, in contravention of international law.”


            They urged all governments “and people of conscience” to support the right of free passage, ensure the wellbeing of all onboard and “support full freedom of movement for all peoples, in particular the Palestinians of Gaza.”


            Nearly two million people have been trapped in the densely populated enclave since 2007, when Israel imposed a blockade in response to the Hamas government’s election victories there. Two brutal Israeli bombing campaigns in 2008-09 and 2014 killed thousands of people, mostly civilians.


            Sondos Ferwana, a spokesperson for the activists, told a Turkish news agency that the capture of the boat was “another act of Israeli piracy.”


            The group released a pre-recorded video statement made in case the boat was intercepted.

            “If you’re listening to this, then you will know that myself and all the women who sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza have been arrested and are in detention in Israel,” Maguire says in the video, adding that Israel’s actions are “totally illegal.”


            The all-women boat was also meant to acknowledge the role of Palestinian women in the struggle, as they face the effects of occupation and settler-colonialism in specifically gendered ways. Women also carry the bulk of responsibility for the care of traumatized children. According to the United Nations, more than 160,000 children in Gaza are in need of continuous psychological support.


            The all-women flotilla also encouraged the participation of women who otherwise could feel uncomfortable in a cramped, confined space with men for days at a time.


            Claude Léostic, the president of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine, and French spokesperson for the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, referred to the violence inflicted on previous flotillas, which are foremost in the minds of the Zaytouna’s passengers.


            “We believe it is very possible that the Israelis will try to attack the boat again, because they did every single time we sent a boat to break the siege. They attacked it. Hijacked it. Stole everything on board. Kidnapped people on board. And behaved just like pirates on the high seas,” Léostic told The Electronic Intifada.


           “We hope that with women on board they [the Israeli navy] will be deterred from being so violent,” she added. “Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but their image is so important for them. So if they’re seen attacking a women’s boat, ill-treating them, maybe beating them as they did for all the others, their image will be catastrophic. So that could be a deterrent.”


            Eight Turkish nationals and a US citizen were killed in May 2010 when Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara boat that was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. A tenth Turkish victim died from his injuries in May 2014.


            Last January, four individuals filed a lawsuit against Israel in US federal court over the raid. The plaintiffs, three of them US citizens, were aboard the US-flagged Challenger I when it was intercepted and raided by the Israeli army.


            Meanwhile, also on Oct. 5, Israeli forces bombed several areas in the Gaza Strip. Fighter jets hit a training ground reportedly belonging to the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, as well as a naval police headquarters and agricultural land. A Palestinian health ministry spokesperson said there were no injuries.


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11) N.Z. EQUALITY SLIPS AWAY

 

            Pay equity advocates in New Zealand are calling for urgent action after the country’s gender pay gap slipped back to 12 per cent for the first time since 2008.


            The latest Labour Market income figures from Statistics NZ showed the pay gap had gone from an all-time low of 9.1 per cent in 2012 back up to 12 per cent in June this year. The last time the gap was 12 per cent or more was in 2008.


            Minister for Women Louise Upston said the increase was disappointing after a downward trend in the gap over the past 17 years. Upston said employers need to act by assessing their own processes and ensuring there was no pay gap.


            "Closing the gender pay gap requires making conscious, measured and reported efforts to tackle pay differences between men and women."


            However, the Public Service Association's Assistant National Secretary Kerry Davies said the Government should step up.


            "The Minister for Women says the equal pay issue needs conscious, measured and reported efforts. We agree, and we urge the government to walk the talk - by agreeing to fully implement the Joint Working Group's recommendations. If government officials, employers and unions can agree on a workable way to deliver equal pay, then Cabinet should not drag its feet."


            That group of government, business and union representatives reported back to the Government on ways to achieve pay equity in May but it was yet to announce a response. Its recommendations include allowing employees to make pay equity claims where workers are paid less because the workforce was predominantly female.


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12) ROBOTS AND US

 

By Deirdre Uí Bhrógáin, Socialist Voice (Ireland)

 

            Do you know those lovely, amusing robots that are trotted out on talk shows and science programmes to elicit our wonder and awe? Well, behind all the cosy fun and the evident awe of the presenters lies a devastating threat to the future of working people on the planet.


            It’s not that socialists are against the development of robots and automated services that can save us from back-breaking, tedious and repetitious work; but what happens to the people they replace? And who owns these robots?


            My blood went cold when I saw the widely distributed photographs of a supposed “empathetic” robot holding the hand of a woman who had just given birth in a hospital in Australia.


            Worse still is that states are not deciding what is to be developed and what is good for society. Alex Hudson, in an article for the BBC in 2013 headed “A robot is my friend: Can machines care for elderly?” wrote: “With the world’s elderly population growing rapidly, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and - most surprisingly - companionship.” He went on to say that the idea of using robots to care for the elderly is being trialled everywhere, from Singapore to Salford.


            When we have a society that believes that the elderly are a burden, we must fear for where it is going, and take action to put the development of automation and robotics within the control of civil society. The article by Hudson talks about the Mobiserv project - a consortium of eight European universities and “care companies” that has created a “social companion robot.” The fact that private care companies are paying for it shows what lies behind it all. The EU has given the project €8 million.


            A researcher on a project in Salford in England is creating “care robots” that, he says, “can help supervise people twenty-four hours a day.” And at the University of Birmingham Dr Nick Hawes has argued for their use, saying, “We’re trying to free up more of the staff time.”


            Japan is leading research into the development of “personal companion” robots, and already sales of this type of robot are rising. This is a very worrying development at a time when, according to official data, abuse of the elderly in that country is at a record level, having doubled since 2012.


            Neglect and mistreatment of the elderly are recurring themes in Japanese culture, a subject treated in such classic films as Tokyo Story (1953), and this technological “solution” is a further development of this attitude. We have seen here and in Europe recently the abuse of people in private care homes, and we must ask ourselves what type of society have we in the “West” that dumps people in them.


            Of course, developing automation and machines that improve mobility for the elderly, and in other strenuous tasks involved in their care, is to be welcomed; and, as the charities dealing with older people say, such advances are fine as long as they are not seen as replacements for human contact and companionship.


            The debate on automation is an old one. The term “Luddite” is now often used to mean ignorant people who are opposed to automation and to the forward-looking entrepreneurs and scientists bravely changing the world for the better. But the picture is far more complex than that. The Luddite movement of the early nineteenth century was active at a time when there was no regulation of trade and no rights for workers. By smashing the machines that replaced them they were attempting to preserve livelihoods and protect families from starvation and the workhouse.


            Similarly, automation today is taking away livelihoods, despite the fact that our society requires two parents to be working in order for them to be able to scrape a decent living.


            In recent months there has been chaos at the Ryanair desk at Dublin Airport as passengers are faced with checking in their own bags, most of them with no prior knowledge of this change. With no staffed desks open, there is upset and confusion. But, most importantly, where are the staff members?


            And of course Ryanair increases its profits. In cases like this we will be told that the workers will be employed somewhere else in a company. But look around any supermarket and see how many workers are on the floor, and how many check-outs have people behind them.


            Only so many people can be redeployed. Similarly, at railway stations there are often no people employed, and this of course is because of the requirement that state companies operate like private companies, instead of being for the well-being of the people.


            The policy of precarious on-call working hours makes it difficult to know how many people are employed and how many are just not asked to work again, so figures can be trotted out that answer the negative publicity.


            And of course we’re given positive and admiring news reports telling us about driverless trains, buses, and trams. But dock workers who have been replaced by robots, where one person and a computer can load and unload large cargo ships, find themselves in a lonely world with no colleagues to talk to or mix with socially. Workers in almost totally automated warehouses and factories talk of the same alienation and loneliness.


            And now we are told that in Dublin we will have driverless trams. Some people will say, “Great, we won’t have to pay for Luas drivers any more, and it will save money.” But what about the drivers?


            Researchers at the World Economic Forum predict that 7.1 million jobs “could be lost through redundancy, automation, or disintermediation, while the creation of 2.1 million new jobs, mainly in more specialised areas, such as computing, maths, architecture, and engineering, could partially offset some of the losses.” They go on to say that two-thirds of the job losses will be “concentrated in the Office and Administrative job family.”


            Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, adds: “Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition . . . governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.”


            A study by Forrester Research, which describes itself as an “exclusive network of peers, analysts, and advisers connecting you with leading practices to accelerate business growth,” has predicted that within five years artificial intelligence will be so developed that it will replace workers. “By 2021, a disruptive tidal wave will begin,” its vice-president, Brian Hopkins, wrote. “Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service, and consumer services.”


            When you see that the promoters of the new developments include a host of “care companies,” as well as Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Panasonic, and Toyota, you know where things are heading, given their record in dealing with their own employees.


            Most insidious of all is the use of robotics in drone warfare, where killing machines are controlled by whiz-kid operators, many of whom were recruited merely because they were good at computer games. Now they wreak death and destruction from afar on whole villages and cities in war-torn countries in Asia and the Middle East. It distances the operators from the horror that any right-thinking human would feel at killing so many people personally; and, as soldiers are increasingly reluctant to go to war in foreign countries and to get killed themselves, it replaces them.


            It is no accident that most robotic development is carried out within the military-industrial complex or is directly or indirectly funded by it. Robots are being made increasingly intelligent and can now make independent decisions; and, in the hands of unscrupulous governments and companies, they can destroy people.


            We have yet to feel the effect on society of dealing with automated services on a large scale. Think of when you get stranded in a large underground train station, or at an airport with masses of people rushing around, with nobody who has the time to stop for your question when you are confused by all the options.


            All over the world there are farmers, fishermen and small traders who are pushed out of their livelihoods by the present form of society, while large corporations are taking over vast areas in Asia and Latin America, decimating forests, sweeping up the fish in the oceans with massive trawlers, and farming with automated machinery. People are committing suicide in large numbers because they cannot support their families, and yet automation is developing at an accelerating rate.


            When large corporations are allowed to do this now, what of the people when automation increasingly replaces workers? We will be expendable, just as millions of people are expendable today in so-called underdeveloped countries.


            So what is the answer? The solution is not easy; but there is only one way in which automation can be a good thing for society: in a planned socialist economy, where a shift from traditional work is planned for and in which automation is used where and when it benefits the society at that moment.


            Capitalist greed ensures that each corporation pursues profits at the expense of the people, and it is a core principle that innovation by the brightest people will bring about the greatest advances in society. But look at the world today: we are facing extinction, with our planet ruined by pollution, and half the existing forms of life on earth are predicted to be gone by 2050.


            It is time for socialists to reclaim their position as advocates of the system that provides the best possible way forward, and to move on from constantly having to justify earlier attempts to establish socialism against ferocious capitalist assault. We should look to the future and say that any society that wants the good of all its people is far better suited to reaching a satisfactory conclusion on automation than one based on the greed of the top 1 per cent, and on the idea that wealth “trickles down.”


            A positive view of the world is needed to give people hope of change. This world is possible, and we should not get bogged down in analysing the latest economic stance of the Government, or in being forced to provide answers despite not having the power to fix the problems within this system.


            Socialists cannot fix this system: we can only help to mitigate the worst of its problems while fighting to raise awareness, get our message across, and mobilise at every opportunity to bring change: by joining unions, fighting public-service cut-backs, being active in local communities, and opposing big business ruining life wherever it occurs.


            It is important to see automation in relation to the economic development of each country. Under capitalism it is not about the well-being of people but about reducing costs and increasing profits.


            Socialism is the solution to problems of automation. Advances in technology must move in harmony with the well-being of the people, to allow people more leisure time but with adequate resources for living comfortably. The existing way is chaos and poverty for vast numbers of the world’s population.

 

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