Tuesday, January 26, 2010

25 cents- "A Cheap Shot and an insult to the working poor"

"The government throwing 25 cents to minimum wage workers is a cheap shot" said Campaign for a Living Wage organiser Joe Carolan.

This is barely 2% of nothing, and will be well below real inflation when his government raises GST in the budget."

"Low paid workers are sick of being insulted by millionaires like John Key. We'll be initiating for action on the back of this slap on the face, and there'll be a loud and angry protest this afternoon at 5pm at Auckland's Chamber of Commerce on Mayoral Drive".

"What workers need is a living wage- we've been pushing for $15 an hour now, and for the minimum wage to be set at 66% of the median wage. Tens of thousands of people have signed our petition for a Citizens Initiated Referendum, but John Key has infuriated the half million workers earning less than 600 bucks with this derisory pittance".


Joe Carolan 029 44 55 702
0800 2 UNITE


Monday, January 25, 2010

Tax reform should be pro-worker, pro-poor

Commentary: Omar Hamed, Socialist Aotearoa (Wellington)

The typical underpaid New Zealand worker is someone who spends their days cleaning rooms in a hotel, washing patients in a hospital, restocking shelves in a retail store or cooking burgers in a restaurant. They might even do a couple of these jobs to make ends meet. They work hard, pay their taxes and hope that the rich and powerful who run the businesses they work for and the Government give them a fair go. What they don’t expect is that the Government will in the short time it has been in office increase the amount of GST they have to pay, their ACC levies and slash the contribution their employer makes to their Kiwisaver scheme in half. They might even think it is a bit hypocritical that the Government will then go and give the richest 7% of New Zealanders a tax cut from 38% and 33% to 30%. They are probably worried too that they will be the ones paying for the proposed land and capital gains taxes through higher rents.

An underpaid worker would greatly benefit from improvements in our tax system to make it fairer and more progressive. Progressive taxation plays an important part in ensuring that the state has enough resources to fund social services and that all members of society contribute an amount of tax proportionate to their wealth. In a capitalist economy where the employing class profits of the labour of working class New Zealanders underpaid workers do not receive payment for their full value to society through their wages. One good example of this has been the recent release of the report by the UK based New Economics Foundation A bit rich: Calculating the real value to society of different professions. In the report the authors found that some of societies highest paid jobs actually destroy social value while low paid workers like hospital cleaners create immensely more social value than they are compensated for. For example, While collecting salaries of between £500,000 and £10 million, leading City bankers to destroy £7 of social value for every pound in value they generate.” Capitalism is not a fair or just system for the distribution of resources and work across society however that should not stop us from demanding that the state’s taxation system be designed as much as possible to reduce social inequalities, poverty and hardship from society.

The following constellation of tax refoms could be instituted as a viable alternative to the tax reforms proposed by the Tax Working Group.

1. Extend the Independent Earner Tax Credit to all workers earning under $24,000pa regardless of whether they receive benefits

Possibly the best and only good part of National’s tax cut package delivered after the election was the Independent Earner Tax Credit (IETC) which gave childless earners on between $24,000pa and $44,000pa a $520 tax credit each year. The question that should be asked is why the IETC is not credited in full to workers on less than $24,000pa, or workers who also receive benefits such as a student allowance or unemployment benefit. This question is particularly valid as unemployment continues to grow and many low wage workers also study or top up their wage through an unemployment benefit as a result of high unemployment levels.

2. Keep the ACC earners levies to 2009 levels for earners of less than $50,000pa via a tax credit of the same amount.

The Governments increases in ACC earners levies on 1 April 2010 will hit low income workers again, illustrating that what National gives workers with one hand they take with the other. If the Government was serious in its commitment to ease the tax burden of hardworking New Zealanders-they would retain ACC earners levies at 2009 levels for workers earning less than $50,000pa through a tax credit to the same value as the April 1 rises. For a worker who earns $30,000pa this would mean they would receive a tax credit of $90 to cover the rise in their Earners' Account Levy from $1.70 to $2.00 per $100 earned.

3. Scrap plans to cut the top personal tax rates and make the In Work Tax Credit available to children of beneficiaries.

Plans to cut the top personal tax rates from 38% and 33% to 30% represent enormous tax cuts to those wealthy earners in the richest 7 percent of New Zealanders. However a better idea would be to increase the tax paid on company profits and make it progressive in the same way that personal tax rates are. At the other end of the scale the Government should end the discrimination against the children of beneficiaries and allow their parents to receive the In Work Tax Credit. By allowing the $60 a week tax credit to be paid to workers on benefits, who between them raise 200,000 children, on sub-liveable benefits. As Janfrie Wakim of the Child Poverty Action Group said, “We ask the new Government to make the IWTC available to all low-income families with children, regardless of whether they are working, or how they lose their jobs. This would be the best anti-child poverty, anti-recessionary spending the Government could do.”

4. Reduce GST to 10%, remove it from food and institute luxury goods tax.

Raising GST levels would hit workers hard in the pocket at the checkout counter, paying bills and filling up their cars. The current proposal to raise the GST workers pay on our toilet paper, fruit and vege and marmite spread would be to just cover the costs of giving the richest New Zealanders more disposable income to spend on luxury cars, overseas holidays, fine dining and expensive goods. Instead the Government should reduce GST to 10% and remove it from food to give hardworking Kiwis a break from rapidly rising food, utility and petrol prices. We could offset this tax cut by instituting an additional 10% tax on luxury goods such as expensive cars and boats, First-class airfares, sales at luxury hotels and designer jewellery.

5. Bring in capital gains tax and strong rent-control rules.

While the proposal by the Tax Working Group for a capital gains tax is long overdue in the housing sector, to dampen property speculation and increase tax revenue from an area of the economy that has become increasingly profit driven, the risk to low income New Zealanders is that landlords will pass on the tax costs through rent increases. The way to prevent this from happening is to bring in rent control in high density, high demand urban areas such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch similar to in San Francisco that only allows annual rent increases of 60% of the CPI, up to a maximum 7%, including when a tenant vacates a property.

6. Close the tax loopholes for big business and the rich.

As the Tax Working Group discovered, “an Inland Revenue sample of 100 of the highest wealth individuals in New Zealand, data indicate that only about half are paying the highest marginal tax rate on their income.” Alarmingly also, “The ability to shelter income in trusts cost the government roughly $300 million in tax revenue in 2007.” However a better option than reducing all personal tax rates to 30% is to create a commission of inquiry to come up with recommendations for closing these tax loopholes. The $300 million or more each year which is being fraudulently kept by the rich could then be used to fund breakfast in schools programmes for children in low decile schools or even better-restoring funding to budgeting and accountancy night classes for workers.


The above suggestions are offered up as an alternative pro-poor, pro-worker tax reform package to the one currently being debated by the elite media and business commentators. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett the authors of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, remind us, "almost all social problems which are more common at the bottom of the social ladder are more common in more unequal societies". Thus reducing inequalities through a fiar and just taxation system is good for all New Zealanders.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves that any of these proposals would be considered by either the National or Labour parties but we should be clear in our ideas that the current tax system, whilst needing modernisation and reform should be modified in the interests of promoting reduced inequality, broadening the tax base for increased social services and lessening the financial hardship for New Zealanders struggling to make ends meet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Black Jacobins and Shock Doctrines

HAITI- from Revolution to Occupation

Black Jacobins and Shock Doctrines

A Socialist Aotearoa forum

With Gerald Perreira and Joe Carolan

Friday 29th January 7.30pm

Auckland Trades Hall,

147 Great North Road,

Grey Lynn.

Tens of thousands of people in Haiti are dead and hundreds of thousands more wounded or homeless after the earthquake that tore through the country last Tuesday.

People across the world will feel deep sympathy for those who have lost so much, and a great desire to help.

Earthquakes are natural events: but the scale of the suffering depends on where they happen and how much assistance the victims receive.

The world’s great powers have been criminally slow to respond. They have dragged their feet while huge numbers of people are left without food or clean water and have to sleep in the open.

The US can always get a cruise missile to its target anywhere in the world. There is never a lack of money for a military “surge”. But there’s always delay and lack of resources when poor people suffer.

Haitians will not get even 1 percent of the trillions handed out to the bankers to shore up the financial system.

And even now while Haitians face such pain, the millionaire tourists are still enjoying luxury in the Dominican Republic that shares the same island as Haiti.

By last Friday sections of the starving and thirsty population of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince were building barricade of bodies in protest at the lack of aid.

The destruction in Haiti is so serious because of its extreme poverty, and because it has suffered from two centuries of imperialist intervention.

Sixty percent of the housing in Port-au-Prince was sub-standard. Even before the earthquake prices for rice, beans, water, cooking oil and gas had skyrocketed to the point where many Haitians simply cannot afford to eat. The Associated Press recently ran an article reporting that many Haitians were now eating “mud cookies.”

Over half the population survive on less than $1 a day.

This is all the legacy of capitalism and imperialism.

In the eighteenth century thousands of slaves were transported to Haiti by the European powers. The great slave revolts under Toussaint L’Ouverture not only defeated the slave-owners and three European armies but also struck a magnificent blow against the whole slave system.

The revolt frightened and enraged the rich everywhere – and still does. While most people have reacted to the earthquake by trying to help, the racist US evangelist Pat Robertson said that Haitians had “sworn a pact to the devil” when they rose up against slavery.

Although freed from slavery, Haiti was forced by military threats to pay compensation to France of 150 million francs (the equivalent of $25 billion today) – which it did not finally finish paying until 1947.

In 1915, the US invaded Haiti to police debt repayments and to protect US firms. The troops stayed until 1934, running Haiti as a virtual colony.

The US then backed the brutal Duvalier dictatorships from 1957 on the basis that they represented a barrier against Communism.

In 1986, a massive uprising overthrew “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who fled the country. But Western interference continued.

Haitians elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be president after he promised land reform, better housing and improved wages but the US then backed a coup that removed him from office.

US president Bill Clinton eventually restored Aristide – but only on the condition that he implement the US neoliberal plan – which Haitians called the "plan of death."

When Aristide was slow to do his master’s will, the US conspired with Haiti’s rich to drive out Aristide again.

US and then UN troops have occupied the country ever since.

We say:

  • Rush food, shelter and other aid to Haiti now

· No to the use of aid as a political weapon to impose the US’s will

  • End the neoliberal policies that squeeze Haiti’s poor
  • End the occupation of Haiti by foreign forces

Come to the meeting

HAITI- from Revolution to Occupation

Black Jacobins and Shock Doctrines

A Socialist Aotearoa forum

With Gerald Perreira and Joe Carolan

Friday 29th January 7.30pm

Auckland Trades Hall,

147 Great North Road,

Grey Lynn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Living Wage campaign says real support for raising minimum wage to $15ph higher than 61%.

Some of the thousands of $15ph supporters who signed the Living Wage petition this weekend

“The NZ Herald poll this morning that found that 61% of New Zealanders support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, underestimates the support we are getting from thousands of people every week at our campaign stalls and workplaces” said Living Wage campaign organizer Joe Carolan, today.

“We’re aiming for a referendum on this issue, and if just a fraction of the 61% who support our demand sign our petition by May, we’re confident that we will win it by a landslide- 70 or 80% would probably be closer the mark.

For too long, economics in this country have been dominated by the needs of big business and the wealthy. There’s a groundswell of frustration that we’re tapping into- half a million Kiwi workers are struggling to make ends meet on less than $15ph, and the concept of a Living Wage for those who are working hard 40 hours a week is an idea whose time has come”.

The poll also misses the reason why so many workers are supporting this very specific demand for a $15ph rate-

‘We’re fresh in from collecting another 10,000 plus supporters this week at the Big Day Out, Piha beach and the Parihaka peace festival, and we’re about to cross the 100,000 mark. We’re a modest sized union with some very dedicated activists and volunteers who’ve been putting in a lot of long hours gathering signatures- and we’re sure that these campaign stalls have raised consciousness about raising the minimum wage to $15ph that we see reflected in these polls.

The Unite petition can be downloaded at www.unite.org.nz

Joe Carolan – 029 44 55 702


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hillary Clinton in Auckland this Saturday- join the Anti War Protest 11.30am

Obama and Clinton- ITS NOT OK -to wage war for oil -to kidnap and torture -to support military coups -to occupy other countries -to wreck our planet
Protest Hillary Clinton's visit to Aotearoa

Saturday, 16 January 2010
11:30 - 14:30
U.S. Consulate, Citibank Building, 23 Customs Street East


Despite the hope for change the new Obama administration in the US is proving to be a loyal servant of big business and the wars of empire.

Since the election President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have overseen a continuation of the war in Iraq, trebling of military forces in Afghanistan, uncritical support for the Israeli regime, the overthrow of a democratically elected President in Honduras and the scuttling of any serious plan to confront global warming.

The economic crisis has seen a further deepening of the grotesque inequalities between and within nations. This is the direct result of policies dubbed the "Washington Consensus" designed to give as much power and freedom for big business as possible. In the ensuing crisis it is the big banks that get bailed out while workers lose their homes and jobs.

Clinton arrives in New Zealand this week pushing her corporate globalisation agenda. She wants a Pacific Free Trade Agreement and closer military ties between the US and New Zealand. The nuclear free policy in NZ is no longer seen as a barrier to closer “intelligence” sharing and military training to allow for even greater integration in the wars of empire. NZ currently has SAS forces in Afghanistan and supports a US-led force that targets North Korea.

The recent “elections” in Afghanistan have revealed the regime to be simply a continuation of the same corrupt, drug running, warlord dominated elites that the US allied itself to in the overthrow of the Taliban. No progress has been made to bring about any real social or economic progress to the country.

The war and occupation of Iraq continues with no end in sight. The US continues to build military bases while promises “eventual” withdrawal. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and millions been driven into exile.

Opinion polls in both Iraq and Afghanistan show that a substantial majority of the population in both countries want all foreign troops withdrawn.

The US military budget at over $600 billion annually is almost as great as the rest of the world combined. It exports billions of dollars in war equipment to corrupt and brutal regimes around the world. It has military bases in 130 countries.

Despite this expenditure on death and destruction the US and its Western allies have opposed any meaningful expenditure to close the gaps between rich and poor in the world (including in the fight against global warming).

Freedom is under threat around the world with the US exposed as a government that condones torture. Pledges to close Guantanamo and the rendition programmes remain unfulfilled. Warfare gets privatised and outside any democratic control. Drone missiles are used to assassinate anyone deemed an enemy of the state without any accountability. Civilian deaths are deemed “collateral damage”.

Let us make our voices load and clear!
It’s not OK to wage war for oil and profit! It’s not OK to torture and assassinate!
It’s not OK to overthrow democratically elected governments! It’s not OK to wreck the planet!

Obama- Is the dream over?

By Joe Bageant

A year is a very long time in politics. The election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the US, symbolised hope and the possibility of change for millions of Americans. US writer and author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, Joe Bageant, thinks that things are changing - but not for the better.

Barack Obama's public approval ratings are taking a beating. Millions of his former supporters have awoken with a splitting hangover to find their pockets turned inside out and eviction notices on the doors of their 4,000 square foot subprime-mortgaged cardboard houses.

Many who voted for Obama out of disgust at the Bush regime are now listening to the Republicans on their car radios as they drive around looking for a suitable place to hide their vehicles from the repo man. Don't construe this as support for the Grand Old Party. It's just the standard ping-ponging of disappointment and disgust that comes after the honeymoon with any administration.

Right now Obama's approval ratings are in the 40th percentile and would be headed for the basement of the league were it not for the residual effect of his election. However, millions of US liberals remain faithful, and believe he will rise from the dead in the third year and ascend to glory.

This frustrating ping-pong game in which first-time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know - each other - as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues or, worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two. It's always about who gets to deliver the money to the Wall Street hyena pack.

Much of the world seems plagued with cataracts that keep it from noticing the chasm between what Obama says and what he actually does. The Nobel Committee awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to the very person who dropped the most bombs on the poorest people on the planet during that year. The same guy who started a new war in Pakistan, beefed up the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and continues to threaten Iran with attack unless it cops to phoney US-Israeli charges of secret nuclear weapons facilities. It's weapons of mass destruction all over again.

So far two million Pakistanis have been "displaced". A significant portion of them are "living with host families". Translation: packed into crowded houses ten to a room, wiping out food and water supplies, crashing already fragile sanitation infrastructure and serving as a giant human Petri dish for intestinal and respiratory diseases.

Many more are still living in the "conflict area". God only knows how many more innocent people will yet be killed in the conflict area of Obama's "war of necessity". You know, the "good war" - the war that is supposed to offset the interminable bad one in Iraq, where we continue to occupy and build more bases.

Then there are Obama's noble efforts to fight terrorism by beefing up troop "deployment" in Afghanistan. Now if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, compared to Nato-country forces there, you'll find them in a nice even line along what could easily be mistaken for an oil pipeline route - one that taps into the natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and, by the purest coincidence, just happens to bypass nearby Russia and Iran.

Grab the opium and run

The out of pocket cost of the US's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is $900 billion. Interest payments, plus the waste of productive resources, push the cost to $3,000 billion. By comparison, the entire 2009 government budget for elementary and secondaryeducation is slightly above $800 billion.

As Harvard monetary expert Linda Bilmes points out, there is "no benefit whatsoever for any American whose income does not derive from the military/security complex". I sent an email to Obama pointing this out, and suggesting that we pull out of Afghanistan, grab the opium and run. I got a nice reply saying that my president is grateful for the input. So there ya go.

Lately there has been a ruckus about our little "slap shop" in Guantanamo Bay. Word has it that it may be moved to an "underused" maximum security prison in the desperately broke community of Thompson, Illinois. It's the kind of job creation Stalin would have understood.

But at least the recession is over, according to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. "The Fed" is an offshore private banking cartel that decides just how much bogus currency can be printed and circulated profitably for bankers without wrecking their Ponzi schemes. And the chair of that august body has announced that the recession is over. Well, hallelujah! We can quit rolling our own cigs and buy ready-mades, and run recklessly through the dollar store scooping up dented canned goods and cheap Chinese tube socks.

However, 3.5 million Americans, most of whom led normal lives a few years ago, are now homeless. That includes 1 million school children sleeping in tents, shelters and other makeshift arrangements, and trying to look presentable each morning at schools that have not even the mercy to let them use the showers.

By the administration's own calculation, the number of homeless and people out of work will continue to escalate at least into the next year. Foreclosure on homes, and therefore homelessness, "has not topped out yet", says Obama.

The US Ministry of Truth has announced that our unemployment rate is at 10 percent. I've yet to meet an American who does not know the official unemployment rate is a complete fiction. One half of the unemployed - the half that has been unemployed for more than one year - is simply erased from the official count. Poof! The real rate is somewhere around 20 percent.

The bad news, which the Obama administration openly acknowledges, is this: unemployment will in all likelihood go higher. What US factories remain are laying workers off due to high interest rates, and waiting for a lower interest rate policy before deciding if it is feasible to call any workers back into production.

During their wait they can watch hell freeze over. Banks know a fatter hog when they see one. And that hog is the consumer credit business (nobody has figured out yet that consumers need pay cheques before they can consume anything, on credit or otherwise). To that end the Federal Reserve has logically set a low interest rate policy.

And in true accordance with banking logic, the banks took the Fed's money, and then raised the annual percentage rate on credit card purchases and cash advances and on balances that have a penalty rate because of late payment. Next they raised the late fee. If Americans are on the ropes then the logical thing to do is to stick it to them. It's an American free market tradition.

A Deutsche Bank analyst tells me the worst is yet to come. Bank failures and home foreclosures have not peaked. A commercial real estate bust is coming down the pike. He says that, while there will be some minor periodic upswings, the fraudulent value of the dollar is now evident as it falls against every other currency, except those unlucky enough to be pegged to the US dollar.

As former assistant secretary of the treasury Paul Craig Roberts says, "What sort of recovery is it when the safest investment an American can make is to bet against the US dollar?"

The saddest thing is that Americans are cultivated like mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed horseshit. Consequently, they haven't the slightest idea that there is an alternative to the system in which they labour: democratic socialism - self-governance for the broadest common good, which the Ministry of Truth has defined for them as fascism.

I would guess that you have heard about the "debate" over "healthcare reform". There really wasn't much debate, just a lot of thuggish behaviour and wild tales of geriatric death panels from the right and grovelling capitulation on the left.

The "reform" turned out to be a $70 billion a year giveaway to the insurance companies, by forcing those 45 million folks who cannot afford insurance to buy it anyway. Taxpayer dollars will make up the difference between what can be wrung out of the working poor and what insurance corporations can demand.

The best Obama and the Democratic Party's corporate lapdogs could come up with was total handover to the insurance industry. The insurance companies have always made it clear they have billions to spend defeating and destroying any elected official not on their side.

Meanwhile, environmental legislation is pretty much reduced to "cap and trade". In the truest spirit of capitalism, corporations will be able to sell their pollution for a profit instead of ending it.

Even this legislation barely made it through the House of Representatives.

Then, just when you think your country has reached the limits of raw shame it surprises you with some new and worse outrage - putting the kibosh on the UN's Goldstone report. The report documents Israeli war crimes in the Gaza ghetto, where 1.5 million Palestinians have been held miserable hostages by Israel. The Israeli attack on civilians and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, using illegal munitions such as skin-melting white phosphorus, was a war crime by every definition.

The UN and the world agree that it meets and exceeds the Nuremberg standard. But the US has never considered itself part of the rest of the world. So the rest of the world was not surprised when the US House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone report. The Obama administration has promised Zionist groups that it will never let the report get to the criminal court. The perps are safe. Zionists everywhere threw their hats in the air and cheered.

The first rule of capitalist math

The same day the assault on Gaza began, 4 January 2009, president-elect Obama announced he would create or save 3 to 4 million jobs during his first two years in office. Ninety percent of them were to be in the private sector, of which about 400,000 would be in building roads, bridges, schools and broadband lines. Another 400,000 were predicted in solar panels, wind turbines and fuel-efficient cars, and 1 million in healthcare and education.

The key term here was "jobs saved". Any job not lost apparently goes in the jobs created column. I'm rather math-impaired, but it's hard to see how the claim can be made. Political math is done in some fourth-dimension anti-space where terrestrial rules do not apply.

One thing I do know is that for every dollar a worker would earn under Obama's plan, a capitalist corporation employing the worker would earn almost two dollars. That Mexican guy balling sod along the new highway's median strip for the contractor may be making eight bucks an hour, but he is making his employer about $15.50 in the same hour. As a younger man in Colorado I balled sod, hired the Mexican workers and passed out the pay cheques, so I know. The first rule of capitalist math is that the capitalist gets to do the math.

So Obama's plan lines more corporate pockets than those of the working man. Yet Obama was charged by conservatives with having an anti-capitalist, socialist agenda. These businessmen are more than happy to take the money, but their rule of thumb is "Show no gratitude! Bite the living hell out of any hand that feeds you on the chance that it may give up more, or maybe even drop everything it is holding so you can grab it up and run while a crowd gathers to stone the alleged socialist."

In the end the campaign rattle and prattle about Obama's recovery plan turned out to be moot anyway. Wall Street moved in and heavied up on the whole damned country in one of the ballsiest heists in US history. It was a stroke of pure genius as theft goes.

Following a meeting of the Five Families - Citicorp, BOA, Morgan Chase, Wachovia and Taunus Corp - the financial cartels said, "The rip-off is in. We got it all. Now if you don't hand over all the people's savings and assets so we can loan it back to them the whole flaming ball of shit you call the 'services and information economy' is gonna come down on everybody's asses like a giant meteor. So load 3 trillion bucks into the armoured cars and nobody will get hurt - or watch the economy shrivel until the schmucks out there in the cul-de-sacs and cardboard condos can't even put together cab fare for their ride to the poorhouse. It's your call, Barack."

Last I heard, the banks never circulated the dough through people's hands or even business loans. Instead they declared a profit, divvied it up in bonuses and congratulated themselves. Getting rich by going broke, then getting even richer by sticking up the government, the entire US public and eventually the entire world, leaving a $1.5 quadrillion cloud of toxic derivatives to hoover up more money before imploding like a dark star. And indeed, the derivatives are even astronomical in nature. They represent $180,000 in debt load for every man, woman and child on earth (although I cannot understand, if the money isn't real, why we should consider the debt real).

The mobsters have retired to Tuscan villas to savour their haul. The poor schmucks in the US heartland are left to devise new ways of hiding the family ride from the repo man.

Say what you want about my country, but pillage and looting have never been so elegantly ritualised, institutionalised and executed.

Revenge of smirking George

We haven't heard much from George W Bush since he packed up his comics and moved to Dallas. But his policies remain like dog piss stains to stink up the Obama White House. Rendition and assassinations continue, as does warrantless spying on the citizenry, along with other civil liberties violations in the name of the "war on terror".

But Obama and the Democrats refused to prosecute Bush and Cheney. This ensures that no quail hunter in Georgia will ever be safe as long as Cheney's pacemaker still functions and that the precedents set by the most criminal administration in US history remain.

George Bush left office wearing the same smirk he came in with. He must now be convulsed in crazed hysterical laughter. His gang not only got clean away, but Obama carries on the Bush-Cheney legacy.

And, almost as if to top the whole escapade with a cherry of irony, the most inarticulate president in US history is now on the motivational speaking circuit at $200,000 a pop.

Realistic people on the left have long known that the last act of American strong-arm capitalism would be a massive gunpoint redistribution of wealth from the public to the owning class through the private financial sector. But few would have expected it to be executed under a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate under the Democratic first black president.

One liberal blogger wondered aloud, "Imagine what the Republicans would have done had John McCain been elected."

The same thing, brother. The same thing. Only with a different cover story. Both parties exist at the pleasure of the same crime syndicates.

Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Guns, Votes, Debt and Delusion in Redneck America

Monday, January 11, 2010

The cops want to destroy our megaphones....

Commentary: Derwin Smith, Socialist Aotearoa

I was one of the eight people arrested for protesting against the Israeli tennis player last week. It must be said that very little of my political activism, or that of the other people arrested, involves protesting tennis players.

Most of the things that I am campaigning around are issues like low wages or the destruction of the environment. Just like the other people at the protest that are all involved in many different things like animal rights, Women’s rights, child poverty, and anti-war/anti-imperialism. These are all things I agree with and I believe they are all symptoms of the way our society works, these are all the by products of our political and economic system, i.e. capitalism. Just as the reason the USA gives Israel millions of dollars each week in military aid to protect the right of international corporations to rape the Middle East for its resources, markets, and cheap labour – it is protecting capitalism – our social system. Capitalism is my enemy, and we must fight the injustices it causes. Even if that means protesting tennis players.

Should we be protesting this tennis player? The simple answer is yes. Over 170 Palestinian civil society groups have come to the consensus that the best way for people all over the world to express solidarity with the Palestinian people is by participating in the “Boycott, Disinvestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign against Israel. This includes a ‘cultural’ boycott. This means that we don’t want Israeli sports people competing here in Aotearoa. It also means many more things, like the breaking of academic links between universities as an example. Participating in the BDS campaign is the most effective way we can help the cause of the Palestinian people.

There is also the fact that Shahar Peer, like many Israeli citizens, happily participated in one of the worlds’ largest terrorist organisations. The Israeli Defence Force - infamously known for the murder of countless civilians and distain for international law.

So, for peacefully protesting outside a tennis game eight activists have been arrested. We broke no laws. We were not violent or threatening to be violent. There is no chance that we will be convicted of our so-called crimes and whoever it was that ordered the police to arrest and detain us knows this. We were not even that loud (not that being loud is a crime), on the day I was arrested the herald reported that our protest was “barely audible” inside the stadium. Sadly rank and file policemen are not paid to know the law: they are paid to be thugs.

The way I see it, the reason we were arrested is simple. We were damaging the image of the ASB tennis stadium. Big Business under threat – the Police to the rescue. Well as of yet, peaceful protesting is not illegal – even if those protests are effective . However as protecting private property rights (this is secret code for the rights of rich people to do whatever they want) is the main role of the police force – whoever ordered the grunts in to arrest us must have thought it was their job to shut us up. In all honesty I reckon whoever ordered these illegal arrests got a big pat on the back – not the usual “Oh Fuck, Not Again.” when the police do something incredibly stupid and illegal.

Well where do we go from here? With our civil rights in tatters what can we do to resist these bizarre actions of the cops. And they are truly bizarre, if someone told me that I was going to get dragged off to the cells for a few hours for blowing a whistle at the protest: I would have laughed at them. But here I am with charges of disorderly behaviour and obstruction.

The first thing we can do is see if any legal action can be taken against the police. This may serve to shorten the leash on the cops if they are fined or at least get some bad press. Though since I’m not a lawyer I’ve got no idea how this works and even if we win a lawsuit I’m not sure the police will give a shit, since we have won legal battles before. The second thing we need to do is wait and see if the police are going to keep doing things like this. And if the courts can’t put a stop to it, then we will have to prepare to defend ourselves.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” - JFK

Tennis Protests Not A Popularity Contest

By John Minto

If last week's protests directed at Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer were a popularity contest she would have won hands down against the protestors.

This was reflected in the Weekend Herald's editorial which described the protest action as a disgrace. A hardly surprising view with Peer portrayed as an innocent young woman who only wants to play professional tennis. As the week went by she seen as "bravely winning the battle" against disruptive protestors. When questioned, Peer kept to her script and refused to discuss politics. Just as well for her.

The public reaction would have been significantly different had it been known that not only had Peer served in the Israeli army for two years (as required of all Jewish Israelis) but volunteered to be the poster girl to encourage army recruitment. Her enlistment was a major PR exercise. A huge media contingent was in attendance and she happily posed for the cameras in uniform beside an Israeli tank and was followed for her first week of army experience by a documentary film maker. She described her first day in the army as "more exciting than playing Maria Sharapova". She could have joined the "refuseniks" - young Israelis who suffer for refusing to do military service - but instead she has become the willing pin-up girl for an army widely seen around the world as a force for state-sponsored terrorism against the Palestinian people.

The public reaction here would also have been different had New Zealanders understood the problems faced by Palestinian sportspeople wanting to play sport under Israeli occupation. Take the Palestinian women's soccer team for example.

It was established in 2003 based in Bethlehem and continues under extreme difficulties. Several of the girls have been injured playing on the concrete practice field because when they began the only real soccer field in the West Bank was 30 kilometres away in Jericho but largely inaccessible due to a network of Israeli military checkpoints which effectively bar the way. Players from Ramallah and the Gaza strip therefore couldn't attend practices.

The Israeli military occupation means they are able to meet and play together only at overseas competitions. They played their first game as a full team, and their first experience playing on grass, at the West Asian women's football championship in Jordan.

Coach Emil Hilal said "It was a strange experience - the team playing a game together without even knowing each other's names."

One of the team's earlier coaches resigned after being detained and interrogated at the Israeli border while taking the team to a match in Jordan. He said the experience was too traumatic to repeat.

Three years ago journalist Amelia Thomas interviewed team members and like all young people with dreams one of the first team captains, Honey Thaljieh, a Bethlehem University graduate in business administration, said football had been her passion since she was small. "First I played with my brothers on the street, then on boys' teams at school."

The girls are a mixture of Christian and Muslim and their involvement is not always approved. Honey Thaljieh: "Our society has a very male-centered mentality, but we're showing women there's a different way. Step by step, from the inside, we're changing things around."

Amira Hodaly who studied physical therapy at Bethlehem University said "I feel powerful when I'm playing soccer. I started when I was 10, playing alongside my brothers. Now that I'm older, it's less accepted than when I was just a child. But I don't care."

Sarab Shair, a 21-year-old Muslim who grew up in a children's home and was later adopted by a local family said her parents didn't really like her playing "but they don't have a choice.... They also want me to wear the veil if I have to play at all, but I've refused that, too."

It's a pity we'll not see these courageous young women playing in Auckland.

The Palestinian men's national soccer team has had a similar difficult time since it was recognised by FIFA as a nationally representative team in 1998. Team practices are impossible at home under Israeli occupation while Israeli-enforced travel restrictions overseas have seen the team forced to withdraw from several international competitions.

In April 2006 the soccer field in Gaza was shelled by the Israeli army. They said it was specifically targeted to "send a strong message to the Palestinian people against terrorism." Work that one out.

Three national soccer league players died during the Israeli invasion of Gaza last January. (Some 1400 Palestinians were killed - including hundreds of children - and 13 Israelis). National representative player Ayman al-Kurd was killed at home alongside his three children while Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe also died in their homes. The main Gaza soccer stadium was also attacked.

Earlier on striker Ziad Al Kourd returned from a World Cup qualifier to find his house in the Gaza Strip town of Deir al-Balah had been demolished. The Israeli army said it had been clearing an area of land while searching for arms-smuggling tunnels... Ziyad was then banned from travelling abroad...

The Israeli regime has always done its best to thwart the national aspirations of the Palestinian people because it wants Palestinian land more than it wants peace. Palestinians have now just 15% of the original territory of Palestine and this land is broken up into a patchwork of enclaves resembling the Bantustans set aside by South Africa's apartheid regime for their unwanted black citizens. More territory is taken daily by Israel as it demolishes Palestinian homes, seizes land and builds Jewish-only accommodation in East Jerusalem and throughout the occupied West Bank. Adding to the land grab is Israel's 8m high apartheid wall being build through Palestinian territory.

As a last resort after 57 years of struggle a comprehensive boycott of Israeli was called by Palestinian groups in 2005 with the aim of repeating the success of the international boycott of apartheid South Africa. It's called the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and came after all other attempts at developing international pressure on Israel failed. Israel has thumbed its nose at numerous UN resolutions called for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and the return of Palestinian refugees. It has also ignored rulings from the International Court of Justice that the 8 metre high "apartheid" wall is illegal. Israel now claims 85% of the land of the original territory of Palestine. More land continues to be taken each day as Israeli settlements on occupied land expand with Palestinian families evicted from their homes and stripped of their land to make way for Jewish-only settlement in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank.

Israel gets away with this because it has the backing of the United States as its main ally in the Middle East - a region from which the US depends on a ready supply of cheap oil. The US also obliges with around $3 billion in aid each year, 75% of which is required to be spent on armaments produced by US companies. As Peer left the tennis court after her final game last Thursday reports came in of the latest series of night raids across the Gaza strip by Israeli aircraft bringing more death and destruction across this already devastated area.

In earlier decades a similar international consensus developed calling for a comprehensive boycott of South Africa and among the various aspects of such a boycott (trade, investments, cultural, diplomatic etc) sport was always the most sensitive. Other boycott action was largely invisible while the sports boycott was high profile and goes to the heart of how a country sees itself through the eyes of others.

I was in South Africa for the first time last year and was very surprised to hear from so many people that the sports boycott was the first time the country was confronted with how others saw it. How others see us is as important to countries as it is to individuals.

The protests directed at Shahar Peer are at the early stage of a boycott campaign aimed at Israel. Just as it took time for the South African boycott to gain momentum the same is true with Israel. It won't happen overnight but it will happen.

In the meantime spare a thought for the thousands of Palestinian sportspeople in the Gaza strip and the West Bank who struggle to represent their nation and yet are determined not to be cowed.

Exiled Palestinian journalist Iqbal Tamimi puts it well when she says she is inspired by " the other side of Gaza, the side that keeps rising from under the ashes like a bird with a thousand wings because its people refuse to surrender..."

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Israel's Sport and Athletes- Why Boycott? Why Protest?

Video of speeches and arrests of Day Four, including explanations of why Palestinian Society has called for an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Defend Free speech- defend protesters civil rights- solidarity with Palestine. Protest 11.30am today, ASB Tennis Centre, Stanley Street. Pass it on.

Videos of yesterday's crackdown on Free Speech in Auckland.
Palestinian solidarity activists will again protest today to mark the anniversary of the massacre in Gaza, and exercise our right to free speech. Join Us.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Democracy suspended in Auckland- John Minto and four comrades arrested at Palestine Solidarity Protest


Activist John Minto and four other protesters were arrested outside the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland today.

An organisation calling themselves Global Peace and Justice Auckland continued their demonstrations during Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer's matches at the WTA tournament for a third straight day.

Today was Peer's first match on centre court and the protesters' numbers doubled to 16, again using loud hailers to call for Peer to withdraw from the event because of Israel's occupation on Palestine.

Minto and one other protester were using loud hailers while an elderly woman had a microphone and speaker.

After police had given three warnings they stepped in to arrest Minto and two other protesters and also confiscated their loud hailers.

The demonstration continued without Minto with one man climbing a tree with a loud hailer to continue to blast out the group's message. The police were forced to climb the tree to bring him down while the woman with the microphone and speaker was also arrested.

One of the protesters from Global Peace and Justice Auckland, Joe Carolan said it was likely the campaigners to be back again tomorrow for Peer's semifinal match.

"Yes, I think so," he said, when asked if they'll be back.

"Obviously we're going to have to talk, all the leaders of the movement have been singled out today, if that's not political policing I don't know what is.

"We looked to those people who had years of experience in this movement for guidance and they've singled those out.

"It's obvious that we're just a small group of people here but there are obviously thousands of New Zealanders who do feel that protesters and peace activists have the rights to voice their opinion.

"That's become the major issue of the last three days, the over the top policing here.

"The first day there was a bomb scare for someone leaving their handbag behind."

Where are the Palestinian tennis players?


For the past few days I've been part of a protest outside the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland where Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer has been playing in a women's international tennis tournament.

Shahar PeerWe have been calling for her to leave the tournament just as protests in earlier decades sought to have Springbok tours to New Zealand abandoned. In South Africa's case it was the apartheid policies of the ruling regime which legally discriminated against black and coloured South Africans and brutally suppressed dissent. In Israel's case it's the Zionist policies of the Israeli Government which discriminates against the Arab population of Israel and uses military might to oppress the wider Palestinian population and deny them freedom and any semblance of civil, political or human rights.

After South Africa, Israel is just the second country in recent times where an international consensus has developed that a boycott is the best way to bring pressure for change. Other forms of pressure have failed. Israel has ignored numerous United Nations resolutions and rulings from the International Court of Justice. It continues to oppress with impunity the indigenous population of Palestine and viciously attacks those who dare to fight back.

This is not to say Israel has not been the subject of terror attacks. It plainly has, but the driver of terrorism is the regime itself and not the sticks and stones of Palestinian youth or the suicide bombers who in anger, despair, frustration and powerlessness throw their very bodies at their oppressor.

So what has all this to do with tennis in Auckland? Everything. The BDS campaign (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) against Israel includes sport so Shahar Peer is being asked to make a sacrifice and give up international competition. This pales beside the sacrifices Palestinians are forced to make every day of their lives as they live under Israel's iron fist. Where are the Palestinian tennis players who'd love the chance to learn and compete internationally?

The most surprising aspect of the protest for me has been the measured and thoughtful reaction from most tennis patrons. When I grew up most New Zealanders saw Israel as a plucky little country surrounded by fanatical Arab hordes determined to overrun it and throw all the Jews into the Mediterranean. We believed we were on the side of the underdog.

It was a myth of course. Israel has always had enormous military might courtesy of the annual billions in "aid" from the US. The latest technology has been provided on a plate and Israel now has a formidable nuclear arsenal - also courtesy of the US.

New Zealanders have moved a lot in attitudes towards the Middle East over recent years. The 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and last year's invasion of the Gaza strip in which 1400 Palestinians were killed (13 Israelis lost their lives) have helped New Zealanders see the Middle East with fresh eyes.

The most common question I've been asked by patrons has been why we aren't protesting the presence of Chinese and Zimbabwean players. I've responded that the organisation Global Peace and Justice Auckland, to which I belong, has protested against both governments. We led an unsuccessful protest to try to stop the Black Cap cricketers from touring Zimbabwe a few years back. However, the main opposition group the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) doesn't support boycotts as a tactic. We've also protested human rights abuses in China and marched against the Clark government's free-trade agreement with the Chinese regime.

Shahar Peer will not be stopped by the protests this year but increasingly the boycott will tighten on Israel in trade, investment, cultural and sporting ties. Among these the sports boycott will be the most important because it has a higher profile and is most closely linked to a country's sense of itself and in Israel's case this is what needs drastic change.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Crappest Political Arrest in NZ? Stand up for Free Speech

Socialist Aotearoa supporter Malcolm France was arrested today protesting Israeli apartheid for holding a megaphone. That he might use agin in the future. That constitutes offensive behaviour. Disorderly contact. A breach of the peace.

Here the Commanding Officer justifies his arrest. See if you can follow the logic here.
We'll be protesting tomorrow again at the ASB Tennis Centre and at 9am this Friday Morning Jan 8th, at the Auckland District Court, 65-71, Albert Street.

Stand up for Palestine and Freedom of Speech.

Protest for Palestine and Free Speech tomorrow!

S.A. supporter Malcolm F set upon by Auckland cops at Freedom for Palestine protest

Protest to step up

GPJA (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) and the PHRC (Palestine Human Rights Campaign) will step up protests against the presence of Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer in the ASB Womens’ Classic tennis tournament.

Protest will resume tomorrow (Thursday) at 11am at the Stanley Street courts where we expect a larger protest as people return from holiday etc.

The protest is targeting Peer because there is an international consensus that the best way to challenge Israel ’s brutal oppression of Palestinians is through an international boycott – termed the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) campaign.

This is just the second time in recent history when such a consensus has developed – the first being in respect of apartheid South Africa . In that case the international boycott had a powerful and positive impact in bringing pressure for change. The same pressure can be brought to bear on Israel which follows policies remarkably similar to apartheid South Africa.

This morning police arrested one of the protest group in extraordinary circumstances. The protest had broken up at 12 noon and was leaving the stadium and returning to vehicles when police arrived and asked for an assurance we would not be protesting again at the tournament with either a drum or a loudhailer. Giving such an assurance was politely declined whereupon the police sought to seize the loudhailer. The person holding it was astonished at the request, declined to give it up and was arrested.

Meanwhile reports from Gaza in the past 24 hours indicate an Israeli airstrike has killed one Palestinian and wounded another three. Such attacks are a common occurrence. The absolute impunity with which Israel rains death and destruction on Palestinians underlines the importance of international pressure on Israel.